Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Game Design Needs Better Storytelling Pt2[E]


So now we see how Bear at the Door is applied in games, but this is normally what only shapes the beginning -or on a smaller scale, the conflicts- within games. But a even more prominently used shape in gaming is the Blue Moon, the Blue Moon is the act of presenting the reader with an impossible or unheard of situation, the kind of thing that either doesn't exist or would happen only once in a blue moon, as the saying goes. 

Now this is something the industry has been using since the very beginning of gaming, and yet we still have titles that completely fail to deliver. In high fantasy you can put a player into a world and perspective that they'ed never get to experience otherwise, and within that premise writers can say something about the world and our inner selves. The fall is in the creator's imagination and even in reality; you can imagine fantastic worlds of dragons, forest spirits, aliens, zombies, and werewolves but there are so many works of fiction that already have. The viewer thinks, oh yeah it's one of those, and has been pulled from the experience. A cliche is a cliche, despite the context. The reason classical fantasy types are still viable genres for creation is the human phenomena of suspension of disbelief, when you start a story and first present the world the viewer is willing to accept it existence with the context of the story. And then depending on the execution of exposition, how you reveal story and characters to the viewer, the player will become more and more engrossed within the world. 
A rule of thumb in writing is to have one main thing the viewers have to accept; fairy-tale creatures are real, a pharmaceutical company has started the zombie apocalypse, we can relive your assassin ancestor's life with science, a plumber is transported to a strange world, or probably most notable example..

And after that is established the reader will accept anything that's within the possibilities of that first Blue Moon. As information is presented as long as it flows with a logical escalation, it feels believable. You're a wizard, so wizards and witches are real, so magic is real, so magical creatures are real, so there is another secretive side to our world, so it's maintained that muggles are hidden from this magical world, so magical gifted individuals must go to school to learn control of their gifts, so there is an entire ministry to keep order and maintain the wizarding world from muggles, the list could continue going but you get the idea. This is possibly the most basic rule when delivering exposition, and one of those ones that early writers seem to neglect more then anything. 

Another commonly used tool in Blue Moon shape stories is to distance the narrator from the story in the beginning; 'my old man heard it from his dad's friend from in the war.' The narration explains they understand the story seems far-fetched so they're asking us as viewers to simply take it at its worth as a story, and so we do. We are willing to suspend disbelief that much farther because narrator has established that they are not responsible for the story, and so there is not much we as viewers can do but take the story for its worth. Look at the 1987 film The Princess Bride, without the grandfather/grandson storytelling aspect it's a really strange awkward little film. Think of the film without that side story, it's just kind of goofy and pretty well loses it's real strength as a story. An example of this technique used for exposition in games is the Witcher 2. Don't get me wrong, the storytelling has plenty of problems, but it does some things with this mechanic that we should look at to consider how this could be better adapted for storytelling in games. But, we'll talk about that another time.

(Geralt wants you to tune in again later)

 .So we've taken a look at how a properly delivered exposition and the suspension of disbelief can help the player get immersed in fictitious worlds, lets take a quick look at the most common ancient story shape and pacing.


 Last but certainly not least is the Journey, expected to be the oldest shape of storytelling the journey story has become one of the closest and most dear to us. That's because it is about overcoming adversity and growing as an individual, rites of passage into adulthood and achievement of self-affirmation, things that we can all understand and empathize with. In some degree nearly every story is about a journey of sorts, in the exception of a few really confusing art-house films. 
In a good Journey it instantly makes the reader see from the perspective of the protagonist and engages them in the conflict. As the oldest type of story the journey shape naturally has already worked out the best flow for its story to be structured on.  

(The picture above is the Three Act Structure of  the 2010 film The King's Speech.)

The three act structure is the most used story structure in narrative mediums; the difference in games being that, as a interactive medium, designers work a way to either skip the first act and fill it in later or get through it as quickly as possible. That style is known as In medias Res, (look at the Bear at the Door story shape in part 1) and essentially explains why things like Amnesia and flashbacks are used so often with the main character in games. This makes it easier to convey the first act, the background and life before the dramatic question without having to slow the pacing of the game for exposition. (The Extra Credits fokes did an amazing job explaining what I just went over with the story structure and such, but in much better detail with examples, if you don't get it yet watch their vid.)

