200 - Game Length and Content

Developer diaries about creating Neverending Nightmares.
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matt
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200 - Game Length and Content

Post by matt »

200 diaries! Woot!

In this one, I talk about game length and the amount of content in a game, and how to find a good balance. Content is always limited, but through intelligent reuse, you can get a longer game.

-Matt Gilgenbach
Lead Frightener at Infinitap Games

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evilkinggumby
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Re: 200 - Game Length and Content

Post by evilkinggumby »

More that.. ya know.. I want to understand d-uhm.. what's going on and an why d-uhm.. People uhh.. Ya know , are not uhhh .. why uhhh... not everyone loves Neverending Nightmares.
First off, totally off the direct topic at hand, I quoted you exactly as you spoke to point out that this, this right here, really destroys your image as a professional game developer. Indie or not, when you are stammering, stuck or "umm,. uhh.. ya know"ing it through a video it says " I didn't bother to prepare for this, it wasn't worth the time and investment". or "I don't know what I'm doing here". Neither are a good image to portray, and it is doing you and your staff/team a HUGE disservice.

That said, to use something of a metaphor, your "Diamond" of a game concept is getting flack for a vast number of tiny "flaws" that cumulatively create a low quality gemstone. To the untrained eye, a diamond is still a diamond and so seems to be worth just as much as any other stone. But to anyone familiar with the stone, with jewelry and quality (I.e. anyone who regularly buys, sells or has an interest in gemstones) it is obvious where all the flaws end up.

Add to that your game falls into an odd place within the industry. It is being compared not only to other projects on Kickstarter/Indiegogo, but also to the industry as a whole. Or to continue the previous metaphor, you're being judged by craft fair patrons and high end boutiques shoppers.

Now I am going to mostly break down only a few specifics of what I mean that are in relation to this video and not detail EVERY chip, scrape and flaw in your diamond. In time, if I have the time, I may pop back in and reply to other video's you have done recently to expand on it.

Things to consider and keep in mind: the amount of content in a game, as opposed to the amount of time it takes to finish a game, are not interchangeable. Don't base metrics like this side by side. I know it is easy to do, for the sake of comparison, but it ends up giving others a chance to destroy any point you are trying to make by simply saying what you are comparing are apples to oranges (and so render it moot). In that regard, I will say there are few (if any) truly comparable games that would sit well next to NeN. This in itself is a good thing, what you created is fairly unique.

Still, consumers are going to compare your product to other games. Unfairly, for sure, but it is still going to happen. I think that is where you'll see my metaphor starts to make some sense.

WHen I look at NeN i also have to consider ANY other game kickstarted and both the quality, complexity, visual style, content, length, sound, gameplay and overall final product. I then am also going to look at the initial development pricetag. Your game raised over $100,000 to be developed. The game costs about $15 on steam to purchase when there are no sales going on. Comparing those numbers to other kickstarter campaigns that shot for the same, or significantly lower funding, and then looking at games at the $15 price point, you may start to see what the consumer sees. When we look at quality of investment, we need to feel like for whatever we are buying into, the final product is worth what we invested in it. If we could have spent the same amount of money on a much more satisfying, worthy game, it makes your game fall under an even more powerful microscope of scrutiny.

I myself have invested in numerous campaigns on Kickstarter, your included. I invested $35 for the game and early access. I did so because I felt strongly about the potential for the game and how great it could be. I will state I am ASSUMING many other investors did the same, with a lot of high expectations and hopes for the final game. Seeing the final result, and trying to break down investment vs payout, is where we start to stutter and stumble.

Now I could list a number of projects that are still as yet to be released, but shot for a much lower kickstarter budget, have similar size staffs(or less) and even their pre-alpha demo's show off a game more befitting an invested $15. But since the games are not yet out, I won't as that's not a fair comparison.

Instead I'll compare it to one of the games you cited several times in this video, and that I have played through thoroughly 'Gone Home'.

