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Life in your 30s

Sunday, March 4th, 2012

Posted by Tony Huynh.

I saw this topic on reddit written by reddit user Ass_Munch_Reborn and it reminded me of how good I’ve got it now that I’m in my 30s.

Damn it, this is the BEST time around.

It’s the best of all worlds. I still have the energy to hang with the 20 year olds, but I don’t have to eat top-ramen, worry about some stupid class, deal with stupid roommates or immature girls. I got money, an established career, and can really afford any creature comfort or any vacation I want. Basically – everything those young people are striving for.

I can also hang with the older crowd. I have all the things they have in terms of material goods, but shit, I still appreciates my new found semi-wealth. I can play with my friends babies when I need a baby fix. Go wine tasting with them. Whatever.

I am not beaten down by the world yet, but I have already gone through the Socially Awkward Penguin stage. I can discuss stock market trends and how to invest my 401(K) with some people, yet still kick it on reddit and enjoy stupid memes that would confuse 40 year olds. Let’s face it, I can watch DuckTales on an nostalgic, and ironic level. How awesome is that?

I play basketball at noon three times a week – but at work on a perfectly manicured campus. I have a fiancee who is cute and fun, but also mature enough to not have to worry about useless drama. I’m not scrambling around, trying to scare a career, but I still am learning quite a bit.

The worst is behind, and the best is yet to come.

Well, I admit, I did paint a rosy picture of myself that comes off as a little self-aggrandizing. But I guess it’s Saturday night, and I am feeling a bit philosophical. So, I will impart some words of wisdom that will most likely be savagely torn apart by obscure anecdotal evidence and bitter people, or hidden deep in this post.

So I will say this. When you are in your lates teens or early 20s, everyone is kind of the same. Poor, young, eager. You are a product of your parents and your genes.

When you hit 34, you are a product of your actions.

And I have a dichotomy of friends, those that succeeded, and those that failed. I guess I can say I succeeded. Anyway, I can see that patterns that emerged from “failures” and “successes”. I want to describe what makes a person a failure and a success (and these are the things that I wish someone told me earlier).

Characteristics of Failures at age 34:

  • Believe the world is rigged against them. The stock market is rigged against them – so they’ll never bother investing. Their genes make them fat – so why bother running. This country doesn’t do shit for the working class, so they’re doomed to fail. Being “poor” in your 20s is natural. Being “poor” in your 30s is a state of mind.
  • Do the minimum to get buy and don’t understand that much of the world’s success comes from doing what is right. They won’t stay after work to do an extra assignment to help someone. They never read a book that could be helpful in their career in their free time. They won’t volunteer their time or money to help a friend. They don’t realize that when you have good intentions ingrained into you, people notice, people pay you back, and you get ahead.
  • Believe they “deserve” everything. I’ve seen many a rel
  • ationship ruined by a demanding guy or girl who felt they deserved a Prince Charming or Super women who could didn’t exist, and then blame the opposite gender for being weird. Or, they deserve a promotion and they are underpaid, so they put in hardly any work because they feel slighted.

  • Stubborn and hardheaded. No one knows everything. We all have pre-conceived notions. The ones that stay in a rut always stick by their guns, even if they are wrong. The ironic thing is that most people claim they are “informed” and stick by their guns, in fact, purposely choose ignorance
  • These are the people who work shit jobs or are unemployed. Single or divorced. Poor or in debt. The worst part is, their actions only make their situation worse, because it also reinforces their own retarded hardheaded beliefs of a world against them denying them what they deserve.

    Charactics of Successes at age 34:

  • Natural curiosity and eagerness to learn. Why do I invest in the Stock Market? Because, fuck, I learned from the guy that created the “Binomial Option Pricing Model” to learn about derivatives. I realized that simply knowing the Security Market Line makes me more confident. When I am at work, and I see some new technology – fuck – I have to learn how to do it. I will spend my Saturday night learning web design (that is what I’m doing right now). That’s not even in my job description anymore. And all my friends who succeeded at work and in life? They do the same stuff. We are perpetual students.
  • Doing what is right is routine. This applies to your whole life. You make the bed in the morning, it means that you value your house, you value organization, you realize that a little bit of work goes a long way to bring order. All my loser friends have unkempt beds, all my successful friends have made beds. Exercise is routine. When you work out constantly, and you don’t exercise, you have feel just wrong. It’s that ingrained. Eating right becomes natural. If you treat friends’ right without any expectations in return, you will suddenly find that your friends will stick by you no matter what. You automatically save money each month, it just becomes routine, and there’s no sacrifice involved.
  • Believe they control their own destiny. They realize that while luck has a small part to play some of the time, it evens out over a lifetime. You work your ass off, it will pay off. You eat right and exercise; you will be slim, fit, and running circles around your fat 35 year olds. You tackle whatever faults you have, you will magically not have those at faults. Fuck, I’m doing that right now. I’m 34, and I’m heading to toastmasters because public speaking scares the shit out of me.
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    Posted in Investing, motivation | No Comments »

