Gamer Hate

Belligerently lacking in remorse.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Who Should Debate – America’s Presidential Election Farce

While I understand the desire to easily group this election into two categories, namely:

Those who fear Trump
Those who hate Clinton

There are legitimate reasons that neither candidate should be in any way shape or form, elected to any position of power in our government.

Trump because he’s a multi-business failure and abject racist who would enact bigoted policies and continue the corporate oligarchy to line his own pockets.

Clinton because she’s a multi-government office failure and abject racist who has endorsed bigoted policies and is a corrupt corporate crony politician who has already abused the system via the Clinton Foundation to line her own pockets with middle east and military industrial complex cash, while brokering arms deals to mercenaries for regime war change she herself endorses.

Meanwhile, Jill Stein, who has been smeared as anti-vax by the establishment when she has stated unequivocally she is pro-vaccine, and her true stance was her concern over Big Pharma being so closely tied to our health organizations in making decisions about medications (anyone want some Vioxx???). She continues to speak out and fight to make changes in our system despite the establishment shunning her at every turn. She spent 8 hours in handcuffs outside the debate when she and her supporters tried to enter just to get her views on the floor. Shouldn’t Clinton supporters who favored Bernie’s progressive values and students who want to break free from a lifetime of debt be able to hear that she would abolish student debt via quantitative easing, just like America did for the big banks? Why can we bail bankers out who screwed our country, but not students who are trying to become the next innovators for our country?

Gary Johnson too deserves to be able to debate. While his recent gaffes are headline news, the fact that he would attempt to abolish the IRS and decriminalize drugs can only be read if you investigate his platform or find a youtube video of him speaking. Shouldn’t Trump supporters who are uncomfortable with the racist policies of their current option be able to hear Johnson debate?

These are views we should all be eager to hear given that the two “mainstream” candidates are spouting off with personal attacks instead of talking about any hard issues that our country is actually suffering from.

posted by CommanderHate at 12:19 am  

Thursday, September 1, 2016

No Man’s Sky – What Could Have Been

We always think about what the potential of a game was whenever there’s a hype train that inevitably comes crashing down. Below I’ll present some fixes that would have made the game meet or beat some of the hype train expectations that people had for it. Note these are things that I think would have dramatically improved the game, but would likely have added a year or more to the development time of the game, unlike my previous post where the majority of fixes are relatively simple.

Come with me on a magical journey!

Come with me on a magical journey!

Persistent Influence
This is the critical thing that I think would have made everyone happy overall. We all want to leave our mark on the world, and in NMS, you literally can’t. You can name it, and you can name the system, but it doesn’t remember what you name animals or anything else. Just fixing that would have made people a lot more tolerant of the game, especially when they ran into a world with named creatures that someone spent some time with. But one step further would have made the game an instant classic in everyone’s book: The persistence of your marks on the world. If you mined out a resource, leave it mined out, if you wiped out a species, note that the species was slain and who killed it. As new players enter the game, and over the course of time, you’d see the devastation that people can cause across a variety of planets. Especially as you get close to the galactic core and find worlds completely ravaged by multiple players desperate to scrap out more resources to finish the journey. THAT, would have been amazing to see.

Just don't kill off my Radioactive Ewoks.

Just don’t kill off my Radioactive Ewoks.

Alien Factions
Clearly there were some early plans for the 3 alien races to be at war in some fashion. The Vykeen have no love for the Gek, while the Korvax seem to have been gutted by the Gek early on in history, and only the Korvax seem to be at peace with the Sentinels. Since these aliens are basically on every damn planet from the outer rim to the galactic core, they really should have done some sort of factional alignment system. Side with the Gek, lose out with the Vykeen. Attack too many sentinels and the Korvax get upset. They literally did nothing with them. Heck, aliens can’t even remember that you just talked to them 2 seconds ago. There are a number of faction quests where you can turn them in to the authorities for stealing or desertion, and then talk to them again as though nothing had happened. Persistence here, along with daily routines for some of these aliens could have gone a long way towards creating interesting interactions. Imagine that the space station is run by 2 aliens, 1 of them goes down to the planet where he has a shack and mines minerals periodically. Perhaps he gives you a quest to act as his bodyguard? Perhaps you did something nice for him at the space station and then you get attacked by pirates on your way out and he comes out in his ship to help you fight them. Anything that gave these guys some life would have been immensely helpful towards rounding out the game, and would have made their language learning so much more critical to the game (though I did enjoy the novel aspect of it despite it not going far enough). Just the fact that traders seem to spawn out of thin air, complete with new sets of things to buy/sell pulls you right out of any hope of immersion with the aliens. Make them all persistent, and responsive to threats and other things, and you could have a pretty impressive war going on all the time. Maybe they put bounties on players that attack their ships? Who knows, the possibilities are endless, sadly none of the most obvious possibilities were used.

