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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: September, 2020
Sep 30, 2020

Welcome to Dev Game Club, where this week we conclude our series on Populous with a special guest interview with Glenn Corpes, the original programmer who came up with a little generator for height maps that ended up launching a whole genre; we'll talk about that and tons of other topics. Dev Game Club looks at classic video games and plays through them over several episodes, providing commentary.

Podcast breakdown:
0:45 Interview
1:18:41 Break
1:19:02 Next time

Issues covered: how Glenn got in, seeing a computer for the first time, being a computer operator, getting a job for your woodgrain, getting hired as an artist, porting a game without the code, winging it on things like collision detection, being unable to port something and casting about for something else, writing a level generator to avoid writing an editor, having to add the ability to raise and lower land, having the whole world with a pixel per cell, the game on top being all Peter's, working backwards from mouse coordinates, having the original disk, the potential for the landscape to rise up over the interface elements, updating the map every frame, limiting the use of the blitter, size of Bullfrog at the time, the musician/salesman, understanding the "metal-bashing aspect" or not, three man weeks of graphics, blocks vs sprites, one thing per square and no more than 256 total, managing character state, no pathfinding, map steps: the opposite of pheromones, buildings based on the flat space around, people as groups of people, the interaction of weapons multipliers and population, getting an explanation of what all the bars mean, the most significant digits, the strategy for managing population, the strategy for clearing land, a clarifying button on the SNES, near-launch title, sales and the UK Chart, multiplayer only until shortly before ship, communicating through a networked file, writing the game in 7 months, watching two AIs play each other, the ways in which AI difficulty is managed, reimplementing all the gameplay in two weeks, faking out the AI because it will always attack your oldest building, AI speed, responding to flood, the manna rules, going into a manna debt and paying it off, making inroads for the knights, stuck messages, adding a campaign two weeks from the end, having an accountant QA the game, the most difficult level of the game: Biloord, how to beat "Biloord: The Hardest Level in Populous," slowing the game vs arcade-ing it up, faking out a sphere, making the cube without the stickers, flat land as currency, synergy and serendipity, revolutionary gameplay from an unexpected place, last minute additions, fights on Populous: The Beginning, heretical choices in game development.

Games, people, and influences mentioned or discussed: Bullfrog Productions, Magic Carpet, Dungeon Keeper, Syndicate, Lost Toys, Moho, Battle Engine Aquila, Kuju, EA, Weirdwood, 22 Cans, Edge, Topia, Fat Owl with a Jet Pack, Ground Effect, powARdup, Commodore PET, ZX-81, Sinclair, Telex, Amiga, Taurus, Peter Molyneux, DPaint, Druid 2: Enlightment, Gauntlet, Spectrum, Fusion, The Ultimate Database, Atari ST, Commodore 64, Alienate, Knight Lore, Spindizzy, Marble Madness, Dungeon Master, Ultima Underworld, Andrew Bailey, Dene Carter, Big Blue Box, Fable, Lionhead, Kevin Donkin, Powermonger, GDC, SNES, The Sentinel, The Promised Lands, LEGO, Black&White, Godus, Sean Cooper, Civilization, Alan Wright, Alex Trowers, Command & Conquer, Ernő Rubik/Rubik's Cube, X-COM, Wayne Frost, Julian Gollop, Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines, Leonard Boyarsky, Fallout, Tim Cain, The Outer Worlds, Obsidian, Microsoft, Dungeons & Dragons, Kirk Hamilton, Aaron Evers.

Next time:
Vampire: the Masquerade: Bloodlines (up through.... some of Santa Monica)

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

Sep 23, 2020

Welcome to Dev Game Club, where this week we talk about our Populous takeaways and then take a little bonus look at Populous: the Beginning, an RTS spinoff from the original games. We talk about how the game takes concepts from the originals and molds them into something new, before turning to feedback. Dev Game Club looks at classic video games and plays through them over several episodes, providing commentary.

