This week sure has been lively and my blood is cooled only to a simmer. After a long and pointless debate with other individuals I’ve come to see the larger picture that is forming around the Xbox LIVE Indie Games platform. » Read more..
Archive for March 30, 2012
In all my haste, did I really forget to post this? Silly programmer… I realize that I’ve been so crazy with the tweets, doing what the cool kids do, that I forgot to blog! Lately most of my blogs have been about game impressions or thoughts about the future. Anyhow, in preparation for Dream.Build.Play 2012, maybe I will try to refocus a few posts on the game at hand.
I’ve been pretty busy lately and my roster of freshly shrink-wrapped games has been growing larger each month. After some unfortunate car trouble I was confined to my house for the weekend, and what better way to wait out the weekend than to break open one of those games? The game that sat on the top of my stack was Rage, a title that took a lot of crap for its texture issues and questionable ending. This is one id-fan’s opinion of Rage and how small tweaks could have changed its reception. » Read more..
In short, we all did. Games are following the open source strategy of being a highly profitable service instead of a product, but without the “open” part…
Every now and then we come across an article about why it is so important to document and catalog our history in videogames. Some go as far as to urge the preservation of the source content for the sake of prosperity for future generations of developers and gamers to understand and enjoy. As much as I’d like to believe in the process, I find it difficult to support when games are slowing becoming monetized services. The game’s existence as a product is only to facilitate the need for the service and the slew of fees and micro-transactions that follow. But what happens when the service is inevitably shutdown? » Read more..
What the Future Holds
With Ashlands: Retribution in the Beta window, I find myself thinking about the future, about what my next brainchild may be.
I have typically confined my game designs to a very specific group of players, arcade shooter fans. There are many reasons for that; they are one the genres that I enjoy playing for example, but they are also one of the few remaining genres where a solo developer can compete. There is of course the argument that the only reason why it is still competitive is because the AAA developers and publishers don’t see enough money to justify the development. Either way, it may not be a free-flowing river of boundless cash, like in AAA first-person shooters, but it’s a creek for me to drink from along the road of life.
Still, I can’t say that I would enjoy a lifetime of designing and developing nothing but arcade shooters. I would certainly want to expand my portfolio to other genres and play styles, if only to grow as a designer. One particular mood (not necessarily genre) that I’ve always wanted to explore was atmosphere. I find atmosphere to be a powerful tool, one that helps to lesson the need for that constant 30 second pleasure loop found in many shooters.
Why Atmosphere is Awesome
“Guns! Power-ups! Perks! Kill Streaks! More guns!” – said in my best monster truck announcer voice.
While most shooters focus on the bullet point features that can be listed on the back of a box, a game who’s sole purpose is to make you stop and smell the flowers or listen to the wind blow is in stark contrast to this. A game focused on atmosphere is one that makes you want to turn over every rock to see how alive the world really is, and we are always surprised by how deep the rabbit hole is, even if we are expecting as much the whole time.
There is one problem however, I just don’t know if a game focused on atmosphere is possible for a solo developer. I’ve certainly come up with my own share of ideas, but in the end my problem always seems to be the same.
Atmosphere == Content Exposition
Stopping to think about many of the games that have been praised for their atmosphere, you might begin to realize that they are effectively an interactive museum of sorts. Room after room, level after level; the content just keeps piling up. Part of the issue with atmosphere is that assets become the replacement drug for that pleasure loop. Guns and kill streaks are replaced with the sights and sounds of an eerie living world.
And while guns and power-ups may still exist in a game dripping with atmosphere, it is often for the sake of urging you to move on to the next room. Weapons and abilities are secondary to the environment, and serve as one of the few objectives that motivate you as the player to move on. We know that bigger weapons will keep us safe, more health will keep us alive. These are strong enough motivations to continue exploring the ever-growing roster of content.
The Game Design Challenge
Once Ashlands: Retribution has shipped, I am hoping to task myself with a challenge. I wonder if I could create an atmospheric game that is not positioned around the idea of content exposition. In short, is it possible to create an atmospheric game, of notable length, in the confines of 1 room? No you can’t cheat and make the world a 30 square km room :).
That will be my challenge, to envision a minimalist game that still invokes an emotion outside of heart-pounding aggression. Since time expansion is a critical factor in atmosphere, it also has to be an experience that can be enjoyed for more than 5 minutes. At this moment I think that it may be an impossible task, but it might also be a good exercise in designing outside of the industry norm.
I urge others to do the same, to break the mold of atmospheric games. Perhaps there is a game out there that has already solved this problem. If you’ve played one, let me know!
This is not in any current build of ffmpeg but it’s not terribly difficult to add. I wanted to be able to support more than just 30fps rates in RoQ and many readers out there already support variable frame rates, so here’s the fix. » Read more..