The “skip button” dilemma

•November 8, 2017 • Leave a Comment

 

The whole talk about “Exploration Modes” and difficulty in Cuphead has generated so many rants and comments, some valid and others not so valid (specially the extremely useful “git gud” comments). The most valid argument I’ve found so far is the one about respecting the developers’ original vision of having a certain level of difficulty (except when that so-called comment about respect comes accompanied by a comment along the lines of “if it’s too difficult for you, git gud or don’t play it”.

If you were to ask me, I’d say two things: first, that you have to respect the developer’s vision; and second, that you need to keep in mind that not all games are aimed for everybody, and while it sounds pretty similar to “if it’s too hard for you, don’t play it” my statement couldn’t be any more different, because I am not talking just about difficulty, but about the game as a whole. For example, I am a Tomb Raider fan, but I completely despise the reboot; not because “it’s too hard for me” but because, as a whole, the game doesn’t work for me, from the premise to the execution. Platforming in the TR reboot is fun (albeit not exactly challenging) and combat itself is also fun (except when it gets too repetitive), but the combination of story and gameplay doesn’t work at all, no matter how you look at it.

In case you are not familiar with me: First, I like story-driven games, meaning that I like games with good stories, that will leave you good memories about that specific plot point as well as that specific sequence. This also means I rarely play games where the plot is forgettable, or pretty much non-existent, unless the game itself is really REALLY good (specially old games).

That is not to say that I think “story is king.” After all these years making games (including those failed and cancelled games), I think the game as a whole is king because every game is a combination  of different elements that play together to create the entire experience.

I’ve talked a lot but I still haven’t said anything about my skip button dilemma, and my dilemma is this: the idea that we don’t need a “skip boss” button because because bosses are part of developer’s original vision contradicts the idea that we need to include a “skip cinematic” button even if the cinematic is also part of the developer’s original vision. Both cinematics and whatever challenges in the game are part of the developer’s vision, and you can’t advocate one should be respected while you advocate for the other one to be skippable. So, I think it is only fair to ask why is it so bad to even consider adding a “skip boss” prompt, but at the same time it’s pretty much mandatory to add the “skip cinematic” or “skip dialogue” option?

One could argue the main difference between in-game challenges and cinematics is that “challenges are interactive, and cinematics aren’t, and that you are here to play, not to watch a movie.” I am sorry if this gets you, but to me, this is a stupid argument, because: a) cinematics are in the game for a reason, even if they are not interactive; b) the games are not only made up of interactive elements like challenges or bosses.

Do you know what other elements can be found inside a game even if they are not interactive? Props. If cinematics are not important because they are not *interactive* then I fail to see how non-interactive props should be a vital part of a game. Yet, nobody argues against “non-interactive elements” in games (props) because, even if they don’t affect the gameplay (gameplay-wise, that doll on the left side of the screenshot below could be replaced with a chair, a shelf, a statue, and the “gameplay” itself wouldn’t be affected at all). However, props are useful for world-building, environmental storytelling, setting up plot points.

Just like cinematics…

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Look at all those non-interactive things…

So, even if this is slightly off-topic, what if we just got rid of cinematics?

“Cinematics or no cinematics” is a topic for another blog post, and definitely for someone with far more experience/talent/whatever. While some think it’s better to have everything married with gameplay, and make the story-elements play into the game using scripted sequences, I think cinematics can are better to deliver certain story elements. In-game scripted sequences could work, but you’d still need to restrict the player’s freedom in some way, or else you could end up with extremely bizarre results (from 2:39 to 4:12).

Anyway…

Another argument could be that “why do you want to watch a cinematic again if you watched it the first time you played?” but the same applies to pretty much every part of the game, including bosses, so you could also ask “then why do you want to fight a boss you fought the first time you played?” I think the easiest answer is because “gameplay is king,” but I think that’s not entirely the answer. Simply saying “gameplay is king” means stories are not important, and that you can slap together any “plot” as long as it lets you do whatever you’re supposed to do in your game (like in Tomb Raider…). If “gameplay is king” then Silent Hill 3 sucks, because the shooting and combat in SH3 is bad compared to games from its time, like Max Payne. Nobody plays Silent Hill 3 because “combat is fun,” but, as far as I know, nobody plays Silent Hill 3 thinking “geez this combat sucks, and I don’t care about in here is a tragedy, I just want to get to the next cutscene.”

There’s also the argument of “choice” and how you should give players the choice to watch or skip a cinematic. If I, as a developer working on story-driven games, must give people the choice to skip a cinematic or a dialogue that I consider a vital part of the game (or else I wouldn’t have put it there to begin with), why shouldn’t I give players the choice to face or skip a boss or a challenge, which I also consider vital parts of the game? After all, there’s no denying that most games have at least one part that sucks. For example, I love Dead Space, but the reason I never wanted to play it again was due to that part where the game turns into a 3D Galaga. I must have died maybe 10 times in that part, and I hated every second of it even on my first try.

If it’s all about choice, I can say some games could benefit from some sort of “exploration mode” (like the one from Assasin’s Creed Origins, which sparked part of the conversation), but only if there’s actually something to explore. It is one thing to explore a world with a lot of details and lore, and it’s a completely different thing to ask for an “exploration mode” in a game like Cuphead, where there’s nothing to explore and there’s no crucial difference between “playing the game without bosses just to admire the graphics and animation” and “watch a YouTube video to admire the graphics and animations.”

 

Personally, I can’t say I am against skipping challenges for three reasons: First, I also believe cheat codes in games were a good thing and allow for some interesting gameplay results; and second, because infinite lives and save systems are already making “current difficult games” easier than “difficult 8-bit games.” Since Cuphead is at the center of this entire debate, there’s a hilarious video that illustrates this:

And third, because, as others say, those challenges are also part of the game design. What would Bloodborne be if you only read about the beast sickness but you never find or fight an infected? What if, after learning higher rank members of the Church turn into the most hideous beasts, you never ever see the Cleric Beast or Vicar Amelia’s beast form? The result would be a completely different game: some sort of gothic horror exploration, like some gothic Gone Home. It would still work as a game, but it would be a different game, not the game From Software intended to make.

However, it would be really hypocrite to say what I just said about bosses and then be ok with allowing cinematics and dialogues to be skipped, even if they are vital parts of the story. If bosses should not be skipped, neither should cinematics. If cinematics should be skippable in favor of player’s choice, then bosses should be skippable as well (or cheats should be available).

TBH, I’d like to see more games where gameplay and story work together to deliver the full experience, and are equally engaging. I think there are two main problems: In many cases the gameplay is going in one direction, while the story is going in a different direction (or is so generic players don’t really care about it). In other cases, level design and story can complicate things forcing you to re-watch something because you failed a test, and this is specially problematic when you are not using checkpoints or automatic saves.

Of course this takes into consideration that it’s a game where the story is also an important part of the game, like in HellBlade. So it shouldn’t apply to games where the premise can be swapped without affecting the game at all, like in Cuphead. To put it simple: Remove all the story elements from HellBlade and you get a crippled experience; remove the story from Cuphead, and the experience isn’t really affected, because you don’t play it for the deep story.

