Archive for avril, 2015

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Level design : Cover systems

Is this cover organic or architectural? Am I exposed from the left flank? Can I cross the courtyard without losing half my life? Is the destructible cover piece going to last through the rest of the fight?

Cover combat establishes a language between a designer and a player. Do it right and players feel rewarded by making smooth transitions between crumbled columns and overturned tables. Fail, and watch controllers bounce off plasma TV screens as spittle flies out of angry mouths, gamers loudly cursing your name in a friends living room or a parents basement. Every now and then the process is intuitive and almost effortless, with the space directing the designer’s hand. Other times, we are locked in mortal combat with an environment that refuses to bend to our wills. It is those times that are going to test our design chops, where the weakest of the herd are going to succumb to something that is often referred to as “cover vomit”.

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Cover vomit is exactly what it sounds like; Designers barfing out cover in every direction in a hap hazard attempt to ensure a line of defense from both the player’s and enemy’s perspective. Cover vomit usually breaks the pacing of an area, unnecessarily blocking valuable real estate and adds more work for the artist(s) responsible for translating cover proxy to final assets.

Similar to the thought process that goes into laying out a level, it is imperative to think of the overall experience. What kind of combat is this area going to contain? Are players fighting melee or ranged enemies? How much verticality is going to be in each section? How do players manage transition from cover to cover? How many flanking routes are present in each section of a level?

Cover placement is primarily driven by the environment. Environments are driven by core gameplay systems that dictate both player and AI behaviors. Systems depend on a strong engineering foundation and so on…

While it is hard to isolate one facet of level design, there is a combination of primary elements that form a strong cover layout.

  • Both players and AI need easily accessible cover
  • Cover variety offers tactical choices
  • Well placed destructible cover creates an intuitive guide though a combat space
  • When in doubt, cover should favor the player
  • Lateral movement allows for interesting cover transitions
  • Verticality changes the pacing of a fight and exposes additional cover opportunities
  • Create “dead zones” that ask players to make tactical decisions when traversing a combat play-space
  • Offer strategic cover choices and reward players for taking risks
  • Create flanking opportunities
  • Create cover layouts that build a forward momentum
  • Avoid repetitive cover layouts
  • Architectural and organic cover translation

Cover choice, variety and verticality

Provide players and AI with easily accessible cover. Both sides need cover to create a tactical combat experience. Add cover variety to further emphasize these choices and change the pacing of a fight. Full-height cover offers a more defensible position, partially breaking visibility based on the player’s position while crouching cover provides clear lines of site at the expense of revealing additional player mass to danger. Mixing both types of cover creates dynamic transitions, rewarding the player by providing tactical cover choices.

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Verticality adds another layer of gameplay, drastically changing the playing field. Players experience a sense of vulnerability fighting towards an elevated position. Capturing a section of high ground rewards players with a superior vantage point creating a push-pull mechanic and changing the pacing of a combat sequence.

Destructible cover, dead zones, pacing and forward momentum

Destructible cover plays a key role in combat pacing, demanding a level of commitment during forward progression. When used correctly designers can guide players through an environment offering additional strategic choices. Cover combat is about advancing battle lines and creating forward momentum.

Aggressive players move forward when cover is destroyed; Cautious players retreat to a more defensible/solid position. Most importantly, destructible cover creates tension, changing the beats of a combat encounter.

Combined with dead zones, destructible cover creates beacons of safety that draws the players’ attention while dynamically changing the battle field. Dead zones on their own merit, create an additional rollercoaster effect that designers strive to achieve during level layout. In conjunction with well designed combat spaces, dead zones build on the architectural foundation of a level, acting as high tension combat areas.

Whether using destructible or solid cover, it is crucial to avoid layouts that encourage players to pick off enemies from a safe distance. Placing cover away from doorframes or chokepoints asks players to advance into a given playspace.

A large portion of player forward momentum directly relates to encounter placement and enemy reinforcements.

It is entirely acceptable to allow players to walk into a combat space, assess the layout and the potential dangers and let them have the first move. Reinforcements are easy to come by and ultimately this is a small price to pay for players committing to a given cover layout. Another popular solution is to allow players to enter the room, tripping an encounter in an area that provides multiple cover opportunities while playing up to the strengths of a given cover layout.

