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/*Developer Comments*/

Developer comments on past, current and future projects as well as general topics.

The seventh generation of gaming has been the longest generation in terms of the number of years before new hardware. It began with the Xbox 360 in 2005 and will officially end later this year – 2013, with the release of the Xbox One and Playstation 4.

The Xbox 360, Wii, and Playstation 3 in that time have introduced slimmer versions of those machines, as well as accessories that allow for new and unique game play opportunities with Microsoft’s Kinect sensor and Sony’s Playstation Move Controller.

It’s interesting to look at games back in 2005 such as Perfect Dark Zero and compare them to games today such as Bioshock Infinite and notice the differences graphically of how far developers were able to push the limits of these 7-8 year old consoles.

It’s not just the quality of the games though that improved but also the additional features and services introduced for all 3 consoles.

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I must admit that I’ve never been a fan of the Sony Playstation brand. I never owned an original Playstation, or a Playstation 2 for that matter.

I was satisfied with my Nintendo 64 and Nintendo Gamecube even if I was missing out mega-franchises like Grand Theft Auto and Metal Gear Solid. Growing up with Nintendo systems I was used to playing the Mario’s, the Zelda’s and other major franchises that were available for Nintendo video game consoles and really didn’t mind that I was missing so many of this now well established franchises. So when Sony unveiled the Playstation 3 in 2005 at E3 it really didn’t impress me.

The Playstation 3 offered the same games I was gonna be able to get on the Xbox 360 and many of the same features. The Playstation 3 exclusives at the time didn’t hold my interest enough to warrant purchasing the system either. Another thing that has always bothered me is the Playstation Dual-Shock controller design. I was never a fan of the 2 control sticks being so close at the bottom of the controller. The added ability to play Blu-ray movies was a bonus, but at the time, blu-ray wasn’t consider the next step in physical media storage as it was competing with the HD-DVD format (which Blu-ray eventually beat out, thanks in no small part to the Playstation 3) which I was supporting at the time over the blu-ray format.

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Nintendo for decades has been one of the leaders in home video game console innovation. One has to wonder what the industry would be like today if it wasn’t for the Nintendo Entertainment System revitalizing the home video game industry in the mid-1980′s.

Over the years Nintendo has introduced numerous hardware innovations which are now standards across all home console gaming platforms like the Nintendo 64′s ability to play with 4 of your friends, or the WaveBird wireless controller for the Nintendo Gamecube which their competitors Microsoft and Sony later followed suit with with the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 controllers.

Nintendo’s WaveBird Controller

Nintendo also set standards for various gaming genres with franchises like Super Mario Bros and The Legend of Zelda in both 2D and 3D environments.

So when Nintendo announced that their successor to the Nintendo GameCube would revolutionize games. I became excited and interested to see what they would come up with.

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The year 2013 is one of those rare years where video game console manufacturers introduce and release their next generation of video game hardware to gamers all over the world!

We are entering the 8th generation of video game console hardware and some can argue we have already entered the 8th generation with the release of Nintendo’s Wii U console. This year the world will also get to play on the gamer-funded OUYA device, Valve Corporations Steam Box, Sony’s Playstation 4, and Microsoft’s Xbox One.

This article isn’t about those systems though. A major reason being there is not enough concrete information on many of those platforms to gauge the impact they will have on the gaming industry.

Instead I want to reflect on the previous generation, the 7th generation of console video gaming and my experiences starting from the very beginning of the seventh generation in 2005.

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I’ve discussed previously about choice and time in games. How my goals in my next project is to give the player so many choices that every play through will be a different experience for the player and how events will happen regardless of if the player is present for the events or not.

The real challenge in doing these things is if you give a player a great amount of choices and at the same time have events in the game that no matter what the player does, cannot change them but only experience them from a different angle then how do you best tell a overall story in that game.

