Gun non-cult

order_scorpio

Trying to improve my perspective and do better linework. Proper lines really are the foundation, it’s not worth working up a sloppy line drawing. Sloppy lines are faster to get a concept on “paper” but the image ends up looking bad. Putting in some perspective lines is definitely worth it.

I really need to draw more.

Anyway, concept of one of my reworked weapons. This used to be a crossbow but I decided to take the medieval stuff a little more into sci-fi, to match the rest of the game. I’m striving for a medieval-sci fi crossover here.

Scout’s Journey has shaken down to 15 equippable weapons (all of them used by NPCs as well as the player), 6 of which are bladed weapons, only one has a sight on it, only 2 use physical ammo, and a few have infinite ammo. Realistic weapons are no longer present in the game, it’s all fantasy ones. There are no more weapon upgrades and only a few of them have an alt-fire mode. This is all a result of my lengthy struggle with combat and violence in games. Not too much focus on crazy weapon upgrades, different ammo types etc, which is a mistake Bioshock made. If you’re making a game based on story and setting, don’t give the player any of this excessive weapons stuff and don’t have a permanent background noise of combat. It detracts from the atmosphere you’re trying to create and the story you’re trying to tell. Let them pick up and equip the enemies’ weapons but don’t turn guns into a huge thing.


Do video games create violence? Wrong question

The question should be, is violence really the best thing to do with video games as a medium?

Errant Signal claimed in one of his videos that violence is the easiest thing to do within a spatial simulation (which video games are), and that’s why video games are so violent. I’m sorry, that argument just doesn’t fly. The easiest things to do with a spatial simulation are a) movement and b) exploration. None of those even require the implementation of any sort of combat system. Conversely, a combat system needs both movement (eg for dodging) and exploration (eg for acquiring ammo and health) PLUS weapon models, cover, sound effects, weapon switch, reloading, dying animations, particles, explosions, and so forth. Combat is harder to implement than the other two.

Consequently, I’m sure “Gone Home” (mainly exploration) was easier to implement than the current incarnation of “Call of Duty” (mainly combat.) It follows that Errant Signal was wrong about this.

Point-and-click

It is true, though, that after movement and exploration, point-and-click is the third easiest gameplay mechanic to implement. That’s because the computer already does it for you. If shooting is your intention, then the mouse already IS the gun. So basic combat technically isn’t far off, but neither are other point-and-click mechanics.

This alone still doesn’t explain why combat is FAR more popular than either movement or exploration, which are both easier to implement (if you have movement, you basically get exploration for free.) So it can’t have a purely technical reason – it must be a cultural one (dudebro approach, gun cult, blowing shit up, and all that.)

Both producers and “gamers” seem to have accepted violence as THE main gameplay mechanic. If you search Google or Youtube, you find a lot of people talking about how video game violence isn’t that bad. But practically no one questions the dominance of violence as the base of video games anymore. I guess if something just happens long enough, people will take it for normal.

Lack of verbs

Something that has been drowned in the noise is the fact that point-and-click doesn’t have to mean “attack.”

It can also mean: take, examine, interact. Throw, catch, place, search, collect, create, manipulate, enter, direct, build, repair, help, manage, summon, open a portal, and more.

“Left mouse button = shoot” is a rut that games are stuck in, and it’s apparently so deep that it prevents most developers from looking outside.

Lack of market penetration

There’s evidently a world of other possibilities for “spatial simulations” than just point-and-shoot. By not exploring and not demanding them, and instead perpetuating the click-to-kill thing, developers, publishers and players are providing only so much rope as to hang themselves with. Killing games will never achieve full market penetration, because older people / people with a higher education will not want to stoop so low.

But it seems that companies are content with their current slice of the pie, namely the customers who buy “Call of Duty” and things like action-RPGs or MMOs. Does it not occur to them that the pie is bigger?


Oaths

oaths

Still fleshing out the setting and story of Scout’s Journey. I’ve long had a scene where HERD members lament their broken oaths, after one of their friends is missing and presumed dead, and they share a very bleak outlook on where things are going in their faction. They are former EUFOR soldiers, veterans even, so of course their service oaths mean something to them, especially if it’s a really good, noble, personal oath like the one I tried to assemble here. All of them broke that oath to form the HERD, and now they only serve as cannon fodder for the Star-eater and his crazy order of inquisitors.

I hope I managed to create enough of a conflict between the two oaths. I really imagine most of the HERD faction as people who are torn, who feel like they’re completely in the wrong movie, but who cling to it because it’s all that’s left for them. They can never go back to their old life because they’re all guilty. I imagine their leader, Hastings, a little like Colonel Kurtz from Apocalypse Now. Should provide excellent material for personal conflicts.

