I've been working on developing video games for a few years now. I put up a blog on here to share what I hope will be sensible and interesting articles about game design. The "Fame Design" name came to me when I thought, "I want to be famous for only one thing: video games".
At the moment I'm developing new games in Flash. So I expect to share experiences in being an indie game developer. I often find myself wondering if I should be working in Flash, HTML5, XNA, or the iPhone/iPad SDK. Time will tell.
Hello Destructoid. A while back I started to tell people that I was going to start working on an RPG game. I said that I would update all of you, so here I am. I wish I could say that I had done more work in the past month. But I canít, and thatís mostly due to soul-searching and not knowing exactly what I am going to do with the RPG. The past month has been hard on my brain and Iíve spent almost the entire time thinking. I have been pissing off my family and irritating my fiancťe. Iím unemployed and looking for work. I would love to get a job, even if it is not in gaming. But, I canít let go of this feeling that I am missing out on my destiny in some way. Maybe itís because of my fear of losing all of my time when I actually do become employed. Maybe itís because I like Reddit, I like playing video games like Xenoblade for over one hundred hours, and I replay Castlevania: Symphony of the Night frequently. Itís enough to feel like I am wasting my time. Sure, Iím having fun surfing the net and playing games. Maybe relieving stress is a good thing Ė so maybe not a waste of time. I just know that when Iím looking at memes on Reddit, I could be working on my RPG instead. So recently it was time for me to be like the Avatar and be decisive.
There are some good things stirring in my mind. I hope you will agree. Plans, plans, and more plans are stacking up on each other and solidifying what it is Iím here to do on Destructoid. Iíd like to think this is going to be somewhat of a big deal even though I know not everyone will care about what it is Iím going to say in this blog. And Iíd just like to say right now: whether or not you believe in me, I believe in this community and I believe we can help each other. In my life there have been many talented people that I have crossed paths with, and a lot of them Iíve met right here on these c-blogs. I hope some of you get involved. I havenít necessarily told you what this project really is yet but please donít go anywhere. Please read on, and I will give you the precious details.
Why here? Why Destructoid? Why the community blogs?
I love it here. This community has plenty of people in it, but not too many. Itís under the radar enough for me to be okay with sharing some bigger ideas, but not so under the radar that a good game would go unnoticed. There is a schedule here, and people sometimes dig that a podcast gets posted every week, and they tune in. If people slip up and add a Monday musing on Thursday Ė no one much complains. People are pretty friendly around here. And we even raise some fuss when people are out of line. These are all good things, and make this the perfect place for me to start a project that will be blogged about weekly.
My ideas have been well received here, even for more of the stranger blogs. Many people here have already said they would help me on the project in one way or another. I will tell you right now that I really want your ideas! Yes, I have a general direction for where the project should go, but you guys have to keep me grounded! I sometimes go too far and give myself too much to do. Baby steps. Baby steps. Oh, and most importantly, thank all of you that commented and kept my motivation up for my c-blog fan fiction. This is yet another reason why my project has to get started here. I finished the c-blog fan fiction in no small part due to reader feedback and comments. In that way, I need your help! I am interested to see where this goes, and I hope you feel the same.
Also Ė there are plenty of people on the Destructoid staff that I am doing this for too. Anthony BurchÖ isnít on staff anymore, but I am a big fan. Anthony really inspired me with his Rev Rant series. I constantly watch anything I can of Jim Sterling Ė troller of trolls. Really I love all of the Destructoid staff, and I hope they are eventually as excited about this as I am.
I hope all of that explains why I have to do this here.
What is the project?
Letís get right to the point with this one. I am making a CRPG (Computer Role-Playing Game). I am going to be providing weekly updates, on Friday morning containing all the things Iíve done on the game that week and all the thoughts in my head about what to do next. I like the idea of people being able to read something over the weekend, or on their last day of work that week where at the end of the day people are starting to relax. It wonít work for everyone, but still Ė thereís the whole weekend left to catch up for people interested. I will try and make the updates exciting, but sometimes only very little will be done on the game. Which brings me to this: I hope this will not only be exciting for people to see this game getting done bit by bit, but also to demystify some of the questions you all might have about developing game software. Yes, programming and developing software can be boring. But dreaming about a new game, throwing around ideas, and seeing your ideas being implemented is satisfying. And maybe, just maybe, we will be doing something in this game that is rare or even totally new and different.
One of the first rules of development (I am making a list of good ones, and feel free to speak up about adding your own rules to the list) is that I have to let you play what I have done. We will be developing this software in something called Unity. I am going to find out how to let you guys play my game in a browser. Because of this, some of you might become testers of a sort, if you keep playing the game throughout the early versions and into the later versions. Letís just say we are in a design phase at the moment, because I actually havenít written any code. Iíve only just started up the project. Later on we can start making an Alpha build, Beta, and even some release candidates. Either way, I look forward to hearing about things that suck, bugs, and potential improvements.
The game will be free to play, and will always be free to play. That will not change. I am only trying to make a bit of a name for myself and get some respect. Not a whole lot of people know that I can program and finish a game, so hopefully by the end more people will at least know that. Also, I would love for this project to grow into something I can put on my resume or my portfolio. I will try and give credit where it is due for people that choose to help out. Just to be clear though, though I do not expect anything from anyone, I do want you all to know that I would love for you to contribute. Please know in advance that I may not be able to implement some ideas, and I am sorry for that. A lot of the game is already designed on paper and in my head. Whether your idea is used or not doesnít have a bearing on if your idea is actually good. It just may not be for this game. I look forward to lots of conversations on game design. I am also looking forward to seeing if this open design will work successfully. Who knows? Maybe the game will suck.
I should stress this too: We canít just talk about game design. You guys will have to introduce me to new kinds of music, art, and stories too. People that know nothing of game design or programming still might contribute by making sure I hear one of their favorite chip tunes. You never know what something like that will inspire.
Okay, thatís the project. But what will the game be like?
Itís a CRPG first and foremost. I am taking a cue from games like Diablo, Fallout, Planescape: Torment, Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura, and Dungeon Crawl: Stone Soup. This game is probably going to most resemble Diablo when considering how it plays and how it looks. But I am a big fan of some of the older isometric or top-down CRPGís that had more attention to story, like Baldurís Gate or even Dragon Age: Origins. Dungeon Crawl is a rogue-like, and that genre may make people cringe, but I assure you this game will not be as scary as Dwarf Fortress when it comes to accessibility. There are things I love about Dungeon Crawl though, like the skill system - more on that later. And remember: Diablo was originally a rogue-like. Itís okay to like rogue-likes.
I should mention that I really like the older Zelda games. I still love both the NES and SNES versions. The Legend of Zelda was my favorite though, and when it comes to how the flow of levels will be designed Ė a lot of my thoughts will be with Zelda. I love the over-world and under-world style of level progression. And I would like to see a lot of secrets throughout the game, hidden underneath rocks and bushes even.
