Tag Archives: Games

2015 and how I need to change as an artist.

Releasing Penarium was as far as I planned 2015. Well. That happened and a whole lot more. Here’s what went down this year and what is going to change in 2016. The biggest one being a major shift in focus as an artist.

First off. I beat Game Developers Conference this year. I say that because the one the year before was not a good trip for me at all. First time in San Francisco, First time at a big convention, First time I had a game to hustle. After that trip I wrote down everything that bugged me and learned from it. GDC 2015 was bliss. Mostly because I stopped giving a crap. I became free and I could start being myself. I visited Japantown which has a papercraft store. Everywhere around me were magnificent sculptures of origami and other techniques. What caught me were little robots made from folded straws, which were called Piperoids. It fascinated me that you could make figures out of paper.

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A few months later we finished and released Penarium. What a relief. Finally a game I can tell my family about. “What do I do?” I make games. Just look at your Playstation uncle Benny. Yes it’s done. It’s finally done. The game’s on there. Despite its somewhat low sales I am proud about the fact I worked in a team and we finished a game. I still can’t live off games but we made a game the way we wanted to. Many reviews were positive, some of them were negative but we delivered. Now what?

A friend of mine asked me “What do you ultimately want to achieve as a game maker?” I never heard that question before. Not even from myself. I was caught surprised but I was even more surprised by how fast I came up with a focused answer: To make a game and a world of which people will say “That’s his game”. That’s the next step after Penarium and it’s a battle I’ve been fighting for years. The closest I got to it was Mutant Gangland.

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This is the year me and Zapa stopped development on Mutant Gangland, A turn-based strategy game that looks like a mix between Advance Wars and Ninja Turtles. Last year we put it in early access and sold a few copies. It became a game where I could unload my love for wacky action figures and comics. Mostly those of Toxic Crusaders and Ninja Turtles. Then Zapa got busy. Actually, He got a day job. Without a programmer the game was dead in the water. A shame because I grew attached to the wasteland world I created. I closed the door on yet another game. This happened to me too often.

Months later I read a Turtles comic and was reminded by how full of juvenile energy it is. I wanted to recreate that energy so I contacted Zapa. After a good talk he gave me the freedom to whatever I wanted with Mutant Gangland. It was now 100% mine. It just wasn’t done yet. far from it. But the door was open again.

I want to release Mutant Gangland one day. Release that game with my world in it. Give the people what they paid for. It bugs me every day that I have not yet delivered but it will be done. The real question is what kind of game it will be. After talking to some developers I discovered I simply did not have the funds to make a complete turn based strategy game. However; With the world I created I wouldn’t have to. It could be whatever as long as it’s a good vehicle for cool looking characters and a compelling setting. And the visual style? I’m strongly pondering that subject. Right now Mutant Gangland is pure pixel art and I’m tired and wary of using pixel art.

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Years ago during a internship at a mobile games company I started doing pixel art and I’ve been using it ever since. What appealed to me about it was its satisfying learning curve. Once I understood the rules it was even more fun to do. I did several pixel art projects over the years while growing slowly. This to a point I wouldn’t even question the use of it. That autopilot is a bad situation.

There’s been some talk among the Penarium team about wether a non-pixel art 2D style might have helped the game’s reception. There’s no way of telling. Two of this year’s most critically acclaimed games are made of pixelart but I can’t help wondering if Penarium’s style made people put it in a certain corner. You could argue that pixel art is a medium but that’s unfortunate when many consider it a style. It’s associated with retro gaming and deliberate ‘indie’-ness. Maybe people saw Penarium as indie retro platformer nr 3453. Because Mutant Gangland was inspired on the style of Advance Wars. That style started to direct Mutant Gangland’s themes and story. I think it should be the other way around.

But all of that won’t matter if I can’t find a developer. I’ll always need someone to realise that goal of making The Thomas Game. During its development I was curious to see how some of the characters would look as a toy. Something to have on my desk. I contacted several 3D artists with a design I made. Asking if they could make it in 3D. None of them delivered. It was frustrating to need somebody to realise my ideas again. Something had to change. (hint: it was me. I had to change)

Late 2015 I played around with program called Crocotile which lets you place pixel art tiles in a 3D environment. This seemed like the perfect transition between easily understandable pixel art and the scary world of 3D interfaces. It almost looked like you could fold them because all the tiles have the same sizes. It was just cubes and cubes and cubes. I closed the program. Opened Photoshop. Made some pixel art squares and printed it on a paper. Then I folded and glued them and made this.

