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Whistling Asshole
Nov 18, 2005



Dr Cheeto posted:

Thanks for this, it's hard for me to understand just how much crap literally everyone in games gets from a loud and intensely lovely group of gamers. It's really sad to me that most of what a developer will receive as feedback comes from these kinds of people, what can gamers do to foster a less lovely community?

I may be in the minority here, but in my 11 years of making games professionally, literally no piece of feedback from the community has really bothered me* or made me stop wanting to make games, no matter how inflammatory or malicious. The guys like Phil Fish who freak out about community response are guys who completely lack perspective and let their own emotional dysregulation get the better of them.

Gamers are entitled to write whatever the gently caress they want as far as I'm concerned -- it would be a million times more detrimental to games as a whole if they were apathetic about it and didn't care enough to comment. Obviously stuff like stalking devs or posting their info or other obsessive behavior is way out of line, but overall I genuinely appreciate the fact that gamers as a whole feel passionate enough to voice their opinion, no matter how off-base it might be sometimes.

A gameplay video of a single level that I made in a game that wasn't really a huge hit has 200,000 views on Youtube. That is absolutely mindblowing to me that people care that much about a thing I spent a few months of my life working on. There are probably hundreds of millions of people who spend their entire loving lives working at jobs that will never get them any thanks, praise, or interest beyond their own co-workers if they're lucky. To have to put up with a few trolls in exchange for otherwise massive interest in what I do is completely worth it to me.

Imagine what kind of golden age of literature we'd have right now if books had as passionate a fanbase as games. I was watching a documentary about J.D. Salinger where he lamented the fact that so many weirdos tried to find his address and stalked him because they felt like Catcher in the Rye spoke to them directly -- but there's no way he'd take back writing that book and the immense success it brought him on account of a few nutters (though maybe John Lennon and Ronald Reagan would feel differently...)

* except for one (long since banned) poster from this very forum who misunderstood the way our demo was intended to showcase truncated versions of our levels. To his credit, when we talked about it in-depth privately, it ended up ultimately getting him a job at our company and he's gone on to do really big well known games and start his own company, so you never know where voicing your lovely opinion will take you!

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Whistling Asshole
Nov 18, 2005



revolther posted:

How much time gets spent on testing specific concepts to see if they pan out in an organized studio? Is there a dedicated team of tinkerers who come up with random concepts/mechanics and prototype it/take it for a walk see if something fun is there to build a gameplay loop around? Or is it more like folks all have those going on the back burners and show them to each other and the good stuff rises to the top?

I just wonder in a professional setting how it comes about in say a "brawler" game like Platinum's Vanquish, the developer knows we're gonna make a brawler, is it likely someone had come up with rocket sliding around and showed it around and everyone was like "oh this is really fun sliding around and slowing down time, that could be part of the core gameplay" or is it more likely a department head just said "and we also want the guy to rocket slide everywhere, make it so!".

Guess I'm kind of wondering how organic that design of the core gameplay loop comes about in different situations.

This is a great question.

The short answer is: it depends on the team size. At companies like Valve and Riot, I'd say the majority of the people making game content are making small prototypes and then building small teams around them to see if they work or not, because they have the luxury of being able to do a ton of R&D work without worrying about profiting from it. Double Fine is another good example of a company that did this exclusively, at least for a little while (I don't know if it still works like that there) and a lot of cool games came out of it.

Companies that can do that are the exception though, and most other developers know exactly what kind of game they want to make when they first put together a team and either have a very short playable prototype showing off the "hook" of the game or some kind of mock up / presentation in order to get it funded and developed. Companies that work this way usually have tight deadlines and budgets and therefore it's pretty rare to deviate from the initial concept / prototype once the game gets rolling. Of course happy accidents emerge during the course of development and sometimes core stuff gets thrown out or reworked if it's not fun, but most developers just don't have the time to tinker endlessly on whatever they want.

For your specific example, Platinum definitely falls in the latter camp of independent developers that are constrained by budget and therefore need to pick a concept and develop it quickly, and it sounds like that's exactly what Mikami did for Vanquish. In the last few questions of this article, he talks about how he wanted to make a game that was like Neo-Human Casshern, except with a greater feeling of speed. It sounds like there was some back and forth w/r/t some of the core mechanics but they had the main idea from the genesis of the project. So it's definitely more of, as you said, "we want the guy to rocket slide everywhere, make it so!"

