Sunday, February 25, 2007


The word on the street is 'customiseable avatars are what would sell more copies". I can believe that this is at least partly true. People love to customise stuff. It's not as cool as it used to be, now that every single game ever has exactly the same long list of options to tweak your avatar, but I guess people still like it.

Kudos let you pick from about 20 different avatars, you just picked one you liked and that was it.
Rock Star will go very slightly further. You can pick your avatar, and then choose a variant, which is just a fancy way of organising picking from a large group of avatars.
Heres the variants for one of them:

At the end of the day, it's a 2D game with no animation, so to some extent, who really cares? but I suppose people like to pick someone they identify with in games like this.
If I was doing a 3D game, I'd have way more scope to customise stuff, plus I could animate the guy, but unless I'm creating 3D world for you to explore, I'm not sur it's really worth it. I'm hoping that some gameplay depth and variety will offset a lack of whizz-bang animation, although I would still like to (somehow) have some animated characters on the gig screen. The trouble is, 2D animations require a lot of memory.
hmmmm.... maybe using poser, and a lot of practice I could do something?

Friday, February 23, 2007

"Your call is (NOT) important to us"

My PC hasn't showed up today, so I call them and get put in a queue:
"Your call *is* important to us... that's why we haven't employed enough staff to answer it"
Bastards. They don't deliver on time.
Just a bit of food for the googleness.

They claim it will show up tomorrow. I know that's bullshit.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

How Much Content Is Enough?

Every now and then hardcore gamers rant about games being 'too short'. I can't think of many games I've played where I felt that way. I've only ever finished 3 games anyway, I get bored easily.
This means I'm not very good at judging how much content to put into a game.

Part of me approaches it as "this game will cost people $20, that's maybe 2 evenings very cheap entertainment. Say you play the game for 3 hours a night, if there is 6 hours gameplay before your sick of it, that's pretty good going."
But the attitude of most gamers seems to be
"I want a game that's going to keep me playing at least a few months. I bought an FPS once for $40 and I played it for two years!"
With multiplayer games, you are on to a winner, because the content doesn't matter as much as setting up an interesting arena for competition. Nobody ever says chess doesn't have enough content.
Possibly the WORST game for people expecting tons of content is a single player RPG, which (in a way) is what I'm making, albeit a real-world one.
I fear being criticised for not putting in enough stuff. I also fear putting in everything, but rushing it and doing it badly. I also fear spending too long making a game that may not even sell.

If I was doing Kudos 2, it would be much easier. I already know what works. I could improve the GUi and the general artwork, and then add buckets of new content. Job done.

Anyway, that's my current dilemma. Is the game content complete yet? I'm pretty sure it isn't, but I'm not sure how I will ever know that it is.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Casual MMOs

I just rejoined eve-online, for a few months, just to see how it is, and have some fun, but I know it's not really my ideal MMO. No doubt I'll try pirates of the burning sea and Star Trek Online too (maybe).
But none of these games are what I want in an MMO.
Eve is a perfect example of how insular, complex and geeky a modern MMO game can be.
The games complexity is insane, you need to know so much stuff to play on a level with most of the long term players, that I honestly think you could do an astrophysics degree in less time. Like all MMOs, it has its own language and terminology that isn't explained to people in a friendly way.

I normally would avoid MMos entirely, but the reason I want to get into one is I enjoy playing a game that has a lasting effect. How ever many times I score highly in BF2,it doesn't actually make a any lasting difference, and nobody else is affected by what I do. I want a game where I can build something, maybe a small castle, or even just run my own bar somewhere, ideally as a ferengi, with an idiot brother and a regular mute customer.
I don't care what 'level' my character is. Any retard can get to level 60 in WOW, there is no skill involved. I could just paypal someone some cash and be level 60 right now. I can buy a battleship in eve with a click of a mouse button. who cares?

REAL achievement in an MMO is building something that money and time cannot get you, like making *your* ferengi bar really popular with other players, or making it unique or famous in some way.
Secondlife has the idea partly right, because everyone creates their own clothes, their own place to live. The trouble is, there is no policing of content at all, and the whole thing is a mess.
Bah. I'm rambling, but I firmly believe that current MMO games are deeply flawed and will only ever attract the hardcore gamers who want a screenfull of icons, and lots of stats.
Someone, eventually will make an ultra casual MMO that *anyone* can play and enjoy, without all the griefing and grinding crap. Then you will see an MMo with 40 or 50 million players.
Someone lend me some cash. I'll do it :D.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Inspiration and Motivation

Imagine you are a band recording their first album. You needed to be inspired when you wrote those songs, back when you were starting out. Some days you are motivated, some days you aren't.

Do you need to be motivated to make a good album?
Do you need to be inspired?
Surely its just motivation? because the inspiration is already locked into the songs?
Or is it 75% motivation, 25% inspiration?
what % is the quality of the studio got to do with it?
Should I track studio experience?
Should I have nervous personalities that need more takes?
Do I care about the quality of the producer? the engineer?
Would a lazy musician not show up / be late in the studio?

