Jitesh's Domain

Game Designer. Producer. Gamer.


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‘A Quiet Place’ Indeed!

Few movies released in 2018 have really grabbed my attention. One of them is ‘A Quiet Place’. Usually, when I truly adore a movie/series/ any media, I tend to watch/play them multiple times. If possible, that is. I do try. This particular movie is such a brilliant work that I went to the theater again about a week later and re-watched it! My post isn’t going to be a review or a rant but more like an overall high level observation.

Before you read any further, please take note that there will be massive spoilers ahead. Proceed only after watching the movie at least once 🙂 Goes without saying, whatever you’ll read below in my personal take. Let’s begin…

Headset

Cochlear Implant?

Speech deprivation.

Contrast is extremely important. I believe ‘Timing’ and ‘Pacing’ to be few of the main factors that can really boost up contrast (when not talking about color). What is this contrast that I’m talking about? Well, from its ‘utter silence’ (read, lack of vocals/speech, sign language) as the movie begins to the point of reaching ‘first speech’ (read, voice or almost a sign of sound that makes a voice). The audience is slowly absorbed by the way they communicate i.e., the sign language within this long uncomfortable stretch of silence until the carpet-lantern-fire accident in their home during the kids’ play session! This is the first moment when you actually get to ‘almost hear’ their younger male child ‘mouthing’ the words… “I’m sorry”. This to me told quite a few things… like ‘he truly doesn’t practice sign language properly’ and is ‘still trying his best’ to fit and survive in this severely restricted and inconvenient situation that they’re all in.

A scene that comes in later wherein Emily Blunt is teaching him math, she has to whisper clearly and make him learn signs as clearly as possible. These moments are meant to make him realize that ‘he needs to adapt early’ and ‘grow up to be a strong survivor’ to ‘take care of the family’. These first whispered words are indeed calming to ears, mainly because this is absolutely the first time as an audience, we actually get to hear some vocal speech… first real vocal exchange of words.

Path

Path from Bateswood Country Park to Red Hall Lane

Environmental Storytelling

Mise en scène. One of the first things you notice is how smoothly this movie tells its story. In ‘A Quiet Place’, surroundings, structures, placement of objects, scribbled whiteboards, design structures and other such elements coupled with ambiance form the storytelling and strong narrative part of the environment. Perhaps, an excellent showcase of ‘Show, don’t tell’. Apart from these, there are obviously few scenarios where the movie indeed sticks to ‘Tell, don’t show’. Earning the knowledge of these creatures/ aliens as we get to glance at the whiteboard (in the radio/ brainstorm room) for the first time is done quite smartly. There are few shots that zoom in the ‘much needed info’ so the audience most definitely can get a second chance to catch phrases in the environment. Personally, I would’ve loved if some of these second chances at reading the environment were cut/edited out (as their absence would make it an extra notch brilliant ;))

Plus, don’t forget the wide-angled ‘bonfires’ shot that bring the remaining human survivors closer to each other… the presence of life and the comforting nature of knowing that other survivors do exist!

Weakness

Can you predict the weakness?

Deferred First revelation.

It is made pretty clear that the family and other surviving humans aren’t aware of the creature’s weakness. I’m not sure if it was clear for everyone or not but at least to me, the first revelation of their weakness is clearly depicted in the farm when the alien creeps up behind Regan (their deaf child). Funny thing is, I actually observed this properly when I watched the movie again, not first time though :/! The way this worked is that even if the audience did notice the weakness during this scene, the characters aren’t aware of it. That is indeed another brilliant touch! Regan actually connects the dots in the final scene and that’s their true first revelation of finding the creature’s weakness! In case, the audience does miss the evident farm scene… they would find themselves on the same page as Regan!

Road sign

Safety First!

Defensive to Combative.

The main characters and perhaps, most other surviving humans in this post-apocalyptic scenario are primarily staying alive by ‘protecting’ themselves every step of the way. The family survives purely by escaping, hiding, barring themselves, most importantly staying out-of-sight(hearing)-soundproofing knowing that the opposition is infinitely stronger and agile than them. The parents are mainly defensive. Almost everything they do is intellectually correct in such a survival situation. At least, they try to do their best. They know, they cannot hunt or attack the creature.

Unfortunately, this stance changes. They, especially the father (John) progresses towards being combative. The trigger to this particular change of stance/ survival trait occurs after their new baby is born… when Emily Blunt makes it clear that they are nothing if they cannot protect their kids and makes John promise that he must protect them at any cost. Later in the farm, is when he tries to make a move to be combative and attack the creature with an ax in hopes of doing some damage and saving the kids. In the end, the only thing that ‘truly protects his kids’ is sacrificing himself.

Double Heart Knot

Lovely knotted hearts.

Overall powerful tidbits.

