Welcome, hi, good day, hello, what's up?! I'm the Sketchwhale!
I make games, talk about them, draw comics and post sketches.

mandag den 16. januar 2017

Nintendo Switch

Maybe they don't want a big line up?

A good reason not to use Android on your new obsidian-like monolithic computer, is if doing everything yourself allows you to do something completely unique. Another reason is if doing everything yourself gets you control and control gets you money, but the first one is the important one here.

So here's a problem we've all started to notice: The various digital stores are currently faced with the fallout of their user and developer friendly strategies: They are flooded with gold and crap simultaneously. And often the crap rises to the surface. Steam, App Store, Play Store, Itch.io. On the other hand, if we look at the Wii U store we say "Damnit, there's nothing there" [compared to other console platforms].

Neither situation is good, and I think Switch launch line up is a hint at Nintendo's remedy to the issue:

What if you looked at the Switch as a tablet first? A gaming tablet, that continues the idea of the Family Computer (the original Post-PC device). Well in that case, the Switch store wouldn't be an understocked gaming shop. It would be gaming focused app boutique. Not the barren ghetto of the BlackBerry store, but a tiny and catered shopping experience.

Opening the boutique-like store and seeing hand-crafted gold only with no crap in sight, the Switch would even solve the same problem that the Famicom solved in the eighties: Too much bad stuff with one to say no (For different reasons back then compared to today).

Only a quality oriented dictator can filter out the bad stuff. Which is where we come back to the whole "Why would you not just use Android on a tablet?". Because of some good reasons now: Optimised games require dedicated hardware, and an exclusive emporium allows Nintendo to control the perceived value. That final point is actually not just good for Nintendo: It's good for consumers who want quality:

If Super Mario Run is $10 and Clash Royale is $0, more people are going to plop down zero for the latter, and perhaps invest a little once their hooked, into a game designed as a business model first and foremost.

Yet if Super Mario Odyssey is $60 and some mobile company is forced to sell their half-baked, the-biggest-chest-is-best-value, if-you-use-a-rainbow-gem-you-can-speed-things-up bastard at $60 as well, then more people will choose the good title. And that's good for us, because that means we finally get a tablet with console quality games, designed around tight controls, with optimal controller support, and if some company decides to make a high quality touch-screen game (Device 6, Bumpy Road), then they can finally set a price that reflects this.

With this perspective, I'm not slightly hesitant about Nintendo's next console foray. I am instead eagerly awaiting their first real tablet, the first good reason not to use Android, Lord of the Andals, protector of the realm and perhaps a good game system.

lørdag den 14. januar 2017

Creature from my upcoming game. It's called a Newt Hare.

onsdag den 4. januar 2017

MariFan & Ultimoom

Video Game Occidentalism & Orientalism

Make a delicious cup of coffee and read a bit about what I like about

Pretty much everything I play is from Japan, for two reasons: aesthetics and structure. You know how people hate Skyward Sword for being extremely hand-hold-y? Or how some cringe at the prolonged lewd moments in Metal Gear Solid 3? Okay, how about how Final Fantasy XII is both a real-time and a turn-based game, with a complex combat system that slowly expands into its own living thing by the time you reach the mid to late bosses and marks? Or how Gravity Daze/Rush has a super-hero-sorta heroine in a mystical swimsuit, living in a steam-punk kinda world, without any of these visuals clashing?

Okay, all subjective, sure but the two bad and two good cases are, as far as I see it, dependent on each other. Maybe a design cataclysm happened around the early to mid eighties, where Euro-Maraca went towards Ultima and later Doom (Ultimoom), and Japan moved towards Super Mario and Final Fantasy (MariFan). At least as far as structure and game-mechanics. I get the appeal of both ways, and naturally, it isn’t a cut and dried case (although I do struggle to think of a Japanese game I would mistake for a non-Japanese game).

What I’m moving towards, is that the idea of what a game is or is supposed to be, diverted, and it might be hard for the other side to see the good in the opposite, sometimes. The Ultimoom worldview, is filled with the love of the newest technology, algorithms for procedural generation, online multiplayer, world-shattering demanding graphics and a strive for giving players freedom to breath in these digital worlds. The MariFan world exaggerates style, confines movement to grids, scores everything (’Hey, A-, maybe try harder next time!’), and in some cases, is a bit humble about how complex the technology behind the curtains actually is.

Maybe everything I’ve written so far is kind of acceptable to everyone. You can like both, you can like one, sometimes the other a bit, but the description fits. I do have to get a bit polemic, because I mostly like the MariFan way, and seeing stuff like the creator of the many participants in Indie Game the Move: Life After, shred modern Japanese games, made me want to stand up for that small, massively populated island-nation’s recent efforts.

Story of Our Lives

I love engaging in complex plots. Game of Thrones? Fuck yeah. Baldur’s Gate 2? My African-American-brother-but-with-a-slightly-derogatory-term. Final Fantasy 7? My body is ready. Assassin’s Creed? Eh...