Okay now the Three Act Structure is typically characterized by three distinct stages separated by two main plot points that signify the turning points in the protagonists story.  Think of this structure applied to your favorite dramatic film and decide where you think the two main plot points are to divide the three main acts.  When well done the plot points punctuate the shift in the stories tension and can really drive the protagonists story, by the end of the film you really empathize with the character's plight.

Bad stories are the production of bad writing, plain and simple. Bad storytelling can be a little more difficult to pin down. I feel with all the complaints about bad storytelling the main root of the issue is when the story cannot decide where the different acts start and end or how to deliver the transition plot points. The times where you have gotten to some supposedly big important part of a game and just not cared. Look at Mafia2, the gameplay is mostly competent, but it falls flat at ever dramatic scene. (we'll give that title a breakdown later, it deserves it)

The industry is starting to figure it out but in respect to the bulk of triple-A titles, with little exception, the tricks to delivering a well structured narration within a interactive medium are still a hit and miss deal. To some it's only getting worse because of the producers-only-greenlighting-projects-that-look-like-something-that's-already-out-leading-to-stagnation-and-the-limitation-of-creativity-in-the-medium problem. But in my opinion it's simply a part of our growth, you have to fail to learn.

If you're paying attention you can already see the producers and tripple-A tycoons starting to figure out that well crafted stories can make good experiences, and people pay  for those. That and just maybe writers have found more crafty ways to sneak in good stories :)

We'll talk more later. Until next time, thanks for tuning in everyone and have a great night.

Next time we'll talk about exposition and why sometimes so many of us just don't care.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Christoph Hartmann's "Photo Realism" Interview Response [E]

Author's note - the promised episode is on its way, but current events are current so.. here.


I first heard of the interview with Christoph Hartmann ,the head of 2K games, interview about 2K and 2K's views on the future of the industry that resulted in Mr. Hartmann's comments about Photorealism from the Jimquisition on the Escapist Magazine. But before I let my artzy fartzy designer side of me start ranting I did some searching and found the full interview. Give it a read. To be fair to Mr. Hartmann I'm going to include both the question and his answer from Gameindustry.bliz with each of my responses.


The interviewer, Gamesindustry US editor, James Brightman goes through the interview asking the general future of the industry type questions and for the most part Mr. Hartmann gives pretty standard (in my opinion, non-committal) answers. About two thirds through the interview though are where alot of people starting to disagree with Mr. Hartmann.


James BrightmanOn the mobile front, a lot of traditional publishers have been having a hard time adjusting to that market. EA has done well, and Activision recently launched a mobile brand, but how does 2K look at tablets and smartphones? Is that going to be a big growth opportunity for you at some point?

Christoph Hartmann - It definitely is a platform and area that we are looking at very closely. If you look at Civilization, it was one of the best-selling games on the iPhone and iPad. We definitely are committed to that area of the business. We're definitely looking at other IPs that we have to see if they work on mobile. We're not just going to take some random IP and throw it on there. We're going to make good games, and we're also looking at doing something original one day.We don't think it will be a revolution to the business, though. No one will ever be able to replace the power of the console business - having a console with that power and the opportunities for quality games is very important. And while being able to pick it up and being convenient is a big thing, and your phone and calendar are there, playing and carrying around games is nothing new. It will be a larger part of the market, but it is not the holy grail of the market and the business. Look at the history, there is a place for everything, but I don't think anything is ever going to replace the consoles given the maturity of the market.

