Thursday, July 31, 2014

Game Writing Element: Faction of Characters

"You know what they say! There's strength in numbers!"

Coming off a busy month in terms of making a path for myself on the video game scene, I figure that I'd wrap July up with a part of game writing that is used fairly often to bulk up the foundation of stories in games. It's certainly the norm to have just one main character plunge into the levels of the game all by himself or herself and overcome the challenges that await that character, but there are some occasions when more than one main character needs to be given the focus depending on what kind of story we are writing.

This isn't specifically pointed towards the topic of playable characters and how many of them should be in a game. If you ask me about that topic, I would most likely answer the question like this. Unless it is absolutely necessary to limit the playable character roster to just 1 because of certain circumstances, then there normally shouldn't be any issues in allowing 2 to 4 different characters be established as playable. That is a basic rule that I would follow when it comes to game development, whether it's for Story Mode or for other modes.

As far as this topic goes concerning the title of this article, I am talking about just a band of video game characters, whether playable or non-playable, that stick together through thick and thin, no matter what they end up doing to affect the scope of the story. I believe that variety is needed in not only telling the story of the game but to also flesh out the world that you are presenting to the player. It's impossible even by video game standards to showcase a world that doesn't feature even one faction of characters sticking together and being friendly to one another. "This is my buddy! This is my pal! I can trust him/her with anything!"

I contend that factions of characters, as in a group of 3 or more characters, bring life to a game story and help influence it, even in the most minimal of ways. Presenting factions of characters that act on not only individual needs but also acting on the needs of them together as a team develops a new dynamic that the player will sometimes have to account for when adjusting to the game's story. Why? There may be a time down the road at a critical point of gameplay where that said faction of characters come into play, playable or non-playable, and you will need their help in order to advance in the game, so knowing the habits of character factions can certainly be made to be useful.

To give you a sample of the writing form I'd love to be doing officially, here's a representation of a character faction and how their interaction comes across in a game story, in my view.

Character A: Hey! Hey! Lookin' for 50 coins to gain access to that training facility?

Main Character: Yeah! I don't know where to go to get 50 coins! Could ya help me out?

Character B: Hold on, bub! I can help ya too! Jump on them platforms out east to reach an arcade venue! You can get your 50 coins if you just win enough arcade games, fella!

Character A: (looks at Character B) Hey! I could've told him that! Why do you always do that?

Character B: Do what? I'm just helpin' out this guy! 

Character C: And neither of you two warned him about the rude security guards in the arcade? Tsk, tsk, tsk! 

Main Character: Uh... Guys... It's no big deal, really. I'll be careful! 

Character C: You can't just be careful, dude! You may have to take down those security guards if they start chasin' ya! I know because that happened to poor me once! 

Main Character: Thanks for the tip. Are you guys best friends or what?

Character A: We sure are best buds, but really, without this SQUARE BUTTON ACTION... (bops Character B on the head) we couldn't have done much together!

Character B: OW! That hurt! 

Main Character: Square Button Action? I see... I'm on my way to the platforms! (leaves)

This was a basic and comedic way of presenting how a faction of characters work together. In this case, you get to see how these characters interact with each other in a way that comes across as cartoony, kooky and perhaps even downright silly. Some bands of friends in real life are just like this, meaning no real harm but just trying to make their own points. Characters A, B and C are clearly described as a faction of friends and in their own colorful way, they provide the Main Character some advice in how to advance in his quest.

There are examples of character factions, no matter what roles they played in games, that work so exceptionally well together that it's hard for the player to not notice their team chemistry. The impressions that a team of friends give off in their performances in scenes can stretch very far when it comes to the players remembering what their favorite scenes were in a game. Here are a few examples of what I see.