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Something clicked when I assembled that pizza robot. The Piperoids I saw in San Francisco had been brewing in the back of my head for a long time. They got me wondering wether I could start making three-dimensional tangible things myself. I was able to make something without needing a developer, which is my greatest frustration with game making. Also I could make this with all the skills I already possessed. In 2016 I will make a whole street with robots like these. Food vendors called The O-bots. How does this relate to Mutant Gangland? Remember when I said Mutant Gangland’s current style commanded the substance? Let’s flip that.

Everything that’s awesome about Mutant Gangland’s made up universe comes from comics and toys. That’s something to consider in 2016. As part of that I want to explore the action figure realm and make Mutant Gangland action figures. That’s my resolution for 2016. For that I will have to learn 3D. Last week I started following a class at my good friends at Reptile. Next year will be full of 3D adventure. Which brings me to the last game I’ll probably do in 2D pixel art.

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I did some game  jamming this year and one in particular stuck out: City Crushers. a time attack game where you play a giant robot crushing cities. Made with Laurent Victorino. When the jam was over I still wanted to finish the game. In 2016 I want to make an expanded version of the game. renamed Demolitron.The reason I want to bring this out badly is because even more like Penarium this feels like a concept that came from myself rather than a large team. It’s the next logical step after Penarium. This is also the frst game in a while where I am responsible for the game design. Something I like doing even more than doing game art. Most important of all: I want to BEAT that curse of personal games not getting finished.

You might ask yourself why I don’t start learning how to code.  I have been learning. I’m also terrible at it. I have some talents and programming is just not one of them. Truth is most of the time my mind is a scrambled mess. A tornado of distractions. There are some activities that manage to hypnotise me away from that tornado. Pixel art was that for me and the same counts for 3D and papercraft.

It’s been a good year for me. Having released a game that I am largely responsible for plays the big part in that and I’m proud of just finishing something for once. My resolutions for 2016 may seem silly but it signals a shift in focus. from games to toys, from 2D to 3D, from dependancy to autonomy.  Mutant Gangland and O-bot figures are the most exciting projects ever right now. Something I can do all by myself. Demolitron should also see release.Of course, This is what I PLAN to do. We never really know what life will throw at us. If a nice project comes by I might jump on board. Just like that.

ATTENTION: From now on I’ll be doing regular updates about my adventures through emails. These will be more casual and personal. If you want to be on that list then enter your address below. See you in 2016!



 

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Mutant Gangland So Far

Mutant Gangland, Our uncomplicated turn-based strategy game that just hit Alpha. It’s set amid a future gangwar between robots and mutants. I will now tell you about this game’s past, present, and future.

History:
First of all this game is made by a core crew of three people who never met each other in real life. Bacioiu is from Romania, Grace from England, and I’m from The Netherlands. How did we meet? On Twitter. I’ll call Bacioiu ‘Zapa’ from now on. Zapa loves strategy games. To be even more specific he loves the TBS* Advance Wars. About a year ago he started coding and playing around with his long brooding idea of making a turn based strategy game like Advance Wars but even shorter battles. Or a coffee-break TBS as he called it. *Turn-Based Strategy game. Where players take turns.

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Being my friend he asked me if I could make some temporary art he could use until he found a final artist. I liked the idea of the game and I offered to be that final artist myself UNDER ONE CONDITION!: I got the to make up a theme and setting for the game. Being a supporter of creative freedom, Zapa said “Yes, Whatever”. Great! So? Where to start? I wanted to do something with masks. And then came the robots and then the mutants and the concept was born. A futuristic wasteland where gangs of robots and mutants fight over turfs of land. We figured it would take us about a few weeks to make it.

Five months later and we’re are all still working behind our desks. All in different parts of the Europe We promised the world a release for January 28. Of course nobody in the world really cares for that but we feel it. It looms over our shoulder as there are but hours to go. Zapa is smoking, cursing, and coding, I myself am destroying my only hand over attack animations that I by now see even when I sleep, and Grace is chained to her headphones as she forges the final pieces of sound and music. It’s hard and it’s tense but on January 28 we did deliver Mutant Gangland Alpha 1 to the world. Clap.

