Join hosts and industry veterans Brett Douville and Tim Longo as they discuss older titles and the impact they had on the games industry, as well as any lessons that could be taken away even today. Play along!
Join hosts and industry veterans Brett Douville and Tim Longo as they discuss older titles and the impact they had on the games industry, as well as any lessons that could be taken away even today. Play along!
DGC Ep 218: SWRC Bonus Interview with Harley Baldwin
Welcome to Dev Game Club, where this week we welcome another interview, this time with industry veteran and current VP of Design at Schell Games, Harley Baldwin. Harley talks about her path through the industry and about her time especially at LucasArts and Republic Commando, on which she served as a level designer. Dev Game Club looks at classic video games and plays through them over several episodes, providing commentary.
Issues covered: how Harley got her start, planning to get into photographic printing, crashing a friend's interview, knowing a tuck-in top from a hang-over top, figuring out technical art challenges, getting a programmer to do some interpolation, emergence of digital cameras, the unsung heroism of technical art, making one kind of data into another kind of data, overlapping art and engineering, figuring out how to blend animations for locomotion, learning from designers via over-the-shoulder watching, the three-point slice, trying to figure out how to build stuff, moving to design, not having to worry about both the architecture and the gameplay at the same time, getting designers to play and talk, becoming a lead systems designer, communicating the use of systems, advocating for designs, VR and location-based entertainment, hard and interesting problems, encouraging design skill overlap, getting the design document on day one, LucasArts using proprietary technology and the internal controversy, believing you need the author of the engine in-house, the conversations between level designers, talking about how to make the bridge moment, building momentum, speaking level designers' language, coming on late and fixing cover bugs and optimizing spaces, figuring out how and whether to do jungle, arguing over the spotlights, trying to find solutions together, level ownership, getting enough distance to see what needs to be real or what needs to be smoke and mirrors, the creepiness of the Prosecutor, giving the designer you once were a talking to, getting stuck on Troy's level, designing to the peak experience, the story of what a designer is trying to say, finishing your own level on hard... over a few hours, QA beating it eventually, lacking storytelling tools and using design tools like difficulty, door breaches and hints, the "doors and hallways engine," how to tackle a dwarf spider droid, still figuring things out as you ship, building to a character moment, being in the perfect spot, the old home tour of enemies, "hey player, you can handle this now," "Brett's favorite room," the energy and communication of that team, "Nobody reads your docs," designers and difficulty, "when do you turn off god mode," watching people play, your applicant pool of user testing players, three things you'd change about project/process, fumbling towards scrum/agile, how seeing where the squad was going changed the game dramatically, VR and its problems to solve, meeting Harley for the first time, the Starfighter pie meeting, Pi Day, Tim delivers a pie to Brett's apartment, "I might worry about a random pie," East Coast geography, the team helping get you through the making of the game, the special atmosphere of LucasArts, good people working with good people, defending Tim's honor, difficulty and Constraint Satisfaction Problems, Boss Keys series, Longo Calrisian, positioning and leadership, lowering ammo and tuning towards the focus fire mechanic, the hot targets, differences between PC and Xbox, difficulty codes, marketing, Starfighter III: Jedi Starfighter II: Starfighter Outcast or Reti Player One, a plea for orbital strikes in more video games.
Games, people, and influences mentioned or discussed: American Laser Games/Her Interactive, LucasArts, Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine, Starfighter (series), RTX Red Rock, Crystal Dynamics, Tomb Raider (ser
DGC Ep 217: SWRC Bonus Interview with David Collins and Jesse Harlin
Welcome to Dev Game Club, where this week we delve deeper into audio and music on Republic Commando, via our interview with David Collins and Jesse Harlin, the audio lead and composer for the game, respectively. Dev Game Club looks at classic video games and plays through them over several episodes, providing commentary.
