Archive for the ‘Audio&Games’ Category

The Digital Antiquarian

Saturday, December 9th, 2017

Filfre.net. A history of computer entertainment by Jimmy Maher. Absolutely bloody amazing. Please donate to this man.

This week I read the genesis of the Commodore Amiga. The 68000 Wars, part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5. This is awesome and so precious.

In France the Amiga was rare as hell. All my friends had computers and consoles from C64 to NES with ROB, none had an Amiga. But magazines were always reviewing games on it, displaying those amazing colors that were inexistent on my IBM, still running in CGA/EGA.

The Amiga was vastly superior and yet, was sort of not existing outside printed pages. Weird! Even weirder was when they closed everything and died early 90s right after announcing new machines, that was so unexpected. On the front page of all magazines that month. Thanks to Jimmy, I understand now why and how Commodore and Jack Tramiel and all those folks were on the verge of bankruptcy the whole time, ready to take insane risks and playing dirty.

Learning that they went to see the guys at Digital Research to adapt their dying OS to a brand new platform that wasn’t running the same hardware, and actually made it work in a few hardcore months, tells you everything about the mentality of the computer game industry. We Brute Force. We Crunch. Since 1974.

The future would lie with modular, expandable design frameworks like those employed by the IBM PC and its clones, open hardware (and software) standards that were nowhere near as sexy or as elegant but that could grow and improve with time.

I first-hand witnessed that as a kid. The IBM PC was not exciting for games in 1988 but was the shit in 1992. Improvements were made every month and you could just swap a card or plug an additional one. Look at graphics: the Amiga was the star with its legendary HAM mode. But then VGA and SVGA happened discretely, games started supporting those modes and that was it. The Personal Computer wasn’t bragging about its technology, it was a consortium of manufacturers who simply were just pushing hardware out, selling more and more.

Anyway. Historic stuff right here.

Design is design

Friday, December 8th, 2017

Design is the same everywhere

I wholeheartedly agree with Jesse. Why aren’t those principles applied more systematically in everything we do building those games? I don’t know. I know playing bass daily gives me a very tight sense of rhythm and flow that I can’t really explain or quantify easily. But it is in me and it comes from another field, music. Which is a game. That follows patterns and design principles.

Design is the same everywhere.

Costs and Boxes

Monday, December 4th, 2017

Raph Koster at it again. After reading most of the discussions and his awesome blog posts. Two things:

– Our capitalist society destroys the middle inexorably. Mid tier developers, middle class, same. It’s by design: capitalism focuses on maximizing profits which exacerbates both ends of the spectrum. The bottom and top rise while the middle deflates. It’s almost pure physics at this point. I don’t like it, I like the middle, the middle is balanced. We barely mention game developers but we are the ones suffering the most from that strong tension between small teams/budgets or huge teams/budgets. Both bring crunch and unemployment, stress and means to brute force as much as possible (loot boxes are some kind of brute force financing). Capitalism needs to chill. We need to chill.

– Generations, as always: a lot of gamers are over 35 and hate those loot boxes and pay for win systems. Younger generations? They love that stuff. They don’t mind subscribing, they care about showing off their new avatar’s outfits. It’s a generational gap. They have less than ever offline and want everything online, that makes sense. Millennials and internet natives are a much bigger, juicer crowd than gen X. As the industry focuses mainly on youth well, they mostly try to tell 35+ to fuck off. But not too much because they still bring a lot of money too. They can’t afford to lose that crowd either.

That’s where I think something will happen in the next five to ten years: population is aging, living for a much longer time. Most of the wealth is going to move to older brackets. Publishers will have to go and reach out for this money and they might have to rethink their business models and subscriptions to include 40 and 50+ people.

Simulations are doing fine

Saturday, November 4th, 2017

Engagement

Green line: Wolfenstein II, a big single-player game that just came out.

Blue line: Stardew Valley, a small single-player game that came out last year.

Orange line: Euro Truck Simulator 2, a medium single-player game that came out years ago.

Wolfenstein, which probably cost more than Euro Truck and Stardew combined times two or three and which just came out –that is, when peak interest is at its highest- is already engaging players less than games that came out many months ago.

It’s a rough business. But there are opportunities.

There is a wide, very wide spectrum of games that people like to play. Stardew Valley is a one-man made farming simulator averaging almost 10K players at any time, that’s tremendous.

Imagine a band touring and having 30,000 people every night to see them. That’s Euro Truck Simulator 2 and you’ve never heard of that game. We really can’t say people don’t play or are a fleeting crowd that buys games for cheap and never play them. People like to play games, no doubt!

We just under or overestimate a whole lot of things.

Super Mario Galaxy infinite

Tuesday, October 31st, 2017

On Super Mario Odyssey shaped by a designer trusted by his bosses, no matter what.

He also bluntly stated at a roundtable press conference in Japan, "We should have designed the game differently, but we couldn’t." To Miyamoto’s credit, his confidence in Koizumi’s potential as a designer never wavered.

Koizumi became producer of Super Mario Odyssey after directing Sunshine, Galaxy, Galaxy 2 and 3D World. It’s interesting to see the trust: a game designer missing the mark on a huge IP like Mario would get fired or be sent to a closet inside the company in the West. At Nintendo they encouraged him and let him work on what would become Super Mario Galaxy.

I think the Galaxy games are the finest Mario games, if not finest platform games ever made. It’s joy all along. I would love a version that goes forever, cutscene-free. I would just send Mario to rest like we do in MMOs.

