Monday, October 31, 2011

Ghosts of the Past

Why, I believe it was just one year ago that we held our First Annual Spooktacular Boo-O-Rama. Those truly were the halcyon days of the Johnny Outlaw development cycle. Where did they go, and will they ever return?

“Wait now,” you ask. “If that was the first annual, doesn’t that imply there could be a second?” Yes, my friends. That was what we literary types refer to as “foreshadowing”. It’s when we tell you about an event that’s going to happen before it actually happens, usually with only a passing presumption of subtlety. That’s why I am proud to celebrate the Second Annual Spooktacular Boo-O-Rama!

What do we have planned this year? Well, this Boo-O-Rama is all about terror, and in the Johnny Outlaw universe, terror only comes in one form: Tombstone Jack.

We’ve opened the Johnny Outlaw vault, and we’re prepared to release this footage of what actually might have happened on that dark and lonesome day so many years ago…

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Outlaw Burger

My friends, as you know, here at Johnny Outlaw Studios, we take the outlaw concept very seriously. The great themes and archetypes of the romantic, western world are the cornerstone of our approach to games. When some individual, some corporation, attempts to appropriate our symbols, our language, the very means by which we exist, we approach the situation with grave earnestness.

Many of you have been sending us comments about the fast food establishment “Jack in the Box” and what they are calling an “Outlaw Burger”. Yes, you heard right. Just as they stole from us the humble image of a children’s toy which pops at the turn of a crank, they now seek to encroach upon the sacred realm of the cowboy. I had no choice but to investigate more deeply into the situation.

The entire concept of an Outlaw Burger is preposterous. Firstly, we are confronted with the impenetrable ambiguity of the adjectival qualifier “outlaw”. Is this a burger which is an outlaw, or is it a burger designed for outlaws? And which definition of outlaw do we adhere to? The state of outlawry originally meant that a person was declared outside the protection of the law. Now in modern usage, the more common meaning is a person in violation of some law. But are burgers even subject to the laws of man?

Now, Johnny Outlaw fans are entitled to the truth. In that interest, I spoke with several legal experts, and determined that burgers are, in fact, subject to the laws of man. But they are not necessarily subject to the same laws as a man. This is a small, yet important, distinction. If a burger were to physically harm a man, the burger would not be found guilty of assault or battery or even criminal negligence. However, if that burger did not meet FDA standards, then the burger would be in violation of the law. That burger would be… an outlaw.

So is this where our journey has taken us? Is this “Outlaw Burger” a sandwich tainted by time and circumstance, shirking the confines of mankind and its petty laws? Is this a burger who takes every day as it comes, concerning itself not with the subtle artifices of society, and instead choosing to embrace, with great candor, the harsh realities of existence?

No. Further research leads me to the conclusion that this is merely a burger with a particular assortment of toppings and condiments. This burger is not an outlaw, which can only mean one thing. This burger was intended to be eaten by outlaws. Does your typical outlaw often have cravings for barbeque sauce and onion rings? Well, that’s a good question. The age of the cowboy ended in the late 19th century with the closing of the open range and the obsolescence of the cattle drive. Yet, there is no documentation of the existence of the onion ring until the early 20th century. Either Jack in the Box has access to secret knowledge of cowboy history, or they have committed a grievous sin: they have claimed the burger is for outlaws without even taking into account what an outlaw would actually consume.

Some of you may say I am reading too much into this, but mankind has always quibbled over sacredness, be it of objects, persons, places, words, or ideas. If this sacrilege came but out of ignorance, I would excuse it without a second thought. This was not ignorance. I believe there was no fidelity intended towards the meaning of outlaw, and that they merely wanted to profit from the concept of the outlaw. I believe they wanted you, the hapless customer, to take in the word outlaw and all its connotations, and to apply them to the burger and, by logical extension, to yourself. They knew that the label “Outlaw” would evoke what their burger alone never could: real human passion, dreams, ideals, emotions, and fears. And then there, resonating at the heart of it all, is that ever increasingly blurred distinction between the romantic and the repugnant. For now, as I choke on the glut of hubris and cupidity that has lead mankind down the path of the Outlaw Burger, I can only hope that Jack in the Box restaurants will put right these wrongs to conserve the sacredness of the term outlaw, and, perhaps, their own dignity.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

East Meets West

Enemy AI is a tricky and complex component in a game such as Johnny Outlaw. The enemies must be smart, yet they must be bound by complex limitations to mimic human weakness. In many respects, our AI has been a success, and it is generally considered to be as smart as the works of Arhur Miller. But great intelligence, if left unmolded by a proper teacher, is merely wasted potential.

As I watched player after player go toe to toe with the AI, as bandito after bandito was outmaneuvered, exploited, and gunned down, I came to an astounding realization: had the AI but listened to the teachings of Sun Tzu, he would never have been defeated.

To the few uninitiated out there, Sun Tzu was the ancient Chinese equivalent of Gandalf. Just as Johnny Outlaw turned video games into an art form, Tzu showed the world that war could be aesthetically pleasing. Did you know that every war ever fought by man or beast could have been won by listening to the teachings of Sun Tzu? In fact, the only times in history that a war ever ended inconclusively was when neither side listened to Sun Tzu, or when both sides listened equally.