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State of El Salvador’s game development industry – 2017 Blue&White Edition

•October 3, 2017 • Leave a Comment

When I got into game development in 2011, there wasn’t such a thing as “game development industry” in El Salvador. At that time, there were only 2 or 3 companies that worked on anything related to game development (be it development of complete new IPs, or mobile advert games for clients and such). Now in 2017, there are more companies working on things related to game development, but I still can’t say that counts as a “salvadoran game development industry.”

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Why I am reluctant of calling it a “game development industry”? Well, according to the Wikipedia definition, the game development industry “is the economic sector involved in the development, marketing and monetizing of video games,” and long story short, if all the studios in our country closed tomorrow, the salvadoran economy would not be affected at all. That’s not the same as other countries like Chile, for example, where money coming from game development amounts up to $12M and they employ around 350 people (based on numbers from 2016).

Despite that, I think it will be interesting to share this information, so people can get a grasp of how things are doing in our country, since this information could be useful to somebody.

As a retrospective, back in 2010…

I dare say that’s the year where game development really started here. At that time, there was one company called InEarth (that no longer exists) making games for mobile. I am not entirely sure who owned the company, and details are so vague I don’t even know if it was a Salvadoran company, so I can’t provide more information about it. For that same reason, I am not including it in any future statistics, but at least you know it existed at some point.

And in 2011…

There were two companies. One was mine, the one I’ve described a lot in previous blog posts. The second one was called MindBlock, and on the same year, MindBlock released their first mobile game, titled PestFest.

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[MindBlock’s PestFest]

Fast forward to 2017…

I think it’s easier to write the different information in categories, so things are more organized.

Number of companies:

Depending who you ask, the number of companies will vary. According to the government, there are 13 companies, including seven companies the government helped create using an annual contest for a grant (more about that below). However, in reality there are ten companies. One  of the (supposedly) 13 companies closed, and other two companies were created just to fulfill a grant requirement (again, more about that below), and then owners gave the rights to their respective games to their employer’s company.

There are also a couple of independent (non-companies) groups that have made or are making something.

On a side note, the government grants:

Basically it goes like this: it’s a yearly competition where individuals or companies submit a project, business plan and playable demo to enter a contest. Two selection rounds later (one to review the game itself and the other one to review the business plan), winners are selected.

For game development, the grant began in 2013 (the “animation” grant was launched the previous year, I think), and they would provide $30,000 in funding. The same amount was given away in 2014, but the next two years they raised the amount to $55,000. The money must be used to develop the game, hire two interns, a project manager, project director, (from last year onwards) a producer, and also to travel to events to promote the game. All of these are mandatory and are not subject to negotiation. Also, while the rules state only those with game development experience can participate, in practice that experience can mean anything from “I worked in Half Life 3… which was then cancelled” to “I made a ludum dare game once.”

If you enter as a company, you’re all set, but if you enter as an individual, you have to form a company before getting the money. Based on the amount of prizes given so far, there should be seven government-created companies, but sometimes individuals employees of an established company, so the price ends up going to their employer’s companies (as I wrote four paragraphs above). This sometimes results in the same company getting grants for two or three projects. Although it is not illegal, I’ll leave it to you to decide if that’s ethical.

As for the funds themselves… the government grant is given in two parts (three in 2015, and it was a disaster). The first part is given as soon as you sign the contract after you win (November/December that same year), and the second one is given “when the government can” after you’ve depleted the first part, and this means you can be left to work without funds for months (the average is four to five months… repeat this twice and you get the disaster that was 2015). Also, you have roughly ten months to either finish the game, or have something playable to get additional funds somewhere else (almost nobody has finished in that ten months period).

It is only fair to take a look at the results this grant has produced so far:

Number of games funded by this grant since 2013: 14

Number of games finished and sold, or available for purchase/download: 9

Types of companies:

Another clarification: I am only counting those that either have released at least one game, are actively working on at least one game, or are actively working on something related to game development (I don’t count companies that haven’t released anything yet, or have their first project in development, as said projects may never be finished).

Half of the companies don’t focus solely on game development, but rather opened a “game development mini branch” because they won the government grant once or more. Out of the ten companies, two are branding and graphic design companies (Clan Studio and Three Art Media), one comics/animation company (Demencia Studio), and two mobile apps (not games) companies (Kadevjo, CityLabs). All (or most) of these are companies (except for Kadevjo) opened their “games mini branch” after winning the grant.

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[Demencia Studio at a local showcase]

Moving on to the companies that have game development as their core business. These are companies that focus exclusively on game development in one way or another.

Infinite Software is the biggest one, with a team of around eight people, if memory doesn’t fail me. Ironically, a team of that size would be considered small in developed countries (on a side note, maybe any of the hybrid companies mentioned above has a team larger than 8, but their games branches are usually smaller than 8 people). Infinite Software opened in 2015, working on their own IPs, but after the second year they opted to do work for hire. Right now they make gamification of apps, educational games or brand-related games.

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[Infinite Software at a local showcase]

MindBlock began as a 3 men studio and released PestFest in 2011, but is now a one-man studio. Unfortunately, PestFest is no longer available, and the company is currently on hiatus, though the guy is currently working on a game that should be out “when it’s done.”

The Domaginarium, that’s mine, and as you know from my previous blog post it’s now also a one-man studio. I develop story-driven original IPs.

ArtCode is a school + studio, meaning  that they are a game development school and do work for hire (though their core business is being a school). They opened in 2013 and courses have been slowly gaining traction.  On a side note some of their students have made their first games that can be downloaded from the Google Play store (but many haven’t, which is unfortunate). This is also a small team (only a handful of people).

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[ArtCode Academy]

Ludus Games is a one-man company, created in 2014 thanks to the government grant. It began making english-learning games, but now it’s a games agency, though it has deals with Microsoft and Sony (as well as Nintendo, according to the Facebook page) so he can “lend” console development kits to people working with him (though, as far as I know, he offers no FQA support, though, meaning that certification is something devs must do on their own). Developers can hire him (as an agent) so he takes the games to events to look for a publisher. According to the website, Ludus also does marketing and localization, but I don’t have examples of work from the company in those two areas.

I’m pretty sure at least 2 more companies will be formed thanks to the new government grant that will be given out this December, with a former winner becoming the third winner.

Number of released games:

To me, this is the less favorable part, because, as a country, we have so few games released, compared to other LatAm countries. Please note I am not counting “jam games” nor mini games made for experimental purposes (meaning games made to see “what it’s like to make a game and/or publish it for free on Google Play to see what happens”).

As I said before, Infinite Software is the biggest one, not only in team size but also in portfolio. They currently have around nine released mobile games, that you can see here (Elude: Galactic Mercenary, shown on their website, is not out yet).

ArtCode, from its work for hire branch, has made two games (no links, unfortunately, since they are not available to the public).

As I said about MindBlock, the company is currently on hiatus, and it’s only game, PestFest (for iOS) is no longer available for purchase.

