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Audio&Games Me Myself&I

Presence in the physical world >> presence in VR

Lex says:

It just takes you to another world, and when you’re not in that world, you miss not being there… And then you kind of want to stay there forever cuz life’s… Shitty.

John answers by saying:

VR should be better inside the headset than outside; it’s the world as you want it.

While I understand his point of view, I dislike this take so much because it alleviates our accountability about life in the real world.

It makes it as if life was this static thing, that is shitty and can’t only be shitty, and that you’d better immerse yourself into a fictional 3D world rather than use your accountability, your presence to change the real world.

People will argue that you can do both, to which I’d answer that looking at our current metaverses —social media for the past ten years, the answer is no, we can’t do both at all: our brains will prioritize the version of our environment that is easier aka, the digital one (no accountability, baby!). And that’s when things (in the physical world) go wrong, unnoticed and unwanted.

John goes on examples:

There’s plenty of things that we just can’t do for everyone in the real world; everybody can’t have Richard Branson’s private island but everyone can get a private VR island.

John, it’s a fallacy to think owning things is the ultimate goal. It varies. Owning your toothbrush, sure. Your house, not that necessary. Your private island? Fuck no. No one needs that. Besides, everyone owning expensive shit knows that it’s stressful; therefore, why would you think a virtual version of that would be interesting? It’s not. It’s empty value. We’ve seen that countless of times since Second Life, Habbo Hotel or Roblox.

But the bigger argument to me, is Time. It’s the real currency here. If you spend 1,000 hours in VR and virtual worlds, it’s 1,000 hours you do not invest in the gravity-based world. It will backfire in a myriad of ways that we don’t know.

It is thanks to thousands of people waiting for hours and hours to vote in Georgia that we avoided some stuff, recently. All the close calls on polls and elections. Kansas showed up more than virtually and that was effective. Yeah.

It’s fair to say that the not so subtle rise of fascism and authoritarian stuff these days comes also from the fact that people are distracted in online worlds, 24/7. Twitter, fantasy football, Tinder, Elden Ring, whatever. The time invested there, is not invested over here.

One perfect example of weird disconnect between people and high tech, is housing. In terms of engineering, it’s a done deal! We know how to make the most efficient, clean and healthy housing possible, under every climates. But instead of having engineers and designers work out the details of scaling this up to the world to solve a real, worldwide issue, homelessness, engineers want us to go to freaking Mars or live in virtual worlds to spend virtual money.

No. I do not want that. Focus on the physical world and healthy human needs, please.

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Audio&Games

John Carmack is bae

He’s probably the only dude on earth with a kind of screechy, high pitched voice that I can listen to for hours. He’s so articulate and thorough in his analysis. Love it.

And his programming habits are healthy and sane. I like that. Because then I read comments like this:

For someone that is into hyper efficient graphics code, admitting that for the vast majority of code, using a garbage collector is perfectly fine is IMHO a very pragmatic and mature attitude.

It’s called adulting. It’s called being a grown (wo)man. It’s called using the right tools for the right problems. There’s nothing that pragmatic or mature. He’s just not a headless chicken trying to impress his peers. John Carmack is not about stunting about his programming abilities.

He just codes. He produces. And drinks a lot of Diet Coke.

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Audio&Games

Stray developers looking at a cat

And remembering that they worked on a cat game for seven straight years.

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Audio&Games

Death March ‘89

“Because of all this, projects always turned into awful death marches with lots of late nights and weekends in the weeks leading up to the release date. Burnout was high. But few people quit over it because we thought it was just how it had to be. There weren’t many other software companies to defect to anyway, and the ones that existed had death marches too.”

https://dev.jimgrey.net/2022/07/05/working-in-the-software-industry-circa-1989/

It’s so fascinating how deaf the game, special effects, 3D industries are to what seems to be the basic situation when it comes down to producing software, no matter what the software does.

