Fireside Tales

Come sit by the fire and listen to my ramblings.

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Welcome to my cozy blog!

Hello and welcome!

Take a seat by the fire, warm your feet and toast some marshmallows as I tell you many a tale. (I will stop making campfire references, I promise!)

My name is Joeb Rogers, although you may know me better by the alias Pixcel Studios. I’m a student In the UK who works in a variety of fields, such as Graphic Design, Website Design and Game Development. Out of these, I hope to make a career of game development. This here is my blog, which I plan to use for a wide range of subjects, from updates on how progress is going in my projects, to reviews on websites, software and games, to detailed analysis of subjects such as storytelling (mostly for educational reasons, such as college and university.)

I have very little experience with blogging and I honestly have no idea how this is going to turn out, whether I will amass a large following on here, or attract no one at all. Either way I will try to make fairly regular updates, so I hope to hear back from all of you with feedback and helpful comments.

If you have any particular subject you would like me to talk about or review, then leave the details as a comment or send me a message. I think this introductory post has rambled on long enough, so I’ll end it here. I hope to hear from you soon.

Thanks,
Joeb.

Devlog #1 – Untitled Miner / Engine Utilities / Platformer

The Awkward Beginning


So, where do I begin.. Hi everyone? As you might be able to see from the number of posts I’ve made so far, I don’t really do a lot of reflective writing on the work I’ve produced. I’ve been meaning to get into the habit of writing development logs of my projects, whether they’re for a university assignment or just for fun, but so far I think about doing it and then 2 months later I put the game up on GameJolt… not quite what I planned haha. One might call it lazy and I would probably agree! I like to entertain the idea of writing progress updates and showing my workflow as I go through the development process, but finding the time to do so is actually very difficult. You always want to wait a little bit longer so you have something better to show and then it’s too late.

Nevertheless, enough rambling. I plan to at least post semi-regular development updates on my current side-project, which should hopefully keep me inspired to continue working on it. I may also make small devlogs of university assignment games too, but no promises there.


Backstory


A commonly thrown about phrase within a lot of game development communities, be it on Reddit, Tigsource or whatever, that probably the most important thing to help you get a job is a great portfolio of games you have made, usually in your own time. I like to think that the last part of that phrase doesn’t apply to me too much, my course is incredibly time consuming, so I’m usually in the studio for production hours between 9 and 5 (although that usually runs over massively). So my free time is significantly less than most, as well as the fact that every assignment is a new game, working with new concepts, languages, frameworks, etc. So I think I can excuse myself with the fact that I’ll have a large number of games demonstrating my abilities.

However, there’s a big difference between a set project on a deadline and a passion project. I love the idea of being able to create something that really interests me and that I’m not in such a rush to finish. I want to have at least one reasonably sized side-project to stick in my portfolio that I’m truly proud of having built ( yeah, you don’t count Ludum Dare entries ).

So today I figured I would begin to summarise what I’ve been trying to do for the past few weeks, what I’ve managed to achieve and the problems I’ve faced so far.


what am i working on


Most of you have probably never heard of this game, but some years ago now I picked up a gem on the Xbox Live indie arcade marketplace thing name ‘Miner Dig Deep’. The name probably screams Minecraft, Terraria and all the other mining / crafting clones around now, but that isn’t the case. In this relaxing little title, you simply dig, dig and keep digging down. You collect ores and gems on your trips down into your mineshaft and before you lantern runs out you need to bring your haul back to the surface to sell them off and upgrade your equipment. What do you do with better equipment? Keep digging! It’s a very simple concept and that’s really all there is too it. There wasn’t much action, but god was it enjoyable. It had calm relaxing music and you could just delve over and over again without a care in the world.

This is the type of game I want to make right now. It doesn’t have an overwhelming number of concepts, I can reign in the feature-creep fairly easily and keep my scope limited. But it will also let me explore a number of useful game utilities that can become nice, reusable code projects, such as basic procedural generation, platformer-lite physics, a shop system, etc. But most importantly, it’s something I’m excited to work on.


