[ Shihiko° × Game。]

About Games. by Shihiko°

February 7th, 2011

Not sure if this would work or how such a system would start up… but imagine if the game industry was made up of a community where the companies that make games post up their concepts to the consumers and have people bid on the ideas. Some times as a consumer I feel that it is hard to make a difference or see potentially good ideas for games go to waste because the newest first person shooting clone game came out the other day because they are low risk and sell well to the market.

So the idea is that we have a system where ideas for games are posted in simple concepts and detailed game design documents for consumers to read, and they then put money into the production of the game… Example: Level 5 posts up that they will be making a new type of RPG game and will be looking to get Ghibli to create the art and design for the game world and characters. Consumers then look at it and can consider putting money into the idea because many people enjoyed the quality of their previous collaboration… This then gives the company an idea of how many people want this game to be made and also gives them an extra amount of funds to help start the project. It can be quite flexible with small bids of a dollar and larger bids of even a hundred dollars or more…

What is even possible is that companies can out bid a game that they want part in creating. This may seem a little strange when you think about it… but it can also be a good thing. There are many cases where a great idea ends up in the wrong hands and results in a poor quality game that tarnishes a franchise. Example: Sonic… yeah poor hedgehog gets reborn as everything these days but recently there have been some exceptional fan base remakes or concept works that seem more fitting to the franchise than what the big companies are pushing out. In this case, these fan made projects can also receive bids and support from consumers to have these ideas pushed to completion. Though this case maybe a little tricky as there are intellectual property and licensing issues that maybe involved, then again with the money and interest generated… a company such as Sega might see that if they were to license the game created by these fans it would actually be doing their franchise good and they don’t really have to do squat? Hence they could bid/donate support by granting the license for free…

Episodic game development becomes possible with this system… features to games can be bid on to help improve future iterations or versions of the game. Some game ideas sound great and all, but they might not work out when they are completed, rather than release a game and risking it all for a experimental concept the games can be developed in sections with consumers bidding on the next features before the wrong decisions are made. Developers can then take these risks without it being a huge blow on their budget as it is the consumers who are bidding are putting cash on the line for experimental features that could break the game. I think recently I read about a game which might be doing this business model… another plus to this model is that the developers receive instant feedback before the game is completed, so any experimental routes can be salvaged in the worst scenarios. This system potentially works well for making MMO games, as they require a lot of resources to develop now days especially with Blizzard still holding that genre at their disposal.

Now wait a second, you might wonder what the bidders get from the game or company for bidding on the game proposals…? Well the system is also similar to looking for investors. These people who contributed whether it is a little or more will be rewarded by the developers with either a free copy of the game, beta testing opportunities or extra content for when they purchase the final release. So those who only contributed a little still receive something, while those who contributed more may receive a collectors edition of the final product.

Let’s try to put this concept to work…

  1. A game proposal is posted up for consumers to read, discuss and bid. The proposal asks for 20,000 dollars to begin prototype development.
  2. Everyone can see the title of the game, genre and basic information of the idea. Non-Disclosure Agreements are placed on detailed game design documents.
  3. Consumers who approve of the idea and would like to see it become reality can bid and invest on the game proposals.
  4. The initial development budget is acquired and the game goes into development. If the original developers back out, the money returns to the consumers and the project stops here.
  5. Prototype is completed, the consumers or investors are invited to review the concept and play the prototype…
  6. A video is made of the prototype to drive more interest and the game goes into the bidding cycle again
  7. With enough interest and investors the development reaches the end of the project… The game is published and released to the market.

Ideally this is what would happen if the game was successful, but there will be cases where the game doesn’t get past the prototype stage and the investors will feel like their time was wasted. I guess there is ways around this problem, but then again if the developers were to have some penalty for experimenting or taking a risk with an idea that people actually bid and voted for then there would be less interesting proposals and more first person shooting clones and we will be back to square one.

September 30th, 2010

Of all the Survival Horror series, one I enjoy most is the Project Zero or Fatal Frame series… if I were to make a website for a game it was either that or Minna no Golf.

