The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.
Pablo Picasso, or informally as Picasso, belongs to the group of well known painters and artists.
While even in these high tech modern times, artists are still very much important to society.
Art serves as a way to peer into other lives, and sometimes even the life we have. Games are no different; it is only the form in which it takes place that has changed.
It's moving, and dependent on certain factors, most likely at more than 60 times a second. Imagine if Picasso's work moved at 60 times a second.
The timing of art adds a whole new element to this ancient field of creation – yet somehow stationary snapshots manage to still invoke emotion.
Below are several screenshots I've taken through my game play experiences. For some I will discuss the background or underpinnings, whereas for some I will talk about how they look.
Games have always allowed us to do what books and oral stories have done for centuries — imagine. The only trick now is that there is visual feedback. Stories show us our imaginations in real time. We turn to our imaginations sometimes to hide, sometimes to see, and other cases to feel. In this screenshot from Battlefield 3, the player sky dives. Attempting to describe this scene as it commences at 60 times a second (and often faster) with words won't do the scene justice.
What is becoming more apparent over time is that this form of art can be built upon. As a user, I can take the art of another (or group of others) and create my own works with it. This screenshot is from one of my first maps, ttt_skycity_v3 — designed for Garry's Mod gamemode called Trouble in Terrorist Town.
Not only can I base my work upon another, but I can also build off it. I can rework it, re-sculpt it, or even completely reimagine it.
In traditional forms, you wouldn't be able to do this. One can't repaint a canvas after the work is complete, the artist would have to start all over again.
Because of this, it allows level designers to get feedback and improve their work. Image if you a painter, could stop a painting half way and then change the colours on the canvas.
This is what I was able to do, and thus the ttt_skycity_v4 map was born.
I'm saddened that the famous and classic Command and Conquer series finished on a low note.
Above is Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars, the last reasonable game in the series.
One of the most signature things about the series was the fact that it used live actors and sets, an uncommon thing to see in this day and age.
Westwood was the original studio making the C&C series, which ultimately came to a train wreck at the end due to ownership changes.
I won't name the guilty —but it didn't have to go this way.
There's more to games than the visual side. The hidden art can sometimes be the most powerful, this being the story.
Above is a screenshot of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (KotOR), and as you can tell this title is probably older than you...
Well maybe not, but it is obvious this isn't something new. Many forget beauty does not have to be a physical thing, as shown in how the plot was woven in this title.
This was my first Role Play Game (RPG), and it certainly set the bar. I won't forget it.
If you are a human being (or some advanced AI) you can see that above is a fern.
There's nothing really important to it, but the satirical game The Stanley Parable trying to demonstrate the problems with the modern game industry said otherwise.
While many played the parable without knowing a whole lot about how games are made, they still enjoyed the game and had a laugh.
Sometimes the best works are hidden under a cloak, and this title showed that. To get a full appreciation of the game, you have to know and understand how games are made.
Half Life 2 with its episodes (and probably the whole Half Life series) come together to form the cornerstone of modern games.
While this benchmark for games was set, many miss this title because it doesn't involve enough shooting and instant respawns.
There's certainly there's shooting involved, but puzzles are a lot more important here — and probably a lot more puzzles.
Even with what we see as a dated engine now, Half Life 2 set a standard in stories, graphics, and AI.
Unfortunately it's overlooked these days as triple-A titles are pushed out faster and faster, missing all of these elements.
I just certainly hope the king of original FPS gameplay returns someday...
This game took the gaming world by storm. Crysis 1 still proves a challenge for even the most capable machines.
Powered by CryEngine 2, Crysis set another benchmark in terms of AI and graphics. The story wasn't great, but tied the whole thing together in a reasonable way.
When some of today's games are shipped (or otherwise called released), developers and publishers seem to forget that a lot of their "new features" were done back in 2007.
Speaking of benchmarks, there's a benchmark for the low end as well.
A modern title of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim certainly sets the low end as this screenshot shows.
Skyrim was most defiantly a console port, but with luck and community effort, the game became more on PC.
However, some things just can't be fixed. Above shows "bump mapping", which is an effort dating back a while to fake depth on textures.
