Archive for the ‘Audio&Games’ Category

Cant care

Friday, April 28th, 2017

It’s been interesting. First, Ian Bogost article on how video games are better without stories. Which I agree with, without denying the attraction for people to play games FOR the story. It’s a matter of taste but also as Ian says, it’s not where games are the strongest, I don’t think we can argue against that. Video games were about gameplay before anything else. The article talks about narrative in games with a new story-heavy game that just came out, What Remains of Edith Finch.

Watching a playthrough my immediate reactions are:

– Make it a movie.

– Cool assets. That’s a lot of work to cram in some interactivity that is not that central to the game: it’s about the story, not mechanics or fancy way to advance the plot through game scripts. Thus back to my first point.

It made me think about why I have such a hard time connecting with stories in games –and everywhere else- and it’s because writers always think they’re slick to talk about family because that’s universal right?

Wrong. Family is a vague concept to my adopted ass. The all genealogy thing and what happened to uncle Bob, I just can’t give a fuck. And it’s not because it’s not compelling, but it’s really not to me. It’s bland. It’s washed out. It’s the past that isn’t really what’s going on today.

It made me think. What kind of stories do I like? The ones that are vague. The ones that leave room for interpretation. The ones where relationships are absolutely not about that ultra classic view of family. I’m starting to think that if I loved Akira, it wasn’t so much because of the amazing sci-fi and paranormal stuff going on but because it’s just a bunch of kids with no family. They are their own family. I connect with that. Same with Mr. White and Jesse in Breaking Bad. It’s like emergent families. That’s a lot more interesting to me because that’s how my life has been: many families, none with which I share anything biological.

In short I connect with stories where family is a concept but not that hard, body-wired thing. And it’s not just because I’ve been adopted that I don’t connect with that, I think I’ve seen enough toxic biological families to know that traditional family is not something that you should put on a pedestal or imagine as being universal.

I see narrative design –right, writing- as more interesting when you add mystery in the relationship itself, not when you add mystery around a classic family tale.

Anyway.

Game developers please

Monday, April 24th, 2017

I don’t get how we end up where we are.

All machines and devices that we use are personal computers. CPUs, RAM, storage, Operating Systems, Updates.

All PCs, all doing the same. Your phone, your console, your laptop it doesn’t matter. All the same.

All running software that we mostly get online because that’s how we’ve been doing since online exists.

I don’t get why we’re spending so much time separating things and making them as if they were different. They are not, at all. People acting like Japanese games would be successful on Steam like, duh. I wanted that for the past 15 years if not more and it’s not slick or anything: we love their games and we don’t necessarily want to buy a new machine to play them.

Like, is that even an argument? Why wouldn’t we want people to play our games on whatever they want, now that we can do that pretty well? Why wouldn’t we want people to pay for computer games, those things that are so damn complex to make?

Instead we create silos inside silos inside silos and bargain our sweat to ludicrous levels.

I don’t get it.

Creative process and critics

Friday, April 21st, 2017

Rock Paper Shotgun talking about Full Throttle:

On release, Full Throttle was perhaps the first sign of adventure fatigue from critics. It was 1995, and the flawless DOTT and S&M had in years past rightly received rave reviews from everywhere, inducing everyone else in the industry to try to copy. The press were perhaps looking to take LucasArts down a peg, and Full Throttle provided the opportunity. It was short, the puzzles were simpler, and it had some absolutely god-awful action sequences. It didn’t receive a drubbing, of course – but it did represent the beginnings of the tedious decision that the time of the adventure was coming to an end.

They. Were. Trying. Stuff. Out. It’s something that critics get-but-don’t-get most of the time. Creative people try things out, find a recipe. They use that successful recipe for a while. Then they want to switch it up, change things. Consolidate, reduce, add.

Short? Yes, because we’ve known for a long time that people don’t finish games.

Simpler? Yes, because we’ve known for a long time that people hate difficult, convoluted puzzles.

Action? Yes, because we’ve known for a long time that people like action a lot.

Yes, most of the time it doesn’t do as well as previous output but… That doesn’t really matter because the reasons for changes are not stupid and if you want the old stuff, it’s still around.

We’re here now in 2017, where the most popular games have some narrative going on like Uncharted or Thimbleweed Park or Mass Effect. Adventure games never really died, that was a headline trick. That’s what I dislike with journalism/coverage of creative stuff: pushing a narrative when really, there’s none.

We just create entertainment and try to sell it to continue to create entertainment. If you want to write about that, dive into the design and business decisions that are shaping games but don’t go for the kind of lazy and obnoxious “X is dead” or “Y is everything now”.

