Tuesday, December 22, 2009
I’ve just read some news about videogame analysts claiming the reason of Take-Two’s current problems are because of ‘Lack of discipline in Dev Cycles’. In other words, they failed to deliver their games on a regular basis, and each development takes too much time.
Based on that logic, Blizzard should have closed their doors years ago, since they only deliver their games ‘when they’re ready’, and not a minute before. And the current EA management admitted that they ruined some of their best IPs when they released games every year.
Somehow I’ve got the feeling these ‘videogame analysts’ are able to explain everything using a bunch of ‘I-know-it-all’ premises they apply to any industry. It doesn’t matter if you’re selling milk, refrigerators or games.
Now, have you ever seen a videogame analyst? I mean: Who the fuck are those guys? What did they study to become a videogame analyst? And are they doing any good to the industry? Who pays them? If I’m ever explained any of these questions, maybe I’ll pay any attention to those so-called ‘experts’. In the meantime go to Hell.
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Well, another thing I'm trying to do is to raise up my expertise with level editors. I've decided to start with the basics, and I'm working on StarEdit, the level editor of Starcraft (1998). Although it's old, it's surprisingly complex. I tried to master it years ago, but I failed. Now things are different, and so far I'm doing much better.
For now, I've just completed a multiplayer map. You can download it clicking here, and then move the file to the relevant folder (C:\Archivos de programa\Starcraft\maps).
In fact, if you can take a look at it you'll be doing a favor to me if you provide some feedback about it. So far I couldn't beat the AI :D. Not surprising since I'm not particularly good at that game. Anyway, I'll try now to make a singleplayer map. Endlessly more difficult. Let's see.
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
As mentioned in previous posts, I’m using my time to catch up with all those games I couldn’t play while I was writing the novel. So I’ve just completed Gears of War 2.
Great game, by all means. They’ve kept the basic guidelines of GoW’s combat system (quite good), and they made some interesting decisions to enhance the final result. Instead of moving the focus of the sequel on new weapons, like many other games do, they added a small group of not-particularly-impressing new weapons and instead they chose to add many Hollywood-style sequences to the game, thus making it similar to an adventure movie.
That’s something I’ve seen in other games, such as Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 (holy shit, it takes longer to say the game’s name than finish it). In order to avoid repetition in the combat situations developers add from time to time small game mechanics (vehicle chase, vehicle conduction, using a turret, jumps, handle a crane…) which are only used at that point in the game, and makes you feel the game has so high production values that it’s worth more than the money you paid for it. Maybe it’s a trend in following titles. We’ll see.
Monday, November 30, 2009
Now that I’m back on the saddle, I’m trying to finish all those games that were released while I was writing the novel, and I didn’t have the time to play. The first is CoD Modern Warfare 2.
Mixed feelings about it. On the plus side the level design is as good as ever, I appreciate the variety of graphic themes along the game, great animations and small unique mechanics associated to specific situations.
On the minus side the plot is simply unbelievable, too many odd-planned combat situations with enemies coming from behind, and frequent ‘real war situations’ were you are surrounded by enemies in a strange environment were you are uncertain where to go.
Also, the game can be completed within 6-7 hours. Great hours, for sure, but not too many. I seriously doubt I’ll play the co-op campaing, and I’ll take a look at the multiplayer but not in depth. I wish I would have been given the chance to buy just the singleplayer campaign for a reduced price.
The game is definitively worth the money I paid for it, but I think it’s an 8 or 8.5, tops.
Monday, November 9, 2009
Well, I’ve just completed the hardest part of writing my novel, so I’m coming back to videogame business. I’m updating my online status in Linkedin and other sites so headhunters know I’m looking for a job.
My ideal company would be one with a portfolio of games (no more start-up companies for me), the ability to release games on a regular basis (no more Pyro-like companies, who can spend 5 years without releasing a game), international (no more spanish managers. No sir) and a nice atmosphere. Let’s see what I can find and who wants me in. I’ll keep you updated.