Gone home sits at $20 on Steam regular price, so it is $5 higher than your game. My playthrough of the game, which I will admit was thorough and fairly exhaustive (but I did miss a few things I discovered later) tanked in at about 5 hours. If I were to do a speed run through it a second time to at least see the aspects I missed the first time through, it would likely add another 30-45 minutes to that. You are correct, it takes place in a single house, not the largest space in terms of content when looking at the square footage/real estate of the thing.

And yes there are numerous objects within the house that you could interact with, much like many of the objects in Among The Sleep when you explore the house early in the game. Some of them, like a pencil, a empty shoebox, etc etc are fairly inocuous and not core to the story or the gameplay. You cited the SNES cartridge though, and thats where I think you are missing out on the point of that object and many like it.

The game itself had the need to establish a setting for the story, and by including the vhs tapes, music, vinyl albums, books, old phones, vcr's and laser disc players, CRT televisions and classic pictures and game paraphenalia, it was not only going to get folk to wax nostalgic, but it was a method to immerse the player into the game world and make it feel REAL and alive and solid. Even if the main story didn't require you to pick up the SNES game, the face it was there and could be inspected, and was rendered front to back fairly authentically, made the world feel more complete and believable, but also was a hint at details of the daughter (whose room you find it in) and what she was like. There are also notes and bits of story thsat revolve around the game you are holding, so it helps tie things together as you progress. This kind of nuance, sadly, is missing through your game.

NeN doesn't have a game world that feels like an actual space. And having a "real" world doesn't necessarily require 3d graphics. It is the cumulative weight of having a living breathing space that feels like it is more than a static picture. Gamers have gotten used to the ability to pick up, view, examine, move and interact in SOME way since we got to the dawn of adventure games. The fact games from the 80's where it was mostly text and VERY little visual representation, could feel like real world spaces because there was so much to look at , pick up, and interact with will have an effect on how people see your game (because it lacks that element almost entirely). When I played through the game, the fact I was only able to interact with a few objects, a number of paintings, a bunch of windows (few of which had any real pay off) and little else meant the game felt highly restrictive and BOUND. It was more akin to riding a coaster through the fun house instead of being given carte blanche to explore it on foot and really step into the settings.

This is looking at interaction specifically. If the world doesn't feel like something I can interact with, but rather just a space I can move THROUGH, there is a level of immersion that is lost. Lack of interaction is a ding on the diamond, but so is a loss of immersion, and sadly, so is the feeling that what you bought isn't worth what you invested into it (this ding can get much more noticeable if it is grown by additional details across the entire game).

Looking at content is to look at both the time it takes to play the game to its initial ending, but also to look at actions and choices/interactions the player has through the game. as an example, it is easily to say a 2 hour game has 2 hours of content, but if those 2 hours were 95% FMV's and 5% gameplay, the actual "game content" is not accurately reflected. Not to say NeN is nothing but FMV's lol far from it!

With NeN we have about 2 hours to go through the initial game and it's content (I realize there is additional content in getting additional endings, but realistically most games aren't judged by all of the side content or easter egg/bonus level stuff as core content (though it can be listed often times for reviewers to be succinct). Of that content, even you cite that if you eliminated the "walking" in the game, there would be very little left to view as gameplay. With Gone Home there is a significant amount of content. The game has cassette tapes to listen to, numerous notes and slips of paper to read through, messages to listen to, etc etc, I won't say the game itself is chock full of "content" but there is a significant amount to find, read, listen to and interact with and as such gain an understanding of the characters, the family, and the story you are piecing together. If you look at Among The Sleep you will find there are all kinds of details and clues, many written out in what seems like scribbles, that actually add up to the whole of the story as you proceed. I will admit I only have reference for the main story and the topmost ending as my concept for NeN's story, but I also rarely felt like there was much within the environments, or even the brief conversations, that added and fleshed out the story beyond it's bare core elements. And I will say that I am an empath and a writer/artist so I am fairly skilled at looking at both iconography AND sub-text. I didn't see a lot to flesh out the themes in the game, so I doubt most gamers saw ANYTHING at all when they played it.

So then it begs the question: what if the content you add to the game is entirely invisible to the majority of your audience?

