Not a Single Scary Casual Game Anywhere?

Yesterday’s post about scary games got plenty of discussion & comments on the forums.

Some of the scary games mentioned were:

  • Silent Hill series
  • Doom series
  • System Shock 2
  • Vampire the Masquerade – Bloodlines
  • Blood
  • Clive Barker’s Undying
  • Thief series
  • Alone in the Dark (1 and 2)
  • F.E.A.R
  • Half-life (and Half-Life 2)
  • Project Zero
  • Resident Evil

If you wish to bring your experiences with scaring games, feel free to continue the scary games thread.

One element is quite interesting in that list of games: there’s no single casual game in the list. Are there no scary casual games at all?

Tell Me a Game That Has Scared The (Poo) Out of You

Couple of days ago I was wondering whether to have 3rd or 1st person camera view in my game. Originally I planned to use 3rd person, since I still think my game is more of a tactical type of game – where pure shooting won’t save you. I tested also the 1st person mode, and noticed that while 1st person view can lose something in the tactical side (you cannot tell so well what objects are close to you), it sure adds more to the frightening side.

I was testing my zombie game just a moment ago, and I experienced something I haven’t experienced since Doom 2: I was so focussed on testing (and keeping the flock of zombies away) that I got scared by a freaking zombie that was jumping behind the door (on my right side). My heart was beating two times faster than normal for fraction of a second. I don’t know if the game will scare anybody else (or me again), but this small incident reinforced me about the fact that games can make people experience different feelings.

And from this short introduction we get to the next question: when was the last time some game event scared you?

7 Game Producer Questions That Need Answers

I received an email with several questions, and here’s the first 7 answers for those questions.

Question #1. How have producer roles changed over the last two decades?
According to Wikipedia, the first time “game producer” title was used in 1982. From the interviews and discussions with other producer, I’ve come to conclusion that “producer” means different things on different companies. The role definition lies somewhere between “manager” and “leader”. I believe the role is more likely to change between companies, than perhaps between time.

Question #2. The current fight over which titles to greenlight….?
Hard cold business decisions.

Question #3. What makes a good developer?
See what people smarter than me have answered. I think in my mind it boils down to getting stuff done.

Question #4. Who are famous producers in your opinion? Why?
I don’t think this is a matter of opinion – it’s matter of fame, and matter of defining producer. Any producer who has put his name in his games must be famous ;)

Question #5. Who is your favorite producer? Second favorite? Why?
I don’t play favorites, but if I have to choose, I’d pick “Me, me”. He is the guy I have to bear with every single day.

Question #6. What are some of the changes brought about by the marketplace in the way the production process takes shape?
This is extremely large question to answer. I can give you some changes that in my mind are changing the marketplace, but these are just examples.

First of all I think digital delivery (downloading games via Internet, without going to shops to buy games) is a huge thing. It will change the marketplace for good, and DRM (digital rights management) are playing a big role here: copy protection must be done so that it won’t annoy the player. Another thing is the raise of casual gaming. Naturally the console wars (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii… and others) are changing the marketplace. For example, companies need to figure out which platforms to support, and whether to make games for consoles or not.

There are more reasons, and I let our community members to give more examples.

7. Why would game development teams fail without producers?
If by producer we mean “manager” or “leader”, then one could ask why teams would fail without leaders. This is pretty good question, and I think teams might survive without having a clear leader in the team. In theory, if the team members are all working towards the common goal – it might work. Leaders are there to keep the team together, help team members to make their work, resolve difficult situations… and somebody has to do that. It doesn’t mean that team would need a guy whose work title is “producer”, but naturally somebody needs to know where the game development should be going.

Movaya Releases PlugNPlay 2.0 for Anybody to Sell Mobile Games

I was just chatting with one of the guys behind Movaya. I got to know about their latest PlugNPlay system for mobile game distribution. The interesting part – in a nutshell – is this: anybody can start selling mobile games (and other mobile content) with Movaya’s system.

There’s currently over 400 titles from companies such as RealNetworks, Capcom, COM2US and more), so if you are interested in getting more games on your existing site or want to set up a brand new mobile game store – check it out.

Movaya’s tagline is “Powering the Next Generation of Mobile Content Distribution”. I’m always bit skeptic whenever I hear a sentence that mentions “next generation” – but in this case it looks like these guys are moving towards their target. Movaya handles the content, billing and delivery – you just merchandise the products. If you are interested to hear some more information, check out Movaya.com.

