Archive for the ‘Caught our Attention’ Category

Palisade Guardian – the new instalment

Our good friend Mark Loika has made available the beta version of Palisade Guardian 3, a game I had the pleasure of making the art for.

I must say its my favorite of the 3. The guns feel really nice and the overall tone of the game is really my thing. It was a really fun project and I hope you all enjoy playing it.

Try it here:
http://palisadeguardian.com/

Marco (from VGS)

 

Posted: February 10th, 2012
at 6:48pm by Marco

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Categories: Caught our Attention,The art of VGS

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Rant about the approach to Flash games development

Hi, Marco here. This will be a long one!

I’ve been present in some discussions in the FGL chat about the whole Programmer VS Artist war, and it annoys me every single time.

The reason for this is that there seems to be a very amateur approach to game development in the flash community. The very simple act of dividing people into different parts makes it look like one side wants distance from the other.  The point is exactly to put TOGETHER the two or the three or as many parts needed to make a game.

This is of course an old habit from the old “one-man-show” format usually associated with flash development.

There’s obviously a lot of young developers who are just starting out, but there’s also some people that have been doing this for some years and have actually already sold some games. The insistence in this “war” will not only deprive some good developers from creating long lasting bonds with other developers, but it will also keep the production value of flash games very low.

One of the problems of this discussion is that its set to die at its birth. It’s always the “programmer” vs the “artist”, which I come to find that in most of the situations it stands for the “Coder+Idea owner” vs the “Graphics designer”. If we were to call people by their occupation it would put the discussion on a new light. Suddenly, the “artist” which is a generic figure, is now the guy that does the graphics. But the artist could also be the SoundFX guy or the Musician or even the Game designer. The same way the programmer could be the Coder, or the producer, or the Game designer as well. This will usually have people cheering for one of the sides because they understand the hard work it is to do one of the parts of the game, but they neglect to see the other part.

This also leads to the second problem with this discussion which due to a simple statistical fact, most people will assume “programmer = idea owner = game designer”. This is true for a big chunk of the reality, but it’s not a rule. It’s not an indicator. It’s a consequence of most programmers being able to do a complete game on their own without the need of external help. A programmer, who wants to be a game developer, will in most cases start developing on his own, and as he does, he comes up with ideas for other games, and when the time comes to collaborate, he will have a pocket full of ideas to use. This in itself will put the visual artist in a dependency position. He will work under the direction of the person whose idea it is. He’s just doing the art, while the programmer is doing the code AND the design. This however is not a RULE. It just happens to be like this frequently.

So again, people tend to overlook the fact that along with the production itself, either it be graphics or code, one person may also be accumulating the work of designing the game.

And this takes us to the third problem I tend to see in these discussions. The one I heard recently was “He never complained about how much money he got, he just started complaining after seeing how much the game sold for”.

I’ve worked on titles that have sold for quite a lot. I’m happy to say that whenever I work with Ben Olding, for instance, I know I’m going to get huge visibility, because he usually makes very popular games. He’s also known to sell his games for a very good amount. It would be ridiculous, not to say unethical, to be knocking on his door saying “Right, you made more money then I though you would make, where’s my share?”

The reason the game sold for a specific amount may not be even remotely related to the graphics. In the specific case of Ben, he usually has really awesome game ideas. And those turn into good sales.

The programmers reading this will probably think “yes cause a good idea will always be a good idea, even if the graphics are crap”. And I say “True, but aren’t the good graphics and good sound the difference between a really good game idea and a really good game?”.

But before you start thinking that I’m saying that an artist should set his price, get paid and let the game sell, I have to say one thing. I do believe graphics have a huge impact on sales. Graphics may not be the single most valuable feature of your game, but they will get you views. They will get interest both sponsors and players. And even if the player tries the game just once to realize its “just graphics” the sponsor has already made some money out of that. Sponsors know this, and even FGL has stated that you should put an effort into making better graphics for your game. They will sell for more. And artists should know this. They should know their work can have a huge impact on the figures a game sells for. But they should know this going in. Not wait for the game to sell and say you want a cut. If you want a cut, say it right away. Say you charge $$$ plus a cut. Say you will only take a cut, or say you want to get paid and not have to worry about if it sells or not. Some programmers won’t give you the option of a cut, so figure out how much you think your work is worth for the overall value of the game.

