Satellite Reign

The Kickstarter for Mike Diskett’s spiritual successor to Syndicate Wars, Satellite Reign, is finally up.

By the way, I love that name. It’s got a clever double meaning; first, it’s a takeoff of “Satellite Rain”, one of the most visually impressive weapons from Syndicate Wars. And second, of course, the game is about megacorporations that rule everyone by monitoring them using satellites and drones. It’s a winner.

While I enjoyed the Syndicate first-person shooter (and I know I’m apparently the only one) it will be fantastic to play a “real” Syndicate game again.

Assuming the Kickstarter succeeds. Let’s make that happen, people!

And, just in case you were wondering what Syndicate Wars was all about, here’s the video I did explaining the game.

And I just realized that Mike Diskett himself commented on that video! Squee!

Xbox One: The Dark Horse of This Generation

Yeah, I’m betting on the Xbox One. Seriously.

Why?

Because of the TV stuff.

Let me set a stage here. It’s a few years ago. I’m walking into Best Buy. The PS3 has been out for maybe a year but I don’t have one yet. The HD-DVD/Blu-ray fight is over, with Blu-ray the winner. But I hadn’t felt the need to buy a PS3 yet, even though some excellent games (like the new Ratchet & Clank) had come out.

So I walk into this Best Buy and they have a PS3 hooked up to a big ol’ TV, and it was playing the Blu-ray version of Kung-Fu Panda.

Now, Kung-Fu Panda is one of my favorite movies. And it looked glorious in Blu-ray. And that’s when I said to myself, “Damn it, now I have to get a PS3.”

This same thing is going to happen for the Xbox One. It will not happen for the PS4.

And it’s all about the TV stuff. I don’t think people realize what Microsoft is really selling with the voice control stuff.

Would you pay a flat $500 fee to never ever lose your remotes again? Would you pay a flat $500 fee to never have to know the number of your favorite channels any more, or search through the guide to find it? Would you pay a flat $500 fee to be able to be able to say, “Xbox, find Duck Dynasty” and have your TV find that show on whatever channel it’s on and tune right to it? Would you be willing to pay a flat $500 fee to be able to watch your TV in a window and search the internet (using voice control) in another on the same box?

Just last night I was watching the original Iron Chef. I noted to my younger daughter that these shows were about twenty years old and it was possible that some of the chefs had died since the show had aired. She got really sad and said, “Can’t we look it up? Can’t we find out if they’re still alive?” I said, “Yeah, but I’d have to go to my computer in the bedroom and I’m not going to do that right now, since you’re sitting on my lap.”

With an Xbox One, I could have just snapped the video, brought up a browser and looked up the Wikipedia articles on each Iron Chef to find out. With my voice.

(They’re all still alive, by the way. Which is a relief.)

Unfortunately, this is a lot like the fidelity of Blu-ray video. I didn’t understand it until I saw it in person, and people aren’t going to understand the UNLIMITED POWAH of the Xbox One’s TV integration and voice commands until they see it for themselves.

But once they do, they will need it and then they’ll tell all their friends. And people who have no intention of playing Titanfall or Metal Gear Solid: The Phantom Pain will buy an Xbox One simply because it makes it easier to use their TV.

“But the DRM thing! The always-online thing-”

Has all been walked back. Yes, it was stupid of them to do that, but by the time the console is released it’ll be a historical footnote.

“But the PS4 is $100 cheaper!”

Yes, it is. But it has no motion or voice controls and all it does is play games. It’s nothing more than a souped-up PS3 (that can’t even play PS3 games).

Micorosft is trying to open up a new market and I think they’re going to succeed.

Name That Game 94: Hiro Protagonist

Video games can have some…unusual protagonists. All media have their weird main characters, but video gaming can seem to get weirder than most.

Below are ten video game protagonists (which are directly controlled by the player) that are not ageless-faceless-gender-neutral-culturally-ambiguous-adventure-persons or physically idealized men or women. Can you name them and the games they came from? CAN YOU?!

