Final Design for Dissertation

January 10, 2012 at 4:55 pm | Posted in Dissertation | Leave a comment

http://issuu.com/jeantolentinoparas/docs/dissertation_design?mode=window&backgroundColor=%23222222

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Dissertation draft

November 1, 2011 at 4:57 am | Posted in Dissertation | Leave a comment

Introduction
Chapter 1 – Role-Playing Game (RPG)
What are Role-Playing Games (RPG)?
Have you ever heard of or played any Role-playing games (RPGs)? If not then you will now find out what makes these games addictive and why they have strived and continued to evolve over the years.
RPG’s has a history that dates far back to the 1960’s, Where now there are many of these games which exist in computer and video game format, also still played in an offline manner. These are games in which involves players accumulating a role or roles and may work their way through created scenarios, often based on some element of fantasy. These games may have set rules, but there can be interpretation of the rules or free form decision-making within the rules.
This is but one type of RPG, which is MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game); most common and recent examples of games from this genre include World of Warcraft, DC Online Universe and Guild Wars.
Another type of RPG is Text-based Multi-user Games (MUD) the term MUD however originally stood for “Multiple User Dungeon”. This name came to be influenced by tabletop RPG Dungeons & Dragons and the computer game Zork. However, it has now come to generally mean role-playing games with an interactive command-line text-based interface, which includes having to log into a MUD server, then type in commands like “Pick up coin” or “Say ‘hello'” or “Attack lion”. The server then registers your command and sends a response showing what happened. The key is that there may be dozens or hundreds of other players on at once, and you can talk to them in character and trade with, fight with, or otherwise interact with their characters. MUDs are frequently free, developed and maintained by volunteers.
Finally the last type of RPG which happens to be my most favourite and had most of my time spent on, are Single player RPG games. A more story driven based type of game, with almost all of the computer video or adventure games to have a main character which the player is controlling, which is classified as “role-playing” if the character can gain experience, items, and other improvements over multiple sessions. While most people enjoy MMORPG’s I gain my pleasure through single player RPG’s, reason being is that I was born into this genre through Final Fantasy VII/VIII and from then on continued to be a fan. I believe that what drew me into the series was this was the first use of FMV’s (Full Motion Videos) in a video game which became popular and a new selling point, as you can see the difference in terms of quality in figures 1 and 2.
Single Player RPG’s and Multiplayer RPG’s
Single player RPGs over the years have brought a various amount of innovative features to the RPG genre, which also are continued to be featured in MMORPGs. Dungeon Master, Being the first game to have introduced real-time mechanics into the game engine [dmweb 2005] rather than having to take turns as you would in games like chess, all action was instantaneous and all in real time. A more recent game which makes use of this is the Kingdom Hearts franchise which is an action-adventure RPG and collaboration between Disney and Square-Enix. Square-Enix being well known for its Final Fantasy franchise has branched off in a new direction as this features real-time action and became a
more of a hack-and-slash game however still following the same style as their parent franchise Final Fantasy. While the Shenmue series by SEGA AM2 marked the first attempt to the start of a new genre, dubbed by Suzuki as FREE, or Full Reactive Eyes Entertainment [mobygames 2003]. Which is basically the implementation of having a day/night cycle, sleep system and real time weather conditions, all which have been seen as unheard of in its time. These innovations have all been featured in most MMORPGs after first being demonstrated how successfully it worked in an offline open world adventure RPG called Shenmue. However most of these are taken for granted in today’s MMORPGs but we are able to see how far and how much they have been developed over the years. Shenmue has done more than introduce FREE as they also were the first to have used Quick-Timed-Events (QTE) in cinematic scenarios, which is now used in many games in modern day gaming of multiple of different genres. This title alone has influenced many other RPGs in many ways and was clearly way ahead of its time.
Massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG):
“An online computer RPG in which a large number of players interact with one another in a virtual world” [Benjamin 2011]. This is one major feature which is not present in single player RPGs, and that is to be able to interact with other people across the world. All elements that are present in single RPGs are all included in MMORPGs, where players take control of a fictional character and having control over all of that character’s actions. MMORPGs are distinguished from single player RPGs by the game’s persistent world, which is usually hosted by the game’s publisher, which continues to exist and evolve while the play is from the game [Benjamin 2011]. What he is saying here is that MMORPGs take elements from single player RPGs as well as implementing new and innovative features, which make it different to regular single player games. What the key difference with MMORPGS is that they are practically never ending and can keep going on forever, until the player reaches the maximum level, until a new update comes out with even more content to keep the players immersed. When compared to single player RPGs however, the maximum time spent on these games can vary from 30-90 hours gameplay and once the player has maxed out everything and gotten everything, there is nothing else to do and will lead on to leaving the game.
