E3 Impressions

Posted by on Jun 3, 2009 in Blog | 0 comments

I fufilled a childhood dream of sorts today by attending E3 for the first time. The show is absolutely huge. Maybe I’m sort of numb to the industry now after doing two GDCs, but E3 just seemed like an amusement park of games. That said, I got to play a lot of games that won’t be playing again until the end of the year. General impressions: THE GOOD Brutal Legend Played the PS3 version and loved every second of it. The combat isn’t the best (reminds me of Ratchet & Clank’s wrench), but the driving was absolutely awesome. Voice acting was solid, animation and graphics were beautiful minus a little bit of a framerate issue (which I fully trust DoubleFine to fix before it ships). I laughed out loud more than twenty times in the course of a ten minute demo. The game screams character, and I’ll be picking it up on day one. Bayonetta Looks better than any Devil May Cry game ever did. Honestly, I thought it was more fun than God of War III. The sexual innuendo in the game is funny but possibly a bit too much – the overlimit/fatality mechanism in the boss fight was called “climax” and involves the lead character’s clothes flying off of her and eating the monster. It didn’t make any sense, it’s extremely Japanese, but the game as a whole looks like a complete package. Left4Dead 2 It’s like Left4Dead, only with cooler characters, brighter graphics, and more gameplay variation. It’s awesome, and it was different enough from the first to warrant a new retail release. Project Cube (Working Title) Square-Enix’s under-the-radar XBLA game is a lot like Geometry Wars in that it’s a twin stick shooter, but the comparisons end there. There are some really cool gameplay mechanics like dashing into enemies and confusing them and using shields to collect enemy fire and returning it with a counterattack. Violent, but elegant graphical style too. If this drops at $10, consider me sold. THE BAD The Conduit For all the hype surrounding it as the definitive FPS on Wii, it’s really just a clunky shooter. I saw that IGN nominated for “best of show,” which is complete and total bullshit. There wasn’t even a line to play it at the Sega booth (rare for any game at the show). The controls are nowhere near as good as Metroid Prime 3‘s in practice, the graphics look beautiful in some places and awful in others (textures are awesome, 3D models are atrocious). The gunplay wasn’t particularly fun or intreguing, and I felt like I was struggling to make the Wii do what I wanted it to do. If you want to play a good FPS on Wii, wait for the Metroid Prime Trilogy to come out this fall. I’m not saying this is the worst game I’ve ever played, but no part of it was better than average and many parts were worse. I’d be shocked if this gets a Metacritic score over 75%, but Red Steel 2 I was cautiously optimistic about this game even though the first one sucked. I went up to the booth, and the Ubisoft rep gives me his pitch. “With Wii MotionPlus, you can control a sword with 1:1 precision.” I waved the sword around,...

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Seen Around LA

Posted by on May 31, 2009 in Blog | 0 comments

I’ve started work, I’m settled in, and I’m finally adjusted to the pacific time. Working at EALA is awesome, and if the rest of the summer is anything like the previous week, I’d love to come back in the future. Unfortunately, given the nature of the work, I can’t talk about what I’m doing because it’s an unannounced project. So instead I’ll talk about the rest of LA. Two Ferraris, a Mercedes McLauren, three Shelby Mustangs, four Bentleys…in a span of four blocks in Beverly Hills. Ate lunch at the Urth Caffe, an extremely overpriced Starbucks. I frequently use “overpriced” and “Starbucks” in the same sentence, but I never expected to use them in that context. $16 for a sandwich and a cup of tea. Close to the apartment complex where we live, my roommates and I found Brennan’s Pub. It’s a pretty standard Irish Pub, except on Thursday nights they have Turtle Racing – which is exactly what it sounds like. Eagerly awaiting Thursday night. The apartment complex itself, “Fountain Park,” is quite nice. Swimming pool, hot tub, gym, on-site pizza place, and lots of greenery. The rooms are on the small side (meant for two people instead of four) but it’s still got everything we need. Only been to In-N-Out Burger once so far. Supposedly there’s a better burger place around here called “Counter,” but we haven’t made it there yet. Found a crazy-awesome hole-in-the-wall Chinese place though. I utterly failed at bringing my camera along this weekend. I’ll attempt to redeem myself this...

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In the words of Douglas Adams…

Posted by on May 24, 2009 in Blog | 0 comments

“In no known language exists the phrase ‘beautiful like an airport.'” I’m sitting at gate B9 in Jacksonville waiting for my flight to take off to DC. United tried to convince me to change to a later flight three times at check in, so they must really want me to take a different airline. Like many airlines, they overbook every flight to maximize profit. I don’t really care what airline I fly as long as my bags make it to LA. Weather in Jacksonville has been less than desirable over the past week. Six days in a row of rain, with more rain in the forecast every day for the next ten days. The forecast for LA for the next ten days has partly cloudy skies with highs in the low 70’s and lows in the high 50’s. Providing United doesn’t delay my flight (lol) I should be getting to my new apartment in about 9...

