Dream Funk

April 17th, 2016 by harold

Produced in LA and tested at night on the 5 and 405. Enjoy.

Workwrkwrrrrrrrrrrrr

April 11th, 2016 by harold

Work

Just chilling for five minutes. 15 days to go. Or is it 3 weeks? Damn.

Tripping

March 28th, 2016 by harold

AlphaGo. I’m one of those nerds who was fascinated by the fact that mastering Go was a big milestone in AI and years maybe, probably, decades away. Done.

This is where we are, again. This time it’s going to go way faster. This is still the best article on AI and its implications. We’re deep into elections talking about minimum wage when we should talk about vouchers and basic income because work to get money is about to become… Rare.

NBA. I’m watching the Warriors ridiculous stats and of course Stephen Curry who’s changing the game. To give an idea of scale he put more 3 pointers in one season than Magic Johnson in his entire career (16 years at the Lakers). On his birthday last season, Curry ranked 59th in all time career made three-pointers. One year later, he ranks 25th.

Witnessing something special here. But I’m more interested in the match VS the Spurs. Who didn’t do so well last year. This season everyone is forgetting about them because of the Blue and Yellow but they’re damn strong. I love Kawhi, even more now that I have read that article. Saving money and building a modern house? Dude’s my dude. And what a great player, great vision. It’s going to be very interesting. Warriors defending a title with stellar basketball, Spurs super hungry and knowing that it’s the last time they can with the Old Guard –Duncan Parker Ginobili- win that championship and set the New Guard –Leonard Aldridge Mills- on a quest to keep the Spurs dynasty shine. Unless KD and Russell Westbrook show up? What about the East? Ha! yeah right.

Damn I’m into it. People call 3 pointers snipers which makes me think of CounterStrike, obviously. It’s a classic game design rule: make something powerful (3 pts in one shot, one bullet one kill) but make it expensive (you miss your 3 rebound is very likely to be for the other team, you miss your snipe shot, you’re vulnerable as hell for half a second).

Every time it works 100% of the time, creating dramatic events within the game would it be on a court with a ball or inside a computer with a mouse.

Soulless motion and touch

March 26th, 2016 by harold

Touch

I’m grabbing my bass, putting my fingers in position. My right hand on the neck, sliding, pinching, muting, slapping, squeezing those four strings in many different ways. The metallic coil flows under my fingertip skin, softly abrasing them. I can feel each one of the little rods that are composing a bass string. My mind magically transforms all that information into notes that make you want to move. It feels good.

Now touching screens and activating faucets through motion activated systems –just move your hand in front of a sensor- are making me feel… Sad? Something is missing.

I know it’s not just me aging or being a musician when I see kids with tablets. They play with the one physical button ten times more than the touchscreen. Haptic feedback is satisfying. I mean it’s not weird, we live in a real 3D world with texture and we have nerves in our bodies to feel all that.

But in the digital world these days, we lack this element. I’m enjoying typing on a real keyboard with all my fingers receiving instant feedback more than before, these days. Using the mouse too. I like trackpads but the left click on a mouse is very, very satisfying compared to tapping a hard, information-less surface.

So engineers are working hard at simulating that. Using vibrations. That require motors. Which require a LOT of power. Which is a pain for batteries. There are already so many cables involved with VR/AR and it’s going to get even crazier…

Anyway if future generations are soulless psychopaths grossed out by the outdoors, blame the touchscreen upbringing.

Indie games the end

March 6th, 2016 by harold

Independent game development was about professionals making a living making games without the constraint of dealing with a publisher, that relationship being more often than not abusive.

Independent game development became “indie” games, a nostalgia-induced aesthetic both built by small teams of professionals and amateurs. Making a living making games –which is what game developers describe as “being able to make another game”- became optional.

It’s disappointing that we keep forgetting about sustainability in this business. When even to this day really good, experienced game developers with all the privilege required –aka money- barely break even with their games when we never had more players playing games. It is a big big issue.

We need cheat codes at this point.

workworkworkwrok

February 29th, 2016 by harold

Working like crazy. Driving a lot. Nine weeks to go.

