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.

 

Linux on Notebook, Take 2, Mini-Buntu

Game, Linux, Personal, Programming

My notebook it not new. I bought the Yoga 2 Pro almost 4 years ago. Two years back, I got annoyed with Windows so I decided to install Linux in it. I was scared because on the contrary of most my PCs that I assembled myself, the Lenovo had a warranty and possibly custom hardware.

As I told, the attempt failed. It was giving me too much headaches. Also I generally use my notebook to also program and develop games. And because the Unity Editor was not available (not at least in a reasonable version), I was kinda forced to migrate back to Windows10.


About 3 months ago, I decided to give it a second shot. In case I was not clear, I use Linux in the desktop, in a dual boot, for about 15 years. I saw Ubuntu entering the market. But since I start to systematically be involved on making games, the necessity of Windows started too. Back to the experiment. It was a requirement for me that the general performance had to be great. Not good, great. I would prefer to keep on the Debian-like distro because I’m familiar to. Ubuntu family if possible. So I selected both Kubuntu and Lubuntu for a ride.

Kubuntu was the one that I tested before. I like KDE since version 2 but again failed in deliver a blazing fast experience. In the notebook, the boot time was several minutes. Even Windows 10 was couple of seconds. I decided then to format and install Lubuntu.

Lubuntu is a Ubuntu derivative using the LXDE desktop environment. Super light. Man! Boot was fast and when ready it consumed a fraction of RAM of both Windows and Kubuntu. However, during my 4 weeks test I was giving too much little problems. So I decided to make another switch.

Xubuntu, in a similar vain, is a light variation. And I know can say that I am really satisfied with my notebook. I is a bit more robust and complete, but that makes a lot of difference. I had to downgrade the screen resolution to FullHD (the notebook allows the at-the-time stunning QHD+ 3200×1800 ), which is fine in a 13 inches monitor. Then came to the software selection. Lubuntu was super short on preinstalled stuff, which i like because I generally don’t use them anyway, but Xubuntu came with some. The good news is that the selection does not consume much of the the drive space and are light enough in case I really want to use them.

I had to install Steam and it works nice. Unfortunately, GOG’s Galaxy does not have currently a Linux version, so the games have to be installed manually one by one. Also your play time will be not computed nor you will be alerted about updates. A second negative point is that most GOG’s games do not use the new cloud save feature, so playing a bit in the notebook and a bit in the desktop is only for games that progress do not matter. Fingers crossed for the future.

 

Finally I was looking for a game engine that works on Linux. Unreal, as I found, works, but you have to compile it yourself. GREAT ūüôĀ I did it. It took hours and the result was too many crashes and too big suite to work in a notebook. I was once again looking for a lightweight engine. I tested Godot and liked. But it is still lacking.

Then I found out that Unity is in fact releasing in a alternative channel (thru forums) the update engine for Linux. I installed it too. crashes a log but it works. I`ve being playing the game developer in the note book ever since. With the excellent Visual Studio Code editor, it makes my days fun.


After 2 months and half working most of the time on this notebook, I can be happier man but in general I am already one. It is fast, close environment that I face when I deal with cloud Internet stuff and free. I plan to migrate to a newer machine in the next year, mostly to get a better amount of RAM memory and battery life. Currently, it lasts 3 hours, which is by any means a shame for a mobile device.

This is currenly my desktop

A Study in Transparency: How Board Games Matter

Game, Programming

I just¬†watched a GDC presentation¬†by the same name by the developer¬†Soren Johnson, from Mohawk Games.¬†I’ve agreed almost entirely with him.¬†The basic¬†premise of his presentation is that video games should pay more attention to physical board games,¬†learning that¬†techniques¬†they use in order to create engagement. The motif is: board games¬†have transparent set of rules and transparent¬†implementation of luck. Video games should have such transparency too to engage players.

At the end, when he opened for audience questions, he was nervous to answer and he somewhat backed a bit from this point of view. There was a couple of questions that I want to discuss:

What if the game system is soo complex that you deliberately want to hide it from the player? (watch the original answer)

In Civilization, as pointed in the presentation, the designers opted for displaying each variable or modifier as a series of bullet points in the UI. That is because the list of modifiers is long and complex. When engaging in a diplomatic mission, the player must understand what are affecting the relationship. But hey, it is only one way to solve the problem.

In Shadow of Mordor, the orc leaders challenge themselves for power and status. Each orc also have a list of strengths and weaknesses. All this information is presented to the player is a very elegant way.¬†It exemplifies¬†the Soren’s argument.

