Saturday, December 11, 2010

Writing about Games, Previews, reviews, commentary and lies

New games are developed all the time, and with them come reviews, preview trailers, and many other statistics. Before they even appear on the market, the games have been analyzed and criticized by various people. However, these reviews are something I really don’t care much about. There are two kinds of people that usually review these new games: the people who are attempting to show the game’s positive qualities and raise the maximum amount of money in sales, and the people who want to see the game crumble, and tear it apart with criticism, all before it is released. You hardly ever find a reviewer that looks at a game from an unbiased perspective. Most reviews depend on whether the writer is an honest person, who actually played the game before giving their opinion, or if they’re merely someone who was paid off by the company to write about the positive aspects only. In many cases, the reviewers are paid directly by the company they represent

Like many other things, computer games are a vast market. As such, there are people who have to develop the game, publish it, place it on the market – and those that have to make it successful enough to sell. To help them achieve this goal are the reviewers that give their comments and opinions about the game to the public. Of course, there are so many that have never played the game, but still give reviews about it in either a very positive or very negative way. But of course there are also the honest people that actually give a good opinion, based on facts, for the game they are reviewing. Subjective reviews usually work to increase game sales, as they can up-sell the product, whereas objective reviews only give the facts about the game. Because of an objective review, the company can lose money if they’ve made several mistakes. For the buyer, of course, an objective review would be the best kind, since they would know exactly what they’re buying, without the sugar coating.

Every new game on the market is like a pop star, it may succeed quickly, or crash and burn. As every celebrity they get a lot of interest, and sometimes a lot of fans. The first look we ever get at a game is from its reveal trailer which hasn’t yet been reviewed, and just gives you an idea of what to expect. I enjoy this part of it, since I can make my own opinion based on the trailer. After this, though, the comments and previews follow, and then the reviews, which is the usual cycle of the NGJ. At the preview point, critics start tearing apart the reveal trailer, judging the graphics quality, and many other aspects. They usually go way too far with their opinions, since they don’t even have access to the game at this point. Personally I don’t pay much attention to that, I may read a preview or 2 and that’s all I need, the judge of the game will be myself. I do follow one noteworthy site that is mostly for upcoming trailers of games,, and sometimes they give a review of a game which usually is close to my own opinion on the product.

Other types of games writing are previews on games made by so called ‘Fan boys’, who give only high marks on their favorite games, no matter how bad the product actually is. There are also people who do the opposite: if they hate the game or just the developer, they give low marks. But that’s mostly commentary from people who don’t work in any area of game design or reviews.

There are plenty of people who review games as a profession. I find it somewhat weird, playing a game and then writing about it. It sounds too easy, but it can be great for future sales. From the review, a future buyer can decide if they’ll buy it or not

Personally I’m the subjective type of reviewer. If somebody asks my opinion for a game, movie, or something else, I give my personal point of view. Because it’s my opinion, and if somebody doesn’t agree with that, then he shouldn’t have asked, and he just simply doesn’t have to agree with it.

Monday, November 22, 2010

My personal history of video games

The memories of my gaming history are fond; the countless hours I’ve wasted staring at a game, and which I still do today. The epic adventure began over ten years ago, when I was still a little boy. My family and I were enjoying a peaceful holiday in a hotel in the mountains. I was full of energy, and every day my old folks and I went outside to explore and have fun, but some days the weather was awful, and there was nothing to do. While I was looking around the station, I came across a basement, from which screams of happiness or anger were heard. For me, it seemed like a dungeon, and I didn’t know what to expect, but I was so curious I couldn’t resist. Walking down the huge steps, it got darker and darker, but suddenly I saw a light filled with colors and upon my eyes I saw a dozen or more arcade games. I didn’t know what they were, but I knew it was going to be fun. After a while I got the hang of it and had great fun.

