Game of the Week: Super Crate Box

Well, since we’ve seen a game like Kingdom Rush today, I figured I’d give us all a nice little hit of nostalgia and 8-bit gameplay fun. Super Crate Box is a brand new indie game from Vlambeer which will be showcased at this year’s PAX East in Boston. Now here’s a company who saw the complexity of their controls, reworked them and seem to have made a game that is far easier and more accessible given new mechanics. Here’s the point:

Alright, so in Super Crate Box, you play as a super amazing crate that must fend off enemy hoards that want to eat your tasty box contents. Each crate you acquire during the game will give you access to new guns and ammo that will help you mutilate the hoards of 8-bit enemies along the way. Now, I obviously have gotten my hands on the BETA version of the game. The newly refined iOS tablet/phone versions look like they control MUCH simpler than the BETA version. So, sadly, I have to discuss functionality of this version and compare it to the upgrade – so hold in there with me.

Super Crate Box is visually stunning, in a sort of, “Oh look at how vintage I am!”, sort of way. It gave a visual feel akin to the many times I played through Donkey Kong and Super Mario Bros. The platform shooter is amazing visual wise. The cute little crate wielding weapons of doom is pretty amusing and the aliens have just enough AI to make the game tense and appealing. Now, as far as the gameplay is concerned this is where it gets tedious and I’m sorry, but we’re going to have to rip bandaids off the wounds now.

Super Crate Box is probably far MORE accessible via a tablet or phone device, but the Mac and PC versions require an incredible amount of dexterity and precision to accomplish. This is because the key settings are all across the keyboard. There are a limited number of controls: Z for jump, X for shoot, and the Arrow Keys for movement. To actually make my crate-boy jump took some difficult finger movements to accomplish. Perhaps that’s just me, but the controls felt clunky and spaced out too much to make an accessible match fully possible. I would love to try the game out on iOS, because I think the game is a wonderful vintage installment.

Here’s a video of what the iOS tablet version looks like [ I want! ]:

If I could click the screen that would have helped too. If I could just touch a space on the play field and my crate-boy would jump to a platform and grab a box, etc. that would provide so much more fluid accessibility to the game. A couple of other things about the game that I found sort of difficult in my PC version: The options menu provides you a control scheme A or B, but it doesn’t tell you what the control scheme switch is – what buttons etc. This is frustrating, because I wish there was a “Mouse Only” control on here so that all actions could be initiated by a single touch. It would make the game behave smoother, perhaps that’s why they drafted the game for iOS, so that they could provide a smoother gameplay experience.

Vlambeer is a wonderful new company and I wish them the best of success, and great eye noticing the accessibility concerns from your PC draft. I think the change to iOS medium will give the game a more “NES” style of gameplay that you can hold in your hand. I’m hoping that this game becomes a cult hit. It’s already been an underground sensation since 2010, but now with all the kinks out and a more accessible platform maybe they’ll get even more people playing this wonderful game.

I brought this game to attention today, because I thought it was important for people to see how game companies can learn from initial launches of games and see where the accessibility lacks. This, in turn, can help them design and draft a more accessible version down the line.

Colorblind gamers may have some issues with some of the backgrounds and platforms, but the enemies are all very varied vibrant colors and so that makes spotting them much easier. Motion-impaired gamers will have a severely hard time with the PC version as it requires use of both hands and precision to pull off all the moves, and deaf players can play this game no problem, as it really doesn’t require the use of sound to play. Overall, it’s nice to see a game company recognize that their game could fit an accessible mobile market, and I’m excited to see the future of this game.

You can currently get Super Crate Box via iPhone, iPad, or in the iCade for .99 cents! This is an amazing deal and it’s got a lot of great gameplay value for a mere dollar! I’m unsure if they’ll be launching an Android version, but if I manage a convention this year I’ll try and see if I can’t ask if an Android version would be possible. This is a great example of how controls can make a game more difficult, but how developers can learn from that difficulty and turn it into a positive step forward in accessibility. I would also like to point out that games like this would also be wonderful on console formats! Wink Wink Vlambeer!

