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Dev Game Club

Join hosts and game industry veterans Brett Douville and Tim Longo as they explore older titles to talk about the influences those games had and what we can learn from them even today.
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Now displaying: October, 2018
Oct 31, 2018

Welcome to Dev Game Club, where we in this episode we are lucky enough to enjoy an interview with Greg LoPiccolo, project lead on Thief, and Randy Smith, who was a level designer on the title. Dev Game Club looks at classic video games and plays through them over several episodes, providing commentary.

Podcast breakdown:
0:40       Interview
1:00:08  Break
1:00:50  Feedback

Issues covered: World Series, how Randy got his start, psychology and programming as substrate for game design, "Suck it down" and toxic masculinity, cold-calling, the attraction of LG games, how Greg got in, the origins of Thief, competition, seeking limited but rich interaction, being weak, controlling the world from observation, AI with sense perceptions, the success of Thief, working counter to the prevailing winds, writing documentation to think about the space, commodities of space: loud/quiet and light/dark, tools support or lack thereof for those spaces, carving shapes, spaces that are hard to read, the level Escape, experimentation to find how to make a level, inventing sound propagation, dynamic lights impacting game play, player reading the lighting of a space, optimization, pulling back on combat in Thief II, "winging it and doing our best to survive," having nothing until you had everything, "like digging the Chunnel," polygon limitations, how do you build a cathedral with that?, the Emil vs Randy systems of building, designers having to be artists at the same time, putting the systems first, systemically reading space rather than tagging it, leading the team without having the tech yet, directing the narrative, writing lots of narrative to provide background and use it sparingly, people making their own stories, high quality voice acting, the bear pits, dialog as part of the game play loop, witty characters poking through, having to learn how to build a GANTT chart, repossessing the plants, the role of a leader, deep backstory, starting from a 1-4 page document, making up cool ideas and running with them, not being aware you couldn't do a thing, the trend of risk aversion in the industry, the indie spirit, an attempt to be more commercial, object hierarchy of inheritance, being in a submarine in the cold war, debugging console, the fundamental trick of game design: player brain and designer brain, starting testing much earlier, empathy as a design skill, overcoming doubt when innovating, saying yes to everything -> saying no to everything -> it's hard but we can do it, what the guests are doing next, having taste in game design and finding that audience, feeling like a musician vs being a musician, a touching father/daughter story.

Games, people, and influences mentioned or discussed: Looking Glass Studios, Thief (series), ION Storm, Electronic Arts, Steven Spielberg, Edge Magazine, Tiger Style, Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor, Spider: Rite of the Shrouded Moon, Sega Genesis, Bimini Run, Nuvision Entertainment, System Shock, Flight Unlimited, Harmonix, Frequency, Rock Band VR, Tribe, Waking Mars, Nate Blaisdell, MYST, Tim Schafer, Eric Brosius, Rex Bradford, Activision, Tim Ries, Doug Church, Dan Schmidt, Ned Lerner, Terra Nova, Terri Brosius, 2001: A Space Odyssey (obliquely), DOOM (1993), Paul Neurath, Metal Gear Solid, Ultima Underworld, id Software, Tim Stellmach, DromEd, Unreal, Emil Pagliarulo, Bethesda Game Studios, Marc LeBlanc, Stephen Russell, Ken Levine, Tom Leonard, Red Dead Redemption 2, Game Developer's Conference, Kevin Brown, Halo: Combat Evolved, Far Cry 5, Andrew Kirmse, Star Wars: Starfighter.

Next time:
Another interview!

@brett_douville, @timlongojr, and @devgameclub
DevGameClub@gmail.com

Oct 24, 2018

Welcome to Dev Game Club, where we in this episode we conclude our discussion of 1998's Thief: The Dark Project. We talk a bit about equipment and gadgets, the story and enemy shifts that happen late in the game, the commitment maybe to story over what was working, and as always, our takeaways from the game. Dev Game Club looks at classic video games and plays through them over several episodes, providing commentary.

