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Saturday, May 31, 2008

Meet the Press

There's a lot I could say about being interviewed, having been a member of the press, I find it particularly fascinating now that I have to turn around and talk about my game.

And I think talking about the press/developer relationship before a game launches (which is really the only time there should be a relationship), naturally leads to a discussion about the point of previews.

Previews are generally positive and have always been generally positive (or neutral). There was buzz some time back surrounding an interview between EGM's Shoe and Peter Moore, where he had been particularly aggressive about the 360's problems, and for a brief period of time it seemed like everyone had latched onto the idea that the developer vs. press knockdown dragout fight should begin before games even come out.

I didn't agree then, and I certainly don't now, because I think it's unfair to judge a game before the developers are ready to say it's final. I think you can tell as a game progresses, whether it's moving in the right direction or not. And I think it's fair to mention when a game has very little in it that you find enjoyable, but how do you know what's being worked on and when? Or what changes might suddenly push everything over the edge? I certainly wouldn't ever want reporters to feel like they have to lie about a game, but I also think that it's hard for people unfamiliar with game development to cast any kind of projection on what the game will be when it comes out, and ultimately that's all that matters for the fans.

Previews of WAR have been largely positive. And more than that, previews of the developers, as well as the game, have been positive as well. We recently had to do our self-evaluations and I referenced an MMO Gamer interview in my own review:

The next time Carrie Gouskos is up for a promotion, "lack of passion" will most decidedly not be an issue at her review.

I know that might not matter to any of the fans, but it makes me feel really happy to have that come across. I do love working on games, and this game, and I am really passionate about the work that I do. Sometimes it's exhausting to give interviews, when an interview or demo comes up on the calendar (and there are periods where we're giving several a week), sometimes I feel like I'm not going to be capable of talking about the game the way I want to talk about. Because I do care, but being enthusiastic is exhausting, even for someone as extroverted as I am.

I have to say this week I gave probably my favorite interview ever to Mike from Massively. Instead of asking me to rehash the features in the Tome (he had done his homework), he wanted me to talk about passion and emotion in game development. He wanted me to talk about Xbox 360 achievement points. I think his concept for that article serves the fans in a lot more ways than simply a bullet point of feature items we're working on and whether or not *I* think they're going to be cool. To me, it feels like that's the kind of conversation you should be having at preview time, what are the developers working on and what are their objectives? Who are they trying to attract and how have they accomplished it? Even using in-game examples to show off how they're achieving those goals. Leave the excessive use of adjectives and the KILLING MY SOUL for the reviews.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Indiana Jones (for skeptics)

I was dreading seeing Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull because of my emotional connection to the Indiana Jones movies, in particular Raiders of the Lost Ark because of Marion Ravenwood. However when a movie "that everyone wants to see" comes out, work rents out a movie theatre. So yesterday I trudged along with my coworkers to see it.

At the end of the movie, I was a beaming smiling face amongst a sea of frowns. Everyone seemed disgusted, but I was utterly happy with it. Why?

1. They hit the right notes. The pacing, the cinematography, the dialogue, of course the music... it was Indiana Jones alright. It took me a few minutes to get swept up in it, but once I was there, I was sold.

2. Despite the utterly stupid central plot theme and its lacking some of the *realism* that made the other movies seem less fantasy and more plausible, all the steps along the way were the same. Ruins--check! Puzzles--check! Villains--check! Sympathetic hero--check!

3. Iconic references and tributes that triggered the little kid in me. And not simply the obvious ones. Any movie that can get me to mutter "the breath of God" is aces in my book. Also, how does your heart not melt when Harrison Ford shakes a fist full of papers and says "It's a puzzle!" He looked about 20 years old in that moment.

4. They did their best to ruin the character of Marion with a terrible story arc and some uncharacteristic behavior, but Karen Allen can not be dimmed! The chemistry she had with Indy, the look in her eye, she too seemed not to have aged all these years.

There were definitely moments where I rolled my eyes, and there were definitely some over-the-top references, but I was glad to have seen it. And like probably everyone else that has seen the movie, I went directly home and watched Raiders of the Lost Ark. It didn't ruin my childhood, it just made me sentimental for it.

"I always knew someday you'd come walking back through my door."

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Quote of the Day

Only in the game industry do you have conversations like this:
"No I think it can have exposed bones as long as there's skin on it..."

Most people, by now, I believe are familiar with the fact that blood is removed from German versions of games (most just turn the blood green), however lesser well-known is this... some Asian countries, for cultural reasons, do not want skulls in their games. The word on the street from artists who I know that have had to deal with it, say that it's okay as long as there is some flesh attached.

If you're familiar with the Warhammer franchise, you can see why this may pose us some localization issues.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Imagine: Fashion Designer!

A few months back, when the press release for Ubisoft's "Imagine" series came out, a girl who worked for me sent me the link, and the two of us had a good scoff over it for awhile. It was definitely worded as distingustingly as possible, the worst possible hybrid of PR spin and gender stereotypes. And of course, to top it all of, I went around reading what other websites had to say, like Kotaku, until I had decided we had just sent the women-in-videogames cause back about fifty years.

So last week in Best Buy I decided I would combat my natural urges, and I bought Imagine: Fashion Designer for an experiment. Working on games, pretty much every game out there has some sort of appeal. I'm starting to mutate from a person who can sit down and enjoy a game into this creature that can only either appreciate what's wrong with a game, or try to dissect how something went right.

The first night I played Imagine: Fashion Designer for about four hours. I can definitely see why someone interested in modeling and fashion (and if the reality trend is any indication, there are probably more than a few of them), but I thought it had limited clothing options and there were some bizarre racial stereotypes in it. In one challenge I was asked to design clothes for a person on a set of a movie called "Love in Africa". You have to pick a hairstyle, an outfit, and color it "appropriately", and though I went straight where they wanted me to (picking a large green, yellow, and red knit hat), I think it's a strange message to send to little girls.

The following days, I discovered that there were actually quite a few clothing choices to unlock, and as I unlocked more and more patterns and shoe options, I felt like they had potentially made a really interesting and appealing game.

And then I got stuck. I mean really stuck... I literally have no idea what to do. And since the game challenges are linear, if you're stuck on one, then there's not much else you can do. I asked a couple people at work if I could borrow their little girls for a few minutes, I was certain than eight-year old would be able to figure it out.

Thankfully it looks like all the little girls are stuck too.

So my take away is this: A little girl or boy interested in fashion would probably love this game. Don't design a game like this that hinges on one level for you to keep playing, if someone gets stuck and puts it down, you'll never get them back. And... when in doubt... check GameFAQS.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Iron Man (for people who haven't seen it yet).

Things to bear in mind when going to see Iron Man.

1. Stay through the entire credits.
2. Try not to have high expectations for the dialogue.
3. The acting is actually pretty good.