Issues covered: going from film scoring to games, writing a column, dealing with the suits, getting the games at a discount, getting exposed to the hard work of audio and games, interviewing the composer, the turnover at LucasArts in the early 00s, being focused on audio and music in games, Redbook audio, having no one to learn from, having to figure out how to fit all the music on different consoles, parallels to silent film and MIDI, the development of iMUSE and having to replicate it, trying to find middleware for audio, hot-rodding the engine for audio, splitting sound and voice and the history, having lots of departments that had built up their own silos, being a service group at even a greater scale, the costs of switching, burnout and lack of downtime, having to crunch on multiple games at a time, the physical costs of burnout, having to hide that you're working on multiple projects, "see a dog hear a dog" sound design, shifting to being fully involved with one team, integrating departments earlier, having a fully immersive proof-of-concept level with audio, being able to hand off more to audio, still chasing what you'd like from audio, the non-Star Wars Star Wars game, systemic audio vs a more curated experience, the implementation of the Assault Ship, having different musical cues for different approaches, the game finding its own way from the Star Wars musical soundscape, not knowing what the movies would sound like, injecting more personality, having developed based on what we knew, the wonders of the ring modulator, a signature Star Wars sound, having the LucasArts audio available at Skywalker Sound, choosing a language for choral music (and not having Wookiee available), embedding your sister's name in a piece of music, training up the choir on how to sing Mandalorian, having the gall to invent Boba Fett's language, getting away with more because of timeline distance, slipping a thing to be low-key, wanting to use a talking dog, having a thing die because Business Affairs holds onto it for a long time, adding in Russian/Slavic dipthongs, knowing what fans were going to want to know, planning ahead for the meaning of the content, having The Battle of the Trees in Sanskrit for Duel of the Fates, slipping Doctor Who character names into The Old Republic, the audioscape of the "battle beyond," pulling in the audio for a developer diary, having the opportunity to widen the Universe, going nuts with the audio, having time to think about what a space should sound like, "this is my level too," integrated audio storytelling, the invisible art form, people not knowing how to describe audio, "you know, audio's cheap," the small size of the audio team, the high efficiency of audio, where the Ash video came from, having a weird coda to the game like that, critics thinking the game had rock in it, how mistakes happen in reviews, having had a deal, the only rock song ever to be in a Star Wars game, guitars and Star Wars, line items in a budget, Foley as a performance, having raw material for days for blasters and such, having clacky armor in front of the camera the whole game, having a footstep level, having to retag geometry, meeting with a fan, missing out on a multiplayer balancing issue, having networking break the music system, the airing of grievances, making a music map for QA, how to test audio effectively, the problem with music, what these guys are up to now, scores that don't work, knowing that things had to change, iterating on team
DGC Ep 216: Republic Commando (part three)
Welcome to Dev Game Club, where this week we conclude our series on the 2005 squad-based shooter Star Wars Republic Commando, on which both hosts worked. We talk about some of the difficulty unevenness of the game, some of the process of building the game, a bit about enemy and squad AI, and especially how we came to differentiate the characters and inject some humor. Dev Game Club looks at classic video games and plays through them over several episodes, providing commentary.
Issues covered: leaving characters behind, the length of development and how it changes your longer-term plans, having George give feedback on your game, the overly grim version of the game, ignoring feedback given once, the difference of dealing with George vs dealing with LF Licensing, caring more about story than lore, the huge impact on production, the value of the feedback, being on each side of the question of whether to push out a schedule, having Robin Williams suggested for the game, needing the balance of comedy, the use of gallows humor, the impact of voice on a game's budget and schedule, RPGs and text vs voice, the additional cost of well-known names, finding actors more in line with characterization, enriching the script by specificity, having an off-site to plus up the game, looking at the game during in production, facilitating discussions, getting ideas from everyone, stepping back from development to get enough distance, going to Kashyyyk, incorporating another film character in General Tarfful, seeing the ragdoll bug, climbing up to the treetops, fitting this game on a Xbox, having good technology internally, being unclear about objectives, not having characters to rely on for storytelling, reusing enemies etc, having only two people write all the AI but carrying other engineering tasks, how you would approach this today, leveraging gaps in time to get across the bridge, delaying the pay-off to force the player to see it, the milestone process, not having enough investment in the product over the process, cutting part of the bridge level, failing a milestone and using that to improve, needing more spectacle and spit and polish, the AIs throwing grenades back and forth, leaning on the linearity of the game to make the squad seem smarter, "bread-crumbing," behavior trees, multiple path voting, AI and level design working together, finding the edge of AI, how you design for roguelikes instead, adapting to the needs of the game as they went, having a little bit of everything at the end, a notable cameo, the interviews, difficulty in games and different ways to achieve it, toy development timelines, the success of the game as a surprise, the team gift, a team delivering a solid first product, the possible follow-on titles, Delta Squad as canon, how tech could have supported the game better, Tim admits that he is a jerk, a good game with a lot of potential, figuring out how to make the game vs making the game, the strength of second titles, the greatness of the team, who gets design credit on the games, having the opportunity to work on different types of games.
