Posted on March 30, 2018
grep ‐‐week 13.2018
The theme this week: insert coin to continue.
(After a long hiatus due to life circumstances I’ve been inspired by a combination of recent gamejams, GDC, and old friends to resume this blogging endeavour. Nothing to see here.)
Exploring the History of Midway Games
Let’s kick off with the highlight of GDC: a preview screening of Josh Tsui’s Midway documentary! Some of the best bits included a discussion about the internal conflict that resulted from putting explicit violence in an arcade game and a story of how my former manager Sheridan Oursler became one of the most popular characters in NBA Jam. Everyone who grew up in the arcade era needs to watch this.
Houdini GDC 2018 Presentations
Another GDC revelation for me was seeing the Houdini procedural tech in action. No longer just an asset creation tool, Houdini is packed with cool procgen features. I think it might be suffering from similar issues as Wolfram Alpha — it’s so powerful and so abstract that it’s hard to wrap your head around exactly what you might use it for. Definitely take a look at Anastasia Opara’s ‘Designing Procedural Systems’ presentation if you’re interested in totally new ways of engaging players with procedural content.
Highlights from Unity Keynote
Every Unity dev, and roguelike devs in particular, should take a look at what’s coming down the Unity pipeline. The new C# Jobs system and the machine learning tools can fundamentally change the way games are developed, and I see the strongest use cases in the areas of massive simulations.
Blockchain Is Games’ New Tech Obsession
Hard to disagree with anything here. Cryptocurrency seems pretty shady at the moment, but hopefully it legitimises itself soon because the potential of blockchain is so massive that I would hate to see the likes of Bitcoin become a noose around its neck. The best comparison right now is probably bittorrent — a really powerful technology whose killer app unfortunately is piracy. From a game developer point of view, the biggest problem is justifying the use of this tech at all; the only meaningful value propositions you can give to a player are incredibly vague and rely heavily on the player having their own understanding of how blockchain works, so it seems like a nonstarter on the business side AND the gameplay side, at least for now. The FOMO here is all hype.
Games Need More Power Fantasies Beyond Beefy Dudes with Big Guns
I really like the angle here, but I think the author misses the larger question: do console gamers (i.e. the target audience of big publishers) have any interest in exploring these alternative power fantasies? It appears as if this decade will be defined by the firm establishment of an echo-chamber culture, and console publishers (not named Nintendo) were some of the earliest adopters (promoters?) of that movement. Their tactics have generated tons of revenue obviously, but I would argue they’ve also created an unsustainable marketplace that has trained its own audience to be highly resistant to change.
“Power fantasies are produced by an industry, and they reflect several parts of that industry. The most important one is money. Our current shooters are seen as a sure bet, the best return on investment for risk-averse publishers. Nihilism sets in. Why would that ever change?” —Cameron Kunzelman