Games like Blizzards World of Warcraft is a perfect example for an MMORPG, which has gone through many updates, expansions, sequels, and they never, fail to keep the player immersed in the virtual world.
The History
Now that we know what RPG’s are, we are going to take a stroll back through the annals of RPG history to analyse where the genre originated and where it is headed. We are looking at that evolution through the lens of gameplay developments, influential titles and some underrated games that set the stage for the RPGs of today. In modern video-game RPG, the content seems to hardly bear a resemblance to its predecessors, which however was a just poor assemble with masses of pixels attached to a hastily written fantasy adventure. In an article by Matt Coleman, he talks about the earliest RPGs by explaining that they ‘took their cues from the pen-and-paper world of Dungeons & Dragons and crafted those game mechanics into rough but playable digital quests dominated by text scrawls. Most of these early titles, such as Ultima, Gateway to Apshai and Wizardry, were playable via personal computer or early consoles and adhered to a similar set of tenets’ [IGN 2011]. What this tells us is that the origins of RPG’s games originated from an old pen-and-paper form of playing and from then on has continued to change and involve, which has lead to most modern RPGs to hardly bear a resemblance to.
Most of the time in RPGs the character in which you take control of usually teams up with a party of fantasy archetype and what you would do next is begin your journey and explore the world, defeat monsters as you wait for your turn. As well as gaining experience, items, equipment and money upon defeating monsters or finding hidden treasure. Gaining experience points goes to your characters skills, which influence every attack, and defensive abilities, all, which have become a key formula as the years rolled on all thanks to the advent of smarter gameplay features and sophisticated graphics, however the goal for most RPGs has remained largely unchanged.
Figure 3 – QTE during chase sequence from Shenmue
With the newfound accessibility with video games now having home consoles has led to a mass adoption of RPGs by gamers all across the globe.
One of the first titles to have encouraged countless of imitators was Dragon Quest, also known as Dragon Warrior in America. For its time, this was innovative and its blueprint is evident in thousands of RPGs to date. As you are playing, you are able to explore the game’s overworld while going from town to town, selling items as well as interacting with NPC’s (Non-Playable-Characters)/local residents until you are ready to move on to your next location. On occasions you will encounter deadly enemies, which attacks can potentially kill you, your job is to attack it and use all that’s at your disposal to defeat the enemy. With attacks to deal significant damage, items that can heal you, magic allowing you to summon spells.
Over the years, game creators have done very little to alter the series’ turn-based battle system and even decades later with sequels of the Dragon Quest franchise still remain the same. Another franchise to have been influenced by this style and is continuing to succeed is the Final Fantasy franchise.
The RPG genre has been cannibalized repeatedly, with gameplay mechanics being present in games from sport to strategy. However, the genre has never been limitless for a genre that originated from pen-and-paper character sheets.
Evolution
The majority of early console games were created in Japan, where the plot however would sometimes would be lost in translation. This just added to the air of mystery within the game as you would be a little confused about a mission upon completing it.
Poor translation turned the plot into twists and games like Dragon Warrior and Final Fantasy became huge hits on the Nintendo [squidoo 2010]. Strangely enough, Final Fantasy was on the verge of never seeing the light of day. They were a small company in japan with only a few minor successfully pieces of work, which aren’t worth mentioning and almost, run itself into the ground. As small inside joke they named the game ‘Final Fantasy’, which is a reference to the director stating that, this will be his final game which would be a fantasy game. Upon release, the game shocked everyone at the company due to how well it sold despite lack of publicity. The company therefore began to stick with it and see how things went. Squaresoft have received worldwide recognition and success and now have merged with Enix, another company giant to form Square-Enix who are the producers of big hits such as Final Fantasy VII, Chrono Trigger and Dragon Warrior, which is the origin of the turn based battle system used in many RPGs.
