December 31, 2012

Baking Ninjas! - Seriously!

This is likely the most strange thing I've ever written, however I assure you every word of it is true. At around 3am today I was alone at my house, in my basement, at my computer, when suddenly I smelled smoke. I was quite sure the house was on fire and rushed upstairs as quickly as I could to see what it was, perhaps the christmas tree with too many lights and ornaments or maybe I left something like the toaster on. None of these things, there was no fire I could find. I traced the smell back to kitchen where I found a fresh out of the oven hot loaf of banana nut bread. It was in one of my bread pans. I hadn't done any cooking. Furthermore I knew I was alone in the house, not to mention the fact my kitchen is above my computer room and the floor boards creek if I breathe too hard, and I didn't hear a single thing creek at all. On top of everything else I checked the oven which still had all the pans in it, and the oven itself was quite cold, clearly it had not been used to bake this fine loaf of bread, nor were there any dirty dishes in my sink. Out of confusion I test the bread again to make sure it's as hot as I thought and it was. I look for any sort of card or note before I now check the doors to make sure they're locked and can't simply be pushed open, then I even check the screen doors.

Eventually I couldn't explain how this loaf of bread came into existence, how it wound up in my house, or why it was in one of my bread pans. I eventually settled on it either had to be baking ninjas or baking ghosts. I opted for ninjas. Once people started arriving I asked if one of them had came by and dropped it off, check with my neighbors which are also family if they came by for something or left it for me. Nobody claimed the banana bread as theirs.

Clearly this is going to be the most interesting new years ever, and perhaps the entire year will be awesome. Or simply put, perhaps I've completely destroyed reality and the universe will implode any day now, we'll see. I saved some of the bread aside to see if there's anything special about it, but I figure safety test it first by feeding it to all of my guests minus the section I saved for myself, because it would be rude not to try some of it assuming it's safe. So far everyone is still alive and says it tastes great. I'm inclined to believe the baking ninjas love me for some reason and this is their holiday thank you gift to me.

Also if you have an answer to this, feel free to say it in the comments.Aside from the obvious of course which is that I've completely lost my mind, because apparently I haven't, I checked, it's right where I left it.

December 27, 2012

Consideration for Users

One of the most important things that's constantly told to any developer over and over again is how important the end user is. You have to have consideration for the player. What is that though really? It's more than just knowing your target audience and developing accordingly.

Small file sizes aren't just for improved performance, they will also make your players happy that the game isn't eating their hard drive space. If you're making a game for pc. If it's on a disc, most devs tend to not worry as long as it fits. This then can result in some problems when doing a pc port later or if consideration isn't taken for the pc players if you're developing for both. By problems of course I really just am complaining about the obscene size of some games that clearly weren't a thought for devs when they did a pc port. Though they can also seriously alter performance and load times as well. So this is one thing to consider.

Interface is another, not just GUI but the basics as well. Knowing if it's a controller or keyboard and mouse, and giving more user control over these things. Namely the option to turn off or modify controller key maps on pc, and change keys on the consoles would be nice. Not everybody is going to like how you choose to implement these interface methods and will undoubtedly want to do it their way and it's not that hard or unreasonable to accommodate them.

Understanding the value of the player's time and cutting out unnecessary grinding just to lengthen playtime. It doesn't make your game good and it's not about to convince me to buy a sequel. Games like ICO or Shadow of the Colossus are great examples of how to either completely cut out the grind, or disguise the grind so well you have absolutely no idea it's going on. In the later example grinding is also entirely optional. Don't even try to argue that the series of boss fights is somehow a grind in itself because while vaguely repetitious each fight is notably different and doesn't meet the requirements to actually be called grind. Keep in mind grind is not repetition in and of itself, it's repetitive tasks that don't forward a plot or have minimal rewards. For example in games like runescape where you can mine ore for days to make a few sets of armor to sell for coin. That is grindtastic.

This isn't meant to be a rant. More precisely I'm pointing out that a good game merely takes consideration of it's players in as many aspects as you can conceive. Try to think about it as though you were already playing, and would you really want to go through that process as a player.

December 26, 2012

Cutting Floor

I'm a very wasteful dev. I tend to make all sorts of things I inevitably decide not to keep. These things get filed away for some other time, and it's not just once in a while, I tend to cut probably half of the things I make. I thought today might be an interesting time to tell you about some of the things that were almost in the main title that might show up somewhere else and kind of give perspective on how much the game has changed since originally writing it down.

When I first started the game was going to be centered around a player that accidentally wandered in to a criminal based deathmatch game in a city that'd been converted to a play field. There was a floating camera that followed the player around recording what you did, allowing you access to 3rd person mode, and would allow friends to watch you play from a spectator view. There were tools to hack street cameras and manipulate city defenses. There were vehicles you could grab off the street and drive around, and if you came to a sudden stop you would sometimes go flying out the windshield, which could be an intentional option to chase an enemy getting away through a narrow pass between streets. In the end it all got cut and the story re-written. I use the excuse that all the metal was taken by the survivors to build their walls. Though I'm still considering adding back 3rd person under a different pretense.

Now there's one thing that I had put in that I'm considering cutting though I've already gotten it mostly finished which makes me think I might just leave it in for the same reason it was there to begin with. I have a multiple choice answer system where by pressing triggers or the shoulder buttons, aka L1/2 R1/2 etc to shift perspective selection options. By pressing none you get the neutral response options. Essentially you'd be using one set for lawful/chaotic and the other for good/evil and by not selecting a set you get the neutral of the unselected. Your answers basically don't effect anything, sometimes a slightly different response and the idea was to add an achievement to point out the pointlessness of having the choice considering it would end with the same net result. I'd also point out that is a lot of dialog to come up with. So far it's safe though it depends on how many complaints I get. It would seem people want these choices to mean something which is in direct opposition to their entire purpose. I'm probably just going to leave it in out of spite.

Then there's the recently removed giant mechs. Literally as tall as some of the tallest skyscrapers in the game these giant mechs dominated the field and were designed to help players focus on team work to brink the behemoths down. Turns out that it's much more difficult to get people to work together on a single target than I'd originally imagined. This includes even when I made them the primary objective for all players. Even weakening them to absurdly easy didn't really seem to help get people to work together so I've since been trying to find other ways to do so. Including forcing players to stick together, and punishing them even more than before for not doing so.

There are a lot of other things on the cutting room floor, this is just a highlight of some of the things I worked fairly hard on that simply aren't in the game anymore.

Not to make up for anything here but I also added a new grenade. When it explodes all of it's fragments also explode on impact, great for clearing a room or taking down a small building. It can be combined with some of the splitting skills so the fragments split apart again after the secondary explosion to make 3rd and 4th explosions wile also doubling the number of fragments or more. It also ties in with any and all other skills because I had enough forethought in the framework to make future weapons as dlc options as well, most likely free of course. This means throwing 2 or more of them at the same time, bigger explosions, more damage, further throwing distance than the base value, additional properties like poison gas, invisibility texture application, flashbang properties, explode on impact, and ever so many other options. There's an entire tree of options dedicated to ranged weaponry, as well as explosives, which together tend to combine well with grenades or under barrel launchers, or RPG's etc. Hopefully you'll like it, I certainly do.

December 22, 2012

2012 The year of the PC

So 2012 turned out to be quite the year for pc gaming. I started the year off with less than 10 games on steam, and only a few more other pc games in total. For the purpose of this blog though I'll stick to steam. My total budget for the year was $117.36 and I used it to buy 278 games by my last count, possibly more. My most expensive purchase was during the steam winter sale... Tom Clancy you are downright evil sometimes. I ended up buying future soldier and splinter cell conviction and that finally tipped me over the 100$ mark. How did I do it you ask? How did I get so many games, and what did I actually get? Obviously they all have to be garbage right? you can't buy anything good on the cheap right? Wrong!

Many of you have probably bought or at least heard of the THQ bundle. On humble the above average price was only 5$ and change and gave some great games, and for only 1$ you still got an amazing selection. In fact I bought 7 1$ copies as christmas gifts, and those of you that got them and are reading this, you're very welcome. Of course now it's available at amazon for 7$ and metro 2033 a game in that pack has been giving away free keys on the THQ facebook page for some time now. I do dare say anyone who doesn't have a copy of metro 2033 in their steam account by now doesn't deserve it. Excluding those that simply were incapable of getting it of course. But for those of you that heard "free game" and went "nah I don't think so, I'm gonna pass, I'd love to pay for it instead" and walked away shame on you. Though enough on that part, thq bundle is the smallest example of this years great deals.

Earlier in the year during the spring bundle on steam there were some downright amazing deals which is where I got the majority of my titles. Then throughout the year humble bundle, indie royale, indie gala, groupees build a bundle, and many other similar bundle sites had tons of great deals for only a fist full of dollars. Great sites like steam gifts awarded me a couple games. And even a few friends got me gifts by simply asking when they were on sale. Then recently amazon has had some amazing holiday deals on games like the borderlands game of the year edition, and the bioshock games. I got bioshock 1+2 for only 5$ from amazon, and for 10$ I got duke nukem forver, darkness 2, and borderlands goty. Granted the real reason I bought that bundle was borderlands which was worth it, meanwhile the other two were really just added bonuses, either way they get added to the collection. GOG and gamergate also had some great deals from time to time. So really I hopped all over the place buying up whatever was cheap at the time if it was something I actually wanted. So that's the how, now comes the what. What exactly did my money buy me? After all some of us plop down 120$ on one game, like assassins creed 3 limited edition for the consoles. This could also be applied for almost any limited edition on consoles which had a very expensive year if you're a limited edition addict. ME3, BL2, AS3, DoA5, etc, so how exactly could I come by 300 games worth over 1000$ for 1/10th the price, and again are they any good?

