Category: ‘Game Philosophy’

Who Are My Game Dev Heroes?

July 29, 2014 Posted by E. Zachary Knight

Last week, Gamasutra asked everyone who their game dev heroes are. I missed the question when it was asked, but made a brief response yesterday. While I have considered the question before, I have never really voiced my answer. So I would like to take some time to explain who these people are that inspire me.

When I think of a game dev hero, I think of a person who I feel has impacted me on a personal level. Someone I aspire to be like or whose work greatly influences my own. It would be easy to rattle off names like Will Wright, John Carmack or Tim Schafer, but it seems like those big names, while impacting the industry as a whole to a large extent, have never really made me who I am today.

So who are my heroes then? Who inspires me to be the best game developer I can be? Here is what I told the Gamasutra audience:

My heroes? I would have to say Lars Doucet, Robert Boyd, Christer Kaitila, and Adam Saltsman. These guys are the indie devs I admire most and whose work has most influenced my own. While I have a lot of mad respect for a lot of AAA developers, none of their work or inspiration has impacted me on a personal level like these guys.

So let us explore these guys one at a time.

Robert Boyd

Robert Boyd is one of the founders of Zeyboyd games. They made their start making satirical RPG games for the XBox Live Indie Games service. Their first games, Breath of Death 7 and Cthulu Saves The World were never much of a financial success on the XBLIG service. Granted, that service was never really much of a money maker except for a rare few people. However, the games they made were a critical success. That critical success led them to move on to some really awesome successes.

The first success was porting those two games to the the PC and getting them on Steam. I believe that once on Steam, those two games made more money in a month than they did in a year and a half on the XBox.

Because their games were so critically successful, they were able to land the contracts to make the 3rd and 4th games in the Penny Arcade RPG series. This was not something just anyone could have done. The Penny Arcade guys had a lot of confidence that Robert and his team could not only make the games, but bring about the humor that Penny Arcade fans desired.

Following those games, Robert and his team sought to make another game of their own. They went to Kickstarter to fund Cosmic Star Heroine. They sought $100,000 and made $132,689.

So what is it about Robert that makes him my hero? I think it is the perseverance that he displayed. He could have easily have given up after BoD7 failed to make much money. He could have switch gears and went to work for someone else. But he didn’t. He kept going and today is doing what he loves and doing it well. That is the kind of person I want to be in my game development career. I want to be able to just put my work out there and keep going despite all the hardships and missteps along the way.

Follow Robert on Twitter.

Adam Saltsman

Adam’s contribution that puts him on my hero list is the work he put into the Flixel game engine for Actionscript. This game engine is what has had the greatest impact on my game development efforts of anything anyone else has done.

For the longest time, I was floating aimlessly in a vast sea of game development potential. I had no direction, no motive, no drive. I would wander from game engine to game engine, testing the waters but never finding that right combination of tools to turn me from hypothetical game developer to actual game developer.

Then I found Flixel. The Flixel game engine was exactly what I was looking for in a game engine. It was 2D. It worked with Flash. It was relatively easy to use and figure out. I spent many days and weeks playing with it and porting some of my game development works to it. In fact, my first efforts to make one game a month were using Flixel.

So it was this game engine, that Adam created, that really got me started in actually making games. Without it, I would probably still be lost and without purpose hoping one day to be a game developer rather than actively working to become one.

Follow Adam on Twitter.

Lars Doucet

Lars is someone that has a number of things that I really admire about him. The first is in tandem to Adam’s contribution. I had been using Flixel for a while but really wanted to move to something that would be capable of native applications for PCs and mobile. But I really didn’t want to have to learn something new. It was through Lars that I learned about Haxe and the Flixel port to that API.

Since then, Lars has been a major advocate for Haxe adoption by other game developers. He has switch from Flash, which he used to create his first Defenders Quest game, to using HaxeFlixel to for the sequel.

But that is not the only thing that I admire about Lars. He is also a very outspoken person about the problems with modern copyright laws and the games industry’s general attitude toward it.

I had always been of the opinion that the fights against piracy were fruitless and that developers would be better served spending their time working to please their fans. But it was Lars’ article about the four currencies people use when choosing whether to buy or pirate that really spelled out how I felt.

Granted, I had always been outspoken about these issues myself and have posted many other articles to this effect. However, it was Lars that really spelled it out and made something that was nearly irrefutable to advocates of stronger copyright laws and DRM.

Follow Lars on Twitter.

Christer Kaitila

Christer’s contribution to gaming is probably one of the most important to me when it all comes down to it. Even with Haxe and Flixel and the inspiration of other developers, I have still be hesitant to put my best foot forward. Perhaps it was simply lack of experience and dedication, but I never felt like I was a game developer. But something that Christer did turned that around.

