Category: Philosophy

For articles that discuss our philosophies behind game development

Who Are My Game Dev Heroes?

Last week, Gamasutra asked everyone who their game dev heroes are. I missed the question when it was asked, but made a brief response yesterday. While I have considered the question before, I have never really voiced my answer. So I would like to take some time to explain who these people are that inspire me.

When I think of a game dev hero, I think of a person who I feel has impacted me on a personal level. Someone I aspire to be like or whose work greatly influences my own. It would be easy to rattle off names like Will Wright, John Carmack or Tim Schafer, but it seems like those big names, while impacting the industry as a whole to a large extent, have never really made me who I am today.

So who are my heroes then? Who inspires me to be the best game developer I can be? Here is what I told the Gamasutra audience:

My heroes? I would have to say Lars Doucet, Robert Boyd, Christer Kaitila, and Adam Saltsman. These guys are the indie devs I admire most and whose work has most influenced my own. While I have a lot of mad respect for a lot of AAA developers, none of their work or inspiration has impacted me on a personal level like these guys.

So let us explore these guys one at a time.

Robert Boyd

Robert Boyd is one of the founders of Zeyboyd games. They made their start making satirical RPG games for the XBox Live Indie Games service. Their first games, Breath of Death 7 and Cthulu Saves The World were never much of a financial success on the XBLIG service. Granted, that service was never really much of a money maker except for a rare few people. However, the games they made were a critical success. That critical success led them to move on to some really awesome successes.

The first success was porting those two games to the the PC and getting them on Steam. I believe that once on Steam, those two games made more money in a month than they did in a year and a half on the XBox.

Because their games were so critically successful, they were able to land the contracts to make the 3rd and 4th games in the Penny Arcade RPG series. This was not something just anyone could have done. The Penny Arcade guys had a lot of confidence that Robert and his team could not only make the games, but bring about the humor that Penny Arcade fans desired.

Following those games, Robert and his team sought to make another game of their own. They went to Kickstarter to fund Cosmic Star Heroine. They sought $100,000 and made $132,689.

So what is it about Robert that makes him my hero? I think it is the perseverance that he displayed. He could have easily have given up after BoD7 failed to make much money. He could have switch gears and went to work for someone else. But he didn’t. He kept going and today is doing what he loves and doing it well. That is the kind of person I want to be in my game development career. I want to be able to just put my work out there and keep going despite all the hardships and missteps along the way.

Follow Robert on Twitter.

Adam Saltsman

Adam’s contribution that puts him on my hero list is the work he put into the Flixel game engine for Actionscript. This game engine is what has had the greatest impact on my game development efforts of anything anyone else has done.

For the longest time, I was floating aimlessly in a vast sea of game development potential. I had no direction, no motive, no drive. I would wander from game engine to game engine, testing the waters but never finding that right combination of tools to turn me from hypothetical game developer to actual game developer.

Then I found Flixel. The Flixel game engine was exactly what I was looking for in a game engine. It was 2D. It worked with Flash. It was relatively easy to use and figure out. I spent many days and weeks playing with it and porting some of my game development works to it. In fact, my first efforts to make one game a month were using Flixel.

So it was this game engine, that Adam created, that really got me started in actually making games. Without it, I would probably still be lost and without purpose hoping one day to be a game developer rather than actively working to become one.

Follow Adam on Twitter.

Lars Doucet

Lars is someone that has a number of things that I really admire about him. The first is in tandem to Adam’s contribution. I had been using Flixel for a while but really wanted to move to something that would be capable of native applications for PCs and mobile. But I really didn’t want to have to learn something new. It was through Lars that I learned about Haxe and the Flixel port to that API.

Since then, Lars has been a major advocate for Haxe adoption by other game developers. He has switch from Flash, which he used to create his first Defenders Quest game, to using HaxeFlixel to for the sequel.

But that is not the only thing that I admire about Lars. He is also a very outspoken person about the problems with modern copyright laws and the games industry’s general attitude toward it.

I had always been of the opinion that the fights against piracy were fruitless and that developers would be better served spending their time working to please their fans. But it was Lars’ article about the four currencies people use when choosing whether to buy or pirate that really spelled out how I felt.

Granted, I had always been outspoken about these issues myself and have posted many other articles to this effect. However, it was Lars that really spelled it out and made something that was nearly irrefutable to advocates of stronger copyright laws and DRM.

Follow Lars on Twitter.

Christer Kaitila

Christer’s contribution to gaming is probably one of the most important to me when it all comes down to it. Even with Haxe and Flixel and the inspiration of other developers, I have still be hesitant to put my best foot forward. Perhaps it was simply lack of experience and dedication, but I never felt like I was a game developer. But something that Christer did turned that around.

