In a course I took junior year of college, my project partner (now cofounder) and I worked on a zombie outbreak simulation game. Towards the height of the project, we were probably tearing up and laying down a thousand lines of code a day, keeping in touch over the phone and fixing build errors and weird behavior.
Years later, I can't look at that code without wanting to gouge out my eyes. It makes me physically sick. That said, it worked and worked well for the task at hand.
Game programming is weird like that, and Blow's talk has a section where he talks about the relative merits of dumb structures and algorithms for developers that just have to get the thing to work. It's an interesting perspective.
Big production games don't have the same luxury as most reviews will focus on graphics/sound etc. If it runs like crap and looks average no one is going to accept that no matter how much fun it is.
I played Planescape Torment many years after it was released because I kept hearing about it. Comparing it to graphics in other games that I played at the time the graphics were poor. But it had a tremendous story and was a lot of fun, so I played it through and still recommend it to others even though it is now even more dated.
But the game still looks like you are staring at the matrix
The looks vs function seems to arise often as a video game related discussion. Its not though - it applies to many other systems - take the Bloomberg terminals that your average IB kiddie has to pore over.
There are so many different commands that people have to get used to - eqs, bnd, eco, nws, MA, etc. But after the learning curve, people do adapt.
In certain cases, it is possible to get away with a tough interface, which has its own internal consistencies. OF course you won't survive the mass market, but in niche markets with a user base advanced enough, you have decent amounts of wriggle room.
Planescape Torment is fantastic. I still play Fallout2 these days. I love that game :)
Project Gotham Racing looked awesome, and played well. Same for Gears. Chromehounds looked crap, but played insanely well. I've spent more time playing Chromehounds than I have any other game, and I play CoD a lot these days.
The fact is, if it ships and runs reasonably well, nobody gives a damn if you are running bogosort every frame. That's the great (and terrible!) thing about game programming.
And, really, on the PC at least, the hardware is so stupidly overpowered for most things that you can get away with heinous algorithms and overengineered/underspecced systems.
I know this, because web developers do it every day. :)
I cannot count how many times Fallout x has crashed or bugged out on me, but I still have poured more hours into those games than pretty much any other.
I'd say if it's really a good game, the code quality isn't that big an issue. If I'm pissed off when the game crashes, that says good things about the quality of the game. If it's just sort of addictive, I'll probably be relieved when it crashes.
This is changing, of course, with the growing presence of services like Steam and Battle.net, but it isn't the mode yet.
In any case, Braid was just okay. The level where the flow of time depended on the direction that your character was traveling was great, but the rest of the game was forgettable. There was about as much gameplay/story integration as a Final Fantasy game, and the story itself was mostly overwrought. But considering that the game cost me one dollar to purchase, I'd say it was worth it. :)
Fred Brooks cited 10-12 lines of code per day, constant across languages and projects he surveyed. As far as I know, it's not been shown to have changed since then.
How can you even make that claim when the game isn't out yet? I seriously have no idea what to make of your comment.
Blow’s decision to bare his soul in The Witness springs from this same drive to live up to the full potential of his artistic medium; a meaningful game, he believes, must be an honest one. The Witnesss narrator, he freely admits, is a thinly veiled version of his own psyche. When the narrator speaks of his guilt over spending millions to create an island filled with puzzles instead of using that money for worthier causes, this is Blow’s real spiritual dilemma. When the narrator reflects on his feelings of empty vanity, on his alienation from others, on his “yearning for truth and deep understanding,” these are Blow’s pains and desires.
Honesty and truth in storytelling is certainly important, but the kind of honesty he is talking about there is a boring truth. It reminds me of the same kind of thinking that produced Cinema Verite, and what Werner Herzog had to say about that philosophy:
"By dint of declaration the so-called Cinema Verité is devoid of verité. It reaches a merely superficial truth, the truth of accountants."
Even if I am not interested in Blow's pains and desires, I do respect the fact that he is deliberating on them, and hopefully encouraging other game developers to do so. However, the potential product of his process as described in that article just bores me to tears.
Honesty is not enough. I think Blow is more naive than he, or indeed this reporter, realizes.
Seeing as the average age of gamers is over 30 (someone correct me if I am wrong please), I bet there are lots more in my position.
Have you tried Braid?
His game is about a stalker whether he wants it to be or not. Authorial intent is irrelevant.
edit: Also, I hate how this article is written. It's not journalism when you turn the subjects into characters in a short story.
