Why Fallout 3 Should be Getting VR Support Instead of Fallout 4

Hey oh don’t cha know, cup of coffee and the day doth go. Saddle up cause the sun’s gotta be shining somewhere. Welcome travelers, if the fires aren’t burning the birds’ll be a chirping so let’s get to it.

If you care about VR as much as I do, then you’re probably aware that the 2015 blockbuster hit Fallout 4 is getting the VR treatment this coming October. It’s a huge move by Bethesda that shows confidence in the medium and serves as a shining beacon for other major developers as they slowly make their way into these vast unknown waters. For these reasons, I am very much excited at the prospect of Fallout 4 in VR, but there’s just one problem…. con flab it, it should have been Fallout 3!

Let’s break it down, shall we?

  1. Cross compatibility with PS4 would be very attainable. As of the time of this writing, there have been no plans for Bethesda to bring Fallout 4 to PS4, and many are concerned that performance demands would require some serious reworking of the game’s engine components to function well on the device.
  2. People may be tired of Fallout 4. Anyone who came into the franchise with Fallout 4 may be waiting for a good reason to dive into more fresh Fallout content and anyone who’s played 3 would, at this point, probably appreciate a revisit to it’s hallowed halls.
  3. Due to the nature of Fallout 4’s dialog system, conversations with NPCs were very much shunted. Fallout 3 on the other hand had a very robust conversation system and I think it led to a deeper connection with characters and more realized ethos and culture, things that feed back into immersion very well.
  4. Where as Fallout 4 is a shooter with RPG elements, Fallout 3 is an RPG with shooter elements. VR is a lot to take in and the slower paced action of Fallout 3 would actually be more suitable. The long hours demanded by Bethesda titles could prove very tiring in VR and slower action could allow users to stay in VR longer.
  5. The Capitol Wasteland would be more interesting and more powerful a place to visit than the Commonwealth. This could just be personal preference, but the thought of watching a skirmish unfold in the confines of the Capitol building, or gaining access to the Washington Memorial to set up a satellite array for Three Dog, or fighting off the Super Mutants holding the Lincoln Memorial. There are many iconic locations dipped in a thick layer of post-apocolism that just beg to be explored. How about the VR inspired mission, Tranquility Lane? Talk about getting meta. How about trudging through the foggy swamps of Point Lookout, what has been lauded as one of the finest examples of game DLC to this day?

Of course I’m just a fan gallivanting ideas here, but to me Bethesda missed an opportunity to bring awareness to a game that has receded beneath the ocean waves of time. A game that deserves another chance in the spotlight, and VR would be the perfect vehicle for such a resurrection.

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Under the Microscope: Metroid Prime > Part One

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Today is the start of something special!… Or at least I hope it is. :0 I’ve had this idea bouncing around in my head for a few months and finally decided to put rubber to the road! Welcome to Under the Microscope with your esteemed host, Doctor Bambi! What lies in wait for you is adventure and things! My vision for this is pretty simple. I want to walk through great games and dissect elements of the game design, just to see what I can find, and share them with you! ^__^ As an aspiring game designer I thought this would be a good way to learn from the best and also contribute to the community. Hopefully we’ll all learn awesome things and discover some core principles that make a great game great! I’m sure there are points I’ll misstate or perhaps you have more you’d like to add, so feel free to speak up if you feel so inclined. If not, sit back and enjoy the ride!

To start off, I’d like to make you aware of some names and give you a better feel for the people who made this game in particular possible. To start we probably all know this game was published by Nintendo. It was collaboratively developed by Retro Studios in Austin Texas and Nintendo Co. in Kyoto Japan. The names I’m about to get to can be found on this URL: http://www.giantbomb.com/metroid-prime/3030-15473/credits/ I wish I could talk about every individual, but these were the key people who had the final say on what made it into the game.