If you want to check out the PC/Mac version of it you can check out the link here:

( The PC version link is right underneath the OSX version in small print just fyi )

http://www.supercratebox.com/?p=downloads 

Happy alien-hunting, you gun-weilding future-Craters!

Game of the Week: Kingdom Rush

It’s that time again folks. We’ve gone around the horn this week and we’ve arrived, once again, at Game of the Week time! Now personally, I wanted to do a review this week on a modern console game, Warped, but unfortunately they don’t have a demo version to check out, so instead, I’m going to provide you all with a lovely game that you can play from your browser. This week we talk Kingdom Rush by Ironhide Games Studio.

Now the reason that I included this game this week is because, for one, it’s easily accessible and secondly, I wanted to show how games can be fun via accessible control schemes. There are so many games out there that use 16+ button combinations and tactics and you have to push R1+X+L1+Δ to do one combo, and I just want to show what’s capable with just a simple mouse click. Later today I’ll cover a game that I find great, but has a complex control setting – and you’ll see where the complexity rises.

Now Kingdom Rush, is a tower defense game. In the game you are required to arm your troops, set up your turrets, and keep hoards of goblins, orcs, mages, etc. away from your base. Now this concept has been done over and over again, but what made the game for me was the art style and the accessible controls. The art style is child-like in nature. Bright vibrant colors, simplistic controls, and tension-building gameplay make this game a must witness. The gameplay was vastly accessible, as every motion I took required merely a mouse click. The further levels, however, do get a tad harder when boss battles occur due to having to click multiple times on certain towers to save them.

There are 12 levels, each with 2 difficulty settings [ Easy and Normal ] and Three Challenges: Star Completion, Heroic Challenge, and Iron Challenge. There are also more levels upon completion, but they are premium content only. The difficulty of these tasks increases exponentially depending upon which you choose. I know I’ve had a difficult time grasping how to position my troops on certain Heroic and Iron Challenges where they give you specific parameters and restrictions per level. This increases the replay and play value of the game though.

You’re now not just going through the motions of 12 levels, you’re having to go back and challenge yourself to see if you can beat X number of waves with only X available to you. This is an intriguing method to keep the game entertaining, and I know some of you may say, “It’s just a tower defense game, I’ve played loads of those before, why is this one any different?” – well, because it gives you variety, challenge, and keeps a player on their toes. Constantly introducing new enemies and bosses throughout the levels and keeping the hoards vast enough to provide for fast-paced tension throughout a play through.

I strongly suggest folks take a look at this game and see the capabilities of gameplay mechanics that can occur when you cut down game inputs to single button presses. I’m an advocate for games like this, and I’m hoping that eventually console markets will see a necessity to incorporate this, sort of, “mobile game” mentality into their gameplay. Mobile games may seem like they go against everything that us console fans crave. We want controllers and we want intense action and we want stimulus coming at us from every direction, but the truth of the matter is this game shows that those things are possible even with simplistic controls. I’m truly excited for the Wii U, because I feel like this is going to be an opportunity where mobile single-click input technology may actually make a console accessible via the touchscreen controller.

Some of you Xbox fans may be saying:

“Well, what about Kinect? Doesn’t it provide accessibility in some ways?”

True, it does, but it seems the idea of accessibility is a minor concern on the part of motion-control accessibility. Motion-impaired gamers don’t have access to using Wii remotes, Move controllers, etc. and just because you make a game console ‘hands free’ doesn’t mean that movement of some kind is required by a sensor to pick up actions. If a person is immobile and can only move a small portion of their body, having full body motion control becomes pointless.

Now Xbox is making strides in this market, with their experimentation with voice control schemes via Mass Effect 3, but the only use of it I’ve seen is in demos done at conventions. I’m not sure how well it works, or for what functions, but you still have to use a controller for most functions. This is discouraging, but it’s a step in the right direction that may see improvement later – I’ll talk in-depth about this on a later post.

