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We Make #VideoGames
Planet's Core 
^^Planet's Core will be out ~soon.++








#IndieGames to be exact,
and we discuss it from time to time.

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Building Bridges

posted Feb 9, 2013, 6:50 AM by Edward Norris   [ updated Feb 9, 2013, 7:56 AM ]

I want to start by saying for the record that I love making video games. I have been making them in some form or another since I started College in Late 2005. Working on games within the game's industry was an honor and I was happy to take the 100 hour work weeks at my first job; especially honorable when that went on for 6 months. I didn't care, I was making video games and I would have taken a punch in the gut, at least once a month, if it meant they were going to keep paying me every week to program and be involved with video games. 

This mentality went on for about 2 years and I was just happy go lucky, "I get to make games and I feel awesome." A realization came after I got laid off from my second job and played the games I had killed myself making. I realized that I was slightly diluted and perhaps starstruck by the glamour of it all and I should've been saying "I get to make shovelware games and I feel funny."

I wasn't mad at the companies I worked for, they mostly believed the same diluted concept that was, "Games are awesome, we're awesome" but instead I excited about the idea of realizing that if I knew the games I worked on were bad, If I had the capacity to objectively judge my own efforts to be misguided, that meant that I was moving in the right direction. 

During this time I had been looking for a job, and so I decided to shift my job search to prefer something that would allow me the time to work on games in my free time. I figured that working for another small game studio would ultimately leave in a place where I would force myself to think what we were doing was awesome, even if it wasn't. I decided that if I could work on something by myself that I would be able to better see if the game I was working on was crap, since it must have been the game companies that I worked for that were poisoning my incredible Game Developer skills that I was honing. Their interest in gaming was founded in money and that's what what threw off their ability to judge their own games and know if they were good.

Over the next 2 years I would make or worked on a slew of crappy uninspired games that I realized afterwards were primarily created with the idea of, "These sort of games are popular, I'll make these." Does anyone in the class see what happened? I had forged out on my own, with the wind in my hair and a dream in my heart, but I still set a course for the same destination as my last job did, for pay dirt.

I considered that making games for money will inevitably get a game done, it will produce something that meets all the criteria and might even be a good game; and there is nothing wrong with doing that, based on our capitalist society, you sort of have to keep profits in mind if you want to eat. Making a game for money isn't an issue of quality I've found even, at least not the quality of the game. Making a game for money can become an issue of quality of life for the developer because if the only redeeming quality is that it will make money, money that they will probably not see direct compensation for. A developer may end up killing themselves to create someone's vision but find they aren't pleased by that vision; for those keeping up, that means that game developers essentially kill themselves with the only thing to show for it being money.  Money can't buy happiness, but from what I've seen it can buy apathy.

Making games at it's best should be like bridge building, think of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. That is something to look back on and feel proud that you worked on it. It is functional, it is built to last, it has style, it is inspired, it gives people a grandiose feeling that all bridges should be so grand; It makes other bridges look like they aren't trying hard enough. We should be building games that we, at least, can look back on over a fog covered evening and say, "I am proud."

Building bridges isn't just about allowing people to get across a waterway. Building anything is about building character, it's about allowing people to stand for something, it's about letting men and women feel as though the are more than a single person. It's about allowing people to become the creator of something greater than themselves. The great thing about being a creator, is that you have the tendency of becoming attached to your creation. I would guess that it is this attachment that makes all the difference between a simple functional concrete bridge and something that has become the symbol of progress and strength for an entire city/region/country.

Since I quit my job last june to build out the prototype that was to become Planet's Core, I have slowly become poorer and poorer, and surprisingly I have become happier and happier. I have never felt so comfortable about working so much, that is to say that everyday I wake up and naturally feel excited and compelled to work on my game. It keeps a spring in my step even while I have trouble getting the art production done without money, because I hold true that I will still be able to finish what I believe will be a fun game and if I make it that far, Kickstarter might be able to help me slap a new coat of paint on the old bridge.


 #GameDev #PlanetsCore #IndieGames

Game Jam and Peanut Butter Friendship

posted Jan 29, 2013, 10:06 PM by Edward Norris   [ updated Jan 30, 2013, 6:33 PM ]

I came to the conclusion that developing video games is for crazy people during the 40+ minute conversation with my grandmother attempting to explain the concept of a global game jam; and why someone would do such a thing without sounding like some sort of insane cult or private, free-masons style, club. 

The first concept I had to explain was the act of constructing worlds to present ideas to strangers by constraining their control over the world. I explained plainly that it was hard to control the ghost because the player was supposed to feel sort of like a ghost; invisible and whimsical, only truly controlling their hearing for their understanding of their location, they could see but not like a normal person. She had trouble understanding the idea of self identifying with a game character. Like when she took control and the player moved the very moment she pressed the input, and the human player moved, she felt almost indifferent of the fact that she was in control of the player. But once I had explained this was intended to be like a story or at least a narrative, we could move on to what the challenge of the game, like a card or board game, meant for how you should try to play it.

