An updated build, finally

•July 21, 2014 • Leave a Comment

It’s been a long, LONG time, but we can finally release a new update. Before anything else, I need to mention this update does not feature any new level. Enola will be released at some point this September, so I think releasing the game in chunks is not a good idea.

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This update took a lot more than expected for many reasons. We took Enola to Rezzed in March, and then PAX in April, and we had to spend quite some time preparing for those events. When we got back we had to figure out what to do with all the input we received and then made some changes to the game. Changes were mostly related to interaction, making things easier to understand and story delivery. Story delivery (or plot, for that matter) is specially important, since we’re trying to get it “right.”

During that time 3 other guys have been working on the endings and the last 3 levels. One if them was supposed to be ready, but I had the brilliant idea to change it and half of the work got scrapped. Maybe not the wisest idea, but it was for the best, since those changes will make that level work better for the story.

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The biggest change is related to the island. The main problem with the island was that it was too open. This meant you could go pretty much anywhere, but the island is very big so it was easy to just wander around and not do anything meaningful in the game for quite some time. That was a big problem because Enola is a story driven game, not an open world exploration walk simulator. Exploration will play a role in Enola but only when players are looking for clues or items.

Now, the island is a little different. I am not going to explain all the changes because you’ll see them anyway, but basically we’re locking away some areas so they become accessible as you progress the game. The idea is pretty similar to the Zelda games, where you can only reach certain areas after you got certain items. The surface area has also been slightly reduced, so the island feels a little smaller. These changes should let you explore the place without wasting too much time.

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Enola also walks and sprints a little faster now. This also helps since she can cross long distances a little faster. She can still run just for a limited period of time, though, since that’s used for other gameplay scenarios.

I began to implement the unlockable costumes system as well. This new version will include the basic costume and an extra costume. This extra costume will already be unlocked.

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So, that’s basically it. The update should be available at some point this week. As you know, Enola’s been 33% off during these two and something years, but when this update hits the web the price will go back to $14.99. I will let you know the final release plans soon-ish. Just know we’re planning to do something cool, so keep your eyes open.

See you next week!

Crouching makes things a lot more dangerous

•July 8, 2014 • Leave a Comment

You may or may not know Enola has been in development for 2 years, and you may or may not know it will be released in 2 or 3 months. This means I have to say I am either very brave or very stupid to add this so late in development.

Enola is now able to crouch.

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I’ve been talking with one of the guys here for some time about the possibilities of adding crouching. This was not an easy question, actually. The main problem with the issue is that levels (nor gameplay scenarios) have not been designed to take advantage of crouching, so it was one of those things that could end up being useless.

But then, we had this idea of adding more death traps to the game, including traps that require crouching. As a matter of fact we had been thinking about adding more traps anyway, since the world of Enola is pretty much a place designed to kill you, so you shouldn’t feel safe at any point.

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Designing these traps can be tricky. Too many sudden deaths can make the game frustrating or cheap, as if it’s been programmed to randomly kill you to give you the fake impression of being hard.

One of the problems in Enola (when it comes to traps) is darkness, and that’s why I say designing them will be tricky, as we’ll need to provide enough input that there’s something ahead that can potentially kill you.

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Prince of Persia does this very nicely. You are given enough information so you know something is coming, so it’s about trying to avoid the traps, not avoid being taken by surprise.

There is also the idea of using crouching when you face the enemies, but we have to see how it would work, so that’s just an idea at the moment. We are going to look into that as soon as we release the next update.

By the way, I am hoping the next update will be out in a couple of weeks or so. By then I will also announce the release date and a couple of surprises. In the meantime, you can either get the demo here, or preorder the full game here.

As always, you are free to visit my other blog, Catholicism Wow.

Don’t simply ‘ask’ for more female characters

•June 30, 2014 • Leave a Comment

When I got into game development it was because I found it to be a very cool way to tell stories. However, I have always been interested in any form of storytelling. A few years ago I spent a long long time writing a (roughly 500 pages) book, a second and a third draft, based on a short story that I wrote based on a dream I had. The story was about a robot girl and how she would deal with being the only one in a world of humans, where some hated her and others liked her.

