Archive for the ‘Audio&Games’ Category

Fortgreed

Tuesday, January 15th, 2019

It’s a ruthless world. Fortnite didn’t do so well, they made it a Battle Royale thingy, added emotes and there you go, making hundreds of millions of dollars a month.

It struck me when I read about Alphonso suing: those Fortnite emotes are basically digital blackface. It’s really problematic because there’s a dramatic lack of diversity in big game companies. As long as you simply acknowledge culture with a nod, like previous games using dance moves without making money off of them, it’s totally fine. The second you make mad money off of them without trying anything to mitigate the move (cutting checks for artists, create a fund for education, I don’t fucking know),  it’s just bad. It’s greedy.

It hurts because I have massive respect for Epic Megagames as they used to call themselves. Epic was everything to me in 90-94 on MS-DOS. I have pristine memories of playing Jill of the Jungle on rainy days, realizing that it’s a pretty good game. And then in 1998 they released Unreal, which I saw running on a 3DFX, with 5.1 sound, subwoofer and all the goodness on the last floor of a building in the Paris suburbs and it was life-changing. Tim Sweeney has been a terrific business man –and quite lucky–, making moves at the right time, from escaping the early 2000s PC hell to making tech demos for mobile to allowing Tencent to basically take over and offer Unreal Engine for free, which is used for so many games now (Street Fighter and Kingdom Hearts, 90s-me wouldn’t believe this shit).

Epic started as a mom and pop software shop. It is now “worth” $15B. You won, Tim. But it feels like you could have won without going down this road. A little humility and fairness would be good and not destroy your business either.

Examples of bad game design business decisions

Tuesday, December 18th, 2018

You have a hunger meter that’s constantly counting down so you have to look for food to eat. You have a thirst meter that’s constantly counting down so you have to drink. You have a gem meter that’s constantly counting down so you have to kill enemies to get gems to power your lantern. Then once you get to level 3 there’s a cold meter so you constantly have to find fires. Oh, by the way, the fires die after a little while so you have to constantly find NEW fires. Oh, don’t get hit either because you’ll start bleeding and you have to find bandaids otherwise you’ll bleed out.

This is from a review of Below, a new game. Right off the bat, I’m wondering if the developers have been around, walking in cities and reading about what’s going on in the world. People are struggling, y’all. Everywhere. In every class besides the 0.1%.

Let me rephrase this: PEOPLE ARE ALREADY ANXIOUS AND YOU WANT THEM TO RELAX BY BEING UTTERLY ANXIOUS FOR FUN? AFTER A FEW YEARS OF WAVES OF SUCH GAMES??? I don’t understand how you can validate a game design that is so deeply anchored in anxiety with the world we’re living in. In this economy?

I hate seeing this because I’d love the game to be successful –it’s highly polished, great audio- so that its developers continue to make more. And such a mistake –going super hardcore- was easily avoidable. People need one of two super hardcore game, not plenty. There are already hundreds of those rogue-like games. Capy the developer didn’t adjust to what people would enjoy in 2018/2019. Not many people want to pay to taste pain and punishment. We get that for free in real life, all day everyday.

And there goes the not very convincing argument: “but they made the game that they wanted to play” and I’m like “this is a business, get real. if a game takes 6 years to make and you NEED to sell it, you’d better do some market research if you don’t want to die”.

Example two: Gris. Gorgeous world. Thin gameplay. Despite good word of  mouth, it’s not doing that well. Because the representation is, at least that’s how it feels to me, very very white. Had the protagonist and whole aesthetic aim to a more ambiguous crowd, it would be more attractive to many more people. Hell, make Gris: Black Edition, make the heroin a voluptuous black woman and that game would have an order of magnitude more players playing right now. That shit would go on Ellen and Oprah, gifs all over Tumblr, selling like pumpkin-spice beverages in October.

“That would be a dirty marketing trick!” No it’s not if you  listen and do it right. Once again, look around and listen. It’s about connecting with people. Expand your vision.

The players who can sustain your dev madness are out there. They’re hungry. Reach out by changing your game design or theme/setting accordingly. It’s not complicated.

