You don’t know what Game Feel is, read the damn book please!

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This article is going to be me apologetically shilling for Steve Swink, because Game Feel is Rocket Science Quantum Computing Laser Surgery handed to Cave Men who decided that nomadic pastoralism is a better pursuit than being agriculturalists or hunter gatherers, dooming future civilization forever.

GAME FEEL! It’s the way a game feels to play! It’s incredibly intuitive as a concept, people talk about it CONSTANTLY! Yet, if you look up GDC talks on the topic, or youtube videos, it becomes obvious that no one has read the fucking book, despite it going into WAY more detail than any of those talks do.

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There was a whole talk on “juicy” that prescribes a specific type of game feel by pointing out some specific polish effects that these two dudes like to add to their games by adding them to pong, ignoring that 2 parts of game feel are real-time control and spatial simulation. Jan Willem Nijman of Vlambeer followed this up with another talk that did the same exact thing for a platformer game (calling Game Feel a terrible term in the process as if it were vague or unclear, despite clearly not having read the book, where it’s laid out extremely discretely) and showing off a ton of changes that aren’t actually anything to do with game feel (hp, rate of fire, number of enemies, bigger bullets, etc) and basically spends the whole talk saying, “do what I do and game feel is good now”, rather than building an integrated understanding of all the things that go into game feel, like Steve Swink’s book does.

Even youtube videos made on the specific topic of game feel omit terms from the book and have clearly not read the book. There are 3 components: Real-Time Control, Spatial Simulation, and Polish Effects. None of these videos mention these things, placed at the start of the damn book.

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At this point I’m begging you. PLEASE just read the damn book. It came out over a decade ago now. 2008. There is literally no better resource on the topic since. If you want a demo of what’s in the book, here’s a Gamasutra article by Steve Swink.

Hell, Steve Swink even coded INTERACTIVE DEMOS and put them on his site. Just read the damn book please.

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Play Western Games on the 2nd Hardest Difficulty

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This is a rule I usually abide by for western games. There are exceptions, such as Doom 2016, Doom Eternal, Halo (except 2), Quake 1, STALKER (hardest difficulty reduces the health of all humans), or Starcraft. For the rule to apply, there need to be at least 2 harder difficulties above normal (Normal/Hard/Hardest applies, Easy/Normal/Hard does not), and the hardest difficulty needs to not be unlockable, or playable through some type of NG+. This rule can apply to some Japanese games too (such as Nier, which has some enemies on hard that regenerate health faster than you can deal damage).

For some examples of games where this is true, we have: Old Doom (Nightmare is a joke difficulty, adding respawning enemies into a game about ammo attrition), Call of Duty (Veteran is bullshit), Titanfall 2, Bioshock Infinite (1999 mode, though honestly hard is still a big annoying jump from normal, and 1999 mode isn’t much harder), God of War (hardest difficulty has enemies engage Devil Trigger for insanely high health, and they can’t be launched anymore), Diablo 3 (Inferno, on release), Torchlight 2, Mass Effect 2 (here is a forum post outright mentioning the rule), Gears of War, Batman Arkham Series (turning off counter indicators is fine, but damage is way too high and enemies have way too much health), Uncharted, Spec Ops: The Line, Serious Sam, System Shock 2, Far Cry, FEAR, and Metro 2033. Continue reading

A Critique of Doom Eternal’s Story

Doom Eternal - Doomguy Confronts Khan Maykr Scene - YouTube
There have been some complaints about the story of Doom Eternal in comparison to Doom 2016, and I’ve gotta say, I agree. Doom Eternal’s story is disappointing, largely because it doesn’t build on the premise of 2016 and introduces a bunch of characters that we don’t get any time to become attached to as villains. That said, this has absolutely no bearing on Doom Eternal’s quality as a game. It’s a vastly better game than its predecessor, and is one of the best FPS games ever released, very possibly the most tightly tuned FPS game ever released, in a way reminiscent of fighting games, in a way stylish action games should be envious of.

I know I have a bit of a reputation for being “fuck story”, but it’s not that I don’t enjoy stories or enjoy analysis of them. I’m willing to put up with an actively bad and obtrusive story in the name of a good game and likewise I can appreciate good stories from bad games (Legacy of Kain Soul Reaver is my go-to example for this). I don’t want to build a platform where I’m expected to have a nonsense hardline position where it doesn’t make sense.

