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Gerblyn
Apr 4, 2007

"TO BATTLE!"


Fun Shoe

SupSuper posted:

How do game devs feel about modding? It's always felt like this huge grey area that the game industry promotes with one hand and slaps with the other.

I haven't been verified by Mutata yet, but I implemented and managed a Modding system for one of our games a few years back, and I think they're great.

Players constantly have requests for features and tweaks that aren't really that hard to do, but a lot of the time we can't help them. Perhaps we feel their idea would hurt the game in some way, or we don't have the time to implement it and test it, or we think other players will hate it, or maybe their idea is just really bad. Modding goes a long way to fixing that by letting players implement their niche ideas themselves, so they can have the experience that they want without it interfering with how other people play.

Unless, your question is more "How do Devs feel about their VISION being modified by the unwashed masses?", then I've never met anyone who complains about it. I have argued with people on forums about design and balance decisions, and then seen mods that go and do the things I say I don't like. In a petty kind of way, I do sort of get offended by it, and I admit I might gloat a bit if everyone hates the mod, but I try and remain objective about it, and if the mod is really popular then I try and admit that I was wrong about the whole thing.

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Gerblyn
Apr 4, 2007

"TO BATTLE!"


Fun Shoe

SupSuper posted:

If that's purely a publisher thing though, then I'll ask something more dev-oriented: do you worry that mods can make you "look bad", either by deviating from the dev's vision, or making users "work for free" by fixing issues that the devs can't or don't want to?

Not really. For the former, it can be a little hurtful for a designer if they work hard on something, and then a modder comes along and rewrites their design, usually accompanying their mod with long, ranting posts about why said design is stupid. Devs work hard and want people to enjoy their work, and having a user insult it, and then rewrite it can feel pretty sucky, especially if that rewrite ends up being really popular. That doesn't actually happen very often though, and when it does, it's usually best to take it as a learning experience rather than as a personal attack.

As for the latter, I've only ever really seen that accusation leveled at bethesda games (Skyrim, Fallout, etc), and I've never worked for them, nor do I know anyone who has, so I don't really want to comment on how they feel about it. In general though, no-one makes modders work for free, they do it because they want to and because they enjoy it, and enabling that is a good thing.

There is also the issue of mods containing "Questionable Content", like porn or politically incorrect stuff. There was a bit of a fuss a while back because of some Stellaris mod that remvoed all black people from the game, for example. In those cases, I think most people understand that just because a Modder makes something, doesn't mean we, as devs, approve of it. If the mod is within a curated space, like the steam workshhop, we'll often remove it, because we don't want our game associated with alt-right lunatics or whoever, but otherwise I don't think it's a big worry.

SupSuper posted:

And for those that have implemented modding tools and docs: is the implementation cost worth it compared to the benefits it may create?

This is kind of a hard question to answer, since the amount of work needed to add modding support to a game varies wildly depending on how the game engine itself has been written. It cost me about 6 weeks to add modding support to our game, but the benefits have been huge; a couple of years later there are nearly 500 items on our steam workshop page, with everything from balance tweaks, to new units and factions. My 6 weeks of work has encouraged users to put in several man-years of dev time into adding stuff that other people can play with and which (hopefully) improves their time with the game.

Gerblyn fucked around with this message at Oct 6, 2017 around 06:10

Gerblyn
Apr 4, 2007

"TO BATTLE!"


Fun Shoe

It's kind of complicated, but in general, Yes, modding support always needs to be deliberately added.

When you get a game, it's usually split into 2 parts:

1) The code, normally written in C++, which is stored in the application (.exe file) as well as various libraries (.dll files, etc).
2) The data, which is loaded by the code, and is edited using specially written tools like level editors and resource editors. This includes scripts, levels, enemy definitions, etc.

When we talk about modding, we're normally talking about changing the data, not the code (modding code is possible, just extremely hard, and limited to a small group of very smart people). So for a game to be moddable, the thing you want to mod has to be defined in data, not built into the code. Most modern, commercial engines put their game logic into the data, so anyone with the right tools can mod that data and change the game. However games written by smaller teams will often put a lot of their game logic directly into the code, meaning it can't be modded. The hows and whys of this are a bit beyond the scope of this post, but the long and short of it is, defining everything in data and making it mod friendly is harder to do and can take much longer, so it's often not viable for smaller teams to do it.

Another issue is, even if you had access to dev tools to modify the game's data, the game's data needs to be set up in such a way that makes it easy to actually make arbitrary changes without having an in depth knowledge of how all the data is set up and organized. For example, Unity games are heavily data driven, yet making them moddable requires a lot of extra work, as this thread from the Unity Reddit discusses.