There have been times where glitches turn into defining features of the game though. The Tribes series is probably the best example. When 3d game programming was still something of a dark art, getting characters to move consistently on slopes was actually pretty tricky, and Tribes shipped with a "bug" where jumping didn't have the correct cooldown time on slopes, so players exploited it into "skiing" across the maps. The next games in the series made it a core component of gameplay.

There are also times where concurrent engine development ends up changing the theme and style of the game. In the era of per-pixel lighting (e.g. Doom 3) there was a developer who set out to make game #3 in a franchise, but it ended up becoming a new IP instead because per-pixel lighting didn't lend itself well to the size & style of levels that were in the previous games.

In the era of out of the box engines like Unity and Unreal, happy accidents like those will happen less frequently. But the good thing is experimentation and weird unintended behaviors will probably always be a part of game development just by nature of the way games are made and the way coding works (or more accurately, doesn't work)

Whistling Asshole
Nov 18, 2005



Forer posted:

One question that I legitimately have actually, there's so many huge studios with ~MILLIONS~ of people and yet indie games like undertale take one, or whatnot. I know there's things called skunkworks where it's "hey make 3 man team, make prototype, see if prototype fun or has potential, shift more people onto team to finish" but I've never heard of them in the thread about the process so far. Is it just a huge rarity that they succeed or that studios would even have them or do they not exist or...

This has already been covered by multiple people and you seem to have answered your own question...twice...

Whistling Asshole
Nov 18, 2005



nielsm posted:

Difficulty grade/curve design, at what stages does that happen and who drives it? I assume it's largely the same as balancing, but for games with pre-designed levels, what is the process? Do you build a bunch of levels, playtest them individually, and then try to order them by how hard they are, or do you shuffle around geometry in each level until it hits the goal?
How much tuning goes into selectable difficulty grades versus how much is just taking a guess and shipping it?

It varies. I worked on at least one game where the levels were pretty short and small, so we made a big batch of them with the easy ones that were meant to teach the mechanics in a very slow, forgiving way at the beginning (obviously) and the harder ones that tested your mastery of the mechanics at the end (again, obviously) But since there were a lot of levels between those two extremes, we playtested them constantly, timed ourselves, counted our deaths, etc. etc. until we felt confident that we had the overall difficulty curve in the correct place. We also shifted levels around so you weren't doing the same kinds of puzzles and using the same mechanics over and over. For that project, it wasn't about changing specific geometry in the levels in order to make them harder or easier, but where they fell in the overall progression of the game.

When I started in the industry, the way difficulty was tuned was basically the easier modes have more pickups (ammo, health, etc.) and fewer enemies and the harder modes have more enemies and fewer pickups. In an FPS at least, that was a pretty standard way to tune difficulty. I think there's a lot more dynamism nowadays though, and difficulty is handled systemically in code. There was a Twitter thread a couple of months ago with devs talking about what kind of tricks they employed to get difficulty right, and there were a lot of clever things like this https://twitter.com/levine/status/903803566825119745 The whole thread stems from this if you're interested in digging through it: https://twitter.com/Gaohmee/status/903510060197744640

No game I've ever worked on has been "just take a guess and ship it" though. That would be extremely foolish. I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of early games basically did that though...

edit: sorry mutata, I realize I didn't verify before throwing down with some answers, but I am genuinely a dev. If you want to add me to the OP I'm primarily a game / level designer but also have a couple of sound design credits as well

Whistling Asshole fucked around with this message at Nov 12, 2017 around 11:49

Whistling Asshole
Nov 18, 2005



Baxta posted:

Counterpoint

“Internally, we had this super hardcore test group – we’ve got a lot of hardcore players at Blizzard – that tested Inferno, and we got it to the point where they thought it was challenging enough,” Blizzard’s Jay Wilson told IGN.

“Then we doubled it. Because we knew, no matter how good we are, our players are gonna be better. We focused on making that as difficult as we could make it.”

For those of you long enough in the industry, how was this received? I remember a lot of backlash from the gaming community but would like to understand if this is an accepted way to do things (pretty sure it isn't).

EDIT: Just googled the bloke. Apparently he has left game design and D3 fans are STILL mad at him.

Yeah that seems like a bad way to do difficulty. I've never worked at Blizzard, but if any place has the resources and manpower to adequately test and balance a game, I'm sure they do. So if their usability / test teams came to some consensus where they said, "ok this feels like a proper difficulty scale" to then arbitrarily double that difficulty seems ill advised.

Having said that, I don't envy the position Jay Wilson was in, being lead designer for a beloved and highly scrutinized franchise that every single gamer on earth felt like they could have designed better. The thing people don't realize about being a designer is that it can be an extremely stressful, high pressure job because you're making decisions every day that shape the game and if it's poorly received, it can ruin your career. Especially if it's for a game as high profile as Diablo 3. He also had to deal with the indignity of one of the franchise creators publicly trashing the game to which Wilson infamously replied, "gently caress that loser."

