I’m showing Thugjacker and L.U.V. Tank during the Download Los Angeles Art Walk this week. A friend arranged getting a booth and I joined in, been scrambling to get things prepared!Sokay Play 1Looking forward to seeing the games out in front of people again! The stats say that lots of people play our games, but it’s always a different story seeing people experience them.

For more info on the Reality Prevention Consortium event, check out its Facebook Event page.

This is a sketch I just drew. A sketch from a scene in the world of our upcoming game Donut Get!

I’m working on some updates to Chris’ Rush Hour — here and there. Mostly jazzing it up with some supplementary artwork, just starting to tweak some level design.

Been playing a lot of PS3. Just got one in January. Gran Turismo 5 is my shit. Metal Gear Solid 4 has got a grip of me. Demon’s Souls scares the shit out of me. I’m flashing back with 3d Dot Game Heroes. And my girlfriends been rolling shit up in Katamari Forever.

It’s good to be playing more games. Good to have another perspective of gaming, from the PSX perspective.

As usual, I’m working on too many things at once. But it’s nice when I have something nice to show!

 

This is an animation from the revamping of Chris’ game Rush Hour. It’s been done for a while but I’ve been set on adding some new features to make it even better. Chris has resurrected his programming role on this game and I’m glad because I had a hard time trying to figure out how his code worked. haha.

After we finish this, I’ll be focusing once more on the Donut game. And hopefully not much else.

Last month, I found out last-minute about an IGDA Los Angeles meeting. The guest speaker was Mark Cerny. No way I was gonna miss out on that! I’ve been super inspired by the stuff I’ve read about him, like working on some of my dream projects (I wanted to work on Sonic 2 when I was 8 years old ­čÖé ). I left work on time and ended up getting lost on the UCLA campus, but I managed to catch the tail end of the presentation.

My coworker was smarter than me and actually saw the whole talk. His synopsis described what I missed — like Mark talking about the arcade business back in the 80’s. Arcade programming was tough because each game ran on new hardware so programmers never got the opportunity to master the hardware. With consoles, the benefit was that they had a lot of time to learn all of the inner working, tricks, reusing engines, and whatnot. Something like that, ha.

When I jumped in, he was getting to some points. Game budgets are commonly exceeding $20 million. He made fun of no game development team being complete without a “combat designer”. The leap from vertices to pixels has taken its toll on the industry during this generation. But there is hope.

There’s hope in taking the time to actually learn the craft. There’s hope in learning what is and isn’t important. There’s hope in breaking out of budget climbing.

UN-learning

Mark stressed importance of UN-learning. Learning is easy, unlearning is hard. He focused this unlearning around many of the conventions of games inherited from the Arcade Era.

Arcade based games have frequent death and great difficulty at the end. He then did a quick overview of 30 years of arcade style games.

  • Dragon’s Lair had simple gameplay but required players to memorize each sequence to complete the game.
  • Space Ace was designed to be hard as hell for people that mastered Dragon’s Lair.
  • Robotron was mentioned because difficulty was the appeal of the game.
  • Mario 3 was a great example of an arcade game because even though it was a console game, it worked great as Play Choice arcade release.

After that, he talked a little about the Crash Bandicoot games he worked on. The first Crash Bandicoot was hard as shit. In it, you had limited number of lives and although you could restart from the same level, you had to progress to and complete a bonus stage just to save your game. With Crash 2 they had more consumer awareness, they tested it more for difficulty. The players performance in the game is tracked and the game helps when possible.

Dynamic Difficulty

He then talked a bit about dynamic difficulty in games, sometimes you notice and sometimes you don’t. The first example was Sly Cooper, in which the Sucker Punch “solved” jump problems. The solution was that if you missed a jump a certain amount of times as cartoon hook would grab you and put you where you need to go. Maybe not the ideal solution, but it fit the vibe of the game’s world.

Next he mentioned Ratchet & Clank, where reviewers had a problem because the difficulty adjustment was too obvious. When you die too much in Ratchet & Clank, boxes that would normally drop money start dropping health. Last he mentioned Uncharted but just that many people didn’t realize that Uncharted had dynamic difficulty systems, he didn’t go into anything specific.

End of Death

We are fighting our arcade heritage. If you aren’t dying, you aren’t playing. Is Farmville a game? Even though you can’t die?

I think this was an important point. Many games I love for the challenge, like a Mario game for instance, but many other games I enjoy more for the experience, like NiGHTS.┬á Mark asked the crowd to raise their hands if they thought Farmville was a game. There were some vocal Farmville haters expressing that they didn’t think these kinda games were games at all. Is it because you can’t die? No clear challenge or goal?

I don’t think they are good games, but it’s kinda hard to deny that they share much of the same basis of the games we all love.

Can a game be enjoyable without rewards and punishment? I’ve been playing Earthbound recently, and I’m into it solely for the story and scenario. I feel like I could skip out on much of the “game” of it and have a great time. I’m willing to experiment with these ideas.

