Pt. IV

The Production Continued

“As a computer game maker I’m given plenty of time to play other computer games. I mean, that’s important right? You can’t make great games if you don’t play great games. So we get lots of downtime to play other studios’ computer games and we use that knowledge to make our games better. It’s why you see quicktime events in so many games.” – bona fide computer game maker.

Civilians, Colateral & Children in War Games Especially

It is illegal to show children in videogames. It is even more illegal to show dead or upset children in videogames. Games are mature storytelling vessels and no mature story can depict harm or violence toward children. It doesn’t happen in the real world so, as responsible game makers, we shouldn’t let it happen in our games. Even if it did happen in the real world – which it doesn’t – it’s best to ignore distressing subject matters because that way everyone forgets about them and then they disappear and then obviously they’re not a problem anymore. Given the choice, we would all rather forget about the many people less fortunate than us. So forget about them.

Whilst killing children isn’t legal in videogames, you can let the player kill unarmed adults. However, computer game players find this very distressing and so game makers have devised a cunning plan to prevent people who aren’t soldiers from dying (because everyone knows killing people is okay as long as the people being murdered are terrorists, Russians, Germans or Asians). If your player shoots a civilian make him go back to the start of the level. He’ll understand. He’s done something wrong and he’ll feel remorse. You’ve gone to a lot of effort to make the player sympathise with what game makers call NPCS (Not Player Characters). Just because they’re all wearing the same clothes and running around willy-nilly in an actual combat zone doesn’t mean the player doesn’t care about them. They do, and having the player trudge back to the start of the level every time an NPC picks up a grenade because they think it’s a Florin does not ruin your story or interrupt the eb and flow of your computer game.

If you’re making a war game it’s important not to show collateral damage. Try not to include civilians and if you do make sure the player isn’t allowed to shoot them. Don’t show players what happens when your best friend dies. Keep gay stuff like relationships and emotions out of your game. Make all the characters macho American conquerers. If one of the goodies dies, have someone say something like: “we’ve got to keep moving” or “OOOAH!!” Don’t linger on things like death and destruction and what happens when you launch a gas bomb into a nursery school on a Tuesday morning. This stuff is boring and computer gamers only want to shoot more Arabs and zombies.

Pro tip: as makers of the computer games we have a responsibility to shelter our customers from the true horrors of war and violence. We’ve all seen Saving Private Ryan. It’s really sad when Vin Diesel dies, right? (Although it is super awesome when the German sniper gets his eye shot out!!! Take that you Nazi ballbag!!! The special effects are so cool in that movie.) Anyway, if you give gamers an authentic depiction of warfare they might vomit out their own vital organs, enter into a coma or even refuse to play your game ever again. If you think your game may cause the player to experience any of these sour effects then turn your enemies into Nazis or Russians or Arabs. That way they won’t be offended. NEVER let your player play as anyone but a white. If you’re making a World War Two shooter them up, remember there were no blacks in World War Two and all Nazis were Hitler worshiping, rapist AIDs demons from the peadophile dimension. Don’t get history wrong.

Morality

Computer gamers love morality systems. Think of a morality system as a sliding scale. The more good things a player does, the closer he gets to being the “Paragon” – this is computer game jargon that means REALLY REALLY GOOD PERSON. The more bad things a player does, the closer he gets to being the “Renegade”. Don’t feel restricted though, you can interchange the words “Paragon” and “Renegade” if you wish.

Moral choices help make your computer game universe feel more alive and vibrant. It’s good storytelling technique to have the character grapple with tough choices like whether or not to steal a cup and having a morality system in your game will boost your Metacritic by 17-18%.

Here are some pro tips on morality in the computer games:

i. Dialogue Trees

If you want to include conversation in your game, you can build something called a Dialogue Tree. Dialogue Trees let the player choose what the character says next and are moored to the morality scale. Remember to have a schism between the good and the bad options so that the player can choose whether he’s going to be good or bad at the start of the game and keep playing that way. Better yet, just ask the player at the start whether he likes killing tiny puppies or not. If he says no, automatically choose all of the good options for him and vice versa.

ii. Have the player choose between the good and the bad option and make it very clear which is which

The computer gamer doesn’t like to have to think for himself. If he knows that your good options are on the left hand side of the screen and he’s chosen to be the “Paragon”, he’ll choose that option every time. You’re just making it easier for him and he’ll appreciate not having to dissect your dialogue or consider the implications of the choices he makes. This makes for a truly immersive, character-driven and personal experience.

