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Games With Feeling. "Mood Factor?"
Okay, this might sound a bit odd but I have been spending alot of time lately analyzing games trying to figure out what the magic hook is that separates really atmospheric games from games which are simply like running through a series of rooms. Why have I become so attatched to the Quake feel? What is the source of the Quake feel? What are the "mood factors" in games? I came up with a couple more questions.

What is it that makes a game have a feeling? Or overall mood? Is it lighting? Is it color? In some ways Quake's limited color pallete is frustrating, yet in another way it is the one element which is unified throughout the game, thereby possibly making it a "mood factor"

I was recently looking at pictures of Unreal2, and while there is tons of detail in many of the images, and the landscapes look pretty, there seems to be no interlocking design concept. Everything appears to be slapped together, okay these purple lights will look cool here! I felt similiarly about Unreal, UT, and later Quake2 maps. Of course I will have to play the game to make final judgement, this is only a pre-conception based upon the images.

How does one go about establishing a world theme? I compare this to LOTR, the designers came up with a basic rules or relationships in design of the architecture of each race and stuck to these rules. These rules spread to effect everything from clothing, to weapons and armour. Therefore Gimli's armour, axes and clothing look like they could have been forged in the depths of Moria itself. The character of Gimli appeared to belong to his surroundings, much as the hobbits, elves, wizards, and humans fit their surroundings. These ideas are applicable for movies, but how does it work in terms of game design? How can we include these concepts in the designs of our "modifications" to make the existing game architecture better?

More later?.......I love the pimp icon
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On The Other End Of The Spectrum... 
i've been playing morrowind recently, and the game's areas are built with prefab objects which are glued together to form the environment. not just candle holders and torches, i'm talking the entire environment. doors, tunnels, structures, etc... this makes everything very consistent... deadric shrines look deadric, with all the common telltale signs: funky angles, purple textures, strange arches, cramped outside terraces and spherical suspended things. the dwemer ruins all look dwemer, there are tall towers with peaks, and rusty tubes, pipes, etc...

same thing for the interiors, all daedric shrines have the same sharp, menacing walls, sudden drop offs, and angled stairways. dwemer ruins all have rusted, ancient looking walls, pipes running through them, etc...

basically, it works really, really good to provide a consistent atmosphere and look to the respective areas... for about the first four hours. the thing is, this game is so huge, and there are dozens of daedric shrines and dwemer ruins to find, (this is not the main plot of the game, btw...) and this results to the "you've seen one daedric shrine, you've seen them all" types of things. i'm sure it sped up the build process but damn, it's gets repetitive.

sticking to the same architechture can get very boring after a while. in one map releases, or a half-dozen map unit, that's ok. just make sure you've got enough variation in your style for an entire game.

(not only that, but i could pick out certain underground tunnel sections... there was this one prefab, that had a curving walkway which would curve downward a level, with a stalactite in the center of the curve...)

so i'm sort of happy that games are making much more variety in their building. obviously, this will lead to the 'slapped together' feeling, because sometimes that's probably what they did (maybe, i dunno for sure...) to keep things different.

dunno if this is what you were talking about or anything, but... <shrug> 
Title Goes Here 
"Quake's limited color pallete"

Technical limitations often lead to style. Tron is my favorite example, but there are others. 
just my take on quake. IMHO, strong art direction usually leads to game's style and if its good art direction, to its mood. Quake was peculiar because IMHO the art design wasnt very coherent and consistent but it still worked. There were a lot of different styles used (base, medieval, gothic, metal, whatever epsiode 4 was) without any real coherency, yet it all seemed to work. The same can be said of the monsters, who although being a good set of enemies, are not very consistent in their design. Obviously this has contributed to the extraordinary custom lifespan of the game, creating flexibility an versatality, but imagine Quake without any mapping tools. If it was just the retail game with the ID set of levels. They game would still be moody yet inconsistent, fun without being great. I'm at a loss to explain why it's art direction works when something that's been worked on for years (eg Unreal 2) doesnt show much style/mood (albeit in screenshots).