1. A selfish young man who has been turned into a cockroach.

2. A tiny young prince.

3. A green anthropomorphized rabbit with a big gun.

4. A cute, humanoid…um thing that apparently uses telekinesis to move his hands and feet, since he has no arms and legs.

5. A wisecracking gecko.

6. A hapless Japanese office worker with a combover who just wants to get home in time for his mother’s birthday.

7. An innocent-looking cherub.

8. A black blob of…something sticky and dense, with yellow eyes.

9. An adorable, naive robot.

10. A little white guy wearing a…red hat with a yellow tassel.

More Heroes!

Wow, I can’t believe I forgot these guys. Mike Hommel and Seth Robinson are two friends of mine who I got to know better during the Indie Conversation.

They have conspired to create a game called Growtopia, which is a collaborative creative MMO on iOS and Android (Seth claims desktop versions are Coming Soon). It is apparently the business and has generated tons of sales for them, which makes me very happy. Seth wrote an excellent postmortem for it, which you can read here.

Andy Moore, who is apparently the only remaining contributor to the Conversation, also had a recent big hit with Monster Loves You. MLY is published by Dejobaan Games, one of my favorite “indie” publishers. (I still want a sequel to A Reckless Disregard for Gravity, guys.) Again, you can read a postmortem of Monster Loves You here on Gamasutra. He also took MLY to Pax and wrote up a great article on how to take your game to Pax if you’re an indie.

So, while I was unemployed and feeling sorry for myself, my friends were out doing great things! I should follow their example.

Heroes

It’s interesting to track my own metamorphosis as a game developer.

Not too long ago, if you asked me who my heroes were when it came to game development, I would mention people like Warren Spector, Richard Garriott (de Cayeux) and Peter Molyneux. These guys all started their work when game development was a very nebulous endeavor – no one knew what would work and what wouldn’t. They hit upon winning formulas, allowing them to become well-known and at least moderately wealthy.

But, as I’ve mentioned before, the “rules” of game development at the upper end are now set in stone – or at least in ballistic-grade gelatin. Add the fact that the cost of game development has skyrocketed and the fact that the industry is so volatile that it’s almost impossible to have a “work for 20 years at the same company and then retire” kind of career, and you’ve got an industry that makes games I like to play, but one I don’t find myself wanting to work in as much.

Which brings me great sorrow, but such is life.

So who are my heroes now? Who is Doing It Right? Who do I want to emulate?

My heroes now are mostly indies – guys and gals doing it hardscrabble fashion, showing lots of talent, doing whatever they want and almost certainly not getting compensated enough for what they do.

For instance…

Jeff Vogel. I’ve talked about him before. Since I wrote that article, he has since found further success on Steam and iOS devices. Again, he’s doing it just the way I’d like to – making the games he wants and making a good living at them.

Christer Kaitila. He’s a huge game jam fan – to the point where he wrote a book about them. He’s a longtime Ludum Dare contributor and composed my favorite LD Keynote ever. His star is currently rising as the creator and maintainer of #1GAM – the One-Game-A-Month project. The response to this has been overwhelming, the site has tons of entries and the new IRC channel is as busy as #Ludumdare usually is.

Jay Barnson. I’ve mentioned him before and I’ll probably mention him again. He’s a longtime friend who is currently working on a sequel to his successful game, Frayed Knights. He, like I, spent many years doing professional game development before going indie.

Sophie Houlden. She’s an absolute master of Unity, doing crazy awesome things in a frighteningly short amount of time. Unfortunately, a lot of her games (Swift*Stitch in particular) appear to be underrated.

Sos Sosowski. Not only did he design his own website, which is awesmoe, he developed the crazy/fantastic McPixel, which was all over YouTube after its release.

Daniel Remar. Yeah, yeah, I talk about Daniel all the time. I can’t help it; I’ve loved everything he’s done. And he somehow manages to make games while holding down a full-time job and then release them for free.

I also read recently about a woman who wrote a dozen books, one a year, while home-schooling her autistic son. I think you can see how a setup would be attractive to me.

I need to rekindle the dream of my own independent game development…and as far as I can tell, there’s only one path open to me. More on that later.