Advanced Composition

Reading & Writing in Digital Environments

Tag: games

The Choice is Yours, Until Dawn

The thrill of choice intoxicates the human mind.  Dictating someone else’s life is even more so.  In recent years video game developers have begun to employ the idea of player choice in the development of a game’s plot. This new tactic has attracted some limelight and sparked new interest in the lives of gamers.

Until Dawn hit the public on the Playstation4 console and PC platform August twenty-fifth. This horror based puzzle game creates a suspense filled scenario that calls forth the player’s moral code and pushes them to make time sensitive decisions that mold and shape the outcome of the story. Until Dawn is able to draw the player into the world of its characters and create an enthralling experience through enhanced graphics; chilling sound; choice and consequence; and well developed characters.

until-dawn

Until Dawn was developed by the game makers Supermassive Games and published by SCEA.  The story was written in collaboration by famed cult writer/directors Larry Fessenden & Graham Reznick.  It can be found on the Playstation website here: https://www.playstation.com/en-us/games/until-dawn-ps4/.

Promptly when Until Dawn was released, I watched the gameplay from a variety of different internet gamers.  After viewing the different pathways, deaths, and endings of the gameplay, I have come to a solid conclusion as a gamer of fifteen years:  I believe this game is one that will influence game developers with its fantastic story and graphics.

until-dawn-trailer-lead

To sum up the plot without giving too much away, I will say this: on a weekend trip to Josh’s family cabin on a mountain in Blackwood Pines, his twin sisters disappear.  A year later he invites his friends back to reunite and enjoy a weekend of fun.  However, this is short lived when a terrifying night of suspense and mystery unfolds.  You must fight for their lives until dawn arrives.  Buh buh BUH!

The game is a horror game with a huge mystery for the player to uncover, or for them to avoid and just try to survive the night.

Why then, does this game generate an emotional uproar through suspense, gore, and what not?  Well, Until Dawn’s main attraction is its use of the Butterfly Effect.  There are moments within the game that the player’s choice determines the outcome of the story within the game.  This aspect of the game generates a spine chilling mood and causes the game-player to experience the consequences of their choices.  This whole idea of choice and consequence in games captivates an audience when combined with next-gen horror and motion capture animation.

Granted, the use of motion capture animation in video games has grown more popular and more advanced over the years.  Motion capture incorporates the use of actors dressed in special capture suits acting out the scenes of the game.  Then, the animators, using the footage, generate the base for their design using their computer programs. Games like Until Dawn have characters that are not only voiced by actors, but modeled and essentially acted out by the actors.  A well known cast of actors and actresses were called forth to participate such as: Hayden Panettiere, Peter Stormare, and Rami Malek.  With games such as Until Dawn, famous actors and actresses are becoming involved in the gaming world.  Until recent years, only voice actors were involved with very few on-screen actors.  Such games are opening new doors for the entertainment community.  With the motion capture graphics and well executed character design creates the same feeling you would get if you were watching a computer generated movie, which consequently intrigue new groups of consumers.

Things such as this fascinate me.  I’ve always enjoyed games with intense plot and fully developed characters as opposed to the shallow “heroes and heroines” from your basic games.  Until Dawn gives us characters with personality.  There are eight characters total: Josh, Sam, Michael, Jessica, Chris, Ashley, Amy, and Matt.  From the start of the game they are introduced with traits.  For example, Chris is introduced as methodical, humorous, and protective; where in contrast, Sam is introduced as diligent, considerate, and adventurous.   As you play, your choices change how they react to different situations, and ultimately who in the game will like you or despise you.  Throughout the game you can see how each character develops and how their relationships, as well as personality, change according to how you play.  Until Dawn has demonstrated fantastic characterization, which alone impresses me in video games.

SamPersonality

So what else is it about this game that makes it so horrifying and fantastic?  Of course, the sound and ambiance definitely further add to the world that is Until Dawn.

The PlayStation Blog site interviewed the man responsible for the sounds of Until Dawn, Jason Graves.  One thing he says in this interview is that he had a “little shaker.”  “It’s a goat-hoof shaker. It was actually featured a lot throughout the score to represent the mountains, the location, and the history of the people that used to live there. You can distinctively hear that throughout the main theme and some of the key tracks.”  He goes on to discuss other unique and interesting instruments and techniques he used to create the atmosphere in this game.  Not only does this make the game stand out among others, but it adds to the native american themes and the mystery of the main story.  The sounds of Until Dawn show a brilliant understanding of timing and arrangements of musical score.

For example, here is a link to the interview, which includes the a few of the musical scores from the game:  http://blog.us.playstation.com/2015/07/31/interview-the-music-of-until-dawn-hear-3-new-tracks/

untildawn

“We really wanted to place you physically on this mountain and in this cabin.”     -Jason Graves.

The sound, graphics, and characters of this game are new age creativity at its finest.   The developers have made a game that can be enjoyed by either playing or watching it, and have successfully introduced a game that truly draws in the player and allows them to become part of the plot development.  This game will influence future games, and possibly cause gamer developers to put more thought into their characters, graphics, and sounds.  All aspects of a game are important to its success, and Until Dawn in its yet early weeks of play-throughs, has indeed reached success.

