good advice

September 28, 2012


Via Eurogamer:

How do you get a job in the game industry? According to Valve, all you have to do is give yourself one.

Valve’s Chet Faliszek delivered a talk this afternoon to a packed audience at Eurogamer Expo with one clear message to budding developers: “Create something.”

“There you go. And that’s it. It’s that easy,” he said.

“I’m being serious. There are no gatekeepers. There are no requirements. There is no prior experience that you need. Just make something.”

One question Valve is often asked, Chet said, is if I don’t have experience, how do I get experience when every job requires experience? “Here’s the deal on that. Life isn’t fair. It’s not their job to give you experience. It’s your job. The best resume you can do is make something. So do it.”

Chet recommended indie devs participate in indie game forums and get involved in online developer communities to get valuable feedback on their work. He also suggested uploading games to Valve’s own Steam Greenlight website and commenting on others.

“How do you get yourself a job in the games industry?” he continued. “This is the answer: you just give yourself one. It’s that simple. You’re in control of your own destiny. Make your resume and ship it to the world.

“At Valve we’ve been thinking about this a lot. We get asked this all the time. Our simple answer used to be: just go make something. But really you want to do more than that. You want to create something, then you want to release it, you want feedback on it and you want to keep getting better.”

“To be clear, we’re not the only place you can do it. Look up other places as well. I mean we’re working at it. We’re iterating on it. We released Steam Workshop. We released Steam Greenlight. Coming up soon we’ll release software on Steam. Let us know how we’re doing. Let us know what you guys would like to see. What would help you guys.

“And then today, when you get home, take what ever ideas you have and whatever computer you have, whatever software you have, scope it down to something you can ship. Start working on it. Every day you come home from work, work on it some more. Show it to your friends. Talk about it. Get feedback on it. Play test it. And when it’s ready, release it.

“There, you just gave yourself a job in the game industry.”

Chet said those who try to get jobs without having created something, “you’re coming from a point of weakness”. “Nobody knows you. You’re just a piece of paper. You’re really easy to dismiss.” Those who are hard to dismiss, he said, are those who have made something.

Chet stressed that games don’t have to be big to attract attention. In fact, he recommended being smart about the scope of projects.

“People have made some of the dumbest, stupidest things that have made us laugh, that we’ve passed around, then we started talking about them,” he said.

baby time

September 26, 2012


So, here’s the news:  I’m going to be a father.

The whys and wherefores and everything else is not necessarily appropriate for this particular blog; just know that it took a very long time, and science was ultimately involved, and we are very happy, and the baby’s due in April.

(This is also the previously alluded-to reason as to my current financial situation; with a baby on the way, I can’t be buying new games and consoles and stuff all the time.  Even if I really, really want to.)

I had a dream yesterday morning about impending fatherhood.  (Partially inspired by the floating city in Borderlands 2, actually, now that I think about it.)  In the dream, I was surrounded by everybody I’d ever met, beaming with pride for our future child, happy and full of love for everyone and everything.  At the same time, the island of Manhattan was suspended over a gaping sinkhole, thousands of feet deep, and any time I walked past a crack in the sidewalk I could peer into the abyss underneath, and I’d get a horrible sensation of vertigo.

This is, in fact, what having a baby actually feels like – tremendous excitement, yet colored with the slightest tinge of unfathomable dread of the unknown.  (Thank God for anti-anxiety medication, is all I’ll say.)

Certainly there are lots of big life things that I feel that I’ve got to start thinking about and getting serious about – career, money, etc.  (And, of course, lots of smaller things to think about, too, like:  maybe it’s time to get rid of my Rock Band equipment, since it’s taking up an awful lot of space that we’re going to need.)

I was hoping to have some profound statement to end this post with, but the truth of the matter is that I’m just really happy.  We shared the news with our friends yesterday, and so today I’m sharing it with you.  Thank you for reading and sharing this part of my life with me.

weekend recap: many dead things

September 24, 2012


I probably added around 12-15 hours to my Borderlands 2 campaign after Saturday’s post.  I have a lot more to say about it.  But before I do, there’s a couple other things to talk about:

– Firstly, one can’t talk about cel-shaded graphics without talking about Jet Set Radio, and when I needed a break from Borderlands 2 this weekend I remembered that I’d downloaded the XBL demo of Jet Set Radio HD.  I’m thrilled that a lot of beloved old games are getting HD remasters, but I’m also noticing a recurring problem – the games always played better in my memories than in my hands.   (The Tony Hawk HD thing from earlier this summer also comes to mind.)  JSR looks absolutely fantastic – after all these years, that art style is still brilliant – but it also feels incredibly stiff in my hands, and I found myself making the exact same mistakes in maneuvering that I did 10 years ago (or however long ago it was).  That being said, I still love the HD remastering treatment, and I can’t say it enough – I would LOVE to see a Skies of Arcadia remaster.  FACT:  JRPGs don’t have the same control problems that 3D action games do.  Let’s make this happen!

