Wednesday, February 14, 2018

You think you can beat me?!

Since I might be as old as your mother, I grew up with quite different games. Flattish, for one thing. Better, some may say. Harder, some others will tell you.

Now I don't buy (& finish) games too often anymore, so probably I don't know what I'm talking about
anyway, but the few ones I tried were indeed pretty soft. Few days ago I downloaded a LEGO game-demo for the kids, and all I had to do was mashing a few buttons. I had no clue if I was doing it wrong or right, but eventually I just got through it. Erh, that was fun... right?

A few hundred years ago, being *good* at games was quite an achievement. And quite nerdy too. Not sure, but there might be a correlation between some of my friends saying I was good at games, and not having girlfriends at the same time... Anyhow. I remember the big brother of one of my friends finishing Super Mario World in just one or two days right after they got that brand new SNES. Holy jellybeans, only God and big brothers could perform such magic! I wish I was him.

Being good at a game was not only a matter of learn-by-trying, but also about being patient and persistent. Especially older games could be brutally hard (and brutally unfair), and pissed you in the face when failing. Hahaha, you just died for the third time by that boss in Mickey Mouse that throws 20 toxic potions per second at you. Now you can restart the entire game, little fucker. Yeah, eat that, go cry. Nice games they made for 10-year-old kids like me...

A non-stop barrage of broken rails, crashed cars and kamikaze crocodiles

Looking at my almost-10-year-old kid now, they don't even try. Buhhh, Level one was too difficult, lame, let's watch YouTube instead. Call me grandpa, but I really can't understand why my daughter
prefers to see another girl playing the Sims 4 while she has the dang game right in front of her. And in the Sims, you can't even fail or die! It's the most laidback, stressless type of game you can think of.

Now maybe that's just her nature, she isn't really too much into games. And girls suck at games anyway. Oh... #MeDont, apologies - Girls are equal in everything, except that they are smarter, more mature, and look and smell better. Phew, almost got lynched here. But here's a question: Are games easier nowadays because kids don't try hard anymore? OR, are kids less determinant, because they grow up with easy games (and a dozen more thing that just got easier/lazier/faster/quicker/simpler/dumber)?

Looking back at it. I think those nerds who managed to finish Ghouls‘n Ghosts, Zelda 2, Battletoads or Dark Souls, are now rich, successful, drive Ferrari’s, and have 8 hot wives. Because they didn't give up. any idiot can finish a modern game, because all you have to do is following the instructions. And if you die, there is always a checkpoint 4 seconds back.

And then there was Blood
I found an exception though. Bloodborne. Yes, I know I'm so two-thousand-and-sixteen, but older people sometimes have other things to do kids. I never played any of the Dark/Demon Souls games, but I know they are notorious for their difficulty level... heard that from YouTube while I was watching other dudes playing games... Did I just say that? Well there is this shiny PS4 under the TV, but besides Resident Evil 7 (which was pretty easy, of course), I never touched the thing. Still waiting for the next Red Dead Redemption. In the meanwhile, I browse for the "PS Top 10"
sometimes, but never get triggered. Already know GTA V, and as for the others… It’s like dreaming about entering a candy-shop, but all they got is old toffee covered in dust, so you can’t choose.

But then I incidentally saw Bloodborne (on YouTube), and liked its awful creatures. So I figured, why not give it a try? Let's see if it’s all true. Those pussy kids already whine if they can't tie their shoelaces, so it can't be THAT hard.
The red letters are still printed in my eyes.
Well... what should I say... Got my ass kicked about six thousand times by now. "Dead. Dead. You died. Die. You are Dead. Killed. Dead.". That particular screen is still flashing in my dreams. Is it the hardest game ever? No. I remember some old Nintendo games being harder, but that was mostly because of their terrible design, buggy physics, slippery jumps, absolute unfair foes and evil programmers that never tested their own game. Bloodborne is fair mostly, although I mauled the joystick when getting cornered between gravestones by father Gascoigne for the third time in a row, while the camera drifted off somewhere behind a tree.

