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Your story sucks. No, I mean your life story.

Another issue I see that seems to keep boiling over is this overly abundant cry of crappy storylines.

‘Crappy’ storylines.

You see, the reason I bring this up as an issue is because many people have this ongoing idea that storylines have to vast, rich, and EXTREMELY in-depth. That’s ok; that’s just called having an expectation. I’m completely on board with having expectations. Speaking of expectations, you know what I expect out of a fighting game? Fighting.

What's your story?  Mine is I need to stab you. There reaches a fine point of understanding that the story isn’t the dealbreaker in the game. There are many aspects to a game, that help define it, and make it distinctly different from other games. Or so we would think. The creativity gap is slowly closing, mostly because money is greater than exploration. Again, a separate discussion. The issue with the story complaint is that people walk into games with unrealistic ideas of what constitutes a ‘good story.’ What IS a good story?

I hear people say things like “Vanessa, the story in [game] is terrible. Therefore, the game is terrible.” Really? I’ll be honest people: I could careless what Forrest/Marshall Law’s backstory are. What they represent are as follows: the guy who has a fighting style I can work with. That’s what most people think when they play with Eddy, or Michelle, or Unknown-whoever. The same is probably true for characters in Soul Calibur…well, with the exception of my ex-fiance, who played Ivy strictly to look at her ass. The point being that again, story is not the ultimate game killer. Stop shooting down a game about their story-they’re tying there damndest, and you can show some respect at a well placed attempt-unless, you know, you think you can come up with something better.

Vanessa, that’s bullshit: Well, considering how many companies are focusing less on pre-production and stroy because a) media dictates that they make more money and b) gamers dictate that all games should be perfect on first release, it gets difficult to squeeze perfection in every time. Something has to give. Either we have to accept that we can get a constant stream of games that will be lacking in some aspect or another, but will satisfice, or we have to be patient enough to understand and accept that games will take an extensive period of time to make into the creation we love and adore. Story happens in the pre-production pipeline, and when you only have time to rehash a struggle for humankind story, your options on making it original start coming up a little short.

Why this is a retarded argument: Sure, the differences in story between Halo and Gears of War aren’t really that much different, but they’re still different enough that we can discern details that make them standout. Halo’s main protagonist is somewhat of a lone soldier with only one other reoccurring character, while GoW takes the exact same families every time through every game. They both struggle against some type of race to secure the well-being of their own. Halo is much more in-your-face killing spree than is GoW: if you aren’t taking cover in Gears you aren’t progressing so much as you are dying. I use GoW as an example because many people are complaining about the death of Dom, deeming it ‘unnecessary’, ‘a cop-out’, ‘stupid’ even, when at the end of the day that’s just your opinion. I can come up with three solid reasons on why Dom had to die. However, that’s still my opinion. The point of the matter is we won’t know the true ‘intention’ without having written it. So who are we to judge whether or not this was a good or bad idea? We don’t even know what’s going on with the DLC, we don’t know if he’s dead for gooWould you care to hear my extensive, intricate story in how I became corrupted and rose to power, only to become obsessed with a blonde woman in a pink dress?  I bet you didn't know....wait!  Come back!d, and we don’t know what’s next. If it ends, it ends. If not, what’s going to happen? Oh, you don’t know? Then sounds to me like you need to channel that energy somewhere else. You didn’t write it, so you have no idea what the hell is supposed to be going on next. Even if it is the end, you take that point as it is, and you decide the next important part-did you enjoy your game? If yes, then why is this story argument remotely relevant? Did Mario ever have a story outside of ‘Bowser kidnapped someone I liked, I have to save her’? The only thing I get from Metroid to this day is Samus, a bounty hunter, has to fuck up some Metroids. Just because you don’t like the outcome doesn’t mean the story is bad-it just didn’t go the way you expected, and really, what fun is a predictable story?