While success was brewing for RPGs on consoles in the east, the west was creating RPGs for the computer. American developers have taken a different approach in handling RPGs as they resembled the developer’s early experiences with Dungeons and Dragons, leaving to a more ‘realistic’ feeling. Games such as these were very less linear and enabled the player to have choices that would affect the outcome of the game. Consequently marking the beginning of open-ended worlds featured in games such as Grand Theft Auto and Oblivion.
With American companies concentrating on on gameplay and stories, Japan was concentrating on graphics. Squaresoft released Final Fantasy VII in 1997 which blew up the charts and introduced to
Figure 4 – Dragon Warrior fight gameplay
Figure 6 – Dungeons and Dragons
Figure 5 – Final Fantasy
the world the in game movie element. Watching this for the first time as a kid was amazing and by doing so, the RPG genre was moved from a niche marker closer to mainstream. With this, video game companies would have to match the new standard. Which brings me to my question, why is it important for 3D digital animation to be compelling in RPG video games.
Pre-rendered FMV (Full-Motion Video) were popularized by Squaresoft, which influenced many other games. However, in modern day gaming, these pre-rendered scenes are hardly used due to graphical improvements over the years. The latest iteration in the series by Square-Enix, Final Fantasy XIII has demonstrated both incredible in-game cut scenes and FMV’s which take full advantage of the latest technology to provide a graphically beautiful piece of art. As you can see in the comparison images, figures 8 and 9 blur the line between in-game and FMV’s. 10 years ago, figure 8 would be considered an FMV standard quality, therefore showing how far they have progressed over the years.
Unlike previous Final Fantasy or other RPG games, which used a turn-based system, battles no longer happen randomly while walking, as you are now able to actually see and avoid monsters walking around in an open field. This was first demonstrated in Final Fantasy XII, however menus are still used to issue commands to the characters. Final Fantasy XIII reintroduces what was first used in Final Fantasy IV is a variant of the series’ traditional Active Time Battle (ATB), selecting from Attack, Magic and Item. However Unlike previous games in the series you only control the lead character while the remaining two are controlled by the game’s artificial intelligence (AI).
Immersion within RPG’s
How exactly are we immersed within RPGs? Well for starters some of us get into the habit of treating it almost as real life, for example Blizzards World of Warcraft offers many possibilities of what the player can do, such as go on quests, talk to friends, collecting a number of items etc. All of which can occupy a person’s time for the whole day.
An avatar personifies immersion, which is an in-game character that the players creates and customizes themselves. Where they move the character through an open world game space and acts and talks and develops in its context [Eike 2009] Social interactions are often frequented in multiplayer RPGs, however in Entertainment Computing Matthias suggested that ‘voice communication will detract from immersion in RPGs’ (2004). However, I believe that this actually generates more immersion within the game; by being able to communicate with your friends, you are able to plan and strategise your next move. Therefore bringing you more into the game as you are immersed in what you are undertaking. Immersion within RPGs can vary from single player RPGs and MMORPGs, because while you can be interacting with another person on MMORPGs as well as going on quests, within single player RPGs all your focus on one main character in which you have control over. Therefore generating a different feel of immersion as you are assuming a role that of a hero of the game.
Figure 7 – Final Fantasy VII Opening Sequence
Figure 8 – Final Fantasy XIII in-game cutscene
Figure 9 – Final Fantasy XIII FMV
Chapter 2 – 3D Digital Animation
What is 3D Digital Animation?
3D digital animation you say. Firstly, digital animation is essentially an animation, which is created on a computer, examples being cartoon classics such as The Simpsons. However, this is not what we are after. 3D digital animation are the application of computer graphics in video games and in films, for example, computer generated imagery (CGI) featured in films, films such as Toy Story, which was the first movie created fully in CGI.
3D animation begins with a 3D character having a virtual skeleton that the animator then builds around. 3D computer animations over the years have become an important application area of 3D reality modelling. Animation with 3D graphics can be seen as a simulation of movement, which is created by displaying a series of moving objects including mesh or texture in 3D space. Keyframe animation is an example of 3D graphic animation and is widely used, this registers an animated key values which use important frames selected and generates the rest of the frames by interpolating the registered key values [Yun Q. Shi Byeungwoo Jeon 2007].
However, over the years a new development has been motion capture performance animation. Final Fantasy The Spirits Within being the first feature film to have used motion capture to create photorealistic digital humans. However, The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers was the first film to have been recognized by the motion picture academy as the first major achievement in performance animation (motion-capture-system).