TL;DR: legendary game developer trusts newbie to take over one of the biggest IP in the world, newbie kind of fails, developer keeps trusting him, newbie directs and produces the best platform games ever made.

I like that.

OverwatchView

Sunday, October 29th, 2017

Specifically, the team behind Overwatch wanted to address a criticism they have received from users over the last few months: It can be challenging to follow what’s going on when watching Overwatch eSports. They’ve taken the following steps that will hopefully make things a little better.

Viewing improvements. Let me get this straight: Overwatch players themselves are having a hard time to decipher what is going on between 25 very different heroes that rotate on 4 different roles while using several abilities in blazing fast action.

That’s a huge amount of data to process while watching a game. People watching sports are chilling. They can process data but it needs to be simpler, a lot simpler than 25 very different players doing a billion different things in a very fast-paced fashion. Nobody got time for that, even regular Overwatch players don’t apparently.

Overwatch’s esport watching issue is a game design issue. The game needs to have a mode where things are a lot slower or simpler.

After being all the rage around 2000, the arena shooter is back. But there’s a problem: people watch people play now, and it’s a big deal.

I watched Overwatch’s 16 “heroes” and you have to appreciate Blizzard’s surgery at work, how things are readable in a chaos of green, blue bullets, force shields, particles and so forth. It’s amazing how good they are at manipulating color palette.

It is also super fast. It’s pretty much unwatchable for 90% of people if not more.

I wrote that two years ago and I guess I wasn’t wrong.

Why basketball is the best

Friday, October 27th, 2017

– No contact

That’s the first reason that got me interested to be honest. After playing football in Europe for years with other kids pulling and grabbing and faking… I just hated that. Avoiding contact is elegant game design. You still can have some obviously, as they do go torso to torso hard in the NBA. But the fact that the rules strictly don’t allow them created a sustained limit in contact. The rule reinforces itself.

– 5 VS 5

Again coming from the football world I was like “hell yes”. Running 11 VS 11 is too much for my taste. Being able to focus on a much smaller scale allows one to track his teammates as well as his opponents almost all simultaneously pretty easily. Much faster plays, more points, more clutch, more fun. 5 is a sweet spot in team game design.

– Variety of play

There are so many ways to score compared to other team sports. You can be a big man in the paint, you can be a tiny dude shooting threes and everything in between and vice versa.

– No injuries

You know, the ones that fuck you really hard for the rest of your life. Basketball players age like wine. Ginobili out there seasoning fools at 40. Kareem Abdul Jabbar writing thoughtful columns and offering deep social comment, I mean. Professional players stay pretty cool and healthy all their lives and don’t die at 32. And most of us can play (shoot) until 60.

– Single Player

No other team sport can be appreciated alone like good hoopin’ is. Running to get a bouncy ball to warm up, little jump shot or going at the line to shoot free throws and think about life. Basketball is just the right size to enjoy alone and the sport scales perfectly to 1 VS 1, 1 VS 2, 2 VS 2, 3 VS 3 up to the standard 5. That’s beautiful game design right there.

– Affordable and low maintenance

A ball, a field, some shoes. A ball used very regularly lasts years on harsh concrete and costs $20. Shoes, it depends but you can ball with anything really. No pads, no special shoes, no helmets, no gloves. You can play outside in quite a large weather spectrum from dead hot to kind of rainy. Wind sucks though.

Basketball is simple yet not easy. It’s the shit.

Cuphead part II

Saturday, October 14th, 2017

Congrats on the  success! Here’s an interview about the game’s sound design, which is fantastic as I said.

Well, now the difficulty thing. Very good arguments back and forth but I think what doesn’t quite work is the dissociation that happens when looking and listening to a cute game that is that hard. The 30s cartoon aesthetic is just way too naïve in a good way and adorable to be serving such a brutal gameplay. I get the contrast idea but man, this game is so punishing. Your brain gets on a timing/width diet and forgets about all the amazing detail and whimsical sounds happening anyway.

I think the unlimited credit “difficulty system” –like in Metal Slug or Castle of Illusion- would have been better.

Cuphead

Friday, October 13th, 2017

I’m glad Cuphead is doing well. Production value is fantastic and demonstrates if it was needed, how audio and visuals need to perfectly fit together to make something insanely appealing, which is not a plus but required to stand out in stores with hundreds of new games every day.

As we say in French, chapeau bas.

Cyberpunkulture

Monday, October 9th, 2017

Cyberpunk culture has been trite as shit for so long, let’s face it.

I want cyberpunk to think about the fact that people have been leaving cities steadily for decades, despite what we think. I want green and concrete. I want cyberpunk to focus on mining rare, crucial elements for high-tech in Africa and all the political, local, economic, social implications with African countries becoming very powerful. I want cyberpunk to think thoroughly about China and its relationship to the rest of the world, as well as how communism can or will survive that long. I want cyberpunk to think about EVs, from bikes skateboards to cars and trucks. I want climate change, hurricanes and underground shelters. I want cyberpunk to think about driverless vehicles, vulnerable truck convoy, the battle for water, drones, laser-guided slingshots. I want cyberpunk to think about new problems created by new things like Basic Income, polyamory, ultra-sophisticated sex toys. I want cyberpunk to think about the scary prospect of having very uniform societies looked at as example while racial melting pot is trending down. I want oasis of dreams where boredom is the enemy or where you need certain genes to do certain drugs because we evolved that way.

I want all that together.