April 29, 2013

Respect The Classics

There's a lot of value in some of the older titles. It's not always just about the newest game on the block. It's easy to get overwhelmed with endless new titles to the point you hardly ever finish a game any more and it's true both as a player and an indie developer. Take some time this week to go back and play a game from a few years ago, maybe something you've been meaning to get around to. Then go back further and play a real classic, it doesn't have to be some grand award winner everyone remembers.

I recently broke out an old copy of my original final fantasy tactics on the PSX and was surprised at what an amazingly good game it still is. It really made me sit back and look at my archive to wonder what other gaming gems might deserve another play through.  If your collection is pretty sparse feel free to borrow a friends or if you don't have any try to find a store around you other than gamestop that might still sell the classics and try to pick up a SNES and Zelda for it, or an n64 and Zelda, really most zelda titles hold up pretty well I've found. If you simply can't find anything in it's original form cheat and play it with an emulator or even modern day replicas like tetris on facebook.

Emulators can give old games new life in very creative ways as well, imagine playing super mario bros with link from zelda or with samus from metroid, there are emulators out there that do exactly this. There are also rom mods that completely change the game one in particular practically turns super mario bros into I Want To Be The Guy.

Note while you play the kinds of struggles developers had making these games and how things have really changed. For example cartridge games never had loading screens because of the overall small file sizes and fast transfer rates provided by working with rom chips, something which went away with the invent of compact discs. Note how even though the music is simplistic it sticks with you so well. More accurately you probably remember the music because it's simplistic but it also came out of necessity as full orchestral pieces weren't possible on older hardware.

Back in the day the lack of graphical power necessitated powerful and innovative gameplay. That's not to say creativity has been lost merely shifted around to adapt. Consider how you would make a game today under the same restrictions and see where it takes you.

April 23, 2013

My take on the "always on" situation

I was thinking about it and I decided to elaborate on the subject of "always on" which has been a big topic on the net recently.

I can't quite call it a debate as it's fairly one sided. I say this because in the end the consumer is always right and the consumers don't want to be force fed any more nonsense liked 3d, motion controls, full multimedia system replacements, or always-on consoles and games. Granted there is a time and place for most of these things. I would wager to say gamers would appreciate 3d if it were done right but they might not want it for all games, the same I would say to be true of motion controls especially for some party games but who in their right mind would want these motion controls for complex intricate systems, especially without 3d and more so without accurate response or feedback. I can't remember ever seeing a tech demo in which motion controls actually worked like they were supposed to and even when they do work with games it's never anything terribly complex. Even worse are the games that tack it on after the fact and force you to use it. Moving on as a gamer, and again only speaking for myself, I don't want my xbox or playstation ever being in control of my other multimedia services. I don't need or want it to replace my cable providers box, that of course would be if I still had cable tv... which I don't. I have my pc for all my multimedia and my consoles are certainly not about to replace my pc. I could easily be in the minority on this one though, perhaps something like steam's big picture mode when adapted to include various tv apps could be a nice addition and so I would caution that if done properly it would be an acceptable option to include so long as I have control over it. However I find it ridiculous to design or develop a gaming console around music, tv, and social media, just down right ludicrous. In that scenario I could also then see always-on to some extent but even then it just seems horribly intrusive and unnecessary. Outside of that though I don't see any other scenario that could justify always-on other than what everyone is saying it's for so far which is DRM which in all honesty infuriates me to no end.

It may be that I'm too harsh or not seeing the other side of this however if you'll continue reading I think you'll find it worth the time. I've read time and again how developers somehow think piracy = lost sales. In the case of a game like world of goo this almost seems true. The number of pirated copies was shameful and the game hadn't sold nearly as well as it would have projecting the numbers. That may have changed since the last time I read about it but at the time it was one of those things I had to seriously read because I couldn't fathom it. I've seen other cases though where piracy helped increase sales. From my experience I tend not to buy a game without having at least some kind of trial or demo of it first. Which sadly all signs point to making a demo for a game being a very bad thing, I haven't read a study in which a demo for a game didn't decrease it's sales / pre-orders etc let alone increase them. This is also part of how the misconception came to play. On my end though I'll admit to having absolutely pirated world of goo, though not until after reading the article about it's so called "losses". After having played it a little I turned right around and bought it. Had it not been for a pirated version of it I absolutely would've never bought it. More often than not if I have no other way of finding out about a game I resort to finding some other way of playing it, usually renting through a service like gamefly for example. I read reviews and find which games I still want to play after reading those reviews and then I look up vids of people playing or first impressions those sorts of things. Sometimes that's enough to convince me to buy it though often it ends up leaving me so I want to play but I'm leery about spending the money on it knowing it could turn out horribly in spite of what I've seen thus far.  In the end I tend to only end up buying great games I know for a fact I'll enjoy because I've already played them a little.

