“What I like most about making the AAA computer games at [STUDIO NAME OMITTED FOR LEGAL REASONS] is how lenient and friendly the management is. We get so much paid holiday and so many benefits that my life feels like a 24/7 jamboree of merriment! I can’t wait to go to work every day but I’ve had so much time to start a big loving family that I can’t wait to go home either!” – genuine computer game maker
Welcome, friend, to The Production! I knew you’d make it. You’ve got that look about you; a real winner, a go-getter, a leader, my kind of guy. I’m glad you’ve taken my advice thus far. I hope you’re reaping the rewards already.
The good news is that the fun truly begins here. Like I said before, making computer games is easy, you’ll have plenty of time to unwind at the end of each day and you’ll earn lots of money once your game is published. Everyone wants more games, that’s why we have to make them as quickly as possible.
Fun fact: did you know that Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 made developer Activision 1 billion Yankee notes in just 16 days! Lead designer Bobby Kotick has eleven yachts, seven condos, four supermodel wives and a bed made from real live African slave children!
To guarantee your game scores at least a Metacritic 96% (good), you’ll need to ensure you follow the following steps when developing your game. Remember to adhere to all the rules for maximum Metacritic score. These are the rules and regulations computer game makers like The Rockstars followed when they made GTAIV (Metacritic 98%) and game makers like Eidos in Montreal didn’t when they made Deus X 3 (Metacritic 90% – lol).
Some misguided fools might try and hoodwink you into believing that boss fights are a hangover feature from the days of the arcade, bereft of all artistic value and worth. Back then, scrupulous developers would wittingly design games to be very very difficult indeed. That way, these saps claim, arcade players would fail repeatedly and be cajoled into coughing up more Yankee pennies in order to continue playing. Alternatively they’d leave in a hufflepuff and someone else would pay to play Donkey King (Metacritic – ?).
This is, of course, nonsense. The boss fight is integral to any game, guaranteed to boost your Metacritic rating by one hundred million percent! How else are you going to tell the story of your cancer-battling children’s party clown, twice divorced and orphaned at the age age of three without him at some point facing off against at least three gigantic, dildo-shaped no gooders, all of them prancing about with glowing orange testicles? The answer is, simply, you’re not.
It is common knowledge that The Road (Metacritic 64%, aka abysmal) would have been Metacritic 94% (pretty good) if it had finished with the little boy doing battle with a giant zombie spider version of his dad. The little kid with a homing rocket launcher, an overshield and a jetpack, the daddy-spider with his big tentacles and glowing orange weak eyes. McCarthy missed a trick, make sure you don’t.
Thing is, it’s not as simple as merely including boss fights. There are some tough industry rules in place to ensure all boss fights adhere to the same astronomically high standards and I’ve managed to get my mits on the rulebook. The following excerpts are taken from the hit industry book: The Blue Shell Sponsored Guide to Creating The Really Good Computer Games.
i. Ensure your boss fights last at least twenty minutes each
Gamers absolutely love the boss fights. It’s common knowledge amongst computer game makers, why else would there be so many? It’s irrefutably the gamer’s favourite of all favourites, the crème de la crème. Bosses give game players a chance to prove how macho they are while shattering all verisimilitude with the kind of artistry reserved for when characters break the fourth wall. But don’t break the fourth wall, just include more boss battles!
Trust me, there is precious little as rewarding to the gamer than a twenty minute boss fight. Twenty long, uninterrupted minutes wherein the player repeats the same hardcore tricks and awesome gimmicks to make a big bad big guy go BOOM, advancing the story in no way whatsoever. Computer games’ worth lies entirely in these boss fights. If your boss battles aren’t at least twenty minutes long you’re doing it all wrong. Guaranteed -42% Metacritic.
ii. Ensure there are at least six bosses per level
One boss per level is alright, but eleven bosses per level is downright brilliant! Sure to boost your Metacritic rating, include battles that feature several bosses attacking the player all at the same time! Give your bosses heat-seeking rocket launchers that kill the player instantly too. That way players can really flaunt their skills and draw upon their intrinsic pool of gamers’ survival powers (which they’re secretly honing for the zombie apocalypse).
