CGD: Awesome Video Game Data 2017

Entrepreneurship, Game, Programming

I follow the GDC (Game Develeoper Conference) channel on Youtube and, just right now, I totally recommend you to do the same. Great amount of excellent talks (of course there are some exceptions, like the lame at-the-time-GDC-board-member Peter Molyneux making plain simple propaganda).

There is one that I just watched and is very eye opening: it the annual talk from the guys of EEDAR (a data consolidation company) presenting numbers of the whole industry. The talks about prices, sales, regions, mobile/pc/consoles. Everything!

It is a must-see.

 

INOVApps Ticado

Entrepreneurship, Game, INOVApps

Como dito anteriormente, eu estava bem interessado em entrar na competição do INOVApps, um concurso do Ministério das Comunicações para criação de aplicativos e jogos educativos ou de utilidade pública.

Por ser um indie (a caminho de ser um profissional em tempo integral) a alguns anos, eu tenho muito material já criado. Eu gosto muito de experimentar e já tenho diversos protótipos e ideias já começados. Material não faltaria para uma adaptação.

O concurso avalia somente a documentação do projeto e o produto em si. Isso significa que todos os jogos, prototipos e testes que eu já fiz, joguei e compartilhei com amigos não vale muito. Teria de transformar isso em palavras: seu funcionamento, as dificuldades de um eventual projeto a quais as experiências ao jogar.

Como o concurso permitia inscrever até 2 projetos por pessoa, acabei inscrevendo 2 jogos: Cidades Maravilhosas e Linha do Conhecimento.

cidades-2Bmaravilhosas-2Blogo

Cidades Maravilhosas é um jogo sobre construir uma cidade. Em cada rodada o jogador constrói uma nova obra na cidade. Cada obra traz alguns benefícios (e as vezes malefícios) a cidade e eles são bem dependentes da sua localização (nenhuma residência quer ficar próxima a um lixão ou aeroporto barulhento). E como a lista de obras é única para todos os jogadores, se alguém fizer um estádio, as outras cidades vão ficar sem ele. É importante balancear cuidadosamente a distribuição da cidade. Ganha quem tiver a cidade mais desenvolvida (maior população).

linha-2Bdo-2Bconhecimento

Linha do Conhecimento é sobre educação, mais propriamente História do Brasil sem ser decoreba. O jogo começa com dois eventos históricos na “mesa”. Cada jogador terá uma lista de eventos históricos na mão e tem de dizer se eles vem antes, depois ou entre estes dois eventos. Simples não?! Simples, mas muito divertido. Eu já joguei este jogo sem qualquer arte com alguns grupos de amigo, só com textos e figuras genéricas e a aceitação foi enorme. Ele dá tanto para ser usado numa sala de aula como numa roda de amigos.

Documentos

Com a cada dia mais eminente estréia do primeiro jogo oficial da Gamenific, Picubic, minha atenção ficou bem dividida. E tudo isso trabalhando só depois do expediente, na madrugada. Foi um enorme desafio vender a ideia a alguns artistas talentosos que conheço e fazer eles mergulharem no projeto. No final, fiquei contente com os que aceitaram: Tom e Ricardo são experientes e tem um estilo muito diferente da abordagem tradicional, e só com o pouco que já criaram acho que vai dar aos avaliadores uma boa impressão.

Gravei uma séries de vídeos para os dois jogos. Mas só deu tempo de produzir o do Cidades Maravilhosas, pois Ricardo tinha já muitos compromissos (lembrando que o concurso foi anunciado a 1 mes). Tentamos passar tanto a ideia do projeto como uma passada de projetos passados.

Linha do Conhecimento ficou prejudicado por não ter sido minha escohla inicial. Eu tinha planejado criar um jogo sobre segurança pública, “Segurança e Inteligência“, mas depois de escrever, gravar, prototipar, achei que não estava na pegada correta para um concuso de jogos sérios/educativos. Então tomamos a decisão de trocar. Eu apostava no Linha do Conhecimento como um backup, pois era um projeto mais antigo, mas depois que optamos por promovê-lo, tentamos que revisitar os códigos para ver se ele ainda era divertido mesmo.

Agora não é Esperar

No final das contas, acho que ambos os projetos são muito bons. Como os jurados nunca jogaram e terão de sentir isso somente lendo um documento, tudo é possível. Enquanto isso, eu vou manter o desenvolvimento andando num ritmo básico, pois se os projetos forem selecionados, eu posso já ter adiantado um pouco do trabalho. Se não for, tenho total interesse em prosseguir com os projetos de outra forma, então o trabalho não será perdido. Devo ir postando aqui qualquer novidade.