One of the big points on games for me though is that I can play them when and usually where I want within reason. I don't mind connecting once in a while for validation or something however an always-on scenario means if I'm ever without internet even for a short while it can ruin my entire experience. It might not even be that scenario it could just be that the game company is the ones having the problem. I end up being frustrated that the product I bought and paid for is somehow unavailable to me for some reason and ends up essentially being an inferior product to a pirated version. What happens then in ten years or so when the company decides to shut down those particular validation servers or re-purpose them for something else. The idea that eventually I just won't be allowed access to what I consider to be my property is preposterous. For those of you that want to argue timeframe, you're missing the bigger picture. It doesn't matter if it's 20 years, 50 years, or even a century from now. Maybe I want to pass down my game collection to my grand kids that end up wanting to play it. Right now I can break out my old nintendo and put in super mario bros and guess what, it works fine, no hassle of any kind other than maybe a little cleaning and classic jiggling to get it to load right. This will likely still be true in another 20 years just as it's also true of my old atari and pac man which actually works better than my nintendo come to think of it. Granted most games today will not endure in the same manner as even if we still have these games that far down the road it's unlikely we'll want to play them for a multitude of reasons. The point being though that at least it's an option.

It just may come to pass that if always-on becomes a standard then the new standard for me will be to find pirated copies of products I buy just so I can avoid dealing with such restrictions. As to the rumors of the next xbox being an always-on system I would say that it is probably the case simply because microsoft has not yet openly denied it to my knowledge. You would think given the backlash concerning it if it wasn't even an issue they'd have just come out by now and said that the console isn't even always-on required. Playstation on the other hand knows better. After the massive downtime they had they know that if they made the ps4 an always on system they'd be declaring bankruptcy by the end of the year if not the month. Simply put if xbox is going to be always-on required to play any games then we'd all better abandon ship because if an attack like what happened to Sony happened to the xbox you wouldn't be able to play any game at all not just being cut off from multiplayer and in that scenario I don't doubt there'd be a few offices burned to the ground.

I could probably write several additional articles on the subject, rather than doing so I'll just summarize that I don't see any scenario where always-on should be a requirement and I see a very limited few situations where it's even beneficial at all, it's a significant dentriment and should seriously be completely avoided at this point in time. That's just if you're in a country with a decent network backbone like America, Europe, Japan, etc. If you're in a country where the backbone is weak or you live in an area away from the broadband then you should be running away from always-on like your life depended on it. Granted my real concern is not with your connection rather the companies connection as Sim City clearly proved. Which I will add that EA must've been drinking the worlds largest keg of retard juice to do some of the nonsense they pulled with that game, and if you haven't gotten it yet don't bother just pick up sim city 4 it's a better game anyway. If you really want to punish EA feel free to grab anno 2077 or cities xl 2013, to my knowledge anno also uses a resource system which the new Sim City seems to have copied....

On one last side note I will say that while I don't like to speculate on consoles until I start seeing some games for them beyond launch titles I will say that I'm probably going to be sitting this round of consoles out and rather just picking up a new graphics card and some games, it'll cost about the same and I'll be better off for it. If I do pick up a console based on what I know right now it'll probably be a ps4 but even so right now it's far from selling me on it.

April 19, 2013

Special Friday post

Thursday was a great day and Friday has only just begun. Sadly I think I'll be staying inside Friday because it's a nightmare already.

Thursday I attended an award ceremony, and a masquerade where we were served swedish meatballs and baklava as well as a goodie bag. My day went on to include a wet T-shirt contest and a few other good times.

Then Friday hit at the stroke of midnight like a freight train crushing my cloud 9 reality. It started innocent enough with a little turnabout where after the wet t-shirt contest was done it became "male review" which equates to male strippers so I decide I might want to move down the road, one of my friends that was with me had an emergency so I could then see the warning signs. I started wrapping things up as quickly as I could to get home before it got worse. Right when I was less than a mile from home I get a flat tire and a severe rain storm with hurricane winds. Low and behold I find myself somehow missing my jack from my trunk and knowing exactly where it is I have to run all the way home get it, go back to the car and change the tire in the storm. For those of you thinking "ah just leave it" I would like to remind you that this is Flint, if I didn't do it now I wouldn't have the chance to do it later. Here I am now drying off and informing you that Friday is not a day worth leaving the comfort of your bed for, go back to sleep and save yourself from the day because if it keeps on at the rate it's on I wager to say that by the end of the day we'll be on the verge of armageddon / ragnarok / w/e you want to call the apocalypse.

