Environmental Awareness: A look into Video Game Environments

Imagine, a player loads up a game called The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim for the first time and after a short stint being greeted by flames and smoke in an area not far off, you are greeted by an expansive land of snow and ice.

It’s not that easy to describe, however, the player is greeted by more than the land before them, they are greeted by the animals weaving in and out of trees, curiously afraid of the armored figure. They are greeted by the wailing snowy wind, and the distant roar of a dragon, sat atop a mountain in the distance, and they are greeted by an atmosphere that they are free to explore in its entirety.

33885jucffux

It is this atmosphere that make games what they are, even when players don’t realize it.

The sounds and sights of the world players engross themselves in is what makes players stay. It is captivating and when done well, it can alter the players mind in ways that can induce fear, wonder, and amazement.

Gameplay is important, of course, but without good sound design, environmental art, and sound lighting, the game will fizzle out.

What made games like Dead Space and Resident Evil so terrifying was their sound design.

In Dead Space, a popular survival horror game set in space, players will hear the hiss of pipes, the creaking of the colossal metal ship they are walking in, and the skittering noises of enemies nearby.

dead-space-2_11-02-14_19-26-52-57-1024x576

Without these atmospheric tones and well-timed sound effects, the game would feel no different than The Sims. It is this sound design that draws players in and makes their heart pound as they creep through dingy hallways littered in torn limbs and gore, not just the graphics.

Graphically, a game can be amazing but if the environments lack life or atmosphere, they will ultimately fail to become a true game.

Skyrim makes use of all aspects of environmental design. Birds chirp, snowy wind whistles, the sound of a wolves footsteps behind the players character induce fear and panic as they try to figure out where the enemy is from within a patch of brush.

rpgskyrimscreenshots1

Of course, video games aren’t all about panic or inducing fear. Good environmental design can also induce wonder.

Most players that first step into the world of Skyrim agree that they were met with a feeling of wonder, and curiosity as they crept down the snowy mountainside, hearing the sound of every footfall and windy whistle and gazing at the beautiful environment created by the artists and designers at Bethesda, the developers behind the game.

Another game players recall feeling this exact emotion was Bioshock Infinite.

Players will find themselves thrust into a skytop city brimming with alternate universe American culture. Statues of George Washington and other founding fathers litter the world, american flags are hung everywhere, and the sound of bells and atmospheric chatter swiftly bring players into the world it is trying to purvey.

bioshock_infinite_34

These atmospheres sometimes take years to create. Certain games require teams to visit locations all around the world to record sounds or conduct research on the feel of the atmosphere of the area they are trying to create.

Assassin’s Creed developer Ubisoft sent teams to modern Egypt to get a feel for how things looked and felt before they set upon to create Assassin’s Creed Origins, the developers first foray into ancient Egypt.

ac-origins-ps4-pro-4k-screens-8-1024x576

For games that take on historical roots, accuracy is key. Researchers, designers, and artists painstakingly scour the internet, real-world locations and books to accurately portray the world or time period they are designing.

It is an amazing feat, especially for smaller development teams but the work that goes into the design of a games environment lasts the lifetime of the game.

Advertisements

Islands in the Formless Void changes the Dynamic of World Sandbox Games

In what is a unique take on the open-world sandbox genre of video games, Islands in the Formless Void opens up islands filled with tiny artificial intelligences.

Comprised of people and various creatures, players will witness these tiny creatures learn to manipulate the world around them, eventually learning to build and explore, but what they learn and discover will be entirely up to the player.

Decisions and player interaction is an integral part of Islands in the Formless Void.

“The idea for this game has evolved over the course of many years,” said Jon Galindo, developer of Islands of the Formless Void. “Part of it is just my personal style, and part of it is based on my often-unsuccessful attempts to unravel the philosophy of games and art.”

Players can be a disembodied witness to the world below, or choose to shape the terrain, or jump into a body and pretend to be one of the creatures living on the island.

When jumping onto one of the islands, all the options available to the AI’s is available to the player. Build fires, chop down trees, and build anything.

