Archive for the ‘Audio&Games’ Category

The strange world of creative business called games

Wednesday, June 28th, 2017

It’s frustrating. I read this article last week and had a small discussion about it on FB. Robert Yang has a interesting take on it too.

First off, if we are talking about sustaining making games as a business, don’t come in the conversation to say that you can always make games for free. That’s irrelevant. We all know that we can make things for free, thank you.

For people who want to work and make a living in this business, the answer is: be at the right time, the right place. Have money. Three things that you basically can’t choose (you can bend them a bit).

People like to point out that this is how it is and will get worse.

It doesn’t have to be like that. We have some leverage.

It didn’t used to be like that. Early 2000s we had plenty of studios doing OK around the world, tons that you might have never heard of. It doesn’t matter, they were sustaining themselves, making games. I want that back and not just because finding work is very challenging and that my game audio skills are not really transferable but because I see young developers to whom we say “learn everything on your own, work 3 part time jobs and of course you failed miserably we told you so lol”. I mean, what the hell is this? That’s not something I want. I started at a mid-sized studio where I learned a billion things, learned to love game development to death and it made me care about it. That was fantastic. It wasn’t luck, it was just work. I really wish we would stop making game development something special, it isn’t. it’s another creative business, that’s all. And that’s fine.

What’s special is how hard it is. As I was answering Robert on Twitter game development is too intense, demanding and costly –for most people- to be something you do for free or on the side. It’s easy to rehearse a few songs after your day job or clean up your movie script in the morning. It’s another thing to fucking build a game when your engine requires a 5.4 gig update and you need to talk to your sound designer on skype and there’s this big ass bug in one feature and your software license is about to expire… People compare the complexity of making a game to launching a rocket, it’s not a joke. Game development’s overhead –even if it got better- is really brutal.

GameRocketDev 
You might believe Elon more than me.

But also let’s be honest, we’re full of shit. We revere Nintendo games and their polish, do you believe Mario 64’s camera would have been that good if the team had been fighting over contracts to get paid in time to cover their rent? Everything we love from Japanese game development is the product of well established businesses running for decades but we’re fine with the ultra liberalism that is killing all of us in the West? Why are we OK with that, especially when it’s clearly unsustainable? I want us not to revere Japanese studios, I want us to copy their methods: bottom-up design, long lasting teams etc. Why are we so dismissive of rookies and veterans? Why don’t we have a healthy fleet of medium studios where we would make contract work for brands or other IPs, share more knowledge and ultimately make even better games? Very successful mobile and web game companies do that, why don’t we do it with other games? Why do we have to be kind of elite about difficulty in games? Why do we have to be so dismissive of accessibility? Why do we want to create completely different games when they’re so dangerous to make? Why do we aim at niches so much?

The point is not to dismiss what’s going on for some developers. The point is, we could have mitigated or avoided some situations. We can do better and we should.

True

Sunday, June 25th, 2017

There are too many indie games that seem to cater for an older audience but demand the persistence of young gamers. -RPS comment

This nails a big issue I have with games today, indie or not. They’re either brutally hard or unfair or really trying to make you sweat, or they’re a walk in a park with not much challenge.

It’s a design decision. For some reasons, a lot of game developers find that making a game accessible and “at the right temperature” for people is a flaw or a weak stance. That explains why open world games are popular because people can do and play as they want from chilling on the digital beach to cranking up the challenges to the max.

Allow me to enjoy your mechanics without stressing me out y’all.

I feel determined too

Tuesday, June 20th, 2017

Reinventing a major publisher’s keystone release [Sonic The Hedgehog] for a pair of secondary platforms represented a tall order for a 22-year-old game composer who had never made a video game before, but Koshiro says he felt determined to rise to the task.

Polygon article about one of my hero.

Sánchez had also not worked on a film before, nevertheless, after receiving the script, he composed "rhythmic themes" for each of the characters.

On the great soundtrack of Birdman.

Games, movies, music. Unlike those examples above we like to keep things safe and ultra predictable these days.

Creative risks are also rewards. Creative risks bring the high-profile and/or timelessness they’re “dangerous” but they allow, enable the “legendary” part. Looking at how much reputation is important these days, I think it’s worth it.

Live commenting the Andromeda

Saturday, June 10th, 2017

Mass Effect Andromeda behind the scenes.

From conversations with nearly a dozen people who worked on Mass Effect: Andromeda, all of whom spoke under condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to talk about the game,

It will never be not weird to have NDAs that long. The game has been out for months, it’s a $100B industry. We should be able to talk and have conversations without all that hiding going on. It’s unhealthy, we can’t learn and do better this way.

Mass Effect: Andromeda was in development for five years, but by most accounts, BioWare built the bulk of the game in less than 18 months.

Five years. Half a decade. Probably 3 years of trying things out and 2 years of absurd pressure. Classic, quite standard but definitely not good.

Rather than develop a Mass Effect 4 at the studio’s main headquarters in Edmonton, which had made the first three games, BioWare decided to put its Montreal studio in charge.

Game companies have massive tax cuts in Montreal. Games cost a lot. It makes sense to send an expensive franchise to be made where it costs less. Cutting off the main team though, is… Very risky.

“No Man’s Sky with BioWare graphics and story, that sounds amazing.”

I mean. Any seasoned designer or programmer would tell you that it is ultra risky to do something like that because tons of technical reasons. It blows my mind that they would try something that cocky on a huge franchise. Cockiness should be in the polish, not the scope. Try new things out on short projects, not pillars.

Frostbite is capable of rendering gorgeous graphics and visual effects, but when BioWare first started using it, in 2011, it had never been used to make role-playing games.

No problem! Risk on top of risk on top of more risk for a beloved franchise. All good! This is going to work!

I just don’t understand how Electronic Arts, a 35 year old game company that produced hundreds of games still makes pretty much all the bad decisions possible on one of their biggest franchise. Wouldn’t you polish the previous games main features, perfect them? Create a spin-off, less costly, with procedural exploration? Have a RPG engine or layer developed and perfected for years for RPGs to come? Five years, hundreds of people working hard and the result is memes and an IP put on halt. Pretty sad and probably avoidable.

Diversity in money and jobs numbers

Saturday, May 6th, 2017

People in games, listen.

Hidden Figures

– Budget: $25M

– Box office: $228.4M

9X

Moonlight

– Budget: $1.5M

– Box office: $55.8M

– An academy award

37.2X

Get Out

– Budget: $4.5M

– Box office: $194.9M

43X

Empire the TV show renewed for a new season, averages 15M viewers.

Fate of the Furious, directed by a black man, just crossed the billion dollar mark at the box office, making four times what it cost.

ALL of those are prominently about black people, minorities and sport a diverse cast.

ALL of those are doing more than extremely well. What does the game industry offer this year?

Another WWII shooter. Another walking simulator where everybody is dead and you’re a white dude smashing aliens or whatever. Another RPG where your white self crafts stuff and roams endlessly.  I mean.

Blizzard paid attention and included a diverse cast in its last game Overwatch. It won all of the awards, has apparently 30 million players monthly and is now a billion dollar franchise. IN ONE YEAR.

It’s nuts to me how bad we are in games at listening and paying attention to society, societal changes. Game development is an ultra risky business and we refuse to do anything to help sustain ourselves, despite answers being around us. 2017.

It’s mind-blowing.

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.