Monthly Archives: September 2012

I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence. I much prefer history, true or feigned, with its varied applicability to the thought and experience of the reader. I think that many confuse ‘applicability’ with ‘allegory’; but the one resides in the freedom of the reader, and the other in the purposed domination of the author.

I somehow managed to miss attending high school, so I’ve never personally had the experience of being forced to read a book and then told, piece by piece, what meaning the instructor ascribes to each passage of the book. It sounds to me very much like some contrived ironic hell for writers, but apparently that’s how a lot of people think we’re supposed to learn about literature. Which, of course, I think is pretty fucked up, but I find it’s not really useful to stop thinking about something when we realize it’s dysfunctional. We ought to probe deeper, to find the roots of that dysfunction and then to learn from it. It is also worthwhile to keep looking and trace the effects of it, to see the black stench it bleeds into the waters of discourse. Gross. Read More

Progress is progressing.

I’d originally been thinking of doing a lot of the level and map resizing via choices made through a menu, which would have been, among other things, extraordinarily tedious to program. Eventually, though, after many false starts, I realized that I’d be able to do 90% of the normal level and map interactions through creative use of the left and right mouse buttons and a few keyboard keys, which should allow much faster work once the user (i.e. me) gets used to it. I spent a lot of time carefully placing buttons on a menu bar and it looks like I won’t need any of them. So it goes.

So: I still hammer away at the map editor. I may have been overoptimistic in my time estimates, perhaps underestimating the other demands upon my time or overestimating my work ethic and/or programming skills. I’m hoping work ethic is a skill I can grind up– and I’m definitely seeing improvement in my programming skills, which is encouraging. These skills have been stagnant for a while, and it’s pleasant to exercise those muscles again (if also, perhaps, sometimes a bit frustrating). Read More

A few weeks ago Steam came out with their hotly if somewhat anxiously anticipated Greenlight system, and so far it’s… definitely a thing? I wanted to talk about this a couple of weeks ago, but at the time I wanted to talk about ‘girlfriend mode’ more. In the meanwhile, things have settled down a bit, but for a while the debate was pretty heated over whether Greenlight was a good idea, a bad idea, or just an idea that needed a lot of work.

Chapter One: A Throne of Games

So, for those possibly hypothetical readers who aren’t familiar with the situations: Steam is the foremost digital distribution platform for PC games, and one of the major factors driving both the PC market in general and the particular economic success of a lot of games, particularly indie games which can’t afford a big marketing budget. In short, getting on Steam is a huge deal– Like “my garage band just got signed for a multi-million dollar contract” huge. Read More

So this is pretty intense.

Pretty much as soon as I announced Eve, I got hit with a rush of adrenaline which has yet to subside. I’ve been sleeping 4-6 hours a night, and I wake up feeling like shit, but then once I get back to working on and thinking about the project I get another burst of energy and another sleepless night. Of course, FTL contributes to lack of sleep as well…

Anyway. This week I’ve been focusing on getting the map editor working– so unfortunate there won’t be much in the way of pretty new art, just a screenshot of the map editor as it is now and some relatively dry technical stuff.

First, some of you may be asking: Your announcement said the level editor was done and the map editor in progress, what does that mean? What is a map editor in the context of a 2d platformer? I’m having to invent the terminology to describe the solutions I use, and probably other people who have solved similar problems have used different terms. Here’s a brief glossary of the terms I’m using, so I can describe what I’m working on: Read More

I just played FTL for the first time. As the game recommends, since it was my first time playing I went ahead and played on easy mode, and everything was going pretty well up until the last couple of star systems. A few minutes before the rebel flagship unceremoniously tore my beautiful ship into charred metal ribbon, I started noticing that fights weren’t going so well. I was warping into new star systems sporting a quantity of flames greatly exceeding the merely festive, with pirates still hanging off of my ship and hacking away at my theretofore delightfully intact and unasphyxiated crew. However, after being unceremoniously recrafted into a million novelty ashtrays by the rebel flagship, I now know approximately how powerful my ship will need to be. So it was a learning experience.

I also just announced my first major game project, Eve, a few days ago. I’ve tried to work on this project and others like it before, only to find myself distracted or displaced over and over again. The last few days have been incredibly exciting, but also alarming, as I observe tendencies that have lead me to ruin before: Read More

I have that thing you did written down in my book. Yeah, that thing. That was messed up, man.

A little while back, I discussed how experienced and incisive players of video games begin to perceive the hand of the designer, to predict his aims, and infer information which the surface layer of the game doesn’t communicate in order to gain an advantage in the game. This principle is actually common to other media as well, but it tends to be far less rewarding when we encounter it there– we call this ‘predictability’.

