Sunday, July 22, 2007

Go Go Gadget Career!

Well, I haven't updated in a while, and essentially, that's because I've been securing some pretty big news:

I'm the Lead Designer on a new game for the Nintendo Wii!

So I think things are going to shift gears around here -- I know you guys "love" to read about my opinions, but I think you'd probably prefer to know what's going on with the game from here on in.

Here's what I can safely post online:

#1. It's a small team, and I had to bring in the art team myself.
#2. The game COULD be a big deal, but in reality (especially with our budget), I doubt it will do little more than serve as work experience (which is fine).
#3. If you have four Wii-Motes, this is going to be the most interactive game ever, hands down.
#4. I'm actually in talks to design a package-in that comes with the game that will attach directly to the Wii-Motes (like the recently announced Mario Kart wheel).
#5. I am probably going to be bouncing ideas in my head ALL THE TIME. If you want to be my sounding board for ideas, let me know :-)

That's all for now, stay tuned

Monday, June 11, 2007

I sure am lazy

This article might be helpful for aspiring game writers such as myself:

You need to learn how to script.

I don't mean script like Hollywood, or even script like cursive. I mean script like "If A=True, then Begin B." It's pretty straightforward, actually, but most people have no idea how to do this. A good way to practice (if you're a student, especially) is to get your mind wrapped around the TI-83 calculator that you likely had to buy for a math class you hated. The TI-83 is DESIGNED to function off of conditional equations. Here's a good practice one for you folks at home -- it's a basic menu selection (I'll explain in a second):

:: ClrHome
:: Lbl X
:: Menu("How Awesome Am I?","Very",A,"Super",B)

#1. At this point in the program, you've only told the calculator to do two things. First, with the ClrHome command, you told it to clear the display. Pretty simple, right?
#2. Next, you assigned a label to this point in the program so that you can get back there with ease. In this case, the label is "X." If I ever want the program to revert to this point, I would command "Goto X," and the program would revert to this point.
#3. Finally, I told the program to create a menu. The menu will ask "How awesome am I?" and offer two choices: Very, and Super (yes, I'm conceited). At this point, the result of a selection has not yet been determined, so selecting either answer does nothing. But let's continue...

:: ClrHome
:: Lbl X
:: Menu("How Awesome Am I?","Very",A,"Super",B)
:: ClrHome
:: Lbl A
:: Disp "Good Answer!"
:: Pause
:: Goto X

So now things get a little trickier. As you can see, I cleared the screen again after you make your menu choice (no sense in that hogging up the screen!). Next, I established a label for A. The "Lbl A" signifies that this is where the code will start once the "A" answer, or "Very" is selected. Next, I have used the DISP command to display the text "Good Answer!" In order to keep that text visible, I have added the PAUSE command, which will keep the text visible until the user presses ENTER on the calculator. Finally, I added "Goto X" to send the program back to the menu after the selection is made.

So let's finish this sucker, shall we?

:: ClrHome
:: Lbl X
:: Menu("How Awesome Am I?","Very",A,"Super",B)
:: ClrHome
:: Lbl A
:: Disp "Good Answer!"
:: Pause
:: Goto X
:: Lbl B
:: ClrHome
:: Disp "Jeff Sure Is The","Shit, Right?"

As from before, I'm applying a label to the "B" answer, or "Super." I've added a ClrHome here just in case you DID select "A" earlier. Finally, I've displayed the message "Jeff Sure Is The Shit, Right?" but what's with that "," between The and Shit? Well, the answer is that the calculator can only hold so many characters horizontally. The "," tells it to move to the next line before continuing the text, so that everything is visible. By not adding a "Goto" command or Pause command at the end of this DISP command, the program is finished, and will display a little "Done" at the bottom right of the screen at this point.

Congrats! Your first program is done!

So what does this have to do with games? Well, let's imagine that my job is to write quests (and, for ease, let's say that the scripting language is the same as the TI-83 language...even though I know it isn't).

So, here you are in World of Warcraft or some MMORPG like it, and you encounter an NPC (non-player character) who offers you quest options. The encounter could read:

:: ClrHome
:: Menu("Please, mister! I need money","for drugs! Can you help me?","Absolutely!",A,"Forget it, Kid!"B)
:: Lbl A
:: Disp "In a fit of rage, the child","takes your wallet!"
:: Pause
:: Run prgm LoseCash
:: Lbl B
:: Disp "The child thanks you profusely","and gets high.","YOU GAIN 50 EXP!"
:: Pause
:: Run prgm GainExp

In these examples, all I do is provide the inbetween text for an unusual interaction. The "run prgm" sections are animations and other interaction programming that I simply link to for the interaction to occur. Neat, right?