Now if you’re an artist on a collaborating format with a coder, then both are, in my view, worth the same cut as long as they both work at their best abilities. Maybe the graphics won’t be the best, or the game won’t have as many features or the sounds aren’t perfect as expected, but the point is that all the team did their best.

Programmers should realize that graphics can make a game a completely different experience, and game artists should know that there a good chance their creations need some code to actually turn into games. AND they should BOTH realize that the best creations come from collaboration, from sharing of knowledge and know-how and from being a development force.

Programmers will most of the time have the upper hand, because they can code. That means they can make games. Doesn’t mean they can make a good game.

I’ve seen mediocre programmers make huge sales, and I’ve seen people bored to death with amazing graphics. It’s not the graphics that make the game, it’s not the code either, and it’s not just the idea. It’s the game that makes the game.

So, on a final note, if you’re a developer, looking for people to work with you, be fair. Sure, it’s nice to get more money than the other person. But is it really worth it in the long run? How many people will want to work with you? How many times will you have to resort to inexperienced cheaper people, who will not be able to deliver content that is above par?

And I don’t mean just art. We’ve hired a programmer to make a game. He’s good. We want to work with him again. We have to make sure that all parts are satisfied.

In the game development community, there seems to be an ambient of symbiotic relation between the logic and the art. But I’ve never seen so much discussion about it as in flash community. Probably because most programmers have to pay for their art. Its like it’s a war. And as Sun Tzu said: “There is no instance of a nation benefiting from prolonged warfare.”

Posted: October 20th, 2010
at 9:48pm by Marco

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Categories: Caught our Attention

Comments: 9 comments


Flash Multiplayer Virtual Worlds Review

Like I mentioned sometime ago, we will be reviewing some books published by Packt Publishing. So and since there aren’t news or articles about Bruce Ali that are ready to go, nothing like keeping the good momentum with a good book.

I read Flash Multiplayer Virtual Worlds mostly because it is an area that interests me a lot and crosses many aspects that are part of my daily work from a design point of view. The name could not be more obvious regarding the intentions of the book: to create a virtual world using flash technology, so what’s in it?

The good

There are many good things about this book, but probably the one that doesn’t stand out immediately is that it will get you up and running with SmartFox Server in no time! From installation to technicalities to server-side implementation, the amount of examples surrounding SmartFox Server should make this book interesting for anyone that wants to pick up this server-side software even before considering MMOs and virtual worlds.

One of the really good things about this book is that it covers every standard implementation that is present on a virtual world. Starting on architecture and going through in-game systems such as avatars and messaging up to the social aspects like Facebook integration and even some quite smart details that I personally would not remember or know. I admit that in such a wide area, maybe something is missing, but I can’t really remember any.

Another good aspect is that it seems written to a lone wolf kind of developer given the detail of some particular aspects (such as extracting 3D renders) that most coders working in teams or companies would not care because it would not be their work, but it doesn’t really get in the way.

The bad

The last paragraph brings me to what I didn’t like in the book. I can look at this book from two perspectives: the game programmer or the game designer. From a game programming point of view there’s too much game design in different depths of detail and even some stuff about handling graphics that I admit is important but should be as important as the assumption of AS3 programming of the book. From a game designer point of view, not only the code is not my core work, but the design is not in depth enough. I sometimes felt that the level of detail was not constant, when comparing how to integrate tiles in isometric perspective (extremely well explained and detailed) and the implications of designing a solid online economy (well explained but no detail).

