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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: March, 2020
Mar 25, 2020

Welcome to Dev Game Club, where this week we continue our series playing Chrono Trigger. We talk exploration vs following the story threads, delve deeper into the combat, chat about the game's difficulty and accessibility, along with story recaps and other topics. Dev Game Club looks at classic video games and plays through them over several episodes, providing commentary.

Sections played:
Up to the Magus's Castle

Podcast breakdown:
0:52 Chrono Trigger
1:30:48 Break
1:31:22 Feedback

Issues covered: why Tim hates JRPGs, why Tim took a little longer this time, irascible exploratory Tim, getting to the top of the mountain and finding nothing, feeling discouraged from leaving the main path, what the rewards of the game are, having the prototype of what additional interactions would look like, exploring party make-up, when Ayla met Bobo, the blandness of Crono, being able to put yourself in the character, characters who start at the beginning of their story vs somewhere in the middle, party members standing out more, where you decide to spend your development time, swapping out party members and when you can, the pressure relief valve for difficulty, what is the real set of defaults for this game, having a more dynamic combat with Active Time Battle, developing your menu-diving skill, being forced into repetition and limiting ability exploration, wait mode as being more accessible, having higher highs in active mode, feeling like active mode is an experiment, having menu difficulties with Kingdom Hearts, the burden of memorizing key sequences, the timer as animation tell, having too many characters to manage to memorize things, escaping combat, using run as a means of skipping combat, dealing with status effects (Heal/Panacea), cutting out the searching for specific status healers, using specific attacks for elemental weaknesses, generally not needing to worry about weaknesses, using lightning to remove defense, fighting Spekkio, needing to restore the timeline, returning to a changed Medina, not knowing what we changed in the past, having weird interactions with monsters, localizing using stuff based on your real life, turning assumptions on their head, translation barriers, looking for Masamune, starting to subvert tropes, a kid who's no hero, a good boss battle, going to Melchior with both halves of the sword, meeting Ayla and having a big party, making Crono dance, echoes through time, losing the dreamstone via Kino, fighting Azala and the Megasaur, learning the history of Cyrus and... Glenn?, echoes of Tolkien, making a significant commitment to characters, having calls to action, integrating Glenn into the main quest, getting to equip the badge to Glenn, an update on Tim's hike, the responsible thing, stay safe and healthy, cultural references, beating up robots, variations in the courtroom and jail scenes, localization and emotional intent, the business case for localization, the high costs of localization, making choices about what content to keep in Yakuza and a design which accommodates players ignoring it, friction between an original market and a new market, growing to appreciate the underlying value of the business end, looking to journalism to fill in the gaps.

Games, people, and influences mentioned or discussed: irreverentQ, Chrono Cross, The Outer Worlds, Fallout (series), Prey, Earthbound, Final Fantasy (series), Kingdom Hearts, Batman: Arkham (series), Pokemon (series), Ray Bradbury (obliquely), Narnia, The Clan of the Cave Bear, Ultima Underworld, Minecraft, The Two Towers/Return of the King, Mass Effect (series), Sam Thomas, Short Circuit 2, Westworld, The Terminator, James Roberts, Patrick Holleman, Gothic Chocobo, Persona 5, Andrew Dice Clay, Yakuza (series), Kotaku, Robert Downey Jr, Iron Man, Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, Wasteland 2, Kirk Hamilton, Aaron Evers.

Links:
Short Circuit 2

Hitchhiking Robot Beheaded

Robot falls into fountain

Reverse Design: Chrono Trigger

Yakuza: Judgement replacing actor

Next time:
Up to "What Lies Beyond?"

Twitch: brettdouville, instagram:timlongojr, @brett_douville, @timlongojr, and @devgameclub
DevGameClub@gmail.com

Mar 18, 2020

Welcome to Dev Game Club, where this week we begin our series playing Chrono Trigger, the beloved 1995 SNES classic. We cover a lot of ground with this one, including the story, some of the combat, the way the game pays attention to you... all sorts of topics for a corker of a game. Dev Game Club looks at classic video games and plays through them over several episodes, providing commentary.

Sections played:
Up to The End of Time!