Team Sonic (Sonic, Tails, Knuckles)

Cooper Gang (Sly Cooper, Bentley, Murray)

Koopalings (Larry Koopa, Morton Koopa Jr., Wendy O. Koopa, Iggy Koopa, Roy Koopa, Lemmy Koopa, Ludwig von Koopa)

Various RPG Parties

No matter what combination of characters you use to push forward your game story, you would have to know what exactly you want the members of your character factions to do. You have to assign your characters specific roles, strengths and weaknesses, and unique features that make them stand out compared to the rest of the cast, including the other faction members. Are these characters pretty much the same? Are these characters radically different from each other? Why are they together as a team? How did they get together? What can they accomplish together as a team? These are just some questions to ask yourself from a creative standpoint.

Sometimes a character needs to play off the reactions of another character in order to have his or her positive features get noticed by the player. Whether a band of characters are aligned as heroes, anti-heroes or villains, a writer will join them together for the main purpose of expanding the possibilities of what these characters can do in dialogue, in actions and even in gameplay. Team chemistry matters in the functioning of a character faction, just as it would in sports or even in the world of professional wrestling, and the familiarity that is established between characters and players is the core interaction. Players can pick up on certain aspects and traits of characters when they see a group of 3 or more characters hanging out together. It's easier to identify who is who.

I have always found it interesting to see which kinds of characters go well together and compliment each other in ways that would be suitable for a game story, and sometimes these experiments won't pan out the way you want as a game writer. However, some experiments are bound to work and once you have found that right combination of game characters that can work well together, you allow yourself to imagine the deeper possibilities of what your game's world can be. Now doesn't that sound intriguing enough?

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Game Review: Iggy's Reckin' Balls

Iggy: I'm a video game hero with no arms! How awesome is that?
Iggy's Reckin' Balls was another one of my early gaming experiences as a kid and while it wasn't one of my more fonder moments as a gamer, today I can easily think back to a game that is peculiar as this one and say "Well, at least that was a fresh attempt at something different! Pretty enjoyable, I think!" Iggy's Reckin' Balls happens to be one of those games that you can easily forget at one point, but then easily remember again if you just take a deep look at some of the game mechanics that have been used in games since this one. 

This game is properly defined as an odd hybrid between a Platforming and Racing Game as it involves typical platforming that you would see in any of the more recognizable game franchises, but also the objectives in the main mode clearly point out that you have to guide your wrecking ball of choice to the finish line before the other competitors. As I will dissect in this review, you will come to know why there was something unique about traveling from platform to platform in a race using wrecking balls with unique personalities.

Controls: 17 out of 20 Points

Understanding the controls and mechanics of Iggy's Reckin' Balls certainly took me some time to get used to because it wasn't a hot way for games to be made around the time of the Nintendo 64. This game was released in the Summer of 1998 and there wasn't much to the control configurations of the Nintendo 64 controllers.  The characters I could play as were able to use grappling hooks to propel themselves forward in intricately designed obstacle courses. This was essential for me if I wanted to advance to the next course in a world. There are 10 worlds total in the game's main mode, which I wouldn't really call a Story Mode, and each world carries a specific theme to them. The obstacle courses that I encountered dealt with challenges that revolved around their specific themes, making the experience both fun and meaningful. 

Unfortunately, there were some surfaces within courses that I just couldn't grab onto with my grappling hook and it took me some time to understand why. Most surfaces were accessible for me to grapple on, but some surfaces prevented me from grappling for whatever reason. The range of the grappling hooks at times made me feel like I could have been given more rope, so to speak. I assumed at points that I would be able to reach out long enough to grab onto something but then watched as my wrecking ball plummeted into the abyss of a bottomless pit.

Perhaps it was only my own personal experience playing this game, but I got the feeling that the grappling hook response lacked just a little bit whenever I pressed the button to activate it. I mean, the grappling hook would respond, but not at the most desirable time. I was able to collect power-ups that allowed my characters to either speed through the courses, shield themselves from attacks or equip themselves with ammo to attack other racers. When I collected a power-up in a race, it did mean something and it carried value in the long run. Some power-ups were available to stun your opponents almost immediately if you timed it right, giving you a decent advantage. 