Present:
It’s our first personal release. We put it up own Itch.io along with an amazing trailer. So far we sold 60 units.  I suspect most of them are Twitter friends that humour us along with some family. That’s all part of the plan. Before we go really large we waited for big bugs or mistakes to arise out of the initial feedback. Some useful mails were written to us and we took a few days to adress most of those. Even add some smart interface touches. We now have that new version up for download.

Future:
From here on we are going to sit back and analyse the response. We’ll mix that with our own idea with what we like to see in the game. Fierce discussions will be had because Zapa and I are two different sides of the same coin. Where he has a giant legacy of played games I have the intentional view of an oblivious newcomer. When I stare at a small corner of a painting Zapa sees all of the gallery as a whole. He is coffee, I am tea. There will be blood and when the dust clears there will stand a box for all of you to open. Mutant Gangland Alpha 2.

No release day yet.

 

 

 

 

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Mutant Gangland Alpha 1 is out

It’s the distant future, Gangs of mutants and robots fight each other over city blocks and turfs. Mutant Gangland, The game I did lots of art and design for is now up in Alpha 1 version. If you have a thing for Advance Wars or pixel art you might want to check it out.

This amazing trailer was made by Elise The, A wicked skilled editor and filmmaker.

Working on this game is a blast. Me and Zapa (co-maker) are having fun debates over the game’s design. Making the mutants and robots make me feel like a toymaker and the background story I’m crafting is so cool I’m having a fight to not get sucked up by it. I think so far I’ve grown a bit in my art capabilities thanks to this game and Penarium. So much even that I’ve felt it was needed to redo all the units in the game three times so far.

You can follow updates and see more info on mutantgangland.com.

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10 single sentence game reviews (part 2)

I don’t like reading reviews. Too many words. That’s why I started writing super short reviews myself. I had fun doing that last time. Did you like it too? Good news! I gamed enough again so here’s 10 more single sentence game reviews!

Walking Dead
Unreadable facial expressions and awkward pauses aside every choice sticks and there are some tough one’s to be made in this tale of people you hate or like or care about.

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Hitman Absolution
I won’t notice that it’s less open than the others because that instant thrill of handling the unexpectedness with brutal decision making is still there.

Dead Rising 2
I felt both laid back by the daylight setting and stressed out by the ticking clock and oh there are zombies too.

DMC
Constantly kicking ass and constantly being challenged doing so and still making you feel like a badass is an accomplishment.

Spelunky
It looks cute and plays delicious but dying a thousand deaths feels like something from an age I left behind on purpose.

Bioshock Infinite
It has pointless looting, unfitting combat and a heroine that looks like a pedophile’s dream but it’s staged in a world I will remember for years.

Tomb Raider
It would only be acceptable if this too gunfight heavy spectacle was not a game about Lara, the undisputed queen of climbing.

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The Last of Us
High polish and pacing trick you into believing that sneaking and choking from cut scene to cut scene is something extraordinary.

Gome Home
In its mechanics I see no innovation at all but damn this love story makes me want to hug and never let go these people.

Dark Souls
Even its insanely cool dark style and setting and glorious world can’t pull me through dying over and over and over again.

That’s it. I have a few more games stacked on my couch. I’m just buying to to release a whopping ten more reviews in a third part. In the meantime feel free to discuss games and gaming with me on Twitter. 

 

 

 

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Announcing: Robo Danzor Tactics

A turn based multiplayer where you strategically place robots and let them do dance-offs. Yes. This is happening.


If you follow me on Twitter you might know this already but we spent the last couple of weeks working on a game for Android and IOS. It’s not done yet but it’s pretty fun already. I can happily inform you that this my first own game that I’m actually addicted to playing with.

In Robo Danzor Tactics you and a friend can take turns placing tiles in a grid. Every tile has 4 sides with different degrees of dance-power, aka the ability to do wicked dance poses during battle. The key is to place your tile because if you run out of dance-power during battle you lose the whole tile. And losing your tiles means losing the game.

We’ll just leave the explaining up to the trailers and videos. What you have to remember is that this game is about fabulous dancing robots willing to throw their life on the line for your entertainment. And for glamorous glory.

Robo Danzor Tactics, people.

