Author Archives: Matt Jones
Something a bit different this week. Haven’t had time to come up with a topic worth writing about lately, what with all the preparation for jumping continents and what-not but apparently I’ve had time to piss about in Photoshop. Enjoy!
Has there ever been a story about Wonder Woman losing her powers? If not, this is probably why.
Evening all. Sorry for no post last week. My dog had a run in with a particularly sharp tree so most of my designated writing day was spent in a veterinary surgery. (She’s fine now incidentally. Just got a new battle scar to show off.)
Ok, so now that moral choice systems are about as prolific in gaming as jump buttons, I’ve been thinking a lot about the level of emotional investment people put into games that they, through their own actions largely define. How much do people care about characters in a story that they have a level of control over?
While noodling over this question, I came up with a hypothetical scenario and I’d really like to see what you (yes, YOU!) as gamers would do in this theoretical situation.
Imagine you’re playing your favourite computer game that features some kind of moral choice system. Now imagine that there’s a character in it that for whatever reason you find very compelling and/or entertaining to be around. Maybe they’re a love interest in the game or maybe they’re just a relatable, well written character. So you play the game all the way through, new pixelated best friend in-toe but just as you come to the end of the story and the boss fight/last mission/final objective is well under way, you’re put into a situation. A disastrous, inescapable situation that for whatever reason has left you with one final choice. Either you leave your favourite character to die to save yourself or you sacrifice yourself to save them.
how does this situation play out in a video game format for you?
See you next week!
G’day all. For this post I want to talk about Paperman, the breathtaking short animation from Disney studios. If you haven’t seen it yet then you are a pillock and should watch it immediately.
(Sorry, couldn’t find a decent full version of it on youtube)
Once again Disney has knocked it out of the park, which is sort of expected by this point but even they seem to have outdone themselves this time. That’s what I and a lot of other people in the 2D and 3D industries are trying to focus on, just how amazing this is but unfortunately, inevitably Paperman has also been a jolt of energy to one of the oldest and stupidest arguments in the animation industry. “Will 3D replace 2D?”
The reason this question has reared its ugly head again is because of the method by which Paperman was made. A special combination of 2D and 3D animation overlaid to create the finished result but regrettably, this has made some folks assert that this is the future of 2D animation. Many of them taking to well established blogs and magazine articles to talk about classic animation as if it’s some form of quant niche entertainment that can’t possibly survive into the future without a surgical graft of 3D to keep it alive and current.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. No, 3D is not going to replace 2D. 3D animation takes just as much time and on average, about the same amount of money to produce as 2D so it always comes down to the personal preference of the storytellers (Creator, writer, director, producer, etc.) and last time I check there were still a lot of people out there who prefer 2D animation over 3D.
I’ve also heard the argument about less people taking an interest in 2D and there for not learning about it or choosing a career in it. That, good sir is also bullshit. There’s just too much cross over between the two. Too many skills in 3D animation that are forged in 2D and needed for success. For example, DreamWorks won’t hire a 3D animator unless they have at least some professional 2D animation work under their belt. You can’t learn about 3D without 2D coming into it somewhere.
These two methods of visualisation are not separate entities. They are overlapping, intertwined inescapably joined to one another in a way that will never truly be able to be split. If anything that’s what Paperman proves above all else.
So if you’re talking to someone who thinks that 2D and 3D are in some kind of vicious death struggle for supremacy, it would probably be a good idea to punch that person in the face. That’s just my opinion though.
See you next week
Evenin’ all. I’ve broken some toes! That’s not news, I just figure if I put an exclamation mark at the end it will sound existing. Anyway…
So through a series of highly random events, I’ve found myself playing quite a few computer game tie-ins to movies of late. Now if there is one undisputable, undeniable, unavoidable fact about these games… it’s that they are bad. And not just bad, baaaaaaad. Unimaginative, unfocused (I’m trying to see how many words beginning with un- I can fit in this article) and generally lacking the touch of anyone who gives a crap about the product.
But you know all this and I’m betting you’ve seen enough people whining about it online to be sick of the subject altogether. But let it never be said that this is a place of pointless bitching. No, no. Our bitching shall have focus and purpose!
And with that in mind, I pose to you 2 questions:
One. Have you ever played a tie-in game that was good?
And TWO! What do you think would help make tie-in games better as a whole?
One: Matrix the game. Completely separate story from the films and seamlessly integrated into the established cannon. Someone gave a crap about this game. Whether that was just the Wachowski’s or the entire development team, it shows.
Two: Stop giving these games to big studios to develop. All they do is throw it to the unpaid interns to work on and the final product looks like something spit out by first year game-dev students. Try giving the game to a small studio with some interesting ideas. Give them some leeway and see what they want to do with it. Trust me, little developers would kill to work on a game with a big franchise attached to it and they’ll work a hell of a lot harder then better established developers who think tie-in games are beneath them.
