A Touch of Marketing

January 27, 2010

So, I would be remiss to not cross-reference my other blog that is currently taking up most of my free time: The All-in-One Gamer Project is a few weeks underway and I’m feeling pretty good about it so far. In essence, I’m trying to familiarize myself with all aspects necessary to lead an independent game development team. So, for the thousands and thousands of you who are fans of this blog (am I rounding up too high?), jump on over and subscribe, comment and be merry!

Two Quick Links

October 1, 2008

I am just taking a moment to post two links for those that don’t make it to my actual website:

Notes on Game Dev posted an article I wrote covering the Austin GDC from a different angle than my blog post.

I also did a small, informal interview for Cryptic Allusion’s podcast (or Cryptocast, as they call it) covering my experience at the GDC, so you can hear my not-at-all polished interviewee voice, complete with a thousand and one “Ummms”.

Let me know what you think. Today, one article and podcast. Tomorrow, the world!

Spore (PC) – Review

September 28, 2008

Probably the most hyped game in the past few months (definitely since GTA4 and MGS4), Spore is Will Wright’s and EA’s newest Sims-like game with added components of an RTS (real-time strategy). The object of the game is to take a creature from a microscopic stage (I’d say single-cell, but I’m not sure) of life all the way through galactic conquest via evolutionary add-ons, trade and warfare. How’s that for an elevator pitch?

Look! A Spike-tailed Bloody Phlegm!

Good: The game is an immersive world with a gradual learning curve. I believe this is something the whole family can enjoy for small snippets of time, but then again, I don’t have kids. Do I have any parents reading? What do you think?

The Creature Creator (sold seperately for those who want to populate their world with their own creations) is both a blessing and a curse. The blessing is the ability to fully customize the positions of arms, legs, necks, tails, spinal curvature , spikes, poison jets, skin color and texture, etc. The curse: for anyone with any level of OCD, get ready to spend a lot of time color coordinating arms and legs, swelling the belly and tapering the tails – and when you’re finally done with the creature, you’ll be too mentally fatigued to play the game that day.

Ahh...Cartoony-space. What can't you do?

Ahh...Cartoony-space. What can't you do?

Another beautiful aspect of the game that other studios should pay attention to is the level pacing. There are five different stages, or levels, to Spore: Cellular, Creature, Tribal, Civilization and Space (or Kick in the Nards). I found that when I began to tire of swallowing bits of cellular debris and adding spikes to my sides, it was time to move to the next stage. Also, by the time I made it to space, I was worried the game was almost over, only to find around 40% of the game’s content is in the final stage. Just say no to final stage Boss Battles and yes to long, immersive, final levels allowing you to use everything you’ve learned throughout the game!

The bad: Repetition. Once you make it to space, it’s all about repeating the terraforming and colonization of other planets and returning home to defend your planets. When you pan out to see the galactic view, you realize how long a journey you have to make it to the center and how many of these planets you have to colonize…and then you yawn. So, long final level? Check. Immersive? BONK!

Also, if you’re truly talking about an evolving species, the creature should have to carry on the traits of his ancestors, not suddenly switch from being a carnivore to an herbivore or removing all spikes and adding dancing feet. It’s fun, but doesn’t this destroy the idea of evolution?

Interactive Media

September 21, 2008

Since the AGDC, a thought has been nagging me in the back of my brain-bone. I want to open this up to discussion because I want to get a feel for what others think about the idea of interactive media. A great number of theories about the future of storytelling have popped up in conversations and so I turn to you.

What are the boundaries of interactive media and what is at its core?

I feel, at its core, a book is a form of interactive media, albeit rudimentary. A reader must turn the page to progress the storyline. This said, the author has complete control of where the story goes and the “player” merely turns the page and reads on. Linear? Yes. Interactive? Sure.

The books are in the computer!

The books are in the computer!

The problem seems to arise when folks begin discussing non-linearity and interactivity. Terms like “open world” and “sandbox” get tossed about and there is finger-pointing with shouts of, “That’s still linear!” Some seem to think the idea of storytelling is a burden to be placed on the shoulders of the gamer in the future.

WHAT?! Wait, why exactly should this happen?

The general theory appears as such: in our day-to-day lives, we constantly fill in blanks with things we see and conversations we overhear. Sometimes, we are spot-on. Other times, we create stories that are far greater than the actual occurrences. To this, I say, “Kudos! We all have some level of imagination and contextual reality.” But does this make us all good storytellers?