Project Zero Work in Progress.

That would probably have been the case if there wasn’t already a nice website out there for the game and also if the game was more true to it’s original feel. With some game series or franchises, things get a little stale or game play or design go backwards instead of forwards. Project Zero is probably one of those who have fallen into this area of progression, with the game starting off to a great start with Zero, then topped by Crimson Butterfly and then holding it’s position with The Tormented… while the latest release Mask of the Lunar Eclipse on the Wii wasn’t improving it seemed the series was heading sideways.

With basically a drought for news on anything to do with the series and Nintendo holding the localised release of the game in western countries… you’d think that maybe the series might be dead. Well yesterday there was a few articles and press releases which contain visuals of the new upcoming work in progress Project Zero featuring the characters from Crimson Butterfly. This could be signs of a remake or Mio and Mayu have matured, but why is it for the Wii again…?

Seeing as with the previous version, Nintendo had rights to the publishing of the game… and their decision was to hold the release of the game in western countries [due to chances the game will not sell well in western regions]. Eventually it lead to fans creating a English patch for the Japanese game. Tecmo did also say that they would try not let this happen again in the future as they are quite sorry the game was unable to reach the western fan base of the series. So what are they doing now…?

I’ve always looked forward to a HD version of the game to play. Looks like that may not be happening, though I don’t see why if they are already remaking it anyway… Also if the motion controllers are what they are after, that doesn’t mean much as the PlayStation Move is now available so that doesn’t make sense. The only reason this could be happening is that Nintendo maintains the license to the series or franchises now as Tecmo may have sold it to them for a set number of years. A move which may have cost the series it’s progression and success.

Anyway here is what the original Crimson Butterfly looked like… comparing with the new graphics up the top there is clearly a noticeable difference. Mio and Mayu have had their costumes modified a little and some other enhancements… really? One thing that was irritating about the Wii release was that in Lunar Eclipse, there wasn’t much difference between the look of the girls you were in control of. Most of them were given enough polygons to emphasize their face and chest while the rest of the body was pretty much left for awkward moments when stretched or animated. The original PlayStation 2 releases of the game seemed to have done a better job… it just seems like they wanted the game to look better than the originals however decided that they would need to cut corners else where [such as straight and stiff looking limbs that fold awkwardly] to maintain that effect.

That aside the Wii never seemed to do the game much justice. Ignoring that Suda did change the way the game play and system works a little, there are times where the game would lag uncontrollably when travelling between rooms or sections of a building. Why does it happen? I even tested it with USB loaded version of the game and it still had the same lagging performance at the same area of the game… this wasn’t a bug that just happens to be on the game because we are running it off a disc. It happened even when the developers were probably testing it off the Wii SDK… which means they should have fixed it in the testing phase. If they were struggling with resources and performance in the first place, why announce another release for the Wii when there are clearly better alternatives out there where the series can succeed on?

Well I look forward to the release of this game… but there is always going to be that thought of how much better this series could have been if they weren’t crippling their ideas and development teams just for a little bit of cash. With the PlayStation Move now available, there is no excuse not to make this in HD if they wanted the motion controllers… Also atleast if they released it on the PlayStation 3 the game would be region free and not force legitimate people to hack and modify their consoles just to play a game they would have gladly purchased if it were released in their respective regions. [Also more exposure for the game if people were playing it online on the PSN or Live with the Trophies and Achievements systems.] In the end I could move over to Biohazard for my Survival Horror gaming… too bad the horror factor in that is pretty low.

August 14th, 2010

Looks like all the predictions and talk in the past is finally coming to fruit. Sony are really going forward with the PlayStation Phone. This can work out really well for Sony if they play it right … Rumour has it that the design is quite impressive and is a sliding touch screen with the PlayStation buttons featured like the PSP Go. Since there isn’t much to go by other than that, let’s see what points could make or break this phone for the hardcore gamer.

