Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Starting with an Idea and a Vision


I am now going to explain how important a place like this one in the link is. What is this place? It is called The Idea Foundry. This place is located in Downtown Columbus, Ohio and it has served as the meeting spot for many aspiring game devs in the Columbus area for the past year of 2016.

Yours truly has been going up to this place for a while now, and each time I have been there I have managed to get something out of it. I have managed to collect my thoughts better while interacting with other game devs while gathering new information on what needs to be in the game dev field. It's a good and refreshing experience for one who wants to know more and do more in a field that he or she is passionate in. If you love to make games, or you at least want to get started doing that, and you live close enough to Columbus, then I encourage you to make the trip over to West State Street in Columbus for these meetups!

The importance of a place like The Idea Foundry simply can't be understated. Without the valuable information most game devs cherish, it will be difficult to get off the ground and running with your own game dev project. You not only need the connections to make your project a reality, but you also need to view other projects for what they are. You have to study and examine what other game devs are doing, even if you are not helping them in their projects. With your own two eyes you need to be able to see what exactly it takes for a game dev to be a game dev. Don't just view the available game dev knowledge, take in that knowledge and apply it to your own project.

Starting with an idea and a vision is crucial. To make a game you need to know where your starting point is. You need to have an idea of where you want to take your game project. You need to have backup plans for editing your project. You need to have a long-reaching vision of what you want your project to become down the road in the future. You need to know how to go through the process of making a game and you need to know how to finish the project strong.

The Idea Foundry is a helpful outlet for aspiring game devs to say what is on their minds, and how they feel about game development itself. When it's your turn to take the floor and explain away what makes your game project what it is, you make that time yours and you get other people emotionally invested in that project.

Sharing ideas and expression a vision for a project you have in mind is one way other game devs can get a better feel for what you value in game development. We all have our own strengths when it comes to the game dev process. We excel in certain areas and we have challenges in other areas. We will all view projects out of different lenses. The point behind collaborating with other people to get a project off the ground is to establish that common ground of what everybody as a team wants to get done. "Hey, this is our goal and we're gonna meet it. We're going to hit these targeted themes and we're going to use these elements to make this game awesome!"  That's just how a game dev team thinks.

I am thankful for an outlet like The Idea Foundry because years down the road from now I can see where this place can take the game development scene in Columbus, and all throughout the state of Ohio as a whole. With places like Chicago, Illinois and Austin, Texas being fairly quiet in the game dev scene (though I'm sure devs are still doing things in those places), it would make sense for Columbus, Ohio to make its move and do some positive things in the Gaming Industry so that it can be mentioned along with Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Boston, New York, etc. as a game dev hot spot.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Let's Play: YouTube's Perplexing Games


I have commented on the feature of Let's Plays on this blog before, and my tone hasn't changed from defending Let's Plays. I am a supporter of Let's Plays or "Walkthroughs" because I find these videos on YouTube to be genuine pieces of entertainment where gamers can sit back and enjoy what another gamer is experiencing. As a gamer you get an idea of what your gaming experience will be like when playing the game that's being played by someone else via YouTube. 

Now let it be known that I have never been a fan of PewDiePie. I have heard of him for the longest time but I have never bothered to watch his YouTube content because from the snip-its of footage I've seen of him, it seems to me that I would be wasting my time watching such content.

However, with that said, PewDiePie did bring up an interesting point in a recent video of his where he was heavily critical of YouTube and how they managed their economic distributions to members who were very popular. The linked article above was written by a long-time Let's Player named Slowbeef who has seen it all on YouTube. There are many reasons why members on YouTube experience a burnout of some sort.

One form of burnout would be "subscriber burn" where if you don't upload a video in some time, let's say a week or two, then the amounts of subscriptions you will get from people will slow down to a halt. In some ways YouTube has become a game of popularity between members who are trying to get ahead and get their names out there. This popularity contest has become dangerous in the last few years since more controversies have occurred, with YouTube itself being the prime suspect for causing these controversies.

YouTube celebrities don't have the same protection as typical celebrities you see in Hollywood. Not even close. Most YT celebrities don't have any agents or consultants they can go to for reviews of their content, and there's no dialogue being exchanged as to what should be considered appropriate content on YouTube. (Example: What kind of humor should be used in a video.)