Sections played:
A few missions

Podcast breakdown:
0:56 Takeaways and Populous: The Beginning
1:12:48 Break
1:13:20 Feedback

Issues covered: dreaming big, the one-sentence/high concept, buying on the box, the mindset you approach the game with now and at the time, creation vs destruction mechanics, your Old Testament gods, toys vs games academically, indirect control and influence, opacity of interface, being engaged even indirectly, board games as an influence, the interactions you have as a god, "when I get to mid-game, I flood the world," emergent strategy, simulated villagers, wanting the stories of how strategies developed internally, simulating a population, what are your choices for abstraction, the mystery of simulation, watching an ant colony, it's like the terrain itself was a character, Tim's troubles getting this game running, user-created solutions to get this thing running, forgetting to save, how the god of Populous ascended, borrowing from multiple tribal traditions, is a thing 3D or not, a rotable camera vs an isometric view, a level-designed game, limitations on raising and lowering land, getting a number of charges to raise land, directly controlling villagers to become warriors or to build and occupy buildings, your godlike powers, tech tree driven by level/macro design, having the RTS ruts, critical unit mass and rhythm, franchise pillars and what you bring with you, winged monsters, converting savages through your Shaman, converting units, a finite unit map, religion and colonization, a puzzle level, micro-management of units, seeing patrol paths, the costs of scale, being neither enough of an RTS nor enough of a Populous game, legacies, eye strain, hardening of the corneas, blue light blockers, perception of depth of field and focusing, ambient light, what do you tell a young person, organizing thoughts creatively, the benefits of a liberal arts education, communication as key life skill, doing the thing every day, game jams online and in person, Brett's Book Recommendation.

Games, people, and influences mentioned or discussed: Dungeons & Dragons, Bullfrog Productions, Lionhead, Peter Molyneux, SimCity, Civilization, Will Wright, The Walking Dead, Black & White, Ultima IV, Windows, Star Trek, Warcraft, Dune 2, Command & Conquer, Starcraft, Quake III Arena, Nintendo DS, Total Annihilation, EA, Haden Blackman, Paul Pierce, Tropico (series), Anno (series), Sam, Cody, Unreal, Unity, Blender, MGS 3: Snake Eater, Resident Evil 4, Mario 3, itch.io, Terry Pratchett, Discworld, Kirk Hamilton, Aaron Evers.

Next time:
An interview or possibly our Halloween-themed game

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

Sep 16, 2020

Welcome to Dev Game Club, where this week we continue our series on 1989's genre-defining Populous. We take a little more time with the game and then think about how and why and it might have hit so big at the time, in addition to considering its principal designer, Peter Molyneux. Dev Game Club looks at classic video games and plays through them over several episodes, providing commentary.

Sections played:
Several more battles

Podcast breakdown:
0:50 Populous Discussion
51:30 Break
52:02 Feedback

Issues covered: Tim's new podcast, the thinness of the game, the systems present in the game, minimal surfacing, settlers and food and buildings, getting a feel for systems rather than directly understanding or showing them, finding a formula, reinforcing castles as good but it maybe leading to a poor dynamic, indirect control, being unable to stop them from making castles, weird ant farm thoughts, overclicking, building up to flood them, speed-land raising by the AI, flooding rather than swamping, the OCD clean-up dopamine, turning the tides, tit-for-tat strategies, a narrow tipping point for Brett, not knowing what to do about things, forgetting about the population bars, getting to flood conditions, being ready to do the thing at the right time, wanting to act on the enemy at exactly the right place, fighting on the borders, pinball wizardry, examining the "load-out" of the level set-up, the fun of playing genre-defining games, that Unique Selling Proposition, finding the big selling point, calcifying genres and breaking away, being not "another one of those," shooting an eye out from a mile away, Molyneux's unique talent, overselling his ideas, child-like enthusiasm, being a forcing function on development, going beyond the limits of what's possible, different approaches to how you push beyond preconceptions, console generation and caring less about new hardware, interesting games being interesting on any platform, an Ubisoft model, applying the specific game to every design, the value of working cheap, having the value of working with more interesting hardware, simulating lots of Little Computer People, how we build an image today, not being able to re-render the whole screen, getting to the interface they had, actually using all the screen to play, being confused about how it all works, runtime performance of PCs in the 1980s, the screenshot test, selling the experience not the visuals, severe technical constraints, switching from another industry, creative leadership in different industries, being willing to step down before stepping back up, the difficulty of going from peak to peak, leveraging your leadership/mentoring skills.

