Bill Fucking Cosby

July 29th, 2015 by harold

I had read his book “Come on, People: On the Path from Victims to Victors”. It was one of the first time I was reading statistics about black people and those numbers were filling me with fear and sweat.

Yes, even in France the Cosby show was huge. Of course my white liberal parents loved it, probably for slightly different reasons I did (though some things are universal like father/son relationships). Fat Albert was big too, we had reruns in the 80s.

I don’t give a fuck about my Bill memories.

We know rapists get away with rape all the time, even when they are not one of the most powerful and respected black man on earth. We know women under-report rape because they know they will not go anywhere with “justice”. We know most rape happen within personal circles family, friends. We also know that people very rarely falsely accuse people of rape. You just don’t do that for fun. Standing up and having the courage to say “that person abused me” is not a little thing.

46 women, 35 together in an article and probably more who didn’t say anything. Yes, I too have this feeling of being wrong to take a black man down. We don’t have a lot of those, at the top, respected by absolutely everyone. In 2005 when the first “rumors” about him and his pills appeared, I didn’t want to believe it but I knew it smelled real: powerful man, young women? I’m going to go for believing the victims because Bill was way too weird about it. Ten years later I know we’re doing the right thing. Since the first reports appeared I couldn’t  trust that man, even from my couch.

James Brown was the first one that I had trouble to deal with, having pretty much invented a music genre I adore by himself and his band, band he completely abused and stole from. He threatened his wife with a shotgun at some point. People are acting like he was losing it, he wasn’t, he was like that from the start we just didn’t see it when he was on stage, looking at his foot work. Hot pants.

The last one I heard about is Marvin Gaye. Yes, another big black icon. The dude was 34 when he went on seducing that 17 year old foster child who will become his wife. Oh of course, he was already married with three kids. It’s already so wrong at so many levels but that’s the start.

Jan Gaye is releasing a memoir in which we learn how Marvin forced her to have sex with other people and other terrible things. This entire freaky, sense that women are things you consume, control and throw away, I’ll never understand. It broke my heart reading that about Marvin Gaye, another one bites the dust. Glad and proud of Jan for doing the right thing, tell the truth.

It’s just that most powerful men are powerful psychopaths with outdated values I guess. We don’t need them.

The body

July 23rd, 2015 by harold

It’s a wonderful story. Here’s the intro:

At age six, I ran away with my sister to escape the Rwandan massacre. We spent seven years as refugees. What do you want me to do about it? Cry?

It’s all about luck:

After a few months, Claire broke down — of course she did. This life wasn’t going to lead anywhere anyway, and marriage (however personally problematic) was a lottery ticket out.

Her sister got married to get a chance to live a better life, aka she was attractive enough to have someone take care of her.

I don’t mean to be rude or  judgmental or anything. It’s just survival. But it says something though: we’re bodies too. We’re bodies first, despite the intellectual tendency to make believe that mind and soul are independent from the envelope.

Ta-nehisi Coates has a book coming out focusing on the pain inflicted to black bodies. Look at how much bodies are important and determine so much: Clemantine and her sister are gorgeous and that’s what made them escape a probably terrible future. I was a cute baby, probably not screaming too much and people, multiple people wanted to save my orphan ass. I remember being struck reading about Simone Veil, a great and beloved French minister who survived Auschwitz and who said a bit annoyed by all the praise she got for surviving: “you know, I didn’t do anything. I was a kid. A beautiful little girl and that’s what saved me.”

The body. What women spend so much time and money to paint in the morning. The body, taller on heels which creates all kinds of social behaviors. Our abundant society that makes lean bodies more attractive than plump ones. The body, photoshopped in every single ad, that we still try to match regardless. The body, that trans people are not happy with because it doesn’t connect with who they are. How come smart and public people are pretty much always good-looking if not drop dead beautiful or handsome?

The body might not be everything. But it’s a lot.

Classic game writer mistake

July 22nd, 2015 by harold

Austin explains why he wishes Arkham Knight’s Gotham was more populated and analyzes the relationship between superheroes and cities.

Giantbomb is running this article that is perfect to explore the big issue with writing about games.