Tech decisions


There were a lot of things I had to factor in when it came to deciding what language / engine I wanted to work in. I have the most experience working with JavaScript, but honestly I’ve gotten a little bored of writing in it at the moment. It’s also not particularly beneficial to me since it’s not something I plan to work with in the future too much. The only other language I write a lot in at the moment is C#. I want to leave building any projects in C++ until we’ve at least begun covering it on the course. I’m happy to write in C# though, but my biggest problem now was deciding how to work with it. I wanted some base blocks that I could build from, I didn’t want to spend forever writing everything completely from scratch. I also dislike working with Unity though, I don’t particularly enjoy the workflow and I want to write a lot of systems from scratch ( and for some reason I find it easier to work without such a visual UI in front of me ). This basically left me with Monogame ( a framework that is essentially XNA, but it is still updated and continually supported ).

Result: C# w/ Monogame


engine utilities


The first thing I decided to begin working on programming-wise were some engine utilities ( the first thing I actually did was art, but I’ll come to that in a bit ). Blocks of code that I would be able to build my game on top of, but that I would be able to reuse in future projects easily.

  1. Tilemap Loader – Does what it sounds like, takes in a tilemap ( in .tmx format ), returns an array of Tile objects. It also separates a tileset image into each individual sprite. My biggest issue working with this was Monogame’s support for data formats. I’m used to working with JSON within my JavaScript projects, but haven’t used any data files in C# before. Trying to understand how to serialise, deserialise and then subsequentially get the files working within Monogame and it’s content pipeline gave me a serious headache. Luckily Monogame Extended, an open source extension to the framework, adds support for the raw file data from the Tiled Map Editor (.tmx). This is probably something worth revisiting at a later date, but for now it does what I need.
  2. Statemachine – So I made myself a basic finite Statemachine class with the generally needed functions, like changing states, adding states, etc. Also has an interface for each state. In getting this to work and finding the best practise for writing the utility I did a lot of reading of Game Programming Patterns. They have a great section on State Machines which was very useful. Currently using it for the obvious solution, game states. I’m also using a miniature version within my player for their action states, but in the coming future I will need to refactor all of it to actually be well written as it’s a bit of a mess at the moment.
  3. Physics – This was one of the more difficult things to write. As I’ve gotten more advanced through development it’s become more and more apparent to me that my math and physics skills are lacking. A lot of the concepts and algorithms I needed for the platformer-esque physics and collision detection ( Oh god ) I got through hours of scouring the internet and reading through articles, tutorials and StackOverflow answers. I have a system that works now, but it is currently badly coupled into my game classes and other utilities so I need to definitely go back and refactor this at some point.
  4. Entities – This is a utility that started out neat and simple, containing just a Sprite class so far, then gradually got awkwardly fattened out with my PhysicsObject class. As I struggled to get a working physics engine my architecture gradually got more and more out of hand. For the most part though I have a nice inheritance tree of game objects so far, although some are looking a bit sparse. The problem with trying to be robust is that you try to incorporate things you think you’ll need, although you probably don’t.
  5. Input – Now this was a bit of a beast to get my head around. Not because it was difficult to get working, but coming up with a nicely designed and decoupled solution proved to be a head scratcher. Luckily, Game Programming Patterns came to the rescue again with the Command pattern. I didn’t follow their implementation entirely, but I integrated my own command workaround into my action state machine which I think works quite nicely.

I think that by looking through these you’re probably beginning to understand that I’m a bit of neat freak when it comes to code organisation. I like to have well documented class headers, I line up all my variable names, equals and braces so that my classes are easy to read and actually nice to look at. Time consuming, sure, but I think it’s definitely worth it.


Art


As overdone as it is, I’m a real sucker for pixel art. It’s probably the biggest thing that draws me into a game. So that’s what I choose to make most of my games with. Bear in mind however, I’m a programmer first and foremost, my art ability is mostly limited to graphic design and typography, pixel art is certainly not my forte. I’m most likely to find an artist to redo all of the artwork if the game gets close to completion, so consider everything you see from me in the future to be programmer art. I’m not saying it sucks that bad, but my skill in it is fairly limited ( and I suck at colour ramps ).

