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!