"The ghost is very slow, He looks so big and fat. Like santa." brought up the fact that he was slow for a reason, he was slow because he was very dangerous to the opposite team. The humans are quicker but they're also a bit difficult to control, this is intentional to give some sort of semblance of the situation meant to play out during the game. It's about balance grandma. "If you say so".

I started to question if the concept I was laying before her as a bit loopy, asking her to pretend to be a ghost or some wild human who runs around picking up haunted objects. but perhaps I should question if it's not video games in general that are loopy but the stretch of imagination involved with excusing out design decisions/limitations. All the same, video games usually or perhaps should ask the player to take on a new identity, ideally one which they can easily grasp, in order to escape reality and enjoy a joyful and entertaining gameplay experience. Are games a bit loopy in the eyes of history? If so, should we push this idea to the limits (Shaders and VR; Heavy Rain) or pull back on it to see the clarity which existed under limitations, showcasing a true creation and definition of a new medium(8bit).

The final concept I spoke to her about wasn't as difficult for her to understand. As I started to question the sanity of investing your mind and deep thoughts into the super analytical aspects of game design and development, I realized that was actually the thing about the game jam I enjoyed most. Discussing, arguing and brainstorming with people who are just as invested in best understanding game design and development brought a great deal of relief, acceptance and even a greater understanding of #GameDev myself. It was the realization that it was quite crazy to give up an entire weekend in an attempt to make something which is simply an expression of thought into a culmination of every modern medium, that brought me to think how much I appreciate the career I am forging through. The crazy people I met allow me a bit of solace in that others care as I do to make something great; because it is just the right or best thing to do. :D

Screw Dependancies; Make the Game.

posted Sep 27, 2012, 3:10 PM by Edward Norris   [ updated Sep 27, 2012, 3:17 PM ]

As an engineer, I've been systematically trained to avoid dependancies whenever possible. Always allow code to execute fast and efficiently and never allow your design to require needless dependancies. This realization is what keeps my optimism on high as I continue working on Planet's Core. The game I started working on after I quit my last job.

Planet's Core's development process has been pretty steady and solid all along. We've pretty well known what the game was supposed to be like from day one. The only complication with Planet's Core development is the development team's availability. 2bitENT started with 3 people on staff; a producer/gameplay programmer/lead designer (EDDnorris), a backend developer (ChadARR), and a contract artist to work on everything art. Our contract artist had to quit because we can't afford health insurance yet, and that leaves me to figure out how we plan to put all the game art together and figure out who/what's going to create it.

Luckily Both Chad and Myself have each worked in games for about 5 years and have a few friends eager to work on something fun and exciting every once in a while. Most people have been overtly happy to work on the game and some people have even shown a great deal of glee at the idea of getting to play the game when it's done; which has made for an exciting closed alpha period for the game's dev.

As exciting as having people already like the game and give artist feedback and even occianal production help, we can't make a full scale game like that. We have to look at the game and the scope of the production and figure out how to build everything for everything without depending on people whom aren't myself and chad (2 engineers).

So... How do 2 engineers with zero art skills build 10+ large worlds of gameplay? Worlds which do not suck?

Luckily we are using Unity and so we have options to look at for how we could build levels using plugins.

We started with Rage Spline
It has a strange issue where nodes will drift their position if the spline gets a invalid index... and the guy who made it now works at unity and has said he isn't on full support.
It also doesn't seem to handle a perspective camera very well, and lighting didn't seem to work.

We looked at a few other things to handle how we create our level art.
We eventually landed on MegaFiers and MegaShapes 
While it seems to be a good fit for what we want to create, it's not as easy to use as Rage Spline and seems to require most object type be created one at a time or the data gets copied and while that is good for a memory footprint, it takes some time to get the first level made.

The point of this post, 
Everything must get done and when things get rough, you have to get it done yourself; It isn't always easy but it is dependable.
Or you could have enough money to pay for health insurance,
Or you could live in a country which supports small businesses with a public health option.


Killing ya'll dev on that no sleep sh*t

posted Sep 21, 2012, 8:59 PM by Edward Norris

We're in the thick of development on the game we now call Planet's Core. It's been going incredibly well considering we're doing everything ourselves. Since I quit my job back in june, we've gone from slap together simple prototype of a game, that was enjoyably simple but super repetitive and not very challenging, and taken it to something of a behemoth of a game universe with a simple concept of a single gameplay goal but multiple challenges which alter how you might approach solving it.

I have never loved a game more than Planet's Core; It's dark but lighthearted fun that doesn't ask anything of the user except that they enjoy the style of the game and get the end of the level. So like all proud parents, I've been loosing sleep trying to make sure my beautiful robot boy is all that he can be. Its something that is quite challenging on the body but usually pays off in full. I'm not speaking of commercial success, when I say "pays off" I'm talking about the feeling that a dev gets when they get 3-4 days worth of stuff done in some 48 hour block :) It's a beautiful thing.