Now, admittedly: There are some exceptions to the rule. I don’t think Bayonetta had a story. There was something about gods, Greek anthology, boobs, guns, and a kids, but I’m still pretty convinced it had no story. Fighting genre games should probably avoid trying to have story-a little blurb of text saying ‘Hey, here’s my style, this is who I like, and who I don’t’ should suffice. I’ve yet to see a successful attempt at interweaving everything together without it making little to no sense. I still don’t know why Eddy Gordo fell off the grid. Ryu’s backstory changes more frequently than my shoes. Not a single character in Dead or Alive is interesting, and no final boss has really had reason to be there. These are attempts at story that I will agree, legitimately suck (cough FFXIII cough hack). Then there are some, like World of Warcraft, that came from a foundation of amazing storytelling, that got flushed when the opportunity to maximize profit arose. Who’s really trying to follow the events of WoW? Dead Island is also guilty as charged-are we on a search and destroy or saving ourselves from zombies? However, saying that Arkham City was disappointing because ‘the ending wasn’t as riveting as I would have liked’ makes me want to slap people. That’s like going to a restaurant, ordering a dish that you have the full description of, eating 95% of it, and when your waiter asks ‘How was it?’ you go ‘Well, it was delicious, but it left a kind of weird residue in my mouth at the end,’ then tipping 5%. Arkham City’s story wasn’t bad, you just disagreedGoddamit, emotions are HAAAAAAAAAAAARD! :( with something. Whereas Bayonetta, overall just had poor story development. Both of these games bring a different idea of fun to the table, regardless-and the story wasn’t enough to make the game unsuccessful. As a matter of fact, both these games are widely successful. Ok, so you think Dom shouldn’t have died. TOO BAD. But ask yourself-without removing Dom and Adam Fenix, how else was Epic suppose to provoke a burst of strong emotion from a protagonist who’s main stance has been “I’ve been through worse, so I’ll get through this?” I’m not saying that was their intentions, but it helps to look at the scope through multiple lenses, rather than immediately assume that the developers just got lazy. I would only use this critique if the story was so unclear or so riddled with loopholes that it couldn’t be swallowed. Even then, by loopholes, I mean readily evident actions and plot are not explained, not the nitpicky stuff-is explaining why Lighting of FFXIII can jump up really high worth explaining? Because if you can explain that, I’m all ears for what the shit actually happened in XIII.  And no, I’m not spending another $60 to have an explanation handed to me-that’s a case where the story should’ve been told in the first place.

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Posted by on April 10, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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…but…but the trailer didn’t look like that!

So, an ongoing complaint I’ve heard in games recently is about the ‘misleading trailer.’ A prime, perfect example for this is Dead Island, a wonderfully over-hyped game about, well….zombies.

Did you say...zombies?

Did you say...zombies?

Going back and looking at the trailer….the trailer doesn’t look much different than the finalized game. So this boggles me a bit further as to why this trailer was so misleading. Regardless, there is a point to be made here.

If you seriously, honestly thought, that the final game, would look the exact same as this trailer, then I hate to break it to you: you’re naive. The only time you can make that expectation, is when you’re going to the movies.

You see, the way a game trailer works is like this: a trailer in gaming is not a 100% representation of the product. It’s a mere display of cutscenes or what the developers wish our puny XBoxes and PS3s could run at, at all times. The problem is, when you give a controller to a person and say ‘hey, you’re in charge now’, the ability to pre-render everything goes straight out the window. It is impossible to predict what every gamer will do every time at every instant. When I go to a Michael Bay movie, I expect to see a ton of explosions, some random hot chick, and and blatant exploitation of the computer’s processing power. Why?

Because I’m not interfering with it. It’s his movie, and he has sole control over it. I’m not playing his movie-I’m watching it.

