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mutata
Mar 1, 2003

Make way for the Urinal Parade.



This is the Ask a Game Dev thread! The goal of this thread is to peel away the misery mystery of video game development and maybe, just maybe bridge the gap between dev and player a little bit.


We've all been on Neogaf and Games and Twitter and your spoiled cousin's house whose parents buy him all the consoles and observed or taken part in a bit of dev-bashing and brain-wondering about why a dev made a certain decision. On the other hand, I've spent a lot of time with other devs online and irl in real life and they tend do a lot of Dorito-jowl waving about how gamers just don't understand game dev. "Look at this fool who believes multiplayer can be included by touching a burned cd rom of game code to an ancient Egyptian 56k modem!" my developer friends say. Their bitter laughter is used to harden their cynicism exoskeleton carapace which protects their snowflake creative insides. There's a lot of finger waving from the public that devs are lazy and there's a lot of lolling from game devs that players are out of touch.


A lot of older media industries talk often about how their artforms are made and managed: We get behind the scenes explanations of films and trade rags do deep dive post mortems of shows and films. Games, however, have the all-knowing, all-seeing piercing gaze of the Non Disclosure Agreement that prevents the lay-dev from talking about their experiences so we operate under this weird cloud where everyone repeates platitudes about dev since they're afraid of "misrepresenting their employer". This is unfortunate.

Fortunately, I'm currently taking a sabatical to revamp and retool my portfolio, which means I'm currently under no NDAs at all, and all of my previous employers have shut down or otherwise gone out of business, so I'm in a nice position to speak freely and answer your game dev questions directly! I have worked for a tiny indie game startup, a million-dollar AR/VR silicon valley startup, and a AAA studio owned by the largest media conglomerate in the world (complete with rodent mascot), so I've been around a couple blocks during my 6+ years in the industry. I'm primarily an artist but I have also made varying contributions to design, business, and direction.

Also, I'm not alone! A handful of lurking SA game dev goons have agreed to also participate in the thread. Some of them may respond directly if they are comfortable with that, but some may reply anonymously by messaging me privately and I will post the answer in blank quote tags. Many of these people are designers, but there are also producers, artists, programmers, and management represented. Everyone's experiences are slightly different as well, so hopefully there will be multiple answers for a single question where necessary.


If you are a game dev of some description and would like to participate in the A portion of this Q&A, message me or email me or whatever me so I can verify that you are not a sinister game dev-hating robot. I don't care if you're indie or career, or whatever, just so long as you have some legitimate experience behind your answers. I also expect all Answerers to only answer questions for which they have some knowledge. Other game devs will pipe up if an answer seems off. I will keep a list of vetted Answerers here in the OP so you can check and see if the person replying to you is yanking your chain or not. All in all, this thread will only be interesting if everyone posts in good faith, and the mods have agreed to help keep things tidy in here.


Wait shut up. By way of disclaimer, in this thread we'll be discussing an industry of businesses, all of which are out to make money, but many of which also want to make good games. This thread is not intended to advertise or shill for game companies nor am I here to evangelize about the industry and convince anyone that it sucks or it doesn't suck or whatever. The games industry is made up of thousands of separate companies with different goals, methods, and intentions. Some are scum. Some are sincere. All of them are staffed by human beings. This thread is an attempt to shine light and show that the industry is a beautiful pallete of shades of grey and much more complex than the average angry forum thread paints it. Ok, cool.


lol just kidding.

Here's some openers:

http://www.lizengland.com/blog/2014...e-door-problem/

Liz England posted:

“THE DOOR PROBLEM”

“So what does a game designer do? Are you an artist? Do you design characters and write the story? Or no, wait, you’re a programmer?”

Game design is one of those nebulous terms to people outside the game industry that’s about as clear as the “astrophysicist” job title is to me. It’s also my job, so I find myself explaining what game design means to a lot of people from different backgrounds, some of whom don’t know anything about games.

The Door Problem

I like to describe my job in terms of “The Door Problem”.

Premise: You are making a game.

Are there doors in your game?
Can the player open them?
Can the player open every door in the game?
Or are some doors for decoration?
How does the player know the difference?
Are doors you can open green and ones you can’t red? Is there trash piled up in front of doors you can’t use? Did you just remove the doorknobs and call it a day?
Can doors be locked and unlocked?
What tells a player a door is locked and will open, as opposed to a door that they will never open?
Does a player know how to unlock a door? Do they need a key? To hack a console? To solve a puzzle? To wait until a story moment passes?
Are there doors that can open but the player can never enter them?
Where do enemies come from? Do they run in from doors? Do those doors lock afterwards?
How does the player open a door? Do they just walk up to it and it slides open? Does it swing open? Does the player have to press a button to open it?
Do doors lock behind the player?
What happens if there are two players? Does it only lock after both players pass through the door?
What if the level is REALLY BIG and can’t all exist at the same time? If one player stays behind, the floor might disappear from under them. What do you do?
Do you stop one player from progressing any further until both are together in the same room?
Do you teleport the player that stayed behind?
What size is a door?
Does it have to be big enough for a player to get through?
What about co-op players? What if player 1 is standing in the doorway – does that block player 2?
What about allies following you? How many of them need to get through the door without getting stuck?
What about enemies? Do mini-bosses that are larger than a person also need to fit through the door?
It’s a pretty classic design problem. SOMEONE has to solve The Door Problem, and that someone is a designer.

The Other Door Problems

To help people understand the role breakdowns at a big company, I sometimes go into how other people deal with doors.