The art of a Let's Play video isn't as easy as 1-2-3. I do agree with Slowbeef that creating the right kind of content in a Let's Play takes time. A Let's Player has to find out what he or she does best in before they can plug away. You don't just slap on gameplay footage and mumble to yourself and then say you did a good job. No, if you're gonna speak up while you play, then speak up. Let the people hear what you have to say.

Now there are a couple paragraphs in Slowbeef's article above that I recommend you ignore, because there again lies the problem with choosing the right dialogue in getting your message out. If I want to read a professionally written article, the language of it has to be proper... which this article isn't.

Back to YouTube, their perplexing games seem to revolve around them being able to dock members subscription counts. There is some broken algorithm at play now where if 1 subscriber suddenly unsubscribes from a member's channel, that will count as 2 unsubscriptions. It's nonsense like this that makes people not want to trust YouTube altogether because when a company does something like this, playing mind games, it makes one wonder what it is they're really trying to do.

How does all of this impact the Gaming Industry? Consider the sources of where gamers have to go to get an idea of what a game will be like before they buy it. If at any point YouTube has a huge crash in their business and many channels get negatively effected by this crash, it will shut down most of one outlet for gamers to go to. Basically it will be harder for gamers to judge a game they want to buy since they won't have as many opportunities to see the game via Let's Play. If you can't see why a game's so good to begin with, there's less of a chance for you to buy it unless you are given the chance to try it yourself.

It's just something to think about as we tread through the muddy waters of Let's Plays, a harmless form of entertainment.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Game Writing Process: Time-Consuming and Rewarding

The attached sample video above basically explains the game writing process, what goes into the process and what needs to be done to make this process work in the scope of a video game project. Game writing is not as simple as it sounds, and I'm sure I have mentioned that before on this blog. Not everyone will approach game writing the exact same way, and we all have our own unique methods as to how we are going to reach from Point A to Point B in storytelling.

What you can take from the sample video is that the game writing process is indeed time-consuming, but with enough planning and teamwork, the process can be rewarding. Organization is one key thing that game writers will need to have in order to develop consistency on a game development team. Without any sort of idea as to what you're going to do make a story work, you are going to fail.

Most writers have a clear understanding of what the game dev team is looking for, and aside from that, the scope of the game story itself will need to be adjusted to fit the software that's being used to make the game. Yes, depending on what limits you have with your game-making software, the amount of story you can tell will be impacted.

Game writing will be a process filled with editing. Don't really expect to have every single nook and cranny of what you write to be accepted right off the bat. That's not realistic. At some point you will need to rewrite a certain scene or change a character's dialogue to better fit what is unfolding. Even if what you originally wrote wasn't all that bad, you can't get stuck on that. You have to make changes when it's really needed.

There are tactics to use when preparing to write a game script. When you keep in mind that a game script revolves around the choice of a player, it should become clear to you how flexible your storytelling needs to be. You don't just present one possible outcome to a situation. You have to provide a few possible outcomes that will make the player not only care, but keep coming back to exploit and figure out. That's why it's ideal to separate certain events and actions by writing them down on separate cards, which is what one interviewed game dev mentioned in the above video.

Your scope of storytelling can't be compacted. It has to have the ability to expand and branch out. That's what you need to let happen in the game writing process. You leave an area where your game story can build a bridge to another unique point of storytelling, and you'd be surprised as to how many plot twists you can take your game story if you just leave a bridge area open.

There are some interesting things to take from the above video, some of which I have already known about, and some that are fairly new to my knowledge. I recommend you watch some of the videos provided by the YouTube channel that made the above video.

Monday, February 20, 2017

GJG Blog Interview #10 - Charles Thomas

The Gaming Journalist Gazette is a platform for anyone who is associated with any part of the Video Game Industry, and it's not just for game developers who are running companies. This interview is a unique one because these answers come from a passionate gamer, a guy who just loves to play video games. I think it's important to get the perspective of a gamer and understand what he thinks where video games are going. 

This interview is with Charles Thomas, who is better known by his YouTube username Dukect. I have followed Charles for some time now, probably a few years, and I have valued his opinions on video games and other topics that I'm interested in. Charles hosts his own podcast called the Dukect Lounge where he discusses the hot topics going around in entertainment media. You can listen to the Dukect Lounge on the 2nd link above, which takes you to his TalkShoe page. Plus, feel free to call in during the Lounge to chat with Dukect!