When we got back, I started pre-school again and nearly forgot about the video games, until some of my friends mentioned buying a console. I thought it was something like the arcade games I played, and told my parents about it. One day after school, I went home to find that they had bought me an Atari Terminator. It sounded so awesome. I’m not quite sure, but the first game I played on it was likely Mario, or something with tanks. I can’t forget how much my father and I played Mario together. I didn’t have a lot of games for it, and most of them were actually some kind of gypsy rip-off versions sold for pocket change, but they worked, and therefore I didn’t care. Believe it or not, I enjoyed playing outside more than in front of the monitor, although there was one game which I absolutely loved.

A friend of mine had a Nintendo and a few games for it, but one of them stood out, one which we are all familiar with: CONTRA! It was such a battle to play it, and we were around ten boys fighting over two controllers but nevertheless, it was even awesome just to watch it.

As I got older, there was a period where I wasn’t into video games much. I had more fun drawing and playing with toys. But after a couple of years, I was becoming a teenager, toys were no longer the ‘cool thing’, and little by little I got back to computer games. I don’t remember them all, but some were Wolfenstein, Counter strike, Half-life, and Halo.
I used to go with my friends to computer clubs, because it was only at these places that we could get good internet connection in order to play online multiplayer. We organized matches against one another, to see which one of us was the best. Mostly we played Counter Strike, which I really didn’t care for that much.

Years passed and I did enjoy playing games when I had the time. The time when I had to choose what I will study in a university had come, and I stopped to think about my own interests, and what I was good at. My search ended at game design.

Today, the games that I enjoy most are Hats (or Team Fortress 2, as it is more commonly known), Dead space, Gears of War, and other related titles. But I do revisit the old school games whenever I can. I’m not sure what the future will hold for games… maybe the same as always.

Friday, November 12, 2010

History of video games 2000

The new century brought with it technology more advanced than anything we had seen before. For me, technology began to really blossom in the way that it became more publicly available. Digital technology became more reachable for the normal person, and much more advanced than it had been before. The market was flooded with high tech gadgets, computers, and consoles like the XBOX, Playstation 2, and computers with advanced graphics and memory capabilities.

Video and computer games started to be eye-candy for the masses. The advanced technology allowed computer games to be more sophisticated, beautiful, and even multiplayer. What started as a small wave quickly became a tsunami sweeping the public with its capabilities.

Looking back at the year 2000, it’s been only 10 years and technology again surprised us with its progress. Everything today is HD, or has the best hardware and software. Games have amazing graphic abilities because of such progress. It’s not only in games, but everywhere. More and more movies, for example, are developed in 3D, which I dislike because it kills a lot of the camera work, and nobody appreciates a good photographed movie or well scripted one. Everything is eye-candy and special affects today, but that is an entirely different subject

Genres in games, such as MMORPG - massively multiplayer online role playing games - and first person shooters became more and more popular because they held the buyer’s attention with advanced graphics and fantasy worlds which we hadn’t seen before. That is also because the cost of developing these games continued to increase. The more money the company had to develop a finished product, the better it usually was, but only sometimes.

There is a difference between game developers and game publishers. In one hand there are the game developers, people like myself, trying to create something new and intriguing for the public, something they themselves like, and that hopefully the people do too. In the other hand, the game publishers want to gain as much money as possible from the game sales. Often they try to suck as much as possible from a hit game, making more and more releases of it with sequels, that they turn the game from something extraordinary into something mundane. The game market also grew a lot because there weren’t quite so many titles back in the day. And almost every year, several great titles are released which bring millions – or in some cases billions – of dollars in sales.

Consoles have progressed massively over the last 20 years, from consoles that could barely run 8-bit games with a handful of colors, to machines on which you can run the latest in graphic games with ease. Today, we have the XBOX 360, Playstation 3, and innovative consoles like the Nintendo Wii. Even handheld games have progressed with an astounding rate, from black-and-white screens to displays that can run advanced games and even in the close future in 3D with the newest Nintendo product, the 3DS. Technology which can track your movement and allow you to control your game character with your body has been developed, though it’s still in its early stages, and doesn’t have much practical use, or fun games to go with it. The Sony Kinect may not be the first to come on the market, but it is definitely one of the most advanced.

Computers never slept and kept on growing. These days we have machines that have the computer power of a million of the most advanced computers we’d had no more than 20 years ago. Games in 3D have already been released for the computer and more are developed, becoming the newest trend in gaming.