Em novembro, vamos todos saber o que aconteceu.

INOVApps

Entrepreneurship, Game, INOVApps, Programming

Descobri semana passada que o Ministério das Comunicações está organizando um corcurso nacional de Aplicativos e Jogos Sérios para dispositivos móveis. Serão 25 escolhidos em cada categoria com prêmio de 100 mil reais cada! Nada mal se o ganhador for uma pessoa física.

Ministério

Achei particularmente curioso o concurso vir deste ministério e não do MinC (Ministério da Cultura). Há vários anos atrás (acho que em 2003), eu e meu amigo Gabriel participamos do JogosBR, um concurso similar mas que era para promover a indústria dos jogos eletrônicos no geral. Nosso jogo foi o Color Rangers, um jogo de estratégia com RPG no universo dos heróis japoneses. Ele passou na primeira etapa, mas não da segunda, que é a que valeria dinheiro mesmo. Hoje eu teria condições de executar este projeto com certeza. Ao menos a primeira fase nos rendeu uma foto ao lado do então Ministro da Cultura, Gilberto Gil.
No começo do ano nós descobrimos que a Behold, uma desenvolvedora brasileira, estava fazendo um jogo chamado Color Squad, um jogo de estratégia com RPG no universo dos heróis japoneses… Coincidência? Acho que não, mas isso não importa. Fico até orgulhoso pois mostra que tivemos uma ideia bem legal.

Documentos como produto final

Assim como o antigo concurso do Ministério da Cultura, este concurso vai julgar um projeto de jogo e não o jogo já feito. Isso é uma postura bem diferente do que eu já fiz principalmente nos Ludum Dare (competição de criação de jogos em 48h) em que o que vai a juri é o jogo que você conseguiu criar.
No INOVApps, o que vai ser julgado é a proposta. É uma série de documentos que descrevem o jogo e como ele será feito. Deve-se dizer qual é a mecânica do jogo, seu tema, fases, arte conceitual. Com base nestes documentos eles vão ver quem tem uma boa ideia e parece ter capacidade de executá-la.
Eu tenho um pouco de receio deste tipo de abordagem já que ele dá margem para os participantes viajarem na maionese e escreverem projetos . E pior, dá margem para que eles sequer escrevam uma linha de código para o jogo final.
Com relação a este último item, o regulamento do concurso lida bem pois, mesmo com os ganhadores já definidos, só vai liberar grande parte dos recursos só depois de dar entregáveis. Só depois do jogo concluído é que se teria direito a mais de 40% do dinheiro.

Jogos sérios

Investiguei na internet e li bastante sobre o assunto de jogos sérios. Fiquei um pouco temeroso pois a maioria dos jogos sérios… não é jogo, e sim conteúdo interativo. Segundo a teoria dos jogos, um jogo deve ter uma dinâmica entre os participantes, em que a ação de um afetaria o outro.
Vi vários visualizadores 3D e 2D, com diversos graus de interação. Mas vi realmente poucos que eu chamaria de jogos. Sem qualquer tipo de pontuação ou limitarores (como vidas), é difícil considerar um infográfico interativo como um jogo. Espero que a banca tenha isso em mente.

Minha proposta

Estou totalmente tentado a participar do concurso. Estou já com alguns pequenos protótipos que poderia facilmente adaptar para um jogo mais educativo, com temática mais séria, mas ainda sim mantendo ele divertido e interessante.
Sempre fui facisnado com o conceito de que, na pele de um governante, é tudo bem mais complicado que se apenas ver de fora. Gosto do conceito de que tudo tem 2 lados. Meus jogos sempre refletem isso, fazendo com que o jogador sempre tenha um certo dilema ao tentar ganhar dinheiro em detrimento da felicidade ou tentar vencer a guerra deixando alguns aliados morrerem.
Para apresentar alguma proposta é preciso que ela seja enquadrada em uma das categorias listadas no edital.
Estou querendo abordar a violência. No mundo dos jogos ela é sempre retratada de uma maneira muito simplista: bem contra o mal. Mesmo em jogos de estratégia, todos os que não são amigos são inimigos. Acho que dá para explorar este conceito de quem é amigo e quem é inimigo, além do que eu já tentei, ao colocar dilemas morais.
Também estou bastante interessado tem temas de governabilidade. Acho que posso atacar temas como turismo e uma dinâmica de toma-lá-dá-cá. Algo como Trópico, mas com uma pegada um pouco mais didática e com base histórica.
Qualquer que seja a proposta, vou tentar fazer uma obra de entreterimento. Isso por uma razão pragmática: se o jogo for bom e divertido, os jogadores jogarão mais e o conteúdo informativo será mais fixado. Não adianta ser uma obra intessante que a pessoa vê, usa e joga fora. Ele tem de ter uma vida útil longa. E vou tentar garantir isso por meio de um mecânicas de jogo.

