Today was an interesting day reading Kotaku. First, they led with a story on how "Why Modern Video Game Armies Lack Female Troops."
Now, I don't disagree with the general statements in the article from various developers, that female models and animation rigs cost development time, and that is why they are often left out. Hell, in GRAW1, we wanted to include female models in MP (although they were in SP), but weren't able to until GRAW2.
However, it's interesting that they fail to mention that both Rainbow Six and Ghost Recon have included female squad mates since their inception in 1998. EVERY Ghost Recon has included female soldiers in combat. In GRAW2 we made a special emphasis in allowing the creation and customization of female player models in MP (included in Ghost Recon 2 back on the Xbox but not customizable). I guess, according to Kotaku, Battlefield, MAG, and COD are the only war games out there these days. And since they don't include women, NO war games have. Humph.
Microsoft has announced that on April 14th, they are taking down Xbox Live support for original Xbox games. This is tough news for me, to know that I won’t ever again be able to go online and play the first games I worked on professionally. I guess that’s the price of modern console development. Even though GR is primarily a PTP based game, it still relies on the Xbox Live service to connect players.
But for right now, the service is still up. The most important thing, if you have these games, and like me, have moved on to an Xbox 360, you should go and download the DLC before the service goes down. DLC for GR: Island Thunder, GR2, and GR2: Summit Strike is still up and is still FREE. But you should get it now.
When we designed the game infrastructure for Ghost Recon DLC on the Xbox (starting with Island Thunder), we didn’t really plan for the day when Live would not be available. We always assumed that anyone with a connection could get the DLC. Thus, if AFTER the Live shutdown, any box WITH the DLC will not be able to connect to a box WITHOUT the DLC. So, the only solution for you if one box has it and the other doesn’t, is for the box with it to delete the content. This was not a problem back in the day when the person WITH the content would just go home, hook back up to Live, and redownload the content. But now, if you deleted the content, it would be gone forever.
So, if you ever plan to System-Link play the game with your buddies, take the 15 minutes to get the DLC. I did this on my 360 the other night. Remember, the DLC for these games is not shown on Xbox Live Marketplace. You need to boot the individual game, go to the option for downloading content, and download it. GR: Island Thunder has a dozen or so individual map packages; Ghost Recon 2 has three variety packs, and GR2: Summit Strike has one bonus pack of weapons, game types, and maps. Even if you don’t ever plan to play these games online, there is a lot of the content that can be used in local play. And it’s FREE. :)
It’s a bit weird as a developer to know that content I and my team worked hard on might never be accessed again. I mean hell, people still play Doom online. I hear there are some third party solutions out there that people can use, so I guess I can take heart in that.
Regardless of all that, I’d like to have a little Xbox Ghost Recon sendoff. Bungie is planning their sendoff for Halo 2 on April 14th, so I propose we enjoy some Ghost Recon the weekend before that J. I will be logged onto Ghost Recon: Island Thunder on the evening of Saturday, April 10th, and Ghost Recon 2: Summit Strike on the evening of Sunday, April 11th. I invite GR fans, the gang from GR.net, and my former compatriots from Red Storm and Ubisoft to join me to send off Ghost Recon on the Xbox in style. And yes, I’ll have the DLC installed.
Jones, speaking to GamerZines at an event in London, praised PSNers for being more willing to communicate and organize to achieve a goal. Xbox Live players, he said, are a bit less sophisticated.
"I actually consider Xbox Live the more juvenile of the two," he said, on account of "the things that are being said over Xbox Live."
As for cooperative gaming on PSN, Jones says he saw it at its best
during the MAG betas over the past few months. "We've got an audience
that's willing to communicate and willing to organize and structure,
and help other people to play the game," he said. "That's the most
remarkable thing that I saw in the beta - random people helping other
players along to try and familiarize themselves with this really cool
I guess Jones hasn't played GRAW on XBL. I'd take 16 GRAW co-op players against any random 32 player MAG team any day.
So I was reading Kotaku's article on Brutal Legend's achievements, including the "Six Degrees of Schafer" achievement, another example of a viral achievement, and I got to thinking...doing a bit of research, it looks like I am actually the first person to have ever had a viral achievement on Xbox Live.
According to OXM, Small Arms came out on Nov. 20th, 2006. We launched the TU with the Assassin Achievement on October 20th, but I waited until November 14th to log on (the Achievement was hardcoded to unlock on my gamertag when it was live and I logged in). So I guess that makes me the first "recipient" of a viral achievment. I guess I can list that among my achievements next to my "Worst Achievement Ever" award for GRAW's World Champion (I know, I know, it was a fucking stupid thing to do).
Interestingly, the first people I played with early in the morning at RSE were in France, so the second person in the world to have a viral achievement was French... :)
Back to your regular programming.
It’s been quite a while since I posted anything substantive here, so I do have a few updates. First off, I am excited to have accepted a position at WB Games as Lead Game Designer. WB Games has made huge strides in expanding their dedication to AAA game titles, and I’m pleased to take the design helm of one of these unannounced titles. I am supremely confident that the crew at Bungie will continue to kick ass on Halo: Reach. It was an honor to work on a great title with some of the most talented folks in the industry; Reach will be fucking awesome.
I’m also happy that I have been accepted as a speaker at this year’s GDC Austin Game Writers Summit in September, as part of a debate on the role of narrative vs. gameplay during game development. Should be exciting, and it means I don’t have to put together a Powerpoint this year!
That is all, carry on.