Lateral movement and flanking

Lateral movement is synonymous with flanking, rewarding players for making smart choices and creating gameplay variety. Lateral movement allows players to change their strategy during a fight and turn a losing battle into a tactical victory. Similar to level layout, cover creates flanking opportunities, offering non linear transitions through a combat space.

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Flanking is an excellent tool to empower players and provide gameplay rewards for taking risks (A slow moving character has difficulty turning in sync with player movement, exposing an armor weakness on the back of the character model).

Conclusion

Ultimately, all of the proxy cover is going to be transformed into final art assets. While gameplay remains king, it is important to think of how our cover layouts translate into a final product. I like to think of cover as architectural (i.e. pillars, walls, facades, etc.) and organic (broken pillars, rubble, cars, etc.) Using this approach helps me come up with new cover layouts, creating distinct gameplay spaces. Most importantly, organic cover breaks repetition that is easy to fall into when building linear combat spaces.

The above mentioned principles should serve as a foundation for building successful cover layouts. These cover layouts should be further refined by complimenting enemy types, smart encounter placement, strategic enemy entry points, line of site adjustments and lighting readability. Hope you enjoyed the tips.

Ryan

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About Level Design and Remember Me : framing, light and color as gamespace modification tools

This is a sum-up of (a tiny extract of) a piece of work done along with other SIG2 comrades. Don’t hesitate to tell me if you have more detailed interogations about Remember Me’s use of space, particularly in terms of gameplay or narrative, I’ll try to answer as best  I can. Enjoy :)

When it comes to developing AAA games, very few actors of the French video game industry can compete. However, some companies like DONTNOD still have the power to stand out and release work (and money) on heavy projects.
With their first project called Remember Me, the DONTNOD team (formerly a group of 5 friends ) grew to over a hundred developers, which was enough to draw the attention of both the press and, most importantly, gamers!

When the game was released, critics went mad over the original atmosphere the game put the player into, offering a superb visit inside the futuristic French capital, (Neo) Paris in the role of Nilin, a woman with the power to control other people’s memories though technology. However, some issues made the experience somehow less… fun: fighting was boring, most gameplay sequences were hollow and the key-feature of the game, called “Memory Remixes”, was way under-used. In a nutshell, Remember Me missed its opportunity to enter video games’ history.

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The fact that Remember Me was, for numerous reasons, a failure, doesn’t mean everything it tries to make up is pure trash. For instance, the mastery of the game space for both entertainment and narrative purposes works rather well, which is why I’m gonna tell you a bit about it.


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Controlling the frame

As Remember Me was originally based on a very detailed universe (a 3000 pages bible written by Alain Damasio, one of the game’s scenarist and author of the famous book “La Horde du Contrevent”) and on a very strong imput from the project’s graphic team, level designers had to adapt to these constraints by showcasing the world’s appearance everytime they could.

The first element of this permanent highlighting is the use of sporadic panoramic views thorough the whole experience. These panoramas act as

-rewards: aimed at the player for completing a sequence, showing her / him a unique and breathtaking environment, –teasers: showing an important building to drive the player forward in order to anticipate the following sequence) or simply –landmarks for non-French players to immerge in the world by observing the landmarks of the capital, ie Sacré Coeur…

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Panoramas in Remember Me were also cleverly placed , having their top part slightly above the on-screen avatar’s height (in order to ensure an impression of vastness) and always following a tighter gamespace. Indeed, most of the panoramas are presented after long corridors, strenghtening the impression of being overwhelmed by the cityscape when the gigantic scenery is revealed :

Here’s a video

Another interesting choice by DONTNOD was to restrict or modify the camera frame from time to time so as to reinforce the visual and narrative aspect of specific sequences (which is allowed by the use of the third person camera). For instance, the specific camera view at the beginning of Chapter 1 highlights the main theme addressed by the narrative at this precise moment : Nilin’s loss of identity due to the manipulation of her memory.

The presence of masks subtly reminds the player that Nilin has lost her own mémory. Even though the meaning may not appear to everyone, the original composition makes the  very easy platform sequence more visually appealing.

