Storytelling in Video Games

Video Games allow a player to transport themselves to a different world and do things they wouldn’t be able to do themselves.  Unlike a movie, the player becomes part of the story, watching it play out and directly impacting the game world.  Technology is finally reaching a point where sometimes you can’t tell the difference between a game and a movie and when we reach that point, that will be the pinnacle of storytelling.

I like to make the analogy of the “choose your own path” books from back in the 90s.  You would start a story and then the page would give you options.  If you wanted to go down one path, go to page 9, otherwise, go to page 10.  Essentially, that is what you get in a video game.  Early games and even some games today have a very linear story.  What that means is, you are acting in a story and it is already predetermined and the things you do won’t change the overall story or the ending.  A popular storytelling method now is to go toward an open world or dynamic storytelling.  This allows for the player to dictate the story and to make up their own way through a game.

A great example of dynamic storytelling is Quantum Break.  On top of allowing the player to make choices that directly affect and change the game, they tied in a live action TV show into the game.  The game bounces you back and forth from in-game playing to watching like a TV show.  Another good example is the Game of Thrones Game from Telltale Games.  Again, the game allows you to make critical decisions (just like they have to make in the TV Show) that will have long lasting effects on the characters and the story.  

All of that being said, there is still a place for a Linear Story, as long as that story is done well.  Battlefield 1 is one of those.  The campaign in Battlefield 1 is very linear but it unfolds in a way that gets you invested in the characters and situations.  If you watch the Campaign Trailer for the game, if I didn’t already know it was a video game, I might think this trailer is for a movie.

As we continue into the future we’re going to be seeing more and more games that are like traditional forms of entertainment, movies and TV.  I for one cannot wait.

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Starwars Battlefront Beta (PC) Thoughts

The hype surrounding Star Wars Battlefront has been crazy over the past year.  With everything ramping up to the public beta that started yesterday.  The question is: does the game match the hype?  So far I am pleased to say that it does.

My main concern was that the game was going to end up being a re-skinned Battlefield 4 so my expectations going into the beta was pretty low.  I had tried to avoid watching too many gameplay videos as to go into it with a clear mind.  I am happy to report the game is definitely not a reskin.  In fact, to my surprise, it plays almost nothing like Battlefield.


Before we start, the specs of the computer I was playing on:

Geforce GTX 780 Ti

Intel Core i7 – 4770k @ 3.50 GHz


ASUS ROG Swift PG278Q @ 2560×1440, 144Hz

Windows 10 Pro


In the video below, I captured my first round playing Drop Zone.  Immediately, the game looks visually stunning.  The space / air battle going on above the play area is a beautiful touch and it also comes with it’s own sound effects.  I actually sometimes found myself almost confused as to what sound was enemy fire and what sounds were just ambient noise (which may just be that I don’t have a firm enough grasp on the nuances of blaster fire).

I definitely went into it with the Battlefield mindset.  I was using my iron sight / scope all the time and I assumed that crouching would make me more accurate.  Both of these assumptions were wrong.  There is no benefit to crouching other than to make you a smaller target and the accuracy between the scope and hip fire is not changed at all.  This changes the way you play the game.  Close range is hip fire 100% and mid to long range is scoped but even then, you don’t really have to.  In the video you can tell I didn’t realize this at first and probably had a lot more deaths than I should have.  The other little gameplay thing is that the laser beams actually take a bit of time to reach the target which really changes how you have to aim but on the upside you can really see exactly where you’re hitting.

The audio design is amazing, it sounds like it’s real (if blaster rifle’s were a real thing and wars were fought between the Imperials and the Rebel Alliance).  Even the transition between screens fades out like the transitions between scenes in the movies.  It’s little touches like these that make the game a pleasure to play.

The unlock system is really good.  Guns and Items unlock based on player level (you gain experience for playing and finishing games).  Once unlocked, you can use credits to buy them and use them.  Credits are accumulated at the end of games.  When you finish a match, the game divides your total experience earned in that match by 10 and that’s how many credits you get.  I’m not sure if that is the math that will be used in the final release but it seems to be pretty fair.

All of the items are referred to as cards and you can hold a max of 2 cards and one upgrade card (ie. Ion Shot for your blaster).  It looks like you’re going to be able to preset a few “hands” and be able to swap them back and forth depending on what you feel like doing (like a loadout in Battlefield games).  The guns are not classified as cards and you simply buy them when they unlock.  It looks like there are really no secondary weapons in Battlefront (ie. Pistols).  So far there is only a card that will give you a sniper rifle that acts like a second weapon.  I’m sure in full release there will be a ton of cards to unlock and play around with.