    God of War III (3) Combo Video and Damien Walters 2010 Demo Reel

    Monday, May 3rd, 2010

    Posted by Tony Huynh.

    God of War III Combo Video – Spartan Mayhem
    Really amazing God of War 3 Combo video that does a great job of showcasing how deep God of War III’s combat is. It’s well-edited and has some really good music to boot. My favorite part is when the player kicks the Oil Pot underneath the Minotaur while juggling him.

    Damien Walters 2010 Demo Reel
    This reel features the incredible Damien Walters in tumbling, stunts and freerunning. Definitely worth a watch.

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    Posted in Martial Arts, Video Games, film | No Comments »

    The Expendables Movie Trailer of 80s Awesomeness

    Thursday, April 1st, 2010

    Posted by Tony Huynh.

    I can’t believe my eyes!

    Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Steve Austin, Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger in the same movie? The 80s are back!

    No, this is not an April Fools joke.

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    Posted in film | No Comments »

    Greatest Video Game Trailers, God of War III (3) Release date and cover

    Sunday, January 31st, 2010

    Posted by Tony Huynh.
    If you haven’t already noticed, I would like to call your attention to the new WordPress Theme created by none other than the wonderful and talented Berenice Limon of BereDesign.com. I haven’t been posting because we’ve been in the final crazy stretch for God of War III (3) coming out this March 16, 2010. We’ve been all working a lot of late nights and weekends to make sure GoW3 is the conclusion that the God of War series deserves. The hectic schedule is finally beginning to wind down as we get closer and closer to the ship date.

    In another announcement, the box art is finalized for God of War III.

    God of War III God of War 3 Cover Art - Tony Huynh

    I know some of you may prefer to have a certain “other” cover for the game. If you are one of these people, you may want to grab your copy of God of War 1 and 2 and open the case and take out the cover. Now flip the cover around and you’ll notice that on the back is an alternate cover for the game. When you get God of War III, you may want to do the same thing.

    I also noticed that Amazon has a great deal on God of War III pre-orders. You can get the game for $57 and they’ll throw in a $10 gift card.

    Lastly, there are some great games coming out this first quarter and beyond and some really great game trailers to go with them. Here are a few of the standout trailers.

    Mass Effect 2 Launch Trailer
    Damn that’s a good soundtrack and I’m a sucker for good soundtracks.

    Red Dead Redemption Trailer
    This is the perfect trailer for a Western themed game. It’s surprising that so many western genre games miss on evoking what a western is about. It is about selling the setting and not the main character and always has been.

    These game trailers got me thinking about all the great video game trailers of the past. Here are a few of my favorites off the top of my head.

    Call of Duty 4 Modern Warfare 2K7 Trailer
    I like explosions.

    Silent Hill 2 E3 Trailer
    This is one messed up trailer, especially looking back on it now that I’ve played the game.

    Gears of War (Mad World)
    This trailer is made by the inspired choice in music.

    GranTurismo 5 Ferrari Tribute
    Damn this is a sexy trailer and a great accompanying song.

    World of Warcraft Cinematic Trailer
    Blizzard has been known for creating amazing cinematics and this is their crowning achievement.

    Mirror’s Edge Trailer
    Amazing soundtrack and innovative gameplay. The game wasn’t as good as I had hoped, but this trailer made the game an instant day one purchase for me.

    Halo 3: ODST Live Action Trailer
    Damned if Microsoft doesn’t know how to market a game. Truly successful trailers sell a feeling and a sense that the game is bigger than it is.

    Street Fighter IV Announcement Trailer
    Without any news on the actual game and this trailer the only thing to go by, I thought if they could make the game a 1/10th of how awesome this trailer was, I would be satisfied with Street Fight IV.