SFII 25th

February 13th, 2016 by harold

I still remember the sequence that led me to see Street Fighter II for the very first time in July 1991, in Canada.

I’m 11. I’m entering this arcade. Those back then were super rare in France so I’m happy just looking around and listening to all those digital sounds. First I see a Canadian foosball table which makes sense, then I see Final Fight which I already knew and then I see two guys going at it.

It’s Guile’s stage. Guile VS Ken. I lose my shit over the design, the sounds, the moves. Everything is dope as I can’t barely process it. I realize how accurate that F-16 in the background is

(they have blue clothes in the arcade version right? That’s probably a SNES pic who gives a fuck anyway)

And then I see and hear the SONIC BOOM and Ken’s HADOKEN and TATSUMAKI moves and I’m like what is going on?? At that time, Dragon Ball is on TV in France, Dragon Ball Z is about to start and I can’ help but be like WHAT IS UP WITH JAPANESE PEOPLE AND FIREBALLS THIS IS SO COOL

That was traumatic in a very good way. The best part of meeting SFII had yet to come though.

Fast forward, it’s 1992 and we’re all trying to get some parents to pay for an imported SNES game and soon all my friends have SFII and two pads. Before SFII, all fighting games were played this way: go through characters, find the strongest and beat the game. And then have stupid matches against your friends.

Not with SFII. I realize as my friends start trying to master Ken/Ryu that all characters are capable. Capable of beating the fuck out of any other character. I choose Dhalsim to run some experiment and although it’s very hard, matches end up incredibly close despite the notion that this character is the worst possible. I sometimes even win flawlessly.

Something clicks in my mind: it’s intentional. Having characters perfectly balanced or as much as possible was the team’s goal. I understand all of sudden the concept and importance of balance in game design, which would bring hilarious matches and unexpected ends. Depth, longevity and having fun.

Also, audio. Back in 1991 a game with digitalized voices was more than the 4K/60fps of today. It was groundbreaking, we still were mostly playing with bleeps and bloops on 8bit systems. Those impact, punch and kick sounds were perfectly balanced too, between fantasy and realism. You didn’t need to look at the health bar, those pitched down smack sounds were letting you know that your opponent was hurting.

Kids today want the full story and everything in between. I grew up on SFII filling up the blanks of each fighter’s story, daydreaming about it. It made it mythical. That was cool.

SFII, the only one.

2 for 1

February 3rd, 2016 by harold

Cyberpunk 2077

February 3rd, 2016 by harold

Music and sound design: HP

Games for older people

February 3rd, 2016 by harold

I was having this little conversation on Twitter with Megan Fox (not that one you idiot) about ageism and an aging gaming population. I think I am a good sample as the average age for a gamer has been basically following me for a decade (late gen X seems to be the cursor for average gamer age, which makes sense).

Right now according to the last statistics I saw, the average age is 35 for men and 43 for women. Developers though still aim at a much younger market as they always did because it’s the age bracket –the 20s- where people spend most of their time consuming/buying games. But let’s dig into the data a bit more:

Millennials right now represent the biggest slice of population. My generation, gen X, is the smallest slice of the adult/workforce/consumer part (between 20 to 60) as you can see below:

At 3.1% of the population for both men and women, that’s not much. What’s that bump at 50 though?

That’s 7% of the population. That’s 22M+ people. If you can sell your game to half that number, you’re doing fine.

So right now, the 20-35 represent 21% of the population, the 35-50 18.9%, the 50-60 19.9% and 60-70 a good 14.8%.

So what developers do? They focus on that “big” 21% and forget that 38.8% of the population (35 to 60) has money and likes games. No one is really making games for us. And if I add the 14.8% of the 60-70 bracket, we’re talking about a quite staggering 53.6% of the population right now who doesn’t feel like the game industry is talking to them.

Wow.

