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Free Will Gaming – Choices, Morals, and the Non-Linear in Practice

Posted by on Nov 11, 2016

I don’t know about you, but I find fate to be a horrible concept. To quote Neo in the Matrix, “I don’t like the idea that I’m not in control of my life”. Free-will is my preferred reality. The question I pose is, how do we apply these models in the video gaming world? As storylines get Continue reading →

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Upcoming Events

Limited Free Passes Released for December Game QA & Localization Forum: San Francisco

Posted by on Oct 25, 2013

What’s that? Free you say?? If you’re working in QA or Localization within a games developer or publisher and haven’t heard about the San Francisco forum this December, where have you been hiding! The Game QA & Localization Forum: San Francisco takes place at Fisherman’s Wharf on December 10-11, and is the first ever dedicated, senior-level Continue reading →

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Columns

Why Game QA Matters

Posted by on May 11, 2016

Quality Assurance has always been seen as a “foot-in-the-door” into the industry. And hey, perhaps it does serve that purpose in many cases. But QA has become so much more, and with the industry developing so rapidly, quality assurance has never been so vital to a game’s success. It’s often seen as a low-level role, Continue reading →

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IQ Talk Podcast

IQ Talk Podcast #6: PlayStation 4 Launch Special

Posted by on Nov 29, 2013

In this special edition of IQ Talk, Sumit Dutta, Adam Barsby and Arran Oakes from Gaming IQ are back to talk all things PlayStation 4. Sony’s next gen system launches today in the UK and Europe so what better time than to reflect on the PS4 journey so far – gong back to the early Continue reading →

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Recent Posts

Free Will Gaming – Choices, Morals, and the Non-Linear in Practice

Free Will Gaming – Choices, Morals, and the Non-Linear in Practice

Nov 11, 2016

I don’t know about you, but I find fate to be a horrible concept. To quote Neo in the Matrix, “I don’t like the idea that I’m not in control of my life”. Free-will is my preferred reality. The question I pose is, how do we apply these models in the video gaming world? As storylines get more complex, and lore becomes deeper, games reflect our reality more and more. With the next-gen now here, we can be sure that this will continue to evolve in the near future. But what advantages and disadvantages can non-linear games have? And what can be done to overcome such problems, or at least improve the experience of making decisions in our games? (I’ve attempted to avoid all spoilers as I hate inadvertandly coming across something I didn’t wish to read; but of course there are allusions to certain plot points in recent games below. So be careful if you’re planning to play through any of these!) Sometimes, choice doesn’t necessarily have to have a huge impact. It’s just a nice addition. Take the necklace in BioShock Infinite for example; it’s quite pleasant to choice which logo Elizabeth sports throughout the game. But this game does offer a number of more important choices, but the ending seems to suggest that fate is inescapable, as Booker clearly has a predetermined path, that I will not ruin for any of you who haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing yet. BioShock 2 allowed you to either reap or save Little Sisters, which inevitably had an impact on you were treated later in the game. But is it enough to offer two different ending cut-scenes?     Yet BioShock Infinite does have some implications. Choosing to toss the baseball at the couple on stage renders you either an abhorrent racist or a good fellow who then gets attacked. And you are rewarded for attacking the couple, but see them later on if you save them. Although not very important in the overall game, it’s a nice touch to see your choice has reaped rewards; yet the choice is hindered because either way you receive a perk for making a choice. Developers are too afraid that gamers would be...

Could Video Game Realism Restrict Developers?

Could Video Game Realism Restrict Developers?

