Our fifth podcast is now live! This edition includes the rumoured Xbox Scarlett!
Thoughts on comments from Nihon Falcom and reports on Xbox Scarlett being a streaming service! Mega Man X and Sonic Mania Plus! How many Nindies per week?!
Thoughts on comments from Nihon Falcom and reports on Xbox Scarlett being a streaming service! Mega Man X and Sonic Mania Plus! How many Nindies per week?!
Title: Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana
Platform: PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, PC, Nintendo Switch
Reviewed On: Nintendo Switch
Developer: Nihon Falcom
Publisher: NIS America
Copy Provided By: Bought it with my own money!
If you’re wondering where I have been since my last article, this game is the sole culprit. Never since Xenoblade Chronicles X has a game grabbed my attention so thoroughly and kept me hooked from start to end over nearly 50 hours of playtime.
First I would be remiss to not mention the soundtrack. As I have been told is normal for Falcom titles, this game nails a mix of sombre, energetic, rock and orchestra at just the right moments. Such variety keeps the game from feeling stale and helps push it’s identity as an adventure first and foremost.
Below are two examples of this varied soundtrack: The Theme of Dana, and the theme for the first area of the game proper.
In terms of plot, Ys VIII is relatively simple. What you get is a very personal story, around a group of castaways on an island simply trying to survive and escape, before the greater mystery unveils itself and the two segue into each other very well. The star of the show isn’t the overarching plot lines, which do keep you guessing, but the Castaway Village.
Every character in your party of 6, or any of the people you rescue, and wholly unique. Some are snobbish aristocrats. Some are military men with a more artistic side. One is an insufferable artist. This clashing of characters and ultimate teamwork is incredibly satisfying to watch as almost everyone accepts that they are kindred spirits despite their backgrounds.
You spend a lot of time learning about them, via the timed side quests you get, and gifts you can hand to them. This raises their approval, which improves how you do in the Raid defense missions and Hunting missions. Maxing out Approval nets you a fully voiced heart to heart conversation with the character in question too, revealing more about the small but varied cast.
Of course, raising approval, taking part in raids and hunts all raises the main character, Adol Christin’s, “Reputation”. With a high enough reputation stat by end game, you earn the best ending and bonus content.
Ys VIII is an Action RPG. You use Y to switch between your active party members at any time, which is handy for enemies that require a certain weapon type.
This kind of dynamic means you will never be short on health, and battles can be quick or slow depending on the volume of enemies and how you approach them. Using charged attacks lets you use Special Skills, which level up independently of characters and have various effects such as counters, ranged attacks, Area of Effects and more. 4 can be assigned and swapped out at any time, just like party members.
Bosses are also a highlight, a range of impressive beasts to take on that all require different strategies.
Combat is incredibly fluid and frantic, and with status effects and plenty of customisation the game never feels stale, in even in the more restricted Dungeons, where you want to craft meals and bring medicine to help along.
Characters also have gear to equip. These impact stats via one body piece and one arm piece, with two accessories. Further, the Switch release comes with all included DLC costumes for some visual variety.
Adventure Gear is an excellent feature that assists in what is a Metroidvania style structure. Each area connects to another by either immovable blockade that requires rescuing castaways, or Adventure Gear that is found as you progress such as a Double Jump.
These always come right as you start to feel restricted, and exploring previous areas leads to more items, gear and Castaways. This constant loop of exploring, reward and crafting items, weapons and more, leads to a very satisfying experience.
Of course, side quests are aplenty and do run on a time limit, so a complaint is that you can potentially miss them. Same with raids, that attack Castaway Village periodically, diverting from your current task, though you can fast travel. Side Quests and Raids are essential to the best ending of course.
Ys VIII has a surprisingly length post game. There are several super bosses and one very, very, VERY large dungeon to clear that nets you plenty of gear, including a reward of party size adjustment and adding different weapon types to a single character.
All this can then be carried over the New Game Plus, and there is even a Time Attack mode. Plus, plenty of Raids and Hunts come up at the end of the game as well. You won’t be left wanting with this title.
Even completing the map gets you rewards for every 10% so simply walking around is a reward in of itself. This is a game that gives you what you need when you need it and lets you make your own path, and rewards you.
To be frank, this game isn’t the most impressive, being a Vita title originally. This is evident in some shapes and objects, as well as texture work. Passable, but it does look better in handheld mode. The game also did crash once or twice, but that doesn’t detract from my experience due to very frequent autosaves.
