Making a Game: What is the Responsibility of a Developer?

Hey everyone,

Today I found myself really inspired by our gameplay of Verdun to talk about this topic. I specifically remember playing games with my friends, particularly Call of Duty in this case, and passing off some of the gameplay mechanics we didn’t like for the developers needing to still be able to make it fun. “There’s a limit to how realistic games can be because they still need to be fun.” What did I mean when I said this? Sometimes I was referring to physics, sometimes it was those (ridiculous) one-shot knife/tomahawk kills. The thing is, while they were absurd and made no sense, they were fun.

So a couple years down the line, I had my first experience with a Battlefield game in Battlefield 3. I absolutely loved the game because it had huge maps, destructible environments, and a unique skill function– bullet drop. It was unique and felt like it made the game more realistic, even if it may not have been scientifically accurate. Of course, Battlefield by no means entirely realistic, but the flexibility to do something crazy and unrealistic is still fun. I specifically remember riding a C4-packed “quad-bike” (ATV) into an enemy base, waiting to hear my buddy’s signal (“CA-CAAAWWW!!!”) to jump off the bike so we could use it as a rolling, high-powered bomb.

Enter Verdun. To be honest, it was pretty awe-striking. Whereas COD and BF make you feel like a gun-toting, steroid-infused, bandanna wearing, Rambo-type, one-man-army badass, watching Verdun made me feel the exact opposite. The cold, muddy trenches, the explosions, the pools of the no man’s land, the sudden, instant death after the snap of a marksman’s rifle…they don’t make you feel strong. They make you feel afraid. For the first time, I experienced something akin to the reality of war and it was surprising. It felt like I was seeing something that couldn’t really be conveyed by video games, yet there I was.

What does this mean for me as a gamer and for developers? As a gamer, I don’t think I’d ever pick up Verdun. It seems to be an excellent game and serves its purpose well, but the reality of it gives it a steep learning curve and a difficulty that Battlefield and COD don’t really touch. For me, the perfect “realistic” shooter is Battlefield. It’s a great mix of fun and realism and offers more flexibility than COD in terms of what you can do. That said, I recognize Verdun as a real achievement in terms of gameplay and development, both in terms of realism.

This brings us to the ultimate question: what does this mean for developers? When it comes to making a game, what is the level of realistic accuracy a game should exhibit? Or is there a responsibility for this at all? There’s many ways one could look at this. Who is the target audience? What kind of game is it? Are you trying to make something realistic, or pure fantasy?

To be honest, it doesn’t matter all that much. Video games are supposed to be fun. They’re supposed to present the player with a way to be part of a different reality and that reality should be enjoyable. Whether it’s the notorious challenge of Dark Souls, the jubilant glee of jumping around in Mario Odyssey, or the ultra-realistic gameplay of a true simulator, the point of the game is for the player to have fun. That said, I’d like to conclude in saying that the developer’s responsibility is not necessarily just to fun or just to accuracy/realism, but to the player. Developers usually know what kind of game they want to make and who it’s for. If you’re making a simulator game, then people who like sims will play it. If it’s a shooter, then people who like FPS action will play it, etc etc. With that in mind, developers need to know their audience, know what kind of experience they want to deliver, and do it while making the games as fun as possible, whatever that may mean for the individual game in question.

There are millions of people who play games, all of them with different tastes and preferences. It’s up to the developer to make sure an experience the player wants is what’s being delivered, whether that’s an ultra-realistic war sim or a colorful hero FPS.

The Coming Together of Our Storyline – Group 1: Bad Company

Hi everyone, this post is aimed at giving some pointers about our progress that our group made on Wednesday. During class, we discussed the final workings of the storyline that will go into our ‘pilot’ or tutorial level. As well as setting up an outside of class meeting time for that last night. During this meeting, we began brainstorming ideas for what our future levels would entail.

 

As for the pilot level, we are pretty set in stone for what is going to happen. The player character will wake up in a tavern in Concord, Massachusetts where they will hear the cries of Paul Revere: “The British are coming! The British are coming!”  From here, the player will give some descriptive characteristics of what he wants his virtual character to look like. Based on their answers, the player will play as one of eight pre-set characters that have been made. Jon has worked very hard to implement this system of character customization, and we are very grateful for his skills. Once the player has created his character, he will go downstairs to meet Paul Revere, who will ask the character to join him to help fight back against the British, who are planning a surprise attack at Lexington and Concord. This is our first piece of historical representation. Paul Revere’s famous ‘Midnight Ride’ when he caught wind of information that led him to believe that the British were attacking, so he set out on horseback and rode all the way from Boston, Mass. to Concord, Mass. in order to warn the American militia that the British were coming.