 

Always Altering: A Look into the World of Video Game Modification

On the surface, video game culture exists as a singular mass. There isn’t much more to see than what someone can take in at a glance. There is, of course, what people expect of game culture: subsets to genres of games and consoles, but most people do not bother to look further. If someone were to look closer, they would notice that beneath game culture lies another culture that, while created by and connected to game culture, stands on its own remarkably well with only the slightest of aids. What I’m speaking of is the culture of video game modding. Modding is the alteration of content from a video game, generally on a PC platform, to make it behave in a different fashion than it was originally designed to do. But why modify an already finished project? Surely if gamers believed there were too many problems with the original, they would just create their own game instead? No, they wouldn’t. Gamers are a group of people, who, upon seeing something they don’t agree with in their favorite content, will simply fix the issue themselves. Gamers don’t mod games because they have to; they do so because they enjoy improving what has already been created, and I want to explain the skill and dedication modders all share.

First off, what is modding? As I stated above, a modification or mod is the alteration of content of a video game in order to make it operate in a manner different from its original version. The act of modding can be traced back to the early 1980s, when it was more for aesthetic purposes than actually improving the original game content. Currently, mods can be created for any genre, but they are most popular with first-person shooters, role-playing games (or RPG), and real-time strategy games. Mods themselves also have genres, such as a total conversion, which is a mod that replaces virtually all of the artistic assets in the original game, and sometimes core aspects of gameplay; a total overhaul, which changes or redefines the gameplay style of the original game, while keeping it in the original game’s universe; an add-on, a typically small mod which adds to the original content of a specific game, such as a new weapon or racing track; an unofficial patch, a mod of an existing game that fixes bugs not fixed by an official patch or that unlocks content present in the released game’s files but is inaccessible in official gameplay; and art mods, a mod that is created for artistic effect. For example, a game such as The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is an RPG while “Moonpath to Elsweyr”, one of its corresponding mods, would be considered an extremely large version of an add-on mod.

While mods can be made by the original developer of a game, most are made by the general public. Many of these mods are extremely complex and have beautiful results, but don’t be fooled by what you see. Mods are not stand-alone software; to function, they require original game platform to be in use before the mod can be activated.

Skyrim LogoI have been playing video games for over ten years and have been modding for nearly two. That is why, for this paper, I chose both an exceptional game—The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim—and compatible mod—“Moonpath to Elsweyr”—as discussion items. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim or Skyrim for short came out in November 2011, and it quickly began collecting awards (VGX Award for Best RPG, VGX Award for Studio of the Year, Satellite Award for Outstanding Role Playing Game, Kerrang! Award for Best Video Game, etc.) for its gameplay, graphics, and soundtrack. “Moonpath to Elsweyr” is a mod created by MuppetPuppet (the developer’s Nexus Mods screenname) in which the player travels with a Khajiit caravan into the Khajiit homeland of Elsweyr. Once in Elsweyr, the player has the option to help free the Khajiit from the invading Thalmor’s oppression. The mod itself is a work of art; it is beautifully crafted in a way that is normally only seen in professional work and fully voice-acted (though MtE Logonot up to professional standards, which is expected seeing as mod voice-actors are not specialists), something hard to come by in mods for RPGs as extensive as Skyrim. The mod not only adds more quests for the player to complete, but also monsters and creatures for the player to fight along the way like the original game does—all of which are lore-friendly (something fans of the games appreciate since many modders tend to just do their own thing instead of adhering to Skyrim’s laws).

Skyrim SHMtE

(A comparison between Skyrim’s landscape and “Moonpath to Elsweyr”)

Of course, while I can sing this mod’s praises, there are a few details I want to mention that could irritate some of the more nitpicky modders. The first is the age of the mod; this mod was created soon after the game’s release (2012) and has not been updated since its release, mainly because the creator of “Moonpath to Elsweyr” made it for fun instead of a career choice. Another problem that stems from the age is some players may feel the gameplay is a bit boring since it focuses more on traveling rather than action-packed fighting. The final problem I really noticed was the multiple misspellings and grammar mistakes, both in names of items and the subtitles during speaking moments.MtE2

But my viewpoint on the mod is not what truly matters. What matters is what the mod represents as a product of modding culture. “Moonpath to Elsweyr” came out almost exactly a year after Skyrim itself was released onto the market; the mod explores a section of The Elder Scrolls world that has so far been untouched by its creators. There are original characters, creatures, and quests that were never thought of by the original creators. “Moonpath to Elsweyr” is a world within a world, built in such a way to stand alongside professional DLCs (downloadble content). The effort put into making MtE shows more about the dedication and talent of modders than any singular review ever could.

Modders refuse to be contained by current parameters, instead choosing to forge their own paths into the great beyond of video game coding and modification. If given a choice between settling and doing it themselves, they will always choose the latter option. Video games will continue to evolve over the years, and modders will be right there alongside them. There will always be problems to fix, and thus, modders will always exist. And in their existence, modders will continue to do what they do best: improve the creations of yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

Download link for MtE: Nexus Mods

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