Story is an interesting point in this, because it easily brings several of my ideas to the front: First of all, it’s all a bit silly. You are moving lumps of pixels around with your mouse or analog-stick while very corny dialog is thrown at you, yet you are supposed to be engaged and feel moved by the story. It often works, but when it doesn’t, when the same NPC keeps saying the same line over and over again or when my love interest professes her feelings yet looks at me with dead, polygonal eyes, I laugh at the game. But in Metal Gear Solid 3 I can listen to the corny dialog and cringy voice-acting, while the game allows me to go first-person and look at butts. It’s in it: It’s completely silly. In Grand Theft Auto, I can do everything and go everywhere. Except that door. We didn’t design the inside so it’s locked. Yes we know you have a bazooka, it doesn’t work on doors. But in Japan, the grid is obvious, oftentimes I’m literally locked to it. The designer says ẗhis world is fake, so here is a system to play with. The borders are clearly demarcated, so it shouldn’t break any immersion when you can’t move beyond them. Especially because we never tried to make you think this world was real.

This is also a consequence of how evolving technology changed needs. When you read a book you fill in the games, and many people argue that the realness of the written world in unparalleled, compared to what the movie-version might present. This worked in old games as well: Zelda 1 is ugly and simple as sin, but in what the designers can’t express, my imagination can fill the gap. When graphics become more sophisticated, that doesn’t work, and blemishes become serious problems. Shigeru Miyamoto observes this problem in a 1998 interview (http://shmuplations.com/miyamotodesign/), noting the problems that evolving technology can result in, for graphics. The solution is an exaggerated style. Ocarina of Time might not be strictly speaking beautiful today, but it especially Majora’s Mask, are perfect representations of what the Nintendo 64 could produce. Visually, these games are designed to acknowledge how Nintendo 64 games were supposed to look, not strive for a moving goalpost of realism. The Playstation 1 equivalent, by the way, is probably Final Fantasy IX.

I want to write more about this, but I’ll sum up this opinion piece for now: I call Japanese game design the MariFan worldview, as opposed to the Euro-American, which I call Ultimoom. MariFan acknowledge the often obvious silliness in the video game construct and the games are thus designed around a more systematic design approach, with recognized, clear borders and stylized visuals. MariFan is not better or worse than Ultimoom, but judging MariFan-games by the standards of Ultimoom, denies you of the joys that MariFan is meant to give you.

torsdag den 24. november 2016

The Big Short Game Conundrum pt. 2

I did some more thinking on this idea of a complete game experience in a short time span, without the game feeling shallow.

I thought about how there are some movie scenes you just want to go on forever. They can't, but like a good evening or a rainy morning, you feel like just remaining and soaking in the experience. That doesn't mean these moments are less valuable if they last just five minutes.

Perhaps in this idea is the key to giving the full joy of a game in two hours yet being something deeper. Imagine a game or a story as a line: Your experience moves along and you can't go back. the story moves on and you can't get less experienced or take back time given.

Now, on the line, mark the best scenes in the story. If the game is a line as well, these areas can be expanded. You don't have to move on from the good scenes, but if you do, you've still experienced a complete game. You can keep playing and getting better, finding new crooks and details.

I imagine a game with such a fast path. In this game, you can be done in two hours. You learned something new, got good at it, connected with the world and felt fulfilled. Or you have have found something bigger somewhere, that might make you go off on your own path. I'd like to make this sort of game.

mandag den 21. november 2016

The short big game conundrum

It can be hard to find time for games. They are big, time consuming and skill demanding. Others have thought this and so short games have been popular recently. I was interested in the beginning but quickly felt they were shallow experiences that wasted the potential of games and ignored the creative heights that games have achieved since the early eighties.
But I'm not willing to throw away the idea of short games. I want short big games. Watching my favorite movies I don't feel like they are shallow despite their length and so I'm thinking games can be big in just two hours. Yet I don't watch interactive movies, I feel like that's what some creators tried to make, and it was what left me hollow. How can you make a two hour experience that's complete and satisfying, and still gives you the feeling like you could play it again, over and over? I'm not talking about a short experience with high replay value, but something that you could play just once and still feel like you did the whole thing, without it being missing in content.
If I imagine a movie taking place at a small castle or church, I would want to show it in such a way that you'd feel like it was a real place and every corner could be turned. But in a game, I'd want to let you turn every corner. To achieve the same grandeur as a movie, I think I'd need to imply depth at every level, rather than try to craft it.
There is no answer for me yet, it's a design contradiction. And furthermore, it's a mix of worlds that hard to unify: no one becomes a master at watching a movie by watching it a lot, and you're not done with a game after two hours, even if you've seen every mechanic. You find a game fun if you can repeat the same actions over and over again without being tired. A movie probably shouldn't repeat the same shot ad nauseum.
Maybe I'm searching for the counter part in the wrong place. Cooking is a series of repetitive actions that you probably can do over and over again, without being bored (if you have good tools and ingredients) yet you have seen all aspects of cutting a carrot after the first time. But you wouldn't pay someone 60 dollars to let you cook a meal once.
I keep coming back to my idea of game making being like instrument crafting. No one tries to make a two-hour-mastered guitar. Then again, guitar makers make the same instrument over and over again. Not even sequels, just the same string instrument.
Games really are sixty-hour-guitars. That's pretty unique. Sure there are some you can play forever, but why would you when there are so many new exciting guitars coming soon?