This conflict affects some of them more than others, it’s mostly the upright honorable folks who are underrepresented in the HERD anyway. Those are eventually going to snap.

I think an enemy faction like this is tons more interesting than one of cookie-cut evildoers. Unfortunately I haven’t found a way to make the Order faction equally interesting, they’re a lot more classically “evil” and I’m not yet sure how to explain that, or if I even should.


Appeal of Destruction?

Sorry, I’ve got to post about the appeal of violence again, because it occurred to me that all the gear destruction videos (such as boiling a new iphone in coke) demonstrate a basic effect that can also be found in a lot of video games.

I wrote last time about killing in video games, and someone commented that sex and violence just deliver quick fun or satisfaction. There was also something about competition and being able to just take it to the extreme, killing.

Gear destruction may come from a number of factors, but one of them is simply the fun of blowing stuff up, the basic fun of rebellion, of breaking social codes without fearing repercussions. On top of that, you’re destroying something that other people hold dear, that other people devoted years to when they invented and developed it, that someone in an Asian sweatshop had to assemble, you’re destroying other people’s fun, the result of their work, and obliterating a cultural icon. That must be all kinds of fun to a lot of people, since those videos get millions of views.

It’s much like kicking over a sand castle, or setting ants on fire in front of other children. Gross antisocial behaviour in front of others.

As a game developer who tries to figure out why violence is the default in games, this immediately rings a bell. I guess just going and blowing shit up, ideally while your shocked parents are watching (remember the Strafe trailer?) is a source of immediate fun and satisfaction for certain people, which is precisely why games with destructible environments and games where you can kill chicken with watermelons let you do these things.

Is it too much to interpret wanton destruction as another act of competition taken to the extreme? “See what I do, I’m powerful, I’m cool, I’m unstoppable.” I mean, people don’t shoot an iphone out in the desert where no one watches. They film it and put it on youtube. Destruction in games? Hmm. Multiplayer, school yard, youtube again.

Games like Hatred are built around this principle – wanton destruction, killing completely innocent people in the street, and the more it breaks social behavioral codes, the more extreme and baseless the destruction, the better. Apparently.

The logical next step: Kindergarten Killer. You heard it here first.


Re: Killing as the default in games

why

Loosely in response to a video and Polygon article, I’d like to make a couple points about why “killing” is so often the basic gameplay mechanic in best-selling video games.

Killing is here defined as “pointing the mouse / crosshair / cursor at something and clicking to make it go away / fall over / evaporate in a blood-and-guts lightshow.” As seen in countless shooters, role playing games and MMOs, but going back all the way to Space Invaders and similar games. Today I’d estimate that most of the killing in video games goes on in competitive online multiplayer games. Mark the word “competitive.”

It’s true that conflict is one of the ingredients of an engaging story. And conflict sometimes means life or death, as in pretty much any crime novel or action movie. It’s also true that it’s all a part of human culture. Humans came up with martial arts, self defense and all kinds of military drills and tactics.

Thart explains part of it, but it only scratches the surface.

Technical point of view

Looking at it from a technical point of view, this killing and shooting can be summed up as “interaction.” Being an interactive problem-solving obstacle-overcoming kind of thing is what games are all about, and what separates them from e.g. movies. And it so happens that pointing and clicking is technically the simplest form of interaction you can get on a PC, be it in a Windows operating system or in a game, ever since the invention of the pointing device (aka, the mouse.)

Double-click to start the application. Click to overcome obstacle.

What other basic gameplay elements are available that are technically so simple as point-and-click? Not many, at least as long as we are stuck with the input scheme of a PC. There have been attempts to create different control schemes, such as the Wiimote. But even with that, point-and-click is one of the first things that comes to mind.

Point-and-cry is actually one of the first things a baby does. Point-and-click is the most mass consumer friendly kind of interaction in a game because it’s one of the first things everybody does instinctively.

So, point-and-click is a) a fundamental feature of PCs ever since the invention of the mouse, making it easy to exploit as a control scheme for games, and b) everyone can be competent at it within a very short time. If you can mouse-click, you can kill monsters.

Social / psychological point of view

Let’s get back to competition again. It’s probably blatantly obvious that life in Western society today is permanent competition. It starts in school – you are to compete for the best grades. You are to compete at sports. Later, you are to compete for jobs. For affection. For friends. For groceries. For apartments. For money. For ideologies. For being a smartass on the internet. Politicians and managers compete for power and influence. Countries compete in war. Few people ever dare to question this, because it is learned at such a young age that it seems to be without alternative the natural way of life. You are indoctrinated as a child, and you follow that doctrine even if it costs your life and your peace of mind. You will even defend that doctrine against any red commie who dares to run from the flag.