Well the best way to tell you is just to list some of the awesome games I got. And to also simply remind you to just wait for a deal, make an RSS search for deals on games you want and eventually you'll find them cheap enough. Don't outright beg your friends, but it never hurts to ask when you find something on sale but might not have enough yourself. This works better if you remember to get them something from time to time as well when you have money. I spent 16$ on gifts and got over 200$ in gifts back by value, not sure what they actually paid. For example a friend I got a humble bundle for got me sleeping dogs without me even asking because he noticed it on my wishlist while it was on sale. I bought another friend the witcher for 2$ and he bought me every deus ex game. I don't expect gifts from my friends, but it's interesting to note that by remembering their birthdays and holidays how much I tend to get back regardless. Then there's trades. I managed to trade dota 2 early access gifts for sanctum and unstoppable gorg, I am alive, and several others. I also got plenty of DLC gifts from friends and trades which aren't counted in the actual games list. 

Some of the other games I've gotten include torchlight 2, the spellforce games, velvet assassin for a measly 75 cents in which I got 2 copies, the other warhammer 40k game that wasn't included with thq bundle, nuclear dawn, from dust, defense grid, atom zombie smasher, magicka, orcs must die 1 and 2, the portal games, the left 4 dead games, and all the dlc's pretty much for all of my games, the only one so far I don't have all the dlc for yet is sleeping dogs and that's just because it hasn't had a great sale yet to put the dlc's down to a good price. I also got the supreme commander gold pack, all the company of heroes games, alien shooter 2, nation red, zombie driver, really just some absolutely great games. Many of them might fall under the category of arcade or snack games that don't have the AAA full on gaming experience but are meant to fill your spare time, even so they're the best of the best, and you can't really argue with geometry wars for a quarter. Given also that every game so far has worked perfectly on my system without any lag and I never have to worry about discs I'd say pc gaming has also got all of my gaming budget next year, I doubt I'll be buying any more console games, and I might just let my XBL of 6 years lapse. I'm tired of the full price nonsense at 60$ a game when if I wait a few months or a year I get it for pennies on the dollar, that even includes just getting it used over at gamestop.

Again my only real complaint with steam is I can't loan my games or resell them, but that's not so big of a detriment to me, more of just an inconvenience. Though with new things like the marketplace opening up where I can make money by continuing to play rather than by forfeiting my ability to ever play again... well that sounds a lot more appetizing. While I'm no stranger to buying used games, I will say that it's exceptionally hard to find older titles, a problem I've never once faced with pc, because I can still grab tachyon the fringe if I want to and that game will never be seen on store shelves again outside of perhaps some niche shop if you're really lucky. Really my year with PC gaming has turned me from a true believer into a devout zealot. Not the hardcore mouse and keyboard you normally get but at the very least the power of pc gaming.

While I still prefer my mouse power I won't blame you for using an xbox controller, because that's probably the one thing I'll always like about controllers. I like the feel of it and the extra feedback, the overall compact form of the buttons and simply put the comfort. I don't have to find an awkward position to hold the shift key to run or ctrl to crouch, and if done properly I still get all my macro's. Accuracy is the only downside to controllers actually, and while I may not be able to have the same power I'd get from my mouse I can calibrate it to the point that the loss in accuracy is either negligible or ignorable. A better mouse doesn't make you a better player, it's all about skill and when it comes down to it the skill of aiming is secondary to all the other skills needed to be a great player in shooters. As to non shooting games you really almost never have to worry about awkward finger positions and usually don't have to worry about micro so you can confidently use both the mouse and the controller. Though in RTS I will say you'll probably never beat a keyboard and mouse with a controller, that's just how they're built. When it comes down to it it's just whatever works for you in whatever game you happen to be playing.  As long as you're playing on a PC.

December 19, 2012

How I see a real zombie apocalypse happening.

In my game I propose one theory on hour our forced evolution or abuse of cloning results in mutations in our dna resulting in the abnormal behavior of anyone that's been cloned too many times. I also try to reflect how people who have never been cloned react to those that have been. This is one potential however  it's nowhere near the more frightening concepts I imagined. The reason I settled on it was the message, telling a story and following tradition of what a good zombie story is supposed to be. What I really think would happen in a real zombie outbreak is much different.

I see it coming in one of two ways. A parasite that easily can live in all kinds of species and can survive in water alone. These parasites would rapidly infect and multiply spreading in ways we couldn't hope to contain. Eventually it would be nearly impossible to eat or drink anything natural at any time and potentially dangerous to be out in the rain from an infection standpoint. It'd be likely that these parasites would also be easily transmitted in saliva and blood making them that much deadlier as then you have to worry about what you touch and use, and how you use it. How it would really effect you or change you into a zombie is a good question though. I would imagine a rudimentary intelligence that builds the more of the parasite is in your system until it gains control. In order to keep you alive for it's own survival and propagation it would likely find ways to repair damage and keep vital organs working and would do so quickly making killing a parasite based zombie very difficult indeed as it wouldn't be a centralized intelligence where a headshot would easily kill it I would imagine.

Then there's the traditional virus. Airborn, transmittable via water, cross species, this relentless pandemic would sweep the nation before we could possibly hope to control it. Though it could just as easily take a much more subtle approach. It starts off small, some land locked country far from regular civilization in an area prime for bacterial propagation and evolution. It infects but leaves no sign it's even there. It then begins to spread, it's months before doctors start noticing the abnormality in blood work. They begin to analyze it and find a treatment. It slowly evolves or mutates causing minor loss in body fat. A group effort is formed once it becomes apparent the world is rapidly becoming infected. Some of the more paranoid nations start restricting travel into the country. Then in some highly overcrowded city like kowloon it mutates again. Within the first week major deaths are reported and substantial weight loss for the survivors. The mutation now eats away at brain cells causing loss of fine motor control, hemorrhaging from every orifice, constant vomiting, dehydration, liver failure and in some cases blindness. The first wave of infected starts to turn on fellow humans and violently tear them apart. The human physiology tries to adapt and survive some partial immunities keep some of the infected alive though with their diminished brain capacity they're nothing but mindless drones prone to extreme violence and cannibalism. At this point most countries have completely disallowed all traffic and have declared martial law. The borders aren't protected but the blocked streets slow the spread. Governments start handing out bottled water, killing rodents, pests, and other creatures, burning everything.

During the second week the first UN meetings on the subject are held. Consideration is given to joint military operations to eliminate the infection in the most heavily populated areas while also establishing perimeter control until a cure can be found. One of the greatest collaborations in history takes place as the worlds greatest work around the clock to find a solution. By the end of the week the first strikes begin. By the end of the first month military action is failing to control the spread and it is now confirmed every country in the world is at least 10% of it's population dead, and at least 40% of the remaining population is infected. Some of the first countries are declared no mans land. In the following weeks the first nukes are used on countries deemed devoid of life. The containment perimeters on existing locations are expanded and extreme measures are taken to maintain them, including massive terraforming, constant bombardment, and automated turrets that fire on anything that moves.

After 3 months the collective collaborations of scientists has come to a conclusion that no cure can be made and the project is terminated. By now over 60% of the world population is infected. Constant nuclear strikes are authorized and the first centralized evacuations occur to relocate the population to an area that can be safely controlled and maintained. Anyone who is infected has a sample of their blood taken then executed on the spot. A few scientists still hold out for hope of a natural immunity. Experiments are conducted on some of the infected to find deterrents, efficient methods of killing, and survivability under extreme conditions. During the relocation process it's estimated the infection spreads to nearly 80% of all remaining world population.

The new underground cities prove effective at preventing infection. Massive air filtration, and cleaning processes that are isolated from the outside world. Daily testing of blood samples the test has been honed down to a process that takes only seconds for extremely accurate results. Positive testers are isolated in case of false positives and tested for potential immunity. The food supply is stable though not of the highest quality. Water is almost too clean though the supply is tightly controlled, maintained, and monitored. Alcohol becomes the standard liquid of choice due to it's relative safety aside from other less practical reasons. The supply is abundant. The outside world is almost completely lifeless and all military efforts have been abandoned in favor of protecting the last city.

One day some how some way the virus makes its way into the city. By now it has evolved several times and is now hundreds of times more infectious and deadlier than before. hundreds are infected within minutes, within hours the greater majority of the population is now infected and the first signs containment have failed start to show. By the end of the day there are fewer than 100 people left in the world and 20 of them are confined within the city now overrun with the infected. Perhaps some of them are actually immune, perhaps they're just lucky. The species is on the brink of extinction and nearly impossible to propagate under the current conditions the end of all life of the planet is now imminent. The infection has greatly altered all other life on the planet and the atmosphere has adjusted accordingly making life that much harder on the survivors.