    Battlefield Bad Company – Snake Eyes
    I genuinely laughed when I saw this. Humor works.

    Grand Theft Auto IV: The Ballad of Gay Tony (There’s Always a Girl)
    Rockstar knows pop culture. When you can cut a great trailer with The Look from Roxette you’ve earned my respect and god damn it, there’s always a girl.

    Halo 2 Announce Trailer
    I remember sitting there in disbelief when I saw this trailer. It left a lasting impact especially for somebody who loved the first Halo as much as I did. What separates a great trailer is that it evokes a feeling of something bigger than the game itself. Halo 2’s advertising campaign did that and that’s why it is my favorite trailer.

    Hope you enjoyed the video game trailer blast.


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    Posted in Video Games, life | No Comments »

    How to Make Your Shooter Level Successful

    Thursday, June 4th, 2009



    Posted by Tony Huynh.
    What makes a first-person shooter level successful. While I can easily fill a few books with the answer to that question, I will instead narrow the focus to two aspects that I feel are important in the creation of a good level. The first is building and maintaining an interesting world and the second is to construct good pacing and varied player experiences. I will begin by defining these concepts and then use a walkthrough of Bioshock’s brilliant opening level Welcome to Rapture as an example of how to do both of these aspects well.

    Build and maintain interest in your world
    Story

    The first thing that builds interest in your world is story. Bioshock constructs a mystery story by asking questions and providing answers slowly. Mysteries not only build interest in your game, but also serve as an impetus to pull players forward through the game. A good mystery needs to strike a balance between asking questions and giving answers. Ken Levine stated, “We think of the mystery balloon, you have to tap it up to keep the audience interested, but if you tap it too high you’ll lose your audience… and if it gets too low. I underestimated the impact of resolving the ‘who is Andrew Ryan?’ question too early. We learned a big lesson there.” When the player is unraveling a mystery, interest is generated and maintained through making the player ask questions and slowly answering these questions as the player progresses. While questions are more interesting than answers, answers need to be doled out regularly to prevent the player from becoming frustrated and giving up. Giving too many answers solves the mystery which causes the story to lose its pull.

    Mise-en-scene and Set Dress
    Story can also be built through the use of mise-en-scene. Mise-en-scene literally means “putting on stage,” but in the case that I am using it now it is the placement and arrangement of set dress objects (signage, props, ragdolls, etc.) to tell a story. These little touches help flesh out the story and draw the audience into the world. Set dress and interesting things for the player to look at also serve to slow down the player and the pacing as the player will have to stop in order to look at them. Set dress objects are best served in areas that have low tension that do not provoke urgency for the player to move. I will be calling these instances out in the walkthrough of the level.

    Immersion
    Immersion is when players lose themselves and forget that they are playing a game. To do this successfully the level, AI and mechanics of the game have to look, behave and react as realistically as possible so that the player is not reminded that they are playing a game. Realistic water, particle and physics as well as AI that interact with each other and are doing things outside of waiting for the player to show up go a long way in selling a living world and creates an immersive experience. Bioshock also maintains its immersion by never breaking the first-person perspective. While this is a system and not a level mechanic, it is vitally important to how successfully Bioshock sustains the game’s immersion.

    One often overlooked way of supporting immersion are player objectives. When objectives make sense and are rational to what the player would do if placed in the same situation it helps greatly in maintaining immersion for the player. When objectives fail to make sense to the player, immersion is broken. While Bioshock generally does a good job with objectives, one example where it seemingly failed was the objective of stabbing yourself with a syringe and injecting yourself with an unknown substance (plasmid) in the level Welcome to Rapture. Although this action is explained later in the game, at the time I thought to myself why would any rational person do that? It tore away my immersion with the game, but was effective for the later story plot and was memorable because of how out of place it was.

    Varied Player Experiences
    The level Welcome to Rapture largely owes its success to how many different well-constructed player experiences it provides. Pacing, atmosphere and mood tie into player experiences directly. When players speak about pace, atmosphere and mood they are generally describing how they feel while they are playing. I will start by listing a few ways that a level can dictate the player’s experience and then go on to show how Bioshock’s opening level uses these elements to vary the experience for the player.

