Excerpt: “Rooster Teeth just keeps getting bigger and bigger. With a successful network of YouTube series and two conventions under its belt, the company is now extending its presence in the gaming word. It’s a perfect fit seeing as they started out as a group of guys adding voice-overs to Halo gameplay videos.“
As requested by a lot of you yesterday in my AMA (which went great, thanks for always being dandy), I’m going to post our normal recommendations for indie devs and associated prices. Any additional questions, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org – All are subject to change, blah, blah:
The steps I recommend for nearly every startup (whether kid in his dorm room or mid level studio looking to shore themselves up legally) are as follows […]”
Description: “He’s been called a lot of things, but no one says that Dan Carlin is boring. His two long-running podcasts are among the most popular in the world. Part storyteller, part analyst, Carlin has mastered the art of looking at subjects from multiple angles and dissecting and thinking about them in original ways. He isn’t afraid to go deep or to inject historical context into modern debates. Whether it’s history or current events he’s discussing, his passion is contagious, his approach refreshing and his ideas tickle your brain in all the right places. He’ll make you mad too. You’ll like it.”
The holiday season was a great one, but now it’s time to finally catch up with all that we’ve been doing. What we’ve been doing the most of (from my perspective anyway) is cutting down the game into a more manageable scope. This is undoubtedly a good thing, as it means that what we have in the final product will be more focused and polished. So! lets take a look at what’s changed. First, the dialog system has been modified to deal with more than two branches at a time. Originally, we wanted the player to be able to “interrupt” the conversation, almost like someone with a megaphone telling the conversation participants what to do. However, we’ve since moved to a more subtle dialog method. Our new method allows for more branching paths, and integrates items into the dialog system. With our new system, the player uses words that they’ve learned to respond to npcs. Sometimes these words are in fact representing items, so for example, the player could give a yam to an npc that asked for one. This gives us a lot more flexibility with our conversations. The next thing that is substantially different is the AI. As stated before, the AI system was quite clunky to work with. However, the behavior tree system that we picked up also had a problem, in that it seemed to be incompatible with certain situations that cropped up quite often in our game. Namely, if an NPC wasn’t in the scene when it was loaded, but instantiated afterwards, the behavior tree would freak out. This left us with a conundrum. We could either give up this really nice system, or find a work around that worked with the package. Well, I’ve been experimenting with a workaround that seems to deliver more than it takes away. The workaround requires changing the way we’ve been setting up our levels, but in making the change, we can cut out large parts of the level manager, AI manager, and navigation code. It’s kind of painful to look at cutting out code that we spent lots of time on, but the reduced complexity is really quite worth it. Going forwards, things should run much more smoothly with the workaround in place.
Excerpt: Ramallo, who must take a pill every day for a pre-existing medical condition, currently pays $600 a month for a plan that only covers roughly half of his needs. By itself, and without the ACA, Ramallo’s medication would cost him $3,000 a month, on top of his copays, premiums, and regular lab checkups. Having come from the European Union, where many countries offer universal healthcare, the shock of the American healthcare system (and the looming repeal) has begun to unravel the life Ramallo and many other immigrants have built up for themselves.
“I’m terrified by what’s going on,” Ramallo says. “If they gut Obamacare and the protections on people with pre-existing conditions, I’m scared that my insurance will decide to not cover my pills, or charge me three, maybe four times as much for my premiums and I’ll just not be able to make games living here anymore.”
“I wonder if the higher incidence of visually-induced motion sickness among women helps explain some of the data (obviously not all — grand strategy games aren’t exactly known for their dizzying camera movements). The genres on the top of the list tend towards being 2D or having a fixed camera perspective, whereas the bottom of the list leans towards games with rapid 3D camera movement.”
“And then you can get into even further separation by looking at game (series) individually e.g. Nintendo games in general have a higher portion of female players than their counterparts of the same genre. E.g. while 18% of the Action Adventure genre is female, it’s much closer to 40% or even 50% for Zelda. And in Sports games “fantasy sports” like Rocket League are more popular than real life sports etc. So there is a much bigger reason why women like some genres more than others. But the graph sorted by genre can give us some pointers and hints towards them. E.g. it seems that colorful playfulness is preferred over gritty realism.”
I thought that this week I would share a bit of what I have learned while researching how to tell a good story. During the past couple weeks, I managed to read Invisible Ink by Brian McDonald, Save The Cat by Blake Snyder and Dan Harmon’s Story Circles, the two most recommended sources and which I highly recommend. While scouring the web I came across a useful little PDF that contains Harmon’s breakdown and Synder’s beat sheet along with other useful anecdotes.
