Stream

I’m going to start live streaming my game development work. Shameless plug: http://www.twitch.tv/einskaldjir

I’ll be the first to admit this is at least partially motivated by the opportunity to gain exposure for my work, and maybe, possibly, in a dream scenario, earn a bit of cash. More realistically, I simply hope I can help a few other aspiring game developers learn a little bit – most likely from mistakes. Perhaps hearkening back to that dream scenario, maybe I could help push a few folks over the edge (that doesn’t sound good) who were dithering on whether to attempt a game project (a little better). I’m hoping at some point we can all look back and say, “See! It wasn’t that hard.”

It’s also interesting to work with the streaming technology. As the link above indicates (you did see the link, yes?), I’m streaming on twitch.tv. At first, I downloaded XSplit Gamecaster, because the description stated it was “easy” and I could “start streaming in minutes.” Those are probably both fair statements, but Gamecaster limits its streaming to, well, games, which it detects through the use of DirectX or OpenGL. Which meant I couldn’t stream my game making with GameMaker. Back to the drawing board.

I considered using the open source solution suggested on Twitch, but I decided to try the other XSplit suggestion, XSplit Broadcaster. Worked like a charm, more or less.

I think I understand the what and why. Gamecaster is almost certainly the proper tool if you want to only stream games. Or, more precisely, game, because it seemed to attach itself to a game, and only stream that single game at a time. If you move to any other window, your stream will display an XSplit overlay by default, essentially an ad, or you can choose an option to black out the screen instead. This should prevent you from unintentionally sharing anything other than your game, which could prevent embarrassing or dangerous mishaps. Of course, it also prevented me from intentionally sharing anything other than my game, but it all worked out in the end.

Time, of course, will be a major factor. We’ll see how it goes. I hope to see you there.

OpenGL

I took a computer graphics course a couple of years ago while I was in school. We focused all of our programming on OpenGL, which I believe was fortuitous. Sadly, in the scant two years since I took the course, I have lost most of my graphics programming abilities. Fortunately, I’m confident most of the knowledge is trapped back in some deep freeze storage locker in the depths of my brain. Unfortunately, accessing that storage locker is proving difficult.

Regardless, I’m working on it. Understatement of the day: graphics programming is complex.

Multiplatform Blues

I get it. Releasing a game on multiple platforms, all on the same release date, greatly expands the pool of potential buyers. This works to generate additional revenue and also as something of a hedge.

The problem, of course, is that often one platform receives the clearly superior product. But that’s not the only problem. Each port will generally contain its own unique bugs. And for just one more potential issue, look at the Skyrim DLC – PS3 owners are still waiting on Dawnguard, the first available DLC, while XBOX 360 folks are already enjoying Dragonborn.

My main concern is a little different, however. PC’s are unique from consoles these days primarily due to the absolute certainty that PC players will have access to a mouse and keyboard. Many will also have access to a controller, which effectively nullifies the primary gameplay advantage console players would have over their PC counterparts. But forget controllers for a moment. When I play a PC game, I want it to take advantage of my mouse and keyboard setup. When I play a console game, I want it to make use of my controller.

What I don’t want is some unfortunate apologist compromise between the two. Which is all too often what happens when games end up multiplatforming between consoles and PC’s, and that’s a shame.

Just Do It?

There was a time when I enjoyed video games the way (I hear) a true wine connoisseur enjoys a fine wine; that is, I languished in the gameplay, savoring each frame of animation, each box of text, until finally, after many hours, the game was empty. Err, done.

Not so any more. These days, I like to cannonball right into my games. Overly long introductory movie? Skipping it. Overly instructive tutorial? Mashing buttons instead. Overly lengthy text dialogues? KILL ME.

It’s odd. When I was 12, I could wade patiently through the voluminous rivers of text, oftentimes presented via those o so staid rectangular boxes. Now, decade – that’s singular, not quite decades, plural – later, I’m more like those ADHD contemporaries of my 12 year old self.