    Objectives
    Objectives can push the pacing of the level. An objective that is clearly defined and is rational for a person under the circumstances like Welcome to Rapture’s “get to higher ground” helps drive the player forward eagerly and with a purpose.

    Objectives not only impact immersion and pacing, but also the tone of a level. Compare the tone of “Escape from Rapture” and “Kill Andrew Ryan” and you can see how the tone has been changed. When the objective is to “escape,” it places the player in the role of the prey, while “killing” has the player in the role of the predator. In this instance the objective of “get to higher ground” and escape from Rapture helps support the type of frantic tone and mood that the developers intended for the beginning of the game.

    Setting
    Changing to different settings will help with both pacing and maintaining interest in your world. A new setting prevents visual fatigue and helps the player feel like they are making progress through the game. The more dramatic the shift in scenery the better. The shift in surroundings should make logical sense otherwise immersion will be broken. Note the frequency in which settings are changed in the first level of Bioshock.

    Tension Level
    Tension is the player’s perceived level of threat. There are a number of ways to manipulate tension levels as I will illustrate in the following sections. Keeping the tension level high is interesting and exciting for the player. However, keeping the tension high for an extremely long period of time without a periodic release causes the player to become numb and the tension will start to lose its power. Occasional releases in tension will actually ease a level designer’s ability to create tension.

    Physical Space and Lighting to Increase and Limit Options
    One of the most important tools in directing pace is the use of physical space and lighting. Tight linear corridors focus the player and create a faster pace by reducing the player’s options. On the other hand, larger spaces or spaces with multiple routes slow down the pace and promote decision-making and exploration. A proper mix of different sized spaces helps keep the experience varied.

    Lighting plays a large role in how large a space feels. Absence of light dissuades players from going to and exploring areas. A level designer or artist can actually shrink levels and spaces gameplay-wise by taking out lights on the periphery, thus creating a tighter and more directed path. Conversely, brightly lit rooms inherently feel safer and encourage players to linger for longer.

    Large elevation changes can inspire awe by enhancing drama and scale. Bioshock’s first level uses this technique to great effect in both the bathysphere ride down into Rapture as well as the elevator ride up to higher ground.

    Lighting and Color to Set Atmosphere and Mood
    As I have already mentioned brightly lit rooms tend to feel safer, conversely darker rooms promote a feeling of tension because the surroundings are unknown to the player. In general, levels in Bioshock are dark with contrastingly lit areas to enhance a feeling of paranoia and tension. Bioshock varies the level of tension by sprinkling in brightly lit rooms as a release and the occasional scripted event where the lights turn off altogether to dramatically ratchet up the tension.

    Mood can also be created with the color of the lighting and environments. People generally connect colors like red with danger, green with sickness and blue with security.

    Landmarks, Lighting and Audio to Direct Player Movement
    Landmarks, lights and audio can provide navigational reference points for the player and draw attention to specific areas of a space. The player will move towards a light, landmark or sound and then pause to take note of their surroundings before moving to the next navigational point. These guideposts can be used to encourage or discourage player movement and exploration; therefore they can greatly affect a scenario’s pace.

    Music and Audio
    Music and audio can be used to enhance the experience that the level designer intends for the player to have. Whether the mood you are trying to create is creepiness, action or awe, music and audio are very useful ways to help in achieving it.

    Item Collection
    Having an item collecting and scavenging mechanic like the one present in Bioshock will slow the player down and promote exploration. Limiting your player’s available ammo and health and constantly keeping them on the brink of running out raises tension.

    Wow Moments
    Large scale scripted events a.k.a. wow moments can raise a player’s excitement level and inspire a sense of awe. They are generally expensive from a production standpoint, but add a real punch to varying the player’s experience. The Call of Duty series is well known for exploiting the power of wow moments. Wow moments tend to slow players down as they watch the event unfold, but this is not necessarily always the case as I will point out in the level walkthrough.

    Combat
    Combat provides an easy way to raise the pace of a level. The player experience during combat needs to be mixed up to prevent boredom. There are many techniques to mix up combat, but for this article I will only touch on the introduction of new weapons and enemies. For more information on improving combat through variation please see my article “How to Improve Your Shooter Combat.”

    New Weapons
    New weapons extend the capabilities of players and offer a new experience for a period of time as the player experiments with the weapon to discover its strengths and limitations.

