Game Analysis - Heavy Rain (Playstation 3)
The first game that I am analyzing is the recently released Heavy Rain for the Playstation 3.
Heavy Rain is not a game that can be easily classified, but I will do my best to explain the premise. Essentially, it is a cinematic murder mystery thriller that portrays the story of four central characters who are in some way connected to one another. The goal of the game is to find the "Origami Killer" who is a serial murderer that has, in one way or another, affected the lives of our four heroes.
The game takes place in the third person, with a "third person limited" point of view for each character. I say this because you can quite literally hear the thoughts of the character you are controlling with a simple button press. This works well for a game that is entirely focused on character development and plot.
Speaking of simple button presses, that is all there is to the actual playing of this game. Now, in my opinion, that does not discredit it in any way. To show you what I mean, I think it would be easier to show a video clip of the game in action:
Note: Do not read the text comments for this video, as many people try to intentionally spoil this game for others.
As you can see from this video, all interaction in this game is done with timed button presses, also known as "quicktime events." The player can fail in doing the proper button presses, but instead of a game over screen, the game continues on. No matter how many times the player succeeds or fails, the game will continue. Depending on how well you do in each segment, the story will change drastically.
In terms of self-design, the characters in this game are already pre-set and you cannot change their appearance or mannerisms in any way. But what you can do is make a vast amount of choices that effect the way other people interact with them, how the world at large views them, and how the tale itself plays out, which segues nicely to the next point about social interaction.
Social interaction in this game is played out just like the rest of it, which is to say, through quicktime events. When prompted with something to say, the character you are in control of will have a list of things he/she can say to certain people. How you choose to speak to people determines how they feel about you, which may lead them to showing up later in the game to help/hinder you.
On the subject of space and place, this game does not really garner a sense of topophilia, as it takes place in a generic American metropolis where none of the areas are particularly distinct, but to the game's credit, what takes place in each of these locations is incredibly interesting.
Although you cannot physically effect the world like in Second Life, the world can and will change depending on the choices the player makes. Seeing as how there are only a finite (albeit large) number of choices that can be made, the level of virtual agency isn't incredibly high, but still quite respectable for a single-player game like this.
Game Analysis - Demon's Souls (Playstation 3)
Unlike Heavy Rain, this game can be easily classified. This game is a third person action game that takes inspiration from gothic Western fantasy influence. As you can tell from the title, you are mainly battling demons.
This game uses the third person point of view like many action/adventure type games do. Unlike Heavy Rain, there is no personal character development in this game, as you create your avatar. Your character never speaks, and has no personality of his or her own.
One note about this game that I would like to mention, is that it is known as "the hardest game ever". While I don't quite agree with that, this is indeed one of the most difficult games I have played in recent memory.
This game is based entirely around combat, and this game in particular has a very simple combat system of using light, and heavy attacks with a button for magic. The difficulty in this game comes from the fact that you collect "souls" when you kill enemies, which are the currency of this world. If you die, you lose all of the souls you have collected up to that point, and have to start the level over again. If you can reach the spot that you previously died at, you can regain your souls, but if you die when trying to retrieve them, all those souls are lost forever.
On the subject of self-design, this game allows you to create your own character from scratch with a very robust character creator. Once your character is created you can choose to be good or evil by your choices in the game itself. Being good tends to make the demons you fight weaker, while also making them drop more healing items. The downside to this being that this makes the demons drop less souls. Being evil does the opposite, the demons are much stronger, and drop almost no healing items, but they tend to give more souls, which, again, are the lifeblood of the game.
Social interaction in this game is quite interesting, to say the least. Although this game is mainly a single-player game with little to no interaction between the in game characters and yourself, when you are playing this game, it makes a point of connecting you to an online server. Once you are connected you can write messages on the ground, which can be seen by other people on the same server. For example, you can write down things such as "use fire on the next enemy" or "there's a fall ahead" to warn others. Now, the interesting part is the fact that you cannot see anyone else who is playing on the same server, even though everyone can see each other's messages. Once you advance further in the game, you can invade other people's worlds to either help or hinder their progress as you see fit, which will turn your character to good or evil depending on what you choose.
When talking about space and place, this game has a very unique gothic world which I do enjoy. Although I am not very emotionally invested in it, it is a very beautiful and dark world that invokes a good sense of wonder and amazement when setting your eyes upon it.
In terms of virtual agency, you cannot really effect the world in a very meaningful way like in Second Life, although you can choose which of the characters you encounter lives or dies, which does not effect the world in a very significant way.