Criticizing Bohemia Interactive’s “One Year Of DayZ” promo video

An analysis of Bohemia Interactive’s creepy-crass “One Year Of DayZ” video – the thin joke being “One hour in DayZ feels like a year of Grief(ing)”

Summary: It’s all so bizarrely emotional, ‘honest’, self congratulatory and bombastically back slapping; a kind of (internally released) Industry Promo Video, in which the ‘investors’ are Bohemia Interactive themselves – a series of convenient myths it (apparently) needs to keep repeating to itself in order to *cough* ‘function’

The uber-schmalzig overlayed music chosen by the team is also telling; “Crossing the divide” by Kevin MacLeod – as much a stale, warmed-over slice of All Amerikan Apple Pie as a famous painting of national illusions by Emanuel Leutze in 1851

It reminds one of an old Sony camera, with Picture View Mode featuring some awful, plastic-romantic ‘Heart Warming Kodac Moment’ style music

Note also the telling name of Kevin MacLeod’s website – “Incompetech”

DayZ: Rocket Crossing The Delaware of Development
DayZ: Rocket nobly crossing the Delaware of (Alpha) Development

As for the video – talk about Preaching To The Converted. What does the unseen, off screen body ‘interviewing’ them represent – if not the (false) ideas Bohemia Interactive has of itself; a young, fresh, clean, self projected Zizekian ‘Big Other’ consisting of all that’s allegedly [insert positive industry adjectives here] eg. Exciting, Dynamic, Dedicated and Inherently Fan Friendly about them

The overall psychic mood viewers are supposed to read into the video is one of “Making it good, despite tough times” – the unstated narrative being “Everything we do is for You Guys

Transcript of developer excuses and comments

The well practised flood of ‘honest’, heartfelt and cathartic revelations by the developer of DayZ is incredible, honest and heartfelt; one wonders if Dean Hall is currently staring into a mirror and talking to himself, ala Marla from Fight Club: “I saw you practising this – how well is it going?” Huh – tourists

Dean Hall: “One of the big psychological barriers for us was the end of the year”

- ‘Psychological barriers’? What? As in some kind of thinly unconscious “I hate everything to do with constantly developing this stupid (Permanent Alpha) game and-but this conflicts internally (kinda) with the amazing amounts of e-cash it generates for us on a daily basis” type barrier? This smells like Standard Corporate Damage Control, casually shrink wrapped with pathetically faux Personal Revelations about ‘the often difficult nature of our (big) Business’

Dean Hall: “Our build just wasn’t ready”

- You got that right. It wasn’t before, it isn’t now – and it need never be, because why actually complete something when you can infinitely string / drip feed ‘development’ along forever – as long as there are enough poor suckers in the gaming community to pay you (aka “Welge’s Law”)?

In the very next scene, no lie, a game dev slowly shakes his head – “Like an old man who knows the mountains are impassable

Dean Hall: “We were struggling with performance, with crashes, and er, it was a very difficult time for us”

- How anti-ironic; sounds like something a player of DayZ might say

Dean Hall: “We were kind of worried how the community might react”

- ‘Shay Dee‘ style game developers in the slippery, foxy business of fleecing consumers with janky rafts of ‘inherently un-finishable by design’, Forever Alpha b.s are often indeed worried about community reactions; heck some might even start calling them on it

Dean Hall: “People wanted to see results”

- Dean Hall would make a great politician. Dig the way how the so far all but insurmountable, ever growing / mutating pile of (/inherent) problems of DayZ gets cynically turned on its zombified head, and is made into some kind of display of Dean’s ‘genuine concern and rapier-like insight’ – conveniently forgetting that the cat has long since escaped the bag and torn the heck out of the pigeons

Public Knowledge about just how generally pathetic a state many modern games are in for many players is everywhere. Maybe what they don’t want is silver tongued developers feeding them back their own lines about what everybody already knows, like bad movie psychologists simply turning (mirroring) your genuine concerns into pseudo questions they don’t actually give a can of out-of-date beans about: “..Your mother?” Yeah no # people ‘want to see results’, Sherlock! But where are they? Empty promises, all delivered too late..

Dean Hall: “It was a moment that [..]”