He founded the One Game A Month challenge. This was founded after he himself made a personal commitment to make one game every month for twelve months. When he saw the changes in him that came about because of it, he sought a way to help others achieve that same change.

When I learned about it, I wanted to jump right in and do it myself. I signed up and wanted to get to work making my one game a month. But the first year, I didn’t do it. I think it was fear that held me back. But the more I read about the project, the more I reflected on all my missed opportunities in the past, the more I realized I needed to step up.

So in January of this year, I made the commitment to make that one game a month. Seven months into the challenge I have succeeded in all but one month to make a game. I am well on my way to make the rest of the games and potentially finish that one missed one.

This challenge has also motivated me to attempt a Kickstarter campaign. While that campaign doesn’t look like it will go anywhere, I at least attempted it, which is more than I could say a year ago.

Follow Christer on Twitter.

Conclusion

I could probably list a few more developers in this post, but these are the four that I feel are really deserving of being called my personal game dev heroes. These are the ones that I look to and think about when I am needing the motivation to keep going. Without the contributions made by these four people, I would probably still be silently working on a never ending project. Instead, I have now released nine games and two works in progress to my website.

So I thank you guys for everything you do to change the world of game development for the better.

DRM Is Evil. Game Maker Has Horrible DRM. Game Maker Is Evil.

November 28, 2012 Posted by E. Zachary Knight

Game Maker DRM is EvilCross Posted from Divine Knight Gaming.

I will never understand why companies continue to insist on using DRM. It makes absolutely no sense to punch your paying customers in the gut, call them pirates and tell them to stop stealing your stuff. These are your paying customers. They paid you. Why would you insist on treating them like thieves?

DRM is absolutely one of the most evil inventions in software. If you read anything I write here or elsewhere, you will know how I feel about DRM and companies that use it. I will never use it in any game I develop nor would I be willing to deal with DRM as a consumer. As a Linux user, I have to deal with the fallout from DRM on a most everyday basis. I am not legally allowed to watch DVDs on my computer. I couldn’t until recently watch Netflix on my computer. (I only can because some very clever developers not affiliated with Netflix made it possible.) And many games will not run properly even through Wine because the DRM is incompatible. All these things have soured me to any company that uses it.

That is why the recent news of Game Maker’s absolutely disgusting DRM implementation has me gagging. YoYo games go so far beyond what most companies do with DRM that they are beyond redemption. This company has designed their software that if it so much as gets a hint of you being a pirate, they will permanently vandalize your game. Seriously. They will force images of the Jolly Roger onto all your sprites in a bid to shame you into… what… paying? Paying for software you already paid for? That is the kicker. The people getting hit by this “retribution” paid for the software. They are not pirates.

The problems with this DRM seem to be so bad that the only way to recover from it is to completely uninstall Game Maker, delete every last trace of the program from your computer and reinstall. That is absolutely unacceptable. So not only is the developer out the time it take to clean up their computer and reinstall the software, they also have to spend days possibly weeks restoring their artwork. For what? They privilege of paying? I am sorry. That is evil.

To make matters worse, according to one former paying customer, they have absolutely horrid customer service that will at the earliest possible moment, accuse you of piracy. Then they will treat you like crap and silence you if you try to complain. No. That is wrong on every level.

I had long ago made the decision to not use Game Maker in my game development work. Primarily because it lacks support for Linux. But this seals the deal for me. I will never recommend this tool for any game developer, ever. I will never willingly submit anyone to such destructive and abusive developers. No one deserves to have their hard work destroyed in that way.

It doesn’t even matter that YoYo has promised to strip out that particular action from the DRM. Why? Because they will continue to rely on other just as bad if passive attacks on you the paying customers. It is time that this company felt the pains that come with such tactics. They need to lose business. Those using the tool, need to stop. There are plenty of other great tools available that you could use. I have talked about several. There are many more that I have not talked about.

We just need to stop supporting DRM using companies altogether. If they insist on treating paying customers like trash and thieves, they do not deserve our business. They deserve to fail. That is all there is to it.

This Week on Techdirt: Nov. 21 – 23

November 26, 2011 Posted by E. Zachary Knight

This week was a short week because of Thanksgiving but I did manage to get out 4 posts and a mention in the favorites post by Mike Masnick. So here they are:

Potential Patent Infringement Threatens To Doom Highly Anticipated Open Source Project

John Carmack had plans to release the source code of Doom 3  to the open source community, but it was delayed because of an old patent infringement threat. Everything worked out in the end because he was able to work around the code. The same can not be said for Linux and Android who are being threatened by Microsoft over patents it refuses to disclose.

