Thursday, November 10, 2011

Racing Games In Decline Pt. 3: The Smoke Clears

Well, like I talked about earlier, my racing game pitch at FIEA didn't work.  Since it's been a day before the news, I've had the time to recompose myself and go back to school.  I didn't get in any heated exchanges with anyone so don't get that idea.  I wasn't so much mad as I was sad and mellow the whole day.

Today, after it had been decided that my game was out of contention, I had a talk with the Production teacher about my pitch.  He had a lot of good things to say about it.  Like I said before, every Producer must give a pitch.  This is essentially an assignment for them--they're graded for how well they present themselves and how good the game idea is.  I'm a Programmer which means I'm not graded for this assignment.  So I go up there and speak and yada yada yada...

He said that out of 27 people, I would've had the 2nd highest grade out of all the Producers for that one assignment.  Wow.  That's nice for a socially-awkward Programmer.  He was that moved by it.  Apparently, many others were too and I can't believe it, no matter how many times they told me.

Now why did the game fail?  Well, the teacher changed the grading scale at the last minute.  The ratings were completely determined by student votes.  Part of them were by Producers only--the other by Programmers and Artists.  So if I could at least win over one side, I'd sail to the finish, right?

Out of all 27 games, I ranked 7th with Producers.  As for Programmers, I did okay.  The Artists are the main reason I tanked.  Putting aside the general dislike for racing games, the main reason why is because they want more than anything else to animate lots of characters for their portfolios.  Animating cars doesn't cut it.  I pitched the idea for immersive, detailed environments but that wasn't good enough since environment art takes a back seat to character art, it seems.  I ranked 20th out of all games in terms of Artists.  That's horrible.  I really wish I could've devoted more time to character animation but I didn't think to do that.

EDIT: Forgot to mention that artists are taking other classes in which they get to chance to model characters outside of the capstone game.  So it's not like a racing game means they'll never get the chance to animate monsters/robots, they'll have plenty of those opportunities...

In the end, I was one of those bubble games that didn't make it.  Had I actually managed to persuade a few more Artists, I would've made it to the Top 10.  And when you get to the Top 10, you get a bit more freedom to pick & choose who works on your game.  Basically, the Top 5 games don't have equal teams--the same number of Producers, Programmers, and Artists.  The faculty allocates however many people is needed for whatever project.  So if there's a very detailed game with many characters, then that game gets many Artists.  If there's a complicated game, then that gets many Producers and Programmers.  You get the idea?

And that's when I realized I missed the point as to what games get picked.  See, going into this, I thought it was all about picking a game that you personally liked the most.  I don't think this is the case.  The game is basically a placebo for one to bolster one's portfolio.  So that's why huge AAA games (within the scope of 20 students working for a few months) with a few action/adventure characters in a story arc are so popular there at FIEA.  Cause it gives employers something to chew on in interviews.  It doesn't seem like it's about the "passion" for the game anymore.  It's just there.  It's not as emotional to others as it seems.

Circumstances like this are one of the many things that affect my attitude towards video games.  Some days, I wake up and say to myself, "My God, I'm a friggin loser gamer going to gaming college!"  And then I want to run away but then I realized I must proceed with my other schoolwork.

So, anyway, racing games don't cut the mustard.  I see that while we're in college and we have the manpower and the software to work on what we want, we should go for what we desire the most.  I mean, there's no guarantee I'll ever get to work on a racing game ever again.  And my pitch did hit home with some.  I don't think everyone there hates racing games, but I was set back by this unfortunate fact...

If anything, I can walk away with my held high planting a seed that it is possible to make a good racing game if you just follow the recipe.  Also, it was nice to make a couple of producers, even for just a moment, sweat it out, thinking "Oh my God, my pitch may lose out to a Programmer pitching a lousy RACING GAME..."

Sooo...about my teacher.  Had he not changed the judging method, I would've most likely made it to the Top 10.  But what can you say?  I don't hate the man.  As a matter of fact, some lucky SOB took my place in the Top 10.  So to go back and wretch the game from his hands and say "Now we're making a racing game!" would be a complete asshat move on my part so there's no turning back.  So, whatever...