The fact you can miss quests is perhaps the biggest gameplay flaw. But, with frequent trips that you make to the Village anyway, you likely won’t miss them if you are diligent!
I suppose there are the odd graphical quirks as well. Some are incredibly hard to replicate, so the frequency is uncertain, but it never detracted from the experience.
This is my final takeaway from this game. The odd quirks and errors in text are by no means a detraction from the game. The gameplay is exceptionally solid, the game is rewarding, and most of all Ys VIII never slows down. There is always somewhere new to see.
Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana is an entry in a franchise I am ashamed to say didn’t catch my eye until Nintendo shoved it in my face earlier this year. I see this sentiment from a lot of people in all honesty, so the new light should push the series to new heights. It absolutely deserves it.
Ys VIII on Switch, for all it’s technical snags and weird text, is excellent. Simply an outstanding Action RPG well worth your time playing and enjoying.
I don’t say this lightly, but Ys VIII is my favourite game of 2018 thus far. That surely speaks for itself.
Thanks for reading, and if you like, you can check out other articles on the site! Sorry I vanished because of this game… but exciting things are to come. See you all later and Happy Gaming!
Thoughts on Fortnite! Cross-Platform Play shenanigans and Mega Man 11 absolutely not coming to Europe at retail too! Everyone is Here in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate!
Plus, hear what we have been playing this week. Then our thoughts on E3 2018 and Sony does….what to your Epic Games account?!
Sony has a history of pro-consumerism. The PS4 is built upon this logic. Just like I have noted in the past however, it’s not holding up. It only took a few years to break down into hostility.
Hop back to E3 2017 for a moment.
Unfortunately it’s a commercial discussion between ourselves and other stakeholders, and I’m not going to get into the detail of that on this particular instance. And I can see your eyes rolling.
We’ve got to be mindful of our responsibility to our install base
Everybody has to take their own decisions. We’ll do that. Like I say, we have no philosophical stance against cross-play at all.
That said, to my knowledge, there is no live conversation ongoing at the moment.
Source (Seriously read it all, it is pure gold!)
This is how Sony’s Jim Ryan responded to Eurogamer about not allowing cross-platform play with other consoles in both Rocket League and Minecraft. No one consistent answer was given.
Yeah this isn’t a good look but wait, there is now more.
This was based, we assumed, on fear, and wanting to keep their install base. A company that built a base on pro-consumer moves in the wake of the Xbox One now does the things they said they wouldn’t.
Now however, we see what it is truly based on.
Fortnite just released on the Nintendo Switch! This would be great news. Turns out, if your Epic Games account has ever touched a PS4, that account can now never be used on Xbox One or Nintendo Switch. No, deleting the link doesn’t work. Once it’s been there, it’s locked away forever.
The same is true in reverse. If you link an account to Switch or Xbox, it won’t work on PS4. This is a huge problem, as Fortnite links progress to your Epic account, which we should stress is a third-party account.
Many PS4 users have found this to be an issue, wanting to play on Switch. This has gone beyond simply not allowing play between systems. This is now wrestling a third-party account and wanting you to only play on PS4.
This is hostility towards other systems. They want to be the only place you ever play games, and they are doing their damnedest to keep their users to them, by inconveniencing them going elsewhere.
So the constant lies about why they don’t want cross-platform play. The newfound hostility towards the other systems. This all stinks of what we know now as “Arrogant Sony”. Remember the PS3 launch? Top of the world, can do no wrong, and it backfired. They believed consumers had no choice in who they went to, they thought they were on top of the world. Then they fell.
Now the PS4 bounces back, pro-consumer for all of what seemed like 20 minutes. Sure, they want to keep their lead, but now, what benefit is there to playing third-party games on a PS4?
On PC, you get mods. Xbox One X, you get the best console performance. Switch, you get portability. On PS4, you get tied to the system with a brick around your ankles.
Across all of the above, except PS4 of course, you can all talk, play against or with each other in games. In Fortnite, your progress even carries over. This is the future. Developers want it. Epic Games wants it. But the dinosaur that is Sony will not let it happen.
They want control. But the power is with the players now more than ever.
Some believe the one with the largest install base has nothing to gain. But they do. In the (Increasingly likely if you pay attention) scenario where the PS5 launches and falls behind the next Xbox, these past practices will have caused people to move away. Sure, it’s fine now, but people don’t forget. Especially now the biggest game in the world is the subject.
The answer is simple, play where you want, but remember that the noise will only grow as more and more games adopt this approach. There will be a time where they have to allow it. If not, the mantra of the PlayStation falls apart at the seems.