Response -  Alright... well sure being able to play and carry around games is nothing new, but the fact that we're not only talking Nintendo while doing it is. Nintendo has dominated the handheld market and nothing has been able to compete simply because pushing a new device to compete against Nintendo in the mobile game market that's just about been branded Nintendo Territory was inconceivable. You bought Nintendo handhelds because you were looking for the IPs that you've loved and the handhelds could constantly support that kind of game style its demographic was nostalgic of and, in relation to the rest of the industry, starved of. Secondly Nintendo has a solid reputation as completely family friendly, parents want an mobile entertainment for their children that they know will put out plenty of games they consider age appropriate. That was a business model you just could not compete with. But to introduce gaming to an already universally used and owned mobile device, finally with software capabilities that can stand up in that market, you've just revolutionized the industry.
Mobile games brought in an entirely different demographic to the industry and also brought back more of the older game styles; arcade rail shooter, side scroller, shoot'em up, and brought new ones that designers would never have considered feasible in the market to the mainstream. The Indie industry had an entirely new platform that was easy to attain and approach for design and innovation, the old school styles of play and throw back gameplay that the indie crowd had always catered to were suddenly in the attention of a larger demographic then ever before. App mobile games are one of the most affordable way for large and small studios to make creative innovative risks. If you're wondering what kind of art an app game could bring to the industry then just take some time looking at Super Brother's Sword & Sworcery. Mobile games re-energized the industry, bringing back the lessons early designers had been forced to discover to get around because of their technology's limitations.
The largest point of this argument though that I will press though is that the amount of material and capabilities put into a game do not define it's quality. Some of the greatest moments in gaming have not been built because of flashy new technology, they've been built by designers and writers who have worked together conscience of the resources at their disposal. It was about working around your limitations to make the best experience possible. To quote Stranger Then Fiction, 
"... who in their right mind in a choice between pancakes and living, chooses pancakes?"

"Harold, if you pause to think, you'd realize that that answer is inextricably contingent upon the type of life being led... and, of course, the quality of the pancakes." 
The metaphor being living as these massive budget, visually and mechanically impressive works. And the pancakes being a smaller work with a stronger design and execution. 




James Brightman - I met with David Jaffe at E3, and he said that he thinks consoles will become dinosaurs after the next generation. He says next generation is probably the last generation now that things are going digital with smart TVs and cloud gaming. It sounds like you disagree completely with him?

Christoph Hartmann - I semi-disagree with him because the way your games are going to get transmitted from one source to the gamer might change, but I'm talking about big, huge quality games. It is like how people consume food. Fast food is on the rise and that has to do with our lifestyle, but there are high quality restaurants that are not going away. When I talk console games, I'm talking about huge experiences with many hours of gaming... and you will always need a major platform for those titles.
I don't know what we will have in the future, maybe a PS 15 or something, but we will need the hardware. It's like in the software industry, the software pushes the hardware; there's a give and take and it's the same in video games. We need machines built to perform well in one area, and that is gaming. You're never going to be able to compete with it because it's about quality and it's built to do one thing best. And, by the way, the whole streaming and cloud thing is just nice words until the [internet infrastructure improves]. I don't believe in cloud gaming until a cable provider stops breaking my internet connection every morning, when everyone logs in at the same time. I don't see this being fixed for a long, long time.

Response - Well, again, quality is not defined by the tech under the hood. Technologically impressive games come out all the time and no one even bats an eye, in this era change and technological improvement is common place, the true drive is always within the new use of technology. In this media technology has opened up thousands of possibilities, but it's the use of that technology that creates engaging experiences. With physical distribution production costs so high publishers are slow to greenlight anything that's not similar to whatever has recently been the most profitable on the mainstream market. That's not a recipe for a innovation, that leads to stagnation. With the digital distribution market growing so rapidly due to a better retail situation and infinitely better convenience eventually the consoles as we know it today will becoming obsolete. Notice how the newer generation consoles are trying hard and harder to be more then just a gaming console, it's because companies just can't get customers to justify paying the prices the companies want for something that's just another game system. How exactly and to what extent digital distribution will eventually change the video game industry we just can't know. We've only begun to grasp the full implications and possibilities of an internet hook up with multiplayer, look at Dust 514 and Eve online. The shift to fully digital gaming will for better or worse completely change the landscape of gaming, and the changes in the industry thus far because of it are just the tip of the iceberg. 


James Brightman - What's your reaction to Warren Spector and his talking about how today's games are overly saturated with violence? Obviously, a lot of games in the 2K portfolio have plenty of violence in them. Do you think developers should be working to make other types of games not steeped in violence to help the maturation of the medium?

Christoph Hartmann - It's something that comes up internally a lot and in product development. What's the difference between the movies and gaming? Movies you just watch. You get emotional involvement in both, but in gaming you interact. That limits you already in what you can do, as certain emotions can't be recreated. Recreating a Mission Impossible experience in gaming is easy; recreating emotions in Brokeback Mountain is going to be tough, or at least very sensitive in this country. It's limiting. Comedy is already very hard in video games. You can't have a game simply built around comedy. It has to be part of an overall vibe. So there is only a certain area that you can use [to create games] and then you look at technology, you can kind of maybe make people look right, but it will be very hard to create very deep emotions like sadness or love, things that drive the movies.