As I mentioned a bit earlier, the art was the first thing I actually did when I started the project. I made myself a few tiles and a sky background. I took a lot of inspiration from random pixel art pieces on DeviantArt and whatever showed up on Google Images.

Relax

Here’s a little arrangement I made out of the finished tiles I ended up doing. The clouds are on a separate layer to the sky as I plan on procedurally generating them and letting them pan over the background. The same goes for the grass toppings, they’re all on a separate layer so that I can generate them, give them little animations and possibly have them affected by the player walking over / through them. I didn’t really work on any obstacles, ores or anything like that yet, or even a player ( I suck at character art so I put it off, there’s a nice square instead ). These tiles were enough to make a little test level though.


Month End


It’s coming up to the last weekend of the month since I started this project ( only working saturday mornings and sundays ). So here is a little gameplay demo thus far, there isn’t a lot to it, it’s basically just a platformer at the moment. Then again, most of my time was spent refining and creating behind the scene stuff rather that visual gameplay anyway!

The one thing I did that you can see in the gif which I didn’t talk about was the camera. I made a quick prototype camera last night to test out rendering only what’s within the viewport from a large map. By no means is it done, I need to include environment clamping to stop the camera going out of the bounds of the level. I also would like to take some pointers from Super Mario World, including player deadzones, and also platform snapping. I think that the constant following vertical movement is a bit too jumpy right now.

For the next month I’ve been considering taking the utilities and parts I’ve created so far to make a small platformer to test out some more mechanics and get balancing experience, before porting over my findings into this project.

As for what’s next for the project.. I think the first things I’d like to work on are the camera refinements I mentioned and begin getting some art polish in there as there aren’t any animations or anything in there yet. I might also work on the visual effects and animation related things I mentioned in the art section for generating clouds and tile toppings.


Thanks!


I imagine it’s unlikely anyone has gone through and read all of this shit that I’ve written, since it’s mostly just me rambling so far anyway. I’ll try and keep this up anyway and actually take screenshots as I’m working so there’s actually more images to show throughout the process.

To any of you who did read through it all, thank you! If there’s anything that you’d like me to go into more detail on then let me know in the comments and I’ll see what I can do.

Thanks – Joeb.

Code Avengers

Why just use technology?
When you can create it.

Learn to build websites, apps and games
with HTML, CSS, JavaScript & Python.

– Code Avengers Home Page

Code Avengers is one of the many ‘learn to code’ websites floating around the web these days; but I can assure you that it is easily one of the best. It follows a similar style of learning to sites such as ‘Codecademy’, letting the learner slowly progress through bitesized lessons that gradually get more and more difficult. Some of you might complain about this and ask, ‘if I wanted an experience like that, then why not just use Codecademy?’. My answer is simple, this is a tried and true method of practical learning, providing a hands-on experience to the user. There is a clear difference between study and application, you can read a book on how to code all day long, but your knowledge would be easily surpassed in just a couple of short hours on Code Avengers as you can actually build websites and applications from scratch as you learn.

I’m not here to detail the ins and outs of Code Avengers to you though, I’m simply putting in my recommendation to try out the site; especially as Mike (the founder) is rolling out a brand new course. What is this course I hear you ask? Python of course! Previously, Code Avengers has provided a streamlined but rather specialised experience, only offering courses in the foundations of website and application development. They offered extensive courses in HTML, CSS and JavaScript that would take you from being a beginner to a professional developer in a short amount of time through a level based system, with plenty of projects and reviews mixed in to consolidate the basic foundations of each language.

Over the coming months however, they are going to start branching out and offering courses in not just Python, but also game development. So for those of you who have skipped past this site as web technologies weren’t your passion, then perhaps it’s time for a revisit. Python is a very powerful language, and not only is it easy to use but it’s also very versatile. So if you’re looking to get your foot in the door, but the other languages aren’t right for you, then check out Python, with an awesome module based system that provides tonnes of extra functionality, you can apply it in so many different ways.blog-img(1)

Instead of telling you things you can read or find out by looking on the website or their facebook page, I’m going to tell you all about my own personal experience with the site. I think a good way to do this would be by answering some important questions on how I’ve been using it and how I’ve found it to be.