Or how about a galaxy-wide stock trading market?

Or how about a galaxy-wide stock trading market?

Moving Things Around/Affecting Biodomes
In my previous fixes I mentioned a subspace home where you could store creatures and plants you found to put them on display for your friends. Let’s take that one step further though, and allow players to move plants and animals from one system to the next. You could be like Noah taking 2 each of your favorite animals and then trying to find a habitable planet where you can breed them all. Effectively a Pokemon farmer simulation at this point, add in the ability to cross breed (if there’s genetic compatibility) and thus breed more animals with crazier traits and… well I know a few people who would spend the rest of their lives in the game at that point.

No planet is complete without a population of Hufflepuffs.

No planet is complete without a population of Hufflepuffs.

Plants/Food/Chemicals/Feeding Animals
The last part, and the one that felt like it was missing, was the ability to simply cook and eat foods or create chemical mixes using the plants and wildlife. When parallels were drawn between this game and Minecraft, this was the first thing that came to mind. I totally could see myself planting seeds on a planet and creating cornfields or whatever crazy alien version of it I could find in order to make fuel, or even drugs that lets me survive longer in certain environments. Such a horribly missed opportunity here, and one that effectively made almost every plant in the game utterly boring. Other than Zinc and Platinum flowers (haha, we get it, stop and smell the flowers, so clever), there isn’t a single plant in the game that anyone cares about. Except that damn whip plant they put in every infested building… Annoying because you can’t shoot it in there… That’s just bad design.

You will be whipped twice for reading this.

You will be whipped twice for reading this.

Future Updates?
I think all of these things could be addressed in future updates. It’s literally a few weeks of design work and spreadsheet creation. I just wonder if it can work with how they’ve created their overall system. Because there’s no persistence, and because even the naming of plants and animals seemed to be too much for them to track, I think it’s entirely possible that any sort of changes that affect persistence are beyond the scope of this game. Which makes me a very sad panda.

Because I want everyone to meet Roger.

Because I want everyone to meet Roger.

posted by CommanderHate at 3:47 pm  

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Fixing Games : No Man’s Sky

I recently completed No Man’s Sky (or at least, as much as you can complete it). Spoilers will appear in my design analysis so you are forewarned. This is a new series in which I pick apart the bad components of games and attempt to fix them through my knowledge of game design.

No Man’s Sky is a Minecraft styled planetary resource collection adventure game. You collect resources, turn them into upgrades that make you more efficient, and then explore the galaxy. The primary goal is to get to the center of the galaxy, and if you succeed you are rewarded with another galaxy to explore. That is effectively where I stopped playing the game. There is a side story about Atlas, which allows you to create a new star, but otherwise seems to tell you that following the path laid out by the developer is a fool’s errand… However, I haven’t fully translated the Atlas’ words yet. I plan to do so on my next play through in the new galaxy.

Atlas Eye

An incarnation of the Atlas.

One of the main problems with No Man’s Sky is that the sense of progression that makes the early portions of the game so compelling, quickly falls apart once you have the majority of upgrades and complete your 48 slots of inventory space. These two things effectively cuts down on 70% of the fun exploration aspects of the game. Buildings become much less important (only trading areas where you can sell goods off are still needed), and it makes exploration much less fun.


Upgrading Inventory.

Progression – Sub-space Home
The most important thing missing, and the one that actually had me baffled when I never got it in my playthrough, was a place to call home. A place where you could store critical materials you wanted for later, as well as capture and place creatures and plants you had found on your journey. The whole time I was seeing crazy things on planets (and taking screenshots), I kept thinking, wouldn’t it be cool if I had a house to decorate and I could grab these plants and animals and put them there? Then allow other players to tour your home for that sense of achievement and sharing that is sorely lacking from the game. Add on yet another layer of building and creating inventory space in the home and you have another 10+ hours of good times for the player. Just require the player to be outside a planet’s atmosphere to access it (same as the warp drive), and you have plenty of reasons for them to fly in and out of planets for the additional storage.