Creative Director: “Yes, we definitely need doors in this game.”
Project Manager: “I’ll put time on the schedule for people to make doors.”
Designer: “I wrote a doc explaining what we need doors to do.”
Concept Artist: “I made some gorgeous paintings of doors.”
Art Director: “This third painting is exactly the style of doors we need.”
Environment Artist: “I took this painting of a door and made it into an object in the game.”
Animator: “I made the door open and close.”
Sound Designer: “I made the sounds the door creates when it opens and closes.”
Audio Engineer: “The sound of the door opening and closing will change based on where the player is and what direction they are facing.”
Composer: “I created a theme song for the door.”
FX Artist: “I added some cool sparks to the door when it opens.”
Writer: “When the door opens, the player will say, ‘Hey look! The door opened!’ “
Lighter: “There is a bright red light over the door when it’s locked, and a green one when it’s opened.”
Legal: “The environment artist put a Starbucks logo on the door. You need to remove that if you don’t want to be sued.”
Character Artist: “I don’t really care about this door until it can start wearing hats.”
Gameplay Programmer: “This door asset now opens and closes based on proximity to the player. It can also be locked and unlocked through script.”
AI Programmer: “Enemies and allies now know if a door is there and whether they can go through it.”
Network Programmer: “Do all the players need to see the door open at the same time?”
Release Engineer: “You need to get your doors in by 3pm if you want them on the disk.”
Core Engine Programmer: “I have optimized the code to allow up to 1024 doors in the game.”
Tools Programmer: “I made it even easier for you to place doors.”
Level Designer: “I put the door in my level and locked it. After an event, I unlocked it.”
UI Designer: “There’s now an objective marker on the door, and it has its own icon on the map.”
Combat Designer: “Enemies will spawn behind doors, and lay cover fire as their allies enter the room. Unless the player is looking inside the door in which case they will spawn behind a different door.”
Systems Designer: “A level 4 player earns 148xp for opening this door at the cost of 3 gold.”
Monetization Designer: “We could charge the player $.99 to open the door now, or wait 24 hours for it to open automatically.”
QA Tester: “I walked to the door. I ran to the door. I jumped at the door. I stood in the doorway until it closed. I saved and reloaded and walked to the door. I died and reloaded then walked to the door. I threw grenades at the door.”
UX / Usability Researcher: “I found some people on Craigslist to go through the door so we could see what problems crop up.”
Localization: “Door. Puerta. Porta. Porte. Tür. Dør. Deur. Drzwi. Drws. 문”
Producer: “Do we need to give everyone those doors or can we save them for a pre-order bonus?”
Publisher: “Those doors are really going to help this game stand out during the fall line-up.”
CEO: “I want you all to know how much I appreciate the time and effort put into making those doors.”
PR: “To all our fans, you’re going to go crazy over our next reveal #gamedev #doors #nextgen #retweet”
Community Manager: “I let the fans know that their concerns about doors will be addressed in the upcoming patch.”
Customer Support: “A player contacted us, confused about doors. I gave them detailed instructions on how to use them.”
Player: “I totally didn’t even notice a door there.”
One of the reasons I like this example is because it’s so mundane. There’s an impression that game design is flashy and cool and about crazy ideas and fun all the time. But when I start off with, “Let me tell you about doors…” it cuts straight to the everyday practical considerations.

An infographic of an average game dev cycle what I made:

Direct link to large: https://www.dropbox.com/s/3yffnntiu...sep17.png?raw=1

https://instagram.com/mutatedjellyfish/
https://www.artstation.com/artist/mutatedjellyfish

mutata fucked around with this message at Sep 14, 2017 around 16:37

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mutata
Mar 1, 2003

Make way for the Urinal Parade.



mutata - art/design - AAA console, indie, AR/VR
chunderstorm - design/code/qa - AAA, VR
mastermind2004 - gameplay programming - AAA, large indie
TheFlyingOrc - gameplay programming - MMO
ShinAli - generalist/systems programming - AAA, contractor
Gearman - technical art/environment art - AAA, retail
Mother - design/management - AAA, indie
GC_ChrisReeves - art - AAA, console
floofyscorp - art - indie, MMO
eshock - ai programming - AAA open world
rope kid - direction/design/writing - AAA, PC
Namen - ai programming - AAA
Studio - production/project management - mobile
HolaMundo - programming - mobile
Gerblyn - programming/design - indie
Hughlander - programming/management - AAA, mobile, console, MMO

mutata fucked around with this message at Apr 27, 2018 around 01:15

mutata
Mar 1, 2003

Make way for the Urinal Parade.

MMF Freeway posted:

Hi. Sometimes I wonder about how, like most collaborative art forms, people feel the need to assign the majority of credit for the creation of a game to a single person. Maybe it comes over from how people understand film, but there the auteur is almost always the director. In games it seems like that role is more nebulous, sometimes being a programmer or artist or designer, producer etc. Have you guys ever worked with someone who has seen themselves as the game's "author"? What was their job on the team? How was that working dynamic? Maybe you've been that person, if so how much did you feel like you should steer the ship versus the other team members?

I haven't personally worked with a well-known gaming auteur/celebrity dev. It is certainly a phenomenon that gets a side-eye from a lot of rank and file devs, but it's not really that unusual and it's probably inevitable. In my opinion, I think in western culture we love celebrity and we love to rally collectively around a single point (see Bobak Ferdowski from the Mars Curiosity landing or that blue shed during that hurricane Harvey livestream).

What happens in my observations is that on most projects there emerges a "vision holder" which is a person or a few people who really can see the finished project (or a large aspect of the project like gameplay or art style) in their mind CLEARLY very early on and then that vision holder has to communicate that picture that only they can see to the rest of the team and help them see it. Sometimes it's this person's actual job to be a vision holder (director, creative director, art director, etc) but sometimes a rank and file dev can catch a vision and rally people too. (I've also worked with directors who have little to no vision of the project but that's a different discussion.) In other words, many times it's actually true that the auteur that you're seeing in the E3 videos has legitimately contributed in a huge, huge way to the project's creation and some of the attention is deserved. Where it gets ridiculous is when the marketing arm goes looking for a story to tell and they latch on to this effect and they blow it out of proportion, and it turns into a monster. What's worse is when the auteur then buys into it and then it can turn toxic.

