Archive for the ‘Audio&Games’ Category

Case in point

Tuesday, May 15th, 2018

About our weird fetichism. The perfect examples of Japanese people getting shit done and not caring about “art”:

The PS1 startup sound is a preset from a 1987 Roland synthesizer (D-50).

PaRappa on PS4 is running on a PSP emulator.

A lot of comments are like “those developers are lazy!” No. They make shit happen. You wanted a cool startup sound for your groundbreaking new console? Done. It took almost 20 years for us to know that they didn’t spend months on it. It’s still an iconic sound and yes, people making synthesizer presets are extremely underrated. They are worldwide-known anonymous artists.

You wanted to play PaRappa with HD textures right now? There you go. Do you know how insanely pesky it is to port something from a 1994 architecture to a 2013 one that has nothing in common?

We in the West need to do the same: focus on creating things that work more than trying to outwit ourselves for outwitting purposes. We fall in this trap too often. Don’t reinvent. Recycle, twist and move on.

The funny thing about Nintendo

Saturday, May 5th, 2018

Is how we see this company in the West. Or how we like to see this company.

-Innovative.

-Creative.

-About art.

-Etc.

But them, they just see themselves as a business. And I always felt that way too. The business of making entertainment. It’s a thing in the West: business –finance and money- is separated from the craft, as if they were unrelated. Somehow! Except that they’re tied together.

Look at Nintendo Labo. It’s a very lucrative idea. It’s not just fun. It’s also cheap to use cardboard. Nintendo just tries things out, executives ponder and greenlit the best ideas –probably always on the basis that it’s affordable/profitable- and we scream “OMG”. It’s interesting. Fetishism? Maybe.

Nintendo isn’t shy on making money as a goal though. They are about that, too, and foremost. For some reason when we talk about Apple people are fine with the idea of this company making money but when it comes to Nintendo, we’re quiet. They’re about putting smiles on people’s faces right?

Yeah. And also printing money. Both goals being completely intertwined. It’s all good.

On virtual guns

Sunday, April 1st, 2018

It’s a good post. I’ve never been a gun fan but I’m still trying to headshot in Counter-Strike.

Sometimes I feel like I’m the only one on earth who can disconnect gameplay/what’s on screen. I know, tons of players can discuss games’ weapons for pages and pages, how they compare to real life ones etc. I am completely uninterested in that.

It’s an age thing to me. Of course, when I was in the single digits of my life I was kind of fascinated by Rambo and all those weapons in American movies that we didn’t have in Europe and France. Like, not at all. Besides shotguns for hunting, that’s all the real weapons I ever saw in my life there. I could go shoot some targets here in LA but I’ve never cared a second for that.

What’s fun in game to me is not “shooting a gun” it’s the “quick action to take down your opponent”. The fact that in Counter-Strike any weapon used by anyone can, with some luck, take down anyone. It’s exciting as hell. That’s excellent gameplay. I’m into the dance, how to be careful and how to take advantage of the environment (hiding in a difficult angle for the opponent to land his shot) or the cons of a weapon (the sniper has to reload, it takes time, he’s vulnerable).

Gameplay is not about guns.

The fact that so many ultra-realistic looking games are compared to real life is weird to me. It’s still a game y’all! Computer games are faking everything on screen. Nothing exists. Physics are tweaked so that it’s fun. Visual realism has people confused.

Guns are also supposed to be a part of masculinity, like loving cars. At least for us GenX and early Mills, that was definitely the case. You needed to know about those and sure enough, I know the difference between an AK47 and an AR-15 or a 4WD and a muscle car. Dudes’ shit, right? Culture and assimilation through time, are interesting processes.

Chris Remo, a game designer talks about bullet fatigue: “I remember a particularly potent experience playing one of the many Call of Duty games, and being totally overcome with ‘bullet fatigue.’ Particularly the audio. I suddenly found the constant sound of gunfire totally draining.