- Good grief, the game’s profoundly unfinished / un-finishable – but we’re already basking in the pre-planned, soft-focus remembrance of All That We’ve Done? Let’s not start sucking our own long list of bittersweet, hard-won achievements just yet, Deano

Dean Hall: [..] they wanted to see this, and I think they were just elated to have the chance”

- What does that even mean? Talk about Information-Content Zero. The subtext here seems to be that players are automatically expected to uncritically be thankful for all the developer has and is doing for them; because “It’s all about you”™ – honest. (Or at least, your money.) The key word here is ‘chance’ – as in,  “Yeah sure, there’s always a chance the game will work as they keep saying it will.. someday”

Just then the video is handed over to the capable hands of DayZ producer Brian Hicks, who somehow manages to be even move vague, greasy, enthusiastically unctuous and falsely celebratory than Dean. Firstly he usefully (yet mysteriously) informs us what DayZ is not

Brian Hicks: “For me DayZ is not about as much, erm, creating, a living breathing world, as it is [about] understanding the lure and the draw of DayZ”

In this single sentence is perhaps contained much that is depressing and self-hating about the video games industry – where the massively dominant draw has all but nothing to do with Interactive Art that is ‘living and breathing’ but with merely knowing how better (psychologically speaking) to suck all the genuine joy and potential for human advancement out of players, and the games they play. Mere monetization – not art, games or quality of life is what counts for these neckless industry bean counters

Brian Hicks (immediately cont): “What makes DayZ special, is that it is different every time”

Yeah, what ‘different every time’ really means is simply Valve’s “Entertainment as a service” model; design something with impossibly lofty, deliberately vague / ‘open’ and forever unreachable goals that you can positively spin-monetize forever and a day – where a mere tossed out Patch for (/inherently) broken Gameplay or shoddy performance is twisted by smart Developer use of language into “Check this cool thing out – it’s not a bug it’s an Updated New Feature!” Then all you have to do is wait for poor saps to log back on, give your Squirty Product another undeserved shot and feel (at least a tiny bit more) satisfied with your game’s fake, infinitely elongating ‘progress’

Brian then goes on to talk about (big) User Data / Metrics and ‘watching’, in order to ‘adjust the design’ based upon them. This is important, because it indicates what DayZ / Bohemia Interactive is fast becoming, if not already mutated into; just another AAA style games developer, simply treating players as (well paying) unpaid Constant Beta-Testers – infinitely monetizable (exploitable) units of video ‘game’ consumption

Brian Hicks: “In effect we’ve got nearly three million User Research-Designers”

- Such pride in your travelling bands of little Human Resources.. while it’s not surprising (for me at least) that the line between Players and Game Developers are blurring / being redrawn daily, Brian Hicks deliberately seems to twist that unique and potentially fascinating relationship to best suit his own rapidly growing company; that is, rather than ‘allow’ players to make the games and styles of Play they’d like to see, we’ll just ever more skilfully ab-use them as unpaid interns at our corporate headquarters; that is the only real game in town isn’t challenging and encouraging human imagination and improving our awful Human Condition – it’s simply making ever-larger, ultra-cynical piles of money for a select few

That is to say (as Brian states) DayZ is an (Industry) “Toolset for dynamic experiences” – no doubt like, eg. Making Money Off User Generated Content

Brian Hicks: “Every time you join a server, your experience will be different”

- Sure, ‘different’, as in: impossible to predict how many asshats one will meet, how many hackers will be spawning how much free loot for themselves, how many zombies will still be glitching through walls, just how low the framerate will dip, just how bored players will feel crawling through open fields for hours like idiots only to be axed in the head by some toxic man-child screaming vile obscenities / non sequiturs down his crappy mike

The concept of a DayZ Development Roadmap

Finally, consider the mere concept of a DayZ Development Roadmap as somewhat laughable, ie. such a list should have been the core part of its original Design Documents – not merely something slapped together as an afterthought (ie. like DayZ as whole):

First Quarter

  • Basic vehicles
  • Advanced loot distribution
  • New renderer
  • New Infected AI
  • Basic stealth system (infected and animals)
  • Diseases
  • Improved cooking and horticulture
  • Advanced anti-hack system (Dynamic BattlEye)

Second Quarter

  • Advanced vehicles (repair and modifications)
  • Advanced animals (life cycle, group behaviour)
  • Player statistics
  • New UI
  • Player stamina
  • Dynamic events
  • World containers
  • New physics system

Third Quarter

  • Traps
  • Barricading
  • Character life span + soft skills
  • Animal predators + birds
  • Aerial transport
  • Console prototype
  • Advanced communication

Fourth Quarter

  • Animal companions
  • Steam community integration
  • Construction (base building)
  • Beta version
DayZ as a semi-functional beta test
DayZ as a semi-functional beta test

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Hack Job: Michael Mann’s #Blackhat trailer review

Based on a conceptual premise lighter and more intellectually fleeting than a foam hammer prop wielded listlessly by a dim son of Odin, Michael Mann’s Blackhat looks his worst film yet: a barely updated HD version of Swordfish for the P199PDM post 9/11 paranoia-dollar market

A tawdry mishmash / of Deus “I never asked for this” Ex, The Last White Skinned Samurai (‘dig the Asian eye candy for free’) and Watch Dogs – all filmed in that cheap ass looking digital film that’s supposed to automatically signify Teh Real

