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MAME work and other stuff
February 17, 2017 Haze Categories: General News. 12 Comments on A non-emulation post

I haven’t really been doing much emulation work lately, even after trying to get back into it I found it to be even less enjoyable than before, just feels like all the fun has been sucked out of working on it, so decided to just delete my MAME account over at Github and get on with other things.

What I have been doing is looking more at the previous generation of games, building a nice collection of Playstation 3 games and trying to expand my knowledge and understanding of things. How games work, not just in terms of code, but logic, systems, balance etc. has always fascinated me, seeing how genres advance, get split up, get combined and how new ideas get thrown into the mix and evolve over time, all that type of thing; this more than anything else is what I’m passionate about researching and building an understanding of.

I always felt that I had a good knowledge for generations before the PS3, especially the arcade side of things from working on MAME for so long, and many of the home systems right from the 8-bit era through to 32-bit, but having been rather put off by some things I was seeing in newer generations I haven’t had that much interest in studying them until now.

I’m not sure why I value this kind of knowledge so greatly, maybe it’s because I do at some point see myself more in a ‘design’ role, looking at game mechanics, refining how the games actually play etc. supported by some programming skills, rather than primarily a programming one, but despite a huge depth to my knowledge already it’s definitely not an easy role to really get a foot in the door with. Maybe it’s just personal curiosity, maybe I just want to create the games in my head and play them out, I definitely do that all the time anyway.

Anyway, something I’ve been considering for a while is doing mini-reviews of the games I’ve picked up, highlighting things I enjoyed, things that irritated me about them, ways in which I feel they could have been improved, or ideas that weren’t used to their full potential, or cases where things have really stood out. I guess there’s potential for it to be a little controversial because some of the games that actually put me off the generation entirely for a long time are ones that others seem to cherish, Heavy Rain comes to mind.

Outside of building the PS3 collection and playing those games I’ve spent an awful lot of time with Terraria on the PC, there are very few games I’d describe as masterpieces, but that is one of them and on top of being an excellent game it has one of the most enthusiastic development teams I’ve seen, always putting out new feature updates, fixing bugs, it’s twice the game it was when I paid for it and probably the only game where I’d be quite happy to buy it again just because I can appreciate the work being done on it, definitely the kind of project I’d jump at the opportunity to be involved with the design of because there’s just so much potential.

Honestly tho, I don’t actually know exactly where my life is heading, I’m definitely good at doing emulation work, but I do need to be able to use the creative skills I have in some way and while the arts in a traditional sense aren’t my strong point I think creativity at a more technical, logical level is more my thing and emulation doesn’t really provide any kind of outlet for that.

For now, I’ll collect, analyse, learn, and hope to actually make use of that knowledge one day.

12 Comments

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Good luck with your change in perspective! Everybody needs a creative outlet, even if it’s initially just for fun and you don’t get paid.

Good for you the more you know about games and how they work including these new generation consoles, phones, tablets computers and so on the more you learn and get better at emulating them better, decoding and maybe even making them work better than the original devs could even have imagined, just don’t forget about mame and the many, many years you’ve helped make that project such a awesome success, people sometimes take for granted the emulation scene being able to play games from their youth to adults on their devices and not taking the time to realize how hard it is to make them work, play and enjoy thanks to you and the rest of the emulation teams around the world, so I would like to thank you for your time, effort and dedication on making this possible, it really is appreciated.

Have you ever thought about joining or forking an open source game?

I have, but that’s still mostly ‘code’ and ‘art’ rather than ‘design’ so not moving forward much.

You need a good support team, and a decent codebase around you and from what I’ve seen of Open Source games even the well established ones don’t really have that, it seems a VERY different process to times I’ve done actual industry work and of a completely different standard.

What I’m thinking about is more something that begins in the planning stages of games, systems the games are actually built around, things that get further refined during development based on feedback and how things actually pan out. Of course there are cases where an established game can be expanded on, but from what I’ve seen of Open Source communities resource creation becomes a real problem, so even if you write new code, if you also require new assets (character models, textures, sounds etc.) to support what you’re doing they simply don’t arrive or aren’t to the standards of the existing ones. Every Open Source game I’ve seen has been like stepping back 20 years in time, some are very complex but hidden behind awful interfaces, others just seem to lack the focus of a released piece of software so have lots of systems in place but simply no balancing or real QA.

This isn’t meant as a slam on Open Source fwiw, it’s just an observation and is entirely logical; the people with the skills to do these things to a professional level get hoovered up quickly because they’re a massive part of what games are about today.