The opposite also happens, by the way. I've worked with a few people who were solid vision holders and huge reasons why a successful product was successful and they never make noise or try to capitalize on it. Disney Infinity has a Toybox mode where players can create their own worlds and games with setpieces and toys. In the early stages all this was was a waiting room to dork around in before joining a multiplayer game and it was a total afterthought until Chad Liddell (among a few others, but especially him) really fought for it to be something bigger. It became the most played section of the game and the tentpole feature of a billion-dollar franchise and no one's heard of him, heh.

In my career I've been lucky to work with people who understand that games are gigantic efforts from thousands of people. I've tried to embrace this fact by listing all the names on the art team on my demo reels and such. In any given screenshot you're looking at the work of dozens of people all combined.

More often than not, though, game dev celebs are mini-monsters created by the marketing department because groups of humans like to focus on a single thing. Some of them resent this. Most of them do contribute in large ways to the success of a project.

mutata fucked around with this message at Sep 14, 2017 around 17:16

mutata
Mar 1, 2003

Make way for the Urinal Parade.

Glitches are the best. Additionally, just placeholder stuff can be hilarious and awesome too. In Disney Infinity all gun-style weapons are neon colored and have orange tips on them like actual toy guns, but that decision didn't happen until they made real-looking guns first and saw how messed up (read: awesome) it looked for Mickey to blow someone away with a realistic-rear end old west sawed off. Somewhere I have a screenshot of Vanellope von Schweetz with a shotgun.

Also, to that end, sometimes glitches are so horrifying they actually get moved up in priority because they gross everyone out, like if jumping causes a characters limbs to retract into their torsos and the like.

Edit: I'll address the VR one and the UI one when I'm not phone posting.

mutata
Mar 1, 2003

Make way for the Urinal Parade.

Domus posted:

Are there any games that come to mind that only industry people can appreciate? Like "Well the controls were clunky, the AI was stupid, the level design was terrible...but whoever did those doors knocked that poo poo out of the park!"

I also don't think there are many games that only game devs can appreciate, but game devs (of various specialties) definitely appreciate games in a different way than regular players. We tend to be much more impressed with insanely good executions of our craft than regular customers. I think you could fill an entire college semester class with the environment art philosophies and techniques of Grand Theft Auto 5 and Uncharted 4, for example. Game devs tend to declare different games masterpieces than regular players. Not all the time, but a lot of the time.


FireWhizzle posted:

Q: Have you noticed a trend from 2014 or so onward where UI's are leaning more on HTML/CSS/JS, or are studios still more prone to using homemade solutions. If homemade - can you give any insight into the thinking?

So I am not a UI artist, so someone can correct me, but there's been a big shift in how user interfaces are implemented recently. Scaleform used to be the go-to UI system and it was Flash-based and pretty heavy handed from what I understand. With Flash finally getting murdered off, though, everything is a bit up in the air. Some are clinging to Scaleform, but most of the big AAA houses have resources enough to roll their own system. On the mid-tier and indie side, Unity and Unreal Engine 4 both now have their own integrated systems for UI. I think the current general desire across the UI/UX side of the industry is to someday have HTML5 be the go-to solution, but don't quote me on that.

But yeah, you're not wrong that there's been a change up in the past several years and we're kind of in a transition area still.


Songbearer posted:

What's the general vibe regarding VR in development circles currently? Is there interest or is it largely considered too niche to bother with?

During development, how often do you run into bugs or glitches that are so drat funny you're almost tempted to keep them in?

Super cool of you to do this thread, really slick OP.

We have a few people who currently work in VR on the forums so hopefully they can weigh in. I worked for CastAR which was an AR startup, and the bullish talk in those circles is "AR is gonna totally eat VR's LUNCH LOL" which, like, ok maybe? There's overlap there but they're different. In any case, when VR first started picking up steam, I'd say there was a definite "Oh snap, really?" reaction among the AAA industry. Many in AAA were around LAST time VR was a thing. I know at Disney, they spun up a small VR team and they produced a few neat prototypes like Tron tank games and the like, and they were looking to maybe expand those, but there was no real drive to pump tons of cash into it and I think that's kind of where things are right now. The early talk about VR was that it was going to "change the world" but that's every day Silicon Valley hot air.

I think a lot of developers are waiting to see what 2nd gen VR is like and particularly what it costs. In the meantime, I look at what Bethesda is doing as very wise: taking AAA properties and crowbarring them into VR. As a VR owner, it's not the ideal strategy that I really want (ie fully-fleshed out experiences made just for VR) but it's the only real viable strategy other than small teams making small-scale experiments. I don't think the install base just isn't big enough to support a dev studio solely on VR game sales.

mutata
Mar 1, 2003

Make way for the Urinal Parade.



GC_ChrisReeves posted:

...like, even looking at the Overwatch characters and seeing the PBR shading at work on the materials...

PBR is a graphics rendering philosophy and technology that has been widely adopted in games and film in the past 4 years. All 3D rendering is in some form or another, an illusion made of shortcuts and all 3D rendering has to varying degrees of complexity sought to replicate how light behaves in the real world. PBR stands for "Physically Based Rendering" and it strives to more accurately adhere to the law of conservation of energy which dictates how light is reflected off of all surfaces. For example, on rubber, most light is absorbed but some is still reflected back to our eyes so rubbers appear dark and matte and slightly shiny. A metal teapot, though, reflects the majority of light back but still absorbs a small amount so it appears shiny. The light that bounces off of the teapot and onto a nearby wall is dimmer than the initial light shining on the teapot since some energy is absorbed by the teapot or lost to scattering. etc. Whereas old shading models in games merely dictated a surface as "shiny" or "not shiny" or "a little shiny", PBR follows the real world fact that all objects are varying degrees of shiny and so you get more accurate lighting, surface definitions, and especially more accurate bounce (indirect) lighting.

mutata
Mar 1, 2003

Make way for the Urinal Parade.

crusty posted:

Why have all games since half life 2 been garbage?