So how to cater to that growing population? Because this is what we have to offer right now:

Those games don’t click with older people. We have played those. We almost have three decades of experience playing those. That’s a long time. Here are points that I think you should consider if you want to aim at that juicy 38 to 53% of the population in the near future:

Older people don’t have time anymore

We have lives, things to do, kids to feed bills to pay etc. Give us small chunks of gameplay, things we can finish in a couple hours. It’s fine. We spent our 20s with hundreds of hours playing games. So don’t try to artificially up the difficulty. Don’t make us grind, don’t give us bosses, we have real ones to deal with. Your game will be fine without bosses, spend that extra time to flesh out a new mechanic or apply a bit more polish instead. We love those. Respect our time by giving us a good time, not frustration and infinite repetition. Adr1ft seems to be a game that goes in the right direction, offering a maybe short experience but one that you don’t forget. Oxenfree is around 5 hours long with excellent, “mature” (meaning on par with other entertainment) dialog. They’re on my wishlist. Kentucky Route Zero does it perfectly too.

Older people don’t have twitch reflexes anymore

Especially you. Just kidding but you know what I mean. Frame-accurate synchronization on 16 buttons gamepads is not making us happy. That’s why we play on computers too. We’re good at using those because of all those TPS reports we have typed. I still love playing Counter Strike but it’s really hard against those young aim bots. I was enjoying Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet –Metroidvania- and then I had a boss that requires perfect, fast moves. Tried for a while. I could do it but I didn’t care enough. See first point.

Older people love “chill” co-op

You know the kind. One player plays and the other helps out, without crazy tension or excitement. It’s not necessarily an older people behavior but I think we like it even more getting older. People do it with all those 60+ hours Tomb Raider-like games but like I said, we have seen those two billion times already. We need new settings, new themes, new heroines and ditch our stereotyped canvas a bit. Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime does it well but I suspect developers wanted to cater to hardcore gamers. Co-op but not chill co-op.

Older people have a broader culture than you

That’s the cool thing about aging, you get all those experiences and now you know more! It’s a little bit always the “been there, done that” argument but seriously, we did go and did that: Heroic Fantasy, Sci Fi and WWII war. A lot, probably too much. We need more themes. Invisible Inc brought some fresh spy-like, Batman the animated series-looking game to the masses and did well. Just a bit of difference makes all the differences!

I am certain that some game genres would be super successful to some people if they could up their aesthetic game. I see XCOM 2 as a very interesting game to play but it looks far, far too generic. Those 90s aliens are… Depressing as hell there, I said it.

I picture a XCOM 2 game in a Shameless/Weeds/Breaking Bad setting and I’m sure it would interest far more people than a generic alien taking over the world theme does. I think game developers abuse a bit too much escapism. We are older, we don’t need that. Actually we are more interested if it has some kind of connection with the real world. Give me a game where I need to be careful controlling a mecha in a city. Where is my game about crashing drones into monuments? Where is my Empire game where I build a hip-hop empire and screw artists? Give me an Assassin’s Creed type of game in 80s Lebanon with a simple yet lovely love story.  Don’t try so hard to outplay linear entertainment! Just make me have a good time by giving me something fresh yet familiar. Explore things most mediums haven’t. You have all the latitude.

You know what they say: if you build it, they will come.

Older people like all kinds of aesthetics: which is why I have an issue with cuteness: I am going to be 37 this year and I’m sick of cuteness. It bothers me. It’s a cop-out. I know perfectly why it works –everyone goes “aww” and forgets what it could be- but yeah, decades of cute made me stabby. The Witness is a perfect example of a “cute” game that is appealing to me aesthetically. It feels grown up. Thimbleweed Park looks cute but the theme and dark humor are totally shifting the comic book feeling. I want more of that.

Older people pay and don’t ask questions

I will buy your game if I want to. Put a decent price, that’s it! Older people won’t write on forums about how two twenties are too much for a game that took seven years in the making. We have shit to do and we know that things cost money. Developers have totally forgotten how PopCap used to make a killing selling puzzle games at $20 a pop to older people. That’s how they grew from 3 people to 400 and did well for the past 16 years like no other studio: by selling games to older people who won’t threatened to kill you if you don’t give them a refund. Older people are cool as fuck. Plus, we have all the money.

Now give me games! (it’s changing, I know. Firewatch is the next one this year)