This is more than Microsoft taking shots at Sony. This is consumers not being treated fairly, and developers not being given the freedoms they deserve.
Thanks for reading, and this is an issue that now more than ever needs to be scrutinised. Perhaps the future will change things, but Sony is in a position of power to abuse now…but anyway, go boot up Fortnite and play with whoever YOU want! Happy Gaming!
Thoughts on Battlefield V vs Call of Duty! Pokemon Let’s Go and Mega Man 11 not coming to Europe at retail too!
Plus, hear what we have been playing this week. Then our thoughts on some pre-E3 reveals and the comments about…a new portable PlayStation?
Consumers and armchair analysts can argue all they want about the merits of Nintendo selling cardboard. Included with each Labo kit is the ability to produce Toy-Con and even make your own custom creations. However, in terms of sales it would seem Labo hasn’t hit home.
Around the internet on message boards you can see examples of “I told you so” and “Well who thought $80 cardboard would sell?” and this attitude is both unfairly dismissive and forgets the history of the game industry.
Cast your minds back to the PlayStation 2, a system on top of the world. What do you do when you have success like that? Find new ways to use to device you have already sold to people. Sony did just that with the EyeToy! This is an odd little peripheral that projected your body into the game for what was at the time the height of motion control in gaming.
Of course people don’t remember it now. It existed though. The EyeToy had games exclusive to it, but it required the PS2 to function. It was a platform on top of an already successful platform. A “Sub-Platform”. A peripheral.
Jump ahead to the PS3. Despite early struggles it ultimately became a respected and well selling console. What would a company do with a device already in homes? Introduce a peripheral, with exclusive games, but still tied to the core hardware. Introduce both PS Move and Wonderbook.
You won’t remember Wonderbook. It would be a challenge to find one these days, but the PS Move lived on and still is available as a peripheral. Of course the thing to remember is sometimes these peripherals will fail.
But why will they fail? Well they simply don’t catch on. A peripheral has a maximum base to sell to that is equal to that of the platform it needs to even function. So for something like Kinect, it could only sell to, at most, the total amount of Xbox 360 users.
Price and purpose: If a peripheral is too expensive it obviously won’t catch on especially if the perceived value is low.
Sometimes one has to take a look back to see the failures before judging the present successes. PlayStation VR is a new way to experience video games and has numerous exclusive titles. It also has a very hefty price point to enter. On top of that, it needs the PS4 to even work! PlayStation VR, for all it is its own platform, remains a sub-platform wholly dependant on PS4.
How did it succeed? It was periphery to a system already in homes. It gave a new way to play games. A new experience. But one thing it doesn’t do is detract from the system it is attached to.
This is the thing with peripherals. They need to be understood and accepted as supplements to the platform they need to function. They can offer new takes on existing experiences like VR or offer new experiences all together. But generally no one should expect a sub-platform to sell like a new platform.
Simple! Nintendo Labo is a peripheral. The fact that it has multiple kits under one name should tell you future kits will (Probably) exist. Additionally, it is entirely dependant on Nintendo Switch.
Nintendo Labo lets people use the Switch in new ways. It is an educational tool teaching engineering, creativity and programming in an accessible way.
Toy-Con Garage lets people learn and understand basic programming. The technology behind making the cardboard creations work is simple yet technical.
Labo as a peripheral is ideal. It does something different from the already hot core device, to bring in other people. It’s only crime is potentially price.
If Labo fails then we simply move on. In the same we moved on from weird Wii accessories and Wonderbook and EyeToy and Kinect. A peripheral failing isn’t the end of the world. After all, it never hurts to try.
To loop back to the earlier dismissive comments – if that attitude prevailed we would likely see peripherals die out. The fear of trying and failing would end with not trying at all. It is better to try and then fail than not try at all. A peripheral can’t damage a platform. If the peripheral is marketed well then it can stand as its own thing and thrive as a supplement to a system.
But if it does come to fail, well the platform it is attached to didn’t fail. Only the peripheral. The platform did well enough beforehand to make this venture worthwhile.
Following on from yesterday and a discussion about mid-tier games not needing to sell millions, Labo is in the same position. It doesn’t need to be PSVR or WiiFit. If handled sensibly, if marketed to the right people, Labo will do just fine.
There is no harm or shame in trying something new with your existing hit platform. By being dependant on something that already exists, success or failure really doesn’t matter, so long as it isn’t incredibly expensive to develop the peripheral. But the success of the base system doesn’t guarantee success for the peripheral either!