Digital Store 2K18 II

Monday, December 17th, 2018

But this space is ready for disruption, and that could open the chance for something like a subscription service. Maybe Discord Nitro, Game Pass, or Origin Access Premier will do to gaming what Netflix and Spotify have done to movies and music.

I hope they don’t. Netflix is still in the red (-$8B I believe), Spotify doesn’t pay shit for artists.

Nothing beats selling “premium”, aka no BS sale. $30, $40, $60 upfront for a game is better for the developer and the customer than those micro-aggressive subscriptions that are trying to hide behind your bills to squeeze a few bucks for eternity. Stores want that, obviously.

It’s about the relationship with the customer. Subscriptions tend to be abusive: companies change the terms and you’re screwed. That show that you mostly subscribed for, isn’t available anymore. You don’t unsubscribe because of the sink-cost fallacy. Stores want you to feel like that so that you keep paying. For what, it doesn’t matter to them. They’re laughing at you.

That’s not a great relationship.

Now knowing that games take so long to make, you’d better get as much money as fast as possible when it’s out because the studio is probably close to die. If the store delays revenues by offering the new game for next to nothing or free, that’s not going to end well. Very few studios will do fine. Most will die.

Enough game studios have died in the past 20 years. Can we start disrupting in order to sustain things or fucking what.

Digital Store 2K18

Thursday, December 13th, 2018

So,

Very high profile people in the game industry talked how bad the Windows Store was for humans, elves and princesses so that they could build, promote and enjoy the success of… Their own , exclusive stores.

Gotcha.

The paradox of digital game stores is this: competition is good. Having all your games in one single place is awesome.

Pick one.

The truth is people want to play the best games and if it means launching another thing, they will. Many developers talk about stores support and features but I don’t think they’re that big in players habits. Transforming your audience into a light QA/playtest is not really great anyway, even though it brings engagement thus, future sales.

But if someone is using say, 5 different launchers, wouldn’t it be better to have all this tied to the operating system’s store? Giving you the benefits of sync accounts and all that convenient shit?

Let’s see what the players decide. Keep selling through your website, developer. Get that 100%, you deserve it.

Why game producers, why

Thursday, December 6th, 2018

There’s this game called Just Cause. It’s about blowing stuff up, driving vehicles and flying around. It’s the most perfect action game ever, in the way that the gameplay and the game engine really allow you to trip: it’s like a GTA game with the craziest gadgets. It’s great fun.

They just released the 4th iteration of that game and apparently, it’s a disaster. For some reasons, producers decided to add all that weird unlocking/challenges/grind fest for “engagement” and streaming I guess? It started with the previous game and they just went further into this, despite not really making people happy at all.

What’s so infuriating is that the core game is fantastic but you can’t appreciate it the way you want because they put some rigid obstacles in front of it, like terrible key mapping, awful menus and other super arbitrary designs. It’s just incomprehensible. How do you mess up UI that much in 2018, on the 4th version of your game? How?

Imagine an awesome TV show where they decided to flip the picture 90° to the left so that you have to watch in an awkward position. That’s how those production decisions feel like.

It reminds me of EA and Burn Out, another quite timeless game from 2001. The only thing people complained about was the annoying DJ talking all the time and the unskippable intro with Guns n Roses. They remastered the game this year. You would think that they would listen and simply take out two elements that are bothering players and that are absolutely not core to the experience, right? They left that shit in. They could at least give you a choice, a simple on/off toggle. No. There’s a mod to do it though.

What’s up with being actively deaf to reasonable requests from players who want to spend money and spread the word about your game? I don’t get it. Developers ask for feedback, listen and just do the opposite. It’s bizarre. We really have to do better because we’re looking like clowns with that stuff.

Make ‘em dance

Wednesday, December 5th, 2018

Epic has consistently sought to exploit African-American talent in particular in Fortnite by copying their dances and movements," writes Carolynn Beck, the attorney for 2 Milly. "Epic has copied the dances and movements of numerous African-American performers, including, for example, the dance from the 2004 Snoop Dogg music video, ‘Drop It Like It’s Hot’ (named the ‘Tidy’ emote), Alfonso Ribeiro’s performance of his famous ‘Carlton’ dance on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air television show (named the ‘Fresh’ emote), the dance performed by Will Smith on the same television show (named the ‘Rambunctious’ emote), the dance in Marlon Webb’s popular ‘Band of the Bold’ video (named the ‘Best Mates’ emote), Donald Faison’s signature dance seen on the NBC television show Scrubs (named the ‘Dance Moves’ emote), and, most pertinent here, Terrence Ferguson’s Milly Rock dance.

