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More on Manhunt 2 and Rockstar Vienna

Gareth White, a programmer who worked on Manhunt 2 at Rockstar Vienna, also has something to say on the situation. Among other things, he points out that some files on the disk contain the names of people from Rockstar Vienna.

I haven't played the released version myself, but it sounds like it's virtually identical to the PS2 & Xbox version we finished back in summer 2006, apart from the edits needed to comply with the ESRB, obviously.

From what I hear the people at Rockstar London worked very hard, and I know that they did more than just censor the game. I am sure they deserve their credits. My point is: so did we.

Rockstar Vienna's missing credits for Manhunt 2

Yesterday, Rockstar Games released Manhunt 2 for Sony PlayStation 2, Sony PSP and Nintendo Wii. This blog post is not about the difficulties Take Two had getting this game on the market. I merely intend to correct an inaccuracy in the game's credits, namely the over 55 missing Rockstar Vienna employees who worked on the game from January 2004 until the studio was closed down on May 11th 2006.

To the best of my knowledge, apart from the people who briefly went to Rockstar London to assist with development there, nobody from Rockstar Vienna is mentioned in the credits of Manhunt 2.

I have assembled the missing Rockstar Vienna credits to the best of my abilities. Over the course of 2.5 years various people joined and left the project. I have tried to list everyone under their primary position. One person asked during development that his name not appear in the credits: this request has been honored here.

People from other Rockstar Games studios also worked on this title. Their names and positions can be found in the credits of the released game.

Here are the missing credits:

Executive Producer:
Hannes Seifert

Marin Gazzari
Hannes Seifert
Jurie Horneman

Associate Producer:
Kirsten Kennedy
Monika Sange

Lead Programmer:
Thaddaeus Frogley

Andreas Varga
Mark Wesley
Christian Bazant
Adrian Garrett
Andrew Howe
Peter Melchart
Uwe Pachler
Christian Schmutzer
Gareth White
Bjoern Drabeck

Lead Level Designer:
Gunter Hager

Level Designers:
Georg Gschwend
Jurie Horneman
Attila Malárik
James McLoughlin
Klaus Riech
Peter Saghegyi
Ngoc Nguyen

Lead Artist:
Leander Schock

Technical Artists:
Stefan Kubicek
Terence Kuederle

Level and Environment Artists:
Michal Drimalka
Daniel Edwards
Paul Ellinor
Maximillian Froemter
Alexander Hager
Guenter Hochecker
Ian Maude
John O'Malley
Oliver Reischl

Character Artists:
Julian Kenning
Ulrich Radhuber

Lead Animator:
Reinhard Schmid

Roger Barnett
Steven Manship

Concept Artist:
Christian Koppold

Lead Audio & Video Engineer:
Tobias Kraze

Sound Designers:
Darren Lambourne
Dominik Mayr
Steven Blezy

Video Editor:
Bernhard List

Lead Tester:
Peter Ehardt

Melissa Lumbroso
Simon Belton
Michael Borras
Helmut Hutterer
Sameer Malik
Joseph Sewell
Bryan Thompson
Kala Truman
Kieran Gaynor
Andrea Schmoll
Markus Igel

Tobias Kraze
Bernhard List

Managing Directors:
Hannes Seifert
Niki Laber

Technical Director:
Tobias Sicheritz

Production Director:
Thomas Schweitzer

Creative Director:
Marin Gazzari

Administration & Finance Manager:
Dana Zajic

HR Manager:
Michaela Gazzari

Operations Manager:
Martin Filipp

Chris Soukup
Thomas Zajic
Gernot Unger
Marco Pietsch
Peter Krakhofer
Markus Skrivan

Internal Tools Development:
Philipp Rettenbacher
Thomas Passauer
Martin Porocnik

David Huettner (Character Artist)
Donald Kirkland (Game Designer)
Sebastian Harras (Level Designer/Artist)
Jeff Wong (Animator)
Helmut Hutterer (Tester)
Gill Frank (Animator)
Kerstin Knesewicz (Management Assistent)
Kaweh Kazemi (Producer)
Petra Gregorowitsch (Management Assistant)
Melanie Friedl (Receptionist)

Additional Art:
RABCAT Computer Graphics GmbH

I am writing this to state facts that I believe should have been made public, not to offer opinions or commentary on the reasons for why these credits were omitted.

