Archive for December, 2008


December 31st, 2008 by Michael

Yesterday night, right on schedule, we have achieved the one but greatest mile stone of this production: beta stage! This means that as of now, we consider The Path to be finished. The only thing we’re allowed to do anymore is fix errors. Nothing new will be added to the game, no systems will be tweaked anymore. Now it’s just about making sure that everything works -even if some things are not as perfect or complete as we would wish for.

This is a great way to end the year! :)

Let go…

December 29th, 2008 by Michael

The control mechanism to make your avatar interact with something in The Path is a little bit peculiar. Rather than clicking or pressing a button or a key, you simply need to let go of the controls and allow the character decide on her own.

It’s an attitude that I like to adopt as a designer as well. Rather than controlling everything in the game, I prefer to create little systems that do things on their own and then sit back and see what happens between them. Of course, often things happen that are not desirable or interesting or that are plain wrong. But personally I feel that the potential for surprises outweighs the risk of failure.

Of course we’re not just making The Path for ourselves. So a lot of things are much more tightly controlled by the game than would be our personal preference. Just so that the player has a better chance at understanding what we’re trying to say. But there’s still quite a few things that are variable and unpredictable. I hope people will appreciate these.

Interactivity and horror

December 22nd, 2008 by Michael

Interactive horror is interesting. Because -at least in the way that we design games- it gaves you the freedom to tune the degree of the scariness to some extent. In a way that is fully compatible with the narrative (unlike turning the sound off on a horror movie, e.g.). There’s certain things in The Path that you can do for that extra thrill (or avoid to soothe your nerves).

Fixing is breaking

December 18th, 2008 by Michael

Now if I could only stop breaking things when fixing other things, perhaps we’d see the end of it. One thing is certain: the beta-testers will have a lot of work to do next month!

Time and work at the end

December 17th, 2008 by Michael

Funny sensation we find at the end of this production. There’s lots of things that we would like to add/improve/correct in the game but which are too much work or too risky to get into at this point. And most of the other things seem too trivial to even bother with. I guess it’s just a matter of finishing up now. Because a few things really are unfinished. Let’s just get it done.


December 16th, 2008 by Michael

A German publisher once refused to work with us because our production relies on Auriea and I too much. We were not expendable and that was a liability. Of course, making anything artistic relies on the vision, presence and activity of an artist, a person, an individual. Unwillingness to take the risk to rely on an individual, basically amounts to unwillingness to produce anything artistic.

That doesn’t mean that the risk is not real. There is always a finite amount of money available. Money that mostly serves the purpose of keeping the staff nourished and sheltered. If said staff works on the production in the mean time, all is well. But what if a staff member falls sick? They still need to be nourished and sheltered. So the money still flows out. But they don’t contribute to the production anymore. Problem.

That dreaded moment has arrived now. I have a bit of a flu. So far, it isn’t bad yet. I’m hoping that it doesn’t get worse. But if it does, well, we will have a serious problem. Our schedule is very tight. Especially now. We can’t afford to not work on the game.

The last pieces of lead

December 14th, 2008 by Michael

There’s a saying in Dutch that roughly translates to “the last pieces of lead way the most”. It means that last part of any job is the hardest. And man is it true! We are working so hard to get the game as well as it can be by the end of the month, when we have to stop production and switch our attention to bugfixing and marketing. We’re constantly thinking of a million things simultaneously. We hardly have any time to talk to each other (let alone for other more intimate moments…). We’re constantly hovering on the edge of complete depression. Through lack of sleep and excess of nerves. The fast approaching deadline makes for a very rough ride. But it also lights up the end of the tunnel. Two more weeks to go. And then it’s done! :)

The virtue of patience

December 5th, 2008 by Michael

We’ve noticed something interesting while testing The Path. If you play the game slowly and patiently, it becomes a fluent and rewarding experience. But if you’re very goal oriented and don’t take the time to take it all in, playing can become frustrating and pointless. We will probably need to introduce our future customers to this concept of slowness in the marketing.

At the risk of sounding sexist, but generally speaking, from what we have observed, women seem to have it easier than men in this respect. They seem to be naturally inclined to observe more and actively interpret what they see. That doesn’t mean that men can’t enjoy The Path. They just need to slow down and take their time. Then playing The Path will be over before you know it -perhaps too soon. While if you hurry, it can seem to take forever -in a bad way.

It’s funny how this coincides with the structural concept of the game: the straight and short path to grandmother’s house versus the myriad possibilities for discovery when you get lost in the forest. Sometimes I get a bit weary of how much The Path is a comment on (the way people play) computer games.

I wonder if this can be applied to bugfixing too… ;)

tester #12

December 4th, 2008 by Auriea

game tester #12 And… we ended our series of alpha testing on a light note yesterday. The player knew absolutely nothing of games, or how to interact with a virtual world. Also, she was left handed and a Mac user who hadn’t really used a two button mouse before. We spent the first hour helping her understand how to navigate. It was kind of fabulous though. It turned out that the joystick was the easiest way to play for her. She approached the entire experience unlike any of the others. Slowly and with wonder. Everything was a sign, a symbol. She herself is an inventor of games… analogue ones that children can play (she was an educator.) She discussed how she often had to find solutions to problems, changing traditional physcial games (football, running races etc.), remixing them to help girls and boys play together or for kids who are of different skill levels to be able to play together without problems. This, she said, made her sympathetic to the way we are trying to make a video game that is remixing the idea of what video games are.
Her reactions were the polar opposite to the Game Designer we had as tester #11. All of the things he said we “should do” would have totally turned this woman off to the game. She was here because she found the game beautiful. That perceived beauty and interaction with the characters was entertaining for her. We don’t interfere with her experience with lots of hardcore conventions. Maybe where we are coming from is just not from the place of conventions of game design. We are simply applying the same principles of art and aesthetics from our past experiences. It is about entertainment but not necessarily fun. Why are games supposed to be fun? (I mean, action! fun! whoohoo! fun.) Are video games fun? I posit that games can be about dreams. And we invite you to visit one.


tester #11

December 2nd, 2008 by Auriea

game tester #11 w/ shoes of tester #10

not a decent drawing this time. i had too much coffee at breakfast. was all jittery. (the shoes are of tester #10) didn’t help that yesterday’s tester was a fellow game designer. or rather that he has worked on so many games as a designer. he gave us a healthy dose of tough love and food for thought in how we can make things better for what gamers may expect. on the other hand he seemed surprised when i told him how other players had played. no one ever said game design is a science. it is, in many ways, the art of questioning everything you think you know about how people interact with virtual characters and environemts. is it giving them a form of training. have gamers been trained to think things should be one certain way? isn’t it my job to at least try to seduce them into thinking about things another way. i am somewhat disturbed by the maxim that one should “make games for other people’s expectations” and “let go of your ideas.” i guess because i feel like… i am a human too and to make a game for myself is to make one for others…. but this is why i don’t try to design on my own too because i know i have a very artsy attitude when it comes to creation of anything. i work for the audience but only to the extent that i want to communicate certain ideas. i think that creation of something as commercial product is quite another skill. one which i personally may never possess.
it was all good discussion. nice to talk about things on that level. i hope he can beta test the game too. see what he thinks of the more final result.
anyway, once again the game was played all the way through. he had QUITE a different playstyle than the first person who finished the game. he managed to finish The Path in 2 and a half hours. SO, what should we tell people then? since this game IS designed in such a way that you can play it through having a complete experience in either 2 hours which is extremely short by any estimation, or if you are one who likes to be involved and notice everything and experiment with whats there it can take you up to 6 hours. i do believe these are the extremes.