Guest Blog: Dennou Coil Technology by James Hidahl

One of the major innovations in electronics is Augmented Reality (AR). AR programs work by taking real world information such as through a camera and inserts virtual images and objects in real-time. AR technology is currently used by modern devices such as smart phones like the iPhone and portable games systems like the Nintendo 3DS and has many uses for utility and entertainment.

A sci-fi anime series from Japan named Dennou Coil was aired in 2007 and lasted 26 episodes. The setting was a society in the near future where a commonly used technology was computer glasses that allowed their wearers to interact with the Internet and other virtual systems.

Many programs and other software have forms and behaviors. Some examples these virtual items include tools, devices, and digital creatures such as virtual pets and “illegals” which are leftover data and code from earlier versions of the system.

The glasses the characters of the series not only work as displays to see the virtual objects but also include speakers and work as miniature computer to communicate with virtual infrastructure.

Though the technology of these glasses does seem advanced, I expect them to still be plausible. Most of the components of them already exist and only require miniaturization before they could be combined into a practical device.

Computers are becoming smaller constantly, and I expect the devices themselves don’t need to be very powerful. Cloud technology generally works with smaller, “dumb” devices that mostly run their more sophisticated processes through a centralized system much like the virtual infrastructure in Dennou Coil. If they can’t have computer small enough to put in a set of glasses or goggles, they could still be connected to something like a smart phone on the user.

The lenses are another issue that are plausible. Liquid crystal displays (LCD) are very common and more importantly already mostly transparent. Just sandwich a pair smaller, high-detail screens between pieces of glass and plastic and connect them to the computer system. Images would then be displayed right in front of the eyes with enough difference to create an illusion of 3D. A similar technology is already used in heads-up displays (HUD) which are used in fighter jets and in development for infantry.

The possibility of people practically living in a virtual world doesn’t appear to be too far off. It just takes a bit of time and development for all the pieces of technology we already use in our daily lives to become smaller and merge together.

I would also like to say that though Dennou Coil is a great series, it is only available in Japan. The only DVDs of it that are out are only compatible with DVD region 2 players. If it weren’t for regional lockout, I’d be able to play it here in America, except it would just be in Japanese which I can actually deal with. In the mean time, I’ll just watch it on unofficial fansubs.

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Podcast: The Beauty of Skyrim

Podcast Skyrim

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is one of the most immersive and entertaining role-playing games ever created in the history of video games. In this podcast I discuss some of the reasons for why Skyrim is such an amazing game. Through the use of environment and player choice Bethesda Softworks has created one of the best games in video game history.

Game 2: Dark Souls (Part 2)

The last blog post was focused on how the design element of game mechanics are used in the video game Dark Souls on the Xbox 360. This post will be based in the same game world of Dark Souls but will focus on how the game uses the design element of atmosphere.

Atmosphere – A world of evil…

In video games, atmosphere seems to be the one design element that can turn a good game into a masterpiece. Atmosphere in Dark Souls ties all the other design elements together to create the amazing yet evil world that exists in the game.

Throughout the course of the game, players will venture through numerous environments each having a different look and feel than the previous. At the beginning of the game the player is stuck in a dark and lifeless prison where they cannot wait to see the sun again. The art style and visual effects used to create environments like the prison, work so well together that they influence the player’s experience.

Sound in Dark Souls is done in a very unique way. At moments in the game, the only sounds the player hears are the breaths of the evil waiting for them around the corner. With no music, the smallest noises become loud to invoke feelings of fear and desolation within the player. Music in Dark Souls is used only at specific times such as when a player can momentarily rest or when a player encounters a true boss battle.

Dark Souls is one of the most unique video games on the market today. The game pushes the player to uncomfortable limits at times while offering an experience and a feeling of accomplishment that is unparalleled.

The 3 Game Documents

This blog post will focus on the process of creating the initial paperwork necessary to design a video game. This post will primarily focus on the three major documents needed to design and pitch an original video game idea. These three documents will eventually become the same, which is known as the game design document.

The first document in the game designing phase is referred to as the game proposal or the one-sheet. This document is extremely important in the early phases of a game design. This one-sheet is a basic overview of what the game is going to be. The one-sheet is meant to be short, interesting, and informative so that the design team, as well as the publisher, can get excited about the game. 

The second document is a little longer and contains much more detail than the previous one-sheet. This document is referred to as the ten-pager and it is roughly 10 pages in length. The ten-pager is written to layout the initial foundation of the game being designed. According to a game design author Rogers (2010), “The intent is for readers to quickly understand the basics of the final product without going into excruciating detail” (p. 62).

The third and final document is known as the game design document, or the GDD. This document is roughly 30 to 40 pages and is intended to detail every important aspect of the game being designed. In the GDD, the designer will go into the excruciating detail that was left out of the ten-pager. The GDD is helpful for not only the team but also the designer. The designer uses the GDD to not only inform others about the game, but also to have documentation for all the aspects of the game.

Sources:

Rogers, S. (2010). Level Up: The Guide to Great Video Game Design. WestSussex, UK: John Wiley & Sons , Ltd

Game 2: Dark Souls (Part 1)

The second game analyzed was Dark Souls on the Xbox 360. Out of all the elements of game design, this blog post will focus solely on the game mechanics of Dark Souls.