Set within the shadowy world of “Global Cybercrime™”, #BLACKHAT follows a furloughed (??) convict with big pecs played by P.F.B permanently frowning beefcake Chris Hemsworth and his nondescript Asian American and Chinese partners as they hunt a high-level cybercrime network from Chicago to Los Angeles to Hong Kong to Jakarta

Thing about flicks like this is that the institution of ‘Holywooden’ deliberately dumbs down what could be a fantastic opportunity to address and examine the fascinating opportunities for true human to human interconnectivity offered (on e-paper at least) by the Liquid Interwebs – but instead choose to do just another Run N’ Hack job with the subject matter – a subject so vitally important and fascinating, to see it casually treated like this is perhaps the true cybercrime being committed

The two things such a dire movie will never be able to adequately address: the ‘cyber-errorist’s brain dead motivations – “This isn’t about money / This isn’t about politics” (really??) – and the Bog Standard Heroic Antihero’s motivations for helping at all

That is, other than a worthless Snake Pliskin style ‘get out of jail free’ card, why wouldn’t he want to help anyone (other than himself?) Oh no! Perhaps he’s just another Wired Asshole who deserves to have his plug pulled out

What would be deadpan hilarious: if he just gives up the chase half way to pose out and play a quick game of Guitar Hero (Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ On Heaven, Bored”)

Michael Mann's "Blackhat" movie poster
Michael Mann’s “Blackhat” movie poster

10 GO BACK to drawing board Mike
20 UNTIL you’ve thought of something better

Update

This review is itself a hack job, and not fully representative of the *cough* high quality of other research on Alien Fiction. Will resolve to do better in the near future

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Digital remix: Madonna Interview magazine photo (NSFW)

(Untitled) digital remix image of photo of Madonna by Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott for Interview magazine

1944 x 1910 .png, 1hr in Gimp, Male Gaze, 2.2MB

Example Artist Statement

Madonna as 1940’s retro-fitted Gynoid, captured posing in a typical Kodak Moment for officially sanctioned (Cultural) prosperity; featuring invented ‘Neuropink‘ narrative concerning “Pete” from Virginia. One imagines Madonna thinking “Drain me..” in reference to an old song by Nirvana. Her signature is somehow testament to the (non) paradoxical invalidity of the mere concept of “Images of Madonna”

Erotic acts of dying: Scorn game’s Kickstarter failure

Summary: A half-assed campaign that needs a strong strategic rethink (in terms of novel ways to ‘evoke narratives of mysterious atmospheric origin’)

On keeping weird, fleshy dreams alive: Ebb Software’s failure to secure Kickstarter funding for their incredible looking “Scorn” was mainly due to a lack of full and meaningful audience engagement and seduction; there was simply not enough useful and evocative information provided, in order for fans to understand and support the project as a whole

What a fantastic looking, incredibly imaginative space – in this regards, the devs certainly did their homework. However, whether or not there’s a Good Game here is unknown (indeed, this is part of the problem)

Three main audience questions yet to be answered by Ebb Software:

  • Who are they? (What are they like as people?)
  • What does “Scorn” provide that others do not? (What does this game say about human existence?)
  • How can I get involved in this project? (How can I meaningfully engage with, and influence its design?)

Firstly, their bleak and uninspired home page is hardly the rich and engaging ecology of dense information and fascinating background context it should be:

Ebb Software's "Scorn" homepage
Not nearly interesting enough: Ebb Software’s “Scorn” homepage

Their Kickstarter video fails to say anything about their project as a whole; some in-game footage and cool rock music is not nearly enough for strangers to fund them €200,000

On the positive side, the fact they did get €4,078 means they at least got 1/5 of the way there; push on, guys!

Developer Project Update Comments

The developer’s comments on their failed Kickstarter are odd, and worth responding to:

I would like to thank you all for your support, it’s really appreciated. There is no point in continuing with the campaign. Scorn simply isn’t getting any coverage as we are completely cutoff from the industry. All attempts at getting coverage failed and that is by far the biggest factor in the campaigns downfall

Comment: 1. There is no point in continuing with this campaign in its current form. So evolve and expand your campaign!

2. Coverage is obviously important at the early stages – but only if developers have given an audience the full opportunity and means to engage with their project – newsletters, twitter feeds, game dev documents, ongoing devlogs, message boards, etc. Good art always involves and implies meaningful feedback – it’s a conversation and a relationship

3. As for being cut off from The Industry – who isn’t? And isn’t that a good thing? Indeed, isn’t that the whole point of Indie Game Development?