And no, I don't condone the use of drugs :-)

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Viva Resetti!

Jeez...I don't even KNOW how long it's been since my last post.

This job really takes it out of you -- I'm up at 6 every day, and don't get home until 6. That leaves 12 hours in the day to eat, sleep, and hunt down oversized boar. Much to my dismay, that really doesn't leave much time to blog, so this sucker is getting updated on a "when the time allows" basis. In my case, I didn't go to work today (feeling under the weather), so you all can benefit from my awesomeness.

Some news:

Was in talks with Midway to do some testing for Stranglehold...probably some time next week. Best of all, it's in the evening, so I won't be missing work.

Also got in touch with Matt from HVS, who seems..."cordially detached." No new projects means no new job, but I'm going to be on his ass like underwear.

But in a strange change of pace, (There was a pace?) I'm actually going to do a review.

Every now and then, there's a game that either gets more attention that it really deserves because it has a certain element to it or name (See: Fable, Ace Combat, ExciteTruck), or gets no attention when it really deserves some. When I see the latter, I really get worked into a lather (I and I can rhyme rather...well).

So, that having been said, I want to talk about Viva Pinata for a little bit:
The game functions a lot like a "breeding sim." You start out with a patch of land, and try to lure animals/pinatas onto it by making it enticing (carrots, lots of grass, animals to eat...etc). Once an animal has decided it likes your plot of land (and there are listed conditions for this), it will become a resident. From there, you use what animals you have already attracted to attract bigger and better animals. Somewhere in this mess is the fact that you breed these animals over and over again, with ANY member of the same species through a sick "mating dance" game.

Apparently, when pinata reproduce, they listen to disco.

So...really, it's a sick sort of farming sim with a cutesy angle. But there's a way to WIN. A lot of people tell me that this game is an Animal Crossing-type game. But it isn't.

Animal Crossing has no goal. The ASSUMED goal is to get everything, and even then, you have nothing to show for your RIDICULOUS labor. In Viva Pinata, your goal is to fill your garden, however you want. The difference is that in filling your garden, your surroundings change IMMEDIATELY. And unlike Animal Crossing, where you can just choose to do nothing, Pinata actually has gameplay that forces you to be active.

More on this later.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Yay Employment!

I have a job.

Unfortunately, that means by blog-time, I'm exhausted. So, as far as the blog goes, these posts aren't going to be a guaranteed 4 times a week. Right now, I'm evaluating it, and seeing if I need to switch the days around. As it is, you'll have to make do without a post today.


Thursday, May 10, 2007

Things to Buy Before I Die

When I've become rich and wealthy beyond my wildest dreams, I'm going to get my Airheads-esque list of game-related things that I want.

For today, you get two :-)

#1. X-Men Arcade Cabinet
Oh hell yes.

Come on -- how can you honestly survive another day without this game? You get to hack, slash, and mutate your way through a game with six X-Men playing at the same time.

Not only do you get to use the usual crew, but you get the likes of Dazzler just to make sure that no one wants to get to the machine last.

Also, how could you forget a game with memorable lines such as these?
  • "I am Magneto, Master of Magnet!"

  • "Thank you X-Men! But Magneto is in another place."

  • "X-Chicken!"

  • "I have a tiny man"

  • "Kill you!"

  • "You are dead!"

  • " die!"

  • "Ballistic BARRAGE!"

  • "X-MUN! Nice Job. Magneto is other there! follow me!"

#2. The Zelda Games For The CD-i

Not only did Nintendo make the grave error of giving Philips the licensing rights to its characters (a result of the Sony/Nintendo fallout), but they were forced to sit idly and watch the horror of not one, but THREE awful Zelda games.

Sadly, I cannot say that I've had the *pleasure* of playing any of these games (Wand of Gamelon, Zelda's Adventure, Link: Faces of Evil), but damn it, I want the chance to have my face melt before I die.

Or die from my face melting.

I forget.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Out on a Limb

Taking a break from my usual obsession with the past and the analysis thereof, let's talk about something else: the future.

See, I have been watching these so called "next-gen" systems for quite a while now, and I've come to a conclusion that really is going to piss some people off. Frankly, I expect less than 50% of you to agree with me.


The "big budget games" are going extinct.

Games like "Tony Hawk 51" and "Sonic n' Jesus: Fighting Crime" aren't going to exist in the future -- at least not the way you expect them to.

