Making any game is a miracle! (Blood, sweat and pixels – first part)

The text you see below is part of the book "Blood, Sweat and Pixels: The Triumphant and Exciting Stories of How Video Games Are Made" by Jason Schreier ( Blood, Sweat, and Pixels: The Triumphant, Turbulent Stories Behind How Video Games Are Made by Jason Schreier.

BingMag.com Making any game is a miracle! (Blood, sweat and pixels – first part)

The text you see below is part of the book "Blood, Sweat and Pixels: The Triumphant and Exciting Stories of How Video Games Are Made" by Jason Schreier ( Blood, Sweat, and Pixels: The Triumphant, Turbulent Stories Behind How Video Games Are Made by Jason Schreier.

Introduction

Let's assume that you want a video game. make A wonderful idea has come to your mind; The idea is about a sibyl plumber who has to save his lover, a princess, from a turtle-like creature with fire coming out of its mouth. You are sure that investors will provide you with millions of dollars to make the dream of making this game come true. What next?

Well, first you need to determine the exact number of people you can hire. Then you need to contact a series of artists, designers and programmers. You need a producer to manage the game development process and you need a sound department to make sure the game will have sound. You should also hire a series of quality control testers to find game bugs. Marketing genius should not be forgotten either! Otherwise, how will people know about the existence of your wonderful game? After you have hired all the necessary people, you should make a detailed plan in which it is specified how much time each team member will spend on a certain part of the game. If all goes well, you'll have a demo for E3 in six months, and the game will be ready for release by the end of the year.

Everything is going well for the first few months. Your artists are designing a bunch of cool enemies for your plumber to fight: ghosts, mushrooms, that sort of thing. The designers have designed a series of clever stages, thanks to which the player will travel through various environments such as a roaring volcano and a rotten swamp. Developers have discovered a cool rendering trick that makes black holes look more realistic than anything you've ever seen. Everyone is motivated, the game development process is going well, and you are selling shares as if you were handing out free newspapers on the subway.

One morning, you get a call from your producer. It's like the rendering trick is useless because it reduces the frame rate of the game to ten frames per second. PlayStations are constantly stuck in the volcano stage, and the head of advertising is grumbling about how it affects your game's Metacritic score. Your art designer insists on micromanaging animators, and it's driving your animators crazy. You have to prepare the E3 demo in two weeks and you know that it is not possible to prepare it in less than four weeks. On the other hand, investors are asking whether it is possible to reduce the budget from 10 million to 8 million. You'll have to fire a few people to do that.

A few weeks ago you were daydreaming about your Game of the Year speech at the Game Awards. Now the question is whether this game is going to be made or not.

***

Once upon a time, with the game maker A new game was ready to be released. I had a drink. He looked tired. Just as he and his team were getting close, he said, they realized something important: One of the game's biggest features wasn't fun. The members of the production team had to "crunch" the next few months (crunch means a heavy work schedule); They worked between 80 and 100 hours each week to remove this feature from the game and to revise all the content they had created up to that point. Some of the team members slept in the company office so that their time would not be wasted on commuting, because every hour spent in the car means an hour less work on eliminating bugs in the game. Until the day they delivered the final build of the game, many members of the team doubted that the game would ever be finished. "Oh, Jason," she said. It's a miracle that any game gets made.

Over the years I've been reporting on the gaming world, this has been a common theme. All game developers whether they are small indie companies or mega-corporations talk a lot about how hard it is to design and produce games. It's enough to enter any bar in San Francisco during the annual GDC (Game Developer's Conference). You'll likely find a group of tired designers trying to lighten the rest with stories of hours-long coding sessions and staying up all night on caffeine. War metaphors are often used: "Tales from the Trenches" is one very common term. One of the common complaints is that those who belong to the outside world understand them they do not. One of the surest ways to get on the nerves of game developers is to ask them: Now that they're in this field, how does it feel to play all day long?