I think that’s very true. The sound violence is what makes me quit a Counter-Strike game too. We expose ourselves to hundreds, thousands of hours of gunfire and explosions, for fun. Our ears are not supposed to deal with that. He continues:

“The older I get,” he said, “the more profoundly uncomfortable I become with the almost overwhelming obsession with guns in entertainment culture broadly (…)”

It goes back to that pre-teen/teenager target, which always will be impressed by the punch, sound violence and quick action going on with guns and gun fights. I don’t think that will ever change. At that age you want to explore and see the limits of everything. And that’s a lucrative business.

People forget about one crucial thing in terms of game development: it’s “very easy” to debug a game about shooting targets. If bullet hits target then this, if not then that. It is way more complicated to debug something like The Sims because so many variables are flying around. That’s why a game series like Creatures didn’t go very far because raising, teaching, breeding virtual creatures is an insanely more complex thing to build and debug than Shooting Simulator 847. Even when said simulator looks like 4K pictures taken by a professional photographer somewhere in a war conflict in the real world.

PUBG/Fortnite BR

Tuesday, March 20th, 2018

It’s fascinating.

First, names. You know I like to pay attention to that. PUBG’s name is an acronym and even though when there was no competition it was fine, now it makes an impact.

On one hand you have Bluehole’s Player Unknown’s BattleGround. Weird. Sounds like a malware/hack tool.

On the other hand you have Epic’s Fortnite Battle Royale. Okay!

The latter just sounds more legit, even though it’s the one copying the former. Battle Royale is not even used, Fortnite became the game’s name by default (even though Fortnite is a different game at first).

It’s confusing.

Also both games are powered by Unreal Engine, owned by Epic. I can’t even imagine the tension and heavy breathing going on in those studios.

Aesthetically, Epic’s colorful game is immediately more prone to be picked up to chill and have a good time with after a day at work. The grim and realistic tone of PUBG is not that sexy, never was. Once again, it’s not detrimental when the gameplay and experience brought are unique. They’re not now.

Moreover, Fortnite brings some nifty mechanics with the building part. Watching a good player like that Ninja dude is mesmerizing. It looks so fun. It takes a very realistic concept to another level (you can basically build while moving so you create your own stairs to take over an enemy, that kind of thing).

Epic has been aggressive as hell with the F2P part. Also the sound design is much funnier and engaging with a wide variety of people (though I think the weapons’ sounds are a bit brutal).

I’m pretty sure the F2P model brought so many people of color to the game. Fortnite seems a lot more popular with black and brown people than PUBG. We broke, don’t judge, read. And now that rappers and celebrities stream it the snowball effect is in full effect.

Both games are available on a lot of platforms including mobile but of course, it’s when you play with a keyboard and a mouse that shit gets done. Crossplay is so unfair. Windows computers still are the master race aren’t they. Mouse control is so insanely precise and fast compared to a thumb on a controller. But, it doesn’t matter too much. As long as people have fun, which is the case. Also, eyeballs.

Can both games coexist? Will one win the battle? It fascinates me. *grabs popcorn*

Jason Out

Monday, March 12th, 2018

Jason Rohrer on his last released game, One Hour One Life.

But if the games press isn’t relevant anymore, how do people find out about new games? There are two ways: word of mouth, and YouTube videos. Word of mouth has always been the most important factor for any game, I think.

Word of mouth is insanely powerful. It’s random, unchecked, pervasive. It just happens. I keep hearing about FortNite even though I don’t play it nor do I see people play it nor do I watch people play that game. But it’s around and that makes me want to try it.

I designed One Hour One Life intentionally to operate well in this new paradigm.

That’s a crucial statement. I’ve always heard developers talk about making the game they want to play but I always felt that this was not necessarily business-savvy. Jason didn’t hesitate and designed his game so that it works with how people “behave” with new games. Very interesting and apparently, successful.

I hope it gives other developers ideas. Let’s free ourselves from silos a bit, shall we?

Wing Commander II

Thursday, March 8th, 2018

Outstanding article on a pillar of computer games’ 90s culture.

In retrospect, the Speech Pack for that game might have been one of the thing that made me think that sound is important in games. Even then as a preteen, buying sounds for a game felt wrong but I thought this was just because technology was moving so fast, developers didn’t have the time to do everything at the same time. Which was true, to some extent.

