If I produced an indie game

I’m not an independent developer, nor do I run a studio, but if I were an indie there are a few points I’d adhere to for my first title. The points are based on a few key ideas; make the production cheap, use word-of-mouth as a marketing strategy and aim for a casual crowd. Making it casual enables a cheaper production as casual gamers don’t demand AAA production values, and their treshold to try out new titles online are low.

1. Accessibility.
Minimize all that stands between the game and the player the first time she’s about to experience it. Use Flash as your platform – click a link in your browser and you’re playing. Make the control barrier as transparent as possible by using a simple, intuitive mouse control.

2. Embedded viral marketing
Use the players to spread the word – make their gaming experience produce something they want to show off , and something others will be impressed by. Provide the tools to easily send a unique URL that carries the viral content to friends.

3. Community
Have some form of multiplayer, even if it’s just a social lobby. Provide features that drive the development of communities. Being part of a community makes players stay, and encourages them to bring their real life friends with them into the community – and the game.

4. Art direction
Go with stylized art that won’t require the creation of highly detailed graphics or a lot of unique resources.

Will Wright on franchises

Will Wright is a great speaker. Not only is he a brilliant designer – he’s always got interesting observations that sometimes seems completly unrelated to games, yet ties into the core of what they’re about.

Here’s Will talking at an EA party at this year’s GDC, to an audience that apparently have been given “motivational liquids” by the publisher. He mainly talks about franchises, and my favourite part is the logic behind why the value of a franchise is connected to how deconstructable it’s world is. Yes, at times it seems like there’s no red thread to what he’s saying, but stay with him and pay attention and you’ll surely appreciate it – I know I did.

Head over to Kotaku to see the video.

Cryengine does Bravia ad

My favorite commercial of all times is the Sony Bravia ad, with the bouncing balls. Crytek (the devs behind Crysis) showed of their own version at GDC. They render the whole thing realtime in their engine, and it’s quite impressive. Here are both versions for comparison.

Sony Bravia. Color like no other.

Crytek Cryengine 2. Realtime like no other

The Cryengine 2 demo shows hundreds of bouncing teapots with realtime physics and shadows. Now that we’re getting close to photorealism and realistic physics – dare we dream that AI will be the next big thing?

First experience with Rock Band

A week or so ago, I saw someone play the Rock Band drums at work (yeah, we have a copy from the states). I was looking forward to the drumming part, so I was quite disappointed when the drum sounds from the game drowned in the clunky noise produced from the drums themselves. Everytime a drum was hit, the plastics went “glick”. “Glick glick glickglickglick”.

I had the chance to play it myself today, and what can I say? Everything is forgiven, Rock Band. I want you! I’ve not had so much fun with a game in a long time. It feels close to playing real drums, and nailing a tricky part is so rewarding. I felt like I was part of the rhytm more than what I’ve experienced playing Guitar Hero.

One minor negative point is that the game doesn’t provide enough audio feedback if I’m failing or succeeding. Drums are normally less distintive and clear compared to guitars in rock music, and it hurts the game slightly. But who cares when it’s such a joy to play?

Ok, the “glick” is still annoying.

Art on the Playstation 2

I’m not a great console player. The last console I had was the original NES, and after that I’ve been a PC-player. Sure, I played the SNES, the Playstations, the Xbox and the less well known consoles at friends and stores, but the PC was simply it for me. It has more flexibility; I can tweak, mod, save, and the games are normally more open like MMO’s and the Civilization series.

Some time ago I bought a playstation 2. It was really quite cheap, so what the hey. I figured it would give me a chance to play through a catalog of classics, that until now had been unaccessible to me. The games to make my list of essential PS2 titles are classics, but also what I consider (or have considered) to be works of art. These requirements obviously make the list rather short.

I’ll write more of what I thought of the titles when I’ve played more. Now, let’s have a look.

The game: A boy, born with horns, scares his fellow villagers so much that they decide to lock him up in a castle and wait for him to die. There he breaks free from his imprisonment, and armed with nothing more than a stick and the naive courage of a child, he sets out the escape the castle. Soon he encounters the ghost of a girl, that becomes his protégé during the rest of the adventure.
Status: about 3.6 hours played.
Initial thoughts: A strange melancolic feeling set in from the moment I met the ghost, and her well-being became very important to me – not through words or standard story telling devices, but through animations, AI and game mechanics.
Ownership: I own it

Shadow of the Colossus
The game: Alone in a huge, desolate world, your sole goal is to fight 16 giants, “colossi”, to save a girl. Each colossus is unique, and works like a lethal puzzle that you have to climb and find a way to kill. Generally regarded as the highpoint of the Playstation 2 technically, containing graphical features that was thought to be impossible on the PS2 – but it is still more hailed for the atmosphere and the gameplay. Developed by the same developers that made Ico.
Status: Not played.
Initial thoughts: N/A
Ownership: I own it.

Katamari Damacy
The Game: You roll around a ball in different environments, collecting things that get stuck to your ball. The more stuff you collect, the bigger things will stick to your ever growing ball of… stuff. The goal is to collect a certain amount of things before the time runs out. Surrealistic and quirky, with lots and lots of strange humour.
Status: About 2 hours played.
Initial thoughts: I don’t understand why this is regarded as such a genious game. It is a fun idea for perhaps half an hour, but for me it gets old fast. It’s weird – mostly in a good way, but sometimes it feels like it is strange for the sake of being strange. The humour is funny though, most of the time. I won’t pick this up again.
Ownership: Borrowed copy.

The game: 3D, but seemingly an animated japanese watercolor illustration, this game is a an action adventure based on japanese myths. In the shape of a wolf, you play the role of a sun godess out to save the world from darkness. The gameplay is inspired by the Zelda series, carrying RPG elements like an explorable world, side quests and the ability to improve the abilities of your avatar. The player can paint brush strokes on a canvas to perform certain attacks, affect the environment or to create elemental effects.
Status: Not played
Initial thoughts: N/A
Ownership: I don’t have it.

Perhaps Psychonauts should be included on this list – I’ve been playing it a bit recently, and I was pleasantly surprised how fun, smart and well written it is. Got a tip on some other PS2 game worthy of being called both “classic” and “art”? Let me know in the comments.

The secrets of others

PostSecret is a classic blog where people anonymously send in post cards carrying secrets. Sometimes the secrets are funny, and sometimes they are so dark.

I am completly fascinated by this site. Without a doubt, a lot of people would think that the blog’s readers enjoy spying on people or care a bit too much about things they have no business with. But to me there is little difference between the feelings that site produces and (good) fiction. A glimpse into someones life. A portal into other peoples dreams and fears. The fragments of humans that often remain invisible even between friends.

It might also remind you of secrets of your own. Secrets you thought you had forgotten.