Fun fact: In an interview from the late 60s, Martin Scorcese confirmed that the original script for Taxi Driver saw Jodie Foster brawling with her pimp in an epic boss fight on the dark side of the moon. According to Scorcese, the pimp injected himself with Agent X when Foster refused to pay him his dues. The pimp then transformed into a gigantic tentacle-wielding dildo troll and flew Foster to the moon where they duked it out mano-au-mano. Foster was brandishing an incendiary grenade launcher while the pimp was standing conveniently still for long periods of time and occasionally charging across the moon’s face in a feeble attempt to damage Foster, whose rolling dodge proved too much for the massive pimp. Scorcese also commented that the scene was entirely silent, what with it taking place on the moon and all, but the audience could occasionally hear Foster stuttering: “I need to shoot it in the fucking eyes.”
iii. Ensure your boss has at least 3 health bars, then hide these from the player
Players don’t want boss fights to end too quickly, we’ve established that all else in the computer game is merely water under the bridge. So what better way to guarantee that your boss fights last even longer than to give your boss multiple lives! Yes, just as the player is basking in the soothing light of victory have your boss reveal his secret second life! Better yet, players love it the most when a boss uses the ritual Vampire Suck skill to suction health from the player and back into itself, simultaneously hurting the player while recharging the boss’ own supply of health.
For maximum Metacritic points, have your boss actually explode at the end of the fight. If the player is caught within the proximity of the explosion, have them die. Genius!
iv. Ensure your boss has an attack that instantly kills the player
Nothing is more rewarding to the player than being instantly killed. There’s nothing else to say. Ensure your boss has at least one attack that quickly and instantly kills the player, preferably one that’s really hard to dodge and comes into effect right at the end of the fight. It is a well known fact that the computer game player is incapable of feeling indignation.
v. Ensure there are no checkpoints throughout your boss fight
Self explanatory really. Why bother saving progress when boss fights are so much fun? Extra points if you include standard enemies throughout the fight. This way, while the player is attempting to dodge your boss’ instant kill attacks, he’s also being dogged by a rabble of irritating twonk monkeys. Nothing improves your Metacritic rating quite like a good old pyrrhic victory.
vi. Ensure that the boss fight has no relevance to your story
This is crucial. If it’s not shattering your carefully constructed narrative than you’re doing it all wrong. Players don’t care about the characters or the world you’ve lost a year’s worth of sleep over. No, they just want more boss fights. “MORE”, you can hear them cry as they fend off Giant Blue Cockatron Monster Man 75. “MORRRRRRRRRRRRRE!!!” Supersoldiers, tentacle monsters, robots, giant mutated animals or big grey trolls. These are the computer gamers’ all time favourites.
vii. Adhere to the rule of three.
Whatever it is, the player has to do it three times. On the third time, whatever the boss is doing make him do it quicker.
viii. Have all your bosses appear in a sequence of awesome bosses at the end of your game
It’s nearing the end of production and you need to wrap up your computer game with a gloriously explosive crescendo. A tour de force that reminds the player why they bought your game and why they should buy all your downloadable content and the HD remake in a year’s time. You want the finale to be especially hard, for the player to have to prove that’s he learned the rules of your game world. (If he hasn’t then give him a drubbing!) Equally you’re tired and writing a satisfying narrative conclusion is beyond you. Don’t worry, that kind of hard work takes days. The solution? Bring all your bosses back from the dead and have the player fight the whole raft of plodding numpties one after the other.
The best game makers tell their stories with cut scenes because that’s how the movies do it. Traditionally – and this is how you should do it – the game stuff happens when the player is in control and once every five minutes the actual game is put on hold and a film is played which advances the story. This is truly immersive.
Warning: do not mix story and gameplay, it’s like mixing orange juice with lumpy spider monkey milk.
Some notes on cut scenes:
i. Consistency doesn’t matter
Players like it when the character in the cut scenes acts differently to when he is in the player’s control. If a character has just murdered an entire civilisation of space sloths with only his firsts, it’s generally a good idea to have a cut scene immediately afterwards where the character is captured by two unarmed space sloth leper children.
ii. Put stuff in the cut scenes that isn’t in the game
It’s good practice to include features in your cut scenes that aren’t available in the game. For example, if you’re making a shooter, let the character in the cut scene fly an awesome spaceship. Do not let the player do this in the game, it will make him very mad.
iii. Place long cut scenes before boss fights
And make them unskippable. That way the player gets to experience the introduction to your wonderful boss more than once, and if you’ve followed my advice on boss battles above, many times indeed!