I know what Austin wants. I love it too, wandering in a virtual place that has a life is sweet. For some. For others, it’s not that interesting and when you make a game you have to compromise really quick. Why? Because really quickly when you have your prototype and your systems running, your characters on screen, assets, you realized that having a “real” city running in the background might be too much if not possible at all.

That’s really the core here. Writers so often think that design stuff is fluid in the build process, it is not. High level design (“make the city alive”) is attached to real things like machine performance, how good your code is, how many people work on this, and how much is already happening. Design is very fragmented at this point, fragile, dependent. And most people have no idea most of the time. Batman Arkham Night is a thick sandwich, there’s a lot going on. Making an open world game gorgeous with almost no loading is some serious achievement. It’s a performance and game writers often just don’t see it this way they think we can just put more stuff in front of the camera, that we just need time. Wrong.

Then, we always have this kind of dumb argument: “but game developer X did it before!” Please, never use that argument that’s the worst. It’s like saying “you can’t run the 100m under 10s? It’s been done before so often!!”. It is a dumb argument.

It takes a lot to make a city feel like it’s alive in a computer game. Taking GTA V as an example of how to do it is oblivious: everyone knows Rockstar is the only company that can/financially afford to do that. Stop being coy! GTA V is five years of development, half a decade with according to Wikipedia over 360 people. Austin goes on with The Witcher 3 doing the city well: four years of development with 230 people in Poland.

Rocksteady is 160 people in the UK. They had four years too but probably way more pressure (it’s the godamn Batman), even just financially (London is far more expensive than Warsaw).

I know, that producer shit is not fun. But when I see people complain –and I’m on Austin’s side, I like wandering in digital cities that feel alive- I’m always annoyed that people don’t realize that it’s not JUST design decisions. It’s not just TOP DOWN, there’s a lot of BOTTOM UP in game development and when an engineer is telling you “we can have an open world but forget about making it alive without HUGE issues” you don’t tell him “but I really want  that” you find ways to mitigate that aspect. Make the player drive that Batmobile a lot for example.

Welcome to game development where you can do anything while you can’t at all.

CS:GO for grownups

July 20th, 2015 by harold

This week, I’ll be discussing abuse and toxic behaviour in the CS:GO community. Before we get to it, let me reiterate that I am madly in love with Counter-Strike. It’s simply one of the best team games out there. This piece, however, is meant to highlight one important issue that I think we can overcome.

 

RPS is running that article by Emily Richardson on abuse in CS. I have no idea why people freak out over freedom of speech being taken away or how anonymity allows abuse because there’s no accountability. I’m like what the fuck is wrong with you people?

Oh I know the problem, I have pretty much never played that game outside LANs because of all the racial slurs online. But now I’m a grown up and I still like this game very much. I play with bots and can’t wait for that next LAN that will happen someday.

“The problem stems from the lack of consequence in these games for what would be arrestable real world conduct.”

No, the problem comes down to the fact that we’re talking about teenagers. Maybe early twenties, you know that time when you don’t know shit and you think you’re smart and sleek but you’re still testing boundaries. It’s an age issue to me, by far. When I read this:

No one likes dying, and dying for something that was the responsibility of another player gets to people generally

It gets to you when you’re young and have no patience. When you’ve been married, pay taxes, saw real death hit real friends and that you just want to have a good time strategizing on a Counter Strike map with people who share the same kind of life, none of that gets to you unless you have other issues that are not the game’s problem. Isn’t it obvious?

I don’t care who you are, I just know that if you’re sixteen to almost thirty I mostly don’t want to play with you. It’s fine, you don’t want no grumpy old gamer, I don’t want none of your ignorance and lack of self-control.

Now a lot of games are still played by young people and if games like LoL or DOTA2 have everlasting abuse issues, it’s because early 20s+stardom+insane cash prizes leads to people losing their shit online and getting nasty.

So Two Things To Save CS:GO and multiplayer games:

– There’s a Steam ID and FB connection? Let me filter by age and report age cheaters.