Forget self analysis, though. Instead, I just wanted to write down for my future self the need for games to leap directly into the action. The truth is, our beloved 8-bit and 16-bit games of yesteryear had no choice but hurl text at us. Now, however, the technology exists so that text, and to some extent even voice overs, are no longer necessary. It’s like the cliche regarding good writing, “Show, don’t tell.” Well, now we can show. You know, with graphics and stuff.

After all, that’s what our modern, digital age has reduced evolved us to.

As for those interminable tutorials, well, if your game requires that much instruction, it had best be everloving amazing. Otherwise, I’ve got better things to do. Like read video game blogs on the internet, amirite?

PS: Thanks Nike, don’t sue me.

So about that ending…

I have finally completed Mass Effect 3, and thus been able to see that ending everyone’s been harping about. (By the way, I think it’s important for me to point out that I did just receive ME3 last week, so it’s not like it took me all this time to finish the game : D ).

Both before and during my playthrough, I made sure not to avoid reading anything regarding the game itself, the ending, or the ending controversy, keeping myself blissfully spoiler-free. Therefore, immediately after finishing, I fired off a few emails and then went to Google to figure out what all the hubbub was about. I suppose it’s rather clear that if I needed to send emails and do research that I didn’t quite understand the ending issue at first glance.

After doing more than a little exploration, however, I can say that, now, at least, I get it. I completely sympathize will all those who felt as though BioWare didn’t fulfill their end of the bargain when it came to concluding the Mass Effect series. And let’s face it: that note regarding future DLC was just absurd. However, even though I do sympathize, I don’t necessarily share in the community angst. Allow me to explain.

I saw numerous testimonials stating that ME3 was “one of the greatest games [such and such person] had ever played… until the ending.” By the way, that’s a definite paraphrase, composited from multiple nameless, faceless sources. Here’s what I don’t understand, though. Mass Effect 3 was a very impressive game, particularly in terms of graphics, music, and gameplay. That said, the game had some major – major – flaws, and I don’t understand why people seem to have overlooked them.

For example, starting with the most obvious, the journal system was a mess. Your journal gave only the vaguest directions of where to go, and, far worse, didn’t indicate whether you had actually completed the quest or not! I legitimately hunted for numerous items I already had just on the off chance that I, well, didn’t already have them. How was I to know? I suppose I should point out that there wasn’t exactly an inventory to search through, either.

Then there were the Reaper invasions that occurred as you scanned a solar system. I didn’t realize until three quarters of the way through the game that if the Reapers caught you it was game over, with no chance of parole. I suppose that shows how ineffectual the Reapers tended to be. What I discovered soon afterwards was that I could just traipse into a system, scan until my heart’s content, which, of course, summoned the Reapers. If I died, so what? The auto-save let me reload upon entry into that system, with the knowledge of where to scan. Which basically made the whole thing pointless. Honestly, the scanning and exploration portion of ME3 felt even more haphazard and tacked on than it did in ME1 – and that’s saying something.

While I don’t know if this was a universal complaint, personally, I found the pacing of the game rather odd. It’s a subtle thing, but I had a hard time distinguishing between the important plot related missions and the less important side missions. The distinction between the two was quite clear in ME1 and ME2, and, frankly, in most games. Not so much in ME3, at least, not for me.

I could go on. Where did Cerberus get so many troops, or, more importantly, so many ships? To the point where they could challenge the Alliance, and perhaps the combined might of the galactic fleets? What was the deal with the never before mentioned ancient ruins on Tuchanka? What about a character based on – and voiced by! – an IGN employee? And why did IGN give ME3 such glowing reviews, and then lash out at anyone who dared criticize the game? And what was the deal with Tali’s picture being a quick edit of a stock photo?

My point isn’t to say that ME3 was a bad game, because it wasn’t. In fact, I think that Mass Effect 3 is one of the highpoints in video game cinematics. It’s almost an interactive movie, and better in some ways. Furthermore, my point definitely isn’t to say that the people criticizing the ME3 ending are wrong. The ending utterly fails to bring the series to a conclusion, unless you make an almost excessive use of your imagination. Plus, it doesn’t really make sense.

What I wanted to point out is that a large multitude of people seemed totally willing to overlook the flaws of Mass Effect 3… until they saw the ending. I find that interesting. Even odd. And definitely worth pointing out.