The Final Curtain
Written by TAD
This article is filled with good news. First of all it's a short-ish article and secondly it's the final, last one I will ever write. (I thought that would cheer some people up). Yep, that's right. This is my final curtain, I will not write another article.
WARNING PG: There are a few swear words peppered around this article. You have been warned!!!
Sickness of the 90s?
Because I (like many other article writers) have recieved so little feedback to all the articles that I have written and I've written loads (go count them) last night I decided to hang up my digital quill. I wouldn't mind if there were tons of "You suck. Your articles suck. You don't know shit" type of replies, but there weren't. Without feedback (either good or bad) progress is slow, very, very slow. Perhaps the scene has been overcome by apathy. We've all seen the effects, heard the same samples and seen countless demos which could swap their credits with other demos and many people wouldn't be able to tell the difference.
I guess for many people the thrill has gone and so too has much of the pioneering work in terms of pushing code, quality and designs to the max. We all have 44Khz music, lightning fast processors and more megs of memory than we know what to do with. The scene in some respects has moved towards the movie industry. Take MP3 and video compression in demos. These days there appears to be more video-editing and far less imagination. In terms of coding it's more of a case of writing a few audio and video players then in producing something truly awesome and inspirations to others. Perhaps it's a side-effect from the games industry which pushes the machine speed more than any other. It used to be the case of demo groups pushing themselves, optimizing, tweaking and experimenting. Now it's more of a case of finding the latest Windows drivers and cut-editing effects to produce a pop video on the desktop.
I was finally convinced by a certain discussion forum last night in the USA. The place where "freedom of speech" is so often held up but sadly not on that particular forum. Rather than the normal "You're are so great, please bend over so I can kiss you ass" postings which filled most of the forum I posted some minor complaints about the game's interface and control system, something which is vital to good gameplay, isn't it? Anyway some jerks tried to palm me off with some lame excuses and for the most part slagged off other games like Quake and Half-Life. Most disturbing of all the actual games designers were some of the most deaf people I have ever met. I must have posted 10 or more suggestions for improvements and roughly 5 emails, but no replies what so ever. So I persisted asking the same questions and a few other people backed me up on most of the issues. Others responded saying that I just posted to their forum to annoy people (huh?) and if I didn't have anything good to say about the game I should just shut up (huh? where is this freedom of speech thing?).
Again I posted a few more questions and then the moderator crawled out from under his rock and attacked my postings (huh?). All I wanted was some simple, straight forward replies to my reasonable questions, will X be addressed in the final game, will Y be modified to remove this quirk? That type of thing. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I always try to post suggestions for improvements rather than to simply moan and say "Z is crap". If there are any obvious flaws then I will usually point them out. I am definitely not a person to be a yes-man and just say "OOhhh... that's so great..." just for the sake of it, I prefer to give an honest answer to a honest question. I used to play test games many years ago so I tend to notice and comment about minor details which many other people overlook.
Anyway most people on the forum accused me of nit-picking and complaining about small, minor details. But IF these are minor details then it should be simple for the designers and programmers to address them with a small patch in the future, or at the very least consider them when producing a sequel.
The forum reminded me of the few replies I got after writing about my problems with Linux and the installation software. But where as the Linux community is likely to listen, think and then reply, the forum people were not. Its very sad that a well known company and their fans behave in this manner. I have spent hours producing 2 articles to sing the praises of their game, but after the forum I have decided not to publish them in Hugi. I don't want to help sell their games, the company and their attitude sucks. This is a really pity because I really liked most of their games.
The bullshit blab.
After reading between the lines, here is what I think most companies write and what they actual would like to say.
"We always invite users to give us feedback. It helps us to develop better products."
Only email us if you want to kiss our ass and tell us how great we are.
"There are other ways to accomplish that particular task."
Go away, we know about that bug but are unable to fix it. Please don't hassle us.
"There is a work around to that quirk."
You are in a field of cow pats and landmines, please close your eyes and walk in a random direction.
"We are aware of that issue. We plan to investigate it further..."