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Audiball Postmortem

Posted by on May 22, 2009 in Blog, Feature, My Games | 0 comments

I’ve wanted to write a proper postmortem for Audiball for some time now and I’ve been putting it off for far too long. Below, I try to summarize six months of my life into a few pages of text. Audiball was not a commercial success, nor was it groundbreaking in any way, but it was my experience with game development and I’ll always be proud of it. Read on if you’re interested in the game’s original vision, what sacrifices were made, what unexpected events changed development, how the game’s soundtrack was composed, how you can learn from my mistakes, and how an announcement trailer can be the longest fifty seconds of your life. Background Before starting development on Audiball, I was hooked on Jonathan Mak’s Everyday Shooter. Of course he’s already credited in the game for inspiration. It did a great job of using non-traditional sound effects in each level to blend with the game’s soundtrack. Each level used a different set of sound effects for shooting, explosions, combos, and just about everything else. It’s really what made the game exceptional as opposed to, well, your everyday shooter. Everyday Shooter At the same time, I was playing quite a bit of Rock Band with my roommates. The speakers on our TV blew out while we were in the middle of a difficult song, and while the guitarists and drummer were able to continue without a problem until it came back on, the singer promptly failed out. I guess I had never really considered that Rock Band is just a test of muscle memory. It’s why Guitar Hero is able to take away all the colors of the frets and players still know which buttons to push: the colors are irrelevant once you know where they are, it’s only the positions that matter. It was then that I got curious about the idea of focusing on the colors of the frets rather than their positions. It would be a completely different way of using the guitar controller. Of course, that also meant that no skills would carry over from any other guitar game. Playing Audiball for the first time would be similar to playing Guitar Hero for the first time; the guitar controller would be a new controller all over again. Then came the challenge of trying to make it “fun” as opposed to “unintuitive.” Rock Band doesn’t lets you play music much in the way that you play a game, but you don’t produce music or influence it in any way other than “off’ or “on” when you miss or hit notes. I wanted to explore making something that was “the opposite of Guitar Hero” in that multiple aspects of the player’s performance would determine what they heard coming out of the speakers. I didn’t want to try to make a music composition program for a guitar controller because I didn’t see how that could be fun – of course, Guitar Hero World Tour ended up doing it later that year anyways. Instead, I tried to let the player work towards a visible goal (the gameplay) while using the sound intensity to reflect their progress towards that goal (the  reward). Initial Design (March-April 2008) The game was initially drafted on a giant whiteboard in our residence hall in spring...

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Summer Plans

Posted by on Apr 12, 2009 in Blog | 0 comments

Haven’t made a proper update here since before GDC (which was awesome, by the way). I thought I’d write a bit about what I’m doing right now and what I’m doing this summer. I made a post over on the Indiecisive Games blog about Audiball’s performance on Xbox Live Community Games. It was about average for Community Games, and it was a great experience for our first project. The next Indiecisive project is well underway and will be “revealed” on April 30th when we submit it to Indiecade. On Friday I accepted an offer from EA LA for a “technical designer” internship position. I know that I’ll be working on an unannounced project on a smaller team, but that’s about it. I’m really exctied for the opportunity to work with some of the best minds in the industry – even more so than the amenities their campus has to offer. I will also likely be attending E3 this year because I’ll be in LA. It doesn’t seem too long ago that I was slobbering over the computers in my middle school library every time E3 and the hype that surrounds it rolled around. My classes finish at Tech on April 27, and I move out to LA on May 22. I’ll spend the bit of vacation I have between Jacksonville and Atlanta, but I’m glad I’ll get to stay busy. Finally, I put up a self-portrait of myself on the “About Me” page. The idea probably isn’t original. I haven’t seen it before, but that doesn’t mean a thing on the internet. I still had fun putting it together regardless. I’ll be sure to make an update to the site when I can say more about the Indiecisive project, and I’ll update whenever I can while I’m in LA to talk about everything except what I’m doing at work – I have a feeling EA wouldn’t like that....

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I Can Has Moar Composition

Posted by on Mar 31, 2009 in Audio Composition, School | 0 comments

Here’s another composition I made about a year ago for a music class at Tech. I was still learning Reason at the time, but it’s better than the last one I posted. The time I spent on projects in this class laid the foundation for Audiball’s soundtrack, which I’ll also post at a later date. Of course, Audiball’s soundtrack was based around procedural generation, so releasing it as static files is a little harder than it is with these. Download (3.17...

