Archive for the ‘The industry in general’ Category

War. War Never Changes.

January 31, 2010


As dedicated gamers, we’ve always cherished the experiences that we know the developers not only made for our enjoyment, but made because they had a deep connection to their work. There have always been bad games, but it seems that with the emergence of the popularity of games, there were a lot fewer developers working on titles that meant a lot more to them. Even publishers as such as EA were keen to allow developers to put their own flavour into commissioned games, allowing the experience of the developers to flow into their projects. But times have changed, and somewhere along the line, the unrelenting maw of the publisher has grown hungrier for profit than ever, driving an odd trend through the industry. Games have now become disposable items. (more…)

Disneyitus – the fall and rebirth of a giant

January 19, 2010


It really doesn’t come as a surprise any more. Like all things, even the greats succumb to age and senility begins making choices that are beyond its rational judgement. Minds grow feeble, and are subsequently replaced by new minds that are evidently too bloated with cash to care anymore. This is when the greatest surprise of them all arrived – evidence that Disney, the undisputed father of contemporary animation seeks to reclaim its image of old and re-imagine what once made them great. This was the day that Warren Spector, of Deus Ex fame, signed up as designer on Epic Mickey. (more…)

They’re not gimmicks, they’re experiments

July 27, 2009

As a gamer and prospective game designer there are many observations I make when looking at trends in the industry. These trends come in many forms which can vary from simply what the gamers are demanding to what the industry is choosing to do, but my intentions aren’t to talk about trends in general today, but I am here to explain why the trends of the greater population of gamers is ruining the first person shooter.

This may have looked like a bit of a disjointed segue, but trust me, I’m not without purpose. Once again I found myself travelling down to Brisbane, and I was reading an article and PC Power Play that was talking about the freedom of indie games developers, and the ability they have to design games in ways that allow for the natural cycle of trial, error and experimentation to unfold within their branch of the industry. You would think that this formula would resonate with the industry as a whole, and to a degree it has. The industry has arrived at a point in which it is reasonably happy to rest its feet and play off the comfort of the player, but within I believe lays an inherent problem; if the industry stops taking risks, they how can innovation and change ever occur? This is a problem that is particularly prevalent within first person shooters; this may be because they have gradually sculpted an audience which expects certain things, and treats experimentation like some foreign object only deserving on blame and censure, and this is a problem.

Cast your memory back to 2000, the year when the critically acclaimed Deus Ex came out. Gaming was at a critical stage back then since today’s formalities and expectations had not been cemented into the minds of the obstinate and impressionable, and at this stage of technological advancement more experimental titles could be released due to the availability of increased memory and computing power. Deus Ex was a clever title insofar as it considered actually shooting things secondary, and focuses on an expansive array of tactics and character upgrades as a primary method of sculpting the game to the player’s style. This will probably sound like a simplistic synopsis of Deus Ex, but I hope it imparts a little bit of knowledge as to where I’m heading. It seems like these days, however, the roles have been reversed, and there was a long period (and it is still continuing) where gunplay has been pared down to a basic system, and additional features have been discarded completely. Let me state that this is not necessarily a bad thing; games, notably Call of Duty 4 made use of a very simple system, but strived in creating an engrossing and violent atmosphere, coupled with a simple, but decent story that propelled the game and came out as what I’d call “good”. But I wouldn’t make something like it. The main issue here is that with the continual change in game development tactics, games and in turn, gamers have come to expect titles that don’t take any risks because they know a formula works.
I know that it would be impossible to sway the minds of the masses, but I’d like to share a personally gripe, that was prefaced by my comment on the progression of indie games. My problem is that when gamers cry foul of developers when they developer tries something different in an attempt to take the critical risk in evolution. It’s fair enough for a game to be bad, this might not be wholly the developers fault, but I think that it is downright indecent of gamers to be so critical towards the developer when this happens, as opposed to being constructive and making clear just what exactly they didn’t like. The original “assaulting the developers standards” tact really gets nowhere because all it ultimately achieves is developers pulling in their heads and cutting their risks, the result is usually a mediocre title that preached great things, but was crushed by the creative stagnation the industry tends to suffer due to the lack of risks that are necessary in advancing design principals, and general thinking. The second tactic, which can be defined as the act of “supporting the industry through constructive criticism” is something that cannot necessarily be achieved by the gamers, but it is the responsibility of the journalists to justify their decisions and thoughts, an act that will reassure the developers, and an industry as a whole that what may have been a mistake was really just a step forward towards innovation and experimentation, creating a future where designers are more willing to take calculated risks, and observe the mistakes that have been made previously in order to enhance the gamers taste in games, and stimulate developers to expand their design capabilities.

