Friday, June 23, 2017

Atari Making a New Console

And along came Atari again?
Talk about a shocker.

Remember Atari? That one video game company that used to be so bold as to make their own consoles as late as the 1990's? Remember the Atari Jaguar? Remember the Atari 7800, 5200 and the classic 2600? For those of you who have only experienced the latest generations of gaming, you probably wouldn't know much about the history that is tied in with this company. Atari played much more of a pivotal role in the Gaming Industry than what you think. Before there was Nintendo and Sega battling it out, and long before Sony and Microsoft started flexing their muscles, there was Atari.

Everyone knows exactly how badly things turned out for Atari in the 1980's and will immediately point at E.T., by far one of the worst video games in history. Cartridges of the E.T. game were sent out to a random landfill dump in New Mexico and were dishonorably buried. Of  course, just a few years ago those same cartridges would be dug up again by some random people. Imagine that!

Now let's get to the shocker. Atari is actually making a new video game console in 2017.

Let that sink in. Atari is actually making a new video game console in 2017. Gotta repeat that.

The good old days of gaming... Atari's back?
Now what exactly this is turning out to be remains unclear in most aspects, but with this new console called the "Ataribox" (I'm sure Microsoft won't be happy about the play-on words from the Xbox), chances are gamers will be receiving some sort of valuable content in the near future. Is the Ataribox just Atari's own attempt of making something like the NES Classic Edition, which did help Nintendo's bottom line for some time? Or is the Ataribox indeed a legitimate attempt of Atari trying to get back into the "Console Wars" and re-establishing its name in the gaming world? Whatever the case, the initial buzz generated by just a short <30 second video has got people talking.

Some reactions to this short video have been "What in the world is Atari thinking?" and "Are they crazy?" but other reactions have been "Oh wow! This I gotta see!" and "I'm curious to see how this turns out!" 

My thoughts? Color me VERY intrigued because this is exactly one of the things that I have been pointing at when it comes to providing a spark for the Video Game Industry. Let's be honest for a minute. As much as we've enjoyed the Nintendo Vs. Sony. Vs. Microsoft Console Wars for 3 generations now, it has become apparent that this 3-way battle is becoming a bit boring and played out. It seems to me that all 3 companies are starting to rest on their laurels in one sense, and perhaps even going through the motions of "We're the only 3 console-making companies in town and that's how it's gonna be!"

If --and I put emphasis on if-- Atari plays their cards right with the Ataribox, then the Console Wars will be successfully refreshed!

I think that thought alone should make anyone feel optimistic about this idea. The Ataribox came completely out of nowhere. To my knowledge there were really no hints of Atari actually doing something like this. Heck, in the beginning of the 2010's Atari filed for bankruptcy, and now here they are, having enough money to do something like this? How does this happen?

If news like this doesn't excite gamers like you, then I don't know what else to tell you other than to stay tuned for more news on the Ataribox. If I pick up on anything else juicy on the Ataribox you'll be sure to get it here on this blog!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Sly Cooper TV Series is in Production

Yes, this is finally happening!

Being a Sly Cooper fan, I simply had this feeling that something like this was going to happen at some point. It was made official this week that a digitally animated TV series featuring the Master Thief himself Sly Cooper, as well as his friends who make up the Cooper Gang, and other interesting characters such as Inspector Carmelita Fox, is in the works. If you follow the above links after clicking on them, you will realize that there is indeed plenty of corporate support behind this project.

Now for those of you wondering, yes, the Sly Cooper movie has been put on hold, mainly due to the fact that the Ratchet & Clank movie didn't do so well in theaters. I mean, we can't confirm that that was the actual reason why the Sly Cooper movie has been delayed for now, but we can only speculate on that.

This news of Technicolor Animation Productions teaming up with Sony Interactive Entertainment to produce a Sly Cooper TV series can possibly be fantastic news considering that these teams take the series in the right direction. There is a lot of untapped potential in a series like Sly Cooper that goes well beyond just video games. I mentioned the movie that was just put on hold, but there's also plenty of marketable variety that goes with a thieving raccoon who acts as a modern day Robin Hood.

There are many ways to go with this. You can have your breakout animated hit that falls in line with shows of the past like Transformers and Gundam Wing, but then there is always the danger of taking an animated series down a path where fans really didn't want it going through, such as Teen Titans Go! (a pretty much failed attempt of non-stop humor spin-off of Teen Titans).

It amazes me that certain video game franchises like Mario, Sonic and Donkey Kong are pretty much allowed to have their own animated series of adventures right off the bat, but then it takes quite a while for production companies to see the value in franchises like Ratchet & Clank and Sly Cooper.

By all means the Sly Cooper franchise has been quiet since 2013 when Sly 4: Thieves In Time was released for the PS3, so it was time to finally bring up Sly again in some capacity. From what I hear at E3, Sony's presentations did not hit any sort of home runs with the crowd, which is concerning. Sony pretty much showed the same things that they showed in the 2016 E3 event, and there weren't any real big surprises. Some gamers were hoping for some surprises such as a possible announcement about Sly Cooper. Unfortunately that just didn't happen at the 2017 E3.

I am initially optimistic about where the Sly Cooper series is being taken with this animated TV series. I am hoping for good things to come out of this project, and I sincerely hope that whatever the producers of the show end up doing that they will end up justifying the hype. As long as Sly and others remain themselves and as long as the storylines in the episodes are interesting enough and aren't non-stop cheap humor marathons, then I don't see why this show can't succeed with teenagers and young children, the targeted audience.

Monday, June 12, 2017

The Blue Shell... Really?

This item will make you cry in Mario Kart!
The Blue Shell... The item that crushes the dreams of the player who's in 1st place in Mario Kart. This item is an obvious representation of the "equalizer" item where the player who is in dead last place will be given another chance of catching up with the rest of the pack. This item will make sure that the player in 1st place will not have a lead so huge that no one can cut into. In fact, isn't that really the core purpose of the Blue Shell? To make things that were initially "blah" turn into "Whoa! What the heck just happened?"

When discussing game mechanics, this would always have to be an honorable mention because of how quirky it really is. When you think about typical racing games, i.e. normal racing games where no random items are collected and unleashed, it's highly likely that if you have a big lead you are going to hang onto that lead unless you royally screw up and allow other players to get back in the race. This is rarely ever the case with Mario Kart games because let's face it, these games are flat our weird with how their races play out. Mario Kart is simply NOT a normal racing game by any means. There is always something weird happening in these races, and most of the time the core of this weirdness happens to involve the Blue Shell.

What makes the Blue Shell such an interesting item in Mario Kart? Is it simply because it acts as an equalizer item? I don't think this is the only reason because it also happens to be that kind of item that takes everyone by shock. The Shock Factor that comes with the Blue Shell is nearly unmatched in any racing game because once the Blue Shell is played it almost always changes the outcome of a Mario Kart race. Unless the 1st place player who gets hit by it is experienced enough to get past such adversity and still win, there's a good chance that we'll be seeing someone else win the race.

As the above video describes, however, it is actually possible to avoid getting hit by the Blue Shell while in 1st place. There are only a certain few items that are capable of negating the effects of the Blue Shell, and if you don't have these items then you're pretty much in deep doo-doo. 

I have some history with this item because I have played some Mario Kart games, and let me tell you that I have been at the receiving end of these Blue Shell hits as well as being the guy who dishes out the Blue Shell to the 1st place racer. So how do I feel about the Blue Shell? I'm okay with this item existing. I don't see any general problems with it because it does add to the fun of Mario Kart. It is one of the most creative ways Nintendo has used the element of the "equalizer", and I think it fits right in with the craziness that we have come to know Mario Kart games by.