Likewise, the first game by The Domaginarium, SteroidS (a small PC arcade shooter), was beheaded and killed with fire, and is no longer available. On the flip side, the company has Enola, a horror adventure game for the PC partially developed with the 2013’s government grant (the game was 40% done when we won the grant), and The Nightmare from Beyond, another game partially developed with the 2015 government grant. Both are “mid-sized” games. Granted that The Nightmare from Beyond is in Early Access, but I am adding here (rather than in the “games in development” section) simply because it’s available for purchase.

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[The Nightmare from Beyond]

Before turning into an agency, Ludus Games released two english-learning games: Battle Of The Spells (re-titled “Aprende Inglés Jugando”), for mobile, and another one that was sold to a local kids museum. Both games were developed thanks to the government grant.

Another company that got into game development thanks to the government grant, Clan Studio, using the “Stonebot” label, has developed two games with funds from that grant (they have won the grant three times so far, in November 2013, November 2014, and December 2015): Agent D.O.G., a mobile tap to shoot that plays just like the “House of the Dead” on rails arcade machine (developed with the November 2013 grant, and released in late 2015), and Stereo Aereo (developed with the 2014 grant, released in late 2016), a small rhythm arcade game for PC and Xbox (I understand there’s a PS4 version in development, but I have no information about that).

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[Stereo Aereo]

ThreeArt Media, another company using government funds (you start to see a trend here), has made Agartha: The Hidden Land, for iOS. This app was developed in 2015, but it was very short lived because it was removed from the AppStore. I am not entirely sure if it’s going to return.

CityLabs also a government grant winner, released two iOS games under the “Glitch Interactive” label. One of them was developed with the grant (won in 2015), and the other one was developed independently: Orbit Drop and Vikings Raid. Among the “hybrid companies” I’d say CityLabs is the one that has managed to balance clients work (mobile apps) with their own mobile games, because they aim to make games within their constraints (focusing on small, manageable), and have managed to make two games in a time frame of approximately 18 months.

Kadevjo has three mobile games and one “entertainment” app. One of them, Chomp Kings, was also developed with government funds they won in 2015. While Chomp Kings should have worldwide appeal, Mexicanazo might only appeal those familiar with mexican food, and Guanapolio is definitely aimed at the Salvadoran market.

stateof_8.png

You may see Demencia Studio, from the previous section, is not here. That’s because they haven’t released anything yet, and their project is still under development. Also, I am not counting projects from InEarth, the company from 2010, because I don’t have enough information to know whether or not it was Salvadoran or not.

According to this, El Salvador has produced 25 games in total, between 2011 and 2017. Out of those 25 games, three are no longer available.

Games released by independent non-company groups:

As I mentioned above, students from ArtCode have released small games as well. I don’t count them as part of the previous section because these games were mostly experimental, “just for fun,” and, for that same reason, have no monetization strategy: Icecape, SV Bandits, Fleeing Time. I’ve also heard about certain groups in other parts of the country, or in local universities, but there’s no information about them online, so I can’t report on what they are doing.

There are also playable demos and prototypes made by people who wanted to take a shot at the annual Gamedev Hunger Games, I mean, annual government grant contest. However, I am not including those in this list because they were just made to try to win the contest, development was not continued, and are not available to the public.

Games in development:

This is where Infinite Software’s Elude Galactic Mercenary belongs. This is being developed using the government grant they won in December 2016. This game is nearly finished, and should be out either later this year, or early next year.

Demencia Studio (using the “Derby Hat Games” label) also won a government grant in December 2016, and they are currently working on a game titled Nano Squadron, a shoot them up type of game using a StarFox perspective. Save for some concept designs, a couple of teaser trailers, and turn table renders, there’s no public information about it.

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[Nano Squadron video demo]

Likewise, Clan Studio (again, using the Stonebot name) is developing the game corresponding to their third government grant (December 2015): The Last Friend, a 2d sidescroller beat them up. Development on that game has been completely hush hush since early 2016, so there’s no public record on the project’s current status and release date.

From my previous blog post, you know that, in The Domaginarium, I am working on a small game. I didn’t mention what kind of game it was, though: it’s an untitled point and click game that should be out early next year.

ThreeArt Media’s second game, also being developed with government funds is a mobile game titled “Shinobi: Spirit of War.” For the lack of a better “jargon” to describe it, I’ll say it’s a “dodge” game where you move left or right to dodge falling objects while trying to catch power ups. I don’t have an estimate release date for that one either.

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[No Shinobi screenshot, so I added Agartha]

There might be other games that I don’t know about, specially from independent groups that might become companies in the near future. Also, please note this list doesn’t include work for hire jobs, since they are not public information and are usually protected by NDAs, so there might be more games in development by Infinite Software or ArtCode.

This means there are at least five games currently under development in El Salvador, and the number will possibly raise next year since the next government grant contest will take place this December.

Hopefuly, most, if not all, of these games will be moved to the “released games” category when I write next year’s report. If not all of them are finished by then, at least I certainly hope none of them gets cancelled.

Education:

While I would like to report there’s been a huge growth in education for game development, that is not the case. Although there is a University that teaches game development, their study plan lacks a lot of things, and teach many things that (at least from my point of view) are not in line with local industry needs. For example, there are classes related to recycling computers, local networking security, web design and such. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never found myself going through the process of recycling a computer. I simply deliver it to a company that does that. Likewise, I don’t do web design, I simply use the online website builder, or download the trial version of Adobe Muse (or any other website editor).

There was also another school that had a couple of game development courses, but their courses never gained traction, so they are now focusing on graphic design and illustration. Other universities have 3D modeling classes, and a couple of Unity courses, but that’s it. When it comes to education, ArtCode is still the place to go (although many opt for online tutorials, which is also a good option).

Data summary:

The “game development industry” in this country is currently a mixed bag, since only half of the companies are “purely game development” companies; the rest being hybrid companies that make games as part of their work. The problem with hybrid companies is that they usually take a long time to finish games because they are side projects, since their actual work (for clients) is the one paying the bills. This issue is more significant when you see those long development times are usually for small arcade-like mobile games either distributed for free or sold for 99 cents, or PC games sold really cheap on Steam and other storefronts, not mid-level games that aim for a $20 or $30 price tag.

On the other hand, you see hybrid companies like CityLabs and Kadevjo managing both branches just fine, since they develop and release their games in a matter of months, not years.

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[Wachaki, one of the independent groups I’ve mentioned so many times]

Independent groups working “just for fun” are a completely different animal, though. These are guys constantly making mobile games with zero budget. I see a possibility any of those independent groups will eventually succeed.

As a matter of fact, Infinite Software started as a couple of brothers making games on their free time, and publishing them in the Google Play store. “Yada-yada-yada” they are now the biggest company in the country. Granted that they are developing Galactic Mercenary using government funds, but their company was not born thanks to said funds.