Games

No doubt this is the most important part of the phone and it is the selling point that will be pushing this device out to the consumers. It will be important that games created for the device are well supported and fully functional console quality games… No gimmicky games that people release on the other phones just to make a few bucks and bloat the online store or system. Keeping the system catering to more polished games will give it a more exclusive and upper class feel so that games purchased are well worth the money and there won’t be a top ten lists populated with dollar deal games and more quality games.

Hardware

Looking around at what other devices are out there that this would be competing with, this smart phone-portable console hybrid will need to ramp it up a little in order to catch the market that it needs to succeed. Firstly the hardware must support the current collection of PSP/PSone games, this isn’t an option it must be done… However this is not good enough, the device apart from featuring the ability to play PSP/PSone games also needs a refresh or update. The PSP Go failed because of this, people don’t want to pay more for a device that actually does less while despite having a nicer design and some software features. If they say they have learnt their lesson from the PSP Go, then I expect to see a brand new series of hardware that can possibly be a new type of PSP. Clue: Dual Analogue Sticks, L2 + R2 buttons, Camera, Capacitive Touch Screen, Accelerometer, Compass, GPS, Gyroscope, High Resolution Screen… pretty much anything and everything that it needs to stay on par with a high end smart phone. It would also need an awesome battery life… another thing PSP Go failed at despite the new chips and removal of the UMD drive, they decided they will reduce the size of the battery so that you end up with the same battery life as a standard PSP Slim. There is clearly more that can be said about the hardware, but I think if they wish to keep the phone competitive, they will have to have base hardware requirements for the series and refresh and update the hardware over time. However only changing the appearance, design, memory and storage so that games are designed for all systems throughout the system’s life cycle.

Software

Now this is where Sony usually struggles and dies trying. Rumours have it that the phone will be using Android 3.0, most likely skinned and modified to work how Sony wants it… similar to the Xperia X10. I’ve used an Xperia before, and well it ain’t no iPhone, even the new Samsung smart phones are nicer to use with Android 2.0. Sony needs to get the software for this right or it will crash and burn. No one wants to use a device that lags and struggles to respond no matter how beautiful it may look. A new and improved XMB would work, especially with a multi-touch screen should provide a good combination between using the directional pad and selecting icons on screen quickly. A quick example would be using the XMB menu then selecting the Photos menu on the PlayStation 3 then seeing it tile on screen which allows you to scroll with the directional pad or touch each tile for viewing. Being an Android phone, apart from supporting Android games it should also have it’s own propriety format so the games stay exclusive and will only work on the PSPhone. I’m sure this part is already thought of and clearly separates the system’s abilities from a normal Android phone… if not well then this will clearly be another lost cause.

PlayStation Network

Really, who is the market that will be buying this device? PlayStation owners and hardcore gamers. A fully functional and always connected PlayStation Network client on the phone would mean a lot to these people. If Sony wants the device to keep these people gaming, the community must be there and even though mobile devices isn’t the best idea for staying connected as connection dropping is or can be expected, it should not mean this shouldn’t be included. Most people are in the hardcore category with their portable consoles usually spend the majority of their time playing their games at the comfort of their own homes and usually have a stable internet connection there anyway. Just provide a warning that they may lose connection if the player chooses to play their games over the mobile network. The PSP had the PlayStation Network added later in it’s life cycle which meant it was slightly limited, however not being able to communicate with your friend’s list while on the PSP version of the PlayStation Network kind of defeated the purpose of signing in. So a fully functional PSN could turn it into a must have device for the daily PlayStation gamer.

Marketing

Lastly, probably another place where Sony tends to over look or do weirdly is the marketing of their devices. All I can say is, keep it simple and make sure you cover the market targeted and also the related markets such as multimedia audience and the casual gamer smart phone market. Show what it does… I think the recent advertising teams are doing better, but really that’s comparing it to what was already considered bad advertising. They will need to push this one hard if they want it to expand beyond just the gamer that doesn’t like having to carry a phone and their portable console.