Steven Vitte:
1) How did you first get into video games? How long have you been a gamer? 

Charles Thomas: How did I get into video games? Well I started back when I was 3 years old playing on an NES with my older brother and I haven't stopped since as I played many game systems from the nes to the Wii U so I've been playing games for a long while with not only my older brother but also the rest of my family.

2) What are your thoughts on gaming conventions? How important are conventions?

Charles: My thoughts on Gaming conventions I really enjoy them as it fun to meet with and network with people and to find some games that would cost a little more on amazon. And, also the one thing about conventions is that they must be competently run or you might have dashcon on your hands and no one wants that.

3) How important are "Let's Plays" on YouTube and other video sharing sites, in your opinion?

Charles: I enjoy let's plays as its good for Walkthough's for the game but also having introducing interesting facts on how the game was made and sometimes the culture of the game is made. I do see some of the issues of lets plays of games like the Telltale Games like the Walking dead as they see their games as more like movies or TV series and worry about their story being spoiled and I do see that point but in my humble opinion lets play's have done more good then harm as they have brought more eyes to games that most people that never would have heard of.

4) Have you had ideas for making your own video game? If so, what kind of game would you make?

Charles: I did have an idea of a Sonic and Mario proper crossover once upon a time but I don't think that game would be made anytime soon so yeah.

5) Is it fair to compare video game writing to that of storytelling in pro wrestling? (This topic intrigues me.)

Charles: While they are some comparisons to make with pro wrestling writing and video game writing. The use of simple storytelling using good guys and bad guys and having the good guy win in the end. But the difference of right now between them is that video games writing leaves you with a sense of completion an enjoyment when you finish the game while right now in the WWE most of the storylines they put out there when its done leaves you in a bad mood or just confusion.

6) What are your thoughts on the current generation of gaming consoles?

I haven't really played the Xbox one or PS4 yet but from what I've seen from the games it looks like I'm not missing much. Recently I've gotten a new PC graphics card that can play the newer games on my PC without getting an Xbone or a PS4. So yeah I'm not that big in the console scene at the moment but I will get the Nintendo switch when it's available as I still care about most of their 1st party games

7) What do you feel the Gaming Industry is lacking right now? And what is the Gaming Industry doing right, in your opinion?

Charles: One of the main things lacking in the gaming industry right now is depth and that missing depth is gameplay and different types of games it just seems that most games right now are just blurring in with each other nothing really standing out but that's just the triple A game makers but where is the diversity of games is in the indy games and that's what's missing from most if not all Triple A game makers and games right now and if I had the power I would try to fix that by letting developers more freedom to make their own games like Dice in making Battlefield 1 and you can see how much they loved making that game while you play it.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Remote Working and Game Development


One interesting topic that I think isn't discussed so much in places like the Gaming Industry would be the event of having someone work remotely to advance a game dev project. Working remotely is a concept that can take employees and employers in a myriad of directions, and depending on the kind of work that needs to get done things can either go very smoothly... or not so much.

Most game dev company jobs that you will see listed on websites will be tied to a specific location, meaning that if you apply for a job with that company you should be prepared to pack up your things and go to that specific location, working side-by-side with the rest of the game dev team. For example if a new startup game dev company takes root in Seattle, Washington and they have plenty of openings for aspiring game devs like you and me, then you can bet that at least 90% of those job openings will be filled by local Seattle talent or Washington state talent. If you happen to specialize in remote work through the internet, your chances of getting noticed seem to be put at a disadvantage right from the start compared to workers whom the Seattle company can see in-person.

How do we fix this? Well, it's simple to suggest that a game dev company just have a few designated job openings for remote workers only, so therefore when one is applying for a remote job that person will know that he or she is competing against other remote workers for that job, and not just on-location workers. I guess what I'm hinting at here is that there are certain parts of the job application process in the Gaming Industry that need to be re-evaluated and changed.

It also boils down to the basics when an employer looks for the right employee. Is this remote worker worth the gamble? Does he or she possess the qualities that we, the game dev company, are looking for to keep us going forward in projects? The key traits in any worker, remote or on-location, that I know matter to companies would be the following:

1) Trust: When hiring a new employee you have to be able to trust him or her to do the job that you assign them to do. Trust must be established right off the bat, especially after that new employee is hired. 