Ping

Entrepreneurship, Game, Personal, Programming

I’m not dead. Neither the blog. I’m going to —poorly- explain why.

I’m just very focused on other projects, like my own new company Gamenific. It is, for now, a informal company, but I am investing more and more time and money and energy into it. The Gamenific blog, that I write, is getting much more updated than this one.

My main day job is also requiring loads of time. Specially at the beginning of the year, when I was responsible for implementing a Online Booking tool in the company, was very demanding. I was working 16 hours a day. No social life was allowed. I cannot stress enough that it is very counter productive: working that much for long periods is very tiring. Tired minds do not think properly and make constantly wrong decisions. One after the other.

But now things are normal again.

World Cup is here. It will officially start this Thursday and Rio de Janeiro, one of the hosting cities, is up side down. The transport is the worst, not only it is operating with overcapacity, but also the worker unions are taking the advantage of the situation to start constant strikes to raise the salaries. The population is a hostage.

Back to Gamenific:

My plan is to make this company my life. If all goes right, it will become my main source of income in the next year, maybe two. And at this point I plan to make it a full day job.

Being a one-man company is not easy. By far. The amount of work that it takes is enormous. Secondary administrative tasks, like blogging, contacting new contractors, marketing, making strategic plans… is very demanding. I wish I have someone to share the burden. But I am not complaining. On the contrary, it is very fun. Is hard and I love it.

I will keep Gamenific news in the Gamenific blog as much as possible, keeping this bog more as a personal view, specially related to programming, video games, cinema. Eventually I address some political or economical matters.

In Brazil, national elections are coming. I think it will be the subject of some texts in the near future.

Steambox

Entrepreneurship, Game

More and more rumours emerge about the videogame console from Valve. Famous about their online game store Steam, Valve is a some time investing in emerging technologies and ideas. But is a new videogame console needed? There are already three players now with major investments in hardware and the dispute is famous for being very very hard. Sega, Panasonic and even Apple tried and can tell you more about it.
Valve has being preparing it’s terrain for some time now. It recently launched (which means that they were already working internally long before) the Bigpicture feature. It transforms the classical Steam interface in a more Television fashion. It is also designed to be controlled via a remote control. But they have never satisfactorily answered the question: who would put a giant PC case in the living room, right next to the TV, just to be able to play?
According to these news, the machine will feature a Linux. It is aligned with recent declarations of the Valve president, Gabe Newell, saying bad things about the new Microsoft Windows. Linux is free and flexible and recently is gaining an unprecedented track with Android phones. Also, Gabe knows that Microsoft plans to launch a service very similar to his Steam, selling software in a centralized way. Survival measures.
steambox (1)
Valve has also working with Linux. They recently announced that Steam itself will work on Linux and accept Linux games. A beta is in progress. But except for indies, there are no relevant games for the system. Valve must itself to port some own games (Left 4 Dead, Team Fortress, Half Life and DOTA franchises) to show the path and prove the market viability. Once they do this, many other developers might be encouraged to follow. But it will take a while though. Unlike Windows and closed console systems, Linux on a broadly used machine is yet a niche.
Game engines and middlewares must be prepared also. Valve probably is working on porting it’s Source engine to Linux. Rumours say that a second version of their famous middleware is being cooked. Another demonstration of commitment of this strategy. Epic’s Unreal engine, Unity, Id and other middleware players are announcing compatibility with Linux. They noticed the movement, lead by Valve’s Steam but not exclusively attached to it.
steambox (2)
But how a traditional software company will enter in the computer market? Well, Microsoft already followed this path creating a whole hardware division to actually manufacture Xbox. It is a very risky and difficult movement. Electronic manufacturers like Samsung or Nvidia have much more expertise and would have much more success doing this path. Rather, I predict that Valve would follow a similar strategy adopted by Google and its Nexus brand: designed done in house but the actual machine is done by third parties. Valve would just set partnerships with pc manufacturers to create stylish mini PCs with top notch pieces like graphic card and processor. We would see several versions of Steambox shipped in waves, like smartphones and tablets, experimenting new features on each iteration.
PC should finally be considered a first class console.

