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NotCod Dev Blog 03: I did this instead of work!

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FRIDAY, 19-02-16

 

12:23

Hard at work today! And by “hard at work”, I mean the game doesn’t work and I don’t have the heart to wake up Jay so he can fix it. Poor guy’s all tuckered out. So I’m moving to paper to work on the Satanic Church (it needs redoing, I think, which is a horrible job that needs some measure of planning) while Andy makes dying sounds. For the game, I mean – he hasn’t died or anything (yet).

 

13:42

Why would Satan even have a Church? I kinda thought the point of him was that he didn’t have any rules? Like, he was super chill about the whole “worship” thing, as long as you act like a dick to everyone? At the very least, you should have an in with him if you refuse to adhere to strict Catholic principles, such as going to mass on Sundays, never using protection, molesting children etc.

Pictured: Chilled
Pictured: Super Chill

 

14:14

I have a habit of thinking of nun puns while I work.

 

14:19

We all just made light snapping noises into a microphone to simulate the sound of fire. Top notch hand acting going on here.

Wonder if there’s a market in Hollywood for hand acting. Like hand modelling, but with more cocaine and broken dreams.

 

14:24

We’re discussing selling Jay’s body parts. We’ll start with his legs, because he doesn’t need them to code. Also, his kidney(s). Maybe part of his liver. Then his stomach, so we can save on food. We’ll just chip away until he’s a brain in a jar – that’s all we need, right?

 

14:41

Looking back at that last entry, it does look rather…serial-killer-y, which was totally not my intention! That’s just one of the things we like to talk about in the office. Plus, if I were a serial killer, there would be no mess with dismemberment or trophies or any of that Criminal Minds shit: just quick, clean, random kills with no clear pattern or motive. I’d like to see the FBI agent who tracks ME down.

 

14:47

Looking back at that last entry, I realise I didn’t do much to assuage any fears of latent psychopathic tendencies.

Also, the FBI doesn’t operate in Britain. Get it together, Nick.

 

15:20

So, do all dragons covet gold, or is Smaug just a greedy fucker giving other dragons a bad name? I’m not entirely sure how clear Tolkien makes the biology/psychology of dragons with respect to treasure; I know that Bilbo says something about dragons greedily hoarding gold (I think), but maybe Bilbo is just a massive racist? Like, how many dragons has Bilbo personally come into contact with? For all we know, one dragon murdered and pillaged one dwarf city and suddenly all dragons are the bad guys! Maybe dragons just steal gold because they’re economically disadvantaged?  Maybe they have families to feed? Easy for Bilbo to act all morally superior, what with his full pantry and luxury detached house in the country (which I suspect he inherited from his rich parents), but some species don’t have it quite as easy as Hobbits. Check your fucking privilege Bilbo.

Work? Yeah, work’s going fine.

Greedy Fuck ruining it for everyone
Avaricious fuck, ruining it for everyone else

15:33

The office cat has stretched out and placed his paws very deliberately on my workbook. I guess it belongs to him now.

 

15:55

Just found out Harper Lee died. Now I’m sad.

 

16:26

Quick! Define “cool”.

..Not easy. “Cool” is one of those vague, intangible concepts that is entirely defined by the social context of what it’s describing, as well as the perceptions of those… well, perceiving it. This is, in turn, affected by age, gender, race, social background, economic background, personal beliefs, personal history, cultural history and probably dozens of other factors. There is a litany of marketing departments for movies and TV shows and adverts whose entire existence is defined by capturing what is essentially “cool” at any given place and time. One such marketing department: the fellows over at Activision (Hey, look: relevance!). Every recent Call of Duty trailer and game has been cashing in on the essentially “cool” nature of war. You know, killing bad guys and looking good while doing so (It always looks rather strange, therefore, when they try to engender anti-war themes in their games; it always runs counter to what you’re seeing on-screen). One trailer even features a bunch of Average Joes slaughtering robots while Michael B Jordan gets a straight-razor shave in the ruins. The Call of Duty games have become more and more concerned with the surface of their games; momentary affectation designed to drive an impressive, good-looking image directly into the customer’s brains while creating nothing much in terms of substance.

