Game Franchises with Complicated Naming/Numbering Conventions

So you have the first game, then the next game with a 2 after the title, and the third with a 3, and so on…right? Not always. Continue reading “Game Franchises with Complicated Naming/Numbering Conventions”

Here Are the Formats (Movies, TV, Books, etc) You Prefer Video Games Be Brought To

There are a lot of different things that are based on or inspired by video games, and I wanted to know which one(s) you preferred.  Continue reading “Here Are the Formats (Movies, TV, Books, etc) You Prefer Video Games Be Brought To”

Chi-Coder: Five Things To Know When Creating Your First Game.

  1. What are your strengths & weaknesses?

Chances are you’re either a programmer or you’re an artist of some type.  Odds are you dabble in both but consider one to be your primary discipline.  For your very first game, leverage those skills as much as you can.  If you’re a programmer then write great game code but condense your art down to the most simplified version you can.  If that means colored dots or squares, then do that.  If you’re an artist, then make the game look fantastic but don’t try and write the code for an MMO, use a simple concept and make it look gorgeous.  All kinds of games can be successful these days, so don’t be afraid to let your skills dictate your first creation.

  1. Do you want to release your game? If so, where?

It’s your first game so maybe you’re shy about showing it to anyone.  That’s fine.  I’ve made a few games now and I’m still really shy about showing anyone what I’ve made.  Don’t feel bad if you’d rather not release your first game.  Remember, this is a learning exercise first and foremost.  If you do decide to release the game publicly though you have some pretty big decisions to make.  Something as simple as “is this a mobile game?” is a huge design decision.  Phones don’t have a right click function, controller buttons, or other more in depth forms of input so if you’re going to make a game and you plan to release it for a smart device, then know in advance that your interaction has to be somewhat streamlined.  There are lots of questions like this too.  Will the game support a game pad?  Will it be released on consoles, or Steam?  The answers to these questions can help inform your decision on what engine to use, etc…

  1. 2d or 3d?

Another big factor in how you make your game is whether or not you want to utilize 3d graphics or not.  A quick recommendation; unless your specific field of expertise is 3d modeling, stay away from 3d for your first few projects.  2d is simply much easier to learn basic design concepts in than 3d.  Whether or not you’re going to use 3d will have some impact on what type of engine you decide to use though.  If you want to go the 3d route, then something like Unity or the Unreal engine is probably a good choice.  If you’re going 2d then Construct or Game Maker might suit you better.  Keep in mind, I’m certainly not suggesting that you stay away from 3D graphics forever, just until you have your sea legs under you.

  1. How much time do you have?

I only recently started developing games on a “professional” level (I put professional in quotes because I’m not exactly raking in the dough yet).  Before life put me in a position to make games professionally I had a typical 9-5 day job.  I also had a girlfriend who became a fiancé who became a wife, a house, a family, pets, etc…  Even if you’re a junior in high-school and you don’t have any of those responsibilities, your life is still probably pretty busy, right?  Whether it’s work or homework, we all have lives.  So when thinking about your new game, consider how much time you’re willing to put into it’s development.  It’s easy, when the game is just an idea in your head, to tell yourself that you’ll devote every waking moment to its development.  You won’t.  New games are constantly coming out that you want to play, your family will need you, and there are chores to be done.  It can’t all be ignored all the time.  Do not underestimate the destructive power of random life interruptions.  If you want to be successful, you have to create a project that fits properly into the lifestyle that you currently live.  If that means developing your game for two hours a week, then so be it.

  1. How in-depth is your game?

As a new game developer it’s really hard not to get caught up in all of the cool games that you see triple-a studios making these days.  Let’s address a harsh reality though; you’re not going to make Assassin’s Creed on your first go-round.  You’re probably not even going to make Tetris.  This is your first game, so keep it simple.  Think of one (and only one) game mechanic that you like.  Use that one single mechanic to make a game.  Will it be boring?  Maybe.  But you can always make a sequel later, or add features once it’s done.  Game devs constantly have to fight back feature creep though, so be wary of that.  Don’t add mechanic #2 until mechanic #1 works properly.

