måndag 12 oktober 2015

Walking on egg shells

It struck me I had not yet written this entry on the blog yet, despite intending to for a long while. With the Greenlight entry coming up and people finding out about the game I feel it's about time I write it.

I understand completely that making a game called Mission: Afghanistan and its subject matter might piss off a great deal of people. It's a sensitive subject even though a few years have passed since the war took place, and even though I've explicitly stated that what you see in the game is an alternative past, not some sort of documentary in game form (which should be apparent when seeing even a snippet of gameplay from the game). I was ready to change the name of the game to Danger Close, but changed my mind. Who knows, I might still have to, in a good scenario... Let's go full political correctness and list a few of the people that potentially can and probably will be offended by this game:

1. People who have been in service in Afghanistan and feel used
2. SJW's who are against the war for whatever reasons
3. People who live in Afghanistan and don't like their entire country and its history reduced to a war game about killing people, from their point of view. Even though this is a picture that the media has been feeding us for one and a half decade, one that the game makes fun of.

I could go on, but you get the point. With this game though my intention is not to offend people. Nor to belittle someone. In my opinion, art, media, games need to be able to cover even sensitive subjects, otherwise freedom of speech and freedom of press do not exist in reality. To me it is even more important to be able to feature sensitive and offensive material, because that means that the subject matter is taboo for some reason, and it desperately needs to be featured and put out there in the spotlight so we can at least try to understand why that is.

I was brought up on MAD-magazine, and to me political incorrectness is second nature. Walking around and thinking about what isn't appropriate or what might offend people is not how I want to live my life. Was the war in Afghanistan a good or a bad thing? I don't know to be honest. And my official stance and the stance this game take is that of utter neutrality. The game is not meant to be a moral debate of what is good and what is bad, I'll leave that for someone else. If anything, it is a study in exaggerated cartoonish ultra violence, and it's up to the player to determine what they think about that. If I could go back in time, would I make this game thematically and graphically about something else entirely? Probably yes. This part of the game was never something I put much thought into when first coming up with the concept for it. Like I said, I'm not a politically correct person. But here we are. And one problem is that if you take away the subject matter of the game and replace the player sprites with robots, you kind of take away the whole point of the game.

I'm a fan of movies such as Hot Shots II, The Hurt Locker, Jarhead, The Dictator, The Interview, Team America: World Police and Zero Dark Thirty. All the hundreds of movies about the Vietnam war and WWII. Not to mention all the Call of Duty and Medal of Honor games that take place in Afghanistan and feature the war to some extent. Are you going to tell me that these movies and these games are OK, but Mission: Afghanistan is not? Because it's an indie game? If so I simply don't think that is fair.

M:A Greenlight entry

I finished making the trailer which means I have finally been able to create a Greenlight page for M:A. Link below.

fredag 9 oktober 2015

The danger of placeholders

Here is a problem that might not apply to every indie game developer out there, but it certainly rings true for me. When programming early versions of enemies, items or even stages themselves and testing them out, it's very convenient to use placeholder graphics. This way you can work out kinks and see if your stage layout does its job etc, without having to go through the process of drawing finalized sprites. I do all my graphics myself and I'm aware not every developer works this way, if you have a hired artist who creates your graphics then placeholders naturally are more or less necessary in order for the development of your game not to be completely held back by the visual representations of the assets.

There is a real danger in using placeholder graphics however. A wise person once said "kill your darlings", meaning you should never be too attached to your favorite creations when it comes to anything creative, including game development. Your blind love for that Goomba-clone might easily make you unable to realize it's not a good enemy for your particular game. In my experience the same thing definitely applies to placeholder graphics. Once you go beyond just geometrical figures, I myself very easily find myself starting to like placeholder graphics as small ugly puppies or something. They're not that nice but you created them after all. First you accept them, then you start to kinda like them, then you actually start to appreciate them and before you know it you've pretty much forgotten completely that they were once placeholders, and any thought about replacing them later on has been erased from your memory. Especially when it comes to pixel graphics-games the sprites are kinda crude to begin with (NES-imitation games in particular) no matter how you look at it, so the line between a placeholder and an OK sprite is very fine.

This problem can snowball out of control very easily since there is so much that needs to be done when developing a game, and fixing those "OK-looking" placeholder graphics can easily start to go further and further down in priority on the to do-list. And before you know it you've released a game with a lot of placeholder graphics. As the developer you are blinded to their supbar quality, but the potential consumers certainly are not. My current solution for this might be extreme, but it works for me. I am done with graphical placeholders. Anything outside of geometrical figures such as squares with text on them, is not OK in a game I'm developing. I understand that if you are not creating the graphics yourself things are different, but for me I now always create the graphics with them being in the final game in mind. Truth is they need to be done at some point anyway. This doesn't mean you can't still improve them later on of course.

I've made a trailer for M:A and once I get enough feedback on it I will use it to create a Greenlight page for the game. The intended release date has been pushed back to November 30th since I've been sick for three weeks and unable to work on the game at all. The release date might change depending on how the Greenlight works out though. The best for me would be if I could release M:A exclusively on Steam.