MOAR pseudo-industry problems:

There are mainly two reasons why the industry hasn’t really taken off: none of the games has been a huge success, and there’s only a small number of released games (the average being only two games per company). In general, I think these issues are related to four main issues:
1. Some companies can’t focus 100% on their games because they must work on things related to their core business (be it animation, branding, mobile apps).
2. Lack of experience in game development and marketing. Getting the money from the grant is useful, of course, but it’s not so useful if you don’t have enough experience making AND selling games as I said in the section about the grant, you don’t really need to have experience to apply for the grant).
3. Making games that are too large in scope for the team size/experience. To be fair, I think I’m the only one guilty of this. Looking at the games shown here, the majority don’t aim for somewhat-complex games.
4. While people here lack game development experience, they have coding skills, art skills, 3d modeling skills, etc. However, we all lack videogame marketing skills, so we have to learn as we go, and experiment as we go (or get someone from abroad that already has experience). This makes the “selling” part of game development harder.

While the ongoing support from the government through that grant is good, because it should help “kickstart” new projects and companies, it’s not without its problems. On one side, there’s a trend to work towards the grant (more in the next paragraph). Besides, some companies even apply on a yearly basis, and some of those will even apply to both videogames and animation grants (and win, resulting in very well funded companies). On the other hand, the money delays that can force developers to work without funds for up to five months, and sometimes teams and even forced to rework their strategy because they can’t hire external freelancers (music composers, audio guys) due to the lack of funds, and sometimes they will even lose the chance to attend events for the same reason. For example, due to these delays when I was working with grant funds, I lost the chance to attend Game Connection and GamesCon last year, something that completely ruined the plans I had for The Nightmare from Beyond; also, a team I know has been waiting 5 months for the second half of the money, and this delay caused them to lose the chance to attend Indiecade.

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[Icecape, a free game made by an independent individual]

This trend to “work towards the grant” and “game development subject to winning a grant” is very common. When I say “work towards the grant” I mean teams start developing a game, not with the goal of “finishing that damn game” and publish it on any distribution platform, but rather they do it with the sole goal of applying for the grant. As I mentioned before, many games are made to be submitted to the grant, but development continues only if the grant is won.

This trend of the grant being the ultimate goal, and actually publishing a game being an apparently secondary goal, is causing a lot of harm. Again, this is where I think the “small groups working with no budget but with a lot of drive” will save the day.

In closing:

In many words, this is how the sort-of-industry is looking. I’d dare say we have some really good things going, but way too many bad things happening at the same time, including some cultural problems that will take some more time to be corrected. Overall, I do think we are doing pretty bad, from the limited number of games to the extremely long development times (in most cases). However, new generations are entering the arena (mostly thanks to ArtCode), so there’s a big chance things will improve in the near future.

And, in many words, this is the state of El Salvador’s game development industry as of now. Congratulations if you reached the end 😀

Built An Indie Studio In An (no-longer-so) Unlikely Place – Part 5

•October 3, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Right… well, unlike the previous posts, I no longer speak about “building” the studio because it’s been around for 6 years, so I guess either I am very stubborn, or I’m doing something somewhat right… I’ll assume I am stubborn. Another difference is the title. I no longer speak of an “unlikely place” but rather a “no longer so unlikely” place, because things have changed a lot in the last 6 years, although not enough for my taste.

Then Vs. Now:

I think the biggest change is the access to software. When I began in 2011, there were a few tools out there, but they were not the kind of tools that someone with zero experience (and zero knowledge of special knowledge). At that time I used UDK, because it was easier to use for someone like me, with no programming experience (thanks to Unreal Kismet). However, the funny part is that, even if I didn’t have any programming experience, I ended up getting some decent knowledge of Unreal Script, because Unreal Kismet was only useful for some things. Things like Unity were already out, but they required more programming skill than what I had, and there was also Game Maker, but unfortunately, my 2D skills sucked (still suck), so I had no other choice to go the 3D route even if it was “more difficult.”

Now, there are more engines to choose from, and Unity has become pretty much THE tool for indies or solo developers, thanks to the ease of use and the really cool ecosystem. I ditched UDK and moved to UE4 in 2015, but given that I found myself forced to learn a new engine (UE4 and UDK were vastly different), I figured I’d give Unity a chance. I mostly chose Unity because, in 2015, performance was vastly superior. Personally I am not much of very graphically-demanding games, so it was alienating to see the default UE4 level barely hit 14fps on my MacBook Pro (I also use a Windows desktop, but I like to be open to multiplatform).

However, not everything is cool. We still have problems trying to acquire certain technology (mostly things that aren’t delivered digitally). For example, due to tax imports, an equipment ordered outside the country may end up costing twice or thrice the original costs. Internet access is also a problem. There’s “fast” internet here, but “fast” here means around 10mbps upload rate tops. At least it’s better than the 0.5mbps upload rate I had back in 2011.

That alone can be a very defining point when it comes to making games. In 2014 I released the second game (more about that later). It was around 1Gb in size, and it took around 5 hours to upload. Now I can upload that same game in less than 20 minutes (people in civilized countries can surely upload it in less than 2…). But here’s the thing: it is not easy to spend 5 hours uploading a game, risking a power outtage, internet interruption, a crash (they rarely happen, but still), so it all becomes a balance of making a game that does what you want, but at the same time doesn’t take too long to upload.

Another change is government support and amount of companies. This is a topic for another day, but long story short, when I opened the studio in 2011, there were only 2 studios that developed games (including mine). Now, at least there are more than 2. Also, we now have access to certain government support. More about that in a future blog post.

Another change… platforms. Back in 2011 my focus was on Windows PC only. In 2014, with the release of Enola, I expanded to Mac, and shortly after I got access to PS4 and PSVita kits. So now in 2017 I can target Windows, Mac, PS4 and PSVita. Why not Nintendo and Xbox, you may ask? Well, I think it’s better to learn to walk before you learn to run, and taking on more platforms may not be so wise. I did talk to Microsoft once about the Xbox, but long story short, they don’t ship kits to El Salvador. I just mentioned the lack of access to technology. Well, for the PS equipment I had to go to the US and bring the equipment in my carry-on bags. However, the Xbox person told me that not only they won’t ship them to El Salvador, but they won’t give them to me so I can take them with me in my carry-on bag either. So the only way for me to make Xbox games is to use the WUP, not my ideal scenario (on a side note, it is interesting to me that, I know for a fact, that a company here has Xbox devkits, so I wonder what happened to the “no kits for El Salvador” when they were in talks…)

And last but not least… this may sound funny, bizarre, extremely awful, or whatever… In 2011 we were 2 guys in my company, and at some point we were three. Now, I work with a freelancer working whenever he has the time. I said this would sound funny or extremely awful because the idea is that your company should at least grow a little bit in 6 years, but in fact it shrank!

6 year recap:

Well, in these 6 years, things look like this:

Number of cancelled games: 3 (a sci-fi third person shooter, a sort-of-existential short sci-fi 3d platformer, a multiplayer 6DOF game à la Descent).

Number of released games: 3 (the game I mention in the previous part, which completely flopped, Enola, a horror adventure game that sold around 20,000 copies, and a just-released game in Early Access, which I mention because it can be purchased, even if it’s in early access).

Number of micro-game experiments: 3 (a top down weird shooter, a first person atmospheric game for an LD, a management game for an LD).