I fully understand the desire to interact with a game’s storyline and make it my own personal experience. As a fan of RPGs, it’s what I thrive on. But what makes a game a game? Furthermore, what makes an interesting storyline? Non-linearity is great, if done well. I love being able to do what I want (in any order) and having the consequences of my actions affect the outcome of the game. This being said, I want to be part of a strong story, not something being generated on the fly that has a greater than 50% chance of being worthless and uninteresting. As a writer, I have a daily opportunity to write garbage. As a gamer, I want a refined and polished storyline that can be altered – sometimes subtly, sometimes majorly – but never breaks my immersion.

In my opinion, you should enjoy a storyline that allows you to play along; a storyline that a professional has spent time on to make sure there are moments of tension and action, betrayal and emotional pulls.  If you want full control of your destiny, play 2nd Life. Better yet, go to work.

Agree? Disagree? Let me here from you.

From new friends to slammin’ parties and everything in between, the AGDC was everything I hoped it would be. Maybe more. I will try to be brief but invite all of you to ask any specific questions you may have about the goings-on of the conference.

Sunday night: The writers gang met at the Gingerman around 8:00pm and I met who would turn out to be the usual suspects: Jeff Spock, Rhianna Pratchett, Andy Walsh, Ron Toland, Susan O’Connor*, Haris Orkin, Richard Dansky, Tom Abernathy and others (sorry to any I may have left off…there was alcohol involved). Without missing a beat, Andy launched himself into several rants that were informative and entertaining all at once; not a bad skill for someone who would later be giving a lecture about OnDemand Dialogue.

*Meeting Susan will be forever memorable as I made a giant fool of myself by asking her husband if Susan was married. As a writer, this was a moment of poor word choice.

Me, Rhianna Pratchett, Andy Walsh & Richard Dansky

Me, Rhianna Pratchett, Andy Walsh & Richard Dansky

Monday:I arrived early to the convention center and brought two dozen donuts along with sign-up sheets, coupons and an easel. Registration was quick and painless and I got a shirt, a schwag bag and a water bottle. I met Kristy Bowden who brought boxes full of literature and books for our table. I set everything up with some help from Ron and things looked good!

Celtx guys watch Andy dance the Robot

Celtx guys watch Andy dance the Robot

I spent the day going to a few panels (including a brilliant session with Shana Merlin on improv storytelling and a critic-al workshop hosted by Richard Dansky) and manning the booth. I met Tim Langdell and we had a couple of drinks before leaving the center and making our way to the ArtHouse for music, art and drinks. There, Tim and I met with John Canning and left to eat dinner at Thai Passion. After this, the three of us went to the Sky Lounge for the Heatwave Interactive party. Open bar, food, cookies and Rock Band 2 competition – ‘Nuff said.

Tuesday: Waking up was a little difficult on Tuesday, but I still managed to arrive early with some donuts and kolaches. Interestingly, the booth, books, literature, poster and drapes were all gone! Mix up with CMP, but things got fixed while I attended Andy’s panel on the Prince of Persia and OnDemand Dialogue. Kudos to Andy on what seems like a very interesting way of handling story through dialogue in an open world. I had a chance to walk the Expo floor (pretty small and packed) and later attended the Writers’ SIG meeting to put many more faces withnames. The night was devoted to Valve’s party (I met Marc Laidlaw – the man behind the story behind the game of Half-Life) and the Gingerman.

Daniel Greenberg & Haris Orkin @ the Gingerman

Daniel Greenberg & Haris Orkin @ the Gingerman

Wednesday: The last day was slow for the first half, perhaps because Andy had left us. I manned the booth and then went to lunch (leaving the booth in the very able hands of Jeff Spock). Upon returning, I attended Adrian Hon’s panel of We Tell Stories and finished with an excellent presentation (or conversation speech) by Ground Zero Productions’ Flint Dille covering the necessary practices of writers wanting to break into the industry. A group of the writers ate at P.F. Chang’s and then split to attend different parties (most heading straight to the Gingerman).

P.F. Chang's FTW!

P.F. Chang's FTW

I was sad to say goodbye to so many of the writers and even though I’ve already read emails from a few, I hope to see them again before next AGDC. Call me a pushover, but the 3 days and 4 nights of the conference have made me feel that a lot of the writers are more than just names on an email list now. They feel more like friends.   

Again, if you have any specific questions about the conference (I know I was pretty vague here), please ask. I’d be more than happy to talk about this some more! Also, join the IGDA Writers’ SIG email list!

