Critical Analysis: Videogames as Remediated Memories Commodified Nostalgia and Hyperreality in Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon and Gone Home

SLOAN, R.J. (2015) Videogames as Remediated Memories Commodified Nostalgia and Hyperreality in Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon and Gone HomeGames and Culture10(6), pp.527-528.

After seven generations of videogames, companies have started to detect and satisfy a growing consumer desire for nostalgic references in their products. Robin J. S.Sloan, who is a lecturer in Game Art and Design at Albertay University in Dundee, United Kingdom, makes an insightful analysis over the commercialisation of the player’s needs for retrospection and the consequences that this simulation may bring to the historical perception of the periods they try to emulate. Furthermore, a case study research was conducted where Baudrillard’s theories of consumer objects and simulation were used to analyse two highly representative of commodified nostalgia videogames: Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon (BD) and Gone Home (GH). This article was published in the 6th issue of 2015 on Games and Culture, an international journal that supports innovative theoretical and empirical research about games and culture within interactive media.

I have chosen this article because it reveals the importance of using commodified cross-media references in videogames design to make them more appealing to consumers, helping me to be aware of the inclusion of such material on my own work. Furthermore, this article is a valuable and trustworthy resource due to the author’s background as an experienced worker on videogame industry and having a PhD in animation, with a specific focus on videogame critique. Also, he has participated in several International conferences, publishing his articles in media research and study related journals like Computer Animation and Virtual Worlds (2010), Participations (2013) or Computer in Human Behavior (2014) among others.

In the two selected pages (p.527-528), after pointing out several examples of commodified games and marketing designs of videogames the author asserts that the strong necessity of consumer nostalgia for videogames could have been predicted due to the quick evolution of videogame technology and design in a very short period of time (40 years), changing the product design very fast and creating the game consumers’ need for fulfilling a nostalgic yearn for old videogames. Nevertheless, the author forgets to explain why it was not predicted ahead of time or if it was a premeditated game industry’s strategy. He continues his argument pointing out that not only old popular videogames references are being used to satisfy this nostalgic need but also cross-media referencing like music, TV or films. To support his argument he uses Jenkins’ (2006) theory of convergence to link users between different media periods and Bolter and Grusin’s (1999) theory of remediation to explain the industry strategies to appropriate older media to create the new one.  The author claims that using the techniques and rules of other media that were typical of a period, especially the late 20th and early 21th century, which are the most valuable for gamers, is a usual practice in the videogames industry to recall that time. The author proposes Bioshock Infinite (Irrational Games, 2013) as an example, where the music of the 80’s has been taken and adapted to suit early 20th-century music style. The author does not delve into if with the passing of the time, this period will change to fit new generations due to the lack of interest and knowledge and newer periods will take their place. According to the author, “historicity is replaced by an ambiguous image of the past” where this appropriation and modification of old media creates a distorted perception of history by the player that later on the article the author will coin with the term hyperreality.

The author takes BD and GH as reference videogames due to its wide use of cross-media nostalgic references in their narrative, world and promotional materials, are representatives of different scale production (AAA and Indie) and the remarkable success and acceptance they had. Both games have a very deep nostalgic background, nevertheless, BD cannot be considered a good AAA game representative as it is almost an official mod, a skin of Far Cry 3 as the author admits “…was a modification of the recently released AAA title Far Cry 3”(p.528) more than the actual AAA game. There are better options as AAA games with regards of acceptance and sales, like some of the other examples that the author already use in their article, like Bioshock Infinite which was more successful than BD but, for the needs of the author’s thesis it was easier to use a videogame intentionally packed with 80’s action film references and premeditated design as a “nostalgia game”(p.528) not a regular one.

In the case of GH the author established the videogame success and acceptance after only a month after the release which may not be sufficient to get a conclusion, as we can see in the Metacritic game’s website where the user score barely obtains an approval with a 5.4 out of 10 and have more negative users reviews than positive which contradicts the argument that was well received by consumers and critics alike.

The fact that the selection of the two videogames was made by the author decision instead of a more empiric system like analyse the games with the best critic and user score or a more random method, may be perceive as the author’s self-convenience strategy to support his thesis. Furthermore, the scarce variety of analysed examples may create doubts about if this thesis is applicable to most videogames or only are isolated cases.

In conclusion, Sloan has made a very persuasive argument giving factual examples and research in two representing videogames that support his thesis. The use of commodified nostalgia through cross-media referencing in videogames is becoming a more interesting area of development in game industry due to the attractive implications that these additions bring to the commercialisation of a product. The author statement is valid with regard to the appropriation and transformation of the representation of period consumer culture, but I think that the design of a videogame is not bound by history and its aim is to entertain the consumers through a compelling background, plot and playability and benefit from the provided entertainment. Finally, the analysis of other videogames without such an evident period media reference as BD and GH, so convenient for the author thesis, would be of interest.

 

Word count: 1018

 

Bibliography

BAUDRILLARD, J. (1994) Simulacra and simulation. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press.