Because some people donít know about some of the games I mentioned, Iíll go into specific detail. All of these features are subject to change, but currently are on my TODO list. Here listed are the general features of the game:
Underlying theme - The fear of the unknown
As much as I can, I want to take the player from familiar territory into a nightmare. And I know Diablo does some of this by starting you in Tristram and taking you into the depths of Hell. But I want to start in a place even more familiar, maybe even in a place where you feel kind of good. Maybe youíre taking care of animals in a field enjoying the sun and minding your own business. The farther you go out adventuring, the more of a nightmare the world becomes. I want less of a Hell theme and more of a trippy theme where the outer rim of the over world might feel more like Metroid, than Diablo. One of the reasons I want to do this is that Iíve always wanted to make a game that started out like Silent Hill and turned into Castlevania. Imagine a horror game where in the end you turn the tables so far in your favor that you donít feel afraid anymore. But yeah, Metroid Ė I want the player to feel lost. I want some of you having some nightmares.
The game will probably be mostly randomized for replay value.
There has been a lot of discussion with friends on whether or not this game should be randomly generated. And I think the answer is that it has to be mostly randomized. This is mostly for replay value because there will be multiple ways to finish the game and reach multiple endings. I have a lot of ideas on how to make this feature less of a hassle. I donít want to randomize whole buildings and their architecture. But I do want to make buildings, and randomize their position on the map. That said: A lot of the time story ends up taking a backseat when a game has randomized elements like this. I want to avoid that. If I donít have a compelling story because of procedurally generated maps, I might have to scrap this feature and just design all the levels.
This will be a single-player game, through and through. I know some people swear by multi-player games and possibly want some sort of social element to the game, but this game will have neither. I enjoy an RPG most when I can sit down and enjoy it alone. Not only will this be easier for me to program, but also easier for me to design and balance.
Like the original Zelda, there may be little to no NPCís to talk to.
One thing that I think is important to mention is: I donít know if I will be including other humans in the game. I do like the idea of having other NPCís (Non-Player Characters) in the game because it gives me the chance to have more drama between human characters. That also gives me the chance to try and have a party system in the game. If I do have a party system, you will still only be responsible for your own character when it comes to equipping yourself with armor, feeding yourself, putting points into attributes/skills, etc. Other party members should be able to interact with you though, and receive armor from you if they like the idea of changing it. Anyhow, there are advantages to not having NPCís or parties at all. I can concentrate on monsters and much less thought would have to go into how to make the NPCís more human. The story would have to come through without NPCís though and would feel more like Shadow of the Colossus or Legend of Zelda Ė very lonely with only a few NPCís scattered about here and there.
The levels will have to be designed with a couple different ways to solve problems.
Iíd like to be able to bash in a door but make a lot of noise doing it, quietly lock pick the door, or melt it with some sort of acid you crafted. Not everything will have this many options, but tasks you donít have enough skill for should be avoided and left for another day. For nimble characters, there should be some elaborate treasure rooms that you should be able to solve with some athletic feats and some smarts. The point is: Characters that are merely trying to force their way through certain treasure rooms will not succeed. These things will be balanced out so that other character types will also have certain types of obstacles that they can easily pass too Ė and they will all have their specific class rewards.
The main character should not be able to learn anything that anyone would call magic until late in the game.
There are a few reasons for this. First, I want to avoid the magic user clichť that plagues most RPGís out there. Second, the D&D magic user generally uses the Intelligence (Int) stat, and I want the Int stat to cover skills that actually display intelligence. Iíll cover the character stats in the section describing characters below. Third, Iíd like to ground the skills in the game in reality as much as possible until the late game. To make the Intelligence stat seem more like real Intelligence, I want to build both a solid crafting system and a memory system. I will explain the memory system in this section, below.
Your character should start classless, as a regular human.
But that doesnít mean you canít be classy. Because of the way I want the skills to be learned by the main character, I want to give the player some initial skills to try and see what play-style they want to use. Are you a rogue that likes to dodge and use finesse rather than bash heads? Are you a barbarian that likes to use large primitive weapons to bash monsters into oblivion? Or are you the type that tries to set traps and use poisons so that you hardly need to even step into combat most times? Any of the combinations of play-styles available should be easily seen by the player. The concept here is: Players should be able to find success with whatever class they choose to be as long as they stay in character. Example: There will be a penalty for using light armor for 99% of the game, and then putting heavy armor on for the last boss. The game will have weapons and armor that will remind people of Diablo, Torchlight, and basically anything with a medieval fantasy theme.
One of the things I canít totally reveal to people is the story.
One of the rules of developing this game is that I canít let you in on its story. The story will be the one thing that I have that I can still surprise people with. I will be able to display how the game will look with some art and a level. And I will give some info about the story from time to time. But I will never let you guys in on something that would spoil it. As of right now, I would say I only have 10% of the story written down. So there is a lot to think about there.
Unobtrusive user interface
An RPG usually has a character sheet of sorts that you can see your stats, equipment, and inventory. Iím going to try and have these things easily accessible, but I will try to give the player enough information on the main screen to spend lots of time away from the menus.
The only three attributes a character has is Strength (Str), Dexterity (Dex), and Intelligence (Int). There is a philosophy to this, that I will talk about in a later blog. Other skills are familiar except I'm going to be adding an extensive crafting system that may have unfamiliar skills. We rarely have trap-making skills or poison making skills. (Skyrim is a good example of what kind of traditional skills I want, all except for the magic).
The Memory System
For specific use with the Intelligence attribute, I am making a memory system. The player character will remember an amount of memories based on his experience. This lets the character fit more into his mind and combine ideas to 'invent' more complex weapons. A less intelligent craftsman will be able to make a board with a nail through it. The highly intelligent craftsman will be able to set elaborate traps or even make guns and grenades at a high level. Memories are also good for remembering weaknesses for other creatures too. Remembering weaknesses raises critical hits and tells you what kinds of attacks are appropriate (like blunt vs blade weapons). A highly intelligent person will often hoard so much information that he should write his inventions, recipes, and special events in a book to remember later. I'll go into more detail on how this works in a future blog.
I want an ďalways pauseĒ system.
This is probably one of the most polarizing of concepts. You either love it or hate it. I, myself, have been undecided for the longest time on if I should build a turn-based game or a real-time game. So I made up something. I always kind of liked the Dragon Age: Origins battle system because it had all the benefits of a real time combat system and added the option to pause the game when you needed to think. I also got used to playing rogue-like games and loved the automatic search button. It would always stop when you encounter something that could be dangerous. I wanted the best of both worlds, so I designed an ďalways pauseĒ system. The game will move as fast and as fluid as any real time system Ė just like Diablo. However, when youíre done with an action, the game will be paused. Itís like playing Diablo but you get to think about everything you do. It makes for good planning and strategy and makes sure that you are using all your potential power for defeating enemies wisely. This is not a twitch action game. You get to think about all the moves you make. I will try to keep the game in full motion when you are not in danger Ė but Iím not sure if that will be necessary. We will see.
I want monsters to have a purpose.
I donít want them to just be things in the game that you kill. There will be that definite traditional feel to the game when it comes to combat. You can kill monsters all the time in this game. But there will be a few differences. I want you to be able to run away. I want the monster to go back to where they were if you werenít that threatening. I want them to go find food elsewhere or basically just get back to what they were doing. Not every fight with a monster will be a fight to the death. Isnít that refreshing? Also, not all animals will try to harm you. They will also run away when they are afraid of you. Something they did in Ultima was they gave their creatures a hierarchy of needs. Dragons would actually collect gold and things and sit on it. I donít know the extent of what happened with that feature, but it gives me so many ideas for how creatures should work. I would love to do a giant spider that hangs out and tries to catch people.
