Archive for December, 2008

Computers + Games = Videogames

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

Rock, Paper, Shotgun has posted a great interview with Videlectrix (“we use computers… to make videogames!”) the company behind such hit titles as “Pigs on Head”. In reality, it’s some sort of fictional developer representing the guys who run Homestar Runner.

I just wanted an excuse to post the above brilliant image. It really summarizes a day in the life of a developer. Because naturally, your boss knows that all games need GOOD graphics.

Yamanote’s Last Train

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008
Last Train

The last train around 1:00 am on a Friday night (early Saturday, really) on Tokyo’s Yamanote Line is more like the salary man drunk tank. Lets analyze the photo above more closely.

A – sitting on the floor near the door, passed out
B – nodding off, might actually be coming home from the office but I doubt it
C – taking off his headphones after being startled awake by the train stopping
D – who needs shoes? (see D’)
E – taking up two seats and treating the bench as his personal recliner
F – both sleeping (not pictured)

The significance of Linger in Shadows

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008
Linger In Shadows Robot Wallpaper

“Linger in Shadows” – the recent PlayStation Network release – is yet another part of the long history of the crossover of the demoscene and the game industry. For a nominal fee the user is greeted with what is largely a traditional demo. It has all the classic elements: lots of procedural content, mix of 2D paintings and 3D imagery, “greets” to other scene groups, and a soundtrack that matches the visuals. It is looks impressive, doing well to showcase the talents of the programmers and artists of the development team at Plastic.

Linger In Shadows Cat Wallpaper
The two significant and unusual things about Linger in Shadows are first, that the group was funded and published by Sony, and that second there are a number of interactive elements in the demo.

Why would Sony fund a small group of developers to create a non-game for their platform? Was it an extension of Ken Kutaragi’s original vision that the PS3 was to be more than a games console? Personally, I’m impressed that they would invest in such a project. I would be surprised if Linger in Shadows is profitable. I believe it could be used as a marketing tool in technology circles to show Sony’s interest in art projects or to promote the abilities of its platform. This is the kind of project that could attract the attention of artists outside of the mainstream game industry. With the current economy though and Sony’s recent sales struggles I doubt another similar project will get greenlit. I hope to be proven wrong.

The other attention grabbing part of the demo is that unlike a traditional PC based demo there are a number of interactive components. At various times while watching the demo, the user can spin the controller to move objects or light sources in the scene, for example. Other times they can scrub the movie’s time line forward and backward. Using the camera to look around can find hidden objects and greets that unlock PSN Trophies. It is certainly no game but the addition of these elements gives the demo an extra layer to peel back.

Linger in Shadows may go unappreciated by the gaming populace and in some ways it isn’t surprising. As a game developer a lot of the appeal of the demoscene is not just in watching something beautiful and admiring the creativity of the human race but in inspiration in both technology and artistry. Users without that specific interest may not find Linger in Shadows or any other demo particularly interesting and so be it. That said, games like Max Payne are widely appreciated by gamers. That game’s developer, Remedy Entertainment, was born out of the demoscene group Future Crew. I’m certain there are countless other members of the game industry who either came from the demoscene or were inspired by it.

Linger In Shadows Scenery
Finally, I’m happy to report that Plastic has generously released some of the tools used to create the demo. The content looks like it was developed largely inside of Maya with a custom plug-in that acts as a WYSIWYG real-time renderer. It reminds me of working with the Unreal Engine or Crytek. The ability to edit something and then be immediately able to preview it as it would look in game is very powerful. Below is a video of their tools, more information can be found on Plastic’s main site.

Flash Experiment #2

Friday, December 12th, 2008

Here’s another short Flash test I cooked up. What’s cool about this isn’t really what you see above. What’s cool is that it is only about 20 lines of code. It’s inspiring to see how it easy it is to make things in Flash. It’s great for creativity and prototyping small ideas.

I highly recommend learning it for game developers who want to experiment!

(Sorry, there is no button to stop the sound once it starts. You can refresh the page or navigate away to turn it off.)

Kirin Sparkling Hop

Tuesday, December 9th, 2008
Kirin Sparkling Hop (Winter 2008)

Alerting New Zealand! You have wasted your hop on a terrible beer-like beverage that is currently on sale in Japan. (The beer advertising says “New Zealand Hop Included” on the can.)

Ah, another season and another new seasonal Japanese beer. Guess what? Yes, it’s a lager. Actually, “Sparkling Hop” isn’t even beer. It’s happoshu, a beer-like beverage with low malt content. It’s popularity is primarily driven by the fact it falls under a different taxation law than beer and is thus about 30% cheaper than the usual mediocre real beer lagers.

I was recently recommended Hitachino Nest beer by a friend. It’s brewed in Ibaraki prefecture, about 1.5 hours away from Tokyo by train. I’m looking forward to giving that a try. What I really want to do though is visit their brewery and make my own beer. I’ve been dreaming of recreating the legendary hazelnut porter I drank in Arcata, CA a few years back.

In case you were wondering – yeah, I do have some experience in brewing. At the end of the production of the Conan game, some Nihilistic employees made beer at the end of the project. Led by Stephen the brew master, we came up with two master beers:

Conan Beer

Camel Punch Stout and Conan Nut Brown Ale
(Conan is a trademark of Conan Properties International)

Doing Business as a Foreign Designer in Japan

Thursday, December 4th, 2008

PingMag recently posted an interview with Parissa Haghirian about working in Japan as a design professional.

Although not specifically game related, from my experience what Parissa said rings very true. If you are interested in the Japanese creative work environment, give it a read.

YouTube – Genki Rockets Live Performance

Monday, December 1st, 2008

I took the below photo at the Tokyo club ageHa a few weeks ago when I saw Q Entertainment produced Genki Rockets. There was this cool mesh LED screen in front of the DJ, who is dressed in a space suit, though you can’t see too well in my photo.

Genki Rockets at ageHa

YouTube recently hosted a concert in Tokyo where Genki Rockets performed. Even if you don’t like upbeat house music I encourage you to check out the LED mesh. Being able to see through a screen was new to me and very cool. And who doesn’t love a spiffy astronaut suit?