What a shit year

Published on Dec 8, 2015 -

It's been something like a year since I last used my blog. What a shit year. I really didn't have time to use it.

Game jams

A hell lot of things happened.

I wanted to report all that. I needed to log all that, so I can digest everything. Especially that horrible thing: I got fired for the first time. Anyway, I'll talk about that in my next logs. This one is telling about the oldest things which happened to me during this year: game jams. I'll then be talking in other logs going forward in time.

I attended the Ludum Dare #31, giving birth to what I think is an interesting idea for a game but couldn't finish the project on time (again). It is complete shit as a finished game. You can find my entry here. I wanted to create a real game out of this project, which is funny because I could not even finish my LD entry. I had a 9-to-5 job and wanted to create a video game out of an unfinished LD entry! Hahaha! What a jerk.

I also attended Global Game Jam and it was a disaster.

First of all, I couldn't stay all day on site because my girlfriend was really, really annoying that week end. That was because she was passing those exams which would tell if she's gonna make it in her professional life. Failing the exams was meaning to repeat a year but we couldn't afford the fees if that was the case. So much stress. She wanted me to leave home so she can study in a quiet environment and at the same time, she wanted me not to stay away for too long because she was missing me (and I help her not to stress too much).

The dream team

So I went to the GGJ to let her alone and came back home during nights and breaks. This was a very, very complicated week end. The sort of week end which tests your love. The sort of week end where you should just put your foot down and say "Stop!" to the other one, yet I couldn't because bringing fights and angry clarifications at THAT moment when she was risking her entire career would not be helpful. I had to wait for the exams to finish to release the pressure and clear all the things out. It was hard. But in the end, it always worth it. And of course, my loved one did very well at those exams.

So, yeah, I couldn't stay on site and this is a huge handicap for the Global Game Jam because I had to come back to my house with my desktop computer every three hours or so... So much time wasted. I couldn't get a 100% into the jam entry, I was only "contributing". This is my biggest mistake in all of this and I highly regret it.

Everybody's doing the job. Stéphane is in the foreground

On top of that, we all know that Global Game Jam is about meeting people with the same passion as you. So I played the game. I could have joined a team with a few guys I know. They offered me to do so a few days before the jam but I refused. Again: GGJ is about meeting and learning to work with strangers. As the official rules say: "Do not come to the Jam with a team. Everyone will have some time to think and pitch an idea. Collaborate with new friends or peers you admire.".

So I arrived at the event and... surprise, surprise! We were only three people not having a team built up before the event. Okaaay... So I tagged along these two guys. And it was a disaster. I really did not like it. They know it, I know it. My partners in this jam were Stéphane "laei" Drouot and Thomas "Entallia" Lubrano Di Ziranaldi.

That autistic but talented game artist 

Stéphane is a lonely person. You can see that at the first sight. And I think he is someone talented. He really is into art and has a lot of skills but maybe not as much as he thinks.

As an example, Stéphane bashed Thomas and I and said (in a not so private blog on FB which I discovered after the jam, btw, this is so nice to bash people when they're not here anymore) that he is "way more creative than he thinks".

Well, this is humble, isn't it? The typical game designer "god complex" comes from that everyone is a genius at this point of our industry/art. This is like we're in 1900's with the movie industry. Everything has to be done. The indie wave is getting more and more mature. Ideas are getting less and less ground-breaking. Between that GGJ and now, we had that "Indiepocalypse" thing but still, it just represents a market being totally new a couple of years ago and being now flooded by all those innovative game ideas. I remember we had the same thing in the modding world. I remember this flood of thousands mods for Half Life, Unreal, Battlefield and Half Life². It was exactly the same. In the end, there are still hundreds of talented and creative game developers down there and there are still hundreds of talented and creative games being released.

So, even more than before, we have the proof that everyone with a childish, imaginative way of seeing life is a video game development genius. Anyone which knows how to make his brain work -which is basically 99% of humanity, the other 1% being people working for Daesh- can come up with the game idea of the century. What distinguish the good and the best is always the execution of the project, not the idea of the project. Stéphane was not understanding that. Stéphane was just someone among those hundreds of creative guys out there.

So, he sort of forced us to work on his idea because he thought his idea was the best. Thomas and I thought it was not a groundbreaking one. The game would be that you had to follow the life and death of virtual living cells/beings in a poetic game-ish application. Just like you can in thousands of other game jams or in every game of life you build in your first electronic lessons. Hell, my first game jam was even about that!

Stéphane was not that creative with that game concept. We thought that, as a team, we could improve it. We told him about how we could enrich the mechanics with certains enemies and certain features. But during all the jam, it was all about his ideas. His first move when Thomas or I were proposing some new ideas was criticizing it and not listening about it. Right away after your first words, he was always staring at you, telling you "Yeah, but with your idea, ...", with that "WTF" gesture. Damn it, mates, I am not in game design school anymore! Just shut up for thirty seconds and hear what we have to say!

Stéphane in action

Besides all of that, Stéphane is talented. He knows how to do stuff. His only main problem is working with others, just like a lot of us. It is quite funny for someone like him to tell that some people like Thomas or me don't know how to work, don't get that we have 48 hours to complete something and not a couple of seconds more.

It is quite funny for someone who asked Thomas to use those complicated custom shaders and all those Photoshop layer masks, given that Thomas was not even comfortable yet with the concept of layers in Photoshop and with having inspiration for our assets.
It is even more funny for someone who deleted half my code in the saturday night because he couldn't understand it, even though it was working and he didn't have to touch it (we had our dedicated game classes to work on). Well, had we only 48 hours to do something? We just lost two hours of coding.

I didn't have the time to understand what he wrote in the class he had to design. Sometimes I had to see what he did, so I could do the job on my side. I didn't understand everything. But the point is: what he wrote was working. I didn't have to understand everything else. OOP means something: when you write a class, other people don't have to understand it. If you had to write a method "goPickUpGroceries" in the "Lackey" class and if that method is indeed making the lackey go pick up groceries, your partner doesn't have to understand how it works. He just needs to call that method in the "ArrogantBritishLord" class.
This is why I didn't delete his code because I didn't understand it. This is why he didn't have to do so for his part.

Stéphane and his messy code

On top of that, it is also funny for someone refusing to use a common Game class, which would store every single game variables in a static form. This is just the basics of the basics of game dev. Impartial fact: it takes thirty seconds to create such a class and saves hours finding "where that speed variable for that enemy is declared?". Plus, it is accessible in any classes you make in Unity, just by typing Game.badGuySpeed for example. Oh, and by the way, when you program as a team, you don't name your variables "tmp12" or "thatFunnyVariableLol". I think we didn't have to worry: the "standards" were well "lowered" during all those programming sessions.