I personally believe that this technology could go a great way towards making games accessible within the home environment, so motion-impaired gamers don’t have to settle on the sidelines of gaming, but can immerse themselves in the action by vocally bringing up their commands, menus, etc. Keep this in mind fellow developers as we go forth into the next-generation of gaming. Now back to the game!

All this aside though, Kingdom Rush is a great game, and I know many have played it. If you haven’t though, I urge you to see what one-button input technology can create. Kingdom Rush is a lush, immersive strategy game that will keep you thinking and working on your strategies for quite some time. It is available on IPhones and IPads in the App Store for $ 2.99 [ Currently there is no Android Market version, though I’m hoping for one! ] and this version includes upgrades not found in the free version which I’ll post a link to here:

Kingdom Rush by Ironhide Games:

http://www.kongregate.com/games/Ironhidegames/kingdom-rush

I found that in some of the levels, color blind gamers may have some trouble as some enemies colors [ like white wolves, etc.] may blend in on the snowy mountain levels, and on the upgrades screen the coloration on the upgrades may be a bit harsh, but overall it’s a wonderful game and I urge people to check it out. I’ll be back soon with my second Game of the Week this week, and it’ll help me explain the importance of why simple control schemes can make better and more accessible games.

Stay tuned and happy orc-hunting!

Inspirational Gamers of the Week: Jerry Book and Reid Kimball

Hey there folks, now I know yesterday I took a veer from my usual forte of posts, but today I’m back and focused on the important issues I came to tackle with Gastrogamer. Today we’re going to be discussing game accessibility and I’d like to do so by chronicling the gaming and development lives of two gamers in particular. I watched this video and it touched my heart, and I figured that it would hit home with viewers too. The gamers in question this week are a boy named Jerry Book and a developer named Reid Kimball. These two are my Inspirational Gamers of the Week, because their stories hit home with me and they captivated me enough to talk about game accessibility and why it’s important.

The video was released in 2007, but it’s only received 5,147 views within that time period. If there are millions of disabled gamers out there in this world, to have only 5,000+ people learn about the struggles that disabled people face as gamers is a saddening realization. I hope to change that. Let’s start with Jerry Book. He and his father like to play online games together, but Jerry has a condition known as Spinal Muscular Atrophy. This condition can be carried in the DNA of one out of ever 50 people, and one in every 6,000 to one in every 10,000 people are born with a form of SMA. If you have a child with SMA, or a relative, and wish to find out more information about the condition and find out ways to help here:

http://www.smafoundation.org/about-sma/

The condition affects his range of mobility and motor skills. This limits not only the games he can play, but how he has to play them. In the video his father and him rig up this wonderful little home device to allow for Jerry to play with his dad and press multiple keys simultaneously, but the reality is that not every family out there has father’s that skilled at engineering or MacGyvering solution to disabled gaming problems. Jerry and his father are an inspiration to me, because even though they may be considered a minority by major gaming companies, they’re still gamers.

This means that, as a developer, it’s my duty to make sure that games allow accessibility across the largest scale I can possibly get. Limiting the amount of controls that need to be pressed, giving a screen as much visibility as possible, etc. These are all important aspects to consider when designing a game, not only for disabled gamers, but all gamers. Disabled gamers don’t wish to be playing games exclusively designed for them. This is counter-intutitive. They want to be able to play with their friends, relatives, and internationally with a world-wide environment. If we single out disabled gamers and put them in a different class all together, then we’re becoming counter productive to the real mission here:

Accessibility for All.

In Jerry’s case, and in the case of many physically and neurologically impaired gamers, movement becomes hard and the peripheral market for gameplay for them is practically non-existent. We focus so much as an industry on controllers and the way we can interact with games, and yet, we pour money into “motion control” and 16 button massively complex controls for massively complex AAA titles. I’m not saying I’m against the console and mainstream market, I’m for them. I love them. I enjoy being a part of those mainstream story lines, but for Jerry, and many children like him, the accessibility to play these games isn’t there – and this is something we must strive to fix somehow so that all gamers can feel included – disabled or not.