My own experience of big expensive studios is fairly limited. I recorded at some posh studio in Fulham, London once. It was a huge place, lots of gold records on the walls, a big bar with pool tables etc. I love the way studios charge £200 an hour, and then include pool tables and arcade machines to make you waste time. (I was a hired gun, so it didn't bother me :))
My two overwhelming memories of the studio were:

The producer waving a big wad of cash at me from the control room to encourage me to play a faster guitar solo.
Having an evening meal in the studio, which was the only time I have ever eaten brussel sprouts and thought they tasted really nice.

Rock n Roll baby!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Musical Cat


Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Supreme Computer

When I saw today's blues news item : Supreme Commander Demo out tomorrow, I thought *now* is the time to finally order the new PC. Then the demo comes out, and I am told it's not until 23rd feb that my PC arrives.
This is most vexing.
I ordered a 2.4 gig dual core 4MB cache thing with 2gig RAM and a GeForce 8800 GTS video card.
Should be a big step up from my single core chip and 6800 card I have now. I just hope that Poser 6 takes advantage of dual core, and maybe even Visual Studio 2005 too?

In game-development related news, I'm still hacking away at the mountain of features in the Rock Star Game. I put in song an gig boredom today, so you can't just stay in a rut, and also added an element of tiredness for musicians, plus fiddled with some cosmetic stuff.
I recently spent a whole day (gasp) on doing better laser, smoke and flames effects for the stage stuff. All good fun. I finally have a real standalone particle editor, which makes this stuff much easier. One day I must find an excuse to do a shootemup game so I can write som hardcore particle effects stuff. I love all that.

After about 2 weeks, I'm a happy BMT Micro customer, as opposed to plimus, although nobody seems to order the half-price planetary defence. I must look into that.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Great Entertainment in History

Shakespeare wrote some good stuff apparently. He did it on his own.
J.K.Rowling wrote the Harry potter books on her own. They are very very popular.
War and Peace is huge, and very good, and was written by one guy.
Jane Austen wrote pride and Prejudice on her own.
Beethoven came up with some pretty cool stuff. he did it alone. A long time later, people still think his stuff is pretty cool.

Generally, people think that you can't make a good video game on your own. They think you need at least 100 people, and 10 million dollars. If you can get patrick stewart to do the voices, and licence spongebob squarepants, it's a sure hit.

I'm pretty convinced none of the people in the above list ever thought they needed any of that crap.
The general consensus is that great pieces of entertainment in written or orchestral form *must* be the work on a single individual, or (at most) 2 people of similar skills or tastes. The thought of 20 people collaborating on a decent bit of drama, or a symphony, is just laughable.

It's true that some games have a single designer, and many more people just doing art / code, but surely all of the contribute towards the final design, be it visual, auditory or in terms of interaction. Every single icon in World Of Warcraft contributes to the effect that game has on the player, every texture, every sound, every nuance of game mechanic. It's 100% impossible for the creative mind of one person to filter perfectly through the eyes and hands of so many people to create a consistent vision.

Big Movies, Plays, TV shows and most video games are an imperfect form of creative expression. They are a mish-mash of different ideas, seen through different eyes, stapled together and sold as a consistent vision.
Have you seen those composite CGI images people make of what people consider (when answering surveys) to be the 'perfect woman' or man? It's always something that looks quite weird, and (ironically) ugly. Consensus does not equate to inspiration or high quality, consensus equates to compromise and mediocrity.
Fine art is made by individuals.

That's my thought for the day, as a lone-wolf game developer :D.
Tell me I am wrong.

Thursday, February 01, 2007


I've got a bit of a design dilemma in the Rock Star Game.
I've trundled along with two values for a while now in the game, one of which is 'Fame' and another 'Hype'.
FAME is basically your score, rated from 0 to 100, where 100 is mega famous, and basically you have won at this point.
HYPE is some measure of your grass roots support, and dictates how many people will show up at your gigs, and to some extent how well your albums will sell. Basically, fame is the upper limit on your current success, and the level of hype determines how you do within that range.
But I'm not convinced.
The problem is, Hype generates more hype, and fame generates more fame (in the real world). Some people are famous for being famous. It's a positive feedback loop, which is an absolute no-no for a balanced game.

So I'm struggling with what to do.

I like the idea of a separate 'fame' score, because that's like a distinct long-term measure of success, based on major things like good albums and good live shows, whereas hype is a more flittering thing depending on how many radio interviews you did this month, or if you gave out enough leaflets.

The last thing I want is for it to not make sense to the player. Maybe hype should be called 'grassroots support' or 'publicity'? bands can have a lot of publicity but be unpopular right?


maybe Fame is really Popularity, and Hype is really Publicity..... I like that....