BAUDRILLARD, J. (2005) The system of objects. London, England: VersoBooks.

BOLTER, J. D., & GRUSIN, R. (1999) Remediation: Understanding New Media. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

JENKINS, H. (2006) Convergence culture: Where old and new media collide. New York, NY: New York University Press.

MARVRIDOU, O. and Sloan, R.J., (2013) Playing outside the box: Transformative works and computer games as participatory culture. Participations: Journal of Audience & Reception Studies 10 (2): 246-259

SLOAN, R.J., (2015) Videogames as Remediated Memories Commodified Nostalgia and Hyperreality in Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon and Gone Home. Games and Culture, 10(6), pp.525-550.

ROBINSON, Brian, Ken Scott‐Brown, Fhionna Moore, Malcolm Cook, and Robin JS Sloan. “Choreographing emotional facial expressions.” Computer Animation and Virtual Worlds 21, no. 3-4 (2010): 203-213.

TINWELL, A. and Sloan, R.J., (2014) Children’s perception of uncanny human-like virtual characters. Computers in Human Behavior, 36, pp.286-296.

Metacritic (n.d.) Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon [Online]. Metacritic. Available from:<http://www.metacritic.com/game/xbox-360/far-cry-3-blood-dragon > [Accessed 18/11/2016].

Metacritic (n.d.) Gone Home [Online]. Metacritic. Available from:<http://www.metacritic.com/game/pc/gone-home > [Accessed 18/11/2016].

Advertisements

Project Development: Places of the Mind ♯1

I continued the  “Places of the mind” project wanting to create the main character of the game a evil looking human warrior. I started by doing some concept art drawins about the helmet because it is the most important part of the character and it would define the rest of the armor.

img_1482img_1483

Project Development: Red chases Blue ♯4

I have continued the modeling of the cloth elements finishing the belt by adding a buckle by appending a cylinder, flattening it and placing it on the belt giving it a bit of rounded shape to the surface. I have also extruded the armor parts’ borders to make them a bit thicker by masking part of the surface and using the move brush.

I continued with the top in the same way as I did the belt using Damian standard and the move tool but, I noticed a issue with the interior part of the top when I hide the body tool. As I didn’t have activated the back face masking option the interior part of the top was being modeled too. To correct it I masked the exterior side and used the inflate and smooth brushes to flatten the surface and then applying Dynamesh. I Finally used the move brush to place the top’s  collar.

sin-titulo-7

Project Development: Red chases Blue update ♯2

I have research a bit about the clothing to try to emulate the folds but the pictures I found didn’t fit with the cartoonish look of my character so I decided to use a bit the folds of the references but trying to do a more inflated pants having the Aladdin’ cloths look.

After that, I started using the same technique I used in the “memory and nostalgia” project to make Guybrush’s cloths in Zbrush using masks and panaloops. I used this method to create the basic cloth’s and then will add folds and creases in the next days.

sin-titulo-5

Bibliography:
HAREM PANTS – Where Style Meets Comfort | Harem Pants For Women, Girls (2014) 21 February [Online blog]. Available from: <http://www.metromela.com/harem-pants-where-style-meets-comfort/&gt; [Accessed 25/11/2016].

Project Development: Red chases Blue ♯1

For the rest of the module I have to choose two projects and develop them further. I have chosen “red chases blue” and “Places of the mind” because I would like to center my work on character modeling and these are best choices as in both I started to develop some character and monster concepts. I am going to try working in one project each week to maintain the level of development at the same level.
I have started with the “red chases blue” prokect remodelling some blue model’s parts I didn’t like from the end of the project back on October using Maya.

The most important part I had to remodel was the ear because it was very simple and it needs more interior shapes in it.

After that, I exported it as an .obj file and imported it on Zbrush to model more details. My idea is to use the model as base in Zbrush to model more details. My idea is to use the model as base on Zbrush, model better shapes and define more details and then send it back to Maya to retopologize it.
By the moment I have retouched the face, added nails to the hands and modeled the muscles of the abdomen.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Reflection ♯8: Project “3D Printing”

The topic for the last week was “3D printing”. We had to make a 3D model and prepare it to be printed in a 3D printing machine. In the classroom we had a presentation of a functional and led illuminated Iron Man helmet printed on a 3D machine as an example of one of its uses, in this case to make films props. It also came a University member of the 3D printing department to make a presentation of the several types of 3D printers that the university have at our disposal and the specifications needed to print a 3D model on a 3D printer (STL file, minimum thickness of 2mm, hollow inside, maximum size). After the presentation we went to the 3D printing studio where we saw the 3D printers, several 3d printed examples and the different possible materials that can be used.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As this project was very open and It was all about modelling I decided to focus on learning properly how to model on Zbrush and using the Dynamesh tool since it was necessary to make proper models. I had already issues in previous projects due to have not enough knowledge about this programme .

I started learning through a series of tutorials named “Introduction to Zbrush 4R2” made by Ryan Kingslien, founder of Zbrush Workshops spending two-three days watching this tutorials (around 30 hours of videos).