Now let’s take a look at Reid Kimball’s case. Kimball is a retired aerospace engineer and he’s taken some amazing steps in getting the word about video game accessibility out there to the world. He designed a prototype for a quadriplegic controller, and also provided closed captioning modifications to a premiere title: Doom 3. Reid is interesting to me, in that the man has a condition known as Spinal Meningitis. It’s a swelling of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal chord. In Reid’s case it resulted in one of the characteristic symptoms of massive hearing loss.

This massive hearing loss resulted in Reid feeling a need to aid other hearing impaired gamers and so he contacted the creators of Doom 3 in order to facilitate a hearing impaired closed caption mod for the game. Now you may be thinking why this is important at all, but there are plenty of games out there that offer subtitles and so why is that any different? Well it is.

The difference between having subtitles and full closed-captioned access is like night and day. Many modern games have sound cues. If a bullet flies from a tower, if a bomb goes off down a road, if a creature is sneaking up behind a dark corner – all of these are sound cues that many games don’t hint at.

If I click on my subtitle option in the main menu, all most games provide me is subtitled solutions in the games cut scenes. This does not help hearing impaired gamers actually play the gameplay portion though. It only allows them to participate watching a storyline. Well now here comes the argument that well at least they’re not vision impaired.

True. This allows them to play games to a decent degree, but think about most games. In games like Doom, Dead Space, Mass Effect, Halo, etc. all of these games have some moments where sound in the game is important. Enemies sneaking up on you, a ping of a door unlocking that you need to get through, etc. Without sound cues these moments become pointless and make the games harder, if not impossible to complete.

There are other games and ideas geared towards how to fix accessibility issues within this video, but these were the primary ones I wanted to focus on today. These two gamers exemplify what I’m aiming to accomplish. Providing games that challenge us to think outside of the box in terms of providing accessible games for everyone, educational games to children, helping others through the power of gaming.

It’s all there. The technology is within our grasp, but we just need to get the word out there that these aspects of gaming are important. Once they become more well known and designers begin to focus their attention into making games with at least options to aid disabled gamers – we’ll start to see a brighter future in the whole realm of gaming.

Beenox vs. Batman: When Comic Books and Video Games Work

Comic books have become a major staple in the social culture of the world, and they have been for quite some time. Whether it’s been the friendly neighborhood Spiderman, Peter Parker, or the brooding, billionaire vigilante Bruce Wayne running around the rooftops of Gotham as Batman; comics have become synonymous with the youthful, adventurous spirit in all of us. They give us a sense of adventure, intrigue, and make us feel amazing as we follow the vibrant pages of story lines from cover to cover. The sad truth of the matter is that the vast superheroes that we’ve witnessed over the years, haven’t really translated well to a video game screen.

The mass populous has become ensnared by this comic novelty and many graphic novels and comic books are becoming mainstreamed blockbusters, epic television shows, but it’s only been in the past couple of years where I’ve seen comic book superheroes really crack the preverbal barrier of video game console success. Today we’re going to take a walk down memory lane and discuss some horrifying examples of superhero games, as well as two current titles that I personally believe optimize what our gaming industry is capable of when it comes to bringing our comic book alter-egos and childhood heroes to the virtual screen. Let’s begin with the bad so we can climatically rise to the aspects of the good games that work and why they work.

Bad Superhero Game # 1: Superman 64

Now I was in love with my Nintendo 64 as a child, and I coddled my cartridges like a baby coddles a pacifier, but Superman 64 was like the black sheep of my love affair. The game was utter garbage and is considered one of the worst superhero games to ever be created. This was disappointing for me, because I love the Man of Steel. I grew up believing that through all the trials and tribulations in my life that somehow I must be like him, if I was able to deal with all of the struggles of my life like lead bullets bouncing off Superman’s pectorals.

