The Evolution of Zelda Universe

I am currently writing a research paper on Linked games, a thing that I will probably be talking about more in the future (topic of my PhD). However, as a part of the process, I am explaining different terms and showing them through examples. As an interesting fact, I decided to use the game of Zelda to define what is the difference between Game World and a Game Universe.

The main difference (at least by our definition) is that Game World is the place where a single game takes place. All the characters, locations and events within that one game happen in the same World. The player can affect the way where the world goes and what happens to the characters in the world. 

As a separation to this, a Game Universe is something that contains joint elements between multiple games. For example Final Fantasy Universe has similar characters, such as chocobos and moogles, even though the world where the gameplay happens is different in each game. Even better example (and the one I wanted to illustrate here) is the Universe of Zelda games. 

All the Zelda games have same characters, the hero Link, princess Zelda, evil Ganondorf and so on. The place where the game takes place is called Kingdom of Hyrule and some items, such as Master Sword are known fact in all of the games of the franchise. However, the game world is not geographically the same (of course, this is also due to the limits of different game consoles, graphics, and so on), but still the games can be seen happening in the same storytelling universe. No matter how many times Link saves Zelda and defeats evil Ganon, the events seem to be forgotten/lost in the next game. Still, this is totally okay for the storytelling, as the universe is the same.

I want to illustrate the evolution of Zelda universe through few map screenshots:

 

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Somehow different, yet still makes sense 😀

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OMG! I just got profit from Kickstarter!?

Kickstarter, among other crowdfunding sites, has reached a wide audience during the last few years. Crowdfunding as a term has come to stay and is accepted as a viable form of gathering funding for a project.

Games have gained a lot of attention in crowdfunding space and have managed to be among the most popular projects ever. Godus, Faster Than Light, Torment: Tides of Numenera, and many others have managed to gather hundreds of thousands of dollars more money than they have requested for. And lately, this has been an issue with game companies [Gamasutra: When crowdfunding reveals the realities of game dev budgets].

Receiving a lot more money than you asked for can mean problems. Latest founder of this issue was Double Fine which announced around a week ago of their troubles [Gamasutra: Double Fine splits Broken Age in half to fund completion]. Having gained almost three million dollars more than they asked for, they felt the necessity of delivering more content for their backers. Because of this, they are no longer able to deliver within the original schedule nor can they even make everything they promised in one game. Instead, they are splitting the game in two parts, asking for more money and delivering the final game behind the schedule. All because they got more money than they needed. Without a question, such behavior has made the whole internet to explode with angry cries and opinions [Back To Reality: Double Fine, Crowdfunding And The Repercussions]. Which is understandable, Double Fine just did not get the point.

Crowdfunding is a beautiful idea and could even be thought as an ideology. Asking for people to support your vision and to pledge money to help it become a reality. Like selling your idea to bunch of investors, but not giving away shares of your company or paying from the profits once the product hits the markets. Of course, the stakes are not that high and the risk for a single person is only couple (tens) of dollars. Absolutely beautiful.

However, it turns out that if a lot of people believe in you, then you have a problem. Problem of delivering them something much more bigger, engaging and mind blowing than you planned for.

Why?

If people believe in your idea and support you more than you have asked for, is it not a proof enough that the idea is rock solid? If a 10.000 USD project receives 200.000 USD worth of pledges, doesn’t it proove that people want the product?

Example of Kickstarter pledge info

Everyone can already see the pledged amount of money on the crowdfunding site (the example picture on the right hand side). Even though it says $121k/$15k – “Succesfully funded”, people still pledge. They pledge, because they believe in THAT project. They pledge, because they want it to become reality. They want to back you to show their support. Even though you have the money already. They don’t want extra big and more engaging. They want the thing you already promised in your pitch. That is enough.

Think about the same situation from a different perspective. How many times has a game studio or publisher run into trouble when a game has sold more than its real to-market costs were? Have you ever heard Microsoft Studios, Sony or Nintendo announcing, that because their game has sold over a million copies instead of the required 100.000 for make-even, they are going to postpone the release of their next game. Just to make it bigger, better and more mind blowing than it was supposed to be, because their products just sell too much. Sounds familiar? We don’t want extra big and more engaging. We want the thing you already promised in your pitch. That is enough.

