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Oh, the Trenches

March 17th, 2015 Comments off

So I like Penny Arcade.  I have some favorites I will list here:

Squarts
The Sucking
Acclaim
Katamari
Seriously though, For Real
Alone in the Dark
Mancraft

While on their site, I was clicking some random links and found The Trenches.  I devoured the whole comic series in a few hours and enjoyed it.

However, I was clicking some random links on The Trenches and found the motherlode: a series of posts about the game industry.  People can post their tales about working, and I am reposting my favorite, which reminded me of the show ‘The Tester’:

Not Worth It.

  • 10/04/2011 – Anonymous

Back in ‘06 I spent about six glorious months working for a very large name game company on a few of the most well known franchises in the gaming world. The most memorable experience was before I even got in the door.

In short, the hiring process felt like being on a modern day reality TV show, competing at small rigged contests for the pure amusement of others while attempting to win a mystery prize that ends up sucking.

The whole ordeal starts by arriving at the front of the QA building as you and 20 to 30 other gamers are herded like cattle into a tiny lobby. Some of them were evidently “hardcore,” as you could identify them by the scent.

Eventually, when on the verge of passing out from the heat and smell, an “official” employee comes to gather everyone into a slightly more spacious room. You are given a written exam.  Nothing that was too strenuous by any means. Here is a picture of a controller, identify which system it goes to. Basically it was there to weed out idiots that wanted to play pre-release games but didn’t know anything about systems. The half that passed said written test moved on.

Round two takes place on a variety of consoles. You are shown standard bugs in a game (clipping, audio, video, gameplay) and then given a sheet with directions for recreating some of the bugs.  After you go through the process a few times you get 15 minutes to find as many bugs as you can, reproduce them and then write the directions for a dev to follow to reproduce them.  On average, maybe 5 people get past this.  Those 5 people move on to the next round.

Round three is an actual interview.  In my case, I was lead to a room with two guys behind a table. They greet me and ask some random getting to know you questions for a couple minutes and about five minutes in I, no joke, get handed a blindfold.  After it is firmly affixed, the “real” interview begins.  You get hit with a never ending assault of questions about what they are each wearing, what they look like, what the room looks like, what furniture was in it, what colors the walls are (three of the four walls were different colors), etc.

After what seemed like hours, the questions stopped coming.  You then get to sit out with the receptionist out front. Out of my group of five, I was the only one to “win” a position. I guess that was supposed to be something special as they said statistically only about 3 of every 100 applicants actually got a job.

The prize however was not on par with the obstacle course you must run to “earn” it.  80 hour weeks leading up to a game release with no overtime pay and never seeing your loved ones let alone the light of day… and for some a shower, is not worth a free copy of the game on the system of your choice upon release.

Penny Arcade Reality Show

Borrowed from Penny Arcade without their permission.

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The New Toejam and Earl

March 12th, 2015 Comments off

If you’re a fan, you have to check this out:

 

Toejam and Earl Back in the Groove

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IGDA DSS Results 2015

March 11th, 2015 Comments off

So, the IGDA is the International Game Developer’s Association, and I am a member (which costs me very little and makes me happier overall).
In 2014, they arranged a survey to figure out who is involved in the industry.  The survey was dubbed the Developer Satisfaction Survey (DSS), and they’ve just posted the findings.
They had a similar survey in 2005.  While combing through the newest results, I noticed some very odd trends.

I will conclude here for those that don’t want to read all the details:
If you already work in the industry, you’ve been there an average of 9 years and worked for an average of 3.5 companies.  If you aren’t in the industry, you are 46% of people.  You are most likely (76%) male.  You have a college degree (60%).  You are a programmer (33%).  You want to develop for Steam (76%), but you are currently developing for iPad (59%).  You’ve encountered ‘crunch time’ due to poor and unrealistic scheduling (53%).  You want to leave the industry because you want a better quality of life (39%).  You’ve never received a raise (20%), and you worry that you’ll lose your job next month( 25%).  You have a good or excellent relationship with management (53%), and you would either like to work for Valve (11%) or Blizzard (5%) if you aren’t working for an indie developer (48%).  Also, you might suffer from psychiatric or mental illness (5%).