To conclude, it all doesn’t matter. Success or failure the Nintendo Switch will continue on its path just like the PS2 did, or the SNES with its add-ons. Labo ultimately needs Switch. Switch doesn’t need Labo.
But it is always nice to have something different there to supplement too.
Thanks for reading! If you liked this piece please share on social media via the buttons below, and let me know I shouldn’t play with cardboard! Happy Gaming!
The immediate thing any gamer needs to understand is the distinction between a Mid-Tier or “AA” game, and something that is commonly called a “AAA” game. The difference is actually night and day!
A “AAA” game is quite simply a game with huge potential reach in terms of customers. monetization and one massive budget backing it all up are other features.
A “Mid-Tier” game is a sizeable project, but marketed within reason. No game will be blown out of budget. A game knows the audience and the publisher will be happy reaching them. It doesn’t need to sell tens of millions after all.
Not every game needs to be Call of Duty in terms of sheer size or market value. Indeed every company will have a few massive well-known titles but a good developer leaves room for the smaller games.
Smaller games come in all shapes and sizes. Companies are fond of putting out experimental ideas and seeing how well they sell. Franchises can even start as a smaller release and explode into the mainstream!
Splatoon was originally a smaller release. Simply a unique idea that ended up exploding in popularity to become on of Nintendo’s top franchises. Sticking with Nintendo, a franchise like Yoshi or Kirby also falls under this category. Notable and recognised characters that won’t sell in high quantity, but will make a return on investment.
PlayStation is also very good at pushing Mid-Tier releases. Gravity Rush, Fat Princess and LittleBigPlanet, all sit alongside the big releases. So why are these games all so important?
Try and imagine a system like the PS4. It gets all the huge AAA yearly releases. It holds the top of the tier first-party titles. But imagine the system without Persona 5, without Nioh, without Ratchet and Clank. Do you start to see what is missing?
Smaller games provide one key thing: Variety! If your system has nothing but huge games that need to sell millions for the publisher to consider it a “success”, then you will be presenting a surprisingly narrow selection of games.
Smaller games can afford to offer different experiences. They don’t need to cater to as many people as possible after all. Can you envision a Kirby title with the budget and scope of Call of Duty? That would never sell enough to be worthwhile. Yet being a mid-tier game allows Kirby to be unique, to be different and offer something worthwhile to a library.
This is an easy answer. Cast your mind back to a decade ago, the height of the Xbox 360 and PS3. Everything wanted to be Call of Duty, the next blockbuster hit. The industry chases trends, currently Battle Royale games apparently, and the trend was to go big.
Even first party developers fell to this. When was the last Jak and Daxter? Sly Cooper? F-Zero? The mid-tier game fell to the side in pursuit of mega hit after hit. Every kind of game has a place in the market, but what felt strange was the almost overnight shift.
It’s hard to look back on the PS3 and PS4 and not wish it was like the PS2. Yes they got smaller games, even from first parties. Doesn’t it feel like they haven’t been pushed like they used to? Gravity Rush 2 is losing online connectivity, though that was recently delayed. I didn’t even know Fat Princess was a thing that existed. Tearaway isn’t mentioned anymore.
New games like Concrete Genie show up for sure. But it’s not in the volume it used to be. The variety suffers.
The same happened for Nintendo. Only recently have we seen renewed interest in smaller games. A few popped up on Wii U and 3DS but Switch singled a shift. Snipperclips, ARMS, Bayonetta (Again). The Wii U had Wonderful 101, Captain Toad and 3DS has BoxBoy and Dillon.
The games supplement the library of huge titles and this is what makes a system truly attractive. Variety. It’s where Microsoft has fallen short. Swamped with the huge releases but smaller releases are hard to come by especially on a first party front.
Well this is also easy to predict. Third party developers will forever be inclined to pursue the big hits. They locked themselves into a cycle of monetization and marketing. Some are branching out to smaller games like Activision with Crash and Spyro or EA funding smaller titles from indies. By and large however that will remain a smaller part of their strategies.
Where this really comes into play is with the platform holders. They can throw out as many small titles as they want alongside the Marios and Uncharteds of the world. They have the resources and hardware sales to accommodate it.
It’s from first party software that you see the most variety. This word keeps popping up but to truly have something for everyone you need to be varied. Know that a game will sell only so much and plan accordingly.
Sometimes appealing to more people over multiple lower selling titles is better than aiming for the top every time.
