Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Games of the Week 5 : Art and Games – feat. Forza Motorsport 3 & Soul Calibur 5

Update: POLL on right side about using creation tools in games

Well this week was an interesting lesson, we learned something else. It was not so much a new lesson, more of a discussion than anything else. It was how can video games be art? This turned into a discussion regarding what exactly art is and how video games could pertain to that. In a nutshell, the lesson was that art is created not for reproduction or survival, but to express an idea or message to a person. Of course there are all sorts of interpretations for art, and what I just said is simply one form of art. What a person can consider art is up to that person’s judgement. Now I haven’t played many of the games considered “games as art” such as Braid or Limbo. The only one that I can think of that was considered to be a great helper in the debate of “Games are Art” is Bioshock.

Games making Art?

But instead of focusing on Bioshock and how that is art, I wanted to instead explore, how can we use games to create art instead? The best thing that can to mind for me was the tools that the developpers provide games for players to create their own experiences. What I mean by that is things such as level editors, character customization, etc. Some of the tools in games that contain these are very deep and can provide a near limitless amount of possibilities for you to use them and create all sorts of neat and interesting designs. For this particular Games of the Week, I am going to focus on two games instead of one, both of them containing an editor tool of some sort that is very deep. These games in particular are Forza Motorsport 3 and Soul Calibur V.

Rather than delve too deeply into the aspect of each game, I will instead focus on the creation tools that these two games have and how players can “Create art” in the games.

Forza Motorsport 3

Forza Motorsport 3 is a driving simulator, with a focus on real world cars and trying to provide a realistic driving experience. It is available on the Xbox 360, and is a rival to competitor driving simulator, Gran Turismo. The game’s been very successful and the development team has been able to complete the sequels in the Forza series much quicker than Gran Turismo has.

In Forza 3, you can race in any of the available courses with hundreds of exquisitely modelled cars that are comparable to their real counterparts in many real life racing circuits. There is an expansive career mode where you start off with lower cars, earning credits by winning races and advancing up the ranks to participate in various other events and racing circuits with specific classes of cars. For example, a lower end card would be rank D, and only cars that fit within the rank D range can participate in those particular races. Cars such as formula one racers are automatically in the F (For Formula, NOT for failure) rank.

Formula 1 racers in Forza 3

Cars can be improved up to higher ranks and some cars are classified as much higher ranks due to their already superior nature. Besides simply improving parts (which provide non aesthetic changes), you can customize your cars with different paint jobs, and the most important thing, being able to have full control of exactly what that paint job looks like. You’d be surprised with the sorts of things people can come up with this system, but for now let’s explain how it works.

Paint job customization

In Forza 3’s customization system, all tools that you need to create the perfect paint job are laid in front of you right from the start. No need to unlock any specific tools to upgrade the system, everything you need you will have right away. Now for every car, you’re what are known as “decals”. These are basically shapes of various sorts, many of them being just regular geometric shapes but these are a lot of different ones such as arrows, clouds, etc. You are able to manipulate these decals by shaping their size and color, but you won’t be able to complete distort and stretch the shape in crazy ways. Now you may think, that sounds way too simplistic, how on earth could you make something complicated just with this?

Well the true depth comes next from the fact that there are layers. You can have as many decals as you want on a specific layer, the same as you might see in photoshop or other image editing software. With these basic shapes in mind and the fact that you have a limitless amount of layers to work with and that’s where it truly shines. Even with basic shapes, though it will take dedicated time and effort, you can create some truly amazing pieces of work on you car. Since your tools are limited in a sense, you truly have to think outside the box on how you will want ot create your work. Personally I was rather terrible as this, I could only make a basic staff or magic wand, something of that sort. However there are some masters of this craft who, despite having limited tools could still create some truly awe inspiring works.

Here are just some examples of some of the work by some talented folks

 From the anime series, Evangelion

From the anime and manga series, Gundam

From Epic Mickey on the Wii

Captain America

To be fairly honest I myself haven’t explained and probably won’t understand the true depth of this system, but I know that really anything is possible in what you can create on the surface of these cars. If look at this link here, this is a tutorial just on making fonts out of decals. A tutorial on fonts! There are many other tutorials out there by forza community members on how to create your own fantastic creations, it’s really awesome how out of these tools that seem so simply at first, that you could create some jaw dropping paint jobs.

As can be seen, Forza 3 definetely provides the tools for an artist. It many not be “Games as Art” but it’s a Game that creates art for sure.

Soul Calibur 5
By Namco Bandai, the same company that brought the Tekken series to the scene, Soul Calibur 5 is the newest entry, only released a week ago, it’s not the best in the series (in terms of content) but brings exciting new gameplay additions to the base fighting system. The game takes place in 1607 AD, so that means all the characters have weapons of some sort and the style is obviously… that of 1607 AD so no modern clothes.

The game works similar as Tekken, fighting in a 3D plane rather than 2D and winning the battle by beating your opponent 3 out of 5 rounds by depleting their life. Of course it’s not exactly the same as Tekken and a very different type of play but I won’t delve too deeply into it. The basics of mixing up your opponent and using mind games to keep them second guessing or taking opportunities of their mistakes is key like any other game. Of course most character’s reach in this game is much larger due to their possession of weapons. What makes this game at it’s best is the depth of it, which is what every fighting game strives for.