Podcast breakdown:
0:51 Chrono Trigger
1:31:07 Break
1:31:41 Feedback

Issues covered: COVID-19, SpaceWorld and E3, the year 1995 in games, the creative team, character design in hand-drawn art and intro, the Dream Team, the top-down look of a 16-bit era game, companions following around, combining the background and the foreground in the PlayStation era, the quality of the art direction, running right into combat vs modal play, lack of random battles, choice of battle mode, Active Time Battles, differences between active and wait styles, the overworld and entering spaces, influence of other games, the basic menu presentation, the "Sakaguchi style" and its culmination, being able to approach things fresh, getting on with it, the bouncy playfulness of childhood, Chosen One tropes, Mom waking you up trope, relatability, the princess incognito trope, mixing up a trope, feeling more surprises in FFIX, short-term goals vs long-term/Chosen One goals, signposting the Day of Lavos, whether or not we're able to choose to come back, having another JRPG pay homage, seeing the change in various timelines, enjoying our time with the Frog, the evil Chancellor, the Cathedral and Yakra's minions, having a moment of talking with the monsters, the juxtaposition of drama/horror and comedy, space for Japanese vs letters, returning to the present with Nadia and having a trial, referring back to things you did at the fair, the designer noticing you, the game is safe, the theme of our choices mattering for our future, wanting to be the paladin, the courtroom as setting, escaping the dungeons, a little scene in the warden's office and telegraphing importance to the player, possibly a stealth mechanic, the Dragon Tank on the bridge, affine transformations in the background, using atmospherics for setting tone, the computer telling the tale of Lavos, recruiting Robo, having to pass through Lab 32, the flamboyant Johnny, racing Johnny in Mode 7 to the end of the Lab, Johnny the Biketaur, Robo getting beat up by the other robots, the valiant robot who sacrifices himself for you, Brett gives Tim a hard time for ST: Nemesis, humanizing the non-human characters, gunbows and floral horrors, Tim's big hike, renaming in the new translation, the difficulties of translation, localization as its own art form, adding difficulty with IPs, machine translation, recognizing the great translators, testing your focus as much as your execution, repetitive learning, playground of moves, looping in failure to the style of play, board games and failure, higher highs, rubbing death in your face, worsening the traditional model, obfuscatory, dealing with people who wave their brains around, being open to looking foolish, "Caveman Tim" and being self-deprecatory to diminish status differences, asking simple questions repetitively, active listening, reflection as a means to learning in the moment, being in the moment, being okay with vulnerability.

Games, people, and influences mentioned or discussed: Ted Woolsey, Tom Slattery, SNES, Dark Forces, TIE Fighter, LucasArts, Full Throttle, The Dig, Phantasmagoria, I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream, Warcraft, Command & Conquer, N64, Dracula X (Castlevania: Rondo of Blood), Twisted Metal, Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island, Super Bomberman 3, Kirby's Dreamland, Earthbound, Dragon Quest (series), Trials of Mana, Tales of Phantasia, Hironobu Sakaguchi, Final Fantasy (series), Yuji Horii, Akira Toriyama, Dragon Ball, Shonen Jump, Masato Kato, Xenogears, PlayStation, Shiren the Wanderer, Ninja Gaiden, Yasunori Mitsuda, Nobuo Uematsu, SquareSoft, Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past, Pokemon, Kingdom Hearts, GameBoy, Ni No Kuni, Ultima (series), Breath of the Wild, Skyrim, The Witcher (series), John Romero, Fallout, Wasteland, Enix, Activision/Blizzard, Dragon Warrior, Dungeons & Dragons, Jason Schreier, Chrono Cross, BioWare, Ocarina of Time, Aladdin, Diablo, Dragon Age, Baldur's Gate, Park Chan-wook, Bong Joon Ho, Day of the Tentacle, Tim Schafer, Dave Grossman, Mass Effect, Super Metroid, Super Castlevania IV, Wall-E, Shenmue, Mario Kart, The Mandalorian, Planetfall, Isaac Asimov, Star Trek: Nemesis, The Pacific Crest Trail, Cheryl Strayed, James Roberts, Stretch Armstrong, Boss Fight Books, Michael P. Williams, Republic Commando, Star Wars, Cyrano de Bergerac, Roxane, Douglas Hofstadter, Un Ton Beau de Marot, Love in the Time of Cholera, Edith Grossman, Margaret Jull Costa, Odyssey, Emily Wilson, Warren Linam-Church, Jeff Morris, Civilization, Mario 64, Dark Souls, Demon's Souls, Super Meat Boy, Beyond Earth, DOOM, Batman: Arkham Knight, Soren Johnson, Maas Neotek Proto, The Turbo Encabulator, Obduction, MYST, Metroid Prime II: Echoes, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night.