Same recap in not so few words…

After the first game released in 2011, I began working on a new one, titled Enola, and that one took the next 2 years to be finished. It was a completely different kind of game, because, while the first one was an arcadey shooter thing, this one was a story-driven adventure game similar to Myst, albeit very horror-themed. I think this is the game that defined the route I’d follow next for the new games, and helped me see what I can and cannot do.

Here’s the thing, there’s a saying that goes “nobody is good for everything, but you are certainly good at something). I am not very good at designing gameplay-heavy games (meaning games where it’s all about the gameplay feeling right, balanced, with tight controls and all), but I am very good at writing stories. That’s pretty much the reason why the first game was so bad and the second one was so great. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t be able to design a “gameplay-heavy” game at some point, but it would take me a lot more than it would take me to make a game with a good story.

So, the lesson I learned from that game was to trully see what I was good at, and opt to focus on that instead.

After Enola was released, we (at that point we were six) began to work on a new game (the 6DOF multiplayer I mentioned), and at that time Epic released UE4. We decided to try to make it but the game didn’t quite “feel” right, so I decided to pull the plug. At that time, as a side project I was working on a basic “platformer controller” in Unity, and I decided to use it for the sort-of-existential short sci-fi I mentioned. However, I also pulled the plug on that one, because, even if I knew the story and the message I wanted to deliver, I couldn’t get it to “work” right, if that makes any sense. I mean, it was like “I know what I want this to say… but the message is not being delivered at all.”

So, another lesson was to learn when to pull the plug on a project. The first project I cancelled (back in 2011), was cancelled after wasting 7 or 8 months of work (and my own money). These two projects that were cancelled in a row, were cancelled in the span of maybe 3 months tops.

But since I already had the platformer controller, I opted to use it for something else, so I proposed this new project, a sci-fi horror platformer. At some point during concept, a dude said “how about Lovecraft?” so I began to think how Lovecraft could be applied to this (because, well, Randolph Carter is not known for his platforming skills).

We began working on that game, titled The Nightmare from Outspace and then retitled as The Nightmare from Beyond, in 2015, with the help of the government during 2016 (the same 6 guys I mentioned before), and this is the game that is now on early access. Since this is not a post-mortem, that’s all I will say about this game at the moment.

However… there’s something worth mentioning… you just read we were 6 guys working on this game, and that now I only work with a freelancer that collabs when he has the time. The fact is they other guys dropped out of the project. I will touch on this as part of a game postmortem I will write soon-ish, and also as part of the “state of El Salvador industry” post I will write, where I will also describe the government support and the other companies.

Something that didn’t happen on a specific date, but rather happened as time passed was the decision to go multiplatform (in a limited way). I said how I now have access to PS4, PSVita, but not Xbox or Nintendo. Well, the plan is release every game I make in those platforms, so no more “PC only” games. Managing multiple platforms is a very time consuming work, so this is where another part of the plan comes in: smaller, simpler games. More about that plan in the next section.

MOAR lessons learned:

Well, my biggest complain would be that it’s taking too long to make games, and that risks sustainability. Enola was developed from 2012 to 2014, and The Nightmare from Beyond has been in development since 2015. I am lucky to live in a coutry where living costs are not so high, but that doesn’t mean I can afford to develop à la Blizzard (“they will be done when they are done”). Oh, and Nightmare is still missing maybe a year more…

Last year I went to my first GDC, and there I attended a talk by Jake Birket titled “The No Hit Wonder: 11 years and still going,” and to me that one completely changed my view of many things, and made me rethink a lot of things (on a side note, I ran into him at this year’s GDC, I took a pic with him, and I told him that his talk as the one that had helped me the most the previous year). I know the kind of games I can make, and I know the kind of games I want to make, but the next step is to make simpler, smaller games. Enola ended up being a 6 hour game, and The Nightmare from Beyond may end up being as long (if not longer). The point is I suck at play-time metrics, so it’s better for me to focus on smaller, more manageable games. After all, nobody said a story-driven game must be X hours long.

The Nightmare from Beyond is larger simply because the team was larger (a team that later abandoned the game, so I am having to do a lot of stuff to make the game more manageable for 2 people), but if there’s a lesson I need to learn from this, it is to focus on smaller story-driven games that don’t require a mid-to-big team (bear with me, because to me, a “large” team is more than 5 people… a very different concept than the one used in developed countries where a “large” team is maybe 50 people). The problem was to think the “large” team would be around during the entire development, which was not the case.

I actually began to move towards that plan after GDC last year, but the “urgent Vs. important” struggle was always there (thanks to the troubled development of The Nightmare from Beyond), so I was being constantly distracted from that goal because “urgent” things. So, long story short, I still haven’t been able to completely move to this new plan.

So, I am finally moving to this new goal of making smaller games, while development of this “larger” game continues. To do this, I am working on two projects at the same time, something many would consider insane, but in fact it helps me keep my sanity. See, after such a long development cycle, sometimes I just want a break and do something else (or not do anything at all). Having a smaller game as a side project helps me relax and take those “breaks” from the game, without “wasting” time.

Takeaway:

Thanks to more accesible tools, there are more people making games now, so it is not weird to see people making games in places with no game development industry. However, there’s a big chance people starting with games will make some of the same mistakes I made, like aiming too high, spending way too much time making a game, or struggling between the “urgent Vs. important” things. There are certainly people in my country making some of the same mistakes.

So, if there are things people can learn from my 6 years as a developer, I’d say these are the things:

  1. Fail fast and don’t be afraid to pull the plug on a project. It’s better to waste one month, than to spend one or two years working on a game that is not going anywhere.
  2. Find out what you (as a solo developer, or as a small team) are good for, and focus on that. As I said, my thing is story-driven games, so it is very unlikely you’ll see me making a class-based Overwatch-like arena shooter any time soon.
  3. Aim for the best, but plan for the worst, when it comes to development times and teams. What if the game takes longer than expected? What if the team abandons the project?
  4. Organic growth, AKA, learn to walk before you run, AKA, start small, with small games and single platforms, rather than making an online multiplayer shooter game for PC, Xbox One and PS4 as a first game (true story). As I said, I began with PC, then Mac, and now I am taking on one of the 3 consoles, but I have no plans to take on the other two at the moment.
  5. If you can’t go to GDC, spend a lot of time watching videos at GDC Vault. Not just programming, narrative or art videos. Watch everything. They will surely make you think differently, just like the experience I had.
  6. Lastly, don’t fall into the “urgent Vs. important” trap. There are always “urgent” things, but the “important” things are the ones that will shape the future of your studio, or allow it to have a future at all.

I hope you find this useful, or at least interesting. Next I will write about the current state of El Salvador’s game development industry.

Built An Indie Studio In An (no-longer-so) Unlikely Place – Part 5

•September 22, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Well… it’s been a long while since I wrote, but fear not, I will be more active from now on…

 

Right… well, unlike the previous posts, I no longer speak about “building” the studio because it’s been around for 6 years, so I guess either I am very stubborn, or I’m doing something somewhat right… I’ll assume I am stubborn. Another difference is the title. I no longer speak of an “unlikely place” but rather a “no longer so unlikely” place, because things have changed a lot in the last 6 years, although not enough for my taste.