The story is a very large part of my next project, for reasons that will be released at a later date. Dialogue plays an enormous role. The challenge is to be able to tell a story, and no matter what the player does, no matter what choices they make, they are still able to follow a story from the beginning of the game where you are limited to the choices you make, to the end after you’ve gone down so many different paths to reach that point.

I have to ask myself, “Do I sacrifice players choice to tell a specific story that the player must follow? Or, do I allow the player to mould the story as they see fit?”. Ideally, I am aiming for the second option which makes this whole project much more challenging.

As a developer, there is an overall story that will be told. My greatest challenge will be how do you end that story when you allow the player to choose how they go about reaching the end? How do you continue that story in any sequels that may result of this project? Or do you even attempt to create a sequel? Perhaps this may be the last game in a series of yet untold stories, but the first one released. Or perhaps it’s the beginning of a new story that is yet to have an ending.

While working on this project, one game that continues to come to mind is the Nintendo DS video game Star Fox Command which was released in 2006. The game is a sequel to the other Star Fox games that appeared on the Super Nintendo, Nintendo 64, and Nintendo Gamecube video game consoles. The game ended up having nine different endings. Unlike most games where you’ll have a “right” ending and a “wrong” ending, there was no such thing present in Star Fox Command. The player chose a path, and upon completing that path, was given an ending that was different than any other ending they had chosen by going down different paths.

Because of this, there was no TRUE ending, if you make a sequel to that series, which ending do you end up choosing? You have nine possible choices! I think because of how they ended that game, that’s exactly why we haven’t seen a NEW Star Fox game in almost 7 years! In most video games, there never truly is an end. The story can continue forever.

That is the challenge I’m presented with. Figuring out the best way to tell a story to the player, but allowing them to experience it the way they want. This is only but a chapter in a larger story and there will be an end to it. The trick will be not having this be the last chapter of that story.

Modern video games make use of time in a variety of different ways. The Super Mario Bros. series for example gives the player a certain amount of time to clear a level. If a player doesn’t finish that level before their time is up, they lose a life. There was no explanation to why this is from a story perspective and more a mechanic introduced to prevent the player from taking too much time to get to the end of the level.

More recent video games have things such as day and night cycles to try and create more alive worlds. If you stand in one spot long enough, the sun will set and the night will begin and for many games that makes small changes to the world. NPC’s may only show up at night, or you may only have access to certain areas during the day time.

Over the years though, for the most part with a few exceptions, most games wait on the player to make decisions that directly affect the world around them. For example, a player may be given a quest to rescue a character before dawn. Most games handle a scenario like this in one of two different ways. The first way is to freeze time. Regardless on how long it takes for the player to rescue that character, the event does not take place until the actual rescue attempt event is begun. The player can be given the main task of rescuing a character and then choose to complete various side missions that take time to complete, but no matter how long it takes them to complete them, the main rescue mission is still waiting to be completed.

The second way is to give the player a timer, telling them how much time they have to complete the event, before they fail the event and then are magically teleported back to the initial location of the event to attempt to repeat it again. Somewhat similar to the 1993 movie Groundhog Day where the player repeats the event until successful.

What I’ve noticed over the decades is most video games don’t use time against the player. Players are given an unlimited amount of it to work with. This allows them to move at their own pace. The game gives players objectives but the player is allowed to complete those objectives as slow or as quickly as they choose. From a game design perspective I don’t believe this is a bad thing or a problem with modern games, but just an observation.

But what happens when you don’t give the player an unlimited amount of time to work with. What happens when you give the player X amount of time to complete a task and if the player cannot complete that task in the time you give them, then there are consequences that the player must deal with. What if you create a world that has it own time and own events that will play out regardless of what the player does and does not rely on the player to play out those events.

In 2000 Nintendo released their second Legend of Zelda title for the Nintendo 64 video game console called Majora’s Mask which took place in the world of Termina. In that game, from very early in the game you had 72 in-game hours to complete the game before the moon came crashing down and destroying the world.

