Extended Essay

Below is the extended essay I wrote for Writing Games Analysis during my first semester, fourth year.

An Exploration of the Relationship between Art and Games

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Business Idea – MyOS

For our last Assignment in CS4047 – Multimedia Industry Perspectives, we had to come up with a business idea. Myself, Joe Touhy and Seàn Mooney collaborated together to come up with the MyOS business plan. After brainstorming over a couple of business ideas including an email to snail-mail idea, we settled on MyOS as it seemed the most elegant idea and the one most likely to make money from. MyOS is a product that provides operating systems that come with custom precofigured software and drivers. Customers can choose an operating system and the software and drivers they wish to have configured on the OS. The project took us around a week to complete, we worked as a group more often than we worked individually and used google docs as our collaboration tool. We preferred working as a group as it allowed us to brainstorm in real-time, so to speak, as opposed to us individually come up with ideas, post them online and wait for a response which may have taken a long time.

We used the resources Gabriela posted on her wiki as our guide to working on our business plan. Using this we had to research whether our idea had been used before, who our competitors were and how we were supposed to offer something new. We also had to figure out if there was a market for our product and if this market was stable and growing. This all help us in coming up with an idea could genuinely be profitable and would have highlighted problems with our idea straight away if it wasn’t.

With our idea sorted we then had to come up with a plan of how we would actually run our business. We did this by researching the software we would need and the software we would need to develop in order to develop our product. We then priorities these tasks and came up with ideas of how we would measure the results of our process. We decided on customer feedback and since the product was software we also used QA testing.

The Business Idea can be found here -> MyOS

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The GiantBomb Community

The GiantBomb Community

A General description of the community and its members
GiantBomb is a community based video game website and wiki that includes news, reviews, and videos with an emphases on fun. It hosts a video game wiki database open to editing by its community members, it is currently the worlds largest editable video game database. Giantbomb has been voted one of the top 50 websites of 2011 by Time Magazine. GiantBomb’s vibrant community is one of video game enthusiast. They debate video game related topics, the opinions of the editors, contribute to the wiki, blog, participate in the websites quests, create content and notify each other of when and where they will be playing multiplayer games online.

GiantBomb was founded by Jeff Gerstmann in calibration with whiskey media and Ryan Davis. Jeff Gerstmann and Ryan Davis were former veteran Video Game Journalists of Gamespot with 18 years of employment between them. Jeff reached the title of Editorial Director at his time at Gamespot and was one of the main reasons for the success of Gamespot’s podcast, “The Hotspot” and weekly video, “On the Spot” which he often hosted or co-hosted. The success was due to his in dept knowledge and love for video games, his sociability, energy, witty banter and most of all his general lightheartedness. This was shared by his co-editor and friend Ryan Davis who also stared and hosted/co-hosted “The Hotspot” and “On the Spot”. Gamespot was also a community based website and so success in Gamespot’s podcast and videos meant a large community following. Jeff was also a great and entertaining reviewer with no reservation about giving a game a bad review if it deserved it. This was a quality which was cherished by the community as they were gamers of all ages and consumers who wanted to know if games where worthy of there hard earned cash or pocket money.

Unfortunately, the editorial team at Gamespot had to answer to their publisher, CNET, and CNET’s highest priority was not to write good reviews, it was making money. As a result of the large video game enthusiast following that Gamespot had, CNET started advertising more video games on it’s website. Eventually these differing priorities between the publisher and the journalists clashed. In 2007 the game “Kane and Lynch” was finished development, the game was about to be released when their publisher decided to advertise the game on Gamespot. At the time Jeff was reviewing the game. Unfortunately “Kane and Lynch” turned out to be a very mediocre to bad game and Jeff gave it a negative review, but consequently it seemed as if he was pressured by his publisher into changing the review as Gamespot where advertising the game and they did not want to upset there client. It was speculated that he refused to change the review, but regardless he was fired without notice. There was outcry from the community and the next “On the Spot”, which was going to star Jeff, where he would interview people and talk about games as usual, turned into a farewell edition to Jeff with a post mortem of the events and an apology to the community in an effort to retain the sites members who were boycotting the website as a result of the event. Regardless of whether or not CNET decided to fire Jeff as a result of a bad review and resulting pressure from their advertisers, their decision was a very disrespectful and ignorant one, as Jeff was the main personality of there major shows “The Hotspot” and “On the Spot” which CNET seemed completely oblivious to as they were caught completely by surprise by the community backlash and left the remaining editors to pick up the pieces of there now shattered reputation.

As a result of the firing of Jeff, a number of editors, including Ryan Davis, and freelance journalists left Gamespot in protest. A few weeks later Jeff ended up on Ryan’s blog “Arrow Pointing Down” where they started to do podcasts again. Gamespot’s community continued to follow Jeff and Arrow Pointing Down ended up having a community of it’s own. While all this was going on Jeff was developing GiantBomb.com with Whiskey Media. GiantBomb was launched in March the 6th, 2008. The sites core editorial staff included former GameSpot Editors Gerstmann, Davis, Alex Navarro, Brad Shoemaker and Vinny Caravella. When GiantBomb was launched it was no competitor to Gamespot but it did get a significant amount of traffic and thousands of members where signing up, this was largely due to the community that supported Jeff and Ryan through their bad couple of months. The former Gamespot editors got back to what they did best but this time they didn’t have to speak to CNET and decided to put an emphases on lightheartedness which the community approved. The GiantBomb community may not be huge but it has been through a lot with Jeff and Ryan and they are one of the main reasons for the quality of Giantbomb and the reason why GiantBomb hosts the largest editable video game database in the world.