Like this, but more expensive.

Like this, but more expensive.

Inventory Fix – Progression
The easiest and most obvious fix for this is to add tabs for inventory space on the player. If they had simply done that, the players sense of progression and the need for Units (the in-game currency) would remain throughout. For example, if they just added one tab and made each new slot cost 2 million units, people would be very interested in gathering money and filling in those slots. Continue the cost increases on the inventory slots, and you effectively maintain the sense of character progression for at least one entire playthrough. Add up to 5 tabs and I doubt anyone would ever complete their inventory in years.

Maximum character inventory.

Maximum character inventory.

Upgrades Fix – Progression/Variety
For a game that relies so heavily on procedural generation of planets, animals, and perhaps even galaxies, it’s bizarre to me that they wouldn’t look for procedural variation in their itemization. They have all the variables needed to do so, and it would have added many many many hours of additional gameplay for people who like to collect things. So for example, instead of having a Sigma, Tau, and Theta that is an incremental upgrade of your mining beam’s ability to destroy rocks. Why not have a Sigma, Tau and Theta version that varies in where its stats are focused. So you might find a Beam Focus Destruction Sigma, which destroys chunks of a resource faster as you are mining than the Beam Focus Spread Sigma, which increases the area of the resource being destroyed. You could have individual variation within that where you expose the stats, and see that you found a Beam Focus Spread Sigma that affects 50 to 100 cm more than the other Beam Focus types, and thus you now have variation and incremental periodic upgrades for players to be seeking. If you wanted to cheat, you could even check what they have on their multi-tool and put a leash on the range of what they find next (e.g. they have the 60cm version, so when that type drops again, it’ll be 61cm to 70cm). All of the upgrades can be generated in this way, adding a significant amount of replayability (as people change tactics from one to another), as well as keeping that feeling of progression throughout.

Imagine variations that did fire, poison, or frost damage when bounced...

Imagine variations that did fire, poison, or frost damage when bounced…

Upgrades Recipes – Progression/Variety
Along with the Upgrades Fix I mentioned, you could maintain the recipe building by adding a secondary pop-up window during the construction process where you get to tweak your variables on the thing you are creating. However you can only tweak them to the degree that you have found that level of upgrade. In the prior example, if you build a Beam Focus Spread Sigma, you can only build one with a spread up to the number of cm of the upgrade type you have found. Alternately, you could forego building anything and require players to find these upgrades in the world and then apply them to their ship or suit. Either would work, though the latter would require a bit more work, and the former would have the player’s recipe menu explode to gigantic proportions. Allowing the player to tweak the variables once they’ve “absorbed” a recipe that allows for it feels right for the game to me though.

Inventory Fix – Buy/Sell/Trade
One of the most annoying oversights, and the easiest to fix, is to simply add a button or modifier key that allows you to increment or decrement excess resources by 1 inventory slot worth of that resource (250). Each inventory slot on the character is 250 resources, so having a modifier that allows you to instantly set your selling of a good to 250 makes perfect sense. It would have cut down on probably the most annoying aspect of selling resources in the game, and it’s undoubtedly an easy fix.

Why you no take increments of 250??

Why you no take increments of 250??

Main Story Spoilers Below
The Path of Atlas – Story/Progression Fix
What a horribly missed opportunity here. I can’t even fathom why they would build this unique space, screaming for a boss fight, and then simply not do one in it. Not only that, but the main point of Atlas seemed to be to indicate that the player following the path the developer set out for them was enslaving themselves to the developer’s will when they should be out exploring on their own and doing what they want. I got it… I got it. I still have to get enough Atlas words to translate the full text of what Atlas was saying (as opposed to what the narrator was intimating), but I doubt the gist of it will change too much. That said, if the point of Atlas was to make the player feel enslaved and like the path was pointless, tack on a bunch of a normal tedious questlines into the Atlas. For example, you go to Atlas 1 and it looks at a planet in the system and tells you to go get X Venom Sacs (or Gravitino balls, or whatever) and bring them back to it. Maybe it tells you to go to a nearby planet with animals and to name them all Poosnake. So many things could have been done to add hours of gameplay onto that main path, but I did the whole Atlas series in probably an hour just jumping from one to the next. No boss fight, no real sense of loss (hell those Atlas stones made me a ton of units), and an obvious somewhat ham-handed message that I was trapped in a simulation. Meh.