If man could learn from Sun Tzu, certainly machine could as well. To this end, every bandito was required to meditate upon the precepts.

Sun Tzu says:

The clever combatant imposes his will on the enemy, but does not allow the enemy's will to be imposed on him.

From this teaching the bandito will no longer be lured by the treacherous Johnny into positions of weakness. He will no longer repeatedly run into walls when Johnny is somewhere behind them.

In all fighting, the direct method may be used for joining battle, but indirect methods will be needed in order to secure victory.

The bandito knows that, although moving directly towards Johnny is powerful, it is only effective when Johnny is actually in the open where bullets can reach him. He will need to follow a clear path, no matter how indirect, to achieve victory.

If your enemy is secure at all points, be prepared for him. If he is in superior strength, evade him. If your opponent is temperamental, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant. If he is taking his ease, give him no rest.

The bandito knows that if he loses sight of Johnny and cannot find him, he can remain waiting in a safe position. He knows that when Johnny is attempting to hide, he must path around the terrain to where he last saw Johnny so that he might properly continue his harassment.

If your enemy is hidden behind a big wall, don’t stand there and constantly shoot bullets into the wall. Just stop shooting and walk around the wall or something.

The wisdom of Sun Tzu.

With the precepts in their programming, these new bandits will hardly seem to resemble their old selves. Had these bandits fought at Gettysburg, they would have never charged Cemetery Ridge. Had these bandits been Napoleon, they would have never invaded Russia. Had these bandits commanded in the Cola Wars, we would not have to suffer the existence RC Cola.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Day of Reckoning

The long awaited hour is here at last.

Perhaps you heard that May 21, 2011 was to be one of the most important moments in history? And now it is here. Behold, the rapture - the rapture of experiencing the BRAND NEW JOHNNY OUTLAW WEBSITE!

A treasure trove of earthly delights, this new website delivers Johnny Outlaw's trademark rootin’ tootin’ cowboy fun in a way the blog format simply could never support. With Johnny Outlaw media, fan art, and character bios, it’s a wagon train of fun for all ages. Welcome to Web 3.0.

So don’t get left behind here at the Johnny Outlaw Blog, experience the website for yourself. Today’s the day! And if you haven’t already, download and play the newest release of the Johnny Outlaw Demo. Go ahead. It’s one decision you won’t regret come May 22!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Johnny Outlaw's Greatest Hits

We at Johnny Outlaw Studios are proud to present a brand new release of the Johnny Outlaw Demo, Playable Here .

This update heralds a new age of efficient code, an age without lag, an age with improved story and animations, but beyond and soaring high above resides the realm of music.

Today we celebrate the music of Johnny Outlaw. Artists, writers, coders. Their work is empty.

Images? What are images? Images fall short. They deceive and beguile. There is no honesty in an image. No. In them we find only the fallibility of human reason and the impermanence of all things.

Words? Words alone could never convey the vast oceans of emotion, the immeasurable depth of the human experience. In the face of such a task, what is the value of a mere word?

You see, when words and images fail, we at Johnny Outlaw Studios turn to Maestro Matt Dunn.

If music be the wine of the soul, then Maestro Dunn is the chalice.

To inaugurate this new edition of the Demo, the good Maestro has given us several new compositions. Here I will take some time to review a selection of two. I assure you I will not go easy on him.

“A Well Travelled Man” (Featured in the Menu and Map screens)

A Well Travelled Man - Johnny Outlaw: Gun for Hire

– The anthem of the American West itself, the spirit of Manifest Destiny bottled for the modern listener, sold as a snake oil. It encapsulates the fear of the unknown, the thirst for adventure, the longings for a past that never was, and the brazen hope for a future that may never be. At the heart of this composition is a variation on the Johnny Outlaw theme, and an impeachable darkness. Perhaps the demons of our better nature have at last come to light. Is this is but a foretaste of things to come? 5 out of 5 stars.

“Man Mountain” (On temporary exhibition in Coyote Canyon)

Man Mountain audio - Johnny Outlaw: Gun for Hire

– A salute, or dare I say satire, of the industriousness of the l9th century. Touched by an air of militarism and measured rhythm, this piece is in many ways a dirge for society, the luckless victim of mechanization and bureaucratization. The only corruption in this new order comes from a familiar twang, a sound that is synonymous with outlawry itself. Is it a sinister force at work beneath the surface, or is it the last thread of humanity in a dehumanized world? Man has fashioned himself a mountain. It cannot be blown away by the winds, eroded by the rains. It can only be destroyed by a catalyst from within, by dynamite in human form. 5 of out of 5 stars.


"Untitled" audio - Johnny Outlaw: Gun for Hire

- A song without name, only adding more layers to the mysteries it holds. A calculating piece, not entirely sinister, but one which you hesitate to put trust in. Yet, it would seem that if you hesitate for even a second, the music itself will overtake you, and swallow you into an abyss absent of all life, where only rhythm and melody may find you until the end of days. Hypnotic, but only because the listener desires to be hypnotized. The intermittent, brisk piano runs are your only salvation from relentless seduction by this conspiracy of tone and cadence. 5 out of 5 stars.