2) Passion: Does the new employee have the passion and fire to excel at the job that he or she will work? Does the new employee care about the job? How big is the employee's passion for the Gaming Industry? Is that passion something the game dev company can use for all the right reasons?

3) Consistency: It's one thing to work on a job and get assignments done, but it's another thing for a new employee to stay consistent at it. Is the new employee getting the work done with consistency? Are the end results of projects properly lined up with the schedule of the employee? 

4) Willingness to Learn: For a new face on the game dev team there has to be that willingness to learn new things while working on an assignment. Whether a project is a success, failure or anything in between, did the new employee learn anything from that experience? 

I believe that if remote workers clearly possess these listed qualities through the work that they do on the internet and by way of communicating these qualities back to the game dev company, then there is no reason why they shouldn't be at least talked about when filling a job position.

Trust always ranks at the top of my list because I know that you need to be able to trust someone to do the work. His or her track record will tell you right away if they can be trusted. Passion is what helps drive the Gaming Industry itself. You gotta love what you do, making games and creating experiences that gamers will enjoy. Again with the track record, you gotta be consistent at the job you're applying for. You gotta show the employer that you know what you're doing. Finally, don't keep a "single track mind". Learn new things while you help your team develop a game. Keep trying to learn new things because that opens up more opportunities.

In summary, is remote working bad for the Gaming Industry? No, of course not. It's really about how the game dev company will manage remote working positions and how they can fit those positions around the flow of the on-location workplace. As a game dev company if you know that you have remote workers who possess qualities like the ones I listed above, then you won't have anything to worry about. The game dev company won't miss a beat if everyone is on the same page, no matter where they are to work.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Inspirational Story: Cartridge Maker Jerry Lawson

Fairchild Channel F gaming console
Jerry Lawson is a name in video game history that many don't know about, but when you review articles like this one linked above, you will realize that he should be more well known. Jerry Lawson should be held in an important light similar to that of Nolan Bushnell because Lawson was the creator of the video game cartridge. Yes, believe it or not, the very cartridges that us gamers used to buy at stores when we were young kids took root in the mind of Jerry Lawson.

I highly recommend that you go through this linked article and read what Anderson had done throughout his career in game development because he actually provided a lot of help for an industry that was just in its infancy. Lawson helped make video games for the Atari 2600 and for arcade machines. In fact Lawson produced one of the earliest arcade games in history. What was the name of that arcade game? Demolition Derby. Now whether or not you've ever heard of that arcade game it's interesting to note how Lawson is traced back to the very beginning of the Video Game Industry.

I personally would like to point out #8 on the list of 12 facts about Jerry Lawson. He had the support of his parents to pursue what he wanted to do, and that was to be a part of the Gaming Industry. I think this is important for many aspiring game devs because support has to come from somewhere. You have to have someone in your life who generally appreciates and respects your passion for wanting to make video games, and will encourage you to keep going no matter where you are in the game development stage. Encouraging others to chase their dreams and showing them that you care will go a long way. Believe me when I say that.

It is also worth noting which connections Lawson had in business that kept him afloat in the Gaming Industry. Check out Fact #3 where it states that the Homebrew Computer Club featured members such as Jerry Lawson and, surprise, Steve Jobs. Now I personally haven't been thrilled by any Steve Jobs business stories, but the point from me here is that in any club or organization that you join it helps to know someone who is chasing a dream similar to yours. Chances are Lawson got some information and advice from Steve Jobs that actually helped him to proceed in his career in the Gaming Industry, and for us game devs today it is that same scavenger hunt or sorts. You have to find notable people who can help you here and there.

November 1976 saw the release of the Fairchild Channel F console, making it the first ever video game console in existence. Not many people would know this fact, but when you dig into the details it turns out to be a very unique piece of gaming history.

The International Game Developers Association honored Lawson as a gaming pioneer in March 2011, and then 1 month later on April 9 Lawson passed away due to diabetes complications.

I'd like to pay tribute to Jerry Lawson here on the Gaming Journalist Gazette by submitting this post because his name is one that should be brought up more often in the archives of time in the Gaming Industry. Sometimes certain pieces of history get discarded for whatever reason, and it's up to us gamers in the present time to dig those pieces back up to the surface. Jerry Lawson was an innovator in gaming, and that's what I feel most of us aim to be in gaming. It all starts with a simple idea, and then it grows into something larger and more important than what you first thought it would be. When trying to present something that's revolutionary in gaming you have to make sure that it's tested and that it will fit in the Gaming Industry, that it will serve a real purpose.

