In my head now, this post and what follows is probably going to backfire on me at some point, but whatever, I've learned to not take things personally and live with the consequences. So read on as I tell you a story about the time I was in game development (game design, if you want me to be upfront here), what I did back then, the love hate relationship with GAF, and what I'm posting this now. So, where do I start...
My name is Harold, and I once worked at Tecmo Koei Canada for four years as a designer and a programmer right up to getting downsized this time last year.
...and the cynical part of me knows that I've lost half of you already because I worked at the studio that made Fatal Inertia and Warriors Legends of Troy, but I like to think you'd read on more.
Before I go any further: I still have nothing but great things to say about the people and the opportunity I had working at Koei. This isn't meant to be a bitter "fuck you" statement, but just a more reflective look at my time there. Was it shitty I got laid off? Sure, but for you guys who just sees the end result, you too can justify why it happened.
Starting in mid 2007, I had worked on 4 different titles: Prey The Stars (DS), a port of Warriors Orochi 2 and the Dyansty Warrior 6 for the PSP and ending off with Warriors Legends of Troy. Initially I started out as a programmer on Prey The Stars, and I slowly transitioned over doing production and design work on the other titles. On Warriors Legends of Troy, I had joined the project maybe somewhere north of halfway through production, and I was in charge of designing one of the boss fights, in addition to adjusting a lot of the combat and AI routines.
...and given how WELL LOVED Troy was around these parts (aka, “not a single fuck was given” or “you suck and you should feel bad”), I hope you feel better now, since many others and I were laid off pretty much immediately after the project shipped.
Did I know that the game wasn't that good? Yes. As a gamer, I knew it had it's problems. Is it Metacritic 44/54 bad? It's a bit harsh, but most of them to me as a gamer, is a fair assessment. Then why didn't I fix any of it? I wish I could, I really do. I wish I had more time to fine-tune things, I wish I had more time to fix things, and I wish I had jumped in the project earlier and gave my two cents in the direction earlier, but it's one of those things where my hands were tied even before I knew what to begin with. Yet despite all that, I'm still very proud of what the team had achieved, given the constraints we had to deal with. I'm not sure if people want me to go into anymore specific details, so feel free to ask me below and I'll answer as much as I can without breaking any NDAs, etc.
But enough about what I've worked on, and onto the main point of why I'm posting this: the Developer-GAF relationship.
First off, I have to thank the people around here. Of the ones who's talked to me either through twitter or in real life in GAF meetups have been fantastic. I've often introduced myself to people on GAF IRL where I work, but I asked that they keep that info on the downlow on GAF, and for the most part, they've respected that, and I have yet to be called out on something like that yet. So thanks, I'm sure there are plenty of industry folks around here that really appreciate the privacy.
So, what is there to say about how game companies sees GAF and vice versa?
Edit: In hindsight, seeing ShockingAlberto delete the comment, I'm not going to dig it back up again, so I'm going to bury that whole chunk and mention something else, so instead, I present you, the GAF Warriors Legends of Troy thread: Warriors: Legends of Troy -- Why didn't anyone tell me?!?
This thread, and subsequent threads on games I've worked on, has always been fascinating to me: dealing with the nice and not so nice comments. And it's pretty much the reason why I see most devs suggest to never read or post on GAF. It's a cynical, it's bitter, and it's rage inducing. Hey, let's pull some choice quotes:
lol. It's from KOEI. How can it *not* suck?
yeah, I lost interest when I read this. now it will be crap in a way everybody can agree on.
Sorry guys for calling you out. If I were you, I'd do (and have done) the same thing myself. If you've seen me around racing game threads (Blur, Split Second, Burnout, Ridge Racer etc, yes I love my racing games) you've seen me say things pretty similar, both defending and calling out devs on their bullshit. I recall at one point that I've ranted so much about the new Ridge Racer both in person and online that I got an e-mail from a producer on the game talking to be about it (in a very open a frank design discussion, which I really appreciated). From a gaming enthusiast side, it's great. It's a tad cynical, but it cuts the the BS and keeps people honest as long as they know not to take it personally.