Games, people, and influences mentioned or discussed: George Lucas, Clone Wars (TV Show), Genndy Tartakovsky, Samurai Jack, Dave Filoni, Chris Williams, Daron Stinnett, Robin Williams, Shakespeare, Law and Order, Tomb Raider, Jill Murray, Ken Rolston, Morrowind, Oblivion, Patrick Stewart, Liam Neeson, Max von Sydow, Temuera Morrison, Ryan Kaufman, Mike Stemmle, John Hancock, Unreal, Xbox, PS2, Epic, Starfighter, Patrick Sirk, Half-Life 2, Hacky Sack, John Hancock, Nathan Martz, Remnant: From the Ashes, Harley Baldwin, Thief, TIE Fighter, Larry Holland, Reed Knight, Darren Johnson, Blarg42, Raymond Cason, BoxBoy, Curse of Monkey Island, Resident Evil 4, Mark Brown, Dawfydd, Karen Traviss, West End Games, Dylan Thomas, Jim Ward, Gentle Giant, Greg
DGC Ep 215: Republic Commando (part two)
Welcome to Dev Game Club, where this week we continue our series on the 2005 squad-based shooter Star Wars Republic Commando, on which both hosts worked. We talk about demoing at E3, some of the design philosophies evidenced by the scavenger droid and tidbits from the levels we played, before turning to feedback. Dev Game Club looks at classic video games and plays through them over several episodes, providing commentary.
Through the Prosecutor
Issues covered: getting approval with the Ranch, trailblazing, how clones talk about commandos, showing on the E3 floor, getting a theater presence, E3 as trade show and practicing to present the game, how teams were handling demos, handling rude Q&A, being glad to do it once, being at ComiCon, playing a live demo in the theater, the value of a demo and the predictive power, bug counts, giving you the Star Wars juice, setting up the scale of the environment, making the player feel small relative to the battle, having an assassination that really matters (to the nerds), the massive size of the torpedo launch tube, changing the sniper visual effect in response to the game feeling bad, having to make the weapons feel better, making the games feel not so "pew-pew," going from trigger-to-hit, having a good even basic weapon, having a difficult sections and losing sight of them, the fingers that tap on your armor, having really good Foley, introducing the maneuvers, bringing in the door breach and adding the slice option, object-oriented maneuver design, the team putting in extra things that made the game better, building up the scavenger droid, pulling the survival horror vibe from Alien, getting the scale of the place, the audio and music cues really selling an experience, introducing the scav droid, orthogonal enemy design, overly high lethality, shooting the greebles in case they were scavs, using the scav droid properly and not, embodying the player with the scav, adding new elements to the universe, introducing the brute and selling their toughness, introducing the mercenaries, the mercenaries breaching the room like you did, getting some additional bang for buck, reusing a space, the expense of building spaces, the hangars as tactical areas with lots of options, constant decision-making, the usefulness of a movable monster closet, reexamining our choices there, needing more support from voice or something to help the player know what's going on when they are locked in perspective, trapping the player, having the ship battle behind you, winning and disabling the droids, the impact of games and the humility with which we take that responsibility, visits from the Make-A-Wish Foundation, building a connection that is player-motivated, ikigai and iyashikei, shelf-level events, damage types, putting too much into the tutorial, coming back to a game and having the skills to overcome a challenge that defeated you previously, the Tetris Effect, skill acquisition and sleep. dynamically lowering the difficulty on challenges, wanting to avoid taking away the feeling of mastery, the original Xbox controller configuration, mapping A to squad control vs jump, taking time to accommodate a control scheme, controlling a camera vs controlling a head.
