Faculty of HumanitiesEssay 2: The Influence of the Development of Technology on Video Games: Comparing and Contrasting Two Video Games Separated by a Decade.
Name: Christine Michele Gouws
Student Number: GWSCHR002
Course Name: Discourse of Art 2
Due Date: 15 September 2008
1. I know that plagiarism is wrong. Plagiarism is to use another’s work and to pretend that it is one’s own.
2. I have used the Harvard System convention for citation and referencing. Each significant contribution to, and quotation in, this essay from the work, or works, of other people has been acknowledged through citation and referencing.
3. This essay is my own work.
4. I have not allowed, and will not allow, anyone to copy my work with the intention of passing it off as his or her own.
5. I have done the word processing and formatting of this assignment myself. I understand that the correct formatting is part of this mark for this assignment and that it is therefore wrong for another person to do it for me.___________________ ___________________
Signature DateEssay 2: The Influence of the Development of Technology on Video Games: Comparing and Contrasting Two Video Games Separated by a Decade.
When dealing with the development of technology and its impact on gaming, I believe that it is valid to compare and contrast two similar games that are separated by at least a decade. In this essay I have decided to focus on the video games Alone in the Dark 1 of 1992 and Resident Evil 4 of 2007.
In terms of technological development, what immediately came to mind was Fenty’s (2008:2) article on video gaming, in which he states that ‘the advances in computer power – which in part have been driven by our desire to play more advanced games- have pushed the medium from its simple blocky two-dimensional graphics and synthetic blips and beeps to richly rendered, photo-realistic, interactive, three-dimensional environments.’
I believe that the two games which I have selected are a rather good example of the advancement of which Fenty speaks, in that when comparing these two games, it becomes apparent that there are obvious differences, especially in terms of quality and graphical realism. While Resident Evil is very realistic and has good quality graphics, Alone in the Dark lacks in these areas. However, one must also look at the years in which these games were created and realize that since the year 1992, technology has now become very advanced in comparison. In the 1960’s, the first computers were large enough to fill an entire room. And only by the year 1994, according to Kline (2003:143) had a small 24 percent of US households owned a personal computer, of which even less than ten percent had the CD-ROM players that we think of today as vital for gaming.
Also when we think of the fact that only in 1994, according to Kent (2001:199), the first Sony Play Station was to be launched, the graphics and quality of a game such as Alone in the Dark, don’t seem that bad for its time.
In actual fact, in his analysis of Alone in the Dark 1, Prons (2008:1) states that Alone in the Dark was one of the first fully-polygonal (meaning a many-sided figure: a two-dimensional geometric figure formed of three or more straight sides) games in general, notable for providing the player with a character that could manipulate objects in the surrounding environment and for providing a wide range of 3 dimensional characters and creatures to interact with. Aside for this new revelation in terms of graphics, Alone in the Dark ushered a new dawn of gaming, which revolutionised the use of fear as a tool to manipulate and engage the emotions of the player, and bringing sheer terror to gamers around the world (Reed, 2008). According to some passionate game players such as Thillian (2008), even to date, Alone in the Dark 1 is said to be one of the top ten scariest games to have been created.
When comparing and contrasting the two games, I believe that their differences and similarities can be divided into two main categories, namely: due to chosen differences in terms of story line, and due to advancements in technology.
What makes Alone in the Dark and Resident Evil similar is the fact that they are both of the same genre. According to Prons (2008:2), the survival horror genre of video gaming was coined by Alone in the Dark in 1992, and set the standard for later survival horror games such as Resident Evil. However, there is a major difference in that Resident Evil 4 is classified as a survival horror, third person shooter game; therefore combat plays the major role. While Alone in the Dark 1 classifies as a survival horror adventure game, therefore puzzle solving, exploring and searching for clues are the main focus of the game. And combat only plays a minor role in game play. Therefore in terms of weaponry, Resident evil has a large variety of weapons to choose from, while in Alone in the Dark 1, weaponry is basically limited to a rifle and pistol.
