Trying to understand how games work

Monthly Archives: April 2013

2013-03-28 15.06.29

People aren’t always aware of what goes into making a game, unlike with movies and all of those making of documentaries you can find.

It’s made personalities out of the people in the film industry, something games don’t have as much. Which is a shame because they have some nice people.

There’s nice people here at Mythic Entertainment, they must be nice to invite me, a total stranger who has had little experience writing about videogames professionally.

Paul Barnett, the General Manager had decided to invite me after finding this blog through my twitter account. It seemed rather surreal at first, initial emails I had sent back sounded a little hesitant as this is not something I’ve ever had the opportunity to do.

2013-03-28 15.17.35

This is Paul Barnett, the man who invited me to the studio.

After encouragement from university lecturers I took up the offer and made the long trip to America to visit the studio.

The studio takes up the top floor of a big tall building, I kind of expected them to have their own building. Bearing in mind this is the first time I have been to one of these places, it is quite possible the potential scale of an environment like this may have been over-inflated in my imagination.

There’s also a lot of press about game development being an incredibly stressful job to work in with no free time, this place didn’t come across like that at all, it came across a bit more relaxed and friendly. Sure all the people working there have their own things to worry about and stress over, but they all found the time to talk to me, and they were all very polite.

Mythic are usually known for their MMORPGs Dark Age of Camelot and Warhammer Online, but recently have transitioned into developing for mobile platforms.

They had managed to sit me down with people of very different disciplines. Designers, quality assurance, art, localisation, audio and video. It was fascinating to learn more about all the kinds of work that goes into making a game.

2013-03-28 17.07.14

Nick LaMartina creates music and video for the studio.

Nick LaMartina, director of Audio and Video at the studio came across as incredibly passionate about his work. Currently he is working on the Ultima Forever soundtrack, and since the game is taking influence from Ultima IV it’s encompassing that game’s score into it’s own.

Different devices come with different challenges. Working for iPad, art now has to be scalable, Art Director Pete Lipman was telling me. Large amounts of detail could be lost when players zoom in and out, something artists now have to account for.

These people aren’t going to get so much recognition, even though they put so much work into everything. It’s a shame really.

This is of course a place where videogames are made, and I got to see some raw, unfinished prototypes. I’m used to seeing games as fully functional experiences, so it was a little different to be playing something incomplete.

With prototypes, I learned that you have to understand not everything is going to be perfect. You can come across a bug, or find that something hasn’t been quite implemented yet. What they show off are ideas that could eventually be put to good use. I’ve been made to sign a non-disclosure agreement, so I can’t really talk about everything I have seen, some of that might not even see the light of day.

2013-03-28 15.03.13

One game I did see was Ultima Forever, an interesting take on Ultima for the iPad. It feels like it could be a good attempt to bring PC-style Action-RPGs onto a tablet. I took up quests and explored a few dungeons, as you do in most RPGs. It controlled rather well on the system, holding your finger on the screen to move the character, and tapping monsters to kill was fun and simple to pull off.

I got some time as the Warrior and Mage class, the Warrior being your usual hit-things up close strong man, and the Mage preferring to attack from afar.

The structure of dungeons did intrigue me as well, intending to be more bite-sized affairs around 5-15 minutes in length, as opposed to the gargantuan length dungeon raids in most MMORPGs that can last hours.

I had a great time at Mythic, and another opportunity to do something similar in the future could be very fun indeed. It was interesting to learn about what goes on backstage, see games that most of the public don’t know about yet, and speak to the people behind them as well.

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