It’s most important to include cut scenes in games with characters that the audience doesn’t really resonate with. If you’ve made a first person shooter them up game, be sure to include hours and hours of video footage of your main soldier guys loitering in derelict cities or looking up at big spaceships shouting “fuck off!” If you’re going to include a woman in your game make sure she doesn’t have too many lines. Instead, be sure to have lots of shots of her breasts and a few low-angle shots that highlight her perfectly shaped bum-bum. Gamers like this a lot because everyone knows that 99% of gamers are male and male gamers love bums and boobies in real life, so why wouldn’t they want to see them at every opportunity in their videogames?
Pro tip: no willies or homo shit.
This is all really good storytelling practice and helps the gamer forge a connection with the characters. You will find that the gamer too will shout “f*ck off” lots and suddenly your gamer and your character are bonding like real people.
Some games include cut scenes that are two hours long. These are the best cut scenes of all. If you can make the player so rapt in your cut scenes that he forgets he is playing a computer game and believes instead that he’s watching a movie, then you have won. Secretly, computer game players don’t actually want to play games, they just want to watch cut scenes, fight bosses and pay 60 Yankee greenbacks for the privilege.
One last point: it’s guaranteed to boost your Metacritic by 11% if your cut scenes are unavoidable. Make sure the player cannot skip your cut scenes because your story is very, very important. You’ve taken so much time and effort making these cut scenes that the player owes it to you to watch them at least seven times. It would be churlish of the player not to watch, right? There’s nothing else contending for a gamers’ attention in the year 2012, so don’t worry about them getting bored and playing Angry Birds Rio or going on The Face Book or masturbating like an orangutan in a circus freakshow while your characters shout “fuck off” and advance your poignent story about cutthroat imperialism and saving the western world from the savages (aka the communist Russians, the zombies and the Oil People.)
Include Something That Completely Breaks Your Game
When SEGA game maker Miyamoto designed Mario Kart he created the perfect racing formula. Mario Kart was lots of fun, and subsequently everybody loved it. But this was a huge problem for SEGA and for Miyamoto because if something is perfect then you can’t recycle it seventeen thousand times. And if you can’t recycle it seventeen thousand times, just how are you going to afford a luxury condo with a cocaine vending machine and high-class hookers on speed dial? The games industry is very good at recycling. We are single handedly saving the world from itself and it is your duty to help us pave the way for the rest of mankind to follow by recycling responsibly.
But anyway, back to the story. Miyamoto had unquestionably slipped up. Mario Kart was too good. The SEGA man knew this and so he toiled away thinking about all the things that made him angry in life (mostly rival game makers Sony) until he had devised the perfect solution. Unto the world Miyamoto bestowed the now-infamous blue shell.
The blue shell is a purposefully game breaking weapon that has been in every Mario Kart since its debut on the Nintendo Wii. It lets the numpty in 7th or 8th position fire out a blue shell that races toward the person with enough skill to have earned his spot in first place. It hits the best player without fail and they then spin out of control. Several people overtake the person in first place while the cleft in 7th or 8th remains precisely where they were. Genius!
If the Mario Kart fever ever dies down Miyamoto will simply climb to the top of the nearest building and cry out (in Japanese): “EUREKA! We’ll release Mario Kart 942873 but this time we’ll leave out the dreaded blue shell!” Fans will go wild, rapturous applause will be heard coming from The White House. Men, women and children will gather together to celebrate.
And Miyamoto will replace it with a yellow shell, that lets the person in 7th or 8th force the person in first to drive really slow for 10 seconds.
Put something purposefully rubbish in your game and you’ll have a failsafe backup for years to come!
All games have to have multi player. If not people will buy your game and sell it in the morning when they’ve finished single playering or worse, they’ll just rent it from their friends. Don’t worry about multi player too much, just make sure you have it. You’ll probably need to make your multi player a first person shooter them up set in Iraq – and if that’s the case you may as well change your entire game and make it a first person shooter them up set in Iraq. That way you can beat Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and steal all of Activision’s money. Remember: gamers don’t like new things.