Somewhere…Beyond The Sea

July 15, 2009

Well the news only reached me, vicariously, through a post on a forum I frequent that directed me to a link on Kotaku stating that Bioshock 2’s launch has been thrown to the wind, and the title to the much loved original IP by 2K has been given a vague “We expect the title to ship in the first half of 2010”. This in my opinion is frustrating, obviously, being a gamer who thoroughly enjoyed Bioshock not only because I obviously want to play it, but because i really want to see who they have constructed a title with such high expectations. It was many moons ago when i caught wind of Bioshock 2’s production, and being an admirer of the first game, I naturally began scouring the internet for any details I could. But apart from one viral website that released some intriguing yet incredibly ambiguous information, I found next to nothing, so I began thinking, “what do I want to see in bioshock”. Obviously my opinions won’t sway those of the behemoth that is 2K, especially since their team of clairvoyant PR guys are still being poached by IGN, but I decided to think how a sequel should be constructed. First of all, allow me enlighten you with my philosophy on game sequels.

I believe that sequels should be a good contrast between established themes and completely original material, obviously this isn’t always in perfect balance because of continuing themes, and familiar gameplay, but with certain titles I believe special things can be achieved. For instance, take a game that has a pretty generic action aspect, but the developers realise that this is only a vehicle for innovation, and surrounding this innovation more concepts are layered until you have a game. Of course in my gumdrop fantasy world where it rains chocolate smiles, this would be an ideal base for certain types of games, but obviously not all companies decide to elaborate on their possibilities. This is when sequels end up feeling like the first game with shinied up graphics. On the other hand, when a company whole heartedly embrace the idea for change and innovation, a gleaming jewel is found in among the heaps power armour and scowly faces. Take a moment to ponder this while I go ahead and write what I think bioshock 2 should have been.

When i first came across this website SomethingInTheSea Map , it had one real feature, and that was to pick the minds of the fans and challenge them to interpret what they thought was going to be made of this much anticipated title, that is when i started thinking. Since this looked like a quite different atmosphere to the original I immediately jumped to the thought that they may be doing something completely different which excited me, and led me to come up with my own idea for Bioshock 2. Because of the imagery I received the impression that this was the work of some kind of private investigator, so i began pondering how Bioshock would work if this was a prequel, and you play a private investigator hot on the trail of some very mysterious occurrences leading up to the secretive opening of Rapture to the select audience that was explained in the original. But then I thought it wouldn’t be nearly creepy enough so i began to explore could be done with adding atmosphere and i reached the conclusion that at some point along the trail, the private investigator would find a lead that enabled him to gain passage to the currently empty rapture, where he uncovers a series of twisted and ungodly events leading to the rise of rapture. This game would be either first or third person, but the major difference would be the active completion of puzzles the player would take part in, in order to advance the story. Maybe this inspiration arose from my love of the classic story driven adventure game, but it was also inspired by my yearning for change and high levels of innovation in a situation where such an amazing world has been created without the restriction of a single play style.

Since then a glut of information on Bioshock 2 has been spewed into public light, and even though i can agree that it looks nice, and fun to play, I just don’t feel the sense of innovation that went into the creation of the first one whether it be art direction, to gameplay design. I am still going to pick up this game, but i’m still just a little disappointed that that didn’t do some radically different with it, but kind of thing really only tends to play on critical acclaim rather than commercial success.

SomethingInTheSea has now been updated, and if you’d like to check it out here’s the link: SomethingInTheSea

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

July 5, 2009

Well, no, the moon has little relevance to this news but I think Time would be more appropriate. So the other day me and my chummy chum designer friend were discussing the future of our production schedule and we came to a few conclusions, some that I agreed with, others I wasn’t happy with at all, but you have to learn to kill your babies in this industry (Note The Machination does not endorse killing babies in any way shape of form, and if you haven’t realised that this was a figure of speech, please have someone escort you to your padded cell). Basically the conclusion we have reached is one that entails resuming the production of Silhouette (if you aren’t clued in on what Silhouette is, then please direct yourself here: http://forums.thebehemoth.com/viewtopic.php?t=3273). Now after much discussion and debate the game has been significantly pruned down to suit our current situation and we hope like anything that we can forge ahead with this games production, now that we’ve essentially reformed our methods in order for our games to be more thoroughly tested in order to deliver a more polished product even if it is a minimalist approach.
As always
Happy gaming and check up some time to see what we’re up to

I’m torn

July 3, 2009

It seems like I’ve recently received a glut of responses from a post i made on the Australian Gamer forums as towards the hypothetical steps in order to rise for the murky depths of parroted education towards the shining golden bicep of the world that is game design…and it’s on fire…hell yeah. Sorry… well basically my debate is what to do towards this agenda, and it would seem like in order to peruse a particular avenue of the industry i.e. design (namely creative direction) you would have to shrug off all extraneous factors that are so dear to me (animation) and completely embrace a central stream of learning and experience. So to quickly wrap up before my pc screen molested eyeballs completely burn up and fall out, i would like to say that in retrospect, following multiple disciplines would generally seem like a good idea if you are working, or plan to work in a small teams, but for the industry’s sake people have generally suggested to stick to your main interest, but familiarise yourself with any outlying components…but i’m just too much of a conceited bastard to do so, is it wrong to want to hold the reigns of every little action?