If you look around you will notice that the Blue Shell has become a meme of sorts on the internet. Whenever someone pulls out in front with a big lead in anything, whether that be racing or any other event, you'll notice someone busting out a Blue Shell meme just for laughs. That's when you know you've made an iconic item. Just ask Stephen and Mal Georg on the StephenPlays YouTube channel about their thoughts on the Blue Shell item!

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Edutainment Games: What They Need

Educational entertainment? Edutainment? Games that are meant to teach players some valuable lessons?

If you're not used to this side of gaming, then don't worry. Many gamers haven't had good experiences on this side of gaming anyway. You can lump in "Serious Games" as part of this package, but let's try to focus on games that relate to what was written about in the above link. The picture I put up above is a title screen of a Math Blaster game. Have any of my blog readers played a Math Blaster game when they were young? Do you guys remember what that gaming experience was like? Perhaps when you look back on that experience, you probably won't have fond memories of them. Not because the makers of the Math Blaster games didn't try to make the experience fulfilling, but rather the games themselves just came across as looking dull.

That is what the article in the above link is hinting at. The author of the linked article states that educational video games, Math Blaster and other games of its ilk, just never got things right. The author does go on to state that there's a special nickname for games that fit the Math Blaster mold, and that would be "chocolate-covered broccoli". Now I've never had broccoli dipped in chocolate, but I can only imagine that the taste of that wouldn't be so good! Yuck!

The attempts of establishing the medium of Edutainment were all innocent in the late 1980's and 1990's because certain companies wanted to touch base with children who were starting to get used to playing all the hip and cool video games of those times. The NES, SNES and Sega Genesis were video game royalty in this time period, and as children were getting hooked into playing for hours, other companies were trying to get creative in helping these same children succeed in the classroom at school.

Chocolate-covered broccoli was coined by the author of the book Utopian Entrepreneur, Brenda Laurel in the year 2001. She believes that the Edutainment genre poorly tried to make the entertainment part of these gaming experiences mean something to the player. While the educational part had enough bulk to it, the entertainment part was obviously lacking. Therefore there wasn't enough of a balance between the two that could actually keep players (children at school) interested long-term.

By all means, even the big name video game companies themselves are not exempt from this. Remember what Nintendo did around this same time period? Remember Mario's Time Machine? Mario Is Missing? Mario Paint? Only 1 of these 3 games have managed to maintain a respectable reputation, and that would be Mario Paint as you can listen to pretty decent (and even awesome) beats that remind you of pop culture themes on YouTube.

Mario's Time Machine and Mario Is Missing! were both duds, however. I mean they were REAL duds! In one game as Mario you were pitted with the task of basically being Marty McFly, repairing the Space-Time Continuum by retrieving objects (apples) once you traveled to certain time periods, and all the while supposedly learning some stuff about world history. In Mario Is Missing! you played as only Luigi, and with occasional help from Yoshi, Toad and some Koopas, you would try your best to locate just where Mario was as you would be given geography lessons. Both of these games I just described are considered cringe-worthy to this day.

It's funny that I'm posting this at a time when children are out of school and enjoying their Summer vacation, but hey, anything newsworthy for video game content is great!

If you attempt to make a game in the Edutainment genre, then it's wise to make sure that there's a significant balance between the two categories of education and entertainment. If one category suffers, then the other category won't be able to make up for the lost quality. It really is that simple. If I give you the educational lesson but fail to entertain you, the game will be boring. If I entertain you by leaps and bounds but fail to educate you, then you will not want to focus on what the educational points actually were. Balance is the key, blog readers!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Sega Issue: Suggestions and Miscommunication 

These 2 above links don't necessarily belong in the same blog post, do they? Well, I kindly suggest to think again about that because I am going to dedicate this blog post by comparing these 2 linked articles, and I will draw the conclusion (my opinion only) that these 2 stories actually mirror each other in some way.

I generally want to support a company like Sega. I really do. It's not my intention to come up here on my gaming blog and downgrade what Sega does. It's up to the blog reader to decide where I'm going with what I'm implying. I've been very vocal about how I feel Sega has poorly handled their flagship game franchise Sonic the Hedgehog, and if you look deep enough you will know that there is plenty of evidence that supports this feeling of mine. I'm not the only one who feels this way about Sega.

Now Link #1 describes what one former employee of WWE (professional wrestling) felt about his time there. This guy was a ring announcer who would genuinely pick up on what wrestling fans were feeling at the time, and he would try his best to pitch suggestions to the Creative Team of WWE in hopes of getting them to see what the fans were seeing in the wrestling product. Of course, as it turned out for this guy, he was ignored 99% of the time. This article goes on to explain why issues such as this represent a sign of a bigger problem for the WWE as a whole.

Now if you're a pro wrestling fan and you've seen the ups and downs of the term "sports entertainment", you would know where I would be going with this. The WWE is clearly nowhere near the level of relevance it once was when it comes to mainstream appeal. Remember the late 1990's and early 2000's when so many people, who weren't even huge wrestling fans, would be buzzing about something that happened on WWE programming? A big part of the WWE's main problem is a combination of the following;
  • The WWE has become too commercialized and politically correct over the last 10 years.
  • The "creativity" in the WWE's Creative Team is non-existent at this point.
  • The WWE is trying too hard to appeal to everyone while pleasing hardly anyone.
  • The WWE is abusing its advantage as a possible monopoly on the wrestling business.
Keep an imaginary tab on this part as we now go to Link #2.

Link #2 describes the latest marketing strategy that Sega is attempting to implement, as in rebranding itself as "Amazing", and according to recent reports it's likely that "Sega Forever" is actually a real thing on the internet, which is basically an updated version of the old Sega Channel. The article notes that the President of Sega went on record to say that gaming quality is important. The article ultimately draws the conclusion that Sega needs to have a solid lineup of awesome games if it wants to back up its "Amazing" new brand claim.

I find it funny in one sense that the President of Sega said that gaming quality is important because it leads me to wonder how often, if at all, he keeps track of what's going on with franchises like Sonic the Hedgehog. If he doesn't keep good track of Sonic's recent history, then he must allow Sonic Team to have more free reign with the franchise than what we were led on to believe.

Gaming quality is important. That's a claim made by a company official. Will that claim become a reality? Will gaming quality continue to go up for Sega? We don't know that for sure. Many gamers who are still burnt out from what happened to the Phantasy Star Online franchise may beg to differ with this claim, especially the PSO fans located in North America.

Do Sega and Sonic Team listen to their fans?

That's a hard question to answer simply because there are many layers of this issue that you need cut through first.

Are fan requests sometimes misguided?

All fan bases, no matter what video game franchise they devote their time to, are going to have their fair share of bad apples, so to speak. It's bound to happen. The Sonic Fan Base gets a bad wrap in this case. There are so many things going on with the Sonic Fan Base right now that it really gets hard for anyone to keep track of. Perhaps that's where some of the confusion begins when we go back to the first question above.

Do Sega and Sonic Team listen to their fans? Which parts of the Sonic Fan Base? Hearing a lot of noise from so many different parts of the Sonic Fan Base? Why do you think that is? Ever since Sonic 2006 and the disaster that it was, Sega and Sonic Team have been going through a slippery slope of sorts trying to figure out just what were the core problems of Sonic 2006.