We saw this with Gone Home for sure, it got panned by a lot of players and listed as "not a game" because many who played it didn't see or acknowledge the content that was there. Is this the case with NeN? Can you cite what was in the game (specifically) that helped to bring about a broader sense of characterization, plot, motivation, theme, etc etc? And I'll ask, cite what is in the game, NOT in the endings?

Finally we have the quality of the content. With other games, including the vanishing of Ethan Carter, you may end up with little more than a small town and a few puzzles, but they are buried in a lush realistc ll designed environment that players will feel is a joy to explore and partake of. I will admit I have played in games where it's just a chance to look at eye candy, and though it is a bit superficial, eye candy IS a detail in games that both adds to immersion, adds to a sense of getting your $5 bucks worth, and makes a game feel generally polished and well build. I would say that the game you created has a certain charm. Many (if not all) critics like the Ed Gorey style art and don't fault you for it. I too really like it. But beyond the initial charm and appreciation for that art style, it is hard to really weight in and say that the effort to draw and render all the assets in the game is equivelant to say, the vanishing of ethan carter, gone home, among the sleep , or most other games. And again, it's not necessarily a 2d vs 3d thing entirely (though people do generally appreciate 3d more). I think it's the fact you did the character as a sort of stick-figure animated style where the character is drawn and then warped/puppeted into the different positions to simulate standing/walking/running and the same is done for many of the enemies, with alternate heads and limbs done for certain actions. Compare this to say full on cell animation where you create whole sprite routines for a character, and you'll see a significant different in the quality and presentation of the game.

When I look at old animation like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4502MXkb-Dc and then look at what you achieved, it makes me sad. If your game had more of the qualities of this than it does, where it used a fluid animation style for all characters, i think it would shine a lot more. And this example doesn't even have complex backgrounds, highly detailed and animated figures or the like. WHat you achieved is serviceable, but not spectacular. And that seems to carry to a lot of the games assets: they are good, but they rarely were elevated to greatness. In many ways this gives the overall game a lack of investment and polish, like you made it but were not really loving making it. It rarely feels like something you invested 20 hour s a day, blood sweat and tears on. It feels more like you manufactured it.

Much like what i cited about how your videos come off. Much like looking at the official NeN website which is little more than a trailer and a few reference links.

This is my opinion, of course, but it is something to consider. How do you think consumers, gamers, the general public is going to value you and your team, your game, when they see the website, these videos, the trailer, and even the demo of the game and it's style? Does it scream 'high quality well polished masterpiece" ? Does it scream "worth $15" ?

Things to consider, not necessarily questions that need answers.
Last edited by evilkinggumby on Thu Oct 16, 2014 6:54 am, edited 1 time in total.
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SuchDogeMuchWow
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Re: 200 - Game Length and Content

Post by SuchDogeMuchWow »

By the time I finished watching the video I found that "evilkinggumby" wrote in before me exactly everything that I might have wanted to say, and probably in a more detailed and organized manner than I would have cared to say it. I'd like to start off with an analogy to a psychology study that is relevant to the underlying issue people are finding with "lack of content" in NeN:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15761167

The gist of this study is that participants were given a bowl of soup to eat. One group had soup placed in a normal bowl. The other group had soup put in a bowl that, unbeknownst to them, slowly refilled itself with soup as they ate. At the end of the experiment, the group with the self refilling bowl ended up eating more soup than the normal bowl group. However the refill bowl group still reported that they felt less satisfied overall hunger wise than the normal bowl group.

I feel like this makes a great comparison to your beliefs of "content" in a game. You think that by throwing more interactivity, more environments, more this or that at the player, they will be more satisfied with the game. This isn't true though because there isn't an "end" to it. Content is only content when it contributes to the game somehow. The purpose of content is to advance the story, flesh out the world, give meaning to a player's actions, give players a sense of reward, etc. Here's where I wish you had a clearer image of the story when you set out to create NeN. Right now, the game feels like a disjointed collection of scary set pieces -- almost like a haunted house at a carnival. There are only vague notions of story tying the sets together at best. If you had a story in mind, a message you wanted to deliver to the players, so many possibilities open for satisfying content. For example even wandering down a linear hallway can be fulfilling if you put paintings on the wall that hint at the history of Thomas and Gabby's family, maybe even hint at the story or of the purpose of Thomas' nightmare world. Wandering into a room with zero intractable elements can be a memorable experience if you give significance to the objects inside of it.

