Beautifun Games

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The BeautiFun Team Stories - Dani Navarro - Graphic Designer - Part I




My story started after my parents came from Andalucia to work in Barcelona, the city where I was born and still live in. As a kid my passion was mainly drawing everything I saw on TV, later the comics I read and lastly the games I played. But my parents never had a special affinity for video games, if any, I would say it was the opposite.


The 1990s


Somehow I managed to convince my parents to buy me a Mega Drive. One of the main reasons why my parents finally did that was because they wanted to avoid me to stay all day long at my neighbour's house playing NES or Master System. I spent countless hours in the arcade rooms hooked on action games. Mostly remember the frenetic ones, House of the Dead, Time Crisis, Aliens Vs. Predator, Metal Slug and Cadillac & Dinosaurs...

As a curious anecdote from my old arcade days, one day while playing House of the Dead 3  cabinet in Salou, my trained skills allowed me to reach the last stage of the game relatively easy. Then I saw how people gathered around me and, soon after this, I got killed by the final monster. At that exact moment I was in the urgent need to find a coin to beat the game and my wallet was empty, so I turned my back to the crowd I saw watching my game five minutes earlier, only to see if somebody could lend me a coin... but sadly everybody was gone and, irremediably, I lost my game.

If I have to look for a starting point when comes to defining the games that marked my life, I should start with Sonic, one of the first games I've ever played on the Mega Drive and also a title I'm emotionally pretty much attached to. The controls were so simple and, at the same time, gameplay was quite deep for me as a child. The SEGA's mascot had (and still keeps) loads of charisma. Sonic original character design seemed very simple but at the same time is really well thought if you think about what SEGA wanted to achieve with him.


Here are other games I loved from that first era:

Jurassic Park: Always been passionate about dinosaurs, long before Jurassic Park was on theaters. In fact I loved movies like The Lost World (1925) or The beast from 20.000 fathoms (1953). Consider myself a hardcore fan of sci-fi movies and horror monsters, but the fascination I had when I saw Jurassic Park was very special, loved how it blended the realistic theme with  those stunning visuals (mixing animatronics and digital effects). I couldn't forget to mention both versions of the game, released for Mega Drive and Super Nintendo, they made me feel so close to the movie universe.


Altered Beast. A good friend borrowed it to me and had it at home for enough time to love and hate it in equal measure. The game was insanely hard, but the habilities to transform the main character and their mythology-inspired scenarios really fascinated me.

Gunstar Heroes. Was enthused by its graphics, and the crazyness of each stage, full of shootings and explosions.

Streets of Rage 2: That game offered a lot of possibilities, the recreation of the city was superb, still nowadays it represents an aesthetic reference for me as an artist.

Now after talking about SEGA, cannot foget to say I lived very intensely that era when both, Nintendo and SEGA were dominant and also antagonic rivals. I was quite young to have a more reasoned opinion about the “confrontation”, but the case is that I started as a blind supporter of SEGA, with a mascot full of charisma (and somehow naughty) and those direct "Pirate TV" advertisements. Since the first comparison of what both brands had to offer I quickly made the conclusion that SEGA games were much more dynamic, aggressive and intense, but discovered how wrong I was when I visited a friend's house. He had a Super Nintendo and we spent endless hours playing. So both choices where equally good in the end.

On the SNES I remember devoting hours and hours to Street Fighter II, with its fast fights, detailed scenarios and fighters full of charisma (Ryu and Ken were really easy to control, but Blanka was really my favourite).
 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time:
Aside of dinosaurs, I was also a big fan of Ninja Turtles, and loved that game, for me it was the best ever made based on the franchise. The stages were varied, funny and very ingenious, full of quite different characters. My favourite stage, and at the same time the hardest one, was the one that took place in the sewers.

Killer Instinct. Was not my favourite fighter in the system, but I ended up kind of addicted to it for the impressively well designed characters, and the art in general.

After the Mega Drive I got a Game Boy, played Tetris, Dr.Mario, Tennis, and countless hours at Pokemon Red. Also always wanted to have a Game Gear, because of the incredible color screen, luckily I got it later.
Then was when discovered my father's PC and the next few games that would impact my mind like a meteor in Maniac Mansion.

Age of Empires.

Maybe because of my father (who is a teacher and archeologyst), I love ancient civilizations. So the chance to create an empire from the very beginning, managing all the resources and growing my own civilization was an incredibly entertaining. It was so intuitive and simple to play, and at the same time I was overwhelmed by the huge amount of actions my troops could perform at anytime.


Lemmings.  