So the last time Mt. Redoubt seriously blew it's lid, I was pretty oblivious to the fact. All I knew is that the plane that was supposed to be picking me up off of a remote island in the Gulf of Alaska, where I had been deer hunting for a week, didn't show up. Four days after I was supposed to be picked up (lucky we got a deer!), the bush plane finally landed, and I was flown back to my now ash-covered home.
So today, as Mt. Redoubt spews more ash and suet over my friends and family back home in Alaska, I am have a little trepidation about getting on a plane at zero-dark-thirty tomorrow morning. But I guess it's a small comfort that I am flying south, down to San Francisco for GDC 2009. Should be a fun conference this year, can't wait to see the regulars, hit the parties, and check out the buzz. I will post some pics when I get back.
In other news...there is some other news. More news on that news will be along sometime soon.
Oh, and shut up about AIG. You gave them billions of dollars. Deal with it.
Well, folks, the rumors have been fun. I worked on Ghost Recon. I am a former Marine. The new Halo expansion is called Halo 3: Recon. It features a Marine ODST. Inevitable conclusion? Sorry, Luke and Brian have put it to rest when 1UP went straight up:
1UP: Is former Ghost Recon creative director Christian Allen even working on this game?
Luke Smith: Christian Allen is not on this project.
Brian Jarrard: There really was no -- the only implication from "Ghost Recon" was us being like "Hmm, damn, I wonder if this is going to be too much of a problem to actually call this game 'Recon,'" and Microsoft did all of the trademark and legal stuff just to make sure everything is cool.
News of my contribution has been greatly exaggerated. Check back in the futuretime for more from me.
"I'm a senior high school student with a dream, a dream to create video games. I've always loved video games since I was really little, but lets be obvious here, who hasn't? I always have ideas of making a video game knowing that it could possibly be legit, because I am however, one of the hundreds of millions kid that play video games--so I can relate. The problem is that I am empty minded on what is out there that has great programs for video game designing/developing. I would love to go for my Bachelors degree in that profession, I don't know if colleges have a masters program for that, hopefully I'm wrong. I just want to know from you, a very experienced talented designer, recommend what college I should apply for and why? I currently live in PA state, and I'm thinking of going far off into Florida attending FullSail. I heard from TEACHERS it's a good school for that, and they could be right. However, I want to know from an experienced person like yourself with answers." -Alex
This is a great question, and one I get quite a lot. In fact, I think I will post your question and my answer onto my blog so that I can refer to it in the future.
It is awesome that you are looking to get into the game industry, and it is a great goal coming out of high school. As far as how you should proceed in further education, my advice will differ a bit from the path that I took into the industry.
There are a bunch of colleges out there that offer game-focused degree programs. In fact, I hold one of those degrees from The Art Institutes. I started at AI back when it was one of the few game-focused Bachelors programs, and in fact I got hired before I completed my degree, based on my mod work. It was only after I was working in the industry before I went back and completed my B.S. with AI in Game Art & Design. Also, I had a good work background with the government and the military when I decided to move into game development.
But for the folks graduating high school now who want to go into games, I would recommend a different path than I took. First, educate yourself. Check out sites like igda.org, gamecareereguide.com, and gamastutra.com and get an idea of the industry and the types of jobs available.
Next, go to college. I am lucky and backwards in that the game industry actually drove me to my B.S. degree, I probably wouldn’t have gotten one if it wasn’t for games. You should go to college no matter what, just to have the background. Go to your local university or college (or community college and then state uni); just get your 4 year degree. As for what you study, you choose. Art, Psychology, Sociology, Business, English, History, Comp Sci, Physics, etc. All of these fields can contribute to your skills as a game developer. I recommend going for a more general bachelors degree rather than a game-focused degree program. That way if you decide in the three-four years during your program that you don’t like game development, you have a backup to take to other careers. Again, my degree is in Game Art & Design, so I am telling you to do something different than I have done. However, if it comes down to a choice between a game-focused degree and NO degree, get the degree. A degree can be important in the industry, especially if you want to work abroad. It’s often hard to get a work visa in other countries if you don’t have a degree.
Next step, if you haven’t already started (and you should have already) is starting to make mods for games. Get a widely modded PC game (such as Unreal Tournament, Half Life 2, Doom 3, Crysis) and start making mods. Create your own levels, weapons, total conversion mods. Look on the web for mod teams that need help. If you have new ideas, figure out how to do them yourself. Even if it isn’t the best looking thing in the world, push your idea; go out and find artists to join your group. Think about the fact that Counterstrike was a Half Life 2 Mod, and that Portal was built on Half Life 2, while Bioshock was built on Unreal 3. What can you do to push an existing moddable engine to a new level? Think outside the box.
So, while you are getting your solid degree in a field you are interested in, you are making kick ass mods. You are working with mod groups and distributing your work, and getting feedback, and improving. You are also deciding what field within game development you want to work in. Do you want to be an artist, an engineer, a designer, a producer? You should KNOW, within a few years through your work in making mods and working with your mod teams. Are you best at directing people to get things done? Do you like writing detailed specs and weathering criticisms while refining your script to get the most out of the engine? Do you enjoy reiterating over and over to make sure that a piece of geometry is the most beautiful it can be within a given budget? Do you like to code code code? Know what you want to do in the industry before you jump into the job market.
By the end of your four year degree, you will have some awesome mod projects to build into a portfolio, and you will be focused on what you really want to do in the industry. If you choose, you can go on to get Masters level degrees in games from the various MA schools. Once you choose your direction, you must then...continue to kick ass.
Ass kicking is essential. The game industry is not for the meek. Crush your enemies; see them driven before you; and hear the lamentation of the competition.