Archive for the ‘Audio&Games’ Category

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


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.



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.


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.

Listen, all games need to listen

Tuesday, January 9th, 2018

Right now, we have some of the best tools ever made to build game audio and computer games.

The duopoly FMOD and Wwise as well as all the custom audio engines and older ones allow us audio designers around the world to integrate audio with input, game mechanics, animation, interactivity and so forth.

We have great tools. The question is: in the experience of playing the game, how much control audio has? How much audio is kind of central to a core mechanic, to an experience?

The answer is: we need game engines to listen to players and audio! How many games are listening? Why NPCs in FPS are so impossibly deaf? Someone screaming like a pig cannot not be heard by someone a few stairs away. Why? We’ve all watched and listen to the making of of Inside’s game audio. The biggest takeaway being that the game runs on top of the audio layer. That is, audio happens and the game waits for it or acts accordingly. Most games don’t. Most games will stream some music or soundscape and cut it like someone unplugged the speakers, just to load the next level. In 2018 with the amount of storage, memory speed and all those CPU threads, we have very, very few technical excuses. It’s all about decisions.

Those are decisions that need to be made at the game design and game engine level. It’s not about audio technology, generated or authored content. It’s about deciding that audio should and would be treated as an underlying layer orchestrating the rest. It is extremely efficient at enhancing a game and polishing it.

Nintendo has been doing that for so long with enormous success. Many 80s and 90s games have “smart” audio. Martin Stig Andersen had a full session at GDC in 2016 on how Inside is a game that listens. It’s a bit embarrassing that we’re not making this a common practice across our industry, a standard for game audio.

Making games listen is crucial to our craft. To our polish. In a world of very expensive game development, audio could… *puts sunglasses on* change the game.

The Art of Game Design

Monday, December 25th, 2017

Book by Jesse Schell. Great stuff, I can’t read it without hearing Jesse’s voice. He’s a great orator. I had already gone through quickly. It’s always good to re-read academic books years later. There are points though, that I think are changing quite dramatically.

On demographics

Jesse pins the 25-35 bracket as peak family formation, which is pretty far from what is going on these days. I’d say this is the bracket where people stop playing games because life is stressful as hell or it’s when they play 24/7 because life is stressful as hell.

That’s quite a change. the 35-50 bracket is the peak family formation now. But it is also a bracket that has other properties that it didn’t used to have, like a much higher number of single people or couples with no kids. It extends into the 50+ bracket. Those people want games that last, games with legs. Games you can come back to anytime without feeling left out. Games that are more about mechanics than stories because after over three decades on earth, if you consumed a decent amount of entertainment, you already have experienced most stories. Games that are almost more like adult toys than games.

On males and females

Jesse starts straight up by affirming that males and females are different. Man, do I disagree. The only thing that makes us different is appearance, a bit of extra muscles for men and a bit more fat for women. That’s it. We all love different things. Woman or man, it doesn’t matter. Some women adore competition, some men don’t give a damn. Sometimes it even depends on the time of the day. I might be very competitive at 10am but will just say “nah I’m good” at 930pm. Unless I’m on a dance floor. Shit varies.

On the physical front, women have been closing the  performance gap since they can train as much as men now. Tennis women serve as fast as men these days. This is really new. But it’s that simple. More similar training, closer physical performance.

I think it’s weird to claim “we’re different, duh” on the basis of what society has created, our old habits and traditions. If you take all of that away, humans are quite similar. That is, we’re diverse. Gender doesn’t really matter. I think it alleviates some designer pain: not thinking about women VS men when designing is liberating. But it requires more work: it’s harder to encompass a much bigger, mixed crowd. This is good for the future I think.

On architecture

Jesse writes “the human mind is very weak when it comes to translating 3D spaces into 2D maps.” I guess I’m pretty good at that. I can navigate and translate 3D to 2D and 2D to 3D in my head quite easily. I’m always one of the first in a group of people looking at a map in a mall to understand where to go. I never get lost. I can go somewhere once and remember how to go back years later. I navigate my future house in my head as I’m pleased. It’s cool! But how to monetize this though… I digress.

On audio

“audio can be incredibly powerful”. No, audio *is* powerful. It definitely is. It’s a physiological thing. Your eyes go to sleep, your ears are on 24/7. Ears and being able to listen and survive are deeply connected. Ears are wired in ASM and eyes are like some weird mix of shaders and C#, whatever. That’s why audio feedback is more visceral than visual feedback, and why we should spend a lot more time on audio than textures but anyway. As Jesse is saying, sound brings life to touch interfaces, making them a lot more enjoyable. The problem is battery life: yes, playing a sound on a speak every single time you touch a screen drains a battery like crazy. Nonetheless, audio y’all.

On curiosity

Jesse goes “in a sense, curiosity makes you “own” your learning”. That’s how I feel too. I’m curious as much as I can, wondering about many things. I think curiosity is something that you’re more or less born with but does the environment shapes us. I nurtured curiosity by growing up in the 80s and 90s, when you didn’t have a choice but wait for tiny bits of knowledge to come once a month, through a bunch of magazines.

Kids and teenagers today don’t know what’s like to be curious, they’re constantly overwhelmed. Not their fault, all of our screens are busy. They used to be black with a few white characters. Now new generations rarely know what’s good in owning/groking something, because they don’t even know the feeling. Abundance is a bitch.

The Art of Game Design.

The Digital Antiquarian

Saturday, December 9th, 2017 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.