Games, people, and influences mentioned or discussed: Northern Exposure, Voice of the Last Frontier, SimCity, GTA, Civ, Dungeon Keeper, Dominion, The Who, Thief, Ultima (series), Heroes of Might and Magic, Dave Perry, Shiny, MDK, Peter Molyneux, Syndicate, Bioshock, Shigeru Miyamoto, Pikmin, Roberta Williams, Space Quest/King's Quest, PS2, Ubisoft, Immortals: Fenyx Rising, Monster (energy drinks), Michel Ancel, Bullfrog, Populous: The Beginning, From Dust, Eric Chahi, Yannick from Germany, Maas Neotek, Amiga, John Romero, Benoit B. Mandelbrot, Apple ][, NES, MegaMan, The Legend of Zelda, Jonathan, Kirk Hamilton, Aaron Evers.

Note:
The Amiga was in fact 640x512, higher than I would have guessed! This would have been EGA/VGA depending on the machine on other PCs.

Next time:
A bit of Populous: The Beginning!

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

Sep 9, 2020

Welcome to Dev Game Club, where this week we continue our series on 1989's Bullfrog Productions hit and originator of the God Game genre, Populous. We talk about using the mouse in 1989 and dive into particular strategies and the surprising depth of the game, before turning to feedback. Dev Game Club looks at classic video games and plays through them over several episodes, providing commentary.

Sections played:
Another... 5? Levels

Issues covered: the tutorial just going on, restarting a conquest, having a false sense of security in the tutorial, generating more manna early in the tutorials, games being more keyboard-only at the time, evolving use of home computers for games, adventure games/text adventures and interfaces, figuring out the input interface, hard-to-use mouse input, the Taurus/Torus mix-up that gave us Bullfrog Productions, the PC platform space in 1989, RTS improvements to help navigate, keyboard controls, figuring things out on the second or third game, unanticipated phases to the game, avoiding arcadey controls by indirection, slow manna generation, the costs of raising land, the dangers of flooding, leaving a lone knight errant to decimate the enemy, the enemy flooding himself, unanticipated stories, flooding yourself to kill the enemy, the ways the AI cheats, rubberbanding of a sort, using swamps and earthquakes to disrupt the enemy, papal magnet management, the impact of the map, how to analyze a map for an RTS, developing a simple unit-based AI, the Game of Life/cellular automata approach to AI, focusing on knights, using the gather behavior to make tougher nights, how much space castles take up and the borders around them, the macro around score and how far to advance in the 500 levels of Populous, how would one speedrun Populous, modern descendants of the game, loving having Molyneux in the industry, "to think, it all started with baked beans," machine speed in DosBox, not adjusting for time in old video games, what is an honorific, honorifics and first-person identification in Japanese, observing sexism as potentially embedded in the writing alphabet, gendered particles/radicals and similarities to Romance languages.

Games, people, and influences mentioned or discussed: Prince of Persia, Civilization, Ultima (series), Doom (series), Quake, King's Quest, Space Quest, LucasArts, Dark Forces, Ultima Underworld, Duke 3D, Amiga, Peter Molyneux, World of Warcraft, 22 Cans, EA, Microsoft, Fusion, SNES, SimAnt, Game Developer, Warcraft, Dune, Command & Conquer, Game of Life, John Conway, Darwinia, WarGames, Introversion Software, DEFCON, Uplink, Prison Architect, Scanner Sombre, Godus, Curiosity: What's Inside the Cube, Dungeon Keeper, Fable (series), Mr. Beast, Chris Corry, Syndicate, Johnny Pockets, Chrono Trigger, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, Harry Potter, George Orwell, allthosewhowander.org, Kirk Hamilton, Aaron Evers.

