Saturday, February 22, 2014

Where did the fun in making games go?!

Hey all,

I figured that I would chime in on my perspective on my thoughts on modern gaming, because this has been something I've been meaning to talk about for a while.

Honestly, I'm a little peeved at the gaming industry, mostly at mobile. It feels like big money has gotten their hands onto gaming and put it in a stranglehold. I'm not innocent in terms of not contributing to this, I didn't really realize it until recently.

The pattern really began when I noticed that fewer and fewer games were keeping my attention. I also noticed the fact that 2013 saw such blockbuster hits as Aliens: Colonial Marines and Ride to Hell: Retribution. Let's not forget the post E3 fiasco with the Xbox One, or the terrible sales of the Wii U, or the - never mind, let's just say 2013 was a terrible year for gaming.

Games feel like they're taking fewer risks, trying to figure out how to best gain profit first, then figure out how to make the game fun and polished. Never is this more apparent than in mobile. I can't tell you how many times I've integrated another ad sdk, Facebook sdk, metrics sdk, you name it, delaying the product another month, which has NOTHING to do with how fun the game is, and has EVERYTHING to do with getting the game exposure or money on the side. Seriously, with almost any game you play on mobile, every single button you press is probably being recorded and sent for research purposes, so that companies can figure out how to best market to you.

I have seen game release schedules delayed many, MANY times because the marketing department wants to track more activity or wants to integrate another ad sdk to generate more money which, as I said before, have NOTHING to do with making a fun game.

Let's talk free to play games. I swear these titles are built primarily around how to convince you to spend a dollar, more so than being built around clever mechanics that test your wit. I have seen design sessions for free to play games where everyone was talking about how to get money from the player rather than actually coming up with fun mechanics.

"What if the game is like real slot machines where you put in real money?"
"What if the game allows you to gamble real money on fake races?"

A more honest free to play idea (and better, in my opinion) would be:
"How about an on rails shooter, like Killer 7, with branching paths and puzzle solving. The puzzles will be brain teasers with clues to the solution being strewn about the level. If the player wants to see past the puzzle, they can either solve the puzzle or use a key. Keys can be either bought with real money or found in a treasure chest the player can open once per day. Guns can also be unlocked by earning in game money through beating levels, or can be bought with real money directly." I literally wrote this on the spot.

I feel like money has started to make game development into more of a chore, and less than fun. It seems like the fun in game development has moved onto the indie scene, and has left the professional space. It just feels like professional games have become all about money. I understand the need for a business to stay afloat but, at the same time... Where did the phrase "Do what you want and the money will follow." go?

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Guts (Not your insides)

Hey all,

Some days are just... harder than others. There are days where the world kinda feels like it wants to beat you down mentally, or physically, depends on the day.

I mean, I've had days where it seems like nothing wants to work. I've had days, even weeks, at work where someone has approached me with a problem that they thought was my fault, only to realize I had nothing to do with it, the problem was, in fact, the accuser's own doing. This meant days, or weeks, of hearing their accusations and borderline abuse.

Stuff happens.

It's during these moments where I feel like certain people rise above the others, these are people who don't let bad days stop them, or let depressing work hold them back. These people have a little something called...


Guts is the unwillingness to let something get to you, the unwillingness to slow down, the drive to finish what you started or the drive to do what you need to do.

Great people have guts. Driven people have guts. Big dreamers have guts.

I feel like great things happen to those who have guts. I also feel like guts are something you develop.

I guess what I'm trying to say is: Stop letting life get you down and do what you need to do, there's a whole life waiting for you to finish what you started. You'll be better off once it's all over. Be great, because you are great.

I talk as if I know (and you probably think I'm being pretentious, and by the way, I don't know.), but I've been going through some things myself, but I've been gritting my teeth and surviving it. Nobody's life is easy, everybody has problems, anyone who says otherwise is lying and/or a blamange.

Where does this apply to Chang'e? One of the characters is based entirely off of having guts. He's a big dreamer with humongous life goals, and won't let anyone get in his way. His name is Zack, and he is Oliver's (the main character) best friend and leader.

Zack lives in a world of hardship, where people die young and where a person's ambitions amount to nothing more than reproducing. Zack doesn't want that life, he wants to see the end of the world. Zack wants to see other cultures, he wants to see the mountains up close, he wants to go on an adventure. He will get that adventure, many times over.

Zack is a kind person, a bit overly analytic and inattentive, with his head always in the clouds, but he is a great friend and a lovable character with a genuine personality.

Hopefully you will like him, art will come around at some point.


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Friendship and Chang'e

Hey all,

I thought I would take the time to discuss Chang'e and its emphasis on friendship.

How important are friends?
In my opinion, friends and friendship are a crucial part to one's development. I say this now because I had very few friends as a kid, and I kind of regret not reaching out to people and making more friends.