Today’s Vocabulary

At the end, Mark talked about today’s gaming vocab, we have “co-op”, “social game”, “3rd-person-shooter”, “deathmatch”, etc. But we need new words for new social paradigms. His example of this was Demon’s Souls. It’s a single player action RPG… but it has many forms of social interactions. But not necessarily directly. For instance, you can leave messages for other players and your spirit shows up in other players games. So what do you call that?

Q&A

I believe during Q&A he states that he thought 80-90% of games could work with socialization and monetization. I agree with this, and this seemed to be his point of “un-learning”. Developers need to stop thinking of “social-games” as leaderboards and Farmville.

When asked something about independent development without a publisher he said that it’s possible to scrape together enough cash to make a console game but even if you manage to do that, you’d need a publisher for marketing. With a console game having about $10 million marketing. On the subject of the iPhone market he said something like “There’s someone successful out there. Odds are that’s not you.”

That’s it!

One of the most interesting things he said was pointing out that gaming has sort of come full circle. People are scared and violent towards the trends of monetization of social gaming. But it’s the same concept that the industry was founded on — arcade machines eating players quarters to cover development costs.

I think it’s best to embrace it if you can, think about it differently and find a way to make it work for you.

Some Links:

When asked whether there would have been a loading screen when switching times in Sonic CD if he had programmed it, Yuji Naka replied with this…

“Technical skill depends on being in the moment and getting some kind of inspiration to overcome your current problem, and there’s no guarantee it will happen every time. ” – Yuji Naka’s New Bird by Gamasutra

Yuji Naka’s known as an amazing programmer , being lead programmer on Sega classics such as Phantasy Star, Sonic the Hedgehog, and NiGHTS: Into Dreams. Many of his games have pushed the hardware in ways that many didn’t think was possible.

I identify with the words because there’s been many times where I’ve gotten through a mess and realized that I was capable of a lot more than I initially imagined. There are always those “Why didn’t I think of that earlier?” moments where you reach a sudden realization which pushes you further ahead. These moments have come to me at the most random times so I try to step out of my problems for a while and have a look from another perspective.

Take a break, breathe and take a little walk. Clear your mind. Then jump back in, haha!

Sega 16 has a great biography of Yuji Naka.


Play The Dream Machine at www.thedreammachine.se

I had contacted Anders Gustafsson, creator of Gateway II, and he gave me a preview of the first chapter of his latest game — The Dream Machine by Cockroach Inc.

I had played the demo before and while it was presented well, I didn’t know what to think of it. It was so short that it felt like it was over before it ever began. But after playing through the first chapter, I can now rest my worries. I can’t wait to play the rest!

First off the game is well written. While Gateway had some dialogue, its story was mostly told visually through the animation of the characters. In The Dream Machine, the characters have some great dialogue, which I find believable. The game start with your character, Victor, just moving into an apartment with his girlfriend. You get a good feel for their relationship through their talking. The game has dialogue branches which allow you to respond in a more serious or joking manner if you wish. It helped me to believe in the characters — okay, Game Creator, you’ve got my attention.

Continue Reading…

So Chris surprised the hell out of me yesterday when he mentioned that there was an independent games festival going on right down the street from me in Culver City — Indiecade ’09. His friend told him about it and he told me. I was feeling kind of down that I wasn’t out raving in the streets of San Francisco this weekend, but I suppose things happen for a reason. I missed Saturday but I checked it out today.

Moon Stories
I Wish I Were the Moon by Daniel Benmergui

I didn’t get the opportunity to see everything but the favorite thing that I played was Moon Stories by Daniel Benmergui of Argentina. This is a series a 3 games, which are more like interactive stories. I could spend a paragraph trying to explain it or you can just play the damn thing. I liked that I could just jump in an play around and that the game didn’t expect anything from me. I had fun messing around just to see what would happen. This is really how game stories need to be told more often. Continue Reading…

Scarygirl Game screen
Go play Scarygirl, sucka!

The game’s finally out, been playing it for the last few days. Awesome stuff! I got into making Flash games to create experiences like this game so it’s major inspiration for me. It’s 16 levels with a built in save system, so you can come back and finish it anytime.

Check it out at Scarygirl.com!

Game by Touch My Pixel.


Shred Nebula for Xbox Live Arcade

Gamasutra reports that CrunchTime Games has released design documents for the newly published Xbox Live Arcade title, Shred Nebula. It’s a space adventure game played from an Asteroids-style perspective.

The two documents released are a pitch/design document and an overview of the first 60 seconds of gameplay, both written in 2006. I’ve taken a quick look at both of them and I admire how the gameplay is detailed. This is the level of depth I want to achieve for my design documents. This drives me to push myself further!


Just check it out, it’s the Coolest Flash toy today :-p.