Then Vs. Now:

I think the biggest change is the access to software. When I began in 2011, there were a few tools out there, but they were not the kind of tools that someone with zero experience (and zero knowledge of special knowledge). At that time I used UDK, because it was easier to use for someone like me, with no programming experience (thanks to Unreal Kismet). However, the funny part is that, even if I didn’t have any programming experience, I ended up getting some decent knowledge of Unreal Script, because Unreal Kismet was only useful for some things. Things like Unity were already out, but they required more programming skill than what I had, and there was also Game Maker, but unfortunately, my 2D skills sucked (still suck), so I had no other choice to go the 3D route even if it was “more difficult.”

Now, there are more engines to choose from, and Unity has become pretty much THE tool for indies or solo developers, thanks to the ease of use and the really cool ecosystem. I ditched UDK and moved to UE4 in 2015, but given that I found myself forced to learn a new engine (UE4 and UDK were vastly different), I figured I’d give Unity a chance. I mostly chose Unity because, in 2015, performance was vastly superior. Personally I am not much of very graphically-demanding games, so it was alienating to see the default UE4 level barely hit 14fps on my MacBook Pro (I also use a Windows desktop, but I like to be open to multiplatform).

However, not everything is cool. We still have problems trying to acquire certain technology (mostly things that aren’t delivered digitally). For example, due to tax imports, an equipment ordered outside the country may end up costing twice or thrice the original costs. Internet access is also a problem. There’s “fast” internet here, but “fast” here means around 10mbps upload rate tops. At least it’s better than the 0.5mbps upload rate I had back in 2011.

That alone can be a very defining point when it comes to making games. In 2014 I released the second game (more about that later). It was around 1Gb in size, and it took around 5 hours to upload. Now I can upload that same game in less than 20 minutes (people in civilized countries can surely upload it in less than 2…). But here’s the thing: it is not easy to spend 5 hours uploading a game, risking a power outtage, internet interruption, a crash (they rarely happen, but still), so it all becomes a balance of making a game that does what you want, but at the same time doesn’t take too long to upload.

Another change is government support and amount of companies. This is a topic for another day, but long story short, when I opened the studio in 2011, there were only 2 studios that developed games (including mine). Now, at least there are more than 2. Also, we now have access to certain government support. More about that in a future blog post.

Another change… platforms. Back in 2011 my focus was on Windows PC only. In 2014, with the release of Enola, I expanded to Mac, and shortly after I got access to PS4 and PSVita kits. So now in 2017 I can target Windows, Mac, PS4 and PSVita. Why not Nintendo and Xbox, you may ask? Well, I think it’s better to learn to walk before you learn to run, and taking on more platforms may not be so wise. I did talk to Microsoft once about the Xbox, but long story short, they don’t ship kits to El Salvador. I just mentioned the lack of access to technology. Well, for the PS equipment I had to go to the US and bring the equipment in my carry-on bags. However, the Xbox person told me that not only they won’t ship them to El Salvador, but they won’t give them to me so I can take them with me in my carry-on bag either. So the only way for me to make Xbox games is to use the WUP, not my ideal scenario (on a side note, it is interesting to me that, I know for a fact, that a company here has Xbox devkits, so I wonder what happened to the “no kits for El Salvador” when they were in talks…)

And last but not least… this may sound funny, bizarre, extremely awful, or whatever… In 2011 we were 2 guys in my company, and at some point we were three. Now, I work with a freelancer working whenever he has the time. I said this would sound funny or extremely awful because the idea is that your company should at least grow a little bit in 6 years, but in fact it shrank!

6 year recap:

Well, in these 6 years, things look like this:

Number of cancelled games: 3 (a sci-fi third person shooter, a sort-of-existential short sci-fi 3d platformer, a multiplayer 6DOF game à la Descent).

Number of released games: 3 (the game I mention in the previous part, which completely flopped, Enola, a horror adventure game that sold around 20,000 copies, and a just-released game in Early Access, which I mention because it can be purchased, even if it’s in early access).

Number of micro-game experiments: 3 (a top down weird shooter, a first person atmospheric game for an LD, a management game for an LD).

Same recap in not so few words…

After the first game released in 2011, I began working on a new one, titled Enola, and that one took the next 2 years to be finished. It was a completely different kind of game, because, while the first one was an arcadey shooter thing, this one was a story-driven adventure game similar to Myst, albeit very horror-themed. I think this is the game that defined the route I’d follow next for the new games, and helped me see what I can and cannot do.

Here’s the thing, there’s a saying that goes “nobody is good for everything, but you are certainly good at something). I am not very good at designing gameplay-heavy games (meaning games where it’s all about the gameplay feeling right, balanced, with tight controls and all), but I am very good at writing stories. That’s pretty much the reason why the first game was so bad and the second one was so great. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t be able to design a “gameplay-heavy” game at some point, but it would take me a lot more than it would take me to make a game with a good story.

So, the lesson I learned from that game was to trully see what I was good at, and opt to focus on that instead.

After Enola was released, we (at that point we were six) began to work on a new game (the 6DOF multiplayer I mentioned), and at that time Epic released UE4. We decided to try to make it but the game didn’t quite “feel” right, so I decided to pull the plug. At that time, as a side project I was working on a basic “platformer controller” in Unity, and I decided to use it for the sort-of-existential short sci-fi I mentioned. However, I also pulled the plug on that one, because, even if I knew the story and the message I wanted to deliver, I couldn’t get it to “work” right, if that makes any sense. I mean, it was like “I know what I want this to say… but the message is not being delivered at all.”

So, another lesson was to learn when to pull the plug on a project. The first project I cancelled (back in 2011), was cancelled after wasting 7 or 8 months of work (and my own money). These two projects that were cancelled in a row, were cancelled in the span of maybe 3 months tops.

But since I already had the platformer controller, I opted to use it for something else, so I proposed this new project, a sci-fi horror platformer. At some point during concept, a dude said “how about Lovecraft?” so I began to think how Lovecraft could be applied to this (because, well, Randolph Carter is not known for his platforming skills).

We began working on that game, titled The Nightmare from Outspace and then retitled as The Nightmare from Beyond, in 2015, with the help of the government during 2016 (the same 6 guys I mentioned before), and this is the game that is now on early access. Since this is not a post-mortem, that’s all I will say about this game at the moment.

However… there’s something worth mentioning… you just read we were 6 guys working on this game, and that now I only work with a freelancer that collabs when he has the time. The fact is they other guys dropped out of the project. I will touch on this as part of a game postmortem I will write soon-ish, and also as part of the “state of El Salvador industry” post I will write, where I will also describe the government support and the other companies.

Something that didn’t happen on a specific date, but rather happened as time passed was the decision to go multiplatform (in a limited way). I said how I now have access to PS4, PSVita, but not Xbox or Nintendo. Well, the plan is release every game I make in those platforms, so no more “PC only” games. Managing multiple platforms is a very time consuming work, so this is where another part of the plan comes in: smaller, simpler games. More about that plan in the next section.