Loved the ‘Point of View’ audio moments throughout the movie. Especially, as it serves such an important narrative meaning, helping to establish certain characters during the early sections of the movie.

Neil Young’s Harvest Moon is without a doubt a perfect choice given the scenario in which it is shared and fits so well with the overall context of the movie! Neil’s vocals truly boosts the aural mood and takes it to a calm, relaxing, intimate and comfortable zone 🙂

The direction, synchronization of audio and masterful editing with transitions during the ‘bathtub scream‘ with rockets flying in the air is perhaps the true solid peak of the movie. It is just so well done! Sound design is super important, especially for any thriller/ horror flicks out there. ‘A Quiet Place’ is a shining example in this case.

This last one might also be a trivia for most readers, as I got to know about this only after watching the movie… Millicent Simmonds, the actor who plays the role of Regan (deaf child) is actually deaf in real life! After knowing this fact, I must admit, my respect for what I saw has easily doubled! Fantastic work!

That’s it folks. Thanks for reading! This movie is now going to be in my ‘favorite bucket list’ of all time 😉 Do comment, discuss and share if you liked this movie too!

My friend of mine, who is a fellow movie connoisseur has posted a pretty great rant on ‘A Quiet Place’! I highly recommend checking it out if you’ve already watched the movie.

 

 

 

 

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Clash Royale – PART I

I’m pretty sure most of you have already started playing Clash Royale by now. Even if you aren’t one of the Royale players, you might very well be aware of the game. Clash Royale is Supercell’s next gem for mobile devices.

I’ve been playing this game on a daily basis since it launched in India. I wanted to jot down and do a few write-ups focusing on design.

The first design overview I felt like covering is the gameplay concept map. Please note:

  • This concept map focuses only on gameplay elements
  • It does not teach you how to play the game
  • Shows the inter-relationships of different elements

Now, I am not explaining what each element (especially the ones taken from the game) stand for. Obviously, if you have been playing the game, you’ll be aware of the intricacies. In case you haven’t tried the game out, this’ll help you understand (a little) the concept of gameplay in Clash Royale (inter-dependencies, skills needed, synergy and complexity).

Clash_Royale_Gameplay_ConceptMap_v4

It is informative to look at the game, realize its scope and go through its various concepts. Do check it out, it’ll be fun to discuss more on this (especially if you have already been playing the game).

Keep checking here for further updates, I’ll most likely do more write-ups by focusing on different features. They may not necessarily be in sequence and will most likely be a little independent of each other.

Do shoot your feedback and rants. It’s always fun ;]

 

 

 


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Hearthstone – Monies – Analysis

As many of you already know, I’m currently addicted to Hearthstone and it is the ONLY game for which my iPad is turned ON! No pun intended. Also, I have made no effort in playing this game on my PC. Coz, touch is for now best interface to play card games with.

I present to you a brief analysis I did few days back. This is not about the game design part of Hearthstone. But, more about how you gain benefits, its shop and various layers. Please feel free to comment.

 

BRIEF POINTS

·         Hearthstone has only ONE in-game currency = GOLD.

·         The only other method of purchase is via hard cash.

·         The game makes sure to SELL ONLY Expert Card packs

o   Each Expert Card Pack consists of 5 Cards out of which at least 1 is rare or above

·         The game doesn’t allow trading of cards or packs

 

SHOP

Hearthstone - Shop Screen (Currency is INR)

Hearthstone – Shop Screen (Currency is INR)

 

I made a small table to illustrate how the shop works [the currency here is Euro – €]:

 (The image shown above is from my AppStore account – so it is in Rs. Talking in Euro makes more sense internationally. Sorry for the confusion)

PURCHASE COST Without wholesale discounts – Compared to Cost for 2 Packs – Actual Costs SAVING
Expert Card Packs
1 100 Gold
2 2.69
7 8.99 9.42 0.42
15 17.99 20.18 2.19
40 44.99 53.80 8.81

 

NOTE: Player can always purchase 1 Expert Card pack using in-game currency GOLD but to buy more she must invest in hard-cash (one way). The only other method is to keep accumulating GOLD and buy 1 Pack after another as needed.

Looking at the table above it is very clear that the player can understand and see benefits that keep increasing the higher she goes in spending for card packs.

Overall – € 8.99 and € 17.99 for 7 and 15 Packs are most interesting for players. Good amount of savings.

