Tuesday, January 18, 2011

gaming/simulation/user experience

A simulation is an imitation of some real thing, state of affairs, or process. The act of simulating something generally entails representing certain key characteristics or behaviors of a selected physical or abstract system. Simulation is a portmanteau word using the words similar (or simile) and modulation as an act is modulated into a different medium to act as the similar type.
A computer simulation is an attempt to model a real-life situation on a computer so that it can be studied to see how the system works. By changing variables, predictions may be made about the behaviour of the system.
Simulation is used in many contexts, including the modeling of natural systems or human systems in order to gain insight into their functioning. Other contexts include simulation of technology for performance optimization, safety engineering, testing, training and education. Simulation can be used to show the eventual real effects of alternative conditions and courses of action.
Key issues in simulation include acquisition of valid source information about the referent, selection of key characteristics and behaviours, the use of simplifying approximations and assumptions within the simulation, and fidelity and validity of the simulation outcomes.
Physical and interactive simulation
Physical simulation refers to simulation in which physical objects are substituted for the real thing, these physical objects are often chosen because they are smaller or cheaper, than the actual object or system.
Interactive simulation, which is a special kind of physical simulation, and often referred to as human in the loop simulations, are physical simulations that include humans, such as the model used in a flight simulator.
Simulation in training
A soldier tests out a heavy-wheeled-vehicle driver simulator.
Simulation is often used in the training of civilian and military personnel. This usually occurs when it is prohibitively expensive or simply too dangerous to allow trainees to use the real equipment in the real world. In such situations they will spend time learning valuable lessons in a "safe" virtual environment. Often the convenience is to permit mistakes during training for a safety-critical system.
Training simulations typically come in one of three categories:
• "live" simulation (where real people use simulated (or "dummy") equipment in the real world);
• "virtual" simulation (where real people use simulated equipment in a simulated world (or "virtual environment")), or
• "constructive" simulation (where simulated people use simulated equipment in a simulated environment). Constructive simulation is often referred to as "wargaming" since it bears some resemblance to table-top war games in which players command armies of soldiers and equipment which move around a board.
Computer simulators
Programmed patients and simulated clinical situations, including mock disaster drills, have been used extensively for education and evaluation. These “lifelike” simulations are expensive, and lack reproducibility. A fully functional "3Pi" simulator would be the most specific tool available for teaching and measurement of clinical skills.
Such a simulator meets the goals of an objective and standardized examination for clinical competence. This system is superior to examinations which use "standard patients" because it permits the quantitative measurement of competence, as well as reproducing the same objective findings.
The "classroom of the future"
The "classroom of the future" will probably contain several kinds of simulators, in addition to textual and visual learning tools. This will allow students to enter the clinical years better prepared, and with a higher skill level. The advanced student or postgraduate will have a more concise and comprehensive method of retraining -- or of incorporating new clinical procedures into their skill set -- and regulatory bodies and medical institutions will find it easier to assess the proficiency and competency of individuals.
The classroom of the future will also form the basis of a clinical skills unit for continuing education of medical personnel; and in the same way that the use of periodic flight training assists airline pilots, this technology will assist practitioners throughout their career.
The simulator will be more than a "living" textbook, it will become an integral a part of the practice of medicine. The simulator environment will also provide a standard platform for curriculum development in institutions of medical education.
City Simulators / Urban Simulation
A City Simulator can be a game but can also be a tool used by urban planners to understand how cities are likely to evolve in response to various policy decisions. UrbanSim (developed at the University of Washington) and ILUTE (developed at the University of Toronto) are examples of modern, large-scale urban simulators designed for use by urban planners. City simulators are generally agent-based simulations with explicit representations for land use and transportation.
Flight simulators
A flight simulator is used to train pilots on the ground. It permits a pilot to crash his simulated "aircraft" without being hurt. Flight simulators are often used to train pilots to operate aircraft in extremely hazardous situations, such as landings with no engines, or complete electrical or hydraulic failures. The most advanced simulators have high-fidelity visual systems and hydraulic motion systems. The simulator is normally cheaper to operate than a real trainer aircraft.