Some people have been complaining about the story of Doom Eternal, and I think their complaints have merits. Anyone saying the lame story makes the game bad can shove it.

I enjoyed Doom 2016’s dismissal of story elements by the main character. I thought the core concept of 2016 was good, corporation leverages hell to power energy crisis earth, devolving into intracompany demon cults going rogue and fucking everything up. Hayden is like, “but energy tho” and Doomguy does not give a single fuck. We have a neat sequel hook of Hayden betraying us at the end, and Eternal just does absolutely nothing with that. Continue reading

Objectivity vs Subjectivity

Okay, so a topic that has been kicked around a lot over the past decade (and generally forever) is the concept of objectivity in reviews or critiques of works of media. There seem to be two sides, the side that wants all critique of media to be objective, based on verifiable facts about the work of media (which you might typify as MauLer), and the side that wants to use media as a lens for interpretation of ideas, and doesn’t care so much about the contents of the work so much as what it represents (which you might typify as modern art critics).

Of course not everyone is so far to one side or the other, there’s a lot of people in the middle, a more common position from the subjective people is, “this review is my opinion, therefore it’s subjective. Anyone else’s review is their opinion, and therefore subjective.” and a more mediated position from the objective people would be, “I think based on evidence of the work that the work is this way, and we agree that these criteria in a work are generally good, and thereby we can agree this work meets or does not meet those criteria if my assessment is correct.”

To make things simple, I’m going to call our sides objectivists and subjectivists. Please don’t mistake objectivists for Ayn Rand Objectivism, which is not objective at all and is generally kind of a joke. Continue reading

Learning a New Combo

So lately I’ve been playing Under Night In-Birth EXE: Late [st]. I decided for this game I wanted to play a more challenging character than I usually pick, and I heard Vatista was on the more challenging side, being a charge character that lets you charge in ALL FOUR DIRECTIONS and with button holds on 3 different buttons. Oh yeah, this article will include a lot of fighting game notation, so be sure to brush up: http://wiki.shoryuken.com/Notation

Vatista’s toolset is pretty standard for UNIST, she launches by sweeping with 2C, then hitting them with 5C to launch, then does an air chain into a divekick that carries her opponent down, then hits them off the ground into a finisher. The trouble is fitting her charges into the combo, especially the button charges. When Vatista holds a button for 1 second, she can release it, canceling any normal move, producing a crystal that will explode for a lot of damage when struck. So Vatista’s optimal combos involve getting a launcher, doing an air chain, then in the process of OTGing them, creating crystals and detonating them as the ender. Since the crystals require buttons to be held, you need to hold the buttons used in earlier attacks to release crystals later.

The other parts of Vatista’s moveset are a lot like Guile’s. [4]6 is a fireball, [2]8 is a flash kick. [8]2 is a divekick, which involves holding up for slightly longer than a regular jump.

This is made harder because I play on pad, so if I were to hold a button, I’d need to then fat-finger my thumb onto other buttons to press them to continue the combo. Alternatives are holding the pad with my left hand so my right hand can be turned so I use my index finger to manipulate the buttons, but that isn’t comfortable for me. Luckily, I own a Hori Fighting Commander 4. This contoller has R1 and R2 both on the face, and the shoulder. Fighting games don’t normally let you double bind buttons, but this controller gave me an exception. By binding B and C to R1 and R2, I now had them on the face and shoulder at the same time. This means I can hold a shoulder button while pressing the face buttons freely, and if I ever wanted to hold A, I can use the shoulder buttons to attack instead.

So I started the game out by learning an extremely basic combo, 2C 5C j.B j.C [8]2A 2C [2]8B. In this combo, 2C 5C launches, j.B and j.C buy time for me in the air so I can charge [8] for the divekick, which otherwise would take longer to charge than a whole jump. The divekick knocks them down, then I can OTG with 2C, and cancel that into a flashkick to end the combo.