He founded the One Game A Month challenge. This was founded after he himself made a personal commitment to make one game every month for twelve months. When he saw the changes in him that came about because of it, he sought a way to help others achieve that same change.

When I learned about it, I wanted to jump right in and do it myself. I signed up and wanted to get to work making my one game a month. But the first year, I didn’t do it. I think it was fear that held me back. But the more I read about the project, the more I reflected on all my missed opportunities in the past, the more I realized I needed to step up.

So in January of this year, I made the commitment to make that one game a month. Seven months into the challenge I have succeeded in all but one month to make a game. I am well on my way to make the rest of the games and potentially finish that one missed one.

This challenge has also motivated me to attempt a Kickstarter campaign. While that campaign doesn’t look like it will go anywhere, I at least attempted it, which is more than I could say a year ago.

Follow Christer on Twitter.

Conclusion

I could probably list a few more developers in this post, but these are the four that I feel are really deserving of being called my personal game dev heroes. These are the ones that I look to and think about when I am needing the motivation to keep going. Without the contributions made by these four people, I would probably still be silently working on a never ending project. Instead, I have now released nine games and two works in progress to my website.

So I thank you guys for everything you do to change the world of game development for the better.

Design Thoughts While Playing Final Fantasy 9’s Tetra Master

Tetra Master GameplayIt is no secret that a large part of our inspiration for Demon’s Hex comes from the Final Fantasy 9 mini-game known as Tetra Master. Square Enix’s design team created a marvelous and exciting game within a game. It is simple to play yet complex to master.

As I have played it over the last couple of weeks, I have seen a few things I like that I neglected to consider in my initial design for Demon’s Hex.

For instance, not all cards within the same card type have the same action arrows. There are several unique action arrow combinations for each card type. This is something that I didn’t realize before picking the game up again. I like that. While Demon’s Hex won’t see that right out of the gate, I will be working to implement that functionality. Continue Reading

Here Come the Bottom Feeders

Tom Buscaglia

 

Earlier this week, Tom Buscaglia wrote up an article warning indie game developers away from bad deals with publishers. In this warning he states the following:

HERE COME THE BOTTOM FEEDERS

In this article he talks about the recent success of indie developers such as Notch, the creator of the popular Minecraft game. He states that publishers are taking notice of the indie games industry are are looking for marks. He warns us to be wary of any deal that might come our way:

But there are also a slew of bottom feeders who offer nothing but exploitation to any unwary developer looking to get his passion project in the world. I started seeing this crop up around the same time that word got out on Minecraft’s financial success. Like circling vultures with the smell of death in their nostrils, these “so called” publishing partners began to sign up Indies, launch Indie “friendly” portals and even run contests with the big award being getting the privilege to get screwed as first prize.

These publishers offer many promises and bait to lure in indie developers. I am reminded of Activision’s recent indie game contest. While the deal looked good on the surface and they promised to play nice with any developer who won, their past history with other developers led me to avoid them at all costs. Continue Reading

Copying Mechanics is Not Theft, Nor is it Infringement

I recently wrote this article on Gamasutra in response to a pair of articles which talked about the practice of copying game mechanics. The discussion has been interesting. So here it is for my own records.

I had never heard of Vlambeer or Gamenauts before yesterday. I had never heard of Radical Fishing or Ninja Fishing either. Yet in a single day, both companies and both games came crashing through my browser. Why?

To make a long story short, Vlambeer made a simple little flash game called Radical Fishing. They have a following of supportive and caring fans. They released this and made some money off of it.They decided they wanted to port the game to the iPhone but with improved graphics and gameplay. However they needed money now and made a couple more games browser.

While all this happened, Another game company, Gamenauts, saw a fun game that did not have an iPhone equivalent and decided to bring a game to that market that had those mechanics. This caused an uproar among fans of Vlambeer and their games.

That is the story in a nutshell. Continue Reading

Gah!

As you may have gathered from our philosophy here that I am a Linux user. Specifically I run Ubuntu. Usually it is a pretty nice running OS and I rarely have any issues with it. That is not the case recently.

Back in April, Ubuntu released version 11.04 and it has been nothing but frustration. The first problem that happened when I upgraded from 10.10 to 11.04 was all the sound was shut off. I was not able to get any sound from any part of the OS. As far as I could tell in my hours of research and debugging was that everything was fine.

Finally after about 2 weeks of no sound, I stumbled across a suggestion that I check user permissions. So I did and there it was. Ubuntu decided in its infinite wisdom that no users should be able to hear sound unless you explicitly tell it they can. Seriously, why is that even a setting. Is there some reason why you would want certain users not to be able to play audio? Is there some reason why this setting would have been set to off by default for all users? I still can’t get start up sounds to play, but I at least have sound when logged in. Continue Reading

The Sky Is Falling!

