Mommy's Best Games, Inc. is an independent game developer founded in 2007. This is a view behind the scenes of our game development and marketing!


Thursday, December 20, 2012

XXL is Certifiable

Serious Sam Double D XXL has completed Microsoft's extensive 'Certification' testing process and is ready for XBLA!

It's coming really soon! 
Since the game involves multiple parties including ourselves (the developers), the release date has to be approved by several other groups. As such, I don't know yet exactly when the game will be released, but it won't be in 2012 (surprise!? :)

I'd imagine within a month or two you'll be stacking bee guns, chainsaws, and giant cannons like a pro!

As a bonus, I've updated the box art. It's not dramatically different, as I liked the original format, but I've tried to improve it some.
New box art! Click to zoom.
The new box art has better context. Before it showed Sam and Huff standing on a mountain of corpses, but all the monsters were hidden by the title! Thus, it was just.. those guys.. standing there in the desert.

The new art raises up the monster pile, but also makes it more identifiable as dead monsters, and lowers the visual clutter a bit by silhouetting the edges.

Even the title got touched up, I made sure the middle 'ouble' part was readable even when in a tiny image (like on the Xbox marketplace on your TV).

Finally, I went with a more abstract 'sunlight' theme for the background, instead of the noncommittal desert look I had originally, and I zoomed in a little closer on Sam and Huff. 

Here's the original box, for comparison.
Old box art! Not bad, but I wanted to improve it!
Note my sloppy 'whatever' sort of desert. It was meant to not distract you, but it's just sorta blobby. Also the monster pile is not as interesting, and much harder to understand.

It's funny because I still like them both, but I think the new one's monster pile is much more interesting and fits better.

New, old, who cares--I wanna stack some guns and fight some monsters!
Soon... soon... soon...

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Fox News Articulation

I was quoted in not just one, but two articles today on Take cover!

Quotes from me were taken from a phone call with a journalist from their site, asking me about my thoughts on video games and violence. He was curious to talk after he read my post here about the idea of the entire industry taking a break from making violent video games for a few years. (I know I would have a tough time abstaining from making violent games, but creatively I think we'd all make some amazing stuff.)
Ahh.. a simpler time when violence was viewed sideways. (Source: Midway Games)

Obviously my phone call with him was much longer than just those few quotes in the articles. I figured I'd expand a bit on those thoughts.


Breadth of Possibilities in Games

The first article is about a new study from Ohio State University which says that if you play violent video games for 3 days, you show more aggressive tendencies afterwards. It sounds like there's plenty of questions remaining, such as 'how long do these tendencies last' and 'does the aggression level flatline'. Also note how the 'aggression' was measured in the study.

The Fox News article basically says that violent video games are top sellers, and this new study says they can make you more aggressive. I said:

“When you think about the whole spectrum of human emotion*, violence is just one little sliver on there. You can think of so many other things that we could explore in video games,” he told
“Video games can do all those things. It’s such a young art form.”
(*'Emotion', I meant to say 'expression')

I'd like to add that I think violent games are fine. But I also would like as many non-violent ones as well. Basically as much high-quality variety as we as a creative industry can muster is the goal. Violence in games can be a very satisfying stress relief. I feel like they can actually relieve aggression rather than encourage (but obviously that could just be me). Regardless, with so many creative people involved, I think video games can contribute positively overall to culture, and we as developers should strive to help enrich people's lives.

