Evolution of Game Development

Within the recent years, game development has transformed into many different methods of practise. Back in the day, it was quite the norm where the design elements for top grossing titles would be dictated mostly by shareholders, publishers, management or basically anyone that isn’t a part of the actual game development team. What resulted was the highly rated triple A titles; very good to look at, but barely any substance. Games that had great graphics, but questionable gameplay. Questionable, as in it is no where near the quality of the graphics. Questionable, as in countless copies of the same game are re-branded and renamed with different titles, filled with better graphical enhancements coupled with just one or two added twists in gameplay.

Eventually, there comes a need to deviate from the standard procedures in game development which was dominating the industry, as games had became less in terms of diversity and creative gameplay mechanics.

“Also negatively impacting the video game business today is its hit-driven nature. A publisher relying on a proven formula instead of branching out and trying something new “kills innovation” and leads to fewer major new franchises coming to market, he said.” As agreed with by a GameSpot article written by Eddie Makuch to the statements made by Christofer Sundberg.

By identifying the need to break free from the standard procedures in game making – generally with the help of the internet; game developers are now able to utilize the internet in ways that ushered a creative and free growth for games. Unrestricted by the previously mentioned ‘non-essential members’ in game development, games can now be developed solely by the direction and intention of the creator, and/or the players as well. This means that games are now designed with the intended purpose; to be played and enjoyed by the players, or to be created in the likeliness of how the creator intended it to be. This is unlike the standard procedure, which was intended to swell the wallets of shareholders, publishers and the management, by recycling the same popular content over and over again.

Eventually, this predicament may have spawned the utilization of two very interesting means of development; via early access or crowd funding. Early access games are titles which were in their early Alpha stage, like a prototype of an actual product, put onto shelves to be sold and used as an actual merchandise. This is to usher in early funding for most indie development teams to make design choices which aren’t restricted by the traditional blockades, or to test the waters for new and innovative elements. This also meant that, players are now given the power to mold and shape the game in it’s budding stage, rather than being given the full product and groan over what could have made the game better.

This is very similar to crowd funding as well. The only difference being, crowd funding offers ideas and promises of the bigger picture (their intentions) instead of a working prototype for interested parties to test it out. In other words, they are merchandising their ideas. And if you love it, you can pledge some funding; and at every milestone of funding they receive, a new feature is added onto their product. In essence, this empowers the players to control the depth of the product. Should they want to have a game with design elements in the next milestone, they could pitch in more funding. But should the idea not get the liking of the players, it will be static in terms of additional content.

Through the heavy usage of the Steam platform as a place to purchase games and even ‘games in production’, early access games has now became quite a phenomenon. One very good example would be DayZ Standalone.

Riding through the popularity that spawned this genre, from the original ArmA mod – DayZ, comes an Alpha state of the Standalone version of DayZ. The game enjoyed a huge surge of interest from the public to actually purchase a game in it’s infant state. Incomplete, filled with bugs and glitches, yet people flock to buy and test the game.

It was successful, which actually spawned several variations of DayZ by different developers who were trying to ride on the bandwagon. Some to note was the ever controversial WarZ, or now known as Infestation: Survivor Stories. Riding on the same early access platform in steam, Infestation gained slightly more favourable than its predecessor (DayZ). However, it was a total failure in comparison. With the same genre, same game idea, same method of development, yet it failed so badly it was highly criticized online by the people who bought the early access and even by onlookers, thus receiving a nasty 1.7 metacritic. Upon closely examining both titles, one can easily find out that WarZ has made blatant promises that were never delivered on the release date. This begs a question on the reliability of early access games, which has sparked quite a few discussions on popular gaming forums such as Reddit.

Similarly if seen on the same light, DayZ on it’s present state is slowly receiving the bad end of early access. With the slow development (although quite consistent updates) and unimportant patches to the game, consumers has began to criticize the development pace and DayZ may end up to a similar disposition as its previous contender WarZ. Even with the constant reminders that DayZ is -still- in its development stages, impatient consumers may find themselves distressed with the pacing of development.

Enter Kickstarter, a primary example of one of the most successful crowd-funding platforms online. This platform has allowed game developers to utilize the tools available online in order to advertise their ideas. Indie developers and even veterans of the industry swarmed to the change, utilizing this platform to further their dreams which was once impossible. One of the best celebrated crowd-funded game is none other than Star Citizen, headed by the designer of the classic “Wing Commander” series, Chris Roberts.

