Narrative Designer for Thanatophobia. I write stuff and provide comedic support. I like to approach things from a lighter and more optimistic side. Ha-ha, see?

Blog RSS Feed Report abuse Urban exploration feels a bit like gaming

0 comments by Bambs on Aug 11th, 2012

Urban exploration feels a bit like gaming

Hello again!
As the last post was a review-y blog that dragged out way longer than it should have, I thought I'd share my hobby along with some thoughts about it this time, with all who's willing to be indulged by it. This year I picked up a new hobby which has served as a great source of inspiration and amusement. Namely urban exploration (or UE in short) to be exact.

About Urban exploring:

The UE rules of conduct and definition varies from person to person. To many UE, as the name suggest, means the exploration of urban locales and environments. Most commonly abandoned facilities or industrial areas. Others such as myself, have a widened scope and also mark out secluded areas as key UE points of interest. Together with a close UE partner and good friend I've investigated spaces ranging from old military facilities to industrial areas, controversial resorts and abandoned buildings here in my homeland of Sweden.

urban exploration
An asian styled hotel-resort in the Swedish outbacks...
A standard rule of UE around here applies for the same as nature: "Take nothing but pictures and leave nothing but footprints". Although I should be the first to admit to having brought home a small souvenir every now and then, I do try to uphold this unwritten rule to the best of my ability. It is always such a dreadful pity to arrive at an obscure location, only to discover it to be riddled with graffiti tags and material broken or otherwise ruined by other visitors.

urban exploration
The old gymnastics hall of a since long abandoned school
Mostly a place becomes accessible for Urban Exploration after abandonment in some form. Some people get the idea to get in areas that are currently in use. One could say that they "infiltrate" them. It could be spaces such as "member's only" areas, machinery rooms and other locales. Gladly I have permission to access many areas like these for my full time job, so my curiosity is mostly sated when it comes to these types of locales! Keep in mind though, Urban Exploration often means risking "bending the rules" on what is generally accepted and what is not. In some cases you may even have to break government laws to enter a location, so if that is not for you, find something a bit more accessible!

urban exploration
My silhouette on the top of an abandoned silo

Urban exploration is kind of like gaming:

Imagine traversing to a place where you know almost no man or woman have been. At the very least not in quite some time. The feeling of discovery is something that makes any explorer swell with pride. In a world so carefully mapped by explorers of ages and in more recent days, satellites, areas largely unknown to the typical member of society are hard to come by. I remember feeling the same way when I snuck into places supposedly unavailable in World of Warcraft back in the day before nearly every was blocked off or made "legally" accessible with the possibility of worldwide mounted flight.

There is something absolutely amazing about experiencing an area left by a modern society as their uses have been rendered unnecessary. Whether it means walking large distances over plains the used to be in use by hundreds of industrial workers, military sites once built in preparation of war or buildings that once symbolized hope, there is undeniably something special in the air. It may seem hard to believe from an outside point of view but I've found myself potentially risking my life doing some silly stuff for thrills and satisfying my sense of discovery.

To those unfamiliar with what it is I am trying to convey, urban exploration is quite well comparable to the recent Fallout games. I mean, The Elder Scrolls games, specifically Morrowind, Oblivion and Skyrim, all feature some excellent exploration in order to map the world. To me though, Fallout comes closer to the sort of vibes the typical UE sites give off. The overhanging dystopian and melancholic themes in a post-apocalyptic world actually doesn't tread far from once great feats of man, slowly being reclaimed by nature due to either neglect, re-purposing or ambitious plans gone down the drain.

fallout 3 building
See what I mean? How cool is that? - Fallout 3
Thank you for reading, until next time!

Kind regards,
-Bambs

Report abuse When it rains, it pours

1 comment by Bambs on Jul 7th, 2012

What's been going on lately:

Hey There! To compensate for my two first blog posts which I practically tossed out there back to back, I've been taking a pause in between those and this third one. There reasons are many and varied and nothing of which I will go into depth on. Parts of it is due to me taking on a full time and occasionally over time job. I still manage my best to squeeze in time for leisured activities (gaming, socialising and whatever) and of course; writing for Thanatophobia!

Don't solo, yolo:

First of all I am more of a Carpe Diem person, just to clear any misunderstandings. In either case, with the recent changes that I have been going through, personal and business related, remaining a (realistic) optimist and motivated has been a challenge. I am dead certain that others, maybe even someone reading this, can relate to my situation. To be forced through changes, a natural part of life that one can do little but accept, is tough.
I've mostly been the kind of person to try my best to deal with these things on my own. From both a personal and a business related point of view I can't say I'd ever recommend such undertakings. When working on a team it is vital for each individual member as well as the group as a unit to maintain a multiplayer's mindset. Trust in each other, motivate each other and inspire each other. It doesn't matter if you're composing a soundtrack, crafting intricate lore or designing a full-scale game. It's easy to forget those important little things. So don't solo, yolo! ;)

When it rains...