    New Enemies
    Together with new weapons, new enemies are some of the most important ways of changing the dynamic of combat. When faced with a new AI, players must experiment and discover the strengths and weaknesses of the new enemy. The player must then adjust their tactics to deal with the new threat. The new enemy AI offers scenario designers the opportunity to mix in the new enemy type with the already introduced AI thereby creating new variations on old encounters.

    Welcome to Rapture Walkthrough
    Airplane Cabin
    Narrative questions: Who am I? Where am I?
    Narrative answers: I am Jack. It is 1960. I’m on an airplane above the Atlantic.

    The first setting that the player is in is aboard an airplane. The scene begins with a shot of a smoke filled cabin of an airplane. The strangeness of this fact creates a moment of unease in the player. The player’s unease is lifted immediately when Jack raises a lit cigarette up and explains away the smoke. The sight of a person smoking inside of an airplane immediately roots the player firmly in the 1960 setting. Jack’s monologue and back story subdues the pace.

    Atlantic Ocean
    Narrative questions: What is a lighthouse doing in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean?
    Narrative answers: None

    The setting changes from the plane’s cabin to underwater for a few tense moments as the player watches in first-person as propeller blades and various other objects float through the scene and the player struggles to the surface of the water for air. The player associates the green water underneath the surface with a feeling of sickness. The setting transitions again to the surface of the ocean. The playable space here is small being hemmed in by fire and the path out is clearly marked. The opening in the surrounding fire beckons the player to keep moving. Fire races across the screen directing the player to look right to see the lighthouse landmark. The blinking light is another navigational cue to keep the player directed.
    Bioshock Underwater Green

    Lighthouse Interior
    Narrative questions: Who is Andrew Ryan? What is this place?
    Narrative answers: None

    Another big setting change occurs here as the player transitions from the water into the dark interior of the lighthouse. The door closes behind the player and the player is in near complete darkness. When the lights turn off the player will generally pause and stop. This creates a moment of tension and builds fear through the unknown. After the lights turn back on the pacing slows down. The space offers the player a lot of things to see like the Andrew Ryan bust and art deco wall decorations and consequently slows down the player. The brightly lit bathysphere draws the player to it.
    Bioshock Andrew Ryan Banner

    Bathysphere Ride
    Narrative questions: Why is there a city built underwater?
    Narrative answers: The lighthouse is an entrance to the city of Rapture. Rapture is a utopian city based off of objectivism founded by Andrew Ryan.

    Lots of exposition by Andrew Ryan answers questions regarding the founding of Rapture. The bathysphere ride is designed to inspire awe and wonderment for the city of Rapture. As I mentioned before, changes in altitude can aid in selling drama and scale. The blue surroundings of the ocean and city promote a mood of security. The ride accomplishes the mood and atmosphere of awe through the use of music, changes in altitude and a synched to music beautiful reveal shot.

    The first clue that something might be amiss is when the sign “All good things of this Earth flow into this city” blinks and shorts out.

    Bioshock Bathysphere Ride Blue

    First Encounter
    Narrative questions: What happened here? How did Rapture meet its downfall? Why did that mutated freak kill that Johnny? Who is Atlas? Why is Atlas helping me?
    Narrative answers: None

    The tension and pace here is ratcheted up incredibly high in a hurry. There are a number of reasons for this that I will call out specifically.

    The Spider Splicer is revealed. A blinking light gives the player brief glimpses of a Spider Splicer killing a man with hooked weapons. Following that the Splicer leaps atop the bathysphere and attempts to penetrate the hull of the vessel to attack the player before giving up and leaping into the darkness. The bathysphere’s door opens and the unarmed player is told by Atlas to keep moving and to “get to higher ground”.

    Getting to higher ground is a reasonable objective considering that the player just witnessed the Spider Splicer gruesomely murder a man and the player has no weapons. This makes the pacing and tension high, which is a good change from the awe inducing bathysphere ride into Rapture.

    Outside the door of the bathysphere the tight linear corridors reinforce the fast pace implied by the objective. It does this by focusing the player and reducing their options. The space is shrunk further by being darkly lit with the exception of the intended path. The absence of light on the edges of the space makes it feel tighter than it actually is and the darkness dissuades players from going to and exploring areas.