Why are you learning to code? What are your goals? Whilst I’m not a web developer first and foremost, in fact I’m actually just a 17 y/o student, I’m looking to tear my way into the games industry. Towards the end of this year I’m going off to study game development at university. So why am I using a site that doesn’t have courses in game development yet? If you want to try your luck as a programmer, you won’t make it very far if you don’t know multiple languages. I won’t make it far if I don’t even know some of the most basic programming languages around. When I’m going to be a doing quite a specialist course already, I should first try and broaden my horizons before settling in. Not only this, but a lot of languages share each others traits, so by learning a few different ones will provide a much better foothold to go into the hardcore, less approachable languages, such as C++. Also personally, I think that anyone who wants to have a future in something related to programming and computer science should at the very least learn the 3 languages Code Avengers has to offer.

How have you found your experience so far? What have been the challenges with learning coding? I think that you’ll find many people’s answers to this question will differ greatly, as your skillset when starting has a large part to play. I have quite an arithmetic based background, and have quite a bit of experience with coding and developing from my early teens. So starting on the first level of these courses was more like a refresher to me. But even for people who have no idea what they are doing, or where to even begin, Code Avengers provides plenty of information in a step-by-step format to guide you through the languages. In fact, I don’t think that I needed any of my background experience to get through the course, as Mike has worked incredibly hard on the courses to make them as easy to pick up for people of all ability, yet still keep them powerful and intuitive.

What has your experience with Code Avengers been like? When I first started with Code Avengers I was looking for a top up on my prior knowledge to help me build my portfolio website. Hand on heart I can tell you that this has been one of the easiest coding experiences I have ever had. The courses are structured so that you will partake in memory jogging ‘Reviews’ or ‘Projects’ at just the right moment so that you don’t forget a thing. With other sites I have sometimes had to go back to through older lessons to remember snippets of code or how to do things, but I think that Code Avengers has got the balance just right. For those who do still need a memory jog however, within the environment you are working in you have access to a reference that will define how a particular section of the code works, with examples. And for those of you who are perfectionists or who just love competition, the site has a scoring system to boot; you get more points the better you work in each lesson.

What do you like most about Code Avengers? Despite all of it’s nice extras, my favourite thing about Code Avengers has to simply be the learning experience. Stripping it all back, you still have a streamlined and easy to pick up environment in which you can learn in the most efficient way possible. Aside from that, a close second for me has to be the site support. If you have any queries about the site, Mike himself is sure to reply to you promptly and works very hard to resolve and issues you may have. This level of support is something that is lacking in a lot of websites like this, but it adds a very personal touch to your experience.

How does your experience with Code Avengers compare to other sites? Now with all of this praise I’ve been giving, it may seem like I simply hate every other ‘learn to’ website, but that is not the case. I’m not going to claim to have tried them all, or that they all suck in comparison, because the don’t. Each website has it’s own pros and cons, but I’ve found that whilst a lot of other sites may offer a wide variety of courses, they are often diluted in content and quality, whereas Code Avengers has a definite feel that someone has poured their heart and soul into helping you to learn. It’s courses and much more indepth and have refined through feedback to offer the best content possible. One thing I haven’t touched upon yet, which is possible the biggest factor for most users though, is price. Some websites are free, some are wildy expensive.. each side of the coin has it’s benefits; Code Avengers tries to offer the best of both worlds, allowing users to try before they buy. This lets people experience first hand what reviewers have said and make their own decision, as well as still get a good learning experience. To access the full extent of each course you must pay a fee of course, but it’s a very reasonable price. I believe I paid around £85 to learn HTML, CSS and Javascript (although they cost a bit more seperately.) For the quality of content and longevity of the course, this price is more than fair. But again, some people just don’t have the budget for things like this, I know I didn’t when I first started to code. But if you have the means, it’s definitely worth scraping together the cash to learn with Code Avengers.Bh3VXBbF

If anything I have said has piqued your interest, then you can test out the site here: Code Avengers
If you have any sort of desire to learn to code than I strongly recommend you to at least give the site a try, I’m sure you won’t regret it. Over the next month or two Mike will be rolling out the level of the Python course bit by bit, but you can try out some of it for free already.
If you have any queries for myself, then don’t be shy! If not, then you’d better start learning eh?

