About GamerGate

I’ve been wanting to write my thought on GamerGate for a while now. I suppose there’s always the chance of getting no coverage for our game, but based on our previous “success” with several gaming sites, I don’t know if that’s such a big loss. The thing I’m most afraid is the reaction from my game dev friends, I hope we can still be friends even if we have different opinions on the issue. I would also like to emphasize, that everything I say here is just my opinion – the rest of the Prisonscape team probably
doesn’t share my opinion on Gamergate.

Like some of you already know, I am pro-Gamergate. I have been following the debate since day one, and slowly it has grown into the huge movement that is covered by the biggest news outlets out there, including NY Times, BBC and CBC. As biased and one-sided these stories were, it is a sign that this debate won’t be going away anytime soon. Mainstream and “normal folk” will be interested for a short while, but as soon as we have another scandal exposed, their attention is elsewhere. But gamers will still be there, and they will remember all this for a long time. Like TB wrote on Twitter,
“When the dust settles, remember who it was that fed their own readership to the wolves.”

There are few reasons why I am supporting this movement:

1) Censorship – When this whole thing started, there was a huge wave censorship on Reddit. For example, r/gaming had a thread with over 25000 deleted
comments, Mundane Matt’s video was hit with DMCA and even 4chan started censoring everything GG related. Naturally, any commenting or conversation is
censored in several sites that are critized by GG movement, including Kotaku, The Verge and Polygon.


This Mundane Matt video was struck with DMCA

2) Lack of dialogue – So far it seems that there has been only few parties that are trying to resolve the issue through dialogue. The Escapist has written
about Gamergate covering both point of views and Huffington Post Live had two live segments and that’s about it. What are the reasons for this? I’m pretty
sure there are levelheaded people on both sides ready to discuss.

3) Blaming it all on misogyny – This seems to be a very common narrative (god I hate this word) amongst anti-GG’ers. They claim that all Gamergate supporters
are women-haters. I’m sorry, but WHAT THE FUCK? I don’t know ANYONE who hates women. That’s like, half of the population in the world. Disliking some women
is not misogyny, and neither is critizicing them based on their actions. The threat against Sarkeesian and USU was unfortunate, but I’m pretty sure that it
had nothing to do with Gamergate – there a lot of crazies out there who want all the attention they can get. GG’ers even helped to identify one of the people
who sent threats to Sarkeesian. She should be irrelevant to the whole debate, since she has very little to do with journalistic integrity issue at hand.


Easy – just support GamerGate

4) Namecalling – Please don’t call us basement-dwellers, don’t make snarky comments about our personal hygiene and don’t critize our sense of fashion. Here’s
a short quote from the infamous Leigh article:

“‘Game culture’ as we know it is kind of embarrassing — it’s not even culture. It’s buying things, spackling over memes and in-jokes repeatedly, and it’s getting mad on the internet.

It’s young men queuing with plush mushroom hats and backpacks and jutting promo poster rolls. Queuing passionately for hours, at events around the world, to see the things that marketers want them to see. To find out whether they should buy things or not. They don’t know how to dress or behave.”


Hey guys, it’s like high school again!

How on earth is this even relevant to the issue (yes, I read the whole article)?

5) Blacklisting – This is just speculation, but I’ll change my mind on this as soon as Kingdom Come: Deliverance is covered by any of the involved parties.


The good old times

I’m not very smart man, and I don’t have a way with words. That’s why I don’t have solution or even suggestions on how to solve this. That’s why I really suggest you read some of these articles that talk about Gamergate from a neutral point of view:

#GamerGate Is Not A Hate Group, It’s A Consumer Movement

#GamerGate – An Issue With Two Sides

And to those who think Gamergate is about misogyny, I’d suggest you watch this Huff Post video:

By the way, I’m always ready to talk about Gamergate and my views on this issue. Hell, you can even doxx me if that makes you feel better.