Not so tough, I picked it up in a few training sessions, then eventually moved up to 2C 5C j.A j.B j.C land j.A j.B [8]2A 2C 2B [2]8B, which is basically the same combo, except you use the leftover hitstun from j.C to give you enough time to land and jump again to connect another j.A.

Then I moved up to using crystals, which meant finally using the shoulder buttons I had double bound. So the combo now looks closer to 2C 5C (delay) j.[B] j.C land j.A [8]2A 2C ]B[. This doesn’t have a real ender, but it sets up a crystal at the end. My first attempt at this, I decided to press j.B on the face, then immediately transfer my hold to the shoulder button, which worked, but eventually I realized it would be easier just to press the shoulder button directly. Another pain point was that I’d do 2C at the end, and release B, but no crystal would come out. I was releasing too quickly. I had to delay my release slightly to actually get the crystal out. That wasn’t so hard though. Easily enough, I had a crystal setup. It dealt less damage than my normal combo, but it was the first step, now I needed to learn the real combo.

2C 5C (delay) j.[B] j.C land j.A [8]2A 2[C] 2]B[ 2A 2B 5]c[
This is the combo I’m still working on. First thing to note is that I can skip the delay at the start if I’m willing to do j.A after launching (scales the combo, making it deal less damage), but that’s not really important. If I don’t delay properly, or use j.A, then the land into j.A later on won’t connect, they’ll be able to tech out after my j.C. The delay makes it so j.C happens later in the jump arc, as I’m landing. The next problem is the ender. It’s hard. So hard I decided to practice the ender by itself before integrating it into the combo. First I’d do this by holding down B for a second, then doing 2C 2]B[.

The first problem I had was doing 2A after the crystal release. I’d miss the link, then do a 2B that wouldn’t combo. Or I’d mash and get 2A 2A which wouldn’t combo. Eventually I fixed this by watching vatista’s crystal release animation for when she would retract her hand, instead of watching the opponent’s character (which I normally do during the juggle).

the next issue I had was releasing C to get the second crystal out. The second crystal needs to be released before the first one is done exploding. This means it needs to be released on the first hit of B and no later. My technique at the time for getting the C hold was pressing the C face button, then releasing the B shoulder button, then holding the C shoulder with the same finger, and then doing A and B with my thumb on the face buttons. But this technique had a problem, I was releasing C when I was transfering my hold from B to C on the shoulder buttons. So I’d do the pickup correctly from the first crystal release, and oddly find I could not release the second crystal off the first hit of 2B. I needed to wait a little, and waiting at all meant the second crystal would not be released soon enough to detonate.

Eventually I realized that I needed to continuously hold C from when it was first pressed, but this has another problem, I can’t hold down the C face button because that means I can’t press A to do the OTG. And I can’t just press the C shoulder button, because that would mean releasing B shoulder, so I couldn’t release the first crystal (I could use 2 fingers, but I don’t want to). So my solution was to hold face C a bit longer while I transferred my hold from shoulder B to shoulder C, before I needed to press 2A for the OTG. With a bit of experimentation, I found this worked and I could now do the entire ender! Now that I could do that consistently, I just had to put it together, but that’s where I ran into another problem.

I’d do the entire air chain successfully into the knockdown, then 2C and the crystal release, but couldn’t do the 2A to follow up. It wouldn’t combo! This seemed similar to my issue of timing from earlier, but that wasn’t it. I could do the link fine when practiced by itself, but I can’t do it in the middle of the combo, because I was canceling 2C into crystal release too late. Why’s that? because when I practice just the ender, 2C is my first input, and I only press it once. When I was doing it in the middle of the combo, I was mashing 2C to make sure it came out, but this meant I didn’t know when it was actually coming out, and I couldn’t cancel into crystal release at the correct timing on reaction. So I needed to reduce my mashing to one single press at the right moment in order to do the whole ender.

And that’s about where I am. I can do every part of the combo individually, and I have landed the whole thing in a match once before, but I still need to practice to actually get consistent at it. The hard part is, there’s so many little parts that make this difficult, it’s hard to keep consistent at all of them simultaneously. Also obviously playing on Pad makes this a lot harder than it normally should be, but I’m having fun with it, and nothing is impossible to pull off, even with my ridiculous limitations, which fits the bill for trying out a higher execution character. Plus Vatista is insanely fun, she’s the charge queen with a crazy amount of footsies play too.

