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  • 10 Trends in Game Design

    [11.18.08]
    - David McClure


  •  8. On-Location on the Cheap
    Games are now, thankfully, at the stage where warehouse based level design is not de rigueur. A greater world is now commonly represented in games set on various continents, in different periods, during alternate timelines, and even in truly unusual environments, such as the giant art deco styled underwater city from BioShock.

    Making a film or television program on location can skyrocket the production costs, but not so for games. Aside from occasionally sending an artist or design lead to a location to scope it out, take photos, and seek out inspiration, there is no change in cost based on the video game’s setting. Games can give audiences innovative and exciting settings with relative ease. (See References 14 and 15.)

    Examples: BioShock, Crysis, flOw, Shadow of the Colossus, Resistance: Fall of Man

    9. High-Brow Influences
    Although games have obviously been influenced by other media since they were first published, these influences have generally tended to be more along the lines of Rambo than Rashomon. However, the kinds of media infiltrating games (in a good way) is beginning to slowly change with games like the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series, based on the Tarkovsky film of the same name, Far Cry 2, with its influences taken from Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now, and BioShock's use of objectivism as a major plot point.

    Even parody games have benefited from this change, with Arm Joe, a 2D beat-'em-up which mocks a Japanese adaptation of Les Miserables.

    Examples: S.T.A.L.K.E.R., Far Cry 2, BioShock, Arm Joe

    10. Mixing Genres and Perspectives
    Compared to games that have come before, the genres games fit into and the perspectives they are shown from are much more fluid.

    Mirror's Edge is a game based around free running presented in a first-person perspective. Fallout 3, S.T.A.L.K.E.R., and Oblivion are RPGs played from a first-person perspective. Portal is a highly entertaining and successful first-person puzzle game. The Paper Mario series are 2D side scrolling platform game RPGs. Gears of War, a multi-million selling third-person smash hit, was originally conceived as a first-person game. (See Reference 16.)

    This crossover between various game types is proving extremely interesting and should hopefully prevent games from becoming stuck in pigeonholes with little chance of artistic progression.

    Examples: Mirror's Edge, Fallout 3, Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door, Portal, PuzzleQuest

    David McClure is an aspiring game designer and 3D artist living in London. While at university, he was the president and founder of a film society and wrote for the university newspaper. David is currently looking for work, which shows his uncanny knack for timing.

     

    Discuss these 10 trends of game design (and any you feel were left out of this article) on the forum.


    References

    1. Cellan-Jones, Rory. “Games ‘to outsell’ music, video,” BBC. November 5, 2008. Accessed November 10, 2008.

    2. Pham, Alex. “‘Grand Theft Auto’ steals video-game sales record,” Los Angeles Times. May 8, 2008. Accessed November 10, 2008].

    3. Grand Theft Auto IV (xbox360: 2008): Reviews 2008. Metacritic, CNET Networks Entertainment. Accessed November 10, 2008.

    4. Crysis (pc:2007): Reviews 2007. Metacritic, CNET Networks Entertainment. Accessed November 10, 2008.

    5. S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl (pc: 2007): Reviews 2007. Metacritic, CNET Networks Entertainment. Accessed November 10, 2008.

    6. Crackdown (xbox360: 2007): Reviews 2007. Metacritic, CNET Networks Entertainment. Available from: Accessed November 10, 2008.

    7. Far Cry 2 (ps3: 2008): Reviews 2008. Metacritic, CNET Networks Entertainment. Accessed November 10, 2008.

    8. Saints Row 2 (ps3: 2008): Reviews 2008. Metacritic, CNET Networks Entertainment. Accessed November 10, 2008.

    9. Fallout 3 (pc:2008): Reviews 2008. Metacritic, CNET Networks Entertainment. [Accessed November 10, 2008].

    10. Mark, Dave. “The Art of AI Sidekicks: Making Sure Robin Doesn’t Suck,” June 4, 2008. AiGameDev.com. Accessed November 10, 2008.

    11. McDonald, Thomas L. “Review: Morality and Bioethics in a Violent Video Game,” October 28, 2008. NCRegister.com. Accessed November 10, 2008.

    12. Croshaw, Ben. “Zero Punctuation: BioShock,” September 5, 2007. The Escapist. Accessed November 10, 2008.

    13. Cold War Modern: Design 1940-1975, exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 2008-2009.

    14. “Why Are There So Many World War II Games?” May 22, 2007. Edge. Accessed November 10, 2008.

    15. Wolpaw, Erik. “Crate Review System,” April 26, 2000. Old Man Murray. Accessed November 10, 2008.

    16. Thorsen, Tor. “GDC 07: Cliffy B disassembles Gears, mentions sequel,” March 10, 2007. Gamespot U.K., CNET Networks Entertainment. Accessed November 10, 2008.

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