05 July, 2017

Crunch Time, and some interesting talks from developers

Yesterday was intense.  From morning until early evening, we were down at the sound studio where our extremely awesome, experienced audio engineer went through the video with us.  The scenes sound amazing now.  It's great watching everything come to life.

Then I got home in time to write a few text artifacts, and ran off to a meet up for Unity developers, where I met my partner in crime Andrew Hague in the first place.  My programming knowledge is still extremely basic, but I do learn from the talks.

This time, in point of fact, it wasn't technical.  It was a very successful Indie developer talking about innovation in games, followed by an experienced sound engineer talking about the blend between audio and the player's experience.

The former guy made the comparison of a game developer to a magician.  I like that comparison, but I wonder if it's best.  In writing, we're wise to think of ourselves as hypnotists.  My feeling is that it's the same for games, but I suppose there are elements to games that involve less subtlety.  There are quick sharp innovations thrown at the player.

It's probably best to give an example.

At the end of the original Halo (at least I think it's the first one), there's a level very different from the others.  Throughout the game, you get to ride a car a couple of times, and it always feels significant.  You're ploughing your way across a large area of map that you feel would have been a nightmare on foot.

In the last level, about 80% of the time is spent in the vehicle doing just that.

The magician analogy would have us think that it's a trick conjured up to create excitement and break the game's monotony.  I think to be fair this analogy can also take into account how much we've wanted to plough through these aliens, and how satisfying it is to get the chance to do this in the end.  It takes into account euphoria and satisfaction.

The hypnotist analogy, however, can do all of this and more.  The hypnotist is more macroscopic, and in my view the analogy also bears in mind how the jeep has made us feel in the past.  It's not just mowing down the aliens.  It's a sense of victory over an area, and a sense of covering a long distance.  Couple all of these things (the aliens being torn apart in your wake, the vast distance being covered swiftly) with a sense of urgency, and you have a sense that there just isn't time for anything other than this race across the Halo--that you have to cover that ground or else it's over.  And, there's that sense of pending victory buried deeply in there with the worry.  You know that you, if this ride is successful, are going to succeed at this goal you've worked so hard for.

I think that's where the real satisfaction comes from.  There's definite player gratification in getting to do something new and exciting at the end, and the jeep stuff is really cool, and it's great to let the last level be something cool, but it's the emotion the player feels when they're doing these things that really gives them their depth, and makes them memorable.

Just another thing I think games could learn from books.

I do, however, also think the magician thing is worth me thinking about.  Games don't have everything in common with books, and remembering to keep things fresh and sparkly for people as the experience unfolds can only help me.  The guy was a great speaker and clearly knows his craft, so it's all been absorbed, and I'll be thinking about his words for a long while.

So that was my evening, and my work day was only halfway through.  After the Unity meet up, Andrew and I went back to the office and worked until almost 2am on getting some of the animations right, and editing the videos.  Oh yes, I woke up late this morning.  Our deadline for the whole demo is next Tuesday, so there's no time to waste.

This pointless picture for pinterest brought to you by the Halo jeep, because I guess this post is about keepin' on truckin', as much as anything.

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