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Archive For April, 2011

Interview: How A Fighting Game Fan Solved Internet Latency Issues

April 25, 2011 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

[GGPO's Tony Cannon talks to our own Kyle Orland about how fighting game frustrations led to the development of a clever latency solution licensed by Capcom and Namco Bandai.]

Like a lot of middleware developers, Tony Cannon started developing his own tool to solve a problem he himself was having. Unlike a lot of middleware makers, though, Cannon’s creation grew out of his problems as a player, not as a developer.

As a pro-level fighting game player and one of the organizers of the Evolution tournament series, Cannon was worried that the arcade culture he was steeped in was deteriorating.

"In the mid-90s, arcades were really dying, and we were in danger of losing this thing we really cared about, because everyone played in the arcades," he said in a new interview.

A ray of hope came in 2005, Cannon said, when Capcom announced it would be releasing a console version of Street Fighter II: Hyper Fighting with online play that could hopefully reconnect players who were no longer able to meet at arcades.

When the game came out, though, Cannon said lag and glitches made the internet play unusable.

"It was just bad," he said. "It was literally unplayable for a hardcore fighting game person. If all you remembered was Street Fighter II on the SNES and you just jumped back in after eight years and just started playing it, maybe it was good for you, but for hardcore fighting fans it was just unplayable."

Cannon started thinking about how he might fix these problems for timing-dependent games like his favored fighters, and came up with an idea he calls rollbacks. Instead of inserting any internet latency between the button press and the start of the move, his technique puts the lag on the beginning of the opponent’s move, with filler animation to hide the effect somewhat.

This Week In Video Game Criticism: Abstraction And Randomization

April 24, 2011 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

[This week, our partnership with game criticism site Critical Distance brings us picks from Kris Ligman on topics including abstraction in indie games and the importance of uncertainty.]

Hello and welcome to another sumptuous and satisfying edition of This Week in Video Game Criticism. Ben Abraham is stepping out again this week so it is left to me, your newcomer editor Kris Ligman, to provide your links this week. Yes, I know, I'm excited too. So without further ado, let's dig in.

We start off this week with an ode to Monster Tale from the ever-erudite Michael Abbott. Another piece by Michael Abbott from his Brainy Gamer blog looks at styles of abstraction in art and design represented in recent indie successes, "Driven to abstraction".

He writes, "We bemoan the derivative nature of games, and we're fed a steady stream of imitative designs that prove the point. But focusing on threadbare tropes and overused mechanics may cause us to overlook the astonishingly creative work being produced by game designers experimenting with form, representation, and abstraction."

In a similar vein, John Walker over at Rock, Paper, Shotgun takes aim at development-stifling genre conventions and argues there is one place where "genre crossing" is thriving: "Do you know? It’s casual games."

Raptured Reality's Steven O'Dell laments the quick turnover of commercial titles like Super Mario Galaxy: "Nobody seems to care that Super Mario Galaxy, a game that released in 2007, still has a lot to say about the status of the platformer genre, or where Mario as a franchise currently sits. In some respects, why should they? That game has a sequel and practically everything else does these days too. But that attitude, that approach to the medium where only the current -- which gets forgotten about once the next big thing arrives -- and future matter, is dangerous and is one I wish would change."

Opinion: Fairness Is A Perception

April 23, 2011 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

[In this opinion piece originally found on Tadhg Kelly's What Games Are blog, and reprinted in full with his permission, UK-based game designer Kelly looks at how a player's perception of what is fair can affect his or her enjoyment with a game, and how the game can cheat to provide tangible rewards.]

Fairness is one of the most important aspects of a good game, but it is rarely straightforward. While a game’s rules might be balanced, the player may feel that the experience is not fair, and this is a source of design tension.

The reason is that fairness is not an objective quantity. It’s subjective. Games are fair when the player sees that his actions in the game are achieving tangible rewards, even if the game is cheating to provide them to him.

Fair Actions vs Fair Outcomes

A referendum in the United Kingdom proposes to change voting from the first past the post system to the alternative vote system.

Political leanings aside, the interesting part of the debate (for this blog) is the argument over what fairness is. Both sides claim that their method of voting is the most fair, but they mean very different things.

The first past the post system argues that the vote at the ballot box is a fair action. You pick your horse, and the MP who gets the most votes wins. My vote carries equal weight to yours because we all get to check a box or pull a lever, and the result is the result.

The elected MP represents the whole constituency, but the implicit understanding is that even though he may have not achieved an overall majority, his responsibility is to all. It’s easy to explain to the voter that everybody has one vote, easy to show that each is equal, and so the activity of voting feels fair.