In other news, me and my designer buddy are catching up to discuss level design for Run, let’s hope it holds some semblance of productivity.

Is the games industry recession proof?

April 21, 2009

An economic recession is one of those occurences that strikes a great deal of confusion and discomfort into the minds of business owers, and employees alike. And while Australia isn’t in an official recession, there has been some pretty hefty action taken in order to try to prevent the economic situation from worsening, and joining the countries that have officially slipped into a recessive state. This situation raises the topic of this entry, the question of whether the games industry is can outlast the recession.

Cheap entertainment has always been a popular course of action in times where less affordable entertainment becomes even less accessible. Games are, in this case, a popular choice because even though they may be hideously expensive new here, still seem to have this aura of worthiness regardless of the price. The great thing about games is that they can be purchased, and played, providing in surplus of 15+ hours of gameplay, engaging the player in a much more interactive and gratifying experience, then say going to a theme park for a day, which while may still be as fun in the short run, provides less value for longevity of entertainment. This is something that develpers have realised, and are marketing to by producing more complex games which incidentally take longer to finish, instilling a positive sense of fulfillment in the player, most likely encouraging them to go out and buy another. Conversly, on the development side, developers are still spending huge amounts of money in order to continue working on the titles that they work so hard to produce, often ending in merely scraping by in these times, thus why it would seem more profitable to become independent and cut out publishing costs.

It would seem that this question has reached an interesting conclusing, gamers will most often feel obliged to go out and purchase games, regardless of the economic situation, while companies will often range from struggling to doing reasonably well in these times, if not occasionally better because of the increased purchases on the “affordable entertainment” from. It would seem like the game industry is not necessarily recession proof, due to high costs of production, but recession resistant because of the large portion of gamers that may, or will not changing their purchasing habits, along side the people who believe that games are a good cheap alternative entertainment.

Misconceptions about the Independent Games Industry

April 13, 2009

When the topic of the independent games industry is raised within your group of friends, assuming that a good percentage of them are gamers, theres a general sense of confusion thats bound to accommodate their lack better judgement. This confusion is either surrounding preconcieved notions, or absolutely no idea on the topic, probably because they’re general gamers who have purchased a system and like to buy a steady flow of whatever their friends tell them is good, who are incidentally people in the same situation. The next event is you attempting a construct and answer as to what the independent video game industry is, and them thinking you know way to much about games and immidiately loose interest, allow me to explain.

The independent game industry is comprised of companies that create games without the financial backing of a publisher. These game don’t have to be of any particular orientation, but are generally smaller titles bordering on the artistic, namely because they don’t have publishers breathing down their necks, telling them what the “people” want. These games are then usually distributed digitally by means of web portals (www.newgrounds.com) or via digital media distribution services as such as Steam or the Xbox Live Arcade, the purpose of this is to limit or erradicate unwanted overheads in order for the company to derive as much profit from these titles as possible.

Teams in these companies are predominately smaller, ranging from Number Nones’ team of two all the way up to an entire 100+ company. The reason why these companies are often smaller in developer numbers is so that the team can really work closely together in order to maximise efficiency and production quality, due to the fact that they often have less resources at their expense and need to make use of everything they have without wasting precious time or funding. You may think that because they smaller teams, that there would be less ideas, the truth is quite the contrary. By adhering to the “two pizza team” strategy, teams of this size can often produce better ideas, because thoughts and concepts aren’t lost in translation between departments and their designers.

Probably the largest misconception about the independent industry is that every company that starts out “indie”, is amalgamated with a larger company, or joins a publisher, this is by no means true. One example of a company that has grown to incredible proportions whilst still remaining independent is Insomniac Games, a Burbank base company that found its humble origins in 1994, that is now producing its thirteenth title, and has created 3 incredibly well known franchises.

So you can see, the independent video game industry isn’t just a “pretentious load of art snobbery”, or “that thing, I think it’s the same as the video game industry”, it’s about hard working developers who have opted not to tie themselves to a publisher so they can design what ever they believe is necessary to stimulate a particular genre or avenue of the industry, regardless of how large their company grows.

I’d just like to point out that I have a huge amount of respect for the games industry workers, indie or not. They’re all good, hard working people, who have devoted their lives to the passion which is game development in order to help the industry evolve and transcend, and in the midst, make us all happy.

Miles