Thanks for reading, and if you agree or disagree, feel to shout on social media. This is an interesting discussion spurred by trying to work out where I find my enjoyment for a system as a whole, naturally it’s that word again: Variety.
So my history with YouTube is a storied one. I started back in 2009, May to be exact. Playing games, going for completion, all that good stuff. I was 13, and I hate thinking about it! But we all start somewhere.
Over the 9 years I took a two-year gap for my education before a re-launch with my friends, where we all played games together and the company made it easier for me to talk, and be more confident.
This continued, we got a capture card, now replaced with a superior model, and it maintained until 2016 when I finally got off my butt and got a decent PC for better quality both audio wise and for visuals.
Back in 2013 YouTube changed the rules for the partnership program, allowing almost anyone to become monetized. Now YouTube was never about the money, personally I do it because gaming is my passion, and as the years went on I felt more and more confident in my media abilities.
When this change happened, I set a goal: Only allow myself into the program when I reached a goal I felt was acceptable.
By September 2014, I was part of an excellent MCN, and had the support of a community and staff behind it when needed. I only did this when I felt right, not when YouTube told me.
But growth felt like it stalled. My drive died over the 3 years I was at university…like everything else in my life at the time, and I felt quality, quantity and more fell behind. I began thinking of format changes, right around the time I knew I was moving back home, coincidentally right alongside the announcement that YouTube would change its policies slightly to create a 10,000 lifetime view requirement for channels to be monetized, back in April 2017.
Then of course 9 months later the goalposts moved again. Now it’s 1000 subscribers and 4000 hours of watch time in 12 months, in addition to the lifetime views. As such, we lost access to monetization and any features associated with being partnered – What those are, I am not sure and nor is my former-MCN, because honestly expecting YouTube to communicate is laughable.
But that announcement was what finally spurred me on with those changes to format, moving to a live format, mostly on Twitch, and making a wider transmedia brand. Seeing the goalposts constantly move not even a year apart with little warning, poor communication and more, led me to make the moves I don’t regret one bit.
Making content is easier and better looking. I can engage with the audience more. Everything worked out better. If I ever become eligible for Twitch Affiliate status or more, chances are I wont take it, just like with the partner program, until I hit MY goals, not one set by a platform, that will likely change arbitrarily within 9 months.
Do I disagree with why YouTube made these moves? No. YouTube is a near constant black hole for Google and something had to be done when media began blasting it for monetised content that really shouldn’t be monetised. What I don’t agree with is the poor communication on what will and won’t be available to those affected, nor the guarantee the goalposts won’t constantly move.
Now, on to Capcom, since we are talking about financial black holes.
Capcom and the EU market have what I would call a bad relationship. Back in the NES and SNES days, let’s take Mega Man for instance, Nintendo or some other random publisher had to publish the games here for them, which lead to Mega Man 6 never being released here until the 3DS happened.
But the Mega Man Collections on PS2 were never published here either. Mega Man Star Force 3 never made it here. Battle Network was published by Ubisoft in the region.
Jump forward to now and you would think the issues of the past were gone, but no. Both Mega Man Legacy Collections have physical releases on PS4, Xbox One and Switch…but not here. Couldn’t tell you why, I’m sure only Capcom knows.
This is next to the laughable cheap skate attitude around the Switch port of the Legacy Collection Double Pack, which has a 500MB at most game on the card, with a download code for the 6GB game. Why? Capcom.
Of course we don’t even get that release here. Digital only.
Resident Evil Revelations got the same treatment on Switch. Here in the EU there are physical releases of both games on other systems, but not Switch, and Capcom cited “monetary reasons”. Basically they don’t see the market for it.
I have to say thank God for digital, otherwise it’d be the 90s and 2000s again for us.
But this goes beyond Capcom now. Nintendo is publishing the physical EU release of Dark Souls, for some reason. Is the EU really that hard for publishers? Are most 3rd party Switch games going to be handled by external publishers now if we want them here at retail?
Capcom has slipped back to treating the EU like it did in the 90s. Limited physical releases and even then only on certain systems, or mandatory downloads for Switch games you get physically. Of course Capcom isn’t the only one guilty of this, and in the case of Revelations there was a logistical reason for it, but for Mega Man, someone should let them know 8GB cards exist.
The way other publishers are going about things, especially on Switch, the EU regions feel more and more like a last-minute effort market. Maybe it’s the multiple expensive ratings boards like PEGI and USK. Maybe it’s the currencies, or the logistics across borders. Who knows.