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Paper vs Paper is out

Yes! It’s out now. Paper vs Paper is playable on Ipad.
There are some reviews out and so far they are all very positive.
I’m positive about it too. During development it’s hard to look at the thing you work on clearly. I do see it clearly now and I like the game.

If you think you like it too you can get it here:

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I hate zombies but I hate vampires even more.

So I’m doing this game jam where you are supposed to make a game you normally hate. I also told how I love robots and how I was going to put robots in my game…

Sounds like someone wasn’t thinking enough.

When Fill this Jam was set up they probably mostly had hate for game design in mind. I think it can apply to art just as well. Took me a while to figure it out though. I was talking to my friend Zapa and when he mentioned something about zombies. I thought “no man, I hate…” And it was too late. Maybe it’s not how this jam was intended but I felt guilty because I don’t really hate turn-based dungeon rogue likes. I find them intimidating. So I had to pick up something. Zombies it would be.

It gets worse.

I told my girlfriend that I was going to change the theme from robots to zombies because hating tropes was all this jam was about. She stopped me and said “but you don’t hate zombies. You are just tired of them. What you really hate is vampires”

That’s when I sunk further. By now I have accepted my fate but I hate vampires so much that I wouldn’t even want to jam with them. I know I have to and I will. But only on my terms! Here is how my vampires are going to behave:

No hissing:
I see it in movies all the time. It’s supposed to impress me but it doesn’t : A vampire shows up. Opens its mouth for a while and makes some hissing sound. My cat does that too and I’m not afraid of my cat. Either keep your mouth shut or keep your mouth open.

No tilting the head:
If hissing won’t scare you they can always use that slightly tilt of the head to make it even more “psycho”. Thing is I’ve seen too many deathmetal videos and it just reminds me of failed attempts at larp or gothic. My vampires won’t do that. No tilting. It’s silly. stop it. stop.

No prettiness:
I almost vomit at the thought of the vampire mythos’ sexual subtext. I never thought anything about them to be sensual . Not their power, Not their eternal life. When I see a film and some hot dude or chick does something that’s supposed to be sexy I just feel embarrassed. It’s like I’m watching a comedian that nobody finds funny. My vampires won’t be hot. Or even slightly bearable. They will be stone cold hideous. They’re MONSTERS remember?

No talking:
9 out of 10 times when a vampire talks it’s an attempt to be cool by saying something witty or dark. “Your flesh will taste delicious tonight” or “don’t worry. I will make it quick”. I don’t care about such one-liners. You will never match “yippee ki yay” or “Cowabunga”. To prevent my vampires from sounding like self-obesessed jerks I took their ability to talk. They don’t talk. Ever.

Not just two teeth:
When a vampire opens its mouth and there’s just two sharp teeth I think “somebody went to a carnival shop with only 50 cents” The same suspicion of laziness comes to mind when I see a new alien in Star Trek and they’re clearly actors with some random putty on their forehead. Two slightly longer teeth? Is that how you “transform” ? Oh you have red eyes too? whoa! I guess you doubled your effort to look convincing! My vampires won’t do with just 2 teeth. There will be sharp teeth all the way.

When I sum that up I get something like this:

They are the three different enemy types we have so far. Arranged by power. I made these and to be honest I had a lot of fun doing so!

There already is a vampire that has all the things i seek for: Nosferatu.
The one from the film named after him. Coolest vampire ever. No talking, no pretty face, no glitter or mixed feelings. No tilting the head or silly hissing. Just a all-in scary-teeth-all-over-quiet-scary-staring blood-sucker. Similar dudes can be found in other movies as well. But for this jam Nosferatu is my guide.

The theme will be vampires and it pisses me off.

Disclaimer: If you want to tell me about how I look past the virtue of subtlety and subtext and power of the vampire: I know all about the virtue, subtlety and subtext and I wipe my butt with it.

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20 games reviewed in 1 sentence

I make games but I also play a lot. Both struggle for my time and I always feel guilty for neglecting one if I do the other. Now that is a first world problem.

I also try to avoid reviews. I like to be surprised and like my bias to be clean. Also: some reviews are too long to read. I have a solution. Make it shorter. It’s crazy to try to capture all a game has to offer with so little words but life is short so here are 20 game reviews with one sentence:

Batman Arkham City
The stylistic stew of all the comics and movies plus some fitting and solid mechanics give you the empowering feeling that you are indeed the batman.

