Shawn McGrath Interview - Developing Dyad

This interview with Shawn McGrath was conducted in early 2014. The feature was written for a university assignment and I'm publishing it now for easier access. 

One-year-old John (real name changed for privacy) sits in his playpen looking up at his father as he points the spray bottle in his direction."Pewsh, you're dead," Shawn McGrath says and John laughs as the mist lands on his perfectly round face. McGrath heads back to the kitchen where the tea water boils where he continues explaining his trip to Toronto to help develop N++.

McGrath spent the last few days working on N++, the next game from his friend's studio, Metanet Software Inc. But McGrath only helps with the development of N++ and prefers to work alone on his games. At age 31, McGrath knows he can't work a normal office job - he tried many times before.
 

Upstairs in his Mississauga home, power tools lie on the exposed wood floor leading to his office. McGrath, his wife Kuini and son John moved in a few months ago to live closer to Kuini's parents. In his office, textbooks on graphical rendering pile up on the corner of the desk beside the PlayStation 4 controllers plugged into his development computer. On the furthest desk corner, a Macbook sits on another pile of textbooks. He's anticipating an email from Sony representatives.

"I have a great relationship with Sony. I love the people there," McGrath says. His most recent game, Dyad - a tunnel racing game - released in July 2012 for the PlayStation 3. Throughout the development of Dyad, Sony helped in every way they could. If McGrath ever needs specialized help, Sony would easily fly someone to his home.

Valiant Hearts: The Great War - The Inactive Parts of War

World War I is boring. Trench warfare meant soldiers more often battled mud soaked socks and disease carrying rats, not enemy soldiers. In a battle of attrition, armies won trench warfare through continuous air attacks and cannon bombardments. Soldiers knew that no man's land, the empty space between trenches, meant death by gunfire or barbed wire. A war of attrition makes for boring video games. While waiting, no one wants to wring out socks and dig tunnels for a dozen hours. Valiant Hearts: The Great War doesn't try to show the boring, candid part of trench life, it succeeds on its own.

The German's Blitzkrieg tactic in World War II put soldiers at the front lines behind ally armour to push forward, not defend ground. Developers loved to replicate the attack and defence of major strategic points such as Carentan, France. WWII's notable fights, mobile armor and airborne attacks showed the destruction people wanted from games. A soldier's psychological erosion in the flooded trenches of WWI doesn't excite people, shooting does.

Now Playing: Demon's Souls (again)

Five years ago, the Armor Spider boss in Demon's Souls forced my Souls career into early retirement. I tried exploring the other stages to make some progress, but I couldn't will myself any further. After such a frustrating experience with a punishing game, I avoided the Souls series altogether. My avoidance of the series includes the PlayStation 4's newest game, Bloodborne, and I'm starting to regret it.

Bloodborne's high praise and dark Victorian Era aesthetic makes it a difficult game to ignore; I want to see what other players love so much. "If only it was easier," I wished. Then I decided to give Demon's Souls another chance, because apparently my high school self didn't get enough ass-kicking during the first playthrough. I figured my experience with Demon's Souls would help decide whether or not I should stay away from Bloodborne and save myself the punishment. I'm still getting my ass kicked, but unlike my first playthrough, I'm making a lot of progress, even killing that bastard Armor Spider.

PAX East 2015 - PAX Convention Tips and Advice

Since high school I always wished to one day attend PAX East, but I always found an excuse not to go. My school's March break never lined up with PAX weekend and university essays made March the busiest time of the school year. This year I didn't care about my school schedule or whatever assignments I needed to write, I just bought my PAX Easy 2015 tickets in November and dealt with the problems as they came.

I didn't know what to expect from my first PAX or my first trip in Boston; the Toronto Fan Expo convention didn't prepare me at all. After three days in the Boston Convention Centre wandering the show floor, I learned what to avoid and how to best manage time during the show.

These PAX East tips may not help veteran PAX goers, but they really improved my weekend in Boston.


Don't stand in line to play games, it's not worth it

After waiting an hour to play the Oculus Rift only to move a few feet forward in the enormous line, I knew I only wasted my time. My advice, avoid playing anything.

Crazy, right? At a video game convention it feels like an obligation to play the games you came to see.  In reality, the lineups (outside of some indie game booths) can take hours to get through. Don't waste your time; you can participate in so many activities instead of waiting in line for three hours. I know I'm going to buy Halo 5: Guardians and Splatoon. I don't need to line up for hours to validate my purchase or satisfy my curiosity - there's just not enough time to stand around waiting.

My Top 5 Games of 2014

Every year-end I wish I played more new releases. I write a lot about video games and I find it important to expand and my knowledge and opinions on notable games, which often influences what I spend my time with. In 2014, I learned to stop caring about what games I should play and just played whatever I wanted to play. If anything, I should probably play fewer games.

I never got around to Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor, Dragon Age: Inquisition or Destiny and I probably won't ever. I'm sure each game ranks among this year's best experiences, but you'll need to read someone else's Game of the Year list to find out exactly where.

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