Hindsight is 20/20, but when you're in there grinding it out day after day it can be really hard to make consistently good design decisions. Game design is not a science and fun is not a quantifiable thing.

Whistling Asshole
Nov 18, 2005



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.

Take it, especially if it's at no extra cost to you or whatever. Any kind of programming course you can take will inform your ability as a designer. If your goal is to become a professional game designer, you will absolutely need to understand the basics of how programming languages work. I've had to do programming tests as a designer, so you better know your poo poo.

Whistling Asshole
Nov 18, 2005



Jordan7hm posted:

This nonsense about "companies exist solely to generate profit" is just that, nonsense. Companies also have an responsibility, sometimes enforced legally after the fact, to act within certain ethical bounds and lots of companies manage that just fine.

If you're the CEO of a publicly traded company, you can and will be ousted by your board of directors for doing things that cost a lot of money and get little return. Or your company can get sued by your shareholders for similar reasons. Once you go public, you're absolutely beholden to the people who buy shares in your company to grow it and increase revenue (and hopefully profit) in each successive quarter.

In an ideal world, game companies are purely artistic endeavors staffed by passionate people who want to maximize fun and make you forget about your lovely life for a while. In the real world, they're businesses that often make decisions based on things not even tangentially related to "let's make the best game possible."

Whistling Asshole
Nov 18, 2005



TF2 HAT MINING RIG posted:

Valve don’t have shareholders, do they?

Every company does, it's just a matter of whether they're public or private. Valve is a privately held company. If they were public, I'm sure we'd start to see HALF-LIFE 2018, HALF-LIFE 2019, DOTA: STAR WARS, etc. and so on.

Whistling Asshole
Nov 18, 2005



TF2 HAT MINING RIG posted:

Uh, Valve aren’t pumping out trash games but they are turning their popular stuff into microtransaction messes while not making new stuff at all.

That's a matter of opinion. As far as I can tell, you can still hop in and have fun matches in TF2 or Dota 2 without spending any money at all. CS:Go is a pay up front game and so are most of their other marquee games so I don't really understand that opinion personally.

Valve could probably spend the next 20 years doing nothing but publishing other people's games on their platform and facilitating in-game transactions and still be hugely profitable. They're in the enviable position (at least from a developer-as-artist standpoint) of not having to release a game unless they're 100% sure that it's a masterpiece and it seems like that's sort of their m.o. these days. If you have money in the bank to experiment, test, and refine a game until it's a diamond, we as gamers all benefit from that. If it takes them 10 years or 15 years or 20 years to do it right, so be it.

Whistling Asshole
Nov 18, 2005



ShadowHawk posted:

Why is this? It feels like most other software is getting cheaper to make due to commoditized infrastructure, more capable tooling, and reusing common components.

I think a big part of it is where "AAA" games get made. Most of the talent pool and most of the publishers are concentrated in Seattle, the Bay Area, and southern California. The cost of living is overinflated in all of those markets, so even if you're making what would be a low to average salary in one of those areas (let's say $65-70k) that's an overhead cost of close to $100k for the employer when you factor in costs to them (benefits, taxes, insurance, rent, etc.) And that's the *lower* end of salaries.

Put together a team of 80-100 people for a couple of years and you start to get an idea of why it costs relatively more than it has in the past.

Whistling Asshole
Nov 18, 2005



djkillingspree posted:

I would point to the shuttering/sale of SOE, 38 Studios, etc. as examples of why these were, in fact, bad bets.

38 is probably not a good example since it was destined to fail not necessarily because of the genre (though that definitely didn't help) but because it was run by Bobby Baseball-Hero who had 0 experience running a business or developing games.

Related anecdote: A friend of mine is one of the best game programmers I've ever met, and he was recruited heavily by 38 including multiple personal calls by Curt Schilling to come out and interview with them. He accepted, and they put him up in a 4 star hotel for a week, comped all his expenses, and basically rolled out the red carpet. A few hours into the interview, my friend asked them if they had full access to the source code for one of the key pieces of middleware they were using because he had just finished working on a project that used the same middleware and discovered it had major issues with the game engine they had chosen. The company that made the middleware wouldn't give them the full source and it effectively crippled the project. It was at this point that the people interviewing him looked at each other nervously and said they'd have to investigate further. My buddy was offered the job but declined based on a bunch of red flags he saw with the company. It turns out that him asking this question resulted in them either renegotiating their deal on this piece of middleware (or dropping it entirely and starting over, I forget).

