Archive for Videogames

Pocket Gamer Connects SF



I have to admit, Pocket Gamer Connects is one of my favorite app conferences.  I went to their Helsinki event last year, and I was invited to speak this year at the event here in San Francisco.  They always have some of the coolest speakers, not just the big marketing talks, or the monetization talks, which are interesting, sure, but they get a whole host of smaller developers.  They get talks on the indie experience, or they get different local takes on different aspects of development.  Couple that with a fairly creative eye with regards to what you might consider an “event space” and you get a great intimate event with a lot more networking potential than you might otherwise find at some of the larger venues.

Talk Data to Me

There’s a difference, a pretty large difference, between an AI and a chatbot. It’s perhaps hard to see if you’re on the receiving end, if you don’t know what to look for, but the way they act and react are different and in the case of a chatbot, once you figure out how the logic behind it works, you can talk it in circles.  Which is a good way to kill an afternoon, if you’re bored on the intarwebz.

Not that I have ever done this.  Oh no, not me.

The point of a chatbot, usually, is to mimic conversation.  They are often not capable of *steering* a conversation themselves, they don’t, or can’t, as leading questions unless the developer has planned ahead (and even then, you can tell when the canned questions come into play, the segues are never terribly smooth).  What they can do reasonably well, however, is continue a conversation in much the same way that many humans do.  It deconstructs your sentence, pulls the appropriate verbs and subjects, and constructs a question or response of it’s own.

If you’ve ever gotten a customer service call, or contacted customer service through one of those “live chat” services offered by banks and online retailers you’ve likely encountered a few chatbots.  Depending on the sophistication, they are often used to just collect your basic information before passing you off to a real-live human, but you can hear the difference if you listen.



DOOM over time




To continue on my last post about the time it takes to establish relationships in games (versus the time it takes to turn an enemy into a pile of giblets), they announced a new and extra-quishy version of DOOM in the works.

Now, I adore DOOM.  In fact, THIS is the game that got me back into pursuing game development as a career option.  When DOOM came out, I was sharing an apartment with a couple of High School friends (one of whom also went on to have a career in games) and the original, shareware version of this game became the entertainment of choice (at the time, however, I had an Amiga for 3d animation/rendering and so had to borrow my friend’s PC to play).

I’m not sure it could play it now.  In the intervening decades my tastes have changed a bit.  Part of this is the presence of my kids.  I found (post kiddos) that my personal tolerance for giblets has decreased quite a bit.  It was really bad when they were all 1-6yo, I couldn’t watch certain cop shows, I got all twitchy about certain movies, I couldn’t play certain games.  When the kids were new, my mind would simply project them into the middle of any dangerous situation, which made it very hard to enjoy a number of the harder-edged things that I once loved.

The point is, though, I have a long standing relationship with this game.  I’ll cheer when it comes out with a newer, bloodier version, perhaps not so much because it now has super-hyper-realistic splatter or an extra 3 miles on intestines in every level, but I’ll cheer because the franchise has some meaning for me.  Because I want to see it continue.  This new version of the game may no longer be what I am looking for in a shooter, but that doesn’t mean I feel we should stop making them.  I think there are a lot of people in the industry who feel the same way, they are cheering not so much because it’s now extra gory, or super-violent, they’re cheering because they have a relationship with the game that helped to reboot our industry and they want to see it live on.

Comics on Comics Podcast



Every once in a while I get invited to do something really cool, like guest on a podcast.  I have a fairly geeky nature and it’s taken me on a rather winding path through various interests throughout the course of my life.  Vito and I have crossed paths a few times, and since I was already in LA for E3 (the Electronics Entertainment Expo) he invited me to join James Thompson on his podcast to talk about a couple of comic book related topics.

This was a total blast!  The conversation was fun, the guests and hosts were all intelligent and on the ball, we probably could have kept going for another hour, but I think Periscope could only handle so much madness.

The Shortest Distance

Lets talk about shortcuts for a moment, shall we?  Emotional shortcuts, character arc shortcuts.  We want to hate them.  It’s pretty much universally understood that they are the lazy way to do things, and yet AND YET we persist in using them.  When you *really* think about them, they often take the form of stereotypes, and those can be an ugly thing in inconsiderate hands.

We know, as game creators, as designers and writers, that this is a cheap hack.  We drop in a set of conditions (bad*ss language, scar on the left cheek, military haircut, post-military drug addiction, murdered parents) with the purpose of triggering understanding on the part of the reader.  We are tapping in, for better or worse, to the decades of storytelling that has gone before so that we can sketch a character in a single paragraph, rather than taking the entire chapter.

Creating a fully rounded character takes time, it can take the course of an entire AAA videogame, or an entire novel to take that cutout and make it flesh.  But audiences, and critics, are impatient.  They all want to consume faster, they all want a fully rounded character presented up front and in a single paragraph so they can get on with things.  It often feels like what we are being pushed to create is simply a new version of the cardboard cutout, rather than being allowed to flesh out a character as they should be, over time.

to be continued…