Without getting technical, it allows for normally flat textures to seem like they have "depth" or "pop".
The only issue is when you get close to them; the cloak is lifted on this trickery.
I was certainly not impressed by this, seeing such an obvious demonstration of its use.
But then again as expected, that's what I get for playing console ports.
Hands down, the best game series has to be Mass Effect. Even with each of the games struggling in their own regards, the whole series seems to come together very well.
This screenshot from Mass Effect 3 shows the emotional connections that can be made with save porting.
The Mass Effect series is the only series that comes to mind that allows you to port over your saves.
Porting takes gameplay decisions in the previous game(s) and allows them to impact future gameplay in the other titles.
I'm not talking about minor gameplay changes, but the story adapts, and emotional connections with the characters tested.
One game can not allow the player to really connect with characters. Mass Effect 1, 2, and 3 are worth playing just for this very unique feature.
On the topic of emotional connections, the power of these is proven no better than in Dead Space 3.
While the series became less scary and blander, the relationship between Issac Clark and Ellie became stronger.
This relationship was ultimately tested in Dead Space 3, and demonstrates that games don't miss the social aspect of the real world.
The irony about the Dead Space series was that the lighting and shadows were the best in the last game, yet the last one was probably the least to capitalize on it.
Depending on who you are, the horror aspect of the games was the best in the second.
This is the game that could have used the real attention towards lighting and shadows, but didn't.
Take what you have known about First Person Shooters, and throw them out of the window. In fact, take the mandatory shooting part out completely.
Put in its place a parkour system which allows you to traverse urban environments will a little more than your two hands and feet.
Many will say that the art in Mirror's Edge was revolutionary, but the length of the game just didn't do it justice.
The unique use of simple colours and shapes make this game a must play if not a must own.
This title surprised me greatly. Sadly, even with its beauty, it had an evil monster within it that eventually surfaced and made the dream turn into a nightmare.
The lighting and many other aspects of Alien: Isolation peaked my interest. Even the minigames, such as door unlocking was surprising.
However, the monster came out just a few hours later, and broke the smooth game sequence.
It's really a shame that a bit more time couldn't have been spent perfecting this rough gem.
Most games can invoke an emotion, but Dead Space 2 certainly does it with this scene.
Having to implant something in the eye, the player finds themselves directing a machine to get this done.
As a tradition with Dead Space, messing the procedure up results in a very interesting cut scene.
This screenshot is quite old, but demonstrates the level of detail Star Citizen even began with.
Taken from the Hangar Alpha, being able to get in and out of your own spacecraft was quite the novelty. And don't be mistaken, this was all done in real-time.
I have always viewed games to be the modern form of story telling.
No longer to we have to sit around a fire and have the village elder describe a heroic tale, or one with morals.
Granted that most games created in this modern era fail in this regard, being able to put out a single player game that weaves a worthy tale demonstrates this ancient tradition still lives on.
Rise of the Tomb Raider, the latest in the Tomb Raider series, put a lot of games in their respective places. RotTR was able to do this because it was able to show off a quality story while demonstrating very realistic graphics (in real time!).
Continuing on the topic of story telling, we no longer require the imagination for the most part. Computer graphics have advanced so much, and continue to do so. This screenshot taken from Tomb Raider in 2013 demonstrates that a life-like story requires life-like graphics to help the tale become more believable.
No better demonstration of how computer graphics affects stories can be seen from The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.
I personally believe that the story wouldn't have been that engaging if it wasn't for the fantastic rendering.
Funny enough, one of the title's DLC did so well, it won RPG of the Year (showing how sad the industry has become).
Just to make sure that I have impressed upon you the reader enough, both gameplay and graphics go hand in hand.
Geralt in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt finds himself to be a father figure but also that of a monster slayer.
For sure you could read a novel, and the writer is able to describe it in reasonable detail, but I just find that with all the facial expressions, hand gestures, even the backgrounds, a writer would have issues describing in a concise manner.
This is why I find it worth playing a computer game.
Demonstrating the comparison between a writer (a still very noble profession) and that of a level designer, Mission Improbable shows what one individual can do if given the assets and time to work with.
