Sunday, January 31, 2010

Metal Gear Solid DS?

Why hasn't there been a Metal Gear Solid (or three) developed for the DS? Perhaps Konami / Kojima Productions does not think the audience is there. I think it is.  Konami / Kojima Productions released Lunar Knights on the DS on 2007, which shows Kojima had some interest in the platform. Perhaps the idea behind Lunar Knights was to capture a different, younger, audience? Unfortunately, that title didn't sell very well in the US. According to the NPD data, Dementium: The Ward sold more copies - which blows my mind. I think the success of the Castlevania series shows that there's an audience for MGS on the DS.

One of my favorite Metal Gear Solid games is the one developed for the Gameboy Color. It is known as Metal Gear Solid in the US, and Metal Gear: Ghost Babel in Japan. According to wikipedia, it is an alternate sequel to the original Metal Gear Solid, "set seven years after Solid Snake's mission in Outer Heaven".

Can you imagine a MGS on the DS? Even an enhanced version of Ghost Babel for the DS would be great. How cool would that be? I think it would be incredible. Even if the visuals are only on a par with the PS1 version, it would be an awesome addition to the DS library! Man, I'd buy two copies: one to play and one for display! :)

C'mon Konami, where's our MGS DS? If you guys don't have the bandwidth right now, Renegade Kid would be honored to develop it for you. Just say the word...


Saturday, January 30, 2010

Jools Watsham's Developer Diary: New Proposals & New Game

Saturday, Jan 30, 2010: It has been a busy week. We wrapped up a playable demo of a DSiWare game that we've been working on for a couple of months now - let's call that Jack. I sent the demo out to a few publishers for their review. With that project now parked - awaiting a greenlight - we have started the development of a new original project, which is one of the DS retail titles I mentioned last week - let's call that Spirit. It is a very different genre for us, which is very exciting. In addition to some publishers showing interest in its original form, one of the publishers we're in talks with has also shown some interest in Spirit being applied to one of their licenses, so I am also in the middle of creating a tailored proposal for that. Why would I want to apply a license to it? My, that's a good question! Well, there are a number of reasons: License games typically have larger development budgets. They also receive advertising (that would be a nice change!). And they also typically sell more copies than original titles (due to at least one of the previous two factors). Now, I know there's a lot of stigma surrounding licensed titles, but I always think back to titles like Capcom's Aladdin and Mickey Mouse on the SNES and remember that a developer can create a license title and retain quality and respect if they're focused on making a great game - which we are.

Earlier in the week I created a new proposal for a different licensed title - code-named Stars. All of this secret code-talk is going to get confusing, isn't it? :) It is another publisher we are in talks with regarding Spirit. I should receive feedback from them next week on both Spirit and Stars. Hm, Spirit and Stars... sounds like a good name for a game!

We were supposed to receive a creative brief on the HUGE licensed title from the HUGE publisher this week, but it looks like it is slightly delayed. This is fairly typical, but I am really looking forward to checking it out and creating a proposal from it. Let's hope it arrives early next week. We'll codename that, Red.

Another title from proposals-of-the-past has popped its head up again (codenamed Shapes) - showing interest from a publisher - so that'll be interesting to see if that goes anywhere.

Oh, I also received confirmation of my E3 pass for this year's show. Man, last year's was so awesome. So, I am really looking forward to attending E3 again now that it has returned to its former glory.

I hope you're having a great day. TTYL.


Thursday, January 28, 2010

How I Design Games: Three P's

The three P's is a game design approach that I believe in. If your desire is to increase your games' chances of being successful and reduce its risk in the marketplace, I think the three P's can help.

Use the three P's as a guide when designing a video game concept. You may ask, why is this important? Why not just make good games, right? I truly wish the video game business was as pure as that. It was a little more like that in the 8-bit / 16-bit era with the NES (Famicom), SNES (Super Famicom), and Genesis (Mega Drive). But, the Utopian approach of "build it and they will come" has become increasingly more difficult to achieve.

It is important to consider your audience(s). Now, this assumes that you're a commercial artist that is interested in more than just pleasing yourself. If your goal is to make an artistic statement with a personal expression of ones' inner self through the medium of video games, you should probably stop reading this and get back to your inner expressing. There are three audiences that you should consider, the three Ps':

The first P is Players.
The second P is Publishers.
The third P is Press.

You may find it strange, and possibly feel a little dirty, when seeing publishers and press listed as important audiences. This gets back to the desire of wanting your game to be successful. Publishers and press are integral to the success of your game. The folks in publisher and press land are nice people - give them a chance to prove it. Here's a breakdown of why each P is important to consider when designing your game.