(Semi-serious question)

You're gonna have to be a bit more specific, but I will share a few general opinions on this: Games have gotten drastically more expensive since the turn of the century and therefore shareholders, CEOs and studioheads have gotten much more reluctant to take risks. This is one of the unfortunate side effects of games becoming a majority culturally-embraced hobby and entertainment source. I can't really comment directly on your criteria since I don't know it, but games is a multi-billion dollar incestuous industry now. If someone takes a leap and cracks some kind of profit-making code then others are going to follow suit. Likewise, with dev timelines and budgets being what they are, there's often a philosophy of "let's not reinvent the wheel" inside of devs which means "Hey, instead of trying to find new/better/innovative solutions to this design problem, let's just do what this other game did that everyone already knows and likes". (to this end, get ready for more open world games to take pages from Breath of the Wild's book) What this means, I think, is that games have seemed to get more homogeneous since the turn of the century and more and more games are adhering to strict genre rules with minor twists on existing formulas. If you are someone who doesn't like the formula, then all the games coming out are going to fall short for you until someone can refresh the formula or drop a sea change title that washes through the industry.

Psychedelicatessen posted:

Have any you ever worked on a bad game, a real stinker? And was it immediately obvious, or was it a slow decline?

Most games, I think, start out cool in theory. LOTS of stuff sounds awesome when it's in the ideas stage. Then again, games go bad for all kinds of reasons. Most often, though, I find that the majority of developers working on a title know their project's weak points very very clearly so I'd say that yeah, if someone's working on a bad game then they'll know it before it ships. There are always cheerleaders or vision holders on the team that really drink the cool aid and are blind to things, but for the most part games get bad over time and the rank and file just get to watch in horror like a slow motion train crash.

mutata
Mar 1, 2003

Make way for the Urinal Parade.

buglord posted:

The question I'm gonna ask is probably why VideoGames jumped in here so quickly.
-----

What are your guys' experience with diversity in the workplace? Games may purposely (or unknowingly) strike a nerve in the community by misrepresenting groups of people, or sending a message that creates a social issue. Situations I'm thinking of are with the transgender NPC in Mass Effect Andromeda (where they would reveal their "deadname" to you seconds after meeting you) or the Soccer Spirits mobile game which turns your darker skinned characters into blue eyed white folks when you level them up. I feel both these examples may stem from lack of diversity in game studios, which is likely caused by societal norms in any given country. With these situations in mind:

1) Was there a time one of the above events happened and your studio felt the need to address it? "Hey, X studio is receiving a lot of flak for this, lets be sure our game sidesteps this issue"

2) Has your former/current studio made efforts to diversity the workplace recently and in the past? Was it met with internal backlash or HR issues?

3)If you're a minority, or had a close coworker who was a minority, did you/they feel a bit disconnected from their peers while working?

4)anything else?

I think others have done well responding to this, so I'll just say that lack of diversity is absolutely a big problem in the games industry (and entertainment in general). I also think it is slowly getting better, but not as quickly as I'd like to see. At Avalanche (Dis Interactive) there was enough of a pocket of outspoken women that they started spinning up some blatant "Yo, listen to us, dammit" activities, and it was largely well received because men at the company knew that a big chunk of our target demographic was going to be little girls. To Ava's credit, in the 4 years before their closure and subsequent rebirth, they had upped the percentage of women at the company pretty drastically. It was still heavily skewed, but there were definitely teams (other than HR) that had good representation and while the headlining IPs on the boxes were Marvel and Star Wars (which women also like), the later Infinity releases included much more varied gameplay other than combat like farming, pets, base-building, sidekick recruiting, and whole non-combat campaigns with IPs such as Inside Out and Finding Dory. It was good to see that as the percentage (percentage is the important thing, I think, not just number) of employees that were women went up, so did the variation on gameplay styles.

mutata
Mar 1, 2003

Make way for the Urinal Parade.

I generally agree with all of the above re tutorials, but I also agree that many in-game tutorials are last minute additions, but more than that, they are designed by people who do not understand teaching and learning. The opening moments of a game are extremely important (as dropout data has shown) and they have to accomplish a lot of things. I suspect that the most grievous on-boarding sequences (like possibly the Cuphead tutorial that's been in the news lately? I dunno, I haven't played it, but it looks intensely boring) fall in the category of "We're out of time, just make it real quick." These are fine because it's better to have SOMETHING there than nothing (unless you're Minecraft).

Generally speaking, though, game designers are not often good teachers and they certainly aren't professional curriculum architects which is what we're asking them to do when designing tutorials. At the risk of oversimplifying, humans prefer to learn in different ways, but 2 of the most common are either DIRECT INSTRUCTION or KINESTHETIC DISCOVERY. People who prefer direct instruction are those who carefully read the side of the arcade cabinet before even considering to put their quarter in. Those who prefer kinesthetic learning put their quarter in right away and just go. For direct learners, information is king ("Just tell me what you want me to do!") and for kinesthetic learners context and story are king ("This button pop up poo poo is ruining MY IMMERSION!") I suspect that part of the disdain for 'lazy' tutorials are that people are being forced into a sequence that pets them against the fur and forces them to learn in the wrong way.

I agree that integrated tutorials in games like Mario or Megaman X are WAAAAAYYY easier than crafting a learning ramp up for modern AAA games (no brainer) but I still see people bounce off of those opening sequences today because there isn't proper instruction integrated with the learning activity. Rose tinted glasses and all that.

I actually think Valve's singleplayer games (RIP) are some of the finest examples of integrating the 2 learning styles to make a memorable and highly effective teaching experience. I often city Half-Life 2's "Pick up that can" sequence as a near perfect example. The player is presented with an entertaining and engaging interaction with an NPC, it very effectively acts as a story and world-building moment, it's completely within the context of the game and the story, the player begins a gameplay arc that is further built on when you get the gravity gun and then climaxes when the gravity gun goes supernova at the end, and it has a direct button prompt BUT that button prompt isn't a pop up box that pauses gameplay and says

"In the world of Half-Life 2 there are many PHYSICS OBJECTS! Press 'E' to interact with PHYSICS OBJECTS! Sometimes, PHYSICS OBJECTS will get in your way..." etc.