There should be little to no customization needed for your character at the beginning of the game. People that love to customize their characters should have options during the game to do this. Armor and weapons should be somewhat customizable so that you can at least get a look that suits you. The look of your character will also depend a bit on what class you choose to focus on later in the game. You may be restricted to using light armor instead of heavy armor. In that case you will look less beefy, but you will also look like you can move around pretty well. Youíd be more like a hunter than a knight. Iím thinking of having male/female options as well as skin color. Hair style and color might be a good thing too.
I want genders to be well represented.
Iíll tell you right now that I donít know how to do this. Though, I know that one thing Iím going to do first is make sure there are male and female options along with some things to customize your character. But since you are going to be the average human when you start, I want to have as little customization as possible in the beginning.
Music will be a little different. It will probably have a little more flow.
I know this is kind of a weird thing, but I am a big fan of the way Lumines handles music. There are a few more games from that developer that have used music in so many awesome ways. And I always thought it would be a shame to not pay attention to music in an RPG. My fond memories of Secret of Mana, Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy, Secret of Evermore, and Illusion of Gaia have left their permanent marks on me. I think my choice of music will be a little different from traditional RPGís. That might be because I think orchestrated music is clichť, and is typical for games like Skyrim or anything that is trying to be like Lord of the Rings. Itís not that I donít like it. I just want to go against the urge to compose all the music like John Williams would. What that means isÖ WellÖ A lot of strange sounding music will probably be in this game. Anyway, thatís not the point. The point is: Lumines music has a flow to it. And I want to see if I can achieve that in this game. Iíll go into that more in another blog.
Rules of Development: 1. Every blog update must be accompanied with an updated demo.
2. I cannot give away the story to anyone.
3. Players must be able to achieve success with ANY class.
4. The game will always be free.
So, I have a lot of work to do. You guys seriously know just about everything about how I want the game to work. We do still have some other things to talk about, for sure. This project could very well take usÖ years! But I am not a quitter (except for smoking). And there are some people helping me on this that could help the momentum.
Also, I know about Kickstarter. Kickstarter will be on my mind, but I am still going to start this without any funding. If we are ever going to have a successful campaign for it, we will have to gain trust. Iíd like to gain trust by making something awesome. So Iíll concentrate on the product first. Even getting a prototype ready will take a while.
Still - I know itís coming someday. The game will be feature complete. And at that time I will spin a story for you all to remember.
I do not fear the monsters and demons I fear that I am awake. I have the weight of the world on my shoulders, No way out, and I am alone.
I've had some very personal blogs. So a lot of the things I could have put on this list are all gone. You guys already know a lot about me. I lost one of my brothers in a tragic accident when I was 21. You never get over something like that, but I assure you Iím okay. I just canít do things like watch Grave of the Fireflies without breaking down into a flood of tears, and I just end up in this mess of snot.
Anyways, here we go! (While dropping PAX photos.)
This is not PAX. It is our halloween Vampire: The Masquerade dress up game!
1. I have a weekly Vampire: The Masquerade game that has gone on for over a year. The amazing thing is that the game will probably last a lot longer than that. The story teller has talked about the game lasting for another year and a half. The dedication from every player there is nothing short of amazing. Weíve seen people come and go, get torpored, and reach Golconda. It is what I always wanted from Dungeons and Dragons, but never achieved: more story, politics, intrigue, and less attention to combat and dungeon crawling alone.
To be clear: we are not LARPing, so no fake drinking blood for real. (But sometimes we dress up.) Also, I currently play an Assamite warrior. The whole group wants to know what is in store for the new World of Darkness MMO.
This is not to say I have never LARPed. We used to call it boffing, after the term boffer a.k.a. foam weapon. Boffing is supposedly a term for having sexual intercourse now, which is quite the opposite of what I was doing.
2. I believe somewhat that life is literally a game. This may be because of my career as a programmer. Religious teachings never really stuck with me. One of my cardinal rules was that whether I was religious or not, I would be a good person. The golden rule really helps for that mind set. The only thing that has really stuck for me is that our universe, at some level, could have been created by a team of programmers, artists, and designers. This makes sense to me because I think our world has all the beauty and flaws that we see in our games. I donít go around preaching this stuff because it is mostly just an idea. But it is an idea that fits for me and that has stuck around over the years. Itís the same reason why I love movies like The Matrix and Vanilla Sky.
3. I love Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Iíve been talking with Knutaf about live streaming some video of Castlevania and possibly Mega Man, so I started practicing again. I didnít know how far I would go with it because I had never tried to do speed runs before. In the past I was just fine with getting 200.6% of the map covered. I think thatís because I just like playing the game more than anything else. The animations and timing of the game have a flow to it that really is unmatched in my opinion.
I told Knutaf that I could beat the game in 6 hours. I thought that would be sufficient for one day of streaming. But Knut seemed to think we couldnít do that all in one day. So I told myself I would pick up the pace. I researched the Castlevania: SOTN speed runs and found out some neat tricks and exploits. You wouldnít think it, but the wolf powers are actually the most valuable powers for speed runs. You can dart past lots of different obstacles and jump higher than you would normally be able to. I can now beat the game in less than 2 hours. I love this game. Maybe someday Iíll get it under a half hour. I have to practice my backwards (annoying) slide. You have to slide backwards and stop the animation by flipping your shield and then slide again. It moves you about twice as fast as the normal running animation.
4. I had a blog on here a long time ago that had like 60+ faps that got deleted, and Iíve never reposted it. If it seems like Iím bragging, I am - a bit. But I also feel a little guilty because the blog was a bit of a tribute to my brother who I mentioned had passed away. (By the way, I do have another younger brother and weíre close.) It was a one time thing, you guys all had beautiful responses to it, and I wish it was still in my list of blogs. But I donít want to repost it mostly because I am trying to be personal with my blogs without having to mention that tragic incident. And I should mention that the Destructoid staff (Hamza in this case) was very good about getting me a cached copy of the blog to me before it was gone forever.
5. My girlfriend is way better than me at Halo. And sheís probably better than most of you. Some of you might know her as Wolf Girl. Iím actually not sure what rank she is now. It looks like one of those suns or an eclipse or something. Sheís the kind of rank youíd rather not see on the other team. Iím not horrible at Halo, but I will never be as good as her. I have solidified myself in the RPG camp and will probably only play FPSís when they are single player so I wonít have to endure the accusing stares of a talented player. She hates it when I play on her gamertag too because I mess with her K/D spread.
This could be seen as sad or emasculating, but I love my gamer girl. Weíre to be married later this year.
6. I worked with and had conversations about Shadowrun with Jordan Weisman the creator of Shadowrun. I know, not everyone knows about Shadowrun, but my friends and I played a lot of this game back in the day. Growing up, I ran games where I gave people too much Karma, too many Panther Cannons, and too many hovercrafts. And every one of my friends played the Super Nintendo and Genesis games. In a certain section of our lives we were brought up on Shadowrun and every time we saw the Space Needle in Seattle we were reminded of the awakening.