Now, predictability is something we’re all familiar with. Even if it’s always a surprise to you, we all have a friend or two who can spot the twist ending coming a mile away, and just sits through the rest of the movie waiting for the rewards of their smug certainty to be realized. You know, douches. However, what’s not immediately obvious is that predictability in story is completely divorced from predictability in the real world. Real-world predictions are based on our observations of the real world, while story predictions are based on our observations of stories. Read More

I am pleased (albeit scared) to finally be able to announce this project. Eve is a game concept that has been lurking in the back of my mind for a couple of years, and I’m incredibly excited to finally see it take shape.

What is it about?

Eve takes place after the end of the world. The Creator of All Things is bound by covenant not to directly intervene in human affairs, so He must create an agent to go to the afterlife and collect the lost and angry souls that wander there. Eve is that agent. Some of them want to leave, some don’t, and some are too wrapped up in their own beliefs to even really understand what’s going on. At the same time, the press of souls behind the gates of the afterlife has begun to take its toll, this tiny transitory other-world begins to shake apart, and predators wait beyond the gates…

What kind of game is it?

Eve is an action platformer spread throughout three large main areas, as well as a few smaller optional or plot-relevant areas. Each major area will take an hour or so to complete, so the total estimated length of the game is three to five hours. The areas must be progressed through linearly, but each area is full of secrets, wonders, and curiosities to discover. Eve will grow stronger as the souls she collects augment her power.

What does it look like?

The graphical style used in the wallpaper at the top is indicative of the style I will be using for the project. I will hand draw every game element and color them digitally, then use filters and other effects to emphasize the game’s illustrational style.

When will it be done?

All I can say right now is sometime in 2013– I will provide a more specific date as I get closer to completing the project, and I will post progress updates on Eve’s development every Wednesday until the project is complete.

A snapshot of where Eve is in its development:

Programming: 20%

  • The basic gameplay framework is functional
  • The level editor is complete
  • The map editor is 50% complete

Art: 1%

  • Style guide / promotional piece

Level Design: 0%

  • Dependency on map editor

Music/Sound: 25%

  • 15 minutes of style-appropriate music complete

Test of prototype gameplay engine at low res

“You had worshipers, you know. No one ever told them about you, but they knew you must be out there somewhere. Something in them cried out for you. They worshiped me, too– they worshiped me through stories, tales of how clever I was, or maybe about how gullible everyone else was. I’ve never been able to understand the difference. The day came, though, that other humans with better stories came and killed all of our little flock, killed them with bigger louder angrier stories where they could worship themselves instead. They kept telling my stories, though, right up until the end. My stories were just that good.”

I’m pretty sure I could get a lot of mileage out of the Looney Tunes canon over the course of this essay series. I’ll try to think of something more specifically appropriate next time though.

At this point, the ‘Girlfriend Mode’ debate has well and truly made the rounds. You’re probably all pretty sick of it now, which is too bad because I’m totally not (yet) so I’m going to talk about it now. I’d actually feel fine letting it go as another empty controversy, except that my own viewpoint has been changed somewhat from participating in conversations about it, and I’d like to discuss that.

I could say a lot about how that happened but I won’t. Suffice it to say most of it emerged from a lengthy discussion on the Idle Thumbs forum. To proceed here, though, I’d like to first explain my initial mind-set regarding ‘girlfriend mode,’ along with a brief recap of the controversy for those of you not familiar with the issue.

Around the middle of last month, a Gearbox developer being interviewed about the upcoming Borderlands 2 shared information about a skill tree less focused on twitch aim skills and easier to play for someone without fps gaming experience. The actual name of this skill tree was ‘Best Friends Forever,’ but in describing it the developer said “I want to make, for the lack of a better term, the girlfriend skill tree.”

Oh god now everyone’s going to expect ALL of the images to be from cartoons. I need to make sure the next one is a photo or something.

Well. People were offended, let’s put it that way. At first I had a hard time seeing this as anything other than a kneejerk reaction– perhaps because I have friends who are trying to ease their less-skilled girlfriends into the game as we speak my viewpoint was biased but, nevertheless, I failed to see how the term was offensive to women. It was, I presume, a heterosexual unmarried man speaking about his significant other, ‘girlfriend’ seemed, to me, the only appropriate term for him to use– that is, without resorting to awkward neologisms such as ‘significant other.’ Read More

Has it just been a week since Ludum Dare ended? It seems much longer. I must be busy.

I’ve had a chance to look at some of the other entries. Some of them are pretty amazing, I gotta say. Many of them certainly much more finished and full than my project turned out, which I’m okay with. I’m pretty competitive, but I set my bar too high to compete in terms of overall quality this time. So it goes.

However. I learned a lot, or perhaps I just remembered a lot I used to know. I experienced again what it was to really devote my mind to a project, to work on that project and nothing but for a few days and submit my person entirely to the task of making it better and more fully realized– to become my work. I don’t know if I could have done it, though, if I didn’t know it would last only 48 hours. I got the slightest taste of that despair that so many developers must feel when they sacrificed their lives to a project which simply would never be what they wanted it to be.

Pictured: Alternate universe ghost version of Team Meat

So, a cautionary tale, and also an inspiration. Read More