Overall, I think there’s something really special in coming up against hurdles, experimenting to figure out the nature of the system, including the actual game, my controller of choice, and my own physical and mental processes of execution.

Speedgames Ruined by the Patch

What speed games got ruined the most by update “fixes”?

I’d say either Dark Souls 2 or Bloodborne.

Bloodborne had the forbidden woods skip right at the beginning of the game, which involved a boost jump off a coffin, which I fucking love performing. This broke the game in half, and resulted in me hard locking the game, making my file impossible to complete, by fighting amelia out of order, but I got to fight her and eileen the crow at the end of her questline simultaneously, and after dying a lot, took them both out in the same go. This skip added a lot of nonlinearity to an otherwise rather linear game, and I dislike that they removed the ability to throw gascoigne out of bounds too. It was really tricky to set up and is a really unique quick kill method. Continue reading

Animation East vs West

I’ve heard you’re an animator, is there a difference in techniques between western animation and Anime? Even in Ghibli films there’s a different feeling about the animation itself, so its probably not because its cheap, and I don’t think its just the artstyle. I’m unable to find articles on this.

Yes. I’ve read a few good articles on this. The east and west have extremely different and separate traditions of animation.

The west is more about character animation. Historically, they’d hand control over a certain character to a specific animator, and ask them to basically direct the character. The analogy you’d commonly hear for animators is, “actors with a pencil”. Animators in the west have been trained in acting, and their animation is like giving a performance.

In contrast, animators in Japan were typically handed control of an entire scene, and different animators would pass off scenes to one another. (and of course, in both east and west, inbetweeners fill in frames within scenes.)

This lead to western animation having more of a focus on the performance the character gives, and eastern animation having more of a focus on the cinematography overall. In the west, the animator is the actor. In the east, the animator is the director of the scene.

This is one of the best articles I’ve ever read on the topic:
Why over sixty years of animation history still remains obscure

And here’s another article on how western animators look down on japanese animation for a lack of character animation:
https://cartoonrevue.wordpress.com/2015/10/22/character-animation-east-vs-west/

Japanese animation is also typically drawn with less frames than western animation, so this lead to a stronger emphasis on strong key-poses instead of consistently good animation throughout. They can’t match the framerate, so they make what little they can put in count for more.

Here’s some more articles:
https://www.tofugu.com/japan/anime-vs-cartoons/
https://www.animenewsnetwork.com/feature/2015-11-11/the-secret-of-one-punch-man-success/.95251
http://www.tested.com/art/movies/442545-2d-animation-digital-era-interview-japanese-director-makoto-shinkai/
https://www.thoughtco.com/sakuga-animation-in-anime-144807
https://www.animenewsnetwork.com/editorial/1998-07-09
https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9534852

I also recommend looking up Sakuga, a term used by western fans of japanese animation. Sakuga fans are known for focusing on specific scenes, and following the animators who produced those high quality scenes, in a way replicating the production process.
https://sakugabooru.com/post?tags=animated+order%3Ascore
https://www.sakugabooru.com/forum/show/15

East Vs West

Do you really believe that eastern devs are better than western devs? if so what brought you to that conclusion? What is it that eastern dev do differently?

Y’know, yeah. I do think that. I mean, I think it because Japanese games tend to be good more consistently, and the majority of my favorite games (and the games I believe are the best games) are Japanese.

There’s some indicators of what they do differently in articles like these:
http://www.rollingstone.com/glixel/features/splatoon-2-hideo-kojima-nintendo-japanese-games-w501322

“I’m stereotyping, but in the West, scope, visuals, and features are the main attraction. For example, when we used to have Kojima Productions L.A.—we had an office in Los Angeles—we would get proposals for new games, pitches. It always started with: “This is the world you’re in. This is the experience I’m going to give you.” And gameplay was relegated to page 5 or 6 or 10. It was always about who you’re playing, who is the character, what’s going on, but not the “how,” how am I playing this?