How would a writer be able to describe this scene to their audience?
Granted that books are limited due to their current paper bound by cardboard form, something else games can do that written text can not is give you real choice.
Sure there are the novels which tell you to flip to page so and so if you want to agree with a statement, and another page for a disagreement, but being able to offer a tangible choice that has a real consequence, both now and down the road, that would be very difficult to do.
Further more, being able to allow players to extend the content, it would appear that books are outmatched.
The screenshot is of The Stanley Parable, a game about how games present choices to the players.
What if you were really able to choose beyond a set path in most games? The Stanley Parable provides an amusing way to discuss this.
Granted that you could just play the game, but the title goes to show you don't have to force the deeper meanings, the critical thinking on to players.
Personally I found this game to be both amusing and though provoking.
Interestingly enough, a lot of Tom Clancy’s games have a backing of a book behind them.
Obviously it's not a one-to-one adaptation, but the games do manage to get across the action and suspense quite well, if it were not for the controls as seen in Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Vegas 2.
This game was also able to do unique things such as the thermal overlay, distorting the colours and placing a fisheye affect.
Bringing up the point about realism now, SWAT 4 did a spectacular job with this area.
While many found the gameplay to be slow, the tile offered some insight into how real SWAT teams would operate.
Unfortunately, this game is quite old and takes a few tricks to get working, SWAT 4 shows us what games could be.
Dumbing down on the realism, Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Siege took a different turn for the franchise.
Providing a more entertaining gameplay to both those playing and watching the game, some say this is the best Rainbow Six game made.
Sadly, the game was made exclusively to run on Ubisoft's Uplay (or commonly joked as UnotPlay), which featured always online DRM.
Reality doesn't have to be matched with super high end graphics. This War of Mine shows what it could be like to be stuck as a civilian in a warzone.
That's right, you don't play as the military or police officer, but as people who go hungry, become afraid, and want nothing more than to be able to see the next day.
This title certainly gives another perspective, and is worth the playtime.
If you have scrolled down this far, good work. You have probably seen of my level design works. This image shows nms_deadend2, the "sequel" to nms_deadend. The amount of realistic detail in this scene demonstrates how far I have come in terms of level design.
While I am by no means a fan of the Call of Duty franchise, I do have to admit where there improvement is demonstrated.
This is not only demonstrated by the level of PC support and character customization, but also the graphical/display settings have greatly improved. The story and content departments have seen some upgrades as well.
While Black Ops III did say true to it's roots by having no-stop, as fast as you can go action, the singleplayer story was interesting and somewhat relevent to today.
ARMA 3 is regarded as the top tier mili-sim (Military Simulator) there is currently.
Recently the title released APEX, a look at what could be in warfare in the not too distant future.
I'm not talking about Ion Cannons as those seen in Command and Conquer, but rather how future conflicts would play out.
Ever since the Battlefield series moved over to EA's exclusive Origin platform, deadicated Steam users such as myself were looking to fill the void. Squad hit the nail right on the head.
While this screenshot is from the early alpha, the title has matured greatly, and could in many ways bring users back to Steam.
From the game modes, to the in touch development team, to mod support, Squad makes Battlefield 2 seem like recent memory in many ways.
I sure like money, and it's quite likely by you reading this, you are fond of money as well. What if you could be a dirty capitalist with the potential of earning a lot of money fast?
Offworld Trading Company puts this idea to the test. It does so by placing players against each other, and seeing who can win by being the best capitalist.
Sounds boring, but it really isn't, and turned out to be quite well balanced. You aren't going to have fun until you are 2nd last player in, and the sweating starts.
On the topic of space games, EvE, a Massively Multiplayer Online game shows us what character customization should be.
The game is now challenged by Star Citizen (and was also previously challenged by Elite Dangerous), so we will have to see how EvE pans out.
Other titles don't seem to get it quite right in terms of making a character, that's why EvE deserves a mention here.
I was lucky enough to be lent a copy of Mirror's Edge: Catalyst to play. While it was triumphed as "Mirror's Edge Reborn", it just didn't seem to meet the mark.