As you can probably tell, if you look close enough at what's being released, it's clear that Sonic Team have been playing it safe with the Main Series of Sonic games, going on this experimental phase where they put out gameplay features in hopes that it will lure in the right kind of audience. The longer they experiment, supposedly according to them, the better they believe they'll get in fixing the core problems of Sonic the Hedgehog, both the character and the games.

Soon I will dedicate another blog post to the Sonic game that is going to be released later this year, Sonic Forces. This game will be yet another example of what is hindering true improvement for the Sonic franchise as a whole. Even though Forces will be sure to sell well on the market when it hits, what is the core purpose behind this game's main selling points? Did Sonic Team listen to their fans well enough?

Remember that imaginary tab on Link #1? Bring that tab back out and let's try to break this all down together.

Commercialization and political correctness has impacted so many things in society in recent years, and while I won't go into specifics about this, let me just say this. When you try to restrict a creative endeavor so much to the point where you basically demand that endeavor to fit a narrative that suits your liking, problems are guaranteed to arise.

While creativity is still something that exists in Sega and Sonic Team, it has become clear that their use of creativity has become completely misplaced. The creativity that Sonic Team implements in their Main Series Sonic games leaves a lot to be desired. There have been many accounts of gamers who claim that Sonic Team could afford to push the envelope a little bit more, and it shouldn't hinge on whatever the "professional" video game critics over at IGN, Game Informer, GameSpot, etc. say or believe.

Sonic Team is clearly trying too hard to appeal to everyone in the Gaming Industry while they end up pleasing hardly anyone. Sonic Team has stretched themselves out so much throughout the history of Sonic games that it has become impossible to "unite" the Sonic Fan Base under a single game that they can all enjoy together. Especially with how they promote a game as "something that will revolutionize the Main Series", the game ends up doing almost the exact opposite of that; creating more problems and putting band-aids on existing problems rather than addressing them head on.

In the grand scheme of things, looking at the Sonic Main Series, as a character Sonic the Hedgehog has a monopoly when it comes to playable character priorities. His name is on the games, of course, but that alone shouldn't be the reason why he should be made the only important character of the series. Sonic has a monopoly on his friends, characters who supposedly support his heroic cause. Maybe we should now call it a "duopoly" because Modern Sonic seems to share top playable character priority with Classic Sonic these days. However, that just doesn't solve the core problems of the Main Series.

One sign of the Sonic Fan Base being fragmented beyond recognition today? In the Main Series it has been over 10 years (we're counting 11 years now) since characters like Miles "Tails" Prower, Knuckles the Echidna, Amy Rose, Shadow the Hedgehog and others have been optional playable characters. Does that at all give you pause as to what is really going on with the Sonic games?

What is the conclusion that I personally draw from this?

Playing it safe forever isn't going to work for Sonic Team. While I personally have no problems with Sonic Forces as a whole, and think that it's going to sell well because of its features and gimmicks, when we step back and look at its core, that's what it only provides. Features and gimmicks just for the sake of being features and gimmicks.

Ultimately you can't address a problem head on by taking millions of baby steps and constantly dancing around the problem. That's not how a normally functioning business operates. Sacrificing the long-term solution in favor of getting that short-term fix does more damage to your brand than it provides any benefit. If you know what a problem is, you just fix it. You find what works and don't second guess yourself.

What I see in the actions of Sega and Sonic Team is a ton of second, third and fourth guessing when it comes to deciding on what Sonic the Hedgehog should be as a character and as a series. The result? A Fan Base scattered into 20+ different parts where they all file complaints about different issues, and a company that doesn't even realize that they created this mess to begin with.

It may be unusual to compare Sega to WWE, but it's a crazy enough comparison to appropriately use.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Arms and Splatoon 2 Direct Thoughts

A recent Nintendo Direct was held to show off a couple of new releases that are coming to the Switch console, and I have to say that both of the games that were shown in this Direct have my attention. For a variety of reasons I appreciate creativity when I see it, and I definitely see it in these two games.

Arms and Splatoon 2 are the games I'm talking about, and while some gamers will have their reservations, I believe that these games are going to do just fine selling enough copies on the market. I believe Nintendo has 2 surefire winners in the Video Game Market with these games. When it comes to Arms, yes, it's an unproven commodity. We don't really know what to expect with Arms because no one has been able to play a game even remotely similar to Arms before, but from what I saw in the intro trailer here in Direct, I wouldn't be surprised if this game became a smash hit. (pardon the fighting genre pun)

When I think of Arms right now, I'm thinking about a mixture of the following; Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots, Street Fighter and that old Nintendo 64 game BattleTanx. For those of you who played BattleTanx before, you would know why I made that comparison. There are "explosive" elements to Arms considering what the characters will have to use in their arsenal. The Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots comparison is obvious because of the stretching punches and the namesake of the game's title. The fighting environment of Arms gives me the vibe of a Street Fighter game. Combine all that together and you get a good overall vibe.

We were briefly shown Splatoon 2, but even with the little that we got from this game's intro trailer, it's obvious that gamers are going to flock to this game and play the heck out of it. The original Splatoon had immense replay value because of the online multiplayer feature, and it wouldn't surprise me at all if Splatoon 2's online multiplayer gets the same kind of traction, if not better traction. There are new maps to play in Splatoon 2 (or maybe Spla2oon?), and there are new features in customizing your character. If you happen to like Splatoon's Story Mode, which honestly I don't really care about, then you will get a new wrinkle or two in that part of the Splatoon experience too.

If there's one thing about Nintendo games that I have always come to respect would be their marketing strategies. How they get their products out there for the demo reveal is most of the time enough to convince gamers to buy the games, and the reason for this is because these trailer videos, such as the ones I just mentioned, have a way of luring you into what they're trying to sell. Over the last few decades Nintendo has obviously gotten good in this department.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Game Ideas: To Share or Not To Share?

Perhaps this can be used as a continuation of the blog post I just made on the subject of sharing game ideas, which can be seen in this link. ( The topic here describes how there can be negative effects to sharing your game ideas, and that there's a possibility that you, the idea guy, won't be able to follow through with the idea you just pitched.

As the author of the article at the very top link describes, there are drawbacks to willingly sharing whatever is on your mind as a game dev. If you freely share an idea, it gives off a vibe of you actually intending to act on said idea. People who listen to your ideas, whether brilliant or ridiculous, are going to assume that one day you're going to carry out on what you pitch, and some of them will really expect you to make some progress on this front.

Inadvertently, sharing ideas becomes a "de-motivator" of sorts for the game dev. Once you put something out there for other people to wonder about, something tends to go the other way, as in you won't do what you say, even if you wanted to. That's basically what I got out of the article above. It is a legitimate enough warning for people who don't know exactly what they're getting themselves into when it comes to the game dev process. The author here does make some valid points.

Most notably the main part of the author's article I strongly agree with would be this basic message; don't just be so willing to share your game-related ideas. If you do that you will accidentally put pressure on yourself to actually do something regarding those ideas. If you do that you're basically letting out a secret that should or should not have gotten out in the first place. You can give out hints about what you're thinking of doing, but don't go the whole 9 yards and spell everything out about your ideas.

I guess we can slip in the term "Poker Face" when it comes to this topic because that's one of the first things that popped into my mind when I read this article. Sometimes you gotta put on your best Poker Face when discussing something that might relate to a bold new idea you may have for game development. Keeping things close to the vest is a safe play, but it can also be the smartest play you can make. It may not be what you want to do because you are so eager to discuss everything you're doing with other people, but it may be the thing you need to do, for your own sake.