Oct 17, 2016

With each generation, and each game in a franchise, fans revel in how much closer gaming is getting to reality. We want games to be reality! The Oculus Rift and 3D entertainment point towards a future where reality and the virtual combine. Yet is this step towards realism in video games a burden for the games themselves? Of course, the first thing to address is, what is real? (Pardon the Matrix reference). In the gaming world, realism can relate to many things. This could be realistic physics, a realistic settings, realistic actions, or realistic morals or choices that can be found within the game. Games like Halo may have very realistic graphics and physics, but all in all, take place on another planet with fictional creatures. Other games like BioShock: Infinite may take place in a fictional historic setting, but the decisions and plot make what occurs in the game very real to the player. Which is why you probably wouldn’t allow a young child to play it, even if it isn’t all blood and gore. The point I attempt to make is, does introducing realism into video games hinder developer creativity? Or does it improve the game, because you become more immersed? There is obviously room for both formats, yet how far can realistic games go before it is no longer a game? Before it’s no longer fun? Before it becomes a simulator? Although Gran Turismo is one of the most prestigious racing games out there, many are turned off by the fact it is all too realistic to remain fun. Games such as Motorstorm, Need for Speed, or Burnout have remained popular due to their polar opposite approach. it’s all about mayhem, and fun. Yeah, the physics may still be tied to this world, but for the gamer, ramming other cars spinning out of control is a lot more fun.     Grand Theft Auto V makes great use of realism, but also manages to keep certain levels of fun involved. I’m sure you’ve noticed that when a car is rolled over, you can simply roll your car back onto it’s wheels. This defies gravity, physics, and everything reality is based upon,...

Annualization Addicts – Why has the Industry Adopted Annual Games?

Annualization Addicts – Why has the Industry Adopted Annual Games?

Oct 11, 2016

If you think of a major gaming franchise, the likelihood is that it has become an annualized product. Every year there is a new edition of most big titles, and yet we continue to buy them in huge droves. But why is this? Why has the industry become so predictable and stale? It used to be that only sport products such as Fifa or Madden were subject to yearly releases, due to roster updates that couldn’t be downloaded as an update, which is possible now. So why are we seeing every single franchise making an entry year upon year? As consumers, should we accept this? Probably not. Will it stop us from purchasing the newest entry into our beloved franchise? Nope. GTA V managed to sell 29 million units in a month. That’s simply unprecedented. I mean, everyone knew it was going to be colossal. But no-one predicted that. That’s more than the lifetime of GTA IV sold. So doesn’t that beg the question; why bother with annual franchises, when quality games with long development cycles can produce this amount of money? Well, GTA is kind of an anomaly. Perhaps the biggest franchise of all time before Call of Duty became a yearly thing, every gamer on the planet was dying for the fifth installment to hit the shelves. I cannot think of another franchise which has such a wide fanbase. Consider the fact that each Call of Duty since CoD4 has sold around 20 million copies. Nothing close to what GTA V will achieve. But altogether? That blows Rockstar’s record out of the water. 80 million combined sales of Call of Duty games, if we use the same time frame for GTA V‘s development. And of course, GTA V comes at the end of a long generation, whereby anyone who likes gaming will have the right platform. Considering GTA IV sold somewhere around 24 million, that’s not even as much as the more popular Call of Duty’s.     GTA V definitely deserves it’s praise; but it’s financial success is down to so many different factors that it will be hard to replicate for a long, long time. Especially as initial reactions to next-gen...

Quick Time Events – Gaming Enhancement or a Hindrance?

Quick Time Events – Gaming Enhancement or a Hindrance?

Sep 11, 2016

Love them or hate them, quick time events are pretty common in video games nowadays. You can’t go through a AAA title without button mashing as the protagonist sprints away from a boulder/landslide/polar bear. But do QTEs make the gaming experience better? Or do they merely restrict creativity, and simplify the entertainment value? Quick time events have sparked controversy in recent years. When they appeared in the recent reboot of Thief, there was massive fan backlash. Eidos saw the response, reconsidered their position, and chose to remove QTEs from the game. Valerie Bourdeau of Eidos stated that “to begin with, there were very few instances of QTEs in the game; in fact there was only one in that whole hour-long E3 demo. However, given the strong reactions it evoked in the press and the community, it was an easy decision to do away with them entirely. So we’re not doing it. No quick time.” This shows the power of the community, and the instant dislike fans had. It also doesn’t help that this is a franchise which spans back a long time, and to tarnish it with quick time events that older fans do not expect seems insulting. Of course, to include a QTE in the first place, the developers  must have thought it added something to the game, so there is no true right and wrong. I’m sure a QTE could make for some awesome action sequences. Perhaps it’s purely the fact that for this QTE in question, it’s the fact that the camera switches from first person to third person, which ruins the immersion, when the game is based upon stealth and secrecy. If you need any convincing about why the QTE has become hated by many, then check out Spiderman 3’s infamous QTE below.     What matters is how prevalent quick time events have now become, which is considered a worrying factor. They replace the need for compelling gameplay, in a number of instances. They often feel as though they were implemented as an after thought. Again, for Resident Evil 5, there was this baffling sequence where Chris Redfield…punches a boulder? It’s around 10 times the size of him, and it is simply inhuman....