Having amassed more than $46 million in development funds from a community of more than 400,000 backers in 2013, this has given Star Citizen the titleholder of the biggest development budget in the history of crowd-funded games.

“Roberts set up a Kickstarter for Star Citizen in mid-2012 with an initial target of $500,000. The total raised by the funding drive’s conclusion was above $2 million, and Cloud Imperium has since continued to raise funds on the Star Citizen website by selling additional spaceships and other virtual goods priced from $25 to over $200 per item.” as written by Rob Crossley in an online article praising his success.

From closely studying Star Citizen’s success of utilising crowd funding; PC space simulator, a genre other publishers have largely ignored for years, was given another light to resurface into the industry. With the highly supportive community, this has shed light over the actual desires of the players to want such a game genre. And should the industry be following without change the age old relationships between publisher and developer – it will be very long until another space simulator will resurface, perhaps you won’t even see the genre any more; especially with fast paced FPS games dominating the majority of the market now.

However, not all are as successful as Star Citizen, and while heavily pointing out the general flaws crowd-funding has in general is a game that has been quite a topic to most avid kickstarter backers. Godus, a game developed by 22cans and headed by the father of the god-game genre Peter Molyneux, which received roughly $800,000 in funding back at the end of 2012, is truly the highlight of how crowd-funding could be done wrong.

This is because crowd-funding isn’t exactly what most seem to perceive is. What most users of Kickstarter seem to view it as a place to ‘purchase games that doesn’t exist yet’. The workings of Kickstarter truly works otherwise, as Kickstarter allows the users to express an interest in a product and quantify it by providing funding to the creator in order to bring it to an actual product. And as mentioned earlier, depending on how much money which is pledged, the users may or may not receive a copy of the product itself, as it truly relies if the project turns out to be viable before it can be finally created.

Naturally, this causes distress in the community and cries for refunds are often heard whenever things don’t actually work out as the developers planned, when this is largely the user’s responsbility if you understand the workings of Kickstarter.

Has game development evolved for the better? We can tell from how innovative methods of game developing (crowd-funding and early access) can be an astounding success or a nasty failure, but if we shift the focus of our attention from the ends into the means; we can notice that games development are highly malleable. It doesn’t need to have the finance of big name publishers in order to reach a quality that of a triple A product, nor does it need the stern pattern-following rule the very same publishers tend to stick to. Admittedly, this has very well helped in the growth of the games industry as well, since the accessibility of funding for any aspiring game developers will be available.

Are we truly closer and much more connected than we were as technology progresses?

The invention of the internet is without a doubt, a huge leap into the future – with the utopia-like idea of information sharing easily accessible for all had allowed people to be connected virtually. We can share ideas with people on the other side of the world, as if they were just discussing it in front of us. We can listen to music with a friend from a totally different country, as if they were right beside us sharing a side of the headphones. We play games, in the virtual space. We talk, as if we were having a face to face conversation with Skype.

But does that make us much more connected to one another as a human to another human?

Even with the world seemingly smaller every day due to the discovery of the internet, it seems that physically we have began to drift further and further away from one another. Over-dependency of the internet has led people to be holed up in their rooms. Sure, everyone is connected in a sense, but not to one another. We are much more connected to the virtual space than we are in the physical space.

Based on a study, a person would spend on average 37 minutes a day in offline socializing in 2011. The trend has shown that it has been dropping, through the years, and will continue to drop even further in the years to come.

However, one may also conclude that it is not easy to make a blanket statement if the effects are positive or negative. It is clear that all the extra time spent online does take up the time one may use for other activities. This however, makes it exceptionally difficult to view that the internet is truly connecting people, as humans are after all social creatures that desires the warmth of actual company.

Under-appreciation of 2D Media?

Disney, famous for their classical animated works began to diverge from their roots of animation into the realm of 3D. A great spectacle nonetheless, but it does pose a serious question to those who endeared 2D animation. What will happen to 2D now that 3D is and has been adopted as the new ‘mainstream media’?

Old computer games, done in pixels and 2D illustrations has also met their downfall to the hands of photo-realistic 3D counterparts. Are these considered out-of-use? Are these considered worthless and without value? What about those who spent their entire lives perfecting the 2D media?