Games, people, and influences mentioned or discussed: Halo, ATI, Enter the Matrix, Xbox, Revenge of the Sith, Battlefront II, Pandemic Studios, Chris Williams, Matt Fillbrandt, Cat Sheu, Jonny Rice, Uncharted 3, Assassin's Creed, Skyrim, Daron Stinnett, Starfighter (series), Return of the Jedi, Dark Forces, Ben Burtt, Geoff Jones, Troy Mashburn, Jana Vance, Adam Piper, Jeremie Talbot, Alien, Blade Runner, Apocalypse Now, Yaphet Kotto, Harry Dean Stanton, Spider-Man, Tom Bissell, The Disaster Artist, Greg Sestero, Gears of War (series), Reed Knight, TIE Fighter, Battle for Naboo, Jedi Knight, Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine, Sam T
DGC Ep 214: Republic Commando (part one)
Welcome to Dev Game Club, where this week we begin a new series on the 2005 squad-based shooter Star Wars Republic Commando, on which both hosts worked. We first set the game in its time and also look at the various introductions made in the first part of the game. Dev Game Club looks at classic video games and plays through them over several episodes, providing commentary.
The Geonosis section
Issues covered: revisiting our game and what it was like, a new console generation, HD gaming, embracing online play, the impact of a new generation on the late games of the prior generation, market pressures on Republic Commando, being a late game in a cycle and being held back by your publisher, internal flap over a separately licensed title, tying into the franchise and flooding the market, licensing as a market strategy, the growth of team size, the continuing strength of first-person shooters, presentation and Half-Life, the presentation of real life in shooters, the influence of Halo, having a sense of playing a single-player game that had the feel of playing co-op tactical games, the original high concept of the game, the mechanics of Allied Assault that helped lead to the game, wanting to point to a window and have a guy snipe from there, doing a lot with the game, a shooter for a Star Wars audience, the marines in Halo, letting the level design embrace the maneuver system, borrowing a stance system from elsewhere, why we had an unskippable intro, the strength of the team to just get things done, going above and beyond, delivering under duress, the intro being something you don't see in a Star Wars game, establishing a world, always being in the helmet, a few other influences, eliminating the text crawl, the lineage of LucasArts Logo animations, text crawls leading to the melodrama, choosing military-style introductions, introducing the characters to distinguish them more, moving to the painted armor, seeing unfinished film, giving the characters a chance to shine, creating the idea that the characters are different, having to be flexible about what the commandos can do, throwing down smoke and reflecting it in a mirror, opportunistic design, having characters comment on what they like and don't like, context-sensitive cuing, how later games would introduce a character, "we gave it to the Wolf," maybe being heavy-handed with the tutorial, finding elegant ways to trick the player into learning, difficulty levels, Brett sings a review, how to fiddle with puzzles for difficulty, messaging on a macro and micro level in presenting a puzzle, asking the player to step up, sticking to your goals, managing difficulty by presenting levels of challenge that are optional, knowing your niche and your ceiling of number of audience members, wanting to do GDC all year round, our inspiration for the 'cast, small regular bonuses of Nook Miles in Animal Crossing, letting go of Nook Miles, responding to the dopamine drip.
