Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Gamergate

All I have to say is, basically, if you support GamerGate, then you are not welcome here.


The INDIE Game God Dream




This message never stopped you from playing. 


Come on, whether you've already made or just thought about making a videogame, you've dreamt the dream. It's not a shame, I tell you. What are dreams for if not for evoking the seemingly improbable or unobtainable? It's not worth bothering with something that provides no challenge whatsoever. It has to tax you both physically and intellectually. But being an indiegame god, is a different thing.

It's not just about making a living out of videogames; countless game designers have done that. Neither is it about creating a product or a service worth being invested in. It all boils down to perceiving and producing what others have not before. Thus, by the end of your estimated time of production, you accomplish what separates the game designers from the game gods. You change the course of the entire videogame industry. Whether your concept is based upon a certain genre, bringing new, exciting, never before used/implemented elements or it single-handedly creates a new one. Regardless of which, you rise from obscurity to worldwide fame and glory (or a portion of it).

You transform a hobby/passion into work.

It isn't simply saying "I make money from selling videogames", it's knowing you craft hours worth of excitement and innovation (even if it's scarce or minor) for people that have trusted/invested in you. And the stories of failure may indeed be present, perhaps far more present than I want to admit (this is an article to hype you, reader), but there's no game designer that set up his/her own indie game company, that started knowing how big his/her initial dreams would get. If that wasn't true, people like Dan Marshall, Agustin Cordes, Dave Gilbert, wouldn't exist. They would still be living in their parents' house/basement, or living their daily routines as they were, before they took the boldest step.

The step to attempt to give it all up to conquer even the smallest possibility of gaining enough of their yearly income, to live, play and create videogames. And how do you start doing that? Is there a specific trick to it, you ask? I'm afraid not. All you need is an idea and a way and perseverance. Bluntly put in the simplest of words, you have to try without fear of failing, dear reader.

Posted @ Gnome's Lair:


  • DualMondays: Inspiration


  • DualMondays: Boss Fights 101




  • Wednesday, October 15, 2014

    Inspiration




    Or the lack thereof. Everyone's been there. And we've all found our ways to force inspiration, even though such a thing is basically impossible. But we have found our "muses" -- techniques, people, things, trinkets etc -- to help us get there. My personal favorite is the movie "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?" For some reason that remains unknown, I've always found the title infinitely more interesting than the movie itself.

    When I first came across it, I'd surrounded the initial possibilities of the plot in my head with a veil of mystery and intrigue, creating my own version of what I could make out of the title. Thus, unaware of the actual story arc, I  gradually started realizing the endless scenarios I could create in my head under this specific title. The bleakness and the ironic grin that goes with facing the inevitability of life's events are what I like about the very expression; the one concerning the euthanasia of horses.

    An innocent question to end one's innocence. Don't we sometimes have to learn to let go?

    Not just people, but also creative projects, as they sometimes go astray and it's hard to pursue the goals we set out to achieve through them. Even if inspiration is the main drive, the result has to be judged and justified under different parameters. Personally, it saddens me to see a project I really wanted to see, wither away. But in the same time, I am well aware that those behind it, have their reasons. They've matured and gained experience from this whole experience.

    The goal of reaching release stage is irrelevant when you've achieved and gained other things. Vital elements to be used in the future, in dreams that may come to exist. And that's how game designers evolve: by throwing down the pit of darkness, at the loneliest corners of their harddrives, what they consider as dead-weight. Whether it's easy to do so, or super-hard, no matter how much you've been clung to something, it won't fix the issues that revolve around it. And moving onto different things is the hardest thing to do.

    Personally I've abandoned a good dozen of half-started games. Yeah, I admit it. But so have you. Think about it - we all have. Whether we put work or we just thought about them for a day or two - or an hour. In the spirit of the old Sierra adventure games, we learn through countless hours of trial and error, Until we see the much desired exit/solution to the puzzle. And then we consider the entire process as a wonderful journey.

    Posted Gnome's Lair

    Monday, October 6, 2014

    A strong background

    I've always come to the conclusion that sometimes a story can be told in a far superior way through its setting/environment. The releases that we've come to consider as polished, have accepted this. Designers tend to painstakingly focus on the minor details, but it's no minor thing when everything breathes and expresses in its own unique ways. Adding purposefulness and reasoning behind each thing, character, behavior and action, should in fact be treated as a necessity. Enhancing each part that the game is placed in, in every possible way, is something that requires quite a bit of craftsmanship (from the perspective of the game designer); firstly because it's usually a terrible amount of work and secondly due to the chances of it being utterly ignored and/or missed by the majority of the players.

    Loom offers an immense depth to a magical world, even if it's pixelly.
    And I'm not talking exclusively about the little nods to a cultural piece of art/history. But, rather, speaking of the amount of seemingly uninteresting yet occasionally oh so relevant pieces of backstories that enrich the main plot arc, provided you're willing to spend your time exploring properly, seeking them out. It could be a library full of book titles someone spent his time writing, so that you could enjoy each entry. So that each part of the library felt worth bothering with looking for more.

    As well as a game designer, but mostly as a gamer, I've come to enjoy the background elements, whatever they may be, that were rather "silent". A typical TV Soap Opera, endlessly repeating tropes and cliches, a hand-drawn picture by a child, an abandoned shelter, a message on the telephone that didn't get the chance to be heard, a murder scene in a hotel room always posing the same questions. The list literally goes forever.