Vanessa, that’s bullshit: no, it isn’t. If game developers could anticipate your every single move, we would have games that better resembled movies years ago. Gaming is a creative medium, and in order to cater to everyone, some corners have to be cut-being the psychic solution is one of those corners. May I also mention that there’s a sect of gamers built specifically for breaking things in a game? Well, actually, two: one is called Q&A testers-their job is to break it, go back and say ‘yea this won’t work. here’s an annotated, APA report on why.’ The other is called your typical asshole-these are the people who go above and beyond to find the most obscure clipping errors, the weirdest glitches, and honestly, just something to bitch about. Did you catch that one time, when gaming aesthetics were at an all time high, where models looked more realistic than ever, and developers work like crazy to meet demands that quite honestly, coming from the gaming community, are sometimes unrealistic? Probably not-you were too busy complaining about why Left 4 Dead 2 lied to you, and why Dead Space 2 lied because it ‘wasn’t as scary as it looked.’ Do you want a game or a movie? I would suggest you figure that out-it’ll drastically change how much you need to save up. Also, if you’re going to bitch about one game not ‘following up’, you need to bitch about them all. Dead Island caught a lot of heat, and Gears is catching heat for looking ‘uninteresting and flat’, so why isn’t MoW3 getting the same complaint? Isn’t that just the same game with a different filter, with better trailers every time? Final Fantasy 13 got zero bad rap, and the in game lip-syncing was about as bad as it was in FF8. I’ve yet to hear a complaint about Soul Calibur-and that trailer NEVER looks the same as the final product. Ever.

Why this is a retarded argument: what I notice is that people tend to point out how much the trailer lied to them based on how badly the game is peer-reviewed. Note that I said PEER-REVIEWED, and not IGN or Gamasutra or whatever other trash you want to reference. And yes, they’re all trash. I’ll do that in a different post later, when I get some sleep.

When you start making the judgement of a game based SOLELY on how it differs from the teaser trailer, you sell the game short. Honestly, if the game is fun, why does it matter? There was a time when games looked like nasty blocks flattened against your screen-it’s called 8- to 32-bit. If you ever once, went back, wiped the dust off your PS1 or SNES or whatever, to play a game you really liked, then bitching about how a game looks today is null and void. Then again, there was also a time when games didn’t need trailers to appeal to greedy masses of fanboys to overhype a game, only to turn around and bash it into the ground because ‘it was a huge disappointment.’ The only thing disappointing in this case was us, because our inability to play the game based on replay values, features, or general fun content never existed. We were too quick to say ‘doesn’t look the same? That means the rest must be shit.’

Now, admittedly: there have been some really nasty, blatant lies out there. I bring up Dead Island because what was conveyed in the trailer was pretty clear-zombies and such, people are dying, defend yourself, or turn. Someone’s wife was involved there, but the jist remains. Quite frankly, that’s the story in and of itself, so why there’s complaints about the story is beyond me (again, another post). If you want to bash something horrible, try Dante’s Inferno-a game whose trailers never once gave way to any idea of what the game would be like. I went to the midnight release for this, and 3 days later sold it back. Dante’s Inferno was a boring, shameless re-hash of God of War, but put to one of the most important, provocative, and well-known literature of all time. The leveling system was slow and silly, you didn’t really benefit from saving or destroying souls, and if you made it past Cleopatra, you’d pretty much experienced the entire game. Nothing was well hidden. The only challenge presented was how long I could tolerate it-and when I found out that I had missed 1/3 of the achievements because of something that was NEVER EXPLAINED, I realized I had actually found a game that I loathed. This was a trailer that looked promising but took a complete shit on my optimism. I still don’t even know why that damn tabard was stitched onto his chest-the only thing I took from that game was ‘so…….he did all of this for his dead wife?’ The trailer and cutscenes, however, were drop-dead gorgeous. Game-not so much; it didn’t even relate.

Bottom Line: ‘Misleading trailers’ are a byproduct of our own assumptions. I’m not sure who the hell said the trailer tells it all, but they lied to you, terribly; again, this isn’t the movies. The complaint never applies to ‘big hits’, such as CoD, BF, FF, Halo, any RPG, any PS2 game-I could go forever-so why does it apply to ‘that one game you don’t like/don’t care for?’. Think of trailers like pieces of fine art: best viewed with an open mind, aware that change is necessary-and ok. But if you expect everything to come out the exact same as that one piece you liked, you’re just going to be let down. And museum security really doesn’t care about your complaints-it’s why they never do anything to ‘fix it’, especially when your loaded opinion isn’t their problem.

