Friday, January 28, 2011

Sure it looks good, but is it art..?

The game world might be closely related to the world of any other artistic medium. This may draw stares of shock and disbelief, but games have evolved into a true art form. Looking back at the history of where computer games and video games came from, a simple electronic version of table tennis. A few dots connected in a way that represented and resembled a real world game. By today's standards it may be considered primitive. But then again, by today's photography and animation standards the ancient cave paintings were considered the same.

Perhaps the elegance and beauty that is within a game is not solely in the graphical representation of an alternate or replicated world. Perhaps it is found in the simplicity of its story. Don't get me wrong, I love the amazing graphical power that the game engines of today are able to process. The engineering that brings life to vectors and nodes wrapped in meshes and textures. From the logical and mathematical sense what is able to be created is in a word: Awesome. (Who knew math was so much fun. My Algebra teacher would've loved to hear me say that) But behind the visual artistry, beyond the mathematical logic, often is found the core of any game: its design and story.

I imagine everyone has experienced a movie where it ends and you're left feeling like you've just lost 90 - 120 minutes of your life that you'll never get back. (Argue if you may, but Napoleon Dynamite comes to mind.) Games that are weak in design and plot can feel a lot like that. They may be visually and artistically masterful, but the connection and immersion in the game world is not as deep. Conversely, you may come across games that lack the pixel pushing power of the latest AAA game, but have a strong design and story that makes the game enjoyable and memorable. How many games can you think of that match that description?

That's one thing that Game Crossing Studios is hoping to properly mesh together. The exterior beauty joined with the interior foundation and engaging game play that will entertain everyone that plays. And if we can't have both, we hope for the latter. We would much rather have solid and enjoyable game play that a pretty image that is a pain to watch and play.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Prescription: More Game Time

As you can tell from my profile I'm new to the development side of games and technology, however the other side of the coin is that I am a tech geek. Especially as it pertains to games and the dynamic influence they can have. I grew up as the console era of games was being resurrected from the influx of gaming ideas flooded the market to the point of saturation of games without a quality control system. Each game being either too closely related to a predecessor or just too stale. The industry was flat-lining until that fat little plumber we've all probably played in one incarnation or another was released in a home console version. A quality assurance team was assembled to set standards. And others saw how it could be done and competition was developed in time that now is a multi-billion dollar industry.

First starting into this industry I was really surprised at the budgets set forth to produce a triple A game. I remember trying to estimate a fictitious budget for an imaginary game as an assignment in college. We estimated the salaries, the equipment and and licensing. We tried to account for marketing, production, the dreaded crunch time (mandatory over-time), and everything else that we could imagine. We thought that we were asking the world when we submitted our estimated budget of 4 million dollars for a 3 year production. The response was that there was no way we could do it on that little, it would be more realistic if it were 10 million. That's just to give an example of what the video game industry has become. It's huge.

And why not? Look at all that it can do. Simulations train surgeons and help them hone some of the skills needed to perform laparoscopic surgeries. They can also be used to train military personnel, law enforcement, and just about every other profession that exists. While yes, a simulation is a bit more targeted at the user experiencing and learning from a situation or exercise, but it removes the user from a dangerous real physical world and places them in a simulated virtual world where if a mistake is made the cost is likely to be much more reduced.
In the game end of the spectrum, the games that are produced today can offer the same sort of experience. I may never visit south of the equator, but I can in a game or simulation. I can escape the real world for a time and be someone else, or experience something outside what I am able to do. To that end, games and simulations can provide a real purpose and relief to people that use them.

I wouldn't pretend to know a lot about economics, politics or really much of anything outside personal experience and observations, but I would confidently say that the economic, political and overall general pressures of the world are taxing to a person. Homes are in foreclosure, unemployment is at a high rate, and people worry about the future. That's real. Those are issues that can't be altogether ignored and hope it goes away. What I would submit for consideration is finding a sense of balance so that your mind can relax.

Anyone that has involved themselves with weight training understands that it is as important to rest the muscles after lifting as it is to perform the actual lift. I've noticed and seen that as things get difficult, stress sets in and takes its toll on a persons mental and physical health. Sleep is lost, thereby reducing the actual time of rest between theoretical "lifts". It becomes the mentality that we need to push harder to get through the tough times as quickly as possible. Sometimes its not the speed at which we attack an obstacle, but the lessons that we can gain from it.
I'll try to illustrate using the scenario of an individual that has lost their job. I've heard it said that in the first week or two the person will actively look for work close to 40 hours each week. It has effectively become their new job. In the next couple weeks as the challenge of finding employment in this economy, the number of hours spent in hunting drops to an estimated 20 hours a week. By the 5th and 6th week that number drops even further, until the person is maybe browsing the Internet want ads for a total of an hour each week.
The point of that is not only that it can be discouraging and depressing in such a job market, but that if a person doesn't find a means of disconnecting, letting their batteries recharge if you will, that the actual effectiveness of that person can be diminished over time.

There are many ways that a person may be rejuvenated. Escaping into a good book, going for a jog, walking the dog, and even playing video games can be effective at relaxing a person. But the point is that it needs to be something that lets the person unplug.

I'm excited to learn and get into the game industry. I hope to be able to provide some fun and relaxing experiences for as many people as I can. The first project that I'm working on is a mystery solving, non-traditional RPG. You don't actually gain any levels (yeah! No level grinding), and you don't really have much need to battle, so its pretty young audience friendly. But it will tentatively be available for PC distribution mid March. You can check us out on Facebook, search for Game Crossing Studios to see some of our production pics and hear about how its all coming together.