 

Now for a blow-by-blow reading:

The first interesting tidbit was: 76% of respondents were Male.  Out of the 2,202 respondents, this means 1674 were male.
That was depressing, until I read the previous survey results from 2005 were a whopping 87%, but I would like to see it in the 60’s to truly feel like we’re getting somewhere.  Where have all the Veronica Belmonts gone?  Who will be the next Carol Shaw or Kellee Santiago?

Another weird number was those who claimed some form of disability: 17.5% identified as having a disability.  The largest disability listed was psychiatric and mental illness, which would be true: most game developer’s have some sort of problem mentally.  All kidding aside, I did find it strange that so many folks (385, roughly) have a disability.

Next was Education, where 39% of respondents have a college degree with an additional 21% holding a Graduate degree and 35% had a video game specific degree.  That’s a lot of smart people making our games.  Basically, 60% had a college degree or higher, so 1,321 have one and 462 of them have a video game degree.

Of course, the terrifying portion was that 46% of respondents were looking for their first job in the industry.  That totally freaked me out when compared with the previous education results.

Let’s do some quick math.  Out of 2,202 people 46% is 1013 folks looking for their first job.  If 21% have a graduate degree, that results in 213 with a Graduate degree who are looking for their first job.  If you’re paying attention, that’s 213 people who have a Master’s or higher who can’t get a job in the Video Game Industry (where is your God now?).  Of course, it could be that all the graduate degrees have a job, which means the 46% are actually 395 people who have a college degree and 618 people who don’t.  I’m not a statistician, so I just split the whole thing down the middle.  That means the real numbers from my mind are: 106 graduate degrees, 198 undergraduate degrees, and 709 ‘others’ are still looking for their first job.  That doesn’t seem too bad except 5% of respondents have a graduate degree and are looking for their first job.  9% have a college degree and are looking for their first job.  This means a whopping 32% of respondents looking for their first job in the industry don’t have a college degree.  Hey, that’s pretty good for those of us who have one!

Don’t lose heart.  I’m currently a programmer, but not in the video game industry.  I can honestly say I skewed the results because I selected ‘Still looking for my first job in the industry’ as my answer.  I am working on a graduate degree (in Video Game Design, no less), so I would fall within the 198 undergrads (unless I lied about completing my graduate degree and skewed the results further!!).  So, am I a sad-sack, unemployed homeless man on the street?  No, I’m just satisfied in my current employment.  In fact, I very much love my job.  I get to do a lot of different things, and I’m rarely bored.  Plus, I get to learn all the time and have wonderful benefits, but back to the DSS!

Of respondents, 33% classified themselves as programmers.  Game designers (27%) and Team leads (21%) were second and third, respectively.  This brought the truly saddest aspect of the survey.  The average number of years of people who are already in the industry have been there is 9.  Nine years is the average time people have spent in the industry.  If you are hoping to crack that egg, you are going to need more luck.  Over those nine years, they have worked for an average of 3.8 employers and worked on an average of 16 projects.  However, the most answered number (mode) of years in the industry is 3, meaning those folks have only worked for one employer.  This is also good, meaning that there are still opportunities.

Another depressing result was the number one reason people wanted to leave the industry.  At 39%, ‘I want a better quality of life’ was why people leave.  They’ve spent all this time trying to get in, and it turns out the quality of life is bad!?  That makes me so upset.  After watching the Indie Game movie, I could see exactly what they mean, though.  There was that one guy who was so miserable!

Having said that more than a third want to leave because of quality of life, longevity is good in the industry, with 75% reporting they had not been laid off in the last two years.
Plus, 76% of respondents who work in the industry are full-time employees.