How Do You Promote A Bad DRM Scheme? With A Bad Movie Of Course

Warner’s Ultraviolet DRM is a piece of crap and in an attempt to promote its use, Warner decided to give away free digital copies of Batman Forever with the video game Batman: Arkham City. No joke.

New Research Shows Movie And Game Piracy On The Rise, But Won’t Tell Us How It Knows

Research firm Evisional has released some piracy statistics for the UK and found that game, movie, tv and software piracy is on the rise. Music piracy is on the decline. Sadly, there is no information on how they determined this so we can’t verify the numbers.

Game Developers Sue Baidu Over Links To Infringing Content

A bunch of Chinese game developers are suing the Chinese search giant Baidu for copyright infringement. What is Baidu’s crime? Linking to games that can be downloaded. There are no files hosted with Baidu. The links just show up in search results. The game developers need to learn from the music industry which entered a licensing deal with Baidu.

So that’s it for this week. Keep an eye out for more.

Parent’s Holiday Video Game Shopping Guide

November 22, 2011 Posted by E. Zachary Knight

ESRB Andersons ad for games rated EFor many parents, the holiday season means buying new toys, gadgets and games for your children. Just like any other present, choosing the right video game for your kids requires you to consider a number of things about your child. Among these are their interests, their age and their maturity. Just as not all movies or books are right for kids, not all games are right for them either. In this guide I hope to provide you enough information to help you make informed decisions on the games you buy for your children.

So let’s look at the three factors I listed earlier and base our decisions on those. Those factors again are age, maturity and interests. (more…)

This week on Techdirt: Nov. 14 – 18

November 19, 2011 Posted by E. Zachary Knight

This week is a rather short week. I didn’t have a lot of time to write new articles. So, there are only two of mine and one from the ECA. Doesn’t really change the importance of the topics discussed, so let’s jump right in.

Gamex Pulls The Welcome Mat Out From Under The Pirate Party

The Swedish Pirate Party was invited to the Swedish game show Gamex. Just a week before the show, after they have paid for  their booth and have been featured on advertising for the show, the people running the show told them they weren’t invited. Apparently someone wasn’t very happy about the Pirate Party’s presence and pressured the show to lock them out. It wasn’t a blanket ban on political speech as another political group was allowed there.

Everyone Freak Out! Gangs Have Discovered The Internet!

Yes. Gangs have discovered the internet. The National Gang Assessment Center does an annual study on gangs and what they are up to. This year got some attention in the game world because the study mentioned Second Life, a popular MMO, as a tool gangs use to communicate. I delved in a bit deeper into the whole section on technology that basically says that gangs are using the internet to communicate. You know, just like everybody else. This isn’t some new thing, it just seems the federal government is a few years behind everyone else in figuring this out.

SOPA/PROTECT IP Would Be Hideously Bad For Video Gamers

This one wasn’t written by me. This is from Jennifer Mercurio of the ECA. I had asked the ECA to write up a guest article on why SOPA would be bad for gamers and this is what they sent over. Great stuff. I am extremely glad that I had the opportunity to work with the ECA for a number of years and still keep in touch with them. It’s nice to have connections.

So that’s it for this week. I have a few new articles lined up for next week so keep an eye out.

This Month on Techdirt: Oct 10 – Nov 9

November 13, 2011 Posted by E. Zachary Knight

So I have been bad. I meant to focus on these articles on a weekly basis and have been slacking this past month. It is not that I have not been busy, but I have neglected my blog for the most part. I did get out an announcement of my new book, Random Battles, and write an open letter to my Congressman and Senators. So there is that. Plus this month had a whole lot of articles on Techdirt. So here we go.

Netflix Kills Qwikster Before It Has A Chance To Live

Netflix made the mistake of trying to break its DVD by mail service from its streaming service without taking into consideration what their customers actually wanted. That turned out to be a bad idea and they backed out.

Barnes & Noble Doesn’t Get Digital DC Comics, Throws Hissy Fit

Barnes & Noble and Amazon are in a bit of a war over digital comics. Amazon won exclusive rights to a segment of DC’s digital line. So in retaliation, B&N removed all the physical copies of those comics form their shelves citing a policy of “make available any book, anywhere, anytime” Yeah, I don’t get how tis move complies with that either.

Universal Backs Away From Planned $60 VOD Release Of Tower Heist

Who knew that charging $60 to watch a movie one time was a bad idea? Oh, right, everyone except Universal. (more…)

This Week On TechDirt Sept 22 – Oct. 7

October 7, 2011 Posted by E. Zachary Knight

Starting this week, I am going to be doing weekly summaries of what I wrote for TechDirt during the week. It will be a lot easier to keep up with it all. So without much ado here we go:

Microsoft Convinces Yet Another Company to Cough Up ‘Protection’ Money

MIcrosoft managed to get Casio to sign up for a cross licensing deal for their patents. They managed to do so by threatening Casio with patent infringement over some 235 patents they claim Linux infringes. We still don’t know what those patents are but they must be convincing.