Throughout the game we see recurring ideas of dolls, disembowelment, insanity, etc. but they are completely meaningless to the player because what it seems like is that they were meaningless to you when you were creating the game other than their existence being spooky. By putting the force of intention behind story and environments you can use even empty space and minimal effort to create more content than gamers could ask for, unlike what you did in NeN where you saved all development (if you could call it that) for the ending, as evilkinggumby mentioned.

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Re: 200 - Game Length and Content

Post by ranger_lennier »

Pretty much everyone speaks with "ummms" etc. in regular speech. I guess the developer diaries would be higher quality if Matt wrote out everything in advance, revised it, practiced it, and edited it. But that would also take way longer. Given that he's done 200 of these videos while also developing a game, that's not realistic. In this case, I'd rather have the extra content even if it's not quite as polished.

I think that in Gone Home, while there were a lot of objects to interact with that didn't help you advance in the game, you didn't necessarily know which ones did and didn't until you actually interacted with them. In Neverending Nightmares' style, it would be harder to hide crucial items since they would be in color and really stand out.

As far as comparing the response to length/content/interaction in Neverending Nightmares vs. games like Ethan Carter or Gone Home, I'd somewhat disagree with your premise. At least among many players, Gone Home is frequently derided as a "walking simulator" that's "not a real game". And while the average critical scores are a bit higher than Neverending Nightmares, those games weren't universally praised, and critics had some similar complaints. PCGamesN's review of Ethan Carter says, "The story is something that’s revealed, not something that’s lived through. I was a tourist, a witness, a reader, and that left less room for being a player."

http://www.pcgamesn.com/the-vanishing-o ... -pc-review

I think you do probably have a different view of game length than most players, perhaps because you don't have a lot of time for playing them, and you don't want to spend a lot of time repeating content due to game difficulty. You recently described a 20 hour length for Alien: Isolation as "ridiculous". Now, I'm not saying a game has to be 20 hours long, and I totally agree that it's possible for a game to be too long for the content it has, but I would never hear about a 20 hour length and automatically think that it sounded way too long. And there are people who will consider how many hours of entertainment they'll get out of a game when making a game-buying budget. I think this makes more sense than you sometimes give it credit for. Wouldn't it seem strange to pay the price of a novel to get a short story, or to pay the price of a movie DVD to get a DVD of a single 20 minute TV episode?

I think it's interesting to hear from people who found NeN inferior to Gone Home because the world felt less lived in and it didn't have a coherent story. To me, it made sense that NeN wouldn't be as "lived in". Within the game fiction, the house in Gome Home really was a house that people were living in, and all the characters mentioned are real people who have been dealing with logically sensible events. But the world of NeN is nothing like that. The levels are nightmares, and it makes sense for them to feel less real. The story isn't coherent--depending on which level you're in, Gabby can be your sister, wife, or therapist. But I think this was intentional, part of creating a chilling atmosphere and a sense of disempowerment, where you don't know what's true and can't even count on the level geometry staying constant. But it's worth asking why not everyone got this out of the game (or at least liked it). One comment I found particularly striking was, "Throughout the game we see recurring ideas of dolls, disembowelment, insanity, etc. but they are completely meaningless to the player because what it seems like is that they were meaningless to you when you were creating the game other than their existence being spooky." Now my first thought was that this wasn't right at all, because I know that Matt has suffered from mental illness, including obsessive compulsive thoughts of mutilation, and that these have really inspired the game. But then I asked myself how I knew this. And I realized that it was from reading the forums, watching developer diaries, etc. If I'd have just picked up the game without any background information, I'd probably have found these images creepy, but I doubt I'd have thought they really meant anything greater than the sum of their parts. And if the game sells well at all, this is how most people will be playing it. So, maybe the story/message is a bit too subtle.