All it says is "Press E to pick up can". You do so and then YOU discover that in HL2 you get to interact with physics objects 'all on your own'.

Another similar example: The part in Portal 2 where Wheatley tells you that you might have brain damage and to "Just say yes" if you understand. A button prompt appears: "Press SPACE to talk" and you jump. Then Wheatley makes a joke. This is a fantastic, kinesthetic way to discover a game mechanic while still being directly taught how to do it.

Also, Portal 1 has an amazingly good on boarding process for how complicated the gameplay needs to get later.

mutata
Mar 1, 2003

Make way for the Urinal Parade.

On Disney Infinity, we had to design tutorials for a 5-year-old player who could not yet read. We had to teach this hypothetical player how to platform, shoot guns, drive cars, fly Iron Man, fly helicopters, fly airplanes, build worlds with menus and UI and later how to swim with fish.

We... did the best we could.

mutata
Mar 1, 2003

Make way for the Urinal Parade.

We were getting better at Avalanche. Each Infinity had a big high-budget "Disney Magic" opening intro sequence that was built by a small team over the course of the entire dev cycle (2 or so years for Infinity 1 and 1 year for Infinitys 2 and 3). They mainly focused on the spectacle but they were prodded into some limited tutorial making too. Moving forward they were going to be even more integrated with the entire on boarding process but then we got canceled.

Speaking of diversity, I absolutely think more guidance, training, consulting or hiring of people with outside professions like teaching or psychology would mostly be a great thing. The only reason I have so much to say about tutorials is because I was asked to help a friend with Infinity 1's on boarding and my wife is a school teacher trained in developing new curriculum so I had a lot of late night conversations with her about it.

mutata
Mar 1, 2003

Make way for the Urinal Parade.

John Murdoch posted:


On a big team, who all actually ends up working on the tutorials (ie, who do I blame? )? Is it basically just a small group of programmers, artists, and/or designers putting their heads together and winging it?

In my experience, it's usually one or two designers and whatever art and programming resources they can steal from the flashier or more fun (to work on) parts of the game. They often understand the importance of the on boarding sequence but they are also often understaffed, I think.

mutata fucked around with this message at Sep 18, 2017 around 05:36

mutata
Mar 1, 2003

Make way for the Urinal Parade.

SupSuper posted:

I'm not sure what's the right term for this, but why does the games industry seem to be so... fanatic?

For example, I'm a software dev, I work on all kinds of products I wouldn't use myself, I don't have any investment in them. I'm invested in my job and that's what I like. I doubt all the consumers and reviewers of various products have any deep attachments to them as well.
But in games everyone seems to be required to "drink the koolaid". To work in games you have to love games, to write about games you have to breathe games. Everyone is a gamer, whether they're developer, press, or customer, and that seems to encourage all kinds of bias and inner circles and what not.

Is it all just an act for marketing, a natural result of working on creative media, or something else?

The key difference in my mind between a piece of software and a video game (or other piece of creative media, for that matter) is that games invite you to experience EMOTION whereas software is a tool that one uses to further a task, need, or goal. Emotions produce fanaticism. It is definitely not an act for marketing purposes, although sometimes a dude in a hoodie on a stage somewhere can definitely be putting on a razzmatazz show.

In fact, fanaticism part of what's holding some quality of life issues that game dev has: We all know and management knows that if we complain about certain aspects of our job that there are a few dozen people out there who would be happy to take our place.

mutata
Mar 1, 2003

Make way for the Urinal Parade.

It depends on your role, too. For an artist, game dev wages are pretty ok. For a programmer, you can be making more pretty much anywhere else.

mutata
Mar 1, 2003

Make way for the Urinal Parade.

For more salary information, you can search the H1-B database for the salaries of H1-B work visa holders at specific companies here: http://h1bdata.info/index.php

mutata
Mar 1, 2003

Make way for the Urinal Parade.

eshock posted:

Pretty much nobody crunches anymore (in AAA) besides Naughty Dog and Rockstar. Just about every other studio has wisened up, but it's just super embedded in those company cultures.

I'd challenge this point a bit? I agree that it is definitely getting better, but I still think based on discussions and anecdotes and other devs chiming in that some amount of crunch is in the majority at most devs. I guess we could drill the question down and ask what the severity of the crunch we're talking about and whether people consider, say, a week or 2 of crunch to be unacceptable versus a 4 month to year+ deathmarch too, but consensus seems to be that it's still a part of the landscape.

mutata
Mar 1, 2003

Make way for the Urinal Parade.

Viewtiful Jew posted:

Ara peripheral driven IP/genres always destined to end up with Icarus-style endings if the manage to escape failing right out the door?

The potential for something to go wrong with peripherals or toys is vast and deep and you still have all of the overhead and challenges of the software on top of it too. The process of RND, design, prototyping, production, shipping, packaging, and storage of a peripheral would be an entire infographic all its own about as complex as the one I have in the OP and it has to line up and coincide with launch dates and projections have to be dead on or you will either run into shortages ala Amiibo or you have excess inventory sitting in containers on docks ala Disney Infinity's Yondu. Additionally, when you're relying pushing the peripherals for your profits, you have to walk a tightrope. On Disney Infinity, the character toys had the largest profit margin out of anything in the box or on the shelves, but you have to manage that supply/demand curve VERY carefully or you'll burn everyone out and parents will stop buying the toys because the toys never stop. Likewise, when Rock Band/Guitar Hero use different plastic guitars and then subsequent versions use different plastic guitars... you get the idea.

Basically, embarking on a toys-to-life or peripheral-driven game essentially means you're putting out multiple products in 2 different industries. Software and hardware or software and toys. It ups the overhead and the complexity exponentially and it's so hard to get right that often their creators only know they've screwed something up when its too late.