Graphics: 17 out of 20 Points

Taking into account the year in which this game began its existence, 1998, I would have to say that Iguana Entertainment did a fine job considering the limitations they had to work with. Am I to say that the graphics of Iggy's Reckin' Balls are superbly amazing? No, but these graphics do present a specific identity to what the world of this game is and these graphics are proper representations of what Iguana Entertainment had envisioned for this game. The graphics stayed true to what Iggy's Reckin' Balls was all about. Colorful, vibrant, pleasing for the eyes, laid back cartoony, comic book-like... I could use a variety of examples to describe the good quality of these graphics. 

You could tell from the animations of the game, from the characters you could play as to all the enemy NPCs that were either amusing or annoying, that Iguana Entertainment were poised in presenting something out of the ordinary for the Video Game Industry at the time. This was basically a little statement made by Iguana that could go something like "Here's something you weren't expecting, but don't you think these unique quirks that make up this game are cool?" 

I personally liked the design of Iggy, the main character. Iggy was, to the shock of no one, an iguana, made after the mascot of Iguana Entertainment, and it made sense to me. What would you want to highlight your game the most as the first character that gamers see? You would want to give gaming communities something to talk about and a character who can be recognized for standing out. "An iguana that's a wrecking ball? What kind of strategic nonsense is this? I should check this game out anyway!" This game would have that kind of appeal.

As far as glitches and bugs go, I can't say much about this particular department. Nintendo 64 games were more notorious for allowing certain bugs and glitches to sneak past game testers at the time, so it was definitely to be seen by me playing this game. Sometimes when eliminations occurred in races or in battles did something glitchy or buggy took place. It took a while for the game to get its head on right and allow you to move on as just a giant bomb. Instances such as that could be looked at. 

Story: 5 out of 20 Points

I don't consider this to be a big deal because I am also considering the context of what a game like Iggy's Reckin' Balls is. It's a Platforming-Racing Game, and knowing that, I believe it would be fair to give this game a mulligan in a sense. The fact is that this game is not story driven at all. There is no real sense of a story developing throughout the main mode of this game, and honestly, that's fine by me. I wouldn't have expected there to be an in-depth story coming from a game where all the characters don't even have arms to use, but rather grappling hooks. Just imagine Nintendo trying to come up with ideas for a spin-off game featuring the Goombas... Yeah, that would be difficult...

Plus, what could you possibly do to make an engaging story out of a wrecking ball iguana and his friends who look just as funky? This game is built more around the sense of friendly competition between 2 to 4 players, and this is really the strength of Iggy's Reckin' Balls. This is a party game where a group of friends can sit down and play and have fun together. 

Okay, so you want an abbreviated story in a nutshell? Well, here goes nothing.

"Once upon a time, a wrecking ball iguana started racing some friends through Easy Street. Next, he raced his friends through Downtown, Candy Lane, The Deep and Soft Sun Bay. Then the wrecking ball iguana and his friends embarked on a dangerous detour through Funkville, Tecktricity, Sunset Canyon and Patchwork. Finally, the heroic wrecking balls plowed through a deep and dark forest. They went back home and had some laughs. THE END"

Music: 12 out of 20 Points

Here's another thing that I don't remember too fondly about this game. I don't remember much about the music in this game. When I heard the game's music, it didn't strike me as being memorable. To be sure, the music was catchy, fun and lighthearted which fits the atmosphere of the game, but it was nothing that a gamer could go back and tell his or her friends "Remember that awesome music we heard from Iggy's Reckin' Balls on the N64?" I don't think this is a strong point of this game, and quite possibly Iguana Entertainment could have looked around a little bit more for inspiration in the musical department. 