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Controllable 3D Model of an F22

In the 3rd year of my degree I attended the second of two graphics modules. This was a project where I was required to make a 3D model in blender and then import it into XNA with a texture and make a program capable of moving and rotating the 3D model.

I imported the above image into my 3 orthogonal views and then aligned them with each other. Next I made a cube and started to box model the F22. I applied the mirror modifier to the cube so that any edits I made would be applied to the other side of the model keeping symmetry. I added more vertices by pressing K to loop cut the cube and add more vertices. I then proceeded to alien all the vertices in each of the top, front and side views to the picture above from the nose of the jet to the end. I extruded the wings of the jet from the body of the model by pressing E and then aliening them again to the orthogonal pictures of the F22. For the canopy I had to merge some vertices together, by pressing Alt + M, to keep the flow of the mesh consistent with the image.

To texture the model I searched for camouflage in google images. I then selected all the edges around the centre of the model and then created a seam from them. I then selected all edges and changed one of my view ports to the UV Editor. I then imported the texture. I then imported it into XNA and made a program which manipulated the position of the object using matrices.You can rotate the model by using the arrow keys. By pressing Ctrl + arrow keys you can bank. A and Z control the scale of the model(Zoom).

Admittedly this is not a very large project and it didn’t require a huge amount of effort either but it’s important to me because it was the first time I got to apply the 3D theory that I had learnt from the previous graphics modules. I got some experience programming for 3D models with this project, I enjoyed it and hope to work in 3D again soon.

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Internship at Aol

As part of a degree in the University of Limerick students are required to go on an 8 month internship. For people like me doing Multimedia and Computer Game Development, our coop spanned the second semester of 3rd year to the end of summer just before the start of our 4th year. The coop office at UL organised interviews for us and I got hired by Aol.

During my time at Aol I was employed as an Associate Software Engineer, this meant that I was to learn new technologies quickly, solve problems, design, develop, document and test the software of the system that we were tasked to build over the 8 month period. I also had to do all of these in collaboration with my team. The system we were task to build was called the Data Provider Revenue Report V2 (DPR V2). DPR V2 was a system which ran as a Distributed System and calculated a revenue report so that data providers are paid on the bases of how much traffic they generated on their websites.
During my first month at Aol, our team was tasked with learning this Distributed System technology, Hadoop. After I had learned how Hadoop worked and how to use it’s API, I had to collaborate with my team to figure out how the old system worked, DPR V1. Once we had a good understanding of the old system we had to figure out how to recreate the system using the new technology.

As this was the first time we had ever used hadoop it was always a learning process, so with that in mind we created a high level diagram of the proposed system. With that we started designing the individual components of the system. After most of the individual components where created and tested, we had to figure out a way of chaining them together so that they would run sequentially the way we wanted.

As a software engineer one of my key responsibilities was to be able to problem solve as problems where prevalent in almost every part of my job. I had to figure out how to use the API of the new technology, solve the problem of how to create the system using this new technology from a high level and low level. I had to figure out what the best and most appropriate designs for a program were, I had to figure out how to chain all our programs together so that they could run sequentially, which meant that I had to figure out how to integrate all these programs together. And after all this, I had to make sure that everything was running the way it was supposed to and that there where no issues or bugs.

My other main responsibility was to develop software to an industry standard. I was responsible in creating code which was efficient, effective, understandable, concise and well commented. So it was important to have a very good understanding of what the program was supposed to do and how it was to interact with the rest of the system. We perform code reviews, where we would all review each others code to make sure that they were of a high standard.

The dress code was very casual

So again this was all a hugh learning experience and I tried to get the most out of it by developing good habits as a software engineer.
I consider my coop an important achievement because I enjoyed my time there and tried to get the most out of the experience and I think I achieved that. I was awarded a review rating of “beat the internet” for my mid year review, which is the highest rating achievable.

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Mad Blocker Arcade

During the summer between my 2nd and 3rd years in College, I developed a game called Max Blocker Arcade. A new game development studio, Open Emotion Studios, had recently set up down the road from the college that I was studying at and they were looking to hire some interns for the summer. I thought it would be a great experience and I loved the idea of making games so I applied for an internship. I ended up getting hired with a load of my friends from the same course in game development from college.