In terms of the plot, Alone in the Dark 1 was inspired by the mythological work of the 1920’s American horror writer H.P Lovegood. The game serves as a constant reference to the famous Cthulhu Mythos, which according to Morales (2007:2) is the term to describe the shared themes, characters, and elements in Lovecraft’s work. In the beginning of the game one has the option of choosing between two characters to play: Private detective Edward Carnby (male) or a female relative of the dead owner, Emily Hartwood. The game doesn’t change at all if you choose one character over the other, so basically you choose whether you want to be a man or woman. I chose Carnby, the ‘Private Eye’ who agrees to take the job because he needs money to pay his bills, as he has been out of work for some time. He receives a letter from a Gloria Allan who instructs Carnby to go and inspect the house. She will pay him $150 and gives him the key to the house. She also informs him that the prior owner, Jemery Hartwood hanged himself in the attic. The police conclusion was madness. Carnby then drives to the house and walks to the front door. At first sight of the house the player immediately becomes aware of the creepy nature of the game. The house is large and old; the sky is dark and gloomy. A dog howls and an owl hoots. As Carnby opens the front door it creaks, as do all the doors in the house, as well as the floor boards. The door slams shut behind him. The creaking sounds definitely add to this sense of uneasiness. As Carnby reaches the attic we remember the fact that the owner hanged himself in this exact place in the house. Basically from here your mission is to collect manuscripts and books from around the house in order to gain clues about this mysterious house and its history, as well as the reason for Jeremy Hartwood’s suicide.
Aside from the paperwork, there are many other objects which your character can collect, including weapons and handy accessories such as an oil lamp which is used to see in the dark. During your inspection of the house your character has to solve puzzles, while fighting off various monsters and zombies. The ghosts just need to be avoided, so one has to sneak past them quietly. Rats and spiders are also dangerous, so avoid those. Toward the end of the game you are faced with a swordfight against a sea captain, as well as having to avoid water monsters who roam in the depths beneath the house. Eventually the riddle is solved and Carnby learns the truth about the Derceto mansion and its evil forces. He is now able to kill Ezechiel Pregzt (main boss) and break the evil curse forever.
While the plot of Alone in the Dark is based on myth and fantasy, Resident Evil 4 is based on a more realistic situation in that your character works for the President of the United States and is on a mission to rescue the President’s daughter. The game begins with an intro in which the main character, Leon Kennedy gives a brief background about the occurrences in the previous Resident Evil games. He talks of the year 1998 in which grizzling murders occurred in the Arkley Mountains. He continues to explain that soon after this event, the news was out to the whole world, revealing that it was the fault of a secret viral experiment conducted by the International Pharmaceutical Enterprise, Umbrella. The virus broke out in a nearby mountain community, Raccoon City. And hit the peaceful town with a devastating blow, crumpling its foundation. Not taking any chances, the president of the United States ordered a contingency plan to sterilize Raccoon city. With the whole affair going public the United States ordered an indefinite suspension of business decree to Umbrella. Soon its stock prices crashed and for all intents and purposes, umbrella was finished.
Leon goes on to inform us that it is now six years later and that he had received special training at a secret organisation, working under direct control of the president. He was to assume the responsibility of protecting the president’s family. His assignment is to search for the presidents missing daughter. Apparently she was being withheld by some unidentified group of people.
This is basically where the game begins, when you/Leon are abandoned by your two Mexican drivers in a very terrifying forest, where you are to find a village. You soon become aware of the fact that the villages are all zombified. What you must do from here is to collect ammunition, health, valuable objects and money. Survive the zombies and follow the clues in the letters which you collect in order to find the president’s daughter.
In other words, while the main objective of the character in Alone in the Dark is to solve mysteries in order to escape the house, the character’s mission in Resident Evil is that of a hero who must fight in order to save the ‘damsel in distress.’ In Alone in the Dark, one is compelled to read a lot of books and manuscripts in order to find clues, these reading pieces are often very long and can become frustrating when all that one wants to do is to play the game. While when playing Resident Evil, one will only read a note now and then. These notes are rather short and summarised which makes the game far more enjoyable. Also, in place of all the reading pieces, in Resident Evil you are in contact with the administration office by means of a telecommunication device. You talk to an officer named Hunnigan who helps you with regard as to where you have to go in the game.
