Last weekend I attended PAX East by exhibiting my game “Talkpack” in Emily Short‘s Interactive-Fiction Demo Fair, alongside some of the best, brightest and strangest entries to the burgeoning text and narrative-driven game genre. There were plenty of traditional text-adventures to be found, obviously, but also a lot of more novel stuff that might fall outside of the ordinary definition of IF, from point-and-click puzzle titles and dating-sims to automatic-typewriters and my own one-button talkathon platformer. All in all I’m glad that I was able to expose my work to a whole new crowd, especially one that’s more or less just as outside the mainstream of indie-gaming as my stuff already is. There’s a great, potent community out there for Interactive Fiction, and I can only hope that I can contribute some more to its bodies of work in the future.

Might As Well Jump

December 31, 2010

Just in time for the new year, I’ve finally made good on my long considered promise to return to writing pieces for Play This Thing by tackling one of the biggest indie releases of the past couple years, Adam Atomic’s “Canabalt”. Not content to stop there, however, I also decided to compare it directly to Tristan Perich’s “Killjet”, which might just be my favorite game of all the exhibits at Babycastles. But not content to quit while I was ahead even there, I made up my mind to further comment on both games in the form of a game myself, my long-developed and longer-tweaked one-button game “Talkpack”, which pairs my usual conversation battle-system with my newfound level memory algorithms, and a new jetpack function developed expressly for this game. It’s something I’d love to develop into a longer, larger game, something on the order of a one-button Metroidvania full of exploration and action of its own, but to an extent I think it’s fairly well developed and balanced as it is, with nothing more than spikes and momentum to wrangle as you fly about. I doubt anybody’ll make much fuss for this new work of mine, but at the very least I’m happy to have begun making games that criticize games in the same way that Godard talked about making truly cinematic film-criticism, albeit in a rather paltry, Flash-driven way. Until next time, pleasant dreamers, I’ll wish you all a Happy New Year, or at least a happier one than the last one we all had to sit through…

Don’t You Forget About Me

November 7, 2010

Would you stand above me?

This is a quick post, and not much more. Many months ago, I sequestered myself into game-design seclusion to produce my next work. In that long stretch of monastic isolation, I had hoped to create a game with a randomly generated map of levels, so that every time you played the game, it would be a brand new experience, and while it was simple enough to create the randomization element, providing a procedural-memory system for those spawned-levels eluded me. It’s why I went for so long without finishing any games, or making any posts here. My vow of ludological silence only broke a few short weeks ago, when I finished my “Film Socialisme”, “Maskovy” and “Debate!” games for Wonders in the Dark and Babycastles @ Showpaper, and at that time I had no hopes of ever returning to that planned system of procedural level-memories. For the foreseeable future, I considered it a lost cause.

Then I changed my mind and finished the damn thing.

I only used “Maskovy” here as a test subject, and don’t really consider this the “definitive” version of the game– granted, I think it works better with this, but the non-memory system was sort of what I had in mind for the game thematically speaking. Still, either version is cool. With this under my belt, I can finally set to work on the games I’d been planning for my gaming-monastery time, but had escaped my capabilities. Until next time, pleasant dreamers, remember that the title was either going to be this or “Forget Me Not”, and I’d argue this is the more honest pop-music reference.

Silence is Violence

November 1, 2010

This past weekend I’ve been able to showcase two of my newest games over at the Manhattan location of the Babycastles Arcade, one for a set of Halloween-themed games curated by my “Waffle” collaborator Arthur Ward, the other a stand-alone game in the spirit of tomorrow’s Election Day that, had it not been for some unexpected trouble with Metro-North, would’ve been there at the same time as my “Ministry of Silence” collaborator Charley Miller’s latest version of his presidential election board-game. All in all, the experience was a little more stressful than I would’ve liked– “Maskovy“, my spooky-game, worked fine, but “Debate!” had a few bugs I would’ve liked to have discovered in time. Still, as I try to do, I’m now here to deliver a kind of post-mortem on the events and the games themselves, for anyone out there who’s interested in playing and/or reading about them.

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I suppose I should’ve mentioned some time ago, but a couple of my games have been featured over at the indie-review site Play This Thing. I only update my own blog rather infrequently, so obviously these things slip my grasp.