Next time:
Up to The Magus's Castle

Errata:
Brett said RPGs when clearly he meant RTSes. We regret the error. (It's Tim's fault.)

Links:
John Romero on Chrono Trigger

Tim's Charity Webpage

Pacific Crest Trail Association

Big City Mountaineers

The Turbo Encabulator 

Anime Intro Movie

Twitch: brettdouville, instagram:timlongojr, @brett_douville, @timlongojr, and @devgameclub
DevGameClub@gmail.com

Mar 11, 2020

Welcome to Dev Game Club, where this week we finish our Civilization III discussion with an interview with Jeff Morris, producer on Civilization III and long-time producer in the industry. Dev Game Club looks at classic video games and plays through them over several episodes, providing commentary.

Podcast breakdown:
0:47 Interview
1:09:53 Break
1:10:25 Feedback

Issues covered: not being suited to programming, being part of the problem, the huge shadow of Origin growing up, getting a job through the hospitality suite, the game culture in Austin, the game dev scene of a city, rivalry between studios, sinking the MicroProse battleship, QAing a flight simulator, the difference between single-vehicle and survey sims, falling in love with modern air combat, Baltimore as actual flight sim town, loosening up or not, learning about the American Civil War, embedding in QA from remote, the number one job in QA, wearing multiple hats, only being able to get better as a producer working with a team, the team not needing design input, keeping a firewall between production and design, different kinships between QA and design or production, the difference between done and good, learning the tools of production, looking at Civilization as a war game, Baltimore and Avalon Hill, reading the effin' manual, boardgame legacy, localization complexity, what's in the manual vs not, rewarding a style of play, loving the early and middle game, where the one more turn comes up from mixed levels of goals, Sid's Dinosaurs game transforms, "the manual for Civilization is in your brain," shipping, the benefits of programmer + designer as one person, fast iteration, being able to predict when assets would be done, feeding scheduling data back in, keeping track of people and their implementation rate, difficulty of scaling, being rewarded for neglecting certain programmers, paying the production tax and getting something for it, getting Civ II experts involved, doing everything possible in a game being impossible, compliance testing machines, having bug reports from dev heroes, being driven by playtest, playtesting with post-its, shipping your 518th implementation, "wouldn't it be cool if," spending time in the right places, streamlining the advisors, the elasticity of production titles, in the trenches production, making mistakes into small bumps in the road, insomnia Civ play, the influence of where you've been on what you do, playing the game every day, production notes, reasons for designers to be programmers, the mix of people on a project, avoiding obfuscation, trusting your experts, what Tim will do on the trail, the Superman hate minute, we review Olrox, Tim's JRPG education.

Games, people, and influences mentioned or discussed: Origin Systems, Janes (military sims), Ultima Collection, Firaxis, Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri, Epic Games, Unreal Tournament (series), Gears of War, Red Five, Planet Moon, Crystal Dynamics, LucasArts, Kabam!, NCSoft, Free Range Games, Ultima Underworld, Apple ][, Warren Spector, Starr Long, Richard Garriott, Steve Jackson Games, MicroProse, Longbow, US Navy Fighters, Advanced Tactical Fighters, Top Gun, Marine Fighters, NATO Fighters, A-10 Warthog, F-15, Larry Holland, Battlehawks 1942, SWotL, Autoduel, Moebius, Andy Hollis, EA, Sid Meier's Gettsyburg, Jeff Briggs, Soren Johnson, Jason Coleman, JACKAL, Avalon Hill, Empire, Pool of Radiance, SSI games, Beyond Earth, Sid Meier's SimGolf, Maxis, Pat Dawson, Blizzard, Casey O'Toole, Microsoft Project, Tim Train, Brian Reynolds, Alan Emrich, Computer Gaming World, Bruce Shelley, Absolute Quality Incorporated, Archon, Jon Freeman, Bethesda Game Studios, Aaron Loeb, Star Wars Uprising, Ed Catmull, Pixar, Lulu LaMer, Daron Stinnett, Spotify, Stitcher, Derek Achoy, Josh Harding, Oliver Uvman, Designer Notes, Idle Thumbs, Scratch, GameMaker, Doom (1993), Minecraft, Portal, Noita, Richard Feynman, John Lethbridge, Ben Zaugg, Superman, The2ndQuest, Batman: Arkham Knight, Chrono Trigger, John Romero, SIGIL, Hironobu Sakaguchi, Final Fantasy IX, SNES, Dragon Warrior, Dragon Quest, Eye of the Beholder, PlayStation, Kingdom Hearts, Spider-man.