Meeting Jordan let me know how hard it was going to be to create another Shadowrun game. It also taught me a lot about business in the game industry. There is a free to play MMO Shadowrun in development, but as far as I can tell it is not the next best RPG that I wish it was. Still, it was an honor to work for someone who took part in how I grew up in the world of gaming. I hadnít even written this whole thing before I found out that Jordan just started a kickstarter event for Shadowrun Returns. They are going to make it. Just like the Double Fine thing. 400,000 dollars, and will probably get more than that. DamnÖ I was very close to being able to work on that project. One of my close friends will be able to. WowÖ
7. Iím fat. And I know some people would say Iím not. But I know I am and I keep my skinny faced avatar on Destructoid to remind me that I have issues. I could just put a more recent picture on here, but I canít come to grips with it. Even though I was completely fine to be in my own skin when I met a lot of you, I still fantasize about working out and being fit next time we meet.
8. Mountain Dew: Amp is either the best soft drink ever constructed or the most addictive. When Iím working, co-workers always see me with a tall can of this stuff. Iíll often drink one a day, but have been known to drink two or three. I drink two in a night regularly on gaming nights with the Vampire Masquerade group. It is the unhealthiest thing I do (besides not exercising) and is not helping me with my number 7 (Iím fat). I think, when I was younger, Mountain Dew was the gateway drug. Then it was Surge. Then it was Mellow Yellow. Then, somewhere around the time Mellow Yellow came out, the energy drink craze started and Mountain Dew: Amp hit the shelves soon after. Then it was Vault. Then it was Mountain Dew: Voltage. Then it was Mountain Dew and their gamer fuels. Then we had Mellow Yellow again. But, since Mountain Dew: Amp Ė there was no other choice for me. Now that Iím trying to be healthier I am trying to step down from the Amp and try Mellow Yellow again. After a while, maybe I will stop drinking soda altogether. HahaÖ Fat ChanceÖ
9. A friend of mine from Jr. High worked on Portal and Portal 2. Right now heís working for Valve and his name is Dave Kircher. He always used to be one of those geniuses that didnít know exactly what he was doing with his life. I talked to him in Jr. High about making some video games, but he said he didnít know how. He graduated in 2005 from Digipen and I think his teamís final project was Portal. If it wasnít, it was the project that later became Portal. I believe he worked on Portal 2, but Iím actually not sure. I hope he is working on Half-Life 3. He is a good man and he comes from a long line of geniuses that all retired when they were young. I remember the days where we would all camp out with a 2 liter bottle of Coke and extend wires out from our house so we could still play video games and watch movies. Nerds. Those were good times. I miss that group.
10. I will eventually make a Star Trek fan film. I donít care how long it takes as long as it is before I die. I often tell my friends the same thing when talking about making an RPG. And I admit that the Star Trek fan film takes second fiddle to making an RPG of my very own, but itís still up there at the top of my list.
I always thought it was strange that humans could contend in battle with Klingons in hand to hand fighting. So one of my ideas was to have battle scenes that noted the ways the federation would make use of technology rather than just brawling or even just standing there and using a phaser. Then the Klingons could show even more brutality in their fighting rather than resorting to human tactics. And I could see Vulcans using more technology and martial arts. Since they were always stronger, it would make sense for them to sometimes use martial arts to use in contrast with a Klingon which might have a more barbaric fighting style.
All that, and I just love science fiction. You all should check out Philip K. Dick.
Andy Dixon recently blogged a 'state of the c-blogs' found here. And I realized that I've wanted to see some improvements here as well. There are actually plenty of people here that I enjoy. Elsa still stays pretty consistent. Knutaf still rolls out his Dark Souls blogs. Occams Electric Toothbrush, Corduroy Turtle, and Knutaf have a new podcast. VenusInFurs, Xander Markham, TheManchild, and Patrick O'Rourke give pretty solid posts. There are other people I like on here as well, and I'm sorry if I haven't mentioned you. But lots of other people I look for haven't been back until very recently or haven't produced a whole lot of content. And even my favorites that I have mentioned aren't writing nearly as much. Things were very different a year ago. And honestly, we were at our best before Destructoid tried to that 'new Destructoid' beta thing. I haven't written much lately either except for a spoilerific Mass Effect 3 blog that understandably not a whole lot of people will read. Anyway, I think it is high time I started writing here again because I still do love the community. And when it comes down to it there is still a huge canvas here for us to use for our creativity. It just has to be harnessed. Thank you Andy Dixon for the inspiration.
Before I begin, let me say this: I hope I see many of you at PAX Prime this year. PAX 2011 was fun. It was fun like dropping into a fantasy world where friends on the internet were friends in real life. Every moment I spent with you guys was like having an encounter with a double rainbow. I kept saying to myself that I wished I had a cul-de-sac where all of you guys lived so that I could come over and hang out - like, whenever man. *sigh* Well... I should write some more blogs. I've been neglecting all of you. So, since I'm starting back up again, this is probably a good time to fill you guys in on where I have been the past few months. It is video game related for the most part.
I have to preface this with something: I have always wanted to make my own video games. For around five years I have been making them for someone else in an attempt to make a living. I've racked up some good experience here and there, but have been mostly disappointed with the industry. Even the most inspiring companies I've worked for have fallen through the cracks and went out of business. Granted, I've only worked for four game companies, but two of them closed up shop or had massive layoffs because of their lack of sales. Could it have been partly my fault? Sure? Maybe? I honestly don't know, but never-the-less I tried my very best. It is only recently that I have felt truly burnt out.
Since the beginning I did my very best to code and code and code. I stayed at work until I had to sleep. I slept there and woke up to people walking into the office and then I started coding some more. Even five years of experience has brought me no closer to security. I'm consistantly paid less than I am worth. (My friends and ex-coworkers know what I'm talking about.) I feel like maybe if I had tried to get in at a company like Microsoft, that I would have at least been spending my energy on a company that wasn't going to go out of business in the next year. But, for a lot of different reasons I kept trying to work with small companies. And I think that is because someday I want to be in the driver's seat. I always had this feeling that Microsoft would own my ass. But I've heard recently that it isn't a completely valid feeling.
But regardless of my choices in the past, my recent experience with the game industry just flat out blows. I'm not saying it is going to keep me away from trying to make a living in the industry, but it makes me angry enough to write about it.
I got started at my last job right after PAX Prime last year. And, as I said, I saw a lot of you there. And as amazing as that was, it took a lot out of me. I started up my new job being sick with a cold and severely exhausted that following Monday. I didn't really have enough time to recover and I had neglected to prepare to use the software they were using. It wasn't a big deal at the time, I guess. I got there a little late that week because I was getting used to bus schedules. The tardiness wasn't necessarily my fault because the buses were late. But it's still not good to make excuses. You are late either way according to your boss. So forgiveness depends on what kind of company you work for. Mostly small companies are nice about that stuff.