    But the strength of these small points is unique. They're not something random and pointless, like a movie scene that is only there to fill the required time set by the movie studio. In their own peculiar way, they prove that the story elements, of which they are part of, exist. Unlikely, they're not a work of fiction to comfort the needs of the storyteller, but on the contrary the conditions and the setting, make the story arc to exist out of logical order. You know, handing out more reasons to the characters than "because!" and instead combining the surrounding parameters and the basic drives of each protagonist (or antagonist) to a valid interaction with the world, simply put in the fewest of words, depth.

    Posted at Gnome's lair

    Monday, September 29, 2014

    Boss Fights 101

    I know the lot of you really like cool retro arcade games that sport huge, monstrous, ridiculous bosses throughout their span. But thing is almost every kind of game is taking advantage of this feature. And why wouldn't they? Boss fights in their core are overhyped, outrageous gameplay segments that decide your worth and mastery of the game. They get you tense, they make you feel good about yourself, they make you lose your cool and mind over them, as you waste countless hours of button smashing and thinking around the box in the process of overcoming the improbable odds and coming out victorious.

    Sometimes, it hurts.
    But what does a boss fight consist of? What are the main elements it requires to be classified as such? Usually boss fights take a set of moves previously used by the player as part of the gameplay and make you use them in a different way. For example, in Portal you are taught the incineration mechanism used in the final boss fight by doing so in the earlier game with the Love companion. Additionally, placing the portals to make a turret shoot missiles at itself is also introduced earlier in the game. That's the way the game designer is teaching you the elements/attacks that you will require to execute under different conditions and parameters to accompish your goal(s).

    But what about genres that are less action-packed? Can boss fights be equally effective across genres? The answer is simple. If done right, yes. Take the sequel to Monkey Island. Le Chuck's Revenge was published back in 1991 and happens to be a shining example. Initially helping the player construct a basic voodoo doll by categorizing the basic four items it requires into four big differentiated themes, will prove immensely helpful when the player is required to repeat the process towards the game's finale. To me, even if Guybrush is almost immune to Le Chuck's attacks, the mental stress and tension that is built during the introductory scene, helps making this boss battle one of the most memorable and stressing I've ever encountered.

     Does it get more soul-tearing than this?
    And said tension and story-driven pace is what dictates all boss fights. It's about facing the last obstacle standing in your way in order to advance the story. It's not just solely to prove your mastery of the game's mechanics; these fights drain you both physically and emotionally. It's the confrontation of two diametrically different, yet so alike, paths.

    This is posted at Gnome's Lair

    Monday, September 22, 2014

    Press Start To Begin

    This post also appears at Gnome's Lair, so this just a crossspost, go there and share your thoughts, I will be writing there every Monday, and will post the articles here as well. Gnome himself has kindly shared his webspace with me.


    In Greece we have a saying: "The beginning is the half of everything." I'm not sure this is in fact a proper translation, so please do excuse me in advance, if that's the case. Thing is, it sounds so much more impactful in my native language.  This ancient saying by Pythagoras is something I've always kept in mind when I started work on a project. Whatever that may be, it applies for everything, videogame production included.

    For some reason lack of composure and motivation - common difficulties that every developer has faced - were always magically transformed  into challenges. Challenges that I *had* to overcome. And I knew, thanks to this particular piece of wisdom, that if I could get by the initial hurdles, the best was yet to come. Even when I was designing the boring parts of a game or a program, I knew that all that was needed, was to actually begin work, and then I'd see it through.

    Recently, Mark Yohalem, member of Wormwood Studios and writer of Primordia (which I personally coded *cough* self promotion *cough*) wrote a blog post releasing information about Cloudscape. Cloudscape is a now abandoned project and Yohalem wrote a very interesting piece regarding the reasons behind said decision from his point of view. So, with that in mind, I came to solidify my thinking about abandonded projects throughout. It's not about there being enough talent on your team (regardless of team member number), but about whether someone/the team actually creates a portion of the product.

    To begin
    The baby steps of any project shouldn't be exclusively about brainstorming over a wonderful idea. Even though it does help to keep everyone excited and hyped, brainstorming alone doesn't contribute any actual work towards the main goal - which is to deliver a finished product to the market. Endlessly coming up with new, exciting ideas is a common loop in which even the most talented teams have found themselves.

    Gradually the initial emotions get toned down and then everything is about creating the silliest, most dysfunctional alpha version of your dream, regardless of its countless faults. It stands to show to everyone in and out of the team, that this is doable. It's a proof of concept, it's a motivational wheel, it's to put it bluntly - the half of everything.

    Saturday, September 20, 2014

    I Give Up

    This is the best and most repeated word/phrase/sound/thing you'll encounter in this MAGS September entry by Emont. I caught myself grinning whenever it played or appeared in my screen, or both. 
    The entry is a very simple game, called Man Giving Up

    And it's all about that. Perhaps a philosophical approach to our everyday's loserism, or just a funny game. Your call. I do have to say there's not much to it, apparently, but the music and sound effects are a high point. The game is quite polished itself, but the sound effects and the music composed for this game are 100% spot on.

    So without further ado I present: 

    MAN GIVING UP

     

    How many times can YOU give up?

    Choose from a variety of colourful settings and see how far you can go. You might just surprise yourself. You might find the power was inside yourself all along. Welcome to the world of MAN GIVING UP.



    FEATURES:

    * Multiple locations
    * Complete music soundtrack
    * Sounds
    * Colours
    * Pointing
    * Clicking