Even though Stéphane doesn't know how to work in a team and doesn't how to program in a clean, understandable way for his partners, I am really, really thankful for him. He helped me learn a lot of stuff in Unity, especially with introducing me the new UI system brought by the 4.6 version of Unity. This system really makes creating UI in Unity an easy game. Canvas, I love you.

That rookie full of illusion

Regarding Thomas, it was quite different. I like the guy as well, he just needs a bit more mileage. He didn't know how to start working on a video game project. In fact, you could see straight away that he didn't have any experience in game dev, even as a hobby. He presented himself as a game designer for the team. He is attending some game design course at some local engineer school and wants to become a game designer.

The truth is that what they were teaching him was more graphic design than game design at that moment.
Which means he didn't really know how to design a game in a team and what to really do to become a professional game designer. The guy stood before me his eyes round when I told him that, in France, for a thousand students graduating in game design each year, you have only two or three real position as a game designer in a video game company. He simply made every errors a newbie could do, starting for instance by focusing on stories and the "universe" of a game before game mechanics. Every single game designer does that at first. But this can be annoying for someone wanting later to make his living out of game design in a professional team. When you want that, you at least try to do some stuff and learn by yourself how your future profession works.

Thomas doing the job

When we first brainstormed ourselves, Stéphane and I came each of us with three or four game concepts with decent mechanics in something like five minutes. Thomas had to think for fifteen minutes to give two game concepts which had no real game mechanics at all. They were all about settings or stories. My former game design teacher, Bruno Marion, always told us about the pirate syndrome, which is about starting a game design brief by something alike "It's a game about pirates.". Thomas was always about that.

When you are imagining a game, what comes in your mind is the final purpose. But when you are presenting your project to others, you have to choose carefully somewhere for other people minds to start building an image of the game. When you present your game to people unknowing what you have in your mind -which is basically anyone outside yourself-, if you focus on a setting, a story or a character, you're doing it quite wrong. Because speaking of an unfinished game you have in mind, the way you imagine the look, the settings or the story of a game will always be different to the people you are talking to. Mechanics, on the contrary, are universally understandable. That's why I've always been taught that the structure of a game concept is always about a one sentence pitch with the universe and the mechanics, a full description of the mechanics and THEN a full description of the story/universe/setting.

So, with other game devs, focus on things that are commonly understandable. Like gameplay and game mechanics. And forget the other things you had in mind: apart from the general outlines, people will come up with their own version. Unless you are the big boss in your company, when you're developping it in a team, your game will never exactly look, feel and be played as you imagined it. Let the others do their job. If you work alone, well, of course this is a totally different thing!

So after choosing our game idea, Thomas switched from game design to graphic design, which he had more skills to throw into. Though being less experienced than Stéphane in that, he did the job. I am thankful for that.

Captain Arrogant

Me.

Yes, I fucked up. I did it and I did it a lot. I couldn't stay on site, we know that, and this is really what itches me about this experience. I learnt with this game jam that you shouldn't get into a project if your relatives are not a 100% into it. My now-fiancée has always been supportive about my career and my passion for game development. She even helps me in my projects. But it wasn't the right time to get into a jam. I was trying to take some fresh air from the toxic game dev environment at the office and get back to the roots of why I do this job. But it wasn't the right time. I know she told me to leave home for a few hours this saturday and sunday but I could have found another activity which would justify me going home. I don't know, maybe crash in some bar with friends or go shopping.

I wanted to help my loved one but I fucked up and trying to be be nice actually rebounded on me. A simple no or a more flexible activity could have saved a lot of trouble. Of course, having a shit team did not incited me to get much in the jam.

Yes, it was a shit team. Stéphane and Thomas would probably tell me I was the guy most full of shit for being arrogant and not staying long enough to help. But, hey, I did my best and we were all full of shit during that jam. Added with my personal problems, I had even more trouble staying long enough on site. Stéphane and Thomas hated me for that. This is something I know and I regret it. But I wasn't 100% responsible for it. What could I do? Breaking up with my now-fiancée because of a game jam?

Regarding my behaviour outside from "not being here enough", I was arrogant. I discovered it with this jam but I also learned it during my previous job (cf my next log). People think I am someone sooo confident about my skills. Hell, only if they know how much shit I think I am regarding some people like Philippe Ulrich, John Granier or other people I admire! I am only confident about one truth: people should behave according to their skills. Shit people should shut up and learn from skilled/experienced people. Talented people should shut up, stay humble and teach the others how they do their thing. That's it.

When people think they are more talented than they actually are, I find it funny. Yes, that's a weird sense of humor. I always had a weird sense of humor.

Sometimes in my previous job, I remember how my general directing creative supervisor© was praising to our boss how good his drawing were. So, on a couple of occasions, I did burst out laughing in front of such indecent hierarchy cocksucking. Because our creative director didn't draw much. The truth is he hired an intern specialized in drawing to do his own job.
My weird sense of humor and these uncomfortable situations I find cynically funny brought me a lot of troubles. That was the case of my previous job and that was the case during the jam. When Stéphane answered me "are you sure you know about game design ?" when I told him our game may be boring because he wasn't accepting our input, I just laugh my ass out. But by laughing, I became the most corky man of the situation. Poor move.

When Stéphane told me about the Canvas system in Unity which basically allows your UI to totally adapt with your application resolution, I didn't know shit about it. So I fucking shut up and watched him teach how it is working. The contrary didn't work. Stéphane never worked in a team of programmers where you have to be the cleanest possible, like in a complex video game project. Other programmers have to find really quickly how your code can work. They don't have to understand it fully at the first sight but they need to understand at the first sight which methods to call or what is representing a given variable. Stéphane didn't give a shit about my remarks about his code being blurry. I even think he made it even more blurry just to annoy me.

Thomas didn't behave like he hated me for being arrogant. I think he didn't know what to really think about me given his little experience. So he just followed what Stéphane was thinking because Stéphane was 100% present and I was the freeloader.

Okay, so I was arrogant because I manage my ideals with an iron first. I was arrogant because I have a weird sense of humor and seeing people showing how significant they are in life makes me laugh. Because we are all insignificant in the end. Your skills will be worthless in the future. The monuments you build will always crumble. So, just chill, mate.

I also understood after this game jam that the last reason I can be Captain Arrogant is my ideals regarding game design. My ideals is that game design can come from one mind. If one person has a video game idea, he can't share it unless it is a finished product. Working in a team only gives you the opportunity to delegate other game designers to settle details you did not have time to settle. The core game idea, the visionary game idea, the real game idea will only remain in your mind only, unless you finish the creation of your game exactly how you wanted it be.

Yes, I am a tyrant of game design. That's why people think I am sometimes arrogant. That's why I wanted Stéphane, the mind behind the primary idea, to shake himself up and tell us what made his idea, his vision ground-breaking. Only himself knew and only himself couldn't tell us.