Until games are photorealistic, it'll be very hard to open up to new genres. We can really only focus on action and shooter titles; those are suitable for consoles now. If someone comes up with a video game where it's all about you falling in love, where you have the emotions and you don't need a lot of interaction from your device, that's great but what happened to those interactive movies from the '90s? They were boring. It was like a movie that gave you three endings.

Response - The notion that only with a fully photo-realistic range of facial and body expressions that games will reach their full potential as a medium is.. well, it's ignorant to the theory, maybe even law, of all other forms of artistic medium. First in defense of non-photorealistic visuals, I'd like to site the entire animated film industry. Disney, there, how was your feels trip? This argument's over... right? Well no, simply because we feel we know something and we feel that examples we bring out prove the opposition wrong doesn't mean we've won. What we need to do is explain and understand the phenomena beneath our stand at its base. We know it's right, but we need to understand why it's right. Which for games (as a fledgling medium) might seem difficult, but lets be honest it's only difficult if we're lazy. Hundreds of years of arts have built up to this interactive medium, there is no other form of storytelling and expression that can take and adapt from more other existing forms to creating unique experiences.

To understand a game as art, you first have to view it as art. You have to notice all the elements that go into it that create a completely unique experience in relation to other mediums, and in that you just can't relate it to other medium because they don't measure off the same theory in design. Art, at its root, is expression, but here's a better definition for our purposes. Art is the expression of real world beauty through the artist's interpretation. Meaning that all works of art are simply an interpretation of reality.

Pablo Picasso as child prodigy could draw photorealism (as the eye sees it) from the age of eight. It was within his later works that made him famous where he played with proportion and his representation of reality. Art has never truly been about replicating reality in the world, it has been about how to represent the beauty of the world. It's in interpretation, not replication, where an artist can really convey emotion to the viewer. Look at these two...

Which of these two stand out stronger, which seems to stimulate more, which makes you think and feel more?

The human mind and perception is a wonderful thing, we can look at proportions and representation of a human figure that is completely unnatural within the human world and still understand it to be human. Even in giving inanimate objects human like features we can mentally connect with the work as a representation of ourselves.

Exaggerated human like features and expressions prove to still powerfully convey emotion. With this phenomena the full range of human emotions can still be powerfully conveyed within an unnaturally proportioned representation. The catch is how accurately they can represent (not replicate) the emotions and convey the emotional situation to the audience.

Course, there is a powerful downfall to this phenomena, the Uncanny Valley. Teddy Bears were an instant hit, not because they looked like bears and were named after a popular president, but because their proportions were based of human babies. The slope is where proportions or expressions are close.. but just off in the wrong way. Then it becomes just creepy or unsettling and all feeling of connection or empathy with the subjects are completely lost.

Just... look..

Which one wants to watch you from outside the window and hug your dog too tightly?

It's in understanding all these things and all the subtle aspects of human interaction, and then taking those into account throughout the entire design and production process that video games can accurately portray strong emotions through the characters. They don't have to look like snapshots of reality, they have to look like snapshots of real life interaction.

It can be something as small as characters holding hands.

And without looking at the graphics, or even getting a glimpse at the faces, that connection between the characters are conveyed.

We can see those emotions and we understand them as a representation of our own feelings, we can empathize. We could create a Brokeback Mountain for gaming, but the reason we probably wont right now is more because of the political environment then our technology. When there are things like Chick-fil-A going on, how many producers would greenlight something like that? For this medium to transcend purely entertainment and to become an art we first have to have an industry that sees itself as creating art. It doesn't have to mean all art-house kind of games but more that are made by designers that see themselves as artist, in their own sense, within a creative medium. If we don't think we can achieve a status of art yet, then we wont be looking for a means to.

In Hartmann's defense, as far as he's concerned, you can't convey a true range of emotions yet. In a market where shooters are the one reliable project to return a profit, how often does a designer really get a chance to explore a range of emotions? The largest demographic of the market want first person, and in first person as you are looking through the eyes of the character you might expect -to a degree- the world to look photo-realistic, as the eye sees it. The main demographic is white hetrosexual males ages from high school to college, the demographics are growing to include more then that sure, but still at this time what the industry produces is still generally governed by the most marketable items to that demographic. Violence & fighting, guns, sexual pandering, you get the picture. Then how do designers break this mold?

