Today, we mourn of the loss of Harold Ramis, one of the most influential comedy directors of all time.(via tribecafilm)
Frak, I didn’t realize Global Game Jam 2014 was so soon. Better damn well begin practicing. And yeah, that’s my local Jam site.
I only ever work up the effort to post anything even equating to long-form stuff once every year, it seems. Same with my old Livejournal. But it does give me a good bit to ponder. And with the end of the year upon me, I got to thinking about how things have gone for me. And the answer is… well, at least I graduated Brookdale.
1. Put your username in image search.
2. Select “animated” under search tools.
3. Post result.
Out of boredom…
So, in my many endeavors in trying to make it as a developer (games or otherwise), I’ve met many an interesting person taking classes at my local community college. One of them, another chap by the name of Dave, happens to have some ties with the Video Game industry. Why he’s taking classes for game design at a community college is beyond me, but rather than just wave at him from the other side of the computer lab and return to coding my big project™ like I typically do, I brought my laptop over to him and started up a conversation.
He likes the PS3 and his PSVita, so I wasn’t surprised when the conversation turned to the recent PS4 conversation. Now, when I saw the announcement, I was quick to quip that Sony was just releasing a Home Theater PC. The next day, though, an idea popped into my head: Sony’s scared of the Steam Box. I mean, the Steam Box is essentially a HTPC tailored to playing games. The PS4 is essentially a HTPC tailored to playing games, except it doesn’t run Windows or Linux. (Of course, with the PS4’s specs, you damn well bet someone will try to hack a distro onto there.)
Well, anyway, I brought up my idea of Sony being afraid of the Steam Box, and his response was that everyone was afraid of the Steam Box. Let’s be honest about the last 5 years of video games: it’s been the least consumer-friendly and least industry-friendly time in the history of gaming. Bloated budgets leading to games needing to sell 5 million in order to make a profit. Studios closing because one game didn’t well well enough. Indie devs being unable to afford the ability to patch game-breaking bugs. 600 man teams spoiling the broth of their own games. And that’s the industry half! Consumers have had to deal with Project 10-dollar online pass bullshit, long install times, ridiculous DRM practices (on consoles, even!), indie devs being unable to fix the broken games they’re playing, the cramming of multiplayer into places where it doesn’t belong, and a lot of games just getting relatively homogenized. No wonder the PC indie scene is exploding. It probably helps that the PC is an open platform, and the industry moving to open platforms as opposed to sticking with the closed platforms of the console holders would fix a few of these issues. (Most of the rest will require that the industry will learn some discipline, sadly.) To be honest, it’s a surprise that an ecosystem of competing closed platforms has lasted as long as it did. Hell, the Blu-Ray/HD-DVD wars were short. As were VHS vs. Betamax. The PC Wars of the 80s came and went, and it almost seems like the Smartphone Wars have been all but decided with Apple repeating its past mistakes.
Of course, other Dave didn’t play a lot of PC games. It’s not uncommon, between the (falsely-earned) reputation of needing to have the most cutting edge graphics card and the fact that he was a busy man who probably squeezed in his gaming on whatever portable devices he could carry. It also had to do with Steam, as he feared what would happen if Valve went under and he no longer had access to his games. While I tried to calm his fears by bringing up Gabe’s Mythical Killswitch™, it did bring up an interesting point that I wish we discussed: the Video Game industry doesn’t do a good job preserving its past art. Now, this problem has been discussed at length by many people more knowledgeable of the industry than I. But something popped into my head while my mind was on that track: we’ve never had an art form, before video games (and I’m not going to get into the “Are video games art?” argument here), that was so reliant on science before. I mean, video games are just data. Kilo- and mega- and giga- and terrabytes of data. So many lines of code and so many audio/visual assets go into a game. And those lines of code are written by people that wouldn’t stereotypically be called “artists”. They’re guys like me studying Computer Science who could probably be called neckbeards. I mean, sure, art has explored concepts that probably gave science concepts to explore, and science has helped create new tools for art. But they’ve never enjoyed the symbiotic relationship as they have in the medium that is video games.
That symbiosis is confusing to the preservationists. Preserving digital data is difficult. We’ve only had access to computers for close to 60-70 years. You try finding one of the programs that ran on ENIAC. Yes, they used punch cards back then. And most of them were probably pretty beaten up. Preserving digital data is tricky; there’s the chance that the devices trying to preserve that data can and will fail. Just ask anyone who maintains a server for a website. How do we preserve our history when our history is all digital? I mean, even in the 80s, our art form was digital, even if the delivery method was SneakerNet. Not to mention that trying to copy the data off of their delivery methods opens you up to getting sued by the console makers (even if they’re not likely to go after small game). It’s clear to me that we can’t preserve the distribution methods that got the games that are now iconic into our hands. And we’re not allowed to preserve the data those distribution methods contained. So now what? We can’t just let our history die.