Was a brilliant puzzle game, a true classic. Loved the idea of having a myriad of creatures fighting for a common good. Simple and addictive, albeit the design of the characters always seemed quite ugly to me.

Doom.

With a bold level design, initially looked like a bit monotonous to me, but in the end the labyrinths were so diverse and the brutality was shocking for any teenager of that time.

Aliens vs. Predator.

I'm a die hard fan of the Alien and Predator sagas, so when that game came out I remember I started going everyday to the videoclub to rent it. The developers put a lot of effort into simulate the experience of controlling an Alien, but above all I enjoyed the enormous amount of movements and skills a predator had. Finally I cannot forget the anguish you could perceive in the atmosphere of those so faithfully recreated scenarios.

Now I want to thank, once more, to another good friend of mine who borrowed me a PSOne, thanks to him I got to play great titles like:

Metal Gear Solid.

All the games from this saga put a lot of attention into the details. The pleasure of silently crossing those so well designed environments, with tons of tension while trying to go unnoticed, it was simply incredible. But, above all, I liked how smoothly the story was told.


Final Fantasy VII.
I remember how, at the beginning, I had a bittersweet feeling. But step by step I was getting more and more involved with the story. characters and soundtrack. Truly loved the cinematics.

Gran Turismo.
When it's about racing games I have to admit that I really prefer arcades, but after trying the first Gran Turismo discovered a very deep game, where you could spend days or even weeks to get handle a car. And man, cannot forget those astounding graphics.

The 2000's


It was hard for me to convince my parents to buy me a new home console, so I kept playing at friends houses for many months. With portable systems there was no problem, but it took many years until my parents bought me a Dreamcast, a console that will always have a special place in my heart. When you look at what Dreamcast achieved nowadays you can notice how ahead of its time it was, those innovative peripherals (like the fishing rod), unrivaled 3D graphics for that time, plenty of "pixel-perfect" arcade games, Internet connectivity. I played Shenmue back then and  thought that video games had started to grow up and were reaching a more adult era.

I quit playing PC games in late 90s, but recently I came back and really enjoy the diversity and  affordability that platforms like Steam or GOG offer. At the moment I can say I am a very balanced player, enjoying the consoles and PC without making a big difference.



Is quite sad that SEGA had to abandon the hardware sector after Dreamcast, I loved that system. Now from that golden era we only have Nintendo as a hardware manufacturer, and when I look back at how they evolved through years, it really surprises me what they achieved with the Wii, a system that really opened video games to whole new segments of the population. Curiously, at the same time, the price we all had to pay for to seeing our parents playing videogames translated into a huge amount of crappy titles that were mercilessly launched, that way flooding the market. Maybe that huge audience moved on to other platforms (like smartphones or other consoles). I'm a bit worried now for Nintendo, the Wii U is not doing as well as they expected, but on the other side I loved playing all the portable systems they released since Game Boy (for me it was like having an arcade in your pocket, you got instant fun at your hand!).

After Dreamcast was released, I got a Playstation 2 around 2005, Shadow of the Colossus is a game that you can feel it has a quite artistic tone while you're playing it, has a very calm pace when you go wandering through the world, and suddenly you feel like you approach those giants without seeing them and start to get excited. Then you find the colossus and enjoy contemplating it as part of the whole scenario. It's not only the overwhelming feeling you have when fighting those gigantic creatures, everything is so well wrapped with that amazing visual style that you feel like the game has some kind of magic, a feeling you cannot describe with words.


Metal Gear Solid 2.

This Metal Gear was the one that impressed me the most, when compared to the previous installments in the series. The dramatic atmosphere that surrounded you, that dark color palette, helped by the story and the claustrophobic feeling that implies to play on a boat.

Burnout Series.

It's aggresive philosophy and the realistic recreation of the car crashes got all my attention, pure entertainment.

GTA San Andreas.

Recuerdo una época en la que nos juntábamos algunos compañeros en casa de alguien para hacer el burro con el juego. La cantidad de posibilidades que ofrecía para entonces era enorme.

Devil May Cry.  

Loved the gothic art style atmosphere, also the gameplay seemed really intuitive and well designed to me.


After the PS2 I bought the XBOX only for House of the Dead III, Panzer Dragoon Orta and Doom III. Also for me Dino Crisis 3 was not a so bad game, as many people said. From Panzer Dragoon Orta I loved the art and character design mixed up with an arcade mechanic. Doom III showed some of the most detailed textures and advanced lighting systems I had seen to that date.

