www.chadbordwell.com NOTE: My opinions do not represent those of my employer.

Monday, March 27, 2017

DOOM Documentary

Just came across this really good documentary about the creation of the latest DOOM.  It show the development struggles id Software had with making a new version of a legendary game.  Certainly similar struggles we had while making Wolfenstein and Quake 4 when I worked at Raven Software. Story was not id's strong suit and I'm glad they finally found a way around it that fits them.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Return To Castle Wolfenstein Is On Sale

Yes the first game I worked on as a designer is now on sale on Steam.  Maybe it's always on sale I don't know but this was the first time I noticed it at least.  If you're into retro gaming it's a really great old school shooter.  It's still one of the highlights of my career.

I learned a lot working with Gray Matter on it.  I was the last designer Activision had on the payroll when they stopped internal development to focus on publishing.  Gray Matter needed help so I was sent over to help them stay on schedule.  The schedule was an absolute death march, I started overtime in January and didn't see the light of day until November.  I literally missed the entire summer.  I slept on the floor of my office so often that Gray Matter bought me a pillow and sheets.  No joke.

The development process was much different then.  You didn't have tasks really, you were given levels and it was your job to see them to completion.  Your task was to "make it fun." Every day the company owner and design lead would play the level and give you feedback which you iterated on.  Often you were totally free to try anything you could think of if you thought it would make the game fun.  One day I hand scripted every movement of a head bouncing down the stairs (there was no physics) because I thought it would be a nice touch to a spooky area.  In modern game development you'd never really be allowed to take time to do such a thing.  You are given tasks to complete like an assembly line.  Game development today has lost most of that creative freedom.

So it was a terrible death march of endless work but it was also creatively free and fun.  In the end Activision bought Gray Matter and it became Treyarch.  Everyone that worked there got fat bonuses with the buyout except me.  Since I wasn't technically a Gray Matter employee.  So that sucked big time.  After it completed Gray Matter offer to hire me but instead I went to Raven Software with dreams of Hexen in my head.  Considering the insane success of Call of Duty I made another financially bad decision.

Anyway if you haven't played it go grab it. http://store.steampowered.com/app/9010/

Friday, October 7, 2016

Lotta Quake

Looking through my wardrobe I recall how many Quake games I've been a part of.  Certainly strange to thing that when I was playing Quake 1 I wasn't even part of the game industry.  Things certainly changed.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Sad News

Booted up the old PS2 tonight just for the hell of it.  Loaded War of Monsters and found one of the controllers no longer works.  Bummer :(

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Preparing for the Cold

The chill is happening out there here in Ontario.  In anticipation of the upcoming winter months I decided to clean out my art area a bit .  Believe it or not this is better than it was.  At least I can now actually see the desk.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Measuring My Art Chops

I've been tinkering around with a project at home.  It's a little overwhelming to sit down in front the computer and just create a game that isn't there in any form.  Where do you start?  What can you do yourself and what do you need help with?  These are the questions you don't have answers for until you dive in.

I have an art degree so I thought I might be able to handle the art myself but as a game designer it's been a long time since I created much art.  So I thought I should see what I can do in Photoshop.  My goal for the project's look is to have a style that was fun and sort of cartoonish, something like Warcraft.  To start I decided to do something simple and just create a board or a texture for a beam of wood.  No particular scale or metrics, just see if I could get the look I was going for.

This was sort of whimsical and fun like I wanted and was going the right direction but it needed more details like dings and chips.

So from start to finish I'd say it took about 3 hours and looked pretty close to what I had in mind.  At least I accomplished my goal of measuring my current art ability.  At the start I felt a little rusty but after turning on some music and digging in it started flowing pretty naturally.  I think it turned out alright.

Monday, August 22, 2016

My No Man's Sky Experience So Far

UPDATE: Apparently there isn't anymore to this game that what I experienced.  Pity.  Perhaps someone will finish the game in a mod.

I read a one sentence review that said, "No Man's Sky is miles wide and an inch deep." I think that is the main issue with the game. You are given and endless expanse of nothing to do in it.

I enjoy the freedom of doing whatever I want but that isn't what the game is. You are actually very limited. You're not building structures or creating a base, or building a ship, you are wandering lost everywhere gathering resources. You sort of create and trade things in your inventory but it doesn't make you feel grounded with a goal and an understanding of what you're doing.  Some say it's a survival game, but does that mean if you can maintain all your shields and systems then you've won?  No, of course not.  You are supposed to feel a drive to explore and find more of what is out there.  But the game doesn't tease you that there is more out there.  For me after visiting three planets I see pretty much the same things and I'm doing the same tasks.  In a game where they say you'll never be able to see it all, seeing it all really isn't a goal you try to achieve.  So is exploration the goal??

You start the game with a crashed ship and use raw materials to "fix" it.  An amazing feat.  But for a character with the ability to do vast space exploration it feels strange to not know anything about where you are and where you're going. You feel like a super smart infant with no clue of the world they inhabit. To make me care about what I'm doing I'd like to know who I am. You are a lone what? Human? Nothing really tells you that. Every intelligent life form you encounter is described as an alien. But you have a fancy ship and fancy tools so where did you come from? Are you a part of something bigger? Have you just lost your memories? Did that question matter to the game's creators? What the hell is the premise of what you are and what you're doing? 

I also theorize that the game might be too open for people to easily grasp and in some cases myself included. Many people need at least a little guidance . Looking at the Elder Scroll series from Morrowind to Skyrim you can see Bethesda tightening the reins on the amount of hand holding and still some people found Skyrim too open and don't know what to do with themselves. I loved Morrowind and hated the more guided direction of Oblivion and Skyrim but No Man's Sky give you nothing at all.

I'm going to continue with No Man's Sky for now. Maybe the game is exactly what I've seen and nothing deeper but I can't shake the feeling that I just haven't figured it out yet.