Oh yeah, uh… hi!

So, uh, it’s been a while since I’ve posted, hasn’t it? I guess this would be a good time to mention that, although I still have my day job, I think I now finally count as “a real game developer”, because the awesome people at Novint Technologies contracted me to create a full-length version of In the Pit and adapt it to work with their Falcon haptics controller, which I did, and now they have the finished game and are deciding if they want to tweak it any more beyond what I did for them before they publish it. So, yay! In the meantime I also ported my full-length version of In the Pit to the XBox 360, just in time to submit it to the Dream, Build, Play competition, so hopefully that will also get it some attention, although I’m not holding my breath on it winning, since it’s up against 284 other entries (up from 69 entries last year!).

I’ve also gotten into pinball machines a bit; I fixed up a Mars: God of War machine over the summer, and flipped a Big Brave, I’m picking up a Firepower over Thanksgiving, and I’m also working on a custom pinball machine. Pinball is an interesting hobby, and is a lot more different from video games than I thought it would be; most of the enthusiasts are retirees, so everything tends to be quite a bit more lackadaisical. Pinball is also “mostly dead”, with only one company still making machines, so although there is some froth about “the next new game” (which, by the way, is a pinball adaptation of the TV show 24 for some reason), the vast majority of discussion and interest is about old machines, stretching all the way back to the 1940s. I’ll write more about pinball later. In the meantime, if you’re interested, I photo-journalled the whole process of fixing up that Mars: God of War machine here, with lots of notes full of basic information about pinball and things that I learned while I worked on it.

Oh, also, I got an XBox 360, primarily so I could test In the Pit and make sure it worked on it — which it does — and now I’m getting caught up on 360 games. It’s kind of surprising to set a ridiculous goal for myself like “I’ll buy a 360 when I have a game completely developed for it and I have to buy one so I can test it” and then actually achieve that goal.

So, that’s my summer in a game-specific nutshell! More of the usual rantings, musings, observations, and odd news to follow! (Actually, hopefully less of the rantings, since I’m making an effort to be less cynical.)

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A war where everyone wins! (except Sega)

It’s very interesting to me to see how the “console wars” have played out. For 30 years the console wars have been all about companies fighting tooth and nail for the same tiny (although affluent) demographic, trumping each other back and forth in an escalating battle of processor speeds, licenses, and number-of-buttons-per-controller. The PS2, the Dreamcast, the Gamecube, and the XBox were more or less the exact same thing, playing (in many cases) the exact same games, aimed at the exact same demographic, just made by different companies, and the company with the best combination of money to throw at advertising and licensing and repartee with established game developers (Sony) won that round. Now, however, the three major systems are aimed at three significantly different demographics, and there might just be room in the industry for ALL of them to thrive.

The XBox 360 is for traditional video games; extensions of the kinds of games that have always appealed to the core video game demographic (read 5- to 30-year-old males, although that age keeps skewing higher as that core demographic grows up and gets older).

The Wii is for casual and super-accessible games designed to appeal to new and non-traditional players. The other day I was standing in the video game section of Walmart next to a group of four middle-aged women, while we all waited for the person with the keys to give us the controllers we wanted; I was getting a 360 controller, and they were getting a copy of Wii-Play. I pointed out to them that they could get a Wiimote without the game for cheaper if they wanted, but they said “oh no, we want this one! It comes with pool!”

The PS3, despite a terrible launch that branded it as “just like the XBox 360, but designed by pretentious idiots”, has evolved into the console for software that is artwork first and a game second. Games like Flow, Pixeljunk Eden, Everyday Shooter, and Little Big Planet started the ball rolling on this trend, but Linger in Shadows — a demoscene demo that can be fiddled with but is by no means any sort of “game” with goals — has really driven that point home.

At this point, I honestly think the console wars are over. All three consoles serve different demographics, and they all seem to be doing a good job at it. There’s some overlap, of course — the artsy Braid on the 360, the “hardcore” and fanservice-y No More Heroes on the Wii — but for the most part the three consoles have trended toward those separate demographics. And console “power” thankfully, has also stopped being an issue; I know the PS3 is based around something called a “Cell processor”, and I have a very fuzzy idea of what the 360’s and Wii’s hardware is like, but none of those systems have any numeric information about their architecture anywhere on their cases (“Sega Genesis: 16-Bit”), their startup screens (“Neo-Geo: 100 Mega Shock!”) or, God forbid, their very names (“Turbo Grafx 16” / “Nintendo 64”).

So, uh… HOORAY!

(Incidentally, it was this post by ThisMachineKillsFascists that pointed out the PS3’s artsy leanings to me and inspired me to write this in the first place.)