Friends, real friends, always have your back and support you. Friends respect you. Friends always tell you when you're doing the right or wrong things, and will provide insight into situations that are happening to you. Friends are important.

...Maybe I hold friends to an impossibly high standard.

Cherish them, and most of all, respect them.

About Chang'e
That being said, how does this factor into Chang'e? What do friends have to do with it? Aren't all RPG parties formed up of friends? To answer those questions: Combat and interactions, everything, and sometimes.

The idea is to make all of the characters feel like real, compatible friends. The characters should legitimately care about one another, and tell each other their thoughts and opinions. This may seem grandiose, but I plan on having A LOT of time spent into writing the dialogue. Dialogue does not change based on friendships, at least, so far as it's planned. That would be REALLY complicated. I feel like many other RPG's miss this opportunity to build character bonding and adding realism to their characters.

I noticed in many RPG's is that party members aren't real friends, usually just acquaintances. They will help each other and care for one another, but do these characters actually talk about their fears, their wants, their needs? Do these characters discuss what makes them human amongst one another? Can they talk about something OTHER than what the immediate quest is? Maybe this has something to do with creating realistic characters, or maybe it has something to do with pacing. I'm not bashing on other RPG's, just noticing that it's almost like parties are a means to an end, or a means to fill certain roles. Maybe I'm naive, and I'm gonna learn my lesson soon enough. That being said, there are some RPG's that do nail this, such as Tales of Symphonia. (I love that game) It's a bit of a shame that many RPG's don't incorporate the teamwork aspects of friendship into the game itself.

Without revealing way too much about the mechanics of the game, the strength of the party will be based upon how much the members like each other. Friendships influence combinations and damage. Friendships influence cooperation. Better friendships will increase the odds of helping one another. Pairings of good friends in combat will just operate better, like in real life.

I plan to reveal more details in the future about Chang'e and combat systems. But I would rather have something pretty to present before going into deep detail.

Here is some character concept art as a reward for dealing with me up until now:

Have a good one,

Friday, February 7, 2014

Chang'e and Theming

Hey all,

I figured I would take today to write about Chang'e.

My great grandmother used to directly support my gaming habit. She even got me a SNES on HER birthday so that I would stay home and not travel to my Aunt's house to play. At that point I pretty much perpetually played Donkey Kong Country 2. Whenever I was playing my great grandmother would be near me and she would take care of me. I never really wanted much more than that: Family and games.

Needless to say, I can thank my gaming habit to my great grandmother.

She died to cancer in 1999, ten days before my birthday. Even to this day, I never really have gotten over it. I was a sad, shy child. I was sensitive and I cried a lot. I didn't really care to make friends, I buried myself into video games.

Why am I telling you this?
1. Opening up
2. Providing context.

My explanation of Chang'e earlier may have sounded a bit narcissistic honestly, but I can't really describe it in any other way.

A bit longer of an explanation:
It's an RPG about friendship, and people protecting or cooperating with each other. Strength is determined by how well your team can work together, and death is a constant theme. Depressing elements abound. I have written all of the characters as a piece of myself or of someone that I know or knew. These people will have real fears that are going to be used.

It's not a typical RPG, I don't want to reveal TOO many details, but there will be a large emphasis on discovering the world and the secrets of the environment.

The world is covered in death, nobody is safe. Monsters roam the land and people are actually afraid of them, the monsters are too powerful for many people to live. The average life span of a person is about 20 years.

I'll let you paint the picture in your head from this vague description.

More details to come, along with pictures of current development.

In the meantime, you can actually look at the code for the game engine right now! I plan to open source it soon, but feel free to read the code and check it out.


An Introduction

Hey all,

First, names. Name? I only have one.
But yeah, my name is Jimmy Spencer, so says that Google+ thing on the right. You don't know me, but I'm a graduate of Digipen Institute of Technology class of 2012, and one of the original creators of "Where's My Water?". I wouldn't be surprised if you just thought I was the devil, a member of the evil society of corporate greed. There's a reason I don't work there anymore.

Either way, I've grown tired of worrying about money for a company or about profitability. I just want to make games, games that inspire children like how games have inspired me. This will be my blog where I write about my thoughts as I write my current project, titled "Chang'e".

My favorite games, where I draw inspiration:

- Dragon Quest VIII
- The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
- Conker's Bad Fur Day
- Dragon Quest III
- Dark Souls
- Ninja Gaiden (Xbox)
- Devil May Cry 3
- The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
- The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
- Halo 2
- Gears of War
- XenoBlade Chronicles
- Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate
- Pokemon Gold
- Super Mario 64
- Chrono Trigger
- Secret of Mana

I'll try to talk about Chang'e as the game approaches completion, and I have a Kickstarter for it or something, but for now, trust that it is a "Friend RPG". It will be about depressing parts of my life and about my thoughts of when my Great Grandmother died, she raised me, so it was hard to lose her.

But yeah, that.