The small number of options in single player

Unfortunately unlike previous Soul Calibur games, the amount of single player content was cut significantly. There was only a story mode, arcade mode, legendary souls (BRUTALLY HARD arcade mode) and quick battle to earn titles to your name. Multiplayer mode consisted of a fair number of cool new options. Of course there was the usual ranked matches to increase rank and status, player matches for fun, and the new Global Colisseo, a large lobby where you can go to talk to others, challenge them to matches or join tournaments. I Haven’t seen anything like that in a fighting game before. Anyways the problem is the lack of single player, there used to a more modes such as survival, longer “adventure modes”, towers with unique challenges to help change up the gameplay. However the one redeeming feature that applies for both single player and multiplayer is the game’s in depth customization mode!

Create a Soul – Character creation

Also known as create a soul in some games, character creation mode has been in the Soul Calibur series since the third game. Over the course of the 3rd, 4th and finally 5th game, the options for customization have expanded over and over. I’ll explain some of the options you have and which ones weren’t available in the older games.

Trailer for character creation, see what I am talking about in action


Adjusting body proportions – A feature only available in Soul Calibur 5, you can adjust the size of biceps, thighs, hips, waist, arms, umm… chest, etc. You can even adjust the height of your character as well (though it won’t affect gameplay for balance reasons). In SC IV, you could only adjust overall size, even big strong person or thinner person. You now have full control of the size of your character.

A few of the options you have to change the size of a character's proportions

Changing your Head – You have the option to choose from a wide array of different faces (You can’t make one unfortunately). The number of options you have has expanded considerably from SC IV, almost tripling in the number. You are also now able to choose eyebrows as well, a SC V only feature. You can choose from different hairstyles, all games had this but of course SC V has many more available and also more realistic hair physics doesn’t hurt either.

Options to select from for faces

Hairstyle choices

Changing muscle tone – A feature available in SC V and IV, you can change how muscular your character looks. It’s simply a change in texture however but it helps to define the look of your character even more.

You also can fully change the color of hair, body and eyes, so you could make someone hulk green and in fact make the hulk if you wanted. You can also apply a face paint on the character’s face, ranging from a wide variety of different paints but the most obvious one is to make someone into a nightmare clown.

I'll be showing this all in my video down below.


That’s pretty much it in terms of the character’s actual body, the fun part is dressing them up. You have access to a wide range of equipment on different areas of the body. You have headgear, face gear (such as eyepatches, glasses, etc), undergarments (undershirt, chainmail, etc. Apparently I just unlocked chest hair for males as well), upper body equipment, upper body covering (covers upper body equipment, will usually show the upper body equipment still), lower body equipment, hip equipment (same as upper body covering for lower equipment), neck and back equipment, arm equipment, shoulder equipment, ankle equipment, feet equipment, and specialized equipment that can be put anywhere.

Here is just some of the equipment you can get.

 Extra equipment to be placed anywhere

Lower body equipment

 Upper body equipment

Head equipment

There are a TON of different equipment parts for each section so you have a wide variety of different ways to create your character. The specialized equipment is the only one you can move to any location (beware of people who will create characters that try to make characters look “Rated M for mature”). You have the ability to full edit the color of the equipment and you can even make patterns to define the look of equipment even more (patterns are new to SC V).

More editing options!

Further for editing you can add decals (just like Forza 3!) onto your character’s bodies or equipment. You have access to wide variety of different shapes, however you don’t have many layers to work with, having only up to four but we will see if anyone can come up with anything very nice looking.

Decal placement

You have to choose a base fighting style from the existing characters however, so your character will possess that characters weapons and stance. So any animations that character has, your newly created character will possess. You also have the ability to fully customize any existing characters to nearly the same extent (with the exception of Ezio Auditore, the guest character of Soul Calibur V). The only thing you can't change is their face and eye color.

Let's create something!

Now these are a lot of features and people can really go all out to try and create some of their favourite characters. They could try and create neat looking original characters but I have seen a lot of people trying to recreate all sorts of characters so I thought, why don’t I do this for the blog too?

I decided to try Albert Wesker (from Resident Evil) , here are the results in 9 mins. Not too hard to make him, there are of course much harder characters to try and make and there are others out there who could make a better looking Wesker than I can but that just to give you a taste of what can be done

Albert Wesker in Resident Evil 5

Creation of Albert Wesker in 9 minutes

The game only came out so there is still a lot of potential for people to make unique characters or paying homage to existing characters in such an easy manner. It was not hard at all to make my Hulk and Wesker.


So when I say, Games can create art, I mean it when people are able to freely make their own creations to their hearts whim, using tools that the game has provided. I feel like Forza 3 definetely has more potential than Soul Calibur V for artistic creations but that doesn’t mean Soul Calibur V created characters can’t have some artistic merit to them. We still have yet to see the best characters.

Point is, both games allow the creation of whatever ideas come to peoples minds. Plenty of other games have these sorts of features too. I believe that games can create art and there are games with even more tools to show this.

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