Sections played:
Through the end!

Podcast breakdown:
0:45 Segment 1: Thief discussion
54:53 Break
55:20 Segment 2: Thief takeaways, Brett's Book Minute, and Feedback

Issues covered: good ending dialog, using the whole toolkit, kiting enemies to a trap, firing off gadgets immediately on acquisition, gas and fire arrows, having trouble on Escape, leaning away from the core fantasy, being a little too story-forward, other directions that might have worked, an easier last level, having to experiment to take down enemies, making good extensions to the enemy mix vs bad, finding an in-game way to give you information about your tools, the Hammerite mythology and technological disruption, conflicts between technology and nature, Hammerites and the Brotherhood of Steel, the texts before the cutscenes, setting tone, using first-person tools for storytelling, not being able to rely on lore, usability and testing, being a developer and being too good at your game, enjoying little loops of locations and story, missing subobjectives and having to go back, kicking the hornet's nest and having to go back, moving the goalposts too many times, the frustrating Escape level, returning to the Hammerite cathedral and having it changed, one-way gating your way through the final level (vs stealth), changing the tone of the game, how do you end a game?, going to an otherworldly place, Garrett talking to himself, listening to the Trickster do his summoning, heist/switching the idol, committing to the thief fantasy, technology as a feature, writing their own engine, focusing on simulation and systems in first-person, rope arrows and surface types, designing ancillary systems to support your core experience, consequential map, lockpicking vs a minigame, inventory and the store, horror beats, Garrett as a character, Brett's Book Minute, a correction, quiet and loneliness in Tomb Raider, loner vs loneliness, the golden age of the immersive sim, the genre as a success or not, expense of making AAA, level designers' ability to make whole levels, immersive sims at the indie level and procedural elements, flesh levels.

Games, people, and influences mentioned or discussed: Looking Glass Studios, Everquest, Edge of Tomorrow, Fallout, Monty Python, The Princess Bride, Gone Home, Dear Esther, D&D, JRR Tolkien, System Shock 2, Indiana Jones/Raiders of the Lost Ark, Baldur's Gate, ION Storm, Ultima Underworld, Deus Ex, Thief (2014), Tomb Raider, Tony Cliff, Delilah Dirk (series character), Timothy Hallinan, Junior Bender (series character), Ethan Johnson, Greg LoPiccolo, Vijay Lakshman, Elder Scrolls, Alex Rigopulos, Eran Egozy, Tim Dore, Half-Life, Dan Hunter, Dishonored, Prey, TIE Fighter, Daron Stinnett, Bethesda Game Studios, Zenimax, Arkane Studios, Kotaku, Neon Struct, We Happy Few, The2ndQuest, Contra, Aliens, Predator, Abadox, Alien Syndrome, Halo, Eric Bartoszak, Jill Murray.

Next time:
Next time we expect an interview! Keep your eyes peeled.

Links:
Fansy the Famous Bard (CW: homophobia, probably other chat grotesqueries, MMO chat can be ugly)

Brett's Twitch Channel

Stealth Docs YT Channel (recommended by a listener)

Podcast with Looking Glass folks

@brett_douville, @timlongojr, and @devgameclub
DevGameClub@gmail.com

Oct 18, 2018

Welcome to Dev Game Club, where we are in the midst of series discussing 1998's Thief: The Dark Project. We talk about map trade-offs, enemy diversity and choices, the levels we played, music and objectives, and other topics. Dev Game Club looks at classic video games and plays through them over several episodes, providing commentary.

