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06 February 2012

Kingdom Hearts Game Play Visualizations


William Huber

Project Video

See the entire video animation on YouTube.


This project (2010) represents nearly 100 hours of playing two videogames as high resolution visualizations. This representation allows us to study the interplay of various elements of gameplay, and the relationship between the travel through game spaces and the passage of time in game play.

Visualizations Details (Figures 1 and 2)

Data: The data are the game play sessions of the video games Kingdom Hearts (2002, Square Co., Ltd.) and Kingdom Hearts II (2005, Square-Enix, Inc.) Each game was played from the beginning to the end over a number of sessions. The video captured from all game sessions of each game were assembled into a single sequence. The sequences were sampled at 6 frames per second. This resulted in 225,000 frames for Kingdom Hearts and 133,000 frames for Kingdom Hearts II. The visualizations use only every 10th frame from the complete frame sets: Kingdom Hearts: 22,500 frames. Kingdom Hearts II: 13,300 frames.

Timescales: Japanese role-playing games such as Kingdom Hearts can take from about 40 to over 100 hours to complete. Kingdom Hearts game play: 62.5 hours of game play, in 29 sessions over 20 days. Kingdom Hearts II game play: 37 hours of game play, in 16 sessions over 18 days.

Mapping: Frames are organized in a grid in order of game play (left to right, top to bottom).

Kingdom Hearts is a franchise of video games and other media properties created in 2002 via a collaboration between Tokyo-based videogame publisher Square (now Square-Enix) and The Walt Disney Company, in which original characters created by Square travel through worlds representing Disney-owned media properties (Tarzan, Alice in Wonderland, The Nightmare before Christmas, etc.). Each world has its distinct characters derived from the respective Disney-produced films. It also features a distinct color palettes and rendering styles, which are related to visual styles of the corresponding Disney films.

Like other software-based artifacts, video games can have infinite varied realizations since each game play is unique. Compressing many hours of game play into a single high resolution image and placing a number of such visualizations next to each other allows us to see the patterns of similarity and differences between these realizations. These visualizations are also useful in comparing different releases of the popular games – such as the two releases of Kingdom Hearts shown here.

Visualizations Details (Figure 3)

Data: sampled frames from the video capture of the complete traversal (playing the game from the beginning to the end) of the videogame Kingdom Hearts (2002, Square Co., Ltd.)

Timescales: game play length: 62.5 hours, in 29 sessions over 20 days. Animated over 7.8 minutes. From the original video capture done at 1 frame per second, every 16th frame was sampled. In the animation, these sampled frames are played back at 30 frames per second.

Mapping: completing Kingdom Hearts took 29 separate sessions. The sampled frame sequences are positioned from left to right in the order of sessions, and from bottom to top in order of the worlds visited.

This visualization relates together the travel through game spaces and the passage of time in game play. In the course of playing Kingdom Hearts games, a player moves through a number of different worlds. The visualization (Figure 3) represents each world by a single frame. These representative frames are organized vertically in the same order as the player encountered them in the course of the game (first visited world is on the bottom, next visited world is above, and so on.) The game was played over a number of separate sessions over many days; each session occupies a single column in a visualization (left to right.)

This visualization highlights the telescoping mobility over the game-worlds over time: first, the player visits one world at a time. In the middle of the game traversal (sessions 18 and 19) the player freely shuttles between the worlds, flattening them and treating them as resources, rather than as narrative spaces.By animating this passage through spaces, we can see the experience of expanding mobility between them.

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