Monday, January 31, 2011

Blog Malfunction

Well, after checking back at my blog I just discovered that the thing's been malfunctioning. Apparently it's been eating my posts. I've re-produced my last two posts here, but it's very irritating when you're meant to be updating it frequently for class credit.

New Direction: Risk and Narrative Choice

Last week I presented my thesis progress to the class and raised considerable concern as to the viability of it; namely, a general thesis on using narrative choice to re-enforce themes is too broad and doesn't discuss enough--or perhaps just not explicit enough--new ways of developing narrative choice. Thus, I'm altering the thesis to focus on risk in narrative choice, as I feel risk is the most under-represented part of the decision-making architecture in narrative choice-based games. I'm basically proposing that risk is what makes decisions interesting and that if we inject an element of unpredictability to the outcome of a narrative choice system that it will be more engaging. All I need in addition to my current body of research is something substantiating that claim in the psychological field--game design is full of nothing if not arguments that risk is interesting.

Heavy Rain

Quick update on game research: finished Heavy Rain. Estimated score: somewhere around -1 or -2. The story's a mess, mainly due to the fact that it's structured like a film and following four different main characters, leaving it very unfocused. As a mystery it fails to hold water mainly on account of a series of cheap cop-outs for the sake of concealing the killer's identity and preserving tension; in fact, it seems to take careful effort in insuring that none of the four characters know any more about the killer than one another as they each stumble over the same clue in sequence before being finally allowed to move on, leaving the pacing very dissatisfying. There's interesting elements of personalization for building character traits, but the game all but drops them less than halfway through and degenerates into a long series of quick-time event-driven fight scenes. Meanwhile all but perhaps one or two of the dozen or so possible endings are very dissatisfying, rendering portions of the player's effort in resolving the characters' conflicts effectively pointless as they fail and die. The characters each have suggestions of interesting stories with interesting themes, but the game can't focus on one long enough to get into the meat of any of them or introduce interesting twists. It speaks TREMENDOUSLY well of the system that Quantic Dream developed that they were able to represent a huge variety of activities and events in characters' lives, but Heavy Rain drops the ball too often, denying a sense of personalization or exploration of its content and themes as it vetoes and punishes the player for not taking the railroad of the plot.