Advancements in Technology:
When comparing the system requirements of both the games, advancements in technology becomes visible:
|Processor||RAM||Free Hard Drive Space|
|System requirements for Alone in the Dark||16 MHz||640 kilobytes||5 MB|
|System requirements for Resident Evil 4||1 GHz Pentium Processor 3 or AMD Athlon (or better)||256 megabytes(512m recommended)||1.2 GB minimum|
(table 1)According to Builld-Your-Own-Computer-Tips.com (2006:1), Moore's Law from 1975 predicts that processing power should double every 2 years. Currently, an average CPU can have processing speeds from about 2.0 GHz (hertz has become the primary unit of measurement used to determine the speed of a CPU) to 3.4 GHz, with the manufacturers fast approaching the 4.0 GHz mark (Builld-Your-Own-Computer-Tips.com, 2006:1).
When dealing with the availability of RAM (which is the acronym for Random Access Memory and is a form of computer data storage) it should be noted that only 32 kilobytes to 64 kilobytes (1 kilobyte = 10241 bytes) was available in popular machines of the 1980’s, such as the Sinclair Spectrum and BBC Micro, while modern video game machines such as the Play Station 2 and Xbox have 64 megabytes (1 megabyte = 10242 bytes) of RAM as standard (Rutter & Bryce, 2006:25).
Because of a greater availability of RAM and Hard drive space, as well as increased processing speed, modern video game machines and computers are capable of dealing with a far larger amount of information, as well as being able to process this information at a far greater speed. Thus, resulting in the fact that modern video games are able to operate at a greater pace and have advantages over older games such as complex camera angles, a larger amount of characters, the addition of video footage, better animation, more realistic and detailed graphics, better sound effects, and increased game length.
When dealing with the pace of video games, according to Kine (2003:143) the constant development of new computer processors, give home computers constantly improving performance levels that rival the ability of previous versions to handle fast-paced action. As seen in table 1, the required processing speed for Resident Evil is far greater than Alone in the Dark, thus Resident Evil is able to have a far faster pace as compared to Alone in the Dark. This fast pace is necessary for third person shooters in that it adds to the adrenaline rush of the player.
In terms of point of view / camera angles, although Resident Evil is essentially a third person perspective game, in certain tasks the game also offers the player a first person view when using a specific weapon. As explained by King and Krzywinska (2006:116) this function of a first person point of view offers the player a more subjective involvement within the game, while also implicating the player in the actions performed and a stronger player immersion in the game space. This in turn provides the player with a more realistic experience, while Alone in the Dark does not have such an option.
Further, according to King and Krzywinska (2006:118), suspense can also be created more immediately in third-person games such as Resident Evil, that use fixed, pre-set viewpoints rather than creating the illusion of a camera fixed always behind or above the avatar.
In terms of character quantity, in Alone in the Dark 1, the character is almost always presented with only one monster or zombie in each room, but in Resident Evil 4 one is faced with extreme amounts of zombies (known as Gondors in Resident Evil) and creatures simultaneously. It could be argued that this is because of the fact that the creators of Alone in the Dark simply chose not to invade the house with countless monster enemies. However, I believe that it is rather because at the time it would have taken an unnecessary amount of time and effort when dealing with the limited computer applications.
When comparing the quality of animation, Resident Evil presents the gamer with cut scenes, during which the actual characters act out the specific dialogue to fit the cut. As the characters talk, their mouths move perfectly in time to the words. A great difference can be seen with regard to the intro of the two games. Alone in the Dark presents us with a still shot of Detective Carnby / Emily Hartwood (depending on who you choose to be) on the right hand side of the screen and the letter which the character receives on the left (image 1. shows the characters as depicted in this scene). This letter is basically a brown piece of paper on which the words appear, while a voice recites this letter simultaneously. However, when watching the intro to resident evil, we find that the graphics and dialogue is so good that one feels as though this could almost be an actual filmed scene. In actual fact, the graphics of Resident Evil as a whole, I believe, are so advanced that everything looks very real.