At this point either the human race dies, or a glimmer of hope is revealed as the few survivors begin to rebuild and have offspring. The world will never be the same and the human race will be starting practically from square 1 if it survives. It's likely the virus is alive inside all the survivors however doesn't effect them for some reason, likely immunity possibly something else. Over time this causes a mutation in the genetics redefining what a human even is.

That's how I imagine a real zombie apocalypse happening, because even if you stop the people at first the disease will find a way to travel and once it's spread everywhere there's no stopping it.

December 12, 2012

Gamers Today

It's sad to say but the new generation of gamers simply don't understand or respect the classics for the most part. They tend to focus so much on graphics they simply don't care about mechanics. A good game to them is simply what looks the best, and every time I hear that it just breaks my heart. They'll never know what it was like to play pong, tetris, pacman, super mario brothers, the original zelda or any other great legends. You can't convince them on zelda for the snes or ocarina of time, you can't get them to try final fantasy 5, 7 or 8. To them any game older than last year is so ancient it's not worth even looking at. They won't even watch speed runs it's so sad.

I understand how graphics can really push things and that in some cases they are important. You can't sell me a bad game based on graphics though, they're not there to define the game they're there to accent it. The original doom wouldn't really be made much better with graphics nor would we really love minecraft that much more if it had super graphics. That's not the reason we love these games. That's not to say they can't benefit, but they're not the selling point. Would we love portal any less if it had bad graphics? I don't think so. These games aren't great because we grew up with them, they're great because of great design. Some games are great throughout the ages. I have no problem picking up and playing ICO, shadow of the colossus, or any of the metal gear solid games. Just because they're old and the graphics can't directly compare to modern day doesn't suddenly make them bad.

I'm somewhat inspired by games like the Halo anniversary that went out of their way to give you the ability to play both the old and the new graphics and easily switch between the two. This allows newer gamers with their fixation to play the classic and understand why it was great and show them a great game isn't just about how the graphics look.While some experiences may not age well or simply won't really transfer over into today's audience like perhaps goldeneye that's not to say we shouldn't try. Because some games really are perfect in their original state and are worth breaking out old hardware to play like they were meant. Look at missile command, is it really something that needs those amazing graphics? I say no, the core mechanics and principal  are the reason it was so great. When you die it's not game over, it's the end pure and simple. The lesson being that there are no winners in nuclear war which is what it's all about, you buying a few extra moments to the families of the cities you're protecting. It has no end, eventually you will lose. The complex strategy of picking which cities to save and which to sacrifice for the greater good. Do you protect your important bases with their few resources to save the other cities longer or do you sacrifice them to save all the cities right now even if it'll only make it harder later? How would asteroids really be any better with a graphical overhaul? The game is all about core mechanics and high texture asteroids with animated comet trails and explosions won't change that. We've seen what an update of space invaders has done, and it wasn't pretty. The same could be said for centipede, millipede, and snake. Donkey kong would probably lose something in such a process as part of what gave it such charm was the basic graphics.

I'll repeat that I don't really long for the old days or a throwback, but it's very important we know and remember our gaming history as we look forward. There's a lot to be said about the lessons learned from making the older games where you didn't have all the raw power you wanted and instead had to focus on great ideas and better execution. About the importance of mechanics and melody, timing and pace, there's the understanding of what actually makes a great game.

December 08, 2012

Question to the Readers

I've been thinking about adding a training/learning mode to multiplayer and bots. In the training mode I would have a menu to teach you about each and every thing, weapons, attachments, maps, strategy, etc, all with voice and camera focus and player interactions. As for bots, well it's just in case things flop and we don't get a lot of players you can still play against an AI not to mention balancing teams when there's not enough players for a match proper, then adding drop in drop out and people take over AI or it takes over when they leave for smooth gameplay.

So my question is, would you want these features, would you use them, and that else would you want if I were to include them? Namely if I'm setting up a learning mode what would you want to learn about that I haven't already listed?

To be more specific about map learning I'd show a basic heat map of where people tend to move, and where people tend to die. I'd explain how the map was designed, what it was meant for and how it was originally intended for use. Granted the maps are just sections of the existing city however that is primarily how the city was designed to begin with, in sections, each with a practical purpose and a gameplay mode in mind. I'd probably include some history about what that part of the city was used for even if it's irrelevant it might help with immersion. I might highlight a few key areas of note, some good sniping positions, and alternative entries to particular locations where objectives are. Things of that nature, though if it wasn't actually pointed out here and it's something you want be sure to mention so in comments.

Right now I'm working on adding heat maps for each game mode and map, as well as more stat tracking. Again though I'm not bothering with accuracy because it's hard to measure when a person is actually aiming, or is just spray and pray or suppressive fire. The only way I know to measure so far is how many bullets fired compared to how many hit a valid enemy target which doesn't include that extra round you didn't need when shooting someone that hit them anyway, you see? Other than that though I have plans for favorite weapons, maps, attachments, game modes, weapons types, and more. These will also be used to recommend upgrades from the upgrade menu.

To clarify from a previous post while I removed oversized mechs I do still have the tank, and small to medum sized battle armors and mechs. Though nothing taller than an average house unlike before. So the role is still there just a different ultimate upgrade I'm working on right now.

That should about wrap things up, again if the mentioned features from before sound nice or if there's anything you want to add I would appreciate mentioning it in the comments.

December 05, 2012

Publish? Don't make me laugh.

So I finished up one mini game and started another, all while still working on a main title, only to find out how insane it is for me to try and publish. Turns out there's a lot of people I have to sign papers with to get the game out there if I expect to do it for any sort of profit that I might use towards my next game. I would almost end up owing more than I would make which probably means when it's all said and done I would owe more. I can launch for free but I can't accept donations if I do that apparently. I've been thinking of doing kickstarter and pointing out it's already done except for it's for funding unfinished products... It seems like I must've seriously missed something somewhere. So in response I'm re-working as much as I can to cut out as many people as I can. I'm also trying to find out why autodesk is trying to double dip when I know Epic covers their fee for any and all "gameware". Well perhaps not any and all but at least what I used, I'm not entirely sure what other gameware they have and if Epic covers it or not but for what I used it's clearly stated they do.

My frustration is compounded by the fact the UDK editor I've been using doesn't want to start anymore it's immediately crashing after it finishes loading. Which makes me inclined to believe I have some kind of conflict somewhere but I can't narrow it down. Then again it might be my ati/amd graphics drivers which are of course up to date but I remember them having a conflict earlier in the year I think around july that was frustrating me. I haven't picked up the november UDK update yet so hopefully that will fix it.

Someone pointed out nfringe to me to incorporate with visual studio, at the time I got a free copy of visual studio 2012, granted I've never worked with visual studio before, but it becomes pointless relative to unrealscript when you realize nfringe doesn't support 2012, only up through 2010. Which means I'm sticking with my notepad++.

I've also come up with a few more random game ideas bringing my total of "on paper" ideas to 26. 16 of which actually have been thought out fairly well, have feature lists, and an overall storyline where relevant. 4 of which are in development 1 of which is actually technically finished if not for my now necessary revisions.

I'm going to try and see if any of the licenses can accept payment after release as well and hopefully I can get people to work with me on this. I'm going to have a meeting tomorrow with a couple venture capitalists to see if I might be able to bypass community funding somehow. If all goes well we might actually see this game this year yet. It's sad how a 3 month project turned into an all year venture like this. Makes me wonder what I'll do next year....

November 16, 2012

The November Update

While I've generally been keeping up on my philosophy I know I've cut back on this side. Simply put there hasn't been much to openly discuss till today. I've been testing some of the changes I made and really changed up a few things. For starters I've stripped out the larger skyscraper mechs for various reasons and will be saving them for a different game not yet even thought of which may not ever happen. I managed to get nearly 160 players playing simultaneously without lag, and I'm confident it can handle more though I didn't have enough people to find out at the time. Something which for the record unreal engine absolutely is not built for at all, and it was a nightmare to rebuild everything ground up but the good news is that it's finally starting to pay off. Speaking of Unreal I must say I'm somewhat impressed by their UE4 tech demo's they put out. I'm also not oblivious to the changes at epic games, but I'm also not worried about them at all either.

I managed to also get an improved version of persistent world play up and get that tested. I also broke down and implemented a console controller and joypad support including free form editing and enable/disable with disable the default. This way if you like to use an emulator that's still an option, and if you want the in game support it's there and proper not some infuriating garbage, and if you happen to not like the setup you're also free to change it with access to all the same area's it's programmed for. To elaborate for example the difference between a button press and a button hold, and sequence actions like double tap or combos. Though over this coming weekend I'll be working on it some more as there were complaints about conflicts with certain button combinations and settings. I finished adding another 5 guns in as well and made sure they work with existing assets. Add to that several hundred other minor tweaks and fixes and updates I've been working on, dare I suggest it might already be award worthy on the multiplayer aspect.

As for my progress in developing single player I scrapped the side missions for now and focused in on single player thinking about how I could increase play time without stupid gimmicks or grinding where everything seems to continue smoothly and progresses the story at a decent pace. Which first off started with me shortening the game quite a bit then devising a plan I'm working on now to expand the story itself.

