As some of you may or may not know, I’ve recently started my degree to study these things that we all know and love – video games. I’ve only been studying this since the start of September and while it’s had it’s perks like saying I’m ‘researching’ when I’m queueing up at midnight for the release of Assassin’s Creed 3, it’s really opened my eyes into the world of video games and how much time and effort is needed to create them.
One of the first things I learnt, and it’s somewhat an obvious one, is that there is a hell of a lot of work that goes into them. You may think “a year is a long enough time to create a game, why have they not released it yet?” Truth is, the amount of work that goes into creating a game that developers will sit back from and know people will be genuinely interested in playing it can take some time. I know from my own short experience, when working in groups on a Tuesday morning, trying to come up with something then even ourselves would play nevermind other people would play was a difficult task. Thoughts ranged from having a small Leonardo Da Vinci bomber game to the next Angry Birds spin off. Trying to find out what game mechanics would work well together and whether it had been done before is no easy task. I know that normally when I pick up a game, I start comparing it to other games that I’ve played that are similar and to be honest, if something works well in one game that I’ve enjoyed in the past, why would I not enjoy this game? For example, 99.9% of all FPS when stripped back to the bare bones of the game are a case of running from point A to point B, shooting enemies in sight. Now think about it, how many shooters are out on the market right now if you popped down to your local GAME or Gamestop. Just as a start, we’ve got the Call of Duties, the Battlefields, the Medal of Honor’s but just to name a few AAA titles nevermind those that are getting sold at £20 because no-one heard of it. All the same core game mechanic and yet each dressed differently to suit their own following of fans. This has made me think that are game developers either losing the imagination to come up with something that hasn’t been done before and that will be new on the market or are they just too scared to take the plunge? This is a different topic of discussion but still, it’s a point that’s been brought to my attention during my short time studying video games.
For those wondering what I’m doing exactly at university, I’m concentrating on the programming behind the video games, no easy task for anyone I assure you. Why do you think I drink so much coffee – it’s to keep some of my sanity! Nevertheless, I appreciate now when developers take some more time to carry out some debugging and testing on their games. Yes it’s a pain in the arse when we have to wait an extra couple of months for a game we’ve waited long enough for but the debugging process can be a long one. In all fairness, the games I’ve created thus far are definitely nothing Bethesda would be proud to release but even on that small scale, the debugging/testing process has been a bit of a long one. Now this could be put down to the fact that I’m still learning the language and what not but considering that compared to a game of Skyrim or Mass Effect size – that’s a hell of a lot of lines of code just to get that troll that’s chasing after you to move or to get Shepard to shoot so to test everything will require a long amount of time and something that I’ve done before heading off to uni, and rest assured, it’s a soul destroying task to test a video game.
Speaking of getting things to move, to any animators that could be reading this, I must bow down at your feet. In a lecture one day, we were told “Animation is a true art form that takes a good while to master” to which I’m thinking in the back of my head “How hard can it be?” Turns out – very! Even to get my poor wee Jimmy to walk without him looking like he has invisible rollerskates or without his arms flailing all over the place is a fair task and a half. In short, I’ve found a new respect for animators and will always be a bit envious of when I see a good one. From doing this, I do find I think twice about criticizing on how well an animation is.
The final point I’m going to make here is that even before I went to the big bad and drunken world of university, I was writing game reviews simply because, I liked writing them and wanted to get my point across on how I felt about those video games. Since beginning to learn the inner workings of them and how they’re developed, this has just made me open up my eye when I’ve been playing games, even for fun. I really hope that this will reflect in my future game reviews that I write up whereby I’m picking out the parts of the game I enjoy more and explaining myself what aspects of the game I don’t like and why I don’t like them.
If anyone has got any questions for me or want to know any more information about my course, feel free to drop a comment below or catch me on Twitter (@KirstySays) but for now, keep your eyes peeled on a future Assassin’s Creed game having my name in the credits. Oh how I can dream!
I have always regarded programmers/CG teams (I don’t even know how to categorise it it’s that alien to me) amongst the most talented of any profession. Art is easy; writing is easy; creating an entire world using equations and a mouse? Absolutely terrifying.