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Thank You.

The text below is a letter I sent to Double Fine. I was originally going to ask a dweeby question, but then kinda…you’ll see

Hola.

I’m Miles Robson, freshman at a local community college, aspiring games programmer, and backer of the DFA.

I decided a couple years ago that I wanted to seriously get into games development as a career, and since I consider myself a bit of a math geek, I started diving into a programming at a hobby level. Starting this term, I started taking real, big boy programming courses (C++!), and continue to toy around with XNA and Allegro in my spare time. Being pinned in South Florida is kind of lame, so I co-founded a super small indie studio Nice Guy Games ( http://niceguygames.net/ ) with the hopes of getting some people together and crafting something epic. It’s difficult finding people who want to work with the budget of a broke college student, but I’m loving it.

I originally was writing this E-mail to ask those questions most young students ask, “How do I get a job in this industry?”, “How do I build my portfolio?”, “Please give me an internship, I make the best coffee” etc, etc.

And then I stopped.

I’m forming a portfolio, my school work, along with anything my small ragtag team creates will make something nice. The industry is somewhat region dependent, so location is important there.

And I honestly make pretty piss poor coffee.

So I kinda let my brain wander, wondering why I even opened this draft in the first place. Psychonauts was the first game I ever played in an up to date generation, I was always lagging a console or two behind and stuck to golden oldies on my SNES and N64.That game being my first real experience in that generation was awesome, and that’s what pushed my hard into this industry.

So I guess instead of asking for help, I’m just gonna say Thank You.

I’ve only seriously played one of Double Fine’s titles, but that one moment brought me here.
I wish to make experiences that make people have fun. That’s a job. People get paid to do it.What?

No. You get paid to push pencils and plant buildings and account….things that accountants account.

You can’t possible survive on making fun. But we do.

I’ve heard horror stories of people losing these studios and such, and I always feel sorry. The bad news of the industry always seems to rise to top.

And I still want to dive right in? The hell is wrong with me. I guess I just want it that bad. That…idea of making fun.

So thanks. I’m not even quite sure what for. You guys didn’t make the first game I ever played, but I’d imagine you helped keep me here, wanting. Kind of like that kid who claws at baseball clay, dreaming of playing in the Big Leagues.

I’m defiantly going to. Eventually.

Just make sure I don’t make coffee.

SC5 review

So I sunk in a few hours of Soul Caliber 5, Project Soul’s newest release in the series. After playing so much of last year’s Mortal Kombat and (Ultimate) Marvel Vs. Capcom 3, I thought it’d be a nice change of pace.

I guess it is?

The first thing I notice is the lack of improvement in the graphic department from Soul Caliber 4 to 5. I played the SC4 demo to double check, and I can’t notice any sort of difference. Mechanically, however, stays the same for the better. The standard Horizontal, Vertical, Kick, and Guard layout returns, along with a new Critical Edge. It acts like a super meter from any other fighter, with Brave Edge (EX moves) and Critical Edge (Ultra attack). These moves, on top of the general game play of SC, make it look even more super flashy and fun to watch, while also adding a nice way to turn back the tide of match.

From what I’ve seen, none of the Edges seem particularly over powered, and flow right into the 8-Way game play perfectly. All can be blocked, parried, and dodged by skilled players, but skilled players can also combo into them.

The game’s second big addition is Ezio Auditore, our best buddy from Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed series. Unlike previous attempts at guest fighters, Ezio fits perfectly into the style and combat of the other fighters, and does not seem that over powered. He’s there. He exists, and I don’t get upset when my opponent picks him, which is good. SC’s character customization is back, but you cannot use Ezio’s fighting style on a custom character, which is disappointing, but understandable, given the license. ( I also noted that there is a lot of custom character DLC, which might be able to be unlocked though playing the game, but I can’t confirm or deny.)

The game’s training modes give the standard features, CPU set up, a noteworthy list of combos and moves one should know, that are character specific. The game has a standard 6 stage arcade mode, and an extremely awkward Story mode. Most of it is told though hand drawn (ish) pictures that are voiced over, and unlike last year’s Mortal Kombat, I personally had no desire to give any sort of care, and only find myself playing it for achievements. ( I also have barely scratched the Story mode, only 15 “episodes” in, I just honestly have no desire to finish it. )

Online has what you come to expect from a fighter, 6 player lobbies, ranked and player matches, titles and ranks, etc, etc. I have only encounter one laggy match out of 3-4 hours online, so the net code seems pretty solid.