I've seen some of the concept art for U2, and it looked very stylized and moody, the modellers, skinners and mappers have done a damn good job recreating that concept art, but all put together, it just doesnt look as good as the original pieces. I'm still looking forward to U2, mainly because of Rorshach's skinwork and Legend's awesome set of Unrealed level designers, but it's not something that draws you in straight away (like say Alice).

Alice is a game IMHO that had very strong and successful art direction. It creates a mood and style seamlessly throughout the various areas in the game andis well complemented int eh sound/music department to enhance this too. If the gameplay was slightly better and mapping tools were available, this would be a fantastic game for the custom mapping scene. 
lets face it quake was flawed from the start. you just gotta admit that when you read any of romero's rants about what was missed in the game. fact is, it was ambitious at the start and the way it came out (with a leg chopped) was unusual and set the start for good dm play (doom2 was never as good in dm) and radical new sp maps by unknown authors.
i find other games just as good. they just came later. i dont think they are worse. it's like a catchy song. another one in the same pattern may not be catchy at all, just because it came AFTERWARDS

quake 2 IS GOOD. just i dont like the original sp maps in some of the bases. the textures are cool, just people sometimes use the wrong ones. i love retinals maps for example 
I think it gets harder and harder in games to define a particular "mood style" as more becomes possible.

One game that does this insanely well recently is warcraft 3, the style of all geometry and texturing in the game is so consistent and has its own style, which elevates the atmosphere to higher levels.

Doom funnily enough has very inconsistent graphics, but the technological limitations make it coherent again, compared to modern games. 
Oh And 
another game with a consistent own style is gothic (I am now playing gothic II). I can safely say this game has some of the most "styleful" geometry I have ever seen... the large landscapes in this game are all handcrafted polygon by polygon, and it makes it endlessly atmospheric. 
pre-drawn by artists or am i misunderstanding it...? 
Serious Sam is another game (pair of games) with a consistant style. Massive well lit levels and hordes of enemies.

Maybe you could create style simply by crafting the game engine to have an unusual set of stengths and weaknesses. Like RedFaction should have been created to allow long draw distances so that the blowing up walls could be used to great effect, rather than being the gimic it is in a par for the course fps. 
but serious sam doesnt really have any mood IMHO, it's mindless fun but not too atmospheric despite consistent style.

As for warcraft3, many skinners have criticised the skins in that game on a technical level, and I'd have to disagree with you on the consistent style in that game. Some skins look downright cartoony whereas others like the orc warlord have been done in a more realistic sense. But again IMHO it works. 
I would say Serious Sam does have a mood. It's just a light hearted mood, rather than the dark moods we so frequently encounter in fps games. 
I guess it just doesnt strike a chord with me. Light hearted mood and FPS dont work well with me, except NOLF/NOLF2 which were light hearted in the right places. 
havent played it yet but i really want to. from mag and net reviews it totally convinced me. i guess i like some of the realism in it (less monsters, more "spy" and "secret agent" activity) 
it's one of the best FPS's even though it's set in a relaistic environement. Some of the level design is very innovative and atmospheric, it has animation to die for and it's damn funny. Well worth getting. 
How About Daikatana 
no, i dont mean it was fab or anything. i mean what do you guys think about the stile and "world" of ion's game?

heh, romero put all the things he wanted in quake into daikatana. pity he took bloody ages to make it and then it sucked...although i LOVE some of the textures. what on earth is going on with duke4? can someone at least put big thing in the news (CNN BBC everywhere) to say it's dead so nobody will worry about it anymore? if it's alive then 3drealms must be a bunch of self indulgents. like ferrari taking 8 years to design their new model. pah! 
Mixing up consistency, mood and style aren't we 

I think there has to be some consistency in style for there to be mood so they are overlapping qualities. 
Quake 1: The Perfect Combination? 
dont really know if this fits in here, but its seems ok...

i was just playing a Q1SP map today...and i was suddenly struck by one of the reasons quake 1 has such a strong atmosphere.