This game makes Superman look like a drunken pub brawler, and makes his ‘Man of Steel’ persona fade faster than a plate of nachos at a football game. The worst part about this game, is that I ultimately wish it had never been made – that way, I didn’t have to destroy Superman’s reputation and say that his pixelated flying into walls and poorly timed fighting mechanics didn’t make me cry inside. [ Rocksteady, if you’re watching, I suggest this is the franchise you decide to save next! ]

Bad Superhero Game # 2: Thor: God of Thunder 

Do I even need to explain why a movie game title is going to inevitably be bad? Look at [almost ] any direct movie/game superhero title and you’ll see the average scores on those games are horrendous. The reason I included Thor as my second example though, is because it’s a MODERN game. It just came out recently following the release of Thor in theaters, and even though I’m not a severe Thor lover, I was really hoping for a game that would MAKE me love him.

The sad truth is that this game doesn’t even play well. The mechanics are clunky. The storyline makes me long for my yesteryears when I didn’t even know video games existed, so that I ultimately wouldn’t have to experience this mess, and just overall in the realm of things the game doesn’t sell what it was designed to sell. Perhaps it’s because the developer was Sega, and sadly, most every movie game that Sega has produced – to me – has been lackluster at best. I would love to see someone attempt a reboot of this franchise, but until then, I’m content with my Batman and Spiderman success stories.

Successful Superhero Game #1: The Batman: Arkham Series [ Asylum and City ]

My goodness, if there was one game in the past couple of years that I can honestly say made me truly FEEL like the superhero that they promoted it would have to be the Batman: Arkham series. London developers, Rocksteady Studios, has made me a true believer that video games based on my favorite superhero can be truly possible! I grew up with Batman fever. I knew every line to every Batman: The Animated Series episode, I read the comics, I even played the NES games and anything that was Batman I followed. In the recent release of Batman: Arkham I was blown away though.

Batman: Arkham City –  12 Minutes of Gamplay:

Never before had I witnessed a game that had stuck so true to the core fan-base. The intriguing storyline, the meaningful characters, the challenge maps to make me feel like Batman, the Riddler challenges to allow me to have to think intuitively during gameplay and the vast wiki-like backstories that I could collect as Easter Eggs throughout the game. All of these pieces made the Batman: Arkham series a standout in how superhero video games should be made.

Now were there flaws, certainly, I won’t ever say a game is exactly perfect in every shape and form. There’s always room for improvement upon the last idea, but the fact is, that the Batman: Arkham series is a stand-alone master class in what a good superhero experience should be. The fighting mechanics were fluid, the story lines were solid enough, and the menu work made accessing weaponry fairly easy. People should take notes from Rocksteady, and Rocksteady should take note that their DC lineup that Warner Bros. has backing them is extensive and fans would love to see other superheroes get ripped off those pages as well.

Successful Superhero Game # 2: Spiderman: Shattered Dimensions

Now I was skeptical about this game when it first came out, because I knew nothing about the developer Beenox, and thought that a brand new company couldn’t possibly design my hero Peter Parker in the shining light that some of the current movies had cast him in. The game also featured four dimensions instead of sticking with just Peter, and that concerned me, but you know what? I was wrong. The game actually works quite well, despite a few qualms I had with certain levels. Beenox gave me a quippy, witty, smart ass Peter Parker. They gave me cell-shaded graphics, which, for that particular game were a perfect and welcome transition.

The gameplay mechanics could have been smoother in places. I often times felt like some of the 2099 Dimension levels became cumbersome and difficult to handle in terms of the swing mechanics. The storyline, while a tad odd, made sense to me and  it wasn’t too confusing. The game itself, due to the cell-shading decision probably isn’t too grand of a choice for players like color-blind gamers, due to the harsh contrast tones on some of the models. The game though is a great stance on what a good superhero game should be. These games could definitely incorporate some other functions like subtitles for actual sounds within the game, rather than just dialog for deaf gamers, but both the Batman: Arkham series and Shattered Dimensions sell me on superhero games.