111103-zbw

 

Meanwhile, I was thinking what type of model I should do, a famous comic or videogame character or a mythological creature.

Some references from Google Images about several famous characters I was thinking to do as 3D printable model:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As always I loved to draw dragons, I finally decided to do a bust of one. I took my own drawings as reference and selected the design I liked the most.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I also looked for some reference of dragons on Google Images but I already liked my own drawing as they were so I didn’t make any change to them based on others work.

Other artists’ work on dragons:

After learning how to use Dynamesh, I really started to enjoy the process of sculpting in Zbrush. Finally, I could do what I had in my head and projected it on my model. Nevertheless, there were some issues with Dynamesh. Dynamesh is a tool that redistributes the polygons on the surface of the model depending on the resolution chosen. As you go up in detail is recommended increasing the amount of resolution. It is great when you do big deformations or add shapes. Nevertheless, it tends to blur or even wipe out the detail and texture having to retouch the detail each time you use it in order to not lose more and more detail each time. Alongside Dynamesh, I also used different brushes and techniques that I learned on the tutorials like creating teeth or the neck of the dragon with the Curvetube brush, cut surfaces with the Slicecurve brush or masking surfaces. I started by doing the skull of the dragon because the head was the most important and detailed part, then the jaw and finally the neck. After having the main shape, I started to add details like the teeth, horns and scales. Arrived to a point where I can’t achieve more detail with Dynamesh, I started then to subdivide the mesh, thing that  I used to use from the beginning of the process forcing the limits of the programme and my computer resources limiting the quantity of detail I could get.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

After having the model finished, I added a base to the model and started to adjust the model to print. First, I  I scaled the model to a 100mm size (the high of a standard mug that was the recommended size for the printing) then I created a reference image of a 100x100mm square on Photoshop with a 98x98mm centred on it so I knew the thickness that the model should had to have between the exterior and the interior of the shell then, I used the deflation tool and the move brush over a copy of the model till adjust it to the 2mm reference. One of the problems I had not into account was that, not only the shell had to have 2mm thick but also, the thinner part of any part of the model should be 2mm. Therefore, I used the inflate tool to try to fix the model but, as the fangs have a cone shape it was impossible to maintain that shape because it ends into a point. I liked the look the fangs I had at the beginning but, as it wouldn’t print properly, I also used the inflate brush on them.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

For the presentation, I made the postproduction using Premier 2015 (Adobe) using the videos of a turn around of the model in Zbrush and  a recording of the skyfolding process using Preform (Form Labs) with the “Main Theme” of Baldur’s Gate (Bioware, 1998) as background:

 

Conclusion

I still have to ask to the 3D printing department if my model is a viable model to be printed but, I should have chosen a better type of model to do from the start due to the 2 mm thickness printing requirements. I imagine that the best option should have been a rounded shape without borders or pointed protrusions (like fangs or horns) for example a bust of a bold human or a rounded cartoon character. Nevertheless, as my aim in this project was learning as much Zbrush modelling as I could and understand the use of Dynamesh till the point to have certain control on the model’s resolution, I think I have accomplished my objective. Of course I have still a lot of things on Zbrush to learn but understanding the use of Dynamesh has been a great step in the good direction.

 

Biblyography

ZBrushWorkshops (n.d.) [Online]. Available from: <https://www.zbrushworkshops.com/ > [Accessed 13/11/2016].

Ryan Kingslien (n.d.) ZBrush 4R2 Tip # 1: DynaMesh / Remesh [Online video]. Available from: <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SzCBQoD55y8 > [Accessed 13/11/2016].

3D Printing update ♯7

I used TrimCurve to cut the base of the bust and added a base to sustain the model. Then I used Dynamesh to combine all the pieces to make it one only mesh.

As I have the overall shape modeled I started to put more derail stop using Dynamesh and starting to subdivide the model try to do sharpener edges and shapes, like on the horns, and add some textures to the scales and the throat and also improve the detail around the eyes.

I have found some problems inside the mouth that I didn’t notice yesterday due to the use of dynamesh on elements that are close, fusing them when I didn’t want to. I have tried fixing it by going some steps back but the issue was made too many steeps before. Therefore, I have decided to try fixing what I could by separating some parts, and then using Dynamesh again leaven what was very difficult to correct

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

3D Printing update ♯6

Today, I have modeled the neck using the curvetube brush to make the shape I wanted. Then I smoothed it and gave it some detail by making the scales, the skin folds and the spikes on the back of the neck. I have also added more detail to the head by sculpting scales on it, adding some horns and modeling the ears using damian standard brush to define edges. I modelled the horns and the teeth using the curvetube brush and copying, pasting and placing the new teeth in the mouth scaling them if needed.i have also modeled the mouth interior around the teeth, added detail and created the tong using the curvetube brush. As the model will have a lot of detail, I have decided to do only a dragon bust instead the complete body. Therefore, I will use the TrimCurve to give it a clean cut to the base of the bust.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.