Jaded intellects indeed...

Jaded intellects indeed…

The Ending – New Galaxy Fix
To be fair, this actually was my favorite part of the game. What??? If you don’t know, what happens when you reach the center of the galaxy is that it pans back out to the edge of the galaxy and then you find a new galaxy, and you are crashed on the surface there with every system on your ship and multitool wrecked. So you have to dismantle to get iron to rebuild your mining laser (cause you can’t mine since it’s destroyed), but yeah, you’re starting from square one, exact same start as when you first begin the game. Is there more to it than that? I don’t know yet, but I get the point. It was the journey that mattered, and now you’re starting over in a new galaxy. With another opportunity to gain more Atlas words before you deal with the Atlas quests… But this time you have already got everything that made the early game interesting. You just need to get lucky finding proper resources and make your way off the planet. It’s somewhat fun, because rebuilding all your systems is quite the epic quest, but overall, I’m not feeling that compelled to play again. Which is why I think they need to add something on here that makes it something more… Maybe a new Atlas? A new voice that’s taking over the Atlas? Something, anything so it’s not just the same thing over again…

You can watch the ending:


Procedural Planets Player Markers – Player Generated Content Fix
Because all the planets are procedurally generated, you find a lot of crazy missed opportunities. Deep crazy looking caves that lead to dead ends with nothing in them, underwater secret coves that have nothing in them, every planet is rife with disappointing areas, caves, and buildings. So, why not give players tools with which to make them cool? Let us build and place boxes, put things in them (animals we’ve found, resources, tools we’ve built, etc). Let us place down signs, change terminal text, or even make voice recordings. Yeah, I know, this would spiral out of control pretty quick, but there is no disappointment greater than landing on a discovered planet and finding that literally NOTHING is different from any other planet you’ve found before. There’s no indication a player was ever there. Not so much as a mined resource (and I ran into plenty of named systems and planets near the system core, so I know it’s not a fluke). I’d say that is the greatest disappointment I had with the game, because I knew when I saw no marks from other players anywhere other than system names, I knew that all the effort I had made naming things on other planets and systems was effectively useless. I never saw another player outside of a spaceship, and I could never confirm for sure that any spaceship I ran into was a human (they traded the same even when I thought they behaved oddly). Nothing disappointed me in this game more than knowing for sure that all my efforts to leave a mark had been in vain.

It can sure be pretty though.

It can sure be pretty though.

Which seemed to be the core message the game was sending me at the end of the day. If you didn’t appreciate the journey, you just wasted hours of your time (in my case, 137 of them).

That's a significant investment of time...

That’s a significant investment of time…

posted by CommanderHate at 1:47 pm  

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Tencent’s Acquisition of Supercell

First you must read about the potential hostile takeover of Supercell by Tencent.

Tencent is basically initiating a hostile takeover of Supercell. The developer who brought us 2 of the most successful global mobile games in recent history. Clash of Clans, and Clash Royale (setting aside Hayday and Boom Beach for now, which are also successes). What this primarily means is that within China, Supercell will now become a major influence in their mobile game market. How Tencent will change the game and Supercell’s structure itself remains to be seen.

Will they make dramatic changes? Probably not to Supercell itself or to their games on the global market. Instead, they will likely add things to their games specifically for China’s internal software market (they have separate app stores from the rest of the world). They may add QQ and other layers in to entice and keep Chinese players playing the app.

If Riot Game’s acquisition is any indicator, this will be a net positive for Supercell, as they will likely be able to initiate new projects with Tencent’s money, or at the very least generate revenue from China far beyond what they were able to get on their own (for reference, only Clash Royale is just barely in the top 25 grossing apps in China). Given the 6.6 billion that Tencent has paid, you can rest assured that they are certain they will make this money back and then some over the course of 5 years. The real question is, what will Tencent do with all these acquisitions when their income finally slows and if they have no other products prepared.

posted by CommanderHate at 11:18 pm  

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The End of Organized Game Media?

I’ve been reading recently about the struggles of organized game media news companies, such as The Escapist (one of my favorites when they started). With the shut down of Game Trailers, it’s apparent that game news media sites are deep in the shit. Their struggles revolve around the fact that the majority of us really don’t care what they have to say anymore. I mean, yes, it’s good to get an informed opinion on a topic, but as we all know, when it comes to the “professional news media,” they often don’t know what the fuck they’re talking about.