This is just in the nitpicking sense, but I sometimes got the off-putting feeling whenever I focused on listening to the music of Iggy's Reckin' Balls. Perhaps there was something about the music that just didn't fit certain parts of the game that made it off-putting, but I can't thoroughly pinpoint the reason. The music in this game isn't bad at all but it may raise your eye brows a little bit.

Replayability Factor: 18 out of 20 Points

Beyond a shadow of a doubt this game excels in being a friendly competition, and in being such, it would warrant constant replays from a group of friends just hanging out and wanting to experience nostalgic gaming. It really depends on how you feel about a game like this, whether or not a unique Platforming-Racing Game like this is something you are interested in. If you don't mind adjusting the controls of the grappling hooks, the bouncing physics of the wrecking balls when they bump into each other (and yes, this has happened to me...),  and the intricate, and sometimes baffling, designs of the obstacle courses, then you would probably get a big kick playing Iggy's Reckin' Balls.

Gamers who just love to race other gamers, no matter what the setting of the game is, would most likely have fun, which is why I suspect that the Replayability Factor for a lost little gem of a game like this could be pretty high. There are a variety of courses to choose from and very rarely do you get the sense that the courses are simply built the same way, so that's another plus.

Overall Score: 76 out of 100 Points (Bonus Points: 7)

I award Iggy's Reckin' Balls 7 Bonus Points mainly because of the strong originality of the game. The theories and planning behind this game were very much solid and I could easily see that. Some of the elements that Iggy's Reckin' Balls displayed would probably be parts of the strategies that I would implement into my own hypothetical games. Obstacle courses are meant to be fun and I believe Iguana Entertainment put out a solid effort in making the obstacle courses in this game fun. It also never hurts to have a Cheat Code Menu as well, since this game provides cheat codes in spades to be discovered. I put in some cheat codes and they turned out to be pretty funny, worth the time to look around for.

A word of warning before I close this review out, though. Be prepared to die in this game. MANY TIMES. Such as what I mentioned earlier about my assumption that I could reach a surface with my grappling hook, but only to fall, you could experience that yourself just as easily if you haven't mapped out the obstacle courses enough. Iggy's Reckin' Balls is a challenge, but a fun challenge to pay attention to, even if for just a little while.

Sadly, Iguana Entertainment, and by extension Acclaim Studios Austin, are no longer with us in the Video Game Industry, but the employees of this defunct company still march on making games today. Don't worry, guys. You made one impression with this game.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Online Video Game Criticism - Slippery Slope

I am always traveling through the wide and narrow streets of the internet looking for all sorts of news related to the Video Game Industry and I believe that this story would be an appropriate one to address, to give my own personal thoughts on the matter. I have gone in depth once before about video game critics, such as what you read back in my article "Stuck In Nuetral: Sonic The Hedgehog", and it remains true that some sources for video game criticism just aren't that reliable to begin with.

When you, the consumer, are looking for an opinion on a game that you are potentially going to buy off the shelves of a store, you would like to be given the right kind of information regarding the product in question. You would like to know the details of what makes the game good, what makes the game not so good, and what makes the game worthy of your hard earned money. The idea of criticism is nothing new. Criticism of anything is present all throughout the world and there are people out there who will get paid to provide their opinions on a product, to provide their criticisms on something that they felt weren't exactly what they were looking for.

When you read the article in the above link, it shouldn't come as a surprise to you when you find out that game developers and publishers are paying popular online personalities to have their own video games be reviewed. This is the kind of practice that has been kept as a secret for a few years and I think it was appropriate to finally shed light on this issue because it serves as a potentially harmful issue for the Video Game Industry as a whole down the road.

People who put out videos on YouTube that involves playing video games and providing commentary on them has been something that either outsiders like or don't like for one reason or another. Another issue altogether would be the act of YouTube intentionally propelling certain channels to instant stardom and allowing them to receive the benefits of promotional exposure that only few of the smaller channels can even dream to have. Especially in the case of the larger YouTube channels, reports are that game devs and game pubs hand out money to the creators of these channels to promote their games through reviews in the form of YouTube videos.