And I was mostly okay. The first month or two were strange because I had never taken buses to work. I also didn't do a whole lot of coding. I'm a programmer, so this was a bit strange. I was there for the most part, at first, to do animations and design levels. Now, I thought that this would be good for me because that would mean that I could catch up on the technology before it was time for me to code again. I did the levels and animations for them as best I could. And to my surprise there was a question of how productive I was. I was shocked because this was very early on in my employment there, and they were questioning my value on something I was not hired for. My immediate boss was more understanding but our CEO was complaining. All I could say to him was, "You hired me as a Software Developer - a Programmer. I'm okay with doing animations, but please don't judge me on something I am only just starting to learn."
That was just the start of my troubles there. I had some attendance problems and I didn't know why it was happening. I should have completely loved this job. But for some reason, I hated it. I was unhappy. I was getting paid enough, but somehow I couldn't wake up to get there. I felt extremely depressed because of this and I constantly worked on trying to have a better schedule for myself. I would try and go to bed at 10:00pm to wake up for my bus early in the morning. The problem was that sleep, commuting to work, the work itself, and getting ready for work left me with very little time for anything else in my day. Mostly all I could stand to do was eat dinner and fall asleep. Where was my energy? I'm only 30 years old. Where was my will to survive? Where was my killer instinct?
The attendance problems were usually okay because I would always work on the weekend or make them up somehow. But, there was other things going on too. I was filling the position of some other guy that left the company and he was supposedly a genius programmer. So there was a standard of work that I was held to that I'm not sure I could have necessarily achieved without the proper energy to step up. This guy also made coffee every morning and brought doughnuts weekly, so people would joke around about what I was going to contribute. I started making lattes for everyone, but in hindsight I should have told them to shut the fuck up and let me do my job. They weren't even telling me to program anything for the most part. I was doing 20% programming, 50% design, and 30% art (which, again, wouldn't have been bad except they were expecting me to 'be an artist' and meet a schedule).
Later on they started getting on my case for taking sick days. I didn't know what was going on with me at the time, but in November and December I was sick a total of 4 different times, once every two weeks. My colds were lasting for about a week, so every other week I was miserable. I took some of those days off, but we were on a wellness day system. I was supposed to be reporting a wellness day quite a bit before I needed to take the day off and we had about one wellness day per two months. When I was really sick and didn't want to come into the office they started taking that time out of my vacation time. And I thought, "Don't people wake up in the morning sick anymore? People that get sick overnight have to take time out of their vacations?" I started getting angry. And it made it even harder to drag myself into work. Maybe I should have tried to change my contract? I asked my CEO why they were getting on my case even though I was making up the hours. He just said, "That's not how things work around here."
But that's how things were working. Other people there were coming to work sick or late. At least one of the times I was sick was because of that. No one ever said anything about anyone else being late or when they took two hour lunches and went home early. People only seemed to pay attention when I wasn't there. It was easy to see that my first impressions were screwing with my reputation. There was no plan for when I was going to be forgiven for sick days or tardiness. But near the middle of December I decided it was time to suck it up and prove them wrong. I spent around a month doing that with only one tardiness where I called in and had a valid reason. (Not counting Christmas vacation.) I was early to work, late to leave. Everything was good even though it was still rough waking up in the morning. Then snowpocalypse happened.
For about a week there was snow covering a great deal of western Washington. If there is even an inch of snow at my house it is dangerous to drive to work because of the hill I'm on. The buses were running on snow routes but my particular bus stop was cancelled. The previous weekend I had forgotten my laptop at someone else's house, so I couldn't work from home. I couldn't take either of my cars out of my driveway. I thought it was only natural to be safe and stay at home but I heard that the other people on my team made it into the office. I felt horrible after that and tried making it the next day. But I had to pick up my laptop from my friend's house using the bus system using snow routes, and I wasn't familiar with the routes. I tried to do it anyway, but found out later that the bus stop I was waiting at was shut down - even though it was part of the snow route. So, try as I might, I couldn't make the snow days work. The snow picked up even more after that, so I told my co-workers that I had to stay home until it was over.
People on my team showed up every day. And they sure let me know about it. I let them know how treacherous the conditions were for me, but they were still jerks about it. I thought this would all blow over in time. They couldn't fire me for being stuck in the snow, could they? Would they?
I woke up the following Monday early. I was ready well before I needed to be there. The morning was fresh and I felt like the time off had done me some good. I was still proving myself with the CEO and the rest of my team so getting there on time was still very important. I was ready for work so early that I sat and checked Reddit for a while before I left. I slung my laptop over my shoulder, tied my shoes and went outside to my bus with a confidence that I hadn't felt in quite a while. I was ready to take on... well I wasn't ready to take on the world. Maybe I was ready to take on my company. I was ready to continue proving myself to them. Plans were being set in motion.
I was thinking all of this right up until the moment I stepped outside onto my driveway. I slipped on black ice and fell backwards onto my left arm. I heard all of these strange popping sounds. I had never heard popping sounds like that before. My butt hit the ground and I had to pull my arm around as hard as I could to prevent more damage. I know my arm over extended but I didn't know how much, and I didn't want to think about it right away. I just sat there and held my arm close to my body for a while. I had pulled muscles plenty of times and I had this feeling that I may have pulled a tendon right off the bone. It felt worse than normal. Had I broken it? No... No way... I hadn't ever broken a bone in my body before. Shit.
I sat there on the ice in excruciating pain. I tried to get up but I was surrounded by black ice. Every attempt to get up was futile because I would just slip again. I had to struggle and shift to the lawn nearby to have any traction. I groaned as I stood up and parts of me were numb from being out in the cold on the pavement so long. I made my way back inside and sat there for a moment, letting my body get used to the pain.
I decided to go into work still. My girlfriend helped me a bit with it and we used my coat pocket to basically put my arm into a sling. I went to work explaining that I had hurt myself really bad and was trying to decide whether or not I was going into the doctor. And after a while talking to my co-worker I knew it would be best to see a doctor the next day. I made my way back home. Everything was harder to do. Going to the bathroom was hard to do with one arm. It's easy to take for granted what you can't do once you only have one arm to use.
The next day I went to the doctor and I was still in a lot of pain. Moving my arm wasn't possible at all unless I wanted to feel like a hammer was smashing my elbow. We talked about what could be wrong with my arm, and the doctor said one of my tendons might have come off the bone. She also mentioned that I have constant congestion and have all the symptoms of someone who has sleep apnea. She said it would explain why it was hard to wake up in the morning. Then the doctor took ex-rays and told me that my arm was broken. And then the dreaded word... Surgery.
I had to go into Seattle for surgery at Harborview Medical. I was out for another week of work to take care of my arm. The surgery went well. All of the people there at the hospital were great. I was taking all kinds of pain medication. I eventually got pumped up with morphine and it was a high that I never had really felt before. (If you ever have to get 5mg of morphine pumped into you, please brace yourself. It's like a roller coaster.) Anyway, all of the doctors and nurses ended up looking like characters from popular medical TV shows, like from House, ER, General Hospital, and even St. Elsewhere. I believe George Clooney was there. That's how I choose to remember it.