I also wrote a script for a short film, about a young girl who met a tormented ghost girl. That script went through nearly 30 different drafts, and then with a group of friends we made the film. It was actually cool to see the film made it to a few film festivals and we even got an award.

At some point I was working on a script about a princess who didn’t want to be a princess because she didn’t like the idea of “a woman in a men’s world.” One day she would escape with a sailor/adventurer she met (but never got emotionally involved with), because she wanted to see the world and find an island she had read about in books. The project was canned because that’s when I began to walk away from filmmaking.

At roughly the same time I wrote a story about a young woman and her struggle to deal with her divorce. That one was very surreal, because half of the story took place in a dream world.

After I finish Enola I have the basic treatment for the story of 2 different games. One of them is for a sequel to Enola, and it will be from a different girl’s perspective. The second game is about a girl who meets an older woman and helps her solve a problem. That’s all I can say about either project so far.

But before all of this, I wrote a story about a man who went to the desert because he wanted to solve the mystery of his best friend’s suicide. By the way, some people consider some of these stories to be good, others to be not so good (or very bad).

Some people like “stats” and whatever, so I will share some “stats” of these stories with you: The character count for the first one was 5 women and 5 men. The second one featured 3 females and 1 male. The one about the princess only had one girl, the princess, and roughly 8 men. The next one had 2 women and 1 man. Enola features 6 women and 2 men. The next 2 are kept under wraps so I won’t say. The one about the man featured one character: the man.

If you’ve paid enough attention, you will notice all of the stories, except for one, feature a woman as the main character. I did that because it made sense, and because the stories needed a woman, not a man, as the main character. Some of them feel emotionally or sexually attracted to someone else, and some of them don’t develop any kind of emotional bond to anybody because they don’t need it. Basically I find female characters more interesting. Also, none of them falls into the category of “she kicks ass” because they are not fighters, martial artists, warriors or anything like that.

IMO it’s all cool and all, but I have to be honest about something. I NEVER wrote a story with a female lead because I wanted to be inclusive, because people were talking about the need of more women in this or that, or because I wanted to help solve any problem with the current state of whatever. I wrote all the stories because I wanted. I’m making a game with a female lead because I want to, and I plan to do more games with female leads because I want to. Because I care too much about them to make them “just for the stats or so that the male is no longer the default.”

By the way, I could also mention the videogame characters I’ve cared about the most, but I want to finish this blog post sometime today…

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I say one does not simply “ask” or more female characters for two reasons:

Reason number one…

We have “enough is enough” response in our country that goes like “te voy a decir que sí para que te callés/para que ya no jodás.” I’m sure most of you don’t understand spanish, so I’ll explain it to you. It is something you say to imply “I’ll do it because I’m tired of your requests” but in a very rude way. I mention this because I think we’re lucky we don’t have people with the “I’m fed up” attitude, but I can’t help to wonder if we’ll see the day when we will get more female characters “because devs are fed up if the requests, so they make female leads so people asking for them will shut up.

On top of that, every time a woman makes it into a game, we get a million of critics dissecting them just to check if they are strong enough. I can already see what would happen, because I wouldn’t expect much from a female character that was added just for the sake of adding her.

Personally I don’t want to see that day.

I want to see more games with female characters, but I want those characters to mean something more than stats or ideological agendas (or whatever they are called). I certainly don’t want more females “so that the male is not the default character.” I’m not interested because that means that instead of the male dude running around killing dudes I’ll see the female running around killing dudes. Certainly, if I got “Princess of Persia” I would only care if the story was good (I was going to say “Assasin’s Creed but that was too obvious, as that’s the reason why I’m writing this), because “male-emulating-badassery” is the cheapest way of making a strong female lead.

So yeah, Anita’s idea about the princess that escapes by her own means and then levels up and fights whoever sent her to jail is not interesting to me because I could swap the woman for a man and the story would be pretty much the same. If she added the “this and that and what it means because she’s a woman” then I would find it interesting (and no, the simple “she no longer needs rescuing is not enough, at least not to me).