Friday, February 3, 2017

GJG Blog Interview #9: Mat Kraemer

(Pictured Left) Mat Kraemer of Sanzaru Games
The Gaming Journalist Gazette would like to present to its readers a special interview with one game dev whom I personally find to be an inspiration of mine when it comes to getting involved in game development. Mat Kraemer has seen a lot in his time as a game dev, and currently working as the Creative Director at Sanzaru Games, he is looking to make more fun games for gamers to play in the future. In fact, Sanzaru is said to be experimenting with VR (Virtual Reality) gaming technology, so keep watching those developments!

Mat was on my list of game devs I really wanted to interview, and I'm so happy to receive these answers! Now with further ado, here is my interview with Mat!

Steven Vitte: 
1) You have been in the Gaming Industry for a while. In your time how much have you learned about game development? How much have you had to change game development ideas and strategies?   

Mat Kraemer: Lots have changed over the years, but the core foundation for making games is the same.  Now we just have better tools, better pipe lines and overall faster technology.  Concepts and design principles used on Turok for N64 are still true today on the more complicated contemporary game designs. 
2) What was the moment (or who were the people) that encouraged you to enter the Gaming Industry as a developer?   

Mat: This was a true passion for me and I have always wanted to make games.  My mentor and friend Jools Watsham was a great influence and help get me into the business of making games and become the designer I am today.  It’s not an easy road, but sticking with it and being positive helps.    

3) How do you feel about employment opportunities in the Gaming Industry? How do you feel about job application processes, first-time workers and autistic workers in the industry?    
Mat: I think there are many opportunities for first time employment.  We hire many new out of school students that have a good portfolio and drive to make games.  I think there is room for all types of game industry contributions from autism to all spectrums of game developers. Again anyone can have success with the will and passion to make creative games.   

4) You are the Creative Director at Sanzaru Games. When discussing how to develop a game in meetings, what usually happens at Sanzaru? 

Mat: This really depends on the content at hand.  But for the most part we start out with a simple concept and build it up, change and modify it until it’s in the final state.  Also lots and lots of iteration!  We have had full playable items and tore them down to make it better.    

5) You have been involved with the Sly Cooper series and you have seen how Sly has progressed through 4 games. What has been the most rewarding part of Sly Cooper's success, in your opinion?   

Mat: I have only been part of Sly Cooper collection, Sly Cooper Thieves in Time and Bentley’s hack pack.  I love Sly Cooper!  It’s this passion that brought the team together to pitch continuing the story of Sly Cooper.  The most rewarding for thing to see is player’s happy faces enjoying the story and the world that we built.  Even now years later people still come up to us with fond memories of the game.  That makes me and our team happy.  

6) What are your thoughts on the upcoming animated Sly Cooper movie?  
Mat: Looks great and I hope it finally comes out!  More Sly Cooper the better! 

7) This could be an interesting question, but I have to ask this; Would you like to see more installments to the Sly Cooper game series? Do you think we will see more of Sly?   

Mat: I would LOVE to see more Sly Cooper!  Better yet, I would love that Sanzaru works on MORE Sly Cooper.  I feel the story is not over yet and we have more to tell so we will see what the future holds.  We can’t leave him in Egypt can we? 

8) Sanzaru also made Sonic Boom: Fire and Ice for the Nintendo 3DS. How was that game dev experience? Would you like to make more Sonic games in the future?  

Mat: I really enjoyed making the Sonic games.  They are fun to work on and it was a pleasure to work with SEGA Japan.  For me this was an honor and I enjoyed every min of working with these iconic characters.    

9) How do you feel about video game characters with certain interesting traits? (Examples: characters on the Autism Spectrum, characters with health issues, amnesia, etc.)   

Mat: I always like characters with interesting traits.  It makes for interesting story telling and cool ways to come up with fun colorful scenarios. 
10) Finally, what advice would you give aspiring game devs (writers, programmers, voice actors, etc.) wanting to make a splash in the Gaming Industry?   

Mat: Stay at It and don’t give up!  Be positive.  Persistence pays off and we all want the same thing to make great games, just stick with it.