Author: DanielMedia

Looking at Aura Kingdom again

Overlooking my previous post of Aura Kingdom and how I detailed my first experiences with the game, and with the overall JRPG sub-genre. I have chosen to look at how my first experience with Aura Kingdom has shaped my understanding and perspective of JRPG’s and perhaps why I might think certain ways about the genre of game. I have also conducted further research into the game, to get a further and a clearer understanding on the genre and game itself.

Aura Kingdom is a game produced by the Taiwanese game developer company X-Legend, it is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game. The game has a big following in China, Taiwan and Japan, and is free-to-play on steam. My personal experiences with the game were more nostalgic, with essences of déjà vu. I found a lot of instances of the game, aesthetically and mechanically to follow in the footsteps of big title WRPG games like World of Warcraft and Runescape. However, in saying that there were a lot to this game that remained unique to JRPG and to Aura Kingdom itself.

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In my first blog post, I had stated that it felt very aesthetically like World of Warcraft. It had a similar fantasy setting, and similar low polygon art style. Through further readings and research of other games, I have found this is because most RPG’s follow this kind of framework. Most likely this is to the success that WoW has shown throughout its years of running, it would only make sense for another company to replicate a lot of its successful features. This is so that the fans have some sort of familiarity with the game, and are more likely to play it. I had also realized that the low poly art models and textures in the environment, would be simply so the game could run a lot smoother, seeing that each player would have to load HUGE environments, making the game more accessible to people with…not so good computers.

I had also said that in my first blog post that the characters felt very out of place, because they had this kind of anime visual in a sort of WoW environment. Obviously this is to appeal to the audience that plays JRPG, they prefer to play games that are similar to this and it would also be familiar to them. I believe it is in their culture to have this kind of art style, whether it be anime or games or artwork. Having it be consistent into JRPG games, just makes sense to them and their culture. It is not something I am used to however, as I have always grown up with games where you can customize your avatar to look like yourself for the immersion.

There was also noted in my first experience with the game that there was a lot of flashing colours, and animations going on the screen. I have played a lot of games where this kind of information is important, in calculating how much damage is needed to kill an opponent or boss etc, but the sprites and flashing colours seemed excessive. Notably a lot like the arcades that we see in japan, where there is a flurry of text, information and colours in the games. Perhaps in order to appeal to this audience, X-Legend has adapted this kind of craziness into their game to bring in players.

This is where I delve into the blurred lines, between JRPG and WRPG as mentioned in my previous post. In many WRPG games we have seen a lot of aspects, from JRPG be adapted into gameplay and vice versa. Importantly the style of gameplay we see being merged into western culture, is the more linear storyline styled RPG being brought into WRPG, games like Fable, where the storyline seems more linear and has seemed to adapt to this kind of JRPG style of narrative. In Aura Kingdom we see the likeliness of open world gameplay from WRPG, being brought into the game and being mixed with traditional JRPG gameplay. Not only is the storyline being mixed with open world like aspects, but the character customization seems to have been adapted into what would seem like a traditional WRPG feature. The reasoning behind this is simple, with games being more and more accessible and the market for these games growing internationally, people grow more accustomed to these styles and features of games that are new to them. People then have this demand for the features they see in JRPG games, or the features they see in WRPG games. The developers tend to the consumer’s needs, which shows how powerful the consumer really can be. Not only is this voice of change seen in JRPG or WRPG games, but games like CS:GO. There is this kind of universal voice of change for gaming in general, and it has shown through games like Aura Kingdom. However, with that being said JRPG games still stay true to their nature and stick to its traditions, otherwise it wouldn’t be labelled a JRPG. The Western cultures and Asian cultures, have massive influences on both sides, and generally we see this kind of merging of the cultures through gaming, more specifically through the JRPG sub genre of gaming.

 

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Aura Kingdom

Picking my autoethnographic artefact proved to be quite an easy process. Seeing that I am heavily into video games and its culture, it was more hard for me to pick specifically in gaming what I would look at. So what I decided to do, was look at something outside of my comfort zone. JRPG’s fit perfectly into what I was looking for, I have had no prior experience with the sub-genre. However, I don’t think it won’t be too much of a shock for me, and I should be able to easily find some similarities in western RPG games.

As defined by Ellis et al. (2011) Autoethnography is a combination of autobiography and ethnography, this helps to write about experiences or affects that a person receives from different media in different cultures. My own personal understanding of the word, is that it is a form of self-reflection on one’s own experiences in order to connect to much larger understandings, whether it be; cultural, political or social.

Through further research of JRPG’s and Western RPG’s or (WRPG’s), the country of origin in which the games were made have little to do with its identifier. JRPG’s are usually very story or narrative driven, in which you have a pre-set protagonist with a pre-set history and a pre-set personality, and usually you are given a default name. JRPG’s also focus more on the RNG (Random number generator) mechanic rather than the player’s input, and have some sort of turn based function implemented. JRPG games tend to have a very linear story-line in which the player must follow.

Western RPG’s or WRPG’s however, are much more player focused, in which the player is given an avatar that they can customize and give a custom name to, even the personality can be customized. Rather than having a unique character given to the player, they have an avatar that they custom made, in which they play the game with. The gameplay for WRPG’s also tend to be less RNG based and more skill based, allowing the player to have a lot of input into the gameplay. WRPG’s are more about exploring the world, with a lot more freedom for the player to do as they wish.