Sections played:
Up to Undercover

Issues covered: "disco is my life," longer Thief: Gold levels, DLC before DLC existed, technical issues and level design, experimenting with what direction to take next, being unable to connect the dots, making assumptions about what the sim is saying, satisfying objectives unsatisfactorily, feeling like you'll be able to pick up the collectibles later, making the optional mandatory, intrinsic reward of economy and core fantasy, scaling difficulty being different in modern designs, unnecessary tension, changing up strategies due to the mission preparation screen, identity and tone in the music and audio design, impact of horror film genre on soundtrack choices, NPC dialog, cinematics as reward vs dialog, reward for slow player pace, variety of player choice encouraging stealth in NOLF, using dialog and timing to locate enemies and get into position, NPC dialog as a timer, having all the enemy types in The Lost City, the variety of enemy types, using water arrows on fireballs, crossing a valuable resource over, motivation of enemy designs, reuse of animation and models, technical limitations, character realism vs other games, co-op in SS2, choices in the map, map as opportunity for strategy, an inaccurate map, maintaining the fantasy with the map, map as puzzle, needing to use the compass to get your bearings, the many approaches of the map, flexibility in the uses of the map, seeing the lineage to Dishonored, finding maps as you play, map in an exploration game vs a target game, playing to your game's needs, map as a microcosm of design choices, getting an opportunity to be in disguise, the Eye talking to you, bleeding the natural through the mechanical thematically, MIT Gambit lab podcasts.

Games, people, and influences mentioned or discussed: Earth, Wind, and Fire, Eric Brosius, Red Dead Redemption, Kirk Hamilton, GB Buford, Jaws, Frictional Games, Amnesia, SOMA, The Chinese Room, No One Lives Forever, Cthulhu, System Shock 2, Soul Reaver, Tomb Raider, Quake, Hitman, Unreal, Doom, Far Cry 2, Miasmata, Firewatch, Prey, Dishonored, Tim Dore, Dan Hunter.

Links:
Kotaku on the RDR soundscape

Podcast with Looking Glass folks

Next time:
Finish the game!

@brett_douville, @timlongojr, and @devgameclub
DevGameClub@gmail.com

Oct 10, 2018

Welcome to Dev Game Club, where we look back to Shadows of the Tomb Raider for a special bonus episode featuring Lead Writer Jill Murray. We talk about how the writing gets done -- spoilers, there's a lot more planning than writing -- as well as all sorts of topics that grow from that. Dev Game Club looks at classic video games and plays through them over several episodes, providing commentary.

Issues covered: lacking access to technology, Jill's early career in visual arts/music/theater, staging a big musical, web development and a mismatch of needs, being non-distracted by the Internet, realizing that someone is writing these things, getting in, having to generate a lot of AC in a short time, the roles of writers, the meaning of a lead writer, leading a team vs being a principal writer, focusing on character and voice, writers holding multiple roles, writers working alongside one another vs a writers room, working with designers vs writers, splitting content responsibilities up, sharing a few systems, accommodating multiple styles, the team still tells the story, the impact of the team on the storytelling, choice of verbs impacting possible stories, lack of authorial control, having no sense of the size of a team, out-sourced studios enlarging the team, pros and cons of working with big teams, working with actors, the luxury of performance capture, security of the company being your security, production and collaboration style driving lifestyle, combative styles, smaller games less reliable, working out collaboration afresh, broader responsibilities, figuring out how everything fits to drive the actual sitting down and writing, lots of meetings, working on animatics, prepping for performance capture, multiple revisions with critiques of up to a dozen people, planning to prepare due to cost, attending performance capture shoots, going over the scripts again and again, having a full crew to move equipment/manage cameras/aid talent/feed everyone/set up mocap, observing as a writer, talking with the performance director to avoid getting in the way of the actor/director relationship, read-throughs, doing the cinematography afterwards, having a little more freedom with the character, reaching the end of this first journey, strength in vulnerability, leaning into awkwardness in a scene, being limited in what we're allowed to choose because it having to be badass, adding dimensionality to characters, expanding the medium into new audiences, audience not realizing what they want, community management and development, how game writing is like Gatorade, audience empathy, your responsibility to the player, provoking anger and fear, aftercare, thinking about how we care for a player after we've provoked strong, games as services, seeing yourself represented, being someone else, making games not just for ourselves, bringing other voices into the room, reaching the status of a Lara Croft, dating in a seniors residence, the Star Trek holodeck.