This is the most obvious P, of course. The most important audience to please is the players. If players do not find your game interesting, fun, scary, challenging, cool, and/or awesome, then you have failed. Hopefully, you are a player yourself, and that is why you have the desire to make your own games. Tap into your inner player and ensure you're geeking out inside (or outside) about our idea. Have other people play your game. Make sure people are able to understand and play your game - without you coaching them. The game should speak for itself. Make sure they like it. Watch them play it. Take note of their successes, failures, and frustrations when playing your game. Players are the one audience you can not take for granted or over look. At the end of the day, if you miss the boat on this P it's all over.

Why are publishers on the short list? Because they give you the money you need to make your game (unless you go the investor route, but that's different story). They also put money into PR and marketing. They are the champions of your game. Get the publisher on board, and everything will sail much smoother. What is the ultimate desire of a publisher? To make money. Convince a publisher that your game will make them money, and you're a made man (or woman). That is not to say publishers aren't interested in quality too, but that's what the other two P's are for.

Press? Why should I care what the press thinks? The press are important in keeping your game on track in terms of design, quality, and value. Good reviewers will tear your game apart, measuring it against the best in the genre. Review scores are important. You'd better make sure your game measures up, or the score you receive will reflect any shortcomings. If you can get your metacritic / game rankings score in the 70's or above it will not only help the overall success of your game, but also help pave the way to making your next game.

Now, some of you may instantly want to look at the games that I've designed to see if this approach works. OK, that's fair. Let's do that.

Dementium: The Ward:
I'll be the first to admit that this game was not designed with the approach of the three P's entirely in mind. Due to the fact that Dementium: The Ward is a mature game on the Nintendo DS, its risk factor goes up, which equates to publishers not being convinced of its monetary value in the market place. However, when we shopped this game around (as a playable demo) we received offers from three publishers. Now, it is important to realize that this was in 2007. The DS market was a very different place then. And, publishers were willing to take a little more risk than they are today. In hind sight, I wouldn't have done anything differently. The game received awards and scored well, and it sold enough copies to warrant a sequel. The aim of Dementium: The Ward was to be different; a throbbing bloody thumb, sticking out in the sea of fluffy bunnies and blue skies. It made its' mark, and helped put Renegade Kid on the map. Well, the map of DS land anyway.

The design of Moon was slightly more in line with the three P's. A basic summary of the game could look something like this: "A game like Metroid Hunters in a market where player's want a sequel to Metroid Hunters". Is that the best way to design a game? No, perhaps not, but the game was a lot of fun to make and critics agree that Moon out-Metroid's Metroid Hunters. It scored higher than Dementium, and received multiple awards - IGN's Best Shooter 2009, Editor's Choice Award, etc. We delivered a title that quenched the Metroid thirst, while delivering its own flavor of space adventure, with a fraction of the budget and time afforded to Nintendo's Metroid Hunters. Success! The thing I didn't count on was the lack of advertising the game would receive. To be fair, there were some glossy print ads run in magazines in November 2008. But, we delayed the game to make it better, which resulted in a January 2009 release. I have to give credit to Mastiff for doing the right thing in terms of quality; allowing us to make the game all it could be. But, at what cost? Due to the delay, there was not enough funds to run ads on-line or anywhere else the day the game was released or any time after that. The result is a critically-acclaimed and award-winning game that not many people know about. Exposure of your game is key, obviously.

Dementium II:
This game is due out April 20, 2010. So, the jury's out on whether the game is good or successful. Our approach to this title was to build upon the success of the first game, rather than reinvent it. We improved practically everything, including the save system, enemy re-spawning, visual variety in locations and enemies. We added jump/crouch, and allow for dual wielding of the flashlight and single-handed weapons. I am truly proud of the game, and eagerly await everyone's thoughts on the game. So far, the previews have been very positive. So, we're off to a good start.

Anyway, I need to get back to work. I hope you enjoyed this little peak into our world. Let me know your thoughts.


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

My DSiWare Fun - Episode 1: Dark Void Zero and Escapee GO!

This is a little column I'd like to call My DSiWare Fun. This is where I waffle about my findings on DSiWare. Chances are that any game I write about here is a decent one. Why waste time writing about bad ones, right?

This week I had the pleasure of downloading two gems:


My Description:
Pitched as a "lost project" of the NES era that has been resurected after 20 years; Dark Void Zero is a 2D version of its' big brother on the 360 / PS3. You pick up different weapons, fly using a jetpack, blast enemies, and collect keycards to progress to new areas.