    The mood is even tenser because of the disappearance of the Spider Splicer. Audio is used to great effect here in creating a sense of tension. The player is able to hear the Spider Splicer singing and taunting the player, but the Splicer is nowhere in sight. A blinking television screen serving as a navigation marker draws the player to it. Here the player pauses to assess the situation, but not for too long because of the implied danger. A light turns on showing the Spider Splicer. He is chased off by a security bot relieving the tension. With the Spider Splicer gone, the pace lowers and the new light draws the player to the next area. The player is given a safe environment to go through the Jump, Pick Up and Melee tutorials, which is a release and slows the pacing down further.

    The arranged protest signs placed outside of the bathysphere serving as clues of dissention against Andrew Ryan are lost on the vast majority of users because the perceived danger from the Spider Splicer above, the tight corridors and blinking light from the TV cause tension to be high and the player to be directed. The player is encouraged to move fast out of this space. To really get the point across I would have placed more signs closer to the flashing television screen. Players tend to stop moving to take in their surroundings once they reach a destination.

    Bioshock Protest Signs

    Desk on Fire
    Narrative questions: None
    Narrative answers: None

    The flaming desk pushed down the stairs scripted event raises the tension and pace. Combat with the Splicer keeps the pace high. After he is defeated the pace drops back down.

    Gatherer’s Garden Room
    Narrative questions: What is wrong with everybody here? Who is that little girl and big guy with the drill?
    Narrative answers: Plasmids give the player powers.

    The physical space of this room is wider than the previous room. The size of the space coupled with the scavenging mechanic promotes exploration and slows down the pace. The sparking electricity on the door draws the player’s attention to it, but the player quickly realizes that the door is not yet an exit. The use of audio calls from behind the player helps them pinpoint the location of the Gatherer’s Garden vending machine. The giant arrowed plasmid sign does not hurt either. As I previously mentioned the objective of stabbing and injecting yourself with an unknown substance breaks the immersion. The first-person cinema creates tension because the player is helpless to defend themselves and his life is threatened twice during the sequence. The Little Sister and Big Daddy are introduced. The Electrobolt Plasmid is introduced.

    Tube Flooding Wow Moment
    Narrative questions: None
    Narrative answers: None

    While most wow moments slow the pacing of the game down as players stop to observe these events, the plane crashing into the tube actually raises the sense of urgency by giving the player the feeling that they are in danger.

    The linear corridor presents few options and keeps the player moving. The tension is amped up by the cracks appearing on the glass wall and vault door buckling followed by water pouring through the cracks. All of these events imply danger and encourage constant movement by the player. The realistic water effects preserve the immersion. This wow moment does the job of creating a memorable and exciting scene that varies the player’s experience.

    Bioshock Tube Flooding Wow Moment

    One-Two Punch Tutorial
    Narrative questions: None
    Narrative answers: None

    Entering into this room the player will see that the room is bathed in red light, which warns the player of danger. Combat ensues and the pace is raised for its duration. The arrangement of the corpse underneath pouring water with the protest sign, briefcase and liquor beside him tells a story and keeps player interested in the world.

    Bioshock Mise-en-scene

    Elevator Crash
    Narrative questions: None
    Narrative answers: None

    Once inside this room the player will see an elevator crashing. This wow moment slows down the pacing. A brief combat encounter with a man on fire ups the tempo for a short time. The space opens up into a well-lit larger room. Larger spaces have more area to explore and slow down the pacing and well-lit rooms promote players lingering in a place for longer.

    Elevator Ride Up
    Narrative questions: None
    Narrative answers: Atlas is helping the player because his family is trapped and he needs the player’s help to free them.

    The elevator ride provides an opportunity to update the objectives as well as remind the player of the scale of Rapture. The altitude change emphasizes scale and drama. Music is incorporated to sell this awe factor. The player’s objective is updated from a plea by Atlas to go to Neptune’s Bounty to rescue his wife and daughter. This objective will set the stage for animosity between the player and Andrew Ryan when Ryan kills Atlas’ family, thereby easing the player into accepting (as not to break immersion) their next objective and the tone change that accompanies “kill Andrew Ryan.” The overall objective of escape from Rapture still stands.

    Bioshock Elevator Ride Up

    Baby Carriage
    Narrative questions: None
    Narrative answer: The inhabitants of Rapture were driven insane by the use of plasmids.