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Re: 200 - Game Length and Content

Post by evilkinggumby »

Content is only content when it contributes to the game somehow.
I have to wholly agree with this concept. Something is not really notable, or significant and worthy of being called "content" if it is just filler. There are plenty of objects within any of the games I mentioned that in themselves are just filler, objects that do little or nothing to advance the story, flesh out characters, or give any kind of additional insight of any worth. That said, having objects, notes, or or anything of some significance is not filler, but true content if it serves some purpose. Understand, not all content is equal and the significance will vary greatly depending on the item.
Pretty much everyone speaks with "ummms" etc. in regular speech. I guess the developer diaries would be higher quality if Matt wrote out everything in advance, revised it, practiced it, and edited it. But that would also take way longer. Given that he's done 200 of these videos while also developing a game, that's not realistic
I'd say given he has done 200 of these, by now he should have an excellent feel for the process, expectations, and be able to do these with his eyes closed like a pro. This far down the pipe and he is still stammering to collect and form his thoughts ON CAMERA is neither professional nor complimentary. I understand you appreciate the fact he is doing them at all, and I can see that as a perk. But I guess i subscribe to " if you are going to do something, do it well" and so seeing something like this done not-very-well disappoints me and I see little value for it in terms of selling himself, the game, or infinitap as a development company. It is akin to if say, the email notices he sends out about the game and the development diaries were poorly typed, lacked spell checking and any kind of grammar, and so were all the less professional or polished (for the record, he doesn't do this and I highly appreciate that). Or releasing the game in a physical format and the box has poorly aligned artwork, typo's, incorrect or only partial information and the like. Technically it would be better than nothing, but.. is that kind of effort really "acceptable" ? Isn't there a bar to strive for beyond "Ok it's done, it is what it is" ?
You recently described a 20 hour length for Alien: Isolation as "ridiculous".
Yeah I have to agree, citing the game as ridiculous for being 20 hours didn't sit well with me either. I will say it is for many of the reasons Ranger_Lennier mentioned.
But the world of NeN is nothing like that. The levels are nightmares, and it makes sense for them to feel less real.
I am not sure if this was partially in response to what I said, but I wanted to clarify that making the nightmares feel like a living breathing entity, or "organic" doesn't necessarily mean "lived in" or even "real". I wouldn't expect to necessarily have a nightmare feel completely realistic and believable, dreams and nightmares often defy logic and reason. But how often do they feel static and stable? How many dreams have you had that lasted for (what felt like) a few minutes or more, were straightforward, cohesive, unchanging dreams? I know everyone dreams different, but my experience has shown that dreams are ephemeral, ever changing and adjusting as the mind' and emotions feel necessary. What is at first your wife could next be your sister and next be your child (for the record that disorientation in the game was solid IMO). What starts as your home may end up a neighbors apartment and then transition to your workplace. For you, the dreamer, you understand and just go with the flow and don't think much of it.

With NeN the levels, due to being fairly static and unchanging/unmoving, the dreamlike quality is far from organic or ephemeral. It feels very solid, very consistent. We do see things descend down a path of corruption over time, but it feels too perfectly organized and spaced. I wake into a new nightmare, the house is now much worse looking. And it will remain WORSE for all of that dream. Next time I wake it may go back to normal. Never do we see the world transition and fade back and forth, giving a visual and atmospheric representation to the unstable, fleeting thing that is the human mind and dreams. Never do we see the visual style, or the very environment suddenyl shift based on the characters emotions. If this happened, if as the stress and anxiety of the main character had a palpable effect on the game (visually, audibly, pacing, etc) it would ratchet up every aspect of gameplay and really evoke more of an emotional response in the player.

I would also have preferred that NeN was harder to discern between dream and nightmare. The way the game is presented it is obvious that the main character is continuously waking back into a dream, and never once did it feel like we were in "the real world" and he fully thought he was in reality. It got close when he awakes talking to his doctor, but it quickly seems apparent it is yet another dream. The same awaking and going to grab a drink. I point this out because it felt like there was never anything at stake for me as a player guiding the main character. I had no real background to empathize or project my emotion onto him, i was never INVESTED in him as a character, and knowing if i ever led him to a horrible death he'd just awaken nearby in the dream, perfectly ok and unharmed meant there was little fear or threat when moving through the game.