 
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Posted by on October 11, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Que?

So, after all was done and said about my Radian 6 research project, an interesting tidbit occured…

True to gaming culture, after the project is essentially due, a new wave of ‘What the hell?!’ has occured in regard to Marvel vs. Capcom 3. Apparently, Mortal Kombat 9 (a rival fighting game) was just released, and now the fighting is beginning over which game is better. Now, obviously the answer is whichever game you prefer is better. However, the trolls of the internet have emerged to once again, make one think otherwise.

It just dawned on me: when we discussed trolls of the internet, we never really discussed some of the impact they can have beyond making 13 year old girls cry. I can honestly say this didn’t dawn on me until the last article analysis post was published. The trolls of MK9 have decided to take it upon themselves to ‘attack’ the trolls of MvC3. What has emerged as a result are a couple of in depth conversations about what BOTH games strengths, faults, silly things, and improvements could be. In this regard, troll can actually contribute a lot more than harm. However, these occurrences are few and far between.

I find this particularly interesting because my analysis of MvC3 suggests a need for companies to get more involved in social media. According to the peanut gallery (I don’t personally play the MK series, so I’m going off an extensive combination of here-say), MK9 took crowdsourcing to the extreme: the game director took NOTHING but opinions and feedback from the gaming community to create a game-characters, design, outfits-you name it, we made it. The result?

Almost the EXACT SAME THING AS MVC3. The complaints and criticisms are almost the exact same. The only real difference is the discussion of game gore, which is a trademark of the MK franchise. A MK without gore is like a jelly donut without filling: where’s the ‘good stuff’?! That aside…

I’m starting to wonder if this is just an uphill battle for gaming companies. In the case of MvC3, they partially crowdsourced, using survey information and trying to keep aspects of the game within the company’s control. In the case of MK9, everything was decided by the gaming community. Regardless of which tickles your fancy, the gaming community still exhibits very mixed feelings, and in general the games receive positive feedback with very specific criticisms. Should the idea of crowdsourcing remain where it is (a combination of crowdsourcing and company intention), or should they become fully immersed (use social media to allow gamers to make the game they want)?

The only thing this brings up that bothers me is why people who support MvC3 insist on going to MK9 forums to complain, and vice versa. Why in the world are you going to the opposition and starting fights? *sigh*

-Vanessa B!

 
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Posted by on April 25, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

AA #5a: Measuring User Influence in Twitter: The Million Follower Fallacy

The final article analysis measures user influence in Twitter. I thought that this paper would be particularly interesting given that we have been using twittedr over the course of the past semester, and thus we have (most likely if not definitely) notice that there are users who will follow us on a whim, follow us, then drop off of Twitter, follow then leave the listing, or could not be less interested. This paper goes into understanding how influential an individual can be by quantifying the behaviors of users.

Twitter data that was used measured three primary factors: indegree, retweets, and mentions. The researchers were allowed to gather data from the Twitter website at scale, and the Twitter API was also used to gather information about a user’s social links and retweets. The study focus on 6,189,636 users across Twitter who were steadily active, had valid user names, and generated an outside network of 52 million users.

To commence the study, users were assigned a rank value using Spearman’s rank correlation coefficient. This was used to measure strength of association between two data sets using multiple influence measures. These same measures were used to determine if the influence would vary based on topic genres. This second part was done by using popular topics that exploded in pop culture in 2009: the Iranian election, outbreak of H1N1, and the death of Michael Jackson. These were chosen since, while popular, they span the social, political, and health genres. Relevance within the tweets was established using the same keywords that were associated with stories on popular news sites. Using this first distribution, it was established that over 40% of the users within this population at least knew of one of the three topics.