But if game is so complex that is really difficult/impossible to present the players all information? Well, it is probably a flaw in the game.¬†If there is too much going on, most likely¬†that the player action only impact slightly in the result. The player will fell that is pure luck. He¬†is just a passenger. It¬†is the game designer’s job to balance it back; otherwise, it will suffer from bad reputation and bad sales. Too shallow or too complex have to be considered equally problems to deal.

Notice that another possible consequence is when the game becomes a cult hit and the players that endured the gameplay formed a community to share information and demystify the obscure rules. A good example is Dwarven Fortress, a super weird and complex game that is loved by many for being weird and complex. My suggestion: do not try this path.

If you expose the whole set of rules and internal numbers, it will become a matter of optimization instead experimentation. (watch the original answer)

It can be a problem, yes. Tic Tac Toe suffers exactly from this problem: you can anticipate the whole match to a point that you CAN guarantee that you will never lose (you cannot guarantee that you will tough).

But as a designer, you can implement counter measures to fight it. Luck and complex decision tree for example.

Luck is the classic solution. By implementing a series of unknown events, it makes very difficult to predict the future. Random numbers, random events, scramble cards. Notice that luck is merely an element that the one cannot control or predict, like weather or a dice roll, or a hidden enemy in a fog of war.

Complex decision tree refers to both make several factors relevant for each decision and a game with several rounds. Think of Chess or Go. There are so many possible movements per round that, while theoretically possible, it is practically impossible to compute all moves in order to make a single best decision.


In general, I am with Soren. I might discourse about it in the future, because most people think that creating games is just a intuition and art. But there a lot of reasoning and logical decisions that should guide the construction of such products.

 

My Experience with Angular JS

Programming

There are several months now that I started to program using the Google’s Angular JS libraries. For those that do not know it, it is a way to write web applications that are very interactive, interconnecting the user interface with JavaScript. Not simple to explain.

I tried jQuery long ago when developing for Drupal and for my personal enterprises, but I was very laborious to make it automatically respond to user interaction, in a passive (and always alert) way. Angular was just about to solve it.

Primarily, it was a pain to fully understand its concepts and methods. I spent weeks to write some prototypes. One of the major complains is debugging. It always log cryptic messages, with full stack of weird functions and codes. I was never able to figure out what is the line of my code that is causing trouble or what is the function I wrote that is missing an important parameter, or whatever.

Angular parse and interpolates HMTL and JavaScript, in a dynamic way that it sometimes break before it can generate a nice error output. I have never played with its major competitors, React and Ember, but I honestly doubt that it is much different there.

Once I got better at it, I had a really good experience. I recommend you to use Angular JS and also Google’s Material Design Angular library in your own web app.

Microsoft opening source

Programming

Microsoft announced that they will make Visual Studio available for free for everyone, for every type of application. Paid versions would bring essentially better support, ideal for enterprises.

They are also tightening more and more to the open source world. They started to use GitHub (instead their own hosting service and version control systems), made public available general use programs, libraries and APIs. The JavaScript successor, TypeScript, is a internal creation. A open source C# compiler, Roslyn, is in the works.

Times are changing.

I believe they realized that Google and other vendor are gaining more and more traction by using a open approach. Giving people pieces that free and charge for premium services. The mass of new developers are now programming for web applications, with tools and environments that Microsoft products are not in a strong position. Everybody will win. They maintained the leadership in several software markets not by accident or luck. Their experience will benefit all the community.

Welcome aboard.

image_4

INOVApps

Entrepreneurship, Game, INOVApps, Programming

Descobri semana passada que o Minist√©rio das Comunica√ß√Ķes est√° organizando um corcurso nacional de Aplicativos e Jogos S√©rios para dispositivos m√≥veis. Ser√£o 25 escolhidos em cada categoria com pr√™mio de 100 mil reais cada! Nada mal se o ganhador for uma pessoa f√≠sica.