Tough luck, learn to live with it while we attempt to lose all these bug reports in the nearest trashcan. If we ignore you for long enough then the problem will go away.
"That's an interesting point of view."
You are a twat.
"Sure we look at the competition, we want to remain the dominant developers in this particular field."
We rip, we steal, we reverse engineer, we give it a new name and call it ours.
"Thanks for you reply. But most other users have no problem with X."
You have only bought one copy of our software, so fuck off and die.
"No, we like competition. It helps to keep us focused and hungry."
We need good, original products to reverse engineer.
"We have one of the most powerful engines around. It's years ahead of others."
We have one, new effect.
"We offer the player something new, a unique challenge."
Try to play it using our crap control system.
"There is over 40 hours of gameplay."
We have lots of keys, locked doors and boring mazes.
"You can always redefine your control so its more comfortable for you."
The defaults suck, they really do suck.
"Yes, the game will definitely feature a multi-player option..."
We will try to throw a sad deathmatch game in somehow.
"We plan to release a free patch for the multi-player option."
Fuck, those lazy programmers have spent too much time on the discussion forum instead of finishing the game.
"Our multi-player option won't be a straight forward deathmatch."
The weapons suck.
"We didn't want to follow the Quake/Doom route of gameplay."
Our game will only sell 5 copies.
"We wanted to bring more depth to this genre."
We added tons of FMV and a few speech samples.
"Our main character is important. It gives people something to identify with."
With the engine cope with adding more polygons to Lara Croft's tits?
"It's a third person game with adventure elements."
It's a another sad Tomb Raider clone.
"We felt that a first people game wouldn't fit into our game design."
Our 3d engine really sucks, so we choose 2d instead.
"After a lot of research we found that most players prefer this style."
We have made a clone.
"From the producers of...."
We have made a really bad clone. Perhaps if we remind you of our last game you will forget all about this pile of shite.
"It's like... Tomb Raider crossed with Doom and Sim City with elements of RPG"
We had no clear design, so we ripped lots of parts from successful games.
"We continued playing the original boardgame even after the game was finished."
The boardgame is playable, our video-games version isn't.
"It's a thinking man's game."
Our combat is too slow to be convincing.
"It has ... and that's unusual in a video-game."
We have used an idea which has failed miserably in the past.
"The designers and artists have do a really great job."
Our coders suck.
"We believe in spending more time on gameplay than fancy graphics."
Our artist suck.
"We have employed some of the top groups to produce CD quality tracks."
Our in-house musicans suck.
"It will be released on all major formats."
We are greedy. We haved ported the same old shit onto every known machine.
"We are pushing the machine to its limits..."
Someone told us what "optimizing" means.
"Our release date is X and are pulling out all the stops to meet it."
We have banned all Quake and Half-life deathmatchs.
"There is no fixed release date. We prefer to release it when its ready."
We have only done 10% of the final game.
"The company has been restructured."
Over half of our coders have left, we are deep in the shit.
"X has left to pursue other interests."
We found out about his drugs addiction and fondness for bizarre sex during office hours.
"We felt that the company was too big, so we have downsized."
The bankmanager told us to ditch the slackers or stand on the street corner in order to pay for our vast office condominium in Beverly Hills.
"We are using cutting edge technology."
It's a 3d game.
"We are investing heavily in new technology."
We wanted to license the Quake2 engine, but ID said no.
"It will give players a whole new experience in terms of gameplay."
Our controls suck so much that you will spend 40 hours thinking up new swear words and insults for the programmers.
"It will run on a standard Pentium 90 with 4 megs of RAM."
Hey, those jerks at the printers have fucked up the manuals again.
"This level of detail doesn't come cheap, a fast machine is recommended."
Anything less that a Cray supercomputer will give 5 frames per second.
Well folks, that all... I would like to thank the few (and I do mean few) people who bothered to read my articles and post a line of two of their comments.
Good luck to Hugi (especially Adok). I hope that Hugi goes on to become even better. (Without my articles it probably will. Grin.)