Point being, having the game be a "dream" and never trying to sell any moments within it as anything else means "none of this is real, there are no penalties for mistakes, so just keep going and avoid death to get to the end". This, to me, is a HUGE mistake when trying to make a horror game that wants to invest itself in psychological themes and possibly examine what it means to be sane.
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RightClickSaveAs
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Re: 200 - Game Length and Content

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evilkinggumby wrote:
Pretty much everyone speaks with "ummms" etc. in regular speech. I guess the developer diaries would be higher quality if Matt wrote out everything in advance, revised it, practiced it, and edited it. But that would also take way longer. Given that he's done 200 of these videos while also developing a game, that's not realistic
I'd say given he has done 200 of these, by now he should have an excellent feel for the process, expectations, and be able to do these with his eyes closed like a pro. This far down the pipe and he is still stammering to collect and form his thoughts ON CAMERA is neither professional nor complimentary. I understand you appreciate the fact he is doing them at all, and I can see that as a perk. But I guess i subscribe to " if you are going to do something, do it well" and so seeing something like this done not-very-well disappoints me and I see little value for it in terms of selling himself, the game, or infinitap as a development company. It is akin to if say, the email notices he sends out about the game and the development diaries were poorly typed, lacked spell checking and any kind of grammar, and so were all the less professional or polished (for the record, he doesn't do this and I highly appreciate that). Or releasing the game in a physical format and the box has poorly aligned artwork, typo's, incorrect or only partial information and the like. Technically it would be better than nothing, but.. is that kind of effort really "acceptable" ? Isn't there a bar to strive for beyond "Ok it's done, it is what it is" ?
I don't know, I've always seen the developer diaries as just informal, stream of consciousness videos rather than press releases or something, and it's never bothered me. That's how they've always been if you watch any of the older ones. They're part of the appeal of supporting a small developer, you get someone honestly talking in their own voice as opposed to a canned blurb from PRBot #147.


evilkinggumby wrote: WHen I look at NeN i also have to consider ANY other game kickstarted and both the quality, complexity, visual style, content, length, sound, gameplay and overall final product. I then am also going to look at the initial development pricetag. Your game raised over $100,000 to be developed. The game costs about $15 on steam to purchase when there are no sales going on. Comparing those numbers to other kickstarter campaigns that shot for the same, or significantly lower funding, and then looking at games at the $15 price point, you may start to see what the consumer sees. When we look at quality of investment, we need to feel like for whatever we are buying into, the final product is worth what we invested in it. If we could have spent the same amount of money on a much more satisfying, worthy game, it makes your game fall under an even more powerful microscope of scrutiny.

I myself have invested in numerous campaigns on Kickstarter, your included. I invested $35 for the game and early access. I did so because I felt strongly about the potential for the game and how great it could be. I will state I am ASSUMING many other investors did the same, with a lot of high expectations and hopes for the final game. Seeing the final result, and trying to break down investment vs payout, is where we start to stutter and stumble.

Now I could list a number of projects that are still as yet to be released, but shot for a much lower kickstarter budget, have similar size staffs(or less) and even their pre-alpha demo's show off a game more befitting an invested $15. But since the games are not yet out, I won't as that's not a fair comparison.
If you go the comparison route though, I could also list a bunch of projects with similar budgets that charged the same or more for the game access tier, but went way over schedule, split into episodes, went early access, or some combination of the above. There are plenty that still haven't been fully released yet. If you consider a Kickstarter pledge as an investment (and I don't really look at them this way, they tend to far more often fall into the donation or preorder category in my experience), these are major issues. Neverending Nightmares goes into the rare category of Kickstarters that released what was promised in the timeframe that was promised, so that's worth a lot. And the tier I got, which was the $35 alpha tier same as you, I feel that I got a lot of value out of actually getting a look at the development process, opposed to a project that doesn't communicate with the backers for long periods of time.

For those projects you're talking about listing, how many of them do you honestly think will make it on time and within their budget, with all the features they're promising? You can't throw a roll of quarters on Kickstarter without hitting a project that's filled with promises of all sorts of great ideas, but end up getting in way over their head and delaying or outright cancelling.