BingMag.com Making any game is a miracle! (Blood, sweat and pixels – first part)

But even if you accept the premise that making a game is a painstaking process, it won't be easy for those outside the field to understand why. After all, people have been making games since the 1970s, haven't they? Now that we have several decades of lessons and experience in the field of game development, shouldn't game development become a more efficient process? Maybe in the late 1980s, crunching made more sense for game developers, because then gaming was the domain of teenagers and twenty-somethings who coded all night, slept all day, and kept themselves alive by eating pizza and Coca-Cola, but now After several decades, in 2016, video games have become a 30 billion dollar industry in America. Why do game developers keep telling stories about staying up in the office until 3:00 am? Why is it still so hard to make games?

To find answers to these questions, I went and did my favorite activity: annoying people who know far more than I do. I spoke to about a hundred game developers and executive producers (both publicly and privately) and asked them countless questions, prying into their lives, careers, and motivations for making such huge sacrifices to make games.

This book has ten chapters and in each chapter the story of the creation of a different game is defined. To write the first chapter, I went to Irvine, California to see how Pillars of Eternity, which was funded by a Kickstarter crowdfunding, helped Obsidian Entertainment survive its darkest days. . To write another chapter, I traveled to Seattle, Washington to meet 20-something Eric Barone, a young man who spent five years alone in his room creating a relaxing farming game called Stardew Valley. . Other chapters feature stories about the tech-driven nightmare of Dragon Age: Inquisition, the gruesome crunch of Uncharted 4, and even the secrets behind Star Wars 1313, LucasArts' much-hyped canceled game. defined.

As you read these stories, you may find that many of them are unusual, and that the process of making many games was due to profound changes in technology, changes in direction, or other crazy factors that were out of the game maker's control. They encountered a problem. When you're reading these stories, it might be tempting to think that all these games were made under unusual circumstances, that the people involved were unlucky, and that if their creators had followed industry standards, they wouldn't have made the usual mistakes. First, they made smart decisions, they didn't struggle so much.

BingMag.com Making any game is a miracle! (Blood, sweat and pixels – first part)

Let me propose an alternative theory: every video game is made under unusual circumstances. Video games are stepping on the border between art and technology in a way that was hard to imagine just a few decades ago. Consider two things: one is that technology is constantly changing, and the other is that a video game can be about anything: from a 2D puzzle game for the iPhone to a massive open-world RPG with hyper-realistic graphics. With these two points in mind, you'll discover that there are no set standards for game making. Many games look alike, but no two games are created alike. This is a pattern you'll come across a lot as you read the book.

But why is it so hard to make video games? If you, like me, have never tried to make a commercial game, it might be interesting for you to check a few possible theories:

1. Games are interactive: Video games do not move in a straight line. Unlike Pixar's computer animations, a game runs on "real-time" graphics, and the computer generates new images every thousandth of a second. Video games, unlike Toy Story animation, must react to the player's actions. As you play a video game, your console or computer (or phone or calculator) renders characters and scenes based on your decisions. If you decide to enter a room, the game should load all the furniture inside. If you decide to save and exit the game, the game should save your data. If you decide to kill the helper bot, the game must recognize that 1. Is it possible to kill the robot? 2. Are you powerful enough to kill the robot? 3. When you pour out his iron guts, you should What kind of sound does he make? After this, the game may need to remember what you did so that the other characters know you're a ruthless killer and say something like: "Hey, you're the ruthless killer!"

2. Technology is constantly changing: As computers evolve (and this happens every year without exception), graphics processing becomes more powerful. As the graphics processing becomes more powerful, we expect more beautiful games. As Obsidian CEO Feargus Urquhart told me, We're on the cutting edge of technology. "We are always expanding the boundaries." Urquhart noted that making a game is like making a movie, except that you have to build a new camera from scratch every time you start. This is a common comparison. Or as another comparison: playing a game is like building a building in the middle of an earthquake; And as a final comparison: playing a game is like driving a train, with someone constantly running in front of you and lying on the tracks.

BingMag.com Making any game is a miracle! (Blood, sweat and pixels – first part)

3. Game making tools are always different: To make games, artists and game developers have to work with all kinds of software. From common programs (such as Photoshop and Maya) to internal software that varies from studio to studio. These tools, like technology, are constantly changing depending on the needs and ambitions of the game maker. If a tool is slow, full of bugs, or lacks important functionality, making a game becomes a tedious process. A game developer once told me, "Although most people think that you need to have great ideas to make a game, the truth is that to make a game you need to know how to turn great ideas from paper to the final product." For this, you need good engines and toolsets."

