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What Nintendon’t

Look, I love Nintendo. And I love the Zelda series. But I fear the princess is in another castle.

I’ve been playing Darksiders quite a bit lately, and I really dig it. The exploration might be a bit too hub-ified and tube-ified for my taste, most other elements of the game are top notch. Controls are on the “advanced” side of the scale, but I’m pretty hardcore myself so I don’t mind.

In all parts except combat and presentation, Darksiders is a Zelda-game. You find new items which acts as keys to new pathways, fight bosses, find heart pieces, open chests, get annoying help from Navi, ride your horse on open areas, etc etc. It’s Zelda, just with different names for stuff. But what’s really interesting is that Darksiders pretty much nails every single elements they have borrowed from Nintendo, and does it better.

Today I feel the mainline Zelda series is heading in the wrong direction. While I adore Wind Waker, it was also the entry that started to introduce mind-numbingly annoying stuff like displaying a two page long text window each time you pickup a rupee! And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, there’s just no end to all the annoying “help” you get in that game. This runs rampant in many Nintendo games such as Animal Crossing (5 pages of text every time you buy something even if you’ve bought it before) and Mario Party.

In Darksiders you run up to a chest, PUNCH it in the face (if it had had one), and then run away before the contents have even started to fly to you automatically. No text, just a 1 second animation. You can do it mid-fight to replenish health without even losing focus on your enemy. When you want to go faster you press two buttons to summon the horse and you’re automatically mounted and in full steam ahead in less than a second. Compare that to Ocarina, where you take out your instrument, play a tune, call the horse, find it, mount it, and then start to ride. All this because you wanted to go faster.

Twilight Princess introduced an innovation that I, in my fanboy-tastic naive and gullable hope, interpret as a sign of things getting better. You see, in Twilight Princess, you only get the two-page text window once per session and rupee type! So if you have run over a blue rupee during the same session before, you no longer get the message. But of course, when you play the game again the next day, you have obviously forgotten how much “blue” means, so you need to see it again.

Hey, Nintendo. Ever heard of ‘floating text’?

Mess up the next installment and I’ll leave you forever.

 

Yours truly,

Joel

Meet the makers

So what do we do here at Ludosity? What kind of skills would you need for this kind of prestigous, minimum wage job? Let’s find out!

Gustav, Mattias, Dan and Stefan are the coders, creating everything from gameplay features to file converters, and working out low-level memory managment. Let’s take a closer look at these people’s brains.

Daniel: Please describe in one sentence what’s it like developing for the 3DS.
Gustav: Interesting but challenging.
Stefan: It’s cool.
Dan: Death tractor.
Mattias: Is it my turn to have the devkit yet?
Daniel: Explain with a metaphor what working at Ludosity is like.
Everyone: (Long silence)
Daniel: What’s the weirdest thing about one of the games we’re making?
Gustav: The source code contains dialogues between us, and a reference to Office Space – not just a random comment, but a part describing the code.

Joel is part boss, project lead, economic department and public relations… a lot of executive things. He’d like to be more involved with the games though. Sometimes mysteriously disappears, and returns with either a publishing deal or bags of fruit.

Daniel: On a scale of having tea to wrestling giraffes, how difficult was it to start up a game company?
Joel: Really easy. I didn’t do it myself, it was first started by Arcade and Jesper, and then the team has gradually changed, so it rather fell into my lap. It still doesn’t feel like a “real” company due to our low wages, help from the business incubator and loans. So it’s basically as easy as brewing coffee.
Daniel: What have you done today?
Joel: Gone to a meeting with a bank, bought snacks, worked on legal documents for our new LLC and put a game up on the website.
Daniel: What’s the weirdest thing about one of the games we’re making?
Joel: That Ittle Dew’s normal-sized breasts make people mistake her for a guy.

Anton is the artist and produces 2D and 3D graphics and animations, using Photoshop, Maya, and currently Nintendo’s development tools. All day, every day.

Daniel: What does an average workday look like?
Anton: I sit here and make a lot of art. That’s all I do.
Daniel: How many of our game characters are completely sane?
Anton: Hmmm… none?
Daniel: What’s the weirdest thing about one of the games we’re making?
Anton: Our level editors contain minigames.

Fredrik is in charge of QA (Quality Assurance), and is incidentally also the entire QA staff. The 3DS’s 3D feature gives him motion sickness in ten seconds flat, and he’s currently going through 100 levels and writing down which ones crash, rebooting the console in between each one. Let’s make his life even worse for a bit.

Daniel: Please describe in one sentence how stable our games are right now.
Fredrik: Haha… “Not.”
Daniel: How fun is your job?
Fredrik: Better than any other job I’ve had. QA is fun if you turn it into a challenge to find as many serious bugs as possible.
Daniel: What’s the weirdest thing about one of the games we’re making?
Fredrik: That the armadillo is impossible to kill. He’s gigantic and there is no escape. If you try to jump, he just follows behind you. He covers the entire screen. It’s impossible.

I (Daniel) am a designer, but it’s a fuzzy word – since I started working at Ludosity I’ve been coding some flash games and level editors (hence the inclusion of minigames in our editors, ed. note) for our games, but mostly doing levels, design documents, prototypes, gameplay ideas, particle effects, gameplay tweaking, menues and menu animation, 2D animation tweening, trailer recording, 2D graphics, some project lead duties and sound editing. And the weirdest thing is how doodles on the whiteboard turn into features and characters in Ittle Dew.

More hats: Frozen Swimmer

We’ve put up a new game for y’all – the follow-up to Froggish Swimmer, Frozen Swimmer!

Again made by Daniel Remar (long before we even released the first one), this one steps up the challenge significantly, and adds a lot more game mechanics.

And hats!

State of the industry

I just read an article over at Gamasutra about the appalling work conditions during the development of LA Noir, and about ego-tripping upper management not even bothering giving credits to the developers, if they are no longer with the company at project completion. Even though some have been working on it for years.

This is just the last report in a long string of reports on how big-budget projects are draining the life out of the developers, and then not giving proper dues.

In the above mentioned article, the comments section blew up over the need of a union in this industry. I couldn’t agree more, and frankly I don’t understand how this has not already happened. For pete’s sake, we’ve been collectively at it for 3-4 decades now. Isn’t that even longer than it took the movie industry to unionize?

I have a vision of creating the most attractive work-place in Sweden. I don’t know how to get there exactly, except to care immensely about my team, and listen to their needs (and of course try and give them that). But I know I’m not gonna get there by making them crunch indefinitely, not giving them appraisal or credit, and generally fucking them over.

I recently found out that there was an old saying – “the most important thing for a company is the customer”, ie. get the money first. It was mentioned because now it’s apparently been replaced with “the most important thing for a company is the team”. My reaction to that was “yes, duh?” The team is everything – and has always been everything, for me.

I have contacted some of the commenters about actually doing something now. There’s been talk about this for a time now, but it seems to fizzle out between scandals. But seeing as the scandals now seem to continue back-to-back, hopefully these discussions will result in some action this time.

I’ll be sure to revisit this subject again. The first thing I’m gonna do now is to research this, see what’s out there. Maybe there’s something I’ve missed?

New webgame in Prototype Corner

We have updated the Play section with another entry! It’s a game that’s been around for awhile, and posted about before, but definitely deserve a spot among our other prototypes.

Shoot Stop Lollipop is a game about time, and explosions. And Lollipops of course. If you’re curious about how/why it was made, don’t miss the Developers Statement!

Next up is a sequel to Froggish Swimmer, but we’ll sit on that for a couple of days or so. Stay tuned.