Wednesday 20 February, 2008
Gamelog Entry #1:
Summary- In Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, the player controls a gangster named "CJ" in Los Angeles in the 1990's. Upon CJ's return to the hood, he notices that things have changed since he left for Liberty City. The player decides to clean up the hood and restore it to its former glory, as well as avenge the murder of his mother. With each completed objective, CJ is rewarded with deadlier weaponry and more territory to control within the inner-city. This objective is to complete all of the missions and make the rival gang's territories your own. This gives the player greater stamina, power, and weaponry within the game and allows CJ to eventually control the whole city.
Gameplay- Traditionally, the game is enjoyed for the freedom it gives players to create their own objectives outside of the missions because of the RPG format. However, I stuck specifically to the missions in this first session. In the storyline, you discover that CJ's mother has been killed, which changes the actions of CJ from petty and self-indulging to vengeful. My emotional state while playing the game was engaged and exhilerated. What led to this were the various objectives being asked of me. The objective to murder a rival gang member and control their territory filled me with blood-lust. The objective left me excited because it was not a typical murder for a video-game, but rather a more realistic one involving a gang street-shooting.
The missions are handed down to CJ at various times throughout the game and can be completed in a non-linear order. The many characters that CJ meets and the non-linear order of the levels allows the gameplay to vary greatly from player to player. In my experience, my emotional state while playing the levels was typically curious and free. The RPG format and expansive map allows the player to move freely throughout the levels and truly explore them. The lack of a time constriction gave me the opportunity to complete levels at my leisure and made the game play more enjoyable because the player feels truly in control of CJ's life. My emotional state while playing the game was engaged because the game feels more like an interactive movie than a video game at times. The characters in the game are well done. They have varying personalities that reflect their positions in the San Andreas society. The drug dealers are nervous and un-trusting, the gangsters are tough people of few words, the boss has a big booming voice. The way these personalities interact in the cut scenes make the game seem more realistic and give it more depth. There is chemistry between CJ and the peripheral passer-by characters as well. This makes the game truly feel like its own world with infinite possibilities and definetly put me in the magic circle while playing. These interactions add emotional depth to the game by introducing comedic and tragic elements.
The game's story and narrative progression intertwine well with the mission objectives. The game's story is essentially CJ's life. The narrative progression as CJ moves from the hood to other areas of the city establishes a solid character development within the game world. CJ is treated with more respect as he earns more money and territory. He changes clothing, vehicules and even his home as he progresses through society and the game's levels. The narrative progression works well because it strongly reflects the game's reward system. The story progresses as CJ progresses through San Andreas society. The game was interesting and extremely fun to play. This is chiefly due to the non-linear format of the RPG game that allows the player to move and act freely within the game world. Sure there are objectives, but one does not need to complete them at all to enjoy the game.
The game is interesting because you can live vicariously through the character CJ. Anyone who has ever wanted to steal a car, kill a cop, sell drugs or shoot a rival gang member can experience it through CJ. The game is interesting because it allows the player to live out some of their deepest desires without the ramifications of real-life prison sentancing or death. The flow of the game is truly remarkable because of the intimate details that are included in the surroundings. The sun rises and sets on a schedule, the maps and cities seguey flawlessly into one another. There are freeways, backroads and different types of vehicules. There are unique radio stations that the player can change while driving. Every building can be entered into and explored. The countless side missions also add to the flow of the game, as players can improve CJ's stamina at the gym, his sex appeal with his tatoos, hairstyle, clothing and nearly every aspect of his life. What contributes mainly to the flow of the game is how realistic and limitless the gameworld is within San Andreas.
Gamelog Entry #2:
Gameplay- In my second session I decided to attempt some of the side-missions of the game. This included robbing houses, doing vigilante police work and tagging graffitti for my gang. CJ's character has developed with the progression of levels. He now has a new house and a new girlfriend which he bought with the money he earned through completion of missions. This part of the game took me to the countryside where CJ has to interact with red-neck characters, instead of gangsters. CJ now lives in a run-down trailer and robs convenience stores and steals farm equipment. This demonstrates the progression element of the game and gives an example of how diverse the game's interactive elements can be.
My emotional state while playing this time was more liberated and frenetic. Without the constraints of the "level" progression, I allowed CJ to steal cars and kill random passer-bys. This does not add to the progression of the story, but allows the player to explore the infinite possibilities of murder and theft in the gameworld. As a result, I got tired of killing strangers and evading police after some time and returned to the side missions. The new characters and scenery provide a fresh twist to the missions. The game is interesting to play because of the expansive levels that allow CJ to move from environment to environment. The flow is so smooth in the gameworld because each new city is unique. The cities all have different vehicules, characters and buildings in addition to geography which make them feel appropriate in the gameworld.
Design- The main design element of the game, which make it such a success is the freedom that the player has over CJ. He can enter into restaurtants, gyms, malls and other establishments that have no bearing on the game's progression or missions. This non-linear branch allows the game to feel new and fresh everytime it is played because there is no one correct way to beat the levels. Another design element of the RPG world is the expansiveness of the levels which allow the player to explore the massive gameworld. The game provides a good balance of challenges both within the level progression and outside of the main objectives. If you steal a car, a cop will try and arrest you. If you kill that cop, then more and more show up until the player is apprehended or dead. There is no action in the game that is not met with a challenge. Even doing nothing in the game results in CJ gaining weight, loosing his street respect and loosing speed.
The game makes great use of space within the gameworld because the player can explore the space on foot or in vehicules. The large assortment of motorcycles, cars, ambulances and tanks allow the player to cover the massive amount of space in whatever style he/she chooses to. Space is filled with buildings and freeways in the cities and trees and vegetation in the countryside. The levels feel large, yet appropriately filled because of this. No screen ever feels empty or blank. One thing that is frusturating about the game is the aiming mechanism for combat. It is extremely difficult to shoot specific locations of vehicules or enemies because of the auto-aim feature. More attention should be paid to the manuel firing aspect of the game. Another problem is that your vehicule disappears whenever you change screen shots. This means the player can spend a lot of money and time finding a vehicule that disappears when he goes into a building. This can be very frustrating at times when you are in the countryside and must traverse a large amount of land on foot.
The reward system in the game is extremely effective and one of the most successful design elements of the game. The wide scope of game play allows for different rewards based on CJ's surroundings. In the hood, CJ is rewarded with respect. This respect alters the way character interactions occur and can result in CJ earning more money and weapons. He can use this to buy cars, clothing and ammo for his missions. The reward system for killing someone is a weapon, while tagging a neighborhood results in respect and the support of your fellow gang members. Money is a truly effective reward in the game because it can be spent on anything. This freedom to spend greatly influences the reward system because different players will desire different objects in CJ's life. Whether a new house or a hooker, the reward system is effective because of the freedom each player has to choose his reward. Thus, the reward adapts to each player's interests and is a truly innovative element of the game.
The cut scenes in the game are well done and well spaced within the missions so that they do not interfere with the flow of the game. The voices of CJ and the other characters are appropriately represented in these scenes. The break in progression to give a background for a mission furthers the game's narrative progression and allows the player to get to know the characters better. This character development is strengthened by the cut-scenes and makes the gameplay more significant because of the player/character relationship. The cut scenes as well shift the perspective to third person and alloow the player to see if CJ needs a haircut or some new clothes, etc. They as well provide an outside perspective of CJ and remove the player very briefly from the persona of CJ. This is probably a good thing considering the murder and theft being committed in the game. These cut scenes serve to ground the storyline and remind people that indeed, it is just a game and not real-life. A well-designed and fun game to play for everyone who thinks they are mature enough.