In terms of realism, an example which I find rather amusing is the way in which the creatures / zombies disintegrate in Alone in the Dark. When a creature is beaten / dies, it morphs into many variously sized, purple ball shaped objects which rise up towards the ceiling, thus, very unrealistically resembling purple smoke. While in Resident Evil most of the creatures turn to dust on the ground, and that’s if one even bothers to take the time to watch your grotesque victim disintegrate. Another one of the many examples is the way in which the main characters, Edward Carnby (Alone in the Dark, image 2) and Leon Kennedy (Resident Evil, image 4 & 5) are rendered, it’s almost like comparing a Lego man and a Michelangelo sculpture. While Carnby is very block like and unattractive with his green blazer, triangularly stiff bowtie and moustache, Leon is very realistic and attractive with his ash blonde hair, blue eyes, beautiful facial features and very manly, well built body.
It’s also rather interesting to note the way in which game creators of the modern age take full advantage of the opportunity to depict rather sexualized characters. Not only does the game include Leon, who is an absolute ‘hunk,’ but also the very beautiful President’s daughter, Ashley Graham (image 6.), who wears a tight fitting top, short skirt and leather boots. She is very much like Paris Hilton in terms of looks and attitude. Also, one must take into account the very sexy Ada Wong (image 7.) dressed in her glamorous red dress with its open back and large slit along the side of the leg, which continues high enough in order to reveal a ‘thigh band’ in which a knife is kept.
In terms of sound, Alone in the Dark features a range of simplistic, melodic beeping sounds, an owl hooting, a dog howling. While Resident Evil has a large range of different eerie musical tracks which play depending on where the character is in the game. One can even hear the sound of rain sometimes, leaves rustle as you walk past them, and the sound of wind is ever present. I cant remember that there was any dialogue in Alone in the Dark, but the dialogue of Resident Evil is very well done and realistic, even when comparing Resident Evil 4 with the first Resident Evil, one notices that the quality of the dialogue is far improved.
In conclusion it can be said that when dealing with technological development and its impact on video games, we live in a time in which technology is constantly evolving and becoming more advanced. While video games and consoles of the past have become obsolete, it must be remembered that without what we have learnt from these past experiences and experiments, we would not have the advancements that we have today. And I hope that by means of this essay, by looking at the games of the past and comparing them to present games, we can come to realise just how much our world has advanced within the last ten years.
Builld-Your-Own-Computer-Tips.com. 2006. Definition of a Computer Processor. [Online]. Available: www.build-your-own-computer-tips.com/64-32-bit-processors.html [2008, September 14]
Fenty, S. 2008. Old School is ‘Cool’: A Brief Analysis of Classic Video Game Nostalgia. In Playing the Past: History and Nostalgia in Video Games. Whalen, Z. & Taylor, L. N, Eds. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press.
Kent, S.L. 2001. The Ultimate History of Video Games. New York: Three Rivers press.
Kine, S. 2003. Digital Play: The Interaction of Technology, Culture and Marketing. Canada: McGill-Queens University Press.
King, G & Krzywinska, T. 2006. Film Studies and Digital Games in Understanding Digital Games. London: SAGE Publications Ltd. 113-127.
Kirriemuir, J. 2006. A History of Digital Games in Understanding Digital Games. Rutter, J & Bryce, J. Eds. London: SAGE Publications Ltd. 21-31.
Morales, J. 2007. Cthulhu Files. [Online]. Available: http://cthulhufiles.com/ [2008, September 11].
Prons, A. 2008. Alone in the Dark: Ahead of its Time. [Online]. Available: http://www.giantbomb.com/alone-in-the-dark/ [2008, September 11].
Reed, K. 2008. Hands On: Alone in the Dark. [Online]. Available: http://www.eurogamer.net/article.php?article_id=220284 [2008, September 11].
Thillian, T. 2008. World of Warcraft: General Discussion. [Online]. Available: http://www.mmorpg.com/discussion2 [2008, September 11].