A few gripes:

  • You obviously don’t have to reload a blaster rifle but I constantly found myself hitting “R” to reload.  Muscle Memory is a hard thing  to break.  I just hope it doesn’t affect my Counter Strike.
  • On Drop Zone, there is no visual queue when the enemy is capping a pod, HUD or emote by the player.  This I found vaguely annoying because then everyone that even comes close to the pod needs to be shot and tactically that makes it hard to protect the pod.  They need to add a countdown HUD display or actually have the character look likes he’s punching buttons or something.  
  • The position of the radar is in the bottom left corner and almost all other shooters i’ve played the radar is in the top right corner.  Not sure why that design choice was made.
  • I hate third person view, but if you play competitively (not sure how much of that there will be) you will have to either turn it off or just use it all the time.  The problem with third person is that is gives you a much wider range of vision and even allows you to peer over cover and around corners, so a person playing in 1st person view is almost at a disadvantage.
  • No prone.  I don’t know why they chose to not include it.


Nasty Bug:

  • After the first match, I kept playing (see the video below) and my game started to stutter and skip around, almost like I was dropping frame rate.  It got so bad the game became unplayable.  I thought it was due to Shadowplay so I stopped recording but the stutter wouldn’t go away.  It was so bad I couldn’t navigate around the menus and I had to just open the task manager to close it.  I left the task manager open to troubleshoot and went back into the game and now it was just stuttering from the very moment I opened the game.  I noticed that my processor usage was at 100% and holding steady.  So I closed the game and the processor went back to normal.  Opened the game again and it spiked back up to 100%.  Frustrated, I closed Origin and opened it back up then went into the game and there was no stuttering.  Then I thought the Origin Overlay was causing it so I turned off the in-game overlay and continued to play.  I finished and then went to go play some Starcraft 2 and Starcraft 2 started to stutter and my processor again was at 100%.  I closed Origin and it went back to working normally.  I can’t say for certain what the issue is, but it’s got something to do with Origin and Battlefront.  I just hope they fix it in the final release.


Overall I am very pleased with the state of the game and am looking forward to playing the final release.  Until then, may the force be with you!



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Black Friday Series – Gunnar Optiks

If you’re an avid gamer you may have seen pro gamers wearing yellow tinted glasses while at tournaments.  Have you ever wondered what exactly those are and why they are wearing them?  They are most likely a pair of Gunnar Optiks.  These glasses are meant to ease the stress on your eyes from looking at a screen for extended periods of time.

I will admit that when I first heard about them I was very skeptical.  My number one concern was that they glasses would tint everything yellow and make my games look weird.  My other concern was dropping $70 – $100 on something that I couldn’t really test for myself.  The reviews online were useless since there are so many positive and negative reviews.  What finally changed my mind was simply for the fact that so many pro gamers swear by them.  Whether or not they are being paid to wear them, they are in fact wearing them and still able to perform at a professional level.

So how and what exactly do Gunnars do?



In a nutshell, the glasses filter out the harmful blue light that LCD, LED, and Fluorescent bulbs emit.  The glare combined with the unnatural light and close proximity to the screen, your eyes strain.  If that strain is going on for hours on hours, it could cause long lasting negative effects.  I’m sure that some of you get headaches after playing for a long time and this is why.


Gunnar Optiks


As you can see, the Gunnars are extremely thin, almost to the point of feeling fragile.  I definitely wouldn’t recommend dropping them from a high position or giving them to your baby to play with.  That being said, it is nice that they are so lightweight and thin.  Headphones fit well over the glasses since they are so thin.  They also come with a fabric bag to store them in.

When I put them on for the first time I was pleasantly surprised that I actually felt my eyes relax.  What was also interesting is the fact that I actually got a headache after a few hours with them on.  I can only assume it’s because I was so used to the other way that changing it caused the headache.  That only happened the first couple times wearing them.  The other aspect that I wasn’t expecting is that it actually makes the screen look like it’s brighter.  I’m not sure what causes that but it’s actually pretty neat.  The yellow tint is there but it’s not as invasive as you might think.  If you’re a really hardcore videophile it would probably bother you but as a non-videophile, I don’t mind the slight tint.


Gunnars come in all kinds of styles and they are not all for Gamers.  They market the glasses to any “hardcore” computer user (programmers, designers, artists, gamers, even business workers).

I’m not positive that any retailer will be reducing prices on these for the Black Friday or Cyber Monday but they are definitely something to look out for.

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