Archive for July, 2007
Monday, July 30th, 2007
You’ll have to excuse the next paragraph’s deliberate obtuseness – the stuff I’m talking about is under NDA and I’m not allowed to talk about it.
In the last couple of weeks one of the big three console manufacturors has talked about a forthcoming technology with the press which is a little oblique and no one really knows what they’re talking about. The guy in question talked a lot of bumpkus but said one line which tipped me off to what he’s actually talking about. I have actually met with and seen a demonstration by the company who are responsible for this new technology, and at the time (about a year ago) I told him: “if that works, that will be pretty exciting.”
The point? Well, to be perfectly honest the point is that I thought it was pretty cool to be reading an article in a magazine and be one of probably only fifty or so people in the world who actually understood the oblique comment made. It’s fun realising that I am now very much on the inside on the industry.
Sunday, July 29th, 2007
I’ve just read an interview with the lead designer on Stalker in this month’s Games TM. I found one piece of information very interesting indeed.
Stalker has this A-Life system which, aparently, is this massively advanced AI system which allows (among other things) the characters in Stalker to move around completely independently and randomly-generated(ly), conversing with each other, trading items, creating and solving missions and so on.
Thing is, this only happens after you’ve completed a level.
They had difficulty getting the story missions to not be messed up by A-Life, so they basically switch A-Life off until you’ve completed an area. So one of the most fascinating parts of the game happens largely in areas you don’t generally go into.
I may re-install and take a look.
Sunday, July 29th, 2007
This blog entry is bought to you in the style of The Blog For The Sports Gamer.
Yesterday was the Drayton St Leonard village tennis tournament, the highlight of the village calendar. I lost in the finals AGAIN. Next year I am going to sleep with a big poster of Robery Horry the night before.
I saw Transformers yesterday and loved it, although the last half an hour was a bit boring. Go see it with a hangover.
I got The Fountain on dvd to watch tonight – been waiting a long time to watch it.
We’re still waiting for localisation kit.
Sunday, July 29th, 2007
E3. Come and gone. Did anyone care? I don’t think so. E3 has always been a bit of a farce, but to strip it of the only thing separating it from a press conference makes it nothing more than a big hyped press conference. I give it two more years tops before they actually notice that and pack it up.
Anyway, the reason I’m blogging about this is because of the personified nail in the coffin that was apparently the “comedian” for the show: Jamie Kennedy. I strongly suggest you go take a look at this video of him at E3. After every single (pathetic 1997 stoner teenager) joke he had to point out a single person in the audience who found it funny, it was that awful. All his responses to heckles were poor allusions to or the word for word stating of “um, you all never leave your bedrooms, nerds’. You’re not in ‘Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back’ your entire life, Jamie.
Friday, July 27th, 2007
Well, as some of you may have noticed, I haven’t been checking in as much the past eon. This is because I was in sunny California, had exams, and then got drunk all the time. Note to peoplez: I am going to rant on again now. The Encounter with Dracula is BACK, and will be updated FAR MORE STUPIDLY and FAR MORE REGULARLY until further notice.
To justify why I’ve been so lazy updating, I’m going to pull out and play this card: I am a person who struggles to grab a first idea when composing something. Be it a song, picture, essay, blog post, whatever, soon as I have an idea I can roll with it like a katamari, but until then, I just tend to not bother. Anyway, today I decided it’s bloggin’ time, so I am going to make an outrageous statement in this vaguely video game orientated and oddly titled diatribe. Maestro, if you’d be so kind.
Video games and their short term future prospects, as in right now, are utterly boring. I decided to have a peruse of the usual suspects for big game news, and I couldn’t get the sound of bouncing tumbleweed out of my ears until I listened to the Barkley shut up and jam theme tune. I truly cannot find anything I find remotely interesting, especially on the pc, in the short term future of mainstream video games. Are the major publishers aware that the industry is currently less exciting than Bill Oddie? I do not know how long this stretch of nothing but solely sequel/tie in/RTS can last, but it seems as if my dual core pc is really going to waste on the current array. It’s moments like this, however, which really give me faith in the viability of independent games in the market.