Every time the entertainment market shifts into new directions, the controlling powers scream about the death of their industry. Each time, they end up as nothing more than a Chicken Little.

You all know the story. A little chicken is sitting under an oak tree and an acorn falls and hits him on the head. He assumes he was hit with a piece of the sky and starts screaming “The sky is Falling!” to everyone he meets.

Eventually, he is found to be an idiot and everyone goes on their merry little way.

Today, we have two such Chicken Little stories posted on Gamasutra. In one you have Colleen Delzer claiming that $1 games are going to kill off their developers. In the other, you have Mike Capps claiming $1 games are going to kill the AAA developers. Both are nothing more than Chicken Little warnings.

When the TV came to the market, the movie industry claimed that it would be the death of movie theatres. Movie theatres are bigger now than ever. When Netflix started offering streaming video, they made they same claim and are still making it. The movie industry are setting box office records since then.

When the DVR came out, television studios claimed that it would end the serialized television show. We have more long running series now than ever. They are now complaining about Hulu and other streaming services claiming they will destroy the industry.

When iTunes was released the major labels screamed that they would die if songs were sold for a $1. They now sell more music than ever before. Continue Reading

Indie Developer’s Response to the PCGA (Updated)

Matt Ployhar, President of the PCGA

Recently, the PC Gaming Alliance’s (PCGA) new president, Matt Ployhar, held an interview with Gamasutra. While over all the interview was pretty good, it was riddled with fluff and non answers. Granted, Gamasutra interviewer, Kris Graft, didn’t ask some of the tough questions I would have asked, he did ask some that I felt deserved more concrete answers.

So in response, I would like to run down the full list of questions and his answers and respond accordingly.

Can you start with a little bit of your background? Where does your interest in PC gaming come from?

Matt Ployhar: So I’m currently at Intel, and have been for almost three years. I’m kind of a hybrid strategic graphics planner, if you will. One of the main reasons I came over was to kind of get exposure to hardware, and at that point in time we were actually working on the Larabee project.

I just felt like I’m much more aligned with Windows gaming than I am console gaming, at any level. And the Windows guys for years were trying to get me to move over into the DirectX group. So then I moved over, out of Microsoft Games, to get into Windows Div/DX. And then halfway through the [Microsoft Game Studios] re-org, I went on to my last Microsoft stint, which was a couple years on the Windows 7 planning team.

So far so good. Someone who is aware of PC gaming both from the hardware and software side of things. So what will this background provide as incite in the area? Continue Reading

New Year Resolutions

Divine Knight Gaming LogoHere at Divine Knight gaming, we want to bring quality gaming to everyone. This year we are committed to that cause. We have decided to release some resolutions for the coming year.

We resolve to complete and release two games this year.

You have already seen a teaser for one of our games. The other we have not released any information.

Over the course of the next year, we will be releasing more information on both of these games. You can expect to see more teasers for the teased game in the coming weeks and some teasers and information for our other game about the middle of the year.

We are committed to our cause and will work extra hard to make both games at the quality you can come to expect from us in the future.

Please keep tuned in.

Oh and expect a redesign of our current site theme. It needs a bit of a refresh.

Story, the 5 W’s and the H

In mid September, Ninja Theory said that story is the most important aspect of game design. This caused quite the stir in the comments that I was unable to participate in. So, I shall post my thoughts here.

First I will say that I don’t completely agree with Ninja Theory. I don’t think that story is the most important aspect of game design. But it’s importance is growing.

For me, gameplay is the most important aspect of games design. You can have the best looking, sounding game with the best story ever, but if the gameplay sucks, it will destroy any other good will it may have had with gamers.

So where soes that leave story in the ranking? Personally, I would toss it in the same level as art direction and audio. All of which falls behind gameplay.

To help explain this, I will be looking at the 5 W’s: Who, What, When, Where, Why; and the H: How. Each of these is impacted by one of the main factors of games design in some way. Continue Reading

Why Should You Support the ECA’s Supreme Court Petition?

Recently, the Supreme Court of the United States took up a case from California. This Case involves a law that was passed in 2005 that would regulate the sale of violent video games to minors. The video game industry, represented by the ESA, has challenged this law in federal court. Twice it has been ruled unconstitutional. It is now up to the Supreme Court to decide once and for all.

The Entertainment Consumers Association has issued a petition that they want all people who play games to sign. This petition puts to voice of the people behind the defense of the game industry from this law. I have already put my name on it and I think you should as well.

Here are my thoughts on why. Continue Reading