I want more female characters in games, because they are the ones I find more interesting. However, I want characters like Alyx, April Ryan, Heather Mason, Mio Amakura and such. I certainly don’t want empty-vessel female characters or “skin swaps.” I find them interesting not because “they can do the same things a man can do,” because “they really kick ass because they kill everything that moves” or because “this girl is tougher than Chuck Norris.” I want to see more women in games because, as I’ve said before, many times, they can bring a different perspective into something, and because they can be heroines in their own way.

Reason number two…

We have another saying in our country that… is way too rude, so I won’t write it here, but I will tell you what it implies: talk is useless without action.

Here’s a crazy and maybe stupid idea: maybe stop asking others to do something and just DIY? Maybe, instead of going into Twitter and ranting all day about some dev not making a female lead, you can put together a team and work on a simple game with a female protagonist. I say “simple game” because you don’t need to make the next Halo or Star Citizen to do something meaningful. Something with simple graphics and simple mechanics can do a lot. What if you’re not a developer? Well, if you are an artist or a writer, just gather a team as well.

If more of those teams “going indie” opted to make their games with a female protagonist AS LONG AS IT’S MEANINGFUL, it would also help.

Hell, if Anita Sarkeesian decided to put a team together and work on that game about the princess, I would definitely buy it if the game was good. At least IMO, that helps more than just posting videos about “how things with female characters ought to be” on Youtube.

People from countries with established videogame industries are lucky because they have something we don’t: you are A LOT of people and it’s very easy for you to get small teams of devs together. Here in El Salvador we are around 25 game developers in the whole country (I mean 25 people, not 25 teams of people). Now ask me how many have a game with a female protagonist as their first option: less than 10…

I say maybe it’s stupid because I don’t really know how difficult it would be for people working on those big companies to develop another game as a weekend/side project, so I don’t know if my crazy idea would be too much. Devs “going indie” would certainly find it easier.

But when I see “risks” being taken in many areas except protagonist gender, I can only ask how interested people really are.

Hell, I’m even willing to put up with the “generic female that kicks ass and kills zombies” if she has a good story to tell. I should clarify I don’t mean I want them to write a story so good it’s at least comparable to The Lord of the Flies. I just need something that’s engaging enough, like Fatal Frame or even Diablo.

And who knows. Maybe if female protagonists were not so rare, we wouldn’t have all those critics dissecting female protagonists over and over…

In my mind, action helps more than words. I’ve seen many gaming-industry-related people discussing talking about why we need more female characters for some time. However, for some reason I haven’t seen many games featuring female characters being announced. So here’s my final stupid question (and it’s sorta stupid because I don’t know how the industry works in your countries, because we don’t even have an industry here): Why are there so many industry-related-people talking about wanting more female leads in games, but yet so few people making games with a female lead? So maybe I could say “don’t ask for more female characters; make them.”

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Just some final thoughts…

Note: All this was written by a guy living in a country with zero game development industry; who may or may not be a decent writer; who is NOT a programmer but is able to make games because Unreal Kismet is extremely easy to use but didn’t know how to make a game until 3 years ago; who has zero first-hand experience in the videogames industry. If I managed to come up with a story with a female lead and put together a small team to make a game, I’m pretty sure those of you who are far better writers, who are real programmers and artists, can do a far better work.

When I got back from PAX this April (we were showing Enola there), I read an article, but what I remember the most was one of the comments. The guy had wrote “the devs’ mistake was to make a game with a female protagonist.” However, experience has showed me that for every guy complaining that the main character is a girl, there are hundreds who are happy that the main character is a girl.

It turns out “the risk” of making a female lead is not “as risky” as people think.

Why the new Tomb Raider trailer didn’t work for me

•June 25, 2014 • Leave a Comment

I am still halfway through the latest Tomb Raider, so I don’t know if there’s going to be a big reveal at the end that will turn everything upside down. Based on what I’ve seen so far, and the trailer they showed at E3, I feel something is off.

My main question is why Lara is shown in some therapy session, and we are told she attends those because she wants to recover from the experiences she had. However, I need to ask myself what experience is exactly the one they talk about (again, maybe the answer will come when I finish the game). What comes next is mostly based on what I know about the first game.