Home-built Flight Simulators
Some people who use simulator games, especially flight simulator software, build their own simulator at home. Some are very serious in building their simulator by buying real aircraft parts like complete nose sectionals of written off aircraft at aircraft boneyards. This permits people who are unable to perform their hobby in real life to simulate it.
Simulation and games
Many video games are also simulators, implemented inexpensively. These are sometimes called "sim games". Such games can simulate various aspects of reality, from economics to piloting vehicles, such as flight simulators (described above).
Engineering simulation or Process simulation
Simulation is an important feature in engineering systems or any system that involves many processes. For example in electrical engineering, delay lines may be used to simulate propagation delay and phase shift caused by an actual transmission line. Similarly, dummy loads may be used to simulate impedance without simulating propagation, and is used in situations where propagation is unwanted. A simulator may imitate only a few of the operations and functions of the unit it simulates. Contrast with: emulate. (Source: Federal Standard 1037C)
Computer simulation
Computer simulation has become a useful part of modeling many natural systems in physics, chemistry and biology, and human systems in economics and social science (the computational sociology) as well as in engineering to gain insight into the operation of those systems. A good example of the usefulness of using computers to simulate can be found in the field of network traffic simulation. In such simulations the model behaviour will change each simulation according to the set of initial parameters assumed for the environment. Computer simulations are often considered to be human out of the loop simulations.
Simulation in education
Simulations in education are somewhat like training simulations. They focus on specific tasks. In the past,video has been used for teachers and education students to observe, problem solve and role play; however, a more recent use of simulations in education include animated narrative vignettes (ANV). ANVs are cartoon-like video narratives of hypothetical and reality-based stories involving classroom teaching and learning. ANVs have been used to assess knowledge, problem solving skills and dispositions of children, and pre-service and in-service teachers.Another form of simulation has been finding favour in business education in recent years. Business simulations that incorporate a dynamic model enables experimentation with business strategies in a risk free environment and provide a useful extension to case study discuss

A computer game is a computer-controlled game. A video game is a computer game where a video display such as a monitor or television is the primary feedback device. The term "computer game" also includes games which display only text (and which can therefore theoretically be played on a teletypewriter) or which use other methods, such as sound or vibration, as their primary feedback device, but there are very few new games in these categories. There always must also be some sort of input device, usually in the form of button/joystick combinations (on arcade games), a keyboard & mouse/trackball combination (computer games), or a controller (console games), or a combination of any of the above. Also, more esoteric devices have been used for input (see also Game controller). Usually there are rules and goals, but in more open-ended games the player may be free to do whatever they like within the confines of the virtual universe.

A game is a system in which players engage in an artificial conflict, defined by rules, that results in a quantifiable outcome. (pg. 80)

The first statement, a formal definition of games, allows us to understand media objects that are explicitly designed as games. The second statement, regarding the nature of games, brings into consideration that any system that assigns outcomes to a users action could be appropriated and remediated as a game.

The exact relationship of between games and new media is a project for another time. It should be pointed out that not all games are new media objects and not all new media objects are games. However due to games systemic/rule-based ontology, most old media games could be easily recreated as new media objects. Additionally since new media is so intrinsically tied to computers and their system-based environments, many new media objects may be appropriated and remediated as games.