Problematic is the start-up. You know this game is notorious, you know you'll be dead any moment, and the dark bloody graphics + grim atmosphere certainly doesn't help making you feel comfortable for a slight second. But far worse, the game doesn't do shit to help you either. A few button instructions later, you are already facing a huge beast, WITH YOUR BARE HANDS! Dead. Dead. Dead. Until you finally get the bright idea of just getting the fuck out of that building, running as fast as you can. That sounds like a duh!, it's not that I often fight werewolves with my bare hands in real-life either. Yet it feels very unnatural in a game. Because we gamers got used to the idea of destroying everything on our path, and not failing at it. And otherwise, some guide / partner / hint or scripted-event tells us to run. How the hell am I supposed to know NOT to punch a werewolf? What a strange game.

It doesn't stop there. Sixteen deaths later, you eventually find a checkpoint & figure out they have swords & guns in Heaven (or what they call a Hunters Dream). Still a bad idea to engage that wolf, but at least you have an answer for those rotten bearded axe/torch/pitchfork guys. Well, sort of. One wrong move, and they still pummel you to death. Don't get too cocky.

Let's kick some ass... or get some kicks in the ass...

But what are you supposed to do now? Your trusty Gamer-Instinct tells you to bulldoze through the mob and find your next checkpoint. As you try, and try, and try, and shut-off the PS4, and try again an hour later, you will get more handy at it. Just don't fight with 3 men at once, lure them out, carefully time your attacks, and smack the shit out of them. And you know what, just running and passing enemies is not a crime either! Eventually you reach sewers and bridges, you'll find giant rats, bulky behemoths, even bigger pigs, crows too fat to fly, and cuddling mud-zombies. But where the hell is the next checkpoint?!!

Let me tell you a secret. There is none. At least not after defeating the first boss, which is far worse than the creatures I just described. The only way to get through is by hacking, slashing, dying, and powering up. Over, and over again.

Breaking point
Now I read (on YouTube, sigh) somebody saying "The first part of the game is trying to break you". Maybe that person went through a military course, because that is exactly the right way to describe it. Here is where the men get separated from the boys. Oh, and the women from the girls (got slapped with a feminist bra). Those with balls of steel, iron patience, or just perverts that like to torture themselves, will pass. Those without patience or willpower, will shut off the PS4, call the game lame-stupid, and resume their daily YouTube session. 

As nerdy as it sounds, I am a bit proud to belong to first category. Which is not a huge surprise, as I have a sick obsession to finish things or die trying (Tower22, story of my live). But like I questioned earlier on... Am I pretty good at games because of my persistent character, OR, did the old-difficult games make me persistent? There is only one way to figure out. I suggest making two groups of 30 children. During the next 10 years, the first group will play Bloodborne, Doom2 on Nightmare, Ninja Gaiden, and Pushover (the adorable domino puzzle game that certainly is too difficult for young kids). The other group will watch Call of Duty on YouTube and eat ice-cream. I'm curious.
Being a real gamers requires character.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

"Good" New Year's resolutions

Whoops, another year through the drain. And? Any new T22 stuff out yet?! Easy, I'm working on it... working on it for the last 7 years or so. When it's done, remember?

I'm lazy by nature, which means I'm very good at postponing things, and that, whatever task it is, it needs to be "important enough" before I do anything about it. For instance, changing underwear is only important enough if hordes of flies are surrounding me, and I only call the fire-fighters when the couch I'm sitting on is starting to boil.

BUT, if I do engage, I'm 250% on it, and nothing less. Whether that is programming a new bean harvester or digging a hole in the garden, I won't stop until its done. No time to relax, eat, or sleep. And with kids, construction plans for a new house, and two jobs, there is actually always some "important" work to do. Hence, I don't even have time to be sick. I'm walking with headaches, chills and snotty noses for the past seven weeks now, but didn't take time to sleep or stay home Which is just dumb.

What’s really important?
I honestly can't remember the last time that I came home and just dropped in the sofa to watch a nice movie, eyes half closed. Pretty much every day, including the weekends, I would be "working" till 1:30 A.M. Kids to bed, girl to bed, and then spend the rest of the night doing overwork, manage the household, or Tower22. Or digging holes, in the middle of the night.

