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Final Fantasy

Change Some Bits Around: Final Fantasy 7 – Aerith’s Death, Choice and Loss

Probably most people’s first memorable sad moment in a game, Aerith’s Death in Final Fantasy 7 sets the tone for the rest of the game as a means of explaining her death, giving it meaning, and having a renewed pursuit in stopping Sephiroth. Aerith’s death aligns everyone’s motivations, opens up character building arcs and allows for a resolution other than “Save the World” when it comes to the end of the game. We have a vested interest in vengeance.

Aeris-ffvii-fmv-altar

Originally, Sephiroth took control of Cloud to try and kill Aerith at the creation of the Black Materia with the ability to summon Meteor but was knocked out before being able to kill Aerith. When Cloud reawakes, Aerith has already run off to the Forgotten Capital in an attempt to summon Holy from her White Materia that she’s had tied to her ribbon. When Cloud and company reach Aerith, Sephiroth has his way with Aerith using the pointy end of his death stick and everything falls apart from there.

But let’s change some of these bits around.

Aerith’s death might be pivotal to the characters in Final Fantasy 7, but they also change the psychological states of many of them. And given the opportunity to change events, do you think the story would pan out the same way?

Continue reading “Change Some Bits Around: Final Fantasy 7 – Aerith’s Death, Choice and Loss”

Illusion of Non-Linearity in Final Fantasy and other RPGs

The Final Fantasy series gets a bad wrap about its problem feeling too linear over the past couple of games. Japanese RPGs (J-RPGs) in general get this label attached to them. A big problem is that these games shifted how the player explores the world from a “make your own path“-style of traversing their worlds to a “connect the dots“-style – going from town A to town B and so on until you get to the end of the game.

[Expansive overworld] Final Fantasy 7 - The one where someone dies
[Expansive overworld] Final Fantasy 7 – The one where someone dies
Final Fantasy XIII - The one where your soul dies when associated with ancestors
[Linear overworld – exaggerated has no overworld] Final Fantasy XIII – The one where your soul dies when associated with ancestors
But, I guess what I want to discuss is that Final Fantasy games and JRPGs as a whole have never really been open-ended and non-linear but older JRPGs just did a better job at hiding their linearity from the player. It all depends on the scale of which you explore each area before moving to the next.

Continue reading “Illusion of Non-Linearity in Final Fantasy and other RPGs”

Dialogue Delivery part 4: Short but Provocative

The story thus far:

Player-Paced Dialogue Delivery

Character-Paced Delivery w/ No Dialogue

Character-Paced Delivery w/ Verbose Dialogue

 

Verbosity in games, much like any medium, is hard to get right. The dynamics of a game and the habits of a gamer are those that contribute a response towards quick reward systems. Run right and jump = Progression. Turn on console -> Start Game -> Join Game -> Start Killing things, all in a matter of a minute or two. But becoming programmed to this sort of habit goes against what verbosity tries to deliver. We’ve talked about how being verbose can be used correctly before, about not letting the mechanism for delivering the dialogue interfere with the agency of the player as they go about through the game. The delivery should only interfere when absolutely necessary but not for too long otherwise it pulls the player out from the immediate sense gratification that a game presents, but it means that shortened dialogue delivery needs to be discussed.

Continue reading “Dialogue Delivery part 4: Short but Provocative”

Dialogue Delivery: What Story Do You Think It Is? pt2

We talked about the way dialogue and story elements were delivered in older generation-style games in the previous post which talks about player-paced plot-delivery and how clunky this mechanism is, especially when compared to the evolution of plot-delivery and character-paced delivery that we’ll discuss in this post.

There are two means of delivering the dialogue gaming, using either the In-Game Engine (IGE) or using pre-rendered Full-Motion Video (FMVs).

 

The IGE delivery uses the in-game gestures that the characters are normally seen using. They are made up of primitive gestures that when tied in sequence make up the acted emotions of the scene. These primitives are generally simple gestures like move over to point A, waving your hand to say “Hi”, putting your hand to your chin to show “I’m Thinking,” looking down to show “That’s Depressing/Disappointing.” For those who’ve played any MMORPG, these are simple emotes, showing a generalization of what emotion you’re trying to portray, but are blocky and look irregular because the motions aren’t fluid and are 1-dimensional.

FMVs, on the other hand, are scenes crafted by hand or by motion-capture suits in order to have the choreography and the dynamics of the scene seem realistic, being lived out on screen, rather than actions being dictated to them “Now look angry. Now look frustrated. Now look like you’ve been inspired with an idea.” In PS1/N64 ear games, FMVs were choreographed by the 3d artists, meticulously moving the arms and legs to proper locations, keyframing the locations that characters needed to be at in order to make the scene seem believable and compelling. Nowadays there is a mixture of this 3d-Artist ballet intermingled with real actors providing motion-captured animations so that the timing, the delivery and the drama feel organic because of its timing, the subtle strenuousness of basic movement when walking across a room while monologuing.

But these are the only the delivery systems for plot and dialogue, but the actual content being delivered can vary and impact how the player engages and experiences in the games themselves.

Continue reading “Dialogue Delivery: What Story Do You Think It Is? pt2”

Dialogue Delivery: Where Actions and Emotions Stray

When the character’s emotions don’t match their actions, it looks extremely odd. Like someone is just reading lines from a script, trying to grasp at but not completely understanding how they’re supposed to act, voice, or react when something dramatic happens. They stand there making some idle gesture while some sounds come out of their mouth, or the player is freely moving the characters around while dialogue is being played in the background and the player is supposed to understand the emotion being portrayed based on a partially synced audio/video? This is the problem when companies develop a competency for portraying emotion through just dialogue or just video. With many developers not able to completely develop an understanding of getting their game’s acting and dialogue to be wholly believable, I wanted to at least delve into the different mechanisms developers can use in order to connect emotion, story, and motivation to the player.

Continue reading “Dialogue Delivery: Where Actions and Emotions Stray”

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