Exciting Times

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Jan 05 2011

So, Ant has come forward with a status update for me, and I have to admit, I am very excited. He believes he has most of the back end stuff finished. We will see when he demos, but, I am confident. I am sure there will be some problems, but I doubt any will be insurmountable. He’s a talented guy, and I am lucky to be partnering with him.

I can only hope that our first game becomes a household, or at least newsworthy, phenomenon. It’s already a big hit in pools across the country, after all. Even if it doesn’t, it will certainly make some waves, as it shows what new and interesting things can be done with a smartphone.

And it’s only the beginning of what we are going to do.


More than an Inchstone

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Dec 20 2010

Though Ant refers to our recent internal demo as an inchstone, I see it as something bigger. At minimum, a full-fledged milestone. There are several reasons for my thinking:

1. First of all, it was awesome. Sure, it was nothing fancy, but it was the first time that the videogame portion became real. Before then, we had a couple of physical games we made for Mercury Retrograde. Sure, we had talked about, and Ant had even worked upon a video game for us, but this was the first time that we had something we could show and see work. That’s a pretty big deal, and it helps solidify our focus.

2. The demo fulfilled an important purpose in the game design process. Besides giving Ant a chance to show off, it also served as an inspiration for discussion and changes to the game.

3. It deepened the team’s working relationship. Though the team is nothing but Ant and I now, our discussions on changes went really well. When the idea for the first change appeared, we had a long conversation concerning feature creep, (believe me, I have a lot of random features in my head). Doing so led to a every talk concerning a possible change involve a separate talk about its value to the player, to ourselves, and how much work it would entail. This made it so very few changes made it through our talks, and others were shelved for later.

On weak teams, you can’t have talks like this. The product owner, or the marketing team, will come in and demand that changes be made or features be added, and the development team has to comply. That wasn’t the case here, and I am proud of that.

4. It shows that we are putting our money where our mouth is. Lots of people want to make games, and a lot of people will even go so far as to say that are going to, but very few people go out and actually try to make it happen. We are making it happen, and this demo helps show how serious we really are.

So, though the demo did not show a lot, and there is a lot of more work to do, this is still an important milestone for us, and a very nice Christmas present.


Why Cliche?

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Dec 18 2010

A friend of mine recently asked why we chose the name Cliche Studio.

Well, the main reason is that Ant and I like bad jokes.

But, there is more to it than that. Games are a powerful medium. They can do things that no other medium can do, and we are going to explore that.

Recently, a spate of games have been described as cinematic. But we don’t want cinematic games. I don’t want to have to stop and watch little movies with any regularity (like damn Xenosaga). If we want cinema, we’ll watch a movie. Instead, we want games. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good cut scene, but I don’t want to sit and watch what my character is doing. I am the character, so I want to decide what I do and how I react.

See, what games to do that no other medium can is create systems. In gaming, you can build systems for telling stories, systems of economy, and whole new sets of physics. True, in Star Trek they have Heisenberg compensators, but in games you can create rules for them that make sense and sets boundaries of their capabilities.

That is what we are going to do here at Cliche. We are going to create systems that play to the strength of games as its own, distinct artistic medium. Though that may be a grandiose statement, I am not going to make more of them by claiming that we are going to take over the world and do it all now. Rather, we are going to tackle this in pieces, so that we can perfect each aspect and make sure they are fun to play. We are doing it this way because fun is the main component of gaming. Gameplay is everything, and bad gameplay overshadows all aspects. Who cares if you have a great story if no one plays long enough to experience it? Who cares how you can change the world of the game if it is difficult or boring to do?

By taking the time to create and perfect gameplay for the many different aspects of gaming, we will create new narratives, new tropes, and new cliches that better suit the flexible and infinite medium of gaming.

Yet More About Sex in Games

1 Comment | This entry was posted on Dec 12 2010

Let’s see if I’ve gotten this embed thing figured out.

You know, this song is going to be used till the end of time in articles and documentaries about sex.

Salt -n- Pepa, your legacy will live on forever.

If the embedding didn’t work, here are the links to the two videos. There’s a reason Ant is handling the technical side of things.

Let’s Talk About Sex

The Escapist: Sex in Games

Yesterday, I had started responded to a video from Escapist Magazine concerning sex in video games. Today, I am continuing to do so, but this time about a different point the video makes.

In the video, the narrator suggests that sex not be a game within the game being played, as it took the narrator out of the game. This puzzled me, and I thought, “Why the hell shouldn’t sex be a game within a game?”

I mean, really, why not? I think that the problem the narrator is having with sex as a game is not that sex has been made into a game, but rather it is one of context. Two prime examples, Incredible Crisis and God of War illustrate this problem.

In Incredible Crisis, the father is suddenly put in a position where he has to please some random lady with a massage. The twist is that you have to do it blind, since this is a family game.

Now, the question is, did this take me out of the game? Of course it did. It was silly. It was ridiculous. But then, so was the entire game. There was not a single point while playing this game that I was involved in the story, but the story wasn’t important in Incredible Crisis. Rather, the story was only a pretext for all of the zany craziness that was this game. Is the player emotionally involved at any point in the story? No. Does the sex contribute to the story? No. Is the player emotionally involved with the sexuality in the game? No. Is this the fault of making the sex a game? No. Rather, it is due to the game and the game’s context.

But hey, let’s take a look at a different game that makes the sex its own game-within-game (oh, how meta!).

In this game, the hero, Kratos:

Randomly runs into two horny ladies in a bathhouse, in the middle of a battle, and decides to have sex with the both of them.