Granted, all of this makes very little to no difference for the person who purchases the game after it's released but isn't invested in the company or Kickstarter project in any way, so you make some good points on that end. The expectations of just a regular consumer who looks at the game page on Steam and decides whether or not they want to spend $15 is definitely something that needs to be considered.

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evilkinggumby
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Re: 200 - Game Length and Content

Post by evilkinggumby »

RightClickSaveAs wrote:You can't throw a roll of quarters on Kickstarter without hitting a project that's filled with promises of all sorts of great ideas, but end up getting in way over their head and delaying or outright cancelling.
I will agree with that, a lot of projects do run over in time-frame and sometimes budget too. I accept that risk when investing in Kickstarter games (i'll admit I've seen 2 game projects I backed fall into "likely abandoned" territory so far but happily I didn't invest as much in them). Personally, hitting the release date without any delays doesn't concern me so long as the project is still running as I'd greatly prefer a better/finished game than a forced release on time(and lately most of the gripes I see about AAA games has in part been due to released games that are broken, unfinished or buggy as all hell, so I suspect many gamers are keen to this notion as well). The games I would have cited did either run over in release date or have some issue with budget, that is true.
ranger_lennier wrote: But then I asked myself how I knew this. And I realized that it was from reading the forums, watching developer diaries, etc. If I'd have just picked up the game without any background information, I'd probably have found these images creepy, but I doubt I'd have thought they really meant anything greater than the sum of their parts. And if the game sells well at all, this is how most people will be playing it. So, maybe the story/message is a bit too subtle.
This is actually a hell of a great point to make. I hadn't considered it but you are right, the biggest reason I knew this game was psychological horror, about it's examination and basis on mental health and various conditions, and any of the details it has tied to Matt is due to outside stimuli. Without that I think it ends up feeling like a nifty stylized horror game and people don't think to try and read into it as being any more than this. At the same time, I think there is a degree of kindness and sympathy from those that followed the game and backed it because they know this is a game with deep roots in MATT's life and so reviews and support are somewhat biased. If this game was released from a vacuum, where no one knew him, knew anything really outside of the gameplay itself, and played it full through, I'm not sure the reactions would be the same.
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matt
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Joined: Fri Oct 04, 2013 10:48 am

Re: 200 - Game Length and Content

Post by matt »

While I’m sorry you don’t feel like the quality of my developer videos is up to snuff, it is very difficult to do 3 a week on top of my regular development duties, so I keep them stream of consciousness with little preparation, so I can focus on actual game development. The audience for the videos is pretty small if you look the view count (rarely do I get 150 views), so I think the people who watch them are interested in my ramblings even if they aren’t professional.

Perhaps it was in another video, but I did mention that the setting was one of the big appeals for Gone Home, which is why I enjoyed the VHS tapes and SNES cartridges.

I feel like you are missing the point of Neverending Nightmares. I’m not faulting you for it. If anything, it’s my fault. It’s not a narrative focused game, so it’s not supposed to be like Gone Home or Among the Sleep. The game is focused on creating feelings. It is a bleak oppressive atmosphere where you are powerless to do much of anything. The feeling of being lost and wandering aimlessly was a design decision. Now, some of those design decisions may be unpopular and having phonographs everywhere talking about Gabby and Thomas’s relationship might have made the game appeal to a wider audience, but that wasn’t the game we set out to make. You can argue we’ve failed to create those feelings, which again is a valid criticism, but it’s not a universal one. Some people have found that the game is extremely powerful.

I don’t agree with you that cell animation looks better than our animation technique. Cell animation is usually done at a low frame rate. There’s a thread on the Steam forum about how great our game looks on 120 Hz monitors. You can walk slower using the analog stick. We have blending from one animation to another. Our animation style has been frequently complimented, so I think the game would look worse with cell animation.

I also think it’s not a fair statement to say that the game looks like we manufactured it and not something we poured love into. We have a unique art style that was a lot of work to pull off. I outlined this in numerous developer diaries.