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AT&T is Being a Big Poo-Poo Head

Posted by on Mar 16, 2009 in Blog | 2 comments

You know that whole thing where people have a bad experience with a company, and they post on their blogs hoping enough people read it for the company to do something about it? Yeah, I’m gonna try that. After finishing up my XNA game, I wanted to play around with iPhone development. To do this, I needed an iPhone, and since it was close to Christmas at the time, I figured it was as good a time as any to pick one up. Below is the story of my unsuccessful attempt at purchasing an iPhone from AT&T that started in December and is still causing me headaches to this day. I’m an AT&T customer who wanted to upgrade to an iPhone from my Samsung A707 Sync. I went into an AT&T Store and was told that I wasn’t eligible for an upgrade until March 24, so I would have to wait or pay the full $399 price instead of the $199 price point offered to new customers. Fair enough. A few days later, I was browsing around their site and saw that AT&T was selling refurbished iPhones for $99 to new customers. I called AT&T’s sales line and asked how I could get one, and what the cost would be for existing customers. I was told by the rep that existing customers could pay $149 for the refurbished phone, their “regular price,” because the $50 discount was only for new customers. I tried to order one over the phone, but the rep couldn’t figure out how to do it because it was a special. He told me to go to an AT&T store, and they would be able to help me out. I went back to the store, and was told they didn’t sell refurbished phones at all, and that I had to order it either online or over the phone. They wouldn’t help me do it in store either. Back home, I noticed that the deal had expired, and the price was back up to $149 for new customers on the refurbished 8 GB iPhone 3G. AT&T Premier’s website was still showing it at $199 for upgrades, so I decided to just order it online. My credit card was charged, and I did the two day shipping option to make sure I would have it before I left to return home to Atlanta (I was in Jacksonville visiting family for the holidays). It was December 28, and I was returning to Atlanta on January 5th. By my math, two day shipping should have been plenty of time. 48 hours later, the tracking information said the order was still processing. I called up AT&T Premier, and after a 40 minute hold, they looked up the order and said it didn’t exist. I knew it DID exist because my card had been charged $212 for the phone plus shipping. While we were talking, my phone was disconnected, and it wouldn’t make any more calls. Whenever I tried to call any number, it said “Emergency Calls Only.” I called up AT&T again from the landline, and they said my SIM card had been deactivated. The rep I talked to said he had never seen anything like it, and usually that only happens when the customer requests it for a lost or...

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Snow in Atlanta: Everyone freak out!!

Posted by on Mar 1, 2009 in Blog | 1 comment

The current record for snowfall in Atlanta is about 4.2 inches, recorded in the fabled storm of 1993. Some parts of Atlanta have well over 5 inches of accumulation (Centennial Olympic Park, for example), and others are around 2. The fact remains that it has indeed snowed in the south, and therefore everyone should run around and scream like crazy people until it melts away so that we can return to our normal lives. In other news, I spotted this by the World of Coke while walking through the “thundersnow” storm, which pretty much says it all:...

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Random Art #1

Posted by on Feb 26, 2009 in Artwork, Contests, School | 1 comment

Here are some more random designs I made last year. The events they were made for have come and gone, but hey, it can’t hurt to put them on the blog, right? comp For a Woot.com design derby themed “Words As Art” chalk For a flyer used to advertise a campus organization’s chalk-drawing contest guitar For a class project, where I was tasked to combine something I love (plastic guitar games) with something I hate...

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Finishing Pre-Production, or Starting Development?

Posted by on Feb 18, 2009 in Blog | 0 comments

It’s one of those “half-full, half-empty” things, you know?  I’m getting into the full swing of the next project from Indiecisive Games. We’re still waiting for Audiball‘s sales results, but it’s never too early to act on a good idea. I’m excited about working on a new game. On the other hand, I’ve enjoyed being able to relax, catch up on sleep, and have a social life over the past two months and the nature of the job means I have to give some of that up (most likely the unimportant stuff like sleep). The biggest lesson learned from developing Audiball was that deadlines aren’t a good thing like professors will have you believe. Any amount of good they do in “motivating” you to work is quickly erased by the hundreds of hours of sleep you have to give up to meet said deadline. I now fully understand the ideology behind “Valve Time,” or Blizzard’s motto of “it’s done when it’s done.” With this indie company I’m working for myself, right? There’s no reason to drive ourselves crazy by saying it has to be completed by such and such a date. And to any of the companies I applied for an internship with who may be reading this, I’m actually just kidding, I’m really good at following deadlines, and usually I like to finish stuff early because that’s a desirable trait for a hiree....

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