Gamasutra, a fine website for video game related material, conducted a survey of 141 YouTubers, asking them numerous questions regarding the ethics of YouTube video game criticism. 30% (42 people) had over 5,000 subscribers to their channels. Of these 42, 11 (26%) admitted to "receiving money directly or indirectly from a game dev/publisher for recording videos of their games". This survey stems from the seemingly growing issue that has plagued YouTube earlier this year and at the end of 2013 when pertaining to copyright issues.

Should YouTubers get money for the work that they do? It really depends on what that work is exactly. If YouTubers are blatantly copying something that clearly was not their idea to begin with and claim it to be their own idea in a video, then no, it's not okay to get money from that. In all honesty, when I think about this issue of Let's Players (people in the industry obviously know this language by now) and whether or not they should receive monetization for their works, it gives me headaches on many occasions. I have heard both sides of the fence of this issue and it just sounds like one big court case where no one really knows where they're going inside the courtroom.

There is only one question I can ask everybody when it comes to YouTube monetization.

What exactly is the gigantic deal here? 

Now there are standards to maintain when you are creating a video that talks about your favorite video games or your least favorite games. There is an etiquette that YouTubers should establish before they go on commentary in a Let's Play or when they get in front of a camera for a game review. When you review a game, you should speak the truth. It's not that hard to do. You have to tell the masses how you truly feel about a video game that you just played and you have to be able to indicate to your audience whether or not a certain game is worth buying. You can't go into a game review and half-butt your way through the process.

Now as the article above states, the YouTube personalities are being paid to review games that were made by the development teams and publishers, and it's easy to see why there would be a slippery slope to this action. On one end, it would be easy to see why the YouTube personalities would gladly accept the money offers from members of the industry and why they would go out of their way to make the game reviews. On another end, though, it becomes very worthy of deep speculation as to why game developers and game publishers provide under the table money to these YouTube personalities in the first place, especially when these channels don't directly work for them.

Why is there this need to promote your game in this way? For a dev of pub to pay a YouTube content creator to review a game and relay information that may either be useful to the consumer or might wind up as pure misinformation, what is the motive here? Many people speculate that game reviewers, even big boy professional game reviewers, are being paid by game companies to lie about what they play in a review. 

It's one thing to promote a product out of the pure joy of being a devoted fan to that product. You can't fault a fan for being a fan in some cases. However, it is crossing the line by leaps and bounds for game reviewers to step in and post videos on YouTube that contain intentionally misleading tidbits about a game that consumers are not yet sure about. You know what we call that down on the streets? Hustling.

Hustling (Definition):
1) To proceed or work rapidly or energetically
2) To push or force one's way; jostle or shove.
3) To be aggressive, especially in business or other financial dealings.
4) Slang - To earn one's living by illicit or unethical means.

Both the game reviewers and the game companies partake and conspire in hustling tactics in order to get their products bought by consumers. It's just like the old tactics the car dealers would pull on innocent folks back in the day. When you were sold a lemon of a car and you turned it back in to the car dealership, you were blindsided by the dealer as he didn't take responsibility for it. If a game company gets the feeling that their video game might not do as well as they had hoped in sales, they will do anything to spark interest in their product. That game is their baby and they will protect that baby, even through the act of hustling.

If a game is proven to be mediocre or bad, then that's all there is to it, and there's no changing it. I'm sorry to have to dawn that onto game companies, but that is the truth. If your game under performs in gameplay and in sales, then people have a right to know about the truth behind your game and what it's about. There's no way to dance around that.

Consumers earn their money by working hard and they don't want to be led to buy something that will end up making them feel ripped off in the end. In some circumstances, sadly, that is all some companies will look at as their bottom line. The money. They don't care who they have to push around and they don't care which kind of system they have to abuse in order to make a quick buck. If paying game reviewers to write positive reviews suits the game companies, then they will do so.

