Downtown Video Game

Video games and such

Interview: James Silva, Creator of The Dishwasher

The Dishwasher was originally an XNA game for Microsoft’s “Dream, Build, Play” competition and became one of the winners. How did it make the jump over to a full fledged Xbox Live Arcade game?

It was a neat, sometimes baffling, sometimes frustrating process.  Unlike 99% of XBLA titles, the game is powered by XNA, so to bridge the gap and add in all of the XBLA functionality, they gave me this library called Extensions for Arcade so that I could implement things like Leaderboards and Achievements.  We had to get a bit creative about implementing localization and making sure the right legal warnings pop up in the right territory.  And a lot of the tools for XBLA development were very command-line-eriffic (like for themes), so I had to nerd out a bit.  All in all, it was a lot of work and a lot of fun, which doesn’t really make it work, does it?

Now that The Dishwasher has been officially released on XBLA, how has the attention been for you so far?

The reception on The Dishwasher has been amazing!  People have been thanking me for making the game, and I want to tell them that that’s not how it should work; I’m supposed to be the one thanking them for buying it!

How was it working with Microsoft? Were they very obtrusive? Did they add or taking away anything from the game?

XBLA games have a very specific list of requirements about menu systems, behaviors, and bugs (or lack thereof).  Nothing on that list conflicted with my vision for the game, and overall Microsoft was just great to work with.  Right from the get-go, they were very clear that it was still my vision; they’d be there to make recommendations, but The Dishwasher was still my baby.

That said, they did recommend I put in the Practice Room.

What was the length of the development cycle like from concept to completion?

From concept it was about 5 years–I had the idea while working as a dishwasher and going to community college.

The whole XNA project took just over two years, from the first line of code to passing certification.

The games story is told through a scrolling comic strip, how did you decide to go with that style?

While I’ve never really been a collector, I’ve always had a thing for the concept of the graphic novel.  I used to draw comics when I was a little kid.  I’ve never been particularly good at it, but then again, I guess when you make a decent game, people can forgive less-than-brilliant comics.

The Dishwasher definitely has some dark humor to it. Where did you get the idea for the Dishwasher characters and the game in general?

There are a lot of influences and a lot of archetypes.  In terms of thematic influences, here’s a nod at The Crow, Tim Burton, Versus, The Matrix, and Edward Gorey.  It’s delicious macabre exuberance!

Was The Dishwasher the first game you’ve made or do you have a bunch of games saved on a hard drive somewhere?

I’ve got 2 games on Community Games: ZSX4 Guitarpocalypse and ZP2K9.

Do you have plans to support The Dishwasher in the future? Are you working on any other games?

I’m pipelining!  I don’t have any concrete release plans set out, but I’m still playing with XNA, and I’ve got no less than 3 projects that need finishing right now.

April 8, 2009 Posted by | Feature | Leave a comment

The PlayStation 3 How To’s

For the past week the Playstation Blog has been giving out tips on how to effectively use your Playstation 3. These pointers help turn your Playstation 3 into more of a media player. These videos are step-by-step instructions and are helpful, if you’re into these kinds of things.

Creating and Viewing a Photo Slideshow

Importing a Music CD and Creating an Audio Playlist

Setting Up Remote Play Your PSP and PS3

Surfing the World Wide Web

Starting a Video Chat

Using the PS3 Visualizer

Originally posted on Endsights, January 2, 2009

March 5, 2009 Posted by | Feature | , | Leave a comment

Best of Show: PAX 08

There were loads on fantastic games this year at PAX. With LittleBigPlanet, Fallout 3, Left 4 Dead, Dead Space, Mirror’s Edge, Dragon Age: Origins, SOCOM: Confrontation, Rock Band 2, this could possibly be the best Penny Arcade Expo to date. But only one game continued to stand above all the rest at the show, and the game was Fallout 3.

Bethesda has put a lot of work making this post-apocalyptic game as good as it can get. The booth alone was impressive, with mannequins and the airstream setting the scene nicely, Fallout 3 was impressive all around.

The game was playable at the booth and there was never a small line to play. The developers were there themselves to help people get through the demo — even Todd Howard made an appearance. But the most impressive demo that was there was in the main theater on Saturday. Todd played through about an hour of the game, starting right out of the vault.

Fallout 3 was the best of PAX 08 because it showed off very impressive new content that left everyone wanting much more. Walking through the crowds Saturday and Sunday, people couldn’t stop talking about the game. Fallout 3 is out October 28th on Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and PC.

Originally posted on Endsights, September 1, 2008

March 5, 2009 Posted by | Feature | Leave a comment

Who Won at PAX 08: Rock Band 2 or Guitar Hero: World Tour

Both Rock Band 2 and Guitar Hero World Tour made strong appearances at the Penny Arcade Expo this year. But I couldn’t help but notice one of them had a better showing that the other.

