Friday, February 18, 2011

2D or Not 2D... the jury is still out.

   Being an avid fan of almost all things geek, I must admit I was impressed by the effects of Avatar and some other 3D movies of late. And who can resist the urge to put on the demo glasses at Costco to check out the new 3D TVs? So while the inner geek loves the idea of being able to be immersed in the world of 3D, the non-geek side of me wonders about the time span between the cardboard glasses with blue and red lenses and the technology used today. More specifically, what happened? Did it have a run like bell-bottom pants and 80's music where one day its cool, the next not so much, and then back again to a nostalgic awe, though now suped up with new design, tech-beats, and other such pizazz?

   Or maybe it went the way of not so awesome ideas in the way described by Wayde Robson in an online article from June 2010. It details that the affects of 3D and Virtual Reality in both games and movies can teach the nerves that work between the eyes and brain "learn bad habits" that can have negative results. Wayde interviewed Mark Pesce, who worked on Sega's Virtual Reality headset (pictured below). When it went to third-party testing at  the Stanford Research Institute (SRI) at Palo Alto California, the SRI responded with "You cannot give this to kids!"

(Sega VR headset)

   The same refrain is echoed in recent weeks with the announcement and up-coming release of the Nintendo 3DS. As found on the Wall Street Journal online, Nintendo and many of the other 3D offering companies (TVs and games alike) are issuing warnings about young viewers. This may be part of a means of preventing legal concerns that could come from potential irritation or damage as a result of using the product. Or as it is suggested in both the articles sited, it is due to the extensive development of the eyes in younger children.

(Nintendo 3DS)
   I think that regardless of whether a 3D technology is embraced as a whole or not is somewhat taboo at this point. But to be certain, there are some people that can't watch a 3D movie in theaters without coming out with a headache. So even if it is only a percentage of the population that is unable to partake of the newest technology wave, are we really sure it is a wave that we want to ride? As it stands for this little developer, I don't plan on jumping on the 3D band wagon anytime too soon with my developments. Not just due to the limitations I have regarding the technology resources, but because I have some reservations about whether the damage (or even potential damage) could be lasting. I suppose there is something to be said about being on the cutting edge. But I've found that there is a lot more I can say about learning from the mistakes of others and studying the technology by staying a step or two back from that edge.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Game Crossing Studios' First Game

   When people find out that I'm going the Independent Gamer route I've had a few questions about what I'm working on and what sorts of games that I want to make. The first part of that is easier because it is in the forefront of my mind and pretty well occupies that space when I think about development. But in short answer to the second part I'd say that the sort of games that I want to make is the sort of games that are fun and easy to settle into and play. Games that don't require a huge manual to explain what does what and how.

   For the time being though, I thought I might leak out some of what the current project is about. The working title is Blackthorne Mystery, and it follows the player as they find themselves in a serial killer mystery. Our bad guy selects their victim, stalks them, and kills them on the same day each year. Much of the suspicions in the game town is directed toward the Blackthorne family, who had been the founders of the town. As the recent occupant of the family estate, you have now to solve the puzzles surrounding the abduction and murder of nine individuals. Before its too late for the tenth victim.

   Some townsfolk will prove helpful while others may try to extort and mislead you. The goal of the game is to decipher the clues and lead the authorities to the killer. The game play is pretty basic, top down view with arrow keys for movement, space or enter for selection or interaction and the 'Esc' key to interact with the menu system. Pretty basic, by design.

   We'd love to send out a FREE demo game to anyone interested. The demo is scheduled to be available next Friday (February 18, 2011). All you need to do to get a link to the demo is find us on Facebook and click our Like button. Then next Friday, all those in the company's Like page will get a message with a link to download the demo game.

   Comments are always appreciated and will be answered as quickly as they can.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

You Can't Buy Me Love, But Can I Trade For It...?

   For anyone that has watched the computer game industry and/or been interested in "just how much does it make", the simple answer is games can make a lot. But that doesn't mean it all comes easy or that just because a game has a licensed character like a certain fat plumber that the revenue will rain down like crazy. Well... maybe if it's a fat plumber that everyone really likes. But for the most part it seems that where the complex-math-that-makes-the-game-work ends, the real world mathematical application begins in trying to account for whether it is a best seller or even if the publisher will break even.

   One area of concern in recent past is the affects of "previously played" titles and how it impacts the industry. I can see the allure, heck, I may even be contributing to the popularity of it. Who doesn't want to get a hold of a great game at an even better price? And it's not as though retail stores can stock all the titles that are available for an indefinite amount of time. The brick-and-mortar stores have rents to pay, just like the rest of us. If a game isn't selling on the shelf they need to move it on and put something there that will sell. So from what I've seen and understood it could be summed up in two viewpoints.

Viewpoint #1 (The Publisher):
   The publisher/developer want it to sell when it is new. Even if it is less than the $50 - $60 price tag initially dropped on all the hot games. Only by selling it new to the consumer does the publisher actually make any money. This viewpoint wants players/consumers to fully appreciate the time and effort put into the making of the game. And of course, being in business means being in business to make money... simple concept, eh? So from that point of view, I can see why publishers are not a fan of the "previously played" selection that can be found at increasing locations. And why are those locations increasing...?

Viewpoint #2 (The Player)
   Used games are becoming popular because if you can play the same game but pay less... yeah, do I really need to finish that thought? Things are tight. Budgets are stretched. And still faithful game players devote hard earned money to escape for even a bit and play. Do they love the games they play? Yes. But do they feel that they can afford to pay the $50 retail sticker? Seriously, I'd rather pay $20 and put the other $30 to attending to the rest of life. I don't think that anyone honestly stresses for hours at length over buying a game new or used based on is it going to make or break a sales figure. Even when it isn't the publisher that is being paid, the sale of a used game does support the local employment of the GameStop staff or whoever your local video game reseller is.

   So the summary that I would have to come to at this juncture in my life is that if the game is really made to entertain the player, and the average player is content buying off the used rack over new at the local GameStop, what message is being heard at the developer/publisher level? I know the message I'm hearing as a young and budding indie developer is that it may be time for more adaptation and innovation on the part of developers. Find a way to get the game out there without it requiring a huge price line. If that's not an option, what more could be offered, if anything, to increase the value of buying new.

   The bottom line is really the history of the industry. SEGA was made as SErvice GAmes, games to relieve some of the stress associated with combat and military training. PONG came about as a version to relax MIT students. Games are for the players. Analogous to that is a phrase I learned to describe the best way to write code: K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid) Make games for players, if players can't afford to buy your games, adjust your methods to focus on the simple end goal of For the Gamers.