fredag den 16. september 2016

'The Last Guardian' Can't Succeed

Games like 'Half-Life 3' and 'The Last Guardian' (TLG) have been a long time coming, and seemed to have become industry jokes for never releasing and disappearing without explanation. And then suddenly TLG had a release date (which got pushed a little recently). This morning I saw the creator of the Momodora series lament the hype-hate-train (my term) of TLG.

It wasn't something I'd noticed, but I can only imagine Momodora-persona being correct, that previewers were hating, and I thought 'but of course'. Not because I have a critical view of games journalists (although I do) but because of history.

Many years ago I read about a PS2 game called Ico. Shadow of the Colossus had just been announced and the writer was pining for this new experience after 'feeling' so much through Ico. I had to try that game. I tracked down a copy in good condition and popped it into the PS2 and proceeded to hate every single second of it. The controls were clunky, the main character annoyingly slow, the camera a bother, the graphics were blurry, the environments were empty and the difficulty was janky. I quickly quit and a friend borrowed the game for a few weeks, but didn't get anywhere himself.

Eventually I got it back and tried again, completing it in a single day. I had let the game's oddities settle and suddenly I appreciated the game for its less than stellar aspects while loving what it tried to do: The hand-holding mechanic, the scarce music, slow and deliberate pace. This was an acquired taste and didn't give a damn about how to create a pleasant interactive experience. I posit that this game truly gave rise to the aspect of indie games concerning walking simulators and attempting to let players experience serious story telling. I contend that others have succeeded, but Ico succeeded in what it did. Eventually coming to love the game, I too looked forward to Shadow of the Colossus and appreciated that as well for all its quirks while succeeding in what it was trying to do. Clearly it was more 'game-like' in its execution, but still it had clunky controls, blurry graphics and empty scenery.

Time has passed though, and although Ico and Shadow were re-released, few game are made like them. Games with little regard for how games are supposed to be made and only focused on what the creators are interested in succeeding. Games are more often than either good or bad at being enjoyable experiences.

It might sound obvious, but I suspect TLG will continue in the vein of Ico and Shadow. And after so many years of getting games that are designed to succeed in a certain mannerism, it is going to be hard to argue that TLG can get away with being in development for so long and not be a truly pleasant and well-designed experience like most action-adventures are striving to be. I don't know what took almost ten years in this game's development process, but I suspect it won't be appreciated for what it is doing right away.

fredag den 26. august 2016

Tiny Lua Program for People Who Don't Know Code

I 'sketched' this program yesterday on the train, and thought it'd be fun to share, because it's simple and easy to comprehend for people who are new to code. It's written in Lua, but if you know other languages, it's easy enough to decipher. But since you might not know other programming languages, I thought I'd explain it in light detail. I've whited out the unimportant code, that simply makes the program read aloud itself.

The program instructs you to give it some text (handing it some eggs) and will then scramble whatever input you give it, into garbage and output this (scrambled eggs).

To scramble, it picks a random index in the string _s and inserts this character, yolk, of string _s into a new string eggs. It then concatenates the text before and after yolk into a new string _s, and repeats this action until eggs contains all the characters of s.

It's a silly program, but a little cute, and by using the os.execute() function with the say program (does Linux have this as well?), it gives a little more showmanship.


function Scramble (s)
  local _s = "" 
local eggs = ""
_s = s
for i = 1, s:len() do
rndIndex = math.random(_s:len())
yolk = _s:sub(rndIndex, rndIndex)
_s = _s:sub(1, rndIndex - 1) .. _s:sub(rndIndex + 1)
eggs = eggs .. yolk 
return eggs

function Cook ()
instruction = "\nHand me some eggs, will you?\n\n"
say = "say"
os.execute("say Hand me some eggs, will you?")
sentence = io.read("*line")
os.execute("say '" .. sentence .."'")
eggs = Scramble (sentence)
io.write "\nHere you go\n\n"
os.execute("say Here you go")
io.write(eggs .. "\n")
os.execute("say '" .. eggs .. "'")
io.write("\nWhoops, seems I got some shells in there.\n")
    os.execute("say Whoops, seems I got some shells in there")


Cook ()