So, as I found the world of overpriced video games drab, I decided to take on the internet game Paul blogged about a few days ago. The game is called Rose & Camellia, and all I can say is if someone doesn’t make the Wiimote compatible, Nintendo have wasted a console.
The objective in Rose & Camellia is simple: Slap your increasingly stern opponents IN THE FACE. As I don’t have the necessary plug-ins or whatever to view the page in its natural form, all the text around the game window appears as “??????????????” on my screen…It really couldn’t be more fitting, as if I wasn’t thinking “what the fuck is going on?” then I was virulently slapping someone’s cheek. A bit like real life, actually.
The music is the first thing to hit you, and it sounds like a vague mix of Japanese and classical music formed from synth piano, synth guitar, and synth pile of total shit. There are two main modes of play. The two sections are respectively “She beats you!” and “Beat her cheek!” During “She beats you!” the player must skilfully follow the indicated path with the mouse to evade the opponents slap. If The Matrix was actually Pride and Prejudice it would probably look a bit like this part of the game. The other side of the coin is “Beat her cheek!” and…um…in it, you beat her cheek. You beat it GOOD.
All in all there isn’t that much to recommend Rose & Camellia for as a game, but unless you’ve been violently sexually assaulted or been to the Tate modern, there really isn’t an experience like it.
More on the issue of slapping cheeks same time tomorrow.
Thursday, July 26th, 2007
A week or so ago I posted about how we’re in crunch again. Well, it kind of seems like we’re not, because we’ve pretty much finished everything apart from the translations and a few outstanding bugs. It doesn’t make much sense to fix the bugs that are left before we do the translations, and we can’t do the translations because… we haven’t got the localisation kits back from our publisher’s translators yet.
So I’m sitting at my desk on a rainy, disgusting British “summer’s” day, and I don’t have a whole hell of a lot to do. I can’t bring myself to work on another game because, well, what I’m doing right now is Determinance and shifting tracks like that is something I find pretty much impossible. I can’t drink beer (don’t tempt me) because it’s too early and I’m playing tennis later. My car is at the mechanic’s so I can’t drive to see a movie. There’s nothing on TV and the aforementioned rain means I can’t even walk around like a crazy person listening to Scooter. Well… I’m probably going to end up doing that.
I even reinstalled NFL Head Coach 2006, but I couldn’t get my headset to control plays in the game (shouting “BLUE TWENTY FOUR HUT” had no efffect except to make my cat meow) so I switched it off.
It’s just difficult to get motivated about anything when what I really want to do is be getting on with putting the localisations in.
Tuesday, July 24th, 2007
It’s just been confirmed that I’ll be travelling to Austin, Texas to be part of a panel discussion on indie game marketing at the Game Developers Conference. This is obviously a huge deal for us, as this is one of the top industry conferences in the world. I hope I’ll be able to talk a little bit about some of the realities that indie developers face when they attempt to get their game noticed by people. I’ll certainly be taking the line, as I have before, that there are probably limits to what indies can accomplish on their own, and the key factor is retaining creative control while collaborating with companies who have skills you can’t afford.
Maybe people will be surprised to hear this at an event whcih is going to be getting excited about the “DIY attitude of the indie scene etc. etc.”, but hopefully people there for that sort of content will appreciate my ideas on paying attention to the community which builds up around a game: something to which mainstream devs should be taking a more “indie” approach.
Monday, July 23rd, 2007
I wanted to talk a little bit about an issue which people often raise with us: why isn’t Determinance distributed on Steam?
The truth is, we’d love Determinance to be on Steam – we had Steam in mind when we first thought about distributing our game online. The reason it’s not there is that Valve didn’t want it.
Getting a game on Steam is not in any way straightforward. At the time we tried (September 2006), Steam was mostly geared around one thing: games which Valve wanted to have on there. They were apparently making approaches to devs and publishers, not the other way round. It took a significant amount of work and time to get a contact there, and he was, in the main, thoroughly polite and extremely disinterested.
Believe me when I tell you that the way we did this was to talk to Mark Healey who made Ragdoll Kung Fu. He was kind enough to reply to our emails – there wasn’t really a good reason for him to do this at the time: he was just being nice because that’s his nature. We then had to go through the rigmarole of endlessly calling two people at Valve before we got passed up to the right person. Direct approaches to Valve via their public email addresses yielded no response.
