Tuesday, April 8, 2014

"Get Better Soon" dev diary #3, skin and light iterations

This is a development diary series for "Get Better Soon", a commissioned game I'm making for Different Games 2014. If you want to see it and play it, then come hangout at Different Games next weekend in NYC!

Kris Hammes is finishing up the character. The 3D model geometry is basically "done" so now I'm just waiting for the last texture tweaks like chest hair. In the meantime, I've rigged the model with a standard "HumanIK" skeleton in Maya (so that I can easily re-target animations in Mecanim) and I've configured the shader so I can start figuring out how to implement these characters into the game.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Second time's the charm; procedural NPC dialogue in Nostrum

Last time I tried some type of "procedural narrative" thing, my hubris got the better of me -- naming the system after one of the most famous and influential writers of all-time was, perhaps, just a little arrogant.

Despite my attempt to scope it properly, that system suffered greatly from trying to do too much stuff... It was so much stuff that it was difficult for me to write anything with it. So with the procedurally generated NPCs in Nostrum, I'm developing a much simpler system which will hopefully work better, to solve a smaller problem...

The basis is still the same: Elan Ruskin's GDC 2012 presentation on AI-driven dynamic dialogue in Left 4 Dead 2.

Monday, March 24, 2014

This is what I'm working on, March 2014

What are you working on? This is what I'm working on:

"Get Better Soon" is a VR-powered gay clubbing simulator haiku. Imagine a universe where EA invests heavily in sexualizing men using the latest in DirectX technologies... throbbing, pounding, pulsing bodies -- a perpetual shower. Nothing in the voice of the cicada intimates how soon it will die. A commission for Different Games, made possible with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts.

"Charity" is a procedurally-aided Thief-like set in Ciudad, a vast 13th century Moorish boomtown slowly sinking into the ground. You're a "placer", a freelance thug, an alchemist -- you beat people up and turn blood into money. Will you side with the environmentalist royals, the all-consuming corporation, or the industrial workers of the world? Underground we fought the earth together. Inspired heavily by the high-profile failure of Thief 4.

"Nostrum" is a VR-ish roguelikelikelike life simulator about just war theory. You're a freelance pilot based in the Mediterranean Sea circa 1936... well, you would be, if the Fascists would just quit killing your business with all these silly airspace regulations. Over several years you will befriend several islands' worth of alligators, corgis, giraffes, zebras, and more -- and then watch their homes burn. It's Animal Crossing meets Animal Farm, and you're just the small business owner caught in the middle? The first video game ever made about World War II.

"Radiator" is... I don't even know anymore.

Friday, March 14, 2014

GDC 2014 Dance Card

Are you in San Francisco next week? Here's some stuff you could do:
  • Critical Proximity, a free mini-conference where game critics mingle and grouse... productively? There's a pretty diverse lineup of speakers here -- non-critics, critical bloggers, academics, developer-critics -- and, uh, Ian Bogost?
  • Unwinnable Party, a bunch of games people invade High Tide, a (very) divey bar in the Tenderloin. As far as dive bars go, it's a pretty good dive bar, though.
  • Agency Launch, basically an excuse to hangout with people (or play Netrunner?) while sipping somewhat pricey drinks in the "Death Star bar" (you'll understand) overlooking downtown San Francisco.
  • The gay game industry group is hosting a night at The Stud bar, which is probably one of the more inclusive gay bars in the city. The first 100 drinks are on them.
  • The annual Wild Rumpus party at Public Works, one of the few times when people actually dance. Good game curation too, and within a few blocks of burrito mecca down Mission St. (or hipster mecca on Valencia St.)
  • Lost Levels is a free picnic unconference where anyone can give a talk or run a session. Bring a lunch and hangout!
  • TIGSource regulars usually invade the local Denny's (on Thursday or Friday night?) for a mini art / work jam. I strongly recommend a "Moons Over My Hammy" sandwich or an Oreo milkshake.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Course catalog at Radiator University, Fall 2014

If I had a university, these are some of the courses I'd run:

PE822 -- CS:GO SPORTIFICATION INTENSIVE (2 units, Detroit campus)
In 1999, Counter-Strike changed the face of multiplayer shooters -- sci-fi gothic fantasy died and "realistic" squad maneuvers became the dominant discourse. The series then languished until 2012, when Counter-Strike: Global Offensive triggered a renaissance in player and level design theory. In this studio intensive course, we will critique this development history and "sportification" of the series while iterating on small levels designed for public and competitive play. (PREREQUISITES: Sculpture I, War Crimes seminar, Basketball II or higher.)