That doesn’t mean you don’t have unpaid extra hours, which we call ‘crunch time’.  This is usually due to shipping deadlines and a rush to get a game out the door.  Poor and unrealistic scheduling was reported as the number one reason why ‘crunch time’ was encountered (53%).  Also, 56% reported that the pay for ‘crunch time’ was equitable.

But you aren’t going to get a raise, ever: 20% of respondents received no raises during their tenure in the industry.

And you might not be here very long: 25% of respondents were worried that their job would not be there next month, but you like your boss: 53% of respondents had ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ work relationships between managers and employees.

For development platforms, the iPad (59%), iPhone (57%), and PC (54%) were top three current and Steam (76%) was the highest future development platform.  This was reflected in the responses for the companies everyone wanted to work for: Top three most desired companies to work for are Valve(11%), Blizzard(5%), and BioWare(4.5%).

Triple A (AAA) isn’t the best place to work, and 48% of respondents would prefer to work for an indie company.  This is good news for indie companies, I guess.  It has never been a secret how EA or Activision treat their employees, so it should come as no surprise the preferred workplace.

In conclusion, I think the video game industry is coming along nicely, and Steam is certainly in control of development platforms.  Also, most of you are still probably psychotic.

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Buying Games in 2015

March 9th, 2015 Comments off

I love video games.  Almost all of them.  For serious.

How do I buy my games, you ask?  I use Green Man Gaming.
I like GMG because they often have prices cheaper on release day and constant sales.  They’re e-mail blasts can sometimes be cryptic, but often include 20% vouchers.
You can buy directly from them and redeem games within your Steam or Origin library.
There are also direct download games, for those times when you want to play without being connected to the internet.
I’m not sure why these types of games went away, but they did.

Alright, I also use a website to track Steam sales.
Steam Sales Tracker can be filtered based on what you’re looking for.
I usually sort based on % savings to see if anything I want is top of the list (like Borderlands for $2.99) and then I re-sort by Reviews % and see if any of the highest reviewed games are within my price range (usually less than $5, depending on the game).  They also track the highest discount that has been applied to each game, so you can see if it has ever been cheaper than the current sale price.
This is how I built my Steam library to 250 games, but I have to mention a friend of mine who has a library of over 800 games.  I know that he doesn’t spend money on anything else (except dollar store gloves that he cuts the fingers off to look cool), so I think he’s good.

Of course, I also use Humble Bundle.
Humble Bundle is great because you can pay the bare minimum for games.
An example is that I paid $4.12 for eight games (Don’t Starve, Dungeons of Dredmor, and some others).  Because I paid more than the average, which was $4.05, I got two additional games for free, plus the soundtracks of all ten games.

Seriously, you want to get games?  I’ve provided you with all you need to have a wonderfully time-consuming Steam library in just a few short weeks!

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Best in Play GDC 2015

February 26th, 2015 Comments off

There aren’t many other sites I visit to get video game news, but Gamasutra has some amazing stuff for game developers.  The Game Developer Conference (GDC), put on by the International Game Developer’s Association (IGDA) is a yearly conference in San Francisco.  This year, the GDC picked the best new independent games and the results were posted on Gamasutra.  Seriously, Mekazoo looked amazing.  Also of note are two Kickstarter games: Into the Stars and Rogue Wizards.  I backed Rogue Wizards because I love roguelikes, but I did not back Into the Stars because I was disappointed with the ship design.  Yes, something that small prevented me from backing what will undoubtedly be a great game.  I just hated the idea that every single other person playing the game would have the exact same ship.  I apologize that I love spaceships.  I’m honestly pining away for Destiny to include a ship-to-ship battle system in the Reef.  What the hell else are we going to do with that huge expanse of nothingness and broken ships?

