Studios closing, Nintendo Switch Online, Games coming out! – Frost Front Games Video Game Podcast Ep. 22

In this episode we switch things up a bit (snaps fingers). Mike and Shiva talk about EA’s potential threat of having to overhaul their lootbox system, the sad (but probably expected) closure of some studios, some new games hitting shelves this week, the thought of going online with Switch after being online for free and what games we are currently playing!

Dragon Quest, Streets of Rage 4, the fun is back! – Frost Front Games Video Game Podcast Ep. 21

We are back people! We jump right back into news, views, opinions and games. Shiva and Mike first start off talking about the news in games ranging from ex Blizzard employees to possible red flags on Anthem to the questions about the visuals of Spider-Man. We then start chatting about games coming out; hype about Dragon Quest and lose our minds on the Streets of Rage 4 announcement.

Going on a trip? What games should you pack? – Frost Front Games Video Game Podcast Ep. 20

Shiva talks about what he packs and avoids packing game and tech wise on his trips, his love for playing retro games on long flights and some insight as to what happened this week in the World of Warcraft community.

Octopath Traveler deep dive! – Frost Front Games Video Game Podcast Ep. 19

On this episode of the podcast Shiva and Mike take a deep dive into Octopath Traveler. Mike gives a super in depth take of what he has noticed from the game, some of the weaknesses and how they are clearly overshadowed by the games strengths. We then touch on No Mans Sky where Shiva and Mike discuss their conflicting opinions of the release of NEXT, the free update with No Mans Sky two years after the launch of the game that left fans disappointed. Finally we close up talking about some new titles coming to consoles, lots of Metroidvanias around the corner, Shiva’s favorite!

It is more about the people than the process when it comes to great games

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A fellow acquaintance on twitter recently wrote:  ‘If you have the right process, are disciplined and always do the work, you will see success. Once you see success, you will always do the work and stick to the process.’ This makes sense, and is indeed applicable to many industries today. For games, however, I’m not so sure.  What exactly are the “right” processes? What would we consider success? And do we think that continuously using those processes will yield the same success?

Process is absolutely important when considering persons for a project or being able to understand changes that need to be made. These changes happen quite often in games; during mid stride, we are asked to change the trajectory of a feature by adding or removing something including the feature itself. Understanding process gives us a better idea of how changes will affect the overall outcome of the project based on previous experiences we’ve had. This does not mean that those processes will guarantee success. If they did, then incorporating them every time would do just that, and if that was the case we would see far more games becoming incredibly successful.

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We cannot guarantee success through process alone, but we can hope the chances of failing are less. Having a title become successful, assuming we are all on the same page regarding what that means (the studio isn’t shut down, we aren’t relocated to new projects or the release becomes profitable with an ever increasing community) is similar to trying to hit a constantly moving target. Sounds like a flimsy success plan? That is pretty much what is in the back of the mind of every project manager and director. However as a team we are somehow able to over deliver on expectations (mostly). During the concept stage the team tends to be very small; they still don’t know what they are building, if it’s going to work or if they have a strong understanding of what they need to move forward. In other words a handful of creatives trying to create a maze while traversing it.

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There is no single person with a brilliant process that is responsible for an amazing game. It is always built on multiple ideas and iterations that come from a plethora of resources; the team, significant others, personal experiences or simply suggestions from the community. One idea is added to another making a completely new one, and with that the idea is crafted into something meaningful. Sometimes that idea fails and is thrown out, we go back to square one and start again. This is where process comes in. Process allows the team to develop a system to iterate on an idea. Eventually they may find themselves in a groove or zone where the team is able to understand that process based on that idea.

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Building on the idea means that it is more than just something we are trying but now something we are hoping will be added to what we are creating. It also means the idea is solidifying and the team is moving out of concept to pre-production/production. This means the team will require more people and it is necessary that these people can understand the formulating idea and the ability to build on it. This is where things can start to go off the rails. Injecting a small team process into a larger one is always met with “ideas” or as some may call it, resistance. Remember new people mean new personalities. Some will not be on board with the way we are iterating, some will have suggestions of how to improve it and others will think that we may just be totally disorganized and crazy. This is where the process will have its limitations. In some cases the team will need to update their process to accommodate additional team members and their input. 