Once you are grouped with Mr. Revere, you will traverse through the town, taking on two small, simple fights that will help teach the player the game mechanics. Eventually, you will reach a final ‘boss.’ We plan on having the character and Paul Revere run into a British squadron led by a commander. This fight will be too hard at first, and the player and Revere will suffer a defeat. As you are defeated, an unknown man will walk through a time travel portal claiming to be John F. Kennedy, who has come from the future to save the outcome of the revolutionary war. Apparently, the Russians have stolen the time travel technology that American scientists had developed during the ‘space race’ in the cold war era, and are planning on using it in order to ensure America had never become a thing. So the Russians are coming back to arm the British Redcoats with more modern weaponry, and JFK took it upon himself to do the same for the revolutionaries.

Upon his arrival, he uses these modern weapons and aids the player in a rematch against the British commander and his squad. With JFK’s help, the fight is very easy. After this altercation, JFK explains that he needs help disposing of the Russian spies who stole the technology from the White House. The player character and Paul Revere at this point have no idea who JFK is and blindly follows him into the portal. This marks the end of the pilot level.

After the pilot level, we have had discussions of implementing a ‘back to the future’ scene in which we play through what actually happens when JFK takes them back to 1963. We have not set anything in stone yet though, as we continue deliberations in order to make it the most interesting, yet most historically accurate as possible.

 

Why We Would Rather Smash than Brawlout

Why We Would Rather Smash than Brawlout

Last week I finally decided that it was time for me to finally do what I had been holding out on for the entirety of the first semester of my sophomore year at Centre. I bought a switch. The main thing that had held me back from buying the console was the fact that a port of smash 4 hadn’t been released for the console. The thing that convinced me to finally make my decision was an indie game called Brawlout. The game had been released for switch, and though virtually a clone to smash bros, something about the game didn’t live up to the iconic coach fighter.  Although game mechanics could have been a factor to the game not living up to smash bros, it is because its lack of meaningful and familiar characters that is its real weakness.

In any videogame the player must embodies the character that they play. For fighting games in particular, these different characters have to stand out from the other characters. On the surface, they do this through stats, dialogue, appearance, and gameplay. For Smash Bros, this is really all you need, as we can rely on pre existing characterization and storylines from all the character’s own unique games. Brawlout, on the other hand, lacked this same ability to grip to previously made material for most of their characters. The two successful characters being guest characters from other indie games (Hyperlight drifter and Juan from Guacamelee). Most of the cast though visually good looking lacked anything special in terms of lore. The campaign given to the player, though showing little dialogue here and there, doesn’t explain any of the characters back story. The online description of the characters though giving them some back story, doesn’t spend more than a couple paragraphs doing so. The fact that the player has the chore to go online and off of the game to find out why they should care about any of the fighters, is a serious downfall of the game.

Fighter games aren’t alone in the need to properly characterize the characters in their game. Halo combat evolved created an entirely new universe in a single game, by making supporting characters that players could care about. Cortana and Sgt. Johnson acted in specific ways, and their personality and backstories directly influenced their behavior. Mortal Kombat famously created the rivalry between Sub-Zero and Scorpion that made the player able to identify with both characters regardless of who they were beating up. Good characterization is essential for the playability of a game.

This isn’t to say however that we cannot borrow from preexisting ideas. Very famously, the Wolfenstein games borrow from a pretty popular characterization of the Nazis.  The Civilization games borrow from a particularly western view of history as a linear progression. By using concepts that people are familiar with a developer can attract an audience. They can also use these preconceived ideas and spin them on their head like the creation of the characters of Wario and Waluigi, or when a game like Octodad has you attempt to do mundane western fatherly tasks  as an Octopus in disguise.

Level One: Booting Up

Greetings Classmates!

This weekend has proven to be quite the lucrative one. Between my groupmates and I we’re starting to get into the meat of this project. After deciding that RPGMaker was the best option for this project, I got to work on learning the software and designing some playable tests. I’ll make sure to add to this post some images of the works I’ve done over the weekend.

In previous updates, the team has written about the storyline we’re attempting to try, alongside decisions about the software. We’re still sticking with the Revolutionary/Cold War time travel narrative (read Blaise’s previous post!) and I’m excited to see what we make of it.