April 16, 2013

Rapid Iteration

I was looking at the tower defense game I'd put together and I realized something interesting on what I'd inadvertently done with it. Which on a side note I would say speaks to the nature of experience and intuition. I wanted to make another TD and I figured I could probably copy and paste most of what I'd already done then ad new features and instead I found with a basic re-skin all the features I wanted were already there and just needed some slight configuring.

Late in the development I'd started on a kind of tool-tip for new players that was a bit more comprehensive than a tutorial and was ongoing rather than being a one wave use for learning. I finished that and came up with a bit of humorous revisions on it. Basically the framework I built works in the same modular way I've been working for some time and as such I can basically change anything I want without a lot of work and therefore the entire game is basically mod ready. At any point I can make a mod to alter various gameplay stats or mechanics without having to completely recompile and rebuild the entire thing. So I went from a very cyber and tech feel to a zombie and survivors TD game. The tool-tip now instead of offering helpful suggestions on which towers to upgrade or how to layout a maze etc now is setup with various dialog from the survivors to get upgrades or mentioning where to put obstacles like junk cars to build the path.

Realizing what I'd done I actually almost just turned around and put the game out on the net over the weekend, probably starting with a post on here, which I of course thought better of. Now I'm looking into how I might improve it some more balance it better and then launch it. It's mostly made using scaleform which I'm finally getting comfortable with as previously I just didn't like the feel of it and now that I'm warming up to it and understanding I see some major revisions on the other games I'm working on coming up. It was otherwise a considerably dull week which is why this post feels a little empty, suffice to say I'm redoing work on some of the games plugging in scaleform where it fits nicely and wasting the rest of my time making turret defense games.

April 12, 2013

Special Friday post

 If you haven't already read about it a guy named Adam Orth has apparently been ticking a few people off with his comments on twitter. Some people think he's dead serious while others think it's meant to be some kind of humorous sarcasm either way the situation has gotten out of hand to the point Microsoft stepped in and basically threw him under the bus while feeding him to the wolves while blatantly ignoring one of the key facts about why this is such a big deal. Basically Orth was talking about 'always-on' tech and how it might be a part of the next xbox which of course Microsoft has no official comment on and probably for good reason.
Apparently in response to all of this Orth has resigned, whether or not this is forced resignation or just him wanting to get away from it all is yet to be seen. For more info look up some of the kotaku posts about it.

This brings up a subject I wasn't really sure how to introduce but has been on my mind for a while.  
Before I get into it though I'd like to thank all of you nice supportive people that have been following me.
I've been fortunate so far that people are more interesting in hearing what I want to do and what I've done rather than being hyper critical over of details that for better or worse are constantly changing. Back to topic while I've only been working independently for the last year I've had some prior experience in the field and through first hand knowledge I understand how studios keep an iron grip on information pertaining to their games. Some of the non disclosure agreements I've signed give me the feeling that if I violate them then I'm legally obligated to crawl into a dark corner and die. It's incidents like this that really make me understand why they do it too because I've seen how the masses react to any tiny piece of info they get on a game even if it's false or outdated especially from bigger studios and major sequels. This isn't the first and it probably won't be the last in this extremely long line of incidents in which people just over react even if they're well within their bounds to do so. I for one tend to always be ticked off by 'always-on' requirements of any kind and various other kinds of DRM aggrivate me on equal levels. Some of the past ones I've encounter include limiting installations of my game to only 3 computers, and at the time I'd gone through 3 computers in less than 5 years and my sudden inability to play a game I loved so much had me up in arms. People that support these kinds of things also tend to tick me off because while I understand their perspective and as a dev I can even respect it in the end they tend to either not see my perspective or understand it, or they simply just don't care. Even just as a consumer I can see why things like this exist but again as a consumer I hate having things forced on me and equally rage out when products I really look forward to are being sabotaged to the point I don't want them anymore because of what's being forced on me to get them, at some point it's just not worth it anymore.

As a community though we tend to create large amounts of backlash for anything we don't agree with to any extent and often it goes overboard. It's the way that we behave that makes it so devs don't want to speak up about their games or share information. Mostly because people often enough make snap judgements and decisions with only a small fraction of relative information. Just one bad sentence can end someone's career which is why many prefer to just keep their mouth closed and why their bosses would rather lock everyone in a dungeon until work is done so nobody has a chance to speak. Maybe if we worked a little more constructively on finding out why something was included and focused on letting devs know how we'd like something changed we'd have a better chance at finding out more in advance and big games wouldn't have horrific surprises.