Well, actually they do it by not breaking it, they stretch it. They use what is popular to create art and expression in the game experiences they mold. Like basically, all other artists... Sure we haven't figured it out entirely, but no medium has, and we are learning. Take a look at the outcome thus far.  


In our own manner we have created art, we've conveyed true emotions and characters that the player connect and feel empathy for. And we've been doing it for a long time, we can't look at other mediums for comparison; because we have plenty of amazing moments in gaming history that convey powerful experiences to the player, those moments are what we have to learn from to better our medium and the emotional experiences we convey to the player. And that's just about all I can say on that. Until next time, thanks for tuning in everyone. If anyone has any comments they'd like to add to the discussion, feel free.


Sunday, August 5, 2012

Game Design Needs Better Storytelling Pt1[E]

Author's note - So while writing a small essay for school I got on the topic of storytelling and while not wanting to vary too far from that paper's thesis I'd like to say more on the topic, so that is what this is going to be. We're going to discuss storytelling in games, popular narration mechanics in other creative media and how they can be adapted to an interactive media. Understanding these will give us a better perspective on how story can be delivered within video games. Now not long ago Bob Chipman -no this blog will not be entirely responses or offshoots of what one internet personality says, Bob just brings up good topics, get off my back- Mr. Chipman as the Game Overthinker put out an episode on the rather popular topic of developing video games into competent film. And because the video was pretty good and I'll be bringing up some of what is mentioned later in this discussion, here, give his blog a quick look and watch it.


 In the Game Overthinker's video he addresses how for the most part games historically have been lackluster in the storytelling department, and he's unarguably right. Of course there have been a number of shinning gems throughout the years, and even within the media's oldest routes we've found ways through gameplay to translate real and powerful experiences, as an example I'm going to site the 1980's Atari arcade Missile Command. And if you'd like an explanation take a few minutes and hear Extra Creditz's argument on the topic of Narrative Mechanics. Of course this is may kind of small stuff to some of you guys, "Games can tell a story about an experience by having you act out that experience?"

But of course there's more to it than just that, if it was just that the addition of film level graphics and cinematography along with some amazingly detailed mechanics using dialog (morality/story altering) would have catapulted the video game medium into its own Oscar worthy level of appreciation. And we all know it's not achieved that yet, because every year games come out and the major criticism -second to technical flaws- are a poorly designed and executed plot or character experience within the game. The story is boring, the characters are one dimensional, gameplay does not reflect the story or character's experience, the only connection to an excuse of a story are poorly made cutscenes... We've basically heard them all, and the problem is we keep hearing them. Remember Dead Island and that tear jerker tease trailer they had, along with those terrible characters and plot they delivered? Actually the game was just pretty awful in general, I felt no shame in trading that back in for store credit at Gamestop, wish I had bought it pre-owned in the first place if at all actually. So something is broken and it should be fixed, as much as some people might believe it's doing away with cutscenes it's not. Look at Bioshock. That game is held up as a shinning example of how to ingrain story and plot into gameplay, and it does it through cutscenes.  

Video games are a medium all to themselves, the take lessons and borrow theory from others like literature and film, but are governed by completely different rules. most important, and noticeable, is that the player has direct influence on the speed of the games/story progression through gameplay. The bulk of their experience is delivered from what their avatar is able to or, in some cases more significantly, not able to do. The gameplay has to reflect the story because that is the part of the characters experience you, as the player, are directly a part of. And because gameplay is what players are truly involved and interested in game designers have gone with themes and a hand full of story forms that can be reflected through gameplay right off the bat. 

These kind of story forms that just jump right into the action are reminiscent of the pulp fiction of the 1890 - 1950's. "Pulp" referring to the cheap composite wood pulp paper that the magazines were printed on. These magazines were so cheap to produce and had so many different kinds of action packed high fantasy short stories they became thee cheap american entertainment and escapism (besides sports) during the depression era. This basically were (along with comics) the origin of geek culture as we know it, possibly even the origin of the 'Jock vs Geek' click divide that persisted so long throughout our popular culture. Within this largely experimental and new kind of literature some of the greatest writers of that generation were found, names that have spawned works that, through varying forms of media; have lasted generations, become literary classics, and even inspired classics outside of their own medium. Pulp's high fantasy, imaginative visual style was also a clear direct inspiration for early game design, spanning from the arcades and early consoles when pixels were still discovering aesthetic tricks to... well now.