The 2010's


I've always bought consoles for their exclusive games, and played the multi-platform titles on PC. Bought the GameCube for Resident Evil 4, then XBOX 360 played Halo 3 and Dead Rising. A Playstation 3 for God of War, Uncharted and The Last of Us. About the first two, have to admit I love games that take inspirations from ancient civilizations and also their gameplay was really polished), also The Last of Us is for me one of the best games made to date. The way the scenario provide you with the resources you need and how it delivers them to you seems perfect to me. About the game story, I should remark that the character design is excellent, reminded me of Shenmue at times.


In the current generation of consoles I personally wonder if Microsoft had a clear idea of what to do with their system in the future (second hand, Kinect always connected, allowing indies to do self-publishing...). In contrast, from the beginning I saw Sony had much clearer ideas and partnerships with plenty of independent studios in addition of the big publishers, and that's something I'm quite happy to see.

Now with a PS4 I will confess the games I'm most looking forward to are mostly indie titles. One of them is The Witness, because I'm curious about playing what Jonathan Blow comes up with after Braid, and also I'm curious to know more about Tequila Works' Rime. In the more mainstream zone, I want to see a sequel for The Last of Us, and also pray for Shenmue 3 to be released someday in a near future. In general, I'm eager to see the continuous changes in the industry and how this evergrowing ecosystem will evolve during the next years, like the rise of indie games and self-publishing, Free to Play, Virtual Reality, mobile phones and tablets versus portable consoles, etc.


You can get in touch with Dani on Twitter, he is @playerDNG

Interview made by @JesusFabre

Thursday, July 3, 2014

A crazy week full of events! PAD, Gamelab and Indie Burger Developer Awards


If we had to point out a particularly good week in the whole year to be a game developer in Barcelona, that will definitely be the previous one. We enjoyed the successive celebration of three gamedev events in a row! Two of them international: Gamelab and P.A.D. Congress, and the third one, the Burger Developers Awards, which is focused on having fun with the local Spanish indie scene (But everyone's invited!). So get ready for a tour in which we'll introduce you some of the greatest stuff that happened during the last (and very intense) days! 

P.A.D. - Professional Associated Developers Congress.


After P.A.D. Congress we had the pleasure to take dinner with the nice people from the organization, like Eva Gaspar, Nacho García and Ricardo Fernández (Abylight), Nicklas Dunham (Gamingcorps), also Dajana Dimovska (Knapnok Games) and Laura Suárez (Devilish Games).

Gamelab Barcelona 2014.


Kevin participated in a very interesting roundtable during Gamelab where, along with other three indie developers, they centered on exposing and analyzing the weak and strong points of being an indie developer and also on giving some advices to other aspiring game developers. He was in the company of Jordi De Paco (from our friend studio Deconstructeam), Mattis Delerud (DOS Studios) and the moderator was Juan Gril (Joju Games).


The first morning at the Gamelab we had a great lunch with a nice group of developers and journalists. As you can see in the faces of the ones who are sitting, that meeting was truly enjoyable.

Friday, June 13, 2014

The BeautiFun Team Stories - Elias Pereiras - Programmer - Part II


Jesús Fabre: Why did you applied for Computer Science? Where does your passion for this field comes from?

Elias Pereiras: After I finished highschool I was pretty lost about what would be my next step, I started to try out different options that could be suitable for my skills and that didn't require me to move out of home. As I always loved Maths, thought it could be a good choice to try my luck and try to be a matematician, but nothing was further from reality. Soon I discovered that math-related abstract thinking was not my thing at all, and started to think intensely about which road to take. So I finally decided to do Computer Science for the simple reason that I've been always in touch with computers and technology in general, and I liked it. I was lucky enough to find what could be the closest thing to a vocation for me. Without being a genius, I have to admit that I was good at computers, and also enjoyed very much almost every subject I studied during the whole degree. Some colleagues complained a bit about how boring or difficult some topics were, but I always took in consideration that all that knowledge would be useful at some point in my future career, and perhaps this was the main reason why the grades I got were quite high.


JF: What did you enjoyed the most from your degree?

EP: I loved programming, more in concrete that feeling we all have when we don't know anything and then start to make good progresses from scratch. Then comes the moment when you discover you can make things you believed were impossible. Respecting programming languages, the ones I worked more intensely with during my studies where C, Java, and... the ancient and venerable Modula 2! I know it sounds totally weird and hard to believe, but during the first year we learned programming in that language, I still look at the sky and keep wondering why that happened. On the other side we didn't learn a single thing about the powerful and widely used C++ (that I had to learn at home, during my free time).

JF: And when you finished you degree, did you already had an idea of what you wanted to do?