Thanks, I hoped you enjoyed the article.
Joeb.

The History of Storytelling

the20ancient20art20of20storytellingIn today’s society, we express ourselves through an indefinite number of creative means. Some use visual means, such as videos, graffiti or artwork, others use actions in order to be heard, but the oldest and most common form of expression which even correlates with the others, is storytelling. In this new age of ‘social’ networking, everyone is linked yet there is no aspect of sociability; in reality. It drives people apart and becomes a way in which relationships are hollow and transparent. Storytelling is a tool that can be implemented into an incredible number of different means allowing people to express their feelings and be heard by others in this deaf world.

In ancient times, a common means with which to tell stories was cave paintings. The subject matter mostly detailed the tribe’s day-to-day lives which consisted mainly of hunting and rituals, so they were the most common paintings. Early storytelling was revolutionised by visuals, as the primitive man had no such control or understanding of their complex vocal capabilities, they communicated their stories by creating a visual representation. These epics that detailed encounters with other tribes and great beasts was one of the cornerstones that brought about modern storytelling as we know it today, be it fiction or not. As the species began to evolve and their communication skills started to progress, so did their stories. They turned from true to life depictions of their feats and struggles into something much larger than life. They exaggerated these tales until their stretched visions became something out of a fantasy epic. These wild exaggerations awe-struck members of the tribe and soon it became common premise to spin unrealistic yet amazing stories. These works of fiction led to the creation of many imaginary answers to unresolvable mysteries, such as bizarre weather or tragic occurrences. These global mysteries eventually became the catalyst for the creation of various tribal gods (that later progressed to the gods we know today), who were blamed for these occurrences forming the brutal rules and rituals that went hand in hand with primitive religion.

Here is a video showing the earliest discovered cave paintings that were created between 15000-13000 BC. They were discovered in 1940 in Lascaux, France.

Word of mouth has always been a consistent way of conveying information and this is true for storytelling also. Sure it has its pro’s and con’s, for example, as the message is conveyed from person to person it gradually alters, little by little, into something exaggerated and far from the original truth, like with Chinese whispers, but it has always proved itself as a tried and true method to spread information quickly. The downside also serves as a great compliment to the storytelling, as it can evolve a mediocre story into a tale of epic proportions.

millais_boyhood_of_raleigh

 As the daily activities of primitive man became more and more complex as their economy and intellect grew, their forms of communication began to evolve from simple gestures and noises into complicated actions and sounds that formed the basis of languages. These techniques and noises were recognised by others within their small society and little by little it became a common, ever-evolving means of expression. From early times the species used this communicatory tool as a new means of storytelling, as they started to grow out of illustrating their tales. Not that they didn’t still do this, but it became a secondary means, or used as an aid to go with the verbal tellings.

storyteller21

As time progressed, storytellers came to become valued and highly regarded members of communities. So much so that when they spoke their stories, they were always heard and passed around the community, never dismissed as heresy as foolishness. Their skill in presenting the pure values and raw emotion from a meaningful event in their small history was prided as it allowed them to preserve their deeds through time. Proof of this is how certain stories survived through long periods without any literary means, such as Aesop’s fables and Homer’s stories. They were able to hold on through speech for hundreds and hundreds of years, before they were eventually written down as research and technology allowed people to record these moments. Whilst this gradual conversion to recording stories in script took place, storytellers still held their position because even though their role was becoming redundant, nothing could convey the stories with the same meaning.