Game Mechanics – “Prepare to Die”

In Dark Souls, the player is thrown into an enormous, evil, and open world. The best way to describe this game is with a simple statement that can be found on the back of the game’s box. The statement is, “Prepare to die”, which any new player will quickly find out. While constantly dying is a huge part of this game and can be extremely frustrating at times, it is what makes Dark Souls such a meaningful game.

The player is in constant fear knowing that even in the smallest of encounters there is a high possibility of death. This constant fear ensures that the player will never be bored because they must always be ready for the next battle. While the difficulty level of Dark Souls can lead to a player becoming frustrated with the game, this level can also allow the player to feel a sense of accomplishment that is without comparison.

The player is thrown into an open world where they can choose to journey in almost any direction. Although the player has the choice of where to journey, the difficulty of enemies in certain locations will act as navigational cues. These cues help guide, but not force, the player to the correct areas for their current character level. Most of the time these helpful cues mean imminent death. The player must learn from death in Dark Souls in order to understand how to progress through this treacherous world.

The next blog post will be in the same world of Dark Souls but will be focused on the game’s atmosphere. So stay tuned and game on!

Advertising in Gaming

Gaming is a business. As much fun gamers have while playing games, it’s hard for some people to think of how lucrative a business the video industry is. With the increasing popularity of video games, businesses in other industries are taking notice and are doing whatever they can to advertise to gamers.

Advergaming is a new buzzword that is associated with the increase of companies advertising through video games. According to the author of http://www.gamesbrief.com Zoya Street, advergaming is when a brand pays a game developer to make a game around their brand. Because advergaming is working for companies, transmedia has also become increasingly popular.

Transmedia is another new buzzword that has spawned from the marketing movement within games. The author Zoya Street states that transmedia occurs when one media property, such as a movie, is promoted through a different media medium such as a game. Businesses have been promoting their media through other media mediums for some time but now these businesses are focusing on promoting through video games.

Companies are focusing on promoting through video games not only because of the gaming industry’s growing rate but also because games can bring in a wider range of audiences than other mediums. With a large majority of the United States interacting through social media, social gaming can be a quick and inexpensive way for a brand to advertise.

The combining of advertising and gaming can bring in a new era of marketing as well as gaming. On the other hand this movement could also lead to more game companies making games for a quick buck.

Sources:

Brackin, A. L. (2011). UTD Computer Game Design. Business of Games. Retrieved from http://www.computergamedesign.blogspot.com/2009/11/if-you-presented-and-want-to-share-your.html

Street, Z. (2011). The Business of Games. Social Games Summit Stats. Retrieved from http://www.gamesbrief.com/2011/12/social-games-summit-stats/

Hargreaves, B. (2011). General Assembly. The Business of Gaming. Retrieved from http://businessofgaming.eventbrite.com/

Stratmann, J. (2010). Future Lab. 3 Ways Social Gaming Can Benefit Brands. Retrieved from http://www.futurelab.net/blogs/business-games/2010/09/3_ways_social_gaming_can_benef.html

Street, Z. (2011). The Business of Games. Transmedia, Gamification, Advergaming. Retrieved from http://www.gamesbrief.com/2011/11/transmedia-gamification-advergaming/

Violence in Video Games

With an increasing number of children catching on to the growing popularity of video games, the subject of violence in video games becomes a bigger issue in our culture. The Columbine shootings became one of the main events in our society that brought violence in video games into the media spotlight. Although the subject of violence in games had already been an issue, it was the event at Columbine that made this subject matter a global issue.

According to APA author Pam Willenz, “playing violent video games like Doom, Wolfenstein 3D or Mortal Kombat can increase a person’s aggressive thoughts, feelings and behavior both in laboratory settings and in actual life, according to two studies appearing in the April issue of the American Psychological Association’s (APA) Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.”

Studies such as the APA study are becoming more popular as people begin placing blame anywhere they can after events like Columbine take place. The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) assigns ratings to video games to indicate the appropriate age group that the game is intended for and the content within the game. The ESRB sets these ratings to ensure that underage children cannot purchase certain games that are too graphic or violent.

No matter how many times individuals will place the blame of child violence on a video game freedom of speech is our natural right as an U.S. citizen. Video games are an art form and it is ultimately up to the parents to inform their children on what is ultimately real or just a fantasy world.

Sources:

Brackin, A. L. (2011). UTD Computer Game Design. The Good/The Bad/The Ugly. Retrieved from http://www.computergamedesign.blogspot.com/2009/11/wk-1314-business-end-of-games.html

Jenkins, H. (2004). Impact of Gaming. Reality Bytes: Eight Myths About Video Games Debunked. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/kcts/videogamerevolution/impact/myths.html

Elizabeth, A. M. (2011). Health Tech. One week playing violent video games alters brain activity. Retrieved from http://news.cnet.com/8301-27083_3-57335738-247/one-week-playing-violent-video-games-alters-brain-activity/

Willenz, P. (2000). Press Releases. Violent Video Games Can Increase Aggresion. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2000/04/video-games.aspx

Venables, M. (2011). Geek Dad. Violence in Video Games: It’s All Part of Growing Up. Retrieved from http://www.wired.com/geekdad/2011/09/violence/