Friday, September 18, 2009
Thank god, I eventually finished reading Game Writing – Narrative skills for videogames. Not totally sure, but I think it’s the book which took me more time to complete in my life. More than 2 years, I’d say.
I’m not saying it doesn’t contain some useful info, but it’s scattered around its 300 pages. The bulk of the book is common places, data that everyone knows and some over-detailed info about minor aspects that become almost useless. It’s a compilation of different articles from different authors. Some of them are more fun to read, some others are boring as hell.
You can also add the fact that reading essays is always more exhausting than stories, and it’s even worse if it’s in a foreign language (english, in this case).
Even though I have some writing experience on published games (minor contributions to Runaway & La Prisión, 2 text-based mobile games and the source spanish version of Imperial Glory & Wanted texts), I don’t think this book was worth my time. If you don’t need to read it, try to skip it.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Bionic Commando was one of the failures of (now extinct) Grin. Everyone assumed it was going to be a huge hit. I’ve been told it’s not a bad game at all, but somehow it has been perceived like a flop since it was released. Not sure, but I’d say that the hype was badly managed, and it made journalists give it worst reviews than deserved.
Let me explain this point: Since they started showcasing BC (something similar also happened with Wanted: Weapons of Fate) all the Grin/Capcom spokesmen said it was going to be an amazing game, a unique experience, one of the most remarkable games ever… That created so high expectations that when the game was released, and it was not that amazing, journalists were somehow encouraged to ‘attack’ the game instead of just saying how good/bad it was.
I can understand these spokesmen, they’ll probably say ‘Hey, I did my job! I created a lot of buzz around the game! It was the studio’s fault not to reach the expectations!’. Bullshit, in my opinion. You see games, like many other leisure products, are impossible to know if they’ll eventually be great or poor. You can suspect, but you can never be sure, particularly since there are some many ‘smoke-sellers’ in this industry. That’s why I think an excessive hype around a title can later be dangerous for ratings and sales.
So, in my humble opinion, unless you’re extremely sure that you’ve got an amazing game in your hands, I think hype should be kept relatively low while you’re developing. Just enough to let the press know that you’re working on a title, and let them figure out if it’s going to be good or bad (of course provide the best materials – screenshots, videos, etc – you’ve got, so their perception is good). Once you’re approaching to the final stages of the development, then you can decide if it’s going to be great or not, and create the appropriate buzz.
Shit, more bad news. Seems like Grin Stockholm, the central office of my former company, has been forced to close its door too (click here for the Gamasutra post).
I’m really sorry for Bo, one of the owners. He’s an enthusiastic man, more talented than he thinks (specially if you compare him with his brother Ulf) and they created a unique company with a great personality, encouraging people to take out their shoes while in the office, bringing cakes for the employees regularly, hiring their own mother as secretary… yeah, really unique.
I don’t know about the main reason why they had to let their 12-year-old baby die. But anyway it’s something bad for the industry, Swedish professionals and videogame people in general (click here for their last words in Grin's official site).
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Videogames are often accused of showing too much violence, particularly when they’re used by younglings. As a developer, I use to get mad when I hear that and I see how those same parents allow their children to watch violent movies without remorse.
I’ve just watched ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’. According to my recount, 24 people are injured along the movie. 51 dies, and 10 of them are directly killed by the main character, Dr. Indiana Jones. And that’s one of those ‘family movies’ that all parents will be happy to let their children watch. Both in games and movies the user emphatises with the main character, so in a way you’re also the killer of those 10. At least I felt happy when they died and my favourite archeologist of all times could go on with his quest.
Leaving aside hypocrisy, I think the whole point of this is motivation. You can’t doubt of the good intentions of Indiana Jones. He fights nazis (evil by definition), and fights for saving precious artifacts so they can be kept safely in a museum. On the other side, users often impersonate characters in games who have no motivation for killing, or a really thin one.