Fun fact: did you know that computer game makers are actually scared of the words “Iraq” and “Afghanistan”? It’s true. Even if you’re setting your game in Afganistan or Iraq don’t call it that! Just call them something like Terrorist Land or That Place We Powned or Dust.
Some tips on multi player:
i. The Online Pass
Make sure that your game comes with an online pass so that only players who buy the game brand new get to experience the full game. This is like what car salesman do when they sell you a car without the wheels because it had a previous owner. Even smarter, do what indie developer EA does and make your online passes expire or simply do not include them even in first hand editions! That way, players will be forced to pay you £10 extra to play the full game and they’ll certainly buy your next game brand new, rather than pirate it or buy it on the black market.
Make sure that gamers have a really difficult time playing together. There’s a whole world of people out there. Force them to make new friends. Take them out of their comfort zone. If they’re entering a game in a “party”, make sure your multi player system knows to put them on opposite teams.
Don’t let the player customise stuff in multi player. If you let them make maps they’ll just draw cocks or make better maps than you and then you’ll have a hard time selling map packs in the future. People will play your game forever because it’s really good, you don’t need to let them tailor the game to suit their individual needs.
iv. Host advantage
Don’t pay for servers, that’s money coming out of your seventh holiday home fund! Instead, let players host their own games. Be sure to give the host a really big advantage though. He’s hosting after all, he deserves something for his troubles!
v. Give the best players the best weapons
This is only fair. Make sure that the best players get the best guns and upgrades. If someone has killed 15 people without dying, give him Force Lightning and an impenetrable bubble shield for 5 minutes. If someone has died 15 times in a row, take away his weapon and put him in a wheelchair and cut off his right hand and make half his screen show a gay porno. Reward only the players who have the time to sit around all day playing your game and you’ll have a thriving multi player community in a matter of minutes!
To prevent your map from becoming too big – and consequently no fun for anyone – keep spawns for both teams in a small select area. Nothing annoys the multi player gamer more than spawning really far away from the action. Do him a favour by spawning him in the midst of an actual firefight so he can join right in. Right in the middle. Slap bang. Preferably in the actual path of the bullets. If that isn’t possible, spawn them somewhere that gives them a really good view of sniper roosts but make sure to keep the spawning player on the ground.
vii. Map packs
Once you’ve made your game it’s important to start making new maps for it. Better yet, once you’ve finished making your game, take out half the maps you intended to include in the full release and tell people you’re currently working on something called “DLC”. This is industry slang for er… something. Basically you get to do very little extra work and make way more money. Winner!
Map packs can include either 3 or 5 maps and you can sell them for 800 or 1200 Republic of Microsoft Credits or Chocolate Nintendo Points. For your first game you’re going to have to actually make the maps yourself. This is a nuisance but know that you’re laying the groundwork for the coming years. Once you’ve made your second computer game you can just bundle your old maps together and sell them for £10 each. The computer gamers will say things like “vote with your wallets!” and “up yours monkey raping bum funglers” but they’ll buy your maps anyway!
vii. Predict how many servers you’ll need
Then buy half of that amount. The computer gamer doesn’t mind if there’s not enough space for him on your multi player servers when your game first releases. He will patiently play the single player until you buy some more space in five weeks time.
viii. The incremental ranking system
The absolute key to ensuring people return to your multi player again and again is the incremental ranking system. This is a system that rewards players routinely throughout their playtime. Imagine, in a real war, if a soldier got a headshot. He’d shout: “BOOM HEADSHOT!” Have someone shout this when it happens in your game (or just write it on the screen). If the player scores five headshots, give him a new camouflage for his gun as a reward. Then when he gets 25 more another one and keep this merry jig going until there are no more colours known to man (don’t worry, when we discover new ones you can sell them as DLC!)
Similarly, award the player points for EVERYTHING he does. If he captures a flag: points. If he kills a man: points. If he wins a game: points. If he contributes in no way to the victory: points. Points, points, points, points, points. Doll them out everywhere! When the player gets enough points give him a new gun or let him “rank up” to the next level.
Once he’s at the top level with all the guns and camouflages, take them all away and make him start over. It sounds insane, but this is genuinely what keeps the computer gamer coming back.
Next: The Production Ctd