This little nugget is ranked number one for a reason.  I simply cannot stress enough how important it is to not get ahead of yourself in the early stages of your game dev career.  If you’re like me and you love games, then naturally you want to make games that you think are really cool.  Those games probably don’t include Pong and Space Invaders anymore.  But here’s the thing; you need to walk before you can run.  It’s true that you probably won’t make Assassin’s Creed on your first go round, but your chances of eventually making something like Assassin’s Creed go up dramatically with each game you create and complete.  So even if you don’t want to, make a Pong clone.  Finish it.  Feel the euphoria of envisioning a project and seeing it through to completion.  It’s a far bigger step in the right direction to finish a tiny game then to never finish a huge project.

 

Chi-Coder: Incoming Programming Rant.

Chi-Coder is my forum for sharing my experiences in game development.  This week I’d like to share some frustration about the harsh reality of game development.  It’s not meant to discourage you if you’re just starting out in the field, but I feel like as a developer with a platform where I can speak honestly I’m doing a disservice to the craft by not being honest about what actually goes into it.

Without making you wade through six paragraphs of rant before you understand my frustration, here it is; game development can be a lot more boring than it seems.  You see, like pretty much everybody who gets into game development, I was attracted to the field because I enjoy playing games.  The thing is, making games and playing games are two very different things, and as much as you might think you realize this from the outside looking in, it becomes so much more real when you’re working on an actual project.

There are several things that make game development boring but most of them revolve around the same annoying truth; game development requires a ton of tedious repetition.  Games like Assassin’s Creed, where the character beautifully moves through crowds, scales buildings, and performs feats of incredible acrobatic prowess all require immense amounts of testing and refining and retesting.  Every building that the character can climb up must be tested.  Can the character grab at all the right points?  Are there places where he shouldn’t be able to grab that he can?  When he grabs things do his limbs move in a natural way or do they stretch and contort?

Those problems are astronomically more difficult than anything I’ve tried to tackle, but the principle is still the same.  Everything has to be tested and checked constantly, and that vision that you have in your head of a huge sprawling game world filled with all sorts of things to do; it all starts to feel a little bit more weighty when you realize that something as seemingly simple as climbing a building is really a huge undertaking.

Let’s take Pong for example.  It’s about as simple of a game as one could possibly imagine, but even Pong requires the designer to answer a multitude of fundamental questions.  Here’s some of the things that you’d have to consider:

Is this a two player game?
If so, how do you deal with two inputs at once?
If there is a single player mode, what type of AI will have to be written to control the second paddle.
If there is a difficulty setting in the single player mode, what factors will determine difficulty?  Will it be the AI paddle’s accuracy, speed, etc…?
Will the paddles be able to extend off screen or will there be a barrier stopping them?
When the ball starts in the center will it pick a random direction to go?
if it picks an impossible direction like straight up and down, how will the game correct that?
Will the ball’s speed be set, or should it be random from round to round?

These are just some of the questions you’d have to ask yourself if you wanted to make Pong.  There are a lot more questions to be asked here, too.  Some of these questions have really complicated answers.  For instance, if you were going to implement a single player mode and thus an AI for the opponent, that’s not a trivial undertaking.  For an AI opponent to be worth playing it has to appear at least somewhat human-like.  It can’t simply track the position of the ball and always hit it back perfectly, that would be no fun for the actual human player.  So a complicated system has to be developed in order to make an AI opponent feel like a human opponent.  And this is still Pong we’re talking about here!  Imagine the type of AI that goes into a game like Madden Football.  Different coaches have different strategies, different teams have rosters that support different strategies.  Situations call for on the fly decision making.  The computer has to simulate all of that to the most realistic degree it possibly can.

The ten year old kid in all of us that wanted to make games because they seemed cool probably never had the Pong AI opponent’s decision tree in mind.  These are the realities of what making games becomes about though.  A million tiny piece of minutia that, when combined properly, feel like more than the sum of their parts.

A great game feels like more than just a series of programming statements.  The game worlds feel alive.  They elicit emotion.  They give the illusion that they’re created from more than ones and zeroes.  That doesn’t happen by accident though.  Mario games play so well because someone painstakingly tests and refines Mario’s controls until they feel perfect.  It’s the difference between him jumping 1.472 meters high and 1.471 meters high.  These little tiny things that go into making great games great are repetitive and tedious though.  They’re not the fun part of game development.  They are however, the most important part there is.

I think all of us who choose to develop games have a bit of visionary in us.  But if you’re a visionary, you know the trouble that comes with that.  You often times get caught up in the big picture, will little care for the minute details of what a project will entail.  The grand vision for an epic game overrides the fact that you have absolutely no idea how to turn your dream into a reality.  This post is meant to act as a reality check for myself, and all of you.  You can’t lose your vision, but you can’t ignore reality either.  The reality of game programming (of all programming really) is that it’s hard and repetitive and tedious.  Great games are not the product of great vision, they are the product of great execution.