That said, I actually think the biggest peripheral and toys-to-life games have all done ok for themselves overall. Skylanders was amazingly successful, Disney Infinity was still profitable when it was shut down for company redirect reasons, and Lego Dimensions has been able to keep on their feet (although we'll see moving forward with the big reductions at Lego). Guitar Hero and Rock Band franchises were ubiquitous for many years too. Then there's Amiibo which kind of stand alone.

mutata
Mar 1, 2003

Make way for the Urinal Parade.

Dark Off posted:

gaming industry talks a lot with each other.

whats the most hosed up rumor you have heard?
(if you can share it that is)
You can keep the company names out

This is an interesting question, but I find that most of the really hosed up stuff is so bad it ends up going public (like how Konami follows ex-employees and tries to ruin their lives). If any devs here have anything they want to say, feel free to PM me or reach me some other way and I will post it anonymously. I imagine you wont get a lot of answers, though, because either people don't go out of their way to meet with and talk to devs from other geographical areas or they don't trust the gamer public at large with bad rumors. Bad rumors can cast a lot of lovely light on the whole industry, even if they are outliers or exceptions.

To that point, though, here is a twitter thread for everyone to read. I know this mindset is pretty common among a lot of devs across the industry:

https://twitter.com/charlesrandall/...987526541430784

Thanks for keeping this thread chill and cool!

mutata
Mar 1, 2003

Make way for the Urinal Parade.

Dishonesty, particularly in marketing, is definitely an agitating factor (but not a cause, in my opinion) and I would love the industry to hold its own feet to the fire on that. I really hated most of the marketing for Disney Infinity because marketing only cares about selling narratives and emotions but they never cared about the reality of the constraints we had as devs and the limitations of the game (or so it seemed to us knee deep in dev). It was a huge mismatch and we would get called out on it all the time and all we could do is shrug and go "I know, I hate it too".

mutata fucked around with this message at Sep 25, 2017 around 21:30

mutata
Mar 1, 2003

Make way for the Urinal Parade.

Applesnots posted:

How do devs feel about the upswing of micro transactions in full priced AAA titles?

In my conversations with industry friends, opinions here run the whole gamut, but I get the vibe that there is still murk there among rank and file devs. There seems to be a general consensus that prestige and cosmetic stuff like the equivalent to WoW pets and mounts or Overwatch skins. Most of the friend-devs I know work in non-mobile/non-F2P offices and they seem to bristle the closer microtransactions get to gambling. Things that really drastically touch gameplay like powerups or easy mode trinkets or whatever seem to be no-gos.

When you talk about monetization issues in general is where the cold fact comes up that game devs and publishers are companies who's goal is to make as much profit as possible, especially if they are publicly traded. Now, some devs have put a stake in the ground and have said "We're not doing microtransactions" or "we're doing this other monetization model" and that's because they've decided that there's some gain to be had there that offsets the possible lost revenue they'd get if they had microtransactions, or they're confident that if they did microtransactions they wouldn't get that much of a boost in profits. Basically, every company that I know of is out to make money by making games and they're all picking strategies that they think will best do that. Sometimes that means microtransactions.

I also think often about the CrossyRoad guy who prided himself with releasing a non-microtransaction game until players started emailing him asking him where his in-game store was and when it was coming. At that point, it's silly to leave money on the table if you can do it in a non-evil way, right?

Personally, I don't mind a game having a little store to buy prestige items directly with irl money. I get a bit annoyed with Overwatch's loot box system, but I feel that I get enough while playing that they've walked that line pretty ok. On the other hand, I think if I hadn't had millions of funbucks dumped on me against my will by shady folk in GTA Online, I probably would've stopped playing that game a lot sooner than I did because I feel like the grind for money is steep and the irl price is way steep. So for me it's a spectrum of companies that do it ok and ones that push it and others that I go "no way".

I just want to feed my family by making games, but I also want to be fair and well-liked too. I want to feel like I'm adding value to someone's life with the things I make which inherently has to mean that they don't feel ripped off.

I know this issue ruffles a lot of feathers and I've watched some great YouTube takedowns of it, and I encourage the community to continue to be passionate about monetization and to call bullshit for what it is. That said, some people are crusaders about it and that's just gonna be them tilting at windmills because we're businesses and while the suits have learned to wear hoodies, they still want to make a bajillion dollars.

mutata
Mar 1, 2003

Make way for the Urinal Parade.

I define them in my mind as payments for small pieces of packages of incidental content like skins or pets. I'd personally probably draw the line at stuff like whole new maps and call those DLC but single shot piecemeal content like a new weapon or a new skin or a new prop are microtransactions.

mutata
Mar 1, 2003

Make way for the Urinal Parade.

Apropos of nothing, as a game artist, I think vanilla Team Fortress 2 has some of the most focused and successful art direction of any game ever. HOT TAKES ITT

mutata
Mar 1, 2003

Make way for the Urinal Parade.

There are definitely publishers who bristle at modding aka modifying their product. The disconnect there, though, is that devs love mods because mods only expand and build on the game and extend its life but publishers and especially legal really don't want to let them alone because if planets align and the right cocktail of IPs and content are seen by the right people and make them angry then press picks it up and it could turn into A Thing and yadda yadda.

Devs, though, generally think mods are great and we love them.

Edit: From what was in the press, Take Two (publisher) sent the C&D to OpenIV and backpedaled because Rockstar (developer) stuck up for them. I'm sure it was a combination of factors, though.

mutata fucked around with this message at Oct 5, 2017 around 19:43

mutata
Mar 1, 2003

Make way for the Urinal Parade.

We had to deal with spoilers from data mining on Infinity since we had to put an entire year's worth of rolling content on the game disc due to insistence on supporting the disconnected part of our target demo (kids and families) for so long. It was a huge concern once we started trying to convince JJ Abrams and Kathleen Kennedy to let us do Force Awakens content. Disney paid for the most beefy encryption they could in order to make it work. The fact of it is, it's a bummer when players don't play along (especially when it comes to carefully crafted args and puzzles like that), but there's not much you can do about it. You either figure out a way to breadcrumb it via online updates, pay for encryption, give everything codenames, or just eat it.

mutata
Mar 1, 2003

Make way for the Urinal Parade.