Racism and Progression in Prisonscape

Man, this clickbaiting is really easy! So, is there racism and homo/transphobia in Prisonscape? Yes, it’s a game about life in prison. Now, with that out of the way, let’s talk about progression, experience points and leveling. I’ve been doing a lot of game testing on the current build of Prisonscape, and to be honest it feels kind of … boring. For the longest time I thought this was just bad writing and uninteresting characters, but a while back I was reading Jesse Schell’s wonderful “The Art of Game Design: A book of lenses” and particularly about achievement and progression in games. Then I realized it – Prisonscape has no sense of progression.

We recently started a pen and paper RPG sessions via IRC after a long, long pause. It brought back a lot of memories and also made me remember what made the gaming sessions so special (in addition to gathering with your friends and having fun): sense of achievement and progression. It was a great feeling once you finally achieved enough experience for a new level and could browse through all those books to see how your character changes. New powers! More hitpoints! New skills!

I tried to avoid doing the traditional experience/leveling system for Prisonscape before just for being original, but then it hit me: all these great games before use the same system over and over again because it’s a pretty good system. Even when the player is stuck with the main story, they can do some side quests and get the sense of progression and achievement.

What I don’t like with most experience-based systems is that they are mostly revolving around fighting. Fight monsters, get exp, find more monsters to fight, get more exp, repeat this until you are tough enough to fight bigger monsters. Especially JRPG games are guilty of this and in my opinion it reduces the actual roleplaying element of the game to a minimum. Planescape: Torment had a nice system where most of the experience came actually from completing quests, but even this can be taken to another level – in Prisonscape you get experience from interacting, socializing, getting information, etc. Every time you learn something new about the place or it’s inhabitants, you gain experience. Hear a juicy gossip? Get exp. Get someone to train you in a new skill? Exp. Make a successful skill throw? More exp. Not in big numbers, but doing enough will eventually amount you a level. Of course the main source of experience is completing jobs for other inmates/guards and fights will also give you fair amount of points. So, in short you get exp from:

* Fighting
* Socializing
* Completing jobs
* Gaining new information

So, what can you do with experience? Gaining enough experience grants you a level, and every time you gain a level, you can divide points to the main stats (Strength, Agility & Intelligence). Leveling up also increases your skill levels. See the image below for more detailed explanation.

Skills from top to bottom: Pickpocketing, Fighting, Literacy and Haggling. If the player gained a level, his Fighting skill would go up to the next skill level.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Update: I totally forgot to mention that skills are developed independently from levels. Skill level goes up every time the skill is used or trained, BUT raising the actual skill level (for example, Fighting 1 -> Fighting 2) requires a new level and is automatic IF the skill level gauge is full (like the Fighting in picture below).

So, what do you think?

Summerscape

Hello!

I’ll be talking about our future plans and some tech stuff in this post.

It has been going slow for the past month, mainly because Pekka and I have been on vacation. Add some nice summer weather and there hasn’t been much progress. I’m certain our productivity will return to normal levels when the weather gets shittier, which should be in approx. one month. 😀

We were originally planning to go to the Gamescom and Eurogamer conferences, but the game is still quite “alpha” so we decided to just save that time and keep working on the game. There aren’t that many game mechanics missing however. Combat and trading are the major ones (combat version 1 is already done), after those I think we won’t be adding new major features to the game. Minor ones we can add during alpha and beta testing. Replacing the “programmer UI” also needs to be done soon, David did some pretty sweet graphics for the new UI.

inventory-big

People who pre-ordered Prisonscape have been asking about the alpha testing and our response has been that we’ll deliver the first alpha when the major components are in the game. Not to worry, when we’re ready we’ll contact all who pre-ordered and have access to the alpha.

As for programming stuff, I’ve been implementing an OpenGL based renderer as my latest task. I was originally trying to just use Java 2D, but it didn’t cut it. I realized this when I bought a new laptop with “ok” specs, and the game’s FPS started going all over the place. There should be no reason why a game like Prisonscape couldn’t run at 60FPS all the time, so after digging and debugging for a while I decided to learn and implement OpenGL.

