Archive for May, 2011

Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Short and Unnecessary Fables About Videogames

20/05/2011

Without animals. PETA issues, you know.

Two british brothers working at BMG in the 90’s took responsability over the brand new multimedia and game division of the company. They didn’t know shit about videogames. The knowledge necessary to put on a battery into a remote control is way greater than the knowledge about programming those guys had at the time.  So, to the surprise of… no one, the first games the division made were bad. Really bad. But, few years later, those guys came with an idea: a game where the main story to follow is actually optional, and the player has the chance not only to explore, but to really interact with the elements of the setting in order to complete secondary narrative arcs or just to fool around. That idea later became Grand Theft Auto. T2 made a proposal to buy the division, then moved it to NY and asked the brothers for a name. The name is Rockstar Games (duh!). The thing is, they didn’t know shit about programming because they were musicians and film geeks. Work at BMG was an opportunity for Sam and Dan Houser to try their luck with their band. They wanted to become famous. They wanted to become rockstars.

The place where you begin isn’t necessarily the place where you will end.

Have you heard about that little thing called the internet?. Well, if you haven’t, ask Scott Miller, because he has. Back in the mid 80’s that guy invented the way we use the internet today. As an enthusiastic game programmer, Miller became an entrepenuer when he started to sell his games (and other people’s games, more on that later) using a new and way out of his time business model: he started to give away his products waiting for some cash back out the costumers altruistic spirit. He failed. Big time. So he went back to that awful, selfish and dirty but more profitable business model of actually asking money for his work, but with a little twist: the costumers had the opportunity to play a first glimpse of the game and then decide wheter he or sh… let’s be honest, he wanted to buy it, all of it founded over the almost cost free internet distribution. He succeded. Big time. That guy invented a model 20 years ahead of his time. Man!, we are talking about the 80’s, the era when the hair spray was the biggest invention. And then, Miller turned into a dumb zombie due reasons unknown by both science and religion. Long history short: he created a new company, 3D Realms, just for developing and distribution of the now universally famous stripper-savior character of Duke Nukem 3D game. And you know what happened to Duke Nukem 3D sequel. 15 years in the making with a (big) chance of succesful for its upcoming release granted only by nostalgia. Apogee (the company Miller created first) and 3D Realms aren’t extinct, in fact, they are stable companies, but such a waste of time, money and human effort like Duke Nukem Forever doesn’t make you look good in the industry, even if you invented how any company in the videogame business makes money today.

Focus and get shit done on time.

John Romero and John Carmack. If those names don’t ring a bell then make yourself a favor and read here and here. I’m really serious about it, this post (and your porn probably… yeah, I just made that joke) isn’t going anywhere. Ready?. So, the list of games made by those guys include: Wolfenstein 3D, Doom and Quake and all of their sequels. Actually, their efforts, alongside the efforts of their fellow coworkers at id Software, helped Apogee to rise its internet distribution model. Miller asked Romero to design games while Apogee distributed them. That worked well with Commander Keen, the first id Software game, but later on, with Wolfenstein 3D and a very deep knowledge about internet at hand they went on their own, founding a dinasty in videogame history. By the mid 90’s, John Romero wanted to create a completely different game than their previous hit Doom, but Carmack, a programmer genius, was only interested in technology. Quake was the result of that disagreement: a title with strong  tech capabilities, but with a design borrowed from Doom. And so on. Quake II has nothing to do with the first one, a even though feels like the same game. Quake 3 Arena even doesn’t have a single player campaign at all, and only one multiplayer mode. John Romero left id Software after Quake’s release, and both he and Carmack followed very different paths in the game industry. Carmack focused in small teams and game engine developing, leading to Doom 3, their only release in the last decade. Decade. Decade!. After publishing around 24 titles in the 90’s, id Software published just one game in the first decade of this century, and then dropped that design shit and asked Bethesda Softworks to do it. Is there something wrong with that?, actually no. There is nothing wrong with that to be honest.

Technology provides you with tools, not games. You have to know what you want to make: tools or games.