The technical craziness to me was that this game used 20MB of space. My hard-drive at that time was 20MB, which was standard and not enough for Origin’s game. 40MB hard-drives were ultra expensive. It’s as if today a game coming out required you to have a 2TB SSD ($1200 as of now). Not recommended, required. That was nuts.

The game was pretty bad. The fake 3D didn’t work well. The divide between gameplay/story was already there and yes, the story wasn’t that great. But it didn’t matter, I really wanted that game. The jump between the CGA-based awful game clones on MS-DOS to this mind-blowing 256 colors fest with digital effing sound was ludicrous. 3D-rendered bitmaps were sexy as hell.

I loved the visual style and design: those spaceships look like they were straight out of Robotech and I couldn’t get enough of that back in 1991. At the same time, Sonic was blowing everything away and Street Fighter II was punching everything away. Dragon Ball, Ranma½, Saint Seiya were airing in France.

That summer, Japan was reigning supreme in my young designer’s head. Japan, and Origin Systems.

Paid saveslot. They did it

Tuesday, February 27th, 2018

Yoooo.

It seems Metal Gear Survive only comes with a single free save slot – if you want a second one you’ll have to pony up a significant chunk of extra cash.

Metal Gear Solid requires you to create an avatar, which is tied to your single-player and online multiplayer save file/account. If you want to start a fresh playthrough, you’ve got to create a new character, which means you’ll have to delete your original save or cough up 1,000 SV Coins. Konami is selling their premium in-game currency in various set amounts — 550 SV Coins will set you back $5, while 1150 will cost you $10.

If you share your Steam, Xbox Live, or PSN account with family members, each additional player will have to spend that extra $10 to play with their own character.

This is out of control. Also, this is successful: Metal Gear Survive is apparently selling well.

The sunk cost fallacy has become standard in Games as a Service. This is where the focus is in my field: how to funnel those Gen Z kids. How to tractor-beam those people that hoard digital “goods” for hundreds of hours in digital worlds. How to make them feel guilty for quitting. And all that casino and slot machine psychology.

Man.

Glover

Tuesday, February 27th, 2018

I felt that article so much. I see comments about Donald but you guys miss the biggest point:

Tina Fey, the show’s creator and star, told me that the answer was in large part yes; she admired Glover’s talent but hired him because funds from NBC’s Diversity Initiative “made him free.”

There’s a wildly missing consciousness in game development and computer entertainment. Yes, some kind of affirmative action needs to take place. This is how we got the very refreshing and needed Atlanta show. Black people have been waiting for years to get their own quirky, special thing that makes us giggle and memorize lines (I still haven’t recovered from the fact that once a black teenager asked me if I knew Gucci Mane on the playground and that I didn’t reply "I locked that nigga up too"). It all happened thanks to a Free Donald Glover, subsidized by a giant company. Sometimes capitalism does things right to un-do the things it did wrong. It’s rare, but it happens.

Any kind of affirmative action ideas are not frown upon in the computer game industry, they’re not even on the table in 2018. "There are already pushing for women so much already!!" would say the average dude working on games. And yes, it’s messed up that we need those kinds of initiatives but as you know, we didn’t create the unfairness in the first place. Accountability needs to happen. And yes, the laws of survival and progress suggest that people who can survive for years, maybe decades in an unfriendly environment have to probably be skilled, reliable, talented, driven and pretty good. It’s just mathematics. We have to overcome more. We have to deal with so much more. That makes us stronger. The fact that we don’t get hired though, is just politics ("meritocracy" and "culture fit" spirit humming around in games).

It’s dramatic that none of that is discussed at all in one field but is an open secret and prints money in the next field. Both being about entertaining people in the evening. It’s crazy.

10 months that I’m doing some help desk stuff every day in the middle of black LA. Basically working at a version of Issa’s We Got Y’all only for adults. GDC is coming, there will be a few discussions on the topic, most white people will be like "interesting…!". Most Asian folks will not even care for a second, a handful of black folks will hope things will happen and then nothing will fucking happen. And I’m supposed to remain calm, witnessing all that year after year.

