Tag Archives: video games

Well worth watching

Music producer and composer Rick Beato sounds off with game composer and programmer Brian Schmidt.

From 1999-2008, Schmidt was the program manager of the Xbox Audio and Voice Technologies division at Microsoft and was responsible for much of the audio architecture for the Xbox and Xbox 360. He created the start up sound for the original Xbox console, using ‘old-school’ techniques to create an 8-second sound using only 25 kilobytes of memory. (Wikipedia)

We learn about the history of the craft and working on game audio using tools such as FMOD. Highly recommended if you’re doing audio for video games. Rick Beato’s entire channel is very good for people interested in music.

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Getting to know you

Time for an update.

There’s not much new on the Western front. I’ve been in another extensive rewriting and editing process on the Scout’s Journey script. To put it simply, it’s getting a lot better. I think it might end up really good. I’m still totally convinced of the characters and the plot. There’s gold in there, I just have to bring it out and make it shine.

Yes, it’s still a back-breaking process. It’s like going to the desert to find your vision AND learning basic survival skills at the same time.

Anyway, there’s something worth telling. I talked to a friend because I’m having trouble writing Scout’s character, especially her emotions and how she reacts when confronted with obstacles. I ended up doing a Myers-Briggs personality test and answered 100 questions while channeling Scout’s mindset, as if I was acting out her personality. Lo and behold, it was very interesting.

Scout is an INFP-T personality type according to the test. This means introverted, intuitive, feeling and prospecting, as opposed to more rational/assertive behaviour. This type belongs to the diplomat group and is called the healer or mediator. Only 4% of people share this personality.

Put simply, it could mean Scout has trouble with social activities or keeping down a regular job, tends to take things too personally and think too much of others instead of herself (in the game, she actually has a kind of performance anxiety, which is fitting). On the upside, she is guided by very strong feelings about right and wrong and can be supernaturally determined and adaptive if she actually discovers a worthy cause. She is a troubled, outwardly weak-looking person initially underestimated by others, but turns into an unstoppable guided missile under certain conditions.

Funnily enough, this is exactly what happens in the script. So I guess that is coherent and I managed to write that personality type relatively well so far without actually thinking about it in psychological terms.

The questionnaire and the analysis will certainly make her even more fun to write.

So just you know, there is progress being made, just nothing that could be expressed in screenshots unfortunately. We’ll return to that later.

Well, here’s one. Scout’s test result.

scout_personality


Munich: “Violence games” blamed again

After the Munich shooting German government and media are putting the blame on “Gewaltspiele”, which must be translated as “violence games” or even “homicide games”. German Minister of the Interior De Maiziere said: “Those violence games on the Internet can’t be good.” German weekly Der Spiegel picks up the ball and runs with it: “He called himself Hate – intensely played violence games on the Internet.”

The case is clear, right? Those damned games corrupted yet another innocent young man.

What do we know?

  • Shooter grew up in Germany but also had an Iranian passport
  • Known as a nice boy to neighbours
  • Was undergoing treatment for depression
  • Was ridiculed by classmates, had no friends
  • Was invited to Counter-Strike team “out of pity”
  • Racist toward Turks and Jews, spouted hate online
  • Described by teammates as “strongly nationalistic”
  • Called himself “Amokläufer” (“crazy shooter”)
  • Worshipped other teenage shooters
  • Started team-killing online, then dropped out
  • Researched shootings such as Anders Behring Breivik’s
  • Committed shooting on 5 year anniversary of Utøya shooting
  • Shouts in a video, “I am a German”
  • Large part of victims were immigrants
  • Killed himself when confronted by police

Looks to me like he was a racist fucker who worshipped Breivik. Possibly had a hard youth. Apparently police assisted suicide with shooting spree.

Sad story. But video games as the culprit? Seems like a stretch. More like, playing a disproportionate amount of video games and spouting hate online (as unfortunately, a lot of self-professed “gamers” tend to do) are a symptom and an outlet for such people. How exactly video games function in this context (perhaps as desensitizers?) isn’t clear at all. They’re not the root cause for this guy’s fucked-up life story, anyway.

Breivik, who killed almost 100 people in Norway five years ago, played World of Warcraft… as millions of people do without turning into crazed killers.

Come on, politicians, media people, there has to be a better reason and it’s not that hard to find.

 


From the Righting Desk

The script to Scout’s Journey is developing continuously. Some really nice feedback I got recently made it clear to me that some things need to be better explained or prepared. I have ways to do that and am currently implementing the required changes. The player should understand these things much better now. This is where feedback really comes in handy.