I agree that the official Neverending Nightmares website is not very good, but there are only so many hours in the day (and we certainly crunched hard getting the game out the door), so we haven’t had time to put anything interesting there. I don’t have traffic numbers, but I don’t think people are that interested in our website.

The imagery of the game was NOT meaningless to me. While not every painting contributed to the story, we tried to come up with things that contributed to the mood. I did a director’s commentary where I talk about the meanings of a lot of the elements of the game.

That being said, I think some people expect a game like Neverending Nightmares to have a narrative focus (like yourself) and are disappointed that everything is cryptic and symbolic, and don't understand what it means. Perhaps we could have done a better job, but I wanted the game to challenge players to figure out the meaning of everything. While I created the game that I set out to make with Neverending Nightmares, I am taking this feedback to heart. I am considering having more of a narrative focus for the next project because that seems like less people will come away disappointed with the game, which is important to me as a developer. That being said, I think a majority of people enjoy the game for what it is. While I wish we were getting better reviews, we have a significantly better metacritic (74) than Among the Sleep (66) for example.

There are very few games that are 20 hours long that I don’t get bored with. That’s not to say that they don’t exist though. With Alien: Isolation, I was saying it would be impossible maintain horror/tension over that length of time, and I’m about halfway through the game, and I think it’s true. Many reviews said that Alien: Isolation was too long as well.

Anyway, I appreciate your long and thought out feedback, but I think you have a bit unrealistic expectations for what a game developer can do given the time and money we had to make the game. We poured a lot of love into every facet of the game as well as a ton of funds beyond what we raised on kickstarter and Free the Games Fund. We did some programmer contracting to pay for extra art hours, so we could get additional polish. If you compare the art from the kickstarter demo to the final game, you'll notice that we redrew almost everything except the wallpaper and the floor. Kickstarter budgets aren't a good indication of the actual cost to make a product. FTL was almost finished when they did their kickstarter, which is why they only needed to ask for $10k. I'm sure it cost them much more than $10k to develop.

Now, the game may not be worth $15 or $35 to you. For that I apologize. However, we've created a game that a lot of people are happy with, and moving forward, we hope to make another game that even more people are happy with. I appreciate your feedback, and I think it will help us make a better next project if we are able to fund it.

However, in the midst of your feedback, I feel like you've unfairly portrayed us as a team that takes no pride in our work because our website isn't great, my public speaking skills aren't very good, and you personally prefer cell animation (while many others are very impressed with our animation). You're entitled to your opinion, but I vehemently disagree. I didn't get rich off Neverending Nightmares. I could make a lot more money working on Call of Duty. So could the rest of the team. The reason we do this is because of our passion.
-Matt Gilgenbach
Lead Frightener at Infinitap Games

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evilkinggumby
Posts: 297
Joined: Mon Oct 07, 2013 8:41 pm

Re: 200 - Game Length and Content

Post by evilkinggumby »

While not every painting contributed to the story, we tried to come up with things that contributed to the mood. I did a director’s commentary where I talk about the meanings of a lot of the elements of the game.

Interesting. I did not know a commentary exists. Can anyone send me a link or let me know where I might already have access to this? I'd love to give it a listen and garner a better understanding of what I missed playing the game.
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[I am Evilkinggumby on DeviantArt and Steam if you want to looks me up!]

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matt
Posts: 2316
Joined: Fri Oct 04, 2013 10:48 am

Re: 200 - Game Length and Content

Post by matt »

We actually offered it as a $15 add on towards the end of the campaign, so it is only available for those who pay. I was originally planning on making an in game director's commentary for everyone a stretch goal like "30 Flights of Loving", but unfortunately, we didn't reach that point in funding... Instead, I made a video of me playing the game and talking over it.

I was planning on updating the website to sell it again, but since it doesn't seem like you enjoyed the game, I don't think you'll want to spend more money on it... :-/ I don't want to undercut the supporters by giving it away for free.

If you had specific questions, I wouldn't mind answering them, but that's not quite the same as the commentary where I go through the themes and meanings of the game.
-Matt Gilgenbach
Lead Frightener at Infinitap Games

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