Mass Effect 3
Tough choices make this compelling a game with just above average action mechanics and a great initial ending because closure is bullshit.

Dishonored
I gleefully sneaked around guards that are too stupid for me to believe in a beautiful world that could do with less obvious and ever-present detours.

Dead Space 2
A game with an unbelievably uncomfortable environment that doesn’t understand it could be twice as scary if it showed half as many monsters.

Skyrim
The package of music,lore,people,landscape and simple mechanics will warmly welcome me inside its world for years to come.

Ghost Recon Future Soldier 
This game strikes a weird balance between being challenging while also making me feel unfairly powerful with all the gadgets.


Swords and Sworcery
Sometimes I don’t get what’s going on but sometimes there’s the joy of being a kid looking at a picture book in a foreign language.

Super Lemonade Factory
Pretty, clever and so tough as nails you’d almost give up on the humor and back-story.

Journey
Seamless? yes, Gorgeous? Very much, Harmless multiplayer? yes, good job but it’s also bordering boredom.

Resident Evil 6
The most tragic victim of gearsofwar-ification keeps true to its roots and fun for the first 6 hours and rots to action set-pieces after that.

Tokyo Zoo
The neat translation of survival into simple mechanics works so well that under its fast clock I really am focused on staying alive primarily.

LA Noire
I still feel like the viewer instead of the detective but it’s fun to guess who did it while unravaling the plot and with a setting as great as this one it’s a comfy slowride.

Sleeping Dogs
Kicking, Driving, Shooting, It’s all there and some are done better than other but where the hell is proper climbing and why do I have to punish a girl that supposedly cheated on me?

XCOM Enemy Unknown
With its meticulous structure of sliders and paths the ultimate simulation of war with all its gripping losses and treasured victories.

Uncharted 3
1 in every 4 ledges Drake grabs will almost fall through in the game with impressive setpieces and a guy that sure smiles a lot considering the number of people he kills.

Deus Ex Human Revolution
A warm coat of techy music, architecture and gold hues make this a sneaker that’s comfy and solid even in the darkest alleys but don’t mention the boss battles.

Alan Wake
A true shame for such a cool plot and my favorite setting to exhibit mechanics that makes sense but bore when feeling this repetitive.

Mark of the Ninja
So much blackness that I can’t play it in daylight but a true ninja works at night and has fun with the stealth elements in doing so.

Duel of the Planeswalkers 2013
No idea how it plays for newcomers but after 15 years of playing Magic there is so much fun to be had even if it was just for finding the exploits in the AI.

Army of Two; the 40th Day
One of the leads sums it up with “ow come on!” after we see a crashing chopper block the way because there is only so much action I can take and this game paces it decently plus apologizes with humor for where it falls short.

Note that I played more games than this. I’m saving some for the next time.
And yes: We are finally done shooting the trailer for Paper vs Paper.We are editing it all right this moment. Sit tight.

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Game Worlds: Deus Ex’s Hengsha vs Sleeping Dogs’ Hong Kong

There are two games I played a lot lately and they are both (at some point) staged in a Chinese supercity. Sleepings Dogs with Hong Kong, And Deus Ex Human Revolution with Hengsha. I have an affinity for asian architecture so i´d like to compare.

Different type of games need different levels. One is 1st person and the other is 3rd person and mechanics dictate the environment on both accounts.
Here are the perimeters I used to compare:

Size, Detail, Interaction, Real World Likeness, Ambient Sound and Navigation Benchmark. For shorter sentences i will from now on refer to Deus Ex Human Revolution and Sleeping Dogs as DX and SD. You will thank me later.

Size.
A level does’nt have to be bigger if it’s big enough to enjoy yourself in. A huge damper on enjoyment is the feeling of boundaries in the playing field. Hengsha is the smallest of the two but it’s also designed to function as a maze. This constantly shifts your perception of what the actual border of the level is. You will rarely feel as if you actually hit a wall. It might not appear huge but it does appear endless.

Hong Kong is huge but there are cars. The player’s perception of the size of a world is related to how fast he/she can travel from one place to another. With sportscars as fast as these, travelling from top to bottom takes under 5 minutes. Just a little more as it would take Jensen to travel all of Hengsha by foot. Unlike Hengsha, Hong Kong might still have places you won’t have seen after hours of playing. But you also less likely to care as much. Hengsha’s small size makes it comprehendible enough to make you want to finish the unconsiously set task of exploring it wholly.