To be continued

Ayway, to conclude, I would say that the saddest thing is that outside the rowdy "work/hobby" relationships we were having when sitting in front of our computers, we three were really getting along very well. It just turned out like lots of experience in your career or when you commit to an association for instance: things get done in a mediocre way and they can't get done good because of human relationships.

We were highly not work-compatible, though we were not that unskilled. Add my problems being present all week end long, you get a highly boring game done by a lame team. Stéphane wanted it to be "artistic", "poetic" or "meaning something". Well, to me, it does not. To me, it is a highly generic "poetic" game with no real technical innovation.

The most precious thing with this experience is that I learnt a lot regarding relationships in a work environment. Regarding the other more personal environments besides it, I learnt even more. That GGJ was a lot of time ago and we all went along but seeing it from afar is giving me a new insight. I am seeing every mistakes we all made and am learning about it.

And that's really cool.

You can test our entry on Stéphane's website.

 

Global Game Jam 15: I am in!

Published on Jan 22, 2015 -

I will be attending the Global Game Jam 2015 in Bordeaux.

It has been a long time since I wanted to participate in the Global Game Jam. Literally years. I remember going to Le Festival du Jeu Vidéo(RIP) in Paris when I was 18 or 19 -my memory always fails me- and when I talked to recruiters they would say to this dreaming noobie: "Well, you want to work in this industry but which projects did you work on? Did you participate in Ludum Dare? Will you participate in the Global Game Jam?". Ha, those were the days. Getting rejected by these people made me think that the GGJ was the holy grail. I thought I had to participate in this event to show the recruiters I am worth looking at.

But the truth was that the GGJ was the first decent physical game jam to be held in Paris. So in 2008, everyone was talking about this upcoming event. It was just a trend, some fancy club you had to get in to be part of the small french industry in those days. It was only seven years ago but times are changing. The industry grew and there are more and more different jams, more and more different ways of showing your work. The indie bubble made me enter in this industry.

But still, since 2009, I never had the chance to participate. Some time I was too far away from the nearest site and too young to drive -Paris is far in the north of France-, another time I was busy with my exams and so on, and so on... But the truth behind was that this event has always made me remember how hard it is to get in the industry, how hectic the industry is, how hard it is to keep your position and how much failures you have to deal with before being able to work on interesting stuff. Bad memories and bad thoughts.

But now my time has come! I have to fight these poisonous thoughts and satisfy my desire to attend a physical jam.

I have a job in the game industry for years now. Hell, it is not perfect but my life became quieter and I have less things to worry about -like my student debts, for instance-. Which means my week-ends are not that busy when I don't work on my projects. I can drive on my own now. I won't even have to drive, in fact, I can take the bus because this year a location for the jam opened in my town! Plus, I do not have my family to say that going to the GGJ is weird and wrong, just like in the old days.

Hell, my woman has to pass some exams and she has to study all week end long! She encouraged me to go there and have fun! Well, I suspect she pushed me to the door so she can be alone studying at home :D

All stars are aligned! Let's do this!

Yeah, I know, I didn't post any post mortem of my second Ludum Dare experience yet. But those two jams are too close to each other! I didn't have the time to write anything. So, I'll be posting a post mortem article here which will sum up my two experiences.

I think the experience will be quite new for me. I know that a game jam is totally different from a day-to-day job where you have to meet a schedule and a budget. But I never attended a physical game jam. In the two game jams I attended -two Ludum Dare compos-, I found that only having to meet a strict deadline is really liberating. You have so much ideas coming in, because you don't have to stick to your publisher's game concept or to your colleagues ideas which can be sometimes absurd. The deadline is something really thrilling. You give everything you have inside yourself to meet this limit. This is so trippy when you finally upload your game, even if you didn't do half of the things you planned.

But now, it is physical. You get the same thrill, the same creativity but with people in front of you! You are no longer alone in front of your screen. And I know, regarding my work experience, how much it can be such a relief and such a pain in the *** at the same time. Lots of new possibilities come in, as much as lots of new problems come in when you work in a group. I am eager to see how it will work out, especially that I plan to go there without a team. I hope I will be with people I never met before, to make the experience even more enriching.

The event is held at Epitech Bordeaux, a computer science school, which has a good infrastructure. Getting these premises for the week end is the result of the partnership between two associations very active here in Bordeaux: Flat226 and Mandora. Those guys are cool. One of my colleague participated in a small jam they organized a few months ago. He said the organisation was good.

Guys, I think this is going to be great. If you want to pop over, you can get any information needed on the official website of the GGJ Bordeaux location : http://ggj-bordeaux.fr/

Ludum Dare #31: I'm in!

Published on Dec 4, 2014 -

Yes. Just like everyone else, I am making this kind of post.

I am in and very excited to attend the compo again! Unfortunately, I won't be able to make a 48h stand just like I did for LD#26. First of all, I have some social stuff to attend to this weekend. Yes. Social stuff. With friends and people like that. I'm a nerd and I have to go social this week end! I'll be damned but this is so unsual that I can't afford to cancel everything for Ludum Dare! :D

Then, I remember that last time, I went full time the whole weekend and slept for something like 3 hours. In the end, my work on Sunday was completely useless. I was too bushed to concentrate easily. This time, I will try to get something solid in one shot. If in a few hours I don't get a high-quality prototype, then I will just consider the deed undone.

The compo #26 taught me some crucial stuff: I won't spend hours going crazy because my prototype needs more design or redesign in its code, just like I did for the #26 compo. This is useless and the opposite of being a good game designer. I think a good piece of art is something that is recognizable in a single stroke. Always start small then always go forward.

My strategy for achieving this? Going mainstream. I mean... going Unity! Yes, I've always loathed the fact that, with engines like Unity, you don't have any control on low level features like open gl or direct x functions, memory management and, last but not least, optimization. But the #26 compo made me realize : "Hey! To get a fun game, you need a solid prototype." and to get a solid prototype, I know that you need a clear, simple and innovative game design. You need to throw your idea into a prototype in the quickest way.

I realized this is what Ludum Dare is about: clear, simple and innovative game design. So yeah, I'll be using Unity just like everyone else and I hope I will do better than last time.

The Lost Scrolls of Paracelsus

Published on Jul 23, 2014 -

I have been working on a brand new game : "The Lost Scrolls of Paracelsus". Nothing serious, just something to fill my spare time with. It has been a long time since I didn't work on a personal project. I had a huge amount of work to do at the studio but some things are cooling down right now, thanks to some decisions from my superiors. I'm still quite busy but at least I can think about video games at home again without having the urge to puke.
So basically, I had some free time and I came up with a very simple idea : doing a memory game. I mixed a few game design ideas and came up with what is now "The Lost Scrolls of Paracelsus".
I like that my games have a bit of meaning. Alchemy always amazed me. So when I imagined this game concept, with all these combinations to memorize, that reminded the alchemists and all the combinations they would do with different elements.

