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.

Adams Family

June 21st, 2015 by harold

Reprazent
New art next door

One year on West Adams Blvd. I was the newest roommate and I’m soon going to be the oldest. People follow their jobs, their loved ones. Things move fast. Sometimes.

Still great to be here. There are some amazing jewels around, places to hang out or places I’m lusting for.

There is coach Tily, Q, Jerrick, Mariana, Stephanie, Israel, Jimmy, Fred, Miguel, Car Wash, Yvonne. Brendon, Teddy, Archie, Ben. Oji. And so many more.

I might call it home now.

Finals

June 19th, 2015 by harold

We can never NOT compare those two now can we?

2 – 4 VS 6 – 6 (finals won – finals appearances).

Now that I have watched Lebron almost as much as Michael I understand better why I’m not loving his style.

Lebron plays like a bear, Michael played like a deer. Statistics will never show that.

Lebron’s legacy will be that basketball is a team sport. That building teams takes time. That it takes a leader some humility to make it work. And that despite everything, he’s not doing so good on that side.

People forget the immense contribution of the team in Jordan’s undefeated Bulls. YouTube makes it look like MJ does all the work. People forget how hard the Pistons hit them for years, how Scottie became so good he was basically Jordan II, same moves, same speed, same hunger. MJ was just one of them. Curry with the Warriors looks exactly like that.

Lebron hasn’t been able to do that at all. I watched him won with the Heat then lose with the Heat then lose with the Cavs. When they won they came back from nowhere thanks to the team and Ray Allen’s three. When they lost they really lost, they couldn’t do anything against the Spurs circulating the ball so well.

This year, same. This is why numbers don’t matter. It’s all about the team. That’s the constant in basketball.

E3 15

June 19th, 2015 by harold

E3 2015

Just some thoughts:

– Offering backward compatibility is a great “we respect you” sign. We change hardware rapidly but we play our games forever. MS obviously has some idea about how backward compatibility makes you stick somewhere.

– Same games over and over and that’s fine. Even outside AAA game development, developers make things they know how to make, they’ll just make it slightly different. Once again yes, games are hard to make so let’s make what we know we can do well! The polish level is high and all over the place. Tons of games look solid. This is good.

– All About Fans. It’s been a couple years like that and I’m not sure how to feel about it. Fans scare me a bit. Their devotion creeps me out a bit. Talking about communities around Hitman or Tom Clancy’s stuff freaks me out a bit. Who are you to obsess so hard over a fictional assassin game that you are willing to pay hundreds of dollars for or spend hundreds of hours on? Doesn’t seem healthy. But yeah, they’re needed (ask Prince about fans sustaining his ass for decades).

– All games land on Windows and all “Personal Computers” at some point. So much that there’s a conference about it. Going back to that backward compatibility, I think it’s huge: I can play any game I have ever played on my current laptop, that’s just awesome. People are starting to notice that. You can play/emulate/use probably 90% of any app ever made on any platform, on Windows. The back catalog is infinite and as nostalgia grows while we age, having one platform to do it all is fantastic.

– EA went from being considered the worst US company to being the one listening and paying attention, in a couple years. Bravo.

– European and Japanese game developers once again demonstrate a stronger aesthetic game than their US friends. Always the same reason: a wider variety of culture available growing up. It’s changing though: US millennials grew up with a wider culture, incorporating international influences.

TL;DR: same old stuff but some signs that things are getting more interesting. And more stable.

Blanket

June 13th, 2015 by harold

Produced and composed May 2015.

The missing game audio part

June 3rd, 2015 by harold

Game audio has become stale like a piece of bread in the back of a grocery store.

The game industry today has separated game audio into three things that should be almost only one: music, sound effects, implementation. So many games sound clean but feel soulless, I blame the absence of blending in the sound department. I mean, watch this series about Japanese “video game music” and its impact.

80s Japan was booming, game companies were rich and could innovate and take risks. But they were also hiring people who were capable of doing everything from music to SFX to implementation. Those games feel consistent for that very reason. It gave them life.

When they thought mixing rock beats and baroque melodies for Castlevania was a good idea and maybe add some cost to the cartridge by adding a sound chip (imagine the conversations about sound chip prices and benefit of a bigger sound)? So cool. Thanks to positive capitalism feedback loop, Japanese companies were willing to go for it. It was a race and they needed to stand out. It was a game.

We can all remember how cool that Castlevania/Konami music was for the rest of our lives though. There’s something timeless and definitive about sound.

Recognizing a game just hearing it blast through an arcade and being like “oh that’s definitely a Capcom game”, that’s just fantastic.

Successes keep showing the same trend: sound FXs need to be good enough, music needs to stand out. Bloodborne has really basic footstep sound FXs, no one cares. Hotline Miami has no 5.1 adaptive music system but great music is great music and will stay in people’s minds forever.

It’s not about accuracy and realism, guys. We’re making games. It’s fun. It’s wonky. It’s about intention. It’s about standing out. It’s about identity. Thousands of games ship every year now, they all need to stand out and audio is amazing for that.

What we should spend way more time on in game audio is DESIGN talks, not TECHNICAL talks. We have the tools, we’re fine. Implementation is trivial. It’s in the processes and intentions that I wish we had more “game audio grammar” used to determine what works, what doesn’t etc. So much to explore.

It’s amazing that we have full on technical flexibility but design wise we are very stiff: I see games with beautiful 2D cartoon style, chiptune music and realistic sound FXs and that’s just a weird aesthetic sandwich. Epic Orchestra is regardless of the type of gameplay something you will hear in any game these days. Programmers and game designers just love that shit. But there are over 200 different kinds of music out there. Strive for more uniqueness.

Games more than ever need soul. Audio is here for that.

Crash This

June 1st, 2015 by harold

Produced and composed summer 2014.

We gonna be alright

May 31st, 2015 by harold

I look at those pictures of solar space ships and robots on Mars etc. It’s cool but imagine if we were all on earth so bored and satisfied that we all agree to work on those problems. They would be solved in a heartbeat. Now I would be excited as hell. In the present time, not so much. You know what? I think that’s why I love modern houses.


18.36.54 Connecticut, USA. Go visit it.

They’re like earthbound and timeless space ships.

Digital Freeway

May 28th, 2015 by harold

Composed and produced March 2015.