Continue reading

Game of the Week: The Warbler’s Nest

This week is an interesting one, because it veers a little different from what you’re probably used to in the video game world. I know that I generally love to talk about games and graphics and art advancements, but imagine if you will if all of that was stripped away. You now have no visuals, no sounds, no alternative stimuli that you’ve become so fond of in modern gaming. Do you think you could still enjoy a game if it didn’t contain these qualities? Well I aim to show that it is possible with this week’s Game of the Week:

The Warbler’s Nest by Josh McIntosh

 

 

The Warbler’s Nest is an interactive-text adventure [ and for those of you who know what it is you’ll be fondly reminded of Zork.] and through the glory of the power of words, the game intends on taking you through this adventure and mystery as you type along with it. At first, it may seem like a boring game, why would someone want to sit and type directions into a computer right? Oh, but how you’d be wrong there. The joy that comes from Warbler’s Nest is that it’s a fairy tale adventure lined with mystery and charm. The whole transition of using your imagination to depict the events being given to you on the screen changes the value of every piece of information and players should become deeply invested in trying to discover the mystery of this place.

The very first line is even intriguing:

Among the Reeds

> The familiar reed bank behind your cottage surrounds you, filling the damp space between your home and the river to the south.

It may not seem like much, but as a player there is some sense of mysticism about what is now around us. We become intrigued by the fact that there is a river close to our home, so perhaps we check there, or perhaps we turn back towards our home and check the house. The decisions that come up here are all up to YOU as YOU investigate this area around you. The suspense comes later in the game, and so I won’t give any of the storyline away if you care to play it. The fact is, this game does something that I don’t think a lot of current games allow you to do: imagine.

As children we grow up constantly playing, imagining, and creating our own worlds, our pretend lives, and even, often times, imaginary friends. Our realms of make-believe and mysticism are vast and well used, because as we imagine and grow we learn from our creativity. Games in the mainstream market hinder this creative spark in our brains. They take the enjoyment of visualizing an environment for ourselves out of the picture and clutter the scene with their own visual interpretations, forcing us to participate in a storyline the way they have depicted it.

McIntosh gives the world something that it needs right now: childhood whimsy, mystery, and imagination. He forces us to revert to our youth and examine a situation based on intuition and problem solving by using our own interpretations, rather than holding our hand through a linear progressive storyline. I feel that so many games can take away from this model that I felt I had to share it with the masses.

If you think about it logically this game does nothing more than the pen-and-paper matches of DnD, except that now McIntosh has basically programmed the Dungeon Master to respond to your inputs. This type of “I can solve this on my own!” intrigue and mystery is important to games, and I definitely see it being lost to a world full of handholding tutorials and linear games that guide you every step of the way. Allow us, as gamers, to explore, to create, to imagine and grow with the game. Gaming should be an immersive experience, not like a movie I just sit through and lack any interaction with.

There are some flaws to The Warbler’s Nest, and I can tell you from a design aspect, some moments of the game will annoy you. The boundaries of the game are clearly defined, but you’ll find yourself often doing quite a lot of backtracking to find out what paths you can take, gather items, etc. This shouldn’t annoy players who don’t mind adventure games and actually have a passion for the backtracking collective type. The issue I found is that you can get lost, and often times when you want to go somewhere, you can’t because the game’s programming states that you have to finish a task first before moving on. The game, overall though, is quite a grand statement to the world that games don’t require visuals to be fun. I spent hours trying to solve the puzzles, investigate the mysteries of my river cottage, and I loved how invested I became.

The joy I get from this game is that it’s accessible to everyone. It’s not a timed game, so you can take as long as you need to type your responses. The interface is easy to understand and it even has a helpful .pdf file available for access if you haven’t played interactive-text games before. The game is truly accommodating to the user, and for that, I’m thankful. There were some things, like an inventory layout, or a map pop-up, that I may have liked to see integrated, but the game stands alone on it’s own just fine without anything to hold your hand with. I definitely think any designer looking to see how games can be made simplistically, and with the same mysterious intrigue as some modern games – they should definitely check out this game at least once.

If you’re interested and would like to give your imagination a massage for a change, check out The Warbler’s Nest here. See if you can solve the mystery and let me know how you did. The game is rather short, but it’s an enjoyable slice of vintage-style gaming that I think everyone needs to witness. We all need to clean ourselves off in the pool of imagination once in a while don’t you think?

http://jmac.org/warbler/play.html

Enjoy folks!