Their secret science was more symbolic than actual. Just like video games can be. You can master a video game about shooting people in the head without really being a professional hitman. I see similarities between video games and alchemy. The way you learn to master a game is similar to the way alchemists thought you would have to learn science. They wanted to learn and master science through self illumination and self teaching. Knowledge meant power to them.
I wanted to explore these concepts. Paracelsus was not an actual alchemist but more of a physician. But the way this person learnt and taught medicine is totally in the spirit of alchemy. He was a self-taught person, always a highly unconventional talent. There are a lot of mysteries and legends around Paracelsus. Some people are not even sure that Paracelsus was a real person. This character always amazed me.

So I imagined a game in which the player discovers old scrolls written by Paracelsus inside a chest forgotten in some dusty attic. Those scrolls seem to be magic. Whenever you touch the symbols written on it, magic happens. And in this game, you will have to learn by yourself to achieve success, just like Paracelsus did.

You have to recreate the combination of symbols that appears on the scroll. If you suceed, the combination becomes more complex.

If you guys want to test this game, it is for the moment published only on the web and in a beta version, through Unity web player. Mobile versions will come later. The game is available here : http://gainant.fr/thelostscrollsofparacelsus/. The game is free to try, which means you can play the game for free but not in a unlimited way. You have to wait if you lose too much and want to play again. If you don't want to wait, you will be soon able to pay for the whole game, for raising your stock of tries or just for another try.
It's kind of like what we call "free to play" games, right? I know, but I find the term "free to try" more adapted than "free to play". I think my monetization system is more fair to the players, as it deletes the "pay to win"-ish aspects of involving money directly into your game entity system.
If you're not good enough, you will have to pay. I have to pay my loans, my food and I won't hide it. Insert coin, you know? But the main difference with arcade games and traditional "pay to play" games is that you can wait a bit to play more. You broke players and insensitive people can still play it if you're patient enough :D

I made this game in something like a week, working on the evenings. So you have to understand that it's not quite finished. More things are coming, including a little tutorial, a better UI, the payment options and maybe more game mechanics. I have some stuff to finish at the studio at first so if you wait, you will see !

Anyway, enjoy this game! Share it to your friends!

Well, I don't actually "hate" that game. I just wanted to create some poetic continuity on my log. Well, okay, my poetry skills suck.

Anyway, I'm just jealous that this game has so much a success with such a shaky game design. You guys must know that I am currently working on a MOBA. DSC Studio22 is working on its first PC title. I can't tell much about it right now, just that it will be a mix of a MOBA and a TPS and regarding the expectation of our publisher, we got inspired a lot by League of Legends.

So, at the same time of conceiving the game design of our project, I had to think a bit about the game design of League of Legends. I thought it would be great to write a bit what I found out analysing this game.

This image is really maningful about what LoL is about : a crude chaos of inconsistent characters.

It's aliiive !

First of all, I have to say that I made an experiment regarding the game design of our project. I am in charge of the whole game producing and game design, so my duty would have been to develop my culture about the MOBA genre. You know, play a lot of MOBAs, see how our competitors are creating and exploiting their games, reading some articles about MOBA game design theory, etc.

But my experiment was actually to keep my mind fresh about MOBAs.

I hadn't play MOBAs since a lot of time. I only played DotA a few times in my high school years. So, my experience about the genre was really superficial. I kept myself away from MOBAs mainly because my colleagues were addicted to League of Legends, the most played MOBA which inspired us a lot. Their inputs regarding our project were so passionate, that I was the one having the more objective point of view. So, I wanted to keep that point of view inside the game design decisions.

They were like "We should do this, we should do that, just like in LoL !" and I was the only one having a newbie point of view. That was the first benefit of such strategy : they had to explain me what LoL and the other MOBAs are about and sometimes, they were not even able to explain in details why this or that is fun. So, they saw that working on our project, we may not be able to create another League of Legends.

I think this is a basic rule in game design : if you're crazy about "SomeGame" you will never be able to create "SomeGame 2" by yourself.

Then, in an advanced step of the game design process, somewhere when I started thinking about the gameplay variables and game balancing in details (which is actually 75% of the work of a MOBA game designer), I started playing League of Legends for real. I created an account and discovered the game just like a normal player would do. And I found a lot of huge flaws in the game design of League of Legends. Still, this video game is one of the most played around the world. Everyone talks about League of Legends. Speaking of it with my colleagues, we finally understood another basic rule in game design.

Even if your game design isn't the strong point of your game, you can still have luck that it will please some players. But you have to be very lucky. (See Flappy bird)

I have discovered the metagame (which means the vision of the game the players have upon the game) before the game itself. I had the vision of players before having a vision of the gameplay itself.The second benefit of my strategy, was that it emphasized the advantages and the flaws of League of Legends. Then, I just had to concentrate myself on removing these same flaws and outlining the same benefits in the game design of our project.

Too much parameters

I'm not a MOBA person. Actually, I hate having to play a video game with a calculator. Most of the players in League of Legends don't, but if they wanted to win a game, they had to. Let me explain my point of view.

In League of Legends, every champions the players can control have their own characteristics :

Heroes characteristics
Attack Attack damage, Attack speed, Critical strike, Life steal, Armor penetration, Movement speed
Defence Health, Health regeneration, Armor, Magic resistance
Magic Mana, Mana regeneration, Ability power, Cooldown reduction, Magic penetration, Spell vamp

Every characteristics can change regarding the champion you choose, and each champion then has five abilities that are only available for this champion. These abilities are a huge lever for the player inside a game, because they inflict damage to enemies, help allies and/or handicap enemies.

As I am writing these lines, there are 118 champions in League of Legends, which means there are (118 X 6) 708 abilities the player should know about if he wants to review every champions and to make the choice of a champion with the perfect abilities. Then, a champion characteristic is barely the same as another given champion characteristic, because every given champion ability has completely different effects than another one. An ability will affect completely differently champion characteristics than another ability. As an example, you can't really compare a champion A health to champion B health because champion A can have an ability that drains the health of champion B.

You can't think as one single game entity "Champion". Each champion is its own game entity due to the weak connectivity between each champion's characteristic.

So basically, to make the first move in League of Legends, which is choosing a champion, you have to take into account each abilities of each champions available and each characteristics of each champions, which means you have to take into account (118 X 6 X 16 X 118) 1336704 different parameters for choosing a champion. In comparison, for making the first move in chess, which is choosing your first pawn to move and moving it on a legal position, you have 400 combinations possible.

That is totally insane. Every players will only stick with one decision and try to get over with it. A player will choose a champion, try it and if he loses the game, then he will try another one. The thousands of game variables to take into account make it impossible to have a clear view at the first contact with the game.

Kamoulox!

Clearly, when you first play League of Legends and a lot of clones of DotA, you get this kind of confusion :

League of Legends is kinda like Poker at some points (I am speaking about Texas Hold'em Poker, the most famous form of Poker). Hold'em is lot about luck. You will never know what is going to come out when the dealer is building up the flop. This is why Poker has long been forbidden in France, because it was considered a game of chance.