After a few days I got the basic rendering working and man, it’s smooth now. The Java 2D renderer used to skip and glitch even on my beefy desktop PC, but now it scrolls beautifully. I’m fairly certain Pekka doesn’t even recognize the difference, but I saw it immediately. Apparently programmers (esp. graphics) get this thing where they notice every little detail and glitch because they stare at the screen and animations constantly.

Also, JOGL (the OpenGL framework I’m using) implements V-Sync in windowed mode which saved my ass because apparently you could only get that in Java2D in full-screen mode. I don’t think I’ll implement a full-screen mode for Prisonscape unless there’s great demand for it.

journal-big

Implementing OpenGL also sets some minimum computer requirements for Prisonscape. Your graphics card should support OpenGL 2 and 1024×1024 textures. That’s the minimum I’m coding for and that should cover a huge chunk of laptops and desktops. I was originally gunning for OpenGL 1, but it seems the support has been dropped from JOGL. 😀 No wonder, the OpenGL 1.1 spec is from 1997.

Of course changing the graphics context broke something else in the game. I had implemented our video cutscenes with JavaFX and it seems JOGL and JavaFX don’t work well with each other. A little note on those video cutscenes: I originally tried to render them as just full-sized .PNG files, which turned to be really stupid. Memory consumption quickly jumped to 1GB during the intro cutscene – apparently it isn’t a smart idea to render uncompressed PNG data. To solve this, I encoded the intro animation as a .flv file, but JavaFX only supports VP6 encoded .flv files, so I had to dig up a trial version of some Adobe software to encode it properly. Side note: Google owns the VP6 codec, but they don’t offer new licenses for it, so who knows if you can actually even use VP6. Hopefully I can find a library which can playback Ogg Theora (.ogv/.ogg) files in a JOGL context (jmcvideo seems promising) so I don’t have to hack some custom made video playback system together.

Seeing all this technical work and the troubles it brings one might ask “WHY DON’T YOU USE UNITY????” and my answer is that I’m planning to be a highly skilled game/graphics programmer ten years from now, and in my opinion you don’t lay a foundation for your skills by using Unity or any other game engine. The reason John Carmack and Tim Sweeney are so good is that they put in the time to do the low level work of building game engines (and also because they had to). Yeah, it’s slow, painstaking and financially not so sound. But if you commit to it and do the work properly, the rewards will come in due time.

Aaaand that’s that. See you later!

Writing for Prisonscape

Lately I’ve been doing a lot of writing for Prisonscape. A LOT. I made a decision to write at least 50 lines every day, regardless of my other tasks and duties. I’ll admit, it hasn’t happened every day, but I still have a lot of dialogue and NPC backgrounds written that just needs to be put into the game. I did all this on my 7 inch tablet and a virtual keyboard during my vacation and the whole process was separated from the actual game development. This was very refreshing experience since I didn’t even have Internet connection to check any facts or grammar, so I just put all my thoughts and ideas in the document.

workshop

This is very different from how I usually work – I do a lot of fact checking from Wikipedia and other sources, check the dictionary for “right” words and sometimes search how people use certain phrases in sentences. But I have a very busy mind, and after all the checking I often find myself doing something completely different, for example browsing Reddit or reading some forums. It took some willpower, but after a while I decided to disconnect myself from the Internet altogether and just concentrate on the writing and doing the proofreading and fact checking only after I have that wall of text for the game.

Next thing I have to learn is to scrap some of that BAD dialogue I have written. It is so difficult to throw away something you have already done, it just feels like a waste of time…

As some of you may already know, we were given a hosted forum on RPG Codex. It’s pretty much the best site for anything related to cRPGs. The forum is at this point pretty quiet, but hopefully it will take off once we start writing more frequent updates about the game and get to the alpha phase. One of the most interesting things there at the moment is Garland’s (who’s an ex-con) Q&A about prison life, I recommend you check it out if you are interested in prison life.

cafeteria-kitchen

One of the most frequent question we get over on Codex is the amount of branching and C&C (choices and consequences) in the game. Prisonscape will have some branching (you can select if you want to join the Aryan Brotherhood or try to stay neutral and do jobs for different factions and NPCs), but the main story will be quite linear. Variance for the game comes from jobs and smaller storylines not related to the main story. Jobs can often be completed in different ways and they often have consequences that can only be seen at later stages of the game (thus preventing the classic save-load method). The reason for the lack of story branching and different endings is simply the lack of resources – the game has only one writer and scripting this would simply be too much work.

