Packaging is a huge part of the marketing streams of products everywhere. So what happens when that product is comprised of zeroes and ones? We talk about the (highly nostalgic) history of game boxes and try and imagine what consumers can expect from packaging in a digitally-distributed world.
Virtual reality! It’s amazing, it’s nearly here for the masses, and it places you in the virtual space in a way you’ve never been able to before. But with that presence comes a vulnerability to the curator of whatever is on the screen in front of you. We’re not trying to fear monger, but the concept of trolling in VR is kind of terrifying if you think about it. So we did! And now we’ll talk about it.
How much would you say a weapon skin is worth? Ten cents, ten dollars? How about millions? If you’re one of the lucky folks running a CS:GO skin gambling site, that’s how much you are making in trades between players usually too young to understand the concept of statistics. This week we talk loot boxes, crates, keys, and the gambling economy.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! When we sit back, relax, and give you our best games of 2014, as well as a general review of the year as it was in gaming. Enjoy!
Tim’s Best of 2014:
Best Game with the word Saga in it that is actually about a Saga
Best Firewood Collection/Crop Rotation Simulator
Best Telltale Games
Best OMG JUST WOW
Best orbital dynamics educational tool that is also ridiculously fun
Phill’s Best of 2014:
Best MOBA that isn’t a MOBA that finally convinced me that MOBAs aren’t completely terrible
Best modern update to Baldur’s Gate 2
Best game to play while waiting for your significant other to get ready
Best map-making simulator
Best tool to make you realise just how challenging (and fun) it is to make a game
This week on the podcast, we’re flying solo! We’re reviewing just the one game this time, but what a game it is. Divinity: Original Sin is the latest in the Divinity series by Larian Studios, makers of traditional RPGs. D:OS not only has excellent acronym, but it’ll give you all kinds of nostalgiagasm for the days of Baldur’s Gate, Planescape Torment and Neverwinter Nights. We’ll also be taking a look at difficulty in games: why are there so many games that are hand-holding these days?
If you’re having trouble getting into Divinity: Original Sin, here’s a pretty great guide to some of the less obvious game mechanics, and some general tips for beginners.
Recently on TAPTAG we’ve been noticing a lot of games that seem to be made by single or small-team developers using a specific game creation software known as GameMaker. We mentioned it in the episode where we reviewed Gunpoint, but we thought it might be worth looking into these ‘writing games for Dummies’ avenues of game creation in a bit more depth. While we’ll try not to make this into a list of advertisements for various programs, we will be naming names when it comes to examples of software you can use to write games with.
So you want to write a game?
You’ve played thousands of hours of games, you’ve read through several novels’ worth of games critique, and you think you have a good idea for a game. Problem is, you’ve never written a line of code in your life. Well, as it turns out, there’s an app for that. In fact there are quite a number of apps for that. The most ubiquitous, and the one that has seen the most mainstream success of late, is GameMaker. GameMaker has been around for quite some time; its initial release was in 1999 and it’s been getting updates pretty much constantly since then. But it’s only recently, with the advent of the indie uprising enabled by better digital distribution pipelines, that the games being made using it have seen commercial success (some names you might be familiar with are Risk of Rain, Hotline: Miami, and Gunpoint).
The way most game making software works is that it gives you all the assets you need in order to put a game together. This includes art assets, sounds, and of course, behaviours. So, for example, you might drag and drop a sprite of a car into your scene, then assign to it the sound of a running motor, and finally assign it a behaviour such that it moves forward when you press the up arrow on the keyboard. From that base, you can build up the quite complex behaviours of player-controlled characters and the interactions they have with the world that you are creating.
And that’s basically it! Of course, some software does certain types of games better than others. RPGMaker is obviously built to make it easy for people to make role-playing games, while the Scrolling Game Development Kit is designed for, you guessed it, side-scrolling games. But while the concept of the software is easy, here are some tips we’ve thought of that might help you make your game and get it played a bit more reliably. Full discloser: we don’t write games, but we do play a lot of them. So keep in mind that these tips are purely from a gamer’s perspective.
Start small, work your way up:
There’s no point in deciding your first game is going to be a real-world scale MMO with procedurally-generated dynamic events and real world ARG elements. That shit just ain’t going to happen. In reality, your first game will probably be more similar to Pacman or a very crude Mario clone than anything else. And that’s fine! It’s important to learn to crawl before you can walk. Seek out tutorials that speak to you in an understandable way, and use them to slowly build your knowledge. You aren’t going to go from not knowing how to program to writing Bioshock Infinite in a day, so keep your pace steady. These game making programs are meant to be the first step in your journey, so enjoy it while you can! Chances are it’s never going to be this simple ever again.
Learn to code at least a little bit:
Most of the game making software out there has the capacity for players to script events. That is, to make the game do more than just its basic behaviours. In the case of GameMaker, this comes in the form of the Game Maker Language (GML). GML allows players to extend the behaviours that come with the software. For example, in GameMaker it’s somewhat tricky to make objects appear in response to an event with the basic behaviours. With GML, it’s a simple bit of scripting. If you learn to code even a little bit, and even if it’s only in the software’s native language such as GML, then you can begin to extend your creations beyond something you might find in a beginner’s programming tutorial.
Get yourself an artist:
The limiting factor in the production of most games seems to be art and sound assets, the former especially. Given the success of ‘artformers’–platformers that use traditional movement and puzzle mechanics dressed in a unique art style or theme (think Braid, Limbo, The Swapper, Deadlight, and so on)–it seems like getting yourself a good artist is the key to a successful release. Which is totally fair! People say you can’t judge a book by its cover. Unfortunately that maxim doesn’t work in the land of video games, where players can and will judge your game by its art assets.
For that matter, get yourself a solid theme:
Another trend we’ve noticed recently is that there are an increasing number of games that take an already well-developed set of mechanics, or genre, and reinterpret it with a new theme. I’d hesitate to just call it ‘reskinning’, as most of the time the new theme does offer up new takes on the old mechanics. But if you’ve ever thought to yourself that the action RPG genre might be interesting if it was themed around Spaghetti Westerns, then you might want to look into using a theme to grab the attention of gamers, rather than some new gameplay mechanic.
Hey, so do you remember that time when you were blowing away the head of the four-hundred and fifty-second soldier you encountered in Call of Duty? No? Me neither. But I do remember reading the diary of a girl who had just met someone she was really into inHome. Just like any medium where you are put into the shoes of the protagonist, crafting a believable story and memorable characters will result in players living your game, not merely playing it. There are bundles of good advice floating around the Internet for people interested in creating good stories in games, so get into it. It may even help to motivate you to finish up a game so the characters inside it can tell their stories!
Before we go, a couple of small notes with regards to the above. One, most game maker software is limited to 2D games. Which is perfectly fine if you’re us and love all things 2D. But if you’re after 3D tech, maybe look into something like Unity. Secondly, some people might scoff at game making software as not being ‘real programming’. To those people we say, ‘So don’t use it then!’. If you can code like a pro, then jump into C or C++ or python and use those to make your game. But for those who want their start in creating a video game, it’s hard to go past game maker software as a launching point.
Thanks for reading and happy game making!