Right, I’ve said my piece. Your turn.
See you next week!
G’day all (sorry, I’ve been researching Australian slang for a written project and it’s starting to take it’s toll.)
Sorry for no post last week. I was struck down with a terrible case of niece baby-sitting on the day intended for writing purposes. Anyway, let’s get on with it.
(FYI. There are some Mass Effect spoilers in this so if you haven’t finished it yet, bugger off.)
So once again this topic has spawned from yet another ill-advised trip to the Bioware social forums.
While perusing the fan creation section of the aforementioned forums, I came across an odd topic. Apparently a group of people are working on what they’re calling the “better ending mod” which effectively changes the end of the game Mass Effect to be less well written.
As far as I can tell this mod changes the end of the story so that Shepard lives and all of his/her friends live and everything works out perfectly for everyone forever and ever. I found the whole concept of this kind of discouraging.
I count Mass Effect as a drama. A sci-fi action drama, sure but a drama none the less and if you’re writing drama, there should be no such thing as a perfect happy ending.
Drama is rooted in reality, no matter what the setting, no matter what the circumstances and drama is driven by the threats posed by real life. Conflict, Sadness, loss and in real life we know that these things are unavoidable and nothing works out perfectly. Bad situations can work out well, they can even work out brilliantly but they never work out perfectly which is fine, perfect is over rated. I mean if you live through a horrific “90% chance it’s going to kill you” type of surgery, you don’t whinge afterwards because you’ve got a massive scar. No, you say “oh, that’s worked out brilliantly. Not perfect but brilliantly.”
A story like this is supposed to be about the (somewhat futile) struggle to achieve the perfect ending, the fight to preserve what we have and the sadness at what will be, what must be lost along the way to attain it. Your hero is supposed to grow to face this challenge and be a different person at the end of it and finally, the hero’s world must go through a similar metamorphosis to show that it too has grown through this hardship (just to clarify, when I say the hero’s world, I mean there life. Their friends, there circumstances. Everything and everyone that surrounds them as a person). From a story and narrative point of view, loss is a sign of gain. Something was given so that something could be earned. If nothing was lost, it implies that nothing was gained and nothing was ever really at risk.
In gaming terms, I worked very hard in Mass Effect to get the best ending possible but you know what? The whole galaxy was on the line and I knew shit wasn’t going to work out perfectly. It would have felt cheap if it had. It would have devalued all the hard work if nothing had been lost and nothing had changed.
Short explanation. Things change. There is loss and there is gain. When something big happens, this happens on a grander scale.
Alright, I think that made sense.
See you next week!
Evening all. Everyone sobered up from New Year? Good, then let’s talk about antagonist character development, shall we?
With all the family oriented movies on over Christmas and there affiliated one-dimensional villains maniacal laughter still ringing in my ears, I’ve been thinking a lot about the nature of villainy and what make a good bad guy in a story.
My working theory when it comes to villains in stories (and in life in general I suppose) is that no one thinks of themselves as evil. Bad people do bad things because they’re greedy or spiteful or angry but not just for the sake of being evil. Evil isn’t an emotion, it’s not a driving force for a personality in the real world so it always rings hollow when it’s presented as a motivation. I mean sure, if the character is a psychopath then they might do stuff just to be evil but if that’s the case then they cease being a character and simply become a dangerous obstacle for the protagonist.
When in come to villains , I personally think that most of the good ones can be broken down in to 2 categories.
1. The bad guy
All the aforementioned motivations. Greedy, spiteful, angry or all of the above. A person giving in to all there negative emotions but that’s the thing, they’re still a person and no-one, absolutely no-one is all bad or all good. No matter how close they are to being pure one way or the other they are never a paradigm.
Just as a good guy can do something bad, a bad guy can do something good. They don’t stop being a bad guy, it simply shows a capacity for good that is unused. Shen from the movie Kung Fu panda 2 is a good example of this.
2. The anti-villain
Someone trying to do good but going about it in a bad way. Arguably more dangerous than a simple villain because just like the hero, they’re fighting for something beyond themselves. Fighting for good as seen from their perspective. A trait usually associated with a protagonist and ultimately, a motivation we expect to win the day. I like these kind of antagonists because it creates a nice moral ambiguity within the story about right and wrong. The Operative from the movie Serenity qualifies as an anti-villain I think, although taken to a particularly mental extreme.
But anyway, I’m board of hear myself talk. What do you think? What makes a good villain?
See you next week!
No rant today kids. Too busy wrapping shit.
I just wanted to say Merry Christmas to all of my Uber-friends and all of our Uber-readers. Ya’ll rock.
Have a fun day tomorrow everyone.