The game does have a larger lobby system called the “Global Colosseo”. It’s a giant lobby of 100 people where you can chat, organize games, and enter game run tournaments. It’s a neat little feature that would people nice for individuals who do not have a local fighting game community, and now have the ability to meet up with people a lil’ bit easier.

I need to acknowledge what the game is missing, ‘cause it’s a lot. SC4’s Tower of Lost Souls mode is absent from SC5, and while I don’t remember playing much of it in SC4, it’s absence is noteworthy. The game is also missing any sort of tag or mulitfighter combat, which shouldn’t make or break a purchase, but is again, noteworthy.

And then there’s this odd fact that, in my opinion, the game play just doesn’t seem all that intense.  While it certainly is welcoming to newcomers, I can watch my friends mash away and have fun, but not pick up any skill in the game. It seems like the series hasn’t aged well, and is depending on guest and custom fighters to keep it afloat. It’s fun to watch for a moment, but then I start to just pick apart things that make it really different from SC4, and there just isn’t much. The Ult system is nice, but then I just start to acknowledge the things missing from SC5 that were in 4.

This game will please SC fans, I hope. But Project Soul didn’t seem to do much to innovate the game. Considering this is the 6th game in the series, it might need to take a break for creative reasons.

TLDR: If you like Soul Caliber, you should be okay with this release, as long as you can accept that not much has changed to the formula.

Is there a heaven for the nameless?

Assuming you’ve played a first person shooter, you’ve probably seen an NPC ally die. Not one with any true story context, just some random buddy among your ranks eat lead, get tossed back by a grenade, or have an energy sword pierce though a space marines torso.

How often have you cared? Assuming that it isn’t a fleshed out character, it must be difficult. Sometimes scripted, sometimes unintentional, these moments add nice flavor to a chaotic war zone, but I’ve never once felt bad for one of them. Sorrow. Empathy.

Meet random ISA Marine …..Gordon#117. I don’t know his name. I don’t know his family, his sexual preferences, or favorite sports teams.

He’s also dead. He died right in front of me. Sucks. Continue shooting.

Problem is, I kept dying a little bit ahead, and the check point is right there, so “Gordon” is always dying right in front of me. 6 or 7 spawns later, my brain started playin’ with me.

Watch that video a few times over, you might feel the same feeling.

“Does he have kids?” “Could he have helped me moving on?” “Could I have saved…..”

Oh shit.

After that thought flickered, I restarted the whole mission just to see if I could have done anything. To my knowledge, I couldn’t have. This NPC, that I made the mistake of naming, will always die there.

COD does it, Halo does it, any solid FPS adds that, or at least dynamic battling, for environmental appeal. I have never felt….emotion to a random  bot before. I don’t care about the thousands of terriorsts/russians/aliens/nazis/russian alien terriorsts  I have mowed down, and I have seen many an ally flicker out of exsistance. I always keep an eye out for it before, for personal gain.

Bro’s got ammo I could use.

Now I feel, not bad, but….a drive. I pushed that mission thinking of all the retarded ISA soldiers that have fallen, leaving me a fully loaded shotgun.

Don’t get me wrong, characters with story elements and depth evoke that emotion. That little voice in your head screaming “Noooooooooo” as you claw at your TV. Not them, not them, why?

I have Dead Space 2 and Homefront sitting on my pile next to me. I picture playing though both these games with a new view on those elements. Could I have done something else?

That’s actually quite odd, from a design point of view. To tie a players hand, or to make it unadventurous to aid someone, ally or random pedestrian, sounds….fun. Remember those head crab zombie screams from HL2?

Here’s a refresher.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mvrzYrg1Gzo&feature=related

Shit gave me nightmares. You have to kill something that is helpless. Stuck. As a player, you want to survive, push, live. As a human, you want to help.

All I know is, Gordon will be in my heart forever. He has given me a new perspective on NPC “peons”.

They are “real”. I’l try to help every one of them that I can.

http://youtu.be/S-Lv0TTMi1o

Maybe.