I believe everyone is different when it comes to distributing and sharing game ideas. Not all of us will have the same result as the author when it comes to tossing out ideas for others to listen to. I wouldn't expect the same result to keep occurring, in my opinion. However, the tone of the above article is basically this; please be careful if you want to make sure that you will actually do what you say. Take precautionary measures.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Ideas and Execution in Game Development

Comment By Christopher Robin
*shrug* I tend to be the "idea guy" in the groups I work in, Maybe I handle it better than other idea guys, but it's not at all like how you guys describe. I typically handle the design, I'll focus more on systems and let the artists/writers focus on world and narrative. I will handle the production side of things typically because most other people don't seem to enjoy that aspect (I really like lists). I don't find other people to work on projects with me because I am lazy. I can code a bit, or learn to code/piece together what I need. I grew up artistic, and I can draw and paint. The problem is, I also work FT and want to transition from QA to Design. They tell you the easiest way to make that transition is to make games. Getting friends together to work on a jam, or an indie project is a good way for each of us to work on and display our skills. (I usually work with friends in QA that also want to transition)

Anyways, the vitriol I see in these comments is really disheartening. I grew up hearing that getting into games was a waste of time. It wasn't until I was about 25ish that I said screw the haters, left my sales job and started working at Nintendo. At Nintendo, I organized a group of people to work on an indie project, and we all learned a crap ton. I was more of an idea guy then, because I understood the development process less. If I had instead received this sort of response, the first project might not have happened - you know how I learned about the process and got better at it? By doing it. None of you are forced to help an idea guy, designer, whatever with his project.. but who the heck are you to question other people for getting excited with him.

Maybe I am misinterpreting what an idea guy is, but it seems to me like you guys are just crapping on hopefuls that haven't been as privileged as you are.

Steven's Response

Receiving the label of "idea guy" is not pleasant when it comes to the Gaming Industry. When you get called an "idea guy" it's usually not a compliment. If you consider the article linked above you will find out that according to some game devs --not all of them but some-- the "idea guy" is not really welcomed by the game dev team. Now let's talk about this label in detail. What is the "idea guy" label?

When you're called the "idea guy", you're basically viewed as the guy who hovers over the other game devs and give them your input without putting in a great amount of technical work yourself.  Recent history would tell you that people who are college educated and are qualified to handle all the super technical details of computer programming. If you have a college degree with flying colors in fields relating to computer programming, then chances are you're getting a free road to game development. 

If you happen to relate to the label of "idea guy" in any way whatsoever, then chances are you're going to have a much more difficult road to game development. That's the way this "game" is set up for devs. You either have enough skills to contribute to a game project or you don't, and if you don't you're encouraged to go to college and get a degree...

I'm not afraid to say that I present ideas to game devs. I don't think it's something for me to be ashamed about either because I'm letting people know what a consumer of video games is thinking. Ideas can be taken or left by game devs. Ideas are not set in stone. Ideas are always subject to change.

What I don't appreciate is that if I ever receive the label of "idea guy", then I will be looked at as someone who doesn't have what it takes to regularly contribute to a game dev project simply because I don't have technical computer skills that are up to par with everyone else on the dev team. I don't want to be viewed as someone who "doesn't get it" when it comes to the game development process. No, I do understand the dev process. I have constantly read about and studied the dev process. The problem is the ability to receive opportunities to work on a game project. 

You see, that's the problem with labeling in the Gaming Industry today. If you don't have the absolute best computer programming or designing skills then you will get kicked to the curb in favor of people who have such skills in spades. People wonder why it's so hard to enter the Gaming Industry today? Well...

I will circle this topic back to this point. Not everyone's situation is the same. You can't expect every single aspiring game dev you meet to have such a Grade A college education, and such a sparkling shiny resume that he or she will absolutely wow you the moment you start making a game. Your expectations need to be realistic. Of course it would be great if you were very talented in a certain computer field, but don't go the route of "labeling" when it comes to game development.

Some people are simply more privileged than others when it comes to available resources. For most of my life I have had to deal without the latest upgrades to hardware and software. I have been dealt with not so favored hands on this Poker table, so to speak. I have learned how to work with whatever it is that I had available to me. Sometimes that's really helpful because you can understand what it's like to not have everything available to you, and you're forced to make something work out of basically nothing.

I believe some aspiring game devs get intentionally lost in the shuffle in favor of those people who have the most appealing work resumes. Yes, reward those who have accomplished things. However, don't just shove aside those who have had their work cut out for them since Day 1. I believe there is great miscommunication in the game development scene today. "If you're not one of us college grads, then you can't hang with us." That's the mentality.

Why do you think that at least 90% of video game companies require you to have a college education when applying for certain job positions? That's because the people at the very top have been conditioned to accept that way of progression. That's how the people at the very top got to where they're at right now. They got their college degree and that's their badge of honor. When they use that college degree, they feel empowered to make the rules in the video game companies they run. The rules of applying for such companies are what they are. I'm not saying that's fair, because it's not fair if you ask me, but that's how the "game" is set up.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Business Monopolies: Why Gamers Should Care

Monopoly = Own everything... and then what?
I'm not a fan of the New York Times for obvious reasons regarding the legitimacy of news reports. However, once in a while even the NYT can provide a small nugget of truth in an article that highlights a great problem in today's society. The above link would happen to be one of those articles.

Google controls 88% of search advertising? Isn't that a shame? Just 10+ years ago one would get the feeling that he or she could go anywhere to get their reliable internet searches. Today that feeling is drastically different as the first platform that pops into anyone's mind is Google. Need a question answered? Just Google it. Need tips on how to do something professionally? Just Google it. Need to look up new information on your favorite celebrity? Just Google it.

Search advertising is where money is made, and of course Google (and by extension its parent company Alphabet) have perfected this art, so much so that they intentionally shove every other competitor out of the way and gobble up online search resources. That sounds like a friendly and welcoming company, right?

Facebook, which also owns Instragram, WhatsApp and Messenger, controls 77% of social traffic? Social media... The platform you use to communicate with other people. Just go to Facebook. Everyone in the world appears to be there, so you join up with us! Need to contact your best friend or lost family relative? Join Facebook!

Good ol' Mark Zuckerberg (sarcastic intro), who plans on running for President of the United States one day (that alone is a scary thought), not too long ago bought the VR company that makes the Occulus Rift for $2 Billion. That's billion with a B. Social interaction takes on more than just social media, but also in this case, Virtual Reality programs, whether they take on the forms of video games or not. It's not hard to figure out what the long-term play from Zuckerberg and company is, right?

Revenues in media businesses like newspaper publishing or the music business have, since 2001, fallen by 70 percent? Not surprising by any means since the newspaper publishing business has become, in many ways, obsolete since we have the internet to look up on the latest news and developments of our society. The music business is pretty much in the same boat as consumers don't necessarily need to buy the hard copies of music albums anymore, but rather download those albums and soundtracks off the internet.

I'm sure you, the reader, are noticing a trend as I run down these notes.

 ^ The above link is the result of a little test I took that measured where I supposedly stand politically, and no, I don't 100% agree with these results. I am more about a single nation and I am more about liberty than the opposite, so I know this test got those parts about me wrong. Apparently this test says I'm basically a Centrist, neither Left nor Right Wing. I'll shrug my shoulders and say that I really don't care. I've never been big into politics anyway.

Reader's Question: How does this relate to video games?