Summary

I’m all for this idea, and it seems the general online feedback for it is quite positive as well… the downside is Sony has done this sort of thing in the past and failed to live up to the hype and advertising of some of their products which is why they don’t pick up as well as some of the other products and devices out on the market. Hopefully they will get this right and actually innovate again instead of only improving technology and hoping people will buy it on the specifications alone.

August 4th, 2010

Wow… I played Starcraft II this week, it was released last week and well I have to say… it is beyond very good. Starcraft being a game that I used to play and owned on PC well is a classic, and this sequel kind of blows it all away. I was never a fan of Terran but I did enjoy this first release of the three part story of the game so far.

This won’t be a review on the game because I am not hardcore at the game enough at the series to be qualified to speak about the games specifics. However I will discuss a little on the success of this sequel… starting with some history. Starcraft the original was a game I used to play with my friends early high school years… back then my friends and I each went with a different race, I picked Protoss and the other two picked Terran and Zerg. I was probably quite average at the game, while one of the two friends became really good at the game. Eventually it wasn’t any fun to play against that friend at all… and the other friend kind of didn’t play that much anyway so lacked practice.

That didn’t mean the game wasn’t any good… just that Starcraft is one of those games that apart from the Story/Campaign Mode you’re supposed to play with other people to enjoy it. One of the other things that people could enjoy was Custom Maps with Use Map Settings. I met a few people Online on Battle.net back then who were really good at making Custom games… It was great, I also learnt a lot about making them myself… but one thing about this version is that the custom maps are really hard to come by, also the map editor is way too complex now… I think by the time you learnt how to use it and make really decent stuff with it, you probably could have created your own game, programmed it and released it and get paid for your work. Even though this map editor lets you make a game that is completely different to what Starcraft is meant to be, it seems like it is going to be a long while until we see something really interesting.

Before I even played the Campaign Mode, I actually hopped on Battle.net under a friend’s account. I played a few games as Protoss then logged off… the Online interface was quite confusing actually, I clicked around trying to figure out how it works and all of a sudden I was sent into a game with a random person that I didn’t get to select. Dark Templars made waste of the opponent but that could have been some newbie that just happened to play Starcraft for the first time ever from this release. There was no interaction or chatting involved with me and the other player. I felt that was a little poor. I guess it is hard to chat in an Real-Time-Strategy game, but Blizzard seemed to have removed the Online Chat rooms in the new Battle.net system… What’s the deal with that? Part of going online to play games is to interact with people you are playing with so you know they are human not just [Korean] bots. One of the things about the old chat rooms was that I actually met the people who made the cool maps that I was playing through them and became friends because of the conversations I was able to have with the players when not concentrating on commanding my units. You do get a small lobby to chat in before a game starts but nothing once the game ends…

Well let’s head offline… Oh wait you can’t… When you play the game, you need a valid Starcraft II Battle.net account logged in so you can play Single Player Story/Campaign Mode. The nice thing about this is, your progress is saved on a cloud system. So you can technically go to your friend’s house and play the game from where you last finished at home. The bad thing, well you cannot play under your account if you aren’t online. However if the copy of the game is activated, you can play offline under Guest Mode… there is three guest slots that you can play Campaign Mode under… probably so you can make different choices each time you play for a different story. Which is pretty nice especially if you know someone who has the game, and you only want to try it out… Ask them to come around and install it and play online a little bit to show you then you’ll have a copy of Starcraft II that you can play the Story/Campaign Mode/Vs AI Mode whenever you want. Oh and yeah, no Local Area Network Mode for Offline Multiolayer.

Now the game… Again I’d just like to say wow… I don’t think they missed much when it comes down to the essence of Starcraft. Unlike other franchises or sequels to games that I have played Starcraft II did not fall short or drop anything that maintain the Starcraft feel. I ran the game on my notebook at 1920×1200 with most graphics settings turned down so I would have smooth game play without compromise… the game still looked great. The interface was good and the way you are put through between the missions and menus looked and felt right. Though I did find annoying that the top row of tabs during game can sometimes get in the way of clicking on units and opens up one of menus occasionally. Overall the Game Play, System and Story was top notch. It is satisfying to play through along with the special extras that are available to the Single Player Campaign makes or gives the mode some replay value which is a nice touch.