Everything above having been said I'm not defending Orth in any way, I can't say I ever met the guy but I'd heard of him well before all of this and not to kick a man while he's down but given that I was told he takes some getting used to means you'd think at some point he'd learn how to realize when he's digging himself a hole and more importantly know when to stop.  Just from a corporate position I can't say I'd want someone working for me in a non-public position to be telling people about our products even if it were the truth because one of the biggest parts of any production is marketing and if it's not done right you might as well be setting your product on fire and hoping for the best. Quite literally I can almost guarantee you that he cost Microsoft hundreds if not thousands of sales and probably doubled their marketing costs to make up for it, frankly at this point is doesn't matter how good he might have been at his job he just became a very expensive liability they couldn't afford to have around. The same thing might happen anyway even if he'd done a great job and hyped people up for the console simply because he's a wild card.

I hope you all see what I'm trying to say, because I basically trust you to be understanding of what I do and hope that you give feedback I can use rather than have me reading through an ocean of useless hate.

April 08, 2013

Sidetracked weekend

So normally my day goes as follows, including weekends: get up, get dressed, get to working on one of the games, work all day taking time for biological needs, watch a previously downloaded episode of one or more tv shows to wind down and then sleep. There's no set schedule for times just working till I start getting tired then letting my mind relax with mindless entertainment so some days it's only 12 hours I put in, some days it's 16, once in a rare while I just don't get tired and it ends up being 2 to 3 days.

This weekend though I decided to take a break and let my volunteer testers go wild with the game for the weekend with no specific testing goals to see what would happen and took the time to play a game I've been meaning to get to for a while. Sometimes I'll set aside some proper gaming time for any number of games but I wanted to dedicate myself to completing this game at least once which I normally can't do unless I make a plan for it like this. The game of this weekend was the walking dead, the one from last year that released in parts which I thought was a very interesting idea. For those of you that haven't played yet beware of spoilers which I'll try to keep to a minimum.

It was strangely addicting up through chapter 3 then I went insane. One of the characters named carly which was a reporter pre-apocalypse, dies and there's no way I can save her, I spent hours retrying every possible scenario in the entire game up to that point trying to save her before looking online only to find out there is no scenario in which she lives beyond that point. I had to rage quit for a little while. In that time I went to a friends and played gears of war judgement which thankfully was better than what I was expecting based on the demo. I'm still fairly cheesed that they took out regular horde mode though, what would it really have taken to just keep it in?

Once I came back to walking dead the final culmination was intense and has me eager to do another playthrough especially knowing what I know now. There were some moments that annoyed me, scenarios where there's clearly a 3rd or 4th choice you could pick but the game forces you to pick one of the two it presents you with. Sometimes I wish for more dialogue options because of some of the thoughts I was having and questions I would think anyone would ask that simply aren't there. I don't know if it's funny or sad that in the moments leading up to carly's death if you side with her there's notifications saying "she won't forget that" given that she's about to die no matter what you've done it's ultimately true, but it still suggests there's a future for her when there's not. Some of the illusions they give you on choice are equally interesting in how they portray them as there are several scenarios where no matter what you do the end result is the same.  The strange thing is that I'm fine with almost all of them except for carly which seems entirely preventable and really the only word I can find for what happens is uncharacteristic neglect in such a tense situation.

I would say most gamers, especially anyone that loves games with branching storylines like most bioware games or heavy rain, should play walking dead at least once. While the branching might not be so extreme that it's like several games in one I would say that if this were a book it would be like a book passed by word of mouth where the details of what happens change but the main story stays the same. Was your character cruel or merciful, a hero or a savage, does it matter in comparison to what he did rather than why.

I for one am all about the "why" of things but I can still appreciate the what.

on a side note I am considering expanding the blog to incorporate reviews, of tv shows I watch and games I play. I've been told by a few friends my perspective and method of explaining shows is entertaining in itself so I figure I might as well share with the internet friends such as yourself that have been following me for the last year or so. If you have any thoughts on it feel free to mention them in the comments.

April 01, 2013

April Fools

I've been busy today with 3 great friends whom will only accept being mentioned by their online aliases. PudinPops, A_Murder_of_Crows, and Moldy-bread. and in our joking around really it just devolved into trolling so hard, I think some people out there are going to need new hardware after the rage fits they threw.

Not much to contribute to the day itself and while I do have a regular post reserved for today I'll rather leave it alone and let you enjoy the day for what it is.

Also if you entered the konami code today, congratulations on your new keyboard configuration, to fix it simply enter the konami code again and the changes should be reversed, if that doesn't work then I'm afraid I have no clue how to fix it and your keyboard is eternally set to party mode.