Here's how I tie the above article to the Video Game Industry. Business monopolies, at its core, are not good for the long-term health and sustainability of industries. Wouldn't you generally agree? If you disagree, then you might want to imagine this "Doom and Gloom" scenario where the Video Game Industry only has 1 big company making home consoles for gamers. Take your pick of either Nintendo, Sony or Microsoft right now. One of these companies are only allowed to make consoles for gamers and the gamers just have to deal with it, even if they don't like most of the games they receive.

That's what a monopoly basically is without explaining it thoroughly.

Business monopolies clearly fly in the face of the general principles of entrepreneurship, a practice that promotes the idea of you, aspiring to make a splash in the business world, entering the industry of your choice with your own company and your own fascinating ideas. Business monopolies squash competitors. They always do. It doesn't matter how they plan on squashing your company. If they have an opening they are going to do it. You had better be prepared to fight for your company and your business dreams because otherwise the leading corporate giant company will come in and stomp all over your dreams. That's business for you.

So for those of you who hope to see Nintendo, Sony or Microsoft pull out of the console-making business, I warn you of these business monopolies because this is NOT the road you want to go down as a consumer, and definitely not long-term.

Independent video game development combats the big boys of AAA game development because this serves as one way to avoid a monopoly in the game-making world. I highly doubt we will see the day where Indie devs have to team up with AAA companies just to survive, because otherwise the Video Game Industry wouldn't nearly be as strong as it says it is.

If you apply an equivalent to Google or Facebook to the Video Game Industry, should that corporate giant company be broken up? My answer is absolutely, positively YES. I'm not a believer in the saying "We're never too big to fail." That's where so many companies begin their fall from supremacy. Arrogance. Pride. Greed. The basic need to be everything for everybody when that isn't realistic for the market.

In this sense equality is desperately needed in business because without it the territory to have creativity and imagination will be limited, and game devs will suffer long-term. No one company stands above all. Today's society needs to better understand that.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Game Development: Failure and Then Success

You'll fail as much (or more than) as you'll succeed

Game development is a learning process. As a game dev you will hit your stride and find something that really makes sense. You will be a part of a project that connects with audiences and will become something marketable. If your game project is a hit, help will be sure to follow in the form of promoting and general fan following.

Game development is a learning process. As a game dev you will encounter plenty of obstacles where your skills will be tested. Oftentimes you will be part of a project that will go through many revisions and will require the dev team to constantly discuss which route they need to take in order to make the game better. In reality you will experience failure in game development, and how you deal with failure depends on how you view the learning process of game development.

As you can see above, game development is a Tale of Two Views, so to speak.

Many game devs will have differing views on how they see success and failure in game development, and this is an issue that we all will have to tackle at some point. The linked article above goes into stories of game devs who learned quite a bit from failing at projects, and honestly, it provides a real look into what aspiring game devs need to know about the world of game development.

"Don't quit your day job." Boy, is that ever true? Whatever it is that you do during the day that helps make you money, it's recommended that you don't so easily let that thing go because you could be in for a whole world of hurt if you put all your eggs in the basket of "This game we're making will be a hit, so I'll stop everything else that worked for me to get here!" None of us know if our custom game projects will be guaranteed hits, so we can't just jump on the bandwagon and go all-in with something that's iffy at best.

Romanticizing indie devs is an issue, to be sure, because hyping up independent game development has its own pitfalls. I love the fact that "independent" is given the emphasis for these game devs because they don't work under the iron fists of gaming giants like Nintendo, Sony or Microsoft. To be independent in the Gaming Industry means that you are free to venture into any gaming territory with your custom game project, and that's a good thing. However, independent also means that you won't have all the resources in the world in your corner, hence why "Don't quit your day job" rings true.

Clicking the above link, just read what both Rami Ismael and Mike Bithell have to say, and their stories will make sense to you, especially if you have experienced anything similar to what these guys went through. I have mentioned this before on this blog, but I firmly believe this. You will fail just as much (if not more than) as you will succeed in game development. The true challenge is how you will respond to failing at a project and how you will regroup.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Foul Language In Video Games

Re-used this picture, but that's okay!

Since I mentioned it in my latest game review of Battlefield Hardline, I might as well dig deeper on this specific topic and explain my position. Foul language in video games... You can't really avoid it in this day and age. Back in the day, around the late 1970's to mid 1980's, very rarely would you ever find anything so questionable as to having a game be presented to the public and contain any sort of profanity in its text. Video games were made to be simple back then. Put in a theme that people will like, make sure the game plays well, and there you go.

Now the dynamics of game development have dramatically changed, and to the point where game devs have an immense amount of freedom as to what they can implement in their games. Many games today deal with some sort of dialogue and some sort of engaging text that will make gamers play the games. Even if your game has this one long intro cutscene where the gamer is shown what to do, even there would be a possibility of game devs slipping in some F-Bombs, D-Pads and the technical name of a donkey. Game devs simply have that kind of freedom now.

The ESRB Rating System has played a big part in allowing video games to be more flexible in how they present their content. You can have games rated as low as eC, or Early Childhood (rarely do we ever see this rating), and you can have games rated as high as M for Mature, which is where all the swear storms and excessive vulgarity come into play. A funny side note here is that as a child I was oblivious enough to believe that RP for Rating Pending was a rating so severe that the game would become a super special exclusive on store shelves. Yeah, my childhood...

Games rated M for Mature have the kind of content that adult gamers are generally looking for. Sit back, relax and listen to all the "creative" words of foul language fly like never before! Of course, that would be the mentality some gaming communities today seem to have, and in my opinion that's just unfortunate.

I would say that at least 80% (and maybe I'm being generous) of Mature games out there in recent history, let's say the start of the 2010's, include some form of foul language used by their characters. The setting usually takes place in heated scenes during gameplay where the characters get so angry at a situation that's going from bad to worse that they can't take it anymore. The characters let loose in bleep-worthy tirades that make them feel better, but I would ask; what is the purpose this serves?

Some gaming communities find it funny when they hear their favorite game characters cuss up a storm and verbally chew out other characters --Grand Theft Auto, Uncharted and Battlefield, I'm looking at you guys-- but I believe other gamers, with myself being included, wouldn't find these kinds of scenes necessary. There are some gamers, believe it or not, that actually appreciate clean dialogue, and this doesn't involve the game being cute and vibrant like Super Mario or even My Little Pony.

I believe that you can have a dark and gritty video game be made and leave all the foul language out. It is possible to make such a game. You can have all sorts of plot twists and character development that is M for Mature in tone, but you can keep the verbal outbursts to something as subtle as T for Teen or E-10+ for Everyone 10 and Up, and your game will still be successful.

Creativity in game development takes many forms, and this would be yet another form. You want your game to have an M rating? That's fine. Go ahead, but be prepared to lose out on key parts of gaming communities that are sensitive to such content that you are attempting to promote. If some gamers are sensitive to listening to foul language, then have your game feature an option in the Main Menu where gamers can adjust the dialogue where it won't be as foul. Plenty of games in the past have featured this option.

I don't overreact to foul language being used in video games, but the constant use of cheap one-line foul language dialogue does concern me. Many games just use swear words to use them, and I find this to be lazy. Swear words don't make a game good. Swear words, as I've mentioned in my Battlefield Hardline review, can bring a gaming experience down by trying to be too dark and gritty.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

GJG Game Review: Battlefield Hardline

This game did have potential...
For the first time in the history of the Gaming Journalist Gazette, I will be reviewing a game that is rated M for Mature! Now I'm clearly of the age where I can play M-rated games, but to be honest I have always gravitated toward the softer tone games like the T-rated and the E-rated games. The problem that I have with M-rated games has been the fact that the content such games contain don't really agree with me in one way or another.