MOAR lessons learned:

Well, my biggest complain would be that it’s taking too long to make games, and that risks sustainability. Enola was developed from 2012 to 2014, and The Nightmare from Beyond has been in development since 2015. I am lucky to live in a coutry where living costs are not so high, but that doesn’t mean I can afford to develop à la Blizzard (“they will be done when they are done”). Oh, and Nightmare is still missing maybe a year more…

Last year I went to my first GDC, and there I attended a talk by Jake Birket titled “The No Hit Wonder: 11 years and still going,” and to me that one completely changed my view of many things, and made me rethink a lot of things (on a side note, I ran into him at this year’s GDC, I took a pic with him, and I told him that his talk as the one that had helped me the most the previous year). I know the kind of games I can make, and I know the kind of games I want to make, but the next step is to make simpler, smaller games. Enola ended up being a 6 hour game, and The Nightmare from Beyond may end up being as long (if not longer). The point is I suck at play-time metrics, so it’s better for me to focus on smaller, more manageable games. After all, nobody said a story-driven game must be X hours long.

The Nightmare from Beyond is larger simply because the team was larger (a team that later abandoned the game, so I am having to do a lot of stuff to make the game more manageable for 2 people), but if there’s a lesson I need to learn from this, it is to focus on smaller story-driven games that don’t require a mid-to-big team (bear with me, because to me, a “large” team is more than 5 people… a very different concept than the one used in developed countries where a “large” team is maybe 50 people). The problem was to think the “large” team would be around during the entire development, which was not the case.

I actually began to move towards that plan after GDC last year, but the “urgent Vs. important” struggle was always there (thanks to the troubled development of The Nightmare from Beyond), so I was being constantly distracted from that goal because “urgent” things. So, long story short, I still haven’t been able to completely move to this new plan.

So, I am finally moving to this new goal of making smaller games, while development of this “larger” game continues. To do this, I am working on two projects at the same time, something many would consider insane, but in fact it helps me keep my sanity. See, after such a long development cycle, sometimes I just want a break and do something else (or not do anything at all). Having a smaller game as a side project helps me relax and take those “breaks” from the game, without “wasting” time.

Takeaway:

Thanks to more accesible tools, there are more people making games now, so it is not weird to see people making games in places with no game development industry. However, there’s a big chance people starting with games will make some of the same mistakes I made, like aiming too high, spending way too much time making a game, or struggling between the “urgent Vs. important” things. There are certainly people in my country making some of the same mistakes.

So, if there are things people can learn from my 6 years as a developer, I’d say these are the things:

  1. Fail fast and don’t be afraid to pull the plug on a project. It’s better to waste one month, than to spend one or two years working on a game that is not going anywhere.
  2. Find out what you (as a solo developer, or as a small team) are good for, and focus on that. As I said, my thing is story-driven games, so it is very unlikely you’ll see me making a class-based Overwatch-like arena shooter any time soon.
  3. Aim for the best, but plan for the worst, when it comes to development times and teams. What if the game takes longer than expected? What if the team abandons the project?
  4. Organic growth, AKA, learn to walk before you run, AKA, start small, with small games and single platforms, rather than making an online multiplayer shooter game for PC, Xbox One and PS4 as a first game (true story). As I said, I began with PC, then Mac, and now I am taking on one of the 3 consoles, but I have no plans to take on the other two at the moment.
  5. If you can’t go to GDC, spend a lot of time watching videos at GDC Vault. Not just programming, narrative or art videos. Watch everything. They will surely make you think differently, just like the experience I had.
  6. Lastly, don’t fall into the “urgent Vs. important” trap. There are always “urgent” things, but the “important” things are the ones that will shape the future of your studio, or allow it to have a future at all.

I hope you find this useful, or at least interesting. Next I will write about the current state of El Salvador’s game development industry.

Is The Joker really a just dog chasing cars?

•August 1, 2016 • Leave a Comment

I’ve been thinking about this for quite a while, but I’ve never gotten the chance to actually write about it. When I watched The Dark Knight for the I don’t know how many-th time, I noticed something. In the scene where The Joker is telling the people in the boats to blow up the opposite boat, he’s reading his plan from a piece of paper.

At that point I thought “wait a minute… if this is his plan, why does he need to read it from a piece of paper?” That made me see everything that The Joker did with different eyes.

Capture

For example, in one scene he says “do I really look like a guy with a plan?” followed by “I’m just a dog chasing cars.” But is he? He is one step ahead of everyone at all times (in his own words, “he’s just ahead of the curve”). For example, when he was captured, he had already planted a bomb inside someone’s stomach, and he blew up the entire police station, while sending other people to capture Harvey and Rachel, and counting that Batman would interrogate him so that he would have to make a choice.

That’s the most obvious example, but the thing is that you don’t need to go any further than the opening sequence. There, The Joker prepares this very complex bank robbery, with clear instructions to kill every other clown, with a very tight timing (this is shown when he knows the exact time and spot where the bus will crash into the building).

Another example is when Bruce finds the police officers tied up inside the apartment. He sets the alarm so that the blinds open, calling the attention of the police officers at exactly the same time where they were hoping to kill the major.

So, some people keep telling that The Joker was just a dog chasing cars, or an agent of chaos who just wanted to see the world burn, but I’m pretty sure that’s not the case at all. I’d even dare to say that the movie was written in such a way that Nolan selling the idea that The Joker is a simple character with no clear goals that just does things “for the lulz.”

15b04-forthelulz

Personally, I don’t believe in “evil for the sake of evil” characters because they are a cheap cop out or an over-simplification. I mean, can’t get any cheaper than “he does what he does because he just wants to see the world burn.” That’s not an antagonist. That’s a cartoon villain: You don’t need to know anything about him except that he’s evil, and that he’s evil so that our hero can be the good guy.

Granted that I am not entirely familiar with The Joker from the comics, but considering how grounded in reality Nolan’s movies are, I don’t think The Joker from the comics should be any point of reference: In the comics, Ra’s Al-Ghul gains immortality from his Lazarus pit, but in the movies, Ra’s Al-Ghul somewhat “mocks” the idea, unless he wasn’t actually mocking it, but telling him that Ra’s Al-Ghul is supposedly immortal. After all, he tells Bruce that “If you make yourself more than just a man, if you devote yourself to an ideal and if they can’t stop you, then you become something else entirely. A legend, Mr. Wayne, a legend.” Maybe with these words he’s telling Bruce “the legend of Ra’s Al-Ghul.”

So, after this very long introduction, I am thininkg… What if The Joker in Nolan’s trilogy was in fact a member of The League of Shadows (or someone working for someone else, for that matter)?

The bad guys in the first movie are The League of Shadows. The bad guy in the second movie is The Joker. The bad guys in the third movie are The League of Shadows. In Begins, Ra’s Al-Ghul’s makes it very clear that they are not done with Gotham, and that they are back to finish the job. He also mentions that “their weapons have evolved” and that this time they were using economics (in Rises you could say they used terrorism).