Moving forward from this point would require some serious coordination. The departments required for finding talent would all have to be in sync with development, not to mention those candidates being chosen. It may sound like it is an internal matter alone, but there is much more to this. There are many talented developers out there looking to work on an awesome game, however talent and experience has a price. Additionally, time is a factor. You are not going to get the best candidate via the first applicant every time, you may never get what you want. As time goes compromises are made. As compromises are made we start to see that affect the team and in-turn the project itself. Again, process is going to be affected.

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The lucky studios are able to attract the talent they want, help mould or shape that talent into a person who would contribute to an awesome team and awesome project. It sounds so easy when you read it, but takes a tremendous amount of time and effort. It just so happens that once in a while the Dev God’s smile on a studio or two and give them that one chance to make a title that breaks new ground and makes us all proud to be part of this whirlwind of an industry. It isn’t stable, it doesn’t work all the time, and it sounds a bit crazy. But crazy is exactly how we like it.

Twitter: Frost Front Games

The return of No Mans Sky? – Frost Front Games Video Game Podcast Episode 18

On Episode 18 Shiva chats about his thoughts on the return of No Mans Sky, the failure of Culling 2 and what AAA can probably learn or may already be learning based on how those developers handle their failures. Frost Front also chats about his experiences during his 12 years playing World of Warcraft, some awesome trailers from San Diego Comic Con and the awesome games coming out this week.

Octopath Traveler is here! – Frost Front Games Video Game Podcast Ep. 17

In this episode Mike and Shiva talk about the the highly anticipated Octopath Traveler. We both have varied opinions on the game based on our time spent with it so far and we both share those thoughts with our listeners. We also discuss some recent news regarding recent member of Bioware leaving to pursue some other goals. Mike and Shiva end up going down the rabbit hole of EA, Bioware and the changes in video games over the years.

Fortnite may improve our development cycles

So here we are talking about Fortnite again. It is definitely the point of discussion among investors and corporate executives of game studios for the past year, maybe longer. With the meteoric rise of Fortnite and Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) we see a slew of companies jumping to get a piece of this new game mode pie. On one hand we can’t blame them; Battle Royale has become such a rampant success and is so new that the time to experiment and cash in as an investor is right now. On the other hand we could be going about it all wrong. Maybe we should be learning about the turnaround of Fortnite content instead of trying to copy the game itself.

“Because of the size of the investment, each title feels too big to fail. It creates enormous pressure to manage these triple-A projects.” Click To Tweet

The volume and rate of these types of games show us something changing within the development realm. Teams are now required to be more agile than ever and be able to conceptualize and deploy an idea on the flip of a dime. This aspect of development is what I think we as developers are trying to figure out. We are now changing  the speed of design from a conceptualize, build, test and deploy system to accommodate the rising demand of the consumer based on their needs.

Shu Yoshida, president of Playstation Worldwide Studios, recently said in an interview that with some titles “Because of the size of the investment, each title feels too big to fail. It creates enormous pressure to manage these triple-A projects.” By using a system that is more along the lines of how Fortnite is created, risk has a chance of being mitigated. The entire project is not riding on a single production and release and there is opportunity to fix issues while still keeping a project alive and healthy if a delivery were to lapse in the public eye.

We are now changing the speed of our design of concept, build, test and deploy system to accommodate the rising demand of the consumer based on their needs. Click To Tweet

Looking back however, the signs were always there. Over the last five years we noticed declines in sales of the the traditional AAA titles that were once taking the industry by stormActivision started to show the waning demand for the beloved Call of Duty franchise (sell-in is not sales) since the turn of the console generation and Assassin’s Creed (AC) is no longer the monster title it used to be. It could also be due to the buggy release of the AC:Unity title or simply franchise fatigue but we may be seeing another reason; the consumer base for these grandiose style games may have shifted. It is not to say that the demand is not there, it most certainly is.

However the issue comes in when stakeholders begin to wonder why they aren’t seeing more profit on their investments year over year despite the incredible efforts put in by the developers. The traditional method of development is no longer working because the demand has changed. The most recent example is declining sales of Monster Hunter from Capcom. Not because of the game’s quality but because of the lack of consistent and regular content at the scale of games like Fortnite.