Criticism of video games, or anything else for that matter, is entirely subjective and it should remain as such. Do I have things to pick apart on the subject of Let's Plays? Yeah, I do, but monetization is NOT one of them. There shouldn't be a gigantic stink being raised about Let's Players who are truly committed to putting out quality videos with commentaries, editing and extra features that DON'T go along with the games they play, and the corporate giants such as Nintendo have no right to rip away the profits that YouTubers make.

At the end of the day, Let's Play videos are not harming the economic bottom line that Nintendo and others of its ilk so desperately cherish. Game companies make enough money and the charts indicate as much if you just looked at them. There is no need to stomp on the little guy and refuse to accept the fact that times are changing with the way that we distribute money.

If I were to put out a video of a Nintendo game, let's say Super Mario Sunshine, on YouTube and I made my own commentary for it and I edited it enough to make it stand out from just being a straight up gameplay video, then what case does Nintendo have? Am I claiming in any way that I own the development and the designing of Super Mario Sunshine? No. It very clearly says that Nintendo made the game, so why would I be claiming such a thing? Why would Nintendo worry about such issues? Let's Play videos are a form of expressing interest in products and it mainly develops more interest in products because of its exposure to the masses. If anything, Let's Play videos helps makes companies like Nintendo more money!

As consumers, we have a right to freely express how we feel about video games and we should have our own platforms to say what we think, whether or not big companies agree with us. That is our choice to make and game companies have to be at peace with that. If I love a video game, I love it. If I hate a video game, I hate it. If I'm indifferent on a video game, then give me time to think about it.

Don't pay me to sway me because you will be slipping and sliding away on that slippery slope, and the truth will come to light.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Steven Vitte's Vision (Flowchart Part 2)


Idea Officially Owned By Steven Vitte

Here is another short, abbreviated blog entry but I will describe what is going on with this flowchart. Like the flowchart you saw on July 1, this is another representation of a vision for a new video game idea that can be flexible for other media forms. This flowhcart is a Hypothetical Fan Reaction Survey that pinpoints what kind of audience I would like to see develop from the hypothetical release of this game.

In this chart, I also go into detail as to what my created main protagonist is really about. I talk about the character traits that my custom protagonist shares with well known, established characters in the Video Game Industry, what he has in common with the well known stars and what differentiates him from them. I basically go into different forms of asking Who, When, Where, What,Why and How and I make a percentage of how fans should feel when they take in the experience of my proposed video game.

Marketing is obviously an important thing when it comes to strategically positioning your game franchise for success and I try the best I can to go into that with this flowchart. There's more to developing a game than just the core development process. There are variables on the outside, such as reliable marketing strategies, that can help propel a video game franchise. Wise marketing certainly helps after all. To have a vision for an idea, you have to know what you're aiming for. You have to know which audience you're aiming towards when you put a game out on the market. You have to know what you want the world of your created main protagonist to be like. You have to know what kind of protagonist you have in your created character.

Once you have the ground rules established for the world your main character is in and once you know which kinds of gaming audiences you want to market your game to, it becomes easier for you to plan out what you want to do to push your vision forward. Click the link above and feel free to let me know how you feel about the vision that I have. I have yet to disclose anything about my script that is connected to this, but I'd rather keep that a secret for now as a precaution.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Game Functions: Punch Button

The good old approach to anything that gets in your way in a game. What is the first action that we think about using for our controlled characters? What is the action that we mostly desire to use especially if the heat of gameplay gets a bit ridiculous and frustrating? The term that is used for come combat games is called "Beat 'Em Up" brawling games, the kinds of games where you just dig in and wallop the stuffing out of your enemies.

Mario is once again a good example of this, at least in the context of Super Mario 64. A classic game that many gamers refer to as revolutionizing gameplay styles, Super Mario 64 featured one ability that was appropriate for our beloved pasta-eating plumber. Mario knows how to punch his enemies and he could do it so easily in this game. Of course, Mario is also allowed to punch opponents in the Super Smash Bros. series as well and that is a platform that is absolutely appropriate for punching.