Conan O’Brien Has The Inside Scoop On More Netflix Changes

Just a funny video in which the Conan O’Brien rips a new on in Netfilx’s apology for raising prices.

Bethesda Turns Down Quake Fight Over Scrolls Name; Takes Guaranteed Loss By Going To Court

Notch tried to settle this whole trademark dispute with a game of Quake, but Bethesda didn’t want anything to do with it. Now it is going to court. It doesn’t matter if Bethesda wins or loses this case as they have already lost in the eyes of the gaming public.

Gaming Company Sees Massive User & Revenue Growth Because Of Piracy

Unity’s Asian branch has seen tremendous growth over the past year or so basically because of a bunch of Asian game companies pirating their software. They aren’t mad, because revenue is up 258.7%

No Rest For The Productive And Successful; Nintendo Sued Again Over The Wii Remote

Yeah. Nintendo is sued once again for patent infringement. This time from a company called UltimatePointer. They claim to make a product much like the Wii Remote, but it is still in “testing.” Funnily, this patent was filed for the same month Nintendo revealed the Wii to the world.

EA Sues EA Over The EA Trademark

Energy Armor has a logo very similar to the Electronic Arts logo and Electronic Arts is not happy. It doesn’t help matters much that Energy Armor’s product is sports gear, which Electronic Arts has a hand in.

Nintendo Thrilled To Have Game Copy Devices Found Illegal In France

Nintendo got flash carts and other mod chips banned in France. Not a big surprise. What is really frustrating is that Nintendo continues to ignore the greater truth that these chips open up its consoles as customers want. Nintendo would rather fight to keep their consoles locked down.

So that’s it for the week (and some before it). Enjoy. There is plenty more to come.

iPhone Developer Creates App Criticizing The iPhone; App Is Quickly Pulled

September 16, 2011 Posted by E. Zachary Knight

This post was originally published on TechDirt.

Molleindustria is an app developer who makes a line of controversial and political games. Some of its more well known games include McDonalds Videogame, Operation: Pedopriest, and Oiligarchy. It just recently announced and released its latest game, Phone Story. This particular game takes the player through the cruel world of smart phone production using a series of mini games depicting the mining of coltan from the Congo using child labor, the suicides in the Foxconn factories and, of course, e-waste disposal in third world countries.

On top of all those themes, the game was to be released on the very platform it criticized: the iPhone.

It didn’t last long on the platform.

Just hours after being approved, Apple yanked it from the app store for four separate violations.

15.2 Apps that depict violence or abuse of children will be rejected

16.1 Apps that present excessively objectionable or crude content will be rejected

21.1 Apps that include the ability to make donations to recognized charitable organizations must be free

21.2 The collection of donations must be done via a web site in Safari or an SMS

(more…)

Indie Game Developer Posts Game on Pirate Bay, Sees Positive Results

September 14, 2011 Posted by E. Zachary Knight

This post was originally published on Techdirt.

While many large game development and publishing houses complain about and attempt to fight piracy and torrents of their games, smaller, more flexible studios are attempting to use such avenues to their advantage. Such is the case with No Time To Explain developers tinyBuild.

TorrentFreak points out that tinyBuild saw an opportunity with the Pirate Bay to spread word of their game. The developers posted their game to the popular torrent site after adding pirate hats to all the game characters. A lot of people laughed and ended up buying the game. As tinyBuild told TorrentFreak:

We thought it’d be funny to leak a pirate version ourselves which is literally all about pirates and pirate hats. I mean, some people are going to torrent it either way, we might as well make something funny out of it.We saw very positive WTF REALLY feedback from users, and saw reactions that people bought it simply because they liked the joke. So we don’t see it hurting sales in any way.

While such a move might not work for everyone, it does show that if a developer is willing to connect with fans, they can garner a lot of good will and possibly some extra sales. Even if that connection happens on one of those dirty pirate websites.

Debate Time: Ubisoft Says DRM Is Needed, Valve Says No It Isn't.

September 8, 2011 Posted by E. Zachary Knight

This post was originally published on Techdirt.

It’s not every day you get two diametrically opposed views on DRM from two high profile companies in the video game industry, yet that is what happened recently.

While both were speaking to different gaming news sites, their conversations have an almost debate-like feel. So I think we will let the two execs duke it out on the debate floor. In one corner we have Martin Edmonson of Ubisoft Reflections speaking to Eurogamer. In the other corner, we have Gabe Newell of Valve speaking to Kotaku (thanks to Matt for being the first of many to send this in).
(more…)