Gaming Industry: Game Over

Entrepreneurship, Game

 Gaming industry is very risky business, just like any other entertainment industry. Generally players have to bet in a very narrow set of products, which demand high volumes of investments. If we think it thru for a project manager perspective, we have a very very very risky business to invest. These companies invest mountains of money in very few products that we very weird correlation on quality/

Big investments

Latest graphics, motion capture, Hollywood actors for voice overs all cost money. Trucks of money. Like films, the AAA titles consume millions of dollars to be built.

Small portfolios

Because the volume of money required to create a game is very bulk, the companies that want to great a portfolio (publishers) have to choose the projects very carefully and criteriously. Even that, they can only concurrently create a very narrow range of games.
Essentially they have to bet on very few horses to generate very large amount of money to finance another cycle. The problem relies on the worst scenario: the current bet do not pay out. The whole company puts itself in a very dangerous financial position.

Game is Art

But the final analysis must consider games as art products. You cannot follow a formula to make people to fall in love for your product.

Now always they pay off. The recent cases of THQ and 38 Studios illustrate this.
38 studios, the makers of the very good Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, recently backrupted. The company took around 100 million from the government to create a AAA title, but the game, while selling well, didnt sell the amount needed

THQ invested in few AAA titles that demanded loads of money. When the failure rate rises a bit, the whole operation start to be financially compromised.

Homefront, unfortunately, will be remembered as the milestone for the THQ’s potential fall. Unfortunately because it was a critically acclaimed game (at least it receive good greats), but due external reasons it didnt sell well to the point that compromised the THQ cash flow.  Homefront was being considered the cashcow internally, the new IP that would generate loads of money, safetly. But the forecasts were nothing but dust.

It basically answer the question several gamers make: why game makers keep build sequels? Now you know…

Free: The Future of a Radical Price

Entrepreneurship

Chris Anderson got the world’s attention by writing the best seller The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More, where he describes the economic logic behind some eCommerce sites that sells a immense variety of goods instead focusing in just a few.
In his next book, Free: The Future of a Radical Price, he discuss about the free (as beer): why people are so moved for free stuff, how offering something for free might be a great deal. He gives you an brief and interesting history of the free merchandise, gives several theories (which is the main focus of the book) and several examples that actually happened in real life.
It has some common aspects with the first book: economies of scale and marginal cost/revenue. He shows that if an item cost is too small, you might consider it as zero. Imagine HD space: since the price is constantly dropping, a company might consider is irrelevant and gives for their clients a unlimited space for free. It is not free for the company, but the actual cost is so low that it will not affect your profits in a relevant matter, but will generate a enormous impression for the clients.
Not Too Small to Matter, but Too Small to Meter
The author is prudent enough to not advocate free as a messiah. He in fact believes in the idea of Freemium, in which the product is offered as free for most users and a small fraction will pay for a premium offer.
Anderson eats his own dogfood by releasing the book for free as pdf while the physical is paid. The audiobook can also be found in a free version and is very curious: the full version, which is the complete book, is free while the compact version is paid. Time is money and the compact version saves you time but not the money.

Wii U

Entrepreneurship, Game

Nintendo just presented to the world the new console, which, by the way, several details were already known.
Wii U. Is the name of the new console. The name is a reference of We and You. In the paper, the idea is nice but after a basic field test, it reveals to be a terrible choice. The president of Nintendo of America, Reggie, said that Nintendo is now going to pay attention to the individuality after so many years dedicated on generating the gaming culture to a multitude of public.
The main attractive of the new console is the controller. It has a big tablet-like screen that receive a video stream from the console (it does not process anything). This means that one cannot play their games during trips or even at the backyard. It must be close to the main machine. Another curios fact is one one of this new controller will work on each machine just because it is like displaying another game for another TV. It will bring interesting effects to in loco multiplayer games for sure.
Note: the golf wiimote+wii u controller demonstration is embarrassing. I imagine someone actually putting the screen at the floor to see the ball from above. OMG

Despite the obivious excitement of all Nintendo staff, the whole product is should be considered more as a Wii HD (it will finally output HD video and have more competitive processing power). I personally doubt that major games will support the new controler like WE MUST. The rationale is simple: its too costy to design a product with a so limited scope.
Games are expensive to make. And spreading your product to the wind, selling to all video games, computers, digitally and physically would reduce the risk. But if you can only sell to Wii U due the exclusive controller, it would quite risky. It is not a coincidence that Wii exclusives are generally small companies or small products. Unless developer companies start to develop similar functionalities using alternatives tablet/phone/computer combinations.

