Tag Archives: development

Xbox One’s 7th Core

A very interesting read from Richard Leadbetter at Eurogamer:

Up until recently, both Xbox One and PlayStation 4 have reserved two entire CPU cores (out of eight available) in order to run the background operating system in parallel with games. Since October, Microsoft has allowed developers access to 50 to 80 per cent of a seventh processing core – which may partly explain why a small amount of multi-platform titles released during Q4 2014 may have possessed performance advantages over their PS4 counterparts in certain scenarios.

However, there’s no such thing as a free lunch, and the additional CPU power comes with conditions and trades attached – however, there is the potential for many games to benefit. Firstly, developers need to give up custom, game-specific voice commands in order to access the seventh core at all, while Kinect’s infra-red and depth functionality is also disabled. Secondly, the amount of CPU time available to developers varies at any given moment – system-related voice commands (“Xbox record that”, “Xbox go to friends”) automatically see CPU usage for the seventh core rise to 50 per cent. At the moment, the operating system does not inform the developer how much CPU time is available, so scheduling tasks will be troublesome. This is quite important – voice commands during gameplay will be few and far between, meaning that 80 per cent of the core should be available most of the time. However, right now, developers won’t know if and when that allocation will drop. It’s a limitation recognised in the documentation, with Microsoft set to address that in a future SDK update.

The concessions Microsoft has been making to the Xbox One (revised DRM model, “dis-Kinect”, price-drop, bundles, and now opening the seventh processing core) are admirable, and considering the recent spike in sales, certainly make for an interesting future for the console war. However, these are just that — concessions. Sony has continued to stay the course with compelling hardware and a simple story. Not to mention this is another hit against Kinect and the original vision of Xbox One.

Tagged , ,

Twitch Adds Game Development Category

Polygon:

The Game Development category was launched on Oct. 16 and works exactly the same way as a category for a specific game on Twitch. But in this case you’re tuning in to watch people develop games live, rather than watch someone playing a released title.

“We conducted a Twitch Town Hall session at PAX Prime which is when we let our community share ideas they would like to see implemented on the platform,” said Marcus “djWHEAT” Graham, Twitch’s director of community and education. “The idea of having a section for game developers was suggested and it resonated with the audience, so that inspired us to add it as a category.”

Twitch has yet to hook me, but this might do the trick.

Tagged , ,

GamesIndustry International: ‘SOE GIRL Scholarship winner announced’

Laura Naviaux, Sony Online Entertainment’s senior VP of global sales and marketing:

SOE has prided itself on being a major catalyst of women’s involvement in our industry. As our company continues to evolve and diversify our portfolio, we’ve found it imperative to refine our approach with game art and development, seeking out varied perspectives from the current and future leading voices in the industry. The market for compelling and original online game experiences is rapidly evolving and as a publisher it is our responsibility to listen and celebrate the spectrum of play styles among our global community, and deliver innovation in art, design and technology.

Congrats to scholarship winner Erin Loelius.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Journey dev raises $7 million

thatgamecompany:

We are proud to share the news today that our studio has entered the next phase of development on our upcoming project and has raised an additional $7 million in funding. We are happy to partner with Capital Today and a team of other investors who share our vision in making meaningful interactive experiences that inspire, connect, and emotionally touch the hearts of players around the world.

With this new investment, our studio is able to scale up development efforts to focus on making the best game possible in the same spirit as flOw, Flower, and Journey. We’ll also begin laying the infrastructure to self-publish, market, and distribute on our own terms for this next project and beyond.

Cannot wait.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Dungeon Defenders studio lays off 20%, shift in company culture

Comments from Darrell Rodriguez, CEO of Trendy Entertainment, as they appear on GamesIndustry International:

Currently, we are not profitable, but we have products in the pipeline to get us there. We are in between launches, so our cash flow is a concern. We are taking the necessary steps to fix this to ensure Dungeon Defenders II gets out the door at the great quality people have come to expect. We’re at a critical time where execution and performance is essential to our ongoing success.

We are doing this very unpleasant action with respect, empathy and compassion in consideration of the great work that these people have contributed to Trendy.

As discussed last time, a lot of the culture had already shifted upon my arrival. I’m working closely with devs and leads to create more openness and better communication at all levels of the company. Cultural change does not happen overnight, but we have ongoing efforts to work on better cross-departmental communication, getting the leads directly involved in product planning and holding consistent company wide meetings to ensure we are all on the same page. There’s a long way to go, but we’re on our way

Rodriguez’s statements on culture change are well met. Healthy company culture is key and appears to be a hot topic in light of the layoff crisis plaguing development studios as of late. My thoughts to those affected. Layoff list updated.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Welcoming to new players

Ben Kuchera, Polygon:

In most games of this genre you earn currency which is used to buy items, potions and buffs that make your character more powerful. Picking the right items at the right time for your character is a huge part of both League of Legends and Dota 2.

They were discussing the idea of removing the item shop altogether, and one of the game’s designers was becoming, as Browder put it “emotionally distressed” at the idea of removing an aspect of the game that’s a key part of the genre.

There were people on the team against the idea of an item shop and a gold system, as they just allowed those in the lead to remain in the lead and crush the other side. It added a layer of complexity that may not be welcoming to new players.

Worked well for Hearthstone.