I am sure someone somewhere is going to say that Rockstar Vienna was closed down because our work on Manhunt 2 was of insufficient quality. This is the kind of thing that cannot be proven one way or another, so all I will say is that this was not the case. I do not want to denigrate what Rockstar London did on Manhunt 2, but as far as I can tell (from analyzing screenshots, previews, etc.) the majority of the work we did at Rockstar Vienna is in the released game. Rearranged and modified, but it's there.

I am disappointed and outraged that Rockstar Games tries to pretend that Rockstar Vienna and the work we did on Manhunt 2 never happened - the work of over 50 people, who put years of their lives into the project, trying to make the best game they could. I am proud to have been a part of that team.

Grand Theft Scratchy is no more

According to this article Rockstar Games' objections to the 'Grand Theft Scratchy: Blood Island' part of Electronic Arts' upcoming Simpsons game (reported earlier) go beyond some people complaining about a poster at the Games Convention in Leipzig.

The satirical reference to GTA is apparently not even a game you play:

"The game begins with Bart wanting to play a game called Grand Theft Scratchy. Of course this is a parody of Grand Theft Auto. And Marge immediately takes it away from him. She tries to clean up the town and stop the game from being distributed in Springfield because Marge is against video game violence. She uses horrific violence to stop video game violence... in a video game… That's called irony."
Now this fictional game has been renamed 'Mob Rules'.

I am baffled by the reaction from Rockstar Games, and disappointed by the quick cave-in by Electronic Arts' lawyers.

Brütal Legend, the next game from Double Fine Productions

Double Fine Productions' next game has been announced. It's called Brütal Legend, and it's an action game set in a heavy metal world (hence the umlaut). So you get a little Guitar Hero vibe, a little Tenacious D influence (since the main character is based on Jack Black), plus a good helping of Tim Schafer goodness.

Check out the press release, which doesn't mention Jack Black's involvement at all, and the official site.

Two simple truths about producers and game designers

  1. Free-lance game designer/producers
    Most people think they can design games. Most people think they know what preproductions are for. Most people are wrong. As a consequence, I, as a free-lance game designer/producer, don't get hired to do game design or manage preproduction. I get hired to fix productions that go wrong because the game design and preproduction suck*.
    I am not bitter. This is how it is.

  2. Producers at big companies
    In big companies, competent producers are moved from good projects to bad projects, because the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Without a competent producer, good projects go bad.
    Only producers with excellent political skills can stay on a good project.

Tell me I'm wrong.

*) Except for my current clients ;)

The forgotten genre of the submarine simulation

Falko Löffler has posted a mini-rant about the lost genre of submarine simulations. In German. Basically, he doesn't see the point of simulating a submarine.

I do. I don't like them or play them, but I do see the point. They have one quality which is fairly rare, and it has to do with immersion.

There is a very basic assumption in computer games, which is that the more immersed a player is, the better. (It is so basic it tends to be forgotten, and this has caused an industry blind spot that is having interesting consequences right now... but that's another blog post.)

The more immersed a player is, the more the player feels he or she is 'there', and the stronger the emotions that can be evoked.

A lot of time and money and effort is invested in photorealistic graphics in order to facilitate immersion. But rather than pushing the player towards immersion, it is much more important to remove obstacles that keep the player from immersing herself. Consistency is much more important than photorealism, and much harder to achieve (because everything needs to be consistent, not just the graphics).

A single element that is 'off' can break the player's suspension of disbelief and thus reduce immersion, and photorealism actually makes this problem harder. Realistic-looking characters create expectations of realistic physics and realistic behavior, and before you know it you've fallen into the Uncanny Valley.

But back to submarine sims. The most basic obstacle to immersion is the physical interface between player and game. You are holding an odd piece of plastic in your hand while staring at your TV, but we are asking you to forget all that (on some level) and believe you are a secret agent sneaking around a building. That's a pretty large leap.