– Speaking of demos, I also played a tiny taste of the demo for Resident Evil 6.  There are three different chapters in the demo, and I played around 10 minutes of the first one on the list.  (I’m not a big enough fan of the franchise to really care about it one way or the other; I’m well aware that I’m one of the only people on the planet that thinks that RE5 is a much better game than RE4.)  So, the biggest thing, obviously, is that you can move while aiming!  Welcome to 2012!  And yet, it’s still incredibly awkward-looking!  I sometimes feel that the developers of these Japanese mega-franchises – RE, MGS, FF, etc. – live in a hermetically-sealed bubble, unaware of the advancements in animation, storytelling, and general gameplay conventions that have transpired over the last 20 years.  I appreciate their slavish devotion to keeping each game true to its roots, but, I mean, Jesus Christ.  Have they never seen people walking around and carrying guns in other games or films or TV shows?   Besides that, it should also be noted that the graphics look a little rough – RE6 is nowhere near as nice and clean and crisp as RE5, though this may be because the demo is an early build.  In any event, I didn’t really have RE6 very high on my priority list, and this demo didn’t really do anything to change that.  It’s still on the GameFly queue, for whatever that’s worth.

– At some point this weekend I received an email that included a code for the first DLC for Darksiders 2 – Argul’s Tomb.  As much as I love that game, I’ve gotta say that this little self-contained mini-adventure was a little… meh, actually.  I hate using that word unless I have to, but that’s pretty much the best way of putting it.  It’s around 2 hours long, there’s no achievements, it’s very combat heavy, and none of the loot I picked up was particularly good.  It’s free, though, so it has that going for it, which is nice.

– I am an idiot.  I wanted to try out Steam’s Big Picture Mode on my HDTV this weekend, but it wasn’t until I’d moved everything around that I realized that my PC didn’t have an HDMI out, and that I didn’t have an adapter.  Oh well.

– It’s just as well, anyway, because had I gotten it to work, I would’ve ended up playing Torchlight 2, but with a keyboard and mouse on my couch, which would be weird.  I did spend 5 minutes with T2, actually, but the honest truth is that I think I’m still recovering from my Diablo 3 overdose, and left- and right-clicking for hours and hours just doesn’t seem all that enticing.  I will get to it eventually, though.

_________________________

OK.  Let’s get back to Borderlands 2.  I’m now around 24 hours in, and my commando is probably level 23 or 24.  (I really ought to write that stuff down before I begin a post.)

For the first dozen hours or so, I only had around 3-4 quests in my to-do list at a time – a main story quest, and then some optional side stuff.  Then a major story event happened (you’ll know it when you see it), and when I shook the dust off and got back to the main city, I’d found that the game suddenly opened wide up, and 20 new side-quests appeared in my quest log.  And so, now, I’m tackling all the side stuff, because the side stuff is, quite frequently, absolutely brilliant.

I have come to appreciate that the game does not take itself seriously.  At first, a lot of the dialogue came off as silly and adolescent (there literally is a “Bonerfart” joke – or is it “Fartboner”?) but as I’ve delved deeper into the side quests and gotten to know the characters a bit more thoroughly, I’ve seen that the game’s got some serious depth in its writing – even if, as I said on Saturday, the overall narrative lacks any real weight.  There are 2 moments that stand out in particular, and I’ll try to keep them spoiler-free (while at least alerting you as to where they are):

1.  Mission:  The Overlooked: “This Is Only A Test.”   The end of this mission was the first time that I’ve literally laughed out loud during a game since Portal 2, probably.  It’s a totally unexpected, expertly delivered, and deeply satisfying punchline, all of which comes after a very tough firefight and (at least for me) a reluctance to even do the thing I was asked to do, being that I didn’t think it was going to work.  (Fuckin’ Dave.)

2.  I can’t remember the mission name, but it was a side mission I was doing in the Wildlife Exploitation Preserve, which ultimately resulted in discovering the true nature of the relationship between Tiny Tina and Flesh-Stick (two characters that I’d met under completely different circumstances, 10 hours previously).  I normally hate how games use tape recordings to tell stories – it feels lazy and contrived and has become almost as ubiquitous as crates – but in this particular case the final reveal was shocking and very, very dark, and when I think about it now I’m not sure there’s a better way to tell that particular story.  Especially since there was no real reason to even include it, and especially since I very nearly walked right over it without even knowing it was there.  This made its discovery hit surprisingly hard, and caused me to think about my last interaction with those two characters in a much different light.   (It called to mind a similar hidden, optional thing I discovered in Psychonauts – during Milla’s psychedelic training level, there’s a hidden room where you discover a rather horrible truth about Milla’s past.  It’s a moment that rings true, though – it’s not manipulative or hollow – and so it carries a great weight.)