This has been more true of standard News Media, such as Fox News, CNN, etc. If you’ve ever been involved in a news story or personally knew the facts about something they were reporting on, you know that they get shit wrong all the time. This isn’t too far off from what I’ve seen from Game News Media organizations that, for whatever reason, couldn’t be arsed to do the job they’re purportedly created to do. Which is give honest and accurate information about games.

So what are the major issues that these dying game media sources need to deal with in order to survive?

1. Stop fucking taking money from game companies and publishers. Just stop fucking doing it. “Oh we need advertising dollars to blah blah” shut the fuck up! If you were legit and honest, people might pay for your service. Right now, we know you’re full of shit half the time, so why would we give you money for inaccurate reporting?

2. Admit your damn biases. Everyone is biased in some way. Every person you have working on game reviews or content for your media sites has their own personal preferences and biases. Admit to them, EMBRACE THEM! Let us know that you fucking love RPGs and that you’ve never met an RPG you wouldn’t have babies with, so that we go to you for detailed information about RPGs… That’s why you’re really losing your audience… Which brings us to…

3. Youtubers, Let’s Play, and independent individuals are KICKING YOUR FUCKING ASSES. Why? Because they are open and honest. They present themselves as human beings, as biased sources, as people with preferences, and they (mostly) don’t take money from corporations to give their views. Everything worth having now is crowd sourced. Let me repeat that… Everything new and innovate that we want, comes from us giving money to support those things. If you don’t have credibility, you have nothing, and right now, I would trust Pewdiepie over GamePro or PCGamer or even The Escapist. Though that wasn’t always the case.

4. Game News Media is suffering from a severe case of corporate necrosis. I look back at things that The Escapist produced when they first started, and I’ve read a few recent articles. The difference is night and day and it happens to every company at some point: they get big, they get set in their ways, and they stop doing things out of love, and they start doing them because it makes money. Most people who work in the game industry do so out of a love for games, and what happens at larger corporations is that the process of making games gets removed from you. You have to follow all the rules and regulations set forth by management types who haven’t created anything in perhaps a decade or more. Worse, they may simply tell you exactly what to do (like put a turret here because marketing believes people like turrets and mowing down enemies every X minutes of gameplay). The end result is passionless decrepit products that eventually no one wants. Just take a look at any franchise that EA gets a hold of and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. This is what Game News Media is going through right now, and the first to fall are the ones who don’t have their own personalities creating content. Which brings us to…

5. You’re two steps removed from your audience. You have the outward layer of the corporate brand, then you have the inner layer of your writers and content creators. Your outer layer prevents the inner layer from connecting with people, for better and for worse. Maybe you have great writers and content creators, but because you’re representing yourselves as brands, the people beneath that layer of the brand are obscured and often interchangeable (though not always, as is the case with Zero Punctuation at The Escapist). The end result is that the people who come to your site fail to make a human connection with your content creators. They must ask, can I trust your brand as a whole? Because maybe Gershwin will write that article on that game I’m interested in… or maybe it will be Mr.Fuckrpgs who fucking hates RPGs. Do I know that Mr.Fuckrpgs hates RPGs when I read his article? Maybe I figure it out, maybe I don’t, but if Mr.Fuckrpgs shits on a game that I later try and like, guess what happens to your brand? I don’t trust it anymore.

Corporate styled branded game media outlets are on their way out in a similar way that magazines and print media are on their way out. They’ve been superseded by something that people find more trustworthy, more human, more up to date, more able to quickly respond to whatever is trending or coming out. That is to say, individuals who review games or talk about games. Pewdiepie, Angry Joe, and a litany of other youtube and on-line personalities have a much stronger connection to their audience. There’s no confusion about the sorts of things they like or dislike, because anyone who follows them will hear about their likes and dislikes 10 times per video they watch. Their biases are fully known entities the majority of the time, and their unwillingness to accept corporate money or stay on the good side of various publishers is something they tend to discuss openly and honestly with their audience.

We don’t know what sort of things Ubisoft or EA or whatever publisher has forbidden a Game News Media brand from saying, writing, or discussing openly. We do know that there are various nefarious back door dealings that go on in order to stay in their good graces and get review copies of games. We also generally know that such things don’t occur with various youtube personalities, or if they do, these personalities often discuss it openly.