4. It's impossible to plan: Chris Rippy, a seasoned producer who worked on Halo Wars, said: "What makes this process challenging is its unpredictability." As Rippy explained, in traditional software development, you can build a reliable schedule based on how long tasks have taken in the past. But in the words of Rippy: "But when it comes to the game, this is the question you have to ask: What is fun?" How long does the fun last? Have we succeeded in achieving it? Is the game fun enough? You are practically speaking a piece of art that an artist makes. When will this piece of art be finished? If we spent one more day on it, wouldn't the world be different? Who should hold hands? This is the most challenging point. Finally, you enter the production department; That means you've proven the game is fun, you've decided on the final look, and now the process becomes more predictable. But to reach this point, you have to go through an exhausting journey in the dark." And from here we get to the next factor...

5. You won't know how much fun it is until you play it: Yes, you can make educated guesses about it, but you can't tell whether it's moving, jumping, or brain-busting until you actually get your hands on it. Whether or not your robot buddy is out of the water with a fun and cool hammer. Emilia Schatz, one of Naughty Dog's designers, is quoted as saying: "Even for very, very experienced game designers, this is very scary. We all have to throw away a lot of our efforts, because we make a bunch of table things, but the experience of playing them turns out to be awful. You make a series of detailed plans in your head about how the game is supposed to be, and when you play the result of that planning, you see that it's a mess."

BingMag.com Making any game is a miracle! (Blood, sweat and pixels – first part)

In all the stories in this book, you will see some common themes. All games are delayed at least once. All game developers have to make some very tough concessions. All companies have to burn phosphorous on which hardware and technology to use. All studios have to adjust their schedules around big events like E3, because they get a lot of motivation (and even feedback) from their excited fans. The most controversial common thread is that everyone who makes games has to crunch and sacrifice their personal and family lives for a job that seems like it's never going to end.

However, many of those who work are making games, they say they can't imagine themselves doing anything else. The feeling of being on the cutting edge of technology, creating interactive entertainment unlike any other medium, and working with dozens and sometimes hundreds of people to create something millions of people are going to enjoy all add up to a very strong belief: Despite all the lows and highs, all the hours Crunch and all the incredible crap that game makers have to put up with makes the game worth making.

Back to that game you were making about a plumber (Adventures of Super Plumber). It's like there are solutions to all your problems, but you may not like these solutions. You can cut the budget by outsourcing some of your animation tasks to a studio in New Jersey. The end result may not look ideal, but the price will be halved. You can ask the stage designers to add a series of extra platforms to the volcano stage to make it less difficult. If they grumble, remind them that not everyone is into Dark Souls. You can tell the art director that the programmers need to do their own thing too, and don't need to hear all of his expert opinion on Shadowlight in video games.

Delivering a demo in time for E3 might be harder, but if your employees What if they stay in the office until midnight for a few weeks? A maximum of two weeks. In order to compensate for their trouble, you will buy them dinner and promise them that if the game reaches 90 points on Metacritic, you will give them a special reward.

You must also remove a series of game contents; Yes, I know the content was great. But there's really no need for your plumber to turn into a raccoon. You can keep this idea for the sequel.

A note about reports

The stories told in this book are based on interviews conducted between 2015 and 2017, with approx. I organized a hundred game developers and other active figures in the game industry. Most of the people I interviewed had no problem with revealing their names and identities. Some asked not to be identified because they did not have official permission to contribute to this book and did not want to jeopardize their future careers. You'll probably notice that most of the people I've spoken to are male. This is a depressing (and unintended) revelation of the state of the gaming industry: it has been male-dominated for decades.

All statements in quotation marks were made directly to me (unless I have specified that this is not the case). No dialogue is rewritten in this book. All the memories and details in the book are told directly from the people I interviewed and, whenever possible, corroborated by at least two other people.

For some of the reports go to I traveled to studios or people's homes in Los Angeles, Irvine, Seattle, Edmonton and Warsaw. I paid for the trips myself, and no publisher or game developer paid for my stay, although I did say yes to a few lunch requests, which seemed kosher. Of course, the food wasn't kosher, but it was morally okay to accept invitations... oh, you know what? Better start the book.

Continues

Source: Blood, Sweat , and Pixels

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