That’s about it really… Unless you want to read some spoilers or weird things that I tried while playing… Continue?
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July 25th, 2010

Answer: Yes.

Well technically yes, everyone has their way of solving a problem. Unless you are solving a logical problem, there probably is no correct way to how you deal with or solve it. Since this isn’t a psychology site there won’t be any dwelling on that matter.

So what is problem solving skills for when part of a game development project? In most cases it is the game designer/planner, programmer and graphical or non-graphical user interface designer that needs the skill in general.

Just a quick outline of what each job probably deals with on a regular basis…

  • Game designers/planners have to identify flaws in their design before production and find the solution before it becomes a game breaker later.
  • The programmers probably face a lot of problems with balancing visuals and functionality and solve it while bringing a game to surface from the designs.
  • Graphical or non-graphical user interface designers would need to find the solution to making an easy to use interface that is capable of handling the needs of the game.

So how to establish or practice problem solving skills? Programmers have it a little easier here, as they actually practice their logical thinking and problem solving with the more programming they experience.

Exercises for game design can be a bit of work if doing it with designs/works from scratch. An alternative would be to play games often and try to break them, find flaws, bugs and problems and think of solutions that would prevent these problems occurring in future designs.

Do you hate it when you interact with a game or software and find some things are not where they should be? Looking for the close button in the top corner but it isn’t there? User interface problem solving is probably easier to solve than the others, various ways of doing it include applying your own experiences with the controls you are using to interact, then tweaking and testing until you feel others will use it the way you intended, but the ultimate problem to solve is when you hand it to someone to try…

These are all just an idea, they aren’t always how you should find your solutions as a solution can be found differently… An example is the other day I thought of an idea to program but instead of trying with my solution I had offered my friend the exercise to see if he was up for it. I had my own solution and ideas planned for it but as my friend also had his own ways of solving the problem, I didn’t fully explain my methods to him. The result of course was a different solution to the same problem. Granted I probably still feel my solution is much simpler, but there is nothing wrong with his solution either as it does the job required.

Though everyone may solve problems differently there is another skill that probably is required… Identifying Problems. That is of course because identifying problems is the first step to finding a solution and finding the solution will lead you to the Answer.

July 17th, 2010

So I was asked to write about refining ideas… Where should I start? Well with most ideas they sometimes appear from no where, other ideas can come from inspiration or influences. Ideas are always great when they are still fresh and in your head, but they can also not work out so great when you put them down on paper.

Well yesterday I did exactly that… occasionally when an idea that feels and sounds good comes along, you want to put it down on paper… It starts simple but as you start laying out the details and specifics the idea can sometimes look less attractive than you originally thought.

However this is all part of the process to refining an idea. Having the idea down on paper now becomes a design proposal and allows you to see the potential errors in the idea. At this point you should be refining your design if you wish to continue with the idea.

Since this is a game related site, I guess specifically tackling the refine process for the purpose of game play is the point. Currently my problem is the game has no purpose, most ideas I think about always takes down the route of productivity or fun. If fun is dependent on the player’s ability to enjoy what is available then the result may not be that great.

Well with that idea there is still room for improvement and things can still work out given enough time and refining before prototyping. On the other hand there is always games out there that have been published and released.

Games have sequels for a reason, apart from the money making for popular franchises a sequel is a chance for the design to be reanalyzed and modified for the better… a sequel should play the same or better than the original. Anyone ever played a series to be disappointed by the next release of the game? I know I have, in most cases this happens because there was a change in the designer or director involved producing the game.

To finish up, I will say that an idea that becomes a design proposal doesn’t have to always work out, a game idea may not work now… but it may be more suitable later and with a little refining and modifications the results might be better than the original concept.