When it comes to games news media, we don’t know who we can trust. Which is why youtube personalities and individual game writers who turn themselves into personalities are on the rise (or really, they’ve already won). They can be open and honest and say things that a corporate brand really can’t. Even if someone did speak for a game news media brand, they’d never be trusted in the same way that a person facing a camera and speaking their mind will be.

posted by CommanderHate at 5:02 am  

Sunday, February 7, 2016

What Happened to Commander Hate?

Some of you may know that this website basically vanished around 2010. The main cause of this was that I had moved to China and was working at Ubisoft. Since I let the domain lapse during that time period, something horrible happened.

Some shit-stained scumbag domain squatter grabbed because it had a decent amount of traffic. Of course, no one else ever wanted it, and I am not the type of person to cave and try to rebuy my own domain back from some fuckwad domain squatter (who probably resides in the 10th circle of Hell below traitors, if you believe in that stuff). So I waited.

I waited patiently, for years…

And now I have returned, ready to continue with honest unpaid reviews of video games and thoughts about the game industry, unbound from corporate interests or outside influence. Are you ready?

posted by CommanderHate at 9:00 pm  

Monday, May 25, 2009

Resident Evil 5
Another Shitty Game

Five years… This took five years to make? I really don’t understand how a game that is basically Resident Evil 4 with a desert theme takes 5 frackin’ years to make. The only game company that can take 5 years to make a game and innovate so little is Blizzard, and Capcom, I’m sorry, but you’re no Blizzard.

How the hell did you spend 5 years making this game and end up making it WORSE? You can only buy new goods at level loads? What the hell is that about? Are my weapons being air-dropped from the sky? Why did you remove the trench-coat guy? The only annoyance was that he only had one line of dialogue for opening and closing his inventory screen. That was it! Otherwise it was fine. Oh wait, I know, you wanted the innovation of team play and you were too frackin’ lazy to program a way for players to interact with menus without disrupting the action… What are you stupid? Put the trenchcoat guy in a corner where there are no zombies…

I also hate your real time inventory management. What the hell is wrong with you? It is NOT FUN to have to deal with a clunky inventory interface when zombies are baring down on you. In fact, it’s the opposite of fun, it’s an incredible annoyance that has no place being in a video game. Which brings me to my major gripe about Capcom’s Resident Evil game design theory.

Making an interface or interaction in the game world difficult and/or shitty on PURPOSE does NOT enhance the “scariness” factor of your game. It enhances the ANNOYANCE factor of your game. Resident Evil 5 is a big annoying piece of crap with none of the innovation or interest that originally grabbed our attention in Resident Evil 4.

Don’t you get it?! Resident Evil 4 was interesting because it took the things that were good from previous Resident Evils (i.e. zombies coming at you, oppressive atmosphere, limited ammo/weapons) and added things that made it BETTER! Being able to properly aim, being able to run away without it feeling like a total piece of shit (though it still wasn’t perfect) and being able to upgrade your weapons. How did you frack this all up in RE5? Allow me to explain.

You added NO INNOVATIONS! Instead you gave us a moronic partner who we now have to micromanage and share assets with, a REAL TIME inventory management system which still sucks and is made all the worse by having to deal with it in real time, and a brightly lit desert world where we shoot Africans instead of Spaniards. Everything else is EXACTLY THE SAME!

Five frackin’ years to make a game worse! Let me know when you want to make RE6, just give me all that money and I’ll get you a team of texture artists to make the game in a snow environment. I’ll use the other 12 million to make a good game.

Resident Evil 5 – D+

  • Interesting take on oppressive environment.
  • Mostly the same as Resident Evil 4
    • Cons:
  • Shitty inventory management in real time in a horror setting, NO, BAD!
  • Poor storyline (but it’s an RE game).
  • Idiotic partner wastes your ammo, your herbs and bitches constantly.
  • You already played this game and it was more fun the first time.
  • posted by CommanderHate at 7:51 pm  

    Monday, May 18, 2009

    Yoink! You’re On This Game Now!
    Indecisive Game Studios

    I couldn’t tell you how many studios do this. In fact, it’s been a relatively rare event within my own career. The normal course of events is that you’re assigned to a project and you stay on that project to completion. This is the first time I’ve ever been yanked off one project to lead another, then 2 months later, yanked back off the project and put on my old one.