Link.

Context reminder: the game industry has a workforce that is less than 2% black. It’s been like this since forever. There are virtually no changes. African-Americans create tons of pop culture, most of it being very popular, like dance moves.

That shit is iconic (I remember seeing Donald’s routine the first time on Scrubs, so perfect and hilarious) and Epic is making loads of money off of that. Their attorneys probably made sure that they could profit from that content without getting sued. They’re getting sued. It might not go far but it seems pretty obvious that this whole situation isn’t right. In May, Fortnite brought in $318M. One. Month. Redistribute (some) wealth where it’s due, goddamn.

Note: Epic has stopped bragging about how much money they gross with Fortnite months ago. *winks*

Looking back on Glass

Wednesday, December 5th, 2018

I was reading this article on the death of Looking Glass. There’s this excerpt:

Looking Glass died because a series of problems compounded each other into a financially lethal situation. No single factor is to blame. No single person or entity killed Looking Glass. No one problem was enough, on its own, to kill the company. Nonetheless, the problems were deadly when combined.

It’s never just one factor for anything, pretty much ever.

And so when I see what’s going on around loot boxes, this is what we need to keep in mind: it’s not just companies that are to blame. Young players are to blame too because they indulge in skins. Parents are to blame to allow their kids to buy them. Older brothers and sisters close their eyes or make fun of their siblings, making them even more compelled to buy virtual items. Companies close their eyes too because loot boxes are absurdly lucrative.

Where do we go from here though?

That LA Game Space mess

Friday, November 9th, 2018

http://lagamespace.org/

I loved everything about that project. The logo. The people behind it. The Kickstarter campaign being wildly successful. The mission. Everything looked awesome. I backed it, tried to help and participate, never got an email back.

After fees and failed pledges, $306,915 remained. More than half of this was spent on the initial renovation and leasing of the warehouse.

I still fail to understand how, say, $175K were not enough to renovate and lease a small warehouse. Game developers pretty much only need outlets and some relative quiet. I feel like organizers –as it happens so often with crowdfunding campaigns- went too hard and thought that they could afford architects and such. Same with rewards: pushing for original games made just for the backers sounded a bit crazy to me (you know it takes forever to make a good game, right?). Overreaching is so common in crowdfunding and yet, campaigns always fall into that trap.

While LA/GS is gone, its goal remains valid and we encourage others to pursue this dream: To explore and expand the potential of videogames as a creative medium.

We are, game developers of all kinds, already doing that: there are tons of wacky and weird games out there! It’s always been the case since the beginning of computer games. That’s not the dream. What we need is to secure some ways to sustain our creative medium that is so demanding. We need to sustain its craftsmen and women. Its workforce there, I said it. We need to sustain common foundations to build better and more under control than what we’ve done in the past. Unity and Unreal are just a couple stones. We need so much more. We need to get away from the Me Too paradigm that is making computer game culture a joke. So much has been written by stellar minds on the subject of game development and game design and we’re not leveraging anything! It’s quite unreal.

It doesn’t take fancy offices to practice production and make solid games. Nor should it need over a quarter million dollars to open a space and allow it to become a sustainable gamedev environment.

There will be other LA Game Spaces.

Last time I write about fucking crunch

Friday, October 26th, 2018

Y’all tripping with this shit. No one is arguing that crunch is cool. It just fucking happens. Because that’s how it goes with game development. And life.

Let’s take a look at history: first video game ever made, 1958. October 1958. 60 years ago.

The instrumentation group had a small analog computer that could display various curves, including the path of a bouncing ball, on an oscilloscope. It took Higinbotham only a couple of hours to conceive the idea of a tennis game, and only a few days to put together the basic pieces.