Within these 3 genres, it was found that less than 2% of users discussed all three topics. However, for the purposes of this study, that yielded 13,219 users, which was more than enough for statistical analysis. It was then studied how influence was measured across a given topic, and how a user’s influence was determined by the three factors listed previously. It was found that retweets were significantly more likely to hold influence over time, while mentions started to lose significance as time passed. Essentially, as long as the news was still circulating it was significant. The mention of the individual who originally posted it became somewhat of a passing thought as time elapsed. The concluding remarks establish that influence is not gained spontaneously or accidentally, but through very concentrated efforts. Influence is most likely gained through great personal involvement. Lastly, topics play a role in what is and isn’t influential, as more ‘important topics’ (Iran presidency) are more likely to circulate than those that have little impact (H1N1 in US) to no impact (Jackson death).

I should start my reflection by stating this paper was extremely difficult to read. The verbage used, the extensive number of graphs, and the discussions made me consider suicide. It’s a damn hard paper. I can appreciate the results and information that is being passed along, but couldn’t it be simplified just a little more?! That said, some of the results were extremely interesting, and I can’t much knock them for such a large population. However, it makes me wonder about some of the users that got knocked out for factors that might be intentional, such as an invalid user name. I’ve seen a lot of ‘silly’ or ‘invalid’ user names that actually contribute a great deal of significant conversation, especially in the political debate world. Granted, it can be realtively easy to pull out which users are spam bots. That said, I’ve also found a few ‘experts’ who somewhat function as their own spam bots, as they post the same link on a more than regular basis, and break it up by including a link of them eating ice cream every 10 links or so. The selection process makes me slightly nervous-at what point can you argue that this is oversaturation of a population? I also think it would have nice (though much more work and much more painful reading) to see a broader range of topics, or a more unique time frame. That isn’t to say that the Iranian election isn’t interesting, but there can be more ways to break down that pool of data-before, during, after-or even going as far as establishing what was being retweeted. Again, I’m aware that it’s a lot of extra work. Overall, I think this paper does very well in shedding light on how influence is established across a constantly changing media.

-Vanessa B!

 
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Posted by on April 25, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

AA #4a: Your Brain on Facebook: Neuropsychological Associations with Social Versus other Media

Article Analysis 4 covers your brain on Facebook. This article takes the time to actually hone in and focus on what is happening when users are exploring social media similar to Facebook, in comparison to other types of media, such as books and TV.

The study consisted of 16 volunteers (10 male, 6 female) who were recruited via mass email and compensated with $15 in dining coupons. The average age amongst them was 30 years old. Participants were required to complete a pre-test survey estimating how much media they used over the course of a week. This covered reading books, using the web, watching television, and specifically using Facebook.

The study required that participants complete two tasks; the first task was Decision Making, where viewers had to decide if images on the screen matched well with a description (typically one worded, such as “Interesting”) with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer within three seconds. This task measured brain activity. The second task had users rate how well the four different categories of media (reading, TV, web, and Facebook) could be described by each of the six concept words (Interesting, Addictive, Frivolous, Personal, Useful, and Story) on a paper questionnaire.

The results showed that overall, Facebook was the more established of the four forms of media tested. It was classified as equally interesting as the other forms of media, more addictive than books and general websites, and personal. It was also found that Facebook was a more useful tool than books and TV. However, based on the brain analysis Facebook was found to be less personal than that of books. It was also suggested that it was much easier to tell coherent stories in in books and television than in Facebook.

The paper establishes within the limitations that some big issues are very present (and they are aware of): this study is analyzing different types of processes, which in turn can potentially make one analysis more ‘true’ than the other. These processes can impact judgment, and thus skew results. While the questionnaire and speed tasks generated similar results, the brain analysis yielded opposite reactions. The researchers also acknowledge that participants of a different demographic might feel much different about the categorization mechanism used, or that results may change entirely. It suggests that other automatic associations should be explored, specifically with a different user population.

Overall, this paper was interesting to read, but somewhat predictable. Facebook has never been marketed/advertised as anything beyond a ‘place to connect with friends.’ While it does offer widgets and tools to try and make it more personalized, it falls short of being deep in thought. It runs on a very high face value, which has been part of our discussions about how Facebook has actively ruined things in real life-there isn’t really a context associated with it. It’s easy to define books as personal because those are a media that, in order to hold interest, you have to become immersed in it. Of course it’s more personal…I have absolute control over everything going on beyond the story itself. The author gives me a story, and I am free to interpret it, AND I want to interpret it. The limitations also bring up blogging as a better means of telling a story, but my primary concern with that statement is the relevance held with American populations, given that it has been suggested that blogs are losing popularity in the States.