I personally love the fact that Blow is borderline antisocial and that he hates the industry. Someone needs be that. Most companies are just out there making Call of Duty 12 or awful freemium "casual" games. It's not like there aren't large numbers of artists and so-called creatives throughout history that have shared this sort of personality. I don't need to be his friend and I don't care about being his fan. I just admire and enjoy his work.
I'm curious, care to elaborate?
What's really going on, though, is that mainstream engineering and development CS types don't understand auteurs the way Hollywood and Greenwich Village does. Blow is no more pretentious or jerkoffy than Quentin Tarantino, Damien Hirst, or Banksy. He's an incredibly intellectual guy and a great game designer.
Now, the Fez developer, it could be argued, is a bit of a jerkoff. Telling people to "suck his dick" on twitter because he won IGF award in two separate years (4 years apart) for the SAME GAME still in development, or when he says Japanese games "suck". Now there is where you could direct your hate if you were so inclined.
Phil Fish is an asshole, but I haven't read enough of his thinking on art, design and life to say whether he's a jerkoff or not.
Let me give you an example of what I'm talking about: "He loathes watching sports, because they yield few tangible returns on the hours you invest in them."
Now, I mean, I'm not someone who particularly enjoys sports, but if the article is paraphrasing him accurately, then that's such a boorish way of dismissing a hobby, especially from someone who is in entertainment. Some people like watching sport because they see the performance of the athletes as an art, the culmination of thousands of hours of effort played out upon a grand stage. Others see it as the drama between competing forces, with players and coaches as the actors in an improvised play. Some people just enjoy analyzing the tactics and strategy employed and attempting to know what the outcome would be. And the really weird people (in my opinion) just wanna crunch the numbers.
Personally, I just don't care for the rules of many sports and would rather be doing something less passive. I mean, I'm not gonna tell him that he should like sports, but that's such a strange way for him, in his position, to say that he doesn't like them. I watch lots and lots of movies. How many of them do I get anything out of after the film is over besides in-jokes? Vanishingly few. How much of the music that I listen to really makes me feel something? A handful of songs.
What he so out of hand dismisses in general is the umwelt of experience, the notion of being in the moment. Fully engaged. Blow doesn't seem to be happy with the idea that people like to be immersed. He wants to make people rationally grind through games, to never be in the moment, to always have their mind on and trying to analyze. He characterizes everything else as evil or wrong or garbage.
And then he goes and practices Tai Chi.
> “I think the mainstream game industry is a fucked-up den of mediocrity,” he told me. “There are some smart people wallowing in there, but the environment discourages creativity and strength and rigor, so what you get is mostly atrophy.”
Most people and things are mediocre, by definition, so Blow's comments are obvious and unnecessary. Further, it is incredibly graceless to bang on about how terrible your chosen field is. One should simply prove one's point by producing great work, not by disparaging others.
> he plans to do nothing less than establish the video game as an art form
I'm pretty sure this has already been achieved, and not by Blow.
Braid is a great game, but its greatness is oversold by this article and, it seems, by Blow himself. Since the early days of video games there have been "artistic" video games. (Although the idea that you must draw some kind of line is nonsensical.)
> “If the video game is going to be used for art purposes, then it has to take advantage of its form in some way particular to that medium, right?” he told me.
"Art purposes"!! The preposterousness of the concept astounds me. Yeah, I'll go on record that this guy is spectacularly pretentious.
If we can't think of things like Braid, or Infinite Jest, or Downton Abbey without thinking pretentious, then all games should simply be derivatives of The Jersey Shore or just long fart noises and rubber-band physics. But, obviously, that's not what all people want, or else the aforementioned "pretentious" content wouldn't be so popular.
Closest thing to puzzle games that I enjoy are stealth territory navigation games like Thief series, Deus Ex, Far Cry 1 & 2 (at least the way I play them), etc. But the rush comes from a plan coming together in execution; in much the same way that I best enjoy programming when designing a bunch of data structures that solve a problem nicely.
The game looks pretty interesting, and while I thought it was only for Windows / xbox, it's also for mac!
I'm still wondering if he's just putting this game out there, or if he actually has a target audience he's aiming at.
It was in responce to someone comparing his new "innovative" game to myst and how Blow is much more derivative than he lets on. It was also a response to the article implying he was the only person working on truly artistic video games.