Fast forward to the next Monday after my discharge from the hospital. My CEO calls me and tells me that he is terminating my employment. I thought he was calling me to arrange how I was going to go about working from home after my surgery. I could only type comfortably with one hand, but I could work. (And now look at me, typing with two hands!) At first he complained about the snow. I told him I had never worked for anyone who was going to require me to travel in treacherous snow conditions, so he let up on that. And even though he said he wasn't taking my termination lightly, he wasn't presenting a very good argument for firing me. He said that he was going to fire me before I broke my arm, and it was very likely that he was lying about that. But if it was true, I would have liked to know that he was going to fire me before I stepped out onto the black ice that fateful Monday morning.
I was enraged. I mentioned that my sleep apnea was a valid reason for my lateness and being sick. He didn't care. He said, "At some point we just have to call it."
I've spelled out mostly what was going on my head at the time. I'm going to fast forward one month and tell you what is going on with me currently. Most of the past month, I've been soul searching. Because, I mean, I know what I sound like to some people. In Washington I can be fired for any reason. Maybe it was because of the attendance issues and maybe it wasn't. I was still partially in the wrong for being late to work and taking so many sick days. I believe I was still a good employee and got my work done, but fuck it. This stuff only matters to me as a cautionary tale now. Yes, I may have been able to avoid getting fired if I wasn't sick or late to work at all - ever. (No one there at work was beyond reproach for that.) But even if I had been on time all the time, I was still working for an ass hole that wouldn't take care of me after my surgery. What the CEO did was illegal for bigger companies.
What I'm trying to say is that I'm fed up. Not just with the video game companies I've worked at, but also with myself. I've poured my energy into these companies, and for what? Apparently for my managers to drive their company into the ground, for me to get paid shit, for me to get little respect, and for my time to get fucking wasted. And perhaps the worst thing is: I will not quit. I have let this happen to myself.
I have come out of the last month realizing something. I kept trying to think about if I was ready to be a genius programmer, like the one I was trying to live up to at my last job. But, I am already that person. And what has been happening to me emotionally reaches way back to when my brother passed away nine years ago. There are a lot of people who think I'm a bright person. I've been told that for most of my life. My girlfriend, my family, my friends - they must see something in me too. It is very hard for me to display that brightness since my brother died. It's also really hard to remain humble when I'm so angry. Most of the time I disappoint people and give the impression that I'm just getting by. But I have so many amazing people around me, especially in the Destructoid c-blogs, that have seen some of my work. And even though my blogs are rushed and I don't often put my best foot forward, people seem to like what I'm doing. It is nice to feel that because depression still hangs over my head.
I remember doing the c-blog fan fiction chapters. I remember wishing I could do more. I remember wishing that I could add other people to the story. And I remember reading the last chapter to most of the people that were in the story at PAX. The reception to the story was absolutely something that is saving my ass from being depressed with my work. There were quite a few people reading my blogs that said that they would buy a game from me if I ever made one. You guys have no idea how important that is to me. The c-blog fan fiction is something I have been more proud about than anything else that I've done in my career. I've finished a Facebook game, seen a handheld device on Bestbuy shelves that I worked on, and I have two mobile games on the iPad and iPhone that I have had influence on. And I still feel nothing for those projects. The c-blog fan fiction, however, warms my heart.
And so, in my soul searching I have figured out that I need to make my own RPG game. I can make my own engine because today's technology makes it easier to do that. I will keep you all informed. Thank you for your time.
Please continue if you are okay with hearing about the endings to Mass Effect 3.
There are spoilers ahead.
I was actually writing this in response to an earlier post, and it got a little too long so I decided it was a blog. There are a lot of people up in arms about the Mass Effect 3 endings, and I just finished the game myself so I'm just finding out about all of it. I honestly thought the game was great. I thought the game built a truly compelling story, and ended it with a more intelligent ending than most games out there. For the most part the endings looked the same visually and that may have disturbed some people. But, I was happy with it all the same. It shined a light on your final choice rather than spending too much time showing you the results of your actions. This was definitly a message to players, begging them to pay attention and think of the choices they've made instead of going through every ending on YouTube to see what they've missed out on.
I get the feeling people are thinking of the last episode of LOST or The Sopranos, which are on lists of worst endings of all time. Those shows have their own bullshit answers for why they ended that way, but I don't think this is what's happening with Mass Effect 3. The Mass Effect 3 ending is actually a no-bullshit ending.
My initial reaction to seeing the ending 'movie' was that it was extremely short and didn't explain much. But my very next thought was about how riveting the entire ending was - starting from when you make a mad dash towards 'the spire' (Halo reference - it was a beam of light that transported you upwards). The ending was quite a bit more thought prevoking than I initially thought it was going to be. I actually expected the worst, because of a few people complaining about it online. I tried my best not to read anything but the headers. But the feeling, regardless, was that the ending was going to dissapoint. As it turns out, it did not.
The high road and the low road.
If you've played Mass Effect at all, you know about the dialog choices that you are given that sometimes result in changing your reputation. You are a renegade-type if you choose to kick ass rather than adhere to protocol and it can be pretty harsh. Renegades destroy their competition, shoot first, and ask questions later. On the other hand, the paragon-types tend to adhere to protocol and are the goody two shoes of the spectrum. They ask questions and only shoot when necessary. Simply put: They (Paragon personallities) are fans of order while on the other side the renegades choose destruction, chaos, and generally being free to kick ass.
These choices usually come in to play later in the game when you have to use your points in reputation (where Paragon and Renegade points go) to affect a situation, usually in some profound way. The great thing is, neither one of these options feel 'bad'. It is a bit different than good and evil. And as it is portrayed in the game, it ends up being the difference between controlling something and destroying something.
Long story short: In Mass Effect there are large machines that come every 50,000 years to obliterate all forms of sentient life in the Galaxy so that the chaos that sentient life brings can be leveled out. The life energy from the sentient lifeforms is then collected and stored to be used later for raw materials for these machines. The machines figure this is a good way to respect advanced lifeforms by letting them live on in their own huge machine bodies, and a good way to continue to let life flourish by letting the primitive life survive so they can evolve naturally. These machines are called Reapers, and the entire Mass Effect trilogy culminates in the main character fighting them to save the human race (and other races too).
The ending gives you three choices. Two of them relate to the themes of Paragon and Renegade. The Renegade choice is to destroy the Reapers. The Paragon choice is to control the Reapers. And there is a choice in the middle that creates a new world where machines and organic beings are mixed together and are on equal terms with each other. This is the sythesize option. The middle option was the, "Can't we all just get along." approach. Admittedly I am leaving out a lot of the details, but the other choices were more extreme in comparison. Merging and birthing a new type of life was a beautiful way to show that all of the war and conflict was there because of discrimination between races. The middle option seemed to transcend the paragon and renegade options that were always at odds with each other.
All three of the choices during the ending were a profound reality check for whomever was playing. I, for one, played as a Paragon-type personality the whole time. No matter what choices came up, if I was given the choice I would do the right thing and uphold order and act as a good policeman would. I would enforce the rule of law. I would keep order. It was a smack to the face when I realized that I was acting similar in a lot of ways to one of the antagonists (called The Illusive Man) that I consistantly hated throughout the series. This man wanted to control the Reapers, and I showed through my choices that I wanted to control them too, without even knowing it. Mass Effect looked at my choices as a Paragon and said, "You're a control freak." And to the Renegade it said, "When your solution is to destroy your enemy, there can be no peace." The middle of the line 'merge' option is almost sexual. Instead of controlling or destroying, we make love (not war) and truly give birth to a new kind of peace and understanding. Mass Effect seems to say, "This is more than being in the center. This is an exercise in love and tolerance."