Violent Games, Sales, and Audience

The second article explores if video games are getting increasingly more violent. I think generally envelope-pushing will continue. The article doesn't present any in-depth analysis such as the number of shooting games as a percentage of all games released over the years (which would be a pretty big undertaking since it should probably measure all games on the web as well). It does bring up Bulletstorm which incorporated specific, original violence as part of it's gameplay.
ESRB ratings are very successful at keeping the most violent games out of children’s hands. But as in-game violence spreads, it becomes increasingly hard to separate the Sim Cities form the shooters.
Even the humorous PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, a fun fighter aimed squarely at younger kids, includes “crude humor” and “violence,” according to the ESRB. That’s because of the community itself, explained Nathan Fouts, founder of video game maker Mommy’s Best Games.
“I think that has to do with the number of people and the people that are playing video games,” he told “We’ve got a catch-22 right now: younger kids are playing.” And therefore, developers are writing games for those kids.
“That’s the kind of thing that’s fun and exciting when you’re a teenager,” Fouts said. He believes games like Portal 2, Flower and Journey signal a shift towards less violent games.
I don't think I explained my point very well, so I'll try again.
Violent video games sell well. If you look at the portion of all games sales, compared to violent game sales, then compare that to a similar fraction for books or movies, does violence sell proportionately better for video games than other mediums? I'd expect it does. And my suggestion is, violent video games sales are proportionately higher than other entertainment because the number game players are younger and more interested in exploring digital violence.
When you're younger, it's very interesting to think about violence. Growing up, I used to play 'war' all the time with my siblings with plastic guns, running around outside. I also loved to play video games of all kinds including Super Mario Bros 3, but also Mortal Kombat. I still play a variety of games (enjoying El Shaddai, City Tuesday, Black Knight Sword, and Qrth-Phyl right now).

I'm guessing people over 50 contribute proportionately to more book, music, and movie sales than they do video games sales. As the variety of games commercially available on a large public scale broadens, and games are played among more diverse ages of people, I think the number of violent games that dominate sales charts will continue towards violent/non-violent distributions similar to books and movies.

Games and Children

Scene from POSTAL 2  (source Running With Scissors). It's true, I worked on this game!
And lastly, some full disclosure: I worked on the notorious POSTAL 2. I still like the game a lot and am proud of it, mainly because the player has free choice. The player can progress in the game even if you don't kill people, as opposed to most FPS. Unprovoked player violence has strong repercussions. If you start acting violent in the game, the innocent NPCs react (as do the police) and cause the game to get harder for you. There are no points scored as you kill things, no direct rewards. I'm hope it goes without saying, but I don't think children should play this or anything like it!

From what I can see the ESRB ratings board is very useful for parents to understand what is in the game. As a parent, you need a baseline as to what the game could contain so as to help gauge whether or not kids should be playing it. But nothing beats sitting with your kids for a few minutes to watch them play the game itself. Parents--ask them about the game too, ask them what they did in it, what they liked, and why. Do it on a regular basis too, keeping up with these things will help you understand what they're experiencing.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

>This< Close for XXL!

Serious Sam Double D XXL is juuuuuuust about finished with its bug fixes, and ready to enter its first (and hopefully only) round of Xbox Live Arcade Certification testing!

The coop version of the Ornithocheirus mini-boss fight.

Serious Sam Double D launched on Steam in August 2011.  Since then, we added a ton of new features, from coop play to stacks of new guns, inevitably introducing new problems. Examples of a few new bugs and their fixes include:
  • Crashes in between levels when one thread was saving data and another was loading.
  • Occasionally saving at a checkpoint and reloading would actually return you to the level start.
  • Pulling the MU storage device right when it saved showed the wrong message (said it was out of storage space, which was cute, because in a way, it was! Since, you know, there was no storage device, and no storage space since it had been yanked. Anyway, fixed)
  • Dino mini-boss duo-fight showed the wrong health if one of the creatures died but the other still lived (showed zero). 
  • Hero homing rockets and bullets would seek bad guys, but also seek neutral dinosaurs even before they got mad at you.
So yeah, all that and many more little, itsy-bitsy issues have been cleared up and now we're waiting on some odd policy issues to be sorted out.. then I think we get to submit it!

In promotional news, I took a coding break to record voice over for detailed videos about all the new gun upgrades. I had met the chaps at New Albany Production House when we were showing our games in public recently and we all decided to give working together a go. Recording went great! I should have that video available in another week or two.

In addition there's also a sweet, new, completely bonkers trailer re-introducing Serious Sam Double D XXL coming out really soon--watch for it!