When Kratos engages the “ladies” the player is then made to perform a number of actions on their controller in order to satisfy the ladies successfully (no, you don’t see anything, you perv).

Now, I am sure that the narrator would say that since the sex is a game, it takes the player out of experience of playing the game (because that makes sense), nevermind that the main character STOPS IN THE MIDDLE OF BATTLE TO HAVE SEX! See, I would say that it is the ridiculous decision-making of the main character that pushes the player out of the game.

If you want games that treat sex well as a game in and of itself, there are many examples online that I will not link to here. Go ahead, look them up. Go to Google. In fact, let me Google that for you, just don’t do it at work. You want to keep your job. Eventually, more mainstream games will catch on as to how to make a game out of sex that is both interesting and satisfying.


Sex in Games

1 Comment | This entry was posted on Dec 11 2010

Recently, Ant sent me this interesting video concerning sex in video games:

The Escapist: Sex in Games

It raises some interesting points, but there are a couple I would like to dispute. Firstly, that sex has yet to be treated in an adult manner in video games. I can think of three examples off the top of my head in which sex is treated in a realistic and, *ahem*, adult manner.

Currently, I have been replaying Grand Theft Auto IV, by Rockstar. Though I am sure many may disagree with me, I would say that sex is treated in a way that is incredibly true to life.

In this game, the main character, Nico Bellic, encounters sex in many different circumstances. In strip clubs, through a variety of relationships, and numerous prostitutes. In the game’s strip clubs, sex is encountered as a cheap thrill. The ladies are scantily clad and the controller vibrates whenever Nico seems to especially be enjoying himself. Though it is definitely pandering and easy titillation in the context of the game, strip clubs are the same thing in real life. Also, the ladies of the strip clubs say things that are intentioned to get more money out of Nico, (even though you can’t tip them), making apparent the transactional nature of sexuality in strip clubs.

There are also numerous prostitutes in game from which Nico can purchase “services”. When the sex with the prostitute occurs, the prostitute says what would be exclamations of a partner’s prowess, that is, if they were not said in such bland and bored tones, exemplifying the sex as meaningless to the prostitute. This is in addition to statements by Nico beforehand that make obvious the lonely and pathetic nature of what he is about to do.

Finally, we get to the several ladies Nico dates in-game. What is interesting is how each character uses sex to further their own agenda. For Nico, the sex itself is its own agenda. For Carmen, sex is a way of keeping the men she believes will help her get the things that she wants, riches and fame. For Kiki, sex has personal meaning, though the attachment she shows during sex does not seem to be due to the relationship she is having, but rather as a means to expunge herself of guilt born out of an obsessive need to take care of others.

What GTA IV accomplishes with these occurrences of sex and sexuality is that people can and do have sex for a myriad of reasons, that may or may not have to do with other person. Sex can, and often is, transactional, a means to an end, or sometimes, sex is its own point.

The earliest of my examples is Phantasmagoria from Sierra Online, a game spearheaded by the pioneering Roberta Williams.

In this game, the player takes the role of Adrienne. Adrienne and her new husband, Don, have moved into an old island mansion, and, after being haunted by strange apparitions, Adrienne is viciously raped by her husband, who has apparently gone mad.

You don’t get much more adult than that.

Though the scene is horrifying and brutal, it is also treated tastefully. There is no nudity, nor are there any attempts at eroticism or cheap thrills. Much like life, the scene is brutish and short.

It, of course, generated its fair share of controversy, but it definitely pushed video games as an art form forward.

The last example I would like to bring forward as far as sex being treated in a serious and adult manner in the non-treversial Mass Effect from our friends at Bioware (I don’t really have any friends at Bioware, but if they would like to be our friend, I would welcome them).

In this game, Bioware makes a sincere attempt at expressing sex as an intimate act. I say attempt only because I did not believe in the intimacy expressed. I feel as though it needed a bit more build-up (say, some light flirtation during the numerous elevator rides) in order to make it truly impactful. Still, I applaud them for doing so.

I have another point that I would like to make about the video, but that will have to wait, as this post has gotten too long as it is.


Here It Goes, Here It Goes, Here It Goes Again…

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Dec 10 2010

…Oh here it goes again.

But I don't wanna!!!

I know. We’ve been remiss in updating. I don’t know about Ant, but the truth is, for me at least, is that I am not looking forward to all the promotion work that it is going to take to get this thing off the ground.

Don’t get me wrong, I love to talk about games, our company, our talent (yeah, I’m talking about you), our plans, and our philosophy, but doing it formally is intimidating.

Still, we are planning to do a panel at Fairy Atlanta Escape, where we will talk about games as a force in narrative media, as well as how games con be used to further explore creative properties, and about their use as a marketing, promotion, and merchandising tool. We will also be talking about our work with Mercury Retrograde Press (thank you Barbara).

Though it is intimidating, promotion is a necessary thing for business. How else will people know about the great things you do unless you tell them? So, despite my squeamishness about putting myself out there, I am going to do it, and I will drag Ant, despite his screaming and kicking, along the way.

(Hey Ant, you can chastise me later for saying that I will have to drag you. I already know who the more talented person is between us. You don’t have to rub it in, you jerk.)


Oh God, this is so Cliché

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Oct 11 2010

For me, that joke is never going to get old.

My name is James Kempf, and, in partnership with Anthony Thomas (aka Ant), we have created Cliché Studio.

Besides providing lots of bad jokes, Cliché Studio is primarily focused upon social mobile gaming, or, games that take advantage of the smartphone as a unique platform and its social aspects.

In the meantime, we are currently involved with Mercury Retrograde to create games to expand the worlds of their different properties.

Wish us luck.