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Orion Trail Kickstarter Bump

February 25th, 2015 Comments off

Who doesn’t have fond memories of Oregon Trail when they were growing up?  What if the graphics looked like Space Quest or King’s Quest, but you could die of space dysentery?  The answer is: Orion Trail.  You are the fearless captain of the Indestructible II, which calls into question the reliability of having a ship called ‘Indestructible’ if this is the second one.  What happened to Indestructible I you might ask?  The answer is that I don’t know.  However, you can pledge $10 and find out!  Plus, as an added bonus, you get your name in the credits!  Remember, Kickstarter won’t charge you unless they reach their (lofty) goal of $90,000.  If they don’t, it costs you nothing.  If they do, you get the game for ten bucks and your name in the credits!  What a wonderful combination!

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Mobile Gaming Early 2015

February 25th, 2015 Comments off

So, I’m a gamer.  Most would call me a hardcore gamer.  I spend approximately 30 hours playing games a week.  I’d say about half of that is mobile gaming.  I loved being able to download a free game and just playing the heck out of it.  I have played Jetpack Joyride to a fairly high level (I’m level 368 or so):

 

So, I wanted to talk about what I’m currently playing, because it’s normally consistent until I beat a game, or completely lose interest.
For the sad news, here are the mobile games I’ve lost interest in recently:

Brave Frontier – I played this for four hours a day, everyday until I realized that the support team didn’t care about the players.  Stopped dead.

AdventureQuest Battle Gems – I was a founding member of the game because I’m a huge AdventureQuest fan (I was a founding member of DragonQuest), but the game fell flat

Monster Match – Another game I played for four hours a day until I found out that the support team didn’t care about the players.  I had reported bug after bug and they never fixed a single one.  Even to this day, I’m pretty sure the bugs I reported are still there.

 

Here is my current playlist:

Crusader’s Quest –  Love the game, and the minute I have a problem I bet I will get no support and stop playing.  Currently play three to four hours a day.

Jetpack Joyride – Yes, I still play it.  I’m on a quest to get every badge and I heard you need to hit level 1875 to do it.  Of course, that could be years away.  John Haasl was the first.

Hill Climb Racing – When I first downloaded Hill Climb Racing, I played it for six hours straight.  The game is so easy to learn and impossible to master.  I put a few hours a week in.

 

I normally mobile game on the train to work or back home and sometimes when watching Netflix or getting ready for bed.

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Truth about Destiny

February 25th, 2015 Comments off

I wanted to post this link, because it is exactly true.  I played Destiny for the first time in a few weeks (since I was busy platting Skyrim), and it felt like a job.

 

http://www.dorkly.com/post/69846/the-terrible-truth-about-destiny

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Kickstarter Bump

February 19th, 2015 Comments off

I have become a huge fan of Kickstarter in recent months.  That’s actually where I’ve spent all my time.  I was doing other things too, I guess.

 

So, I will use this tiny soapbox to support Kickstarter projects that I really like.

 

The first of these is Children of Morta.  By the time anyone reads this, the project will be fully funded, and I will be rewarded with my version of the game…which will come with special things only a handful of others will have.  Actually, I can tell you that exactly 235 other people will have the special things I will have.  That’s the beauty of Kickstarter.  You can provide loyal backers with special things (in-game items, your name in the credits, real-life items).  The game is a dungeon-crawler roguelike with memorable characters and a fun storyline.  I can’t wait to get it and play.  That is a drawback of Kickstarter, of course: the rewards sometimes take a very long time to get to you.  In fact, I have only received the rewards from two of the 18 projects I have backed.

 

If you haven’t heard of Kickstarter, it’s a crowd-funding site that allows you to ‘back’ projects.  This means that you promise to pay a certain amount of money to the project in return for rewards.  Oftentimes, the rewards are real-life items or pre-purchase deals.  I backed a project that netted me a copper-clad refillable beer growler that stays pressurized and keeps the beer drinkable for up to six months!  I also got my name in the credits of several soon-to-be-released video games.  The most notably is probably ‘The Flame in the Flood’, or ‘Hollow Knight’.  The idea is that you promise to give the project a certain amount of money if they reach their goal.  Sometimes, the projects have very low goals so they get all the money, and sometimes projects have very lofty goals that are never reached.  If a goal isn’t reached, you don’t get charged any money, but you also don’t get any rewards.  I think it’s a fantastic system, and I can’t wait until I have something worthwhile to fund on the site.