About Obscurity: Decision to to leave a sense of mystery about the project and not show more of the game is mine and I stand by it. The same principle that applies to Giger’s and Beksinski’s paintings applies here. You are suppose to wonder what is going on and what are you going to do in this world. The whole game is designed around that idea and a lot of gameplay elements are constructed with it in mind. Unfamiliarity with the world and not knowing how everything functions is crucial in properly experiencing the game

Comment: 1. When it comes to funding, the developer seems to be confusing Scorn’s mysterious atmosphere with a Project Backer’s need for full explanation, transparency and disclosure. “Wondering precisely what’s going on and what is to do in this world” is precisely what potential fans and backers of Scorn feel when looking at Scorn’s current campaign – ie. generally lost and confused

2. If a game is strong enough, its philosophical and aesthetic mysteries will still shine through – no matter how much explanation or analysis is given

I realize that in the instant gratification world we are living in this is not the best approach and that it goes against the concept of Kickstarter but it was obvious from the start that Kickstarter is not the best platform to present Scorn, we were just left with no other option. I knew from the start that an incredible amount of luck would have to be on our side for this campaign to succeed

Comment: 1. Now is not yet the time for stoic fatalism! Indeed, “instant gratification” is precisely what developers have to provide audiences with, right from the outset. The main strength or ‘narrative hook’ of Scorn is its incredible Atmosphere. The devs need to successfully evoke that mysterious atmosphere in every way possible – homepage design, background story, their link to the arts of H.R. Giger and Zdzisław Beksiński, overall campaign presentation

2. As for Kickstarter not being the ‘right’ platform – it’s only one of many platforms and methods that developers need to consider

3. Luck is not a factor.. if you’ve been as artistically creative with your campaign – ie. how it engages audience imagination – as you have been with your game

About Marketing (PR): In this industry everything is geared towards best way to sell a product, not creating a best product possible.Consumers are so accustomed to that concept that doing anything unconventional is not received well. Even being honest. Some actually get upset if you don’t do everything by the book and dangle that carrot. I am aware of these marketing tactics all too well but that doesn’t mean I have to oblige. I guess some people can’t fathom somebody not doing everything possible to promote and sell a product so they think we are clueless. Other point these things out, not necessarily because they like them so much, but because they have good intentions and think that’s the only way for a game to succeed. I understand that and the importance of marketing but some lines I am not willing to cross. It may be naive but it’s the only way I would do this

Comment: The developers seem to be confusing standard crass and ugly Industry marketing tactics, with allowing and helping an evocative and atmospheric narrative to grow organically online; Scorn certainly has that atmosphere – nobody’s asking the devs to sacrifice their artistic ideals to rudely ‘sell’ their ‘product’ but rather they should simply reconsider how to tell their story – the story of their game, the story of themselves as human artists. This is what really counts – direct engagement with people

Non of this is important now but it would be interesting to see what would happen if managed to get some exposure and had a half decent campaign. Would it be possible to reach the goal with out relying on some of these, for me, questionable tactics? Guess we will never know

Comment: What is in fact questionable is the degree to which Ebb Software did everything they could of done to mount an at least half decent campaign. It seems they have yet to do so – but let’s hope they will

This whole project was about taking risks and hoping it would work out in the end. It didn’t. Scorn is dead.. but even dying is an act of eroticism

Comment: 1. In fact it appears Ebb software has yet to take enough risks with their project, and go all out to fully explain and expand their unique aesthetic universe

2. If Scorn is indeed “An atmospheric first person horror adventure game”, they should use something like the following strong phrase in their next campaign – a lot more heads will turn to look in their deliciously bizarre direction:

“Scorn: erotic acts of dying”

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Dear Ridley: forget Blade Runner 2 – make “Off World Online” a digital service

Dear Sir Ridley Scott

Hello

I’m a huge fan of Blade Runner and am writing to suggest that, instead of making Blade Runner 2 one big film, consider Valve’s notion of “Entertainment as a Service” and allow Blade Runner’s open universe to grow as a fully interactive experience, both funded and constructed by Internet crowds – with your help and vision

This project, “Off World Online” would radically expand already fluid notions of Artistic Creation in a Digital Age

While Blade Runner 2 seems an OK idea, encouraging the rapid evolution of Blade Runner into and as new forms of collective Play runs closer to the (now very modern) ideas expressed in your original, ground breaking film

Blade Runner is as much a dynamic Process and free expression of Artistic Human Consciousness as it is a defining cultural object; with this in mind, consider “Blade Runner 2.0″ an exciting opportunity for the unique realities offered by a Blade Running Universe to define themselves in exciting and unexpected ways

Why the future of Blade Runner is Online

The future of Blade Runner deserves to be a multifaceted, polymorphous Online experience, because it always was – a complex, contested digital space of and for the Imagination, where multiple intellectual and emotional layers and interpretations compete for attention in an every changing environment, populated by all manner of bizarre creatures – each clamouring for Love, Life and Meaning in a dark new world where Technology and Humanity have grown blurred and Strange

Sincerely, Robert H. Dylan

= = = = =

Off-World-Online-Roy

All these moments can now exist as nodes in a living network
– The ghost of Roy