So all the while playing Mass Effect, racking up points to Paragon or Renegade - we are often being extremists. And this is oh-so-clear in the game's ending.
There is no real need for reflection. The ending credits roll with your choice fresh in mind. We know the score already. We know the consiquences of our choice. Do we need to see Commander Shepard controlling reapers? Do we need to see who survived? The answer is 'no', and Bioware made the decision to focus on your final choice. No big deal.
I was surprised to see people in the Bioware forums latched onto another preposed ending. This guy was trying to get Bioware to change the endings through DLC. The preposed ending is similar to the 'destroy' ending. So much so, that I'm not sure why people couldn't see past it. It involved refusing to make a choice and watching the war play out. And the way I see it is if the reapers win the war, you go back to the status quo and gain nothing. If the reapers lose, you've destroyed them all - and that's the destroy ending. The concept of the choice is the same. It still comes down to control, synthesize or destroy. In concept, this preposed ending was equal to the destroy ending.
That'll do Bioware.
I'm happy with the ending. I'm also spending a significant amount of time thinking about it.
And that's the real problem here, isn't it? The ending was a little too clever. People wanted more content. They were expecting a long drawn out epic ending explaining who survived, who didn't, and what happened to their love interests. So, one might ask, "Why did they go for a clever ending when the rest of the game was kind of more action packed and full of romance options?"
I think I'm risking talking out of both sides of my mouth here. I liked the ending, but also thought it was strange that there wasn't more content. I'm about to put Mass Effect 3 to the side and just let the story run around in my head for a while. I'm finished with it. And I will never really know the implications of why I had to run around the galaxy and collect resources for the war. Did my choices effect my overall success? Anyway, I am fine with having similar endings and having Commander Shepard's choices speak for themselves, but I admit it is strange there wasn't more.
Cool fan art.
Update: I forgot to say this. I was reminded listening to the Secret Moon Base podcast... I'm so glad Mass Effect didn't turn into another Jesus story.
I am a fan of Role-Playing Games and will probably doing design work on them until I die. I spend most of my time thinking about them. I try to see the potential in them. Ever since I knew about Zelda I was charmed by them. No matter what kind of RPG it was. I enjoyed games with RPG elements a little bit more than those that didn't. I considered Double Dragon to have RPG elements, and felt good every time I learned a new move upon leveling up. I'm a fan of Final Fantasy games, Square, Square/Enix, Bioware, Black Isle, Bethesda, and so on. Once upon a time, I had spent a whole vacation playing Final Fantasy II (US) at a friend's house instead of hanging out with those friends that we were supposed to be visiting for a week in another state. My parents were pissed and I didn't give a shit. I was in entranced. There is something about RPG's that have a hold on me and won't let me go.
I have been fascinated with CRPG's partly because there is no human error to mess things up. I like it when there are strict rules for my adventures, and hate it when a Dungeon Master gets the rules wrong. Some might say that CRPG's lack a human element that table top games have. But, CRPG's aren't made by robots. They're made by humans and only 'driven' by computers. CRPG's don't have to be so mechanical. There have been plenty of games out there that had better stories, better dialogue, and better combat systems than any table-top or multiplayer game I've played. A lot of times, it is the real person that I'm interacting with inside the game that ruins the experience for me. Rules get broken or forgotten at crucial moments. Other human players will cause you grief unless they are tied down to a very solid list of rules to abide by. You have to endure them talking like idiots - DURR. Some people just want to watch the world burn. Or uh... maybe they just aren't interested in it for the same reasons I am.
for the rpg connoisseur
One of the people I used to work with would constantly try to divide a line between simulations and games. He would use the RPG genre to point out when games become more like simulations. It used to annoy the hell out of me. I would try to explain some ideas for a new game I wanted to make, and he'd just shoot them down and told me I had to focus more on the 'main goal'. I'd tell him things like: I want a training system that is like Skyrim or I want a good story in the game. Instead of saying anything insightful on story telling or RPG mechanics he would just say, "Yeah but what is the game about? What is the goal?" He'd bring up Tetris. He'd say that it has a clear goal. The goal is to get a high score. He'd be all like, "Video games are so very totally cool."
you know what you doin...
Really? Okay? What 'is' the goal of a role-playing game? I would ask myself those questions and only come to one answer. Think about Skyrim. The goal isn't to finish the game. It's not. There are so MANY goals. The goal of being the richest man. The goal of completing every task. The goal of beating the main quest. But one goal, in my opinion, defines all of it. In an RPG, the goal is to play a role of your choosing. That's one of the brilliant things about Skyrim. There is too much stuff to do. To stay sane, you have to choose your own goals. You have to choose the role you are going to play, and then be done with it. You have to pick your battles. Do what you are going to do and get the fuck out. Or you'll be playing it for a very, very long time. Some say the game lasts forever. That's what the game is about, and I just spoiled it for you. Damn.
So I told him this. And his reply was: "Well, then it really isn't a game you're talking about. If the goal of your game is to play a role, it is more of a simulation." I had respect for the guy but I couldn't stop thinking about how pretentious that statement was.
i don't know who this guy is, but he looks like the type of guy i'm talking 'bout
I find that when people that get into their craft (in this case the craft is game design), people can get this way. They get blinded by the details. They start thinking so hard about what will make the best game that they forget to just make the damn game and lead by example. Instead they write books, write blogs, and do speeches about how they think everything should be. (I am hypocrite?)They are the kind of people that say stuff like, "We need a better definition of the word GAME". And I immediately think, "Stop trying to change words in the dictionary please." There is a limit to the amount of bullshit I can listen to, especially when someone is bashing RPG's.
If CRPG's were simulations would that even matter? I don't know if I would even mind calling Skyrim a simulation. It does try to simulate a great many things. But the pretentiousness of that comment still nags at me. I went to school to learn about Video Games, Games, Computer Programming, Entertainment. My degree was in Real-Time Interactive Simulation. Yes, it's a fancy way of saying Video Games. Why not call RPG's simulations? But whatever, I'd rather just call them games. Does anyone out there really think RPG's have to prove themselves? I'm ready to defend RPG's till the end. Man, this is my life, and this is RPG's. I have countless experiments and books that I read.
I wuv action rpgs
The other thing I keep hearing from people is that no one will remember Skyrim. That games like Tetris will long out-live all RPG's because grinding and mediocre story will be the death of RPG's. But there they go again, making their own definitions up of what games should or shouldn't be. The only way I've ever seen a definition of a thing changed or a definition invented is when someone actually does something of note, like when Nintendo made Zelda changed what we thought of the action RPG genre.