Lastly, when we talk about Mods in modern games, we're not talking about old school hacks where you just overwrite a bunch of files and launch the application. Mod support now means things like:

- Mods can be enabled and disabled
- Multiple mods written by different people can be used at once with minimal fuss for the user
- The game handles issues like "You're hosting a Multiplay game with a mod, so tell anyone who wants to join that they need the mod too" and "You're trying to load a save that needs a Mod, but that mod is gone, so we need an error message"

All this needs to be added, and depending on how you're game and its data are designed, this can be quite a significant challenge. We always knew mod support would be a thing, so during development we made decisions that minimized the amount of work needed, if we hadn't done so, it's possible that the amount of work would have made adding proper modding support simply impossible.

Gerblyn
Apr 4, 2007

"TO BATTLE!"


Fun Shoe

SirDrone posted:

As someone who's about finishing up their Game Design course at a AIE campus, would it be wise to take up a short course on Programming as I'm still struggling with most C+ Scripting. Most of my Portfolio when it comes to stuff I've done by myself looks just amateurish as my projects do more with level design then anything else and I honestly feel nailing my head into coding would allow me to try different things with Unity or Unreal.

Anything that helps you work with scripting languages (like Unreal Script or Lua) would definitely be an advantage. C++ and C#(*) themselves are probably less useful, so it would help if you could find a programming course that focused on the basics principles of programming, rather than learning those specific languages.

(*) Scripting languages often share syntax and keywords with C++/C#, so it's not totally useless to learn them.

Gerblyn
Apr 4, 2007

"TO BATTLE!"


Fun Shoe

Lutha Mahtin posted:

this type of received-wisdom logic is why i think Bushamori has been the most insightful poster itt. it's very easy to point to terrible market research that claims "um but content graphics polygons content gamers pixels content" but i don't see any justification for why this garbage research (which imo the researchers should be ashamed that they made) necessarily defines the only possible set of economic concerns that exist in the making of games

It doesn't, it just defines a very important one when making multi-million dollar AAA games. I mean, you can disagree with the research all you like, but if I had to choose between professionally collected research, and some guy on the internet who hasn't actually managed to raise a counterpoint beyond "it's garbage", I'm gonna side with the research.

Gerblyn
Apr 4, 2007

"TO BATTLE!"


Fun Shoe

Sure, but the problem is you guys aren't actually providing much in the way of counter arguments. It's all very well to say things like "You can't prove the data is correct" and "Companies have made mistakes in the past", in fact it's perfectly valid, but what is your evidence that this data in particular is wrong?

I'm not trying to say that you guys are necessarily wrong, or that we're necessarily right, I'm just saying that you guys need to provide your own arguments because it feels all you're doing is attacking ours.

Gerblyn
Apr 4, 2007

"TO BATTLE!"


Fun Shoe

Bushmaori posted:

Speaking of the cloud: What are the thoughts of you developers when it comes to cloud computing helping gaming? I remember reading a lot about it a few years ago but not so much since then.

Well, we use cloud saves, so I guess that counts?

Personally, I think it's risky to make a game that has an integral reliance on cloud computing, since that means it pretty much must be online only, and that is a big negative in the minds of many gamers. I believe Cloud Computing was one of the justifications that EA gave as to why the new Sim City had to be online only, for example.

I'm not even certain it would be that useful, the only real thing I can imagine is running AIs in strategy games, since 1) they can use a truly ferocious amount of processing power and 2) strategy games aren't twitch based, so players will tolerate the delay while the process is offloaded to the cloud.

That could just be down to my lack of imagination though, rather than a lack of actual uses!

Gerblyn
Apr 4, 2007

"TO BATTLE!"


Fun Shoe

Bushmaori posted:

That makes a lot of sense and is something I completely overlooked. You're saying that in this way it would be a case of send state, compute, receive state, which is a perfect fit for the technology?

I don't know about perfect, but it would be suitable yeah. As you say, you'd need to upload the game world, which is essentially your save file, let the cloud run its turn, then send a save file back to the player of the world after the AI took it's turn, along with data so that the player could see the moves the AI took. The whole process would probably take a few minutes, but if you're playing a round-robin type turn based game, that's fairly normal.

If the game supports Play By Email, you could also have a cloud based AI take part in that as well, since PBEM games essentially involve emailing save games around.

Gerblyn
Apr 4, 2007

"TO BATTLE!"


Fun Shoe

djkillingspree posted:

I wonder how much value there is to the cloud in this case, given the fact that it would mandate an online connection, which is likely to piss some people off. I do wonder how much strategy game AI is limited by processing power vs. more design issues of how to design an AI that is fun to play against. It feels like the latter is a design challenge nobody's cracked moreso than a technical challenge?

