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2010/07/10

Features that Every Game Should Have: Full Body Awareness

I remember one of the first times I encountered this feature in a game. It was Thief: Deadly Shadows, back in 2004. Now it might not have been the first to use it (that would be Trespasser: Jurassic Park, apparently), but it was likely one of the first I encountered. Certainly most of the other major titles of that year, like Doom 3, Half-Life 2, or Far Cry, didn’t incorporate it, as far as I know.

What is this feature? Full Body Awareness. And to date only 30-odd games seem to have this feature.

There have been other titles from around the same time that did too, like the excellent Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay, and most of the games in the F.E.A.R. franchise, starting with the progenitor of the series back in 2005, as well as Condemned: Criminal Origins – a game by the same creators of the previously mentioned series. Other more well-known examples would include Dark Messiah of Might and Magic.

Full body awareness is a feature that when, in a game, you look down, and you can see the character’s legs and feet as well as their arms and hands. It adds to the realism of a game. And it seemed to be a big thing a few years ago, but nowadays it just doesn’t really make it in to many games. One exception would be Mirror’s Edge, a game by DICE – but that was released a couple of year ago now… in 2008.

A lot of games released before the time period described above, and a lot of titles today, have that disembodied set of arms and hands holding a gun. When you move the mouse downwards, you see nothing. Some games might have a shadow or something on the ground, but few actually go to the lengths of having a chest and a set of legs which makes it seem less like you’re barely a torso with arms and a camera for a head, floating in mid air. And when you realise this, it kind of lets me down, for one. This is what I call Lack of Legs syndrome, or “LOL” for short.

Lack of Legs

“Hey, where’s my legs?! I can’t feel my legs!” - Lack of Legs [LOL] syndrome as demonstrated in Metro 2033 [2010]

There are those games that make up for this lack of realism by being able to switch to a third person view – like Fallout 3 or Oblivion – where you can see the character move and so on. But still, it seems like a cop out, especially when you factor in that sometimes the animation of the characters in third-person, or just the animation in general, isn’t all that good; something that a game like STALKER has a problem with.

Some other games cheat in a way by not allowing you to look all the way down to the ground, but less than the full 90 degrees.

A title like Thief: Deadly Shadows does both first-person and third-person, as well as full body awareness to boot. It’s one of those games, that although not recognised as one of the greatest games of all time, or even within the series, does something right; and that was one of them.

Full Body Awareness in Thief: Deadly Shadows [2004]image courtesy of Giantbomb

I don’t know why this is. It’s a small thing that I often find myself checking with new games from time to time. It’s like a test on my checklist, and I’ll be going along in Modern Warfare 2 or Battlefield: Bad Company 2, and after being wowed by the gunfights, and the explosions, and the destructible environments, I’ll be like: “Okay, this all seems to be in order. I’ll just take a look down here, and… oh, dear. FAIL.”

Like I said, it’s a small thing, but something that I often think about. Full Body Awareness was a small but thoughtful addition to games and realism a few years ago that seems for some reason to have gone out of style, and developers just don’t go to the effort anymore. I don’t know if it’s a lot of effort to put it, seeing as I’m not a programmer or an artist or any sort of game developer, but still. They claim that leaving out the legs is a sacrifice in order to enlarge upon the quality of weapons and items that the player holds.

Needless to say, it’s a little thing that I would like to see make a comeback, and become a regular feature in not only first-person shooters, but in RPGs, and so on, to add that extra little bit, so a game gets an A+ instead of an A- for realism.

Check here over at Giantbomb for more on FBA, or Full Body Awareness.


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2010/07/05

The Dark Mod Coming to A DVD Near You… Hopefully

I decided I would put the now occasional post up here. I went over the NAG forums today and saw that the August DVD request thread is still open a month later, probably soon to be locked and the key thrown away.

Anyway, I saw an interesting post there that talked about The Dark Mod – something I’ve wanted on the NAG DVD for months now, since last October.

The poster is a member of the TDM development team, who arrived over at the NAG forums, likely thanks to one of my posts here on the blog talking about wanting the mod on the DVD.

This poster talked about putting the mod into a more accessible form – right now it’s one of those install while online things which I dislike, so I understand. But that might change seeing as they might make a regular installer that can be downloaded in its entirety and run offline, which will come bundled with some of the current maps available off the website.

Related to this, a version 1.03 is on the way, likely to be released within the next few months, which will have even more fixes and so on for the mod. And there’s also talk that after id Software releases the source code for Doom 3 or id Tech 4 engine, likely next year after Rage comes out, the mod will be looking at running standalone, without the player needing Doom 3, like it currently does. And of course there will be messing around with the graphics, features and so on too.

“I noticed thanks to referrer traffic that NAG had a few posts over the last few months asking for The Dark Mod (TDM) to be put on the DVD, and as I don't exactly follow NAG, but seeing as I'm part of the TDM dev team, I'd like to offer to put it into a more accessible form if you guys are interested. At the moment the maps are separate from the installer, and the installer requires internet access. I'd be happy to roll an installer and include a handful of the 25 odd missions (40 hours+ gameplay) that we have so far had released.

It would however most likely be left for a later date when you can spare the space and once 1.03 comes out, we should have HDR and a lot of AI/gameplay fixes. Failing that, Carmack has told us that the Tech4 source will be released shortly after Rage (he seems to have permission from Zeni, yay), so early next year we can look at a full distribution, without the need for doom3 and with increased graphical goodness and performance.

Just an offer if people are still interested.”

----

Source: August DVD Request Thread [NAG Online Forums]


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2010/07/04

Classic Game Collecting: Thief, Hitman, Deus Ex

TCDECHMT

Well, I went over to Makro today and went over to the multimedia and technology department. My brother and I had a look at a new DVD player seeing as his had packed up the other day. It was a Telefunken that barely lasted a year.

While we were doing that, I also had a look at the games section which has since last time, really gotten an overhaul. Makro got its act together in the last month or so. So, this time a few games caught my eye, and they were mainly in the Eidos stable of titles. I saw that they got a couple of PC Gamer racks up which have collections like the Thief Complete Collection, as well as the Hitman Collection, and the Deus Ex Collection. These I’ve never seen in any store locally before, let alone this one.

Thief Complete Collection has Thief Gold, The Metal Age, and Deadly Shadows – which goes for R99; Hitman has Hitman, Hitman 2: Silent Assassin, and Hitman: Contracts – which sells for R150. Deus Ex has Deus Ex GOTY as well as Invisible War, for R99.

I was tempted to pick up one or two, but I’ll be honest: I’ve had a few instances in the past where some of these games that I’ve picked up didn’t work on my system. I was tempted though. I haven’t played Thief Gold which is included in the pack, which basically is The Dark Project with a few extra missions and extras, released in 1999. My TDP disc doesn’t work for some reason. I’ve all ready got the other two.

I also haven’t played Deus Ex: Invisible War, the second game in the series by Ion Storm, which some say wasn’t that great.

Out of the Hitman series, I’ve played two of those game – namely Silent Assassin and Blood Money, which I own. The other two I didn’t really eve bother much with.

I might consider it at one point in the future though. It was just nice to see that they’ve extended their PC games section, as well as catering to the classics.


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