The gameplay function of punching is very basic and very rarely is it made out to be a complex process. You just push a button and watch your character throw a punch. Some games may introduce a combination of buttons that need to be pressed in order to throw different kinds of punching, and this clearly adds a different dynamic to the style of play. There isn't just a straightforward punch to account for in some games. You may be able to perform a backhand kind of punch. You may be able to slip the jab, as one famous boxing manager in the movies said. You may be able to land a sucker punch, and excuse the pun on the actual game developing company Sucker Punch Studios.

What game designers need to consider when it comes to simplicity is that punching fits the mood of a simplistic game. It's nearly impossible to misrepresent the act of punching in a game. Many gamers know the main purpose of a punch in games. You have an obstacle to break down or you have a stubborn enemy that won't get out of your way, so what is the practical thing to do? Punch the snot out of it!

The interesting thing about video game characters punching is that they have different ways of throwing their punches. Some characters like Mario, Viewtiful Joe or Guile from Street Fighter appear to be theatrical when they deliver their punches. They like to put a little oomph behind their aggressive attacks but in the most decorated ways possible. Mario is the typical cartoony puncher, defeating a misled Koopa Troopa with a jumping punch right to its chin. Viewtiful Joe is obviously connected to the cinematic feel as if he were in a movie as his games suggest. Guile is in a competition when he fights and he knows that his punches need to be firm and to the point, and this is aside from his signature "Sonic Boom" move.

In most templates, the B button in configuration is used to represent the act of punching and this is good since you won't be left wondering which button is which for punching. There have even been a few games where the Control Sticks (Playstation) were used to represent the act of punching and while I do admit that it was a fresh take on how to punch in a game, and I applaud that these games tried to be innovative, I believe this tactic missed the mark. When I played Nintendo games all the time as a kid, I looked to the B button first and foremost to see if I could punch my enemies down. I was completely familiar with the concept of "Wanna punch? Just press the B button over there and you're good!'

Oh... and I can't forget one guy who is very well known for the act of punching in a video game. You may know him well, but then again since his Racing Game series seems to be over and done with, you may have forgotten about him. I will refresh your memory right now.

Captain Falcon: "I can beat raw meat AND cook it!"
There hasn't been any character who has become more relatable to the act of punching in video games than Captain Falcon, the main hero in the F-Zero Racing Game series. The fact that Captain Falcon himself yells out his own moves and dares others to show him their moves defines the character and personality of the tough racer. When he yells out "FALCON PUNCH!", you know it's a big deal and something is about to go down. If anything, this quote has carried over to parody videos on YouTube that have been very funny to say the least, featuring random people and characters and allowing them to yell out Falcon Punch instead.

There isn't much more to add when it comes to punching in video games. Pretty much every gamer knows how important punching is in a game that calls for the act to be present. A punch to an enemy is all you need to know when it comes to certain objectives in some games. Beat up your arch rival with punches and clear the stage. You can't really get more simple than that.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

GJG Blog Interview #1: Sande Chen

Sande Chen
This is the Gaming Journalist Gazette's first interview and here I have interviewed Sande Chen. Sande is a writer and game designer whose work has spanned over 10 years in the industry. She is the co-author of the book, Serious Games: Games That Educate, Train and Inform. One of her credits includes 1999 IGF winner Terminus. She has spoken at conferences around the world, including LOGIN, South by Southwest Interactive, and the Game Developers Conference.

Sande Chen's Blog - Game Design Aspect of the Month:

Steven Vitte:
1) How were you introduced to the Video Game Industry? (first break)
2) How did you get your first break as a game writer? What are the requirements?
(I ask because I am an aspiring writer who is looking to establish writing material.)

Sande Chen: My very first video game was as a writer on Vicarious Visions' game, Terminus, which won 2 awards in the first Independent Games Festival (IGF) in 1999.

