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The Joys of Next-Gen Commentary 16

Via Joystiq, an article on MTV Games' Overdrive site on commentary tracks in next-generation gaming. The piece looks at the history of game commentary (all the way back on the N64), and discusses what it will take for us to see more of this in future games. From the article: "What will it take to get more game makers to spill like this? The most significant obstacle is time. Movie directors have the luxury of recording commentary for DVDs that arrive months after their film is completed and released in theaters. Game makers, if they want to include commentary with their title, need to record it in the 11th hour of a game's development, right at crunch time. Insomniac Games has included a behind-the-scenes interactive 'museum' in two of the company's four 'Ratchet and Clank' games, but has never provided an audio commentary." Warning: the article is on a flash site, and I'd advise pausing the ad box in the upper right hand corner before the music starts.
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The Joys of Next-Gen Commentary

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  • It's not just a Flash site, it's Flash 9. Anyone who isn't on their own computer and can't upgrade is SOL.
  • by acomj ( 20611 ) on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @03:43PM (#16490895) Homepage
    Gamasutra has a section called postmortem, with commentary on already written games.

    http://www.gamasutra.com/php-bin/article_display.p hp?category=5 [gamasutra.com]

  • Game makers, if they want to include commentary with their title, need to record it in the 11th hour of a game's development, right at crunch time.

    Do we really want to hear all the fights over shipping the game as is and patch it later? Or the producer whining that QA caused the game to miss the unrealistic ship date and he lost his bonus? Or how awesome the big name designer is as the slaves moan in the background?
    • Was that supposed to be funny? That's not rhetorical. I really want to know if it was supposed to sound funny or bitter, because I can't tell.
      • by creimer ( 824291 )
        After working six years at Accolade/Infogrames/Atari (same company) and being a lead tester for 10 projects, it's both funny and bitter. Depending on how you suck your lemons. :)
  • It's a LOT of time. You have to plan your thoughts for the commentary, make a commentary system and record audio, implement it in the game (you don't add a feature like this in crunch, or even in production it will be something from the start of production at worst) and so on.

    Ratchet and Clank has a perfect compromise. Something for true fans, yet it's mostly "broken" or semi broken/useless objects that people might want to check out. Yes I suggested that at my company, it's under consideration.

    It's some
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      I think giving something unique to the "hard core" fan is the best solution, but it's also a drain on resources, and not just a minor one like people think. It's a pretty major drain to make it working (even if it's just like the museum)

      I'd agree for the most part. There are the properties out there that develop the hardcore fans who would go for something like this, and I think it could be worth it to those publishers to put together something extra.

      For example, Square had published high-end art books fo

    • It's a LOT of time. You have to plan your thoughts for the commentary, make a commentary system and record audio, implement it in the game (you don't add a feature like this in crunch, or even in production it will be something from the start of production at worst) and so on.

      Most games already have a system for firing off sounds and/or displaying images that's based on locations or events and can be dependent on a configuration option.

      This is something that could be implemented as a simple mod to an

  • Black and White had a excellent "The Making Of" mag I picked up at Best Buy about a Month or so before I picked up the real game, and let's be fair, you can get REALLY sucked into Molyneux's philosphy on reading that thing. Not to mention the concept art of creatures and villagers being leaps and bounds beyond what the game actually delivers.

    I, for one, would appreciate letting a game do its thing, and then maybe around the same time (or a week/month later, whatever), put out a soundtrack/magazine with the
  • This would be good for "Greatest Hits" titles, re-released a year after a game's innitial release, if it goes double platinum (or something). I think a game only deserves to have commentary if the game actually becomes something of a classic, even if it's only a phenominon for a year or so. This way, the developers have time to collect their thoughts, survey the reception of their game, and reflect back on its creation later. Also, we don't have to hear designers jizzing over how great their game was, when
  • FULL TEXT (Score:3, Informative)

    by DesireCampbell ( 923687 ) <desire.c@gmail.com> on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @04:37PM (#16491841) Homepage

    Never mind the game's rave reviews, the beginning of the first-person shooter "Half-Life 2: Episode One" is a problem. That's not what the reviewers wrote. That's what the game's developers say -- and they say it in the game.

    The confession is right there in the code, represented as a floating word balloon hovering in the game's opening area, visible to any player giving the game a go with the audio-commentary feature turned on. When clicked, the speech balloon spins and an audio clip plays. One of the game's developers at Valve apologizes for a design choice that has the player discovering that their own character can't make a simple jump that a computer-controlled ally can. It was necessary for the flow of the game, the developer explains, adding, "honestly, we're not especially happy with this crutch."

    Released in June, "Half-Life 2: Episode One" includes the option to reveal more than 100 floating speech balloons of audio commentary explaining the whys and hows of some of the game's smallest but most significant details. Players can play the game without ever seeing the balloons or listening to the clips, but if they choose to activate them, they can hear developers chatter away as they blast away the forces plaguing City 17.

    Non-gamers might find this completely unremarkable. DVD movies have included commentary since they had shrink wrap. But "Half-Life" joins only a small handful of games released in the last decade that include any commentary tracks at all, one of gaming's most revealing features. (Did you know "Grand Theft Auto" and the war against the Taliban inspired a major "Star Wars" game?) So why are a few proud developers doing it, and what's been keeping everyone else from jumping onboard?

    "Over the years we've brought in hundreds of play testers to sit down and play our games while we all watch and take notes," Valve project manager Erik Johnson told MTV News. "What we found was that all of them were interested in why we made the choices we made, and how they had evolved over the course of the game's development. In a lot of ways, this is the kind of conversation we're trying to replicate with the commentary system."

    So, yes, players, that is an enhanced refraction shader being used in the opening segment of "Half-Life 2." The commentary says so. And, perhaps more interestingly, player-hero Gordon Freeman's cute female companion Alyx follows rather than leads, because when she used to lead, test players found her annoying. And the pod in the heart of the citadel will play a big role in "Episode Two."

    Valve's Web site reports that 15 percent of the people who have played "Episode One" since its June release have activated the game's commentary feature, just under half the number of people who have finished the game. That's enough for Valve. "There isn't really any chance of us leaving it out in our future titles," Johnson said.

    The earliest audio commentary in video games may very well be the one in Factor 5's 2000 "Star Wars" starfighter-combat game "Battle for Naboo." Back then, games were on CDs and cartridges, neither of which left a whole lot of room for bonus audio tracks. Factor 5 managed to squeeze a few minutes of commentary for each of the game's levels onto their game's Nintendo 64 cartridge. Factor 5 president Julian Eggebrecht could not be reached to explain how and why -- nor to say whether the company's next title, the PS3 dragon-combat game "Lair" will be their fourth-straight game with an unlockable commentary track. But the developers' previous efforts make them not just the most prolific commentary-makers in the industry, but also the best advertisement for why they're worthwhile. Where else can gamers listen to developers talking comfortably about their games without the distraction of pesky reporters and without the need to talk in sales-pitch sound bites?

    Consider the audio track in Factor 5's "Rogue Leader II: Rebel Strike," a 2003 "Star Wars" game for the GameCube. Eggebrecht and colleagues reveal that thei

  • I thought they were going to talk about fanboy flamewars which the trolls actually seem to be rather enjoying.. Boy it's late.
  • Why not make the commentary after the game is released, just as they do with movies? Hindsight is usually far clearer and more revealing than in-development rants and disputes. With all the online delivery solutions popping up now, this is a really obvious use.

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