E.Y.E.: Divine Cybermancy is a good game, people.

I want to say something before your eyes scroll any lower.

I am talking about a $20 dollar game.

When’s the last time you have spent $20 dollars on a game on launch? Not a bargain bin, on sale, bundled title.

A game, the second it was available, was $20.There are examples, don’t get me wrong. There are.

Now that those games are in your head, think of E.Y.E.

If you haven’t, I don’t really want to try to describe the game. It’s odd. But this is the Steam summary.

Key features:

    • Multiplayer co-op modes directly influence solo play, and vice-versa. The limits of solo and multiplayer games are finally left behind.
    • Psychological and mental trauma management.
    • 25 weapons, different shooting modes, dynamic precision, drilling shots, iron sighting, extended zoom.
    • Complete hacking system with game play impact
    • 9 devastatingly subtle PSI powers.
    • More than 20 NPC with non-scripted, fully reactive and efficient AI, endowed with a sense of initiative. Bloody close combat with technical detail. Incredible physical movement realism thanks to Source Engine physics.
    • Excellent replayability – primary and secondary missions, dynamic environments, non-linear level progression, and random NPC spawn, type and appearance. Death doesn’t penalize players: no need to restart the current mission.
    • Open-level gameplay for hours of fun without reloading.

Is this all true? I can endorse all of these except for the last bullet, simply because I haven’t noticed.

This is all text, let’s look a video of some game play, shall we?

There are some issues with the game, yes. It is an indie title, so there are some bugs, issues, the game can scare you away with the amount of…everything.  One glitch that is driving me insane is the chat box will stay on the screen for a while, nonadjustable.

20 dollars… okay……

Taking a deep breath, and the co-op is pretty solid, sound design and engine feel old.

Wait, wait, wait, what engine does this game use?

Ah, Right, a game from '04

Someone will say that Portal 2 looks amazing, and I will respond with “It’s Valve, it’s their engine, and it isn’t pure Source”

Some areas are repetitive, sure, and some are insanely unqiue, and normally involve an insane amout of alternate paths and options.

The character creation is unique, a little off, but unique. You can build to adjust to your style, which is nice.

The story is….there….is exists. Under the very off dialog and writing.

Does this title need a patch? Sure. Does it need to be played? Yes.

Are there other games that you could buy over E.Y.E? Sure, Killing Floor, TF2, MineCraft, there are plenty of titles you could buy, and should buy, HL2, ES4:Oblivion, Planescape Torment.

But if you are up to date with current titles, then yes, purchase this title.

Dive into what makes Indie development and PC gaming so unique.

You’ll enjoy the dip.

Controls

I am very, very, very proud of my girlfriend. I lent her a laptop, and she played through Mass Effect. It was her first serious title, and I loved it. Hearing her freak out during certain moments, enjoying gunning foes down, and making choices that effect the the plot line, etc. She had never experienced something like that before, and it was neat to see her explore it.

During a random chat about the game, I asked if she was comfortable with using the keyboard and mouse over a controller. Her response; “Yea, the arrow keys were fine.”

I froze for a brief moment, mildly confused. Arrow keys? “She played a third person shooter….with arrow keys?” I mutter to myself, trying to reenact the motion with my hand on my own keyboard, my muscles confused.

She must have over heard me.

“Yea, and? It was more comfortable for me….”

During the rest of the conversation, I found out she used my laptop’s mouse, not the USB I gave her. WASD was for squad commands, she would reach over to C for ducking, function keys became weapon switching, and other odd things. To me, anyway.

It’s odd. What has become “our” standard control format was completely destroyed by a casual gamer,yet she completely enjoyed the experience.  We’re used to a developer telling us the controls. We aren’t told how to read, watch, or listen. But we are constantly told how to control, and, normally, we accept it. An adjustment here or there, but we accept it.

I thought there was a universal code for playing games, WASD, Ctrl for Crouch, Shift for Sprint.

Guess I was mistaken.

Angry Birds: My Role Model.

People text in class. People chew gum, talk, flirt, and do anything at all that does not involve learning. This isn’t everyone, of course, but I’m not going to deny that I do these things. I also have an iPhone. Like pretty much every iPhone owner. I have Angry Birds.

