Posts Tagged ‘usc’
“[Videogames] are genuine narrative forms and we would have to be very stupid not to be immersed in and understand [them]… [...] The art direction, soundscapes, and immersive environments in video games are as good as, if not superior to, most movies.”
- Guillermo Del Toro, director of Hellboy and Pan’s Labyrinth.
It’s with this bold quote that Jamie Russell opens Generation Xbox – How Video Games Invaded Hollywood. Just from the title and this opening word salvo, you’d think Generation Xbox is about how video games are replacing movies – the nightmare of every film executive in the world, but, at the same time, an oft-prophecied shift that never quite seems to become reality.
by Danny Kim
Video games are generally considered products of the digital realm. Sure, we as the players press buttons and fiddle with joysticks, but ultimately, all the action’s happening in the digital space. Even with motion-based control systems like the Kinect and the Wii, their physical motions are just means to achieving a desired result in the game – you swing your Wiimote to swing your tennis racket in the game, and you move your arms in front of your Kinect to interact with something on the screen. The digital-physical divide has a particularly noticeable effect in social gaming situations where you play together in the same space as other people, such as a split-screen match of Halo with your buddies. Although you might be trash-talking to each other, the emphasis is still clearly on the screen and the game within it, not the players themselves or their physical interactions.
With Combiform, that’s definitely not the case. Created by project lead Edmond Yee (MFA Interactive ’12) for his MFA thesis and developed by a team led by him and producer Josh Joiner (BA Interactive ’12), Combiform is unique compared to many projects in IMD in that it isn’t just a game; it’s a full-on platform on which developers can create their own experiences. The system consists of a set of four wireless controllers connected to a PC via a dongle. Each controller has a button, twisting knob, multi-color LED, and accelerometer, but the coolest thing about the Combiform controllers is that they are equipped with magnets that allow them to combine with each other. The ability to combine may seem gimmicky at first, but it works with the other capabilities of the controller to open up refreshing new gameplay experiences. To demonstrate this fact, the Combiform team is working on a host of games that really showcase the unique capabilities of the platform, and I had the chance to check some of them out.
The first game I played was called Blow it Up. It’s a 2v2 game where the players on each team combine their two controllers and use the combined device as an mock air pump, moving it up and down in the air to simulate a pumping motion. The faster you pump with the two controllers combined, the faster your balloon fills up; if the controllers become disconnected, you lose air fast. The surface-layer simplicity here is deceiving, because once you realize that the core of the gameplay – said pumping motion – takes place in the physical world, it opens up some unique strategies that you can use to win. Indeed, while messing with someone else’s controllers might be considered a gaming etiquette faux pas in most scenarios, with Combiform and Blow It Up, karate-chopping apart the other team’s two controllers to make them lose air is completely normal. (more…)
by Danny Kim
We take game consoles for granted these days. Everyone and their granny owns an Xbox, PS3, or Wii these days, with install base numbers exceeding 140 million in the US alone. However, for consoles to even exist, someone had to invent them; someone had to think, “Hmm, wouldn’t it be awesome if you could play games at home?” and run with it.
The man most often credited with this achievement is Ralph Baer. Now an independent engineering consultant, Baer is best known for being the creator of the Magnavox Odyssey, the world’s very first home video game console. The release of the Odyssey was just the beginning for video games, a medium that has grown from hobby and scene to culture and industry in the last 40 years. Without Baer’s work on the Odyssey, game consoles and video games might never have become as popular and widespread as they are today. Often referred to as the “father of video games,” Baer graciously took some time from his busy day to sit down and answer some of our questions. (more…)
by Danny Kim
One Tuesday in the fall of 2011, I was sitting in CTPR242 (Fundamentals of Cinematic Sound). The date was November 15th, merely four days after 11-11-11, a momentous day when many a gamer’s social lives went kaput with the release of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. I’d been playing quite a while over the weekend, and EVERYONE was talking about it – even CNN was raving about it! I saw ads for Skyrim quite often on TV and online as well. Suffice it to say it was a very well marketed game, and I assumed people would at least be familiar with it as a pop culture style, “Oh, I saw an ad about that on TV!” thing if nothing else when I brought it up, in the same way I’m familiar with the Geico Gecko even though I never actually use any of their services.
So that Tuesday in 242 when Preston began lecture like he did every time by asking us what we’d seen over the weekend, I asked, “Oh, can I talk about a video game I played?” and he was like, “Yeah, go for it!” So I mentioned that I’d been playing a ton of Skyrim and loved the atmosphere and music in it. But then when I looked around to see if anyone else knew what it was or had been doing the same, and all I saw were blank faces – the same kids who would be aghast if I told them I wasn’t familiar with Pulp Fiction or the Godfather series had never heard of Skyrim, let alone the Elder Scrolls franchise as a whole.