  • 48 hours ago
    • worked 16 hours ( Camera Transition added and Gravity Controls adjusted )
  • 32 hours ago
    • took 4 hour break to visit family talk about politics (People don't care about honor or unity anymore)
  • 28 hours ago
    • worked 8 hours ( Testing Game Saving and adjusted code base to allow game saving to work)
  • 20 hours ago
    • worked 1.5 hours ( Helping the contract artist on the game figure out what they're doing for the day)
  • 18.5 hours ago
    • slept 2.5 hours ( While the artist sketched out what he thought I meant)
  • 16 hours ago
    • worked 6 hours (guiding the art direction and helping with game production)
  • 10 hours ago
    • worked 4 hours (testing the saving, fixing issues with the camera code, and adding more support for saving)
  • 6 hours ago
    • slept 6 hours (So I could wake up at mid-night to help the technical producer on the game get rendering updated)
  • 0 hours ago
 I know that I have to take it easy with the no sleep agenda, my body is a temple or some sh*t, but I'm lucky enough that I love what I do and I love who I get to work with and I'm just trying to make the best damn game I can :)

I wanted to make this update just to say, we're here, we're crazy and we're not going anywhere! The game is coming together better than any game I've ever worked on and I'm confident that someone will really enjoy playing it (that person is me).

PS. I looked for screenshots of the old build but I couldn't find anything. The new Planet's Core page has a screenshot as it's profile picture ;)

Does THIS really make our industry better?

posted Mar 14, 2012, 10:22 AM by Edward Norris   [ updated Feb 9, 2013, 7:23 AM ]

I keep seeing the lingering story that surrounds the lawsuit brought to Mojang from Bethesda about who can use the word Scrolls as  the name of a game. This arrives back into the discussion pit because earlier in the week @Notch made mention of the settlement which was found. The reason I wanted to raise this point was to ask, Who does this help? Does allowing any private company or entity the rights to restrict the whole world from naming their product what they wish, with such great a reach that it could be grounded in the possibility that anyone could conceivably confuse, "The Elder Scrolls" RPG with "SCROLLS" the card based game. 

We have taken steps to protect ourselves from outside bodies controlling our works through the EFF for nearly 25 years, but we must always have an ever vigilant eye on that of those who rise from within our borders. We must always remember that we have some room for debate about what rights we want to reserve for ourselves in our immensely successful but still blossoming industry. We should be vigilant at every situation which arises to ask, "Does this really make our industry better?" and if it does not? We should come together to adjust, to nurture and to guide our industry to the most promising state. 

While our industry is young compared to others, the speed of technology has given us plenty of evidence of our faults and should remember our history, from the "fall of PC gaming" to the rise of mobile gaming to the "Revival of PC gaming" and all the way back to the gaming bubble of the late 80's. We have a long path presented in front of us but that path is not set in stone and that path is not even guaranteed; We are making the future of gaming whether we think about it or not and we can make it one all the more better if we simply ask ourselves(Developers) and our citizens(Gamers), early and often, Does this really make our industry better?

Games Need to Simmer Down, Savor the Flavor

posted Mar 14, 2012, 1:33 AM by Edward Norris   [ updated Feb 9, 2013, 7:25 AM ]

I have been thinking about the NES, the 8-bit game genre, the future of games and posts like this one. I've come to the conclusion that it seems that there has been a huge oversight in our industry, that people have missed many great opportunities with games since their inception. 

As I read the story about the crazy-like-a-fox ideas espoused by Peter Molyneux's mad twitter doppelgänger, Peter Molydeux, all I could think of is of how we've arrived in our current generation of games; How we flew through hardware limitations, we accordingly adapted our art styles and gameplay mechanics to suit the limitation of the hardware. 

We had created, then new, now currently presumed long dead art and gameplay styles and though there was a special and rare quality in these games we seemingly without notice moved away from such games solely based on the fact that they were graphically out of date. 

With hindsight present, It is then interesting that so many have raved and ranted, myself included, about the cleverness of 8-bit games, because one could say that the initial cleverness of 8-bit game developers isn't simply based upon artist skill or creative innovation but the keen insight to see that early games on now out of date hardware were incredible in their own way. 

I wanted to write something down about this thought when I heard that a developer in Japan is now playing to make games for the original Sega Genesis. While I have scoured the internet looking for such developer i can only say I hope it is true, because there is truly no reason why we shouldn't attempt to see what games could be made even just to look and play as though they had the same limitation as those of the past. 

I think many developers who could agree that a game could be great without any graphics at all, even if it were made of cardboard. While I'm not sure of the reason they'd find reason it this idea, the reason I follow this thinking is that before anything was limited to 512MB ram, and to 8 bits, and to cardboard, it is restricted to the hardware limitations of some person's imagination. Just as I will be thoroughly excited by the new possibilities regarding the loosening of hardware limitation as years go by, I will now look forward to the exploration of creativity which spawned from previous limitations and even new ones.

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