*    *    *

I find that even as I’ve improved a great many of my skills (including dramatic (and very necessary) reductions in my reloading time), I still get fatigued with the game’s core action.  This is not the game’s fault, of course – I’ve had a long-standing fatigue problem with the entire shooter genre, and it’s a tribute to everything else that Borderlands 2 does so well that I’m still as heavily invested in the game as I am.  I have no problem fighting my way to an objective, but once I’m done, I run like hell all the way back – I’ll throw down a turret if I have to, to thin out the crowd, but my overriding attitude is “fuck it, I’m done shooting.”  I’ve killed so many goddamned things already, and I’m not even sure that I’m halfway through the game, which makes me shudder at the thought of how many more goddamned things I have to kill.   (Especially if there are Threshers.  Oh, how I hate threshers.  Relentless bullet-sponging bastards, all of them.)

It would be nice if there were other things to do besides shooting, I guess.  (Well, there is a quasi-murder mystery in Sanctuary, but it plays out quite a bit differently than the one in Skyrim.)  I’m not saying this game needs box-pushing puzzles or crafting or anything, and I know I’ve not even come close to seeing everything there is to see and so it’s entirely possible that I’ll run into something that doesn’t involve heavy pressings of the trigger buttons over extended periods of time.   But.  The game’s relentless action can be a bit exhausting, is all I’m saying.

the first few hours: Borderlands 2

September 22, 2012


I really need to keep a notebook next to my bed.

I woke up this morning after a long Borderlands 2 session last night, and knew right off the bat that I was going to write a huge thing today.  I had this whole epic premise mapped out in my head – partly about what Borderlands 2 represents in terms of overall achievement in game design and what it is about open world RPGs that are so compelling and addictive, but also that there were three specific elements that a shooter needed to shine in order to be considered “successful.”  I know that one of these elements was graphics; I specifically remember that one of them wasn’t narrative (and I had a pretty convincing reason as to why such an important element in most games was not entirely the most important thing in a shooter); and I think that I made a distinction between the quality and variety of the weapons and the actual pleasurability of firing them.  I remember lying in bed, saying to myself, “I should really write this down so that I can put it in the blog later”, and then not doing that, and now, of course, I can’t remember what the 3 things were, and it’s entirely possible that this brilliant post of mine is now forever lost.

Anyway.  My earlier post this week about feeling like I hadn’t played enough of Borderlands 2 in order to write about it?  I’ve now played enough to talk about it.  I’m around 10 hours in with my Commando, and I think I just hit level 13 before I turned it off in order to come to the coffeeshop where I’m currently sitting and trying to remember what the hell I wanted to talk about.

Regardless of whether or not I can reclaim that brilliant premise I had in my half-awake state this morning, I can certainly say that I am of two minds about the game.

On the one hand, it does so many things really, really well.  The meta-challenges and the “Badass Rank” in particular are brilliant – the game tracks pretty much every single thing you do and how you do it, and so during every other firefight you’ll get a bonus for, say, setting 100 enemies on fire, and every time you achieve a new Badass Rank you get an opportunity to increase a certain stat – weapon damage, shield recharge, etc. – and so it’s constantly encouraging you to be incredibly thorough in how you explore the world, which is handy because (a) that’s how I like to play these sorts of games anyway, and (b) there’s SO MUCH GODDAMNED LOOT.   The designers have smartly done away with certain conventions such as fall damage and limited sprinting – you can fall off any mountain and run as far as the day is long and that’s just fine with me, thank you very much.

In a way, this game makes a very convincing argument that from this point forward, all shooters should be like this – open world, RPG progression, endless customization.  You’d never mistake Borderlands for Skyrim, obviously, but you can certainly see the resemblance between the two.

On the other hand, the game has a bunch of weird quirks.  One of the game’s selling points is that it has eleventybillion guns, and even within the first hour you’ll find more guns than you can carry.   This is a problem, though, because your inventory is SEVERELY limited in the beginning (and is somewhat expensive to upgrade), and so you will almost always be struggling with what to keep and what to throw away.  The game smartly includes a system where you can tag stuff in your inventory so that you’ll automatically sell it when you get to a vending machine – but vending machines are few and far between.

And one of the more annoying problems with these guns is that reloading takes FOREVER.   The game addresses this by making reload time an upgradeable ability – and certainly I’ve begun to notice a difference as I’ve been sinking more and more points into improving that specific stat – but it makes the shooting of guns a pain in the ass, which is a somewhat significant problem in that shooting guns is all you do.