Ministério

Achei particularmente curioso o concurso vir deste minist√©rio e n√£o do MinC (Minist√©rio da Cultura). H√° v√°rios anos atr√°s (acho que em 2003), eu e meu amigo Gabriel participamos do JogosBR, um concurso similar mas que era para promover a ind√ļstria dos jogos eletr√īnicos no geral. Nosso jogo foi o Color Rangers, um jogo de estrat√©gia com RPG no universo dos her√≥is japoneses. Ele passou na primeira etapa, mas n√£o da segunda, que √© a que valeria dinheiro mesmo. Hoje eu teria condi√ß√Ķes de executar este projeto com certeza. Ao menos a primeira fase nos rendeu uma foto ao lado do ent√£o Ministro da Cultura, Gilberto Gil.
No come√ßo do ano n√≥s descobrimos que a Behold, uma desenvolvedora brasileira, estava fazendo um jogo chamado Color Squad, um jogo de estrat√©gia com RPG no universo dos her√≥is japoneses… Coincid√™ncia? Acho que n√£o, mas isso n√£o importa. Fico at√© 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 √© a proposta. √Č uma s√©rie de documentos que descrevem o jogo e como ele ser√° feito. Deve-se dizer qual √© a mec√Ęnica do jogo, seu tema, fases, arte conceitual. Com base nestes documentos eles v√£o ver quem tem uma boa ideia e parece ter capacidade de execut√°-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 rela√ß√£o a este √ļltimo item, o regulamento do concurso lida bem pois, mesmo com os ganhadores j√° definidos, s√≥ vai liberar grande parte dos recursos s√≥ depois de dar entreg√°veis. S√≥ depois do jogo conclu√≠do √© que se teria direito a mais de 40% do dinheiro.

Jogos sérios

Investiguei na internet e li bastante sobre o assunto de jogos s√©rios. Fiquei um pouco temeroso pois a maioria dos jogos s√©rios… n√£o √© jogo, e sim conte√ļdo interativo. Segundo a teoria dos jogos, um jogo deve ter uma din√Ęmica entre os participantes, em que a a√ß√£o 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.
Tamb√©m estou bastante interessado tem temas de governabilidade. Acho que posso atacar temas como turismo e uma din√Ęmica de toma-l√°-d√°-c√°. Algo como Tr√≥pico, mas com uma pegada um pouco mais did√°tica e com base hist√≥rica.
Qualquer que seja a proposta, vou tentar fazer uma obra de entreterimento. Isso por uma raz√£o pragm√°tica: se o jogo for bom e divertido, os jogadores jogar√£o mais e o conte√ļdo informativo ser√° mais fixado. N√£o adianta ser uma obra intessante que a pessoa v√™, usa e joga fora. Ele tem de ter uma vida √ļtil longa. E vou tentar garantir isso por meio de um mec√Ęnicas de jogo.

Ping

Entrepreneurship, Game, Personal, Programming

I’m not dead. Neither the blog. I’m going to ‚ÄĒpoorly- 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.

Ludum Dare 29 – Vaults Inc

Game, Programming, Project

Ludum Dare! The famous indie game competition has just ended and I once again locked me out of the world for 3 days to design, program,
In this edition, the theme was “Beneath the Surface“. In comparison with other editions, a very easy theme because it defines only the thematic aspect of the game. Most of games can be adapted to fit the theme, from shooters, strategy games, platformers. It is much harder when it restricts the mechanics of the game, like “10 Seconds” from Ludum Dare 27.
In my case, even with an easy theme, I face a lot of difficulty to design the game. I know that Ludum Dare audience is mainly indie designers with very little experience and they appreciate mostly popular action game genres, like platformer, top-down adventures and first person shooters. But it was definitively not what I wanted in this edition. With an easy theme, I wanted to innovate in the mechanics.
In Brazil, the competition started Friday by 10pm. It is generally a good thing, because we are tired from work and it is close to sleeping time. Because the openness we got from the theme, I faced a lot of difficulty on designing, because designing requires restricting yourself. I only closed the final mechanics by Saturday lunch, 12 hours after the competition start.

Vaults Inc

Vaults Inc is a turn based strategy game. It is like a city building, but underground: you build a bunker from a post-nuclear-war universe. Imagine Fallout’s vaults. I wanted to grab a little of its universe, specially the visuals and humor.
Each turn the player have to build a new block in the bunker. Each block can increase or decrease or Income, Money, Fame or Population. The strategy comes from the interaction that each new block generates: Landfill decreases Fame is placed next to a residential block; slaughterhouse generates more income if placed next to a restaurant; fancy restaurant decreases fame is other fancy restaurants are built. Timing and Location are crucial.
Bigger bunkers means bigger problems: the more you grow, your fame and income start to go down. The game has typically 50 turns and the player have to reach the biggest population possible.”The most complete Fallout-Bunker-Simulator. Learn it for a future not that improbable”

The post was originally on blog.Gamenific.com

Vacation is More Work

Game, Personal, Programming, Project

There is another vacations! Hey!!!!!