It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to think what will follow next in games in the next few years. With 3D advancing more and more, and movement detection, one day we may need a whole room for a game, nothing in but some sensors and projectors that will display the whole game world around us, giving us the sensation that we are actually inside the game. But we have lots of time until then. For now, let’s enjoy our favorite games, new and old.

Friday, November 5, 2010

History of video games 1980-1990

Color, something which is not new or intriguing these days, but back in the 80’s, to actually play a color game was something quite thrilling. With the birth of the color screen the variety of games expanded, and more logical and sophisticated ones appeared just because you could tell the difference in objects and what they did, by their colors. In that year, the game industry finally found what growing on the market was like, as publishing houses appeared.

The 80’s were the zenith of the golden age of video games, which saw a lot of technologically innovative and genre-defining games on the market, such as Pac-man, Mario Bros, Donkey Kong, and Zelda. These are games which we all know and remember, games that are still progressing with time. During this period, games were making their big step into the home entertainment area.

In the following years, computers became more powerful and less expensive on the market. The one with the biggest success was the Commodore 64, because it was marketed and priced aggressively. It had good graphics and sound for its time, and it also utilized the same game controller ports popularized by the Atari 2600, allowing gamers to use their old joysticks with the system.* As well, the Macintosh arrived at this time but it lacked the color capabilities of the earlier Apple II, as it instead was focused on much higher pixel resolution. A new era of 16-bit machines was born when, in 1985, Atari ST and Commodore Amiga came to the market. At the beginning they were too expensive for the normal user until later on in the decade, when they became more powerful and less expensive than their competitors. In the late 70’s and early 80’s there was something new taking its first steps, which now is a giant among online gaming. The first online gaming was nothing else than just text, something like just sharing a message to another person, but in time it became more sophisticated and progressed with a staggering rate. Two of the most popular games that used multiplayer were Doom and Golden Eye.

Milton Bradley Company Microvision released the first interchangelable catridge-based handheld system in 1979.* The next year Nintendo released its Game and Watch line which was a handheld electronic game. Its design was really popular and most of the handheld games today are practically using the same design. Nintendo progressed massively in the years and still makes handheld games like the Nintendo 3DS.

1983 was the year when everything around games just froze: the production, the interest, everything. A lot of companies in North America went bankrupt, and a lot of people say this was due to only one horrible game. Back in the days young and old were intrigued and amazed after watching Steven Spielberg’s E.T, and for some it was a great joy when they heard their favorite movie was going to be a game. But all that brought was disappointment, along with thousands upon thousands of E.T. cartridges in a landfill in New Mexico. Of course, the game crash wasn’t only because of one game but several, like Custer’s Revenge and Pac-Man, which suffered extremely tight deadlines

Two years after that the video game console market was revived form the dead. More and more consoles and games were published on the market. The rebirth of the game market was mostly thanks to Nintendo’s release of its 8-bit console, the Famicom, known outside Asia as Nintendo Entertainment System. It was published with a bonus – Super Mario Bros - which was a great market idea and instantly became a success. The Nintendo systems dominated Asia and North America but weren’t so popular in Europe, Australia, or Brazil, which was an open gap for consoles like the Sega Master System to fill in. The joystick was also renewed with a better interface. The phenomenon in Japanese culture was born in 1986 with remarkable games like Legend of Zelda and Dragon Quest. A year after an RPG was created, and swept the world with its magic, and it continues to do so today. That game was Final Fantasy. It became the most successful RPG of all time.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

History of video games 1950-1970

Everything in the world has its history, not all of it is known, but one subject’s development in time is quite interesting: the history of games. It may sound weird, but the first computer games were nothing more than tic-tac-toe, and pong, a ball of light bouncing from one side of the screen to the other, something like tennis but looked from the top. In 1952 Alexander S. Douglas made the first computer game to use a digital graphical display also known as Noughts and Crosses*. After that in 1958, William Higginbotham made an interactive computer game named Tennis for Two**. Games have been and still are developing with great speed since their start. If you compare games in the past with ones from today, the development of technology is mind blowing.