I would like to end this post by talking briefly about a little game called Silent Hill: Downpour (spoiler free). For those unaware, it is the 8th (!) entry in the Silent Hill series. I'd say it is safe to say that SH along with the Resident Evil series is one of the longest running survival-horror game series out there (please do correct me if I am wrong). Anyhow, I finished the game just recently, with very mixed opinion of it.
For this entry the Konami army enlisted Vatra Games for the development mission. Even the long running composer Akira Yamaoka was replaced by newcomer Daniel Licht. It's common knowledge that the Silent Hill series hasn't aged very well. Ever since the first three games, in my personal opinion, it's been going through a slow deteriorating process.

My impressions:
Silent Hill: Downpour is the kind of game you play with a friend. Not because it is too scary to play, but because you (as in I) will most likely end up with streaks of boredom. The eight installments introduces a whole new take on the series, the main focus of the game being... Well, damn. I wish I could say exploration which was obviously meant to be an overhanging theme but I just could feel it. Granted I did not finish every single bit of content there is to discover in the quaint little town of Silent Hill, but I felt absolutely no need to. I was bottle-fed every bit of information needed to know the main protagonist, escaped convict Murphy Pendleton, perfectly. Hell I even got the (in my opinion) best ending simply by being an all round nice guy.
I played the game on my recently bought Playstation and the technical quirks were many. Lag and frame skips ruined the experience and killed the fun in exploration. The uninspired array of enemies, a rough combat system and un-engaging soundtrack did not help either. Still there was something about the game that drew me in. Through the foggy haze I could see rays of authentic potential. The introduction of side quests was an intriguing touch, though it offered little to the main plot. I gained nothing to aid me in my relatively simple quest of escaping the town's wicked grasp. Once I realized this it struck me how short and linear the full game was.

Final words:
Downpour, like its title suggest left me feeling like I just took a brisk walk in the rain and forgot to bring my umbrella. Sure, I got some fresh air and a healthy dose of exercise but at the end of it all I felt washed up and... well, wet; clothes and all. It's a real shame because the potential is there. It is still there! Still, I do not regret my experience with the game, although I certainly do believe that it could've been better. I wish Team Silent was still around :c

What did that have to do with anything?

As the writer for an old-school themed survival horror game in the making it's naturally the job to draw inspiration (inspiration, not stealing mind you) from other big titles out there. It's nothing I am ashamed of, it is how we learn. Monkey see, monkey do. With the controversial Downpour I believe Vatra tried to mix the old-school way of doing this with the more modern techniques; adding both button-mashing and button-alternation as well as old school poem deciphering. I was a little disappointed in the absence of six-axis usage, but oh well.
I feel however that the developers didn't know if they wanted to make the game old-school or not. The exotic idea of exploration feels modern to me, but it was lacking and noticably fractured. The core events and main story bits of the game ended up tragically unpolished because of it.
It is a valid lesson to learn and I feel like I've grown a tad from experiencing it first hand.

To anyone still reading!

To any of you still reading then please, if you have the will and time, post a comment about your own thoughts. How do you feel about the series or the modern advancements in the field of survival horror. Are we on the right path, or have we lost something important along the way?

Kind regards,
-Bambs

Report abuse How to: International teamworking

0 comments by Bambs on Feb 25th, 2012

What's this about?

Hello again! I didn't really think (or planned) to write another blog post so soon after my first one. On top of that I also told myself that I wouldn't be all dull and informal as a clich├ęd elderly Uni lecturer but I fear that's about to go down the drain as well. Then again, it's my blog and therefore I am entitled to the adult man's baton of leadership. Long story short; I'm going to share my thoughts on teamwork with everyone interested.

Why?

"Why?" you ask? Well, there are several reasons. Not only has the question been brought up from friends and family, but there is a lot of prejudice out there I'd like to tackle. Now, normally the development of games in groups isn't really that uncommon, a lot more so are solo-projects. Even while working with other devoted members of a tightly knit team, morale is often hard to maintain. Naturally solo runs are therefore branded less likely to succeed.
I am, however, not going to talk about solo projects; what I would really like to mention is the development process of international independent games developing teams. The main reason why people are asking me about the matter is because I happen to take part in one myself.

My own situation

Death Knell Games consists in large part of devoted and likewise beloved contributors on top of the founding members. Together we make an international team spanning the United States (of AMERICA!), The United Kingdom and (yours truly) Sweden. Now as the development processes of games are commonly intricate and require lots of careful planning, it is important that the group is always able to maintain contact with each other. There are a handful of factors that play into this fact that may make or break your project.