Crowdfunding is asking for people to back your idea. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out and you get $10 instead of the $5.000 you asked for. And sometimes your idea just happens to be ground shaking and get you ten times more than needed.

An overwhelming success in crowdfunding does not mean that you need to go back to the drawing board. It means that your plan was already awesome. People don’t fund you so you could create something else than you promised. They fund you because they want what you promised. The money you got are sales, people just bought the product beforehand. The money is yours to have.

So please. Stick with what you promised. Deliver the promises, in time and transparently, updating backers about the progress. And if you received more than you asked for, even more than your secondary fundings goals – enjoy the money! Use it to prototype and create the pitch for your next crowdfunding project!

Just make sure you deliver what you promised in your pitch. That is, what I funded after all.

Documentary on Demo Scene

Demoscene is really interesting phenomenon. Many successful game companies have been founded by demoscene people. In my opinion it’s really amazing, what people can do with computers and break their limits. Programming should be more appreciated as a form of art.

This documentary is quite match told by the voices of Hungarian demoscene, but nonetheless gives a good insight into the scene and its members.

Perhaps not to be watched in one 90 minute session, but enjoy it at least in small parts.

Remember to put subtitles on!

Making games and selling them to publishers?

Working in the game industry is surely interesting. Especially pitching to publisher may seem scary to many and there are a bunch of legends circling around.

This video gives a nice compilation of stereotypes of the big game companies. I think the logo of Janka is cool 😛 Anyway, the company behind this video – Kixey seems to have quite nice jobs webpage. They do seem to have some attitude there.

Month of Kinect Fitness

Hello Everyone!

A few weeks ago I bought myself Kinect for Xbox360 and I have been thinking a lot of things since then. Most of the games I have come across lately have not been that awesome (except for the Gunstringer being smartly created story-wise). Nonetheless, I am 100% sure that Kinect is something that can blow up the bank, once someone just figures out how to use this new controlling paradigm.

Well, my goal here is not to promote Kinect (but in case someone at Microsoft reads this, I can do that for a small price 😉 ), but to write about my experiences with the system. I have been sitting on my butt for quite some time now and been meaning to start training. Well, maybe not today, but tomorrow 😛 So, as I had Kinect and noticed the amount of training games it has, I decided to buy one and start practicing with it. After doing some fast googling and youtubing (those ARE VERBS!) I went for Your Shape: Fitness Evolved, even though the name sounds a little bit umm… gymnastic for my taste. Well, sometimes you have to throw prejudices out of the window and jump to something new – and that’s what I did.

For the next month from now on, I promise (whether you care or not :-P) to write about my experiences with the fitness game. I hope to get in shape with the help of the game (being too lazy to get out of the house and hit the gym – especially now that it is damn cold here in Finland and just snowing every day). Hopefully toying around with the game is fun and training goes almost by itself (which I hugely doubt). Anyway, I am about to find out.

Few words about my current physical condition. For the last six months I haven’t had time (or so I tell to myself) to really work out. Considering this, I am not in the best possible condition, but I try my best to get back the great physique I once had. However, currently a solid 30 minute cardio training would probably be something I could not handle 😛

Day 1

Dear diary. Today I started my month of training with Kinect. In the beginning, the system scanned me and tried to guess my height (which went completely wrong, it thought I am 170 cm although I am 190). Also, the Kinect bugged for some reason and did not manage to look down enough to see my feet. However, it fired the first practicing program where it taught me the basics of the game and tried to calibrate the system to my current level of physique. Some of the tests went straight to hell, because Kinect did not see my feet. When I tried to recalibrate the system, Xbox decided to quit the game and go in to calibration mode (although when I started the game first time it did the calibration there?). Once I got back to the game, it had forgotten my settings and I had to start all over again.

Well, after going through the test exercises again, I finally got to the menu where I was able to continue practicing how I wanted. As there was option for personal trainer, I was kinda waiting for some suggestions on how to train – but no. Well, it did give me recommendations on what I should do. Well, as I am open to everything new, I went with the recommendations (in the end, personal trainer is supposed to know what is good for me… right? RIGHT?).