The invention of the first computer game led to the birth of more that would follow, and soon even better and more advanced games. The main ones were Noughts and Crosses, Tennis for two, Spacewar! and Chase in the 20 year period from 1950 to 1970.

A genius and possibly even eccentric person had the idea to tinker around with computers the size of buildings and worth millions of dollars to make something for entertainment. And after a while the first computer games were born. At first they were nothing special, as nothing is in the beginning, but with time they progressed with astounding speed. I’m not sure who was the first person that had the idea to use computers for games, I never will but he was one of those people who was thinking outside the box. One of them was Alexander S. Douglas who, in 1952, made the first computer game.* The first steps in the game area were developed on equipment used by the military. In 1961, a group of students at MIT, including Steve Russell, developed a game titled Spacewar! on the DEC PDP-1, a brand new computer at the time.** The game placed two players against each other, each controlling a space craft which could fire missiles, while a star in the center of the screen was capable of destroying both ships if the players weren’t paying enough attention. Spacewar! was created with the idea to be the first influential computer game.

1970 was the golden age of games. In September 1971, the Galaxy game was the first coin-operated video game. Only one was built. In the same year, many coin-operated Spacewar! arcade machines were manufactured, but the game had a new name – Computer space.** However, Pong was the first arcade video game with widespread success. The arcade game industry entered its Golden Age around 1978 with the birth of Space ivaders. That inspired a lot of people to get into the video game market. In 1979, Atari released the well known Asteroids, in which you had to task to survive as long as you can and destroy all the asteroids in your way.

Technology never slept and kept progressing faster and faster. Soon there was going to be something new on the market – color. Color arcade games became popular in 1979 and 1980 with games like Pac-man, a game which many people still play. Games like that, which are more referred to as retro games, are true classics.



Sunday, October 10, 2010

Who am I?

It can be quite awkward writing about myself, but let’s start from somewhere.
My name is Aleksandar Ignatov. I was born on April 9th, 1991 in Varna, Bulgaria.
I have lived there my whole life, up until a couple of weeks ago when I moved to Leicester to study something I have great interest in: Game art.
When I had the idea to study something after school, I wasn’t sure at first what I’d like to study. I didn’t know where to study, or what to focus on. At first my plan was to stay in Bulgaria and study animation in Sofia, the capital, but after digging into information about it, and talking with friends that had studied there, I found that they didn’t have what I was searching for. So I started looking somewhere else, in places far from my own home city. I started looking at universities in different countries, and the most interesting seemed the ones in Britain. Sooner than I’d expected, I found myself in De Montfort University, Leicester, studying computer game design.
The idea for studying something involving games came from my life-long interest in video games. My interest in video games was born around 11-12 years ago, when I was on vacation with my parents in a hotel in the mountains. I loved going out to play in the forest with friends, but when it rained there was pretty much nothing to do. Looking around the station, I found the basement to be filled with arcade games. At first I didn’t know what they were, but ten minutes later I was the master of them all. I don’t remember which game I played first, but the one I enjoyed the most was Contra. One of my friends had a Nintendo, and I can’t even say how much we played or fought over it. At some point, we even managed to break the television …I don’t remember what had caused it, but someone’s head and several controllers were involved.
My biggest interest of all is drawing. I always knew I wanted to do something with my life that involved art, ever since I was a child. After 7th grade, I enrolled at the National school of art, Dobri Hristov, in Varna. I had a great interest in sculpting. The fact that you can make something out of nothing, and feel it in your hands as it transforms into something beautiful is simply remarkable. So I specialized with sculpture in my school, and sooner than I’d expected, I’d graduated and moved on.
At the time I got here, it was, and still is quite hard getting used to all of the new things around me, especially being so far away from my home and my friends. But, I know I’m doing this for something good, which will eventually pay off for me, although it will take a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to get there.
The fact that I can draw really helped me in choosing what I wanted to study. The main goal in my life is to become a concept artist, which is likely the hardest position to achieve in this industry, but I know that I am capable of reaching that height. My goals are high in the clouds and difficult to achieve, but who said I can’t make a ladder that will reach them?