iii. Achievements

Reward your player for choosing whether to be a goody or baddy before the game even begins by having an achievement worth 10 g-units for making it all the way to one end of the scale. Think of an achievement as like in real life when the Queen knights somebody. Except in games you just get one hundred g-units.

iv. Visual stimuli

It’s vital that the player is given visual stimuli that mirrors the choices he has made throughout the course of your game. Just like in real life, if he’s a bad character he’ll probably be bald, have lots of tattoos and piercings and he’ll also bathe in fetid animal blood of an evening (probably while dining on a child’s foot). If he’s good, make him glow slightly blue. He’ll be clean-shaven and presentable and have no tattoos to boot.

Quick Time Events (aka Cuties)

The word Quick Time Event (shortened in industry slang to Cutie) is a neologism, so don’t worry if you’ve never heard of it. Cuties are when a gigantic picture of a controller button pops up on screen, slaps the gamer in the face, does a wee on your game-world, shatters your story and then the player has to really quickly press the button! It’s thrilling because if he gets it wrong the character dies. A true test of mental fortitude, dexterity and skill. Cuties are very popular in contemporary games and gamers are particularly fond of games that are made entirely out of Cuties, so give that some thought.

Pro tip: Rather than design an exhaustive and rewarding combat system, you can just have the player bash out the buttons in the order on the screen. Make the Cuties come up really fast and have some where the player has to hit the same button a thousand times really really quick because these ones help make your computer game the most immersive ever.

Combine Cuties with cutscenes and boss fights for ultimate Metacritic high score! POWNED!

Narrative

The protagonist is a soldier/wizard. The game is set in The Middle East/ space/Lord of the Ringsville. The bad guys are Nazis/ Asians/ Terrorists/ Aliens/ Mutants/ Zombies/ Secret Agents/ The Man. The baddies have invaded your home/ stolen your female. The player must save the world/ rescue the stupid but sexually arousing female. Include videos highlighting how arousing the stupid female’s boobs and bum are so the player can masturbate like a chimp in a cage during the cut scenes.

This premise has worked for 85% of all computer games up until this day, including some of the most famous and best-selling. Feel free to use it in your game if you have yet to think of a story. It’s copyright free.

Pro tip: If you heeded my advice earlier you won’t have hired a bona-fide narrative designer. Good call. Anyone can write a decent story and if you’re having trouble just do what Disney did.

Checkpoints

There are four types of checkpoints in the computer game but they’re all designed for crybabies and mummy’s boys. Checkpoints give rubbish gamers a chance to continue without having to go back to the start of your game. Ask yourself a question: do you want rubbish gamers playing your game and making it look rubbish on You Tube? Of course not.

If you insist on incorporating a checkpoint structure into your game, these are the four bastard species of checkpoint.

i. The Fixed Checkpoint

These are placed specifically by you during the game making process. When the player walks through an invisible wall he earns himself a checkpoint. Here is a list I snagged from an actual AAA computer game maker on when and when not to have Fixed Checkpoints:

When to have a Fixed Checkpoint: 

  • Before a cut scene
  • Before a loading screen

When not to have a Fixed Checkpoint:

  • Before a boss fight
  • During a boss fight
  • After a boss fight
  • After a cut scene
  • After a really hard part
  • After a Cutie
  • After a puzzle

ii. The Willy-Nilly Checkpoint

This gives computer gamers’ checkpoints whenever really. There is no system or order to the Willy-Nilly Checkpoint so just just have your game hand out the Willy-Nilly Checkpoints anywhere. Hand out extra Willy-Nilly Checkpoints if the player is close to death.

iii. The Vintage Quick Save

This option actually lets the computer gamer save for himself and like all vintage things it’s old and shit and should be left to die. It’s only used by the worst developers. And you’re not one of them.

iv. The No Checkpoint

This is the best option for your game. Real computer gamers don’t need checkpoints, they didn’t need them back when the arcades were throbbing with the cacophony of headshots and high scores and chinking with the noise of dropped Yankee guineas, and they don’t need them now. Pandering to the n008s (who are mostly girls and casual gamers) will reduce your Metacritic by approximately 27%.