Recording stories through text was revolutionary, it granted a way to eternally preserve memories and events. It was combined still with carvings and paintings, as they were a good visual aid, as well as a fast way to present key exerts from a story to a large amount of people. Little did the storytellers know at the time, as well as story writers of the future, that they would become immortalised as their stories were written and re-written, printed and re-printed, in order to share them with as many members of society as humanly possible. A good example of this is Shakespeare, as he never believed that his work would survive, and he didn’t even believe that his work should be recorded, but now he is preserved forever as a legendary playwright.

storytelling-by-ovi-demetrian-jr

The greatest example I can possibly show for recorded work however, is the Bible. Be it gospel or fiction, it does not matter, as it is still a huge collection of stories that ‘document’ history with amazing tales that have survived through the ages. Much of the new testament was all accounts and stories heard by word of mouth or retellings of events seen by others, which later become part of this huge collection. It has become globally renowned enough to form religions, cause wars and provide reason for people to live their lives. Is this not the greatest status a storyteller could hope for their stories to achieve?

The method of storytelling has always been an ever-evolving and ever-experimental thing, as culture and technology grows, so does storytelling as a whole. There is no true, primary tool to tell stories, as they are all widely recognised and widely used and it varies as you travel to new areas of the world and experience new cultures. As contested as methods are, at heart storytelling is simply a means to convey emotion from one person to another.

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Bringing this history lesson into the not so distant past, 1978 to be precise, I going to talk about how storytelling itself ties in closely with the video game industry. In the beginning, technological capability was minimal which vastly restricted the depth that could be achieved at the time, this resulted in many minimalistic and simple games with basic gameplay mechanics to be released. An example of this is Space Invaders, the narrative is almost non-existent, and as with the other games of its time, there was no explanation as to the plot or what was going on as it was easily readable through the simple task you had – to defend the planet from an incoming onslaught of alien ships. Due to the lack of resources, game narratives had to be obviously summed up with the gameplay and art itself, this was fine though as it was such a revolutionary new medium that people didn’t care about anything other than the fun of the game itself. The closest development teams could get to exploring narrative further was just by adding more depth to the storytelling through gameplay and art. That said, plots that should have been very simple sometimes became nonsensical and confusing to understand, take Pac-Man for an example, what part of a round ball eating dots and being chased by carnivorous ghosts that suddenly became blue and would be eaten by their prey makes sense? None, but that was all part of the fun of arcade based games of the late -70’s and early -80’s.

It didn’t take long for technology to expand though, in only 5 years from the release of Space Invaders, the first home console called the Nintendo Entertainment System was released. Over the course of it’s 7 year life (before its successor was released) there were an incredible number of released titles that evolved over that period as developers experimented with and built upon their previous releases or previous ideas. As gameplay mechanics became more complex and experiences were experimented with, the first signs of storytelling became apparent. The level of depth and the techniques used to tell the stories varied hugely, some using a lot of interaction with characters and dialogue, whilst others remained completely silent. The first example I will talk about is Metroid. The interaction between you and the character is very raw, as it is completely based on how the game immerses you in it’s systems. The dialogue-silent game focuses on using art and music to guide you emotionally through the game. You were able to better relate and immerse yourself in the character and universe as they were very mysterious, you weren’t forced into a particular role. There wasn’t originally any signs of gender or appearance as they always wore a futuristic suit complete with mask. This was almost like a blank canvas for players to emotionally and imaginatively paint their own thoughts onto.

metroid_nes

My next examples are the three Super Mario Bros. games, however I will start with their arcade predecessor – Donkey Kong. This is considered the first game that’s plot actually unfolds on-screen which it does through the use of employed cut-scenes. Whilst they are short and basic they give a good overall feel for the story. The character Jumpman (later to become Mario) was created to be easily relatable as a workman type, which was displayed through his attire (hat and dungarees). The plot starts with Donkey Kong kidnapping a young woman who appears to be Jumpman‘s girlfriend, as he then goes onto battle through multiple levels, avoiding objects and eventually defeating the villain. Upon completion, the game plays another short cut scene depicting on-screen romance between Jumpman and the now saved lady through the use of the easily recognisable heart symbol.