McDonald’s main point in his book is the idea of creating an armature, that is defining the idea that you wish to convey and then using everything within your story to support this idea. McDonald uses the analogy of the wooden skeletons used to support clay models to show how the underlying structure is important but invisible at the end.
Snyder’s book revolves around his 14 point beat sheet that I have found incredibly helpful for structuring our story and which I will not reiterate here as it can be found in the pdf. Synder also talks about “the grid”, which is physical arrangement of all beats into three rows (three acts) on note cards.
Usually I work everything out digitally, but having just finished Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon, in which Kleon advocates for the use of analog means while brainstorming, I decided to deviate from my traditional Trello, Evernote and Google Doc routine and get some notecards. Am I actually being more creative? I honestly don’t know, but it is immensely more satisfying to pin note cards to a board and rearrange them.
Excerpt: “The existence of Half-Life 3 has been rumored and joked about for so long that it exists more as a punchline than an actual hope at this point. A report from Game Informer based on an interview with an anonymous source doesn’t add much new information to the conversation, but it does offer a plausible reason we haven’t seen the game. “
OP: “Motion Smear: Meant to simulate smear frames from cartoons, I move a mesh’s verts in the opposite direction of movement. The amount moved is scaled by how far the head has moved that frame, plus some noise to add variation.”
Artist of the Week: Artist and game dev Jay Knox (@JayTKnox)
Description: “The Bryan Callen Show is a one-on-one, one-hour interview, featuring an array of different personalities, from celebrities to authors, producers, film makers, directors and other accomplished individuals. We discuss a variety of topics, focusing on perspective and experience.”
So winter break is over and things are beginning to pick up steam again. I have personally been delving back into story structure and climbing, but the newest and most useful development I would like to share is our new approach to the word interesting.
But why? That is the real question.
I can’t remember what podcast or book I learned the notion from, but the idea is that when discussing new ideas, be they game design, story, art, whatever, there tends to be a response of using the word interesting.
Don’t use it. It is a filler word.
Collectively we tend to use the word interesting to convey that an idea is cool or neat, but the problem is that unless the word interesting is followed up with because the sentence is at best filler and at worst a vague acknowledgment that the group should go along with the idea without examining why.
A game design idea can be interesting if it sounds cool, but does it serve the rest of the design? A plot line can be interesting but does it play into the larger story you are trying to tell.
The point is not to never use the word interesting ever again, but to follow up on why that concept is interesting. Interesting, right?
Excerpt: “Ladykiller In A Bind is a game that tackles subjects like BDSM, queer sexuality, deceit, power dynamics, kinks, and consent. It’s the rare sex game that’s actually about sex, rather than characters awkwardly dancing around each other for ten hours and then fucking for five minutes as pay-off. Initially, Love figured it’d get shut out of Steam by Valve’s (inconsistent) policies surrounding sexual content in games. Even if she made it past that hurdle, she feared she’d have to censor large portions of the game. In October, she launched the game on Humble, and for about a month, that was that. “
OP: “(And feel kind of out of the loop for it?) Maybe it’s because I have very little budget for games, or because I prefer shorter campaigns, or because it’s easier to run on my laptop, but my Steam game library is almost all indies. I feel like I’m out of the loop because of it though. I played almost none of the games that were nominated for steam awards so I couldn’t contribute anything to the discussion there. My favorite indie games are The Binding of Isaac, Sunless Sea, Don’t Starve Together, and Transistor. I like rogue-lites as you can see. If you play primarily indie games, which are your favorites? Do you ever feel like you’re a bit out of the loop in the gaming world?”
Description: “The Last Podcast On The Left covers all the horrors our world has to offer both imagined and real, from demons and slashers to cults and serial killers, The Last Podcast is guaranteed to satisfy your blood lust.”
Excerpt: “I work for King, famous game development company that surprised the world last GDC by releasing Defold, an internal game engine, publicly for free. We also announced we’d be providing indies with traffic and help for soft launch and hard launch. Cross-promo from within King games portfolio incentive have been announced by Thomas Hartwig, King CTO, to help talented indies make the market push.
We might have been somewhat naive expecting our free marketing incentives be efficient to lure in good teams. In fact, it has proven to be tremendously hard to find good indie teams with good games who can also listen to the feedback.
But this is what you know already, what you may not know, is what exactly we tried to assemble a community for a young game engine, what worked and what did not work.”