 

Accumulating GOLD:

·         Hearthstone provides a very interesting Quest system

o   Daily Quests are given to the player [valid in ONLINE play with strangers or Arena mode]

o   A maximum of 3 can be stacked at any given time

o   Quests come in various categories which provide rewards

o   Rewards = GOLD [40-100] – depending on quest difficulty/ length

·         Ideally, a person who doesn’t want to use hard-cash to purchase Card Packs (grinder) – the best way is to ALWAYS make sure to keep finishing Quests

·         3 Consequent wins with same hero – 30 GOLD

 

ARENA MODE

One of my example match in Arena (strength of the key - color)

One of my example match in Arena (strength of the key – color)

 

·         This is my personal favorite and one of the best game mode in Hearthstone

·         Arena mode requires an entry fee

o   150 GOLD OR € 2

·         Arena mechanic

o   Choose one of a random hero presented to the player (choice among 3)

o   Make a card deck from a set of random cards

  Interesting part is – almost entire deck in Hearthstone is available

  This includes every rare, epic and legendary cards

  However, the order and selection is random

o   Player keeps progressing in Arena to unlock better and better rewards until she loses three times

  The player is basically unlocking “KEY”

·         Keys come in different variety and open the specific reward box

 

Check the table below that gives an idea about the rewards presented in Arena (wiki helped here):

 

Wins Key Rewards Random reward pool
0 Novice 2 1. One expert pack 25-40 gold
2. One random reward 25-40 dust
One common card
1 Apprentice 2 1. One expert pack 30-50 gold
2. One random reward 25-50 dust
One common card
2 Journeyman 2 1. One expert pack 40-50 gold
2. One random reward 40-50 dust
One common card
One rare card
3 Copper 3 1. One expert pack 20-25 gold
2. 25-35 gold 20-25 dust
3. One random reward One common card
One rare card
12 Lightforge 5 1. One expert pack 20-175 gold
2. 215-235 gold 20-25 dust
3. One random reward One golden common card
4. One random reward One golden or regular rare card
5. One random reward One golden or regular epic card
One golden or regular legendary card
One expert pack

 

NOTE: The important point to note here is that if the player loses all 3 games in Arena (doesn’t win even a single one) – she still gets 1 Expert Card Pack and any one of the random reward.

So according to the investment made (if used GOLD) to enter Arena –

  • Player is for sure going to get in return 67% GOLD back in terms of 1 Expert Card Pack
  • 25-40 GOLD or dust

For any non-payable player this is almost completely a win scenario.

Arena offers almost fair play as the deck is created in this mode itself + all cards are made available.

No. of wins a player gets in Arena is directly proportional to the rewards she shall reap.

 

CRAFTING

Crafting screen

Crafting screen

·         Player can disenchant any of the cards (except soulbound – hero basic cards) to earn what is called as “Arcane Dust”.

·         Can be termed as other currency (indirect) as this cannot be purchased anywhere/ nor converted from GOLD

 

Check the table below:

 

Rarity in Card Type Crafting Disenchanting
Cost Golden Card Reward Golden Card
Common (White) 40 400 5 50
Rare (Blue) 100 800 20 100
Epic (Purple) 400 1600 100 400
Legendary (Orange) 1600 3200 400 1600

Considering that the reward in Arcane Dust for disenchanting is anywhere from 1/8th to 1/4th – it is just TOO LOW for anyone to make a significant card.The only way is to sacrifice certain unused cards or to dilute extra cards… in other words earn more cards from Arena/ Expert Card purchases.

 

CLOSING POINTS

·         Pushes player to purchase card packs

·         Disenchant additional cards

o   Try crafting common or rare cards

o   Crafting a legendary card revolves around sacrificing other strong cards in huge portion

·         There is no energy system or waiting time

·         Without putting any real money, a grinder can still win many games to her satisfaction by involving more

o   In Arena

o   Daily Quests

o   Casual Online play

·         The game statistics screen NEVER display

o   Win/ Loss ratio (similar to Kill/ Death in multiplayer)

o   It is interesting to note that usually in multiplayer games the ratio is very very important to players

o   Hearthstone goes in a different direction by

  Increasing motivation – by NEVER showing how many games one loses (apart from in Arena – where it is part of core loop)

  Wins are presented strategically and in appealing fashion

  Even Arena category outside on stats page – always display the KEY till which player has reached till date (showing only positive side)

·         An average player will keep earning GOLD in loads if she keeps finishing quests and thus can easily keep purchasing Card Packs

·         The monetization is still going strong for players

o   Who do not wish to grind and wait

o   Excellent savings provided in card packs’ price

o   Very important – player NEVER knows which cards are there when she is buying Expert Packs

  So, there will be duplicates (but they can be disenchanted for dust)

  In case she doesn’t get good enough cards she’ll just go ahead and buy more packs!


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Beyond: Two Souls – Analysis

Cover Art

Cover Art

Design Analysis

I present to my readers a brief analysis of game design in Beyond: Two Souls. This is going to be pretty much a high-level view of the game. In near future, I might dig deeper and provide underlying low details.