I digress, game designers use a many of the same narrative mechanics used in pulp fiction to get the characters into the action as soon as possible to get the player into the game. I'm going to comment on concepts and material for these mechanics from a great book on creative writing by Jerome Stern titled Making Shapely Fiction

     This is literally one of the best practical resources for sharpening storytelling technique and execution I have seen to date.  Now all these concepts are within Mr. Stern's book, and I'm just going to summarize a few of the shapes so if his work interests you then seriously, look into it. This book is more then worth getting your hands on if you're getting into a storytelling medium. 


All stories, despite length or content, can be broken down to simple narrative concepts. The distinct way that the creator decided to present their material and the implications on the story that result from that. For an example the first kind of story we are going to talk about is the Bear at the Door, this type is when the character and reader are instantly thrown into the action. Something is wrong and the a pressing issue demands the character's attention right away and in most cases is completely unavoidable. It can be anything from depression, or standing in the trenches with your rifle waiting to hear the whistle and climb over into no-mans land. Notice these kinds of situations demand immediate choices from the characters; the kind of split minute decisions that show the character's true believes and motives, how they react under pressure, the kind of things that are really under the hood.  The way the character handles the struggle dictates our immediate impression of the character. The same goes for video games; when after an opening firefight there's a cut-scene and we watch the protagonist goes to kill an enemy, but we see him stop and hold back, we know that even in the face of danger the character holds onto his values. 
The true meat of this story shape is the inner conflicts that arise in the face of the bear, it's the smaller more human problems that let us relate to the character. He can't bring himself  to become an executioner because despite all his training and the battle going on around him he's still the young man that grew up in that quiet suburban home. Our solider might have gotten into fights at school, but that wasn't anything close to this. Even though his family has always held up their nation's military and the concept of duty with such a high respect life was something completely different then duty or honor, it was sacred. Sacred in the way that never needed to be explained, and yet here he is. Fighting ultimately because more powerful uniforms have told him to, killing people considered enemies because they ultimately felt they needed to stop these soldiers. He realizes he doesn't really want to kill these people, but still has driven to because of his basic self preservation; they seem unyielding in their aggression and he doesn't even know who they are. So there is a pause when he raises his gun. Does he pull the trigger?     
The Bear at the Door is even more so true within gameplay and controls. Let's backtrack a bit, Atari's Missile Command -which is probably the best example of a Bear at the Door shape narration in game- from the start of the game you're thrown into the place of the only one able to defend the surrounding towns from the nuclear onslaught. Your decisions must be done in real time and instantly affect gameplay, every move you make effect the outcome of your small digital world. You are instantly interwoven into the full experience, your actions are the story. You feel the responsibility and guilt in the decisions and those emotions become yours.

Next time, Blue Moon and the Journey shape in games and what we could do to do them better.

Read onto Part 2

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

OUYA, the Argosy of the game industry? [E]


I'd like to mention OUYA, because it's awesome, and you have a little under a week left to donate to such an awesome cause. For those of you that don't care to follow the link, or would rather not read the description, or watch the video; Ouya is essentially the next Steam only in console form. A product that for $99 promises free-to-play titles, fully digital distribution, and endless possibilities. Not to mention they fully encourage their customers to mod and hack the crap out of their system.
I'm just going to mention my first, pre-release thoughts, you can't properly review something unless it's been out for a while. So at some point in the future I'll do that, but this is pretty big news and still respectively current, so it deserves mention.

The Ouya is built on Android, so essentially anyone that has the know how and the productivity can make anything they want for it. No transactions necessary, straight from your hard work to the customers to enjoy.