    Here the player finds a brief scripted moment where a woman is hovering over a baby carriage and singing a lullaby. The shadow of the female Splicer and baby carriage are splashed along the wall and can be seen well before the actual Splicer and carriage. The shadow forewarns the player and allows them to stop and become a voyeur. By listening to the lullaby and woman speaking to the baby carriage the player witnesses the extent in which plasmids have deranged the populace. Eventually the player must engage in combat with the Splicer. This scripted event hints that there is a living breathing city here and maintains the immersion.

    The pistol is introduced.

    Bioshock Baby Carriage Splicer Shadow

    Kashmir Restaurant
    Narrative questions: What happened here?
    Narrative answers: There was an attack by Fontaine’s men on New Year’s Eve.

    When the player enters into the Kashmir restaurant they find a male Splicer banging on a door and in an argument with a female Splicer. This is another very simple scripted event that goes a long way in building the player’s interest in Rapture. It gives the illusion of a living world by giving AI lives outside of waiting for the player to show up.

    The Kashmir restaurant is a wide space that has many items for the player to collect and a lot of things to look at, which slows down the pace.

    There are not many outward signs that anything bad has happened here until you go downstairs. The music is playing and the place is decorated festively. Bright colors, party hats and balloons that pop and leave behind a shower of confetti are scattered about the room. This room’s festive décor is in stark contrast to the previous environments and is a nice setting change.

    After the Splicer and his wife are dealt with the pace slows. The ghost in the bathroom keeps the player vested in the story. The Splicer in the bathroom stall punches the pace up with combat for a short while. The signs of battle are much more prevalent down stairs. Signs here are askew, the lack of lights in the kitchen make it really foreboding. Within the kitchen is a man slumped over with a cash register. The player can start to invent their own stories about him. The Electrobolt plasmid with water tutorial takes place. Violin music adds to the sense of foreboding.

    Bioshock Kashmir Restaurant

    Footlight Theater
    Narrative questions: None
    Narrative answers: Questions about the relationship between the Big Daddy and Little Sister and their purpose are answered.

    When the player enters into this area they will see a Little Sister and notice that the room is a bright crimson red because of the carpeting. This helps the player to make the connection that the Little Sister is dangerous. Exposition regarding the relationship of the Little Sister to the Big Daddy and how they fit into Rapture’s ecology is explained. Combat with two Splicers again raises the tempo. There is another pre-fight scripted event of two Splicers looting the Big Daddy’s corpse and more combat. There is a drop down here which prevents the player from backtracking, thereby keeping the player more directed.

    Bioshock Little Sister

    Rapture Metro
    Narrative questions: Why is Andrew Ryan against me?
    Narrative answers: None

    There is sustained combat here. Access to Neptune’s Bounty is shut off by Andrew Ryan. A frantically voiced Atlas tells you to get to Neptune’s Bounty by way of Medical. The objective to get to medical happens because Andrew Ryan has prevented you from getting to your destination. This builds animosity with Andrew Ryan and sets the player up against the antagonist and prepares the player for the next overarching objective of killing Andrew Ryan. If the objective from the start is to kill Andrew Ryan who has not opposed the player in at least a few turns then you will lose the buy-in of your player and immersion will be broken.

    Andrew Ryan’s Trap
    Narrative questions: None
    Narrative answers: Andrew Ryan is trying to kill the player because he believes he is from the KGB or FBI.

    When the player enters into this room Andrew Ryan closes and locks the door on the player. The lights turn off and the player is in darkness for a short time for an immediate rise in tension. Following this Andrew Ryan speaks to the player accusing them of being from the KGB or CIA. There is implied danger to create additional tension when the Splicers try to break through the windows. The level ends when the door is opened by Atlas and the tension is relieved with the player being given an exit.

    Conclusion
    Welcome to Rapture is a successful level because it builds an interesting and immersive world and pays attention to constructing a variety of complete player experiences. By going through the walkthrough of the level, one can see just how many techniques are being used to direct the player experience. Although from a production standpoint it is expensive to pack so many setting changes, scripted events, wow moments, new enemies and weapons into a single level, there are many ways to direct the player experience less expensively. The important takeaway is that a big part of a level’s success depends on the player’s experience and to occasionally change the current experience to keep the level fresh and enjoyable.

    See my other related articles:
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    What’s Bad About Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Multiplayer Mode?
    Call of Duty: World at War Through the Eyes of a Game Designer
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