I’ve been dreaming of a cross-over title since the original Warcraft III teaser, initially mistaking the rain of the Burning Legion as Zerg.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Polygon Human Angle: Queer Games

Mattie Brice, developer of Mainichi:

If I was to watch [Mainichi] be played anywhere it would be upsetting. Maybe upsetting is a good thing. I think we should be upset by games. I think that’s a valid emotion to happen. It’s not meant for me to feel good. It does make other people feel good because in a sense, this game has been validating. Many people are like, “Oh! I’ve had that experience too. I’m not alone.”

Human Angle is such a beautiful series.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Save developers and you will save your soul

  • 130 layoffs, Nintendo (Eurogamer, 6/6/14)
  • 37 layoffs, Harmonix (Polygon, 5/29/14)
  • 20% of staff across development and marketing, Trendy Entertainment (GamesIndustry International, 5/21/14)
  • 16 layoffs, Rare (IGN, 5/19/14)
  • [undisclosed] layoffs, PopCap (Polygon, 3/13/14)
  • 700 layoffs, Disney Interactive (Joystiq, 3/6/14)
  • 27 layoffs, Eidos (Joystiq, 3/4/14)
  • [undisclosed] layoffs, Sony Santa Monica (Joystiq, 2/27/14)
  • 70 layoffs, Irrational Games (Joystiq, 2/18/14)
  • 12 layoffs, Eutechnyx (Joystiq, 2/18/14)
  • [undisclosed] layoffs, Ghost Games (Joystiq, 2/1/14)
  • [undisclosed] layoffs, EA Salt Lake (Joystiq, 1/30/14)
  • 3423+ industry layoffs from 1/7/13 – 10/29/13 (GameJobWatch.com)

In a discussion on IGN’s Game Scoop!. the Daemon Hatfield, Greg Miller, Justin Davis, and Brian Altano discussed the Sony Santa Monica layoffs and the ongoing (and seemingly permanent) “ramp up / layoff” structure of AAA studios. During this discussion, the panel made comments around the need for the video game industry to unionize and operate in similar fashion to the film industry:

Daemon Hatfield: “I wonder if the video game industry should be more like the movie industry. You have a crew that works on a movie and when the movie is done, they go on to their next project. They are not full-time employees.”

Greg MIller: “Do you think as far as unionizing?”

DH, Justin Davis, and Brian Altano confirm and agree.

DH: “You have a director that runs a movie, he brings on his crew, they make the game…”

JD: “You assemble a “dream team” for each project. A director has certain DPs and other key positions [and] likes to collaborate with the same people over and over. Presumably all of those people that are one step down also have people they like and they bring their whole crew with them. You get the one guy and then you get his crew.”

GM: “I guess that kind of already happens right?”

BA: “Sort of.”

JD: “It happens a little bit but the issue is that it disrupts people’s insurance and things like that. If there was a union, the equivalent of a SAG card or something, you could just move from project to project. In my opinion (and I haven’t done a tremendous amount of reach on this), but on the surface it seems like something that would be healthy for this business.”

While, many devs may benefit from negotiated salaries, working conditions, hours, and insurance coverage, further research into unions does not seem to offer a terrible amount of protection from layoffs. Nor does it appear that the film industry works this way.

According to Lawyers.com, how a union benefits an employee during a layoff is largely dependent on a collective bargaining agreement (CBA). In short, layoffs of union employees are usually handled on a measure of seniority. The source also goes on to mention the benefits of The Worker Adjustment & Retraining Notification Act (WARN):

Generally, WARN requires employers with 100 or more workers to give you 60 days’ advance notice of some closings and “mass layoffs.” A closing can mean the shut-down of a plant or facility. “Mass layoff” has very specific meanings, but basically it means that a substantial number of workers are being laid off for more than six months. –Lawyers.com

Systems such as WARN would appear to be very valuable for developers in the wake of the seemingly immediate purge of Irrational and Sony Santa Monica employees.

There is a looming fear that if the industry continues at this pace, great artists, programmers, engineers, writers, and the like will be swayed away from from the games industry, potentially diminishing the quality of games released. There is no doubt in my mind that the allure of working on a video game will continue to attract skilled creatives; however, lengthy tenure is sure to wane.

Some will argue that AAA isn’t for everyone and indie development is on the rise. While I agree, many of the skills possessed by indie devs were likely gained from experience at larger studios.

I have never been a developer, part of union, or involved in the film industry. I would appreciate any and all correction of the above information from those with experience.

Should video game developers unionize? Does the film industry actually work in this manner? Does a union offer more protection from layoffs than mentioned above? What is your solution to the state of video game development? Are things fine the way they are?

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Opinion: Why we spend so much money to be so stressed out

Opinion: Why we spend so much money to be so stressed out
Polygon

A great piece on the arc of human development and stress as depicted by three games:

Like most people who use an alarm clock, I have an unhealthy relationship with stress. It hits me in the chest, disrupts my digestion, and wakes me up at all hours of the night — but it’s also the reason I’m going to meet my deadline for this column. Life brings stress, but stress is also a self-inflicted wound, like we’re suffering a blow that may never come.

Not many people would call stress “fun,” and yet video games can be stressful. We sometimes willingly pay money to be more stressed. This year gave us a bumper crop of stressful games, and the other day as I was tossing and turning at 5:00 am., I decided to rank them on the inside wall of my cranium. Lucas Pope’s recent Papers, Please made it onto the list, and so did Richard Hofmeier’s Cart Life. But I started with Nintendo’s Pikmin 3.

– Chris Dahlen, Polygon

Tagged , , , , , , , ,