The character of Scout has been under scrutiny. Her reaction to various terrible events (and there are terrible things in this game, believe me, it’ll have to ship with a trigger warning) was often too cold. She is a little more emotional now, but still far from touchy-feely. She is a soldier after all. This emotional side to her character practically requires any combat to be of a steep difficulty with retreat always a viable option – we have to avoid the “emotional cutscenes, mindless brutality in gameplay” problem that plagues some other games. I’m doing that by making the two ends meet somewhere in the middle. You can kill for your food in Scout’s Journey, but it won’t be a casual thing. Going up against a fully stocked faction battle group armed to the teeth won’t be easy. The enemy is as tough as you. Gotta use those smarts, place a few traps, put devious plans into action to soften up the target before you strike. Bring some friends or exploit inter-faction warfare, maybe. Or just stay hidden, listen in on a patrol and learn a profitable code or a password.

The plot is also slightly shorter now. A dozen scenes have been cut from the script, especially those that neither moved the main plot nor dealt with Scout’s character development or any subplots. The largest amount of worldbuilding takes place in logfiles (both audio and text), lore, quests, dialog and environmental storytelling now. The script contains two flashbacks treating the parts of the story that happened before Scout came along, but that’s it.

The scenes of the introduction have been pared down and reordered so the story starts with the main character instead of the exposition. The entire thing has a more solid feel now.

Did I say earlier that the story was finished, or that writing was easy? Hahaa, well, reality called. It’s actually unbelievably friggin’ hard. But on the upside, the script is basically there. The script outline is complete, the ending stands, the middle has subplots and twists, the plot is a solid thing, the characters are in place. Large parts have been written out in long-form, dialogue script already. It’s just about fixing it up and polishing now. The last 10% are the hardest.

For your entertainment, you may read a recently written audio log (one page) here.

 


Phase-in.

spacefighter_marker_sketch

spacefighter_marker_lines

spacefighter_marker

Well, works too.

Mypaint, markers & ink from Concept Design brushset, ballpoint brush from Deevad set.

Hope you enjoy!


Cutscenes vs. gameplay

Prompted by a bit of fantasy-novel induced research about fiction writing, I went and tied up some loose threads in the SJ plotline. There shouldn’t be so many loose odds and ends anymore. Some things had to be a little better explained, some characters’s storylines had to get a sense of closure and some conflict was added for heightened tension. Inasmuch as a videogame plot allows for that, at least. It’s a three-act structure with between nine and twelve noninteractive scenes each, plus a bunch of interactive ones that don’t take control away from the player.

I thought this might be too much – that it would perhaps drown the interactive part of the game in heavy storytelling – but I looked at some other story-driven games and found that they tend to have up to five hours of noninteractive content. That’s ridiculous. SJ shouldn’t nearly reach that amount of cutscenes. A lot of the ones it does have aren’t very long. I currently estimate something like 55 minutes of cutscene per act, but that includes a few pretty long ones such as the introduction, the key story sequence in the middle of the game, three miniboss/boss fights, and a long ending sequence. The rest are one- to four-minute scenes. The game will allow you to skip cutscenes.

Gameplay is roughly estimated to be minimum 5-6 hours if you know what you’re doing and only barge through the main storyline without ever taking any quests, not bothering to build up Scout’s skill tree or to revisit any of the semi-sandboxy game environments. If you really relish in it, it should be three or four times that, if not more. And since first-time players usually take some more time (and the game isn’t meant for a habitual shooter audience), these estimates might be on the low side.

So I think I’m fine. Which is a nice surprise.

It was originally structured “early game” – “mid game” – “end game” but I noticed that the early game was too long. When I tried to apply the classic three-act structure, it fit immediately in a very natural way, as if it had always been there, which was a happy coincidence. I’ll take that as a sign that I did something right.

Each scene has already been matched to a certain spot in the game’s progression. A lot of them take place in faction camps that are situated a bit out of the way of the gameplay. Others are tied to major events or to things like picking up a key or accomplishing goals in the main questline, so a good number of them should come as rewards for the player. The placement of triggers in the levels has largely been finished, apart from one level that is concepted but needs to be blocked in yet. It’s pretty tight but there is a lot of room left to gameplay and simply scavenging around or taking quests. Roughly one scene per major new area, which means as long as you don’t proceed down the main line, or spend time scavenging or questing in already-known areas, you won’t see any cutscenes until you choose to continue the main quest.


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?