It is and most likely will just be a death march. Always has been, basically.

“The software industry was a far less diverse place then. Every last software engineer at ACD was a white man, most of them younger than 35.”

Sir I went to GDC in 2017, and this was exactly the demographics; 98% of it. I guess that’s better than 100%, but it’s not that great of a change, is it? 30 years, man. Sad face emoji.

“Finally, software subscriptions were not a thing yet. Companies paid for software entirely up front and got to use the release they bought forever.”

We need that now. Win10/11 updating constantly, breaking every single time things I set up for myself, on my computer, is the worst shit I have ever witnessed on my Personal Computer. And why I believe Win8 is still the best (aggressive hardware timings, no forced updates, stable as a rock).

Subscriptions are definitely great for software developers, but that’s it. It’s not a good deal for anyone else.

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Audio&Games

Me playing Control

in 4K on PS5, amazed at that light on concrete while the toilet door doesn’t squeak out nor does it slam with appropriate sound cues.

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Audio&Games

Big Switch

Pros of building your own game engine:

– It’s yours, no licensing issues ever

– It’s completely, exactly what you need for your game

– It’s probably extremely well optimized

Cons of building your own game engine:

– Maintenance

– Maintenance

– Maintenance

And that’s why one of the last big game developer with its own custom game engine, is giving up to use Unreal 5 for their next game.

Capcom –a company making its own game engines for 30+ years– also switched to Unreal not so long ago.

The funny thing is, while building next games, those companies might still feel like they should have used their custom stuff! But considering how *insanely* complex a robust game engine can be—especially when you think about all the platforms to support, now and in the future—, having Unreal support and other developers to share issues with is an absolute YASSS for everyone involved.

It’s a big shift for game development. Unreal is becoming the default tool akin to cameras on movie sets. Which is a great thing because designers have been desperately wanting this for twenty years.

Are custom engines dead? Not quite yet. Noita, Nintendo games. Those game are made with highly customized engines and those games are unique, in many ways. They have their own feel and that’s really, really something you want to achieve when making video games.

Can you afford it, though? The list of people who can is shrinking.

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Audio&Games Music

Epic x Bandcamp

Interesting.

Why would Epic do that? They have enormous platforms with Fortnite and the Unreal game toolchain. They did deals with the music industry –concerts with millions in Epic’s metaverse- but I bet the majors were too slow for a software company. Plus, the majors are risk averse which is the opposite of game development. Just not the same mindset.

Enters Bandcamp. Bandcamp has been doing its thing since the beginning and I’ve always loved the platform. Tons of great, diverse music, but also (probably) tons of legal issues with sampling. Because they’ve been small, the copyright holders never went at the indie company. The indie company grew and is quite popular these days, attracting eyes.

So Epic x Bandcamp makes sense. Epic gets to promote ready-to-roll indie artists in their metaverse, and legally and financially protect Bandcamp. They also now own an unlimited amount of music for any of their products, ala Sketchfab. This is pretty great for streamers (and Bandcamp artists).

The possibilities for virality –the mother of all filthy profits these days- through crossovers are definitely huge.

Now as usual with monopolies and powerful companies, there’s a risk for Epic to misbehave and abuse their position. For now though, we can’t say much.

My bandcamp page.

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Audio&Games Me Myself&I

Entertainment saturation server side

There Are Too Many Video Games. And too much entertainment.

Over 30 new games per day, just on Steam. Around 60,000 new songs on Spotify per day. What is happening? The usual: bottom 90% scraps around and the top 1% swims in wealth to the point of finding amusing and interesting to create artificial scarcity.

The huge problems with games is that they’re the worst work/profit ratio of any creative endeavor: you can compose a great song in one hour. You can’t produce a good game in a year.

This leads me to the good old Systems VS Narrative debate. It’s an old debate in video games, but it’s starting to describe a lot what’s going on in the economy at large: we live in systems and people want to force narratives on them. Which doesn’t work. The solution is to modify those systems and make them work for a better output.