GDCEnds

Saturday, March 11th, 2017

Wellll,

The GDC happened and it feels like I got hit in the neck repeatedly. So. Much. Shit.

520am everyday –just making sure I’m on time- to make it to the game audio meetup at 7am. Meeting your pairs from all over the world is something, man. You can dive in a second on very specific topics that you can’t talk to to anyone otherwise and for a week, you can. I had a memorable discussion with a sound designer working at Konami, she was awesome and I still think about what we exchanged. GDC is dope as hell.

SEGA 4 LYFE

Mad props to my dude Damian for being such a profound and dedicated game audio catalyst through the years. And Matt M joined him in building a nice community online and at that carousel on 4th/Howard in San Francisco for the annual CarouselCon™. It wouldn’t be the same at all without their efforts and dedication.

Untitled

Six years ago I wrote a few blog posts about how MIDI should be back and kind of central in games and in 2017 I saw that everywhere: Unreal has it, Wwise was first a few years ago, Elias followed and made it really good. So happy to see they based their sampler format on .sfz, as planned in my head! I feel like Da Vinci designing the parachute. Close, close.

Anyway we really do have great tools today. To make a difference, to enhance game audio is all about budget and will now more than ever. The hardest part to change amirite?

There’s a lot of talent in this community and I think it’s stifled, it’s not getting the attention it deserves. Game developers when thinking about sound switch to “safe mode”. They are already dealing with complex issues on other sides, they don’t want to wonder if that sound effect or that music are working or creating an interesting dynamic within their games. is it action-y? Put some “epic music”. Is it melancholic? Put some fragile piano drenched in reverb. Colorful game? Music needs to jump in your face like buckets of paint thrown at you. Very safe and predictable. IMO it’s part of the blandness people are talking about and experiencing with computer games these days. Things are just super predictable and thus, forgettable. We need to shake them up!

Inside was the game of the year from an audio point of view to me, not so much for the fact that it has fantastic sound design but because the game listens to its audio and truly becomes something else. Timelessness is triggered. Devil Daggers is another great example of beautiful fusion when Audio, Visuals and Input are together in such a way that it elevates the experience ten fold. In the first 30 mn of the new Zelda Breath Of The Wild almost everything is communicated through sound design and musicality. Very sparse voice over and music. It’s wonderful. Look, Listen, Do. Listen, Do, Look. Do, Listen, Look. And on.

GDC17 unofficial shirt

My journey through game audio continues. So. Much. Shit.

GDC17Commences

Sunday, February 26th, 2017

I first heard of the Game Developer Conference mid 90s, in a monthly magazine called Joystick back in France. Articles about the GDC were all written by the same woman, who much later on became a friend but anyway, every year I couldn’t wait for the March issue.

Her GDC articles definitely are in part responsible for where I am now. It really made me intensely want to tackle the audio part of game development. I always wanted to be in that middle.

#GameAudio

I did it all mostly alone covering, understanding, training myself on every single point of this diagram. I never went to the GDC and I’m going in two days. I look at my archive blogging 1,000 words on the GDC 2005, trying to read as much information as possible… I didn’t cover the last two. Too busy and exhausted by side gigs.

Lots of feels right now. I’m going to meet people I’ve had game audio and game development conversations for a decade online. T-shirt printed. Business cards almost done.

I’m good. I’m anxious. I love this shit. I’m excited. I’m scared. I’m eager.

Stop the bundles

Tuesday, February 14th, 2017

I mean, I get it. We all get it. Charity, good vibes and unity.

But that’s too much. ACLU just got six times the money it receives a year, in one month. It’s got so much sudden money, they felt like they should join Y Combinator to help manage the enormous wealth –$24M received in one weekend- they got. That’s awesome, good for them. Good for us.

So why game developers feel the need to double down by completely eroding games value a few weeks later? $30 for 30 games –$600 worth at full price- is absurd. We already have such a hard time to make people understand that $19.99 is not expensive for a few hours of enjoyable entertainment that sending them the message that they can get that game for virtually nothing sometime in the future, is not something we should do or encourage. At all.

We already have such a hard time to get enough money to make great games, we cannot afford those ridiculous bargains. Developers who already made more than enough can afford it but it’s such a selfish way of looking at our craft, I don’t really get it.

It’s like no one is interested in sustaining our world, setting up an economy? Other entertainment businesses don’t do that. There are no $1 movie tickets, $2 music albums. Bandcamp run a charity thing recently too but people paid the music full price, Bandcamp just redistributed all the money to charities. There are already tons of cheap or really not expensive entertainment.