The ultimate goal is to finish the game!

Kickstarter post-mortem

So the Prisonscape Kickstarter didn’t succeed. It was a good run, and we had plenty of coverage from the press and at least people now know about Prisonscape. What comes to reasons for the campaign failing, I really can’t pinpoint any single thing, but here are some of my guesses:

  • We didn’t have a demo or enough gameplay in the KS video. Some of the bigger sites were asking for a build. It’s not given that they’d write about your game, but with stable and polished we would’ve had better chance in getting those big articles
  • Not enough press coverage on the big sites. Not many big sites wrote about us, and so we didn’t get enough traffic on the campaign page.
  • The beginning was too slow. The campaign really needed those big numbers to look like a successful campaign. This could be me speculating, but I checked some successful campaigns and they all had a very strong start.
  • PR mails were sent too late. This could partially explain the slow start. We sent the promo mails AFTER we launched, because we wanted to provide the KS link in the
    e-mails. We got plenty of articles but they were probably too late and people were already speculating that this will another failed Kickstarter.
  • Our goal was too high. This has been said many times, but I still feel that our goal was reasonable when you take a look at the budgeting.

I’m really happy that we have a big number of backers and if you exclude friends and family, all of this money came from organic sources. I know that some people grow their total pledge amount with some of their own money, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but we decided against it and it was fantastic to see that over 1000 people were ready to fund our game.

So what happens now? Well, we keep on making the game, of course! There’s no reason to quit altogether after one adversity – we just have to learn from out mistakes and do things better next time. We have already started by launching a pre-order on Paypal.



Our next goal is to make a great demo for the Prisonscape beta team, the press and for the Youtubers which hopefully brings more attention towards the game. We also want to build a good community which gives us feedback and new ideas about the game, and we’re hoping that YOU would be part of it by pre-ordering the game.

The Prisonscape forum has been opened, and if you’re interested in prison life, I would highly suggest checking out this thread:

Ask an ex-con (almost) anything

Garland is an ex-con who helps us with the game and answers questions about prison life in general. It’s very interesting read!

Introducting County Jail

Prisonscape consists of four different areas: County jail, a prison unit called ‘Miranda’ and two other, MYSTERIOUS areas (I’m sure that some of you figure out why they’re kept secret at this point). In this blog post I will make a short introduction on County jail, the first area that is very close to getting finished.

It’s the place criminals go to wait for their sentencing, and because most inmates spend only little time in there, it doesn’t have many luxuries and it isn’t very well-kept. There’s no cafeteria since the lunches (containing food-like products) are served in paper bags, everything is dirty and the most of the time the TVs are broken.

The thing that makes this place so interesting (and also scary) is that in county jail the inmates crimes can be anything from DIU to first degree murder, and since most criminals aren’t the most honest fellows, it is sometimes difficult to determine if these people are friendly or just trying to manipulate you to do their bidding. Many inmates have little jobs for you to do around the jail, and this is the best way to get recognized inside. The other way is to fight, but starting fights with random inmates will get you on the shit list for both the guards and the inmates, so pick your fights carefully!


These jobs vary from really easy and trivial like this:

To more complex and time-consuming like this:

Since the player character is white, your only choice for gang activity is the Aryan Brotherhood, but if you decide to stay neutral, there are lots of inmates who are giving you small jobs that will raise your reputation amongst the general population who aren’t interested in the gang banging. You can even do some snitching for the guards, but be careful that you don’t get caught, since the old saying ‘snitches get stitches’ applies also to this place.

Of course there will be some new features added to the game that will also be applied to County jail, and dialogue for the inmates and guards will be expanded and iterated during the future development, but at it’s current state, CJ is a nice little playable area which shows the basic features of Prisonscape nicely. We have already started working on the next area, Miranda, which will be much larger area with lots of NPC’s to interact (and fight) with.