Anyways, I’m writing now both to add that mention (especially the rather cool appraisal from the site’s resident madman, Patrick “The 99th” Dugan, who said of my game “Convey Or” that I’m something like “Chris Crawford with a chaser of Red Bull” and thinks I’m a rampant misogynist), but also to post my latest game, a long-in-the-making experiment with my conversation system that is based, for some odd reason, on Jean-Luc Godard’s latest movie, which I saw twice during the New York Film Festival. Godard himself once said that the best way to review a film is to make one of your own, so perhaps I’ll use this format to review games in the future.

Aside from that, there’ll also be a couple of other updates in the coming week. I’ll have a game featured over at the Brooklyn location of Babycastles this Friday in the spirit of the upcoming Election, and another at the Manhattan branch for Halloween (that goes up on Thursday, however, apparently). I shan’t say any more than that at the moment, if for no other reason than this season always carries some natural nail-biting suspense with it thanks to both of the aforementioned occasions, and I always like to add to it in my own special way (also– they’re not actually finished yet). So until next time, pleasant dreamers, sleep tight and don’t let the Lincoln Center bed bugs bite…

Nokoromi

February 18, 2010

Well, pleasant dreamers, I come bearing tidings of the most exceedingly bogus variety: my submission for the Gamma IV competition was turned down. I can’t really hide my disappointment over this turn, as I’d labored long and hard to fit my conversational gameplay mechanics into Kokoromi’s one-button constraint. All in all I’m happy I participated, as I genuinely feel that pushing my QAYN design into one button makes it work much better, but still…

At least this means I can release my game a little earlier than I’d hoped. And considering that there were a whopping 154 submissions this year, there’s at least the consolation that the competition was fierce. Probably more quality games were rejected this year than were even submitted to all the Gammas combined. I’d hope that all of those games will eventually be played, recognized and maybe even supported by fans online, but that might seem just a little self serving.

If anybody wants to play my game, you can open it in a BROWSER or download it in a ZIP. It’s called “Convey, Or: The Countdown”, and maybe I’ll write about it a little more in the future, once I get over this tragedy.

Until next time, pleasant dreamers, if some charming little talking cricket tries telling you that with nothing more than a wish upon a star that dreams really do come true, make sure that you listen to him and keep hope for the future alive. Then squash him.

Well, pleasant dreamers, another Global Game Jam has come and gone, and just like last year I’ve come through it clean the other side. Cleaner, in fact, than I had twelve months ago, because this time I was able to commit myself fully to a single project that I can proudly stand by as one of my best, and one that I hope to revisit in the near future as a long-term work.

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Two new games today, and thoughts on one I’ve already posted.

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Through the Looking Glass

November 6, 2009

"Doppelganger!"

News to report: my latest game, “Dimensions”, will be showcased at Silent Barn in Brooklyn as part of a live indie-arcade, alongside Cactus’ latest mysterious work. I’ll be there in person myself (having nothing better to do). My game is only a work in progress so far, and I plan on writing about it more once I’m finished with it. But for now, here’s the latest working build.

Also, for anyone in New York who reads this blog: http://myspace.com/thesilentbarn.

 

A Week of Kindness

July 24, 2009

Another week, pleasant dreamers, another game: Questions and Answers, another conversation-platformer that attempts to teach my QAYN gameplay in as natural a flow of tutorialisms as possible. This time I followed the advice of friend and consultant Kunal Gupta, who liked the one-button-at-a-time approach of Tutorial, but thought I ought to empower the player a bit more from the start. If my games are all about seeing conversations as battles, he pointed out, and Questions are the player’s means of attack, why was I starting them off with the purely-defensive Answers, instead?

Part of my motivation for this was because of how fond I am for games that start the player off at an extreme disadvantage. In Prince of Persia, the player begins without a sword, and must explore the trap-laden dungeon to find one before confronting the close-by guard. Traditionally, Metal Gear games begin by surrounding Snake with enemies, and only non-lethal weapons at his disposal, or none at all. Even the Super Mario games start the player off small and vulnerable. But what I missed from all those examples was the aspect of choice– none of those games force you to confront an enemy before you’re ready. And in the case of Kojima and Miyamoto’s games, the player may start out unarmed, but they aren’t entirely defenseless– Snake starts out with punches and kicks, while Mario always has his classic jump.

Therefore, Kunal was right– if I’m going to teach players how to use my conversation-controls, I have to arm them with the most powerful option first: Questions. That’s how this new game came about, and I’m pretty happy with the logical flow it carries. I believe the current build might even be 100 percent bug free, but I’m not crossing my fingers yet. Until next time, pleasant dreamers, never question the power of questions…

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