Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Input Recorder For Unity

Being able to record player input is invaluable for bug reports so players can submit their recorded play session and you can easily watch how the bug manifests.

After development, its also useful for the end-user to share his play experience to other people, or to allow other people to study other player's tactics.

So I saw this:

And saw how simple the input display was. So I went to try the same thing in Unity:

This only records input so far. Feeding those recorded input back to the game is another matter. Its also not possible to feed those data back into Unity's input system as far as I know. So I can't make Input.GetAxis() return the recorded input data.

Instead I would have to make my own system, like, say, RecordedInput.GetAxis(), RecordedInput.GetButton(), and so on. Feeding that data to the GUI system is also another matter.

Do We Need Annoying Small Enemies?

Continuing on that podcast, they mention this:

"Games should never include small scuttling enemies that walk across the floor or hover above your head and are really hard to hit and are annoying."

First, I have no problem with small enemies. Enemy variation is good, but I believe there is a wrong way to design small enemies. The podcast notes an enemy in Singularity with an enemy that can kill you with one hit. I"m afraid I haven't played that game.

But I do believe enemy attacks should always have a tell-tale sign. The more grievous the attack, the more evident the hint should be. This is regardless with the size issue, because enemy size is not the issue here.

About attacks that kill you in one hit, as long as the player can anticipate it and have a chance to prevent it, then I think its fine. Dark Souls have some characters that can kill you in one hit, but such attacks are slow in charging up.

In contrast, one mission in Valkyria Chronicles end up with a regular enemy anti-tank unit killing my full-health tank hero unit in one hit. No matter how I looked at it, I think that was really pointless.

So I believe there is a right way, and there is a wrong way of doing one-hit kills.

Each enemy has its own "gimmick", a behavior that circumvents the player's usual method of attack, forcing him to rethink his strategies. They really would have an easy but unusual way to kill them, and the failure is the game not hinting or encouraging the player how to find that out.

So I do hope Singularity's small enemy was designed that it has a weakness.

Hints should be implicit and part of the story. For example, the minotaur boss in God of War starts with a short cutscene of soldiers trying to fight the minotaur and failing horribly. That is enough hint for the player to get that this guy is not to be messed around with.

The podcast mentions the small parasitic enemies in Dead Space. I really had no problem with those enemies because I discovered early on that the assault rifle is an effective weapon to dispatch them. The assault rifle shoots low damaging bullets, but the magazine size is high. One shot is enough to kill one parasite (or more if they are clumped together).

So the game becomes a matter of having "the right tool for the right job". It was odd though, that his experience with this enemy was vastly different from mine. Perhaps he never bothered using the assault rifle.

The podcast then mentions about the big fat necromorph that spawns the little enemies, in that it was unfair, doesn't add any value to the game, and that there was no tactic to fighting them.

I would say instead the surprise there is it punishes greedy players who keep on getting loot. And really, once you've found out about the nasty trick, you would obviously make it a point to avoid falling for it again. You need to make sure to shoot its stocky limbs and not its belly. And do not stomp on its corpse.

Again, this is the idea of each enemy having its own variation.

Did they perhaps feel cheated that they found a type of enemy that they couldn't get loot from?

Friday, January 27, 2012

RPG Elements On Non-RPG Games

I recently got a smartphone so I can listen to podcasts on the go. One of the podcasts I listened to mentioned this:
"Developers shouldn't shoehorn RPG elements into games that don't need them."
I think this is terribly narrow-minded. But let's hear more of his argument:
"Enslaved has a level-up system to allow your character to improve, but I believe the player has the risk to forget this as he has to remember to go to a level-up menu that's not focused on during a normal play session." 
"All of Monkey's upgrades complement each other. There's very little reason not to want them all, so why should the player have to choose those upgrades themselves? Why not have them given automatically at a set point, or have his skills improve the more they are used?" 
"In contrast, Zelda, has you exploring and one of the items you will eventually find is parts for a big heart upgrade. Once you collect enough, your max health improves. In this way, 'leveling up' is more convenient as you will inevitably find big heart containers in the course of the game."
(To be fair, Enslaved actually gives a message notification when the player has enough red orbs to be able to purchase an upgrade.)