The changes in the story are minor with this new idea and add a few hours to play time over what was cut out. So that's about all I can think of to catch everybody up for now, hope you enjoyed it.

November 01, 2012

Future Gaming Tech - Audio

Unlike some of the future gaming tech out there audio is one of the sorely neglected yet essential pieces in gaming. Some future items are already out there like various mind control based games with strange devices measuring your alpha and beta brain waves to play a game. What I have in mind though is something a bit more radical. The application of procedural or algorithmic generation to audio and not just graphics. Some basic examples of the idea exist in music using either existing audio that gets slightly adjusted based on variables and conditions or advanced compilations of existing audio based on character actions usually. So far it's been impractical to try and synthesize audio outside the 16 bit range in a game because of size and or practical limitations.

Though now there are some worthy and worth while programs to mention that can generate speech based on text with some less robotic voices. This however is only the beginning. I see a future perhaps one brought by Bethesda and The Elder Scrolls series in which all the audio will be completely generated through code without any actual production audio. Unique music for every dungeon, and dialogue and voices for every NPC. Audio which will be dynamically altered in real time based on various variables. Muffled audio from water or distance in rain, or that ringing and buzz after being too close to an explosion or standing in front of a rock concert speaker for too long. Creating the actual sound of a building collapsing based on what's actually happening in the game. Proper dissipation over distance instead of a flat cutoff at a given distance, and complex audio echo's and bouncing. These details can completely change how we see a world, without them the visuals will be all we really have to rely on and if we're focusing on them more and more it becomes much harder to be immersed when we start noticing out of place polygons or unrealistic movements.

Though of course with some of the strange things I'm seeing in the future of gaming I must say it'll be very interesting to see how they all blend together. With things like the above mentioned controller there's a game designed to estimate if you're on edge or not and then insert random noises, shadows, or enemies to get you back on edge and keep you there. I can only imagine what that will do to the human psyche  if someone plays it too long. Forcing you into always being afraid and on edge for hours at a time non stop, imagine meeting that person just after he stops playing. That's one of those lines that while I can appreciate it being crossed I really wouldn't want to do it myself and would have a hard time getting into a game that's profiling me constantly to try and push me into a given emotional state regardless of the final value of it.

October 21, 2012

Outside the Usual

While I like to say I dedicate almost every waking moment to furthering my personal goals of making my next game and related I do occasionally do other things. Considering this blog is equally about me and what I do I thought today would be a good time to ignore the 10 other posts I have in draft and let you know what I've been up to on a personal level for the last few days.

There's an interesting instrument, only 2 of its kind in the world, one is in a museum and the other one is in a band not horrifically far from me. This instrument works by emitting an electromagnetic field that produces a solid sound which can then be modified based on what's in the EMF. So essentially you wave your hands in the air and it makes music. I thought it was very clever despite how old it is, predating even the earliest synths it's from back in the 20's or something like that. It took some effort but I managed to find out exactly how it was made and how it works because, you guessed it, I was arrogant enough to think I could make a better one. So I made some modifications and updates to the idea then built a brand new one with a much larger field then put it on its side. I then borrowed a friends copy of dance central and went crazy. The music of dance is something uniquely interesting, and the best part is some of the best music wasn't choreographed at all but rather the stuff most people do at a rave. I did some jumping and some hand waving some head bobbing you know the drill. Now I have to find a way to attach some real speakers, a slight redesign oversight, and an output to computer.

Which got me thinking. Why not implement it through computer? Imagine what I could do and how the field could be modified or interpreted so many mods and plugins for a uniquely new kind of program. Perhaps even removing the instrument and implementing a camera interface with some kind of depth perception? Imagine making dubstep by dancing, it would be so perfect? For clarification right now it kind of sounds like a half way between classical and early synth. I put in a delay knob and a BPM and an optional repeat, which can kinda make things a little trippy if you slow it down or absolutely hyper if you turn it up. It's not a terribly complex device, and the real time consuming part was just those 3 features. Essentially it's designed to recognize changes in EM field which means because no two people have the same EM field which we do all output then no two people can play the same song either and have it sound the same. Added to this is that it is also designed then to output a constant stream and or tone so BPM doesn't exist, and it's hard to create a delay for something designed to react immediately. The repeat was also a serious pain. In the end though just these three things completely change how you can use the device. BPM though for the record while it comes in heavily for repeat does also alter regular play which is to say if your bpm is set low swiping your hand through the air might sound like a harp or cello if it's set high it'll be more of a quick violin. If it were altered to something more like drums it'd be more obvious. There are some default alterations for tone and pitch shift but I haven't really figured a way to make that part dynamic yet.

The plus side to all this is I might revolutionize a field I'm not even really interested in because I got bored on a weekend. Imagine if that's how some of the greatest things ever invented happened that way...  Can't think of anything specific but seriously consider it anyway.

October 19, 2012

The Final Frontier of Gaming

There are ARG's in the world today. An alternate reality game is one designed in which real players take on adventures in reality while adhering to set rules and fiction. Though clearly it's limited to what people are actually capable of. The limitations are fairly serious right out and show heavily when you're dealing with what would otherwise be considered NPC's, the real people you end up talking to that are meant to be fictional characters. For example if you're taking on a role that requires you to interact with a leader of a resistance assuming he isn't already flooded by other players and is a decent enough actor to be somewhat believable he's still probably all by himself, you don't have the kind of support team you'd expect from a rebel leader.

What I'm getting as is we're already trying to fake ourselves into what we hope gaming will be one day. When video games finally start to shape and alter our reality. It might bleed through at first as useful devices that alter our reality for actually beneficial things. There are some such devices already being tested, such as finding the price of an item in store or identifying a building or structure, doing research on an object automatically through the net just by looking at it. Then it'll shift as we find ways to use it for entertainment. Eventually it'll come to a point in which the lines between fantasy and reality don't actually exist anymore as they'll be one and the same. This is a good thing for the most part I think assuming it doesn't end up killing us as we inevitably die in the fantasy.

Just imagine what games will look like in a century, going from virtual reality to altered reality and beyond. What kind of game could you make and play if you were completely unrestricted?
also, perfect timing for a joke

October 15, 2012

How I Review

Everyone has their own set of rating systems. Some people like the 5 scale or the 10 scale and some rank beauty separate from sexy/hotness. I for one rank everything on a 100 scale. I pick 10 facets of the subject and put each on a ten scale then rank away on each then combine the cumulative score. Five primary and five secondary attributes are responsible for the ten facets so when need be I can put it on a five scale for someone looking for that score. When I'm shortening it I generally will just divide by ten and round to the nearest half down. The importance of the primary attributes shouldn't be overlooked. The reason I separate them is so that when working on a five scale the important parts get across because the secondary attributes don't matter much under or in comparison to the primaries.

For example one primary attribute I commonly use is replayability in a game while a secondary that's related to it is how long the game lasts. It doesn't matter so much if the game only takes four hours or a whopping one hundred hours if the game is only good for one playthrough. That's something that comes across a lot in games like call of duty in which the campaign is usually a good score but the replay is next to zero. Thankfully I give out separate scores for single and multiplayer because I found it's just wrong to compare the two or have them share a score. This is also becoming a little more relevant as different teams are sometimes and increasingly more often responsible for the two separately. Other common attributes are things like difficulty, not only overall but also in transition, is there a specific area where the difficulty is substantially different either easier or harder, so consistency is also an attribute. Though not all of these are always translatable between all games so sometimes I have to re-work them though I have a base set for each of the 7 primary genre's.

The one thing I'm known for with my reviews is brutality. I never go easy on anything, including myself, because we deserve not only honesty but we deserve the best and if we give away these good scores the developers aren't under any pressure to do better they think "oh we did good guess that was enough". The highest rating I've ever given a game was an 83, and it's also the only one over 80, as of yet I have never come across a game to rate or warrant in the 90's. If there's one thing I have experience in it's games, which in itself should be enough to be a fairly trustworthy review to begin with. I've played in the thousands if not tens of thousands of games over the years and beat them all. Going as far back as commodore and early atari's that still had keyboards through modern day, the only consoles I haven't owned since the 90's aside from arcade machines are the DS, Wii, and Vita and even so I've still played them. I might as well be a gaming machine myself. Add to that the fact I have professional experience in analysis and related fields I'd say I'm prime to dish out a review.

How do you review? What is your preference on rating scales? Can you stick a piece of gum in your mouth and not chew it?


I've talked about inspiration before, it can come from anywhere and everywhere in all manner of contexts. At one point I even saw the face of a turian in my shower curtain which lead me to believe it's possible that's where the guys from mass effect came up with the idea. The important thing is being able to recognize inspiration when it comes to you and being able to use it accordingly. For now I'm discussing a popular form of inspiration in which we look for it in places we know it exists, such as similar forms of media that we're aiming for. A painter may look at other paintings from other artists to try and find their inspiration or to find a new one based on theirs or somehow connected. Directors may watch movies, just as writers will read books. Thus game developers will likely play other video games and see what they like in the game and try to understand what idea the concept stems from, what the source of it was and the steps taken to get to it. In effect it's a slight step below reverse engineering.