Next time:
More Populous

Link:
That Italian translation article I mention

Note:
It is in fact possible to navigate the view window with the number pad. But the number pad does in fact control the viewport scrolling. The problem is, the number pad and the mouse are typically both controlled with the right hand.

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

Sep 2, 2020

Welcome to Dev Game Club, where this week we begin a series on the Bullfrog classic Populous. We set the game in its time and place and talk a little bit about Bullfrog and the different directions simulation games were going, driven by different designers, before talking a little bit about the weirdnesses of this game proper. Dev Game Club looks at classic video games and plays through them over several episodes, providing commentary.

Sections played:
Tutorial and First Battle

Podcast breakdown:
0:51 Populous
1:03:48 Break
1:04:17 Feedback

Issues covered: welcoming Tim back and a discussion of his trip, 1989 in video games, a little discursion into Midwinter, creating the God Game, the immense sales of Populous, the Bullfrog game legacy, absorbing smaller developers into a larger publisher, the different directions that simulations were going under different developers, geographic distinctions, creating genres, limitations in processing power and UI representations, trying Populous in 1992 without a manual, the tutorial in the manual, failing the tutorial, the UI representation, performance concerns and filling the space, raising and lowering terrain, overloading icon use, the pause menu, GDC Lifetime Achievement Award, trying to figure out the best way to do a thing, influencing a game vs controlling the game, reading the map, using cartographic techniques in lieu of shading, killing the enemies indirectly, making your leader into a knight, mixing religious iconography, "we" are good and "they" are evil, the macro of the game, the way characters become stronger, overloading the use of the bars on the shield, lowering land to prevent a new leader forming, raising land to create a path for your knight, visual novel recommendations, an update on Pockets the Great, how deep the Civ rabbit hole goes, finding appropriate mentors, not always having the answer, listening to and asking questions of a report, the Socratic method, getting to know your people, setting Phoenix Wright in LA for a Western market, regional dialects, Shu Takumi's dog.

Games, people, and influences mentioned or discussed: Sega Genesis/Mega Drive, Ghouls 'n Ghosts, Revenge of Shinobi, Phantasy Star II, Golden Axe, Herzog Zwei, NES, River City Ransom, Castlevania III, Mother (Earthbound Beginnings), Final Fight, Strider, Xbox One, Nintendo GameBoy, Super Mario Land, SimCity, Midwinter, Minesweeper, Prince of Persia, Stunt Car Racer, Commodore 64, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, LucasFilm Games, The Colonel's Bequest, Roberta Williams, Batman, Bullfrog Productions, Peter Molyneux, Fusion, Amiga, Black & White, Lionhead, Microsoft, EA, Dark Forces, Dungeon Keeper, Powermonger, Syndicate, Syndicate Wars, Magic Carpet, Theme Park, Theme Hospital, 22 Cans, Godus, Origin Systems, LucasArts, Maxis, The Sims, Spore, Will Wright, Respawn Entertainment, Sid Meier, Civilization, Ultima Underworld, Warcraft, Rogue, MYST, Richard Garriott, Looking Glass, id Software, Tropico (series), Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, Hotel Dusk, Ben "from Iowa" Zaugg, Danganronpa, 999, Nonary Games, Jonathan Stoler, Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective, Nolan Filter/irreverentQ, Murder by Numbers, Picross, Johnny Grattan/Pockets, Morrowind/Arena/Daggerfall, Brian, Republic Commmando, Nick Faulhaber, Shu Takumi, Kirk Hamilton, Aaron Evers.

Next time:
Five (?) more battles?

Links:
Amusingly enough, it *was* a Populous postmortem talk where I first heard Peter's anecdote

Shu Takumi's Pomeranian

Errata:
Thank you for playing... Wing Commander!

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

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