All I know is the EU market is becoming the afterthought again, and if that is the case, the digital future can’t come soon enough. Even then we get games months late.
You guys might want to sit down for this.
So you all know I have become disillusioned with my degree as a Game Designer, I mean I did fail after all. It’s become something I see, and many others see online, a reflection of the negatives of the industry. I always believe if you are creating a form of entertainment, you should make it your best efforts, otherwise a lack of enjoyment from users will mean it wasn’t entertaining. Catch my drift?
So, for simplicity sake, we are going to go through the classes and some anecdotes of my time studying Computer Games Design, explain why I am self-taught, what we were taught, what the marking states we are expected to do in the industry, and how we are expected to progress as individuals and businesses.
So, let’s start at the start.
They hate Nintendo: I’m just getting this done with now, because it’s the most bassackwards kind of thing you’ve ever heard. So when discussing what game systems sold the most, just as a bit of general knowledge, we had 5 options.
So, we had a logical question: Obviously it is PS2 right? Well we asked, for obvious reasons, does that include hardware revisions like the DSi? They said yes, so stuff like the GBA counts towards Game Boy sales as it’s the same thing.
To these people, teaching the young folk of the industry, the GBA is just a Game Boy. Not new hardware, not new games, just a Game Boy. I did point out (After promptly bashing my head of a table like several others in the room did), that this would mean the Wii U did very well, and the PS4 is well over 400 million units by now, if we use that logic.
They stood by it, so whatever. They also said Wii U games can’t be near the size of Blu-Ray, and Nintendo doesn’t make big games anyway so why expect AAAs. (This was before Switch, I must stress). This was a collective head bash again, as the Wii U discs go to 25GB.
There was a blatant love of false information, it was disheartening to see, but as time went on it just becomes numbing as opposed to shocking. For people who worked in the industry one would expect them to be accurate with what they teach to the future.
Be at the forefront of new technology….that we want you to be at: Do you know how fast they were all over PS4 Pro? PSVR? Sony partnered uni for you. Interns there are making VR games, even. That’s cool. That was one of many blooming fields in gaming right now, and I fully support it.
So when I had the opportunity to demo Nintendo Switch, on my own time and money, and be given some of the opportunities I have now (Through my own actions and skill, not theirs, I have to add), they weren’t happy. Why? This is something I’ve never gotten a straight answer on. You tell us to be at the forefront for new and exciting stuff, but seemingly only if it suits them.
They think platformers are outdated. Cant have running and jumping no more. We were actively discouraged from making those for level design courses which didn’t make much sense, given that’s an excellent show of designing a level regarding flow, player abilities and more.
Now we move on to the content, I have more anecdotes about their very weird views on what we should be doing, because some of it is flat-out restrictive to making games and content, but those will pop up in the next section
Production: Making 12 page Game Design Documentation, and small prototypes. This is all fine and good. There was an inordinate amount of time spent on writing stories (I have no idea why they spent that long on that, it was at least 5 weeks), but they did cover some handy things like progression through a game and mechanics. This was pretty good. Only downside was very little, maybe 1 week, of programming, which means making the actual game was….a challenge. Even then it was copy/pasted code.
Plus, and this is important to bring up, I have come to understand that I design games in the “Japanese” way as opposed to the “Western” way. It just suits my workflow better. Shorter documents, different primary focus, where western focus is on visuals, character and story, mine and seemingly eastern focus, is on gameplay. Those have priority in the official documentation.
I was marked down for that, with the specific words that…I was wrong. Doing something wrong, yet only doing the same thing differently because it suited me. University, and especially a creative field, was being judged on academic criteria, which is counter to the nature of the field.
Creative Design: This started strong. Making company logos, scene concept art, character concept art, promo materials, all good stuff. But that was just half of it. The 2nd half, bear in mind this was mandatory to pass, involved making an interactive magazine, with a video review of content, and amazingly enough, a prediction of the future of something we have interest in.
So I said, based on previous industries like phones and PCs, and them having peripherals to play handheld games on consoles, and console ports on handhelds, that Nintendo will create some kind of hybrid system.
They said we aren’t giving you the marks, as that’s not realistic, citing Nintendo wont be around and the technology isn’t there yet to make it compelling. You can imagine my feelings on this now.
I never did get awarded those marks.
3D Modelling: I have no issue with this. Despite not being very arty, its relevant and covered everything from individual models to whole scenes. This was good, very good in fact.