Inspirational: Indie Game: The Movie

Hey there folks, so tonight, I can’t sleep. I’m driven mad by the desire to do artwork, create, imagine, sort out my ideas and my passions. I’m enthralled by the allure of what may very well, one day, be on video screens and consoles everywhere – but first I have to gather my pants together logically and realize something drastic. The video game industry that I see on television and news, and perpetuated in magazines is probably not going to be the same reality I’m going to have to face. It’s probably not going to be a walk in the park, and I’m probably going to get my face stomped on more than a couple of times by idea bashers and nay-sayers.

I’ve grasped this concept. Do I still want to move forward and be a game designer?

You bet your sweet Princess Peach backside I do!

Now this week I’m discussing a movie, that quite honestly, I’m ecstatic that something like this is finally being made! Those of you in the gaming world have probably heard of movies like King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters or Chasing Ghosts: Beyond The Arcade. Both of these movies are excellent documentaries of the old school video game arcade market, but now, the gaming industry has switched it’s attention to the indie circuit. The newest documentary to loom it’s lustrous digital locks in the face of the world, is a movie called Indie Game: The Movie.

The movie chronicles the game development process and interviews some of the most prolific indie game developers currently on the market. The creators, James Swirksy and Lisanne Pajot, take you on a journey through the lives of the designers and give you and inside look at the struggles trials and tribulations that game designers must overcome to succeed as independent entities in this industry. I personally can not wait till this movie comes out, and I want to see it in theaters.

If it doesn’t make it to theaters, I think I will be deeply saddened, but that just gives me even more incentive to buy a collector’s edition of the DVD whenever it’s released. If I get an opportunity to see the movie I will undoubtedly be writing a review for it, but I personally think that any designer worth his [ or her ] giga-bytes should definitely take a look at this movie. If you’re serious about getting into game design, it’s a really good glimpse inside of a very challenging field. It doesn’t scare me really, but rather, the movie gives me hope and inspiration to continue working hard towards my goals.

I know I want to be a designer for the video games industry, and the only way that I’m going to make it there is by having confidence in myself and practicing my abilities over and over until I end up with products like the fine gentlemen represented in the movie: Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes [ Super Meat Boy ]; Phil Fish [ Fez ]; and Jonathan Blow [ Braid ]. If you like any of these games, if you like games in general,  if you have a desire to see how games are actually made, or you’re just hankering for some cool nerdy movie art – I suggest you check this out!

I personally feel like, as designers [ or aspiring ones ] we become motivated and driven when we see other people’s successes. We begin to believe and have that ” I Can Too!” attitude like the books of our childhood emulated. Our minds begin to unfold the many vast ideas of our youth. Our childhood dreams and wishes come flowing out onto the paper, and if we use this sudden rush of inspired wisdom to the fullest, then success is surely in our midst. I feel like we grow as people from learning from other designers. We witness what they’ve done, how they’ve drawn, what mechanics they’ve implemented, what rules they’ve imposed, and we take the best and most entertaining to us and we warp them to fit games that we want to make. So – as you’re watching this, I ask of you, take away from this movie:

Drive, Inspiration, Motivation, and Determination.

Enjoy and I hope everyone gets a chance to go out and see the full movie!

Development News: Quantic Dream’s “Kara” Short Film

Today in Development News, I want to discuss one of my favorite development teams out there, Quantic Dream. Now, sure, I may get a lot of flack from time to time from my gamer buddies about my lustful enthralled enjoyment over Quantic Dream’s original title: Heavy Rain, but let’s face it – even if some hardcore gamers decide that Heavy Rain is a little too much narrative for their liking there is no denying one simple fact. The game is visually stunning and it really set the bar, in my personal opinion, for what the capabilities of the PS3 were at the time.