Games, people, and influences mentioned or discussed: Morrowind, Fallout, LucasArts, God of War, Ico, Shadow of the Colossus, Resident Evil 4, Psychonauts, Guild Wars, Civilization IV, FEAR, Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, Animal Crossing: Wild World, Guitar Hero, Mercenaries, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2, Star Wars: Battlefront II, Pandemic, Lego Star Wars, Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, Forza, Doom 3, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, DreamCast, Halo 2, Xbox Live Arcade, Starfighter (series), Rainbow Six (series), Rogue Squadron, Daron Stinnett, Dark Forces, Outlaws, Jedi Knight, Half-Life (series), Medal of Honor, Saving Private Ryan, EA, 2015 Games, Jason West, Vince Zampella, Respawn Entertainment, ARMA (series), The Longest Day, Chris Williams, Greg Knight, Kevin Schmitt, Peter Hirschmann, Freedom Fighters, Tim Ramsay, Scott Peters, Adam Piper, Jeremie Talbot, Pixar, Tippett Studio, Brett Schulz, Ryan
DGC Ep 213: Animal Crossing: New Horizons Bonus
Welcome to Dev Game Club, where this week we cap off our revisit of the unique series Animal Crossing with a bonus episode about it's latest installment, Animal Crossing: New Horizons. We talk about the feeling of the new game, the intersection of new mechanics and quality-of-life improvements and how they change the feel of the game, and we give the museum some love in addition to other topics and feedback. Dev Game Club looks at classic video games and plays through them over several episodes, providing commentary.
An hour or so a day!
0:47 Animal Crossing: New Horizons
57:37 Feedback & Next Game
Issues covered: the vacation that's not a vacation, observations of humanity and how we use our phones, our own relationships with phones, similarities with Pocket Camp, seasonal events, the evolving mobile game and its influence into New Horizons, explicit vs implicit cooldowns (and being able to pay to remove them), analysis paralysis at the beginning, the things that Brett's not crazy about in the game/Nook Miles tracking, preferring the lack of incentives, worrying about achievements, intrinsic vs extrinsic rewards, stacking fruit, hacking and modding scene, losing the innocence, imagining a world in which the original game appears now, visibility into the indie space, blowing tranquility out of the water with Nook Miles, achievements, the influence of business models on the churn and turmoil of the industry, the changing approachability of games, being able to ask Tom Nook what to do, losing discovery and its accompanying delight, taking a positive lesson from trash, franchise challenges in terms of what you keep and what you discard, tracking multiple economies, revisiting EverQuest or Ultima and not knowing what to do, taking things academically for the 'cast, wanting to stay in the tent, not being engaged by the acquisition loops, losing characters in the original, animalizing changing your look, beauty as a feature, only doing the required crafting, overlap between classic AC/WoW and modern AC/WoW, the fantastic music, Tim captures a flea, the huge impact of the beauty of the museum, Brett's Book Recommendation, having a birthday intersecting with holidays in Animal Crossing, anticipating what will delight a player, being akin to a clicker, why play a game about chores, being rewarded by a chuckle, tend-and-befriend, Scandinavian comfort culture (hygge), ikagai and lagom, thinking about the next generation of hardware, load constraints, being interested in constraints, being curious about genuine innovation, what you can do with a really big hard drive, the expense of building for a new generation, high definition as a feature, pushing up against the constraints, we look forward to returning Geonosis, Brett's screed against YouTube.
Games, people, and influences mentioned or discussed: Chris Hecker, Ultima IV, Ultima VII, Stardew Valley, Harvest Moon, Death Stranding, Quake, Michael Abbott/Brainy Gamer, World of Warcraft, EverQuest, Hitman 2, Elizabeth Strout, Olive Kitteredge, Tay if that is his real name, 30 Rock, Mike, Cookie Clicker, Universal Paperclips, Cow Clicker, Last of Us, Mike Baker, LucasArts, Sierra On-line, Edwin, Nintendo Switch, PS2/3, Xbox, Wii, Metal Gear Solid, Pokemon, Fallout 4, Mark Cerny, Star Wars: Republic Commando, Star Wars: Starfighter/Jedi Starfighter, Kotaku, John Williams, David Collins, Epic Mickey, Kirby's Epic Yarn, Kirk Hamilton, Aaron Evers.
Michael Abbott on older games
Star Wars Republic Commando: The Geonosis missions
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