Right now, Interactive majors are required to take CTCS190 and CTPR241/290 like most SCA majors, and I presume the reason for this is to give all students in SCA a common fundamental curriculum in the cinematic arts to draw from. But then I have to ask, how is this fundamental curriculum complete in any way without an introduction to video games, the most recent development in cinematic arts? I believe that all SCA students be required to take an intro level CTIN course that teaches them the history, culture, and language of video games. But why? you might ask. Why should I care about video games? I’ll tell you why: (more…)
(Originally published on CelebritySC on 2/16/2012)
“My name is Alan Wake. I’m a writer.”
With its impending PC re-release and the closely following release of its downloadable followup, I figured now is as good a time as any to talk about one of my most favorite games of all time, one that I think is overlooked beyond belief: Alan Wake.
“A Psychological Action Thriller,” the caption on the front cover reads. Just from this text, it’s clear that Remedy is aiming for so much more than just a generic third person shooter with a barely functional narrative. No, Alan Wake is a game where the narrative elements play a huge role in making the overall package as great as it is. And would we expect any less from the developers behind Max Payne (for the less interactively educated, I promise you, the games are infinitely better than the piece of shit movie starring Mark Wahlberg), a series known for its strong story, atmosphere, and style?
And yes, the main character is a writer. Not some action hero or soldier. That plus the whole “Psychological Action Thriller” thing should make you think about Alan Wake a little bit differently to start with. (more…)
by Danny Kim
(Originally posted on CelebritySC on 2/10/12)
Destroying blocks and making words always feels good.
It’s a near-undeniable fact that millions of people who’ve played games like Tetris and Scrabble over decades of time can attest to. Developed by USC Interactive Media Division student Asher Vollmer (’12), Puzzlejuice aims to take what we love from some of our favorite word games and puzzle games and combine them into one package, into what I guess you could consider the video game pseudo-counterpart of a bacon-wrapped hot dog. Both puzzle games and word games are a dime a dozen iOS App Store, many of them garbage but some of them quite good; so does Puzzlejuice’s approach of combining elements from both help make it fun and stand out from the crowd? Let’s find out. (more…)
by Danny Kim
(Originally posted on CelebritySC on 2/8/2012)
It’s a concept that most survival-action and survival-horror games and films boil down to, “You don’t wanna die, so here, take this shotgun and shoot shit,” or, “Oh my god, you’re helpless, you better run.” (Amnesia, anyone?) No game has really chosen to explore the human side to survival, the wear it inflicts on a person over time and the stress it puts on those trying to stay alive. But it seems like that’s finally about to change. (more…)
by Danny Kim
(Originally posted on CelebritySC on 2/2/2012)
Bioshock was released in the summer of 2007 to much critical acclaim. Reviewers praised the narrative and the world that Irrational Games had created, with the striking art-deco visual style and the intricately designed narrative coming together with brilliant writing and design to form a believable underwater dystopia. Its 2010 sequel, Bioshock 2, while not as revolutionary as its predecessor, preserved and built upon what made the original Bioshock so great and also received accolades from critics.
On both occasions, the descent into the world of madness that is Rapture would not have been as memorable without the music of Garry Schyman (USC Thornton ’78). The first descent into Rapture as Andrew Ryan speaks over the radio and Schyman’s “Welcome to Rapture” plays in the background is a moment that will stick with gamers for a long time. In many ways, Schyman’s music is as iconic a part of the Bioshock identity as the Big Daddy or the Little Sister. In this interview, we sit down with him to discuss the trials and tribulations of being a video game composer. (more…)
by Danny Kim
(Originally posted on CelebritySC on 1/25/12)
With over 14 years of experience in the games industry, Chris Avellone is an industry veteran in every sense. Currently Creative Director and Chief Creative Officer at Obsidian Entertainment, he has played a role in shaping some of the most memorable experiences in gaming history, from the vast wastelands of Fallout 2 and Fallout: New Vegas to the countless lightsaber battles of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II. In this interview, we sat down with him to pick his brains on game design and the gaming industry.
Danny Kim: Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your specific title(s) and position(s) at Obsidian Entertainment.
Chris Avellone: I’m Creative Director/Chief Creative Officer at Obsidian Entertainment. I’m involved with brainstorming and reviewing existing design content at the company, playing the builds, critiquing design documents, and assisting with the designer hiring and testing.
How did you first start working in the games industry?
I ended up working in the game industry by writing pen-and-paper game adventures in my spare time, and I was persistent enough to get them published. Once published, my boss then recommended me for a position at a game company based on his work experience with me (a positive one). (more…)