3D digital animation has regularly been used in movies and videos and has really taken off in recent years. This has led to spectacular advances in video games and movies, games such as Final Fantasy XIII and movies such as Transformers. These two Medias are where this sort of animation applies most to and is making a huge impact.
Computer Generated Key frame Animation
Keyframe animation is animations, which is made up of many short segments, where each segment represents an initial, final or intermediary value within the animation [Matthew M, 2010]. In most situations, this is used to perform actions which would usually be difficult to perform in real life with motion capture. This also eliminates the use of an actor performing actions, making it an easier solution, though the outcome may take more work to be perfect.
Video games which make use of this successfully are fighting games such as the Street Fighter franchise and Tekken franchise, where both feature actions and moves which naturally would be difficult or impossible to perform. However using keyframe animations within other genres such as RPGs may not be so acceptable as I believe that it somewhat eliminates the immersion between the player, due to the fact that you are assuming a role of the main character and you would naturally want to believe it would look realistic whilst controlling your character.
On the other hand, MMORPGs use keyframe animation and due to multiple character creations leading to unique and certain actions performed within the games, would have made it hard to implement motion capture. Therefore keyframe animation in this genre was considered more strongly.
Single player RPGs on the other hand, would work more dominantly with motion capture, as you are assuming one main character therefore all your attention is focused on that one character. As a result making the animations to look more real will definitely affect how the player becomes immersed within the game.
However the greatest short comings of key frame animation is that this can result from incomplete control of motion dynamics, both which in complexity and in smoothness or continuity [N. Burtnyk 1976]. What he is basically saying that it is difficult to produce fully life like animations with the use of keyframe animation, therefore somewhat limiting the possibilities of realism that can be produced. Although achieving control over the dynamics may take some time, requiring an extra amount of time to try to perfect an animation.
In interactive skeleton techniques, N. Burtnyk points out that ‘The shortcomings manifest themselves in the following ways: (a) the motion of each point in the image is along a straight line and the relative change from one frame to the next is the same for all points belonging to one picture element. (b)
There is a discontinuity at key frames in both the amount of frame-to-frame change and in the direction of apparent motion. Therefore, it is difficult to synthesize smooth continuous motion spanning several key positions’ (1976). Here he is pointing out a dilemma about the smoothness being achieved by having few key images as possible; therefore showing the struggles animators have to overcome to produce conniving results.
Motion Capture and Performance Animation
Whether you know it or not at least everyone has witnessed motion capture, be it video games or movies. Motion capture has been used frequently to produce smooth animations, which capture realistic movements and actions. Eliminating the process of having to adjust key frames to perfection.
Motion capture is more or less the process of recording a live motion event and translating it into usable mathematical terms by tracking a number of key points in space over time and combining them to obtain a single three-dimensional representation of the performance into a digital performance [Albert, M 1999]. This explains that this enables the process of translating a live performance into a digital representation of the performance. Motion capture and performance animation however, are not one in the same. Although most people would use these two terms interchangeably, they are quite different.
Performance animation refers to the actual performance that is used to bring a character to life, despite whatever technology is used. To be obtain it, one must go through the whole process of motion capture and then map the resulting data onto a three-dimensional character [Albert, M 1999]. What he is saying is that motion capture is the collection of data, which represents a motion whereas performance animation is the final product of a character driven by a performer.
There are different ways of capturing motion, where some use cameras that digitize different views of the performance, which are then used to put together the position of key points and each is represented by one or more reflective markers. Other systems use electromagnetic fields or ultrasound to track a group of sensors. Mechanical systems based on linked structures or armatures that use potentiometers to determine the rotation of each link are also available [Albert, M 1999].
With these methods of capturing motion, there are also combinations of these technologies and also other newer technologies which are in development. All which are trying to achieve one basic element within animation, which is real-time tracking of an unlimited number of key points without no space limitations of the highest frequency possible with the smallest margin of error.
Advantages and Disadvantages with Computer Generated Key frame animations and Motion Capture
Captivation of 3D Digital Animation