– Let’s log off. Let’s have WAY more LANs. That’s ultimately far better (hearing an opponent shout “fuuuck” across the room is always so satisfying) and if you want to fistfight on the parking lot, there’s that too.

Iwata II

July 20th, 2015 by harold

The weird thing about Satoru Iwata is how much he’s praised and how much we have been following none of his advices, as an industry. Almost a decade ago, this is what Satoru was talking about:

We frequently compare ourselves to the motion picture business. We are fascinated with the movies. Hollywood is like an older brother who’s already succeeded; we race to measure our success against his.

Our method of content creation is modeled on the studio system. We measure the popularity of our virtual stars against Hollywood’s real ones. Over the years, we have frequently created games based on the movies’ biggest names — and we now take pride when a movie occasionally develops a script based on one of ours. Angelina Jolie starred in two "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider" movies, which were based on the video game adventurer.

But in terms of reaching a mass audience, we are not quite ready for our close-up. Although video game sales and movie box-office receipts are similar in the U.S., movie sales, rentals and pay-per-view keep them far ahead of us.

We may even be headed in the wrong direction. A recent survey of U.S. high school students shows a trend: Young people who used to say they played games weekly now report they play only monthly. Sales have been declining for several months.

When we gather for the Electronic Entertainment Expo at the L.A. Convention Center this week, we may want to blame outside factors. But I fear we are doing much of the damage to ourselves. Most of us who create, publish, sell and consume video games see ourselves more as a tribe than representatives of society as a whole. We adopt our own beliefs and behaviors, and we often disregard those who don’t conform — not a prescription for market health.

Throughout recorded history, playing games has been a natural form of entertainment, practiced by all ages, all cultures and both genders. Our challenge is to bring more people to our modern version. In this sense, Hollywood can be a role model. The film industry welcomes all consumers, creating content with a wide appeal.

On the other hand, there are two significant ways in which we perhaps would be wise not to emulate the movies. First, video games have decisively adopted the high-risk business model of the blockbuster. For some new game machines, development budgets will reach $20 million, perhaps even $30 million — plus marketing costs. Even if retail prices rise, it will be increasingly difficult to recover costs if the audience is not growing.

Second, we would do well to consider what Clayton Christensen, a professor at Harvard Business School, describes as "the innovator’s dilemma." We are an industry that has spent many years "improving" our product along a single performance vector — in our case, graphical realism. But we are reaching a point of diminishing returns. Like Hollywood, which in the past has focused too heavily on special effects, we need to find other ways to improve.

Through the years, motion pictures have benefited from several significant technical advances. They added sound, then color … and air conditioning inside theaters. Only one of these — color — had to do with what was actually seen on screen. The other two enhanced the nature of how movies were enjoyed by stimulating other senses.

It’s funny how game developers keep getting confused about the fact that you can be inspired by something (Hollywood mass appeal) and simultaneously reject part of that something (studio business model). The bits on how we game developers are a tribe rather than representatives of society as a whole rings true today. Where are the elderly games, you know they’re going to be a majority in all countries pretty soon right? I’ve never seen any game developer besides myself on my blog wonder about computer games for elderly. The tribe.

We haven’t really moved on and that’s worrying.

Satoru Iwata

July 13th, 2015 by harold

Thank you for the inspiration. If you don’t know why Mr Iwata was so important here’s why from the LA Times:

Shortly before Iwata became Nintendo president in 2002, the company launched what became one of its bigger flops: the GameCube console, a successor to the Nintendo 64. The GameCube failed to outsell Sony’s PlayStation 2 and Microsoft’s Xbox, compelling Nintendo to rethink its direction.

Enter the Wii.

The Wii was instrumental in ushering in the modern era of casual gaming, as it was heavily based on motion controls and family-centric entertainment. The system, as well as Iwata’s corporate mandate, was drastically different from those of Nintendo’s competitors in the home video game console business.

Rather than focusing on technological achievements or becoming an all-in-one home media center, the Wii broadened the audience by enabling just about anyone to easily pick up and play a game. Games such as "Wii Sports," which lets people play virtual tennis with the wave of an arm, captivated the public.

