Goal the Game

Here is a little game that I made in UE4. Please give a try .

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Glass Cannon – Alpha Build

Do you like games like Super Smash Brothers? Do you like games made by Indie developers that don’t suck? Then download Glass Cannon, currently in Alpha, and be amazed. Please support my friends at RHO Interactive and enjoy their work.

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Omaha Game Developers Association

 

Above is a intro video that was made for a panel I was on at Nebraskon 2016.  If you happen to be in the Omaha area of Nebraska and like video games, come out to one of our meetings. We meet up every second Thursday at 7pm at DoSpace. Our next meeting is this coming Thursday, January  12, and will have two members as our speakers. If you are interested and would like more information please follow us on social media.

OGDA Social Media Links

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Meetup

Website

 

Sexism in Gaming – Retrospective

In the past few days, thanks to our dysfunctional political system, the talk of sexual assault and general sexism towards women is front in center. Now I am not going to talk about any one politics but this seems like a good time for personal reflection. Three years ago I wrote an article about Sexism in Gaming. In the time that has passed my views on many things have changed and have become more diverse. I also feel during this time the video game industry has gotten better about how female characters are portrayed.

An example of this gradual improvement is the female character design from Mortal Kombat 9 to 10. In MK 9, all the female characters essentially had the same body type of a large breasted supermodel. Plus, their base outfits were basically character specific bikinis. An ideal game for a young boy or girl who just hit puberty. But not ideal for getting past the idea that women are eye candy. Though for me personally, I do not fault Mortal Kombat 9 for not having women with realistic figures mostly because the entire game is not based in reality. There is a four armed behemoth that can tear people apart. Or characters can receive major trauma to major organs and get back up like nothing happened. So having women in a bikini that can cut people into tiny pieces is not out of place for this game. With that said, having all the women’s breasts defy gravity was not necessary to improve the game play.

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Sonya Blade from MK9

Now in Mortal Kombat 10 I feel that there were many intentional design changes for all the female characters. For example, all of the female characters have their own believable body types, instead of copying and pasting like in MK 9. Also there are no female skins that are just blatant eye candy. Now there are several skins that show some skin but nothing that’s just screams “fan service”. Another thing about the skins is that pretty much all of them would be practical to wear in a fight. Which is nice as long as you are not the one to have a fatality used on them. At that point it really doesn’t matter what one wears.

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Sonya Blade from MK10, see a difference.

This is just one of many games that have come out in the past three years that show women more than just objects. Other examples would include Overwatch and the Call of Duty Franchise. Each of these games have playable female characters that are not just there to fill time. Now there are some people who will say that even, for example, Overwatch’s female characters are still to sexualized. Or that there is not enough diversity with female characters. To those people I say “get over yourself”.

Has the industry as a whole gotten better about having respectable and interesting female characters? Yes. Does the industry still have female characters that appeal to young boys or girls, if they swing that way, that are hitting puberty? Yes. Can the industry do more to have more women in their ranks to make games to appeal to women? Yes. Will the sexualization of women ever completely go away in gaming? No. But can we all push for more games that don’t just show one dimension of an individual or group? Yes.

Hardcore Henry and FPS Design

So this past weekend I was ordering pizzas for my family and I from Marcos Pizza. Apparently I had ordered enough pizza where I got a free movie with my order. To clarify, this Marcos Pizza is attached to a Family Video and they often do cross promotions. So I figured this would be a great opportunity to watch a movie I haven’t seen. So I picked Hardcore Henry, the action packed adventure that is from the first person perspective, that takes place in Russia.  As an avid movie goer I found this move to be ok. It wasn’t a bad action film but it also wasn’t that good either, but worth a watch non the less.

The most obvious appeal for this movie is that it looks like a first person shooter. In this regard the movie does an excellent job in making the viewer feel a part of the film. The down side is that the camera shake can be too violent at times and drew me out of the experience on occasion. Compared to most First Person Shooters the only time the camera really shakes is if there are explosions everywhere. Or a major cinematic that the game developer really wants to show off. But these were just my initial thoughts of comparing Hardcore Henry to an FPS game. It was not unit I read an article on Gamasutra, an article you should read too, that I realized that Hardcore Henry has more to offer to FPS game design.

In the article, by Josh Bycer, he talked about three things that the movie did that could be done in games. The first is “Silent doesn’t mean Soulless”. In most FPS’s the protagonist that you play as either says nothing to very little and kills everything in their path. In many cases you mostly play as a Terminator that can be hurt but can heal when taking cover. In Hardcore Henry, he may be silent but through hand motions he shows that he has a range of emotions. By figuring out other ways to convey emotion, it becomes easier for the player to be immersed when they can relate to basic human emotions.

