My dream machine Ryzen 1800x is ready! by Larry Charles

My old rig has seen better days folks. It couldn't be avoided. I was unsatisfied with the frame rate when trying to record tutorials, presentations and games for my students. I bought my previous computer from Cyberpower PC 6 or 7 years ago and returned to the same company to handle my upgrade. I configured a pretty beastly little multipurpose rig. I wanted to make sure I could game at 60fps and record or stream it. I also wanted to knock down my build lighting times in Unreal to something tolerable ;) Without further adieu, here's my new baby.

Larry Gamestation!
AMD Ryzen 1800x
Nvidia GTX 1080
32gb DDR4 Ram @2400
6tb of total Hard Drive Space
500gb SSD

For bench-marking purposes, here's a recording of me playing Doom at 60fps on highest settings. So the rig is playing and recording at 60+ fps simultaneously. Note though, my OBS wasn't set to 1920x1080 so I'll run another test later. In the end... Money well spent, time to make some more games!

Running a Seminar on Level Design on May 20th Art Institute - Inland Empire by Larry Charles

Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in! In about a month's time I'll be giving a seminar at the Art Institute of California - Inland Empire campus on "Designing Levels for Big Budget Games". I used to work at this campus as a part time instructor, and now I'll return for one day only to host a crash course on designing levels for AAA games. Pooling together the easiest to learn and digest tips and tactics for level design and breaking it down over a 4 hour seminar & QA session.

Its going to be good for me to run through this new material before it becomes a class and test it out. Though the event is invite only, I will make the presentation available on my website some time after the event has occurred. If all goes well I'm going to try and book the same seminar at other Southern California campuses as well. Wish me luck!

HTC Vive TPCast... Yes please by Larry Charles

To be honest, this is what I was hoping the HTC VIVE would do on its own already, but happy to see a third party company coming to save the day. TPCast is a wireless add-on for the HTC VIVE that will allow you to play your VR games and experiences without being tethered to your computer by rubber coated tripwires :P

Available Q2 in America for an expected price of $300

The real issue with Scorpio vs Ps4 Pro... by Larry Charles

When it comes to game development there are a lot of people that would argue, "Console specs don't matter". And there's a lot of truth to the statement but not on a surface level. Console specs do indeed matter. The longevity of a console has a lot to do with it's power and performance. But the main thing that DOES help validate the claim of the 'unimportance' of specs is, it's all about the games.

The limiting factor, the lowest common denominator that cant be ignored is it's all about the games. You see developing video games is indeed expensive and the companies that develop software for consoles try their best to mitigate as much risk as possible. No third party developer hoping to make return on their franchise that will exist on both PS4 pro and Scorpio is going to deliver an experience that pushes both platforms to their maximum potential, they're merely going to do as good as they possibly can for the worst performing system, then parity that on the other device. This is easily summed up with a graphic...

Assuming this made up graphic is a representation of a comparison of the PS4 Pro's performance capability to the Project Scorpio Capability, third party developer's ideal target level of performance, or the bar that they'll most likely seek to achieve is represented by the pink line. Doing any more work than required to hit this bar, means you'll be creating a product that is not capable of running optimized on the PS4 Pro, and you will potentially be generating content that a large audience will not be able to see, experience or appreciate properly. So instead of pushing both consoles to their limit, it's a better business move to develop for the highest common denominator. This is the best way I can explain why people say the specs don't matter. It really does come down to the games but there is one important thing about the specs that people cant forget about.

