Interactive Narratives

posted under by Philip Howlett
Directed Study: "Produce an analysis of three additional interactive narratives, commercial or artistic."

The websites we discussed in todays seminar were all familiar to me. When you browse the Internet on a regular basis, you begin to see all of the various styles of website. These range from truly terrible and ugly, to inventive and pioneering. They all reminded in one or another of sites I've seen over the years. The following will be a look at these websites, based around the criteria from the seminar.

Halo 3 - I discovered this site a couple of months ago, in the build up to the release of Halo 3. I'm an avid fan of the Halo 3 series, but I'll try to avoid any bias. What this site does is new to me, and ground breaking as far as web design goes. It effectively merges the advertising campaign (video) with the website (interaction). It's all mixed together to created a living, breathing world which you can manipulate, and it perfectly illustrates the Halo universe.

In terms of spacial awareness this site is successful. It follows some simple steps to center the users attention. Namely the website is placed in the middle of your browser window. It's very clear which content you're interacting with. The strong black border around the website only intensifies this, and the website becomes framed as a result.

One potential problem with this sites format is the fact the content may not be entirely viewable on a 800x600 resolution screen. Up until recently it would be regarded as a bad move to create a website which couldn't fit that screen type, which was the most commonly used. Now its more likely that people are using a 1024x768 screen or higher, so I can see why they took this route. By using a higher resolution canvas for the site they can fit in more detail.

What's special about
this website is it's use of media. You're basically given control of a camera, and you can pan through the set of the Halo 3 advertising campaign. You're on a fairly strict path when you're controlling, but it's still effective in portraying a feeling of manipulation. The clever part of this, is that through simply looking through the menu you're learning about the game. You see characters, environments and various other parts of the game are presented to you. As you search through the environment, small blue bubbles pop up, which you instinctively click on. These lead you to in-depth information. If you don't wish to navigate through this system, which at times can be fairly slow, you can use a more traditional button system at the bottom of the site. While is does draw you in and keep you interested, there are some draw backs. For instance, the font is fairly small through-out, so navigating is a little less clear than it could be. The nature of the site (using flash/graphics intensely) means it may be slow to load for some, and maybe even inaccessible for people with a slower machine.

In the genre of w
ebsites promoting a game, it's not strange to see flash used heavily, as it's a great tool to create animated sequences and interaction. In this regard it's very typical of its genre. This isn't surprising as games are interactive themselves, so it makes sense to carry on this trend to all areas of marketing. This website however takes things to another level, taking advantage of new technologies to provide the user with an immersive experience.

Assassins Creed - Again another website advertising a game. The website is advertised as "The Experience" which suggests you're going to get a different feel from this website compared to others. They're not lying either. On entering the site you'll notice your browser will open a new window, lacking any of your usual browser controls. Centered in this new window is a high resolution screen, boldly framed by a black background. What you get given here is instructions on how to use the site. I found this a little off putting, just because sometimes I want to get my information quickly and efficiently. I find overly elaborate sites get boring within minutes.

I was wrong to doubt it, because what you get treated to next is incredible. Videos of the game begin to play, showcasing it's graphics. You type in your name, and then continue through the site. What's interesting is that as you progress, you're "unlocking sections", so the website plays out like a game. This is a brilliant feature, which will draw in people who might not be interested in the game. People might just check out the website for the experience of playing around with it. Through-out there is ambient music, playing quietly in the background. It adds to the overall experience of being part of the game. Without realising, you're learning about the game. You're prompted to hit buttons in sequences, with timing. Every time you do so correctly, more is revealed.

To some people, this may appear a little to over the top. It's very impressive aesthically, making use of transitions and animations to bring static imagery to life. For someone who simply wants to point and click, then explore, this isn't for them. I would say this is aimed at a wider audience, using the website as a tool which will hopefully make people invest in the game.

Zune - This site is advertising the new "Microsoft Zune" MP3 player. Again this site makes use of flash, because once you start navigating this site there are some beautiful animations occurring. To navigate the site, you're actually using the "Zune" interface. As you hover your mouse over a link, the Zune bursts open, presenting you with bright and colourful illustrations. It presents it as a "journey", and when a link is opened, your entire browser window is filled with colour. I had fun navigating my way around, because by using the mouse to aim, you could literally fly through the world. By aiming an arrow forwards and clicking your mouse, the world flies past you. What's slightly disappointing is that there's no further interaction. You're just zooming through illustrations which outline all the features of the Zune. I completely understood what a Zune was all about by navigating my way around. Like the previous two sites, you find yourself picking up information without even realising. If you want to find out the technical specifics of the machine, that's also available, complete with an interactive version of the product. You can look at it from all angles, and get a better idea of it's aesthetics.

What was refreshing from this site is that there was no text at all. Everything is explained through imagery. You can fly through the "Zune" world, understanding what it's capable of, without having to read any technical jargon.


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