In other sequences, the camera also tends to step back from the avatar to induce a feeling of smallness in the face the urban environment, which is quite common in sci-fi games. One of the most interesting uses of this feature is situated in Chapter 3, where Nilin is hanging above a vast and dark emptiness emphasized by convergent lines running deep into it. This scenery provides a great sensation of vertigo by upseting the player’s perception of space.

Chapter's 3 platform sequence makes a great deal of making the player uncomfortable with space thanks to converging straight lines.

Finally, the frame also provides great visuals and sensations when used freely as a composition tool to highlight an entire game scene.  This contrasts with the forced camera method seen earlier, which is much more directive and only applies to very small level chunks. In chapter 5 for instance, Nilin is placed above a flooded city street where common citizens are struggling to arise from the waters. The player can also hear cries and senses, by the use of flashing lights, an atmosphere of anarchy. Here, the reader may have noticed that, in the game’s narrative, this flood was directly provoked by Nilin in a previous chapter, making this passage an observation of the consequences of the caracter’s actions. However, by chosing to put “normal people” down in the streets below the avatar, DONTNOD makes the player understand that he’s litterally above these people’s problems and has to focus on his own important mission.

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Even though this design choice might be seen as vaguely immoral if seen in the game’s context, it works perfectly fine in showing the player that he is, indeed, a step ahead of the rest of the game’s characters.

The frame control used in Remember Me shows the attention paid by DONTNOD to the composition of the game’s space, both from a macro and a micro point of view. This process allows the designers to center the player’s attention around the graphic assets provided by the team and adds a substantial amount of new feels and meanings into the space of Neo-Paris.


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Colors and Lights : influencing feelings through repetition

Since DONTNOD’s level design on Remember Me was first thought in a graphic fashion, its quality may seem to depend a lot on the use of lights and colors to tell the player something meaningful :

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As we can see, lights and colors are very important to set the global mood of Remember Me’s levels, primarily to step away form other cyberpunk-ish universes which often portay the future as dark and dull. However, these elements also have specific meanings that are taught to the player through repetitive patterns in every level. For instance, a glowing blue aspect will usually refer to a peaceful and calm environment, which can potentially hold a secret reward, whereas red will alert the player to dangerous threats.

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These patterns allow the player to automatically recognize the use and potential of every game space so that the experience in itself doesn’t feel odd by being too surprising. A fighting sequence will, for instance, never be displayed in a blue-illuminated environment.

The environment’s color tones and scenery are also heavily influenced by the heroine’s state of mind during specific game sequences. Consequently, a same gameplace can look totally different by changing both color moods and visual elements. For example, in Chapter 6, Nilin is showed (through a dialogue with her boss, named Edge) as being very disappointed by the turn of events, questioning the legitimity of the “errorist” cause (the main opponents to the hegemony of a few over everyone’s memories). Consequently, the environment of the “Bastille” was made very dark, with agressive silhouettes and a great use of warm colors diplayed by fire, reflecting Nilin’s story.

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This staging choice makes total sense with the flow of the narrative : when Nilin first came to the Bastille earlier in the game, with a brighter and clearer mindset, the environment was also displayed as a lot brighter and clearer.

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These light and color associations make a great impression on the most inattentive player by subconsciously making her / him feel the stakes of the narrative.

Simultaneously, a great effort was made to symbolize danger by using both light and space in gameplay situations. Indeed, light and dark hold special meanings  in Remember Me, characterizing the heavy use of the player’s primal instincts. For instance, many fighting sequences display a special interaction with the environment : turning on lights to make invisible enemies fightable (as Nilin is only a prey to these enemies when the light is turned off). In these sequences, darkness becomes a threat in itself by reflecting the enemies it could hold.

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In another level, Nilin will struggle to escape the lightspot of an helicopter (being revealed by the spot would result in a certain death).

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The numerous (there’s more than 2 !) uses of lighting through gameplay sequences make the player rely on a certain scheme to undestand the gamespaces :

-When she/he is in a predator condition, heavy-lighted spaces become places to take advantage of bad guys. -However, when  in a prey condition, darkness becomes the only way to escape the most dangerous enemies (like the helicopter).

In short, this constant play between light and dark but also between warm and cold colors remains a good way to influence the player’s own feelings and behavior through her / his own given instincts.