There’s no need to bargain our absurdly-hard-to-make craft like that. I think it needs to stop.

GGJ Reduced

Monday, January 23rd, 2017

The first year the global game jam happened, over 300 games were made over the weekend.

Yesterday it was 7204 games. It’s impossible to curate such a huge output, so what’s the point? I mean I know it’s all about the journey but…

I think it’s time to make the GGJ something smaller, with a game, a team per city. Make more ambitious games/prototypes this way. Working in a team of say 25 for 3 days requires a lot of control and focus, it would probably make the GGJ a lot less accessible but there are other jams for smaller teams and people with less experience.

Also the industry is always like “crunch is bad” but we have an annual event that requires people to crunch? Learning to work with a bigger team while avoiding/reducing extremes would be great training for future careers. Just sayin’

Black In Men

Tuesday, January 17th, 2017

BIM

I forgot to post about it with all that.

I made this little interactive adventure back in November. I took a picture of Grace Jones and with my fantastic –terrible- visual skills, I made some “cover art” like Blue Note used to.

Overall it was quite a lot of work for such a small game. It’s a miracle big games even come out y’all. I hope you’ll have fun if you haven’t played it yet. I know everyone on this side of the planet did so, you’re missing out.

It’s really difficult to make something fun on a subject that we never talk about: black and brown people who are interfacing with white people all the time. It’s all good and all but from time to time we go through some shit, trust me. Like a white person yesterday told me “I think people are starting waking up about Trump”. I didn’t answer, I just continued what I was doing but the next day I’m still like “wtf man”. Too many wrong things in this stupid statement on MLK day. Have to move on though! And get back to work to make those relationships better.

Anyway thanks for playing, you can donate too.

Important point

Saturday, January 14th, 2017

Laralyn stroke again with a great post. I’m going to focus on point #8:

Make the shift from “I make games I’m interested in” to “I’m interested in making games.” Love your craft. It makes you more flexible, more open to unusual games and opportunities.

That’s great wisdom. But that’s also not really how the industry hires these days. The industry does not just want you to make games you’re interested in, the industry kind of demands you to be an expert in those games. it is not rare to be asked which part of universe X you prefer or what’s your favorite moment in campaign Y when applying for a position.

The reality is it’s impossible to play tons of games, extensively. While having a job. While keeping up with technology. While having a life. While getting better at your craft. It’s just a number game.

SIMULATORZZ

This is a selection of very different games on Steam. As you can see, simulators are doing extremely well. You would think game developers are interested in developing other simulators, that we are all talking about this trend, right? Nope, not at all. Simulators –and to some extent, Firewatch is one too- are kind of laughed at as… Weak games? Strong games being the ones that are goal-based, with a hardcore mode I guess? I’m not even sure.

But what I see is that an order of magnitude more people are playing Democracy 3 than Thumper, something that probably a lot of developers don’t think is happening.

Personally in my sound design domain, Call of Duty is the top of the top: the craft and care taken in building audio and sound in that franchise are quite unparalleled. It’s maxed out in a way. On the other hand, so many games in genres that are not trendy would benefit a much stronger and consistent sound design. I love making sounds for any game, that’s the craft!

Anyway, making the switch from “I make games I’m interested in” to “I’m interested in making games” is I think, crucial. Not just for you, but for all of us to get better and foster ideas and innovation.

Nintendoo Switcheroo

Friday, October 21st, 2016

Nintendo Switch

Shitty title aside on a first impression, I really like it! Then I think of the business side and I can’t help but think that it’s not going to work.

Media and news will never show you that but it’s easy to understand why third-party developers don’t do much on Nintendo’s consoles. The best-selling games on those machines are Nintendo’s. Overwhelmingly. Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look at games that sold at least 1M units, Nintendo has:

SNES: top 3
N64: top 13
NDS: top 14
Wii: top 17
3DS: top 10
Wii U: top 14

Those tops represent hundreds of millions of games (Wii Sports, 80M. 80M units). ALL NINTENDO.

So good luck for anyone else to invest millions of dollars in a system where you are pretty much guaranteed to not sell enough to break even. Considering the past ten Nintendo years, very tough sale.

Good luck going back to retail with game cards, delays and what about DLC so pervasive now? They’d better not region-lock nothing because hello 2TB microSD card game cards.

The concept and the hardware are cool, way more attractive that this WiiU thing they did in the past. The same challenges remain though.