    I was only on my first project for 1 month, and it made a lot of sense for me to be on it. I had a lot of experience related to the game and I was gearing up to craft a great RTS. Then they asked me to help them redesign another game that was in trouble. Along with several other designers we met for a couple days and I apparently impressed someone with my design proposals because shortly thereafter I found myself Lead Game Designer on the very same title.

    Let me say, the game was/is a clusterfuck of poorly done junior design work, poorly presented ideas, misdirection and indecisiveness from the publisher and a little bit of self-sabotage. That bad? Yeah, that bad. Programmers were literally hard-coding values so that the game designer wouldn’t tweak the game anymore… THAT bad…

    So I spent 2 months trying to reshape the vision of the game and get it into a workable format for a 9 month cycle of continued development with the goal of releasing shortly thereafter. At the end of those 2 months I was to present the idea to a group at the main publisher and get their approval. At the last second, the trip for the presentation was canceled, another project was canceled, and a new Lead Designer was assigned to the project from that one. I was moved back to my ORIGINAL project and I gave my presentation over video conference to the publisher group which was then approved.

    I’m VERY happy to be back on the first project, it made the most sense for my design background and I can tell you I’ll do much better overall on it. However, it FRACKIN’ SUCKS to have wasted 2 months on that hell hole of a project (doing some inspired design work in order to turn a piece of crap into a high quality product) only to know that every bit of work I did will be tossed into the trash.

    It’s just one of those things. When one designer takes over another designer’s work, no matter how good the work was, it will almost entirely be tossed out. Not because it’s bad (though there can be arguments there), but because it’s difficult to execute a game designer’s vision without that game designer’s presence. That doesn’t make it any less frustrating. I’ve basically spent 2 months doing almost nothing.

    Okay, not entirely true. I learned some valuable lessons on presentations and on the inner-workings of this company. Primarily, that I cannot trust their snap decisions. That their group in charge of giving the okays on products has had a sordid past of steering projects wrong. That being handed a nearly completed game from another company gives everyone extremely unreasonable expectations for the timeline of the release of the product (there’s a reason they couldn’t finish the game!!!). And finally, that if you’re a well-spoken presenter, you can make anything seem like a good idea.

    posted by CommanderHate at 8:46 am  

    Friday, March 27, 2009

    Designer Worries

    I was looking at old reviews for the Da Vinci Code game. It’s funny how almost all of them agree that there were some really interesting puzzles and a compelling storyline, the two areas of the game I was 80-90% responsible for. Whereas the combat is universally panned by almost every critic and it was the one thing I was diametrically opposed to having in the game. Pretty much every other game I’ve been involved in has been pretty good (okay, downright spectacular), with the exception of a few projects which I had little to do with up front or was not allowed to stay on to the end of.

    In essence, I can truthfully say that over my career, all of the game design work I’ve done has been of excellent quality and my portions have turned into good gameplay that people enjoyed.

    Despite all that, I can’t help but feel that if I ever get my own project, it’ll somehow not come together right. Perhaps I’m only good at working on a part of something and not the whole…

    Or maybe I’ve got cold feet.

    posted by CommanderHate at 2:47 pm  

    Saturday, February 28, 2009

    Game Theory Versus Making Great Games

    At Ubisoft it has become apparent that there is a French held ideal of putting the theoretical as the pinnacle of game creation. That is to say, you come up with a theory and you try to apply that theory so that all your games fit within that theory. Of course, most of the theories I’ve seen are applied to the game after they have been created instead of used as an underlying principle of how the game should be created. What’s worse, is when they try to force the application of the theory to another game that has nothing to do with the first game.

    Let me give an example…

    Let’s say you made a 2D side scrolling shooter, like Contra (you all know Contra, right?). Contra did very well, so you make a theory that Contra did well due to the number of inputs the player puts into the game. For example, you can shoot in any direction by pressing the D-Pad in that direction, giving you freedom to shoot at any 45 degree angle (up, upright, right, etc). Therefore, it is important for every game to have similar inputs to Contra and you must make a document showcasing how your game demonstrates a similar behavior in order for them to consider it a good game.

    So you’re making a new version of Tetris and you’re given a game design document asking you to show the number of inputs for the game to prove how awesome it is. Well, you write the document and you only have 3 basic directional inputs. Move the piece left, right or down. This upsets your bosses who say that you don’t have enough directional inputs in order to compete with Contra and games like it, since they have proven successful, your game will not be successful.


    Yeah, the French can be weird.

    posted by CommanderHate at 6:36 am  
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