Major companies, regardless if it’s animation studios, game studios or even design studios begin to undervalue individuals with expertise on 2D. Will 2D media become obsolete due to the lessening demands? Will it be out of use at all, even when it’s only appearance in modern day games and animations are solely found in indie works?

Deny it as you will, 2D media is slowly dying.

Sure, there was a recent surge of popularity that lead to development and praise for a few noteworthy 2D games such as Fez or Super Meat Boy, but mainstream studios still do not acknowledge the value in 2D games – whereby the design aspect focused more onto gameplay than graphics that seem to bukkake onto your face, where the flexibility of 2D animations were replaced by rigid 3D counterparts that seemingly lacked the ‘fun’ in gestures and movements.

Where will 2D media be in the next 10 years? No one knows for sure. But I for one, will be hoping that the reincorporation of 2D media into mainstream games will come true. For one should always never forget their roots, as tall as you may have grown.

A sprinkle of Malaysian Politics

Back in the day, when the ruling government ruled the country with a firm grip just as the church ruled the European nations during the dark ages, the people were ill-informed. Daily manipulated news and doctored articles were the mainstay means of getting informed of the ins and outs of the small yam-shaped nation. With no other alternate source of information available, one must not be able to even imagine another variation to what’s being published daily. One must not even be able to imagine that it was falsified news. One must simply play right into the puppeteering fingers of the ruling party, simply because they weren’t even aware in the slightest way, brainwashed and mindless.

Political agendas, incited racial hatreds, divide and conquer. The ruling government were all but too smart for the mass, to even employ the great Sun Tzu’s stratagems against the people. Having full control on the news media had allowed hidden agendas to be simply a guise in plain view; whereby the truth was hidden behind sprinkles of chili powder, spicy enough to even anger the most tolerable of palates in the country as a diversion tactic. Gone were the days where the multinational, multi-ethnic and multicultural love between one Malaysian to the other, thanks to the heavy hand and ploys designed to divide the nation.

Malaysia had been, and still is ruled by the same party until today. For over 50 years of independence, the same political party still holds a firm grip in authority. However, as technology begins to develop in ways we could not have imagined in the past, things starts look grim for the ruling party.

Enter the internet.

With an alternate source of information that appeared, which was far from the grasps of control by the government, free press and news were finally real in the nation. The people began to educate themselves, began to read, began to dissect information, began to doubt, began to revolt.

The hideous crimes committed by the government were but all laid bare to the plain viewing of the mass. Obvious lies on old mainstream media was noted, with the stark difference of what’s reported online. Racial cards, religious cards, the entire poker hand of the government were laid bare to the eyes of the people. We were prepared, we know what’s being played, and equally aware of all the shenanigans that occurred in the past.

The internet played a huge role especially, during the last general election. Even though the resulting votes lead to a slight majority in favor of the opposition party, underhanded tactics were strewn all across polling day which resulted to a win by the ruling party. However, it was all recorded and documented online thanks to the ever vigilant yet savvy internet users of Malaysia.

The indelible ink issue (whereby voters are marked with indelible ink when they have voted, turns out to be delible), the ghost voters (voters who were long dead or non-existent), non-citizen voters (Bangladeshi workers given temporary citizenship and paid to vote for the ruling government), gerrymandering (whereby just enough voters were needed to win was allocated onto specific territories in order to achieve majority state wins), ‘black magic’ (as coined by Malaysians to refer to the power outage during the ballot counting process which the counters had to recount the total votes when the opposition was winning, while convoys of police patrol cars entered the building with more voting ballot bags sneakily) were prime examples and the most talked topic during the last general election.

Sure, the breakthrough of internet seemed insufficient to break past the age-old stronghold of the ruling party the last election due to foul play. But nevertheless, the people are still empowered and made more aware. We shall persevere and await for the next general election, hopefully able to deal the final blow to the corrupt weakening party.

Difference between Anime/Manga and Cartoon/Comics

Growing up in a childhood which I am introduced to a variety of illustrated stories arranged in coherent panels (comics/manga) or a rapid display of a sequence of static images that minimally differs from one another to induce the illusion of movement (cartoons/anime), one may begin to start allocating these into labelled boxes in our minds based off genre, quality and origin.