In Japan, a pitch is a page, maybe two. The first page you write what the game is about and how you play it. And the second page, maybe you need an illustration. We don’t care about who, or what the story is, what the game world is, all of this doesn’t really matter.”

http://sourcegaming.info/2017/07/12/feelofamericangames/

“Halo 2 and Half-Life 2 were developed in foreign countries. Perhaps foreign gamers simply like to play in realistic environments but I feel like there is something else to it. I think that American gamers have a stronger feeling that they themselves are the character in the game that Japanese gamers don’t feel as strongly.

Both of these games are FPS titles which have become very popular lately. I don’t think they necessarily rose to popularity because people simply like the genre or because the United States is a gun society, but rather because FPS is a genre that lends itself to really feeling like the character in the game.

An example that comes to mind is hearing a female gamer from overseas say that she thought it was awesome that she was able to become Dante when playing Devil May Cry. Overseas developers also spend a lot of time talking about how their games are immersive and feel realistic. Even for games that are in the same genre, if one uses cel-shading and the other doesn’t, the one that feels more realistic will probably be better received. This might also be a factor for why Final Fantasy games have taken on a more movie-like feel.

I think the feeling of actually being in the game world has become very important. It might be fitting to describe it as a Hollywood movie you can play. When looking at games in the west, that seems like a fitting description.”

http://sourcegaming.info/2017/07/12/feelofamericangames/

“Sakurai: I think 3D games give American gamers a more immersive feeling. Japanese games are more of a fusion of 2D and 3D, or rather the visuals are 3D but paired with 2D game elements. I feel like there are a lot of those types of games. I don’t think that’s necessarily good or bad though. There is a gap between the, ‘I’m truly in the game world so this is natural,’ and the, ‘a game is a collection of systems,’ ways of thinking. This gap is changing the way we think about what makes a game feel like a game.”

I think that Japanese developers simply think more thoroughly about the game systems and how they can be used to challenge the player. They put a lot of polish into those where in the west we have more the AAA model, which focuses very heavily on superfluous details as well as unskippable cutscenes/tutorial sequences which drive me up a wall. Japan’s system-oriented approach turns out to be better for fostering the things I consider to be important in the final outcome of the product. Nintendo with the Mario games tend to mash together ludicrous ideas and characters to make certain mechanics work. It’s why Koopas are a turtle, so you can have that visual metaphor of the turtle going into the shell, then kicking the shell. It’s why you have Cappy and hat-wearing enemies in Mario Odyssey.

Although interestingly, despite being less game-oriented and more movie/simulation oriented, western gamers prefer higher difficulty levels than japanese gamers. I have two indicators of this:
http://blog.hardcoregaming101.net/2010/10/east-vs-west-with-keiji-inafune-and.html

“Western gamers like to challenge things. If a game is very difficult, they view beating it as a triumph over a sort of foe. Japanese gamers will quit if a game is too hard. They want an RPG where you never die. If you play an RPG correctly, you should not die. That is the point. Most RPGs are not concerned with raising your skill, they are concerned with raising your EXP – Experience. I think that Japanese companies are slowly losing the ability to make hard games that still appeal to Japanese users, and this is evidenced by the decline in sales of action games as Japanese users lose interest in challenging higher difficulty levels.”

And the feedback from the Nioh beta, Japan was not as happy with the difficulty and game balance as the West was. It’s kind of interesting that we’re split this way, but it would explain why the highest difficulty mode in western games is frequently challenging to the point of actually constricting depth instead of carefully drawing it out as tends to be the case in japanese games. As one person put it, “Built for no one, and playtested by no one.” I wish we stuck with the difficulties in Quake and Doom where more/different enemies are added instead.

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In the feedback for the Final Fantasy XV demo, we see a similar discrepancy between NA and Japan.

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One point I have to admit to the west though is, the west has always been better at FPS and RTS games. Japan has never really tried to compete there, presumably because Japan is not very big on PC gaming, and both genres need a mouse to really be effective. Although, our glory days in both genres are long behind us.

 

Cool Game-Related Anime

What do you think about game situation analyses in media like Hunter x Hunter and No Game No Life? I personally think they’re kind of cool, but do you think they misrepresent how games are actually played?

I ended up watching NGNL because my brother was really into it. On reflection, it didn’t really have anything to do with games, and kind of made up the rules of every game as it went. Continue reading