Next time:
The beginning of Chrono Trigger!

Links:
Scratch programming language

Twitch: brettdouville, Instagram:timlongojr, Twitter: @timlongojr, and @devgameclub
DevGameClub@gmail.com

Mar 4, 2020

Welcome to Dev Game Club, where this week we continue our Civilization III discussion with an interview with Soren Johnson, Civilization III designer and programmer and head of Mohawk Games. Dev Game Club looks at classic video games and plays through them over several episodes, providing commentary.

Podcast breakdown:
0:49 Interview
1:39:20 Break
1:39:54 Feedback

Issues covered: surprises on the 200th episode, getting into games, mispronouncing a California city, computer science as a term, figuring out where to work, being into history, getting away from games in college, the troubled history of Civ III, preferring not to do sequels, bad choices at MicroProse, not thinking about walking away from IP, a rights battle, getting Sid Meier to make a Civ game, Brian Reynolds turning away from Civ games, brain drain, a golden opportunity, "the adults had disappeared," evolving into designer-programmer, the beginning of a franchise, switching away from adding proper nouns to the game, incorporating culture as a fountain to establish borders, design ideas that feel like they should have always been there, adding strategic and luxury resources, pushing trade and tension through resources, the advantages of particular historic civilizations and that not being a good fit for Civ, game play coming from map generation, lacking a single AI technique, starting the AI by starting at the beginning of the game, keeping hard-coded values out of the AI, making things data-driven, mod-ability, adapting the AI to changes and iteration in development, whether an AI is "cheating," being careful with how the AI interacts with the player, the intricacy of a naval invasion, how to choose a good city for your invasion and how players subvert that, making small decisions plausible, having no firewall between AI and game data, scaling for difficulty by bonuses and penalties, beating the opponent vs providing behaviors as a challenge, the inherent difficulty of diplomacy, AI as NPC, the negotiating table, AI career beginning when Civ III released, optimizing the fun out of the game, you don't give up anything to trade technologies, limiting what the AI is allowed to do, Civ is a game about math, giving up floating point math, balancing the numbers through Early Access now but patches in the past, being on the frontier of live games, holding the game together via time with the audience, discovering the perfect strategy for asymmetrical games via iteration, re-examining the 4X with his next game, automating as a poor solution, removing unnecessary vestigial stuff, taking away decision-free micromanagement, being afraid of changing mainstays, revisiting your prior design ideas, working like film and being out-of-order vs starting at the beginning, GDC postponement, Irene of Athens, Tim's love for Civ stories, manga and comics, the variety in the Japanese games market, the prevalence of handheld and mobile in the Japanese market, greater variety of games in smaller budgets, the value of common language, Tim's charity pledging.

Games, people, and influences mentioned or discussed: Mark Sean Garcia, EA, Knockout Kings, Firaxis, Maxis, Spore, Dragon Age Legends, Mohawk Games, Offworld Trading Company, Adam Saltsman, Designer Notes, Idle Thumbs, Commodore 64, Amiga, Black Isle Entertainment, Avalon Hill, Sid Meier, MicroProse, Brian Reynolds, Spectrum Holobyte, Sid Meier's Gettysburg, Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri, Activision, Infogrammes, Hasbro Interactive, Sid Meier's Dinosaurs, Starcraft, Age of Empires: Age of Kings, Tim Train, Jason Coleman, David Inscore, Railroad Tycoon, Pirates, X-COM, Julian Gollop, Jake Solomon, Jeff Briggs, Bohnanza, Settlers of Catan, Guns Germs and Steel, Warcraft, Paradox Interactive, Crusader Kings, Europa Universalis, A Few Acres of Snow, Dominion, Ten Crowns, Empire, Beyond Earth, John Romero, SIGIL, DOOM (1993). Warren Linam-Church, Oedipus, Shakespeare, Johnny Grattan, Maus, PlayStation 2, Mr. Mosquito, Xbox (original), Prey (2017), Batman: Arkham Knight.

Next time:
Another interview?!

Links:
Playing to Lose, GDC 2008

Irene of Athens

Twitch: brettdouville, instagram:timlongojr, @brett_douville, @timlongojr, and @devgameclub
DevGameClub@gmail.com

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