What Happened Last Month - March & April 2014

Posted by Euan 25 April 2014

Guys, E3 is only 6 weeks away, and I don’t know if I’m excited or terrified that it will all be over and I will be left with the feeling I was still far too early to jump on the next gen bandwagon. Even though this is the first generation I am in the financial position to get in on the ground floor, it does still occasionally feel like I am doubting the quality of everything I play on it, or if I am just excited because I have a damn game to play. I’m really hoping that this years expo manages to validate my childish “but look new shiny” attitude.

Also, Last Guardian has to be this year. It just has to be…

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Reality producer attempts to make a TV show out of a Game Jam, all the participants walk out within 24 hours.

I despise reality shows as much as the next man, but I will admit that upon hearing the concept of getting a professional production company in to cover a game jam sounded like a good one. We only ever really see the output of those events, and unless you were there you really don’t get to see what it’s like when the participants are exhausted and falling apart that they have only just imbued their character with the power to jump.

You know that it’s all gone horribly wrong however, when the participants walk out on the project within the first 24 hours.

Indie Statik were the spark for this story, with Jared Rose putting out a full report on the disaster over at Indie Statik which you really should read. I will try my best to cover the basics here, but go there and go from top to bottom for the full story.

Rosen is an occasional contractor for Polaris as well as writer for the site, with Polaris being the video game arm of Maker Studios, and the company behind the YouTube channels you are probably all subscribed to, such as Yogscast and TotalBiscuit. It started with a very small idea of “televising” (for YouTube) a game jam, letting more people into this process than would maybe otherwise care. They even got some known names in the indie scene to sign up, such as Zoe Quinn (Depression Quest), Davey Wreden (The Stanley Parable), Adriel Wallick (Candescent), and collective of developers Arcane Kids (Bubsey 3D).

Multiple factors were to blame for the event collapsing in on itself, and a large number of them were the responsibility of one Matti Leshem, a particularly vocal producer on the project and was present to look after the interests of the events main sponsor, Mountain Dew. Very quickly their interests started to overtake those of the show.

 Davey was forced to take off his nail polish because he couldn’t hold the can with it on. Zoe had to take off the buttons she usually wears on her jacket, but shouted down a PA who tried to make her cover her tattoos. The Arcane Kids were screamed at for not holding bottles right, while the entire group was lectured on how to properly smile like you’re enjoying the product – a product that everyone was enjoying less and less. The slow train wreck of faces flipping into scowls marked only the beginning of what would soon turn into an utter shitshow.
Jared Rose, Indie Statik

Then shit started to go overboard. Quinn and YouTuber JonTron having a high stress induced spat away from the main studio (to not drag the other participants in) prompted a mass of cameras following them off stage to get some regulation reality TV argument shots, producers feeding the fire by throwing in a few comments of their own into the situation. This then extended to cameras then cornering JonTron in an attempt to get some more inflammatory comments about Quinn on tape. The equipment provided started to crash. Non-Dew drinks were banned from the set, including water and (probably more importantly coffee)

For anyone who has followed the feelings and themes of industry discussions over the past year, and especially with developers who have had to deal with untold amounts of gender related internet bullshit in that time period like Quinn, it’s immediately apparently when the whole situation came to a head and then exploded in a particularly violent way. Matti approached one of the all male teams in the competition and asked…

“Two of the other teams have women on them. Do you think they’re at a disadvantage?”

After a moment of horrified silence, and the interviewee giving a shocked “what the fuck” style of answer, Matti then continued to ask the other male team members similarly themed questions, until changing tack with Wallick’s teammates asking if it was advantageous that they had a “pretty girl on their team”. After provoking a (highly deserved) outburst from Wallick and Zoe directly telling Matti exactly where to go and how to go about doing it, the participants wanted blood. 20 minutes later they got their wish, and a newly fired Matti stormed off set. Most of the participants refused to continue, and the production ground to a halt.

The original Indie Statik report goes into much more detail in all of this (including a particularly incredible look at the participants “draconian” contracts), as do the personal blogs of Wallick and Quinn. All are well worth reading.

This was a complete clusterfuck in every way. A production house not understanding the subject matter of the show, the participants involved or even the vague discussions that are going on in the industry right now. This wasn’t Jersey Shore they were filming, where the cast are sterotyped, and heated fights become the water-cooler moments the following workday. This was supposed to be a celebration of games and how they are made, bringing together the most important developers doing the most interesting things with the medium right now. It almost seemed like parody that the whole event imploded due to Mountain Dew sponsorship and blatant “girls don’t play games” sexist attitudes. I have always tried to show people who don’t closely follow the industry that games are a viable, grown up medium, and shit like this just disheartens me so badly. This article is only ending here cause I can practically feel an anger ulcer forming in the pit of my stomach.