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Borderlands Pre-Sequel!?

February 19th, 2015 Comments off

Has it been too long?  I’m sorry.  If you missed it, just be patient and it will come back around again.  First off, they released a game called ‘Borderlands: the Pre-Sequel’.  You can play as Claptrap.  Need I say more?  YOU CAN PLAY AS CLAPTRAP!  Seriously, if you haven’t already gone over to Amazon and purchased a copy, there are other things.  Ever since Borderlands 2, I have been a little gun shy (puwned).  I loved Borderlands.  I mean, almost as much as I love Nathan Drake (See previous post about my man-love for Nathan Drake).  However, after struggling with the first boss in Borderlands 2 (I mean, seriously…who has to struggle with the FIRST BOSS!?!), I found myself feeling more nostalgic for the first game.  Borderlands 2 incorporated a special ‘golden key system’ for gaining overpowered and goofy guns.  I got a shotgun that fired grenades…which were also on fire.  I also got a rocket launcher that fired a fractal-based rocket that would hit something, then split into two rockets, that each split into two more.  However, even with some of these crazy guns, I found the game to be a bit grindy.  Don’t get me wrong: I can grind.  I got a Platinum on Skyrim.  Trust me…I can grind with the best of them.  I just wanted more out of Borderlands 2.  It was too serious and too dark and a bit too hard.  I was glad when they introduced the mechro-mage and I could trick my wife into playing because she could just summon a big killer robot who would protect her, so that was pretty good.  I was pretty burned out with Borderlands 2 (which I still have never beaten, because I heard the ending sucks), and then I heard they were making a new game!  Really, I was just minding my own business one day and overheard someone say the unmistakable words, “new Borderlands game”.  That was all I needed.  I went home, Googled for two seconds, and had pre-purchased Borderlands: the Pre-Sequel.  I didn’t notice until much later that I had bought the PC version when I am a dyed-in-the-wool console gamer.  So, I spent another $60 to get the PS3 version.  What’s that?  Yeah, Gearbox (Borderlands developer) said they would not be releasing any games on the new-fangled systems.  I mean, we’re talking about the PS4 being out for almost a year and the developer saying that they are still going to release games for the old version?  That honestly makes me happy.  Not as happy as playing as Claptrap, though.  There is good news!  Gearbox has just recently announced that they will be releasing a new high-def version of Borderlands and Borderlands 2 (hopefully with all DLC included) for the PS4.  They have been unsure whether this will include the Pre-Sequel, so I have some words of wisdom to pass on to you, dear reader.  When I got the pre-sequel, I started playing as Claptrap.  I haven’t played as anyone else.  Claptrap is more fun to play than any other character in Borderlands, ever.  Get the game.  Then get your PS3 out from underneath your bed.  Play as Claptrap.  Profit.

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The Return

February 19th, 2015 Comments off

It’s true.  I’ve been away for a while.  However, I wanted to tell people once again about all the cool things that are going on.  Actually, I wanted to tell people about all the things that I think are cool.  Be ready for a bevy of posts ranging from things that happened a while back that are still cool and a lot of new cool things.

 

-Ben

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October 7th, 2011 Comments off

Source:  Felicia’s Melange via Kotaku

New Final Fantasy XIII 2 Screenshots

August 12th, 2011 Comments off

That looks like one helluva weapon...does it have a red dot sight?

Final Fantasy XIII 2 is slated for a January 2012 release, and here are the newest screenshots.  I know what you’re thinking…are there chocobos?  What about Moogles?

Moogle2

Where would I buy a toy moogle for myself?

Moogle1

This moogle has magic in his clock wand.




So the question about Moogles is answered.  They appear to have a few extra talents.  One of which is on the main screen (outside of fights), which allows your Moogle to search for hidden treasures.

During battle, your Moogle magician can alter the passage of time.  The screenshot below is a use of the Mog Clock, to gain a tactical advantage before battle ensues.