I am particularly skeptical about this move. I always wondered about Wii and DS merged gameplay, but betting it will be the future is quite strange. Well, Nintendo has a great pedigree about gimmickry.

Unity 3D 3

Entrepreneurship, Game, Review

The new version Unity 3D engine was just released and Im really excited.

All the previous features continues there: great asset integration (several 3D, 2D and sound file formats), programming scripts, grate IDE. But know the visual performance is better, even with the new features enabled.

Pre baked lightning is now included by default. It allows to create amazing scenes that most of the lights pre rendered. It allows the video card to work on other stuff, like shaders. Speed is also better the inclusion Ambient occlusion package. It analyses the scene/map previously and checked what parts of it will not appear depending on where the camera is and saves the information to be used in realtime. The performance gain is huge.

The animation manager is also a great plus. It seems very much like video editing, with curves and keyframes. It is now very nice to program the animations, specially for designers.

UDK (Unreal Development kit) is also gaining a lot of attention of the media, but with a feature set somewhat similar (again, 99% of the game makers are not even capable of using the engine fully), it is quite a irresponsibility to accept the license that makes you give 25% of the profits to Epic (and after paying your distributor, marketing, etc…).

Development cycles

Entrepreneurship, Programming, Web

just saw the news about the Drupal 7 Release Candidate. I could not be more perplex with the length of its cycle. The code freeze was announced in September 15, 2009, so its more than a year!
I’m perplex mostly because of the nature of this software: a internet application. Because the internet environment changes in a incredible pace, its really counterproductive to stop accepting deep modifications for so long time. NoSQL databases are getting more and more used, JavaScript techniques getting more refined and the whole HTML5/Video is dominating news. Two years to launch a new version is quite a lot.
I have a hunch: Drupal 5 was a true revolution but had a quite short life cycle, coz Drupal 6 was released soon after. I believe several developers got pissed with that as they were forced to make a long conversion process from Drupal 4 to 5 and than from 5 to 6. Drupal 6 took quite some time to actually be used by old sites, because several important modules (Views and CCK mainly) delayed the port to see what direction D7 would take. The result is that Drupal 6 was coined “Drupal Vista: wait for the 7“. This might be forced Drupal core guys to extend the cycle.
The whole problem is now gone since most sites are now ported to D6. But I really believe that was not matter of the short-cycles-that-pressure-developers, but the lack of clear support from project managers. I say that because some even more complex programs are getting big supporters, despite the apparent paradox.
The most enlightening example is Google. Google’s most popular softwares adopted the strategy of the “fast iterations”. The idea is not to aim “quality at all cost” (typical for projects that release when it is ready) but “to fix as soon as possible”. Chrome is 3 years old or so and it is in version 9! The adoption rate is even bigger than Firefox! Android is in version 2.2 already and gaining more and more support of developers. Can you imagine a more complex software with a faster release cycle?

development_cycles_content_2111

Faster cycles have several advantages:

  • Gain easy testers with the early adopters
  • Avoid that small enhancements being postponed for years just because is a “new feature”
  • Avoid the proliferation of hacks-as-plugins that implement the small enhancements i just mentioned
  • Revert wrong decisions often
  • Encourage more people to participate to the core development, since their suggestions might be implemented soon after
  • Avoid analysis-paralysis loop of each change
  • Reduces the possibility of forks (what is the advantage of Pressflow if Drupal 7 was released quite after?)

I think Drupal community still is somewhere between The Cathedral and the Bazaar. They are still in CVS mentality of a centralized control and serialized development of features. We have to make features in parallel, not in series. So no more “feature freeze”, “guys, lets think about the next version… ideas?”. Every time is time to release a new features. It has to create several forks (and not only patches) that will work on each features and, when any of them are ready, commit into mainstream and launch as a new small version, like 7.1, 7.2, 7.3…
One last comment for those that think several people want stability over cutting edge stuff. Its just to maintain a similar concept used by Ubuntu: time to time a given release will be considered “long term support”. And if Drupal 7.2 is LTS, for example, it could be released several other “features-releases” like 7.3, 7.4 and several “bug-releases” for 7.2, like 7.2.1, 7.2.2, 7.2.3… Fixed time support also gives business and people the right information for a proper planning.