Estimations and Wishes Don’t Fit in the Same Jar

After showing the first zombie game video clip, I noticed couple of comments about the progress. I heard one guy commenting (not on our boards, but somewhere else) how he has faced some obstacles in his project and was not happy about his game progress. Not enough time is the common thing people say. So many things to do, so little time…

Here’s something extremely crucial when it comes to dealing with time.

Estimations and wishes are two different things. If you estimate that it takes one day to get the guy moving, and if that’s not happening after 2 days – wishing faster progress won’t help anything. No matter how often you wish that “it wouldn’t take so much time” to complete your tasks, it doesn’t matter. Whatever you wish is just that – a wish.

It’s very important to face the crucial facts. I’ve been estimating my tasks in point basis. I estimate that I can get one point done per day, so that’s 5 points in one week or 10 points completed in two weeks. Then I estimate my stories (or features, or tasks) anything from 0.5 to 2.0 or more points. At the moment I have tasks such as “.44 weapon” (0.5 points) and “level room” (2.0) points (naturally I have bit more detailed explanation telling what exactly I want to have for each task). I took tasks worth 5.0 points to do this week, and that’s it. It was tempting to try to take one more 0.5 point or 1.0 point task, but that would be wishing. If I can make 5.0 points worth per week, then it’s no point trying to put 6.0-7.0 points worth tasks into one week.

And we don’t need to talk about points. We can talk about hours. If one guy can make 40 hours of work per week, then putting 50 hours worth effort is not such a good idea. Wishing that tasks that require 50 hours of work, would magically be done in 40 hours is not a good idea.

It’s better to face the harsh reality: sometimes things can take bit more time, sometimes less. It’s not a good idea to live in a fantasy world where you think you can get all the features and special stuff in the time you wished. Who knows, maybe in the history of IT projects, you actually get everything completed in less time – but I wouldn’t bet on that.

If one starts to put more work than he can handle, it might lead to work done badly. Work that needs to be redone. It might lead to lower motivation (when you cannot accomplish all the tasks you planned, since there’s always more work you can handle). It’s doomed path.

Make realistic estimations, and help people to get their work done more effectively – but don’t think that wishing for faster progress will help accomplish that.

Zombie Game Project Video Clip (#1)

Yesterday I promised to show you a short video clip. As mentioned in that post, I have got some things finished faster than I anticipated.

I’m actually going through my stories (that’s extreme term for “big task” or “objective” or “feature”) this weekend and new planning, since most of the tasks I planned for the next 2 weeks are finished.

Here’s a brief video that gives you little taste about the game… all art is placeholder art, so the style will somewhat change when I get to put proper stuff there.

Here’s Something To Consider When Jumping Into New Technology

This week’s development is about to get done. Last Thursday I mentioned about the engine hunt. Miguel raised a very important point about switching technology. I agree with Miguel, that jumping from technology to another will harm any project – if things aren’t getting finished.

The reason why I started using NeoAxis engine was quite simple. It was (kind of) built on top of Ogre3D rendering engine (that I was using), and it has many additional libraries & tools implemented and ready to use. There are some factors that need to get into account when thinking about the technology, and key element for me is time.

My Ogre development started as planned, and I was doing nice progress with it. When I run into collisions issues, I saw that some of my original estimations (regarding tasks such as character moving & getting the physics lib work properly) would perhaps need bit more time. I took another look at the NeoAxis engine and saw that it already had many things done that I would be needing.

I took a closer look at the engine and made some performance tests. The benchmarks were fine, perhaps because it uses Ogre which I knew to be powerful enough for my purposes. I realized that since I was familiar with Ogre pipeline, I could use that knowledge to get things – such as animations and models – working in the NeoAxis engine.

Right now it looks like Ogre3D was a good choice for me, and putting NeoAxis engine “on top of Ogre” even better solution.

I realize that there will be heavy learning involved (getting into C# for one thing), and there will be some restrictions or additional requirements because of NeoAxis engine. For example, I need to include .NET files in the game distribution package – that’s 22 megabytes extra. Also, the network code is not finished at this point, but since it’s getting coded in the future releases, I have no problem with that. I have hands full of work with the single-player version.

To me this engine hunt boils down to time.

At this point I had finished 4 stories (or features) from the project with Ogre, and on the 2-3 days (when getting into NeoAxis engine) I realized that there were 5 other stories finished (and couple of more stories wouldn’t need so much work). Basically this means, that so far I’m roughly 2 weeks ahead my planned schedule. (Will show you a short video clip tomorrow)

Whatever you decide to do, follow Miguel’s advice. Don’t jump from engine to engine. Pick one and stick to it. If you are in the beginning of the project, and the switch can save your time – then feel free to consider it, but don’t make light decisions. Learning new technology always carries risks.