Now here I will be reviewing Battlefield Hardline, a game in a series that has gained enough of a following that has had gamers talking about how flexible it is. When I say flexible, I mean the way that the games allow you to change things in mid stride as you play through the Campaign Mode. Battlefield is a Shoot 'em Up style of game, so if you like shooters, this may or may not be your cup of tea.

Controls - 17 out of 20 Points

The controls of this game were fluent and very easy to follow. It obviously helps when you have a directory of what the buttons do whenever you pause the game or whenever you get to a loading screen. Whenever I pressed a button, the actions of that button responded just the way it should. The responses I got from the buttons I pressed wasn't really the issue with me. Whenever I needed a button to come through in gameplay, it came through without experiencing any real problems.

The problem I had was really where the commands were assigned. I'm not really a fan of which button I had to press in order to fire a weapon. R2 for the PS4? I wouldn't think that would be the first ideal button you'd press if you wanted to fire your weapon of choice. I have always been more of a straightforward kind of guy, so if I were to have the main Playstation buttons act as a shooting button (X, O, Square or Triangle), then that would make a better transition for me while I play a game, but that is just a preference thing.

Story - 12 out of 20 Points

I found the overall story of Battlefield Hardline to be completely understandable. I totally got what the developers at EA were aiming for when they made this game's story. It can be compared to watching any rerun episode of  "Cops" on TV or watching a movie like Lethal Weapon. If you understand the basic principles between those examples, then you'll get what's going on in this game.

I did find it humorous how some of the plot elements were developed in this game. The formatting of how the characters of the story were introduced was interesting, and it could serve as a learning experience for any aspiring game dev. When playing through the Story Mode, or Campaign, of this story you may grow to like a few of the main protagonists of this game. On the flip side, some of you may grow to not stand a few of them as well. It depends on what kind of character you like in a game story.

Perhaps the main problem I had with this game's story was simply that it felt too "gritty" for my liking. I don't mind it when a game story gets rough and gritty, but there were a couple moments in this story where I felt like it went over the top. Sometimes too much of one thing isn't good.

Music - 18 out of 20 Points

I'm normally an easy customer when it comes to music in games. This game passed the Music Test. I had no problems with the music in Battlefield Hardline because the complete soundtrack captured the mood of the story it was trying to convey. The music fit the game's environment just right. I'm pretty sure EA did their homework when listening to soundtracks of popular crime drama shows and movies because this game's soundtracks sounded like they were inspired by popular media in some way.

Replayability Factor - 16 out of 20 Points

This is going to be a mixed bag of a game for you to handle if you're not really prepared for the "grittyness" of the main Campaign. I'm not saying that this is a bad game. No. This game handles very well and the gameplay segments are very fascinating to say the least. However, from a personal preference standpoint if you like something that isn't too dark in tone, I'm not sure if I can highly recommend Battlefield Hardline for you. 

I give this game the score of 16 in this category mainly because of its gameplay. It is actually very solid. If you like shooting style video games simply because they're shooting games, then you will probably like playing this game. The gameplay environment is exactly as it's advertised to be. You take on the role of a police officer and you go hunt down the bad guy criminals. If nothing else you will indeed get a kick out of the Multiplayer Mode that this game features, as it is a staple in any of the Battlefield series games.

Bonus Points - MINUS 3 Points

Let's play a game of "Good Cop, Bad Cop" for a second. I've been playing the Good Cop for this review up to this point, so now let me put on my Bad Cop hat. I simply hated this game's extensive use of foul language. I couldn't stand the use of vulgarity in Battlefield Hardline, which is a shame because I got used to the gameplay elements.

This is the core reason why I have a hard time recommending gamers playing this game for too long a time. In my case alone the way that the characters used foul language in their dialogue during scenes really brought down part of this overall gaming experience. It got harder for me to enjoy what I was doing because I had to listen to one character blurt out the F-Bomb, or worse, generally swear up a storm. It honestly got so bad for me that I simply hate to mute my TV for a few seconds in order to get past a moment of dialogue exchanges. When having a gaming experience, even for an M-rated game, it shouldn't come down to me having to do that.

I think this is the first time in the history of the Gaming Journalist Gazette that I've had to take away some points when reviewing a game. Once again, the general gameplay of Battlefield Hardline wasn't bad at all. However, the "little" things surrounding this game brought its appeal down for me.

Overall Score: 60 out of 100 Points (docked 3 Points)

60 out of 100 isn't exactly an appealing score, but I feel that it was necessary for me to rate this game that low. No, not because it was a bad game to play. The gameplay part of Battlefield Hardline is very much redeemable and I can get used to this style of play.

However, if you expect me to just sit there and accept a game for its extensive use of foul language and not raise any objection to it, then you are sadly mistaken. If anything some games even have an option where you can adjust the dialogue of their Story Modes so that you won't need to hear so much vulgarity. Some games definitely do this and it amazes me why Battlefield Hardline doesn't give you that option. Not every gamer who plays shooting games enjoys listening to characters swearing every few minutes. Maybe more research and surveys oughta be taken before freely plugging vulgarity into games?

Also the gritty nature of the Story Mode in Battlefield Hardline felt like it was a bit too much at some points. At times I felt like I was given a break from the grittyness, but at other times I felt like I was trapped and forced to witness a bizarre comedy of errors committed by people who, in real life, would get drug busted in the most unflattering, non-funny way.

I suppose there's a reason why I haven't really gotten used to M-rated video games. Perhaps it's because game dev teams take the liberty of making these games so outrageous by M-rated standards that it starts missing the point of what makes a game an enjoyable experience? Maybe gamers enjoy the real grit of such games and don't mind the things that I mark as negatives, but not all gamers share the same opinions.

Friday, April 14, 2017

How Game Stories Are Made: A Writer's View

For those of view who are interested in getting the perspective of someone who has actually written for video games, you might want to click on the link above and listen to this podcast. Greg Buchanan is a writer for the game No Man's Sky and he shares his thoughts on topics related to game writing.

How game stories are made take different forms. We have known this fact for a while. The actions that players take during the course of gameplay will effect what they will do later on. Players need options. The options that a player is given depends on what genre of game a dev team is working on.

What Greg goes on to basically state here is that he's been given advice on how to proceed handling documents that tie in with games, and if you check out what No Man's Sky is all about as a game, you would know just how polished that game turned out to be. The key here is that as a game writer, you are being paid to give out advice in the form of dialogue. I thought that was an interesting way of putting it.

Every game story that you help make is a learning experience. Don't expect to make the same exact game story when you dig in. That's not gonna happen. As a writer you gotta be ambitious when you are given the kind of content the game dev team will allow you to have. You have to squeeze in the dialogue that's necessary. You have to put in the plot twists that are going to relate to gameplay elements.

Is there pressure on a writer whenever he or she works on a mainstream AAA level video game? How is that pressure compared to an Indie game? As Greg goes on to state, pressure comes in different forms. When making an Indie game right from scratch, guys like Greg have to wear more than one hat when making the game, so that's where anxiety could kick in. However, the positive experience that a dev gets from making an Indie game carries great value, and for a writer he or she can enjoy some more freedom in what is included in the game.