My Experience:
I am having a lot of fun with Dark Void Zero. It has tight controls and a good set of weapons, abilities, and enemies to experience. I haven't completed the game yet, but it does not seem to have a save progress feature. It does include checkpoints, which is great. But, it still may be a little hardcore for some. Art and sound is pleasingly retro.

My Advice:
Buy it - it's five bucks!


My Description:
Guide a female patient out of a whacky hospital, while guards try to stop you.

My Experience:
It almost feels like an enhanced Pac-Man. I am really enjoying the game. Despite my reference to Pac-Man, this game feels fresh. The tension created by the chase is just great. Art and sound are executed well.

My Advice:
Buy it - it's two bucks!!

Until the next installment of My DSiWare Fun, go out there in DSiWare Land and have fun with your Nintendo Points.


Sunday, January 24, 2010

Dementium II Delay & My New Blog

I am receiving a lot of messages from people who are unsure of the release date for Dementium II. I am sorry for any confusion.

I am told that due to a manufacturing delay, Dementium II will be released April 20th, 2010.

This gives everyone a little extra time to save their pennies for the anticipated release of what IGN calls "leagues above the original both in technology and in overall execution".

Please don't forget to pre-order your copy of Dementium II today. The first 1000 pre-orders receive a signed poster of the creepy box art image. Sweet!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

E3 2009

Here's one of my favorite video blogs. E3 2009. Gotta love E3!

Jools Watsham's Developer Diary: Looking for gigs...

I will continue to upload video blogs via YouTube and add them here. You can access my previous video blogs here.

Just to bring you up to speed with what has happened prior to this week: Since E3 (May 2009) I've been in talks with publishers for our next game. And, unsurprisingly we are still in talks with no game signed. Yikes! We completed Dementium II for Nintendo DS in November 2009, when it was approved by Nintendo. Yes! Always a great day when you receive that email.

Dementium II has been met with extremely positive response in its previews, which is simply awesome. Typically, previews are more factual than impressions. To receive such positive feedback in previews can be somewhat rare. For example, IGN's Mark Bozon had this to say:

"Dementium is back alright, and it's shaping up to be a far better - and more chilling - experience than the first game."

"It's apparent in my first few hours with the game that Dementium II is leagues above the original both in technology and in overall execution."

"For me the first few hours of the game have been a mix of admiration for the construction and design of the game, mixed with the occasional startled jump or panic-charged sprint from area to area."

Very nice - thanks Mark! Glad you're liking it. Here's the link. Now, onto more current events...

Saturday, Jan 23, 2010: This week has been quite eventful. Currently, we have about six potential projects that we're talking with publishers about. Three of them are DSiWare games, Two of them are DS retail (in a box, on a shelf), and one is an XBLA game.

I have been courting one of the publishers since May 2009, when I met with them at E3. It is quite incredible that it can take that long (and longer) to secure a deal. I showed them our Maximilian demo, as well as a current build of Dementium II. They really like what we're doing on the DS. They're currently showing some interest in taking one of our DSiWare concepts and slapping their IP on it, which would essentially result in a re-skinning of the current design: new artwork / same gameplay.

One of the DS retail games I just sent out to publishers on Jan 21, 2010. I created a three page document that outlines the major features of the concept, as well as sales numbers of similar titles, and a milestone schedule showing dates and costs. I sent it to 16 publishers... yeah, that's a lot. And, you would think that it will surely find a home, right? Let's hope so. It is a concept that both Gregg and I are really excited about. It is a genre we've wanted to work on for a long time. It is not an FPS. It is not a platformer. What I like about this game concept is the combination of creative fun and sales data to back it up. Often, games can fall into one of those categories, but it can be difficult to find a game that you want to work on that falls into both. I've heard back from a couple of publishers who have some interest. One suggested an XBLA version of it, so that's where that came from.

The other DS retail game is almost too good to be true. It is a HUGE licensed title with a HUGE publisher. I am very excited by the prospect of it, but I can't let myself get too excited as projects can easily slip away for one of a 1000 reasons. I have been told that we'll receive a creative brief by the end of next week. We will then create a one page write up of our concept, which I will then fly out to present to them in person. Man, it would be amazing if we landed this deal. It could quite possibly turn into an annual project, which would provide a great sense of security for Renegade Kid. Always searching for the next project is very stressful. Alleviating that a little with an on-going deal would be simply wonderful.

OK, that's about it for now. I hope you're having a great day. Talk to you later.