Don’t know what it is? A tribe of birds get their eggs snatched by evil piggies. The group of birds gets angry, and they attack the pigs by launching themselves in a slingshot at the encampments of pigs.

They’re birds. I don’t know why they don’t fly either.

It’s just a catapult game. It’s simple, easy yet difficult. Pick up and play mechanics that can last for hours.

And hours.

It’s ridiculously addictive. I fist pump in the middle of my classroom when I win and swear like a sailor when I lose. I appreciate the chanter and chirping of birds when I hear them. I also think the next great military weapon is a sling shot.

I payed 99 cents for this. Most good/top selling games on the iPhone are 99 cents. It sounds odd. The App Store, while it has had an intense pricing model, has also created this possibility. It allows developers to make a game, sell it cheaply, and make money easily. The sooner developers accept this, the sooner they’ll make more phenomenal games.

I could, hopefully, do this. Make a decent game, and throw it up on the App Store. I’m sure the process is more difficult than I am making it, but not much. It allows developers to explore, enter a market, and try larger projects later on.

Then again, the iPhone is a gaming platform. Kids purchase iTouches for Christmas, as a portable gaming platform. It’s fun, it’s simple, it’s sleek, and it’s a threat to Nintendo and Sony. I haven’t touched my DS since my iPhone purchase in November, and my 3DS is already collecting dust.

Simplicity, addictiveness, creative art design, and progression fuel the perfect iPhone game. Angry Birds, Tiny Wings, and Doodle Jump all have these. I, hopefully, can make a game that good, too.

If I could ever stop playing them.

L.A Noire: Please, I insist.

L.A Noire looks phenomenal. Between the city and the Voice Overs, and the standard quality of epicness that RockStar screams out of every title, I can’t be wrong. I want to play it. I do. I have this sick appreciation for crime drama, and Noir style…anything.

I can, which I bless, afford it. I have the intelligence and respect, and the time.

I could. But I much rather have you play it first. This game is one of those few games where the word video game does not do respect.
Video drama? Interactive drama (which, if I am correct, was a term David Cage used to describe Heavy Rain.)? This is a game that I want to point to people who dismiss games, not even as art, but as a lower tier of entertainment. I want them to go though the environment, absorb the atmosphere, feel the drama, listen to interviews, all of this maturely. Everything is just treated with such serious tone that it needs to be experienced by “average” people.

Those “average” people I speak of know what a Wii is, probably knows that their younger friends play Call of Duty, and they… Dabble. They don’t game, they play. They have fun, if they win or lose, and just enjoy. That market plays video games with their kids after school and watches NetFlix at night when the kids slumber.

Those are the people that need to play Noire.

They could easily watch you or I play L.A. Noire and get a decent enough dose to “get” it. But to be controlling the interviews, watching a woman’s eyes water recalling an emotional memory, her lip quiver, having the ability to doubt her. That is just something that observing cannot do.
Playing does.

Heavy Rain did it, to a point. The story had plot holes that Godzillia could use as a nice roomy bedroom. The gameplay wasn’t a game, it was a collection of quick time events. This wasn’t a game, and I don’t mean to knock it, I just couldn’t get others to play. Watch, sure. Watching Heavy Rain is fun, injecting your opinion is even more fun. Playing? Meh. You called “action” by pressing a button. digital actors demonstrated.
L.A Noire doesn’t do that.

L.A Noire breathes.

I’m going to have plenty of time to play it. Some don’t. Some will dismiss it.

Some gamers aren’t going to give a care because it doesn’t have multiplayer.

Some games are made to be played by yourself, for yourself.

Some games deserve to be played by every ( mature) person.

I don’t even like that word, play. Playing insinuates a smile, and this is a graphic, adult game. Smiling shouldn’t occur. Enjoying? God yes.
Playing?…. No.

Exploring? Yes. 1940′s L.A Noire has a pulse, an aura that sends shivers down my spine when I see it. The accuracy, or at least the feeling of accuracy, is ground breaking. But you don’t explore. You investigate, subdue, and deduct. Exploring in this game would be terrible to a point. You aren’t Niko, you’re a cop. You don’t slay, drive drunk, and pillage. You aren’t you. You’re him. You make his decisions, yes, but you are not you. You are him.

On that note, I have to implore you to play this title, so I can.

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