Detail.
Or as i like calling it “behind every corner is another corner”. How much is there to see per square mile? This is especially relevant for asian supercities as space can be scarce. SD has its share of accessible buildings and there is no piece of space that appears as if it could use a bit more attention. What Hengsha lacks in space is more than made up for with the fact that you can get into buildings. see people have some chit-chat. climb on top of stuff and joyfully discover little corners every time. Both games are on the same level when it comes to texturing and geometry. The detail is in the number of buildings you can get inside and how they’re connected through vent ducts. alleyways and sewer systems. With a little more effort SD could have some of these but it would be useluss because of the player perspective. DX’s 1st person view allows for much better navigation in small spaces. It would be a struggle to move through such small spaces in the 3rd person view SD has.

So DX has denser connections and smaller streets but it’s not just the view: Again, SD has cars and the streets are wider apart because the cars need to be able to fit through these. Even streets that would be narrower in real life are broadened up for you to keep on driving. This is the part of realism SD sacrificed.

I did some math and a game that would have the level size of SD and the detail of DXHR would take about 3400 years to make.

Interaction.
Your level of immersion is related to how much you can interact with your surroundings. This is part of what makes games like Skyrim and Fallout fun. As pointed here. The good news is that both cities offer a wealth of this. In SD You can shop for clothes, Drink green thea, Do Karaoke, Hurt people (this one’s important) and climb on some buildings. Some. but not all. The game decides whether Wei Shen will climb or not when you run into a wall. This hurts your experience because it breaks the illusion of the game designer’s god hand absence.

Is this important? yes!
For the sake of fun, When playing a game your mind is willing to discard the knowledge you are simulating instead of really experiencing. You know it’s not true but your mind is able to trick itself. It needs some help though. It’s about meeting or breaking the player’s expectations of what is possible. But a players expectation of how a game environment functions is based on the system of how real life environments function. Anything that breaks with the perception of a functioning game world is a reminder that everything is just fake. Dealbreakers.  like the absurd disability to climb a seemingly easily climbable obstacle. Every time Wei can’t somehow climb onto something. you are reminder about how fake this all is.

That won’t happen as much in DX. You can jump on pretty much any platform you see. Which is is quite something for Jensen has a mighty high jump. You can also break into people’s houses. empty their vault and plant their fridges on their beds. Quite the mayhem.  You will never be able to see them come home and freak out though. The ability to move inside buildings gives the player a premise upon seeing a building from the outside. The premise that you might be able to go in. That you are able to get inside the larger geometry at display.

The people on the street also react to you with both games. Nobody likes you carrying a gun, people cower when you assault someone publicly and strangely utter sentences that are non-replyable. The cower in fear part is an important one. Though both games are not specifically meant for you to cause mayhem among citizens, the do account for it. Because many players enjoy doing it and more important: A world with citizens not responding would break your suspension of disbelief.

Real World Likeness.
How much it is like the real thing is not as important as how much it feels like the real thing. Both games are made for a western audience and there’s some tricks to abuse when you want that “authentic” Asian atmosphere. The opening hours of SD display every China cliché you can think of: Busy Night Markets, Red Lanterns, Herbal Thea, Kung-Fu school and  this and that instrument.

Cheap. But you do feel like you’re in Asia. And guess what. You will encounter these in real world Hong-Kong, and not just just in the tourist area. SD’s Hong Kong does look like Real World’s Hong Kong. But there’s more than just the cliche tricks to make that work.

Like the great GTA 4. Immense research has gone into capturing the landmarks, atmosphere and general architecture of  a real city. When playing, you can sense that you are moving around in an actually functional city. Just take a moment and sum up what it would take for a city to function properly.  In SD it’s all there. Everything is accounted for. From city halls, to schools to drainage systems. It’s pretty much based on the real city. They made the floorplan first (aka take a map of Hong Kong and chop bits off)  and then worried about how to put a game in that. Like advocated here.

The exact opposite is DXHR. First came the abilities and the mechanics. Then they built a world to cater for that. Add to that the fact they had to cleverly camouflage a limited size and you have the makings of a super well designed world. But does it look like the real world Hengsha? You be the judge. Here is a picture of a typical Hengsha landscape.