This podcast of The 1099 on SoundCloud is 1 hour long, so if you don't mind sitting back and relaxing while listening to video game-related discussions, then this is the podcast for you!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

American Midwest's Game Dev Campaign

When you read the Gaming Journalist Gazette you will know that I make references to the American Midwest. This is because that I am based in the American Midwest region, and particularly in the state of Ohio. I am happy to say that the American Midwest is a growing market in the field of game development. It has made great strides in becoming one of the talked about regions in the United States that supports and promotes game development, and little by little you read more updates about new and interesting games that are being made in the Buckeye State.

When clicking on the above link to read this article on a game dev friend of mine I have gotten to know, Jarryd Huntley, I want to point your attention to some of the points that are made in this article. First off taking advantage of your location's resources would really help you get a leg up on projects that you set out to to do. As I've mentioned before on this blog, it doesn't matter where exactly you live. You can either be in the big city like New York or you can live just outside Boise, Idaho. If you have the passion for doing this and you know you can assemble a team of game devs to make something cool, then just go ahead and do it!

Less than a day's drive to around 40% of the entire United States... Did you catch that part? Ohio is a centralized location, meaning that it can gather resources from abroad in a fairly easy manner. This also means that Ohio game devs can have access to other devs from other parts of the country, whether out west to Texas and California or out east to New York or Massachusetts. Interaction between developers in Ohio and other states happens more often than one might think.

Making friends in the Gaming Industry isn't too hard in this day and age considering all the tools we have on the internet. Once you establish a dialogue with someone who shares the same passion as you do, in making games, it becomes easier to understand what you are aiming to do in a project. Staying consistent with what you do will help going forward. Maintain the key contacts that will help you progress your projects and you will start seeing results.

Consider the Cleveland, Ohio area alone where Jarryd Huntley calls home. Cleveland Game Developers was a group that started out with 20 members. Now it has over 200 members. It is easy why the number of members has grown. Sharing that passion to make something cool out of a game has made a difference between all these members.

Another honest point to make here; while California is a beautiful scenery of a state, it is incredibly challenging economically for game devs to keep a hold on any territory in the Golden State. More often than not we see game companies come in and go out of California equally. Whereas the Buckeye State of Ohio has its perks economically in comparison. Significantly lower cost to maintain your own game dev base? Who would say no to saving money in a business as fun as this one?

The American Midwest's Game Development Campaign is still in its young years, but as you can see with various reports this region is becoming a budding part of the Gaming Industry for the right reasons. There's more to game development than taking that golden ticket and going to California or New York. In the geographic sense the landscape of the Gaming Industry is changing.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Confession: I'm a Terrible Mega Man Player

I have a confession to make in regards to certain games that I play. If you happen to be a big fan of the Mega Man series, keep in mind that I have barely gotten into playing Mega Man games, so my initial views on these games have just begun to form. However, I can say for a fact that with my first few times playing Mega Man games I haven't had the easiest time playing them.

To make a long story short, I'm a terrible Mega Man player.

To make the short story a bit longer, I'm not surprised that Mega Man games in general are very challenging to begin with. I can understand the appeal that gamers see in these games because every jump a player makes matters. Every move a player makes has some sort of consequence. If you're even 1 pixel off your desired target, chances are you're gonna pay for it by losing a life. I can already recall many times where I've made a jump off a high platform... only to have Mega Man fall into the bottomless pit and lose a life. This has stunned me because I assumed I had enough of a jump to clear the distance between one platform and another, but that wasn't the case.

The difficulty spikes can be felt all throughout each and every level of a Mega Man game, and it doesn't matter which game of the series you choose to play. Case and point I recently bought the Mega Man Legacy Collection for the Playstation 4 and I have been playing through the line of 6 Mega Man games provided in that collection, and let me tell you, these games are HARD, and probably harder than what I had imagined.

Creatively speaking I really appreciate the thought that went into designing these levels, as well as the various types of bosses Mega Man has to fight. From a creativity standpoint, the stuff I see in Mega Man for the most part is great. It's classic 8-bit platforming action that any gamer can fall in love with. I can definitely see aspiring game devs getting their inspiration to make a platformer from games like the Mega Man series. It's easy to see why.

It's funny that now I think about the comparisons between the original Mega Man games and the recently made Mighty No. 9. I made a separate post on this blog reviewing Mighty No. 9 and I compared how that game felt to the Mega Man games. It's easy to point out the differences between these two types of games. The inspiration of Mega Man was obvious in Mighty No. 9, but it felt abbreviated.

I am a terrible Mega Man player because of how I perceive the level layouts of Mega Man games. Being one pixel off the ideal spot can result in failure, and worse, a Game Over screen. I have had a Game Over screen in Mega Man many times already. Mega Man isn't the kind of game that you can just get good at overnight. At other times I simply run into enemies and I have no idea how to get around them without taking any damage to my Health Meter.

In the case of Mega Man it will be a great learning experience for me because I can get a better feel for how a platforming game works, whether an element in a Mega Man game was necessary or not. I look forward to playing (and failing more) at Mega Man.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Depression Help: Playing Games

Ever so often reports like this one linked above will come about that studies suggest that playing computer games can help treat issues that plague people, such as emotional and mental issues. The one part that interests me the most about reports like these is that there is a general awareness developing, that issues relating to a person's mood, state of mind and/or emotional state are being acknowledged through the medium of playing video games.

Enhancing concentration, improving learning and changing behavior are key targets in computer games that serve to help ailing people. Serious Games and Gamification have been used in therapy sessions for people who are in need of encouraging and motivational things to do.

I'm sure for some of you gamers reading this that Wii Sports was something heavily considered by some family members of yours. Wii Fit would be another example. This linked article goes into Wii Sports and states that this part of gaming has encouraged older adults to not only get in shape but to also fight off depression. Generally speaking when you give an older adult a basic sporting challenge through a video game setting, chances are you will get a positive response similar to that of a casual gamer of any age.

There is a side to video games that really doesn't get highlighted as much as it should. More often than not we keep reading reports from unreliable sources like Yahoo! (I use Yahoo! unfortunately) that video games are harmful for the brain, that they give gamers bad thoughts, and that playing video games leads to people committing crimes. It simply amazes me what lengths news sources will go to in order to demonize someone playing video games. Here's a dose of reality. Not every single person who plays video games ends up being a horrible person. I know that's shocking for some people to comprehend, but that is true.

There is a right way to use a tool, and there's a wrong way to use a tool. Game development is no different. There is a right way to develop a video game for people to play, and there is a wrong way. Not everyone is meant to play games like Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty. All the same, not everyone is meant to play something super cutesy such as a My Little Pony game. As gamers we all have different interests and we're not going to view every game in the same light.

If you don't like how certain video games are made, then why don't you do something about it? Why don't you get up, get together with a game dev and make a game that you feel will have some value behind it? Why don't you make a game that will help a person repair his or her cognitive status? Why don't you make a game that is educational and allows for an older adult to better process information? That's the unique field of game development for you. It's open for interpretation.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

GJG Blog Interview #11 - Kendra Corpier

Continuing from my post "Gaming Communities: Stick Together", I would like to present readers of the Gaming Journalist Gazette with this great interview. This interview is with the Lead Organiser of the Youngstown Game Developers group Kendra Corpier, who has much experience in the field of game development. Along with a few other organisers Kendra has been building a foundation for game development in and around Youngstown, Ohio, and it makes me happy as a fellow Ohioan to know that there are groups like the YGD that are trying to get aspiring game devs enthused about making games and sticking to their journeys, through both ups and downs.