Now if new or indie developers are wondering how a game is suppose to make money on a free to play market system then no worries. First it promises that at least a demo will be free; in game content, extra features, as well as micro-transactions are expected to be a part of how this system works. With so much of the production and marketing steps cut away games on this system will (probably) mostly be judged by their merits alone, and creating a better longer last experience for gamers will be the first priority, because that should earn the payoff in this system.
I assume alot of people are envisioning this as the next Steam or even the Godsend to save console gaming, but I'm thinking it'll end up more like the Tumbler version of game systems. A little cluttered and for the most part a large niche group who are devoted users. Though overall a survival of the fittest outcome, there will be a crap ton of bad games and things that bring up entirely new problems for the media, but in the end the cream will rise to the top and we will have some amazingly ingenious and entertaining creations that we would otherwise be without or never hear of. Like Steam I think that the competitors will come up with their own slightly different versions hoping to edge their way into this market, but unless they outright change their business practices (Microsoft probably won't) they will end up being left behind.  

Overall I'm very optimistic, utilizing science and technology for the bettering of the state of the medium, there's not much of a downside to this really. The first thing that comes to mind is that this could be the Agrosy magazine of video gameing; the short pulp fiction magazine that through the depression not only started a business format that brought out some of the most well known names in fiction, but maintained sales through the worst economic time in US history. Yes there was a decline in pulp magazine sales during the WWII paper shortages, but with digital distribution and an open source operating system I don't think the Ouya has anything truly stopping it. As long as these caped crusaders keep in control of the Ouya and run it the way they are preaching they will, this is going to be something very good. If it does well or not, this is going to be a part of gamer industry history. As far as I'm concerned as a gamer it's kind of like this,

But mostly that's influenced by my views as a commentator on the industry, as a designer, and well as a customer. I feel like this will actually be a part of the solution to the ridiculous status of current triple-A title reality and the quality of those games; not to mention the Gamestop "used-game-racket" "problem".   


Onto the second order of business, the entire reason I started this blog is because I have aspirations. I have views and opinions that -I believe- are unique enough ever so often that they should be mentioned, at least put somewhere so that at least one more voice is in the conversation. Hopefully someone will  think about something in a way they didn't before. That being said my first episode is going to be my direct response to a video by Bob Chipman, the Game Overthinker,  I know that's very lame because it's indirectly sort of sapping of something that's already popular by someone that's worked and earned their reputation. I'm not going to just put my response in the comments because that's even lamer, I'm no Heckler, If I have something negative to say about someones work I' want to do it in a manner where I can receive the same scrutiny that they're subjected to. 

To be completely honest though this the best way I could start out the ComplexToy show. Mostly because this specific episode was the first time I -sitting at home talking to myself- raised my hand and said, 'but wait, what about..?' That moment was one of the first times I really connected things I have read and my own views and opinions into something that has otherwise to my knowledge not been fully represented within the popular game media. And I was inspired to look deeper into that specific topic as a whole and start building a broad thesis. 
Now the topic is pretty dense, and this is my first time doing this, so I'm putting as much effort and time into this to get it right for you guys. I want to be as clear and concise to my thesis as possible while still covering a lot of angles on a topic that might as well have a few books souly written exploring it's theory. Probably in a few weeks from now I'll put up a post containing the finished product. Your hint is it's the response to an answer.  Hope I didn't make it to obvious. Thanks for reading everyone, hope you'll stop by later for more discussion on games and the like.   

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Introduction Ladies and Gentlemen


ComplexToy is a blog about Video Games, it is a combination of responses and arguments on the design and production of games within the triple-A and the indie industry.

I'm not going to pretend to be the next anyone big, I'm simply going to put out the views I have as a designer that haven't yet (to my knowledge) been represented within the industry's popular media. I'm not going to promise anything weekly or anywhere near that active simply because I have larger responsibilities and I'm not going to put up anything other then the best I can intellectually produce for this channel and blog. This is as much a space for me to voice my thoughts as it is for me to collect them and actively take steps to be more active within an industry and community that means so much much to me, and that I have ignorantly thought I knew so much about. This is a project to force myself to actively research and participate in the industry to better prepare myself for a career of sorts someday.


Now besides each post having a title I'm going to put an indicator in the post's title to give you a better idea how I'm treating the topic, the length I'm going into and just a little of what to expect from the post.

You're going to see three kinds of posts.

Development- which will include personal commentary and advice on the process and development on game creation/ business and industry practice, tutorials and reviews of game creation tools (game making programs/ image editing programs/ music makers/ educational materials/ ect.),

Critique- Either a game or game culture thing that I look at and feel like commenting on. Let's plays, reviews, and the like.

Article- Either a link to a published article or a commentary on a topic of games as design, medium, art, storytelling, or culture that warranted a substantial response.