In a nutshell, Remember Me’s use of framing, color and light didn’t just showcase simple visual elements but embrassed the globality of the experience, reflecting Nilin’s own trip through her neo-parisian adventures. Using level design to induce feelings and meanings is not an easy thing to do in the entierty of a game development pipeline and it is to be noted that DONTNOD achieved a great sense of balance between all the elements in their obsession to deliver the best possible experience. This process involves techniques and tricks to be noted by any aspriring level designer, may she / he be working on a AAA title or another type or project, even in an architectural fashion. As Le Corbusier used to say…

“Architecture is the masterly, correct and magnificent play of masses brought together in light.”

 Thank you for reading 😉
-Anton

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Freaks’ Squeele

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Have you ever wanted to know how super-heroes came to be what they are nowadays ? How did they learn their skills and gain their fame ? If yes, then wait no more, and check out this fantastic series !

Freaks’ Squeele

Freaks’ Squeele is a comic book series, written and illustrated by Florent Maudoux. It tells the tale of Xiong Mao (a young normal « human » woman) and her two friends Chance (a demonic girl) and Ombre (a big nice wolf) as they enter the super-hero cursus of the F.E.A.H. academy. But, it is not so easy to become a super-hero… And between the classes and the crazy projects, to which you can add some problems with the management of the university and the bad relationship with students from other schools, life is not so simple for our three wannabes heroes !

The books are mostly in black and white, creating beautiful images based on light work, but there is always one colored chapter, which is also quite nice to see. The style of the author is frankly amazing, with a lot a realism, which is directly inspired from manga and cinema. It creates a very dynamic alliance, with a lot of details and different viewpoints.

 

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There are also a lot, and by a lot I mean truly a lot, of references from different genres. You will stumble upon a look-alike character of Alphonse Elric from Fullmetal Alchemist, and then see the face of Arnold Schwarzenegger in a photo without any warnings, before discovering that the archive’s room in the library seems quite familiar! And oh, where are your old Gaston Lagaffe comic books again so that you can check a thing or two ? And those are only three of a wider number of references, believe me!

Freaks’ Squeele is a seven books series, even if the last one has yet to be released. Next to that main story, you will also find two spin-offs currently in the making (one by another author, Sourya Sihachakr), and two little stories in the first and third Doggybags albums.

In short, if the style is appealing to you and you like stories which can be serious with a great deal of humor, don’t hesitate to run right now to your favorite library/book store : you won’t be disappointed.

 

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Lucie PELLETIER

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A MAZE. : An independant game festival

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Next week, most of the European independent game developers will gather in the same place: Berlin. In the historical German city an outstanding event takes place every year: the A MAZE. festival. First launched in 2012, it has been growing larger and larger ever since and is now one of the largest independent games festival in Europe, alongside Gamescom. So, 2015 sees the 4th edition taking place and it is already full of promise!

From April 22nd to April 25th,  the A MAZE. will stand out as the most interesting place to be for game developers eager to share and create together. Over the four days of the festival, take part in various talks about the industry and workshops where you can play or make games. But one of the most awaited event is of course the A MAZE. Awards. A few months before the opening of the festival, every game developer can submit a game that will be played and reviewed by the jury. This is a unique opportunity for independent developers to bring light on their work and it’s a significant achievement to be an A MAZE. nominee.

This year, no less than 225 games from 25 countries have been submitted. They will all be exposed and playable at the festival. After weeks of playing, the jury (close to 200 experts, professionals and journalists) will have selected the nominees that will receive awards during a show. Some 20 games from 11 countries are running for the 5 different awards.

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Play. Share. Interact. A MAZE. is all about sharing experience among developers, journalists and fans in a very familiar way. Everyone can just pass by and say hello to a booth, play a game, and chat with the developers. It is a great opportunity for students or budding developers to start building an interesting and reliable network. Showing your work will get you advice from confirmed developers. Alongside the talks and the workshops, music performances and parties are thrown for the participants to relax and have fun. You can easily grab a sandwich or dance with your favorite indie developers at A MAZE.

This year, Supinfogame will be at A MAZE :Anarcute is a game made by a team of 5 Supinfogame students. It will be presented at the festival and previously won the PING Award in 2014 for best student game. Anarcute is the cutest riot simulator ever in which you lead little rioters and wreck the city! Learn more about Anarcute here.