Example: people love the narrative of unions protecting employees and love to push the idea in tech: “get unions!” they will yell. But the system we are in, 2000s capitalism, doesn’t allow unions. It’s a done deal. For unions to work you need leverage to bargain, you need tangibles. The world of tech and game development are full of intangibles, from which tech to use to which market to aim. It’s bet over gamble over “I hope this works out”, times a random amount of luck. This is not a situation where you can call for unions! Yet people love the idea that we are still in 1912, working for Henry Ford. Just form a union, and you will be fine! Sadly, this is not reality.

Interestingly, the same people who want unions will –in CA, a relatively chill state- vote against Uber drivers becoming Uber employees because they don’t want their Uber costs to skyrocket. Because that’s how the system (capitalism) works: it delivers value, spits out profit, and churns out bodies. Even when voters have the option to change the lives of thousands, they vote in favor of the system that allows them to get cheap(er) Uber trips. To hell with unions and decent compensation right? I don’t think people are horrible, they just don’t want to be accountable because the systems are complex and you can always find a way to think about a problem to make you feel like it’s not yours (“Uber has to be a side gig, I don’t care!”). Which I always find funny because well, we are indeed in this together. More now than ever before.

Anyway would you write stories, build video games, compose music, edit movies, skate and do all kinds of creative stuff that makes you feel alive, you need a support system. The more you do, the steadier the support has to be. Obviously to make great games, which takes years, the support needs to be very resilient.

Universal Basic Income, y’all. That’s not a narrative. That’s a system fix that would work. 100%.

Categories
Audio&Games

Reflection on content

Netflix proves the point for MS buying Acti-Blizz; if you don’t own fantastic content, you won’t last.

Netflix knew this and has been cranking up production for years now. But nothing has come close to movies or TV shows that were developed for YEARS. It’s not just about production money and 4K cameras. Now Netflix is raising their prices and losing shows they don’t own. Netflix is feeling the heat in 2022.

Disney knew this. Just their Pixar catalog alone is able to convince me to pay for their subscription service. HBO knows this too and that’s why they don’t want people to binge their stuff. They want people to respect that content, rightfully so.

You need genuine, good, not-specifically-designed-to-chart content for your platforms. Period.

Microsoft knows this too and I would even argue that the reason they dropped the mobile market is to go after juicy content —from Minecraft to Zenimax— while not getting sued for monopoly. Owning content over controlling hardware >>>>

It’s all about who has rich, tasty, prone to spin-off IPs. Nintendo knows this too.

Interestingly, it’s always been like that. The thing is creating those premium IPs is still random, costly sorcery so, it’s easier to buy them.

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Audio&Games

MS Blizz

Dang.

For the people in the back who don’t read about the history of video games, and who don’t understand why Bobby Kotick is still there, here’s a  hint (and more here):

“How could the business press not love him? He turned a $440,000 investment into a $4.5 billion company in 25 years.”

And just sold it for $70 billion. Activision filed for bankruptcy in 1991 with Bobby at the top. Of COURSE business people love that man. He’s been excellent at his job.

Now yes, I know. But when we’re talking about money and that amount, you  already know that characters and toxic culture don’t matter then. Look at Apple.

Anyway, on the Microsoft side, wow. They’re not joking around and it makes sense: the only way for game subscriptions to work is to have so many lucrative IPs that whatever happens, —a game being a complete financial bust— nothing can really go down. It’s simply too big.

I think by buying Blizzard they just achieved that. That Game Pass thing just became ultra attractive to many.

But even bigger is the fact that they own eyeballs, metaverse-ready kids: from Minecraft to Spyro to Call of Duty to Doom and Halo, with a plethora of indie games on the side and Candy Crush with mom? All for one subscription? For any device?

No one will leave that MS Metaverse. It’s too good of a deal.