See, in order to make a game like "Tony Hawk 51," you need to have a huge budget. Not only do you need to have the programming muscle necessary to produce such a game, but you need to have a shitload of money to deliver "next gen" graphics, along with licensed materials.

Observe Figure A:

As you can see here, shit is expensive.
Back in the day, you could have a game made in five weeks, or have a game made by just one guy. Hell, one of my favorites (ToeJam and Earl) was just two guys dicking around! How cool is that?

However, as technology changes from colored squares to pixels and polygons, you need more manpower to get the job done. This is a good thing, but to a point.

A lot of ideas couldn't exist without better graphics and processors. Imagine trying to make a game like Mario 64 on the Super Nintendo -- impossible (for example, see Virtua Fighter 2 on the Sega Genesis).

However, there exists a point where you have the freedom technologically to do, well, pretty much whatever the hell you want. If you can think it, you can do it. As such, if a developer has an idea, he can make it with this current wave of hardware (and probably with the last wave, too). So why are these machines and their production costs getting bigger and pricier?

Personally, I think the wave of the future is in a system like the Wii, or an idea like XBOX Live Arcade. In both situations, the gamer is given the opportunity to play innovative games. Look at a game like Castle Crashers. That game looks like it's going to kick ass, and it'll probably only cost me $10 or so! Why should I spend $60 on the steaming pile of shit that is Spiderman 3 (PS3, 360) when I can save $50 and have more fun?

If the machines keep advancing at this pace (software/hardware), then the independent developer is the guy who gets screwed. The only people that will be able to keep up with the high overhead of making games will be the big three (Sony, Nintendo, Microsoft), and a few third party developers (EA, Ubisoft) that will likely be consumed by one of the companies. Great ideas for games will get squashed due to the high overhead to create such a game. For example, look at the budget for Spore, Will Wright's latest. Yes, it's going to kick ass, but how much would you like to bet that without Will Wright's name on it, this sucker never would have gotten the green light? And without EA's financial backing, would this game even be able to exist?

I want to see people have ideas, and make them work. I want to see the XNA Toolkit become second nature to people that like to have fun, and then they really CAN make their own games. This is where the advancement of console tech needs to stop, or you might as well just buy a computer with an emulator.

At this rate, it'll eventually be cheaper.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Milk Me

'bout time Comcast got around to fixing things. The internet (in total) is still a little fritzy, but I can get things done for the most part.

This is good.

So, here's the update since...well, apparently, the middle of April. Wow.

-- Job --

Went to interview at High-Voltage Software to see if they needed help on the Harvey Birdman project they're working on. Unfortunately, I showed up too late in the product lifecycle, but they really seemed interested in my skills/good looks, and we'll see if I can get involved in their next batch of games ("three to four months from now") as I am towards the top of people they intend to call.
In addition, I went and made some nice connections at EA Chicago (Mythic) and a few more at High-Voltage, but I'm still having trouble breaking into Midway (*cough* Mary Joyce DeLano *cough*) and Day1 Studios (although I intend to visit them on Thursday). All in all, I've actually been a little productive. Go me.

-- Games --

Can't say that I've really had the chance to play anything out of the ordinary. After my love affair with Castlevania, I got really involved in DOTA again (Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne custom map) and dabbled in a few "classics." Oh, and I'm apparently still really good at Halo 2. This is good news (Gamertag: GepettoZHog).

Well, until I realized how many versions there were of it. Let's play a little game called "Milk Me." How many iterations of a game have been milked out of a franchise? Today, we look at the game I was playing this morning -- Mario Kart.

Starting with the basics, I will be kind and count Super Mario Kart and Mario Kart 64 as separate entities. There were enough changes in the game to merit them legitimately different, and I stand by that. Even after that, there is:

Mario Kart: Super Circuit (Super Mario Kart ported to SNES)
Mario Kart DS (Mario Kart 64 ported to DS)
Mario Kart 64 (Wii Enabled Port of Mario Kart 64)
Super Mario Kart (Wii Enabled Port of Super Mario Kart -- not yet announced)

Holy shit that is a lot of milking. I understand that there are franchises (you don't need to tell me!), but in order to be truly successful, you really need to reinvent yourself. Look at the difference between Super Mario Sunshine and any other Mario (especially the new "Super Mario Galaxy"). Mario Kart, on the other hand, changes very little from game to game. Double Dash (which sucked, by the way) was the last Mario Kart game to "stray from the formula." Using two drivers was actually a unique idea. Too bad.