Is this still from the Bagged Milk team behind that rubbish Wipeout clone?
Just wait on Dynasty Warriors 7.
I wasn't even on the project back when these were posted, and I felt like I had to throw and give a giant "fuck you" to every reply. Yet throughout the whole thing I know I can't talk about the game and my involvement, because it'd break all sorts of NDA. That part was perhaps the most depressing for me, has a gamer who knows and understand games, but now am sitting on the side of development, and knowing the restrictions and limitations, and not be able to do a damn thing about it. No matter how hard I try, it always ended up feeling like a personal attack: it's like everyone of those posters saying, "you're shit, all your ideas are shit, and you as a gamer are wrong". I'm suppose to take in everyone comments as they come, and yet I can't even defend myself or the team I worked with?
In the past 4 years, I'm sure I've rage-typed and rage-deleted thousands of potential replies I had. The temptation for me to reply was strong, but it was something that I've now learned to live with and try not to take anything personally. I've seen people, especially developers, who take the position of “don't read GAF, it's an echo chamber of bullshit drivel”, but I personally think there's still some truth in what's being said. I am still very much on the side of “read everything and take in feedback” rather than “ignore the rubbish that gets posted”. In the office, I was the “GAF” guy, posting quick observations and feedback to the team our game, and even other games that are in similar space. Did that label work against me in the office? I'm sure it did. I know that there was a point where I've had opinions and ideas shot down strictly because I represented the vocal minority. Oh well...
So, why post this now? It's been exactly a year since many others and I were downsized, and I want to give this thing some proper closure(don't remember reading about it? Of course you didn't. The same day we got the axe, Sony Online chopped The Agency, and that, obviously got way more coverage than some studio up in Canada that made games that no one was ever too excited about). Some found employment within core games, but many more just packed up and left the industry. Fun facts: less than 50% are in games and game-related positions, and if you want to cut it further down, less than 25% still deal with core games (and I'm lumping in iOS into that group. In the group that got downsized, there was two that formed a company that started working on iOS games.). More than 50% of the programmers packed up and left for business/finance, which in their words, “pay much much better, with much less stress/bullshit”.
I'm sure you can be cynical at this point, and point at the track record of what we've worked on, and say that's damn good reason. You may be right. I can't defend that. What I can say is that the people I've worked with are talented and fantastic people, and in the right circumstance, could have built something interesting and wonderful, and it's a shame that the talent pool has now gone to waste.
And as you can deduce by now by this long post, I'm still unemployed (hence, the complete freedom to talk about stuff). It's been a difficult year, banging on doors, realizing that a) 3+ years isn't a whole lot in design land, and b) everyone is just asking for social and facebook designers now. I'm not here to make a statement on how social and facebook games are bad, but rather the fact that my skills and what I know don't translate directly to those games, and it's kinda odd looking in wondering how any of it works.
If you've made it this far, congratulations. And I'm also sure by this point you've realized that the promise of a free game is really my whole bait for you to check out something I've been working on for the iOS. Oh, did I mention that it's FREE? And it comes with GameCenter Achievements?
Download Sometimes You Just Can't Win
I'll be upfront about it, it's not a game in the traditional sense: the visuals are definitely “designer art”, and “sound” is pretty bad too (getting a designer to do art and sound is probably not a good idea). It probably needs some more balance work, a bit more polish and an actual game. In a way, the game is this weird summarization of me working in games for the last four years. More importantly, it's my therapy session, a proper closure. The game from start to finish, is somewhere around 20 minutes, so it's not a huge timesink if you were wondering.
I ended up writing a full post about the game and how it related to me working in games, and I would encourage you to read it if you end up playing the game. This post is running long now, so I'll just toss the link to a page and you can do the rest from there: Sometimes You Just Can't Win Landing Page
So, yeah, thanks for reading all that. Feel free to ask me anything and I'll see if it's kosher to respond. Feel free to tell me to go to hell to for the bad games I've work on. I understand.