The alternative vote argument, on the other hand, is about fair outcomes. It argues that every MP who gets elected should have won support from more than half the people in their constituency even if that means using preference-based voting.

Nin-2 Jump Comes With A Built-In Audience

April 22, 2011 4:00 PM | Eric Caoili

Japanese developer Cave, who you'l mostly know from its bullet hell shoot'em ups like DoDonPachi and Espgaluda, debuted this new extended trailer for Nin-2 Jump, accompanied by a silhouetted audience of kids cheering the platformer on.

As Andriasang points out, the audience has actually been integrated into the game, like in Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door. The idea is that the Nin-2 Jump is presented as a "shadow play", and the children react to your in-game performance.

Cave in giving this trailer a theater feel: there's the film-style Cave logo opening, closing credits for noteworthy characters (bosses), and even a blooper reel during those credits!

Nin-2 Jump will release for XBLA on April 27 for 400 MS Points -- Cave will donate all the game's sales to the Red Cross to support earthquake/tsunami relief efforts in Japan.

Best Of Indie Games: Brutally Unfair, Yet Super Fun

April 22, 2011 12:00 PM | Tim W.

[Every week, IndieGames.com: The Weblog co-editor Tim W. will be summing up some of the top free-to-download and commercial indie games from the last seven days on his sister 'state of indie' weblog.]

This week on 'Best Of Indie Games', we take a look at some of the top independent PC Flash/downloadable titles released over this last week.

The delights in this edition include a charming hand-drawn game for the iPhone, a point-and-click adventure with a quirky sense of humor, a mod for Nifflas's much-loved 2D platformer Knytt, plus a new procedural-generated 2D arcade game from the developer of Hydorah.

Here's the highlights from the last seven days:

Game Pick: 'Señor Mistu' (We Choose Fun, commercial indie)
"Señor Mistu is a charming, hand-drawn game for iPhone. Sr. Mistu is a blind man who realises he has no olives for his pizza. He sets off with his trusty guide dog to find olives around the world."

Game Pick: 'Zee and the Alien Machine' (Clickshake, browser)
"Quirky and unapologetically tongue-in-cheek, Zee and the Alien Machine is filled to the brim with bad stereotypes. From the ill-kept and possibly insane housemate to the humorless, bespectacled Plain Jane, this point-and-click adventure from Clickshake has it all. It also has alcohol."

Game Pick: 'Brutally Unfair Knytt Mod' (Nifflas, freeware)
"Brutally Unfair Knytt Mod is essentially a reskinned version of Knytt, with new item placement and some extra silliness. Every now and again, a B.U.T.T.O.N.-style pop-up box will tell you to do something, and if you don't follow the rules, your character dies."

Game Pick: 'Viriax' (locomalito, freeware)
"Viriax is a procedural-generated 2D arcade game set inside a human body, where you must guide a deadly virus from organ to organ as you make your way towards a medical research chip located somewhere inside the host's brain. Along with the chip, scientists have planted a variety of tiny nanobot machinaries inside each organ in hopes that they will be enough to stop the rapid spread of the virus and cure their patient."

Game Pick: 'From Beyond' (The Super Flash Bros, browser)
"Less a game and more a five minute study in gleefully malevolent omnipotence, From Beyond reminds us that that the all-powerful being residing outside our understanding of the universe might not be a very nice entity at all. Consisting of five rounds, From Beyond will have you flinging everything from black holes to extraterrestrial vehicles at an unsuspecting earth."

Soul Brother: Suicidal Puzzle Platformer

April 22, 2011 10:00 AM | Eric Caoili

Cambridge-based Jasper Byrne, who made the move to become a full-time independent developer yesterday, has just released Soul Brother, a clever and stimulating puzzle-platformer now available to play for free in your browser at Adult Swim's site.

Soul Brother features a group of different creatures you can control, each with different abilities useful for progressing through each screen and collecting gems -- flying, double-jumping, pushing blocks, and being tiny. 

Different obstacles require different abilities, and you'll need to kill your current character to possess other creatures. Naturally, Soul Brother is designed around this mechanic, and has dozens of suicide-encouraging puzzles. Go play it now!

[Via IndieGames.com]

Round-Up: Gamasutra Network Jobs, Week Of April 22

April 22, 2011 9:16 AM | Tom Curtis

In a busy week for new job postings, Gamasutra's jobs board plays host to roles across the world and in every major discipline, including opportunities at Activision, Irrational, Zynga, and more.

Each position posted by employers will appear on the main Gamasutra job board, and appear in the site's daily and weekly newsletters, reaching our readers directly.

It will also be cross-posted for free across its network of submarket sites, which includes content sites focused on online worlds, cellphone games, 'serious games', independent games and more.