RPG: It's a pretty solid genre. It's what's for dinner. People love to buy those games when they are done well. Just look at Skyrim. Lots of people have things to say about them, and lots of gamers want more. You can bash RPG's as much as you want, but they aren't going anywhere. The future of RPG's is great! They are our holodecks until technology finally catches up with Star Trek. Will games like Tetris leave them in the dust? I think Tetris will be remembered, sure... But those game types will be around like Chess is, for the hobbyists. Games like Skyrim are out there for everyone who wants to experience what it is like to slay dragons. Games like Tetris will lie dormant for the occasional hobbyist to play inside the awesome RPG that they're playing. Thank you for reading.
Jonathan Holmes has a video coming out about once a week called Talking to Women about Videogames (TtWaV). I love it. The videos have this quirky/friendly quality right out of the box. They have a lighthearted humor to them. At first, I was just going to keep watching them because they were a pleasure to watch. But soon after the videos started, opinions started rising in the comment section. I had no idea these videos would cause such a stir. Or maybe more to the point, I didn't know that people would say exactly the things they would say.
To make sure I wasn't crazy for liking the show, I made sure I took a closer look. I analyzed the videos a little more closely and tried to figure out what made me like them so much. And I read some of the words on Jonathan's blog post that I had initially skimmed over or skipped. No offence to Jonathan or his writing, but I had only enjoyed the videos 'at first' and had not read the rest of the blog post. This was just an attempt to save time. And, of course, once I read all of the text I found that his writing was very insightful, and as pleasurable to read as his video was to watch.
After hearing some complaints about the series, I did a little experiment and showed my girlfriend. I figured she was the perfect one to talk to about TtWaV because she's a gamer and she often talks about how girls still aren't well represented in video games. The last game that she liked the females in was Gears of War 3, and I agreed with her. The problem was that we couldn't find a way for her to play as the female characters in the campaign. I think she was mad that I randomly got to play Anya when she was stuck with Marcus. It was a bummer, but at least the women were well represented. Anyhow, her reaction to TtWaV wasn't great. It was pretty neutral.
The first thing she pointed out was how excruciating it was to watch these girls talk to this douche (Jonathan's character in the video). She asked me if he was really like that, and I said no, kind of. Well - I said something like, "No, um, I mean, I don't think he is. Hmm, well, I really don't think he's really like that. I've always liked his blogs and he's only been friendly and smart as far as I can tell." Someone else did a blog talking about TtWaV and Jonathan gave the impression that he didn't know exactly if people were going to 'get it'. And at this point, after talking about it, I think me and my girlfriend fully understand and quite like the show. I'll try to just outline why we like it, and maybe why you guys should give it a shot and keep tuning in.
First, foremost, and on the top of the list of things these videos do well: They represent women favorably. Jonathan, please keep these videos going and stay consistent on this. Lots of men and women have been trying to find some sort of way to represent women 'correctly' in our media - especially in video games. I find these women to be refreshing! The very thing that the audience should look upon in awe is that these women are real. I don't know whether or not these videos are scripted, but either way the conversations come off as 'real', convincing, and genuine. I heard parts of the videos are set up before hand, but I'm sure lots of the conversation is unscripted. If not, then the interviewees have just done a good job.
Treating women with respect, despite the name of the video, is the number one reason to watch these videos and read the rest of the text underneath. The women can be described as 'the voices of reason'. They play the part of 'being reasonable' in the face of wild internet rumors, trolls, and general uproar about trivial things. These women are saying exactly what I want to say about the 3DS nubs, which happens to be mostly: "So What? What's the big deal?" Brilliant.
Also, guess what? There are pretty girls in these videos. They are pretty, and carry themselves in a respectful way. Not once did my girlfriend wince at how the girls were dressed or sigh at any of their comments. Not once did she say, "Ugh, these girls are just there to get attention." Nothing like that. I think it is an accomplishment on a higher scale than even Anthony Burch's HAWP (Hey Ash, Whatcha Playin'). Ashly seems super respectable even when she's pooping on beds, for sure. But Holmes has a whole cast of super women that we can take seriously. This is especially refreshing when three women from the videos reject any supposed value that could be taken from the viral pornstar video with Jo Garcia twiddling a pair of old controllers that were kind of taking the place of her nipples. The contrast between the Jo Garcia video and the "Gears 3 isn't perfect?" video was clear: We all get what a pretty girl is defined as in the media, but Jo Garcia's video was insulting, embarrasing, and ultimately forgettable (You should have seen my girlfriend's face when Jo Garcia took the stage). Jo Garcia lets her body define her as a person, and that's just not what most women want to be defined as. Sure, Holmes's videos show pretty girls, but 'pretty' probably isn't the point. Women pwning Jonathan with a reasonable retort to his subject matter is the point.
Some people have questioned the title of the show, saying that perhaps it should be: "Talking to people about Videogames". But I think that would miss the point and miss part of the opportunity here to talk to women that can enlighten the poor interviewer with their common sense wisdom. I would even say that these are the women that other women are looking for in the videogames themselves, not Bayonetta and, for sure, not Jo Garcia. We should encourage Jonathan to give these women a platform, not open it up to men just to be politically correct. Especially not when (let's face it), men have been the dominating force behind video game sales for years. Let me suggest it is way past time to hear what female gamers think. What better way than to pit them against the chaos of videogame fandom, news, and what used to be a mostly male dominated industry. I'm reminded of how awesome our beloved Elsa is to our Destructoid community. She would be great in one of these!
Jonathan Holmes takes center stage as the interviewer who is searching for these women. He has admitted to having these girls already waiting to be interviewed, but he searches anyway to one side in one of the running jokes in the series. There are no women to that side, but sure enough there are women on the only other side to look.
I believe that Jonathan plays the part of the media, the internet, or our public hive mind. Like I mentioned earlier, all of the controversial game news that, as gamers, we are all paying attention to - all the chaos, that's all played by him. Though I think most of us know that Jonathan isn't 'that guy', but my girlfriend didn't know at first. With the videos alone, it's hard for people to tell that Jonathan is actually not a dickhead and actually a well known and loved personality on Destructoid. Anyone with enough of an attention span can get the joke, but if I have at all convinced you to watch the videos, please read the post below it that he writes as well. Comment on the opinions and keep the show going with your attention.
Because of this duo of reasonable women against Jonathan's nonsense, a beautiful thing occurs. As gamers, we see that it isn't always common to be ranting about the little details in the industry. I'm reminded of Pach Attack on Game Trailers. Pachter doesn't know a lot of the weird details we all can get in a fuss about. His response to the 3DS crap was basically that people are crazy if they think that nubs alone will take down all of Nintendo. Even a jaded gamer like me can see these videos and chuckle at the little reminders for me not to take the industry so seriously! The voices of reason tend to say, "Take it easy, don't brush off all games without online multiplayer! That would be too bold! No need to miss out on great games accidentally!"
Also, isn't this simply just a nice way to report game industry news?
To sum this all up: There are a lot of things in these videos that are not what they seem. Holmes is not the fool he plays in the video, the girls are not there just to show their tits or GTFO, the interviewer is not the voice of reason or even a mediator, and it is a 'great' idea to talk to women - not a bad one. I hope everyone continues to 'get it' and enjoy the show for the reasons I've mentioned and perhaps for reasons I haven't. My girlfriend and I will continue to watch. And I will keep reassuring her that Jonathan is not a dick.