Make's or break's

  1. The Language Barrier
    The TLB is something likely to cause problems in any development process. No matter how infatuated two or more people are about a project it simply cannot be done properly or at all if there are linguistic complications hindering your communication.
    How to avoid the TLB and why:
    It's fairly simple really, just make sure you all speak the same language! I will go ahead and say that English is a languaged that -should- be known if you are looking to branch out and outgrow your roots in this big world. It may seem obvious and given, but I can say from personal experience that the TLB is known and feared for good reasons. In the long run it will save you blood, sweat and tears by making sure that the people you work with can undoubtedly understand what it is you tell them!
  2. Availability
    All developers should know the importance of availability. When we talk about availability however, we should not limit ourselves to the care for our product, but to the care for our teambased communication. By making ourselves available to eachother we naturally benefit the development process of the product. Social media, IM programs (such as Skype) and good old fashioned e-mailing is very important for every team to be as healthy as possible.
    If we are not available to each other:
    If the team members struggle keeping up with communications, morale is sure to drop. I couldn't even begin to explain how important it is to me and my fellow developers to be able to stay in touch with each other. It has happened that some people have mysteriously gone off-grid and never really returned; not exactly the best way to keep up the fighting spirit.
    I recommend:
    For any development team with distanced members (doesn't have to be international) I personally recommend voice-conferences once a day at the very least (unless a specific development plan says otherwise), if just to check in on the development progress. In text based conversations information and intentions are easily misunderstood.
  3. Being friendly is not too bad, but beware!
    Now this is always depending on the span of the ongoing project, but I feel inclined to say that most everything development-related should be handled professionally. Treating a project professionally, however, does not mean that it is not okay to be nice and friendly with your fellow developers. You'd be amazed how much a simple "Hello!" or "How are you doing broseph/Brosephine!?" without it being related to the ongoing development process, actually contributes to the mindsets of your fellow team mates.
    The negative aspect:
    It is true to me that a friendly environment to cover the sometimes rough and gritty nature of a professional business is very beneficial for the mental health of everyone partaking in the development process of a game, especially if the team members are distanced from each other. It's hard to even imagine working with people who appear to have no face, a person whose identity is limited to their status in the project group.
    Being too friendly when dealing with professional business however can be devastating for the development team's social integrity. It's easy to hurt and get hurt by fellow workmates by, for example, finding out that a large chunk of work you put into the projects needs to be reworked.

Final words...

I've experienced all of the above during my time spent in different project groups. It's important to learn and improve from past mistakes. Some of these just may have to be experienced before the gravity of their influence on development groups and social integrity becomes evident. If by sharing these thoughts with you can prevent a single person from falling into similar traps then I'm overjoyed!
Obviously there is a -LOT- more ground to cover than this, I've barely begun scratching the outer layer. The experience I've shared today revolves around a select few important points, not just for international (or otherwise distanced) development groups, but all similar projects in general.
Ultimately I think we've pulled through nicely despite our cultural and geographical differences in the Thanatophobia development group. So far we've achieved this... (much more behind the scenes :3)

...and there is a lot more currently in the making by an awesome, international development team. Thanks for making this happen guys!

Kind regards,
-Bambs

Report abuse What I do is what I do

0 comments by Bambs on Feb 23rd, 2012

Hello!

I am a writer, sort of. Atleast I'd like to refer to myself as one and hey; if all else fails I could always justify myself with this. I came to think that it would be nice to become a more active part of the community seeing as I'm working on a project here anyhow.

For those of you who do not know what I am going on about (I highly doubt anyone does), I am currently the Narrative Designer for Death Knell Games and I am currently writing the storyline, scripts and designing all puzzles for upcoming Survival-horror game Thanatophobia. Although I personally find the topic very interesting, allow me to assure you: This is not a dev. blog!

Now don't get me wrong, I am very likely to bring Thanatophobia up here a lot (or atleast to the extent that I am allowed before my fellow teammembers slap me on the wrist), but this space is not limited by or in any way based on the project. This is simply a somewhat neanderthal but charming little area where I post my thoughts about gaming, writing and... Well, whatever I see fit! Because if that isn't what a blog is for, then you tell me!

Moving on to more exciting news

I've actually got something related to Thanatophobia worthy of mentioning. That being that we over at DKG are currently looking to expand our force. If you're a talented programmer looking for an interesting project then by all clickity-clack this link to read more and apply for the position.

That's about it for this entry. If I ramble on I will end up scaring people away which is the opposite of what I hope to accomplish (deep down inside somewhere). I've finished a big cup of tea I made for just this occasion anyhow. Next time I think I will be a little more informal because that's just the kind of person I am ;)

Kind regards,
- Bambs

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