Category Archives: videogaming

Articles about electronic games

American Pie

On Thursday, it was announced that the final weekly downloadable song for Rock Band would be Don McClean’s “American Pie.”

I don’t have stories from working on Rock Band. I have stories about not working on Rock Band. Back in 2006, I was working for the Activision studio Vicarious Visions. Among other things, we did a lot of the Nintendo Wii and DS development for Activision titles headed elsewhere.

I had a number of old friends and colleagues at Harmonix, and the previous year they had come out with Guitar Hero, to huge success. So, when Activision acquired Red Octane (Guitar Hero’s publisher) I indulged myself in some hope that I might get to work with those guys. That, of course, was not fated to happen that way.

I did end up working on the fringes of Guitar Hero. In addition to managing the design group at VV during most of the Guitar Hero years there, I was producer on the team that prototyped Mii Freestyle Mode in Guitar Hero World Tour, and did design on another prototype that never made it. I remember a lot of animosity among fans between Guitar Hero and Rock Band, and I expect some developers must have felt that way too. But all I ever percieved personally was responsibility. I had accidentally ended up with the people who were in charge of Harmonix’s baby, and I wanted to take good care of it. Let it be done well, and let someone else worry about sibling rivalry.

Fast forward to today. I am working with those old friends now, at Harmonix. I’m not working on Rock Band, and never did. But my involvement with carrying their baton was one of the things that gave me the mad confidence to be here. And just as when Activision closed down their music business, the end of new Rock Band content at Harmonix has got me looking back on these stories that put me where I am today.

Why does anybody choose a life in entertainment? The song goes “I knew, if I had my chance, that I could make those people dance, and maybe they’d be happy for a while.” When I go home at the end of the day, all I can hope is that I’ve done something to bring people some joy.

So, bye bye. Harmonix isn’t telling yet what we’re offering people next. But maybe they’ll be happy with it, for a while.

Nothing to See Here…

I’m breaking with convention and not doing a Salta Champ update this week. Not that I haven’t worked on it, but it’s largely been refactoring my mostly-C code into proper C++. Which, aside from introducing a few (pleasantly few) typos that I’ve had to track down, isn’t too exciting from the outside.

It has been a good exercise, though, working yet more muscles that I hadn’t had a chance to stretch in a while.

Wind-up Knight In-App Purchases Synthesize Old and New

A couple of months ago, I briefly previewed Wind-Up Knight, the new action game for Android (and soon, iOS) by Robot Invader. Well, it came out about a week ago, and the only reason I didn’t mention it then was that I didn’t really have anything to say. I didn’t expect that the first thing I’d have to say would be about their business model, which is really interesting. Continue reading Wind-up Knight In-App Purchases Synthesize Old and New

Emergent Behavior

Here’s an entertaining failure case in my late-game pathfinding AI. As I’ve mentioned, after a certain point, the AI switches from a straight minimax strategy (carefully considering its moves vs. possible counter-moves) to a Djikstra’s Algorithm pathfinder with limited minimax elements. Which is to say, it tries to find ways to rearrange its own pieces to create clear paths to park its highest-priority pieces. Continue reading Emergent Behavior

Satisfaction Part 2

As I mentioned yesterday, one of the weaknesses of a work-to-schedule AI approach, with an exponentially growing search space, is that you can easily spend most of your time on an analysis that never ends up getting used. After all, if at each search depth you take more time than all of the previous depths put together, there’s no point starting a search in the whole second half of your allotted time. Continue reading Satisfaction Part 2