-Vanessa B!

 
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Posted by on April 25, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

The Perfect Description

If you have never heard, or ventured, to Hyperbole And a Half, I would strongly encourage you do so. Now. Drop your food, your juice, your meeting, whatever, and go to this site. there will be at least one thing that you can directly relate to, and if there isn’t, I’m convinced you’re not human.

The reason I bring this up is because at the start of my grad school career, I was bestowed this wonderful number, called This is Why I’ll Never Be an Adult. The first graph is a true-to-life description of how I feel on an almost daily basis. The rest of the post, is just hysterical. And littered with terrible MS paint drawings.

Be forewarned: do not read this around people in a professional setting. You will laugh out loud, and there is maybe one or two naughty words in there.
Enjoy!

-Vanessa B!

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

AA #3a: Do Friends Influence Purchases in a Social Network?

This paper in particular intrigued me, as I spend a great deal of time on Facebook, but I refuse to give out any of my information. I’m sorry, I just think it’s dumb overall; I don’t want Facebook having access to my credit card all because I wanted one piece of ‘bling’ on my profile that spelled my name, or extra stuff for my mafia. Dumb. However, I’ve always wondered how people are influenced by each other in regards to buying Facebook (or SNS) related ‘stuff.’ I’ve seen one person start FarmVille, and a week later it’s snowballed to half of my friends’ list and they’re all frantically harvesting fake corn to feed to their fake cows and brag about how they won their fake state fair and just… *shakes head*

This article analysis focuses on friends influence on purchases made in a social network. The primary research questions are: do friends influence purchases (frequency and/or amount) of a user in a social network; which users are more influenced by social pressure; and can we quantify this social influence in terms of percentage increase in sales revenue?

The study uses Cyworld, an online social networking site in Korea. Cyworld allows for users create mini-homepages to interact with their friends. Users are allowed to customize their homepages with wallpapers, music, icons, etc., many of which are actually sold by Cyworld. It follows 10 weeks of purchase and non purchase data across 208 users, which allows them to build a model of choice (buy-no buy) and quantity (how much money to spend).

The categorize and examine three groups within this population: low status group (48% of users) were not well connected, show limited interactions with other members and were unaffected by social pressure. The middle status group (40% of users) is moderately connected , show reasonable non-purchase activities (interactions, messages, etc.) and show a strong positive effect relating to friends’ purchases. As a result, this group’s revenue increases by 5% due to influence. The last group, the high-status group (12% of users), is well connected ad very active on the site, but shows a very significant effect due to friends’ purchases. This group strongly pursued non-purchase related activities, which in turn leads to a 14% drop in revenue of this group. The concluding statements point to the high status group, while not engaging in purchases of product from the site, had an influence on middle status users in buy-no buy scenarios. It points to relevance for SNS and large advertising firms, as it can start to quantify what items are marketable, to what groups, and at prices that populations find reasonable.

I think this paper is particularly interesting, just because it tries to pinpoint exactly what motivates a user to purchase. However, the fact that the authors had to create the user categories makes me wonder what motivated them for those categories; the paper states that it is based on their primary interactions with the site. I want to know is this an accurate, solid reflection of that population. Only 12% of users constitute the high status group, yet it has been shown in other data that countries outside the US are significantly larger, and also much more active, especially in regards to SNS and blogging. Given a site that allows the users some form of absolute ‘control’, I am surprised to see that so few people want to take advantage of it. That discounts the use of funds for ‘decorative’ purposes, mind you.

It makes me wonder if this could be re-ran, with some stricter guidelines and data analysis. I think this is just a scrape at the surface.

-Vanessa B!

 
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Posted by on April 12, 2011 in Uncategorized