Speaking of substance: now define “fun”.

It’s seems easier, because, simply put, “fun” describes something that’s enjoyable. Something thrilling. Something all of us have experienced at some point in our lives. If “cool” is something you want to look at, or be, then “fun” is something you want to do, or experience. It’s something that I’m intimately concerned with here at NotGames, what with designing the levels and all. Basically, if the game isn’t fun, then a rather large portion of the blame lands squarely on my shoulders. And again, what’s fun depends on your audience (which is why all game developers have multiple meetings concerning their target audience): How old are they? What’s their gender? Are they gamers? Do they predominately use console, or PC?  What kind of games do they like? Do they like open-world, sandbox games, where (generally) your ability to overcome certain obstacles depends on how much time you’re willing to spend playing the game; or do they prefer more linear, straightforward gameplay with simple, goal-oriented storytelling? How difficult should it be? Should you hand users multiple opportunities for easy, relatively consequence-free, wanton destruction (cough Just Cause cough)? Alternatively, should you mercilessly beat them down over and over until they find that one secret sequence/method to defeating your enemy (Dark Souls)? The former runs the risk of being boring, whereas the latter might drive the player to rage-quitting. Yet both have their audiences, not without considerable overlap (you don’t have to like one kind of game, after all).

So where’s the balance? There’s certainly an indulgent pleasure in mowing down enemies with a mounted gun, but there’s a thrill in succeeding by the skin of your teeth, when you beat your enemy with just a tiny amount of health left and several deaths on your belt already. I was getting disheartened when watching the first few playtests, because people were dying way before I expected them to, in the early sections of the game. But then they simply respawned and played on, having learned from their mistakes. There was one moment where I had created a trap of sorts, with enemies spawning and killing the player almost instantly, at which point the player turned to me and said that that just plain pissed him off – and while the execution of the trap was pretty poor (basically a ton of guys just appeared in one go, with no rhyme or reason…which is a rather boring way to kill the player), the trap was in exactly the same place each time you loaded, and was certainly not impossible to overcome (considering I had done it multiple times before)… so while he had died rather unceremoniously, he now had the critical information needed to get past the trap. Every time you die in these games, you are constantly, however subconsciously, gaining the tools you need to survive until the next skirmish. And when you finally learn all these little tricks, through constant trial and error, getting through the game, any game, feels fucking awesome. Older games had this mentality: some were downright fiendish in their difficulty spikes, and yet people played them for hours and hours, because there was meaning in recovering and learning from failure. Modern games either outright give you easy solutions through ridiculous weapons or whatever, or they are simply constructed in a way that doesn’t support this constant “Live. Die. Repeat” mentality (Edge of Tomorrow is a great movie) – e.g. sandbox games.

I don’t know if this is better, and I certainly don’t have the right to tell our customers that they’re enjoying games wrong, because they’re not. But we’re in a rather tricky position, because we need to make the decision: do we give the players their victory? Or do we force them to earn it? Odds are it’s a mixture of both, or something equally anticlimactic.

It's OK, I would be too.
It’s OK, I would be too.

Anycrap, I can’t bring this to any sort of clever conclusion because our playtester is here and this whole cycle needs to begin again. Fun fun fun!

 

17:45

Did I say playtest? I meant “Wait until the game actually starts without breaking” #featurenotabug

 

17:50

Instead of that massive, pretentious essay describing why my job is difficult, you know what I should have been doing?

My job.

 

17:53

In fairness, both machines were occupied. What – you want me to use my laptop? That’s basically the same as doing nothing all day. Alex being gone means I get to use the fastest machine in the office, and I’m kind of hooked.

Seriously, I just tried opening SourceTree and it took literally a full minute to open. Alex’s PC? Like, three seconds. Don’t even get me started on compiling the game itself.

 

19:16

Playtest is going well – apart from some places where he’s died…more than a few times. He seems really eager to keep going. Or, at the very least, eager to not lose. Good enough for me!

 

19:37

I’ll be heading off in about ten minutes, just watching how the boss battle plays out.

…can’t think of anything less pointless to put here, so…signing off? Bye? Adios?

Whatever, buy NotCod.

 

NICK