Thursday, 2 May 2013

Analysing Games : Spyro the Dragon

In order for us to be good game designers we have to analyse games taking into consideration what’s good and what could be improved,; not just on style but elements as well.
Spyro The Dragon
he first game of the series released in 1998 and started off where a sinister force known as Gnasty Gnorc was trapping dragons in a crystal statue, however a young purple dragon (Spyro) wasn’t around to get captured. Instead the protagonist finds out what happened to his friends and family before leaving his homeland in order to free his brethren, along with his best buddy Sparxs who indicates Spyro’s health. However as he travels to distant realms via a balloons along the way, Spyro rescues other dragon who help him out in his quest until he faced up against the antagonist who started this dilemma in the first place.

The image shows Spyro hanging around with the Dragon Elders and sheep. As you see they all share a simplistic style

During gameplay the whole screen features your adventure and doesn’t contain any HUD elements like health bars, gem bars or move selections. Instead your health depends on Sparks colour yellow being really good and red being horrible. In order to increase your life you defeat random enemies or sheep, which release a tiny butterfly for Sparks to eat. With the Gems they only appear in the corner of the screen once you’ve obtained one or a certain number (like Rupees in Legend Of Zelda) also there’s no attacks that you have to select, instead you press different combinations on the Play Station controllers.

In this image Spyro is performing a slight hover going towards the gems in the background. In the top left hand corner shows the number of gems collected and will disappear shortly, the basket to the right also holds gems and at the bottom you can slightly see Sparx’s head and wings.

When the game starts loading there’s different animations of Spyro doing certain activities like riding the balloon to a different realm, or sometimes him flying to a realm that’s close to the homeland. Yet at the bottom of the screen you’ll see a golden treasure chest that opens and counts all the gems you’ve obtained from the land you’ve just left before giving a final amount as the loading screen ends; ultimately keeping you entertained and concentrated for the next part.
When playing the game you control Spyro and are able to move around on four legs, breathe fire and slightly fly/ hover for a short period of time. At certain points it’s necessary to head butt, ram into different objects/ enemies, swim to gain more gems, other times you’re required to hop into a cannon of some sort and shoot down battle tanks, cannons and floating ships. The perspective is third person allowing you to easily see your opponents coming and work out a simple attack plan, unless you’re in a cannon then it automatically changes to first person (taking on an element of first-person shooter). With camera movement it does let you have a look from Spyro’s view across the land by holding down either R or L on your controller and moving around with the direction buttons (not the analogue stick just yet)
Now the visual style at this point uses extremely bright and simple colours, granted that the graphics weren’t the best at this stage. Besides that you were able to distinguish the differences between the cell-shaded models. Reasons for the visual style being bright, flamboyant and taking on a cartoon-like appearance is because the game’s target audience was based around children more than teenagers and adults, due to a lot of simple designed characters that were based on real animals or imagination, plus you have the plain colours that don’t really include shadowing enabling young minds to comprehend not only the game play- but the story as well since the script doesn’t include massive paragraphs, complex words/ sentences. Another point would be when you kill an enemy there’s no blood or gore they just disappear into smoke, and the bosses are frightfully fearful either.

An image of Spyro, the main protagonist, as he was in the first six games of the series.

Spyro The Dragon: Dawn of the Dragon

Spyro combating one of the game’s enemy species

Dawn of the Dragon is the final game to the Spyro franchise and also the last prequel. The story begins at the end of the last Spyro game (Eternal Night) where we see Spyro and Cynder (one of Spyro’s newest team members, who he saves during the A New Beginning game) broken from their crystal prison by enemies who chain them together and serve them up to a fiery demon in order to see a ‘pleasurable’ battle. Luckily the dragons manage to escape and flee to a different place in their world by the help of a more mature Hunter (another ally), and of course a cowardice Sparks. Again Spyro races against time fighting for the lands freedom and settling wars, aiding the heroes and proving his worth and fealty to others. We also see the four elemental dragons, which are introduced in the New Beginning game, and meet one of the series’ most villainous antagonists: Malefor. Your main objective in this game is to defeat him by overcoming your own darkness thanks to the prophecy of the: Purple Dragon.
The four elemental dragons, Ignitus, the fire dragon, being the eldest, is the leader and Spyro’s main mentor giving a farther like figure to the purple dragon.

Compared to the older Spyro titles this game’s features are based on a new target audience and have accommodated this really well. Reasons for this could be Sierra and Activision Blizzard have tried to pull in a teenage/ adult audience for more money instead of depending on the children on the other hand, I believe that the developers have added an adult theme to Spyro purely and simply for the audience who have grown up with the series since they were little, as though to say that whilst they’ve grown up so have Spyro and continue to gain their praise and money.
So what is different then?
The perspective is exactly the same being third person and first person when shooting, same with the camera movement only instead of direction keys you use the analogue stick instead. However one of the best features in my opinion, is the game actually lets you stay in flight mode and allows you to fly like a normal dragon, second is that you can also play as Cynder and use her four element breaths (air, darkness, fear and poison) or stay as Spyro who now breathes (fire, electric, earth and ice) enabling two people to engage in the game. Sparks however doesn’t show your health in the prequels and is only shown during cut scenes than gameplay. 

 Spyro battling villains using his fire, in the top corners are the health and magic bars.

In the game you work closely with Cynder to activate latches, switches and during combat being able to switch from one dragon to the next. Even though you don’t collect gems for money, you collect them for health or magic (red for health and green for magic) by smashing the shards, as an added feature there are RPG elements in this game. If you collect blue crystals you can upgrade the power of each elemental breath for both dragons and when taking on side-quests you can find bits of armor lying around which you can place on the protagonists and mix and match the designs.

During cut scenes as well as gameplay you’re able to view your chosen armour for Cynder and Spyro, as this image proves just that.

On the HUD, health and magic bars and pictures of the characters are displayed in the top corners, Spyro’s being the left and Cynder’s the right, for inventory menu press ‘Start’ and for upgrading your elements press ‘Select’.  When loading up the game notice how the backdrop is black with a golden loading bar in the centre and above is the percentage of how much the game has loaded; again in matching gold giving another adult-like feel to the product.
Finally visual styles, in the first 6 Spyro games the main characters were built on a cartoon based design with very bright colours and little detail, thus aimed at a younger target audience. In the last three Spyro games they’ve added darker tones, introducing rendering techniques, developing a balance between lightning and shadows on the models giving an overall realistic appearance. Even though some of the characters are again based on animals they as well share a realistic touch. For example the enemies look more terrifying, gruesome and are varied around the dragon plains ranging from vicious looking baboons to malicious skeletons, even the guardians that protect Malefor hold an impending doom and Malefor himself looks like an older, evil version of Spyro as they’re both purple dragons from the prophecy.

Spyro’s initial appearance set in the first six games, down below is the newer version of Spyro found in the prequels. Here you can see the difference between the two styles.

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