It can be at any point but for big expensive AAA games it usually happens shortly before announce which is when the planned marketing campaign kicks off. There are a lot more things to consider when naming things these days like search engine optimization, legal availability, and even how expensive domain names will be. A lot of publishers I know will contract an expensive marketing firm to name and brand a franchise and put together a identity package including slogans and emotional statements and such for a project.

mutata
Mar 1, 2003

Make way for the Urinal Parade.

I'd wager to guess that most games at least get a code name or a project name. You have to call it something in the code and the directory structure/filenames too. Sometimes the code name sticks though so it's best to not code your project "DORKOTRONTHEGAME" or whatever.

Naming and titling turns out to actually be really challenging and we can all think of games with names that seem impossible to remember by name, so there's actually a lot of thought put into them even if they seem arbitrary or bad sometimes.

mutata
Mar 1, 2003

Make way for the Urinal Parade.

To cap the previous posts, I worked on castAR which was like a babby's first AR platform kind of tech and that added a host of new challenges to think of, but one that it shared with VR was accessibility. Making games accessible to people with various physical differences is a challenge with conventional games, but with VR/AR where the player's physical existence is acknowledged in-game, it can be a really hard problem to crack.

There's a little free Star Wars experience for VR where you have to fiddle with some bits of the Millennium Falcon by pressing in-game buttons and such. I've watched several of my nieces and nephews play it and some of them literally couldn't reach some of the buttons! I also have a friend with limited vision in one eye so the stereoscopic 3d on any of these platforms just straight up doesn't work for him. My other friend is in a wheelchair but otherwise fine so a lot of the VIVE room-space experiences don't really do much for him.

On the other hand, real-world solutions work in VR too to a degree, like getting a stool to stand on to raise the player character's height, but that can be dangerous, obviously.

So as far as design goes, when you're inviting the player to be physically present in your game space, you start to run into some interesting issues where you really have to start thinking like a theme park ride designer or something as if you were really creating a physical space.

mutata fucked around with this message at Oct 23, 2017 around 18:26

mutata
Mar 1, 2003

Make way for the Urinal Parade.

Terminally Bored posted:

I remember watching a stream where someone got a Japanese developer to play his game released back in the 90s iirc. He sat down, fired up the game, pressed a combination of buttons on the controller and there were some photos hidden in the game's menu or something. Is this a common thing for you guys? Is there stuff in your games only you know about or is it now filtered out before games go gold?

Hot Coffee was a turning point here. Easter Eggs and hidden stuff are much less interesting now since the whole industry watched a developer get taken to court and raked over the coals for unfinished content. As an artist, the only thing I ever dare to put in are my kids' birthdays and my anniversary whenever I need random numbers for something in the world like barcodes or serial numbers.

mutata
Mar 1, 2003

Make way for the Urinal Parade.

ninjewtsu posted:

how much do you devs play video games? does making video games consume all your free time? do you try to "check out the competition" or do you just play whatever is fun to you?

i recall a story about how, before making the xcom remake, the xcom team at firaxis were all required to play through the original game. how often does playing other games come up at work?

Playing games and making games scratch 2 different itches for me. That said, though, as an artist there's a general sense of "for every hour I'm playing a game all of the other artists out there are working on their art", especially currently while I'm unemployed so I don't play a ton. I've worked at studios where a lot of people, especially designers, would play competition or related games and then make videos of them for everyone else to watch. I know a lot of devs who watch Let's Plays while they work to at least keep informed.

mutata
Mar 1, 2003

Make way for the Urinal Parade.

Terminally Bored posted:

What's the very first thing that happens in the game's development? I'm asking about the high budget games, since most of the indie games start with a tech demo or a game jam or something. But how does a big franchise start? Is there a committee deciding that a company needs something in this or that genre or do they ask the artists to draw some sketches or do they gather up their producers and ask for ideas?

You guys mentioned that even the biggest companies nowadays don't really have time nor money to fuel R&D so how do they come up with stuff?


mutata posted:

An infographic of an average game dev cycle what I made:

Direct link to large: https://www.dropbox.com/s/3yffnntiu...sep17.png?raw=1

Ideation is what I call the first steps and for large franchises it usually begins with the people in director level roles (creative director, art director, director, etc) getting together as a small team to just... decide. It's always been surreal to me that even the biggest AAA games begin with a few people just going "hey, we should totally do *thing*..." That said, it's never that simple, obviously. They'll gradually loop in people (usually senior roles) to help contribute or help communicate ideas (concept, writing, etc) and then comes multiple stages of approvals and check-ins with hire ups etc. This usually happens while a previous project is in deep production or wrapping up stages.

mutata
Mar 1, 2003

Make way for the Urinal Parade.

Sindai posted:

Customer base growth covered the extra costs (and more) for a long time, but it became insufficient years ago. Now publishers are making fewer big budget games and seeking add-on revenue to compensate.

Ehhh, publishers are also posting record profits year after year. If anything "falls short" it's that they fall a couple percentage points below projections which are just made up numbers. Disney Infinity was canceled during an earnings call where they reported record earnings that also fell 2 or 3 percent lower than projections.

There are legit mid- and small-sized devs that struggle to make payroll, but the idea that rising dev costs are hurting huge publishers to the point where they have to go all in on predatory pay-2-win garbage and still charge full price for entry is in my opinion disingenuous.

mutata fucked around with this message at Nov 15, 2017 around 22:02

mutata
Mar 1, 2003

Make way for the Urinal Parade.

Except previous years when they were... still posting record profits. It's just now they're posting even HUGER profits.