I recently talked about the core emotion of a game. The emotion however is not usually what the game is centered around, however it's in the first circle of primary things that all subsequent arms of the game are developed on. The very central core idea is a very specific concept a genesis point if you will. While the story of dante and thus likely the game are based on love it's usually not so straight forward. For example while I sit here drinking some root beer and thinking how long it'd been since I hat a float I find myself designing a random game that's seemingly unrelated and yet somehow it fits perfectly. It's an epic adventure of a hero in search of treasure. He'd seen it once before as a child and has been consumed by it ever since. He is determined to find it yet his desire has made him lost in a foreign land. He must make allies and fight the defenders of the treasure. You can see how the idea could then spiral off into specific abilities or skills, it would likely be an RPG, and in the end you'd probably get the treasure, and since it's me who's making it I'd probably make it some kind of golden milkshake or something. I'd probably have that in there somewhere at least even if it wasn't the final treasure. The core emotion of the game would probably be lust, which would be an interesting idea to play on as other side quests and NPC's try to steal your desire and make you quit your quest for the treasure. Of course it could always be re-written so that you're defending the treasure or avenging your family who was killed over it, any number of ways, but you'd see that in all of them my root beer float has become this treasure and the whole game is about getting it in some manner. I'd likely get you to empathize with the character though a sad story of how much he's sacrificed for what he wants and what he's lost as a byproduct, inflecting that all he really wants is to be happy and that the only way that can happen is to get the treasure. Cue violins. Then the sequel would be a perversion of the concept likely he'd have to sacrifice the treasure to save the world or something and it would suck and that's why it would fail.

What happens most often with games that fail is that they lose sight of what the game was really about to begin with, this includes sequels. Though in fairness complex sources of inspiration are easy to lose sight of, making it all the more important to clearly convey thoughts and ideas early on so the source can never be lost. This is because the core ideas are so clearly tied to the source and it lives on in every facet of the game from that point that even if it were cut out you could tell from the pieces around it what it should be. I'll remind you that everything can be an inspiration if you look for it, this even includes the search for inspiration being an inspiration in itself.

October 13, 2012

Engineering Emotion

A sign of a good game is often recognized in a players emotional attachment. Many of the "Top X" lists of games all have those highly emotional intense moments that stick out as the most memorable. Look at a random "best of" or similar list and see how many you know and what comes to mind first. Regardless of your personal view on a given list or game within it certain games pop up on a regular basis. FF7 for example, and a great many people remember when Aeris dies as a key moment in the game and one of the first things they think of when it comes up. That's because the game up until that point had the player building a relationship with the character so her death becomes significant and that emotional bond then gets played on to make the player personally fueled to get revenge or justice what have you.

For me MGS3 was one of the only games that ever brought me to tears, one of the few things in my adult life for that matter, and it can still do it years later. Today I'm looking at how developers exploit human emotion. I'll use MGS3 as my analysis point so if you haven't played it, I suggest you do so then come back and read this, as it will likely contain spoilers.

Before I get in to it I'll take a moment to acknowledge Quantic Dream. If you're unfamiliar with their work I suggest playing heavy rain or viewing their Kara demo on youtube. Their emphasis on emotion in games is unparalleled. Whether this is a good or bad thing is irrelevant compared to the achievements in and of themselves. I look forward to seeing what they do in the future, including two souls and beyond.

Now that you've had a chance to get away and back it's on to the lesson. There's a multitude of ways developers find ways to connect the players with their characters. They often try to get you to empathize with your character laying a foundation to build on so that you think of the character as an extension of yourself. The Mass Effect games do it by allowing you to build the character, the choices are actually yours. While MGS does it through dialog and ICO does it through raw player interaction, and Dante's Inferno does it on story. Granted Dante's Inferno was based on an existing story, but it's for the same reason that the original was such a great story. For those of you unfamiliar Inferno was the first of a 3 part story. Dante takes a journey through hell on a mission to save the soul of his wife which was condemned for his sins. That kind of emotional tie leads you to empathize with Dante and hope he succeeds, and in the game the only way he can do that is through the player. In MGS you can rush right through and get the game done but that's not really the full experience. If you really take your time you find yourself relying on a team who believes in your abilities to save the world from nuclear war during cold war as an American special agent infiltrating Russia. You learn to rely on them for help and advice because they know things you don't, about the enemies you'll be facing, the weapons they'll be using, the environment, how to survive in the wild. In the process you learn a lot about them on a personal level, what they like and dislike, their personalities. You come to understand that they're not just hoping or relying on you, they honestly care that you survive they have real feelings for you.

These emotional bonds develop not only between the characters but with the player as the player is playing both the support and the main character allowing them to empathize in different ways. Which makes even early on the betrayal of a colleague a strike to the heart. You realize there's a complex emotional bond and can't understand why this is happening, making you want answers more than anything. But you have a responsibility to fulfill your duty, and you understand that the betrayal can't go unpunished. Your journey leads down a path of personal development, strength and determination to succeed. With your team firmly behind you every step of the way as you face tougher opponents standing in your way not only to your mission but your personal goals. The little support you get in person instead of over the radio is critical and right when you need it the most. This relief in an extremely stressful situation leads you to almost completely trusting in this additional support. Just when you think it's all over though it's violently ripped away from you as you realize you're all alone in the world under the burden of a secret no one can ever know. It turns out the greatest betrayal against you is the one you didn't see coming, your own. When it's all said and done amidst all the lies and half truths you learn that not only were you not truly betrayed to begin with, but you were in fact betrayed by the ones you've learned to love and the ones you blindly followed but in the end you were tricked into betraying yourself. The fact you're mourning the loss of someone you care about so much is compounded multiple times by the fact that it's your fault, that it was under false pretense, that they knew it was coming and went along with it anyway, and more. You saved the world at the cost of your soul and humanity, how could you ever recover. This highly complex story and set of emotions under the right circumstance can have an extreme effect on the player.

There's a wide variety of emotions though and you can't just explore one. Dead Space for example plays on fear. The developers immediately set off to put the player in a state of fear and keep them there, in the dark, alone, and with little to no resources. It's a struggle for survival in an inhospitable environment against an unknown enemy. One of the main ways they keep the player on edge is with sound. The music of the game is designed to have the player paranoid not only about every corner but out of anything and everything as an enemy could come from anywhere at any time. Regardless of the shadows you see moving in the background or not all it takes is that one note from a violin I believe it is and you're on edge, sometimes for no reason. As you examine the ship and relive the last moments of the people aboard you only sink deeper into this feeling that there's no way out, that you're doomed, how could an entire ship succumb to this and more importantly how could you hope to survive against such a force. You know your death will be violent and your only hope is to press on, and that's all you have is the slight glimmer of hope that just maybe you might survive. That hope in itself also leads to a slight hope that if you could survive maybe your wife could to, maybe she's still hiding somewhere waiting for you.

Look at all your favorite games and see if you can identify the primary emotion of the game. Portal is likely hatred, directed at Glados for making you kill the companion cube and for trying to kill you. Silent Hill 2 is love for a child and doing whatever it takes to save them. Mass Effect is a case of extraordinary circumstance and the ability for the player to imprint themselves on the character. Still it works from a complex emotion in which there's a bit of hatred and desire for revenge and yet it's not the focus. It tries hard to fall into a vague or gray (grey? what's the actual difference?) area and yet I'd have to say it's primary focus is trust. Regardless of your choices you're constantly building trust between you and your crew. That's fairly true of most bioware games which seem to emphasize the importance of the grey area in choice.

This is already a very winded post, so I'll cut it short. Hopefully you managed to gleam that games and emotion go hand in hand and that it can make or break a game.

October 09, 2012

The Importance of Redundancy

Redundancy is a key idea in all games, and more importantly in game development. In the games it's important to have familiar objects, you can't constantly introduce new material to the player for a myriad of reasons simply put only a few select people will continue to play such a game. So whether it's health pickups or weapons you need something the player can recognize and understand quickly to have a framework for the game.

In development redundancy takes on a new form, starting with backups and copies of everything you do, and not just one file here or there but many copies of each version of each thing you do. Sometimes it's necessary to backtrack or gain inspiration from an older iteration which might end up being used in a different game. Then there's always hardware failure to consider, something which I've been struggling with the last few days though thankfully I had the forethought to have copies floating around so I didn't lose any valuable data.

You'd be surprised at how much gets reused in games some times. Sadly you might though in same cases in which a game overuses the same things too much. Case in point might be dragon age 2 in which there were only a handful of areas you could travel to, all different versions of the exact same map. Yet you wouldn't notice the constant re-using of trees for example or think about the many instances of the same weapon in other games. It's unlikely you memorized the face of every zombie in dead rising or left 4 dead and I can assure you they're not all unique snowflakes they're just copies of the same file being re-used in a way you don't tend to think about to enhance the game.

Often the answer in a game on how to do something is a carbon copy of something introduced earlier in the game or a combination of things introduced earlier, sometimes introducing something new in the process. For example in portal you learn cube+button=exit then you learn how to get the cube to the button using a hole over a doorway a small subliminal message that leads you to putting the cube through the portals once you get them. From there on the puzzles become more complex introducing new ideas on how to get the cube to the button, such as momentum and portal placement. These elements of game design also fall under the category of redundancy. Using the same bag of tricks in new ways to engage the players in what is perceived as meaningful play. This principal also applies to movies as well, next time you have the chance think about how much of something you're playing or watching is being reused from earlier in the game or movie or clearly copied over from a similar game or movie.