22.1.2014 #pixelshit Wednesday

Below are some action and motion images from this week’s submissions. Okay, for next week, the theme is deities and divinity. As a reference, use Old Norse gods, angels, Lucifer, Zeus, Kronos, Jesus… whatever rocks your boat. Make it dramatic, pompous, beautiful! I upped the color limit, so use all your skills and free time on this and make it look gorgeous. Just don’t bite off more than you can chew. And don’t draw Muhammad! For inspiration:

Here are some additional rules for the coming week:

  • Size limit for this submission is 256 x 256 pixels
  • This submission is limited to 64 colors
  • Upload the image Imgur if possible. If not, use Twitter image uploader
  • You can of course submit multiple drawings if you want
  • When Wednesday comes (any timezone), tweet your creation with the hashtag #pixelshit (or if you need SFW hashtag, use #pixelWeek)
  • I will resize the images to a large size when I put them up. If you want to use the original size, please let me know

Here are this week’s submissions in random order:

@AAURORAIMORTALIS

@SCHOUILLETTE

@FARFADET46


Fighting and consequences

We have been working hard on Prisonscape and all the basic features are coming along nicely – it is so much fun to actually PLAY the game! One of the features that we have been giving a lot of thought lately is the combat system. As we wrote in an earlier post, we decided to do complete overhaul on the first combat system because it was simply boring. We expanded the traditional 1 versus 1 combat system with menus into a grid-based combat and added a special skill system that we call “the book of dirty tricks”. You can read more about that from here.


In addition, we decided to add consequences to the fights. First of all, every fight ends your current turn since all violence puts the prison into a lockdown. After every fight there’s also a chance that the guards will catch you after the fight. This will immediately give you some hole time of course confiscation of any possible drugs, weapons or other contraband you are carrying.

Sometimes you are not caught red-handed but are still a suspect number one and go to an interrogation into the guard’s office. Your interrogation dialogue options are determined by your Intelligence score and your skills. Also, your past as an aggressive inmate will make the guards more suspicious and throw you in the hole more easily. The last, and the best option, is when you get away from the fight without any trouble. This is the only scenario where you actually get loot (if there is any) from your opponents.

The outcome of every battle is determined by the current alert level. Every time there’s a fight, drug bust or other event that the guards consider dangerous, the alert level goes up. This level also gradually goes down until another alarming event happens. It is still undecided if this level is visible to the player.
We have had a lot of questions if the game has anything besides prison life. This cutscene we recently finished gives a small hint of what’s coming:

15.1.2014 #pixelshit Wednesday

Not many submissions this week, but oh boy do all of them look good! Theme for the next week is action! Make an action scene – it can be anything from explosions to high-speed car chases. Concentrate on drawing motion.

Here are some additional rules for the coming week:

  • Size limit for this submission is 128 x 128 pixels
  • This submission is limited to 32 colors
  • Upload the image Imgur if possible. If not, use Twitter image uploader
  • You can of course submit multiple drawings if you want
  • When Wednesday comes (any timezone), tweet your creation with the hashtag #pixelshit (or if you need SFW hashtag, use #pixelWeek)
  • I will resize the images to a large size when I put them up. If you want to use the original size, please let me know

Here are this week’s submissions in random order:

@mtrc

@aAuroraImortalis

@SCHOUILLETTE

@farfadet46


12.1.2014 #pixelshit Wednesday

Heyoooo! We’re back in business, with a little shorter work time this week. The theme for this week is nature. Start drawing those beautiful (or ugly, or alien, or whatever) landscapes and blow our minds with your art.

Here are some additional rules for the coming week:

  • Limit size for this submission is 128 x 128 pixels
  • This submission is limited to 32 colors
  • Upload the image Imgur if possible. If not, use Twitter image uploader
  • You can of course submit multiple drawings if you want
  • When Wednesday comes (any timezone), tweet your creation with the hashtag #pixelshit (or if you need SFW hashtag, use #pixelWeek)
  • I will resize the images to a large size when I put them up. If you want to use the original size, please let me know