FYI, I hear Father Christmas has stopped giving out coal to naughty kids and switched over to a bazooka soooo… might just want to double-check you’re on the Nice List.
Evening all. let’s jump right into this.
So I went to see Rise of the guardians last week and it was really good and the graphics were amazing and the baddie was boring and Kiddie Christmas cannon fodder blah blah blah the end. But it did get me thinking about films aimed at kids that are made today and the relative lack of complexity.
Now before you jump all over that statement. I don’t think children need to be watching stuff like Kingdom of Heaven (directors cut, not the original. Completely different movies) I just think that kids can handle the concept of a bad guy having motives beyond “being a dick.”
The reason I’ve been thinking about this is because of the films villain, Pitch. A character so diametrically Black and White that I’m starting to think that his colour scheme was meant as sort of a subtle joke. Every single scene with him in is a protracted explanation of just how horrible he can be. Every now and again the film flirts with the idea of Pitch being a sympathetic character, With him stating how little he has and how hated he is but before any kind of emotion can be applied to these notions, he quickly switched back in to Dick-Dastardly mode and jumps right into an evil monologue.
I’m assuming the reason for this is that the creators don’t want anything too emotionally difficult for the kids to deal with but I think that’s bunk. Children always seem to be underestimated when it comes to crap like this but plenty of stuff has been made for kids in the past that dealt with more challenging problems, like The Snowman. He freaking DIES at the end and kids love that one.
Modern films aren’t completely bereft of this either. Both Kung-fu Panda films have villains that were undeniably bad but had a history, reasons for being bad and showed some emotions to indicate this beyond moustache-twirling villainy.
I guess in a very very VERY broad sense I’m saying kids don’t need to be protected from reality as much as we think. I mean kids go out of their way to watch horror movies that they’re not meant too but it doesn’t instantly turn them into serial killers. In fact, I’m starting to think that a lot of the things we’re told turn kids into serial killers actually don’t.
If a kid comes out of a movie and is a bit quiet because they’re “thinking about it” I mark that as a success. I still think that children’s stories should have a happy ending because that’s what we should always be working for in real life. I just don’t think everything needs to be black and white. Give them a problem that doesn’t have a perfect answer and see what they do with it. Chances are they’ll surprise you.
Anyway, what do you think?
See you on Christmas Eve!
Evening all. I guess should post this before my Wifi connector is underwater with all the flooding.
So over the last few days I’ve seen a lot of blogs, comics and crap like that on the subject of fake geek girls. Most of it has been about the dismissal and ridicule of people who think this is a problem so I’ll assume I missed the first part of the argument.
Just to be clear. Yes, these people are idiots. Girls calling themselves geeks without any heavy geeky inclination is not a problem and reeks of the whole “no girls allowed in our clubhouse!” mentality from emotionally immature boys.
The thing is though, I’ve seen plenty of what I would label as fake geek guys too. Guys that say stuff like “oh I’m such a geek because that’s what my t-shirt says and I played a game on my computer that one time.” And when I look at this “problem” without the gender line cutting through the middle of it, I can sort of understand people being a bit iffy about it.
Being a vocal geek isn’t exactly an appreciated personality trait in the eyes of the general populous. Saying what we think or expressing our interests usually results in a bit of mind ridicule. Nothing serious but ridicule none the less so choosing to be a proud geek means that you’re choosing to take that mockery on the chin. For someone to say that they’re part of this group is to claim that they’re putting up with that mockery as well. Claiming a shared hardship, no matter how trivial when it doesn’t affect you can make people pretty angry.
I suppose it’s sort of similar to how I get all pissy with people who offhandedly say they’re dyslexic when they aren’t. It’s not a big deal but it’s enough to be annoying.
And that’s my 2 cents on the matter. What do you think?
See you next week!
Evening all. Sorry for no post last week. My internet decided working was too main stream. Anyway, on to this week’s jazz.
Over the years, I’ve heard plenty of people complaining about plot holes in games. Usually they’re justified complaints, the mistakes of lazy writing from un-invested writers. Some of the time however, what people are talking about aren’t strictly plot holes but instead unavoidable necessities of making a game playable.
Don’t get me wrong, I can’t stand plot holes but when it comes to games there has to be a level of leeway to make games work and prevent the story from being bogged down in endless exposition.
Take Halo for instance. Throughout the game, every character keeps going on about how you’re the only one who could ever conceivably complete these insurmountable tasks before you, completely ignoring the equally skilled clone stood to your left if you’re playing co-op. It doesn’t need to be explained in terms of story so it’s not. You’re playing it with your friend so that’s why there are two of you. It’s just one of those things that you’re not meant to think about too much like double jumps or health packs.
So here’s the actual question. Can you think of a time when a game took this leeway too far? At what point do unexplained game mechanics become detrimental to the story and what games have done it?
So what do you think?
See you next week!