Skills

To understand how a game plays out and the challenge provided, it is important to know what player skills are being challenged by a particular game. Beyond: Two Souls demands the following skills from its audience:

  • Observation: Testing player’s ability to read signs and other cues, be it visual or aural.
    • This is one of the main skills challenged as the player is asked to respond by providing inputs based on the cues the game presents.
    • Mainly challenged during:
      • Fight – Observe the sign of the attack, its direction and appropriately provide the input
      • Exploration – Looking out for clues (usually game provides a very strong hint about the situation), secrets and hidden rewards. Challenged heavily when playing as Aiden (the Entity). Playing as Ellen, this is also challenged when looking for cover positions and scouting enemies.
      • Dialogue – Observing the situation and choosing the right/ desired dialog option to converse with non-playing characters
  • Precision: Testing player’s ability to provide inputs to lead where she wants to go
    • This skill is largely challenged while playing as Aiden as it gives a full 360 degrees freedom to explore and roam about.
      • Fight – there is always just one precise input challenged
  • Measurement: Testing player’s ability to provide measured input on controls to a degree of tension
    • Challenged mainly while playing as Aiden.
      • Powers – Interacting with objects in the world – to throw/ use them with a measured degree of power (playing as Aiden)
      • Simple interactions – Playing as Ellen there is some slight challenge is providing simple measured inputs to open door/ closing letter etc.
  • Timing: Testing player’s ability to provide input at the right time
    • Finally, one of the most important skill challenged by this game is Timing. Beyond: Two Souls (much like its predecessor) is heavily based on Quick-Time Events.
      • Fight – The game introduces an upgraded fighting system (appended to its usual QTEs) – wherein player must anticipate and act by providing inputs at the right time. Usually, the window of opportunity given to the player in most of the situations is high. This allows even the slow (low physical-skill) players to act by first carefully observing the sign and then giving the right attack based on timing.
      • Stealth – Playing as Ellen, player can sometimes use stealth and knock-down/ kill enemies from behind/ aerial move by giving input at the appropriate time. Not very highly challenged.
      • Dialogue – Throughout the game, player (playing as Ellen) must converse with other non-playing characters by choosing a dialogue option and providing the input in time. The window to respond to a dialog or to converse is usually very high.

[REMARK – Even though the game challenges player on the mentioned physical and mental skills, the game is no-where close to being hard. The timing never feels stressed, and so on. Compared to Heavy Rain and Indigo Prophecy, this game is very light in terms of challenging the player. Extreme linearity doesn’t help the game either.]

Narrative

The narrative in Beyond: Two Souls is not presented in a regular fashion. The game shifts and jumps the player to different time in Ellen’s life. Player gets a chance to play Ellen as a:

  • Kid
  • Teenager
  • Adult

Throughout the narrative player is challenged on all of the aforementi0ned skills. The narrative does a good job of putting together various clues, revealing information and paces the game accordingly. Game presents gradual character growth, coupled with bonding between Ellen and Aiden (how it grows stronger throughout her life) and usual relationship problems as part of a real world scenario.

[REMARK – As much as I appreciate the narrative direction and slight feeling of character growth, it is again no where close to Heavy Rain. There are hardly any huge plot twists or hard-to-solve mysteries. Narrative is however very close to a Hollywood-cinematic movie experience (apart from the jumps in time-line).]

Visual & Audio

Visually the game has lots of motion-captured sequences, varied settings, themes and highly realized character models. Player is taken form tiny confines of office/ room to the expanse of Mexico.

Aurally, the voice over are present for every characters with high-performance sound-fx and appropriate music. Visually and aurally, the game provides right signs and feedback to the player.

[REMARK – When it comes to direction in this game, there are many scenes that come extremely close to a movie! The train chase and fight, bike riding and forest are memorable and visually breathtaking. Ellen Page gives a great performance and the other characters do a fine job too. As fine as the visuals and audio are, the fact to keep in mind is that the game is more a movie and less of a game. That is not a confusing statement.]

Gameplay Duration

It took me around 15 hours to finish the game in “Easy” setting. I believe the only other option is “Very Easy”. Of course, they are framed differently.

Overall, this game is more of a movie and less of a game (I must mention this again). Given the fact that Quantic Dream was supposed to evolve its gameplay + narration with Beyond: Two Souls compared to its previous offerings, I fully agree that it has not evolved in any way. The only evolution I observed was in the fighting system, where player is now required to sense the direction of attack and act-appropriately. However, as great as it sounds, it doesn’t really fare very well. It makes more sense to go back to defined and strict timing-QTE events.

Would I recommend this game? Well, if you like Ellen Page, movies, drama, story and you are a-okay with minimal gamplay from time to time… then YES! Good enough for a single play-through. Not a challenging game in any way, play it more for its story and direction.

That does it for the high-level and I must soon try and see all the endings …erm… the movie has to offer ;]