Lead Designer: Mark Pacini

Mark is currently a game director at Armature Studio

Lead Artist: Todd Keller

Most recently, Todd has worked on Batman: Arkham Origins- Black Gate

Lead Programmers: Jack Mathews, Andy O’Neil

Jack is the co-founder of Armature Studio, also worked on Black Gate

Andy is now the president of Bluepoint Games

Lead Audio: Clark Wen

He is now working at Neversoft as their audio director

Alright, so to start this series off, lets take a look at the start menu. So the first thing that’ll probably jump out at you is the atmospheric music. The music in this game is absolutely incredible and the main menu sets an intense tone. Every time I boot up this game, I feel that deep immerse gravitas wash over me. I’m playing a Metroid game. The next thing that’ll probably grab your attention is the setting of this menu. Swathy fluids and and little bits and strange growths. Like looking at the internal workings of a living cell… under a microscope. ;D The imagery will create a subconscious note in your mind about elements that will unfold within the story. What are the space pirates doing? Growing metroids again and also genetically modifying various other space life. Dang pirates. When pressing the start button, you’ll notice the music picks up. The tempo increases and the overall tone of the song is more intense. Getting you fired up to jump in the game. After selecting your file, it’s off to the races. Metroid races that is. Oooo maybe that’d make a good spin off. Metroid Racing. Okay, forget I said that. Also the panning around the various objects in the background helps give each individual menu a sense of place in the overall hierarchy of the menu system. I don’t think there’s too much more to comment on that. Stay tuned for the next post where I’ll be actually starting the game! *audience gasp* Thanks for reading, glen mates!

Nova Intent: Escape From Damascus 527 — Build 1 is here!

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The first build of Nova Intent: Escape from Damascus 527 is now online. 🙂 Sadly, the only way to play it is to download the file from here: http://doctor-bambi.deviantart.com/art/WIP-EscapeFromDamascus527-Build1-440391002

I’m working on getting this thing up and running in the browser, but le sigh. De problems. But hey, first build is here!

Just a warning, this is not complete yet, just a demo/alphaish thing while I build out the rest of the content.

What is Nova Intent: Escape from Damascus 527, you ask? This is my take on the text based adventure genre. It skews from the traditional sense of a text based adventure for a few different reasons. It is not controlled by inputting text. There are graphics, but they do not exist to interrupt your imagination’s interpretation of the story, simply to inspire richness. There is ambient audio to add immersion, and tactile audio feedback.

This game is an interactive short story set in the fairly near future. Anyone who is a fan of Doctor Who, Star Trek, Star Wars, or any form of scifi writing, this game was made for you. There is action, drama, and an ending I hope will keep you thinking long after you’ve put the game down.

But most importantly, I hope you have fun and enjoy exploring the Damascus 527.

Is Dead Space 3 a Love Letter to the Future of the Dead Space Franchise

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So I’ve recently finished up the third installment in the Dead Space franchise and have to say I am quite surprised. So there I was trudging along through dark, dank hallways doing my dead space thing. When all of a sudden something incredible happened. Dead Space let me choose in which order to attack certain key objectives. It opened up the world and said okay here’s your little box, go out and do whatever in your little box. And of course this little box was in a zero grav environment revolving round the frigid Tau Volantis. Scattered with bits of fallen SCAF vessels. A Catacomb in a vacuum, overrun by morbidly mutated necromorphs. It’s also a section where co-op is available. There’s something very fun about exploring such an incredibly realized reality with one of your close friends, not sure how you’re going to survive this tragic situation. By far one of the most impactful moments I had in the game. From this stemmed a stream of thoughts that made me very excited about the future implications of this franchise.

The love letter is one of the purest forms of hope and love. A promissory note of all the great things that will come once time has had its chance to pass. What is Dead Space 3 possibly professing to us? I would say Visceral is at a threshold and just beyond is something quite spectacular. That moment in the game where I had my little box and I could play the game my way. I want more of that. I want to explore the Dead Space world on my terms and I want to experience this with my friends. With the next generation of consoles comes new game design opportunities. Already we see this burgeoning sudo single player/ multiplayer experience in games like Destiny. Dead Space could very much take advantage of this system and give you the chance to explore the world on an incredibly personal level.