A couple of weeks into the internship a friend(Max) and I were asked to port a game to the xbox.
The game was called Mad Blocker and it was originally programmed in flash and was hosted on newgrounds and kongregate.
Mad Blocker was a simple 2D puzzle game based around the lining up of 4 or more blocks of the same colour. It took the good part of two months to redesign and implement the game from Flash to C# using the XNA Framework. It then became an expansion of the original flash game when we decided to add new features to it with two Multiplayer modes and special combo blocks with unique powers to deepen the gameplay. I really enjoyed working on it and witnessing a game come together before us over the course of a couple of weeks. The whole experience was new to us, programming a game of this scale, managing and organizing the efforts of my friend and I together efficiently, the animation and particle effects techniques we learnt in making the game and working with the other game developers to discuss our ideas and thoughts about the games we made. It was a huge learning experience that really enjoyed.

The game is available here for download.

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Ludologists Anonymous

Ludology and Narratology?
“The views between ludologists and narratologists are always contradictory”
But are they really?
I argue that the differences between Ludology and Narratology are more subtle than you may think and as a result have caused the debate between Ludology and Narratology.
I will argue this by first giving definitions of Ludology and Narratology. I argue that games cannot be truly studied if only narratology is used. I will argue that games do contain Narrative elements and that since Ludology is a study of games, therefore Ludology must also be a study of narrative elements in games.

Frasca defines a narratologist in the so-called debate between Narratology and Ludology, to be a scholar that either claims that games are closely connected to Narrative and/or that they should be analyzed, at least in part, through narratology. However Frasca goes on to state that this is not the humanities definition of what a narratologist is (a person who studies a set of theories of narrative in all mediums) and thus is a source of confusion in our debate. For this reason Michael Mateas proposed the term “narrativist” in order to refer to a scholar who uses “narrative and literary theory as the foundation upon which to build a theory of interactive media”.

Game-Research.com gives two definitions of Ludology. The first one states that Ludology is “The study of games, particularly computer games”. The second is different though and states “Ludology is most often defined as the study of game structure (or gameplay) as opposed to the study of games as narratives or games as a visual medium”. This seems to be the de facto definition of Ludology in the debate between Ludology and Narratology as it rejects the study of games as narratives. So why are there two contradictory definitions? Well, the term Ludology was originally proposed by Frasca to describe a yet non-existent discipline that would focus on the study of games in general and videogames in particular. “It was a call for a set of theoretical tools
that would be for gaming what narratology was for narrative.” He even goes on to state that his main goal was “to show how basic concepts of ludology could be used along with narratology to better understand videogames”.

Aarseth claims that to truly study a game, Narratology cannot be used because it’s focus of study is not on the rules of the game. Narratology is only a study of it’s narrative.
“The focus of such study should be on the rules of the
game, not on the representational or mimetic elements which are only incidental. That
metaphorical royalty of the chess king, the arcade player’s sense of himself as an
outnumbered but valiant fighter, the elaborate shared fantasy of a dungeons and dragons
group are all irrelevant to a critical understanding of the game” (Aarseth 2004).
Aarseth claims that the study of games should not be on the representational elements which are only incidental. He defends this point but also states that there is considerable overlap between games and narrative.

“[…] to claim that there is no difference between games and narratives
is to ignore essential qualities of both categories. And yet, as this study
tries to show, the difference is not clear-cut, and there is significant
overlap between the two.”

In Juul’s “Games Telling Stories?” Juul claims that, regardless of them being incidental or not, games do contain a narrative.
“I would like to repeat that I believe that: 1) The player can tell stories
of a game session. 2) Many computer games contain narrative
elements, and in many cases the player may play to see a cut-scene or
realise a narrative sequence. 3) Games and narratives share some
structural traits.”

Frasca states that
“One thing is not favoring narratology as a preferred tool for understanding games and a
whole different one is to completely discard it.”

Aarseth claims that games should be studied on there own terms
“Of course, games should also be studied within existing fields and
departments, such as Media Studies, Sociology, and English, to name a
few. But games are too important to be left to these fields. (And they
did have thirty years in which they did nothing!)”

So in order to properly study games, we need to study their rules and there narrative elements. Using Narratology to study a game would only lead us to a better understanding of the narrative of a game but not the game itself. In my opinion Aarseth claims that the important aspects of a game that should be studied are there rules, which cannot be studied through Narratology. However he, along with Juul, believes that games and narrative do share some structural traits and elements, but rather then treat them as traditional narratives to be studied traditionally they should be studied for what they are, they should be studied on there own terms.

It is in my opinion that the main causes for the confusion between the debate between Narratology and Ludology are firstly, the differing definitions of what Ludology and Narratology actually are and secondly that, in seeking to study more then just the narrative elements of games Ludologists have rejected the narratological approach to studying games. I believe Ludologists think games do have narrative elements but believe that those elements should be studied in their own context, as a part of a game. They reject the idea that a games narrative should only be studied as if it where narrative from other narrative mediums like cinema and literature. As a result they have been misinterpreted as rejecting the study of narrative in games. For instance Frasca wrote about a colleague of his “he thought that, since I am known as a ludologist, there was no way I could accept any role for narrative in games. Of course, I told him he was wrong and that such idea of ludology is totally erroneous.”. So with that cleared up, I am a Ludologist! And a bit of a Narratologist too, I happen to like traditional story telling like cinema and literature.

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