But if you are someone very, very clever or very, very experienced, Poker is not all about luck. You can start seeing patterns in your opponent strategy and you can start guessing what are your opponent hole cards. An incredibly clever being would even be able to "count" the cards, to determine what is going to arrive on the river or the other opponents hole cards. Counting cards is forbidden in casinos and counting has been proven legally to be possible for a player. This is why poker is now allowed outside french casinos : you can theoretically understand the whole game system and remove the concept of random.

League of Legends deals with a lot more game variables, just like every video games, but there has to be a clear vision on the important game variables so a player can acquire a game system. This game is not even on a blurred frontier like Poker, between "understandable game system" and "total random game system". Your first move, your first game in League of Legends will be totally random.

Is it a bad thing? Yes and no. Because, it is just the concept of "mastered randomness" or the illusion of being able to master, possess the game system that makes people play this game for a long time. League of Legends just take that concept heavily present in poker and push it to the extreme, making it more complex.

Agôn... and what else matters?

If we speak in an academic way, Roger Caillois would say that League of Legends is a game based a lot on Agôn and Alea.

Roger Caillois. That guy is the shit. And he is french. That guy really is the shit, right?


Agôn means competition. LoL is a lot about crushing other players by building a solid strategy and using the right technique at the right time. Regarding this axis, there is nothing to say about its game design. Everything fits perfectly to this goal : players are ranked, they have a very important role in winning the game. They are no unwillingly "lazy players" or "campers" in LoL. If you don't play well, your team won't play well. And the other team will prevail.

Alea means randomness/fate and this is where the game design is precarious for me.

Poker is an "eroded game", it exists since centuries and the way it has moved right on the frontier between complete randomness and complex game system (the boundary I call "mastered randomness") is only caused by years and years of modification brought by the players on this game. Poker has reached close-to-perfect rules because it was playtested by millions of players throught History.

The League of Legends dev team aimed to create a game with mastered randomness.

Perharps at the beginning, everything was balanced. Perharps every single game variable was adjusted so it was balanced with every single other ones. But now, it is impossible. It is impossible for a game designer, even hundreds of game designer to have a clear global vision on the blueprint encompassing every game variables in League of Legends.

The first time I played after the players vs bots tutorial, I chose a character almost randomly. I just based myself on the "difficulty" bar in the character selection screen. Then, I had my very first encounter with a player: some little purple shit with a huge hammer teleported to my character and completely destroyed it without any chance to defend myself. What the hell?! After the game, I learned that this little shit was Poppy. I learnt that on top of having a terrible character graphic design, Riot Games doesn't even try to have a consistent game design regarding their characters.

Seriously, Riot Games ?

The only way I see how they conceive their game design is having a character idea (ie: "a purple hellish mermaid" or "a giant space crow") while getting drunk or during an exhausting four hours long meeting. Then they are trying to find some special ability that sounds cool (like "a huge fish that splashes everybody around", "an acid puke-thingy that would come out of its nose"... see, I can do this easily and all day long). And then the final step is saying the artists and developers "Do it, now. We already advertise about this character and we need to be able to sell it in a month".

This is absolutely horrific. My former game design teacher must be rolling over in his grave. Well, not really, because he is not dead but he taught me that the game design is a whole system. If you insert a new element in this system, this element has to be completely adapted to this system, otherwise the whole system is not balanced and every element won't interact correctly.
On top of that, it is an horrible way to work with artists and developers. I'm sure their game designers must be hated in the company for the way they deal with their colleagues.

For me, if characters are added on and on in such a way, the only way the dev team managed to get close to mastered randomness is complete luck and then they got less and less lucky. Or maybe the game design was a masterpiece at first and then it went wild as more and more characters were added only with an economic purpose. Regardless of how exactly it happened, this method of game designing is the complete opposite of Poker and other eroded games. League of Legends is not a finished game.

And God created the nerds

Why so many people play this game if it's not finished and balanced then ?

Because people want to control luck. They want to be able to predict things that others won't. They want to see something others think unpredictable and be able to predict it. There are people that just have fun by throwing a dice and look at its result.

If you wanted to predict what the dice will say, you would have to enter in completely impossible mathematical calculations about how to throw on it, on which angle, with which force and on which surface it should land. Barely possible for us, poor mortals, because this game system is too complex. And a too complex game system has 99% of chance to be unbalanced if its construction aims balance.

But some people will still be obsessed with comprehending the whole game system, just like their idolized pro Poker/LoL players comprehend the whole or most of a game system. It is something possible or partly possible but it will be more and more difficult as the proliferation of characters in LoL gets bigger and bigger. This is how this game will die: its game design will get heavier and heavier and the players will lose more and more interest as there will be more and more game variables to take care of.

Finally, winning a game in League of Legends will be summed up to throwing a dice and wait fourty five minutes to see the result.

What can we learn?

There is something interesting about the Alea axis in League of Legends and that teaches us something in a general way on Alea in a game.

Even if the fragility of Alea was the result of some bad work, random or something wanted (then I would be completely wrong about League of Legends), it is not an axis on which players are really cautious because there is another axis, Agôn that is really, really solid.

The solidity of Agôn makes people forget about Alea being lame. There will still be people like me that will be shocked but the majority won't be repulsed because this is not what the game is about.
Even more, Agôn is so solid in LoL that it reinforces the weaknesses in the design of Alea: the players have such an obscure vision on the game design that there is still the possibility for players to set up a new deal with an ability or strategy the other players don't know about. You can still know something the other doesn't know and take the lead because of this!

This is really important and it is in fact the point of this log.

Because, even if the game design is broken on some points, the magic still appears. If you have a really strong Caillois axis, the other axis won't really matter to the core audience. It still works.

So, yeah, regarding the game design of League of Legends, I think it is really not perfect and that people got used to it because a lot of their friends play this game. Nowadays, there is a lot of social parameters that get new players to this game. It is not because of a perfect game design.

The real reasons I hate League of Legends

I didn't have urges to vomit when testing League of Legends. I think it is not a good game, especially regarding the game design but that doesn't make me want to forget it forever.

What I hate about League of Legends is the community.

First game, I got insulted, second game, I got insulted. Etc, etc etc. That is stupid. It is not like there a lot of aimbot freaks dicking around. I totally understand that people get mad when someone headshot them from twenty kilometers away.
This is a strategy game. This is about using your brain. If you lose, well, your opponents were more clever than you, that's all. Why all the hate about that ?

I am someone who likes when a game background is well built. I like when games tell me a story. What about League of Legends ? I didn't even speak about the other Caillois axis, Illinx and Mimicry, why ? Well, just compare the graphics of this game with those of Warcraft III. Just try to make a story with a sad mommy, a pirate-bounty hunter and a monkey king.