September 25, 2012

Developer Theory

One of the beautiful things about games in their raw form is how the seem to create themselves after a certain point. There are many things to be said about art and a lot of which art says about itself, and make no mistake that games are indeed art. A classic quote which I believe is attributed to Michelangelo is that inside every block of stone or clay is a soul, a sculpture waiting to reveal itself, as if you were the tool being used to break itself free. There's a lot of this idea present in various forms of art how the artist doesn't make the art rather the art makes itself or the artist.

I would say making a game is a lot like a new girlfriend, substitute your preferred partner naming convention the idea remains the same. Just as you keep secrets from them so do they keep secrets from you. As you open yourself to them they shall reveal their secrets to you. In game development it's similar as buried within every game idea there are things that simply belong together whether or not they're obvious is a different matter though. Often from what I've seen is after you have some core ideas put together there's a gap where an obvious piece should fit to speak metaphorically, and then it becomes a search to find the secret your game has made for itself and reveal it. It's a maze of puzzle pieces creating themselves and itself without even realizing it. Of course referring back to what I said about revealing yourself to it also applies heavily. Often it's easy to see a personality in programming, you can understand what a person is thinking and their general mindset when you see their code.

All art stems from some derivative of love. Even the violent and deadly forms of art such as war and assassination for example come from a place of love, even if it's a perversion of ideal loves. Each game you're involved in making is like falling in love for the first time all over again. There's a real passion in making a game and it shows. You can tell a lot about the people who make a game in the finished product. To analyze it in relationship terms you can tell if the game was like family to the developers, or if it was a girlfriend, a wife, a mistress / concubine, or something else. For a lot of movie based games it's the love you have for a cheap hooker it's all about the money and the love for it only lasts briefly and insincerely, then you worry about catching something and regret it. Meanwhile Triple A titles typically range from your best friend since you were a child to the deity you worship. Some games can be really fun like those college experimentation days when you would try just about anything, and others can almost make you feel dirty for playing them. In the end it's a cumulative effort that shapes the end result more than any direction set.

I guess what I'm really trying to say is that inside every core game idea there's a multitude of features and other games waiting to break out, and that a little pieces of the developer/s are in every game. Without an understanding of the love and dedication necessary to make a game you can never hope to make a good game. Respect what you love and love what you do and you can't go wrong.

September 14, 2012

Resident Evil

Just finished seeing R.E. Retribution and I must say it was completely undersold by the advertising I wasn't expecting nearly what I got, it was REALLY good. Thinking about it though aside from that is how you make a movie based on a game, a note which all directors should take and film students should learn in class, is that any media popular enough transitions in to another media which is something I hadn't considered prior. While you may think it's high hopes or fantasy that something I make might one day sell in the rank of the various AAA series titles the question comes if that were to happen how would I maintain control over official books and movies? While I have the inherit rights to these things surely I would benefit from allowing these things to be made. Though obviously I would want them to remain true to the core of my material which becomes difficult. Though Silent Hill proves it can be done with an absolute control over who does what and how considering the movie sequel was postponed  because the director was in prison for 2 years yet the contract was so tight only he could make it, something worth looking in to.

So to consider what Resident Evil aka Biohazard did right and wrong over the years and what we might learn from it is also worth looking in to. I remember the early days on ps1 playing with the different control scheme and the real selling point was more the story and the ambiance than the gameplay facts driven home by the fixed camera keeping you from really knowing what's around the next corner and the painful axis based movement. While I may not have ever understood why you needed a key for a wooden door you could break down any number of ways the puzzles themselves were usually clever. The resource management and inventory coupled with the hard to find resources made you value every item you got really convincing you it was a fight for survival and the best option was to always be careful with everything you do because one accident could make the game unforgivably difficult for you. The different perspectives however also made the game something you were bound to play more than once by going through the story as chris or jill and their partners. While the mansion itself is almost a character in its own right it also feels like home after a while. When the first RE movie came out I thought for sure we'd be seeing more of the mansion instead it seems we followed bravo team on their way to their deaths which if you remember were all over the mansion when crhis and jill came in. This is how I knew the RE movies were going to become an amazing series, filling in gaps from the games and remaining true to the core while telling their own story rather than carbon copying the games, just that small freedom makes the movies good in their own right and as additions to the RE universe.

Keep in mind though the movies started long after the first few games had already come out. The sequel to the first game RE2 introduced leon and claire which we didn't see in the movies until much later, leon I think didn't even show up until retribution, and jill disappeared between apocalypse and the end of afterlife though if you've played the games the time slot is filled and we know what happened, and claire showed up in extinction so we did eventually introduce all the main characters. Back to the game it was an evolution of everything presented in the first which really stood out as making clear improvements across the board in a sequel is surprisingly difficult apparently.  In particular it was nice how the survival became more apparent as you suddenly slowed down and held your side while you move because you're in critical condition after a zombie horde attack and then as you strive to find health spray and ammo you're constantly on edge about not running in to any surprises which when they happen can instill terror as you fear for your survival for many different reasons in particular is having to revert to your last save. Thankfully they had the sense to keep the same controls which as annoying as they were just added that slight level of difficulty and more importantly made the game easy to pick up for people who played the first, as having to learn yet another control scheme would've been annoying, this is also true of RE3. Though in fairness while the control scheme itself is the same the controls in and of themselves are refined, more so in RE3 which leaves an impression that they were trying to make everything more fluid.

RE3 brings back a familiar face in a familiar setting but in a completely new perspective as you make a desperate run to escape the city while facing a constant barrage of zombies, the umbrella henchmen sent to deal with them and you and the ever terrifying nemesis mutation constantly hunting down you and your fellow stars members. I found it interesting how they decided to include nemesis in RE apocalypse, something which really gripped me as how they make these connections with the game and draw you in. The game also introduced the ever addictive mercenary arcade mode though I fear at the cost of your standard second character as the game this time is only played from jill's perspective. Carlos doesn't count! Though it's worth noting that the story itself is also substantially improved upon and making an alternate perspective on this may have proven either too difficult or too time consuming to be a viable option for the game which was already spread across multiple discs.

These core games while they stand alone as great games they're made giants by the fact that at the time they were also in direct head to head competition with another giant Silent Hill another great survival horror game competing for the better story and the customers. This competition I'm sure drove devs to push harder and make the games better knowing that they had to beat the competition.

Then there was the big risk of RE4 which proved to be well calculated. The risk was the fact that capcom was basically severing ties with everything you knew about RE up to that point. No longer were you dealing with the T virus and it's effects, the controls and design were changed and while improved the controls were still a little lacking, the story taking place in a completely new environment with a new threat, the only think they really kept was the main character. This drastic change should've almost been a new title however considering the work put in to build a story and a universe around the previous games seemed a waste to just throw away. Sadly not much from the game ever made its way to the movies. Thankfully they at least let you kick doors in this time. One important concept introduced though was a thinking horde zombies that did more than just sluggishly walk and moan about now they're wielding weapons and thinking a little. Though to compensate they had to make a change of camera from fixed position to third person which took away from the tension but in order to allow the player to fight effectively. I for one would've liked to only see the third person in combat relevant situations though in RE4 it's fitting that they kept it persistent as otherwise you'd always know when that may be taking a bit of the thrill out of it. The addition of the action worked well to balance the combat compared to the difficulty it had before along with the survival horror part of the game so you no longer had any reason to blame anything other than yourself for failure or death. Though it also had quicktime events, which is something you should know about me, I absolutely hate quicktime events with a passion. Additionally in this iteration they shifted from simply surviving at all costs to more about just surviving the horror, which may not make sense at first but to give it some context I'll say it's a shift in methodology. Before your survival was based on how well you used your few precious resources now you had quite a repository of resources and it was more about tactics than strategy. It didn't matter how many bullets you had if you didn't know where to shoot making your skills necessary where as before you didn't really need them you just had to know when to shoot rather than where to shoot. This is also reflected in the inventory as you needed to decide what you were going to take with you and how important it was to have, picking the tools for the job so to speak as a poor decision in this area would easily be reflected, even more so in the upgrades. This is also one of the first times the RE series or Capcom itself has had a real technical achievement as the prior games didn't innovate much on what could be done with hardware. RE4 showed really what the gamecube's potential was which admittedly up until that point wasn't much.

As for the movie that was taking place in theory around the timeline extinction was too far away from the source material and it showed. Later in the franchise RE5 has tricell and the world clearly hadn't ended, with the BSAA and such it brings the question does the series perhaps in the upcoming 6 or later ever reflect and join the movie  from which afterlife and retribution are based on? Speaking of which Afterlife was almost a carbon copy of RE5 in truth yet was different enough that I was quite satisfied.  Sadly RE5 was more of a refinement than an evolution and the controls clearly aren't fitting in well with new generation games. While it might be  good game on merit it's a failure as a new iteration or sequel regardless of expectations from RE4 as truthfully it's more of an extension of existing material rather than the innovative next step in the franchise that it should have been. I prefer to look at it as an amalgamation of the past, a glorious homage to what was as capcom looks to the future namely RE6 which I hope will bring a much needed overhaul to the series to bring it not only into the present but launch it into the future. Hopefully they will also bring back the missing horror part of it which was strangely absent in RE5 while the story and design all seem to fit in, it was like RE extinction in a way, it deviated too much, was too bright and open, and wasn't scary in the least bit. It's one thing to improve combat, but a total shift to go straight from survival horror to combat needs appropriate compensation something which clearly wasn't present.