Ever since it announced by EA as "listening to the fans" (while ignoring them for almost 8 years), I had doubts about the quality.
Certainly there were improvements, but the game just didn't feel the same. Graphics and features were vastly better, but the story just didn't seem to pan out.
The song that played with the credits was a strong reminder that the game should have been more.
What happens when you take ARMA and combine it with a Free 2 Play title? You get ARGO, a unique twist on ARMA and Free 2 Play FPS titles.
Played on the same maps as ARMA (but in a vastly smaller area) with the same "hardcore" mentality, you get a title that stands out.
Really ARGO is an experiment at the end of the day, but certainly doesn't feel that way in many regards.
I came in knowing a few things about Mass Effect: Andromeda, and was really hoping they were wrong. Turns out, everything that everyone was laughing about was true.
From the horrible facial animations, to the plot that was very uninventive, the game was suprisingly published in that state.
While many if not all issues have been fixed at this point, I feel bad if someone spent money to play the title.
The screenshot is one of the repeatable bugs you get in a cut scene. The gun is pointing backwards to the direction it should be.
Maybe the developer put that in, because they wanted to tell the public they couldn't handle the poor quality assurance? We will never know.
Fresh off the boat of massive failure comes Planet Coaster. Was this a breath of fresh air. The other title Roller Coaster Tycoon: World, was a massive flop, and this title managed to exceed where RCT: World failed.
By making the game an upgrade of RCT3, not some filler, Planet Coaster continues to have positive recommendations, and cash flow for updates.
Plus with mods, who can really complain?
Taking the Walking Dead, and turn it into an RPG of sorts. While other Walking Dead games turned out horrible, this managed to pull it off quite well.
Certainly choices don't matter as much here compared to Mass Effect, choices still have some effects on the plot.
I felt that the game could have spaned more hours, but I have no grounds to make a complaint, as I received the title for free from Humble Bundle.
When Tom Clancy is put in the title of a game, it means the story really should be there. This didn't turn out to be the case.
An MMO version of what would have been an excellent Tom Clancy story (look up Operation Dark Winter), just falls flat on it's face. For sure, the graphics are out of this world, and the features such as the "Dark Zone" provoke interest, the game's plot just lacks.
Not only does it seem that main story line is tied with a very thin thread, but you can't simply "go for it". A level requirement for each "chapter" proves an anoyance to those who just want to get the game done and over with.
Black Mesa shows what a community can, and is willing to do. While many Developers shun community efforts to rebuild or improve upon their games, Valve differs in this aspect greatly. While most of Valve's games were mods at one point (even of other games!), Black Mesa is probably the first community mod to have such an extensive fan base, and level of detail to turn into a "AAA" title.
Xen especially in Black Mesa had fans waiting for sometime, and yet it didn't disapoint. From the atmosphere, to the music, to the puzzles, it felt like it was certainly worth the weight (I mean wait...).
Dead by Daylight feels like a mix between Left 4 Dead 2's Scavenge mode, DOTA 2, and some healthy (maybe heaping?) serving of game console mechanics.
While the atmosphere is well situated, there isn't a whole lot of competitive play to be had. Sure the game feels ok, and the selection of "bad guys" is well varied, it only takes a bit of time to figure out your field of view isn't great.
The community itself still has arguments from time to time about what "meta" is allowed, if the humans or "monsters" need a nurf, and so on.
While Planet Coaster managed to scratch an itch for a "theme park management game" for some time, the title didnt manage to get some things right. Parkitect did however.
For me was the fact that full 3D rendering didn't feel quite right. I enjoyed the original isometric view seen with RollerCoaster Tycoon 1 and 2.
While there were other games (such as RCT World and that horrible mobile port), Parkitect kept all the great things from the original RCT1/2 games, and expanded where expansion was required. Massive maps, modern graphics, and Workshop integration.
While Civ IV was probably the first true 4X game I played, GalCiv II was a close follower. While RTS games seem to have died a slow death, 4X genre games seem to still be kicking around.
That's not to say some of the classics such as Starcraft aren't here, it's the fact new RTS games aren't being made. Take a look at Grey Goo, and the "HD" version of Starcraft itself for some examples. Either it's a graphical upgrade or something that largely has no impact after a few months.