Running out of ideas, time or money

At some point in the development cycle you’re going to run out of time or ideas. That or you’ll blow your capital on a high-class hooker and three grams of speed and then you’ll be royally fucked (in more ways than one!) But hey, what’s the point of being a computer game maker if you can’t live the high life? Whatever the reason, you’re out of money, you’re out of ideas and you’re out of speed. It’s not your fault. Right now it might be tempting to reconcile yourself to a life of 9-5 shifts and dependable pay cheques. But you’re a winner, you’re not going to give up so close to victory! Take comfort knowing that all computer game makers struggle with this conundrum at some point while working on their projects and going cold turkey for a few weeks can actually be good for you.

But back to the real problem. Perhaps you’ve already given the player the pistol, the shotgun, the machine gun and the sniper rifle. What next? You’ve finished work on the lava, ice and water dungeons. Where next? Your protagonist has rescued the female but you’re clocking in at a measly 8 hours runtime. What do you add?

The answer is simple: like the self-conscious 14 year old, you resort to padding. Padding comes in many exotic varieties but game players love them all equally and they’re all really good to have in your game. Here are some of the best padding options:

i. The grey factory

A favourite among developers, set the final third of your game in a grey factory. This way you won’t need to Texture much and you can repeat rooms because a grey factory is a grey factory! This is one of the computer game players’ favourite environments because it’s so good at telling a story and it’s really interesting to explore.

ii. Go backwards

Take levels used earlier in the game and recycle them. Remember, we’re saving the world. Be sure to have the player run through the level in reverse else he might recognise the environment and your plan will be foiled! Done right, this is one of the smartest moves a developer can make. If you design five levels then reverse them, you immediately have ten. Racing game developers are particularly fond of this strategy but don’t be shackled by your choice of genre; shooter them ups are great played in reverse and so are the RPGS and Sandbox Games.

iii. Boss fights!

Ever our greatest ally, a true knight in shining armour, all hail the boss! Here, the boss fight serves yet another valiant role and proves itself once more the most dependable weapon in the computer game makers’ formidable arsenal. Remember the chief rule of boss fights? No boss encounter should last less than twenty minutes! The boss fight is a great game extender. Throw bosses in everywhere; at the start of levels, in the middle, at the end, after the end, before the next level, during the loading screens, during other boss fights. Don’t forget that you can reuse previous bosses because game players like fighting the same bosses twice or three times or even four or five or six or seventy times.

iv. Forget about it!

This is another favourite. Why worry? Put the story on hold and just keep reusing the same ideas and mechanics for an extra four or five hours. Gamers are clever people. They would much rather have a long game than a short one. If they’re not getting at least an hour’s game per Yankee queen pound they get upset. Quality doesn’t matter, just don’t irk gamers by making a game that doesn’t recycle ideas and only lasts a piddling 8-10 hours!

Collectables

Collectables are a great way to pepper your story with awkward interludes and reward the player for ignoring your story by running into every corner in a feverish hunt for pointless trinkets. Would you scour every nook and cranny in the world looking for bibelots? Of course not! So it’s important we ensure computer gamers are able to act out this fantasy in their computer games.

Still not convinced? Why, just the other day I observed with fascination as two highly regarded computer games makers discussed collectables on Tweeter. One said, “if you haven’t got any collectables in your game, what is the gamer going to collect?” And this is bang on!

Collectables don’t need to have anything to do with your game or your story. Just mak sure they are there. Preferably have 100s of them and put them in places where the story is particularly poignant. If the character is stumbling through a rain-drench New York City, teary-eyed over the death of his girlfriend, put in a collectable to cheer him up! You can reward the player for collecting these shiny doohickies by giving them some achievements.

Credits

The last thing you need to busy yourself with is the credits list. This is your moment of glory, the part where all the computer gamers ogle the list in respect and with admiration for all the people who have made the game. The best credits lists are really long and slow and give grotesque screen time to people that probably didn’t contribute a great deal to the making of the game.

Now this I can guarantee: the player will watch your credit sequence. He will not leave the room and make a sandwich. He will not play another game on the PS3 on another channel. He will not go on Tweeter or make a phone call or write a snotty account of how long your credits sequence is on a forum. He will enter into a glorious stupor and watch your credits without even blinking.

Still, it’s crucial to make the credits unskippable just in case the ignorant gamer doesn’t feel the need to reward you by memorising your name. This is especially true if you’re making a game for a handheld console like the Playstation Veta. With a primitive battery life of just 1 earth hour, it’s good etiquette to have your unskippable credits list last in the vicinity of 20 minutes on handheld consoles.

Golly. I reckon that just about does it. The Production is over, we’ve just got one last phase before your life of fame and fortune begins! 

Next: The Post-Production

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