(Luckily, over time people manage to forget things like this. The physical interface becomes a part of the conventions of the medium. Holding a bunch of paper sheets glued together or sitting in a dark room staring at a glowing rectangle are no longer inhibiting people from immersing themselves. By now, seeing glowy, floating icons in otherwise realistic surroundings no longer confuses people either - consider the interfaces of GTA versus The Getaway. People 'get' glowy, floating icons now, and it's starting to flow back into the world outside of games. I fully expect augmented reality to use game iconography.)

Now as it happens, a lot of the work of controlling a submarine involves sitting in the dark behind a screen, pushing buttons and listening to sounds. Sure, the captain is standing around shouting orders and looking through periscopes, but typically submarine sims simulate the various positions under the captain and the captain role is implicit.

So submarine sims, in their heyday, had an interesting advantage: they were able to provide much deeper immersion than most other genres. After all, it's not hard to simulate sitting in the dark behind a screen, pushing buttons and listening to sounds. The entire physical interface barrier drops down to almost nothing. Assuming you are fascinated enough by submarines to want to pretend to control one, very little is going to spoil your illusion that you're in a narrow metal tube, deep under water, hunting the enemy - or being hunted. This was pointed out to me years ago by my friend Mark Barrett.

The only genres I can think of that do this better than submarine sims (and air-traffic controller sims), are games like Hacker and Alternate Reality Games (ARGs). I would even go so far as to argue that Hacker is a proto-ARG. (If you like pondering this kind of stuff, consider the basic premise of the Dot Hack series. The player of these single-player console games is pretending to be the player of a massively-multiplayer online game... I haven't played any of them, but I find it fascinating.)

The relationship between the player, as a physical person, and the fictional world of most computer games is quite complex and absolutely central to how games evoke emotions.

Ricky Jay, master magician

I just came across a ton of videos of Ricky Jay performances on YouTube. Ricky Jay is one of the world's great sleight-of-hand artists, as well as an expert on the history of magic and author of several books. I highly recommend this New Yorker article. A small excerpt:

Deborah Baron, a screenwriter in Los Angeles, where Jay lives, once invited him to a New Year's Eve dinner party at her home. About a dozen other people attended. Well past midnight, everyone gathered around a coffee table as Jay, at Baron's request, did closeup card magic. When he had performed several daz- zling illusions and seemed ready to retire, a guest named Mort said, "Come on, Ricky. Why don't you do something truly amazing?"

Baron recalls that at that moment "the look in Ricky's eyes was, like, `Mort- you have just fucked with the wrong person.' "

Jay told Mort to name a card, any card. Mort said, "The three of hearts." After shuffling, Jay gripped the deck in the palm of his right hand and sprung it, cascading all fifty-two cards so that they travelled the length of the table and pelted an open wine bottle.

"O.K., Mort, what was your card again?"

"The three of hearts."

"Look inside the bottle."

Mort discovered, curled inside the neck, the three of hearts. The party broke up immediately.

Here is a video showing what he does:

If you want to see more, here are some excerpts from his one-man show "Ricky Jay and His 52 Assistants": Card finding and Four queens. There's more - check out what he did on Arsenio's show, for instance. (And can you resist the video called "Ricky Jay penetrates a watermelon"?)

I would love to see him perform live one day. What does magicianship have to do with interactive entertainment? Believe it or not, there is a link (it's not called Intelligent Artifice for nothing). I will post about it soon.

Venn diagram comparing PlayStation 3 models

Confused by all the changes Sony has been making to their Playstation 3 model line?

Chris Kohler made a handy Venn diagram of the PlayStation 3 models and their feature sets. Although I think he left out HDMI? Wasn't there something retarded where the cheaper PS3s don't have HDMI out? Because my new TV has two HDMI inputs gathering dust here. (Yes, I know there are now Xbox 360s with HDMI out.) Apart from that, it looks like the 'old' 20GB PS3 would be the ideal model for me.

You know, if I wanted one.

LOLCode .Net compiler

Remember LOLCode? There's now a functioning .Net LOLCode compiler. Debug "IM IN YR LOOP" right inside Visual Studio.

(Via Boing Boing Blog.)

Update: Craigslist ad for LOLCode developers here.


If so, you may be the right fit for this Midtown Manhattan Web Design Startup! We are a small company looking for a Senior LOLCode Developer, preferably with at least 1 month experience developing LOLapps. Please send a resume, along with links to any web-based LOLapps you have developed.

(Also via BoingBoing.)