Monthly Archives: March 2009

GDC 09 Art: The Brutal Art of a Legend

At GDC 09, Lee Petty, the art director for Brutal Legend, gave an inspired, energetic talk on how the art of his team is grappling with the creation of art in Double Fine’s upcoming metal-powered game, Brutal Legend.

Brutal Legend is an action-adventure game combining massive open-world conflicts with a strange blend of musical actions, and of all things, driving gameplay. Players step into the shoes of a Jack Black-voice-over character, complete with belly, sideburns, and oogly eyes, and confront the visually arresting, organic world of metal. In truth, the lead character looks like a blend between Jack Black and Tim Schafer.

I captured a few shots from Petty’s slideshow presentation from the conference to show what some of the art looks like.

What I especially like about this conference was how rowdy, supportive, and enthusiastic this crowd was for Petty’s presentation. The entire presentation was interrupted with hoots and screams from the filled-to-capacity room. After having attended this meeting, it’s clear to me that the attending game developers see Tim Schaefer and his team at Double Fine as heroes of independent development.

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Starbreeze’s New Syndicate


If is correct, then indie developer Starbreeze will resurrect the Syndicate, the classic real-time tactical game originally created by Peter Molyneux’s Bullfrog team. Only now, the game is under EA’s publishing umbrella, and goes by the temporary codename RedLime.

Starbreeze’s previous games, The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay and The Darkness, were characterized by their distinct atmosphere and inventive takes on the first-person shooter genre, so there is a good chance this will be a first-person shooter with stealth and tactical additions.

Given the irregular ability of developers and publishers to resurrect old classics, Starbeeze will have its work cut out for it. Like Andy MacNamara, who said in the God of War III issue of Game Informer, that if all developers put as much care and attention into their old franchises as Capcom did with Street Fighter IV, they would have much better success (see the recent Sonic the Hedgehog or Shinobi games as examples of that didn’t quite pan out). Of course MacNamara was also referring to resurrecting old 2D franchises in 2D, which doesn’t necessarily suit a new remake of Syndicate all that well, given its isometric viewpoint.

Syndicate was originally a tactical-action PC game that caught the attention of avid hardcore gamers, but didn’t lend itself to the mainstream audience as well as one might think. For instance, my memory of Syndicate isn’t all that positive, even though I respect others’ opinion of it. I owned it for the Genesis. For whatever reason, we had no instruction manual. Therefore, my experience lasted about two levels and ended in frustration because I had not idea what to do or where to go. Let’s hope Starbreeze can change that.

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Sweet Mix

Normally I would say, “There’s this guy I know in PR who has laid down some sweet tracks, blah blah blah.” But he’s not just a phat, sick, bad, chill, swiggity-swag guy, he’s Kjell Vistad, bad ass former hippy-haired Ubisoft and Eidos PR dude.

He’s created some sweet mixes that shouldn’t be missed. Check these out.

Happy listening.

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Your Daily Bread: Wii Fit to Die


What’s going on in the game industry? Here are the top headlines of the day with a twist, of course.

Wii Fit to Die

Tim Eyes was jogging on the Wii Fit when he collapsed and died.

MegaMetalGear Skit Goes Awry

Awesome yet terrible?

Xbox Live Community Game Sales

Don’t quit your day job yet…

Disney’s Warren Spector Says Prices Are Too High

Why can’t you buy a game for $20?

OnLive: Publishers Use New Excuses to Overprice Games

More than 6000 Dead Rising?

How many dead people is too many dead people?

The Behemoth’s Game Three Trailer

The insanity continues with magic number three.

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OnLive: What No One Is Talking About: One More Thing…


Bill Harris of Dubious Quality wrote an interesting story about OnLive. I agree with pretty much everything Harris says in the story, except for the reasons he cites game publishers use for not lowering their prices.

“See where I’m going here?” he writes. “Publishers, at the same time they have been screaming that current piracy rates represent the apocalypse, have also told us over and over again that game prices would be cheaper if it weren’t for pirates. They’ve also been screaming that the resale market is just absolutely killing them.”

“Well, if this service actually launches, we will all see if, to put it delicately, they were full of shit. They have every reason in the world to want this technology to succeed, and one of the ways it has a much, much better chance of succeeding is if they reduce the price on games sold through OnLive. I don’t mean $5 off a $59.95 game–I mean at least $15, and preferrably $20.”

The main reason game publishers increased the prices of their games after nearly three generations is due to the increased cost of development. I guess it’s natural for games to become more sophisticated, and it would have eventually happened, but we can look at Grand Theft Auto III as a big culprit. It offered top quality gameplay, a massively huge world, excellent music, and great production values.

Personally, I don’t like the idea that game prices went up by $10 in 2001 with Xbox 360 games leading the way, but one has to remember that games cost more to make. The cost of development has increased–due to more animation teams, more physics teams, console systems built around more complex hardware including the Xbox 360 with three cores, and the PS3 with 11–and so now we have all these awesome, beautiful games that cost $59.99. I guess that’s one of the reason why cheap DLC and casual games have made a comeback.