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This festival is the perfect place to try and experiment with games. Existing technologies or brand new ones are exposed in the booths. Take Cyborg Dating as an example. Cyborg Dating is a game with a new use for virtual reality: it is a two player game in which one ‘Cyborg’ player teams up with another person to achieve a shared goal: have a successful date. Learn more about Cyborg Dating here.

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If you want to discover more games, here are this year’s 20 nominees.

 

– Antoine

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Discover JET, an Imagine Cup Game

Hi there, I’m Sebastien hannier, project manager of Jet. As you know (if you’ve read the previous articles about it), we are making this game for the Microsoft Imagine Cup, a worldwide game creation contest. This article is here to present  this awesome game that we are making.

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So jet takes place in a post-apocalyptic world. Nature has reclaimed its right upon the Earth and everything is deserted and destroyed. We don’t really know how it happened but a new life form appeared right before the cataclysm. They seem to be made out of some kind of dirt, that we can also find everywhere on the ground. This dirt is the result of the pollution accumulated by humans and it turns into some kind of organic form. These entities are falling from the sky to destroy the humans left alive. These people have had to find a way to survive,so they’ve built flying cities, which are much harder to reach for their enemies. But still, it wasn’t enough to live in peace. So they’ve taken arms and that means fire, the only thing that can destroy the dirt.

The main character is a young punk rebel. He is one of the last humans, and lives in the last city on Earth. He is also the last hope for mankind because he is the only one that hasn’t lost faith in victory. So this young man has equipped himself with jet pack boots and roller gear to fight. You, as a player, will control him. Jumping from hill to hill, you will burn the dirt off the ground and kill the enemies with your jetpack equipment. You will also have to perform some crazy tricks, because if you are to save the world, you’d better do it in style.

The artistic direction is based on low-poly art. All assets and textures are made out of simple geometric forms. The main colors are very warm because we are in a desert, so yellow and orange are used here. This contrasts very much with the dirt and the enemies that are black and red.

 

So jet is meant to become an instantly funny game, with a great game feel. Thanks for reading and see you soon.
Sebastien Hannier.

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DEOS boardgame




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DEOS

This article is part of a 3 fold series on the DEOS game project : early stages, production and final line.

Part 1, early stages

Hello I’m Mathieu Girard, a first year student and one of the two artists currently working on the card game DEOS. In this article I’m going to discuss mostly the early development of the game from my perspective.

 

DEOS is one of the 12 first year projects of Supinfogame promo 2019. The objective is to create a fully working boardgame or cardgame prototype in the course of the year. The project is supervised by Pascal Bernard, especially for the game designers, while graphists are mostly on their own, apart from the unfortunately rare interventions of François Cormier. The project subjects were chosen by throwing random ideas on a board. We then grouped complementary ideas into theme groups. Teams of 2 graphists and 2 game designers were then randomly assembled and randomly assigned to a theme. We luckily got Mythology, Creatures and Heroes.

Our guidelines from there on were to wait for the intensive week which would be fully dedicated to working on the game. We disobeyed of course and started talking about the general ideas of what we wanted to do. At the time we were going for something rather complicated with a lot of depth. We had a huge interactive board in mind with cards and figurines, players would build cities and temples or go on quests. It was a mess.

Thankfully came the intensive week. We decided to completely scratch our previous vision and go for something very simple and casual with cards only. Our pitch then was that each player would play as a mythological god or a pantheon of gods who battle against each other for glory. They would destroy entire planets with cataclysms to prove their might. The player with the most planets destroyed would win the game. The word that often came to mind when describing our game was “epic” (we realized later that it was attributed to heroes and not gods, but whatever). At the time we wanted to create our own world and mythology, drawing inspiration from Magic, Dota 2, Warcraft,…etc while still being original. The following images were some quick concept art that I personally had in mind previously.

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However, popular opinions were against a brand new world and favored known mythology, so we asked what people wanted to be able to play as in our game. We came up with a list of classical gods such as Zeus, Loki, Anubis and so on as well as Buddha as a warlord and Lovecraft’s Cthulhu. Hence our first real concept art :

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I spent most of the latter part of the intensive week working on this. We ended up sticking with classical mythologies so this illustration was later discarded.