I’m a little tired to see everything unfold or not unfold.

It’s not too late though. It’s never too late.

Kaleidoscope town

Wednesday, February 21st, 2018

I think I am in it.

Looking at game industry jobs, eyes bleeding. Looking at the same pages for years, receiving the same answers for months. Black Panther still resonating. Black Panther numbers are out. They’re impeccable. Diversity can and is lucrative as fuck these days. No surprise here.

BP_BOOM

Hollywood, for the love of money, gets it.

The game industry is so missing so much. Oh my god I’m almost 40, the industry is 40 and I haven’t seen things move enough. I thought this would happen naturally –by way of follow the money and progressive white folks, right?- but it hasn’t at all. Despite constant chatter and proof that there are people ready to tackle that. I’ve been ready for so long. I’m knocking at doors eternally. It’s not happening.

Someone needs to come through.

It’s mind-melting.

The cost of games

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2018

Raph Koster going to town.

People don’t get it. This is not about being right or wrong about business models. This is about sustainability, the most important thing for just about anything you care about.

First Raph demonstrates that yeah, games are cheaper now. And yes, they cost more than ever to make and we are reaching market saturation. I know, a lot of companies are profitable and the market is still growing. But that’s a short term, under-a-decade view. The long term is way more grim (people already have forgotten about the dozens of studios closed in the past years, just on the US west coast). A few more years and we are done, we will crash hard. So we should, we have to reduce costs, right? Especially when we know that the correlation between production value and success is not that strong anymore. In fact, it’s never been weaker.

Raph argues on Twitter: Consumers demand more; more sells graphics cards and computers; new tech comes out and it’s cool; pubs need to compete with other pubs… there’s lots of reasons to keep upping the ante.

The thing is we’re reaching saturation on hardware too: Moore’s law is not driving prices down and performance up like it used to. We’re struggling now. This is good! CPUs and GPUs from the past three or four years are powerful and under-exploited. Raph talks about servers being under-utilized, we can say the same with a lot of hardware in people’s homes.

All of today’s most successful games are not the most demanding games. When Ultima 8 or Wing Commander II came out you really needed the top of tomorrow’s machines. Today you can play LoL or PUBG or GTAV, Minecraft, The Sims on $700 laptops and will have fun. This is great.

If being technically more advanced than competition used to work, it doesn’t anymore thanks to hardware stalling and game engines being the same everywhere. So where can we or should we differentiate ourselves and how to grab those players?

– Community and multiplayer

As Raph says, this is costly and not easy at all. It also means certain types of games are out.

– Systemic content instead of static content 

I would argue that fine-tuning systemic content on a large scale might cost as much as creating static content, with much less predictability of said content “working”. Procedural audio for example, is quite tricky. Still, it should be used in game development as much as possible and we’re not doing a great job at that.

– Revise our game habits

I think this is a viable option. We need to loosen up. We have a tendency to follow a strict monoculture. Take bosses for instance. If you make a metroidvania, you automatically have bosses to fight. It’s a convention. Maybe some people would play your game, enjoy it and want to finish it without having to stress out about a boss battle. It’s the kind of things where we are legit stubborn. Let it go! If that means a lot more people will play, then embrace the change. Player customization is becoming the norm, demonstrating that it does bring more people to try a game out. We need to carve an experience that most people will enjoy, from mechanics to aesthetics.

– Much better accessibility

Playing games is still a nightmare in terms of logistics: do we have enough controllers? Is the system up to date? Let me configure those sixteen buttons to fit my playing style. Let me re-configure those movements on the keyboard and I need my inverted y axis on my mouse, etc. It’s a pain in the ass to play new games. I think operating systems should get on that and integrate gaming a lot more. I should be able to log in and have my game input preferences saved and ready for me to use. Regardless of the hardware I’m using. No, consoles don’t cut it because they’re fixed hardware and tend to destroy interoperability, a crucial and essential need in technology. Agnosticism, all the way.

Accessibility is a very tedious and annoying problem but streamlining gaming more would benefit our medium so much. People wouldn’t stress out the technical details of having fun. Login, grab your favorite controller, done.

There’s so much to do.