Truly, LoL is not about having huge vertigos on how it looks and it is neither about telling a fascinating story. The guys whose jobs is to create what I call the "universe" of a game are always trying to catch up with what has been decided in the character game design.

"Damn, they decided to make a giant space crow, how do we fit it in the story ?"
"- Just lay a bunch of lines about how it is a reincarnated ancient god coming onto the Earth."

That's not how you imagine a story, a universe in which the game is set.

Lame game design, immature community and non existent story, that's why I hate League of Legends.

Why I definitively hate humanity

Published on Mar 1, 2014 -

Something happened to my girlfriend and me yesterday and it literally destroyed every fragile hopes I still had for our species.

We were in our car, on a crowded crossroads in Lyon. My girlfriend had an interview there and we had to visit our parents and then we would come back again to our home in Bordeaux. The problem was that we had to cross the whole city on a Friday evening. So basically, every single street was jammed and everyone was upset about it.

We were stuck, waiting for a traffic light to turn green, in a middle of a crowd composed of cars, scooters and buses. On the left side of our car, there was the exit of a one-way parking lot which entrance would come from another less crowded street. In front of us, a car stuck just like us. Behind us, a cab driven by some taxi driver in his forties, with an imposing bearing.

Pin ! Pon !

Suddently, somewhere behind us, we hear a firefighter siren. After a few seconds, I turned around and saw a firefighter truck trying to make its way through the traffic jam.

In France, the fire fighting services and emergency services are assured by the same public institution : the firefighters, called "pompiers" in french and public paramedics called "S.A.M.U.". Pompiers are most of the time volunteers payed by the French government but they also have part time jobs. Other private paramedics are theoretically only used for working on events with less priority, such as aged people carrying, bringing disabled people to a medical examination, etc.
But nowadays, with a government overburdened with debt, France tend to rely more on the private sector. The Pompiers get less and less budget and are used with huge caution. There are no more firefighters called to get grandma's cat out of the tree.

So basically, when you see those guys, there is a ninety nine percent of chance that there is a life or more at stake.

Relaxed and happy firefighters on duty ? Cartoons have never been so realistic.

And in France, just like in any other civilized country, when you refuse to step away from a firefighter's way, you can face huge charges against you : massive fines and jail time. Some specific firefighters regiments even have the right to use violence if it's their only option so they can fulfill their duty. Anyway, how obvious is it to get out of their way to make their job easier ?

Anyway, the truck was hardly getting its way. Some drivers were parking aside of the road but some were totally stuck in these narrow streets. It took some time but the truck finally reached our car, on my right side. The firefighters inside were cursing against the traffic light in front of us, preventing them from moving on. But a firefighter saw the parking lot on my left and pointed it to his colleagues.

I immediately understood what they needed. I turned left to get a bit inside the parking lot, though it was forbidden for me. I did it so the truck would have more space between my car and the one in front of me. They could then pass between us, drive on the parking lot and get a useful shortcut to avoid this busy crossroads.

None shall pass.

The problem was that the space between the front car and me was too little. The car in front of me tried to go forward to widen the space but the cars in front of it were too close. So in a second, I had to take the decision to go backwards.

I turned the gear on, turned around so I could watch behind me and accelerated towards the taxi behind my car. That guy watched me and, with a dumbstruck look, beeped me without thinking. I stopped the car because I thought I hit him with the rear of my car, but when I looked with more attention at the space between us, I saw that I could still go backwards without problems. There was a space something like one or two meters between us.

Trust me, I'm not as talented as this guy.

I waved at him, making a sign by showing my palms. That is maybe a typical french sign, but I told him by this way "What the hell, man ?". I turned around again to see how were doing the firefighters and just saw that they could insert their truck between the car in front of me and my car. That was a space only one centimeter larger than their truck but they accelerated and could take the shortcut inside the parking lot.

Please, sir, stay quiet while I threathen you because you were trying to be civil

We did our basic civil duty on this crossroads.

The firefighters were gone, their job made easier. Everything would have been fine, I would insert again my car on the street and everything would have gone on. But as I was doing so, the taxi behind me dashed his vehicle so he could put it on our right side and to prevent me from inserting my vehicle onto the street. He was shouting from inside his car, his side window lowered and looking furiously at me. My girlfriend lowered her window so we could hear what he was saying.

He yelled at me, his face red, that I was about to crash into his bumper.

What the hell ? His car was intact. And anyway, I would rather damage someone's bumper than block a firefighter truck on duty.

I told him that there was firefighters on duty and he was a jerk by shouting at me. The exact term was "jerk". I am totally comfortable with this very term I employed. Because people shouting on other persons, since these persons could eventually inflict a fifty euros damage on their cars, as they were facilitating the job of someone else whose dedicated to save lives, these people, well, these people truly have a problem of priorities and these people are true jerks.

If one of my property had to be destroyed to save someone's life, I would never hesitate. Even if it represents years of work and savings, I would never bring conditions to such an easy life saving bargain.

Car insurance exists and are compulsory in France. If a damage is done in such case of emergency, your insurance has the obligation to reimburse everything. Everyone knows that. Moreover, when your job is to drive on the streets all day long, just like a taxi driver, you have to keep in mind that you will have to deal with those sort of things. Picking a good insurance is essential, keep your mind cool about traffic jams and emergency vehicles overtaking is even more crucial.

So I told him he was a jerk. He got off his car as a response.

Don't tread on us

Everything went wild.

I got off my car as well because you know, sometimes, you got to explain some stuff in a loud voice. I don't fear that. You sometimes need to make people ask themselves whether or not they did cross some lines. I suppose he got off his car to impress, upset me or even make me angry. I am not that kind of person. Don't tread on me, don't dick around with the lives of other people. That's all.

So we came face to face to "explain" ourselves. He yelled at me, asking me multiples times why I insulted him. I just couldn't answer, as he was just plain furious and wouldn't let me talk. I managed to tell him again that complaining about this basic obligation of stepping away from emergency vehicles is completely stupid.

I couldn't go on and explain him that if something would happen, we would just establish an agreed statement of accident for our insurance companies, just like civilized people. He grabbed my arm and blocked it under his armpit. The guy was basically assaulting me.

I began to get angry. I would never let this man think he had the right to do so. I shouted that he would be glad if people step aside from the firefighters when he is in an accident or caught in a fire. The man told me that he doesn't care about the firefighters.

What. The. Fuck.

Forty years old, all grown up

Forty years old.

Maybe his professional experience was longer than my actual age. He may have a wife, some kids, a father or mother dying in an hospice. He must have seen more than me how crappy the world is. He is supposed to be more responsible than the twenty five years old, not married, not a parent, working in the daydreaming video game industry me.

Yet, he was threatening me and yelling at me that his bumper has more value than a human life.

