We've been using Scaleform GFx on the XBLA game we've been working on, and we've been going all out on the front end. It looks awesome so far, but we'll need more Art Power to finish the whole thing up to the standards we've set for ourselves.
So we are looking to hire or contract a Flash motion graphics artist. This is an animation and graphic design position with little to no ActionScript. Strong preference is someone local (to Bellevue, Washington), so we can work side by side. If you or someone you know is awesome and looking for a gig, please have them contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
And no, we can't announce what we're working on yet...
I don't like to talk trash about games on my blog because...well, it's so easy. Any game that comes out has flaws and it's a knee-jerk reaction for developers to focus on the flaws and forget all the things that make it awesome. But I'm going to do it anyway.
So: the single-player campaign, which Keith Boesky already lambasted, but most game review sites think is the second coming. When I played the "pretend to be a terrorist" mission, I was very uncomfortable. I didn't kill any civilians myself, and tried to shoot some of the other terrorists to see if I could, and then tried to see if I could get away with not shooting any russian police or whatever they were, at which point the Big Bad killed me. And then I played along, shooting these poor russian soldiers who were just doing their job and defending themselves from terrorists.
And I wondered - maybe this is a work of art? In the same way I sometimes think GTA3 was a work of art, it's themes of liberty and freedom pushed to a discomforting extreme. Just as some modern movies might portray the US in a bad light, show our means-justifies-the-ends calculus as not only callous but often just wrong as blowback from, say, our efforts in Afghanistan end up causing more problems than we solve, MW2 is like one of those gritty everything's-a-shade-of-grey stories that might make you feel not so much entertained but forced to take a look at a sad reality. Keith seems to want the game to chant "USA! USA!" but why should game developers be forced to only tell that kind of story?
And Keith seems to think IW's motivations are to shock and create controversy just to sell units. One wonders what their motivations really are - were they trying to tell a complex story with a lot of shades of gray, or were their motives more base, "Huh-huh, and you get to watch all these ordinary people being gruesomely killed, and you can participate if you want." It's the Super Columbine Massacre controversy again - was it Art or was it the drooling bloodlust of a poor geek who had been beaten up on the playground one too many times?
Me, I'm willing to give IW the benefit of the doubt. I think they were trying for art, for the complex nuanced story.
That said, not only did they fail at art & storytelling, they ended up making a game I just don't want to play.
Because after playing along and killing those innocent russian soldiers--sorry for the spoiler--you get killed anyway. Turns out the badguys knew who you were all along. So why did IW force us to fight the goodguys to advance (and yes, you can skip the level, with that "I promise not to be offended" dialog box, but obviously that's a promise one can't really make - tell me what you're going to tell me and then we'll find out if I'm offended or not) only to end up at the same result? I can't believe I'm saying this, but that level should have been a cutscene. Games are supposed to create the illusion that you have free will. Sometimes a game like Bioshock will come along and play with you, point out that hey, you thought you had free will but you really didn't, but that only works if they manage to perpetuate the illusion right off. (And even Bioshock didn't work for Clint Hocking.) With MW2, in that mission, I was completely out of the fiction, not immersed in the slightest, and resenting the heavy-hands of the game designer forcing me to play the part from their movie.
But then, following that mission, we have a story where the Russian soldiers think Americans are terrorists. Instead of shooting clearly evil aliens, or clearly evil Nazis, we've got guys who are just retaliating for a wrong done to their people. And we're expected to kill them.
Sid Meier gave a talk yesterday at GDC where he said that moral clarity is important. You want your players to want to win. When winning is morally ambiguous - when you're not sure if you even want to win - you're probably not going to want to play, either.
I played a few more levels of MW2 and enjoyed it in a pure game mechanic sense and appreciated the cinematic high-cowbell moments. But after I turned off the xbox, I never wanted to put that disc back in again.
But I did, because the majority of people who play MW2 don't play the single-player. Another study at GDC showed, with World at War anyhow, that most people these days taste the single-player but then don't complete the campaign and spend the rest of their hours playing multiplayer. (And only 10% play the co-op; if we had heard that statistic a couple of years ago maybe we wouldn't have made Schizoid.) I believe that's probably true with MW2 as well, which has sold some 10-15M units (reports vary) and there I am at 9.5M on the multiplayer leaderboards.
So here's my beef with the multiplayer: the game mechanics and the look are at odds. We've got this hyperrealistic you're-really-at-war look and feel, but then we've got totally gamey respawning and buffs - and in dominion mode, where you capture points by standing in a circle for a certain amount of time, it feels totally silly, like these buff soldiers are playing a schoolyard game. Note Borderlands, where they realized 3/4 of the way through development that their game mechanics were at odds with the look; they changed the look!
Of course, in the final analysis, what do I know? It sold an absolute crapload, the biggest videogame that wasn't bundled with hardware, as I understand it. So my tastes are not the same as the masses, something I always have to remember when I'm designing.
I'm not the biggest fan of *Modern Warfare 2* and I've been composing a blog post in my head about my conflicted thoughts on it but this takes precedence.
Deja Vu - it wasn't too long after Spider-Man 2 that Pete & Don got let go from Treyarch. And yes, a lot of Pete & Don's friends (including me) quit as soon as our contracts were up. (And, without Pete & Tomo Moriwaki & James Chao & myself & others I can't help but notice that Spider-Man 3 didn't too well. Schadenfreude, baby.)
Although at the time I kind of understood Activision being hard-asses with us, because - hey - we weren't Infinity Ward. But Infinity Ward *is* Infinity Ward, so this does seem like killing the goose.
I understand Actard is also spreading out the bonuses they owe to Infinity Ward employees over the next two years, instead of giving it in a lump. Great way to get retirement on the job. A lot of those guys are going to do the minimum they can get away with and still keep their jobs...
I think firing Jason & Vince is a bad idea not just because of head count, but I think it could seriously hurt the brand. Years ago the fans followed Vince & Jason away from Medal of Honor to Call of Duty. I hope it will happen again.
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