Games, people, and influences mentioned or discussed: UbiSoft, Assassin's Creed (series), Writer's Guild of America, Kitfox Games, Moon Hunters, Minority Media, Time Machine VR, Lawbreakers, Tomb Raider, Montreal Fringe Festival, Minesweeper, Xbox, Mass Effect (series), Ann Lemay, WB Games, Your Shape: Fitness Evolved 2012, Richard Farrese, Republic Commando, Jedi Starfighter, Bethesda Game Studios, Darby McDevitt, Eidos, Camilla Luddington, Gray's Anatomy, Virginie Costa, David Hubert, Crystal Dynamics, Gatorade, Kotaku, Skyrim, Kirk Hamilton, Evan Narcisse, James Bond, Batman, Bloom Digital, Later Gators, DreamDaddy, Golden Girls, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Boyfriend Dungeon, Meagan Marie, Women in Gaming: 100 Professionals of Play, Chinese Independent Game Developers Association Conference.

Next time:
Next time we return to Thief: The Dark Project, through "Undercover"

Links:
You can find Jill on Twitter at @disco_jill and via her company website, https://discoglo.be.

@brett_douville, @timlongojr, and @devgameclub
DevGameClub@gmail.com

Oct 3, 2018

Welcome to Dev Game Club, where we are in the midst of our series about 1998's Thief; we talk about the story development of the world, some small mechanical bits, and then dig into the level design of the four levels we played. Dev Game Club looks at classic video games and plays through them over several episodes, providing commentary.

Sections played:
Through "The Sword"

Issues covered: getting shot with an arrow, starting with the day in the life of a thief, establishing a baseline of a life, introducing the Hammerites and other groups, verses from religious texts, things are getting weird, weaving in "The Dark Project," upsetting the balance, the trope of stumbling into something larger, significance of what you're stealing, interludes vs cutscenes, preferring the mundane to the strange in this game, player expectations of story, surprising the audience, industrial/steampunk setting mixing with magic, wanting more from the city, leaning into weird backstory but drifting away, not needing the bizarre framing devices, constructing your story level to level, individual contributions driving story, extending the core fantasy with new mechanics, knucklehead stealth, sword swinging mechanics, complexity of collisions, the efficiency of the blackjack, adding traps and lock picks, slow projectiles, being able to see the mechanisms behind the traps, methodical trap avoidance, player skill in reading the environment, committing to first-person in lock-picking, triggering character skill, adding a lock-picking mini-game to the franchise, being a predator in other games, claustrophobia in narrow corridors, hacking a zombie to bits, the mournful music of the horn, building Garrett's character and placing him in the world, surprise switch objective, a level that is too long, not having the texture budget to support the level design, being lost, picking up things and having them in your inventory, doing stuff in the wrong order, banging up against the banners, being a second story guy, rope arrow mechanics, a weird space, relying on physics engines, level as character building, weird promotions, flipping the script and driving you away.

Games, people, and influences mentioned or discussed: Dungeons & Dragons, Tomb Raider, System Shock 2, The Usual Suspects, Memento, Hitman (series), Assassin's Creed, Dario Casali, Half-Life, Dark Forces, Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine, Hal Barwood, Die By The Sword, Ultima Underworld, Leon: The Professional, Ken Levine, Dark Souls, Pipe Dreams, Kent Hudson, Thief: Deadly Shadows, Arkham Asylum, Deus Ex, Stephen King, Creepshow, Swamp Thing, Cthulhu, HP Lovecraft, Gothic Chocobo, Fallout 3, Bulletstorm, People Can Fly, EA Partners, Turok, Dante's Inferno, Brutal Legend, Jack Black, The Way, Grand Theft Auto IV.

Next time:
Through "Undercover"

Links:
Assassin's Creed's Functional Story


@brett_douville, @timlongojr, and @devgameclub
DevGameClub@gmail.com

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