It’s been two years since Heavy Rain’s release in 2010 and since then we haven’t seen much out of the quiet studio with Quantic Dream, but today IGN.com released an interview with David Cage, the founder and lead developer over at Quantic Dream. He released statements about possibly having the studio be exclusive to working with Sony and he also unveiled a wonderful little short film that supposedly was produced by a new graphics engine that the studio had been working on. Now I know that doesn’t sound like amazing news, but in actuality it is and here’s why. The trailer I’m about to drop in here is a trailer for a short film called “Kara”

The trailer was done entirely in real-time on a PS3 using a new technology graphics engine that Quantic Dream has been working on for the past two hermitic years of solitude they’ve taken. Now apparently in the interview Cage mentioned that the trailer you’re about to see is taken from “Version 1” of this new engine and that the short film was completed on this engine “almost one year ago.” – so keep that in mind when you take a gander at this HD short film: Kara. I’ll discuss my opinions of the capabilities below afterwards.

So what does this mean for the future of gaming?

Well, clearly, we’ve seen in the past couple of years that gaming graphics engines are becoming far more advanced that the old 8-bit processors and even 64 bit consoles.  What makes the past couple of years even more amazing to me, as a designer, is that we’ve begun the design of engines that allow us to tell stories. No longer are we limited by pixel counts or motor limitations of character models, but our model development process has exceeded expectations leaps and bounds past what I assumed could be possible at this point.

If we take a look at the long list of games which I’m finding to have visually stunning performances: LA Noire, GTA 4, Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception, Heavy Rain, Mass Effect, etc.

The list goes on, and while certainly some of those games stand out visually more than others [ personally I found some pixelation and movement issues in all of these games at one point or another, but minor flaws are trivial in the scheme of storytelling.] I think that is actually the point I’m getting at, storytelling.

Storytelling has become an art form in the gaming media. We’ve gone from an industry that focused so hard to provide games that could be enjoyed strictly based off of the technology we had, to now focusing our efforts to tell emotional and meaningful story lines just like movies and television. When I watch this film I’m captivated, because I honestly didn’t believe that game technology was on a visual peak such as this.

If you had said to me years ago that one day we would get to the graphic capacity to where a model’s eyes would gloss over and cry, her mouth would move with every syllable, her emotions would be able to be captivating and engaging within a video game screen I very well may have scoffed at the idea. Most video game art has a sort of pseudo-realism.

Even the most prolific of designers and artists in the industry [ Square Enix, Bioware, etc. ] Often times I find that their models come out somehow reminding me that I am watching a video game, whether it’s through the coloring of the characters, the stylistic choices, etc. Something always reminds me that I’m witnessing a video game, thus, no matter how hard they try video games lose a sense of realism for me.

Now is that a good thing?

Absolutely. I think if games were so realistic and enthralling players very well may have an issue determining what reality from fiction is, but what I love about this technology and why I wanted to talk about it is simply because this is our next step in gaming evolution. Our whole industry revolves around design and graphics engines with the prolific capabilities that Quantic Dream has displayed. If we can create worlds, people, interactive environments with this amount of detail, then imagine what we can accomplish just within a small window of time in this industry?

No longer will stories have to be left to novelists and movie goers. The experiences and emotions which we gain from these mediums will be able to be attained through an interactive vision. I just want to ask my fellow viewers this: After watching the video how did you feel? Were you captivated by the tale and would you like to see a game made from this short film? How did just seeing these graphic capabilities affect you? – and would you like to see games developed with this sort of caliber? If we have the capabilities then why aren’t we pushing the boundaries of our next-gen systems before we start thinking about building new ones?

I would love to see a world where stories are told through interactivity. Where we can captivate children and parents of all ages with stories that reach them on a more interpersonal level. Games allow that to occur in our human lives. They allow us to interconnect with each other via online play, interconnect via story lines and emotions, and interconnect via the stories that we develop from listening to other people’s stories. We all learn in this world, and games are just going to be another way we can reach the masses through this. Given advanced graphics capabilities, I personally, say that the sky is the limit – and I can’t wait to make games for this upcoming generation, if the gaming society I’m going into will produce beauty like this.

Thank you Quantic Dream! Keep up the good work and I’m eager for your next project to reach shelves, whenever you decide to do so!