Web Development: Making websites. In a games design course. Yep. People had the option to do Flash animations as well, as an alternative, but neither are super relevant. You could say Flash based games are, but this was 2014, Flash was already outdated and soon after deprecated.
3D Animations: No problem here. Make 3D animations. My only issue was, amazingly, being put in a group half the size needed for group work, one of whom didn’t work, and the other didn’t want me as part of the team. So I opted to redo it and still failed, as I was then stuck doing a 6-man job as an individual.
Level Design: Relevant. Don’t know why they pushed CryEngine so much, as I think everyone universally hated it, both years I did it. This was one I had to redo because despite having the right sized team, one guy actively faked doing work until he vanished 4 weeks prior, so all I had was code and no assets, and the other guy, bless him he is lovely, doesn’t do any good standard of work. The new team was far better, despite having to teach myself C++ for Unreal Engine 4, because the uni seems to have some weird aversion to teaching how to actually make the game part of a video game.
Mobile App Development: What has this to do with games? Nothing. It was mobile website development, by the way, just thinly veiled. Had to make apps to track people via Google Maps. Riveting.
Had the same lovely guy from Level Design working with me on this one, never did any work, had to teach myself PHP for server-side stuff, because they wouldn’t teach that for some reason (again) despite being half of the marks. Turns out he went and made SASS sheets that were just HTML formatted incorrectly, so we had to scramble! The teaching focused solely on front end: Visuals and appearance.
Games Programming: It was a train wreck. A good attempt but most didn’t get it (Heck I didn’t get it) as the information wasn’t being conveyed in a way that made it learnable, it was just pure here’s some code away you go slap it together. The attempt at teaching programming was a copy and paste effort. Not productive in the slightest, and in hindsight was vastly over-complicated for what needed to be done. You don’t start teaching programming to some students who have never touched an IDE by having them make AI.
User Interaction: Critiquing UI across devices and suitability for things like VR and such. I didn’t do this one, wouldn’t let me because I didn’t do Flash animation (Why?) but, at least it was relevant to the field.
Multimedia Web Development: This was an extension of making apps except it was making videos and images for web-based viewing. Game Design remember?
Audio: Smashing stuff. Didn’t do this, because I didn’t do Flash, but hey they you go. Another relevant one.
Professional Awareness: You know I have no idea what this is? Talking to people who did it, they didn’t either. It was something to do with team work. Can’t really fault that from the outside, but the confused responses I saw from people made me think it was one of those “token classes”.
Here we go. So a note, they wouldn’t let me do the group project or individual research project. I’m going to get to something else they didn’t let me do this year as well, at the end.
Advanced Concepts in Gaming: Debate issues around gaming such as women’s rights, sex, violence, anthropomorphism, realism, middleware and so on. We had to make either a realistic building render, a character creator (Which I did, guess what there was a complete lack of material on? Yes there really was NO teaching on what the hell they even expected!) or a transmedia narrative, spanning multiple devices.
Basically glorified marketing. I actually failed this one, because for whatever reason, my side of the debate, when it came to the debate, didn’t back me up in the slightest. Didn’t help every debate prior had been a one sentence thing, while this was a paragraph on why anthropomorphism is bad for games as it is dehumanizing. Overall, this wasn’t a bad idea, it just wasn’t…a good marking thing? It’s hard to explain. Like why the class existed was okay, but what you had to do to pass was all kinds of arbitrary.
Digital 3D Effects: Make a 90 second CGI movie. Take real footage and CG something in. And make a documentary about making it. Teams of 4, I got a team of 2, with the nice guy who does nothing from Level Design again.
Side note, the people in the class did say “Thanks for taking one for the team”. Cheeky sods.
But again, this is Game Design. Making CGI/Live Action movies? I….alright? I don’t see the relevance unless you wanted to do pre-rendered cutscenes.
But the good part: So being colour-blind I can’t composite shots very well. I can’t get the tones right, so I directed the location shoots, designed a monster for a monster movie trailer, animated it, gave it all to the lovely guy to do, while I worked on a documentary using shots of the cut up work with narration to explain what we did. It was easy marks for him, and he couldn’t possibly screw this one up.
Boy did he ever. For some reason he used barely any effects, had terrible audio balancing, used his own static image for a monster it was just….I had some alcohol that night. It totally invalidated the documentary as well, which didn’t help marks.
But to compound things, he did ask for feedback, and by the time I was done watching the…monstrosity…he had constructed, he messaged me to tell me it was submitted.
