The game barrel

So we used to use a metaphor: a barrel which holds water, a wooden barrel has all these pieces, and you use a frame to put them together. Each piece is for a different aspect of the game — one is for the graphics, one is for the sound, one is for design — and if any one of those is short, the water that you can hold is only up to the shortest part. And the water is the satisfaction of the player.

If you have terrible graphics, and everything else is great, the player will probably just keep saying, “Oh, the graphics suck!” But, meanwhile, if you have really wonderful graphics — like real graphics — but the gameplay sucks, they will still think the game is mediocre, because the gameplay sets the cap.

So, as a small team, there is no way that we can create a cap, a taller piece than a commercial game, but our goal is to keep every piece at the same height; so it could be even higher than some of the commercial games.

Wise words from Jenova Chen in a nice interview with Brandon Sheffield conducted at the Game Developers Conference where we met Mr. Chen for the first time. A very enlightening way of illustrating what we were trying to say in point 3 of our Realtime Art Manifesto, and a nice thing to keep in mind when working on a small budget and staring at those immense blockbusters in utter disbelief.

Introducing: Ginger!

Here we go again, number four of six. Ginger is her name. We finished her model yesterday.
She’s 13 and a bit of a tomboy.

The forest is a great place for adventures! And a much more fun way to get to grandmother’s house. Ginger isn’t one for sticking to paths. Running around in the fields, climbing gnarly old trees, playing wild games with abandoned toys, collecting pebbles and hitting things with sticks. The idea of growing up doesn’t hold much appeal. Who’d want to give up their childhood? But Ginger is 13. The end is near.
She’s a fresh flower of the field in her own way. Very independent -a loner, actually- and completely absorbed in the game she thinks of as life. Will she bloom before she wilts? Will she ever learn? Should she?
The forest holds no secrets for her. Or does it?

We have posted some new snaps of Ginger (do pardon the pun 😉 ) on the website of The Path. There’s portraits in the gallery and a Ginger desktop wallpaper in the downloads section.

We’ll also be posting some “behind-the-scenes” material to the development journal.

Like her sisters Robin, Carmen and Rose, Ginger is keeping a Livejournal. She’s not much of a writer. But perhaps what’s there will help us understand what’s going on in that untamed head of hers.

That’s four down. Two more to go. The next Red Girl will be revealed in two weeks.
Lots of work to do…

Introducing: Rose!

In our ongoing series of revealing the six Red Girls, we present Rose, the second youngest of the six avatars that you will get to play in The Path.

Rose is very mature for her age. But there is a certain air of innocence about her that is charming and disconcerting at the same time. Barely a teenager -Rose is eleven-, she is discovering the world around her with fresh eyes. And all is beautiful! The wind in the trees, the birds in the air, the flowers along the path. Rose is taking it in voraciously. So much so that she will defend even nature’s smallest creatures against anyone who might wish them harm.

But who will protect sweet Rose herself, when she is lured off the path?

There’s new pictures of Rose on the website of The Path, some portraits in the gallery, a new wallpaper with Rose’s feet (yes, we thought that was the picture that best expresses her personality) and some making-of documentation and inspirations in the development journal, where we talk about the ongoing production.

But if you want to start playing with Rose today, have a look at her Livejournal.

In another fourteen days, a fourth character will be revealed.

Programmers, move over! Already.

In a discussion of procedurally generated art in game production, the wonderful Brenda Brathwaite -whom we met at the last GDC during a very encouraging panel session about sex in games- said:

In my view, procedurally generated art doesn’t ask artists to leave the party. Rather, it invites programmers to it.

This sums up, in my opinion, to a large extent, what’s wrong with games as an artistic medium. On an aesthetic level, in most games, the people who are making the artistic decisions that matter are the programmers. Sure, the grunt work (3D models, textures, sound, music, etc) is done by actual artists. But that is just called “asset creation”, and correctly so. The real artists are the ones who create the normal mapping, the lighting systems, the shadow shaders, the physics effects, the water simulation, forest rendering systems, etc.

Without a common aesthetic vision, contemporary games quickly start looking like collages of different technologies. This doesn’t come as a surprise. All of these systems are built as solutions to problems, not as artistic statements. I’m sure a programmer wants his blur shader to look pretty. But that’s just not the same as an artist who really knows why he wants that shader and how he’s going to use it.

Games are an art form where the real artists are engineers. No wonder they fall apart, aesthetically! Engineers shouldn’t be making art. Just like artists shouldn’t be building engines. A bridge created by an artist without the help of an engineer, will fall down. The same is true for a painting created by a programmer. It will fall down like an empty house of cards that was never supposed to be meaningful in the first place.

So how can we solve this? The technology that we are using is very complicated. With all the work that it takes to make something even run on a computer, there’s hardly any time left for artistic decision making. Let alone a place for a global artistic vision in the production pipeline.
I guess one way is wait. Once the hardware gets so fast that it can do anything, there will be a lot less need for difficult programming. Because, let’s face it, most of the programming in games is transpiration, not inspiration: it’s creating software so that it can run on our feeble hardware.
But will that moment ever come? Will the hardware ever be powerful enough?
And isn’t there anything we can do in the mean time?