In an opinion piece Iwata wrote for The Times in 2006, he argued that the game industry was becoming too closed-off to new consumers. He wrote that the industry should worry less about graphical enhancements and high-tech wizardry and instead look for ways to enhance “the emotional ways people interact with our games.”

Such a big influence. He’s the guys who made my parents play games on their TV, that’s the biggest feature ever. Even though I wish it had gone further, the Wii changed everything.

Badass programmer, project manager and Big Boss. I can’t help but think that this extremely high stress made him skip a good decade of life. RIP.

We faked Europe

July 7th, 2015 by harold

It’s pretty painful for Gen X Europe to witness what’s going on with Greece. We are the only generation that grew up with the idea that Europe was the goal, the answer, the neatest shit we could conceive.

But we got screwed. Boomers, again, totally hostile to mixing up cultures and sharing our good stuff to each other. Boomers’ elite created that insane technocratic layer on top of Europe’s institutions. Millennials screwing things up too because they didn’t grow up with any ideal and don’t necessarily want to work to fix what previous generations have let go. European millennials, they like their comfort and are not that curious about their neighbors, they have tablets and the world at their fingertips. Why would they?

So it’s a mess. One currency to rule them all wasn’t enough. When I see how hard it is for those countries to get on the same page for stupid things like driving laws or more ridiculous, I kind of feel like it’s never going to happen. We haven’t been able to make work laws more consistent across Europe and we wonder why people don’t move so much and blame other countries.

And always the same problem of not asking Europeans what they think. Most Europeans knew that Greece wasn’t ready in 2000. I wasn’t for it. At that time, bigger economies like Spain and Italy were slipping away. We were already seeing that it was complicated to “synchronize” countries economically and we were adding one with a pretty weak economy. We should have said no to Greece and fix issues with South Europe first and I’m pretty sure that citizens would have gone this way. But we’re never asked directly, instead populist politic parties jump in and tell everyone that we need to go back to National Bullshit. And a lot of people are listening to them. It’s a mess.

Obviously banks are the happy architects of that clusterfuck. They assisted governments lying and profiting meanwhile, people think it’s all about immigration laws and “who’s leading” Europe. That’s genius. Evil, but genius.

I don’t know how it will get better. I feel like we’re passed the point where there was a simple and straight answer to Europe which was let’s build it.

European Game History

July 6th, 2015 by harold

If there’s a part that always disappear in the computer game history, it’s the European scene. Americans don’t know anything about it, Japan the same. However a couple gems from the old continent like the famous Another World or Flashback changed the game and influenced tons of renowned game designers.

People have forgotten things like Ocean Software fighting Imagine Software which spawned Psygnosis, a legendary studio that created WipeOut and published Lemmings, made by DMA Design aka, Rockstar North aka the OG GTA developers. Digital Illusions making pinball games and ending up being DICE Sweden, creating Mirror’s Edge. Frederic Raynal and Alone in the Dark, Capcom says thank you very much. Lankhor capable of making a blazing fast Vroom and a slow paced non-linear adventure game like Maupiti Island at the same time, as Coktel Vision was capable of making an adventure game like Bargon Attack and ESS (European Space Simulator).

From 1985 to 1995 Europe produced tons of games, some being groundbreaking like Kick-Off by Anco Software, a soccer game where the ball wasn’t glued to players or Captain Blood by ERE Informatique (future Cryo), first person adventure game where you would try to communicate with aliens through icons or Starglider, a Starfox-like shooter in 3D seven years before Nintendo’s IP (Starglider, developed by Argonaut which is the company that will create the Super FX chip powering Starfox). In that period of time we went from 8 to 16bit. At that time optimism was high. Computer games were a couple years old and people thought it was for kids. In that decade developers were dreaming of maturity, already. Barbarian was inspired by Frank Frazetta’s work, not He-Man. I guess we always had that complex that play != kids. We have a lot of manchildren now I’m not sure we wanted that but anyway.

Germany is completely absent, which is weird for such a big force and big country in Europe. Well during the 90s Germany didn’t exist, culturally. We were not talking about German board games –huge there- or their love for simulations like the Settlers. All I could hear was how they were censoring blood in beat’em all and making Doom illegal. I wish I had had the internet and not have to listen to the media at that time.

