Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Inspiration Through the Blue Portal

Many of us are working on our own gaming projects that keep us up at night.  Maybe it's developing/porting a game, or in some cases a brand/IP - maybe you're making strides on the journalistic side of things or developing a YouTube following to watch your game footage. Whatever it may be, we're all trying to carve out a little piece of cake to call our own, taste the delicious frosting of success, and raise the cake over our heads exclaiming, "This is my cake, eat some!"

But it sure is easy to get sidetracked.   And by sidetracked I don't mean the heavy hand of the procrastination or utter laziness.  I don't mean the little red Netflix envelope, Twitter banter, or figuring out what the hell Reddit is (okay I get it now, and I am a little hooked).

I am talking about losing sight of your original goals while you wallow in the inter-drama.  I am talking about questioning your motives and falling off course, swayed by the opinions and rhetoric of others.  I am talking about flocking to mindless controversy because it's seems exciting.  Some examples:

  • Community disputes over other game's worth/value/success (or lack of). 
  • A debacle over Xbox ratings exploits. 
  • Aggressive marketing techniques that ride the unethical gray area. 
  • Forums and comment threads locked in endless and often pointless debate. 

Now I am not proposing that discussion or involvement in the above happenings is completely avoidable, or that it needs to be.   For many, there's personal stake to varying degrees - and so be it, get involved.   Get on your soapbox when it really calls for it. (just remember not to feed the trolls)

But I just played Portal 2.  And holy shit it refocused me - like a slap in the face.   Here's why:

As I poured through this game and it got it's grips on me, I was carried away.   I was reminded of what makes games the mental vacation that we all crave.   It reminded me of what I am attempting to do and why I spend hours of my free time doing it.   

I am not going to talk about Portal 2 or why it's such a wonderful game - it just is, and that's fairly widely agreed upon at this point.   The point is, Portal 2 did for me what I have always wanted to create for others - it's a lesson book for game design, or interactive media for that matter.   It highlighted my favorite elements of gaming, and what I need to regather focus on accomplishing within my own project. 

Better yet, the gaming high felt from Portal 2 contrasted so heavily with the swamp of eternal stench listed in the bullet points above, that it was a moment of clarity.   I believe it hit me when I was looking through a blue portal and realized I was about to launch myself like a cannonball across a gaping pit to the exit, while being mocked by a vindictive and sarcastic A.I (and what I consider a top 5 video game villain of all time). 

So I would encourage anyone reading this, to take a step back from the daily shitstorm and remember why you dove in headfirst to begin with.  Get back on that path and beware the tempting sirens of controversy, opinion-blasting, and so forth.   Ignore them, grab your drug of choice, and work on something special to you.  Sometimes it take a great game to remind you what you set out to do. 

Some screenshots of our work in progress, Ophidian Wars: The Legend of Kilflame

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The UNOFFICIAL XBLIG Developer's Code of Ethics

Consumers will always buy garbage - watch garbage movies, listen to garbage music, and even spend hard-earned money on garbage video games.   So I guess it shouldn't be a huge surprise that the demand for garbage is met by a willing group of garbage suppliers.    After all, garbage is pretty common, easy to create, and mostly void of worth.

So when garbage restrictions are minimal (hello XBLIG platform), out of the woodwork come developers willing to 'develop games' that cater to the garbage eaters.   Some succeed, far more don't, but holy shit these terrible games are running rampant.  

I know what you're saying.  "But if people are buying it they must not think it's garbage, stupid!  I am just giving them what they want."  

Now, I don't hate you, imaginary blog interloping XNA developer, but I don't want to associate you with you.   If that's your rationale for creating poor quality, turn-a-quick-buck slop-ware, let's just part ways.   You're catering to the lowest common denominator.  I get what you're doing, and I get your point (blame the ones buying it, rather than yourself for supplying it), I just don't want any part of it.   I want to be separate. 

So conversely, if you're like me, let's agree to a code of ethics - as ambitious under-appreciated indie developers, let's be proud of our work.   Let's develop quality games to the best of our ability.  Let's use this code as a guardian of our integrity (too much?) 

And thus:

UNOFFICIAL XBLIG Developer's Code of Ethics 

1.  I shall not develop games about farting or pooping just for immature intentions (farts are funny, but they shall not be a crutch for my game concept). 

2.  I shall not develop quick turn gimmicky apps (massagers, screensavers, interactive photo galleries, etc).

3.  I shall not blatantly rely on partially nude woman as the main draw to my game. 

4.  I shall not clone a game (aka Pong, Snake) and then re-release essentially the same exact game (or less) for sale.  See #10. 

5.  I shall not develop a subpar game with Avatars, simply because I know that subpar Avatar games will sometimes still sell decently.  

6.  I shall not develop a subpar game with Zombies, simply because I know that subpar Zombies games will sometimes still sell decently. 

7.  I shall not release a game "just to see if it will sell."  

8.  I shall attempt to make my box art look attractive and relevant to my game. 

9.  I shall attempt to make games of high quality. 

10.  I shall attempt to innovate. 

11.  I shall take pride in the games I create. 

12.  I shall be an active and helpful member of the XBLIG community. 

If you like this code, please feel free to suggest adding new guidelines to be adopted. If you don't like this code, please leave a spirited hateful comment below.