The YGD is a great example of what a community can do when its members push forward with their passion for making games, regardless of how big or small the cities they live in are. Kendra provides great insight here on important game dev topics.

Steven Vitte:
1) You are the lead organizer of Youngstown Game Developers. How did YGD first come about? How did your core group of organizers first meet, and what led to YGD being formed?
Kendra Corpier: So, I moved here from Phoenix, AZ in February 2013. I grew up here, so it's not crazy that I moved back. I was working on my game, but eventually, funds wore out and I had to get a day job. I searched for jobs, that were at least in a similar field since I knew there weren't any game developers. I found a school and started doing some part-time media tech work for them in August 2014. 
I continued to job hunt and in October 2014, stumble across a startup game dev Meetup for Youngstown. 3 of us showed up. We chatted and started to kind of figure out what this group could do. The guy who started the Meetup, kind of mysteriously disappeared, so I took over as Lead Organiser and Bill Jones took over as Co-organiser. We just started scheduling Meetups and it grew from there.
2) How important are scheduled meetups for groups like YGD? How often do you see new people at these meetups?
Kendra: Keeping a regular schedule is definitely key, that way if people forget to put it on their calendars, they know it's there. We also schedule random meetups from time to time, but they are always scheduled at least a few days in advance on our site so our members can make plans to attend. We see new members every month. We're just over 3 years old and already have 98 registered members on our Meetup site, with plenty of social followers on Twitter and Facebook.
3) What are the challenges to promoting game development in an area like Youngstown's? And what are the benefits?
Kendra: The challenges with promoting in Youngstown is getting the media's attention. We do have local news channels (2 papers and 2 TV stations), and now they do seem to like having stories about what we do, but at first it was hard to get their attention. I think what really helped was becoming associated with and doing work with our local Youngstown State University. As far as social networks go, getting noticed just takes time unless your name is Just Beiber or Scarlet Johanson. Hah :D 
The benefits are meeting so many people. We've branched out with, and do a lot of work with the CleGameCoOp and Cleveland Game Developers, and all of us work with COGG, the big game dev group in Columbus. It's all about networking.
4) In YGD's opinion, what are your thoughts on what goes into game writing?
Kendra: Well, game writing is kind of a vague topic. So... writing stories for games just depends on the game and the developer. Like Tetris type games probably don't need much of a story, but a Final Fantasy type of game is all story. So, a developer can be as vague or as complicated as he or she wants/needs to be for their game. Writing reviews for games.. those are opinions of the media and I always hope for a good review. But a bunch of negative reviews can be beneficial if responded to in a timely and respectable manner. 
Writing a game blog can be about whatever you want. I write my dev blog which focuses more on me and my studio along with videos from time to time and some tutorials when I have the time. I keep the YGD blog up and running as well, and I accept and ask for articles from our YGD members for our monthly newsletter. I am always accepting guest posts too :D Like I said, networking is key.
5) In game writing what do you think are important components in character development? 

Kendra: Character development can be the most important or least important part of your game. If you are making any game with characters, you will need a background story. Many Japanese RPGs go as far as to give the character's blood type, which I have never found to be useful in game play, but it is a way to associate yourself with the game saying "Hey, I have the same blood type as this character.. awesome" 
Character development is all about allowing the player to identify with your game. So, let's say you are making a Street Fighter type of game. You'll only need a short background story as to why the character is fighting, maybe a blood type could be relevant here since they get injured, and a physical description so an artist can create your vision. Players don't need much info to go on, except to figure out what character they want to use to fight with. A fight generally lasts about 1-3 minutes and most players will choose their fighter based on appearance alone. 
Now, an RPG, players will be playing your game for hours. They need to feel like they could be the character they are playing. So, you would need to create a background story, something traumatic to associate empathy, physical description and probably details that have absolutely nothing to do with the gameplay other than allowing the player to feel like he or she is in the game as your character.

6) What are the basics a game dev team needs to get started on a game project? (programming, design, writing, etc.)
Kendra: Honestly, with a small team, you need Jack and Janes of a lot of trades. It's not like working for a AAA company where you have one person do all the lighting in the game. Typically, you would have an artist, a programmer and maybe a musician. You also can't jump into a project thinking you are only going to do one thing. Be good at a few things, and then learn from each other. I guess starting out would just depend on your team's starting skill level. If all you have are artists, you might want to start with Construct 2 or a WYSIWYG editor. 
If you have a programmer, I would suggest Unity of Unreal, depending on the language your programmer knows. For art, I always suggest the Adobe CC since it's just $50 a month, and for 3D, if you have someone who knows 3D then go for it. If you don;t, I would purchase assets or stick with 2D. Not to mention creating your own 3D is expensive, unless you want to try wrangling with Blender. For writing, typically you would start with an idea as a group, and then let it form into plot points, and from there you can build your story details and dialogue.
7) Where do you see the game development scene in the state of Ohio going in these next few years? 
Kendra: Well, I think Ohio has an excellent venue for Indie developers, with lots of support from groups like ours. Ohio is an inexpensive place to live, while being close to a lot of the game development scene, including PAX East, GDEx (which is in Columbus!), and several other big conventions. YGD and the other game dev groups are working towards making Ohio the place for Indie Devs to startup, and hopefully becoming the (coined by Multivarious Games) Silicorn Valley.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Gaming Communities: Stick Together

Youngstown, Ohio has been a struggling community for years, mainly because of all the various industries that have decided to leave the Youngstown area. Back in the day when industries such as automotive and steel were in operation, Youngstown was a thriving, booming place. In the 1950's and 1960's you could see the potential of something great brewing in this area.

Fast forward to the 2010's and it has become abundantly clear that Youngstown has needed to reinvent itself and take itself to a new direction. Major businesses have long left Youngstown and it has been a shell of its former shelf. However, when you click on the link above, you will notice that there is a genuine effort on the part of people who love to make games to make something out of nothing, so to speak. The game development community in Youngstown is in its infancy, but the enthusiasm is crystal clear here.

The website that you will check out above is very unique and interesting. It is very detailed with many categories, including the Youngstown Game Developers offering you their monthly newsletter, game jams, competitions, and resources. If you happen to live in the Youngstown area, or further up north near Cleveland, chances are you will experience something interesting when you participate in a YGD meetup.

This group loves to discuss topics in game development such as graphics, game design, mechanics, character design and networking. If you want to have detailed conversations about topics like these, then you will go to the right place by attending a YGD meetup. The core leadership of the YGD is made up of a QA tester, a professional software engineer, a software developer and a graphics modeler, so you will be talking to people who are experienced in fields relating to game development.

Gaming communities, whether you are in a city like Youngstown, a huge city like New York, or even near a bundle of smaller cities and towns, would be wise to stick together through all the ups and downs of their development as communities. Sticking together as a gaming community is important because the more you guys can exchange dialogue between each other, the better chance you will stand in growing your community. Socializing is a strong aspect of a gaming community. You need to try to get your name out there individually and you need to spread the word about the gaming community you roll with. Doing both of these things equally would really help game development as a whole.

The Gaming Journalist Gazette is the type of blog that brings exposure to gaming communities like this one in Youngstown, Ohio. Being an Ohioan myself, I understand the struggles that come with getting the word out on game development, so I want to highlight these guys at YGD. I also understand that Ohio is a state that is entering a time when it could have a really good opportunity of standing out as an impressive place for game development in the United States. Youngstown could be part of that drive for more exposure in game development, and they are doing a good job so far! Keep going, guys!