This Series of Short  and Unnecessary Fables was brought to you by Machinia.com’s All you history are belong to us series. Awesome videogame history shorts you should watch before continuing breathing. The corresponding ones to Rockstar, Apogee and id in the links.

Venezuela and the Videogame Industry: A follow up (I)

02/05/2011

   Act one.

This two parts post is an essay my fellow coleague Gabriel Rodríguez wrote a little more than a year ago as part of his videogame master in University of Abertay Dundee, Scotland.

Being a part of a master degree study, this essay is very well documented, beautifully written and easilly readable, even when the amount of information included is quite high. I have to say, this text is an example of  the quality I want to achieve in this blog (or at least the major part of the texts I will write in it). All the sources are cited in the second part of the article.

My intention was to write a new post based on this essay, but unfortunatelly for me and for any game developer in Venezuela, I realized while reading it that the situation described hasn’t changed too much since the original text was written. Some future tenses are now present tenses. That’s pretty much the difference.

It will be unfair if I say: this is the situation righ now, because it isn’t. A lot of work has been done and many changes have taken place since the events told in the text happened. But the big picture remains the same, so consider this two posts as an introduction. 

My work now is to update in further entries the whereabouts of the game industry in Venezuela.

Hope you enjoy the reading. I’m deeply thankful with Gabriel for allowing me to use his wonderful text.

I will also be deeply thakful if anyone that wants to use this text makes the proper reference to the original source.

Venezuela, known for its oil and current political turmoil, does not seem like the place where investing in game development studios would be a government priority. However, over the last few years many things have changed, laws specifically targeted at games, game development and gamers have been passed, the industry has grown and interest for gaming and game development in general has increased in the media. The Enterprise Council, a Government body associated with established industries such as heavy manufacturing, is interested in game development and is looking into entering the industry by creating a game company using public funds. Would this this be a sensible way of spending public funds? Is there profit to be made in a country where piracy is such a common place? Is it possible for this new enterprise to succeed?.

Asamblea Nacional Caracas (National Assembly).

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Venezuela and the Videogame Industry: A follow up (II)

02/05/2011
Act two.
A game studio using public funds would not be the first time the Venezuelan government incurs in the entertainment business. In 2006 the Government created La Villa del Cine (Cinema Town), a state-of-the-art film production complex to help promote the film industry in the country[22]. Although it has been criticized as being a way for the Government to control such industry and make films with an agenda[23] it has been very successful in putting on camera Venezuela’s heritage and history in high quality productions, something that had not been done before[24]. Content specifically targeted to the Venezuelan public is also lacking in the local gaming community where the games played have all been developed abroad.
Venezuela, being so close to the U.S.A. relies mainly on North American games which in a way have implanted foreign cultures and ideas that some might argue contradict Venezuelan morale and ethics. For example, in 2008, the former EA owned Pandemic Studios released Mercenaries 2, a game based in Venezuela where the main character has to help an army general overthrow the Venezuelan Government[24]. Although during the game the player changes sides and ends up fighting against the coup and the fact that on the credits of the game the developers thank the current real Venezuelan Government one can argue that the game is touching sensible subjects for the Venezuelan citizens. Existing game studios in the country, as mentioned before, work mostly as outsourcers creating content for international publishers and have nothing to do with the local public. It is possible that games targeted directly at the country’s culture and history could be well received as proven by the previously mentioned Villa del Cine.

I’m the guy who’s always late

01/05/2011

What a dramatic title ah?

This post tries to answer the question why I decide to be a game designer instead of other thing profitable like, let say, a plumber.

Because I’m a mathematician.

I don’t want to waste your time. That’s basically the answer to that question. At least in my case.

But that isn’t the complete answer.

Let me put this straight: I’m not an artist, modeler, animator or screenwriter. I have experience in 3D modeling. Actually, I’m working on a little portfolio. But I’m not that good, at least not as good (should read fast) as the industry demands these days.

So that let me few options to be a game developer.

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