July 11th, 2010

There is many definitions for games out there, but the one definition that has helped me designing ideas for games is that: A game is a set of rules applied to an act or task for productive or unproductive enjoyment and fun. Anything can be a game…

This can mean a lot when creating a game. For example of how many games you can derive from applying rules to a simple ball. Quickly you should have something along the lines of bouncing a ball as many times as you can, how many bounces you can do in a minute, how fast can you bounce a ball ten times etc… Simple?

What about if we wanted to play with more people? Well you can either take turns with the same rules or create some multiplayer rules out from the same rules… Bouncing a ball between another person as many times as possible, How many times the two can achieve in a minute, How fast you can rally the ball between the two ten times etc… Of course it is possible to come up with more interesting and entertaining rules but these are all just a start.

As you can see applying a few rules can create a game. However just applying rules does not make a fun game. [Parents give their children rules, but they aren't always fun right?]… If you’re creating a game, you want to make it fun [for your audience and demographic] right? So try to use rules that make the game more interesting or productive. Most people enjoy a sense of accomplishment, which can come from completing a productive task or beating someone in a game.

Case to point, when I was still studying [haha right, I studied.] I had a Japanese test on the カタカナ Alphabet… now knowing me, I hate studying or believe that I am not good at studying from books. So I made a game out of it… I would say the game would only be a game to those who are beginning to learn Japanese, so to myself at the time who was the audience or demographic that I was targeting… it was a fun game. The game took three or four hours to make and I played it for one or two hours… it was simple, the rules were that the alphabets flash at random and all the player needs to do is click the correct pronunciation. Apart from a overall performance monitor, there was no scoring or any timers to make the game more challenging in anyway… but now that I am posting about it I feel that I probably could have gave it more interesting or entertaining rules. And how did I do for the test? Well let’s just say that I would have played longer if I wasn’t confident after only one or two hours.

That was a productive use of games or game design. It was a simple idea with simple rules… the game play isn’t great but it does it’s purpose and is now used for another purpose. To be an example of Anything can be a game…

July 4th, 2010

Game Design can sound complex when you think that about the current games in our generation. Even the most simple games on the high definition consoles require an exceptional amount of work because it is how the consumers expect to see from their investment in the technology.

It is true that we as consumers expect to get high quality games when we pay for high quality consoles, but what defines a high quality game? Is a high quality game the surround audio and high definition visuals or the game play or the amount of game content? Well I would say it is all of those.

From the game makers point of view that looks very expensive to do… which it is. Sometimes you can’t maximize all the aspects to achieve a great game due to limitations of time, money, resources and hardware.

Therefore you need a balance to help achieve a good game with limited resources. My thoughts on the balance is that there should be an order of priority which should always put Game Play and Game System above all the other aspects. You are making a game right?

To find the balance there is two ways about it… both ways require one simple start: What game are you making? Establish the game you want to make, be clear about what you want out of the game. So using one method, you can start to prototype the game and testing until you achieve what you wish the Game Play and System that you want. Of course this method isn’t feasible and sometimes not required… the other methods are if your game is in a genre where there are other similar types of games out there you have access to, you can play them and look for the Game Play and System that you want… remember that you are looking for aspects that are enjoyable and not reproducing a game that is already available out there… unless the game is a sequel to another game hehe.

Hopefully this will have given you an idea of how your game feels and plays before you decide if it will work or not. Depending on how complex the game is, a prototype might be close to half way of making the game anyway or may require the prototype game to be near complete before you even know if it will work or not. An example would be that the game is a heavily based visual game… the art in the game drives the game and the look and feel makes it all work. The worst part is reaching this point and realising your prototype struggles to run smoothly or has lag or frame skipping due to the intense visual requirements of your design… but that is why it is a prototype, there is always room for improvement… :)

Balancing between all the aspects that make a game will achieve a well thought out, fun, attractive and responsive game. I mean no one wants to play a game where it may look great, but everything you do makes you game over because the controls are appear to be lagging behind the visuals, where in fact it is the visuals that are reducing the performance of the game. Look at all the games out there, there will definitely be games that don’t appear too great yet people still play it religiously every day… there must be something about it that keeps them coming back right?

That’s the Balance.