I became a very good friend of Mr. Jack Daniels that night.
Indie Game Development: Here we go. The things you need to know when making a small studio. Great right? It also went over ways to make money and such. Didn’t cover talking to other companies or acquiring anything for development but hey, priorities.
When writing out a business plan however, we were required to plan out DLC and micro-transactions (Not just for marking purposes), but it is a requirement they want us to do when we plan a game. They want us to put MTAs and DLC in from the start.
And I didn’t do that. I openly object to that.
Also, this required submission of .exe files and code via electronic submission. All handy right? Electronic submissions don’t allow zips, rar files, code files or exe files. Whoops. Another mismanagement. You can’t submit it electronically due to restrictions on what can be uploaded, but the only submission was electronic.
Advanced Concepts in Web Production: Judging by what Advanced Concepts in Gaming was about….probably the same but Web-based. Again though, it’s Game Design.
Creative Visualisation and Animation: Do you know those Casually Explained videos that have neat animations explaining things and how they work? It’s that. Make that. Pick something and explain how it works via animation. Game Design.
And that’s the course structure. As you can see, a lot of it is irrelevant to the actual subject, but it’s what you didn’t see that worries me more. While a fair chunk of it is relevant, even within those, there are alarming holes, not most beyond teaching some dodgy practices and business moves.
Firstly: Where the hell was optimisation? I cannot stress this enough. We weren’t taught how to optimise anything, even for PC. Looking back it was mentioned in passing, like what it is and why you do it, but nothing on it. When submitting something, hardware just has to brute force it.
Secondly: Programming! They tried, bless, but it was so poorly done, in addition to a lot of mismanagement, it’s worrying that they hand wave the key component of making a game interactive. The bit that makes the game a game.
There was a week where Intel were coming around and allegedly offering job opportunities (Now why Intel came to game designers to offer them jobs, some of whom wont pass for two years, is a mystery) but it happened. Interns ran interviews, and all was well. Got emails and checked the sites for the list of times and such, find my allotted time.
This was a mandatory thing that had to be done by all second and third year students.
Long list of names, covering all second and third year students, both in the e-mail and on the website.
I had been withheld from an opportunity that was listed as mandatory I must stress, and they never once said why. They never once said “We don’t want you there”, they just never let me do it and never mentioned it to me. I asked my housemate, once they revealed they were one of the people doing the interviews. They said they didn’t know why either. The staff pretend it never happened.
Now, they had, since day one, said we should be striving on our own as well. Working on games in the background, and eventually, trying to get relations with developers and publishers who visit for talks, see the exhibitions at the end of every year, and so on.
So, being a guy who likes to make progress, I did the numbers, looked at what games I wanted to make, so on and so forth, and by the half way point of that first year of learning, I was already talking to the first company I even spoke to.
But here is my thing. They say go to the new tech. Make the games you think people will enjoy. Work with people, who get you where you want to be. But it has become increasingly apparent, that it doesn’t apply to certain companies. I don’t know the exact reason why, I don’t know for what purpose, but I have been locked out of opportunities on many occasions beyond the egregious one I listed, ever since I took their initiative, showed initiative, and made myself known.
They refused to let me go and demo the Nintendo Switch in London, on my own time and money. Obviously I went anyway!
At the end of the day I got ahead, did as they asked, and I was pushed away by it. And that’s on a personal level, the worst aspect, that doing what I want and what they said I should do, has led to being left on the side.
This led to a serious downward spiral for my health both mentally and physically. I hope it is the only time I need medication for depression and anxiety, because lord knows it was a rough time.
But here is my final thought on the matter.
In a lot of ways, I have enjoyed myself. I have learned things, that granted, I did pick up over time just by playing games and being analytical about them, but the doesn’t excuse the gaps in knowledge, some of which is crucial, and the blatant irrelevancy and mismanagement of the course in general. For £9000 tuition fee per year, and all the loans I’ll have to repay?
It needs to be better.
That is 100% the truth. This is the education an actual institution is giving students who, god forbid if this standard maintains, will be making games in the near future. Aggressive monetization, dodgy practices, lapses in knowledge. Yes they can’t reasonably teach everything, but they could at least teach well and relevant.
Universities are ultimately a business, and this was a course that I personally feel was misleading. It positioned itself as one thing, with freedom, and revealed itself to be a stifling, counter-intuitive, sometimes random mismatched bunch of classes marked academically to judge creativity: And the problem with that is, if you don’t fall in line with that is expected, creativity can be shunned.