Author Archive

Narrative and Space in LaLaLand

Posted: February 19, 2013 by smaloney2013 in Uncategorized

L.A. Noire’s narrative is its strongest aspect.  I couldn’t resist, so I read the entire storyline of the game online before completing it myself.  As a film major who is constantly analyzing stories, I was very impressed by its climactic and resolute elements.  That being said, I think I enjoy reading it more than playing it.

Other students who are playing this game have made this point already, but it deserves repeating.  The embedded elements of L.A. Noire far outweigh its emergent narrative elements.  The emergent elements allow for interaction up to a point.  Sometimes, the narrative makes the clues painstakingly obvious through narrative descriptors when the game feels like you’ve gone adrift.  Even if the interview goes horrible, there is still fruit to bear that will help in solving the case.  Not to mention the fact that it forces you to redo the mission if you fail horribly.  

Cutscenes are the game’s strength.  Rarely, if ever, do they reflect the actions of the player leading up to that point in the narrative.  The result is a faux-sandbox game where free-will is limited.  Sometimes, completed goals do not reward the player, but the narrative, making for an experience that is slightly more difficult than watching a movie.

(I can’t figure out screenshots. Next week, I promise.)

Coloring Outside the Lines

Posted: February 10, 2013 by smaloney2013 in Uncategorized

This week, I explored the five different player types in LA Noire, as well as exhibiting degenerate and exploitive strategies.  This mostly consisted of actions taken in street missions, like shoot-outs and chasing after a robber.  I attempted the same mission repeatedly to ensure my experiment was thorough.

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This game, like most games, is very supportive of the normal player.  In a shoot-out, I only took secure, safe shots and hid behind cars.  With careful timing, I managed to complete the task efficiently.  Completion was by no means quick, but the numerous failures and retrials led to a thorough knowledge of the task at hand.

After some time, I managed to approach the task with a savoir-faire that increased my completion rate as the dedicated player.  I recognized when the bad guys were reloading their weapons.  I knew the terrain, the safe spots and the implied route of action.  More importantly, I learned how many bullets were in my gun, which is information that the game does not represent visually.  As suggested in Salen & Zimmerman, I grew tired of this method and thought of it as “too serious.”  Luckily, the game does not take itself too seriously, either.

It was time to be my usual self, the unsportsmanlike player who loves winning.  During one of my trials, I tested my character’s athletic abilities.  Instead of hiding in safety, I decided to run circles in front of my opponents, making their shots incredibly difficult.  And, whenever they ran out of bullets, I stopped and fired back.  I doubt they teach my evasive strategy at LA Police Academy, and my character looked ridiculous running around like that.  Even in close-up altercations, my player maintained health by running in circles.

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Finally, I began to exploit the game’s weaknesses.  Whenever the player runs low on health, the visual colors turn to Black & White, the only visual indication suggesting death.  There is no health bar, and after a some time, the player regains health and color to the visual presentation.  Whenever confronted with an opponent, I happily absorbed his shotgun shot to my face, my presentation turn b&w, and I shot back at point blank.  After, I waited for my health to regenerate and then found the next opponent.  The other characters in the game react to this reckless behavior by voicing their concerns and calling my character names.  However, the story or overall structure does not change.

For a game that supposedly dedicates a portion of its merits to reputation, the act of creating a unique character within the structure of the game, how one handles oneself in trials of skill is not recognized.  Even when my degenerate techniques ended in failure, the results were not entertaining.  My player would not fall off the building when spear-heading the enemies.  Nor would the citizens walking on the sidewalk die when I struck them with my car at high speeds.  The game does not tolerate indecent behavior at all.  Even the character’s basic movements can’t really exercise any great feats besides climbing clearly designated fences and facades on buildings.

Perhaps the game does take itself too seriously.  My character carries a gun, but can only use it in specific settings.  The walls of the magic-circle are lined with barbed-wire.  The only true free-will that can be expressed in this sandbox game is a tourist trip around Los Angeles, admiring all of the monuments.  I am disappointed with the lack of personality that a player can attribute to this game.

Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown.

Posted: February 4, 2013 by smaloney2013 in Uncategorized

I was drawn to L.A. Noire because the screen shots online resembled the brilliant franchise Grand Theft Auto.  The third-person narrative provides a special awareness to your character that first-person shooters lack.  Also, I enjoy watching my character perform feats of human strength like Spiderman for Playstation 2.  The two games mentioned defined the longest sessions I ever endured before being introduced to FIFA.  With what I had learned online, I knew L.A. Noire is not a game to be brushed over.

 

The dialogue in the beginning scenes alone alerts anyone playing that this game is not Grand Theft Auto.  The uniformed gentleman lecturing me suggested we arrest the assailant of a double-homicide rather than killing him straight up.  I was not going to be slaughtering nightclubs or stealing cars, like I had so enjoyed before.  This time, I’m on the other side.  Luckily, I’ve been brushing up on my Law & Order.

           

Now, my conversations are interactive.  The essence of escapist gaming has been interrupted by a forced, techno-social conversation.  Each button allows the conversation to flow, making the gathering of information an interesting and challenging task.  In between conversations, I often maintained my reputation on Sunset Blvd for hit and runs.  All ready, I’m a cop, member of the public sector with blood on his hands. 

 

I need to clean up my act.  If I keep this up, LAPD will not trust me with any of the big cases, and I need big cases.  My life at home is nice, but only appears in brief moments.  What I need to focus on is people’s facial movements.  Something tells me my wife can help me. 

 

This game’s capabilities are incredibly expansive.  And I appreciate the respect it owes to my favorite genre: detective murder/mysteries.  The faces of recognizable actors is distracting, but endearing.  And the obstacles presented are legitimately challenging, making the entire experience feel practical.