I graduated from USC's School of Cinematic Arts with a specialization in screenwriting and I basically sent out resumes to video game companies. Sorry, I don't have a glamorous break-in story, but I guess it's good for people to know that sending out resumes and writing samples does work.

3) How important is networking in your opinion? Any tips?

Sande: Networking can definitely help in a job search, but I would say that networking isn't always easy for people who are shy. If that's you, don't despair. There are ways to get better at networking.

My advice would be to approach people as people you would like to get to know better as friends, rather than as people who can get you somewhere. Maybe someday, that'll help you out. If not, you made a friend.

4) What is your opinion on Gaming and Autism?
(I happen to be a gamer who has Asperger's Syndrome, Autism Spectrum)

Sande: One of my regular PvP partners has Asperger's Syndrome and I have also played with others who have more severe autism. I haven't found autism to be an issue in terms of winning at PvP.

While the online socialization is fun for autistic players, my PvP partner cautions that online socialization is not as complicated as real-life socialization. She feels freer to act differently online. She apparently is very quiet in real life, but online, she is constantly typing in the chat box.

5) What kinds of games do you love to play? (Platformer, RPG, Puzzle, etc.)

Sande: I like RPGs, but currently, I play a lot of casual games because I've spent the last few years working in that segment of the industry...

6) What have you learned about gaming in the last 10+ years?

Sande: Technology and markets move fast. In 2009, I wrote that social games on Facebook would surpass casual downloadable games and now, we're seeing a lot of buzz in mobile and tablet games. Maybe in the future, we'll be working on integrating games into our wearable devices.

7) What does a game development/publishing team need to be successful?

Sande: Dedication and luck. There have been a couple stories in the industry about companies about to go under that suddenly landed that successful hit. Life is not always that dramatic, but you do need persistence and you do need the right team with the right project. By luck, I mean, serendipity.

8) What is your opinion on graphics, quality assurance and marketing? What matters most?

Sande: They're all important parts of game development although there are games without graphics so, for those games, graphics wouldn't be important at all. After all, many of the most cherished arcade games didn't have high resolution graphics and we still play them today. The graphics in Tetris cannot compare to the console games of today, but that doesn't matter to the players who play the game.

There is a standard of quality assurance that should be upheld for every game, but as we know, not every game ships without bugs. This is true for many software products. As long as developers continue to fix whatever hiccups arise, their product will get better. As a goal, we should aim to release the most bug-free game that we can.

Marketing is something that can really help your game along, but remember, there's also word-of-mouth marketing. If you have a good game and people like it, news is going to travel. Good marketing does get people to try new products, but if your product isn't good enough to keep people playing, then it's not going to stay at the top of the charts. And people aren't going to write rave reviews about it either. 

9) What is your opinion on video game reviewers/critics?

Sande: I'd like to see more thoughtful pieces, like you see for art and film criticism. However, I know it's trickier for game reviewers because games can be much longer than books or films. Even so, I wouldn't read a review of a film based on its first 15 minutes and I don't want to read a review of a game where the reviewer didn't even bother to play through the game as much as possible. 

10) What is your opinion on my blog, the Gaming Journalist Gazette? Have you read some articles?

Sande: I see that you've been updating. Keep it up! I find that it's always good to be writing. 


Steven Vitte's Vision (Game Idea Flowchart)

Steven: This is just one piece of a custom game document that I have been working on...


^ I am going to keep this short and sweet for this blog entry, but feel free to see what's going on above. This is a flowchart of a custom game idea that I have come up with. I don't want to reveal too much aside from this chart, but I want to let people know that I do work extensively in the form of script writing, and this basically breaks down and describes the format in which I tell my game story. Story elements, gameplay mechanics, features, etc. are all featured in this chart. Plus, this is one small piece of UX Design, something a good friend of mine introduced me to not too long ago. The journey is under way... Stay tuned...