After Argentina and Chile last year and Cube and Mexico in May, this time I will visit… nowhere!

The old plan

That’s it. I was planning to go to Disney World, USA. The idea was to go in a big group and have fun. I went to Disney when I was in college (I lived in USA for 6 month in a exchange program) and I loved it! Loved it! Disney creates a magic atmosphere that one cannot ignore. They mastered the idea themed park.

Well, my original plan started to go wrong when I foresaw a complicated end-of-year in my job, due a project that I was involved. Things went worse with time. My boss said once or twice that we would stay in extra hours if needed.

Then I reached the moment of choice. With a lot of uncertainty, dollar-real ratio in a bad shape, and missed the momentum, I’ve finally decided to abort my trip and stay home.

The new plan

Cry no more! I have a new plan!

Besides my formal job, I invest a great deal of time in my lovely hobby: designing video games. I do all the process, from programming, drawing, writing, painting and whatever it is needed.

I have about 8 prototypes that I believe that can reach the market someday. One of them is a puzzle game called Picubic. It charming, it is challenging and it is fun. But most of all, it is the closest one to have, at this moment, a shot in the wild wild market. I named the gaming division of Bruno Massa Corporation as Gamenific, a mix of Magnific (magnificent) and Game!

For this reason, since I decided to abort my trip I also decided to invest all my time to launch it. Finish it once and for all and sell it. The plan is to launch it’s beta ITS WEDNESDAY! Kinda of… The plan is in fact, to launch a funding campaign in Indiegogo (the poorer cousin from Kickstarter) to help to leverage some money and close it. But most of all, to attract people. The company will only gain traction if there is a big enough audience. Let’s create a brand!

I can now only hope that this plan works. Otherwise, it will be a waste of a good Disney moment.

Scrambled (digital) life

Personal, Programming

For those that knows me, it’s not a surprise that I’m a bit paranoid with digital security. But in a good sense, I believe, because I do not suffer from this condition. It is a active and rational decision to be constantly aware of digital dangers. I am also very tolerant towards including extras security steps on the daily habits.

Inspired on two Brazilian stories involving cryptography, I decided to take a closer look into personal encryption. One from the fraudulent banker that could never be convicted because all the evidences were in his encrypted desktop computer. The federal police were never able to crack it. The other one was a forgotten laptop with major corporate secrets. The company? Petrobras, the Brazilian oil company and one of the top oil companies in the planet. Petrobras said that the secrets were safe: the strong encryption would hold any eyes from looking inside.

Imagine if suddenly someone steals your computer. Aren’t you going to be crazy?! Your personal photos, family stuff, work notes and free access to email and banking from the machine.

Note: I am talking about only encrypting the hard drive, so it is only useful for avoiding losing data in case of someone stealing your computer. Nothing else. Simple but efficient.

About 2 years ago, I discovered an open source product that I loved: Truecrypt. It promised total protection for people like you and me. Being open source also adds much trust: not only I will not be locked with a single provider, but the method could be tested and commented by hundreds of eyes.

My desktop is unbreakable ever since. With powerful processors we have today, it is easy to turn all disks encrypted. Even the main Windows and Linux hard drives are protected. So if a theft steals my PC, I will lose the hardware but not the software. The information inside is unreachable. Even for USA government ūüėČ Ever. Hear that Obama? Ever! And the performance drop is unnoticeable. Amazing. I’m a happy customer.

On whole in the wall I was always worried but never dealt until: my smartphone. No need to say that it is probably the most vulnerable hardware that we own (we carry it everywhere) and it is full with important information. Easy to lose it somewhere or to be robbed. The information can be shared thru the world. Finally I tried on my beloved Galaxy S3. One thing I knew I would gave to give up is the convenience of easy and fast access to my phone; entering a strong passwords all the time, because the whole point of the encryption is to lock other people out! For some, it it just a too heavy burden. For me it was not. A small price to pay.

While the encryption of the memory card was excellent, using it on the main phone’s memory compromised too much the performance. Odd. From boot to app switching, the lagging response was irritating. After two weeks, I had to revert it. Immediately it started to respond. I’m now gathering some strength to try this again. I’m going to read more to see what I did wrong. I know it is worthy.

Do you scramble your digital life or it can be read in plain view?