In short, every story I've ever heard about 38 makes it sound hilariously mismanaged despite having a wealth of talented developers.

Whistling Asshole fucked around with this message at Dec 14, 2017 around 04:41

Whistling Asshole
Nov 18, 2005



hackbunny posted:

Any idea why in the 90s so many non-Japanese games, even high profile games, hired absolutely terrible concept and cover artists? Amateurish linework, janky anatomy, abysmal coloring etc. I say non-Japanese because I'm left with the impression that the Japanese hired actual professionals instead of comic book industry rejects

You should separate concept art and cover art because they're two very different things that serve two very different purposes. Concept art is cranked out at a fast pace in order to generate a bunch of different ideas for 3d artists. It isn't supposed to have the level of polish that cover art has. There's no way in hell that "Wombat Ruff #1" drawing from Crash Bandicoot was used in any kind of marketing capacity. It looks like it was done in 5 minutes. Those super rough sketches might end up in commemorative or retrospective packages years later, but not a single one of those looks like it was initially created for public use.

Cover art is usually the domain of the publisher. Like WebDog quoted, sometimes external ad agencies might be used or the publisher might have their own in-house designers and artists that they use to keep brand consistency across releases by different developers.

Besides needing to differentiate between cover art and concept art, you're making some pretty terrible generalizations and the examples you used to back them up are awful. You cherrypicked some of the roughest, earliest pieces of concept art possible as examples of bad Western artists. Those "amateurish" drawings by Toby Gard were the genesis of literally billions of dollars in revenue.

Here's some pretty good cover art done by Western artists for games in the 90s:

http://www.boxequalsart.com/borisvallejo.html
http://www.boxequalsart.com/juliebellartistpage.html

And a few comparison pages that prove sometimes the Western versions are head and shoulders above their Japanese counterparts:

https://boxartcomparisons.tumblr.com/
http://timewarpgamer.com/features/b...parity_nes.html

I don't mean to pick on you but there's nothing I hate more in the world than lazy, sweeping generalizations. With literally 5 minutes of research you could have typed "box art comparisons" into Google and seen how off-base your point was.

Whistling Asshole
Nov 18, 2005



OneEightHundred posted:

The extent to which it's the domain of the publisher has decreased though, there's much more focus on consistency and IP opportunities now, like any game shipping today is going to make drat sure that the main character has the same design in-game, on the cover, and in the marketing material, and they're much less likely to have different art styles in different territories.

That's true. I mostly meant for the era of games hackbunny was talking about. Nowadays physical releases are less of a thing and for the games that do make it to store shelves, the box art is depressingly homogeneous.

For example, https://venturebeat.com/2012/07/15/...ox-art-cliches/

Whistling Asshole
Nov 18, 2005



mutata posted:

Disney Infinity had a marketing department that painted campaign narratives that weren't factually present in the game, so I imagine that's a common marketing/dev disconnect. Fans and players sarcastically spitting our own marketing campaign slogan "IF YOU CAN DREAM IT, YOU CAN DO IT" back at us when obvious, blatant, often frustrating limitations cropped up was common and we devs were just as angry as they were because we couldn't deliver what marketing was promising and marketing wouldn't reign in their dreamspeak.

If there's ever been a slogan the game industry has lived and died on, it's "overpromise, under-deliver"

Whistling Asshole
Nov 18, 2005



Downs Duck posted:

More "games" than "games industry" question here, but maybe it can set off some good talk points about game development and the industry anyway.

Been following this thread with great interest and wanted to cross-post two questions I posited in the "Recommend me a game" thread (got some great feedback already and thought maybe people posting here had some more insight/recommendations):

You should play Torchlight (or probably Torchlight 2 since it's a more polished version with more features) The entire game is based around getting cool drops and off the top of my head I'd say it has a more forgiving inventory than many other RPGs in terms of the amount of slots you're given.

Also Borderlands / Borderlands 2.

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Whistling Asshole
Nov 18, 2005



GC_ChrisReeves posted:

Question I have for you. I just came out of my first time trying Oculus Medium and I have to wonder.

Do any of y'all see VR tools entering some kind of professional Non-VR game artist workflow? Like how Wacom Cintiqs are in no way essential to game art creation in the least but are drat nice to use?

https://www.facebook.com/oculusmedi...10156012499469/

Seems like it might be catching on, but I don't know how much of this is PR exaggeration vs. the dev actually using it day in and day out.

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