The AI in Age of Wonders 3 is CPU limited, given more power we could make some simple tweaks and youíd get a moderately smarter opponent. There are also some techniques and processes we never attempted due to the high CPU cost, which would certainly make the AI smarter, like letting the AI dynamically customize itís army compositions to try and counter yours, for example.

As for the Design question, thatís not really the case. Although design can inform how the AI should act, actually making it act that way in an intelligent and dynamic way is a programming problem and extra CPU power would be immensely helpful. You can design around the problem, but then you end up with something assymetric, like Sorceror King, where the AI is actually playing a completely different game to you.

Gerblyn
Apr 4, 2007

"TO BATTLE!"


Fun Shoe

Red Mike posted:

Smarter AI does not equal a more fun AI to play against, that's something that's been known for well over a decade.

Iím not disagreeing with what youíre saying at all, I think I expressed myself badly. When I used words like Smart, I didnít mean Smart like Napoleon destroying the player with searing strategic insight, I meant Smart like another human playing a reasonably competent game.

I think youíre underestimating how difficult it is write a 4X game AI which isnít pants-on-head incompetent, yet alone one which is so smart that the player hates trying to beat it. Managing production queues, empire expansion, diplomacy, economics, research and military deployment, all with something that even roughly ressembles a humanís playstyle is a hugely complex task requiring a ton of prvoessing power. Thereís a reason people complain that 4X AIs only provide a reasonable challenge by cheating in extra resources and units.

In the end, faking it only gets you so far with something as complex as a strategy game AI, and getting it
to play reasonably well falls squarely into the domain of the AI programmer. Most designers are only really qualified to provide the highest levels of direction, they canít design around these problems except by fundamentally changing the rules of the game the AI is playing. Thatís why I mentioned Sorceror King, which I personally think is going the right direction for people who want a fun, single player 4X game.

In SK, the Big Bad Guy AI doesnít need to deal with all the complex stuff that makes the game fun for a player, all it needs to do is spawn armies and things which are tailored to challenge the player. If a designer says ďFighting this kind of army while trying to invade is funĒ, the AI can just create one in the right place, which is far simple than what an AI in a traditional 4X would need to do to get the same result.

Gerblyn
Apr 4, 2007

"TO BATTLE!"


Fun Shoe

teardrop posted:

When I've gotten to see all of the gameplay mechanics, if not the story, then starting the next game becomes more appealing. I finish 99% of books and movies because I know the ending is a huge part of the experience and will completely change the way I view it. My assumption is that most of the artistry in a game goes into the gameplay, not the story, so I've "gotten" almost all of a game by halfway through.

Speaking as a gamer, rather than a developer, I think that you're right in that a game has a certain amount of gameplay in it, and that's a different thing to the amount of content in it. If I'm playing the newest Assassin's Creed game, I might have experienced all of the gameplay the game offers in the first 15 hours, while there's enough content to drag the game on for 40 hours, meaning I'm fairly bored for the last 25 hours, and may well just not finish the game.

I was speaking to some colleagues about this, and someone suggested it's a factor of where I am in life. I'm an adult who has a fair amount of disposable income, so I can afford to pick up a game, play it for a while, say "That's it!" and buy something else. My time is more valuable than my money, so I'll spend more on new games to have a better time. A lot of people aren't in that position though, they might only buy 1 or 2 games month, maybe less. Those people want to play a game for 80+ hours, because it's the only game they'll have for a month, and if it's over in 15 hours, they'll feel ripped off.

To answer your question, in my experience, more work tends to go into the beginning of the game than the later parts. There are bunch of reasons for this, like the beginning parts of the game are the ones shown to the press and to publishers in order to impress them. Also, if the first half of your game sucks, people will never finish it and will likely go complain on the internet about what a bad game it is. However, if the first half is good and the second half sucks, people are more likely to give it a pass, since they'll have gotten more enjoyment out of it. Finally we know from various metrics (like achievements) that the vast majority of gamers never finish games, so it makes sense to invest more in the parts of the game that the most people will play.

This isn't universal, of course, I thought the latest South Park game had far better content at the end than for it did for the first 75% for example, just a sort of tendency.

Gerblyn
Apr 4, 2007

"TO BATTLE!"


Fun Shoe

I think one of the biggest differences between now and the 90s is that, in the 90s, computers weren't really capable of producing 3D art to a degree which really demanded super refined and rendered 2D concept art. You can mock the Lara Croft concepts all you like, but when they got into the game, they looked like the model on the left:



The main purposes of concept art is to guide the modellers and texture artists, and you can see that even the roughest of the concept art you posted was far in excess of what was technically needed. To produce the model on the right though, the modellers are going to want a much more richly detailed and worked out piece of concept art, simply because what they themselves are making is also much more richly detailed and worked out.