At the beginning of the week when we initially pitched the game concept to the class, people were quite psyched. However by the middle of the week things started to get rough. Our problem was that we had not found a way to translate the sensation of mass destruction and thirst for power into an enjoyable game. Our prototype looked like a bad ripoff of UNO. Seeing our troubles Pascal Bernard told us to put aside what we had previously done and think it over from another perspective, which we (kind of) did and still we could not come up with a fun game that looked even remotely like what we had pitched. However the game designers had put a lot of effort into this prototype and were reluctant to discard it, so we stuck with it and tried to improve it instead of starting over.

During this time we also had to decide our roles in the team, namely the Project Manager and the Artistic Director. We didn’t really feel like we needed titles, we had gotten along well this far without any chain of command. Benjamin Leblanc filled the position of Project Manager out of necessity because he was the better fit. As for the Artistic Director, in a group with two graphists, it’s hardly useful but as it is a job I’m interested in for my career and I’m more experienced and skilled than my fellow graphist Camille Gangneux I imagined I would fill the position. However he was eager to take it on so I “let” him. This has worked rather well so far since most of the artistic decisions were made together anyway and the boring writing stuff is his problem.

By Friday we hit a big wall. The intensive week was over and we had a crappy, boring prototype. Our instructions then : send a week’s worth of intensive work to oblivion. Start again,with one week to catch up with the rest of the class with something new and exciting.

During this week the game designers tried many times to improve the game. On the graphists’ side we had to decide what each one of us would do. In order to do this we each drew in an hour a composition of an oracle/prophet which the other would colorize.

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Camille’s oracle composition on the left and mine on the right.

Below is my shading of Camille’s composition and attempt at colorization. He didn’t finish his as it was pretty obvious I would be doing that part. This is the workflow we have adopted since then, he does the composition and I take care of the rest.
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The evening before the dreaded day we did a last playtest to see how the game held up. It was terrible. We were preparing to get shredded the next day. However in the morning Benjamin made last minute changes before presenting it to Pascal Bernard and it worked. I had no knowledge of this so when I crossed his path at lunch and he was encouraging and positive I thought he was being sadistically sarcastic. This prototype is the one we would work on for the rest of the project.

 

This concludes the first part of this article series. Coming next is the production and the detailed artistic direction (with prettier illustrations).

 

Mathieu GIRARD

 

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Why should you check out Final Fantasy XV

If you’ve been following the world of J-RPG for the last decade, you have surely heard of the (in) Famous Final Fantasy Versus XIII, rebranded as Final Fantasy XV 2 years ago.

(In)Famous, for its tremendously long development process, which started over a decade ago.

(In)Famous, for its radically different world compared to previous Final Fantasy installments.

(In)Famous, for its extravagant hairstyle-design of  the characters, in a typical Nomura-style fashion, its game director until 2012.

(In)Famous, for its real time action oriented gameplay, completely different from the classic turn-by turn Final Fantasies.

(In)Famous, for its cast of main characters completely made of men.

(In)Famous, for its “Road-Trip” like experience shown in the TGS 2014 trailer.

And the list goes on…

Famous, or infamous? Whatever is your answer, it is nonetheless one of the most remarkable final fantasy in recent years, which you should check out regardless. I is also Final Fantasy series’ “final” hope to regain trust of its fan base, due to the poor reception of the FF XIII trilogy. Depending on the success of this one, it may really be the “Final” Fantasy.

A short demo version Final Fantasy XV is available for those who purchased Final Fantasy Type 0 HD, a spin-off of the Final Fantasy. This one explores a new mature direction for final fantasy with a cruel fantasy world where it’s people are waged into a merciless war.

For those who just want to peek into the future game that XV would be, investing into another full- fledged title might not be worth it for just a demo. But for those who are curious, Type 0 is worth the investment on it’s own due to it’s radically different approach to the series.

The game is planned for international release in 2015 on both PS4 and Xbox One, so please look forward it!

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Horror games : Are we going the wrong way? [Part 1]

     Hey! Yoann here. This is my first contribution to the blog, and I wanted to step back for a while and think about scary things.