As my first recommended workout I received some leg training. I had already pumped through the test exercises twice (all leg training), but what the heck, I guess it’s just for my own good? I did 10 minutes short workout and then somehow managed to continue with another 10 minutes leg workout. After finally getting through the 40 minutes of plain leg workout, I was ready to drop dead. However, given my old habits of practicing a lot, I couldn’t give up yet. I still had to do some biceps. I decided to take a short 10 minute bicep training, but guess what – it had leg exercises included!!

I survived somehow. Yet, I was expecting more full body exercises and a little less leg workout. I got something else, but perhaps my personal trainer living inside the Xbox knows better 😛 After one hour of jumping and squatting in front of the TV I was dripping from sweat. At least it really had some effect. The time did go really fast and in the end I enjoyed a lot – although I would like a little less legs the next time. After all, how hard would it be to remember my last exercises and not include any more legs after 30 minutes of solely pumping those!

Anyway, day 1 is now over and the game is open. Tomorrow my legs will be quite sore, I am sure. However, I will keep going and see what tomorrow brings. I hope it’s a little bit less leg workout and more on the upper body 🙂

Flash Development 101

I have never, ever programmed with Flash in my life. I just figured that now it might be the time, as I just signed up for the Global Game Jam. As programming with Python is kinda awkward (and not the best when you want to do games) and with Unity it quite often falls down playing with 3D graphics and getting them to work properly. Besides, 2D games are faster to make and can be (actually some are) way better than fancy 3D games. I think Flash is also nice, because everyone has it installed on their computers, so playing my games does not require extra installs and uninstalls (why would you uninstall my games!?). Also, I like learning new stuff and challenges are welcome.

Well, so much for the motivation. Now, to the big deal.

How to get started?

 

Well, first you need to get the Flash SDK, right? umm… it is pretty expensive when bought from Adobe and I don’t feel comfortable stealing it. Luckily, there is an open-source option called FlashDevelop. Installing everything was not that big of a deal and the wiki site has pretty decent guide for that. So, just follow the guide and in few minutes you are ready to get started!

Oh- but wait! WTF? What am I supposed to program? They have Action Script 2, Action Script 3, and HaXe? WHAT ARE THOSE MONSTERS!? Well, yeah. The wiki does not explain anything about these, but this is what I found out quickly: AS2 is the older version which was used programming Flash. AS3 is the newer, faster and (I assume?) better one. And HaXe seems to be some multiplatform language, that allows you to make one code to be javascript, php or flash. I myself did not see the reason for going all the trouble and finding more about that. At least, it seems to me that I can get quite nicely AS3 tutorials with Google.
So, choose AS3

HelloWorld! (or Flash)

 

The FlashDevelop site did not have any information on how to get started with the coding. The forum had lots of posts, but I felt anxious to start browsing through them for beginner info. So, google again and vóila! Thanks to DevMag post, I was watching the Hello World in no time 🙂 Go and check out the site (http://devmag.org.za/2009/04/02/flash-for-free/)

Okay, now I had the hello flash showing up. Time for some real action (to learn some basics!). Google google google…. and I found: http://prototyprally.com/making-games-in-actionscript-3-using-flashdevelop-part-1-the-setup/. This link starts with the same how to install, but then quickly moves to introduce some basics of Flash, like sprites & bitmaps, moving objects, clicking and events. Although the shown code is not very well  explained on where to put, it is still worth your time. At least I got hang of the thing already.

So, what are you waiting for? Get your hands dirty! (more posts to follow in the future)

A Great book for tech starts

I just read a really great book on how to run a small tech company and felt that I MUST share it with everyone. The book was just so good. It’s called ReWork, which you can get easily either from Amazon.co.uk or from amazon.com. Truly a great piece of work! I found the book by reading Developer magazine and someone mentioned in an article four must-read-books for small game companies. So, without further thinking, I bought the book to my Kindle. And really, it was worth all the money!

The book is made in a very easy-to-read way. I was really stressed out today and all, but wanted to read my new purchase. And just like pure magic, I noticed few hours later that I had reached the back cover (not by cheating this time :-P). It was just so well made and full of great advice. Just to point few, the book tells how to concentrate better on clients, not to spend too much time on planning something that is not really the core-idea. Perhaps the key point in the book is to keep things simple, honest and personal. Forget all the big industry things, make having only a little money an advantage and use the agility of a small company. All those are the key to a great success!

A Must Read!