Sports and cars games were immensely popular in that decade. But only in Europe we got to get games that were just plain weird and often bad. Some were too connected to one’s culture like most French games of that time. Some were just honest copies of something better (like Zool vs Sonic). But they had character when today’s games are mostly good, but all feel the same.

Bad games, wrong audience, US/Japan killing it, total lack of funding compared to US/Japan, massive hardware shift (N64/DC/PS1): the European gamedev scene collapse had to happen. Nonetheless, learn about it. The best ideas and the best code has been produced in this weird melting pot of different countries and cultures that is Europe.

Balance of people

June 25th, 2015 by harold

If there’s something weird about games is that we never include people making them. We talk about budget, marketing, art and most of the time what it takes to have a pretty game. We talk about platforms but we forget people. Hundreds of dedicated humans are working hard for you to blow stuff up in open worlds but we only will talk about the publisher or console maker.

I believe people are center. Which is why I’m not satisfied with the state of the industry being either you work in a big studio making a nice living or on the other end you work on your game and you are not doing well at all. In the middle are a few lucky bastards. They shouldn’t be lucky bastards and there should be more of them. We’re hitting $100B of revenue a year soon, worldwide. The pie is big enough.

Another aspect that the news and game journalists narrative doesn’t cover: we’re all the same, we go back and forth between small companies and big ones. We freelance, we consult, we chat with our friends launching  small ventures or in big studios etc. Seasoned game developers like me have been through all company sizes, we work on games and it doesn’t really matter if it’s AAA AA indie mobile etc.  All that marketing talk doesn’t matter once you’re in the middle of making games. Then you think systems and teamwork and deadlines.

But game people are starting to own the discourse: in the past days and weeks, I saw a wave of “real talk” around game development and I think it is a good sign: The very last one on time spent on optimization. People talking about how Shenmue was overrated openly and how the kickstarter for the number III is a sad trend. Andreas Papathanasis telling the truth about graphic prowess, this article on the cultural fit shenanigans to Game Oven closing shop as well as ToT giving up on making games and an article on where and why Sunset failed.

Failures in games –art games to classic AAA- are people’s failure and organization failures that we could sum up this way: small teams are overworked and can’t do everything, big teams are so specialized that focus is lost.

Sunset would have needed some technical-design adjustments as much as the last Batman should have been tested more thoroughly. And both don’t really have excuses: Tale of Tales, veterans, knew that. There’s no way Rocksteady didn’t know about terrible framerate issues and how PC gamers would lose their shit.

If we respect players by giving them at least the minimum of what they want –a smooth running game-, they will respect us by buying our stuff. That’s how it works for everything else. And that’s how you achieve sustainability too. Hype or not, your mission is to deliver. And delivery means no bullshit.

They broke the Internet K-Hole

June 21st, 2015 by harold

Internet K-hole (IKH) was amazing. For anyone who grew up in the 80s, even outside the US IKH was that bottomless window on that period. Those washed up pictures, the simple fact that we had to wait before seeing those pictures! And of course the entire eighties aesthetic and the sighs it makes you do now.

IKH was on Blogger, that terrible Google-owned blog platform. It is now on Tumblr and updated daily. This fucking sucks.

IKH was mysterious, we didn’t know when it would be updated and then BAM fifty or more pictures would be coming out of nowhere like a random Christmas.

RSS was the way to subscribe. the feed would be silent for months and then one day you would have something to look at, a free trip to nostalgiaville. Time would stop, you would get stuck in that hole. It was glorious.

This obsession for eyeballs and immediacy these days is so stupid. Some things are better when they’re slowly consumed and unpredictable. Receiving daily visual doses of the end 70s/80s/early90s just makes you feel like “the fuck am I doing?”. There’s no joy anymore.

That intersection between something I like, technology thinking it knows what I want forcing me to consume in one single way while the creator is stuck with said technology that doesn’t want him to be free so he just follows what tools and “fans” demand.

Bye IKH.