Based on the trailer, I would assume the “shocking experience” is being on the island and fighting for survival. So far so good, and I can actually see the point (The Lord of the Flies comes to mind). The problem comes when you take into consideration what you do in the game, which is pretty much what Lara does, since you are Lara in the game, so I have to ask again, what shocking experience are we talking about?

When Lara kills his first couple of dudes, we get this line about her being surprised “how easy it was” to kill them. However, as the game goes on, she becomes a very efficient killing machine. By the time I’m killing the 236th guy I think to myself “well, for someone who had problems killing, she doesn’t seem to care much anymore.”

From a purely storytelling point of view, if you’re a pacifist and you find yourself killing a person, or find yourself in the middle of two teams killing each other, it makes sense to throw in the “it was a shocking experience” thing (again, The Lord of the Flies). But how am I supposed to believe she found the experience “traumatic” if she not just killed a person either in self defense or by accident, but a gazillion?

And in case you say “well, it was a kill or be killed situation!!!” let me say that the “kill or be killed” excuse no longer works when it’s thrown at you 236 times…

Maybe there’s something in the game that makes me change my perspective (and if that’s the case, I will come back to this blog and write a second impression).

In the meantime, I will continue asking myself “what’s the traumatic experience?” considering that, near the end of the trailer, Lara walks in and headshots a dude with an arrow like it’s nothing, and then says “… they become what they are meant to be.”

So, you’re meant to be what, exactly? A relentless killing machine?

I really like Lara Croft and I like the Tomb Raider series. However, if you ask me if I want to play a game where I just look for treasures and get a lot of mythological mumbo-jumbo, or a game where you shoot dudes left and right while going into tombs every now and then, I pick the first one.

Oh, Lara also kills dudes in the previous Tomb Raiders, but the difference there is that we’re never tried to be sold the idea that she finds traumatic to headshot a gazillion dudes. In the previous games, she evidently doesn’t care. That’s far more believable than “oh, no! I killed this man in self defense… and then I killed 659 more because I wanted loot…”

So, I skipped the Outlast DLC…

•June 17, 2014 • Leave a Comment

I am not going to start this campaign about “no more graphic violence in videogames” because I still believe anyone can make a game about anything they want and portray things the way they want them. So if someone wants to make a game with a guy who “goes postal” and kills anyone around in brutal ways, or a game about the trigger-happy soldier, or the one about running your car over pedestrians and prostitutes and then beat them up with a dildo-shaped weapon, why should I care.

At the end of the day, it’s not about “proving the industry has a problem and ask them to make the games “the way I feel they should be made.” If someone decides their game needs tons and tons of gore, they can perfectly do it.

Just like I can perfectly decide not to play such games. There’s a reason why I play Halo but not COD, and there’s a reason why I play Mortal Kombat but not other violent games.

If you’ve read this blog before, there’s a chance you already know I liked Outlast a lot, save for the whole crap about the Walrider and Finding Father Martin. I even liked it considering how much torture porn it featured. When the DLC was released I was almost ready to get it, but I decided to check a couple of reviews first.

Somewhere I read that it took the gore and stuff to a whole new level, so I did what I thought was the next logical step. I went to Youtube to watch a few parts of the game, and then I saw they were right about that.

So, I skipped the Outlast DLC because I consider it used way too much gore for the same reason Saw uses it: because “omg, I can’t unsee the horror!!!” On a side note, I only watched the first Saw movie, and I usually don’t watch gory horror movies (so I didn’t watch the Hostel series either, or the one about the weird looking mutants that live in the woods… can’t rememeber the name). The only gore movie I’ve watched is Hellraiser, and that’s because (unlike the ones I mentioned), it’s cool.

This comes from the guy that said he wants the Clockwork Orange of games.

Maybe it boils down to one thing: I have certain expectations when it comes to horror. I’m not saying “gimme horror games with no blood.” After all, I love Silent Hill and it’s one of the most perverse things ever made.

Story-wise, a man (or woman) who’s violently killed another person is not automatically less evil than one who’s violently killed 100 people, nor more impressive or scarier, so adding all those guts for decoration loses its effectiveness after a little while.

So what do you do? Add an even more gruesome death somewhere.

And another one.

And a third one that’s even sicker.