What he said really shocked me. How can someone act like such a brainless dog ? I told him quietly that next time the firefighters are out with their sirens on, if that's because he is burning alive in his house, I would never let them pass. Maybe this picture would make him think about his stupid acts.

Trust me, I am not as talented as this guy.

But this tactless move didn't work, of course. He became even more furious, he hit me in the chest to make me fall but I came back at him, standing in front of him. He grabbed my shirt, shouting that the only reason he wasn't smashing my face was because my lady was here. I told him my lady was the person he should be really afraid of, because, like any man, she could slit someone's throat without a single guilt if this person was threatening us. In the meantime, my girlfriend, who was so stunned that she couldn't move, got out of the car and jumped on the man, yelling that he was insane.

He let me go and grabbed her by the arm, trying to twist it. Goddamnit, I was about to jump on him and make him suffer! But thankfully, someone clever stepped in.

Some tall middle-aged man with a salt and pepper hair, who has seen everything from the beginning, put himself between me and the crazy taxi driver. He told me to calm down and then grabbed the taxi driver to make him release the arm of my girlfriend. This guy is the real hero in the story.

Then everything stopped, just like by magic. That crazy piece of shit left to get into his car. My girlfriend and I were really angry but we agreed to leave without asking for more trouble. We didn't call the cops to file a complaint.

We got back in our car, everyone was looking at us but I felt no shame. I stood for a basic civil duty and against someone who thinks that he can get whatever he wants by assaulting and threatening people. The problem is that I had to nearly fight like a stray cat to stand the right way. That thing doesn't make me someone clever and doesn't make me a hero. Someone really clever manages to win without fighting.

Sometimes, that's all that you manage to get out of your mouth when confronting another human being.

After all of this, I watched in my rear view mirror and saw the piece of shit crying in his taxi. It was too late, motherfucker. You found someone as stupid as you but maybe less immoral as you. If someday I see your face against the ground, begging for help because someone ran over you, well, that's sad, my phone would be out of battery...

...or not.

Homo homini lupus est

I was really shocked by this event. It lasted only a few minutes but changed my life for ever. It revealed me again how absolutely pathetic the humans can be.

Why did this man act like that ? Why was he so angry about me ? Did I act wrong and should have shut up, just like every mindless sheep in some darker days of History ? Forget about the most basic civil obligation and maybe face legitimate charges ?
Does being broke justify everything ? French cabs have some heavy taxes, was it because this dog is bankrupted and can't afford to pay a fifty euros advance ? Did it happen only because it was in France ? Is it all about my country and its culture about slack discipline ? Is it the same everywhere in the world nowadays ?

That's the problem. The more I see, the more I think that we are not evolving anymore. The only thing evolving exponentially in humans is stupidity. Stupidity leads to horrible stuff from every corner of the society, from every cultures, from every political point of view. And we all know humanity have always had the need to reset its stupidity by creating wars. Truly, I am thinking that some kind of war or "social breakdown" is getting closer and closer... at least in France.

I am not some Jesus Christ asking for peace and goodness all over the world but... a "man" caring more about his bumper than a stranger's life... God damn us all, this is truly disgusting ! I can't stand it, I won't shut about it.

And it reminds me how much humans can be disgusting and are able to do horrible stuff for such easy reasons. When I was a teenager, I always thought we are just a bunch of monkeys. Then, I was always thinking, that these thoughts were because I was a depressed teen.

This day, I had the confirmation I was right.

Best (Non-Ubisoft) games of 2013

Published on Jan 21, 2014 -

Regarding huge video game companies and their communication, something quite interesting happened on the UbiBlog.

The marketing team decided to write a retrospective of the best non-ubisoft games of 2013. They asked some of their main employees which games they really dug through this year. It is really interesting to see such a huge company getting interested in and even kind of advertise games created by their competitors.

I frankly think that competition is a good way to develop creativity in video games, but sometimes, stopping in, watching what the others do and even hold out your hands to your competitors are also a good way to improve ourselves and serve the players better. Good game, Ubisoft !
Anyway, the UbiBlog is generally a good marketing blog. It has some generic buy-our-games-puh-lease articles but it sometimes compile really interesting pieces of information. It is a nice piece of work from their main contributors, Anne Lewis and Garry Steinman.

In the end, Grand Theft Auto V and The Last of Us seem to be the most liked games of this year for this group of person, which is kind of obvious. It is also interesting to see that there are less famous titles in the list. Note the you-can't-be-more-indie "Papers, please", which is a game so thought out of the box. Payday 2, Dishonored, Don't Starve and The Stanley Parable are quoted. It is really nice to see that people in this company are not afraid to draw their inspiration from every sort of things, including less famous and more indie video games.

The full list can be found here.

Spec Ops: the Line

Published on Jan 20, 2014 -

I just finished "Spec Ops: The Line". I have to say that this video game is an awesome piece of art.

Though it is mainly aimed for the console gaming audience, this game really surprised me and have proven me that you must not judge a book by its cover. It is really rich even if it is in fact a basic Gears of War-like.

Gears of War with GIs

The whole game design is really straightforward. A soldier you see from behind, WASD to move him. Left click to shoot, right click to aim. Space to get some cover, interact and sprint. Shift to go melee and jump over stuff, you can reload/pick up stuff with R and drop weapon with G. Q is for grenades. These are the main interaction needed to get the whole game.

Your enemies are only protected by flak vest and a few bullets kill them. Your life regenerates slowly if you stay untouched for a dozen of seconds. Once you reached some cover, you are invicible and the bullets, when sometimes the enemies shoot like they really want to touch you, won't hurt you unless you are uncovered.

The interface is plain simple. Your weapon and ammo at the bottom right, your grenades at the bottom left. No health bar, the life feedback is only present when you are hurt : you get more and more blood on your screen and it disappears as you hide and wait for your life to raise again.

To sum up the gameplay mechanics: you shoot people, you reload, you pick up weapon and you open doors and use zip lines. Nothing serious. There are of course some complications with weapons that have different effects, such as zooms and explosions. You will also encounter some specials enemies that can be killed if you shoot a special part of their bodies, some enemies that are more fast than usual, some that will only go for melee, etc.

We are right in front of a stupid console shooter, just like dozens of others. A video game where you kill without reasons and without bounds. But then, you dig a bit more in the game and you realise there is really something behind it. The game is really not about sophisticated gameplay mechanics, it is more about the layer on top these interactions : this is about a great level design and compelling story.

Willie Pete !

The story may seem really generic at the first seconds of gameplay : some delta force soldiers with machine guns wander in the desert to shoot people. Then, you discover that in all those vehicles you pass nearby, there are dead people sanded up, their faces burnt by some heated wind. And the characters talk about their mission : to recon what is up in the area and maybe rescue anyone still alive in Dubai.