If it’s a cartoon that introduces new experiences in new worlds, we call it an adventure cartoon. An anime which has scary elements, we call it horror. A comic that introduces superheroes into a setting that mimics our real world, we call it a superhero comic. A manga that induces an unstable emotional state onto the readers or portrayed by the main protagonist, we call it a psychology manga.

We deliberately differentiate them based on their genres in order to categorize them into boxes we can identify and are comfortable with. And through this process of differentiation, we begin to create categories from the origins of the production as well; East or West – Anime or Cartoon – Manga or Comics.

The defining factors that differentiates these two as based on general opinion are usually; style of the art, variety of genres, the way of storytelling, the ‘quality’ of the animation, quality of the music and even down to the expertise of the voice actors. Most perceive that the difference was in fact intended, and are also officially acknowledged by the Japanese themselves that there is such a term that replaces cartoons and comics if it were made by them.

Now, what if I told you, that there exists no such difference in actuality – and that this is made up by the fans unconsciously to the point that it is widely accepted and enforced? If one simply asks a Japanese in person, they will tell you that anime is basically cartoon in their own ‘language’. By that, anime, is simply a shortened form of the word animation. Similarly to manga, it is defined as the same as comics by the Japanese, as manga literally means whimsical drawings. As recognized by the Japanese themselves, and even the famous Osamu Tezuka, that the origins of anime and manga came from the cartoons and comics which were introduced to them from the American GIs.

But why is there a clear difference if one puts a cartoon and anime side by side apart from the origins and make? Why does anime seems much more profound, polished and are able to be enjoyed by people of all ages and tastes, unlike comics and cartoons which are deemed for children?

The defining factory comes to the growth of the industry. In the west, due to the skepticism and judgmental mindset of the mass, cartoons and comics are always deemed childish. Children are expected to stop reading or watching such material when they reach their teenage life. Bullying is also a defining factor, while everyone enters into a rat race of sorts in order to be one of the ‘cool kids’ – and everyone knows, the cool kids won’t indulge in childish materials such as cartoons or comics as these materials are enjoyed by the nerds and geeks, the polar opposite of what most western child seeks.

In the east however, anime and manga are enjoyed by all – young and old. With talents booming during the Occupation and Post-Occupation years, a variety of genres and those with targeted audiences in mind began to appear. With shounen and shoujo for boys and girls respectively, seinen and jousei for matured male and female respectively, the media itself has developed far more than the west had and as such, was widely accepted by all as an entertainment piece.

Therefore, one does not need to be too pedantic when it comes to defining comics as manga or vice versa. Because in the end of the day, they are still the same thing, which technically in fact is a pedantic point.

Too old for Manga?

As you age, the relevance of most manga begins to fall off your scope considerably. The repetition of the “Hero’s Journey” template dulls the interest of ageing readership. The typical story of good versus evil, friendship and love, seems utterly nonsensical for your current mental age. Does it imply that you are too old for manga?

Yes, and no.

Shounen or shoujo manga, as indicative from it’s genre is targeted towards teenage boys and girls. As such, the content would mostly seem naive and unrealistic. But fret not, there are manga tailored for the matured audiences as well. Seinen (mature male) or Jousei (mature female) genres are such that are written for the matured audiences.

Seinen manga usually revolves around more on historical and political sub-genres, usually a topic highly of interest towards the matured males. An in depth psychological element persists as well, with a much more realistic approach throughout the storyline.

Jousei manga shares the same elements, however it focuses more towards the realistic variations of love; introducing psychological elements. Offshoot branches of Jousei which revolves on historical and/or political sub-genres exists as well, but usually it is highly defined by a main female protagonist with a high tendency towards a female’s state of mind.

How to embed videos on your blog?

In this post, we’ll learn how to embed a YouTube video on your Media Factory blog in a few simple steps.

  1. On the desired youtube video, click on the “Share” button located underneath the video.
  2. Select “Show more,” and you will be shown a long list of sharing options.
  3. Click on embed, and you will be shown the embed code of the video. Copy the embed code.
  4. On your Media Factory blog, hover over the “New” button located at the top and select “Post”.
  5. Click on “Add Media” and select “Insert Embed Code”. Paste the embed code
  6. Publish your post!

Embedding manually

Alternatively, you can copy the embed code and paste it into your blog. Just click on “Share” and then on “Embed” to find the embed code. Copy the code, then paste it into your blog while on the “Edit HTML” tab (as opposed to the “Compose” tab).