Some of the notable jobs posted this week include:

- Activision: Online Technical Director:
"Headquartered in Santa Monica, California, Activision is a leading worldwide developer, publisher and distributor of video games. Our company has created, licensed and acquired a group of highly recognizable brands that it markets to a growing variety of consumer demographics. We are seeking individuals who will participate and contribute to our growth, and who will enjoy our fun, dynamic and highly focused business environment."

- Irrational Games: Level Builder:
"Irrational Games is an award winning video game developer located in Quincy, MA. The team made its name with the first person shooter System Shock 2, Freedom Force games, SWAT 4 and Tribes: Vengeance. In 2005 Irrational Games was acquired by Take-Two Interactive and renamed 2K Boston in 2007, for the release of the critically acclaimed BioShock, which went on to win over 50 awards including Best Game from BAFTA. In 2010 the team returned to its roots by reclaiming the Irrational Games moniker."

- Zynga Dallas: Art Director:
"We are a fast-paced technology company connecting millions of friends through games everyday. At Zynga, you will find smart, creative people who are passionate about taking on new challenges. Whether you are a developer, designer, or a customer service manager, there’s an opportunity here for you to level up and be your own CEO."

Eufloria Releasing On PSN This June

April 22, 2011 6:00 AM | Eric Caoili

A year after the port was announced, Independent Games Festival multi-award finalist Eufloria (formerly Dyson) will release to PlayStation Network in the latter half of June, promising new content, and tweaks, and "smoother, faster visuals with much more environmental and color diversity".

Released to PC in late 2009, the ambient real-time strategy game features minimalist, The Little Prince-influenced graphics and has players nurturing seedlings on an asteroid, then battling rival plants and conquering procedurally generated asteroid fields.

Eufloria's PSN version will add new units, rebalanced levels, enhanced AI, a 2x game speed option meant to work like a fast-forward button, new collectibles, Trophies, PS3-specific controls and presentation, 100 minutes of new music by Millieu, a nd more.

SCEA is helping bring the "intergalactic guerrilla gardening" game to PSN through its Pub Fund program, which also assisted in bringing titles like Joe Danger, Hoard, Explodemon! and Tales From Space: About a Blob to the platform.

The publisher says it has a "ridiculously killer slate of titles" lined up for the future through the program -- I can't wait to hear what other indie games will be coming to PSN soon!

[Via PlayStation Blog]

Opinion: Shit Crayons

April 22, 2011 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

[Game designer Ian Bogost presents his GDC 2011 rant against the current state of social games, looking at the implications of his satirical project Cow Clicker. Here, the presentation is reprinted with permission.]

The lively "rant" panel has become a tradition at the Game Developers Conference. In it, Eric Zimmerman and Jason Della Rocca invite a group of developers to rant, grouse, and complain about a current trend in the industry. This year I was invited to participate.

The trend was "social gaming," and the session was titled "No Freakin' Respect! Social Game Developers Rant Back." My fellow ranters were Brenda Brathwaite, Brian Reynolds, Steve Meretzky, Scott Jon Siegel, and Trip Hawkins.

Given that I'm only a social game developer by virtue of having been ranting about them all year, it was clear that my contribution would have to follow suit. I titled it "Shit Crayons."

The full text of my talk as delivered on March 3, 2011 appears below, along with select visuals from my slides:

GDC Europe 2011 Reveals Brink, Blue Fang, Crysis 2 Talks

April 21, 2011 6:00 PM | Simon Carless

GDC Europe organizers have announced first lectures for the show, including Splash Damage on Brink's design, Blue Fang (Oregon Trail) on its move to social, and Crytek on Crysis 2's multiplayer.

Taking place Monday through Wednesday, August 15-17, 2011 at the Cologne Congress-Centrum Ost, GDC Europe 2011 -- taking place alongside the major gamescom trade show -- will again provide the essential pan-European perspective of game development and business trends.

As part of the first announced Main Conference sessions, attendees can learn how to preserve ambitious design goals through managing practical implementation solutions in the game design track session "You Say You Want a Shooter R(evolution)".

In the talk, British studio Splash Damage's Neil Alphonso will discuss how his team tackled these design challenges during the development of much-awaited shooter Brink (pictured).

With Blue Fang Games (Zoo Tycoon, The Oregon Trail) as the case study, discover what it takes to transition from the traditional games space into the social realm in Hank Howie's business track talk "From Console to Facebook: Blue Fang Games and the Big Pivot".

Finally, two studios and over 100 programmers contributed to the development of the multiplayer component of Crysis 2. Crytek's Peter Hall will speak in depth about the development process, and how to manage challenges that arise with working with large programming teams in his programming track session "Crysis 2 Multiplayer: A Programmer's Postmortem."

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