Chapter 3 – Make or Break Animation and RPGs
Does character animation make an RPG better or worse?
Why animation in games should be top quality?
Do we care about animation?
Different opinions towards watching and interacting with RPGs through good/bad animations
Games with poor animation are still good and games with good animation are sometimes poor?
Chapter 4 – Conclusion

Bibliography

October 21, 2011 at 9:20 am | Posted in Dissertation | Leave a comment

More to come…

 

The advantages and disadvantages of computer animation

By arts-entertainment

http://arts-animation.chailit.com/the-advantages-and-disadvantages-of-computer-animation.html

 

Benefits of a Computer Animator

By Buffy Naillon, eHow Contributor

http://www.ehow.com/about_5427988_benefits-computer-animator.html

 

Advantages Disadvantages and Applications of Motion Capture

http://www.articlesbase.com/technology-articles/advantages-disadvantages-and-applications-of-motion-capture-217465.html

A Critical History of Computer Graphics and Animation

https://design.osu.edu/carlson/history/ID797.html

The History of Animation:
Advantages and Disadvantages of the
Studio System in the Production of an Art Form

http://www.digitalmediafx.com/Features/animationhistory.html

By Michael Crandol

 

A Brief History of Motion Capture for Computer Character Animation

http://cose.math.bas.bg/Sci_Visualization/compAnim/animation/character_animation/motion_capture/history1.htm

By David J. Sturman

 

The Psychology of Massively Multi-User Online Role-Playing Games: Motivations, Emotional Investment, Relationships and Problematic Usage

Nick Yee

 

Second Person: Role Playing and Story in Games and Playable Media

By Pat Harrigan, Noah Wardrip-Fruin  

 

Play Between Worlds: Exploring Online Game Culture

By T. L. Taylor

Visual Navigation

October 14, 2011 at 2:30 pm | Posted in Dissertation | Leave a comment

Should be clear and concise

  • Topic (very brief outline)
  • Rationale (reasons for choosing topic)
  • Research and research methods

600 words for introduction, 800 words for conclusion

3 – 5 chapters – 2000 words each

400 words per point

chapters, conclusion and introduction last

Sign postings:

  • chapter headings
  • subheadings

contents

  • illustrations
  • layout
  • symbols
  • page numbers

Second Person: Role Playing and Story in Games and Playable Media

October 14, 2011 at 11:48 am | Posted in Dissertation | Leave a comment

By Pat Harrigan, Noah Wardrip-Fruin  

 

Play Between Worlds: Exploring Online Game Culture

October 14, 2011 at 11:45 am | Posted in Dissertation | Leave a comment

By T. L. Taylor

http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=M9f__b-SFi4C&oi=fnd&pg=PP8&dq=Play+Between+Worlds:+Exploring+Online+Game+Culture&ots=VHH5qOV4L7&sig=gMf8ZfYgJgIr5g0ZvqTj6x6T4Q4#v=onepage&q&f=false

 

Dissertation Structure

October 13, 2011 at 9:26 pm | Posted in Dissertation | Leave a comment
  • Why is it important for 3D Digital Animation to be compelling within Role-Playing-Games (RPG) Video Games?

Introduction

Chapter 1 – Role-Playing-Games (RPG)

  • What are Role-Playing-Games?
  • Single Player RPG’s and Multiplayer RPG’s
  • The History of RPG Video Games
  • Evolution of RPG Video Games
  • Immersion within RPG Games

Chapter 2 – 3D Digital Animation

  • What is 3D Digital Animation?
  • Computer Generated (CG) Animation
  • Motion Capture Animation
  • Strength and weaknesses between CG Animation and Motion Capture
  • Captivation of 3D Digital Animation

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