The core games really set the standard for the movies, not the spin offs so while I'll mention them I won't be quite going in to detail like the others, as their merits are based entirely on the core game. The quick rundown is code veronica, code veronica x which the two almost were worth being considered core games, umbrella chronicles, operation racoon city, revelations, outbreak, the mercenaries,  and any others I neglected to mention.

To review simple rights and wrongs: what they did right: design, ambiance, story, characters, inventory system, save point spacing, progressive evolution among sequels while remaining true to core concepts and story. What they did wrong: control scheme, inconsistency among spin offs and later sequels, color palette, shifting genre's without accounting for genre design differences.

For a spoiler to retribution type the konami code.

September 12, 2012

Progress of main title sep 2012 update

So for the last few weeks I've been really focused on the main title. Now that things are getting in working order and bugs removed I started swapping models for better looking ones adding some detail. I then have been looking at the multiplayer and upgrading that adding in the weapons I'd planned and making them work while balancing them. Then I finally broke down and considered a non team mode and a new team mode. The FFA deathmatch was surprisingly  entertaining while the new team mode clearly needed tweaks. Spawning in both modes was a problem so I calculated debris to adjust spawns, and calc enemy line of sight within a spawn radius, which was constricted in team. The idea was to make absolutely sure nobody would spawn right in front of an enemy player, I also put in a spawn denial radius for all players so you wouldn't spawn near an enemy regardless of sight. In all it went fairly well. The new team mode was basically a deathmatch without vehicles and would likely show up in rank 1 multiplayer, but it depends on how much people like it.

To review from prior there's 4 ranks of multiplayer separated by tech and artillery and special units. Players spawn in 2 vehicles determined by team. There's an additional multiplayer that used to be labeled rank 5 which was persistent world multiplayer however it's been modified into a unrestricted gametype and stripped of rank. Which is to say all tech artillery and special units are available at all times. It also supports more players to the tune of 64 so far though I hope for much more later on. I'm also trying to increase team size from 4 to 5 per squad however in the specials and vehicles squads it becomes a little unbalanced so I'm thinking about simply modifying overall squad size keeping the specials limited to 4 while increasing perhaps vehicles by 2 instead of 1 or putting the extra players on squads 1 and 2.
 In the new team mode since there are no vehicles the two teams merge their spawns. I'll be adding objective modes to this for testing over the next few days and testing for the next week.

Most of the weapons added were in rank 2 however one weapon I really liked was added in rank 4 creates a trail of fire behind the shot rather than mist and explodes on impact. It's more of a visual weapon than a serious damage dealer, while it's certainly powerful it's in the upper part of the lower tier in that rank, comparatively it would be in the lower part of the high end in rank 3. I also designed a similar shotgun type weapon I'll be adding in tomorrow which will likely be in the mid range. I'll also be adding it as an ammo type for some launchers and other shotguns among the ranks.

I've also been working on the skill system adding in new perks and balancing costs. The rings are now working like proper ellipses stretching in the appropriate directions instead of remaining perfect circles. I modified the actual layout to be more dynamic and add nodes and paths beyond the predefined based on the pattern I established. Thus the further out you go the more it may cost but the nodes themselves are worth more and the paths because of their increasing inner expenses make them viable options etc. I moved some existing perks around to be closer or further away, some on different tiers which as mentioned in a prior post were restricted by multiplayer rank modes. So for example the node required for you to duel wield laser pistols is on tier 4 because it's a rank 4 weapon, and of course in order to access it you must have bought a path to tier 4 access. Something which I also revised so now instead of having to buy the perk for dual wielding pistols on each tier you don't have to now you can just pick and choose which you want. I also added a core path to the upper tiers if you just want to move from the center out. Buying similar nodes will still give you the discounts mentioned in the previous post about the node system. So while you may not have to buy the duel wield node on each tier you might want to for a discount if that's something you use often. I also modified the system to allow selling of nodes now which I'd planned but hadn't gotten to, and they sell for the same price you bought them at regardless of current value so that way you can't buy two nodes for discounts then sell them in different orders for profit, same goes for paths. I increased the number of tier paths. I'm also considering a logic step in which if you buy the dual wielding pistol node once it works for all pistols regardless of type. Though the above examples would still apply in a similar fashion to what they represent.

I finally decided that I would indeed go through a plan I had before because I don't want bodies to simply fade away but they're too intense to keep lying on the ground after all I set up an animation in which the player who made the kill will have a small bot materialize go over to the kill and zap the body into disappearing collecting all that he had on him and giving the player resources based on estimated value of what the other player had on them. I also have map bots that go around and clean up some of the more random debris leaving large chunks but removing individual bricks from the ground. basically providing a reason for why things disappear off the map that need to for better overall gameplay.

Lots of other tweaks like that, they seem small but it takes time to get them done right.

September 04, 2012

In Air Combat

Tired of your plane getting shot down by a sneeze in the wrong direction? You should be. Attack helicopters and fighter jets are a lot tougher than you might think. While it may be true a good shot with a single rpg might take one out it's fairly rare and even so it usually just makes it unstable to the point it crashes rather than completely destroying it. It seems that most often in a game these days if you're in a chopper at any point you know it's going to crash it's inevitable. The truth of the matter however is that a skilled pilot and a decent level of luck can get you far. This as always is aside from the fact that it's terribly difficult to hit a fast moving target with a regular rpg. Of course that's why we have all the high tech tracking systems these days but still.

When dealing with things like stinger missiles which were designed for dealing with enemy vehicles in one shot, unlike rpg's which work for such purposes but are more effective against defenses and infantry, it's important to remember counter measures that most air vehicles have. Once all counter measures are exhausted and dodging becomes impossible most air craft are still designed  to remain as intact as possible during a crash and to retain as much control as possible in the process.

In the campaign of the man game there's a scene in which low and behold you find yourself in a chopper, and spoiler here it crashes. The point leading up to the crash however tries to reflect what I mentioned above. Your pilot survives 3 different rockets and getting shot at for quite a while before finally the fuel tank springs a leak as you might have guessed, and he still tries to keep control while you clear a landing zone which is under a timer until you're out of fuel. In the landing scene he gets shot and you have to take over to crash land anyway. Afterward though you realize how well built these things are and how intact it remains in spite of the damage it took. I attribute this to the resin that covers the metal, or at least it seems most likely. Often the windows or transparent orange coverings are made entirely of this resin, of which 1/8th of an inch can stop low caliber rounds with ease and not even a scratch on it.

This also translates to competitive multiplayer in which your air combat isn't a simple matter of who shoots first. The dogfights are difficult battles of skill and cunning which take place while trying to defend important targets. Your fighter jets protect your gunship and to some extent your heli while carrying out bombing runs. Your heli is used for transportation and cover, other ground assistance. Your gunship much the same is used in standard supportive roles. The gunship however is large and relatively slow by comparison making it a target which means it has to be defended from other fighter pilots, much the same as your fighters will try to take out enemy gunships. Once you're in a well funded pmc upgrades make worlds of differences. Your gunship will start carrying more guns and ammo so rather than one steady stream of fire you'll have 9, your counter measures will increase in number and efficiency similar to your actual armor. Your fighter jets will become faster and deadlier with greater fuel supplies and higher ammo capacity. Though as of yet I have yet to add much to the heli's other than armor and a couple gun upgrades, suggestions welcome.

When it comes down to it your aerial combat isn't just one dancer in a ballet it's a coordinated effort among a group. The group is also likely well experienced as you get to rate their performance and the best performers tend to get picked.

August 30, 2012

Tools of the Trade - Training

One of the most important things as a developer is education. While it certainly helps to be well rounded and intelligent with life experience, it's specifically important to be well educated about your tools. You work with the same set of tools every time which makes it important to understand what they're for, how they can be used, and how they work in general. While there's plenty of info to find on the net most of it is specific to a given task with only minor detail or insight and it's teaching you a trick sure but it's not teaching you the underlying information you really need. To clarify there's plenty of information, but a lack of high quality information.

After you become familiar with your common or base tools it's time to learn them inside and out, not only to speed up workflow but also to learn new ways to use them. While you might use a given tool for the same thing every time it can always be used in more than one way and often can be combined with other tools for new results. For example you might use mirroring to work on symmetry but it can also be used to cut your initial workflow in half to begin with. Though that's a weak example the idea is present.

Moving onward my primary suggestion to anyone in modeling, animating, or for that matter anyone using 3d max at all would be the "max bible". The go to guide for understanding every tool and getting ideas on how to use it. I also suggest learning about max script to create macro's for operations you repeat often to save time. If you're more visually oriented I can also suggest youtube tutorials which are a dime a dozen but trapt cg tends to make worth while vids. There's also a site called cg society which quite honestly is an amazing site where even a few short days of paying attention to the forums can teach you quite a bit. The cg society is where industry professionals really strut their stuff and talk a bit about what they know or how they got where they are.