Rock Band 2 had their new hardware there playable for the public. The new guitars look slick, still feel pretty nice, and the drums are more quiet. Rock Band 2 also had the most songs playable (it actually might of been their whole setlist). This booth also had the longer line and most enthusiastic crowd.

Guitar Hero: World Tour had the most impressive hardware to show off. The new guitars have the sensor bar on the neck, which allows you to tap that instead of strumming, and I saw a guy play a whole song without strumming. The drums have the three pads and two cymbals. The cymbals feel a bit weird since they seem a bit floppy, but they hold up and seem to be pretty sensitive. The drums are also pretty quiet. World Tour only had about 10 songs to show off, and it seemed like everybody was playing ‘Everlong’ by the Foo Fighters and ‘Assassin’ by Muse over and over again.

New and improved hardware is excellent to see, but all that is nothing if you don’t have the songs to back them up. That’s why I’m choosing Rock Band 2 over Guitar Hero World Tour as the winner at PAX 08. Rock Band 2’s setlist was very impressive, with well over 80 songs playable (plus all the original Rock Band songs), so I think Rock Band 2 will be the best music/rhythm game this year.

Originally posted on Endsights, September 1, 2008

March 5, 2009 Posted by | Feature | Leave a comment

PAX 08: Hands-On with LittleBigPlanet

There were plenty of great games at PAX 08, but one of the best was LittleBigPlanet. The line wasn’t as long as it was to play the new Halo 3 map, but that doesn’t mean LittleBigPlanet didn’t deliver.

The very kind lady at the booth let us customize our Sack Boy first. Mine had shaggy blonde hair, star sunglasses, a big thick mustache, a cape, a sword in his left hand, a pick striped swimsuit, and black boots. He was rockin’. When everybody was finished customizing, we jumped into the skateboard level. The level is short, but a very fun ride.

When the level starts, everyone needs to jump on the skateboard to make it start rolling. When it’s far enough it’ll start rolling down a very steep ramp, speed will increase, and Sack Boys went flying. We hit about two or three jumps and lost two Sack Boys along the way. That was the end of the level and my Sack Boy came in first.

The second level was all about ponies and puzzles. The first few puzzles had to deal with pushing blocks a certain way so we could jump up onto a higher platform. These puzzles were probably harder than they needed to be since four Sack Boys were pulling on a block at once. To grab you need to press R1 and press in the direction you want to go, this works for pulling other Sack Boys as well. We rode a few ponies along the way and we reached a puzzle where we need to swing on a sponge in the air to reach a key to unlock the gate. Once we got the key, the PR lady informed us we need to use the creation tool to progress any further. We needed to find a donkey tail and pin it on the big donkey infront of us so it could move. Once I found the tail, I pinned three on it’s back so it looked like the donkey was going faster than it was. Once the donkey was movable, we pushed it a bit so it was moving and hopped on for a wild ride. The donkey went down a steep hill, hit some jumps, and arrived at the end of the level. Again, my Sack Boy coming in first.

Looking about the crowd, everyone had smiles on their faces while watching LittleBigPlanet. This game is sure to be a huge success. Look for it October 21st, only on Playstation 3.

Originally posted on Endsights, September 1, 2008

March 5, 2009 Posted by | Feature | Leave a comment

PAX 08: Ken Levine Keynote Address

The first keynote address of the day was none other than Ken Levine’s. The man behind Bioshock talked about how he struggled to be a nerd thoughout his whole life. He started off by saying how ashamed he was to  be reading comics and how his classmates would make fun of him for doing so, referring to himself as a “closet nerd”. He didn’t want to like the things he liked, saying he wanted to smoke cigarettes, listen to Deep Purple, like sports like his brother, and fit in.

As he started to veer away from comic books, he got heavily into Dungeons & Dragons along with video games. While he was riding the bus home from school one day, he heard the two kids in front of him talking about D&D. Ken asked the two what campaign they were playing through and they quickly became good friends, or “finding his tribe” as he called it.

As Ken and his friends grew older, life-styles changed, girls entered some of their lives, and their D&D days were numbered. He started to wonder how he would ever find that “tribe” again since he was so much older then. Levine used his writing skills to make up a vampire horror movie. Companies laughed at him for that, but decided he should write a romantic comedy, which was no success. His agent left him and was now looking for that right “tribe” again.

Around this time, video games were getting huge. Ken found out from a magazine that there are actually jobs that involve making games. He hopped on an opportunity to be a game designer. When he walked into the office he saw people yelling at each other while playing Soulcalibur, a group playing Magic, and people eating popcorn while watching Blade Runner. He said he found his “tribe” once more.

Levine’s final words were “What brings us all together at PAX is we’re a giant bunch of fucking nerds.”

Originally posted on Endsights, August 30, 2008

March 5, 2009 Posted by | Feature | Leave a comment