The real Hengsha is about 55.74 km2 more of the stuff above. It’s a small rural island of Shanghai. Did I mention that DXHR is set in the year 2027? Here, Hengsh is a densely packed city with a city on top of it. There is an off chance the year 2027 will be exactly like in the game but i would not bet on it.

It’s forgivable they sacrificed some “realism” for the sake of making it so much fun to play in. SD does it for driving. DX does it for walking and questing.  DX’s Hengsha is not based on the real thing. It’s mashed up of bits and pieces taken from photographs, visits and concept art of other cities. But is does feel like an asian city! For one it has all the cliches and most important is that they remembered what makes Asian city architecture remarkable: that behind every corner is another corner. Fun fact: Making – offs reveal that DX’s Hengsha is based a great deal on Hong-Kong (And Blade Runner, which also takes notes from that city)

SD is pretty much a virtual Hong Kong with bits chopped off. DX is not like Hengsha at all but does have all the sights that are typically Asian. Both went for a balance between authenticity and fun. With a focus on the latter. It does not have to be like it is in the real world if the alternative is more fun. But one way to make a gameworld feel more credible is to incorperate patterns players can recognize from their experiences with real world cities. There is a certain logic in the placement of things in most big cities. DX does not have that logic but compensates in other ways.

Ambient Sound.
We gamers have only sight and sounds to take in the experience of our gaming worlds. That makes both pretty important. Which one makes you feel more like you are actually there? SD is in many ways similar to GTA4. Also in the fact that when you drive, You hear the music of the car radio. That music stops when you get out. But DX has music almost as part of it’s city’s soundscape. It smoothly fades in and out and makes subtle use of oriental instruments. It lingers, is pretty exotic and does a great job in making you familiar with the place upon multiple sessions. (you will visit the city twice in the game and the second time it’s like meeting an old friend).But the ambient sound of SD is very good. As a test: play the game with your eyes closed. You can just completely imagine what is happening and where you are. there all kinds of sounds, close and far. And it varies from place to place.  Add to this the fact that SD’s world has realistic colours and DX drenches everything in the golden hue that marks the whole game. It appears that DX wants to bring you atmosphere and SD wants to bring you location.

Navigation Benchmark.
Suppose you passed out and you wake up in the middle of a level. Just by looking around could you recognize where exactly you are? You would if there was something to see that is particular for that place. Could be a certain unique configuration of walls or a placement of chairs. But it could also be a tall recognizable building. These are benchmarks and most open world make good use of these. Like how McDonalds thought it would be cool to put a huge M on a tall pole. Kids in cars can spot those things from a distance and it makes them crazy. It gives them direction as to where to go. Medieval cities have it too. Often a huge tower. On the other side there is the inside of an Ikea store. Which has 0 benchmarks. They want people to get lost so they stay longer.

Hengsha is like that. It has some recognizable buildings but you wont be able to see them until you’re right in front of those. It’s very hard to navigate through. But then again it’s Asia. Some people don’t like the way it’s designed but i find that more people do. I scanned some forums for player’s reception of it’s design and most of it goes like this. be sure to check the replies.  It’s nice to get lost there in the Hengsha they made,

SD is not like that. You won’t be lost. Some buildings are re-used throughout the map but on a larger scale there is a variance in surrounding depending on where you are. There’s the industrial Area, The upper class area, The deep down and dirty streets and crazy-busy nightlife streets. You can seperate these from each other. Then of course there’s the larger copies of Hong-Kong landmarks. Most alleyways are too much alike but the places that matter, the numberous garages for example. Are so different from each other that  you’ll always be able to tell where you are. And then there’s the smart thing where they place relevant places next to other relevant places. If you see one of them you’ll be able to connect the dots and go “if that’s the garage then i must be close to the clothing store”. mission accomplished.

Conclusion.
On the surface these games’ worlds are much alike but they differ in many aspects.  A big factor  in this is the leaner, more flexible first person perspective which allows navigation in smaller spaces. Then there’s the presence of vehicles which warp the needed space between buildings and overall size. They try to achieve different things. They cater for different mechanics and are effective in doing so. The only thing that is genuinely evil is the fact that some walls cannot be climbed in SD. And there’s no telling why some walls are more climbable than others.

In open worlds this is the grandest of sins.

 

 

 

 

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