Perhaps a bit overdue, but nonetheless, here we are discussing the upcoming Austin GDC! Not sure what others are hoping for, but as this will be my first official conference to attend, I am…giddy, for lack of a better word. The Writers’ Track alone looks amazing, not to mention audio portion and other key guest speakers.  Personally, I am looking forward to the speech: Endgame: How to Build High-End Gameplay for Your Most Devoted Players by Damion Schubert, Bioware, Austin. So, maybe I’m a little biased about this one because I absolutely love Bioware’s products, but it’s nice to know that the company does think about its most hardcore fan base (“They love me. They really love me!”).

And on to some (not all) of the individuals that I am eager to meet.

First up: Rhianna Pratchett. Not only is she the narrative designer for the upcoming Mirror’s Edge by EA Digital Illusions, she put the “bad ass” in Nariko from Heavenly Sword. Plus, she has all but promised me a quick Q&A session – more than likely nothing you haven’t read elsewhere, but I’ll be the one asking the questions. (Insert evil, maniacal laugh here…unless you are Rhianna Pratchett, in which case, you should have only read the first two sentences of this paragraph)

When I think about you, I touch myself...Get it? Get it?!

When I think about you, I touch myself...Get it? Get it?!

Another presence that I’m looking forward to is Austin’s own Susan O’Connor. Okay, I’ve devoted two different blog entries to Bioshock’s amazing story so, all of that applies here. Now. To this woman. ‘Nuff said.

Richard Dansky’s workshop is another one pulling me. I’ve actually spoken with him briefly on the phone once, so…I don’t really know what that equates to, but it’s out there now for the record. Can’t I just be excited to meet people in the industry without having to qualify it all? Who are you to judge me? (grin)

That is all I have for now. If you’re going to be there, be sure to stop by the Writers’ SIG Booth as I will more than likely be there most of the time. And say hi to me. I would like to meet my two or three readers!

Repetition ingraines the idea

Repetition ingrains the idea

Bioshock Revisited

August 4, 2008

And like that, a week has passed since my last entry. It doesn’t seem possible, but between trying to beat Bioshock on the hardest setting (got the “good” ending…more on this later) and reading Twilight by Stephanie Meyer (a little too feminine for my taste) and work, I guess a week’s worth of time can be accounted for.

So, to keep with the theme of my blog, I present my final thoughts on Bioshock for PC. Overall, a great game…so great, in fact, I may have to change my gaming mantra, which is to always play a game on its hardest difficulty because more than likely, I won’t play it again. I think I will now play games on their easiest difficulty to save time and frustration. If I find I need more of a challenge, the game SHOULD allow me to change at any point (Are you listening 2K?). This said, I probably won’t play Bioshock again, regardless if I had played it on easy, simply because it freaked me out. I can’t take the anxiety and overall constant state of heightened tension these types of games put me through. Kudos for being able to do it, but…yeah, not for me. This does put a damper on my excitement for Resident Evil 5, however. 😦

 

I can’t say enough about the storyline…or maybe I could, but I won’t. Play this game if you haven’t already! The way things are handled with controlling the story while allowing players the illusion of freedom is amazing. And the few times you do lose control of your character, it gives you enough time to sit back, watch a quick interaction (NOT A CUTSCENE in the original sense) and force your heart to slow its BPM.

As for the ending, it was solid. Not long enough for my taste, but solid.

Short endings are for 8-bits...and even they had bikinis

Short endings are for 8-bits...and even they had bikinis

If you’re looking for more info about me, try www.MadeInMcGee.com

Here I go again on my own

February 5, 2008

It’s frustrating when you know where you want to go, but the entire world seems like one big roadblock. And that is where I am currently. This blog is supposed to be forming some cohesion and direction, but it’s all pointing to me whining about not having the job and career that I want. Get in line, right? But I’m not saying I want to be a porn star or Eli Manning…I want a job in the video game industry. I want to talk to someone who is hiring and ask, “What do I need to do to make myself someone you want to hire?” I am more than willing to put in the hard work to acquire the necessary skills, but I need some sort of compass to tell me which way to steer the ship. Right now, I am grape-shotting by going after a little modeling, a little programming, a lot of concepts and a little art. I know I need to focus my talents, but everything I read says they’re looking for someone who has some knowledge in every aspect.

Beat down. That’s how to describe the current mood. And I really don’t want this to become a journal. Though I’d love to make this a private entry, I am posting it public. Hopefully someone reads this and can offer some incredible insight on how to get out of my current slump, aim in one direction and achieve. I can only assume this insight would come from someone who has been in this same position…after all, isn’t that the definition?