What stood out for me in that game was that throughout the world, events were happening that would take place no matter where the player was. You could spend 48 hours in that game working through a dungeon in the North and at the same time events would be taking place in the East, West and South. It was impossible for the player to complete every quest and collect every item in one 72 hour cycle, there simply wasn’t enough time to do so. No matter where you were, time was always moving. If you were looking to complete a certain mission but arrived at the area too late, you wouldn’t be able to complete the mission during that 72 hour cycle. In some areas it moved slower than in others, but if the player left the game on and did nothing for an extended period of time, eventually the 72 hour limit would run out and the world of Termina would end.

In the end Nintendo allowed players to turn back time, and start fresh at the beginning of that 72 hour countdown as many times as they like but saving key events so the player could eventually stop the moon from destroying the world. This design idea also allowed for players to complete any missions they were unable to complete because they were too late arriving at the event, or because they failed the event.

This is a concept I haven’t seen in video games for quite awhile. I believe, if you create a game where events will happen, whether players takes part in those events or not, it makes the world more alive. It makes the player ask themselves, what if I were quicker getting to this event, would I have made a difference? How would the overall story change if the player arrived in time or too late to prevent a major event from occurring, and what ramifications does that have on where the game takes the player for the rest of the players journey?

These are questions and scenarios that I want to present to the player in my next project. The amount of time a player takes to complete a goal may have drastic consequences down the line which makes the world the player is experiencing more alive. Don’t punish the player with death or restarts for not being at the right place at the right time, reward them by taking them down another alternate path.

Video Games tend to give a varying degree of choice to the player.

Some games give you choices that have little impact on the end result of what you’re trying to do. Such as being given an option to buy a shield from a game vendor or searching a cave for a similar shield for example. Either way the player will end up with a shield. But the player is given a choice on how to go about collecting it.

Other games meanwhile give slightly more meaningful choices. You can be given a choice to spare a characters life in one section of the game and in a later section they show up again to assist you in someway, perhaps aid you in fighting an enemy or unveil to you some information to help the player on their quest.

These kind of choices also lead to small changes in the story which open up the possibility of multiple endings. Many games reward a player who has collected everything they can collect or beaten every boss in the game with bonuses at the end. Usually an extra cutscene that reveals hidden secrets or sometimes a bonus ability or attack that does above average damage to a foe.

But what if you start giving players real meaningful choices? What if throughout a game, you give the player the ability to dictate the pace and where the story is going to go. What if the entire story of a game can depend on how a player acted, or didn’t act at all at a certain pivotal point in the game which completely changes the goals and locations that the player will be going to in the future.

Give the player multiple paths so that every time they start a new game, by making different choices, they end up with a completely different experience from the first time (or any previous time) they played through it.

This is the primary goal of my next project. To give the player a sea of choices which greatly impacts what story is told based on those choices.

After a very long hiatus. It’s time to finally start on World 9 Entertainment’s next iOS project! Keep checking back for updated information as this latest project has entered into its early development stage!

I am both happy and excited to announce that The Shotgun Protocol, the first app that I’ve completed for the Apple App Store is now available to purchase! Been a long road to get to this point and I’m happy that its now out there for all the world to see and view. There was a lot of work put into creating it and I’m very proud of the end result.

Just because its finally available doesn’t mean I’m done with it though. Expect some updates to it in the coming weeks which will further improve the app.

You can download the app either on your iDevice, or through iTunes by clicking here.

Today was a landmark day for myself. With the first version of The Shotgun Protocol complete, it has now been submitted to be listed on the Apple App Store. Assuming everything goes well, you all can except it up and available for download in the next few weeks.

I’m happy with how it turned out, and hope to improve and add new features to it down the road. It was the perfect idea to use for my first iOS app and over the last few months I’ve learned quite a bit about iOS development which will make my next project a much more smoother experience.

Right now it is too soon to go into any details in World 9 Entertainment’s next project, but I’m sure it will be just as difficult and challenging as this one was, which is something I’m looking forward to!

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this blog are solely the views of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of World 9 Entertainment.