With Fortnite we are seeing the player base reaching the point of expectation regarding new content every few weeks. One week it’s Thanos ,the next it’s a shopping cart and then a jetpack. Most recently as of this article there are random events all of which have the player base extremely excited and hungry for even more additions to what was originally a two month project by Epic. What was once a survival horror game has evolved into the largest and most popular online game on the planet today. With Epic being able to read the potential competition, in this case PUBG, and flip an idea into something this successful has developers fighting tooth and nail to copy this formula and inject this game type into their own franchises.

To be able to conceptualize a story that will emotionally impact a player does take time, iteration on a grand scale and lots of failure. Click To Tweet

Does this mean that our traditional development methods are to be thrown into the wind? No, they still have validity and are very much used in single player based games. Single player games are going through a bit of a renaissance period now despite some public opinion. To be able to conceptualize a story that will emotionally impact a player does take time, iteration on a grand scale and lots of failure. With a single player story you get one chance to get it right and failure could mean the end of the project itself such as was the case with Mass Effect: Andromeda. However with such quick turnarounds on a multiplayer title with monthly or even bi-weekly updates, failure on such an update could only cause a temporary dip in playerbase and interest with enough data and knowledge by the team to understand how to resolve these issues in the future. In other words they get another chance.

This still leaves us open to many questions; How can we use this agile development process in other areas of game development? Can we take pieces of what makes a multiplayer like Fortnite work and inject it into something like God of War or Last of Us? Do we build a game with an episodic design similar to Telltale Games franchises but on a tighter timeline? If we do that how will we sell it? How will the player base react? This change can mean a monumental shift in strategy, development and process for a game company. The bigger the company the more difficult it would obviously be to shift to this methodology. Also, these companies have multiple projects already cooking in the oven that already have budgets, release dates and timelines all charging to the finish line using more traditional development systems. Changing this mid stride may lead to some terrible backlash, especially when the idea is not hashed out and fully accepted by the team or consumer base.

Changing this mid stride may lead to some terrible backlash, especially when the idea is not hashed out and fully accepted by the team or consumer base. Click To Tweet

So what does this all mean? Are we going to see changes right away? Of course not. It also means we probably have another year of “traditional” game design being seen in some of the games coming out for the rest of this year and into the next. Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Assassins Creed Odyssey, Darksiders 3 all fall into this traditional production system. These types are games follow decades of development methods that have worked time and time again. They are predominantly single player games with traditional expectations and some of us would not have it any other way. On the other hand if we want to keep making titles like this, both single and multiplayer, it would be a decent time to consider how to do so while mitigating the risk of failure. Yes, it will mean shaking up all the things we may have learned as developers and in some cases going back to the drawing board while looking like a junior in field where you are supposed to be a director. However, that is the fun of game development; always changing, always evolving. That’s why we are here aren’t we? Never a dull moment.

twitter: @_shivadee

SNES Woes, Tennocon, Octopath Traveler and more – Frost Front Games Video Game Podcast Ep. 16

On this episode of the Frost Front Games Video Game Podcast, Shiva and Mike talk about the upcoming Octopath Traveler game for Switch. Mike breaks down the demo, what he likes and doesn’t about it so far and how excited he is for an RPG of this caliber to come along. We also talk about some issues I had with my original SNES console and some thoughts on the Super NT. Shiva then goes on to chat about Tennocon and the ever expanding universe of Warframe.

Mid year game update – What I have checked out so far for 2018

Yes folks, we are at that halfway point in 2018. Time sure flies I know, this year has already put one foot in the books of history with the next six months looking to fly by just as quickly. E3 has just come and gone, the hype train has done the same and we are now left putting teaser, trailer and expectations of our most anticipated titles together based on the game genres we love. With that in mind I figured it would be a good time to talk a bit about some of the games that came out this year that impacted me, and possibly yourself.