Have you ever wondered why horror stuff isn’t that scary after all? I mean, I know that this question depends on who is asking for an answer. Many people will be scared with pretty much anything at all, while some others  won’t ever really feel fear. Who’s never tried to scare someone with lights turned off? Well, okay… Maybe you haven’t. But I did, and it was fun.

One evening, I had to go to check on someone in their apartment. But for some reason, he decided to trick me and scare me. So he put some weird ambient music on his laptop, turned off the lights and sat in the middle of his living room. The lights were flickering, the music was loud. But it was way too much for such a prank, and was looking like some kiddy land haunted house with people trying to grab you while riding the ghost train instead. You see? This is what is basically done in horror games nowadays. NOT scary stuff.

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From « Spongebob Squarepants » Halloween Special

No, for real! Don’t you love it when these freaking shivers run down your spine? Doesn’t it feel great when the “thing” coming for you actually gets to you, and you’re not prepared? This is what I’m talking about. Oh and, by the way, it doesn’t even have to be some inhuman creature. Imagination is pretty good at this, and probably better at it than some gory gruesome creature full of sh… Teeth.

What I’m trying to say here is that horror games desperately need something new to be horrific. Once again, these thoughts are food for thought, they are not something that is proved to be working. Yet. What if horror games weren’t meant to be games? This is going against what I just said, that it is great to feel fear. But just think about it: Once you beat a game, it is kind of boring to beat it once more. There is nothing new, and all that the “new game +” mechanic creates is just a cheap way to create the will to go for it a second/third time.

Horror games (and movies, by the way) don’t work that way. Once you’ve experienced it, another run won’t give you the same chills, and that is because you are prepared and know what will happen right behind that wall. In fact, I think that horror games should be some sort of “one try only” games. Or at least should behave differently every time you start the game.

I’ll leave you with that for the moment, and will continue this way next time. For now, try to experiment with new games, independent games (I’ll explain why later), and get some scares while you can. See you soon!

Yoann

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Hardware news : « What is coming next to make games even more immersive? »

A brief (not exhaustive) history :

Since they have been created, video games have had one objective above all others: immerse you into a different world, universe, make you feel special and powerful. To achieve such a thing, they do their best – with the work of artists and engineers combined – so that you can’t tell the difference between material reality and the universe they depict. And how do they do that?  Realistic graphics with computers and consoles that become more and more powerful; immersive gameplay with ergonomic controllers, or even motion control.

Back in the 70’s, the golden age of arcades made video games accessible. More and more people could play them. With the evolution of technology, and as the number of people working in that field was growing every day, video games were soon to explore new paths of play. In 1989, Nintendo released the Zapper, and accessory that allowed players to play games such as Duck Hunt, in which you had to shoot ducks, using the Zapper to aim at the screen.  In the 90’s, the development of 3D video games let you explore a virtual space. With those appeared steering wheels, guns, and a lot of others accessories to enhance your experience.

THE NES ZAPPER

 

In 2006, Nintendo (again), released the Nintendo Wii with motion controllers only. This system allowed players to do a wide range of things, with the same controller. A lot of accessories came out to make it even more immersive. Consoles of the 7th generation (Wii, PlayStation 3, XBOX 360) all developed new controls, like PlayStation Move or Kinect. Until then, only Nintendo had bothered to develop such immersive technology.

NINTENDO WIIMOTE

Where is technology now ?

Today, technology is at a very high level. Some games are so beautiful it is hard to tell the difference between real life and video games. High-end GPUs (Graphics Processing Unit, the computer part that generates the graphics of the game) are now more powerful than ever, and it looks like things will keep going in that direction.

Products are getting better: thinner, lighter, they’ll eventually last longer if they have a built in battery. Yet, technology is stuck. Since games are so visually appealing now, what more progress is to be made? The answer probably lies within…the accessories. Even though consoles and PC try to use as few accessories as possible nowadays, new technology could LITTERALLY bring a new dimension to gaming on the video games’ system.

THE WITCHER 3, ONE OF THE BEST LOOKING GAME TO DATE.

Virtual Reality

For the past few years, a lot of companies have been developing different technologies to improve the players’ experience. Thanks to recent progress in terms of miniaturization, for every part of a product, new devices are made possible, when they could not have existed a few years ago. Let’s take two examples : The Oculus Rift, and the Virtualizer.