So how do these Keeping new media and games, as recognized forms of interactive media, in mind, we shall return to our original definition of interactivity- "acting on one another; act reciprocally."
The phrase interactive entertainment is the formal reference to computer and video games. To avoid ambiguity, this game software is referred to as "computer and video games" throughout this article, which explores properties common to both types of game.
In common usage, a "computer game" or a "PC game" refers to a game that is played on a personal computer. "Console game" refers to one that is played on a device specifically designed for the use of such, while interfacing with a standard television set. "Video game" (or "videogame") has evolved into a catchall phrase that encompasses the aforementioned along with any game made for any other device, including, but not limited to, mobile phones, PDAs, advanced calculators, etc.
Online Simulation games are usually geared towards children and teens but attrack adults of all ages. These typically include browser based games and massive multiplayer online games (mmorpgs) the second of which requires you to download software to your computer before you can login and start playing. These online games can generate hundreds of millions of hits a day and their unique online interactivity keeps people entertained for hours. Although the sterotype is that games are male dominated, online browser based games are over 85% female players.
Table-top and computer simulation games
Simulation games have been played with pencil and paper since time immemorial. Maps are drawn on paper and cardboard counters or metal figures represent the characters or military units. The players may all be on the same side, or they may be on two or more opposing sides. A referee decides what is done by characters who are not controlled by players, and resolves situations which are not covered by the rules.
Genres of computer simulation games
• Online games that must be played online or through a browser window
• Vehicular simulators generally attempt a realistic representation of how to drive a certain vehicle. Flight simulators and Racing games are typical examples.
• Role-playing games and skirmish war games are played on an individual scale; each player controls one or a few characters.
• Tactical war games and operational war games simulate small-scale battles, typically involving a few hundred or at most a few thousand soldiers, and are commonly real-time tactics or turn-based tactics games.
• Strategic war games simulate large-scale battles, campaigns, and entire wars. Grand strategy war games and nation-simulation games allow the players to control nations. Due to their scale they are commonly of the turn-based strategy type.
• In god games players represent an entity with supernatural powers. It can be argued that god games are a border category within simulator games because it is unclear how to simulate being God.
• In life simulator games, which sometimes overlap god games, a virtual life, career, etc. is simulated.
• Economic simulation games present players with aspects or the entirety of an economy or a business. A specialised sub-type is the city-building game genre.
• Real-time strategy games combine stylised aspects of wargaming with economic simulation games.
• Dating sims are meant to simulate a relationship or friendship.
• While relatively few in number, pet-raising simulations are becoming more widespread, especially with the release of the title Nintendogs, though earlier pet sims exist, such as the Nakayoshi Pet Advance series on Game Boy Advance, and Tamagotchi
Computer and video games
The first primitive computer and video games were developed in the 1950s and 60's by Jon Snell and ran on platforms such as oscilloscopes, university mainframes and EDSAC computers. The earliest computer game, a missile simulation, was created in 1947 by Thomas T. Goldsmith Jr. and Estle Ray Mann. Development.
Video games are made by developers, who used to do this as individuals or small teams in the 80's. Now, development commonly requires a large team consisting of designers, graphic designers and other artists, programmers, sound designers, musicians, and other technicians; all of which are managed by producers. The visionary for any game may come from any of the roles outlined. Development by committee rarely works.
With the start of the 21st century we can see a major boom in the numbers of game developing teams and studios. This business, although tough and risky, proves to be a goldmine for the determined groups. Previous industry giants like EA Games, Valve, and Rockstar are slowly being displaced by newer studios with smaller budgets yet more determined and younger members who have developed a passion for video gaming throughout their whole lives. Most of these studios are modding existing engines and games until they get enough media attention and sponsors to start a new project from scratch. Prime examples of such teams are Dimension Studios and Turtle Rock Studios. Both of these provide content for already existing games and are making a fortune out of it. An older team, Gearbox Software, started out in a similar fashion by modding the original Half-Life engine; now it is one of the major video game developers.
Video games are developing fast in all areas, but the problem is of cost, and how developers intend to keep the costs low enough to attract publisher investment. Most video game console development teams number anywhere from 20 to 50 people, with some teams exceeding 100. The average team size as well as the average development time of a game have grown along with the size of the industry and the technology involved in creating games. This has led to regular occurrences of missed deadlines and unfinished products; Duke Nukem Forever is the quintessential example of these problems. See also: video game industry practices.
Non-gamers use several umbrella terms for console, PC, arcade, handheld, and similar games since they do not agree on the best name. For many, either "computer game" or "video game" describes these games as a whole. Other commonly used terms include "entertainment software," "interactive entertainment media," "electronic interactive entertainment," "electronic game," "software game," and "videogame" (as one word). Gamers are quite happy to use the vague term "games", or "videogame/video game" to distinguish them from board games and card games when necessary. In the past, it was common for parents and/or elderly people, who were unfamiliar with video games, to refer to all of them as "Nintendo games" due to Nintendo's overwhelming popularity in the late 80's and 90's (this is comparable to the public referring to all brands of facial tissue as Kleenex). Computer and video games are a subset of interactive media, which includes virtual reality, flight and engineering simulation, multimedia and the World Wide Web.
The future of gaming
2006 will see the continuation of the next generation of console gaming in the form of two new consoles. Sony with the PlayStation 3 and Nintendo's Wii (aka 'Revolution') will join Microsoft with the already released Xbox 360 in this year's "console war". All the next-generation consoles are starting the transition from traditional media-based games (e.g. on a cartridge or DVD-ROM) to be able to utilize streamed content that is downloaded. This innovation is possible due to the increasing ubiquity of broadband internet access and availabilty of large storage mediums on the consoles.

