Under the Microscope: Metroid Prime > Part 2

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Welcome to Under the Microscope with your esteemed host, Doctor Bambi! Under the Microscope is all about walking through great games and dissecting elements of the level, game, and sound design. As an aspiring game designer I thought this would be a good way to learn from the best and also contribute to the community.  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!

So today we begin the opening scene. The first text appears on screen telling you why you’re here. A distress beacon picked up on a space pirate research facility. Oh man, we’re just asking for trouble. What horrors could await us?? Cue eerie music. Fade up on space. Then we pan to a planet. And then…. Samus’s ship zips into view. The music picks up as she moves in and docks. Popping out from a porthole atop her vessel, she does a completely necessary quadruple front flip and busts a move up onto that platform. We hear the familiar soothing music sting as the camera swoops into Samus’s visor… Brace yourself, for it is time.

So one thing to look at, is why did they have her do that dramatic entrance? I believe this is the first exposure we’ve had of Samus in 3D. Also, at the time, Gamecube graphics were absolutely amazing. I think Retro knew that if they were going to get players engaged and excited about controlling Samus in 3D, they needed to convey just how much of a bad A she really is. When she hits the deck, there’s an audible thump that gives off a sense of power and presence, you definitely don’t want to get in a bar fight with this lady.

Now we should take a moment to address the heads up display, cause who doesn’t love a great HUD and this game definitely has one. In most games, I hate a lot of information on the screen, blocking me from the important moments unfolding before me. In the case of this game though, all of the HUD elements not only feel good, but they actually help immerse the player in the role of Samus. She most definitely would want info on her visor. Also, all elements are at least slightly opaque. In no time your brain will have adjusted to them and, for all intensive purposes, be moved to the back of your conscious. Also also, when you turn your head, the display lags behind for a split second, which just feels awesome.

So the first obstacle that we run into is a force field. It’s quite apparent, the developers want us to understand how shooting is going to work in this game. Four glowing targets are to be shot before you can proceed. This teaches you how to lock onto targets and how to fire. I found it interesting that you absolutely cannot jump back onto your ship at this point. There was no plot point to explain this and it feels a little impractical. But I think they didn’t want the player jumping up onto the ship where a collision box is set up, firing the save menu. Something kind of Easter eggish is that you can shoot the chunks of rock floating overhead and they’ll explode into tiny pieces. A very nice touch.

Well, I’ll have to leave it there for now Glen Mates. There’s so much to talk about at every step of the way. Hope you got something out of it. If you haven’t already, you should head to my facebook and give a like there and share with your friends. 🙂 Okay, okay, next time I promise I’ll actually get to playing the actual game *audience gasp again* and dive into the depths of this space pirate research facility. Those danged pirates!

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Facebook Did What Now?!?!

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It’s official, Facebook is in the process of buying out Oculus VR. Both sides are totally fired up about this, but WAIT WAT?? I need to collect the bits of my brain that just exploded all over the walls. Can this really be a good thing?? Is Oculus founder Palmer Luckey smoking crack? Is Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg smoking crack?

…. But now this got me thinking. Up until the past few years, the consensus on virtual reality has been that it’s gimmicky. We’re finally starting to break that mold, but who has been the targeted audience for VR up to this point? Hardcore gamers? Arcades gamers? Possibly the military? Have we all been looking in the wrong place? If VR can find a killer app that caters to every demographic, it might have a chance at sticking around. But it’s gotta be so cool and interesting that every single person that hears about the concept says, “hey I gotta get me one of those!”. If Grandma is using it, you’ve won. The hardcore video game audience is not large enough to sustain VR, but if VR is not dependent on hardcore gamers, it has a chance to make a real profit and a real impact on society and culture. It can’t be just an added feature to an already existing product, it has to be an experience you can get no where else except through that headset. So perhaps the team up will be a great thing. If they can find a use for it, which I think they already have, Oculus could be set to impact the millions upon millions of facebook users an interesting ways. From there, Oculus will have a solid base to jump from. Movies, games, and everything we haven’t dreamed up yet are all on the table and that is a very exciting thought indeed.

I’ve used the Oculus Rift before, and I think it is an absolutely incredible piece of tech. The level of game immersion is like nothing I’ve ever experienced, but I know not everyone feels this way. If you are skeptical of the hype for the Oculus, I have a story to tell that might help describe what it’s like to use.

So one of my friends decides to try out Minecraft using the Oculus. He has a natural fear of heights, and there can be some pretty extreme hills in the game. He’s never had any problems just playing the game on a monitor. But when inside the Oculus, he couldn’t get up the courage to go near steep drop offs because it triggered his natural fear of heights. It’s a good example of the power of the Oculus, because we’ve all experienced that disconnect in games when falling to our deaths. But inside the Oculus, your brain will have such a hard time deciding what is reality and what is not, that it will trigger your natural response to dangerous situations. It really is incredible.

Of course, this is just an example of using VR in games, an obvious use case. Even then, it’s still tacked on and adds very little value to the actual game play. Once the wow factor has died down, you start to notice all the problems. The things that’ll make you use the device less and less until it ends up in your closet collecting dust for all eternity. The headset is unwieldy, and a cable has you tethered to your computer. It’s not social, once you have it on, everything going on in the room is essentially irrelevant to your brain. In most cases, you have to be sitting down while wearing the device for any extended amount of time. It doesn’t look very attractive, in fact it looks down right creepy. You certainly wouldn’t want to take this thing on the subway with you, or use it at a party. Just imagine a train full of people wearing headsets, sitting there, expressionless, while the government pumps out propaganda messages- okay I’ve gone too far.

The main point I wanted to get across here is that VR and social applications could provide the platform VR needs to survive. And on the other hand, VR has some real issues to tackle before it can embrace that social mantra. Cheers to the future!

Housemate’s “Always Here for You” Remix Competition

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Just submitted my remix of “Always Here for You” to the Housemate remix competition. It’s been a ton of fun making. I’ve recently been listening to the new Skrillex album and really taking in the quality of his mixes. Even if you’re not a fan of the content or style, there’s no denying that a Skrillex song is on a level of mastery that not many artists reach in terms of mixing quality. One of the things that really struck me about each song I listened to was the cleanliness. Even when he drops a super heavy bass, it never feels overly muddy. Mud is one of the more difficult things to minimize in a mix, but as a test, I tried applying a light 2 dB eq filter in the 200-400 hz range on each track in an attempt to keep low mid frequencies from gobbling up my headroom. What I ended up with was a much, much cleaner and crisper sound. This, in and of itself led to a new problem, sadly. Getting rid of the mud is definitely a huge part of the battle but now we have to take care of the high frequencies that are free to stab at your eardrums like a gremlin with a fork. As you increase the loudness of your track, make sure low and high frequencies are presented evenly. It’s very important to keep in mind, the end user should be able to listen comfortably and soak in all that frequency goodness you’ve worked so hard on, no matter what volume they play it at. Here are some URLs you might be interested in pursuing:

My remix: https://soundcloud.com/doctorbambi/alwayshereforyou

Other Entries: http://www.remixcomps.com/host/entries/2904?sort_by=created&sort_order=DESC

Housemate’s Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HousemateOfficial/app_178091127385