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Sony denies something that it has already confirmed, highlighting the insanity of video game PR.

I feel like that we have done nothing but talk about Last of Us on this site, but it just keeps giving us story after story.

This months tale begins in Turkey, with Playstation VP of the country Sercan Sulun. During an interview with CNN Multiplayer he discussed an unannounced project for PS4. Luckily though he realised the accident immediately and didn’t give any hard details about it.

There is no information about a new The Last of Us game but I can share this knowledge; as of this summer, The Last of Us will be on the PS4. Both on PSN and physically. The PS4 version will also include the DLC so you will be able to play ‘Left Behind’ as well.
Sercan Sulun, PlayStation Eurasian Software Market Manager

Oops. So at this point, the gig is up, and it’s time for Sony to admit the mistake and confirm the project.

“At no time have we announced that The Last of Us is coming to PS4 and therefore, have nothing to say on the subject”
Spokesperson, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe.

So maybe the translation was a little off and it’s a re-release of the original game with the DLC. Maybe it’s a long time off and they just got the date wrong.

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Hmm. Maybe not.

So a man with four years of experience at a company makes a tactical error and announces a project that is in the works, and the response from the company is to pretend it never happened. Only after it then accidentally appears on their official store front do they confirm it’s existence.

Video game press has always been a fickle beast. Long media campaigns drip feeding information at pre calculated intervals to maximise exposure to brands and IPs. It can be a little cold and calculating at points. It becomes completely ridiculous at points, like in this instance, where a company sticks their fingers in their ears and makes a noise pretending that it didn’t happen. Despite the fact that the news has been long rumoured, makes perfect sense and comes from a reliable (and in a rare case, official) source.

A new rush of indie games has arrived on the scene and brought with it a seemingly much more direct method of PR. When three guys are the be all and end all of a development company, and they have no publisher to answer to, then they can just talk about the damn game. No one is stopping them from telling media exactly what is awesome about the title, saving bullet points for the next press cycle. If someone is talking about your game, why not send them out a build so they can actually play it. If you have some questions about the title was made go email the dude that probably coded the feature. It’s this kind of approach that let’s sites like ourselves talk to the developers of Space Engineers, so I suppose we are a little biased.

Stuff You Should Probably Read

The Rip-offs & Making Our Original Game – Greg Wohlwend and Asher Vollmer – Threes!
Meet The Clones – Patrick Klepek – Giant Bomb

Threes! has been an exceptionally successful iOS game, and one we have talked about a lot on the podcast. It has, however, succumbed to the fate of most successful mobile games and been cloned to an insane degree. While most of these clones only took a week or so of effort from the cloners, that was only possible due to the fact that the mechanics, visuals and gameplay loop were already established, and they can simply copy/paste. In an effort to show the amount of work it takes to put together a game even as mechanically simple as Threes, the developers have published most of their emails back and forth during development, with screenshots of “work in progress” art and the many iterations of the basic concept they went through. Patrick Klepek also wrote a great article investigating the clones and their developers, interviewing some of them about why they did it which is well worth reading.

The Guilt of the Video Games Millionaires – Simon Parkin – The New Yorker

What would you do if you were a small indie developer struggling to pay rent, then suddenly your game is released, does exceptionally well and makes you more money than you have ever had. The New Yorker tells the story of some indies that have lived it, and the effect that it has had on their day to day lives that you wouldn’t have even thought about.

Dissecting the Core Mechanics of Vanquish – Ozzie Smith – Gamasutra

I really liked Vanquish, more than apparently a lot of people did, mainly because just getting around the environment and using the bullet time combat just felt so amazingly good. This Gamasutra article does an awesome job at trying to explain why those mechanics just worked as effortlessly as they did. Ok, I need to go play Vanquish again now…

Algo-Bot, lessons learned from our kickstarter failure – Urbain Bruno – Gamasutra

Kickstarter has undoubtedly disrupted the traditional models for getting a game funded and out into the public, but not all projects make it. Algo-Bot from Fishing Cactus, a game designed to teach basic programming skills, failed to meet it’s funding target and was cancelled by the developers. The article gives a fascinating look at the data that Kickstarter projects have access to, and their analysis of what they think went wrong based on that data, covering everything from reward tiers, to publicity to analysing the play times of their pitch video.

Stuff You Should Probably Watch

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