As mentioned, a player character interacts with Revolutionary War era figures and also Cold War figures. With that in mind, I’ve been hard at work creating some initial versions of these characters to bring to life in-game. Initial designs have been created for Paul Revere and John F. Kennedy while I’m still experimenting with the software in an attempt to figure out how we might make the player character customizable in-game.

The RPGMaker software truly is incredible. It allows for quick, easy implementation of many things such as if-then trees, automatic actions, and even NPCs. While I only have an initial demo screen made and our team will surely have to make art assets of our own, this is looking like an excellent piece of software to create our vision in.

Other than aspects of the playable game, Blaise and Chase have begun creating ideas for plot/dialogue while Kaeman and I have been experimenting with the software side of things. There will be much for us to share in the coming class.

Some more details about our game are as follows:

  • RPG set in Revolutionary War Era America
  • Will feature customizable player character
  • Focuses on a “what if?” scenario in which time travel exists during the Cold War
  • To this extent, the Russians attempt to assist Britain in the Revolutionary War, hoping to stop America from ever existing.
  • To prevent this, John F. Kennedy also goes back in time to assist the Americans against their newfound incredible adversaries.
  • There will be a party system, which allows the player to meet and recruit famous American figureheads such as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and more.
  • The team is tinkering with the idea of including Uncle Sam/Lady Liberty in some way, either as special hidden characters or super abilities for the player character to have. Keep an eye out for these exciting features!

Overall, I think it’s safe to say the whole team is getting very pumped for this project and we’re looking forward to developing it and getting to share it with everyone!

See you tomorrow!

– Jon

Base Title Screen

Recruit Paul

Menu

Player Name Editor

Group 1: Bad Company – Day 2

Hello everyone! Day two for team Bad Company has been filled with intense discussions about some of the key aspects that will go into our game, including which software we will use, as well as a complete overhaul of our story line! With this being said, we made good progress towards putting these abstract plans into action!

Our discussion about which software we are going to use carried over from day one. Where we were introduced with multiple options. We narrowed down these options to GameMaker and RPG Maker. While RPG Maker is a much more simple program, a couple students from our group are skilled with technology and feel confident about being able to make a game with GameMaker. Because of the added complexity, GameMaker would allow us to do more with what we have. We would be able to customize certain aspects of the game that we would not be able to if we were using RPG Maker. With this being said, Jon and Kaeman, who are our tech guys, will play around with both of these programs in order to decide which they feel more comfortable with.

 

While those two are hard at work with that issue, Chase and myself will be working together in order to begin to formulate the story line and the lore behind the game play. In yesterday’s post we described that the main idea of the game would be based around the revolutionary war, with interesting elements from ancient Japanese culture. But because of the difficulties we found from tying those two very different time periods together, we completely scrapped the ancient Japanese idea. But with that we had a void to fill. In replacement of the ancient Japanese culture spin, we decided that we were going to introduce cold war era technology to the settings and events of the revolutionary war. The game picks up as that President John F. Kennedy time travels back to the 1770’s in order to save the revolution after the Soviet Union traveled back in time in order to help the British wipe America off of the map! JFK brings with him new, ‘futuristic’ at the time, weaponry that had never been seen before. The player creates a character and with the help of JFK, and other revolutionary war figures, drives the British from the homeland and will eventually win the revolutionary war.

 

The idea behind this interesting spin on the original story of the Revolutionary war is that the race for technology that occurred post World War II produced the invention of time travel. Russian scientists were the first to develop it, and in turn were the first to use it. Because of the tensions between the Soviet Union and the United States that were present in this era, the Soviet Union decided that they would attempt to alter history in order to ensure that America never became a thing in the first place, so that they could claim the spot of the world’s largest superpower.

Opening Credits

Yesterday, Blaise, Jon, Kaeman, and I decided to name ourselves Team Bad Company after the Battlefield game. Although we derived our name from a FPS, we decided to make our game an RPG focused around the American Revolution. We thought it would be fun to not only fight with a couple of historical figures that actually, but it would also be cool to start the story with your own character, and recruit founding fathers on the way to defeating Britannica. Since we couldn’t choose just one historical time period to incorporate into our video game, we’ve also discussed adding ancient Japanese elements through armor and weapons that we will choose for our game. We’re excited to begin buildin, and can’t wait to see how the beginning stages work out!