There are many more compositions in place, but the words I put down are pestering gnats to the mind. Music is the only salve. You must play the Johnny Outlaw demo and listen for yourself.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Cloud Computing

Today for Johnny Outlaw Studios’ ten part series on game design we seek to delve into the most elusive, and misunderstood quality of a game- immersion. Immersion is the component of a game through which the player becomes a part of the presented game world. A very simple idea, and, throughout all of my research, there is only one real guideline to creating an ‘immersive’ world. The game must uphold and reinforce the rules of the game’s world. This means it must be internally consistent and not beat you over the head with the fact that it is a mere computer program.

It is very simple to pinpoint things that break immersion. Anything that makes the player aware of the ‘game’ nature of the world ruins immersion. Bad controls ruin immersion; lag ruins immersion, as do frustrating mechanics. Breaking immersion is easy. Even the worst games manage to do it. So let us not dwell on such things.

Long ago, Johnny Outlaw added in a new feature called the tumbleweed, a decorative feature which served no purpose beyond creating an immersive world. Yet this tumbleweed was more valuable than any boss fight, any game mechanic, and any meager menu option. Through merciless calculations of tumbleweed mass distribution, we created a perfect demonstration of this, the most iconic of western flora. The tumbleweed was a reinforcement of immersion. It made the world alive. It made the world just a little something more than “complete x task”. It was a world that existed and persisted without tasks. That tumbleweed represented the higher truth, the Platonic ideal of the Johnny Outlaw universe.

Immersion is far easier to destroy than it is to create, but creating it is as simple as reinforcing what already exists. We revisited the tumbleweed. Even in its perfection, there was room for improvement. It dawned on me that the tumbleweed was only the first step. In all my calculations I had neglected one simple truth. Without wind, a tumbleweed is just a weed. The world of Johnny Outlaw naturally is presumed to have weather. After all, there is a harsh desert climate. There is water to make the cacti grow and also to quench Johnny’s thirst. The only thing this world needed for complete immersion was a dynamic system of algorithms to produce true weather patterns.

Through extensive weather mapping and study of the atmospheric sciences, I modeled the real flow of air currents, chemical content, pressure, static charge, and temperature feedback systems. And before you criticize, let me say that yes, we did remember to account for the curvature and rotation of the Earth, and the influence and frequency of sunspots. This took what was already presumed to exist, weather, and made it a real and living part of the world. Now Johnny Outlaw is truly immersive, and all it took was a true-to-life system of wind currents and precipitation levels. Of course the average player may not take much notice, as the desert climate does not appear dynamic to the unlearned mind. But the subconscious will take note. It will acknowledge that the clouds drift in varying speeds according to the wind, that the changes in elevation cause moisture to consolidate. It will appreciate that this world is as real as any you profess to live in.

As the tumbleweed blows past, off to destinations unknown, the wind at its back and fortune at its feet, it will be like seeing an old friend. Familiar, yet changed, with a history knowable only by the course it has set. This is the gift of fully realized immersion.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Patronizing the Arts

A loyal fan walked up to me the other day and he said something very interesting. He said, “Mister, I sure do love Johnny Outlaw more than I love mommy, daddy, George Washington, and life itself. But Mister, my art teacher said that Johnny Outlaw is just a game. It isn’t real art".

You heard right. This is what they’re teaching in schools these days: Johnny Outlaw isn’t art. Blasphemy is being taught as fact. Now, I’m sure in time the curriculum will be adjusted to accommodate Johnny Outlaw, but this goes beyond Johnny Outlaw. All video games are victims of such prejudice. You have heard their cries. You hear them say that video games can’t be ‘art’. At least, not in the way that every other medium can be art. This is patently false. Once again, the art community has fallen behind as technology marches forward.

First they told Orson Welles that film would never be art. Then he made Citizen Kane.

They told Tom Wilson that comics would never be art. Then he made Ziggy.

They told Michelangelo that ceilings would never be art. Then he painted the Sistine Chapel.

At last they told me that video games could not be art. The rest is history.

Video games are nothing more than the next step. They are the cathartic paintings of cavemen refined for modern sensibilities. The fact of the matter is that video games have always coexisted and intermingled with the traditional mediums. Some of the earliest games found their roots in painting.

Look here, at 19th century painter Francisco Goya’s painting titled Ganon Devouring his Son (Ganon is the Spanish name for Chronos, the father of Zeus). Over a century later, game designer Shigeru Miyamoto would base his most popular game off of this painting. You may know that game as Super Mario Bros. 3.

And look here, we already have films based on video games. Films such as “Resident Evil”, “BloodRayne”, “Pokemon 4Ever – Celebi, Voice of the Forest”, and “Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li”. Are not all of these films ‘high art’? Why can a film be considered art when the very video game it is derived from is not? Why are video games denied entrance into that pantheon of the arts? Do video games demand their own ‘separate but equal’ classification?

Now, I don’t know if video games have rights, but if they did, this would be an atrocity. Should we not then err on the side of caution? Should we not let video games be art?