My brilliant reasoning for omitting narrative as one of the three most important qualities in a shooter is a bit murky now that I’ve forgotten how I’d phrased it, but in any event I think the point I was trying to make was that in almost every shooter (at least in terms of the single-player campaign), you are never driven forward by WHY.  Indeed, you are driven forward because of SPECTACLE and CRAZY SHIT BLOWING UP and because clearing out a room lets you enter the next room, which will be visually and spatially different than the room you’re currently in, and it’s fun to see new things.

In more specific terms, I have no idea why I’m doing any of the things I’m doing in Borderlands 2, even though I am compelled to do all of them, especially the optional stuff, because when I finish a mission I get XP and maybe a new shield or grenade mod or something.  Indeed, there are a few recurring characters from the first game, including this weird ghostly AI that has a direct line of communication with you, and I remember that there was a reason for that in the first game but it wasn’t particularly memorable, and I am similarly at a loss as to what she’s doing here.

And the thing is, it’s clear that a great deal of thought went into crafting the dialogue in this game, and the voice acting is pretty strong (if a little goofy), and there’s lots of funny bits all over the place.  But there’s a difference between snappy dialogue and a compelling narrative, and if there is a compelling narrative in this game I am yet to see it.  Let me say again that I’ve been playing for 10 hours already and when I’m done writing this post I’m going to head back to my apartment and play for another 10-20 before this weekend is through, and I’m looking forward to it, even though I have no idea where the story is going, and even though nobody (including me) seems to care.

too soon, too much

September 20, 2012


I’d love nothing more than to write a “First Few Hours” post about Borderlands 2, but, ironically enough, I feel like I haven’t played enough of it yet.

I mean, the whole point of a First Few Hours post is to specifically relay first impressions, gut instincts, surface-level observations about how the game looks, moves and feels, without getting into larger-scale topics like narrative and overall value.   And since Tuesday, I’ve played around 2 hours of Borderlands 2; my soldier is now level 7, I’ve killed a whole bunch of monsters and people, I’ve collected dozens of guns (and left dozens more where they lay, as my backpack is too small to carry them all), I’ve completed some challenges and cashed in some Badass Tokens (yielding results similar to Fallout’s “perks”).  I’ve also died a whole bunch, and I’ve run out of ammunition more times than I feel comfortable admitting.

About the only real thing I can definitively say at this point is that the game feels absolutely massive.  And I’ve only seen a tiny, tiny slice of it.

I think that once I get to Sanctuary, the first real town/hub, I’ll have a bit more to chew on.

In the meantime, iOS has been killing it this week.  Rayman Jungle Run is, sadly, not a port of Rayman Origins, but you wouldn’t necessarily know that from seeing the game in motion – it looks absolutely gorgeous.  Instead, it’s a one-button auto-runner, where your objective is simply to catch all 100 lums in a level.  It’s got a steep difficulty curve, but each level is so short that you hardly notice how many times you’ve died.  That sentence sounds like a slam, but it’s really not – it highlights the quick reloading and the addictive quality of the action.

Also out this week is The Room for iPad, which – thank GOD – is not based on the Tommy Wiseau “masterpiece” but is instead an absolutely gorgeous puzzle game.  It’s been compared to those “escape the room” flash puzzles that were all the rage a few years ago, but to me it reminds me a bit more of the adventure game Syberia, in that the puzzles you solve are less about making non-intuitive inventory combinations and rather about figuring out how to open locked doors using intricate mechanisms.  I finished Chapter 3 last night (each chapter is its own locked box), and I’m not quite sure how much is left, but I’m really enjoying what I’ve seen thus far.

And, also, the long-awaited Lili is out, though I haven’t yet played it.  And Horn, from the people who made The Meadow, received a hefty price drop this week, so I picked that up too.

Tonight, I may give Torchlight 2 a try – if I can pull myself away from either Borderlands 2 or my iPad.

the week’s agenda

September 18, 2012


Busy week for games!  My 360 copy of Borderlands 2 just arrived, but so did the Indiana Jones bluray boxset.  And while we watch Raiders tonight, I will be downloading the Resident Evil 6 demo on my 360.  Then, on Thursday, Torchlight 2 unlocks on Steam.  In the meantime, I’m playing the shit out of Fieldrunners 2 HD on my iPad, which is highly enjoyable (even if I’m still somewhat afraid of it).

The wife is away from Thursday to Sunday, so there will be lots of gaming time in my future.  If you want to get into some online co-op with me (in either Borderlands 2 or Torchlight 2), drop me a line – my 360 tag is JervoNYC, and my Steam tag is jervonyc, and I will be ready.  (And I’ll most likely be trying Torchlight 2 in Big Picture Mode, which I can’t wait to try.)

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