Now I'm not complaining, because it has always been that way, and I prefer doing something "useful" over watching TV, sleeping, or even playing games. But last years, I felt all this work is feeling more and more like an obsession. My ego can't say no, so if somebody at works asks to write 100 pages of very boring stuff, I'll be writing 100 pages of boring stuff the next few days till deep night. It is hard to enjoy playing a videogame or have a stroll in the forest with my kids, because there is always this little puppet in my head. Tapping his watch, "c'mon lazy asshole, there is a job to do! You promised X to finish your work tomorrow, you promised yourself to finish bathroom drawings for your new house, you promised people to finish Tower22".

I'm getting a bit older, and I feel my health and family are a bit suffering from this. A guy needs his beer, TV and sleep (and some physical exercise as well b.t.w.). And a kid deserves a father that is patient, doesn't pack bags after 5 minutes fishing because he has other "work to do". A girl deserves a guy that treats her as the most important thing in the world, not his boss or hobbies. And me-myself deserves to enjoy the time spent with them, rather than feeling rushed. That little voice in my head needs to STFU.

Keep rolling rolling

So... what is this? An emotional excuse, followed by the End of Tower22 then? No, of course not. Habits don't change. And I prefer programming on T22 (or working in general) over watching stupid TV shows any time. I can't lay down on the beach for more than 6 seconds. But I do need to calm down a bit, somehow. T22 needs to be a hobby, not an obligation, not a sick obsession. Now as you may have noticed, I already did calm down on T22 for the last years. Not necessarily because I wanted that, but because other work took over, like a slow but merciless stream of lava. The amount diaper-duty grew with our new boy (three years old now), and real work didn't ease up on me either, bringing more tasks, more responsibilities, and people to take care of.

Nonetheless, I actually did spend dozens of hours in T22, but more behind the scenes. As you may have red here, the plan still is to give you boys & girls at least a playable demo. And from there on we shall see if there is sufficient demand to develop this further. Without fans, it's pretty hard to keep working on something (that's when things become an obsession eventually). And yeah, I haven't seen many fans last years. Which makes perfect sense because this blog isn't showing much, and the overall timespan is taking too long now.

But it's pretty dang hard to create a (good) demo as well, mostly alone. For one thing, making all the assets is just (too) much, but also making the Game Great Again is difficult when you are programming tiny pixels and boring technical details for the same rooms for years and years. Basically, I have no clue if the current product would do a good job in scaring people, as the original movie once did. Obviously the project as a whole was/is too ambitious to accomplish in its current shape, with just a few people.

Then again, I still do believe it's a matter of making that boulder roll. It has enough potential energy, but getting the goddamn thing rolling in the first place simply takes more than just a few people, and the project has always been stuck there, more or less. Partially because of the giant mass (read high demands and ambitions), partially because I did a poor job at assembling more manpower.

 Same shit, different package.

2018 New Year resolution: Sub-Sub-Demo
The playable demo I've been working on is pretty advanced in terms of (3D)environments, plot, scripting and programming. But without awesome artwork & sound (whether that would be high quality 3D props or going for the somewhat simpler pixelated route, as proposed in the previous post) and some more special horror-ingredients (= unique ideas), it would still feel half-finished, thus simply not fun or scary for the player.

So I thought, why not make two demos? By grabbing a relative small sub-part of the larger demo, and work that one out in big detail. In the worst case, I should be capable of doing that alone mostly, although I do expect some of the guys would still give me a helping hand just as long the goals are simple and short-term. It's really just a matter of making assets. Now that sub-demo would deliver gameplay for 5, maybe 10 minutes only, whereas the full demo was replayable and more like 40+ minutes. But being small in size, its more realistic to finish, and it's one of the scarier parts of the larger demo. Thus more interesting for you, and more likely to get the much-needed attention.

If you like the small-demo, we can proceed with the larger demo of course (it's already there anyway), if we manage to find some helpers that is. But if the demo is liked, that should be less of a problem.

Although (Summer) 2018 should certainly possible, I'm not going to promise any dates. As said, I need to calm down. And no, actually I can't calm down much since there is a new house to build within a few months. At least, I'm not laying the bricks as that would be disastrous, yet I do have to manage a hundred things and constantly kick ass to keep things going at the construction site. And the forecast at the other two jobs seems stormy so far as well... But I'll keep trying! Don’t think I forgot about you!
The very first time that seven years of working on T22 / Engine22 actually paid of: I was able to create or new house in the game and give my family a "Sneak Preview" (but using some of the horror assets / textures).