Moogle magic can slow time, I hope its like the effect in the Vanquish series.

You’ll hear more as we ramp up towards the release date!  It looks like another good Square Enix game, which picks up after the events in Final Fantasy XIII and utilizes many of the same battle systems and controls.  Check out http://finalfantasy.wikia.com/wiki/Final_Fantasy_XIII-2 for full-blown coverage.

-Ben S.

Giant 8 bit “Post-It War” lands in France

August 6th, 2011 Comments off

Seems GDF-Suez started decorating their office windows using 8bit graphics made out of Post-It Notes, only for it to spread to Ubisoft Montreuil. Suddenly, Viadeo across the way fired back with their own creations leading to the offices of BNP firing back with their own. Before long, the offices of neighboring France 24 / Vidal and those of Eurosport / Coca-Cola France joined the war with their own creations. All thanks to an innocent looking Nyan Cat!

Follow the war at L’EXPRESS

 

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Modojo: Console sequels that went portable

July 21st, 2011 Comments off

Modojo presents a short list of sequels that went portable.

A small snippet of the article:

“When a console game gets a sequel, this title normally appears on a console. Publishers release companion games on portables (Square Enix’s Kingdom Hearts series is a perfect example), but for the most part, these companies won’t make part two or three handheld exclusive.”

Full article here

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Awesome 8-bit Sand Sculpture

July 21st, 2011 Comments off

8-bit sand sculpture Geekologie posted an awesome 8-bit sand sculpture created by Guy-Oliver Deveau.

Head over to Geekologie for more information, and make sure to check out Guy-Oliver Deveau’s other amazing works at his site.

 

 

iNintendo Review – The Last Story

July 15th, 2011 Comments off

iNintendo reviews The Last Story

A small preview of the review…

“Two tiresome JRPG mechanics have been done away with in The Last Story: turn based battles and random encounters. The Last Story is an action RPG that plays very similarly to The Legend of Zelda; players have complete control over Elza in the midst of a battle, and are able to auto attack by getting close to an enemy, guard by holding B, and perform various special attacks. Elza will have anywhere from one to six additional members in his party – sometimes they’re his mercenary friends, Kanan, or even Ruli City knights that join for a short period.”

Full Review Here

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Flipnote Studio – Hatena

July 6th, 2011 Comments off

If you’ve never heard of it, head on over and be impressed by the amazing, and sometimes crazy, things people can do with a simple Nintendo DSi animation program! If you own a Nintendo DSi/XL or Nintendo 3DS, you can and should, download Flipnote Studio for free!

Flipnote Hatena Logo

Also, a new version is coming for the 3DS!!

Destructoid Review: Dream Trigger 3D

July 6th, 2011 Comments off

A portion of the Destructoid review:

This is a game that is hard to recommend to many players, but those with a taste for the odd and an ability to forgive rather bizarre design flaws will find a good little game hidden under a film of potential inaccessibility. Enjoyment of the game requires no small amount of work from players, who will need to bash their heads repeatedly against it before breaking through. For many of you, I can’t say you’ll find anything of worth on the other side. For some of you, however, the effort will be fairly rewarded.

Read the full review…

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Reggie Fils-Aime E3 2011 Interview

July 5th, 2011 Comments off

Forbes interviewed Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime at E3 2011

A portion of the interview:

David Ewalt: How do you explain the Wii U to people who haven’t had a chance to play with it?

Reggie Fils-Aime: What we are doing with Wii U is creating an ability for games to leverage two different screens; the big screen in your room, and the smaller handheld screen in front of you. By doing so it opens up all of these different experiences. The experience I use to describe it to someone is to imagine a first person shooter, where instead of constantly having to look at the screen, now I’ve got things happening all around me.
It’s a great experience. I don’t think it’s going to be a hard sell. I think that communicating to consumers through the magic of the second window, you can have a totally unique experience, with another player still in the room… I don’t think it’s a difficult sell.

Read the full interview…