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GDC 09: And the Winner is Hump Hump Revolution?

At GDC 09, I attended for the first time a session I have been meaning to attend for years, The Game Design Challenge. This year’s session, entitled, “Game Design Challenge: My First Time,” tied in the panel contestants’ biography and sex. The challenge is to come up with a game design using these two elements and to tie them into a presentation, which is then judged by the crowd by the unscientific mechanic of applause–whoever gets the most applause wins.

This year’s winners were the female tag-team duo of Heather Kelley and Erin Robinson (Wadget Eye Games). What is especially cool about their design is that they created it in less than 36 hours due to Valve’s Kim Swift’s withdrawal at the last minute (because of some vague Value restriction). They stepped up the plate, and in a run-off with Steve Mereetsky, VP of game design at Playdom, they eeked out a win.

The moderator was Eric Zimmerman (Chief Design Officer, Gamelab), and the contestants were Steve Meretzky (VP of Game Design, Playdom), Sulka Haro (Lead Designer, Sulake), Heather Kelley, Erin Robinson (Wadget Eye Games).

Here are some key shots from that session…

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GDC 09: Indie Devs Say Microsoft Wins DLC

In a four-person panel held Wednesday at GDC 09, the majority of independent developers attending said that making independent games and getting them to market for Microsoft was easier than Sony because the company was more organized.

“I’ve worked with both systems and from an ease factor, as far as getting the game out there, Sony has been helpful, but Microsoft is more organized,” said Vlad Ceraldi, president and CEO, Hothead Games, speaking at the GDC 09 session, “Braving the Stormy Waters of Xbox Live Arcade and PSN: Smaller is NOT Easier.dlc_whowins

Microsoft wins in that argument,” said Mike Mika, creative director, Backbone Entertainment. “Sony, however, is better about exploring new ideas and exploiting the platform, but they weren’t as organized as Microsoft.”

Other attendees included Jonathan Blow, creator of Braid, and Kraig Kujawa, director of Design, PD, Capcom USA. Very little was mentioned about developing indie games for Nintendo’s Wii. Indie developers, such as Telltale Games’ Strong Bad or 2D Boy’s World of Goo, and European indie developers, weren’t represented.

Instead of those, iPhone games were mentioned multiple times.

“With Apple, you don’t get much interaction with them, but they have a 97% pass-through rate, so if you put a concept or a game through, and you’re likely to get it out there,” said Mika. “That’s how games like iFart gets out there. So in that regard, getting a game out there and into the store and making money, it’s so much faster on the iPhone than on these other two platforms. And if we can get those other two platforms to that space, you’ll see a much more interesting market and more variety than you do today on PSN and XBLA.

Blow, the creator of the successful DLC XBLA game, Braid, runs his own business and has only published one game to date. His efforts were also self-funded; he spent approximately $200 over three years to make Braid with a staff of two people, he said at the show. Known for his outspoken opinions on matters of game quality, Blow added this lengthy comment on the XBLA experience.

“My only game release has been Xbox Live Arcade, so I would say that, as I have detailed in my blog posts stuff, any time you have a platform like that, they have a priority structure,” Blow said. “The problem comes in, with any publisher anywhere who sees their role as gatekeeper doesn’t understand what a good game or a bad game is in the first place. So what they green light and what they turn down is not actually necessarily in their best interest even though they think it might be, right? And the processes have been put in place that they hope establish quality can in many cases result in lower quality games because you spend all your time working on things that don’t impact the player experience that much, like, ‘oh, what happens when the user does this or that?’ Whereas meanwhile while I’m fixing that, I can’t fix this twitch in the animation where the player climbs a ladder or whatever, which by the way, they don’t test for in their process. And that’s a fundamental piece of gameplay. So there are all these processes in place and they help you meet a minimum quality bar, for a certain definition of quality, but they don’t actually help you make a good game. So you have to keep that mind.

Added Ceraldi, “There is one other aspect. These are large companies and as far as companies go, you might get the luck of the draw, but what happens is there is a lot of churn in personnel. So I’m working with all new people now then when I started working with Microsoft three years ago. So if you get good people, and it’s a big enough organization where it’s not just one guy that can sway opinion toward your camp. I have heard some good stories with Nintendo, but I haven’t worked with them, so I can’t say any more than that.”

“From a design standpoint, Xbox Live’s strengths are shoveled around in the same way, so you know how to create multiplayer and you know how to do this and that, but it’s a little more rigid and you kind of what to push the boundaries and see what you can do,” added Kraig Kujawa, Capcom. “So that can create a lot of work hurdles and workarounds, things that may or may not be the best thing for the designer, or for the publisher. But they have been really good about working with us on our last two titles without being difficult. Sony is so much more open. It’s an open architecture, that’s a strength and a weakness as well. So it gives you more latitude as a developer.”


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