People still buy, (and in large) console exclusives. So if Microsoft really wanted to make sure that the extra performance they're getting out of their boxes adds value to the experience, it would be in their best interest to get their exclusive IP's developed to run as close to the full potential of the box as possible. If Microsoft can publish exclusive content that far outshines their rival's closest similar title, it would definitely help sway opinion in favor of their device. That wont make them a clear winner, or completely close the sales gap between Playstation and Microsoft's consoles, but it's definitely the move that needs to be made. Third party games available on both consoles aren't opinion swaying. No one picks the One vs 4 because that system has the better version of Battlefield 1. It's the community of players, playing games on those consoles that do more to sway votes. So the battle has to be won outside of software. Even if you consider exclusives, I would venture to say that more people buy the consoles without thinking explicitly which exclusives they would have or miss out on, and instead made their purchases thinking which group of friends are available, which device has the better service after purchase. This is where Microsoft is concentrating their efforts now.

On the Playstation side, if I were Sony, the last thing I would do is coast. With Scorpio being the better machine in every way, and even including 4K HD bluray technology that is not found on the Playstation 4 pro, they're going to need to be incredibly creative on the service to help continue to outpace the Microsoft team. They have the biggest community currently, but Microsoft is a bigger and more powerful technology company. Clearly they're aware of this as they've been significantly investing in new services for their customers, offering TV through Playstation Vue, streaming games membership ala Netflix with Playstation Now, and of course continuing to develop their offerings with Playstation Gold, they have a great start. I would say though they're still going to need to add a few more offerings to their lineup that DO NOT cost additional money for their subscribers. Both Vue and Now are additional purchases where as Microsoft has partnered with BEAM for built in streaming technology & broadcast features for no additional cost. Sony is going to need to add some beef, that they give away. Not doing so is going to allow Microsoft to narrow the gap.

As a game developer though I do have to be honest, I will do my best to be able to afford both. I hate missing out on exclusives and I always want to see what every big game is doing to stay ahead of the competition. I am not fortunate enough though to have both this year so I will likely have to commit to one over the other when I transition my house into a 4K dwelling... But I understand this is not everyone's option. I look forward to seeing how well they both do in the near future and am most interested in seeing how consoles with a half life work out as a concept.

Check out these videos for more content on the PS4 Pro and Project Scorpio

Professional game developers tell you not to take their advice! by Larry Charles

I love this post I saw today on the GDC Youtube channel. I'ts humble and charming in its presentation but the messages are wonderful. These pro developers now having some time occur between what they said and how long ago they said it take turns refuting their advice as it's current applications may not be as fruitful.

The idea of tried and true is always in flux, and just because you've done it this way doesn't mean you always do it that way. I'm a true believer in this, always re-evaluate your methods, even when it comes to giving good advice. The times change, environments change and so should advice.

Here's a great video on great advice for indie gaming from professional game devlepers who believe their previous advice on the subject, needs a little update :)

Introduction to Unreal 4 Class in 60 fps means... Starting over by Larry Charles

I recently put a GTX 1080 graphics card in my rig and boy has it made a difference. The classes I've been able to record are running in a smooth crisp 60 frames a second. After recording a few new lessons to release I realized I had a problem. I started recording my content with my old graphics card, producing video around 20 to 28 frames a second on average. UGH, pain in the but moment of realization that my content would not be a unified presentation experience all the way through...

So with only one thing to do, I decided to go back to the start and redo all of my content with my new mini level that I put together, and all in this new juicy 1080p 60 frames a second splendor. It's for the better...

Unity 5.6 is here... So what's next? by Larry Charles

Just announced today, Unity 5.6 is no longer in beta and is available for public use. Unity is fighting toe to toe with Unreal for indie engine dominance and definitely encroaching on some of Unreal's territory as the best consumer AAA game development engine available as well. With this version of Unity we get some major improvements to the engine, especially in the lighting department with the inclusion of Vulcan.

The big news is though, the folks at Unity call this version 5.6, the last iteration of the Unity engine in it's 5.0 life cycle. So that begs the question to be asked, what's next? What are they cooking up for Unity 6.0? According to this blog, there will be no Unity 6.0 as the team has decided to move their updates to a YEAR.Version format for what could be Unity 2017.3 or Unity 2018.1 for example.