"and don't forget the much more recent Dear Esther. Which is a first person exploration game based on an island.
Oh and don't forget that other 'cerebral' game that is yet another source mod (which Dear Esther originally was). The Stanley Parable.
Personally I think this developer is stuck up his own arse. Talking about how the industry is full of dross for cretins whilst ignoring these games. His biggest game, Braid, revolves wholly around the twist at the end along with an interesting gameplay gimmick. He may be an artist within the industry. But by far isn't the only one, nor is he the best by a long shot.
Comparing the video game industry to literature and movies and saying "Oh, look at how mindless we are in comparison." Is missing the entire point. A lot of books, movies and games are mindless. But to then stand up because of that and say that the industry as a whole is mindless and that your brainchild is going to revolutionise it and fix all that is wrong is not only egotistical and ignorant but disrespectful of incredible artists like those who made the Stanley Parable. (Which was the first video game I played that really made me think. It is the game that I point to when I need to point out a video game that is art.)
Some posters here have very weird perspectives. Yes, if someone wants to extrapolate some straw man, based not on statements in the article or evidence from the real world, but built from whatever feels easy to criticize thoughtlessly, then sure, it is easy to knock that straw man down. Whatever.
For what it's worth, I liked The Stanley Parable and had a nice chat with the author of the game at PAX last year. Why would anyone assume that something like this is not the case?
You guys do know that the subjects of articles you read on the internet are other real people also on the internet, right? Why would a poster here assume that I am some kind of inert punching bag rather than, you know, someone who's been on HN for a couple of years and involved in discussions?
And in the indie space, if you're one of the handful-per-year breakout successes, you can make millions, perhaps double-digit millions, on typically much lower production+marketing costs. Super Meat Boy grossed somewhere above $10 million, Minecraft about $80 million, Bastion somewhere in the single-digit millions. The trick is being one of the few breakouts...
Think about what Clint Eastwood did with "The Unforgiven": before that film, the Western was considered a tired, spent, comical film genre. I remember reading pre-release critics saying Clint had wasted his time on that over used genre: "what could he possibly say that has not already been said 1,000 times?" they wrote...
What did Clint do? He started the film as a more-or-less classically serious western. However, as the film progresses, it acknowledges itself through the presence of dime store outlaw novellas causing kids to idolize the criminal aspects of the western experience. Then our heroes go about demonstrating the fallacy of this attitude, and the film ends with the audience being spoon fed the horror this idolization creates.
I suggest Mr. Blow and others attempting to elevate games to High Art need to begin with the traditionally insipid game style so popular today. (I can say this as a former 15 veteran of the games industry. I left specifically because of all the "pretentious" reasons Jonathan cites.) As the game's traditional fight-puzzle-fight mechanics play out, the character becomes exposed to the game engine simulation itself, and the gamer becomes exposed to the existential dilemma of wanting to continue their suspended disbelief while the game itself taunts them with the fact they are playing a game. Through such a careful balance of crossed signal communications, the gamer is left to question their own existence and the potential of our world merely being a simulation for the amusement and enrichment of others - at their expense.
No, Matrix fans/critics, I'm not saying "make the Matrix". What I'm pointing out is how "The Unforgiven" elevated itself by acknowledging the disjoint between the fiction and the reality, and spoon fed that to the film viewer. Sure, many a western and plain film fan missed Clint's higher message. Such is the diverse nature of how Art communicates. Much of what is considered "Art" today is simply artfully ambiguous. Jonathan can not afford such ambitiousness if he wants to achieve his goal.
Jonathan's goal of elevating games needs to include all the insipid game cliches to draw the traditional fan in, and then pull the floor out from under them, leaving them literally afraid to continue the game because it risks wreaking their appreciation for game playing thereafter. It's not a success to simply engage. It's not a success to merely cause consideration and wonder. Jonathan Blow's goal is to end games as they are today and reboot the entire industry, reborn as the 21st century's equivalent to the 20th century Film.
After that it starts on its three realtime services: Disqus, Chartbeat and Tubemogul (whatever that is) all keep track of how long you stay on the page. Not to mention how the site manages to slow down the entire browser during loading, and has many simple syntax errors. Not cross-browser stuff (like webkit-only css rules), also simply misspelled CSS.
Worst of all, the font is too small. I'm not going to read kilobytes of text like this.