Well, to return to the open platform rail, open sourcing your game is one way to make sure it sticks around forever. Hell, look at Doom. You’re probably surprised that it’s open source, but it is. John Carmack likes to open source his games and engines after a certain frame of time has passed. And look at the results: Doom runs on everything now. Anyone that wants to can find a decent port of Doom for whatever device made by a friendly dev. There is the issue of what would happen if the server hosting the repository were to die, admittedly. But open source is funny like that, in that you’ll likely have found your FOSS project has made its way to Github somehow. So, someone somewhere will be happy to repost your work.
So, after an interesting talk about games and classes, I had to get going and leave the other Dave behind. But he gave me a lot to think about. And a lot of seeds of other things to think about. And it helped reinforce why I love this medium so much and want to do so much for it.
So, to kind of give me an incentive to write in at least one of my Tumblr blogs, I thought I’d make up a little segment where I take an app that I’m using in my daily life or found interesting and give it a slight look over and critique it. Today? Well, I used to be an avid SugarSync user. (Key word: used to be. Dunno why I tapered. Probably a lack of Linux support after I started to use Ubuntu more.) And recently, they launched their big redesign. New apps, new everything. The old app was serviceable, but it lacked features that competitors have. So, how does it stack up? Well, let’s start from the first thing people see…
Well, I certainly haven’t posted on here in forever. Time to make up for that a bit.
As someone with probably too much fondness for the Android platform (my Twitter is filled with me ranting about Square-Enix’s poor work on Chaos Rings for Android), my ears perked up a couple of months ago when Terry Cavanagh released an Android port of an old freeware game of his. Who’s Terry Cavanagh, you may ask? Why, surely you’ve heard of VVVVVV! Hell, it was my first Let’s Play series! (As shit of a start that was, it was my start.) No? Then why not Super Hexagon? That’s been making waves on Steam and iOS.
Anyway, Don’t Look Back. I downloaded this the day it came out. Then this game reminded me why I hate virtual buttons. See, as simplistic of a platformer this game is (move to the right, jump over or shoot enemies), Terry Cavanagh has a bit of a sadistic streak, as evidenced by his more popular games there. Sure, Don’t Look Back might hold some deeper meaning than those two games, as the game revolves around a guy who just lost someone and who repeatedly jumps off of cliffs. (Guy must be in purgatory or something.) That said, given the difficulty that this game presents, it’s tough to notice the symbolism when all you’re focusing on is how to deal with the dudes this one boss summons so you can jump on the needed platforms to shoot him in the head.
So, I put the game down for a bit, then got a Nexus 7 for my birthday. (Halloween, for those curious.) After my obsession with the games from the two most recent Humble Android Bundles had passed (SpaceChem saved my sanity during the blackout induced by Hurricane Sandy), I turned back to Don’t Look Back. Somehow, the larger screen helped a bit. Also, less worry about battery drain. Before, I was stuck in this one dark area. Now, I’m stuck on the second boss. PROGRESS! And with the controls no longer proving to be an issue, I was actually able to enjoy myself.
"So, this is a nice post about an interesting game I haven’t heard of before," the imaginary version of my audience I hear in my head saying. "What does this have to do with Android?" I’m glad no one asked.
I have vague memories when the game hit Google Play that Terry Cavanagh would use this as a barometer to see if his games were worth bringing to Android. At the time, I was thinking VVVVVV. And playing Don’t Look Back on my Galaxy Nexus made me think that MAYBE VVVVVV wouldn’t work too well. (Of course, writing this makes me reconsider my opinion with a small rider attached, that rider being that I won’t play it on my tiny phone. Heh… a phone with a nearly 5-inch screen is “tiny”…)
But I didn’t consider Super Hexagon at the time. And having seen Super Hexagon in all its seizure-inducing glory, I really want to play it while I’m on the throne. And looking at Google Play right now, Don’t Look Back is in the 10K-50K install range. I don’t know the ratio of people who played Don’t Look Back on PC vs VVVVVV on PC, but if it was 10 people who played VVVVVV for every 1 person who played Don’t Look Back, I could still see a decent amount of people interested in his newer works on Android assuming the same ratio. But, of course, this is all built on heresay.
TL;DR: I just want to play Super Hexagon on my Galaxy Nexus. I can only imagine that the market exists.
I normally don’t use my Tumblog to get political, but WTF?
Seriously, Dolby… fuck you and the engineers who did a shitty job making an audio codec that doubles the size of my videos.
“When asked his favorite novel in an interview shown yesterday on the Fox News Channel, Mitt Romney pointed to “Battlefield Earth,” a novel by L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology. “I’m not in favor of his religion by any means,” Mr. Romney, a Mormon, said. “But he wrote a book called ‘Battlefield Earth’ that was a very fun science-fiction book.””
— Romney Favors Hubbard Novel aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha That’s it, from now on I’ll cease my attempts to be non-partisan on the various political reblogs which have crossed my dashboard recently. As an aspiring novelist and occasional sci-fi dabbler, I entreat you, America: keep this maniac out of office. Thanks in advance.