Maybe that’s all we developers need to work on. I remember Sonic got some ‘Protect the children’ awards because when you kill an enemy, a little smiling animal was released. That’s should be enough for kid’s games. For adult games, hypocrites will continue bugging around.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
My former company, Grin Barcelona, is in dire straits. Apparently there is a 99% possibilities that they close their doors. Even though I consider some of the managers there openly poisonous, I also know many good people who’s about to lose their jobs, and that’s not good. It’s algo bad news (again) for the spanish videogame industry. A friend of mine said that ‘somehow seems impossible to have good and ambitious videogame companies here in Spain’.
I’m also confused about the reasons the managers argued to justify the closing down. They said the poor reviews of ‘Wanted –Weapons of Fate’ have been the company’s headshot. I doubt that. ‘Clive Baker’s Jericho’ had the same metacritics rating (62) and the company not only survived but they’re working on the highly promising Lords of Shadows (I had the chance to take a loot at it and their vertical slice looks awesome).
I suspect there is something more. We’ll see.
Update (6.12.09): I've just been contacted by one of the managers at Grin BCN, claiming that the main reason for the studio having problems is not Wanted. Anyway, my sympathies are with the hard-working people there who are about to lose their jobs. Good luck, guys.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
One of the most interesting advances in the leisure industry (to me a fairly wide concept which includes literature, cinema, comics, music…) is the IP (Intelectual Property) management. I personally prefer the term ‘Intelectual Franchise’, but since everyone uses IP, let’s go with it.
Once the main guidelines of the IP have been established and the original content is adapted/expanded into other platforms, there will be a huge array of people working on it, and creating content that needs to fit with those initial premises. However, while I was working on ‘Wanted – Weapons of Fate’, I missed someone fulfilling the role of what we may call ‘the IP watcher’. That person will be in charge of checking all the content to ensure the whole universe of the IP along different platforms is consistent.
During the development of ‘Wanted’ we checked the content we created with different people: Frank Millar (comic-book creator), Timur Bekmambetov (movie director), and several guys at Universal. But nothing was done on a regular basis, just from time to time, and frequently those content watchers would fight between them. It could have been worse. After all, it was a limited number of decision makers.
Anyway, I think that, in a future, this role will be common. Possibly the writer of the book/script, the movie/game director, or more probably someone of their total trust. Seems to me like a nice work to do, isn’t it?
Monday, March 30, 2009
In case you haven't heard of them, a small group of ex-pyro workmates founded their own company named Over the top games, and they've been working on a new title for the Wiiware channel: Icarian Kindred Spirits (sorry, it's in spanish).
I'm really happy, I worked with almost all of them, and I sincerely wish the best for this title. One of them told me it was really hard to finish the game, but now they're about to complete it it's really rewarding.
With these new commercial channels that next-gen consoles allow (Playstation Store, XBLA, Wiiware) maybe more people will dare to create their own companies. Who knows, maybe I'll have the guts to do the same some day...
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
As you may have noticed I haven’t updated this blog lately. The reason is I’m focusing on a new project: I’m writing a novel. It’s something I always wanted to do, and since I’ve got the time and money I decided going for it. Being said that, I’m not quitting from the videogame industry. I keep in touch with my fellow ex-workmates, and I’m planning to go back to the trenches as soon as I finish the book. In the meantime I’m looking forward to feed the blog as often as it’s possible. Have fun!
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Saturday, January 17, 2009
I think one of the pending tasks for this industry is marketing. Or more precisely how to sell niche genre games which can be perfectly profitable but no one cares to market approppiately. Of course this is not something developers can do much about it. Seems to me it’s something distributors and managers need to learn with time.
Apparently publishers don’t want to spend any time on ‘minor’ titles. They want to go for the winning horse, big titles with big profits. Each country division of that publisher release the game on each country, sells a lot of copies and everyone is happy. Sounds quite convenient for them. And a little lazy too.
The market for strategy PC games is reduced these times, but also other succesful genres in the past such as graphic adventures. If you sell those titles on each country you probably won’t get big selling figures individually, but if you put together all the people interested in those genres all around the world it’s worth millions of copies.
That’s why I think digital distribution platforms, such as Steam, should help a lot to these non-profitable-considered genres, allowing to make big profits when selling a product world-wide, instead of locally.