Conclusions

So, is this book for you? Like any book, it depends on who you are. Are you a AS3 coder that wants to work with SmartFox Server or create virtual worlds? Are you a lone developer that wants the overall knowledge about this topic? Or even a designer that codes a bit and wants to try it out?

Then yes, this book is for you and I do recommend it!

Posted: October 14th, 2010
at 1:08am by Vlad

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Categories: Caught our Attention

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Newgrounds: The flash mafias playground

Wow… what an harsh title… oh well…

I’m a fan of Newgrounds. The principle behind it, the motto “Everything, by Everyone” is absolutely brilliant from a creative and sharing person point of view and let’s face it, Newgrounds is simply different from the other portals. One of the most satisfying aspects of Newgrounds is that a author’s work is judged and commented by other authors… or at least that’s the idea…

Newgrounds due to its size and history packs a great deal of business also. If your game scores big on Newgrounds, it will probably spread easily and give you a nice change of getting some non-exclusive deals in case you are allowed to.

The problem with this is that the scoring system in Newgrounds is tricky. As many may know there are a lot of crews on Newgrounds. Most (I hope) are quite legit and base their presence on doing collabs. But there are a lot of crews (let’s just called them mafias) that simply exist to uprate votes of their members and downrate votes of other submissions. If you are “lucky” and low-life enough to be part of more than one of these mafias you can get a bunch of 5′s while other submissions get 0′s. This happens until the daily prizes are announced.

This issue is way more serious than developers might imagine. For starters, many portals base their selection on NG score so if your game is lost in the mess of down voting, you might have a setback because of it. Second,there are portals that base their choice for non-exclusives and the money they offer on your prizes and scores.

Your game can go from 4.1 to 3.1 in a couple of hours and loose a daily prize and exposure… shouldn’t that be extremely serious? I think it should. But don’t trust my word for it, read this thread: http://www.newgrounds.com/bbs/topic/1198036

This is happening for a long time. It’s been either subtle or amazingly obvious and many, many, many developers are not aware of it and there is no official voice that I am aware from Newgrounds, which is sad. Remarkably amazing games can escape this because they will be up voted almost instantly, but if you have “just a good game” against a submission from one of this mafias, your game is going down.

No excuses can explain the silence. It is not valid to say that it could happen on other portals because other portals have a higher ratio of non-authors so competition does not strike you that obviously. It is not valid to say that it is just how it works because that means the best and brightest can’t compete with untalented yet organized mobsters.

I want Newgrounds to be better and I want their system to be taken seriously. It’s pretty much the place where author’s matter the most, but this is seriously hurting all legit authors.

Posted: September 16th, 2010
at 11:30am by Vlad

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Categories: Caught our Attention

Comments: 8 comments


Packt Publishing and Book Reviews

Hi everyone

I really like books. My biggest flaw is not owning a e-reader, but it will arrive mid-September, don’t worry! While I read some non-technical books occasionally, like most of you (our dear friends and blog readers) I mostly read technical books. One of the issues with technical books is to find those that match your needs. Like me, I bet that you will not buy a book that doesn’t pack the the promise of growing your knowledge considerably. I also bet that you, again, like me, have bought a book or more that was less than what you expected.

On occasion I’ve read books that seem awesome and has time goes by prove themselves wrong… so is life…

The best books I bought were through word of mouth. People I trust having a opinion on a specific book that would meet my needs. Reviews help also, naturally. Bringing the two of them together on our blog sounds fantastic to me!

Packt Publishing released two new books that sound amazingly interesting for todays flash market space. Flash Multiplayer Virtual Worlds and Flash 10 Multiplayer Game Essentials. The book titles are self-explanatory are they not?

I’ll read the books in the near future and review their content from flash developer to flash developer. All that is left is to say thank you to Packt Publishing wish them a lot of success and hope for more books that are interesting for the flash gamedev community.

Posted: August 30th, 2010
at 1:45am by Vlad

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Categories: Caught our Attention

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