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After the huge success of his arcade hit, Shigeru Miyamoto went on to create 3 more Mario games on the NES. Both the first and third follow the same ‘save the princess‘ trope, which is also used in most of the later titles too. Like Metroid, they extensively experimented with the new available hardware and produced increasingly technologically advanced games. They started using very basic graphics to explore a variety of game mechanics that later became common standard for other games of the genre. The third game was very similar to this however the updated art and newly included features built upon the narrative very well, as allowed the player to gain a good overview of what was going on, and the designers managed to bring out certain emotions from the players at certain moments in the game with minimal effort because they had been guided so well through the plot with graphics alone.

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If we now skip ahead to 1997, the industry has become much more defined, with developers having a much more set archetype to follow when it comes to games. There was a lot less experimentation in terms of game mechanics simply because there didn’t need to be; back in the -80’s everything was yet to be made, there was nothing to guide the developers, no one saying “these mechanics worked well in the past, lets build on these and remove these”, etc. The game industry had become much more of an art form with which developers could build their own universes with prior releases as inspiration in order to create something innovative and revolutionary. In terms of storytelling, it developed differently based on what genre you are looking. It became something that’s necessity varied completely on the type of game being played. For example a casual, fun game aimed at young gamers had much less of a story or plot and the game focused a lot more on the mechanics and simply how fun it would be. However, as you moved into games of the RPG genre, you delved into a lore-heavy, story driven industry. I chose 1997 as the year we would move to as that is the year that the game highly regarded as the pinnacle of studio Square Enix‘s career was released. Final Fantasy VII. The Final Fantasy series has pushed boundaries and helped to define the RPG genre as a whole, with every release building on a new set of mechanics and grafting a compelling story set in a universe we’ve all come to love. Final Fantasy VII weaves together the tales of 9 nine playable characters, each with their own rich and unique backstories, into one epic adventure that lifts the player through a broad range of emotions. Whilst the story itself is linear, the open-world setting of the game provides the player with plenty of time to explore and immerse themself in the rich and beautiful world. This fools the player into feeling a sense of freedom in a game where everything is already pre-defined and there is no real choice.

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Jumping ahead into the future once more, there is one final example I would like to share with you that relates to modern-day gaming. It’s incredibly impressive to look back from the point we are now and to see the way that games have evolved even over such a short span of time. In just 30 years technology has leaped forward at rates that couldn’t have possibly been predicted, allowing for innovative new techniques to be spawned with each home console and development kit release. It has gotten to the point now where the possibilities are almost limitless, which in turn means that the level of detail that can be invested into immersing players into a story and universe is only limited to the time spent on creation. An example of a game with such a level of world detail and lore is Skyrim. The open world game has so many different possibilities and quests that it really feels that you are a free adventurer able to go out and do whatever you want. As you explore the world and fight against the random world events it brings about nostalgia of the classic games that guided the story through gameplay alone, as you basically forged your own character and backstory in your mind. Even when you interacted with the other characters and npcs there were various dialogue options and different options as to how a situation could turn, adding a level of depth that was rare because it felt like the story you were venturing through was unique to you.

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Narrative and storytelling, whether it is in a short, basic mobile game or a rich, in-depth role-play gaming is a vital element to the industry. The difference between a mediocre game and an amazing one is they way in which the developers combine the narrative elements and the gameplay together into something truly beautiful. The narrative breathes life into a set of pictures, it creates an immersive, 3-dimensional universe from a flat idea; it is truly wondrous how a simple story can transform a player’s perspective. This is something that has reigned through history, in the same way that storytellers were heralded thousands of years ago, they were never taken off that pedestal. Whilst they aren’t as globally recognised, you can see that the real works of art are distinguished above the others because of the fact that they’ve had someone with that special skill working on it. This is my perspective on the way storytelling has been shaped through the ages and how it has been implemented and woven into the games industry.

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Thanks for reading.

J.

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