Jul 14, 2015

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Prioritizing Interests; A Good Assessment; Perform Better

Prioritizing Interests

While eating my Cheerios this morning, I suddenly and randomly started thinking about my interests and where they sit right now in regards to the kinds of games I’m playing.

Normally I’m not a Call of Assassin’s Battlefield kind of guy. I mean, AAA games are great; they’re made by talented people with piles of resources. On the other hand, I’m also not an indie kind of guy. There’s a lot of great indie games out there, but I still get the feeling that we’re a wee bit over-saturated in the “artistic platformer” department.

So I sit down at my PC wanting to play something, and I’m staring at what I’ve got installed. Guild Wars 2, Wildstar, Elite: Dangerous, and some smaller scale games like SkySaga and War for the Overworld. Being me, none of this is doin’ it so I open Steam and check out the Store page, thumb through the Recent, Popular, Upcoming, and Specials tabs at the bottom to see what’s available.

I can’t think of any AAA games on the immediate radar right now that are interesting me. So in the absence of the hype train making a stop in my town, I’ve resorted to taking a cab, i.e. smaller, more numerous, more difficult to gain attention games. On one hand I kind of feel bad knowing that I’m only considering this level of product because there’s nothing more high profile that’s on the horizon. On the other hand, it’s like getting away from the tourist traps and wandering through residential neighborhoods. It’s a different experience, maybe far more hit or miss than what you’d expect from a “sure thing” in a franchise release or from an established and respected studio, but still has value even though I’m only doing it as a consolation.

A Good Assessment

One of the least popular topics here at LCHQ has always been my development entries. A lot of folks either have no interest in how the sausage is made, or don’t understand the jargon, or simply don’t read anything I write ever. That’s OK. It’s being written as much for me as it is for you, which is what I’d tell you if you were here reading this.

A common theme of my development posts is the struggle I have as a hobbyist developer. To me, a hobbyist is someone with a day job who has absolutely no interest in sacrificing the enjoyment of his hobby — gaming — for the benefit of being on the “professional” side of the curtain — making games. I’ve got no structure, no friends to help out, just enough know-how to make meager progress, but a whole lot of ideas that always tend to run well ahead of the cart.

I like it when I read about other people who struggle, like the folks at Iron Tower Studio who posted a kind of “decade in the life” rundown of why it takes so long to make a game (in their case, as an “indie” studio). From my perspective, this post nails it, and I say that because I see everything I’ve struggled with recounted in that post. The ideas that outstrip the talent. The assumptions. The moving goalposts. The only real difference is that they have multiple people…and a product. It’s disheartening that with multiple people it’s taken them over a decade to get their product out the door, since I’m one person who’s had starts and stops over the course of half that long, and I’m not getting any younger. But we keep on keepin’ on because what else are we going to do with our time?

Perform Better

Patch notes are out this morning for The Repopulation, and it makes me both happy and really bummed out.

the-repopulation-05

Their headliner is that they’re revamping the tutorial. I’m good with that, since I’ve done that tutorial several times. Why several times? Because that’s the part that bums me out. I’ve stopped trying to play that game because of it’s abysmal performance. My system is several years old, now, but I can still run new releases with cranked up settings and it doesn’t break a sweat. Granted, The Repopulation is still in development, so I’ll cut them some slack; I’m not complaining that the game runs badly. I’m just saying that I wish it ran better.

“A lot of people”, meaning “random quotes from the Internet that I’m recounting without context” say that The Repopulation is the spiritual successor to Star Wars Galaxies, and in their literature the Repop devs continuously invoke SWG as well as Ultima Online and Vanguard and other games that were about more than just combat-and-loot. That’s my kind of game, and I keep going back every few months to see if things have improved in terms of “can I actually move?” and “am I shooting at something that’s animated, but is already dead?”. So far, it’s not been trending in my favor, although I have gotten the game to run respectably…if I crank down all of the settings to “should run on your smartphone” levels. I guess I can live with that for now.

The downside is that this game is supposed to launch this yearNow, not to disparage the developers, because they’re obviously skilled and more talented than I am in this realm. I do hope that performance tuning is creeping up their to-do list as they get closer to the end of the year (check out what Wildcard has been doing with ARK: Survival Evolved). Personally, I’d be willing to sacrifice some of the features that are still on the drawing board in exchange for a game I can actually play.

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