Endless Space 1 didn't feel whole, I just found myself unable to get into it. Endless Space 2 seemed well put together, and with the DLCs, felt complete. It felt as if it was the many smaller items that made the game "whole".
I knew Petroglyph had westwood developers that still cared about making quality games, but largely left C&C Renegade alone. Certainly RenegadeX has proven a very high quality game, but it largely exists because EA allows it. Earth Breakers brings that good old feel with a different art style and original IP.
While CS:GO had largely gone untouched, modern titles and gameplay forced Valve to adapt and place the "Danger Zone" mode into a game. CS: GO was the title they chose to put it in.
While the game is showing its age, the Steam Stats show that CS: GO is still widely played thanks in part to its low hardware requirements (thanks to the Source engine).
The gameplay proves ok, enough for casual fun, but I can't exactly see it turning into a competive mode like the "true" game has.
Shadow Tactics demonstrated to me that there is still some fun to be had with Macromedia Flash era games. The title itself isn't running via Flash, but owes its gameplay style and legacy to the many games before it which played the same way. Obviously the level of graphics don't compare, but the game is probably as close to "real time strategy" as we will get for sometime.
Playing Tomb Raider (2013) before playing Underworld probably set the bar in the right place. While Underworld felt much more like an old school PC game, it still had some serious issues (whoever thought no vsync would cause physics bugs?).
If you can get over the bugs and other issues, it is worth a casual play for the puzzles and storyline that continues from previous games.
Deceit's gameplay isn't exactly unique being a "murder mystery", but shows how wrong a game can be made.
Using the Cryengine (at the time of writing Crytek is still around somehow), it can show how unwieldly engines can be. From the lack of updates, to the poor networking design, it isn't suprising that it took a second go by a team to get better results after how many years.
With my limited time with Cryengine, it's obvious that graphics and suttle details are up there, but it doesn't compare with the ease of use of Unreal Engine, and even the Source Engine.
Cities: Skylines offers probably the closest experience to SimCity 3000: Unlimited at the time of writing (Sept. 2020). While it is in full 3D, the title offers more in depth simulation such as traffic.
I initially thought Remember Me was going to be another go at Mirror's Edge (with some obvious changes), but was I wrong.
Starting with the console port nature of the title, I had to fight with the camera all the time.. just to look at somewhere besides the dead center of the screen. Given that the art in the game seems worthy of looking at, this was quite odd and plain annoying. Even the controls were difficult and obviously not designed for keyboard/mouse play.
It wasn't up till about the end of the game where I just stopped playing. Turns out the console nature of the title came back to haunt me. Right after a difficult boss battle (which you can't manually save after) the door to leave doesn't open. After defeating the boss several 3 times (with how many failed attempts) I discovered that people reported that Vsync needed to be on for the door to open.
Transmissions while being a Half Life 2 mod, made me feel as if it could be "Episode" worthy had it been expanded to about 4 or 5 times the length.
Again, a community effort to keep the Half Life story alive, it was obvious there was massive amounts of effort put into the mod. Unique gameplay mechanics mixed with the graphics on a level I hadn't really seen before.
In many ways, it felt as if someone took Portal's "learn while playing" idea and brought it to a small slice of a potential Half Life episode.
Planetary Annihilation took the idea of an RTS and went big. So big in fact, it plays over several planets at the same time.
Perhaps the most rewarding part of the tutorial was blowing up a planet with another planet.
Tom Clancy did wonders for stories and movies, so it was only logical his name would do the same for games.
While that isn't so much the case now, End War showed that that a Rock-Paper-Scissors game controlled by your voice could be interesting and fun.
I was glad to have played the game, but there were certainly aspects where it was just smoother to issue orders by mouse in the later parts of the game.
While Insurgency: Sandstorm doesn't include a Single Player mode, and still needs work to smooth out performance, its Night Mode puts the title closer to its previous brother made in the Source Engine.
When playing Sandstorm made in the Unreal Engine, it is obvious that Source's light tech has stood the test of time.. Even factoring in that Source's dynamic lighting still isn't quite there yet.