Achievements and Trophies: The Unsung Heroes?

Achievements and Trophies: The Unsung Heroes?

Sep 11, 2016

Video games, unlockable achievements and trophies go hand-in-hand in today’s gaming world. It would be exceptionally bizarre if a game were to be released without having a handful of achievements or trophies available for gamers to unlock. Sometimes, achievements are simply earned  by getting to various milestones throughout the game, sometimes by doing some boring in-game chores, but generally achievements are far more exciting when they require a level of creativity or particular skill level to achieve. It’s clear some developers invest more time in achievements than others, as demonstrated by some of the more creative achievements, but this also means they want to invest in the replay-ability and elongate the shelf life of their games. Some gamers enjoy the seemingly masochistic challenge to unlock every single achievement or trophy for each game they play and will not move onto the next until they have done so. Achievements undoubtedly adds many hours of additional gameplay for the audience to either enjoy or hate, depending on the difficulty of these achievements. In many games, the hardest difficulty is only unlocked after completing the game once. If there is then an achievement to complete the game on the hardest difficulty, many people will opt to replay the game and grind their way through what can be a gruelling experience. Although all gamers may not wish to do so, some gamers like the extra challenge after the initial play-through. However, if a gamer’s efforts pay off, you can boast your prestigious achievements to your friends just to prove how much better you are at the game then they are, which is part of what gaming is all about. The more difficult, prestigious achievements may also play a part in developing gaming friendships. If a group of gamers set out in co-op mode to unlock some of the more difficult achievements, be it on PC with voice-coms, online over console with headsets or even all sat around the same screen in the same room, it can be a great bonding experience. When you collectively work together and defeat something deemed almost impossible, it is certainly a gratifying experience and is something that will stick with you. Also, you all...

Developers as a Brand – Reputation is Everything

Developers as a Brand – Reputation is Everything

Aug 11, 2016

Over the past few years, as games have become highly polished adventures, gaming developers have become their own form of branding. A vast number of gamers will purchase a game, purely based upon the developer who is at the helm. And often, if the franchise shifts hands, those in the know will not purchase a lacklustre version. When freemium games are rife, on both mobile devices and consoles with free-to-play titles, paying full retail for a game needs to match the quality of the game produced. For the average person, £40 RRP is a big investment. And for that, they expect a top quality game, whether that involves spending 100 hours of gaming galore; or 10 hours of action-packed or heart-wrenching content. And anywhere in between. The point is, if the content does not match the price, consumers will not return to that company. Especially when you can try free games, and choose to spend in-game money if you like it. As far as downloads go, companies including EA’s Origin and Google’s Android refund games or applications that are uninstalled within a limited time. This means that if a developer is trying to be cheeky, and the product does not meet the mark they promised, they will lose out on revenue. This is pretty good for the consumer though, as they can take a chance, with little risk if it doesn’t meet their standard. But if a certain developer keeps delivering, it is likely they will continue to purchase their new entries, whatever that may be. For developers, their reputation is on the line. Naughty Dog, Bungie, Insomniac, and Bioware, are just a few that have a colossal fan base, just for being themselves. Whatever they turn their hand to, fans follow their next step eagerly, drooping over the smallest teaser of what they have in store next. Their library of games is highly coveted, and their fanbase is ever growing. This seems to be a growing trend, rather than following a specific series or character. It used to be that IP’s would be sold or shared between companies. Following the Spyro franchise for instance; the original three developed by Insomniac Games were highly...