I get it. Capitalism blah blah. I accept the inevitability of it. I'm pretty ok with various monetization schemes. Like game mechanics, they need balance, and they can easily go off the rails, and when they do it's not unreasonable to call them out.

mutata
Mar 1, 2003

Make way for the Urinal Parade.

I'd counter and say that yes, many of us DO understand how bad mobile games has gotten. I know people who work on those games and I know how much pure raw money they make. 7 figures a day kind of profits.

My personal issues with loot boxes actually stems from my pure, raw apathy towards mobile gacha games. I have absolutely no desire to play them and very little desire to work on them. It's just not the gig I signed up for when I was a kid and fell in love with games and certainly not why I went to college to study art and lived away from my wife for months to get my first internship etc etc etc.

I do like working for companies that can make payroll so I'm all for game devs and publishers making money, but to me it's a spectrum of greys and if mobile gacha is deep, all-encompassing black, and Overwatch is light grey, then Battlefront 2 (to me) is several shades too dark.

There's been a LOT of conversations and debate among devs at various levels about this lately. I do appreciate consumers voicing their concerns about this stuff. Whether it trickles upward to the decision makers, though, we'll have to see.

mutata
Mar 1, 2003

Make way for the Urinal Parade.

No worries! I wasn't trying to argue as much as add a synopsis of my thoughts to the subject.

Here's a Twitter thread from a F2P game designer about loot boxes and how easy they are to screw up. I've seen it passed around from some other devs today. It should be helpful to the conversation as well:

https://twitter.com/ZenOfDesign/sta...809632859344896

mutata fucked around with this message at Nov 16, 2017 around 17:50

mutata
Mar 1, 2003

Make way for the Urinal Parade.

Edit: ^^^Oh, gotcha. Understand. I'll leave my below post I'm any case.

You seem to be poking at the likelihood that that person was wanting to start some poo poo, which is probably true but that doesn't negate the concerns. Lots of reviews and articles have come out digging into the retail game's systems expressing similar feelings.

Personally, I had already looked at other articles that discussed the unlock progression system in general (of which loot boxes and their conversion funnel are a core part) and decided that unfortunately I wouldn't be buying the game despite wanting to.

For me, it came down to the plain fact that I wanted to buy the game they were advertising in their marketing but not the one that they were actually selling at the $60 price point, and I'm a guy who has bought and been known to defend Overwatch's loot boxes.

mutata fucked around with this message at Nov 16, 2017 around 18:26

mutata
Mar 1, 2003

Make way for the Urinal Parade.

Bushmaori posted:

Doesn't this buy into the idea that AAA devs were somehow forced into spending many many millions of dollars in creating games in an unsustainable way? It was their choice, they choose to operate this way, they knew what the outcome would be for the bottom line, and they pushed that cost onto the consumer by adding manipulative practices (see Destiny 2's exp scaling or the repugnancy of loot boxes).

This is argument is an ouroboros that will never be satisfied, and people who come out swinging on either side are most often already convinced that their side is correct. The cost of developing video games to the level of graphical and gameplay fidelity that is demanded by general mass audiences has indeed risen significantly over the decades while the base cost of a video game at the store has remained static. This is a fact. There are lots more tools and middlewares and outsourcing etc available now than there were decades ago, so certain aspects of video game dev is cheaper. This is also a fact. Personally, I'd state that while middlewares and outsourcing and such make certain tasks cheaper than if it was just raw manpower performing them, the task in general is so complex that it's more expensive than a couple decades ago regardless.

Certain outliers have found themselves in situations where they can achieve AAA benchmark fidelity with smaller budgets, but these are generally outliers, such as CD Projekt Red being located in Poland so they can pay their employees drastically smaller wages, etc.

While game devs are absolutely not absolved of the responsibility of their budgets, the situation is not as simple as you state.

mutata
Mar 1, 2003

Make way for the Urinal Parade.

Bushmaori posted:

Yeah, I can see how you might be able to push the idea that this is down to things that are "demanded by general mass audiences", although I would like to see the data to back this up.

What I can't see is how this justifies the use of manipulative practices and taking advantage of gambling addiction. If that is what you do, if you need to harm the consumer in such a way to continue business then I am convinced the video game industry would be better off without you.

I don't disagree with you, but man, you're being super abrasive so I doubt very many people who aren't already of your mindset are going to consider your viewpoint, if I'm honest.

mutata
Mar 1, 2003

Make way for the Urinal Parade.

The simple fact of the matter is: It costs as much as it does to produce games that look and play as good as AAA games do. There's certainly room for streamlining here and there, absolutely, but the floor even then is pretty high. Now if your question is "Where's the data that the masses want AAA-looking games?" then I can only offer you colloquial data, but I think expecting the industry to stop pushing the boundaries of graphical fidelity is probably against the whole industry's DNA.

On the other hand, certain genres definitely cost more to develop than others do. The fact that a large majority of tentpole releases each year are open world games certainly doesn't help the average cost of development per game. Maybe as the general mass audience's tastes shift so will budgets?

I'll let others pop in here and share their thoughts, though.

mutata
Mar 1, 2003

Make way for the Urinal Parade.

The other thing that will/could change loot boxes as a thing is when/if a different, more effective monetization model arises.

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mutata
Mar 1, 2003

Make way for the Urinal Parade.

Since the topic of Valve came up, I'd just counter point that while it's undeniably the case that Valve could do nothing but play their own games all day and still make a profit, from conversations I've had with people who have left there, being independently wealthy with an officially "flat" structure doesn't really make them the best place for creation of the art. According to some, there's been a huge talent drain from Valve due to the fact that it's so difficult for any new project to gain traction and (again according to some) the unofficial structure makes it hard for new talent to integrate.

Valve basically does whatever they want to do day to day which is great for valve but not really for valve fans (like me). Publishers and shareholders do serve some good purposes, mainly driving projects through from start to ship. Valve is just kind of in the other extreme end of the spectrum: where some devs ship games and then get shut down, valve rarely ships anything and will never die.

mutata fucked around with this message at Nov 28, 2017 around 07:39

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