My own personal experiences with RPG’s prior to viewing and experiencing the JRPG of my choice, stemmed from my childhood to the current on-going obsession with games. Having been born in the generation where technology is easily accessible, and almost every household having a computer or a smart phone. Getting my young grubby hands onto video games felt natural to me, and one of my first experiences with an RPG game would have been runescape. The still popular massive-multiplayer role playing game, had me sitting at my CRT monitor for hours on end, grinding and levelling until early hours of the morning.

The artefact of my choice that I decided to study through autoethnography was a JRPG game called “Aura Kingdom”, also known as “Fantasy Frontier Online”. In Japan it originally was called Gensō Shin’iki (Fantasy Sanctuary), made by the Taiwanese game developer X-Legend. The game begins in a village like setting where the villagers ask you to complete tasks and quests for them, players can pick from twelve different classes: Guardian, Duelist, Ravager, Wizard, Sorcerer, Bard, Grenadier, Gunslinger, Brawler, Ranger, Ronin, Necromancer and Greatsword. Players also are able to pick their own starting pet Eidolon to start their battles with, with the ability to recruit more as the game progresses.

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  • The art style and general aesthetic of the game’s environment, felt very World of Warcraft like, with the low poly simple villages and forests for the player to explore.
  • The character design felt very out of place, as they were very anime-esk, large eyes, big hair, elaborate armour designs, and very dist3inct Naruto running styles.
  • I found there was a lot going on, on the screen, a lot of large animating numbers depicting damage and damage taken, huge sprites for attack animations, it felt like playing an arcade game with the amount of flashing colours and sprites.
  • There was a lot of inner monologue for the protagonist, or the character I was playing, each quest the character would question things that happened, it seemed like a very anime thing to do.
  • In terms of the other players playing this game, it felt like playing runescape, the chat was constantly being spammed by the people selling gold for real life money, or trading items and such.
  • I could tell the community was fairly large just from playing the game for an hour, simply by the chat system and other functions like the shout bar at the top of the screen.
  • One thing I also noticed was that the game went from a very linear storyline at the beginning, where it had this different kind of art style, to a very open world game that reminded me a lot of WoW.
  • It just goes to show how modern games these days are blurring the lines between JRPG’s and WRPG’s as both games seem to be taking from one another.
  • In this instance, JRPG’s seem to be taking from the customizability of characters and names, as well as the idea of open world intractability.
  • At the same time the game still felt very JRPG rather than WRPG, even whilst taking some of these aspects from WRPG games.

Revisiting Godzilla

I managed to grit my teeth and sit through what seemed to be the longest 1 hour and a half of terrible special effects, and black and white film grain. However, all the judging books by it’s cover stuff aside, the movie was actually not half bad. The 2014 Godzilla was my first movie of the Godzilla movies, which means I did have quite high expectations for the original. I was a little excited to watch the original, as it was a movie many had talked about watching, because of its cringey special effects and general bad 1950’s acting.

Something that did take me by surprise was the film techniques used by the Japanese film industry at the time, they were quite up to standard and took me by surprise. As Americans pretty much dominate the film industry it is quite hard for other countries to put their foot in the door and get recognised. It was kind of refreshing having that epiphany that oh wow this wasn’t a movie made by Americans, and yes it actually does have a lot of up to date (for its time) techniques and special effects.

Not only did I get this realisation of the Japanese film industry living up to the standard, the 1954 film displayed how the Japanese people lived around the time of the filming, and there were moments of culture shock, and how they did really live very differently to Australian or American culture. Say for instance the map depicts Japan on it’s side, I’m not sure if this is because Japan like to depict their country in the “centre of the earth” or if they simply just have continued this practice through tradition.

 

Godzilla and Autoethnography

Autoethnography, as defined by Ellis et al. (2011) is a combination of autobiography and ethnography, this helps to write about experiences or affects that a person receives from different media in different cultures. My understanding of the word autoethnography is a form of self reflection on personal experiences in order to connect to much bigger understandings, whether it be; cultural, political or social. Autoethnography the concept is relatively new to me, and seems like one of those ridiculous words you throw around to sound much smarter than you are, I will try my best to grasp its full meaning.
I watched Gojira or Godzilla a few weeks ago, the original japanese science fiction film. The film was really awesome, albeit the acting was a little rough and overdramatic at times. It was actually really hard for me to watch this film, because the first godzilla film I had seen was the most recent one with Brian Cranston and Aaron Taylor-Johnson…Soooo I guess I didn’t have high expectations for the original made in 1954. Putting the obvious miniatures of the giant dinosaur-like monster aside, the movie was quite rich, and as Chris had mentioned, there were things that he hadn’t seen or noticed upon watching the film another time. There were some serious and subtle undertones relating to political events such as hiroshima in the film, which I feel weren’t too obvious but still had an appearance, specifically with the mass loss of life. The random love triangle that was thrown in was, I feel, completely unnecessary, and didn’t add to the plot in anyway as there wasn’t really a solid resolution to this little dilemma. One thing I could differentiate from the 1954 to the 2014 movie, apart the amazing cinematics and special effects, was the very apparent Japanese culture that was shown throughout the movie, it helped me realize well yeah I am watching a Japanese film, but it’s more reassuring that there is a Japanese film industry out there, as I don’t really find myself indulging in the Japanese film industry too much, admittedly. Knowing that a lot of the action scenes used miniatures, it was actually super interesting to see how well they managed to execute these scenes. I feel if I hadn’t had the knowledge prior to watching the film, I would’ve thought some terrible primitive 3d animation took place.