If you're interested in more about textures I can recommend the Luke Ahearn "Create Professional Game Art with Photoshop" book though it may be prone to outdating soon as it was made in 06 and already some of the information is becoming outdated. The core concepts presented however are always relevant.

Another great source of info is always 3dbuzz which has tons of free tutorials and information, they also are reliable for new information on a regular basis. In particular I recommend a look at their UDK particle tutorials.

The same ideas above are relevant for any program you're using. Find the official know it all book for the version you're using, find a few good tutorial sites or series, and study them hard. Ideally if you can find a community of professionals and learn from them then you should do that as well.  In a developers case it's also important to find sites with program extensions, plugins, or other add ons for programs you use regularly. For photoshop it would be worth the google search to find a site that regularly updates high quality brushes and a few tutorials on making your own. In the mean time I can suggest deviant art for finding a wide selection with a familiar or at least intuitive interface that gets updated with some regularity and certainly has an existing catalog to choose from.

August 16, 2012

More about upgrades

In a previous post I discussed how any given weapon could maintain up to 12 attachments, these attachments are not considered really to be upgrades even if they do modify the gun in some way such as increased velocity or what would otherwise be considered an upgrade. To recap attachments there's scopes, foregrips, launchers, clip types, ammunition including magnesium tracers which you can set to feed at a variable rate such as 1 in every 3 rounds, or one half way through the clip etc. There's also attachments for increased cooling of the weapons that generate heat like machine guns or any assault rifles that happen to use various kinds of rounds that generate heat. There's stocks, muzzle attachments, laser sights, flashlights, handles and triggers, paint jobs, etc. Upgrades are the internals, the tech etc, while there's a few fancy models set up because you don't see the internals in game they're not actually there instead once applied they just modify stats relating to the gun.

Some of the upgrades include better heat management, barrel replacement for increased velocity which can also be done with barrel extensions. There's various springs, rods, feeders, etc all to change any given stat of the gun with multiple upgrades. In later stages these include adding computer aided aiming systems, thermal maps, bullet tags to trace an enemy's location if they survived your attack but got hit, various other systems that would normally be an accessory taking up a valuable accessory slot are now being attached to your gun. These upgrades must be in place first before they can be used as attachments and then they can also be upgraded beyond that. You can also put research in to finding better ammo such as upgrading to use uranium rounds or a higher velocity shape to existing rounds which may also effect accuracy. Even light weight materials to decrease weapon weight so the player can run faster and draw the weapon faster. In the late stages with higher tech weapons upgrades become key to reducing cooldown, recharge, and refire times so that a weapon can be used effectively.

Each gun and gun type have their respective skills sets in addition so that the more you use a specific gun the better you become with it. While your standard reload time for all guns might be nice and fast you can improve it further with a specific gun skill earned by reloading the gun a given number of times. Same goes for handling kick by firing, switching to and from the weapon, aiming down the sights, and various other aspects. These skills are learned by doing unlike upgrades which are purchased over time with resources and time spent for research or attachments which are bought one at a time.


A lot of the Sci-Fi FPS game is dependent on velocity for calculating damage. The requirements to increase velocity by even a little bit increase on a scale making them absurdly expensive beyond a certain point thus somewhat limiting their potential unless you put extreme resources into it. This is basically a matter of diminishing returns, though not exponential it is progressively increasing. For example the 2nd upgrade might cost as much as the first, then by the time the 10th upgrade comes along it might cost 16x more than the 9th upgrade which was 10x more expensive than the first upgrade. These aren't even close to the actual numbers but I believe convey the concept.

The later on weapons while still calculating velocity damage generally work along the lines of instant hit weapons with perhaps a line trace for trails or the light beam w/e. Their primary tool for keeping them balanced is cooldown times and recharge times making it important to pick your shots carefully.

I'll discuss the entire upgrade system for weapon types in my next post.

I also finished a new weapon, an intelligent proximity mine that directs damage toward an enemy instead of an even spread, unlike a claymore with a fixed position this is like a claymore that follows its target even if it comes up behind it.

There's a paintball mode which I've also just added for kicks. I'll probably make it an unlockable and set for unranked games which allow mods.

August 04, 2012

Elevator Pitch

I'd questioned in the past some of my methods and strategies given that they seemed ineffective though I also realized they were likely going to fail regardless of effectiveness. This was one concept that stood out though as strangely important even though I'd known about it before I hadn't given it the proper credit it deserves. The "elevator pitch" which is how to quickly and accurately convey an idea in the shortest possible amount of time. Now that I'm looking at saving my big title for when I'm more established with a strong background and better talent and throwing out something else I decided now was the best time to consider this. Admittedly I'm reluctant to push my title given that it's nearly complete however I believe it's in the best interest of everyone if my goal is to get it in the hands of many and share the joy and pleasure. I believe that in a year or two I can revisit it with new skills, abilities, methodologies, and tools to make it everything I'd hoped it could be. This simply can't be done the way I'd like it to be with the resources I have now.

Moving forward I'd looked in my little encrypted file of concepts for more mini games that I can make myself quickly and a larger title I could flesh out with ease in a respectively short time frame. What I came up with was a game that would be light hearted and comedic while being entertainingly bloodly and violent while expressing innovative concepts that I'm known for. Though I doubt they'll revolutionize they will get attention which is what I need to get the resources necessary for future games of growing complexity.

So to the point my elevator pitch for the next game was actually how I first came up with it, in a taco bell, at 1am with about 30 people in the middle of nowhere. We were all traveling together and someone said something about you can't come up with a game concept that's any good in a few minutes and I accepted the challenge.

The ferryman of the underworld (cairn) in order to usurp the ruler of the underworld (devil/hades?) hires cyborg ninjas to kill you so he can infuse you with demonic powers to harvest the souls of alien angels invading from another universe in exchange for giving you the power for your revenge.

I then proceeded to rapidly flesh out key concepts of mechanics and gameplay, first and foremost of which was that since you're already dead and half a demon you can't be killed again thus no health or healthbar. Instead the game functions on sanity which isn't effected by bodily damage. They idea being that your mind simply can not handle what you're doing or how you're doing it and thus you slowly go insane by using your demonic powers and your objective is to complete your revenge before going completely insane which inevitably leads you back to cairn since he hired the ninjas in the first place. The game strikes balance between using your magic and relying on traditional weapons. As you use your powers your demonic infection spreads and starts creating blood pearls which amplify your abilities also making you go insane quicker thus you can harvest them and use them to infuse your weapons or use them as currency. Weapons infused with blood pearls/crystals when used against an enemy cause them to crystallize and shatter into weaker blood crystals which can be used similar to blood pearls only to less effect. These crystals can also be used in minor ways to focus specifically on a skill or ability. That is to say a blood pearl evenly amplifies all skills and abilities where as if it's targeted it can greatly increase one ability. With proper alignment and training you can slow the rate of your insanity in general or from the use of a specific spell or ability allowing you to use them more often or to greater effect without any additional consequences. For example casting many spells rapidly can spike your insanity where as over time they're less but you can be trained to do them without causing a spike as though they were done over time and in this way they may also be amplified to do much more damage. Training in basic levels carries through higher levels to great effect making it important to focus on core skills.

I actually have this far more specifically drawn out and I can see that it's hard to explain without completely revealing it in specific detail but I will say that I believe most gamers would appreciate the concepts once they get their hands on it. Right now I'm finishing up an early prototype of the magic menu and investments tree to see how well balanced everything is. As for mini games while I have the ideas I haven't laid any groundwork  yet as I'm still back working on the first game, while it's probably ready to go I just feel that there's more to add and a little tweaking to be done but I am shopping around all the same for distribution methods. So I'd be interested in hearing how you'd like to get the mini game and what price you'd want to pay. I know you all want it free on a torrent or something and it'll probably happen but keep in mind my future is based on what I make from these first games if you want to see more games you'll have to make an investment in them.

If it wasn't obvious already, this is where I've been spending most of my time in the silent month of june / july. I still am working on both other titles but I needed a prototype of this to copyright it properly so that's what I did.  I'm not entirely sure if I want to shift any real focus on it though as I stated above I am basically finished with both games and would rather push them, but the larger title could ever so easily be greatly expanded and revised to be so much better, specifically in the storyline simply because I'm still looking for a good script writer. The one volunteer I've had wasn't substantially better than me it was more of a lateral movement to a different type of writing I guess but around the same level of quality.

Just one last re-iteration on the importance of a 60 second or less pitch, I had chance at funding twice so far and missed out both times because I didn't have a simple elegant way of explaining the game in a way that commanded more time and attention. If I'd been able to just say something like it's a sci-fi fps zombie game with a focus on destructible environments and laser guns I might have at least been able to get a few more minutes to explain the key concepts more. While that's a vaguely accurate explanation of my game I suppose it's not quite the flourish you'd want to use because it comes out sounding generic, I'd want to delve more in on the story and characters in a way that might relate to who I'm pitching to. A scientist in an experiment gone wrong flinging him into an alternate apocalyptic dimension where he must gain allies and fight his way against a corrupt corporation to find his way home. Still not quite polished but it sounds better yes? actually that would probably be the pitch for half life, but you get the idea.

Thanks for reading the enormous pile of text. I promise a picture in the next post. and less text.