And so on… and it all becomes a game of “let’s add MOAR because it’s scarier.”

(Besides, I have to admit when I played Outlast half of the time I was trying to count how many people had died, and how they had managed to stuff so many people in such a small facility… I mean, was it around 300 or 400?).

After all this, I’m not going to say “can I haz less gore, please?” Feel free to use your gore and blood in any way you want, and I will feel free to either play or skip your game. After all, some others will still play it.

By the way, if Catholicism interest you in any way, feel free to visit my other blog.

Why is Enola gay?

•June 3, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Quite a few people have asked me this question (or a question similar to that one)…

No, I’m not talking about the plane…

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The question I’ve been asked a few times is “why did you make Enola a lesbian?” The question is easy to answer, but not so easy to explain, and you need to know who Enola is.

The answer is easy. She’s not straight because “the story demands it.” If she was straight, the story would not work.

But here’s the why…

To answer the question you need to know who Enola is… and don’t worry, this blog post does not contain spoilers. Even if she’s the titular character, Enola is actually a secondary character, so her “raison d’être” (I dig french better than english… deal with it…) depends on what Angelica needs.

Basically, Angelica needs to be loved by someone, and for different reasons she will never enter a relationship with a man. So, a love interest for Angelica can only come in the form of a girl.

So, basically, Enola exists to love Angelica. However, that doesn’t mean Enola is a shallow character. She has a personality, backstory, things that she likes, and spiritual and intellectual struggles.

By the way, it is *implied* but not declared that Enola is lesbian, so she could very well be bisexual as well. The reason that’s not explored is because it’s not important for THIS story.

So, there it is. When I say “she’s like that because the story demands it” there’s a explanation behind that.

See you next week, and feel free to visit my other blog!

Why is the next Enola update taking so long?

•May 19, 2014 • Leave a Comment

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Well, if you already own Enola there’s a chance you’ve realized the last update was on December 2013. That was around 5 months ago.

A small update on what has happened during these past months…

I got a small “government grant” to help with Enola’s development and promotion, and I just used a good chuck of that money to take Enola to Rezzed and PAX. I had to make a lot of changes to the demo so it would be better suited for the events (you may or may not know the old “Enola: the cabin” demo was way too long and it was too easy to get lost because it included the huge island level). At both events we got a lot of feedback that would make things easier to understand.

On the other hand, after watching a few Youtube videos I decided to make massive changes to the island. Basically what’s going to happen is that you won’t be able to roam freely across the island. Many areas will be “locked” so you won’t be able to access them until you have met certain conditions. We are also moving some stuff around so you don’t have to walk too much to reach certain level.

This means two things:

1. We can control the flow of the story better because we can decide the order you visit the levels.

2. You won’t be wandering aimlessly until you find something interesting.

There’s something I will add to encourage exploration as well, but that will have to wait until the game is finished because I don’t want to spoil it Open-mouthed smile

Items are easier to spot. They had a blue-ish glow but now they have a bright yellow-ish glow. Also, when you get close to them a small “pick up prompt” shows up to let you know the damn thing can actually be picked up (it also appears on letters and notes, by the way).

The flashlight will be permanent now, and you will be able to turn it on-off at will. I am unsure if the flashlight should deplete because there are times when you WILL need the flashlight, and I don’t want people to get stuck or not be able to advance because they don’t have enough batteries or whatever.

On the other hand, the permanent flashlight allows me to play with the lights a little bit more, adding more dark areas or more “dramatic lighting” without fearing players will not see a damn thing because it was too dark.

I still need to figure out a way to guide players better inside the levels, though. Some players would get lost easily and backtrack a lot. The easiest solution would be to make linear levels, but linear levels suck because they are pretty much a straight path with a few parallel rooms here and there with items you need. Levels in Enola were actually designed to make you go back and forth, so I can play a little bit with the dynamic events (rooms that were not there at first, light changes or other events).

As you can see, there are many things that are changing (besides, we’re also working on the remaining levels). I could have released an update now with some partial changes, but I decided it was better to make all those big changes available at once, even if that means the update is delayed a little bit. The goal here is to make a game worth playing, even if it’s not perfect.

See you next week!

 
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