Now I imagine we wont hear from Unity for a while, as having just released this version with it's improvements will have to hold us over for a while but I'd be willing to bet we will see a glimpse of what's on the Horizon for the Unity engine at the 2018 Game Developers Conference. With the rest of this year to churn away at the architecture, improve some of the performance and of course "tightening up the graphics" I'd be willing to bet, Unity will come out guns blazing this time next year. I have no inside information, this is all speculative, but keep your eyes on the black and white box, I know they're up to something...

Anyway, go get Unity 5.6 and make some cool games!

Get the full release notes on Unity 5.6 here

Art... And how I have to get back to it. by Larry Charles

Getting back into it
It's been too long since art school. Though I knew full well going into the game development industry to be a designer, I would not get a lot of opportunities to do any artwork anymore. But now it's very easy to get a hold of an engine and make a game or experience and share it with the world. With Unreal going free, Unity going free, Crytek free, and all these amazing art tools, the indie dev itch has taken hold. I want to develop stuff!

The dream
It's always been a dream of mine to open and run my own small game development studio. Ideally it would be just a light crew of developers working on small projects throughout the year. Now I know this dream is still at least 7 or 8 years away, I feel that there's no excuse to not start making my own games today. So as I type this, Maya 2017 is installing on my computer and I'm just about to embark on my artistic journey. Now I know I'm keeping this blog design focused, but if my trials in 3D start to look half decent I may share them soon enough. The goal for now is to just be able to do the art for my own games. I feel like there's no excuse now. 

So here goes nothing... wish me luck!

Xbox One March Update = Dope by Larry Charles

All the new juice headed our way from Microsoft this month.

Loving the BEAM support, I can get behind anything that delivers low to no latency streaming and viewing simultaneously, but I do want to test it out myself. I know a lot of people use twitch, but its only good for streamers and viewers if there is some competition in the same space. That means the innovations will flow. Either way, looking forward to putting in some real streaming time on a BEAM account for myself.

New controller mappings in copilot mode is the biggest feature I'm excited about to be honest. I know too many people that aren't "into" games or don't have the coordination that a lot of us seasoned veterans do. Spending quality game time with these folks can make things a bit frustrating for both parties. I imagine now, it will be easier and often even more fun to connect with my lesser adept friends and still enjoy good content. I imagine parents with young children who want to "play with mommy, or daddy" will take advantage of this. Put all the hoot buttons on the child controller while you handle the more difficult navigations on yours. Quality game time for both!

Getting Ready to Develop VR Games - Part 001 by Larry Charles

My old rig lasted 6 years without any hint or need of an upgrade, but that all changed when the HTC Vive launched. It only took one game demo Fantastic Contraption to let me know that I had to start developing my own ideas for Virtual Reality. I really do believe it's like a new frontier. Virtual reality as we know it today is the jump in innovation that I was looking for between the PS3 and PS4 generations. Wondering how close I was to being ready to begin, I ran the spec check and failed... I didn't have enough GPU so I decided to change that first.

Fast forward 3 months and a few Nvidia announcements later, the prices came down on the GTX 1080's so I got one. Throwing this bad boy into my old rig tonight to see if I can get started in VR with my new "current" setup or if I need to just go ahead and upgrade. We shall see. In the event this wont do the trick though, I've put togeter a VR build that I will put together this year anyway. Let me know what you think of the build specs...

Larry's VR Build

Either way though, I'm excited

Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild, behind the scenes! by Larry Charles

Nintendo dropped some wonderful video content on Youtube detailing the design and development process behind creating their latest Legend of Zelda game Breath of the Wild for the Nintendo Switch. As it currently stands, the game has a metacritic rating of 97. I only say that because it should let you know that you're going to see video content about how a team developed a game with such a high metacritic rating and learn a thing or two.