But what kind of implications would this have on the horror elements of Dead Space? It’s quite clear at the moment that Visceral has headed more toward action than horror, but opening up the game could actually allow Dead Space to head back to its roots. One of the main reasons Dead Space was such a scary experience was due to the usg ishimura feeling so realistic. Even though the experience was linear, you were free to travel to where ever on the ship you wanted to go at just about any time. It becomes scary when the familiar changes on you. When what you believe is safe becomes very much the opposite. Dead Space did this constantly, having you traverse the same areas multiple times and watching those environments change over time. Having an open environment gives that sense of exploration and fear of the unknown back to the player.

This is certainly just a big opinion, but what does it make you think? Would you like an open world Dead Space? Would the open world setting destroy what you find so great about Dead Space? Curious to hear people’s thoughts if you find this.

Creating a Much More Imersive Gameplay Experience

I was playing Dishonored not too long ago, and I found something really interesting.  One of the many reasons this game is one of my favorites, is the deep customization of your HUD.  I wanted to do a little experiment.  I went through and turned off all items on my HUD.  What resulted was quite shocking to me.  The game felt more fluid and real.  Now instead of a graphic popping up telling me what to do, I just… did.  The game forced me to internalize the controls, which granted, can be kind of scary and frustrating at first, but once you get the hang of it (in about 15 minutes or so) you’ll find a much deeper and personal experience.  Now the developers aren’t spoon feeding you.  A sword is on the table?  I better pick that up.  As opposed to, *get close to table* *see pickup prompt* oh, I better hit “x” here.  There’s someone on the other side of this door?  I better peek through the lock to see if I can get past him.  As opposed to, *approach door* *two prompts appear* *”x” to enter, “hold x” to peek* I better hold x and see if a bad guy is in this room.  Just look at the difference of these two scenes and decide for yourself which one you think feels more natural:

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But what does this mean for game design?

Well, you have to realize how long games have been set up this way.  In fact, I bet a lot of hardcore gamers would have a hard time adjusting to the idea that you can’t see how much ammo is left in your clip.  The opposite side of the fence argues this: imagine your experience if you weren’t burdened with checking your clip status every 10 seconds?  Certainly, you do need time to figure out the controls, quite a bit of time in fact.  I performed this test after having played many many hours with Dishonored.  I know the controls like the back of my hand; this could lead to some biased results.  So, I plan to do a test with Bioshock Infinite, a game that I’ll have no experience playing.  By timing myself and seeing how long it takes me to learn the controls of a triple A title, we’ll see how plausible it is to take away a gamers HUD.

But how would you work around no HUD in your implementation of feedback?
The best and most realistic way to give a player feedback, is to have natural stimuli impact the character in such a way that grabs the gamer’s attention.  Instead of flashing a message on screen that you’re burning from a fire, just have an animation of the character model that implies, “hey, you are on fire, you might want to figure out a way to put that out before you burn to death.”

My Suggestion
I believe that there is a very simple answer to all of this:  start the player off with full HUD and tutorials and the like.  Then, as they progress through the game, slowly, one by one, remove each piece of data until there is nothing left between the person and the world they are exploring.  It’s great that Dishonored lets you adjust these settings, but many people hate digging through menus and tweaking the controls.  Let’s not destroy their chance at a deeper experience just because of that.

Game Career Guide

Found an awesome little site for anyone who cares about the video games industry.  gamecareerguide.com This place has everything you need to take that step into the industry and try to make a name for yourself.  There’s forums, challenges, and even a jobs board. It’s also closely affiliated with gamasutra.com which is an excellent source for video game industry news and events.