Its has an almost perfect combination of abstract nightmarish elements and real world physics reality.

think about old games (really old) like Outrun or R-type or space invaders. They were completely abstract, you had no illusion the game was real, but it was still fun; but gamers wanted something more real (note not *totally* real).

Now think of games today eg Medal of Honor, BF1942, Grad Prix 4, they are the other end of the spectrum, almost (only limited by current technology) totally realistic, and almost constricted and hampered by that reality, so that the gameplay looses some of its fun.

Now think of Quake, released in 1996, in many ways its right in the middle of the abstract/reality spectrum. This works on two levels, both in terms of the graphics/architecture and the gameplay.

As i was playing today i was struck by how ID took totally "unrealistic" things, eg large floating weapons, shamblers, quad power ups, flying gibs, but THEN APPLIED "real world physics" sounds etc to them, this is IDs genius, not to be constrained either by reality but at the same time to make there make-believe abstraction follow real-world physcis and rules, and so make the player feel he is really in a *make-believe* world.

Its just like the actual architecture of a quake 1 map: the map itself is not "realistic": you dont have things in real life made of metal, or floating in space, or a castle with lots of weird lifts where monsters just sit and wait for someone to try to kill them. And yet the architecture of a quake 1 map is realistic in a way say ..doom, never was. Its true 3d, rooms above rooms, you can look up and down, proper physics, sound that is sourced etc etc.

So it seems to me quake is the perfect combination of abstraction and reality. 

you could say that about any non-realistic FPS with a 3d engine couldnt you? 
"this is IDs genius"

Didn't you just spend half of that post saying Id was simply in the right place at the right time? 
As Has Been Said 10 Before 
Don`t make game worlds realistic, make them belivable. 
Well possibly, but i just feel the balance is perfect in Quake. See unreal (for example) is (ironically enough) too "unreal" for me, its too cartoony, bright primary colors, wimpy weapons, its doesnt feel as realistic/believable as quake to me. 
wimpy weapons and bright primary colors is more a personal taste matter rather than a believability/realism matter. I mean you could easily argue the opposite and say that unreal (or any other game) is much more believable/realistic than quake.

I still think that it was a fluky fusion of perfect amibent sound and music, excellent but incoherent art design (leading to increased versatility), nice blend of different types of monsters and more unrealistic physics than are present in modern games. 
Go On Underworldfan 
I think you're on to some thing here.
I lost interest, and was really disapointed in Q2 for the reason that it was to cartoony coparing to Q1. The game had lost it's salty feeling, maby meaning the feeling of "reality"... 
Magic Reality? 
I haven't tried determining what made Quake work so well, but I'm beginning to suspect that it's some element of the fantastic that I can't quite define yet.

The weaponry is certainly eclectic - high-tech lightning guns and rocket launchers, paired with shotguns and a bloody great axe.

Perhaps it's the environments. The lighting is not particularly realistic, but, as Underworldfan suggests, you have little or no idea what to expect next. The maps have a grim, dark, inhuman ambience.

The monster selection is equally eclectic: modern, medieval, and bestial, yet they all work well.

Comparing to Q2, part of the problem seems to be that Q2's gameworld is too well defined. It's quite unequivocally a sci-fi adventure, so all the weapons are suitably futuristic, the structures are all futuristic (and not particularly alien,) and what's waiting around the corner? Oh, some robot with human bits attached. What's waiting at the end? Another, bigger, robot with human bits tacked on.

I guess part of the problem with the latest crop of games is that their worlds are too well defined: Here's a WWII game with zombies. Here's a WWII game with soldiers and tanks. Here's a game with monsters overrunning a modern research lab.

The magic's gone: you already know what's likely to be around the corner, so no cause for fearful speculation. The only time something comes out of left field is when you set off a teleport trap. 
yep, that's the inconsistent yet effective art direction (the not as well-defined as modern games bit that you talk about) that I was talking about.

And actually, I'd have to say you got the nail on the head there fatty. It's actually the lack of realism in some parts (ie lighting, strecthed skins etc) which give the game a more gritty and fantastic feel that most modern games lack. 
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