If you're interested in learning more about the process of video game development, or more specifically what went into developing this game, you definitely want to watch this playlist. There are four videos in total and each one explores a different topic. In particular, I want to illustrate a moment that was intriguing to me from the following videos which talks about breaking away from the tried and true Legend of Zelda franchise mechanics.

Going into developing this game, the team took a step back to evaluate their product. Wondering if some of Legend of Zelda's tried and true mechanics exist because they are the best idea, or simply because they were the best idea given the technological limitations when they were designed. Asking this question alone is risky, especially if you plan on exploring it. When you are working on such an appreciated and adored franchise such as this one, fans are up in arms when they even hear that you may be changing the formula in any way. Even still, the development team made some major changes to the game and ended up being right, according to critics and fans alike. I wont ruin any more of it. I've gone ahead and pulled out the videos you should watch and comprised them into a playlist. Clicking on any of the videos will play the entire playlist for you, but if you only want to see specific videos, I've also pulled them apart for you below...

Horizon Zero Dawn gives me Hope for AAA Game Development! by Larry Charles

This past weekend I purchased Horizon Zero Dawn for my PS4. If you're anything like me, you're happy enough to even say you finally own it. Clamoring for the game for over a year after seeing the teasers, trailers and articles behind the new franchise, I was hooked as soon as I saw hunting robot beasts in the wild. Chewing off a sliver of the plastic wrap so I could free this game from its retail prison I couldn't wait to finally see if the hype lived up to the expectations. As I write this I am about 17% of the way through the story-line and only have one thing to say about the experience...

Thank You

Guerrilla Games, seriously, thank you. I haven't been lost in the fantasy of a game in some time. The game industry at the AAA level seemed to be getting stale to me, and at a rate faster than I was comfortable accepting. It's becoming so hard to see the numbers tally up next to the name of what used to be some of my favorite franchises "back in the day". It just seemed like the big games weren't going to take risks anymore. I cant tell you how many times I've saved the world from terrorists this year alone. 

Not going to spoil it for you, its a good game.

I hope more publishers and studios come together to bet on new ideas again. As hard as it may be to put two hundred million dollars or more into a brand new idea and hope for the best, I believe as professional developers and seasoned game development decision makers we can indeed achieve greatness even still. HZD is an astounding example. In selling over 2.16 million copies in its first week it becomes Sony's best Playstation exclusive new IP launch ever. This isn't a review, this isn't even a fanboy email. It's simply a true fan of video games, taking a moment to share his excitement over a product that should be an example for what is possible even in today's greedy, sure bets only development market.

Larry Games is Live! by Larry Charles

After months of hard work, planning, recording and editing, I have finally lifted the digital silk cloth from my new game development training resource. Larry Games is live. The mission I have for Larry Games is simple. I just want to show people how to make games but with a twist. I've designed classes to walk you through my lesson plans on everything from Intro to Game development and eventually work all the way up to portfolio level courses and they'll all be free. Right now I'm supporting two new classes simultaneously by releasing new video content each week. This allows new students a chance to follow along at a nice pace, while also giving me the time to keep producing more content. 

With this project, I'm also going to be doing Case Studies where I take a published game and do a thorough investigation into the experience and break it down to it's core. The goal with these case studies is to show my students how the professionals are achieving great moments and game experiences, while helping demystify the processes of professional development. I wont be reviewing games in hopes of helping people make or avoid purchasing, but more to help interested developers better understand high level game development techniques.

Finally, to help drive my own creative projects I've committed to a "Threemium" project. This last endeavor is a challenge to complete a brand new game every 90 days. I'll be documenting from start to finish how I design, build, test, polish and ship games. I'll be switching it up every so often between making video games, or making analog games but every project will be released into the wild on it's 90th day. However good or bad it is, once 90 day's has passed I will stop working on it and get ready for the next challenge. I want this project to help build interaction between myself and my students, while showing them my entire indie game development process and pipeline while letting them help test and offer feedback on my designs as I approach the 90th day.