THE OCULUS RIFT

First, the Oculus Rift is a virtual reality headset. What it means is: when you wear it, it allows you to see a video game as if you were actually “in it”. With simple words: all you can see is the game ! So you are completely immersed in the game’s universe.  Oculus Rift is the first famous virtual reality project to be seriously developed. The project started in 2012, thanks to a Kickstarter campaign. Kickstarter is a crowd-funding website meaning that many people (called backers) can pay to help a project to develop. Several versions of the prototype have been made since 2012, and the retail version is supposed to be released later this year. A lot of other companies have announced their own VR (Virtual Reality) headset, such as Samsung, HTC, or Sony.

MORPHEUS, SONY’S VR HEADSET

The Cyberith Virtualizer is another virtual reality device, but it is not a headset. This product, which has also managed to be made thanks to Kickstarter, is a device which allows you to move freely as if you were in the game. It looks like a plastic circle on the ground, with three pods around it. The player is held by a specific system, that lets you walk, run, jump, crouch, exactly like you would normally do, but the device will translate it as an input (a message you give the computer so it does something specific, much like a command). Combined with a VRH, such as the Oculus Rift, you can really feel as if you were living the game. Almost nothing feels unnatural anymore, and you can feel like you were anywhere : battlefield/racetrack/arena/horror movie hospital, walking around, jumping and hiding.

CYBERITH’S VIRTUALIZER

Is it so great?

Even though this technology seems extremely cool and impressive, there are a few things that need to be kept in mind: First of all, these devices are still prototypes. Of course, they are to be released soon, but still, the first version might not be perfect, and research on those particular inventions will probably take a few more years for them to be absolutely intuitive. Also, both the Oculus Rift and Virtualizer, and also all the other similar technologies are very likely to be very expensive, making it even more important to think twice before you get it. And, last but not least, these systems are very big, and take a lot of room, especially the Virtualizer. So, in the end, this is probably the beginning of a new era for video games, but it will take some time for this revolution to be effective, and this possible “new era” to truly begin.

Théo Nottez.

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Whiplash

Whiplash-Movie-Poster-18-724x1024Shot in only nineteen days Whiplash (2014) is the second film by Damien Chazelle. It tells the story of Andrew (Miles Teller), a student at Manhattan Conservatory, who aspires to be the best jazz drummer ever. He wants to be the new Buddy Rich. Fletcher (J.K. Simmons), his teacher wants to push him to excellence through humiliation, insults, psychological manipulation and cymbal throwing.

The relationship that builds up between the two characters is impressive. To reach his dream of one day becoming a great jazz musician, Andrew shows selflessness and embarks on a quest towards excellence. His teacher continues to push him to his limits, sometimes ‘till breaking point.
However, the film is not based on rivalry between Andrew and his instructor, but on the inner fight between the promising drummer and himself, recalling in passing Black Swan by Darren Aronofsky on the dance world. Both films show how far passion can lead, and sometimes even to the detriment of the people involved.
The young filmmaker makes ​​a film about the virtuosity and its underworld. It’s almost a sports movie, a movie about performance, but here, perfection and victory are bitter. The end doesn’t systematically justify the means …

The staging is intelligent, particularly highlighted by the epic last scene of the movie consisting of a very fast and panoramic movement back and forth between Andrew and his teacher. This has a fascinating effect, demonstrating the degree to which the young drummer pushes his performance. When the symbiosis between the teacher and the student starts, the camera then performs loose circular movements as if it’s carried by the music.
The scenes are long, to match the image of the film, in which the main character must remain in tempo and for a long time. So we endure with him, we feel his pain and we only want one thing: that the scene ends, but no…, it continues. The spectators must bear these hard scenes. The staging comes into play to highlight those moments emphasizing the importance of details (dust particles, drops of blood dripping …).

Whiplash is a masterpiece and the duo formed by Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons creates wonders. From a relationship based on the respect of a student towards his teacher to a genuine confrontation taking all its meaning in this electrifying and breathtaking final climax. This movie leaves us with a uncomfortable feeling towards this world of passion and a head full of drum sounds!

Tristan Peschoux

Recent comments

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    18 août 2015 |

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    22 mai 2015 |

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    10 avril 2015 |

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