“only a few days”. The dude crunched. Highly likely. Another one about the birth of the Amiga:

Miner and his team built their chipset, destined eventually to be miniaturized and etched into silicon, out of off-the-shelf electronics components, creating a pile of breadboards large enough to fill a kitchen table, linked together by a spaghetti-like tangle of wires, often precariously held in place with simple alligator clips. It had no keyboard or other input method; the software team wrote programs for it on a workstation-class 68000-based computer called the Sage IV, then uploaded them to the Lorraine and ran them via a cabled connection. The whole mess was a nightmare to maintain, with wires constantly falling off, pieces overheating, or circuits shorting out seemingly at random. But when it worked it provided the first tangible demonstration of Miner’s extraordinary design. Amiga accordingly packed it all up and transported it — very carefully! — to Las Vegas for its coming-out party at Winter CES.

TL;DR: they worked their asses off –building a damn new computer with new architecture- to get a barely-working hardware demo out in order to get financing going to *actually* build the Amiga. That’s so, so wild. Obviously, no crunch at all.

Another big example and I’ll stop there:

Nintendo. Super Mario 64. First ever 3D Mario. First prototype five years before the game came out. Nintendo for the first time, was not building their own chips, they were using Silicon Graphics (SGI) and MIPS stuff. They were making their flagship Mario game for a new console using 2 very different CPUs from a US company that they had kind of just met. It was a fucking nightmare of complexity: they were developing Mario on a supercomputer, hoping that SGI would be on time to ship the real console components. Hoping. While trying to make a great game they –and no one- had ever done right before: a true 3D platformer.

Super Mario 64 is one of the most important game ever made. And an absolutely excellent game. I’m sure they didn’t crunch at all. They went to bed early, took naps every day when they felt like it. Laughing and having fun.

Y’all are annoying. Crunch happens. I crunched for 3 days to finish my stupid Twine game because if you don’t do more trying to wrap it up, you can go on endlessly. That’s what happens with game development. That’s the fucking curse. Nothing is ever done in a digital world and it feels like you can always tweak. There are always some shit you can tweak. In the real world at some point it feels done. Never in the world of computer games (music production is the closest in terms of endlessness).

But also Jesus, crunch is fucking everywhere: people shipping rockets crunch. Nurses at the ER crunch. Folks building cars crunch when they’re expected to produce [number] of cars a week. Amazon workers will crunch like crazy in a few weeks. You think your favorite show/movie is made with 9-5 people? Your own mom probably crunched a million times because of you. It’s not healthy, that’s not the fucking point.

The point is that it happens and you need to go through it, do whatever you can so that it doesn’t happen again and it still will happen. We can also chill and nothing will ever come out of chilling forever. At some point you need to go hard to get shit done. Period.

It’s more the case with game development than anything else because there is no rules in game development. No standard way of doing things. If people crunch in fields where we know exactly how to make the sausage, imagine in a field where we don’t know and never will because every single game is made differently and knowledge is barely shared (NDA, NDA). Crunch will more than likely happen.

You shake your head and you do it. Because you care. Because of the sink-cost fallacy. Because you need to pay the bills. Whatevs. In the end the game is out and you feel better. Then you move on with your life. Nothing’s perfect. But shipping something you’re proud of, is a hell of a drug.

Lame Store

Friday, October 26th, 2018

So I have access to an iPad Air now. I haven’t played games on iOS in ages. Years. So I went to the App Store, thinking, “oh my god, it’s going to be full of amazing games I don’t know about”.

In the top 30 there are pretty much the exact same games as on my dead as hell Windows Phone app store. LMFAO. Subway Riders, Fruit Ninja and Angry Birds and a sea of match-3 games. Super addictive pool games like I was playing on my phone in 2011. I’m silently wheezing.

What’s sad to me is that the polishing level hasn’t increased at all. It’s all meh or bad. Not even sound on Hole.io, a top free game that could have awesome sound effects but only serves you with loud commercials every time you lose. The complete lack of care, goddamn.

Also holy fuck the spam and constant pull to make you download other apps and in-app purchases is unreal. I’m not surprised kids buy stuff in seconds. And then you grind for 68 hours. And then give up, ashamed at the pointless shit you’ve been tapping on on repeat for months. Gaming on tablets is bizarre.

I’m blown away by the legendary super good and so much better Apple app store I guess.