There were also a few Producer friends of mine who pitched games that didn't get picked that I thought should have.  Like one guy pitched a Walking Dead-type survival game which centers around people and what they have to do to liberate the whole town and survive.  The other pitched a Hunger Games-type strategy game for Facebook.  The visuals were 2D but they looked colorful enough for me.  This guy is a professional--he speaks clearly, dresses nice, practices his speeches often, and designs enough sample material for you to get a grasp on the game.  Like he made prototype screenshots of his game.  He also typed out a fancy manual detailing all the rules of the game.  So the fact that this guy didn't get picked blows my mind.  There was one other Facebook game that got picked--why not this guy's?  I ranked both these games near the top of my list.

So that's that.  And then I went home and drank grape juice, played a lengthy session of Daytona USA, and indulged in some massive Country track pack for Rock Band.  20 Pro Keys songs for $20, what a deal.  Good to get back into gaming for once.

To all doubters who thought my pitch sucked, to quote the great Duke Nukem, "Suck it down..."


  1. As an artist, I seriously had to facepalm reading this. Not you, but them. Artists are supposed to be (or "supposedly") creative thinkers who think outside of the box and come up with creative ideas and solutions. Reading that bit with portfolios filled with characters, I shuddered; a lot of character designs for a lot of recent games, I don't know why, tend to just turn me off completely. And much to my chagrin, they're popular with my peers and they draw more of it. And at the risk of sounding shallow, some deliberate design elements are enough to drive me away from the game completely and not want to touch it at all. I shudder to think that those artists come out of school with their portfolios filled with even more wizards, medieval assassins, orcs or guys with 500 pound space military armor that we've seen again and again and again, while priding themselves as "creative" people. There's a term some artists use to differentiate such people, instead of "artists" they're "crafters". Artists: imaginative and creative people who want to bring something new or different to the table and create things we haven't seen before or often. Out of the mainstream. Crafters: People who have great skill in recreating existing things (like drawing people), but are creatively bankrupt with no imagination. Plenty of that happening in my school.

    Back to the pitch, they heard your idea and shot you down because of racing and cars, and yet, they didn't even think for one second that as a racing game, if they were so focused on characters, that they could have suggested instead of racing in cars you raced on motorcycles? With RIDERS? Maybe this guy/girl has an awesome outfit, a wacky hairdo, and maybe original and stylish tricks? A convertible, anybody? Ricardo and his girlfriends looked pretty animated in OutRun, and not bad character designs either. Same with with cabbies and passengers in the Crazy Taxi games. What about an ATV? PLENTY of opportunities to design and animate characters.

    I could understand if the focus of your pitch was purely cars only, but the summary in your earlier post involved colors and gameplay more than anything else. Honestly, your pitch sounded like it allowed room for a lot of artistic freedom. Track design, the environment, color theory. And that's what you proposed too.

    At the same time, perhaps that's the problem with what the racing genre has been lately. People think of "racing games" and instead of thinking of fast exhilarating speed through awesome environments, the first thing they think about is underground racing, sports cars, sim customization, realistic environments with no room for creativity. It sounds boring typing it. But if it turns out to be, "Making realistic cars prevents me from being creative, I'll vote for the game where I can finally make a knight in armor," I'm going to walk around the neighborhood, find the nearest cat, and eat it Ozzy style.

    Well, in the philosophical words of the beloved prophet Butt-head: "People are dumb." I hear ya.

  2. Totally agree, it's BS. Artists claim to be creative but only in the realm of medieval/sci-fi dreck.

    I said the following about my game design: let's come up with a iconic look before we go technical (a big mistake?), need great level design, and ask me about any extra details after the presentation if you're interested. I only got asked one question and that was "Which game engine are we doing it in?" and I didn't know for sure. No one else offered any particular game engines either.

    So basically, all the artists wrote it off from the get-go. I guess they figured all the creative work goes to the Producers. They are crafters--you are right. I'm moreso an "artist" than they are.

    Now I'm pissed off about it again. Maybe you and I can work together on the racing game. Some time in the use trying to recruit a general audience of artists. I could try interrogating more artists at school what they think, but I can't afford to rile up any tension any further...

  3. I'm awesome on pencil and paper, though right now I'm learning to polish my digital skills, especially in 3D. I've still got a ways to go with making something really "wow".

    And slight correction on my part: That's Alberto, not Ricardo. Derp.

  4. Get used to Maya or some other 3-D modeling tool and then we can talk :)

  5. BTW, artists will have chances to model characters outside of the capstone game/pitch. Added this to the post.