I have used Blitz3D in years 2001-2007, and now recently started learning Ogre. NeoAxis (that’s kind of like “built on top of Ogre”) seems like a natural step from “bit lower to bit higher” level, and so far it has saved my time – and my guess is that it will save my time also in the future.

Strange Plimus Order Confirmation

I just ordered something that cost about $10 via Plimus. Apparently something strange happened, since I got an email with the following text:

Thank you for submitting your order using Plimus. Your order is currently being reviewed by our staff for quality purposes, this process is usually completed within a few minutes, however, please allow up to 12 hours to hear back from us.

I wonder why they need to check my $10 order for “quality purposes”. What quality purposes?

I have always liked Plimus (they have very nice systems), and this is the first time I see stuff like this. I don’t know why this occurred, but to me it sounds bit strange to start manually checking a $10 order.

This incident has no impact on what I think about Plimus (I think they have a great service – and recommend people to check it out), but this email was so unusual that I simply had to mention this.

Since weekend is coming, I wonder when I will get my order. “Instant” digital distribution isn’t always that instant… ;)

Update: Just got the final order confirmation. It looks like it took less than 3 hours after all to get the order finalized. Nothing to complain here.

More Engine Hunt And First Game Screenshot Revealed…

While I was digging deeper into how to deal collisions (thanks Jens & luis for your helpful comments), and was recommend to take a look at NeoAxis engine, which uses Ogre3D for rendering. I had checked it earlier, and there were couple of things that made me ignore it (one man doing the development, .NET overhead, no network support, not yet established community).

I decided to take another look into the engine and found out that network code is actually being planned to do in the upcoming releases. I pondered that it would take some time for me before I could touch the network code anyway, so perhaps NeoAxis could be a potential alternative for me after all. Thanks gameboy for mentioning it.

I played with it, and actually found out that my simple level demo (done with NeoAxis) actually has many elements that I was expecting to do in the upcoming weeks in Ogre. Here’s a shot that shows something about the new project (see also forums showcase).

Anyway – I managed to put together nice demo quite quickly and will spend some time checking out the tutorials and documentation. At the moment I feel good about the engine and will read the tutorials, documentation and put couple of things together – and see where that leads to me. Knowing how Ogre works (and how their .mesh, .skeleton and material formats work) is good, since NeoAxis – as mentioned – uses Ogre for rendering. Getting characters used in Ogre to my NeoAxis version was straightforward operation. Move from Ogre to Ogre+NeoAxis seems (at least right now) a pretty good idea to me. My careful estimation is that NeoAxis could speed up my production pace.

NeoAxis uses C# as the language – which is higher level language compared to C++, so there’s new learning ahead.

Now I’m reading more books, articles – and of course putting things together in the engine.

Stamp Out Piracy Awareness Week

Stamp Out Piracy Awareness Week got my attention. Piracy can be harmful for some game sales, and for some studios the results can be devastating. StampOutPiracy.com is taking effort to bring piracy awareness, and has asked people to do the following:

  • Write a blog post about game piracy. (like I’m doing now)
  • Inform your newsletter signups about the dangers of using pirated games.
  • Report piracy to us using Stamp Out Piracy form.
  • If you’re a member of another gaming forum then why not start a thread about game piracy.
  • Link to StampOutPiracy’s articles or to an article on another anti-piracy site
  • Add a StampOutPiracy text link or button to your website/blog.
  • Write an article about game piracy and post it to a number of article websites.
  • Include an anti-piracy message in your game(s).
  • Include an anti-piracy message in a forum signature.

I suppose there’s one thing that worries me in this approach. Instead of being “anti-piracy” I think being “pro-legal software” could wield better results. (Analogy for not being “anti-war”, but “pro-peace”). I think by telling people about piracy (and explaining details how that work), they might actually actually be adding piracy – for some users. Those users who didn’t know about certain words (like “warez”) might get interested in getting more games illegally.

Might sound like word semantics, but nevertheless I think we should not fight piracy. Instead, we should encourage and support people to make the kind of decisions that help us game developers make better games – that would be. We should encourage fair deals where both parties win.

And that calls for “who has bought most games” kind of attitude – competing about being the guy who has the highest count on legally purchased games, and giving extra incentives to get games legally also in the future.

Anyway – check out StampOutPiracy.com and spread the word. Roman at Anawiki blog already wrote “why piracy is wrong”.