As computers get faster in the future, games will have better graphics, more realistic details, shorter load times, and fewer glitches. Games on consoles will not require installation nor licence agreement (like PC games), as the game can be played straight from the disc. Future discs will hold more memory for bigger, deeper game worlds. Wider age groups will play games, as new types of games in other fields appear that appeal to those ages. Games will be used to teach kids and adults (for job training) in school and at home making learning fun and 'hands on', a process that has already begun. Battle simulation games are expanding into driving and car repair simulation, electronics repair simulation, war training, surgery simulation, etc. Virtual Reality visors and touch suits, that create an illusion of fuller game immersion, may eventually come into common use when their tech problems are solved and their prices lowered.Gamers are becoming more demanding when it comes to graphics and physics, as demonstrated by Half-Life 2.
Gameplay Trend
In computer and video gaming, gameplay (sometimes called "Game mechanics") is a general term that describes player interaction with a game. It includes direct interaction, such as controls and interface, but also design aspects of the game, such as levels and graphics.
Although the use of this term is often disputed, as it is considered too vague for the range of concepts it describes, it is currently the most commonly used and accepted term for this purpose when describing video games.Yet another distinct form of evolution in video gaming are the trends of popular gameplay. Natural progression of and consumer demand for increased complexity has gradually forced game software companies to be more creative and expansive in their design of new games. Video games have moved not only forward in the visual dimension, but also in the very concept of restrictive goals and objectives of the game. Patterns in contemporary gameplay continue to show less distinction between "levels" or "areas" [1]. Furthermore, the linear aspect of video games has shown a popular and somewhat constant push towards non-linear or explorative gameplay.The acceptance of less restrictive and more wide-open gaming can be seen in the growing popularity of massively multiplayer online gaming
The popularity of computer and video games, as a whole, has been increasing steadily ever since the 1984-1987 drop-off caused by the video game crash of 1983, and the popularity appears to be continuing to increase. The average age of the video game player is now 30 [2], belying the myth that video games are largely a diversion for teenagers.
The game and film industries are also becoming increasingly intertwined, with companies like Sony having significant stakes in both. A large number of summer blockbuster films spawn a companion game, often launching at the same time in order to share the marketing costs.
What the player gains
Perhaps the most visible values of computer and video gaming are simply its artistic and entertainment values. As a form of multimedia entertainment, modern video games contain a highly unique fusion of 3D art, CG effects, architecture, artificial intelligence, sound effects, dramatic performances, music, storytelling, and, most importantly, interactivity. This interactivity enables to the player to explore what amounts to a stylized, artistic depiction and simulation of some three-dimensional environment (something no other form of entertainment can allow) with the actions of the player operating as a single, irreducable variable. Multiplayer games, which take advantage of the fact that computer games can use the internet, provide players with the opportunity to compete with other players from across the globe, something that is also unique to electronic gaming. Millions of players around the globe are attracted to video gaming simply because it offers such unprecedented ability to interact with large numbers of people engaged simultaneously in a structured environment where they are all involved in the same activity (playing the game).Even simple games offer potential benefits to the player. Games like Tetris and Pac-man are well-designed games that are easy to pick up but difficult to master, in ways not unlike chess or even poker. Despite their simplicity, simple games may also feature online capabilities or powerful AI. Depending on the game, players can develop and test their techniques against an advanced computer player or online against other human players.
Like related forms of media, computer and video games have been the subject of frequent controversy and censorship, due to the depiction of graphic violence, sexual themes, advertising, consumption of illegal drugs, consumption of alcohol or tobacco, propaganda, or profanity in some games. Among others, critics of video games sometimes include parents' groups, politicians, organized religion groups, and other special interest groups, even though all these can be found in all forms of entertainment and media. Various games have been accused of causing addiction to such and even violent behavior.
Video game censorship is defined as the use of state or group power to control the playing, distribution, purchase, or sale of video games or computer games. Video game controversy comes in many forms, and censorship is a controversial subject, as well as a popular topic of debate. Proponents and opponents of censorship are often very passionate about their individual views.Games that have sparked notable national controversy in the United States include Mortal Kombat, Night Trap, Doom, the Grand Theft Auto series and, most notably, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas' infamous Hot Coffee mod fiasco which boosted the game's M (Mature) rating to an AO (Adults Only) See also ESRB.
User experience
User experience is a term used to describe the overall experience and satisfaction a user has when using a product or system. It most commonly refers to a combination of software and business topics, such as selling over the web, but it applies to any result of interaction design. Interactive voice response systems, for instance, are a frequently mentioned design that can lead to a poor user experience.
User Experience (UX) Design defines a sequence of screen presentations, user interactions, and system responses that meet user goals and tasks while satisfying business and functional requirements.
Typical outputs include
• Wireframes (screen blueprints or storyboards)
• Prototypes
• Written specifications that describe the design

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