Now, things seem to be a little different, and they’ve broadened out their titles. However, when we asked, we weren’t given a reason why they decided not to distribute Determinance: it was just a no with a caveat that if we created other titles or “a substantial upgrade” then we should come back to them. It seemed to me to just indicate they felt the game to be thoroughly substandard, and it didn’t meet their baseline level of quality.
It was, obviously, incredibly demoralising at the time, and it’s given me no indication that it would be worth going back to them even though Determinance is now demonstrably successful. I would love it if people would contact Valve and tell them how much they enjoy Determinance, but I can’t give you a point of contact to do that because, well, Valve don’t want to hear from you.
The only thing that is particularly offensive about this whole affair is that people (interestingly not always Valve) hold up Steam as supporting indie development. Valve don’t want to take too many chances – they seem to want proven titles generally with publisher backing, titles their executives happen across at games conferences or IGF finalists- and that’s ok, but it’s not supporting grass-roots indie development in any way. Some indie titles don’t make the IGF (we didn’t), don’t go near a publisher and aren’t being toured around the conference circuit. And it’s odd because, hey, what have you got to lose? What’s the OVERHEAD for making a page on the Steam system and hosting some files on a server? Maybe it’s actually significant and too much bother – I would understand that if it could be proven.
If Valve would like to present themselves as supporting indie development (and, as I mentioned, I think this is not their particular intention with Steam) then they should have a page somewhere on their site which includes details on developer submissions. If anyone would like to show this to me, then I would happily agree that Steam is genuinely permissive pro-indie environment.
I’ve mentioned the problems we’ve had with using our time in the past – there’s no way I can do marketing when I’m doing testing, for example – and working with publishing partners seems to be increasingly the best way around this problem. It’s that or hire people to do PR and marketing, and frankly right now, we’d much rather hire people to do programming and art. Steam appears to offer an elegant solution: it’s a well-promoted portal with a great title library and a lot of awareness. The problem is, it’s still a closed shop to some people.
It is extremely hard to write a post about how you failed to achieve something without sounding like a whining child. I don’t bear the people we dealt with at Valve any ill-will whatsoever: as I said, they were polite and friendly to us. We’re still vexed about this situation, though: from the review scores we’ve received and from the response of those people who really love the game, we know Determinance has an audience. It’s a game which people like and it’s a product which can sell and excite people. Some people think it’s shit: that’s because it’s 1.) odd 2.) not a triple-A title BY ANY MEANS 3.) not an easily-forgiveable look-at-how-much-they’ve-accomplished experimental-gamplay indie title. It doesn’t fit into those categories. Are any of those reasons not to sell it? No: our entire business at this point in time says otherwise. We’re taking the game to full worldwide retail and we’re using it as a springboard to launch our plans for the next two years – all that from a couple of computers in a little room in one of our houses: it’s a shame Steam won’t be along for the ride. Yes, we won’t be looking at our two million PC units sold and going, “Ha, Valve totally missed out on that cash cow”, but was it ever supposed to be about the money?
Let it be said that I still use and enjoy Steam, and if we were offered a slot on there (most likely now this would come through a 3rd party) then we would certainly take it on reasonable terms. That said, it’s still going to be frustrating responding to, “Hey, this game is GREAT. You should put it on STEAM”, as if that process is simple and as if we hadn’t thought of that two to three years ago.
As Mischief Maker put it so well on our forums…
Sunday, July 22nd, 2007
I’ve just sent him an email but I think I should apologise to Faxmachinen on here as well. I still haven’t sent out his Latvian copy of Bad Day LA. I am a bad bad little man. I will do it on Monday.
Sunday, July 22nd, 2007
I’ve mentioned this on the forums a couple of times, but if you’re one of our “old guard” of testers or Determinance players and you’d like a free key to give away to a friend so they can play Determinance online, just shoot me a mail via the Contact form.
We really need to get more people on the servers at the moment, as we’ll be doing a mini-beta prior to the release of the new version, so invite your friends!