Wait, Dubai ?! You look ahead and see again those dozens of skyscrapers in the middle of this desert. This desert is in fact the place where Dubai stood once ! You learn that, in a near future, this city was hit by huge sandstorms and now, every buildings is buried in the sand, fifty feet thick.

Then, you discover more and more what is on: a US infantry regiment, the 33rd was sent in Dubai to evacuate the city after a huge series of sandstorms struck the city. Then, this regiment went rogue and as soon as you make your first contact with the regiment, the soldiers start shooting at you. And you defend yourself, try to save some soldiers who seem to stay loyal. But the mutiny hides more than you imagine... and there are thousands of innocent lives at stake.

What is really important about this game is that it lets the player sink into the blind violence that is characteristic of this type of game. You shoot people, explode their heads, smash them in the face, choke them. The violence becomes the more shocking when you attack an enemy outpost with a weapon that is even prohibited by a lot of countries around the world : white phosphorus.

With a funny interactive part, you aim with a camera the part of the outpost you want and order your two companions to shoot these areas with their mortar. The effects are outstanding and you manage to kill tens and tens of enemies. Then, you have to walk through the outpost... and watch the mass grave you created.

Soldiers are dying, burning alive and crying for help in front of you. Finally, you reach some part of the outpost and discover the horror: there were civilians retained in this camp. And you killed them all with white phosphorus. This is maybe the most striking scene of the game. All those innocent people dead... and in the middle of this horror, the two dead bodies of this mother carrying her child. All of them burnt alive.

You really feel awful and dizzy after this scene. And this is what the whole game is about: the horrors of war. The message behind is that however heroic you think you are, how much you look like a knight in shining armour from your point of view, you can be the most barbarous soulless beast.

I will not spoil the whole story, but it is mind blowing in the way it carries this message.

Gabe, is that you ?

If this game is about story, it is important to look at the level design of the game.

At a first glance, I have to say that it does the job and it does it in a really effective way. The levels are clean, no important bugs whatsoever. You rarely hit an invisible wall. The levels are full of false exits and give a good feeling of being really part of this city.

The problem, which is it not really a problem for me, is that this game is linear. People always complain about that game or that game being too linear. Just like Half-Life or Heavy Rain, for example. But to me, a video game can be good and be linear too. In the worst case scenario, a video game will just be an animated movie... and movies can be good or bad, right? Anyway, this case will never be reached, because as long as you have to press buttons to watch another scene and that you are willing to watch another scene, to go on, there is an infinity of scenario possible.

What if you just stay ten minutes on Heavy Rain without touching your controller ? Well, your character stayed ten minutes silently and you changed the whole story. You have written that your character just stayed ten minutes here, silently. Eventually, the game designers have thought about you doing nothing and the story will go on, even if you don't do anything. This can be incoherent or boring but still, this is a story. The boredom of a story is heavily subjective. Some people like independant brainfucking movies, some like action movies. It just works the same with video games.

So, yeah, the game is linear. Every levels consist of going from point A to point B, point A and point B being a corridor and between A and B, you've got an arena with enemies coming in. Of course, in the middle of the arena, you have some occlusions, just small cover spots from behind you are invicible. The "crates", you know. Your enemies will always come straight to you. It is not very common to have enemies coming from behind or on your flanks. This may be quite boring if you are someone addicted to League of Legends or other nerd video games.

But this is about a story. There are some people who don't get into a story, a universe behind a video game by reading short paragraph written fast to justify the fact that we want pandas with boobs in a game. They have to live it, interact with it. For them, the story has to be built inside the game, not built upon the game. I am of that sort of people. Spec Ops may disturb you by its linearity but this an artistic choice. A choice you will appreciate if you're into stories that last more in your mind than a forty minutes game with a brasilian insulting you over the mic.

This is the kind of level design, linear and aiming story telling rather than leet gameplay, that reminds me of Half-Life and its series of tunnels and corridors that leads to the same end. However, Spec Ops is less linear than other games, as it offers four different endings. I ended with the worst but the magic is that I didn't want it to end another way. The worst ending is in fact still a good ending. As an example, I remember having to reload my last saved game in GTA V because the end I got regarding my choices really was out of the blue.

[SPOILER]In GTA V, my three characters went well along during the whole game and then suddently, Franklin decides to kill Trevor. Hey, wait, that phone call meant that I want to kill Trevor ? Wait, this is really a part of the story ? But I don't want to kill Trevor, I just want to make him stop his bullshit ! Well, the links between this end and what went through the game and what I wanted were really inexistant. I had to reload the game to get the choice I wanted and watch another end, which was completely spoiled by the previous one. In the end, I loved GTA V but the way I played the end spoiled everything.[/SPOILER]

Spec Ops doesn't have this sort of weird endings. Even the worst ending possible was well delivered. You still have some other choices during the game but they are minors. The only important non linear feature in the game is the different endings. Which is still a lot more than the majority of video games.

The game also uses some classical narrative techniques such as some flashbacks. Just like some big action movie, the game begins with a huge action scene, a pursuit inside an helicopter where you man a minigun to destroy other pursuing helicopters. Pure action. Then this prelude ends and you got that "A few hours earlier..." message that brings you back to the beginning. Simple but efficient. You get immediatly inside the game and this is well played from 2K Games.

Regarding the learning curve, everything is also well done. The first chapter takes the role of a tutorial as well as telling the story. It does not mean that the fights are not intense. But they are less condensed. Everytime a new type of enemy appears, you get a small scene that present it to the player. For instance, the heavy soldier appears for the first time just after a scripted sequence where the player discovers the use of white phosphorus in the area as well. The curiosity is lighten up and then you get back to work with a new enemy to deal with. Great work.

Malls, offices, marina. You discover every part of a torn Dubai where the sands infiltrated everything and the sandstorms destroyed everything. The levels are beautiful. When you wander between the collapsed skyscrapers, you see the huge amount of work behind. That is just a realistic near-future apocalyptic Dubai. Unreal engine still owns ! And this game just looks amazing.

Conclusion

They are still some flaws. Linearity and small bugs. Sprint sucks. Why can't the avatar just stop when we release Space ? But otherwise, the game is really great. It is a amazing piece of art. a game with a powerful story and a powerful message behind it. I will remember the US Flag hauled upside down for a long time.

Another chapter

Published on Jan 13, 2014 -

Another fresh start. This time in english.

I'm not good in english. I was, but now my skills have become a bit rusty. It has never been easy for the french people to communicate in an international way. It is like a tradition to bash the english people and english is seen as an "invader language".

Generally, the French can't see that english is used all around the world because it is a very simple language and everyone can learn it really quick. And the whole world needs a a common and simple language.

Anyway, haters gonna hate. English is a tool, and I'm going to use it from now on. If my relatives think I need to pride myself by speaking english to strangers on the interwebz, that's their problem. My goal is to reach a small but international audience with my works in the video game industry or with my other passions. In fact, I always needed some place where I can communicate in the international way.

So here it is.