Ok, saying "RPG elements" is pretty broad, but now we're getting somewhere. I think his main gripe is games that added leveling-up as a cheap way to add depth.

Leveling-up is having your character improve over time. Having him start out weak and through the course of the game, give him gradual improvements to allow him to face the proportionately increasing difficulty and complexity of the game.

Now, at its basic description that I've mentioned, that makes sense. You wouldn't want the player character to start out with high-level abilities, or rather, too many abilities, from the get-go, that would have overwhelmed the player with too many things he need to get hang of immediately (i.e. Bayonetta).

In traditional RPG games, those level-up improvements are largely formulaic. Allocating more points in strength simply adjusts the result of the formula for damage.

Now this becomes a question of "Why should developers be adding formulaic RPG elements to twitch games?".

More after the jump.

Monday, January 23, 2012


So when I realized hauling around 1.32 kilograms of an Android tablet with keyboard is cumbersome when you want to listen to podcasts on the go, I bought a smartphone.

I looked for a phone that works with CyanogenMod. The first one, I accidentally bricked when preparing it for CyanogenMod.

The next one, I made sure it works easily with CyanogenMod. I decided with an HTC Wildfire.

And it did work. So the next thing I did was to get a good podcast downloader.

I use ACast in my Asus Transformer, and I wasn't really that happy with it, so I looked for others. All of them (free ones) turned out to be inadequate. In the end, I still settled for ACast. Looking back, ACast isn't so bad.

So next was to get really good podcasts for game development. Here's a list of the ones I found:

I will, if time permits, update this article to give my feedback on every podcast listed there. The list is updated with my opinions on each podcast.

Game Development Podcasts

Irrational Podcasts
Ken Levine's personal podcast as he talks about videogame development along with anyone he decides to interview. Updates are not frequent but very well made, and offers valuable insight into AAA game development.


The Bethesda Podcast
Podcast of the makers of Elder Scrolls, and the id guys (Doom, Quake, RAGE). Some of the interviews sound more like advertisements to make you buy their game, but other episodes are good.


GAMBIT: Looking Glass Studios Podcast
A 10-part series of interviews of the past employees of the now defunct Looking Glass Studios (1990-2000). Very nice podcast explaining some things about how Thief and System Shock were made. You'll realize how even AAA companies (back then) have brash and spontaneous workflows like the rest of us.


Flammable Penguins
Personal podcast of Claire Blackshaw, programmer/designer at Climax where she interviews other game developers. Not updated since 2010. Nevertheless there are some good discussions here.


Infinite Ammo
Podcast that focuses on interviews of indie developers. Updates are infrequent; I almost thought the podcast was dead.


Another Castle
Freelance game designer Charles J. Pratt interviews other game developers in the New York game development scene. Sadly, not updated since 2012. Who knows, maybe we'll get a season three?


The DigiPen PodClass
Podcast about game development from people in DigiPen. Not that good of a podcast IMO. Also not updated since 2010.


Experimental Game Dev Podcast Show
Interview podcast that's more on indie devs, specifically mobile games. I don't really get much out of this podcast but maybe you'll have better luck.


Game Developer's Radio
A podcast more on design ideas/mechanics of games. This goes more on theoretical/internalizing discussions chiefly about anecdotal experiences of the podcast's hosts. You'll probably find yourself alternating between agreeing and disagreeing with the things they say. On hiatus as of November of 2012.


Gaming By Design
Similar to Game Developer's Radio, this podcast is more on anecdotal experiences of the hosts, discussing their opinions about various game design topics. Only went for one season by 2011, and has no updates since.


The one thing I hate is when the podcast goes "I think players tend to like X instead of Y. Like me for example, I like X a lot. So developers should do X more." This is a narrow-minded, circle-jerk discussion that gets nowhere.