Another interesting thing is that, in the same scene, Ra’s Al-Ghul says “create enough hunger and everyone becomes a criminal.” Two things, this sounds extremely familiar to The Joker’s quote about “civilized people eating each other”. In both movies, The League of Shadows plans that people will turn against each other and destroy Gotham from the inside. In the first movie, it’s people becoming criminals, and then people from the slums going all crazy to destroy the rest of the city. In the third movie, it’s criminals against police and civilians. In the second movie, it’s in fact “the people against the politicians.” There’s a scene where the people very pissed off that authorities aren’t doing their job, and it is valid to wonder what would have happened if that malcontent had risen.

In the interrogation scene, The Joker also says that Batman “has changed things forever” so that means weapons to destroy Gotham should also change.

At the end of Begins Ra’s Al-Ghul dies, but Gotham is still corrupt, and The League of Shadows still has people infiltrated in different places. In Knight, are the “corrupt” people part of the League of Shadows, or part of The Joker’s band? Did the people from The League of Shadows take a break and returned just in time for Rises? I mean, if there’s one thing that doesn’t “fit” in my mind is how the entire League of Shadows would go into this “complete hiatus” for TDK and let the mob do their stuff (which they were already doing in Begins), specially since the trilogy is a full sequence, not just “a random episode.”

And another thing that I find interesting is that, when the guy asks him what he plans to do with his part of the money, The Joker replies that he’s a man of simple taste because he likes explosives and gasoline…

And then he burns his money…

If he burns the money, he doesn’t really worry about how to buy all the stuff that he needs, which means someone else provides all that stuff. And how the blazes did he get all the resources to pull off that big robbery at the beginning of the movie??? Talia Al-Ghul, maybe?

Also, both Ra’s Al-Ghul and The Joker want Batman to break “his rule.” This could be coincidence, though.

The only problem is… The Joker wanted Batman to reveal his identity, but then he backtracked and said “you know… forget about what I said.” However, it is possible that The Joker simply used this as a strategy to ignite the “internal conflict” that I mentioned above (the people against politicians), because was counting that Batman would not reveal his identity.

I’m thinking The Joker could have played an important part in Rises if Ledger hadn’t died. Unfortunately we will never know. I do think there’s more to The Joker than meets the eye, and definitely, The Joker isn’t just someone who wants to see the world burn.

Or maybe I’m thinking about this too much because I’m just tired of so much work and cruch nights…

In (sort of defense) of Batman v Superman

•July 4, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Well, I’ve been pretty vocal that I really hated Man of Steel, so it should be surprising (or maybe not) that I generally liked Batman V Superman. I can’t say the movie was awesome, or cool, but parts of it were very enjoyable for the most part, I think it’s because, even if the filmmakers didn’t quite deliver most of the time, at least their intentions were pretty clear.

So, getting the obvious stuff out of the way… Lex Luthor pretty much sucks. As some people say, it’s like they were trying to make him some sort of “Joker,” but they completely missed what made him interesting (btw I’m pretty sure that in TDK, Joker was also part of the league of shadows because there are a few things that give that away… but that’s for another blog post).

Doomsday also sucks. I think Doomsday was a missed opportunity. I know that some filmmakers think that ending the movie in a cliffhanger is a bad idea, but I think it would have been really interesting if the movie had ended in the middle of the battle. Doomsday is supposedly a pretty strong character, but they finish him off in like 10 minutes.

Enough of the Super Man Jesus imagery. They use it so much it ends up being ridiculous.

Oh, and Jimmy Olsen dies.

Anyway…

I have to say I “somewhat” got why the two heroes were fighting, or rather, why Batman wanted to kill Superman (Superman pretty much fights because he has no choice… and that sucks…). The subject could have been explored more, but at least you really get this idea that Batman thinks Superman can be dangerous.

And if you think about it, it’s interesting how Superman goes to Batman to ask for help, but as soon as Batman starts attacking, Superman pretty much forgets why he got there and decides to attack as well (albeit not using his full force). It’s interesting because he supposedly wanted Batman to help him, but it doesn’t take him long to say “fuck it!” and throw a few punches himself.

This reminds me of how some people think that the Knightmare is pretty much a setup for Injustice, where Superman goes psycho and starts killing everybody because Louise was killed, and also reminds me that, in Man of Steel, Kal completely destroys some dude’s truck just because he poured beer on him.

So maybe Superman isn’t so “super” after all, to the point to let his “primal emotions” (or whatever you want to call them) interfere to the point he just goes into “fuck it” mode and do things a “super” wouldn’t normally do.

And maybe that could explain why he didn’t give a crap about destroying two and a half cities in Man of Steel…

There’s this part about the bomb that some people didn’t like. I think it was one of the best parts of the movie, because it helps us see that Superman “may not be that super after all.”

The bomb goes off, and then you see the face of a man that is pretty much thinking “I completely failed.” But here’s the thing, in the next scene with Louise he admits he “didn’t see the bomb because he wasn’t looking” (or something like that). This made me think about two things. First, the most obvious answer was that the wheelchair was made of lead (and people who watched the ultimate cut confirm that), but second, it reminded me of that scene in the 1978 Superman movie when Clark’s dad dies, and how he thinks he’s pretty much useless because, regardless of what he can do, he was unable to save his dad.

I don’t know if this is the idea Snyder was going after, but that’s the one I got, and that’s the reason why I think it’s one of the best scenes in the movie. When he says that he didn’t see the bomb, implying that he was distracted (or that maybe he couldn’t physically “see” the bomb because it was un a box made of lead), like thinking that his powers and all his strength were useless in that particular scenario (just like they were useless when his dad died in the 1978 movie).

Also, Wonder Woman was amazing. I still think Gal Gadot is too skinny for the role, but it was amazing to see her performance as WW when she was fighting Doomsday, and how she would show this smirk every time the monster punched her on the face, like she was going full Spartan (“a beautiful death”).

I have mixed feelings about Batman killing because I know Batman “doesn’t kill” no matter what, but the film constantly sets this idea that Batman might be somewhat mental, or that he’s “just tired of all this shit” so I don’t find it very difficult to believe this Batman could actually be a killer. I know Alfred says that “this is how it all starts” and how “good men turn cruel,” but what if Batman has already turned cruel, but Alfred just doesn’t want to accept it? I mean, after all, Alfred there is talking like Batman is some sort of paladin, not this cold blooded killing machine.

It would be very useful to know where this Batman comes from, so we get why he’s become this kind of Batman, but I don’t know if that will happen.

I just wanted to share these thoughts. That doesn’t mean I want to change people’s mind, but maybe you can see things under a different perspective. The biggest problem here is that, to deal with many of the things in this movie, you must “unlearn what you’ve learned” about these characters (for example, the part about Superman being mental), and that’s something that can be really problematic, because these movies are, after all, based on pre-existing characters and the source material should be respected, one way or another.

And that’s it. I promise I will write about why I think Joker in TDK was in fact a member of the league of shadows in a future post.

New project: “The Nightmare from Beyond”

•June 13, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Well, this has been interesting. We began working on this game nearly a year ago, and it’s been an “interesting” process… specially considering this is like the third iteration of the game (the first two iterations were more sci-fi than anything else, but we finally saw the light at the end of the tunnel when we decided to make the horror aspects more prominent).

It’s been a long time since I recorded a youtube video of myself, so here goes nothing, heh…

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