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Althernai

What is "developer in-game commentary"?

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The final update said:

 

We will use live instrumentation for the soundtrack, add developer in-game commentary, and use every dollar between $3.5m and $4m to enhance the game.

 

Since we reached $4M, it looks like we will get all of these... but what is "developer in-game commentary"? The straightforward interpretation seems like it would be breaking the fourth wall and generally does not make much sense to me (what would they be commenting on?).

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I believe someone mentioned on stream that a good example would be the "commentary nodes" that Valve uses in their game that trigger an audio log for a developer to talk about the reasons why they did something specific in that area, the challenges they faced, or just bring your attention to something that might not have been obvious at first glance, but was something they felt was important to the scene.

 

And yes, it does break the 4th wall. It's not typically something that is on by default. It would be an additional setting that you could turn on or off at the start of a game.

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If you have a bit of cash to spare and you'd like a good example of in-game dev commentary, check out the special edition of Monkey Island 2. Or you could just look up some of the videos on YouTube.

 

You can turn it on or off, so it won't really be breaking the fourth wall or messing with your story unless you want it to. I don't know how Obsidian is going to do it, but Monkey Island's was an audio track of the game devs talking about why they made what choices where, or what challenges presented themselves when developing a certain part of the game, etc. It adds some cool insight into the development process so you can understand more about the game.

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If they do it like Valve, if you point at an icon within the game there are recorded messages by the developers, sometimes about the level, sometimes about design, etc.

 

You generally have to purposefully activate and would do it after you went through the game. I like them, myself...


It is pitch black. You are likely to be eaten by a grue.

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I don't know about this implementation, but in all of Valve's recent games (the Half Life 2 episodes, Portal, TF2, Left 4 Dead etc) they've had the ability to switch on a commentary track. After you load up the level it spawns a series of floating speech bubbles that you can activate to hear the designers talk about that part of the level. It's actually a really neat feature, and you can't activate it until you play through normally so you always get the non-fourth wall breaking experience first.

 

EDIT: I swear the above comments didn't exist when I wrote this. Oh well.

Edited by Pyradox

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Valve does excellent developer commentary in Half-Life 2: Lost Coast, Episode One, Episode 2, and Portal 2 but especially the original Portal that has been transcribed. You activate it, and then at certain points the designer, artist, or voice actor will describe their part in its creation. It's the gaming equivalent of a commentary audio track on a DVD or Blu-Ray.

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In Valve games, commentary is off by default, and you have to turn it on manually. No reason to worry about immersion.

 

Additionally, in Valve games, commentary only activates when you've already beaten that level (at least in Portal). Maybe they'll unlock the option to turn it on after you beat the game once? In that case, if you decide to activate the commentary you'll know what's being described anyway.

Edited by Lurky

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I love commentary and the like, but I don't love it in game. When I'm in game, that's where I want to stay. I don't want to break immersion to listen to Josh or Chris pontificate.

 

I hope that there will be an option to access the commentary outside of the game, similar to watching extras on a DVD/Blu-ray. I love watching this type of stuff when I'm not gaming. After I play the game through once, going back and learning some of the whys and therefores, one after the other would be great. Having to play the game to get to this information would feel like a chore to me (playing games vs. going "behind the scenes" are really mutually exclusive activities for me).

 

Obsidian, if you're reading this, I hope you'll take note! :)


"Now to find a home for my other staff."
My Project Eternity Interview with Adam Brennecke

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Now that you say it, Mirror's Edge had an "extras" section. New stuff was unlocked there after each chapter, showing concept art and early design ideas.

 

Could be another way to do it.

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