Gaming Podcasts
Gaming, not game *development* podcasts

Orange Lounge Radio
Where a straight guy, a gay guy, and a woman talk about games. Imagine Sheldon talking about videogames for about 30 minutes.


Electric Sista Hood
Two African American gamer girls/girl gamers squee like fangirls and talk about anime and videogames. Spoiler: They don't exactly look hot. Don't Google what they look like. Instead, imagine the Jolie twins when listening to the podcast.


Video Game Outsiders
Let John's devil may care attitude and Michelle's reproachful demeanor take you to places far and beyond, as long as its loosely related to videogames. Oh and Matt is now a co-host.


Oh yes. Listen to the makers of the numerous prank videos based on videogames talk about stuff.


Podtoid: Destructoid's Video Game Podcast
The almighty Podtoid podcast. Hear Jim Sterling as he longs for Jonathan Holmes' cock. 'Sup Holmes!


Other podcasts I found that I have a hunch might be useful to me as a game developer.

History Podcasts
Podcasts like these mainly give me story ideas.

Stuff You Missed In History Class
Deblina and Sarah recount various stories from history. Each episode centers on the life of a famous person, like Cynthia Ann (the American girl abducted by Indians and raised as their own), Gertrude Bell (Lawrence of Arabia's mentor), and so on.


History Extra Podcast
BBC History Magazine's editor Rob Attar doing interviews on various historians with their area of expertise. Mostly on European history. Things like the cadaver trade, evolution of maps over time, the jujitsu suffragettes, et al.


Dan Carlin's Hardcore History
Dan's powerful emotive voice narrates pieces of history in certain point of views that you wouldn't have thought of.


Binge Thinking History Podcast: http://bingethinkinghistory.libsyn.com/rss

Military History Podcast: http://geo47.libsyn.com/rss

All Things Medieval: http://allthingsmedievalpodcast.blogspot.com/feeds/posts/default?alt=rss

Medieval Podcast: http://feeds.feedburner.com/MedievalPodcast

A Short History of Japan: http://frug.podbean.com/feed

Celtic Myth Podshow: http://feeds.feedburner.com/CelticMythPodshow

RTÉ - Conspiracy Podcast: http://www.rte.ie/radio1/podcast/podcast_conspiracy.xml


The Moth Podcast
Powerful, moving stories from ordinary people set upon unordinary circumstances. This podcast always brightens my day.


Stuff Mom Never Told You
A female perspective on issues like gender and health. You girls will love this.


Stuff To Blow Your Mind: http://www.howstuffworks.com/podcasts/stuff-to-blow-your-mind.rss
TechStuff: http://www.howstuffworks.com/podcasts/techstuff.rss
The Skeptic's Guide to the Universe: http://www.theskepticsguide.org/feed/rss.aspx?feed=5x5
Night's Knights: A novel about vampires. http://www.podiobooks.com/title/nights-knights/feed/
Knights of the Night Actual Play Podcast: A tabletop RPG play session turned into a podcast. http://kotnwod.libsyn.com/rss

In addition, here are video podcasts that I subscribe to on my Android tablet:

Gaming Video Podcasts

Good Game: Hex and Bajo gives you game reviews and interviews, with Goose occasionally giving you a bonus game review or perhaps an enlightening presentation of some sort. Each episode is about 30 minutes long. http://abc.net.au/tv/goodgame/video/vodcast/goodgame_mp4.xml

X-Play's Video Podcast: Various small parts of the T.V. show X-Play, spliced and served here for your podcasting pleasure. http://www.g4tv.com/xplay/podcasts/6/XPlay_Daily_Video_Podcast.xml

G4TV.com Web Shows: Same thing but on various shows like Attack of the Show, The MMO Report, etc. http://www.g4tv.com/10play/podcasts/56/G4TVdotcomWebShows.xml

The DTOID Show: Quick five minute news on the games industry. http://revision3.com/destructoid/feed/MP4-Large