It’s fair to say that competition on all levels is deeply ingrained in Western culture, and it’s most visible in capitalism and imperialism. Where did first-person-shooters come from? The USA. The country that combines capitalism, imperialism and easy availability of guns like no other.

I once made the suggestion to remove the score board from a multiplayer shooter. That’s right, the thing that displays how many kills you managed to make in an online match. The reaction was an outrage. Everyone else on the team saw the scoreboard as a hugely important thing – what do you play for, if not for competition, and how do you measure yourself if not by the amount of kills?

My argument was that you should play for enjoyment of the game, not for establishing a hierarchy based on how many “frags” you get. (Can you see how hierarchy is a side effect of competition?) However, this didn’t convince anybody. After all, it goes against the ruling doctrine. Even very intelligent people are often incapable of questioning or even recognizing the existence of a doctrine if they are indoctrinated at a young enough age.

It’s often assumed that games are a form of escapism – but in fact people tend to repeat the same behavioral patterns in games, competition being chief among them. All that changes is the environment and the amount of control the player gets to exert. Games are real life by another name, especially competitive online multiplayer games. They allow you to take the competition to its logical consequence – the one that is usually forbidden in real life, but happens often enough – killing the other person.

Now it so happens that competition and keeping scores is mostly a left-brain function.

Out of the two hemispheres of the brain, the left is the one that does language, maths, exact calculations, symbols, that kind of stuff. The right is the one that does estimation, contextual awareness, guesswork, spatial awareness, seeing the entirety of the big picture instead of a succession of parts… in other words, all the squishy esoteric fringe stuff that is unpopular in a competitive environment.

The Western education system heavily favours the left side.

This – how they teach us, what they teach us, how our brains are molded when we are young – probably goes some way toward explaining why we end up so single-minded and almost brutally competitive. I’ve actually noticed several times that people tend to dislike game mechanics that require estimation and increased spatial awareness. Those tend to be right-brain functions. A challenge like that would require the player to pop out of the dominant left brain mode they are in – killing monsters, holding down the competition, removing everything that dares to question the player’s power and autonomy, counting kills and loot. Suddenly having to make an estimation instead of dealing with hard facts and numbers will throw the player off. Similarly, a lot of shooter players don’t take well to randomness. Competitiveness works best in a predictable (and linear?) environment (just compare professional sports.) The more exclusively the game focuses on killing, the more anger will be provoked at having to do something that seems out of line, such as a major right-brain activity.

Perhaps the fact that the development of the brain doesn’t complete until about the 25th year of life is also connected to why violent games are especially popular with younger people. But why do men seem to provide the majority of shooter players? Well, this has been examined before – in traditional Western society, men get a lot of pressure to excel. The traditional idea of masculinity is part of this puzzle – wanting to be the superhero, the gunslinger, the one who brings home the bacon, just serves to pour oil into the fire and make people especially competitive. A gun cult like the American one just serves to further fuel this process.

Tl;dr – the prevalence of killing in games is down to a combination of technical simplicity / ubiquity of certain computer input schemes with learned left-brain dominance, gender cliches and a doctrine of competition in modern Western society, plus the ubiquity of guns, superheroes etc. in certain countries.


Troopin’

herd_trooper_shaded

Practiced some marker shading using my Herd Trooper sketch. It appears the pencil drawing’s proportions were slightly off. Note to self: Always start with a proper drawing.

Remember to consult your Herd supervisor before worshipping the Star-Eater.

herd_trooper_armour

Here’s after I added some kind of armour vest. I think I like the added detail, but I’ll probably make the breastplate more rounded.

Changes like this are now surprisingly easy to do, I think I either leveled up as a concept artist or I just hit upon a combination of brushes and techniques that work well for me. Maybe one and the same. I also like the pencil lines a lot more than the comicky pen outline I used last time. I actually tried cell shading recently but quickly dropped the idea.

The Herd Banshee is going to have her own version of this armour; slightly less bulky and white-on-black instead of black-on-white. The Banshees are also going to use a different helmet.


Mypaint git checkout

mypaint_git_doodle

Still using mypaint. I recommend checking out the Concept Design brush set. It’s got some outstanding markers and liners as well as a great penbrush. The git version has some nice goodies such as tabs and vector layers. I also spotted a new Ink tool in there that lets you edit the line flow with control points. It also seems the nice Kerhon brush pack was integrated as a new default brush group. Git log also shows a lot of activity recently.

Git mypaint can live-interact with other applications such as Inkscape and Gimp now.

Still no selections, but if you need those you probably also need diapers.


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