The game I used to work on was officially announced a while back and today some video footage was revealed. It has been quite a while since I worked on it but since I could not talk about it while working on it for more than two years I am going to write something anyway.

I suppose the elephant in the room is the fact that it is not an assymetric, squad-based RTS thing, or rather that people are complaining that it isn’t. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t hurt a little when so much hard work is hatefully dismissed by people who did not want it in the first place, and seeing as some of my best friends are still working on it I really feel for Starbreeze. Hopefully it will die down as more information about the game surfaces. On the other hand, I can understand the disappointment. Games like Halo Wars and Mario Party did not get nearly as much complaints, but I am very sure they would have if we did not have Mario Galaxy and Halo: Reach. Metroid Prime was universally hated before it was released for similar reasons, and that game kept most of the central gameplay intact.

I am happy to have worked on it though, even if a lot of people seem to be of the “all or nothing” – mindset Syndicate is a really good IP even without the characteristic gameplay. It takes place in an establish dystopian future where humanity and personality is worth nothing, and it approaches this subject in a way that feels eerily plausible. I really am not usually the one to complain about materialism but the grim future in the world of Syndicate is not that many steps from what we have today. There is a very brutal element to the IP but the excessive violence serves to drive home the point – I remember being a vocal opponent to gibbed body parts in “the Darkness” because even though the IP was also very grim it did not feel like it made anything better. Some of the previewers have mentioned a somewhat disturbing scene of something being extracted from a man’s skull – it used to be even more disturbing, and I was kind of sad when they toned it down.

I am hoping this all goes well and the game is a success. If it is, maybe the IP will grow big even in a modern context, and maybe if it does EA will have enough faith in the setting to release a game with elements they do not have as much faith in; such as a non-FPS.

Posted on Sep 30/11 by Saint and filed under General game development, Meta-blog | No Comments »

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More on Fez


Gamasutra offers up an interesting piece of news where Phil Fish talks about what has taken so long during the development of Fez. He mentions reductionism, not really a new concept in game design (I like to point to Jonathan Blow’s original thoughts about Braid) but he approaches it in a slightly different manner.

Which seems to be common for Polytron, taking a slightly different stance and reaching new conclusions. Phil Fish himself has been more of an organizational figure than a well-known developer in the indie scene, but the fact that whatever he makes will come from a different approach to a traditional formula makes the game interesting.

Posted on Sep 28/11 by Saint and filed under Gaming culture | No Comments »

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On Starbreeze


So apparently I missed this completely; 1up picks apart the history of Starbreeze Studios.

Most of it is personal opinions on verified facts rather than any real secrets, but still an interesting read. I have little further to say other than to add my voice to the choir; when I left Starbreeze it was a very different company than the 30-people strong outfit I joined in 2005. It goes for the entire games industry, really. We were still just discovering MMORPGs and the large scale indie movement had barely even started. The entire social games movement was not even thought of – we did not even have achievements or anything to share our mostly singleplayer experiences. Even if the particular change that happened to Starbreeze was up to a few specific companies and individuals, I think that the change itself was inevitable.

Posted on Sep 11/11 by Saint and filed under Gaming culture, Meta-blog | No Comments »

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Why yes, the grass is greener

I am probably going to sound wrapped up in myself in this post, so I will try to keep it brief. Programmer Andy Bastable writes in #altdevblogaday, reprinted on Gamasutra, about how gameplay programmers deserve love, too.

Gameplay programmer is a bit of fuzzy term, depending on the company it can cover anyone from the low-level C coder who just happens to handle some of the game mechanics to the LUA scripter or the technical designer who uses flowcharts to create interactivity. Needless to say, wherever the work of individuals starts or ends the discipline is necessary for game development. Without the gameplay programmer we would not have a game. But I have heard the story about envying “the hardcore graphics coder” a bit too often now, and I think the envy (and occasional backlash) is misplaced.

Sure, it is nice to be in a position where you seldom have to wait for someone else to implement a feature that you need in order to do your job – usually you are the one developing the features. And “hardcore graphics” being what they are, we tend to get specialized and often get a lot of freedom to work the way we feel is best since people are reluctant to tell you how to do your job when they do not understand it. There’s also this. Tobias once jokingly told me he loved being a graphics programmer because it had this reputation of being difficult so you got many interesting offers when, really, any programmer could do it.

But the obfuscation is also the catch, and envying a graphics programmer seems to me a bit like envying the engineer who puts the hardware in the console together; it is a fundamentally different task and you loose some of the things by doing it. It is often very hard to explain to someone who is not a programmer just what your contribution really was. A lot of the work is just painstakingly trying to widen the box just a little so artists can have slightly fewer restraints, oftentimes you are so far away from the game that people expect you to not care about it.

By no means is it a bad job, but it is different. I know a lot of engine programmers who hardly play games at all, maybe if this was part of the image of the graphics coder we would see less misplaced envy.

Posted on Sep 07/11 by Saint and filed under General game development | No Comments »