The second point Bycer makes is “Using your Surroundings”. For a lot of FPS games the player is stuck to a predetermined path, occasionally with alternate routes to create the illusion of choice.  Or there are the designated exploding barrels next to the only destructible pillar that collapses a section of the building.  But in the end you get the same result. Now games like Metal Gear Solid 5 do a good job of allowing the player to attack any mission any way they choose. But games like MGS5 take an excruciating amount of time to make and if you are looking to make a yearly or bi yearly game then that attention to detail is out of the question.

The third point he makes is “Interesting People”. This one is fairly straight forward because most characters in FPS’s are I kill things because a thing happened to me. Or I need to save America or the world. Alternatively, all there is to an NPC is that they kill things a certain way like a sniper or Heavy Weapons Guy.  Though for this aspect I blame the fact that most FPS games don’t really focus on story, just a semi reasonable reason to fight. So if the reason to do all the killing is vague at best then we really shouldn’t expect much when it comes to characters.

Ultimately, if we really want new and exciting shooters then game developers need to be more nuanced and not just use the same formula that always works. The issue with that is the formula works and makes money. Major studios will be very hesitant to implement any of these changes in fear that they will not get a hefty return on investment. Another aspect blocking change is that even if someone made an innovative shooter the gamers who play it, being the fickle people we are, may reject it for being too different.  Though over time the new formula will become the old one and we will wonder why it took so long.

Skywind – Fan Made Morrowind with Skyrim Engine

As  someone who has put in over 150 hours in Skyrim and has done a lot of modding this fan made project of redoing Morrowind fascinates me. Though I do have to admit I have only played Skyrim but I am really looking forward to seeing the finish result.  Also for those would be game creators out there they are looking for help for pretty much every part of the game. You can go to there forums page to see what need to be done cause I will help in any way that I can.

Source: Polygon

Mobile Gaming and Me

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So near the beginning of February I started an internship at SkyVu Entertainment in Quality Assurance. For those  who do not now them, they are the makers of the Battle Bears series. There latest game is Battle Bears Gold and is available on Android and iOS so give it a try.

[Disclaimer: Since the CEO of SkyVu follows me on twitter this post is just my thoughts on my experience so far there. So if you are hoping for some juicy gossip you won’t get it from me since I have only been there a month so I don’t know much.] Now with my shameless plug aside let me share some of my thoughts  about actually being on a development team. First and foremost QA is not my ideal position but it got my foot in the door so I can’t really complain. Hopefully after I get my C# classes done I can move over to programing. Though more than likely if I were to move up inside the company it would be towards the design team since my table is right next to theirs. Building relationships I find is the best way to move up in any career path. So being in QA I do a lot of testing so essentially I play games all day. An for most people that sounds like a great job. An for the most part it is except that I have to play the same game over and over again. Plus I just can’t play, I have to constantly look for new bugs and try to reproduce bug if they were fixed. From a job stand point that is the only real pain but that is the job so I just deal with it.

Now from a personal stand point I find QA very frustrating. It’s frustrating for me because all I do is find bugs and see if they are resolved. I have no real involvement in the actual development or design of the game. An since I am working on majoring in Game Studies I haven’t been able to put anything I have learned to any real use. But since I do not have a direct hand in the creation I do try to give “suggestions” now and again. Hopefully, if I am still there in the next 6 months to a year, I can leave a mark on one of the future projects. Though in the mean time if I can just get my name in the credits of Battle Bears Ultimate, which is currently in beta, I’ll be content for a bit.

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With that personal business out of the way let’s get to an issue in mobile gaming. An that issue is that some mobile games are just too big. Now what I mean by too big is that developers are trying to make more and more expansive games to distinguished themselves from the rest of the pack. An not just that, but something worth investing money into, since micro transactions are the future. Probably the biggest complaint I see on the BBU forums and review of other app games are that the game either just crashed or didn’t work. An from what I have seen is that it not so much the developers fault as is the persons phone. I blame the phone in some cases cause there are just so damn many of them. Apple is always coming out with a new iPhone which always has slightly different stats then the previous one. The Android OS is not always consistent across all phones that have it.  Also it does not help that practically every month there is a new phone. And I rather not talk about tablets too.

So since we have all these devices it brings a few challenges to developers. First is how do I get my game to work well on both platforms. This within itself is not a huge deal if you are using game engine like Unity3D where you can build to both devices. Though when it comes to iOS  it takes a  few extra steps and Xcode to build to a iproduct. The second issue is memory. If you made a mobile game that played well on the newest phone it may not work on an older model. An that may be due to that fact that the assets are just to large to run on an older phone.  Though with consoles they do not have that issue. If you build to and Xbox it is same across the board. But while I have been at SkyVu I have kinda over heard  the conversations to make the game work more universally. Those conversation were basically about optimization and dropping the resolution so it doesn’t tax the hardware of the phones.  So  as long as there is mobile game market this will always be an issue with developers. But hopefully tablet and phone tech will kinda plateau and make testing not so much a pain in the future. I know its asking for much but one can hope.