Monday, January 26, 2009

Where's the episodic content?

So as a podcast, we are supposed to be recording episodes and posting them on the interwebs for everyone to download. Unfortunately, we've experienced some snafu's, the occasional technical difficulty and a plethora of problems with my MacBook.

We've actually "recorded" episode 48 twice, but despite the widely held belief that a MacBook, an Apple product, would be good for recording podcasts, an Apple invention, it is in fact NOT!

We are reconciling the problems and should have an episode up in the coming days. Provided tomorrow's recording goes well. Which should happen given the redundancy we are using to record it.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Oh, No...

I'm at the wheel of this thing.

A while back I promised a review of Mirror's Edge. Fuck that. I don't have the energy anymore. The night I beat it I had a ton of energy to devote to telling everyone how angry that game made me. After I railed on Mirror's Edge in the podcast, and after so much time has passed, I feel like it would be redundant and exhausting.

So, why the hell am I typing anything then? Because I said I would. That's called obligation, kids! And while we are on the topic of games like Mirror's Edge and things like "obligation", let's see if we can merge these into a rant about the games industry.

Don't gamers deserve more from the people shoveling games in their direction? Are developers obligated to deliver on all the expectations that they have established through their marketing machine?

Let's chat about two possible scenarios that can cause a truly inspired game, like Mirror's edge, to become a victim of hype and corporate fast-tracking. Some assumptions will be made. I am comfortable with that.

Scenario # 1: Companies are evil, souless abominations.

All companies are out to make a buck. Fuck you and your want to play a game that is mentally stimulating, physically challenging, and thoroughly unique. Halo 9? You got it! Not-Halo-But-Close-Enough-These-FPS-Goons-Will-Play-Anything-6? Let's make it.

They round up all the hack artists, semi-retarded programmers, "I made a Half-Life Mod" game designers, and yes-man producers and churn out something that looks like last generation and a half with some severely broken design, flawed art direction, and bug after bug after bug.

All the shit-eating suits sit around and tell marketing to "sell that bitch!" ... So, they do. "Geo-Transmorphic Poly-Shading!" "The Best Water Since that Tech Demo you Saw at Last Year's GDC!" "Won't Kill You!"

You, the consumer, buy it up, hoping to fill in that post holiday dry spell. It's shit. You are betrayed. Fuck Globo-Tech Entertainment INC.!

Scenario #2: Unfortunate things happen to honest people.

In this scenario you have a building full of passionate, talented, well-meaning artsts, programmers, designers, and the like. It's far more complicated than Scenario #1. You start with an idea. The idea gets traction and someone deems it worth exploring. Some of the companies best artists and designers get put on it and they begin to flesh out the concept. After a stellar presentation, some bobble heads in cheap suits give the thumbs up and pre-production starts. All the people put on the project are fully on on-board. They love it.

Problem is, over time some of the shortcomings of the design start to rear their ugly heads. Early decisions in art direction start to change to accommodate gameplay requirements. Production gives some input, marketing gives some input. Things have to be re-worked to meet everyone's unique needs. It divides the production into two categories; Still in Production and Back to Pre-Production.

Everything becomes staggered. Departments find themselves reacting instead of executing a plan and the whole production becomes a three-legged race. The people who signed on, while still passionate, have to work with their hands tied behind their back and the end product suffers. Marketing feels they have to trump up the game to gain interest while hoping the team can stay focused and deliver what they all signed on to deliver.

The game comes out on time. They had to skimp on play-testing, which they know was a bad idea, but damn... They pushed it back twice. They had to get it out. It's good... most of the time. It's gets pretty good reviews. Problem is the lead artist sees the textures they wanted to redo but ran out of time. The programmers see all the bugs they would have fixed... if they knew about them. The designers see all their missed opportunities to implement things they really wanted to get in the game. Finally, production wishes they had had more time to accurately plan for all the missteps (because missteps DO happen).

It happens to the best of teams. Games are hard to make. But that doesn't make the burn sting any less when you spend your hard-earned moolah on something that blows. Or, as I found to almost hurt more, you find a beautiful game where the experience is damaged by small issues.

Long entry. Sorry. Hope there is something to chew on. I gotta run. Bye gang!!!


Monday, January 19, 2009

How Games are Played in 2009?

I've been thinking that the 1-on-1 fighting game was a dead genre. I am apparently wrong.

Lemme take a step back.

Developers have been receiving hints by the big publishers to embed multiplayer in their games (the Big 3: Sony, Microsoft, though less so by Nintendo) for a long ass time now, and by 'hinted' I mean they might say something ambiguous and subtle like, "We think that you should put multiplayer in your next-gen game." You know, the kind of subtle that occurs when you deal with giant corporations. While their talents at verbal subterfuge may be in question, it's hard to argue against their reasoning: their multiplayer architectures cost millions to create and will only attract gamers when there are games that take advantage of it.

But fighting games have fared poorly in attempts at network multiplayer. Latency and frame counting don't mix.

So it has seemed as if there was not much room for the genre and I had all but assumed it dead. Until 2008 kicked me squarely in the teeth with multi-million dollar investments in the genre (Street Fighter IV, Mortal Kombat vs DC, Super Smash Brothers, etc.) and sub-multi-million dollar investments (Street Fighter HD Remix). 2009 shows no signs of giving up on the little-genre-that-could, including a new Final Fantasy that's a pure fighting game. I'm not sure whether the fans of Final Fantasy are the same kinds of fans that enjoy a good 1-on-1 brawler, but there are literally millions composing that fan base so some measure is bound to be excited by it.

Which brings me to my point, and subsequently my question-- where are games being played? We've mentioned on the podcast that most games have migrated from the computer in your den (or dorm room PC) to the console in your living room. But I have been assuming that these are more and more single-player-local, multi-player-networked environments, overshadowing the previous several-people-sitting-around-one-TV kind of setup. And definitely not the kind that compliment fighting games where half the fun is looking at the person next to you and laughing in their face when you pile drive them.

Nintendo has always bet big that the several-people-sitting-around-one-TV setup is not just alive and well but is a large and viable market that can support even their gigantic annual cash flow as the market leader. But Xbox Live and Sony's online efforts seem to put most of their money behind networked play. The only four-player multiplayer games that demand all players on the same console for Xbox or Playstation are.... well, none. None that I can think of right now at least.

So why isn't this genre dead? Thoughts?

Monday, January 12, 2009

What the hardcore do to conqueor Left 4 Dead

We mentioned this in the the last podcast, so I thought it was worth sharing. This is why you are not hardcore when you play Left 4 Dead.

I'm always impressed when I see this kind of level of commitment. Mostly because I don't have it.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Question for the Crew

Here's an email we received from a listener:

Been lurking, now posting, yet still lurking but i got a topic for you to scratch your brains on collectively and its a topic ive been debating with a few people over at the Prince of Persia Designer blog yet i want YOUR little nuggets of wisdom on this:

Video Games Multiple Endings: A new Standard or a crutch

-Should it ALWAYS be there?
-What happens if theres a sequel planned?
-Comparing to Books and volumes
-Movie based games too?
-Enought of the light and dark stereotypes.


In the mean time, Good luck !

We'll be discussing this in Episode 48, dropping next week.