KL72 -- MAKER MAKER (3 units)
Tools like FPS Creator or RPGMaker bring new blood into development communities while manifesting structural critiques of game genres. If something is difficult to do in RPGMaker, can it be said that RPGs should generally not implement that feature? How do the workflows and "grains" of our tools affect our abilities to make things? This course argues that making a new generation of "maker" tools, grounded firmly in new genres, is imperative for articulating a new praxis of game development. (PREREQUISITES: at least 1 linguistic determinism seminar.)

R20A -- COLLAB WORKSHOP, "PERVASIVE ARGS" (2 units, Montana campus)
The "magic circle" refers to the idea that many games clearly demarcate the boundaries between players and those not playing -- e.g. you must be playing a game in order to score a goal, otherwise you're just some person kicking a ball on a grass field. Taking cues from David Fincher's thriller "The Game" (1997), we will act as "puppetmasters" to construct elaborate "alternate reality games" that surround / swallow our players' lives, blurring the line between playing and living. (PREREQUISITES: Metalworking II, Improv Studio 201, and/or equivalent professional experience)

E100 -- ENGLISH 1
Writing expository, analytical, and argumentative essays; developing critical reading and research skills. Review of sentence structure and grammar.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

"Get Better Soon", dev diary 2: character art and production value.

This is a development diary series for "Get Better Soon", a commissioned game I'm making for Different Games 2014. If you want to see it and play it, then sign-up to attend Different Games in April in NYC (for free!)

Bodies, much like video games, are routinely commodified -- there are "cheap"-looking and "expensive"-looking bodies. Society devalues and discriminates against certain body types, while affording privileges to other body types. We read video games in much the same way, based on the shape of the game's body... the packaging and production values, and/or "paratext", of a game. Production values are a relatively quantifiable way to impress people and convince them to pay $60 USD for a set of mechanics that have remained virtually unchanged for decades.

What if "queer games" weren't popularly characterized by the do-it-yourself gumption of personal stories, expressed predominantly through webpage text, by artists with few resources? What if Electronic Arts directed their next-gen AAAAA commando-developer divisions to build big budget romantic comedies about time-travelling transgender witches who critique Foucault?...

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Sophie Houlden teaches you what 3D normals / "normal maps" are... with lots of pictures!

The indie developer Sophie Houlden has posted a great visual explanation of what "normals" are, within a 3D video game art context. Full explanation is after the jump:

Monday, February 24, 2014

#lostlevels 2014

Me and my fellow co-organizers have announced another incarnation of Lost Levels this year, happening on March 20th in San Francisco. Lost Levels is a casual community-led "unconference"-style picnic that we put together because we think large conferences are good at some things but bad at other things -- maybe Lost Levels could help with those other things? We believe in "radical inclusion", which we try to implement by being completely free with an open submission process.

This year, we are anticipating more people, so we've gone to the effort of acquiring an event permit. (Our venue requires us to get a permit for gatherings larger than 25 people.) We're getting the permit to protect everyone and minimize possible conflict. However, the permit is expensive; combined with the event insurance costs, we are spending more than $3000 on fees alone. If you can afford it, please consider donating.

None of us have much money, so any assistance is appreciated. However, I want to be clear -- we will run Lost Levels no matter how much we raise because we run Lost Levels for you, not for us.

If you'll be around San Francisco, we'd love to see you there -- and we'd love it even more if you gave a short talk or ran a short discussion group or did a small performance. Please sign-up to attend or submit session proposals! (We are especially fond of the weird, the unusual, and the silly.)