Unfortunately the kind of field I’m interested in does seem to be one that even in many big releases gets overlooked, instead going for by-the-numbers systems, or reusing established ones. I’m interested in how the games play, how the player progresses, what makes a title unique, what real choices players are presented with, balance, how to establish a good difficulty curve, what makes a world tick, how a player is going to develop actual skills as they play, how everything connects together, the ‘rules’ for any given situation, if it’s possible to create one game that can appeal to multiple audiences by providing different assist levels (as the industry seems to have become polarized with kids games and adult games, with the kids games failing to offer any kind of challenge but the adult games all being mature in theme when not every adult wants that) I think one reason I’ve found a number of the ‘JRPGs’ interesting during my studies is that they have a lot of focus on systems and how they fit together, but at the same time they’ve felt frustrating because the rest of the gameplay seems stuck in the past (quite a few of them still only feel like they have 3D environments for the sake of it, they still just act a flat plane more-or-less) Conversation systems, upgrade systems, crafting systems, resource management, inventory management etc. all interest me too from a design perspective; how do you inject a sense of urgency into conversations, how others in the world react to conversations in real-time rather than them being simply 1 to 1 things, eg. having a conversation at a specific time when somebody else is present might reveal something you wouldn’t otherwise have known, affect your standing with people who overhear it. While any game can be visually appealing and tell a great story I think it’s the unique features the game offers, the things it does well that surprise you, that can make it truly memorable and while those examples are most relevant for an RPG, the same applies to most other fields and I’d consider those things to be part of the design, something that is planned when creating the game and moulded into final form as development progresses. (or at least, based on the experience I do have, that’s what I’ve observed)

General ‘quality’ issues also interest me, for example when games auto-save (if they auto-save), ensuring that a player is never FORCED to watch cutscenes over and over again just because they die, if a game has worthwhile achievements. Again these are things I’d consider to be part of ‘design’ and things that we see so many examples of being done wrong. Clearly just based on how often people get these things wrong there must be a role for this kind of thing too.

These are mostly things you have to work with a team to improve tho.

Thank you for your dedication and effort to the MAME project through this years. MAME is my favourite piece of software, EVER.

hyperneogeo64 still not emulated on mame

or make an update for mame 0.182 on ps3

Excuse the bad photos, camera and lighting is awful but these are the PS3 games I have, excluding 20 odd that are currently being borrowed by friends.

http://mamedev.emulab.it/haze/pics2017/ps3_img1.jpg
http://mamedev.emulab.it/haze/pics2017/ps3_img2.jpg
http://mamedev.emulab.it/haze/pics2017/ps3_img3.jpg
http://mamedev.emulab.it/haze/pics2017/ps3_img4.jpg

I’d say that was a decent selection of what was available for the system ;-)

Make a PS3 emulator Haze!!!!… xD…

maybe contribute with rpcs3 team and its a great project

Something you may want to consider in your studies is the control environment. Two that pops to the top of my head is zuma and plants vs zombies. Both are clearly mouse games. Yet take away the mouse and the game becomes something very different. For example zuma with a touch screen becomes very very easy but with a standard controller or mouse is moderately challanging. While pvz with a standard controller is an exercise in frustration yet works fine with a touch screen or mouse.

yeah, control types is something I’m factoring in, it’s one reason there’s a selection of Move games in that PS3 collection (aside from them being dirt cheap)

“after hours athletes” is actually infuriating, it’s a collection of games that were released on PSN on a disc, but while the PSN versions had support for either Dualshock OR Move controllers the disc version has the DS option removed entirely, and not for the better, while in theory playing pool with the move controller should have been ok it’s too finicky and you’re left just wanting the DS option which is no longer present, seems like it was restricted for ‘political’ reasons (to push the Move) rather than practical ones.

on the other hand, something like ‘Tumble’ in the Mind Benders pack you can see only really works with the Move, there’s no way a game like that would have been practical with just the DS, although frustratingly it doesn’t seem to allow you to use a nav controller for camera.

overall the Move stuff just isn’t well designed even at hardware level, the limit of 7 controllers on a PS3 means you can’t even have a 4 player game with 4 move controllers and 4 nav controllers because each counts as a separate device, and while them not being tethered to each other like on the Wii might seem an advantage at first it just ends up confusing things. Furthermore the Nav controller doesn’t even have motion sensors like the Wii nunchuck, further limiting how useful it actually is.

for a lot of other cases where the move isn’t terrible it’s also simply not as good as a mouse would have been, so why not offer a mouse? if it’s to do with fair competition just make sure the console can differentiate between the two and split the servers for online play, Unreal Tournament allowed Keyboard + Mouse, but was probably the only one to do so and far better for it.

It’s easy to see why the Move never gained much support, flawed from a technical point of view and with very few games actually making good use of it. It’s a bit like the 3D TV situation, while there are a number of games that made really good use of the tech (Shadow of the Colossus looks fantastic) the majority of content outside of games was just dull layered effects that you ended up filtering out rather than enjoying; unfortunately the same does apply to some games too, having a HUD floating above a game environment that is still flat does not make a 3D game!

I’m yet to actually play all of the Move titles, but from what I’ve seen not much is going to change my mind on that one.

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