Of course, when feeling lazy, players can create an assortment of different lifeforms to do the work for them.

Each island has a different assortment of creatures available to them, pick one and see the creatures explore, transform the world around them, and learn new abilities and building projects.

The player can walk among them in hopes to teach them new things, but the tiny creatures will never be under full control, they are their own beings.

The game will take place in a shared universe, comprised of islands. Players can claim exclusive ownership of an entire island, or leave a portion of it open to other players.

These aren’t just empty islands though, these lands are open and available to change to the players hearts content. Want to change the way the hill looks on that side of the island, the option is available to do so.

Of course, just like the real world, anything created on the island will eventually decay over time. Players are warned though, this will create complications for the little island citizens if too many resources decays over time.

Of course, all of these features take place in a gorgeously unique pixel-based universe.

“Shining Force, by Sega, was the first video game I completed, that’s what inspired the graphics of Islands in the Formless Void,” Galindo said. “Minecraft and and Age of Empires are what inspired the building and resource collection mechanics.”

The game will be an HTML5 app, which means it will be playable on practically anything with an internet browser.

The creator of Islands in the Formless Void, Jon Galindo, got started in video games in middle school, where he says his father bought him a $25 PC from a second-hand store.

“On that computer I found a little game called Chip’s Challenge, which I played endlessly,” Galindo said. “I later acquired a CD containing a collection of Sega classics containing the original Sonic games, and Shining Force, the first game I played to completion.”

Later on in life, Galindo said he discovered Pokémon, Minecraft, and Age of Empires, but never found satisfaction with the games, he wanted to change them, improve their mechanics.

Eventually, he got into code and is now developing his own video game.

“There are challenges, but they are like puzzle-solving,” Galindo said. “Trying to understand what games are, understand what fun is, answering these has been an obsession which led me to where I am now.”

With development of Islands of the Formless Void underway, Galindo hopes to one day run a small business, and hopes the development of this game will open the avenue to create more games.

The game is touted for a December 2018 release.

The Kickstarter campaign for Islands of the Formless Void is a little under a month until completion and funds from the campaign are going directly to the game and other related costs of development.

As Jon Galindo states in his Kickstarter campaign, the fate of the game depends on donors decisions.

New Game The Onus Helm Brings Classic Dungeon Crawling Gameplay to Steam

With a classic gameboy-like appearance and smooth and satisfying gameplay, The Onus Helm, a game by developer B-Cubed Labs is on its way for release in 2018.

The Onus Helm is a randomly-generated action adventure game with Rogue-like elements, combining the best elements of several genres and making them into a unique and interesting gaming experience.

“The Onus Helm started off with a much bigger scope,” said the developer behind the game. “I knew that I wanted to replicate my favorite experiences from the 2D Legend of Zelda games, but with the gameplay of a fast-paced dungeon crawler, and the general look and feel of the game developed into what I think is best for the scope of the project.”

It begins with the protagonist awakening to find the cursed helm upon his head. The player must then wander the rooms in the game to discover the truth behind the helm and overcome its burden.

Throughout the game players will find weapons, discover secret areas, and gain new abilities that will allow them to fight off the mysterious creatures making up the world of The Onus Helm.

The developer behind the game noted that his most influential inspiration was The Legend of Zelda, and those inspirations can be clearly seen.

Paying homage to the titular series from Nintendo, the menu, graphics, and gameplay style are all reminiscent of Nintendo’s famous game.

The game will come with a built-in speed run clock, perfect for live streamers and will support both keyboard and game pads.

Like most Rogue-like games, permadeath will be an important feature, making each playthrough an important affair. It will be important to stay alive, especially when encountering one of the many bosses scattered throughout the rooms.

Luckily, there are countless amounts of items and weapons at the players disposal as they explore the randomly generated dungeons of The Onus Helm.

“I am really hoping to make something fun and challenging that can get players coming back for more,” said the developer. “I’ve put a lot of time and effort into the character art and atmosphere too.”

The Onus Helm is touted for a 2018 release and is currently a little less than a month away from the end of its kickstarter.