EP: Enjoyed programming, but have to admit I had no idea of where to apply my skills. I've always loved games and was interested in being part of the industry, but also knew it was really hard to be part of it, I saw that as a real challlenge. When I was in the last year of my degree in the University of Santiago de Compostela, I noticed that the topics offered for the final project weren't attractive enough for me (databases, network programming, robotics, but nothing related to computer graphics). Then I took the decision of going out and pursue a career in game development, that brought me to Barcelona, where I attended Universidad Politécnica de Barcelona (UPC). There I studied the last year of my degree and then a Masters in videogame development.

JF: How was your first year studying in Barcelona?

EP: The first thing I did, even before going to Barcelona, was to configure the subjects I wanted to learn in my last course at UPC. I tried to do every optional subject related to computer graphics, what took me to learn a lot, studying during around 8 to 9 hours a day, and in consecuence focus my final project intensely on working with graphics. Finally I got to finish the project, a flying simulation game for Android. Must admit the teachers loved the project and it got the maximum qualifications. It ended up published on the Google Play Store, if any of you want to try it, you can find it for a dollar under the name World Air Race.


JF: How was the experience at the UPC Masters and why did you choose that one and not another?

EP: The main reason for me was that their studies covered art and programming, nevertheless afterwards I noticed that the programming part wasn't as strong as I expected. The most useful point of doing a Master in videogame development for me is that you can meet tons of people who are also passionate about the idea of creating games, so you have several candidates to team up and create a game. This single point is not insignificant at all, especially when you think that in Spain nobody contracts a novice programmer without seeing at least a finished game. If you take a look around at the Masters you can apply for in Spain, you'll find they use to be quite expensive for our general economic level. So if you don't have the money I'd recommend you to go your own way and try to develop games on your own. If you can find some friends to learn from and share thoughts it will be even better. Also those people can be found at game jams, game development events, and the like.

JF: Just the very first day of the Masters you had to form a group to develop your final game project, that will be presented at the end of the course. Could you go a bit more into the details of that process and the game you developed?

EP: It was something that caught my attention a lot: the fact that on the first day we had to form a group and also decide about the game we wanted to develop, all without barely knowing each other. I would have waited a few weeks to let the students form the groups and decide the games they wanted to develop in a more natural fashion, taking their affinities into account. In our case, we were fortunate to to agree in the creation of an all vs. all arena game, which we'd call Playtime Stories and that will be set in a very typical western school. As we didn't want to reduce the game to a shoot'em all mechanic, we added some depth with narrative events during the game, and also adding the costumes mechanic, which add tons of dinamism to the game. To explain it better, imagine you are a cowboy at a certain point, and if somebody gets closer to you with hostile attitude, then you can switch your costume to a viking instantly and take advantage of that costume special skills, that is much more effective for melee attacks. Was a hard work to think about each costume's special properties and also to balance them.


JF: What were the biggest challenges during the development of Playtime Stores?

EP: The development lasted a year (a whole academic course), and the busiest time was during Summer. We had to focus on defining all the cases that could appear, goals of the game, narrative events, costumes, skills, characters (and their respective design), also defining the costume switch mechanics, etc. This first part of game design - although it didn't require of any technical knowledge - was really exhausting. The game's artificial inteligence system also deserves a special mention, since we were defining many state diagrams to get the most natural behaviour possible out of the characters controlled by the computer. For this, we took Quake 3 Arena AI design document as reference, there each AI had its own long-term goal (i.e. win the match), another mid-term goal (i.e. kill that player I just saw and has a quite low life level), and a third and short-term one (i.e. get closer to that player). Also it's curious what happened with the game art, since we didn't have any dedicated artist. We were really lucky because the four of us were really passionated about the project and all of us worked into artistic tasks and combined them with our respective functions. I helped out in this aspect, doing some scenarios and characters modeling, I did textures, UVs deployment (that consists in establishing the match between the 3D model vertex and a flat texture that will later be applied to the model, so it will look like the texture has been adapted by hand). In conclusion, I can tell you that the project was super gruelling, we were too ambitious and had to polish quite a lot of stuff. Even had to delete some parts of the game that were already implemented to keep the coherence of what we could technically present. To help you make an idea, Playtime Stories initially was going to have only four characters, with three costumes each and three skills for each costume. Seeing how much it took us to create only a couple of characters with two costumes and skills each, I believe this work could have taken us several years to finish. Think we aren't talking only about doing the animations separately, we had to think about each and every combination of them in sequence, and make the transitions as smooth as we could. We go a step harder when we adopted a third person camera, what costed us a lot to program correctly.

JF: How was the feedback received once you presented the game? did you wanted to take it further than a simple student project?



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