Or to put it another way, one reason a lot of concept art in the 90s looked rough, is because there was little reason to spend the time or money to produce concept art that didn't, and now there is.

Gerblyn
Apr 4, 2007

"TO BATTLE!"


Fun Shoe

Canine Blues Arooo posted:

For games like Hearthstone, or indeed any game that has to cert to either the Apple Store or one of the console's, it's inordinately expensive to make frequent, small changes. Making the change is one thing, but then you need to QA that change and then cert the build. This is especially true if you are certing to Nintendo, who will come back with problems that you then fix, and then will come back the second time with entirely different, and seemingly arbitrary problems, some which aren't even on their own requirements list... Not that I'm mad. So for any game where you might have wondered, 'why don't they make smaller, incremental updates', this is often the reason why - It's very expensive in raw cash and time.

This can be true, but there is another reason. When you do game balancing, it takes time for the "Meta To Settle". For example, if you increase the DPS of a popular unit by 20%, then a lot of people will immediately say it's OP and ask for it to be changed, but there are probably a bunch of other changes in the patch which compensate for the DPS rise, which people at first glance aren't really taking into account. You won't actually know that the unit is truly OP for a few weeks, when people have had time to really play with it and to search for units and tactics which can counter it properly.

If you release balance patches too frequently, then you'll be basing your balance decisions on incomplete data, and you'll probably end up wasting a bunch of time and doing incorrect things.

Gerblyn
Apr 4, 2007

"TO BATTLE!"


Fun Shoe

leper khan posted:

Apple forbids code patches to sidestep their cert process. There is a built in system in unity for doing this (asset bundles), but everyone (most.. Iíve seen some cavalier behaviour from Korean and Japanese studios) limits their use of them to data (keeps initial install size down) to avoid the ghost of stebeís wrath.

Sure, I wasn't disagreeing at all, I was just saying there are other reasons to avoid frequent balance patching.

Gerblyn
Apr 4, 2007

"TO BATTLE!"


Fun Shoe

With Hearthstone as well, Blizzard has access to huge amounts more information than the players. Just because a player thinks a card is never used or is worthless, doesn't necessarily mean that's the case. It wouldn't surprise me if a Blizzard analyst could say "Actually this card is featured in 14.6% of player sorcerer decks" or "in 57.3% of cases, when this card was played in a match, the player won".

I'm not saying that players are always wrong and Blizzard are always right, just that Blizzard know a lot more about the actual statistics of the game than players ever will.

Gerblyn
Apr 4, 2007

"TO BATTLE!"


Fun Shoe

I think there's a big difference between using focus groups/market research to guide your creative vision, and doing user research to see how players react to your game. The former can certainly dilute the vision of a game, and lead to cliched stories, and stuff like that. The latter, however, is unequivocally good.

Take Stardew Valley, the developer skipped early access, and put out a finished game that he was happy with as a completed product. He then released 8 patches over the space of 3 weeks fixing bugs, implementing usability improvements and doing balance tweaks, all based on feedback from his users. That was user testing, he just did it after release rather than during development, and you can clearly see how much it helped improve the game.

Gerblyn
Apr 4, 2007

"TO BATTLE!"


Fun Shoe

Canine Blues Arooo posted:

Certainly! But it's really important to+ acknowledge the methodology here: The audience was 'selected' from people who wanted this game, and from people who cared enough and played enough to write up unsolicited feedback. This is as opposed to people who you select randomly, who are asked to provide feedback and might not necessarily have any passion for a given product or idea. The Stardew Valley approach of user research is exactly what I advocate for: More 'expert' opinions and less focus testing of an audience that fits a desired demographic.

I work with a user research lab, and they do not pick people at random from the street. They pick people who have an interest in the type of game that is being tested, and have played other games in the same genre. When you get the research results, you can see which participant said what, as well as what gaming experience/interests each participant has so you can make decide how much you want to value that user's opinion. I'm not sure what experience you have with these labs, but as far as I'm aware this is a fairly standard approach.

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Gerblyn
Apr 4, 2007

"TO BATTLE!"


Fun Shoe

mutata posted:

Now, that said, I think there's a cool potential for a game to make the stylistic choice to build and scan miniatures, but that would be doing extra work to achieve a unique visual style.

Aren't most miniatures first modelled in a CAD program before manufacture, though? So you'd go Digital -> 3D print -> Digital?

There have been a few games done in Claymation, I believe. Like Neverhood and Armigkrog.

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