Top 5 Friday: The Best Games in Various Franchises and Genres, As Chosen By YOU

For this week’s top 5, we decided to give the results of the survey we put up last week that asked you to rank the games within a few specific franchises and genres – with comments by me of varying degrees of opinionation on each one. And yes, of course opinionation is a word – would it have been in the Blossom theme song if it wasn’t?
_______________

Grand Theft Auto

5. Grand Theft Auto IV
4. Grand Theft Auto III
3. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
2. Grand Theft Auto V
1. GRAND THEFT AUTO: SAN ANDREAS

Not a terribly surprising result. The IV backlash happened pretty quickly and never really recovered. In addition, I know Vice City is a lot of people’s personal favorite, but I think #3 is an accurate spot for it.
_______________

Assassin’s Creed

5. Assassin’s Creed: Revelations
4. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag
3. Assassin’s Creed
2. Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood
1. ASSASSIN’S CREED II

People clearly just have a soft spot for Altair and Ezio. And also pirates.
_______________

Call of Duty

5. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
4. Call of Duty: Black Ops
3. Call of Duty: World at War
2. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
1. CALL OF DUTY 4: MODERN WARFARE

It look like Advanced Warfare won some fans back after seeming to be unimpressed with the previous three consecutive games. And check out how high WaW ranked, Activision. Bring back WWII!

_______________

Super Mario – 3D Games

5. Super Mario 3D World
4. Super Mario Galaxy 2
3. Super Mario Sunshine
2. Super Mario Galaxy
1. SUPER MARIO 64

The voters clearly went for pure nostalgia here – all due respect to Mario 64, but it’s kind of the worst of the 3D Mario games at this point…
_______________

Metal Gear Solid

5. Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes
4. Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
3. Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
2. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
1. METAL GEAR SOLID

While I think people are too hard on 2, saying it is better than 4 is just silly. Also, I personally prefer 4 to 3, but I respect how much people love that game.
_______________

Castlevania (“Metroidvania era”)

5. Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow
4. Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow
3. Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance
2. Castlevania: Circle of the Moon
1. CASTLEVANIA: SYMPHONY OF THE NIGHT

Come on, people: what is Circle doing at #2? I thought we all agreed that we only thought we loved it because we were just so happy to have another 2D Castlevania but realized we didn’t have to settle for it once they kept on making more. Both of the DS games that didn’t make the list are much better.
_______________

JRPG franchises

5. Persona
4. Phantasy Star
3. Lunar
2. Dragon Quest
1. FINAL FANTASY

It makes me happy that Square’s recent (many) missteps with the FF franchise haven’t completely destroyed fans’ overall love for it. And it also makes me happy to see Sega representing strong at #4!
_______________

2D Fighting game franchises

5. Darkstalkers
4. Super Smash Bros.
3. Vs. series
2. Street Fighter
1. MORTAL KOMBAT

We promise we didn’t skew the results in the hometown heroes’ favor – MK finishing at #1 was a genuine result (though it was extremely close, the closest of any race). And clearly the SNK fans didn’t show up for this survey at all.
_______________

3D Fighting game franchises

5. Dead or Alive
4. Virtua Fighter
3. Mortal Kombat
2. Tekken
1. SOULCALIBUR (also includes Soul Blade/Edge)

Soulcalibur was at its peak while 3D fighters were experiencing their last big renaissance, so it seems fitting that it finished at #1. And at least my beloved Virtua Fighter bested the big bouncy busts.
_______________

[Note: I left out the results of two of the franchises: Resident Evil and Halo. Both were basically ranked exactly how they were listed in the survey, which means most people didn’t do them and they were just counted as they were listed. I seriously doubt people genuinely ranked RE 1-3 ahead of RE4, or Halo 3: ODST above 4 and Reach. If they did, I apologize, but I made a judgement call on those.]

Pop Quiz: Beyond Ubisoft’s Evil

Ubisoft is a bit…embattled these days, and maybe rightfully so. But they’ve still been bringing us many great games for many years, so I thought it was worth remembering the French publisher’s brighter days with this week’s quiz.

Continue reading “Pop Quiz: Beyond Ubisoft’s Evil”