 

God of War (Dad of War) has definitely made a huge impact for me this year. Without a doubt it is the best game I have played for 2018 and the enjoyment of the title still echoes through my mind. I love it when studios nail a genre down like this. It not only throws me back into a nostalgic all day all night gaming cycle but reminds me of why I wanted to choose games as a career in the first place. Many of us in this industry get tired, fed up or just burned out on the job. But ever so often there comes a title like this that makes us realize why we make the games we do. We all may not be making the next God of War, but it certainly refreshes our love for the industry. It revitalizes our will to stay and work harder, our decision to enter this industry years ago and just makes us enjoy the fruits of labor. Well done Sony Santa Monicayou have given us all memories we will cherish forever.

 

Shadow of the Colossus (remake) has also left a mark for this year. Sure it is a remake but what a remake it is! Bluepoint Games have done what we all wanted from this game and have set a bar regarding expectations of remakes going forward. We are no longer satisfied by paint overs of games but prefer the game being rebuilt to the visual expectations we want to see today. This game left quite a mark on us during the PS2 era. I remember having the giant fold-out poster on my door when I was in college. A giant world with just yourself and these mountain sized enemies to slay. As someone who loves being a lone wolf especially in the games I play this one hits all the right points. Everything is on you and up to you. Failure and success is based on your puzzle solving skills for these giant beasts. A great return to a great game. I hope to see more like this in the future.

 

Dragon Ball FighterZ had people excited the second it appeared at E3 2017.  Bandai Namco and Arc System (who is just masterful with their fighting games) have taken a stab at the Dragon Ball genre. This is exactly the kind of fighting game fans wanted. I have to admit I wasn’t particularly a huge DBZ fan. It wasn’t because I never liked the genre, I just never got into it. I think I spoke about it in my Episode 0 of the podcast. Very few people in Trinidad watched the show at the time so few of us would understand or speak about it. It just never aired in our country. However with Dragon Ball Super spinning up and reaching an incredible climactic ending the timing for FighterZ could not be better. I admit I was very excited for the game, it came out and I started playing and was enjoying it quite a bit. However, moving to the campaign I started seeing aspects of the game that reminded me of when I worked on the Transformers Prime game.

 

Typically during the development of a game that runs parallel to a show you are only privy to what the shows studio is willing to divulge. You may have a little more knowledge of the next season but using it in the game itself may not be ideal. The reason why is that it is always subject to change. Immediately starting DBFZ’s campaign I see the same issue. There is no mention of characters outside what we say almost a year and a half ago when the story for the game was conceptualized. So we are missing out on some of the epic fighters of the different universes that we were currently engaged with during the time of release. With that being said it was not surprising, but was still disappointing, if not alone for the reminder that as developers we cannot see the future (unfortunately). The reveal of Android 21 however at the end is a nice addition. Good on Arc System Works for pulling this together and keeping the game going and securing three titles on the Evo 2018 stage this year.

 

Darkest Dungeon only came out on Switch this year. I had already owned it for PC but never got into it as much as I have now. My brother has spent countless (and I mean that) hours playing this game. We both always talk about encounters, things we like or hate (Crimson Court expansion is quite frustrating) and always have amazing stories to share about how we avoided or survived an encounter. Talk about a game that just keeps on giving, this is it. It fits perfectly on the Switch. The console has definitely become not just the “filler” console but the “I want it on Switch” console. Sonic, Battle Chasers, Ys VIII are all at home on the Switch for me.

 

I have a friend I worked with during my time at The Coalition who is now at Red Hook. What a great team with a brilliant idea. Reading further I noticed that this engine is proprietary opening up the doors to some great ideas or system they may want to add further down the road to this game or others planned in the future. Color of Madness is the most recent DLC that is available on PC so far. The second this is out on Switch I will be purchasing it. It is expected to be out this summer.

I get it. This is quite an odd list. No Monster Hunter? No Mario Tennis? No Detroit? Not even Ni No Kuni 2? What’s going on here? Truth is I haven’t started these games as yet, some of which I have not bought as yet. These were more the games that I was first drawn to but I will definitely be checking others out (as we all are). Time is the biggest problem for most of us, we just have to pick and choose what we play, but so far these four titles have a special place in my mind for 2018 so far.

 

Twitter: @_shivadee