In a nutshell... I love game development and I want to share that with as many people as possible. Larry Games is live, and I'm finally going to go to bed. I'm so excited about this and cant wait to see how far this grows. So if you're interested in this sort of thing please subscribe to the youtube channel.

First Design Class is Ready to Launch! by Larry Charles

As I write this, I'm proud to say that I've completed the first class in my game design series called Intro 2 Game Development. This class serves as a primer on video game development and the game development industry. It's ideal for anyone who wants to take a peek into how games are made, without having any previous knowledge or experience in games. Although I myself am a designer, I've constructed this first series to walk you through all of the careers in gaming, so hopefully you can find where you belong!

College level game design classes, for free. I believe high level education right now is too much about business, and not enough about learning. People are graduating college with more debt than knowledge and this bothered me for some time. So I decided to come up with a solution to the 100k diploma. I'm building these classes to offer you knowledge and an opportunity to learn from a video game developer and college level educator for and here's how it will work.

Each class will primarily be comprised of video tutorials, slide shows, developer interviews, and follow along examples on all a variety of game development subject matter. It is my goal to teach you from the ground up. Simply by watching all of the free video content, you should be able to complete any of the homework assignments given to you. Now, if you want access to the exact same assets, scenes, or files I used in my demonstration videos, you will be able to purchase them all for .99 a lesson. But here's the kicker, if you're not interested in paying for the content I used, you're more than welcome to use content of your own to follow along and not pay a dime. I'm simply hoping enough people out there will buy the .99 cent content to make it all worthwhile, but purchases are not required to participate and learn. These files will benefit anyone who wants to be able to follow along exactly with each step displayed in the lesson or examples.

In a nutshell it works like this... I am going to show you how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. If you have your own peanut butter, jam and bread, you're welcome to follow along. If you want to use the same bread, jam and peanut butter that I use, you can buy it for .99 cents. 

I'm giving you college classes in video game development and doing it for free, saving you about $3,000 had you gone to a private college. Even if you were to buy the .99 cent files each week in a class, you'd only end up spending at most $12 per class, still saving you thousands!

So come back March 10th when I unlock the first video for my first class, Intro to Game Development. I hope you enroll and stick around. Stay tuned as I continue to develop more classes in game design, level design, environment art and more!

Laughs From Your Old Demo Reel by Larry Charles

I started developing games when I was young. As the son of divorced career driven parents that used computers as babysitters, you find a way to entertain yourself. I chose to make my own comic books and games. Fast forward a few decades to just after graduating college and needing to get a job as a designer I put together my second demo reel. Every few years or so I actually go back and watch it. As embarrassing as it may be, there is magic in doing this.

When I look back at the demo reel, I think back to when I was a younger me, believing in a dream. I feel the excitement again that lead me down this career path. I also get a treat because I can see how far along I've come in my career. Through all the ups and downs I'm still around! So in honor of all of the people out there who can relate, the people who still go back and watch their old demo reels too... This one's for us! Happy game developing everyone!

2011 Demo Reel

Free Online Game Design Course? by Larry Charles

For the last 4 years I have been teaching video game development at 3 different Art Institute campuses. Though I loved working in person with all of the students, I found it troubling that I could only really help a few students at a time hone their game design skills. On top of that, I knew the students were paying anywhere between 1,500 to 3,000 per class! That weighed on me for a while. You see, debt is real. Sallie Mae comes over for dinner once a month, rain or shine, and the students are graduating into a field expecting entry level work to be able to help them sustain roughly 100k worth of student loan debt... I decided to change that.

I'm currently finishing the first "semester" of classes for people interested in learning how to design games and design levels. This online course will be free. I want someone who is a complete novice in game development to take my classes and learn everything they need to know to be a desirable entry level designer for games. It's a tall order, but its a mission I believe needs to be achieved and this post marks the start.

The first class Intro to Video Game Development will Launch March 1st.