Monday, September 15, 2014

Porting simple Half-Life 2-based singleplayer mods to Source SDK Base 2013 in 3 steps

If you have a lot of custom code, there are probably some compelling reasons NOT to try to upgrade your existing code to Source 2013 unless you have a lot of free time to hand-merge everything... but if you just have a mod consisting of maps running on Half-Life 2 or the episodes, the relatively easy update to Source SDK Base 2013 gives you better performance (the Steampipe VPK-based loading is much faster than the old GCF system), integrated VR support, and maybe most importantly, it is a freely available "standalone" release to anyone with a Steam account.

The process is basically 2 steps, but I added a 3rd pretty crucial "step" that came up in my own mod...

Friday, September 12, 2014

Liner notes: Intimate, Infinite (part 2), on protagonists / race / gardening / chess.

These are some notes about my process / intent in making my game Intimate, Infinite. Spoiler warning is in effect for this game as well as the 1941 Borges short story that inspired it. Part 1 is on my general reading / plotting / interest in the frame narrative.

Borges' protagonist Tsun, or my Wang Peng (a name taken from a fictional college student in a Mandarin language textbook) has mixed motives for killing the sinologist.

He's a Chinese man more or less assimilated into Western ways, with a healthy dose of self-loathing for his own heritage. That makes this story one of the few "Western literary canon" texts that directly engages with how Asian people might react to Westerners being fascinated with Asian stuff (side note: in this vein, Irma Vep is one of my favorite movies / I really want to make an Irma Vep game someday)

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Much Madness is Divinest Sense.

A couple things got me thinking:
  • Source SDK Base 2013 does not require any purchases whatsoever, and is freely available to all Steam users.
  • DOTA2 is using Source Engine 2, or at least some substantial derivative of it.
To me, that means Source 1 is definitely nearing the end of its life, and Source 2013 will stand as (perhaps) the last definitive engine fork for Source 1. There's a good chance I won't have to fix up my release ever again because of Valve updating Episode Two and breaking all mod compatiblity: furthermore, anyone will be able to download Source 2013 and play my mod.

Preliminary tests look promising: both chapters of Radiator 1 worked in Source 2013 with just a little massaging. So, contrary to all expectations (I'm as surprised as anyone), I'm dusting off the rest of Radiator 1 and the whole thing might actually get completed now, several years later. I'm cutting a lot of the stuff I planned before (mostly boring puzzle gameplay stuff that I was trying to hack-together using map scripting) and the end is already in sight, it's just going to be a lot of narrative scripting and re-learning the rhythms of working in Hammer.

... And hopefully this'll be the last time I have to edit and update this thing.

(Oh, and I've also updated my portfolio with all the latest trends. HTML5! Bootstrap-whatever! Responsive-whatsits!)

Monday, September 1, 2014

September pageant at "MAGIC IS REAL"

Merritt Kopas is the pageant runner for September, and she has come up with a doozy:
"We're all born a Witch. We're all born into magic. It's taken from us as we grow up." - Madeline L'Engle

magic has been incorporated into games for decades. but it's most often in a way that borrows from the tabletop games like dungeons & dragons -- as just another means of inflicting damage. magic in videogames is both spectacular and mundane. fireballs are boring.

magic is the power to change our circumstances, to invoke the world we want to inhabit. magic is a little evening ritual, the charms we carry to protect us, the spaces and times we invest with meaning. magic is a response to the destructive, crushing weight of oppression. magic is spectacular and mundane, but not in the way it's depicted in games.

make a game about magic that veers away from the usual treatments of magic in games.
The full pageant brief is here. I'm looking forward to seeing all the new games people will be making!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Liner Notes: Intimate, Infinite (part 1)

These are some notes about my process / intent in making my game Intimate, Infinite. Spoiler warning is in effect for this game as well as the 1941 Borges short story that inspired it. This post assumes you've read the story already.

The first time I read the Garden of Forking Paths, it was in a freshman college seminar about literature and games. It was presented as a revolutionary text that predicted early 1990s hypertext literature and branching narratives... but by the time I read it in the late 2000s, the revolution was over, the internet was domesticated, and clicking on a link was one of the most mundane things ever.

Turns out, a lot of theorists agreed. As early or late as 1999, hypertext was declared dead -- long live "cybertext"! Nick Montfort distinguishes between the two types mainly as a matter of computation: a hypertext is a "finite automaton" capable of simple searches, while a cybertext is more like a recursive Turing machine that can compute anything computable. It's the difference between a calculator vs. a laptop. (This isn't to say hypertexts are bad; Twine has revived hypertext in a new age of Javascript and web design, making hypertext more relevant than ever. But it is relevant because of new authorship and new contexts, and not because it is a frontier of computing.)

Monday, August 18, 2014

new game: Intimate, Infinite

I've finished a 3+ month project called "Intimate, Infinite." It is available at a Pay What You Want price with a $0 minimum -- if you got something out of playing it / want to support future work, please consider buying me a beer or something.

It was originally made for the "Series" pageant at, but I ended up being a couple months late. Better late than never? Anyway, it is heavily inspired by Jorge Luis Borges' short story "Garden of Forking Paths" and it is somewhat experimental in nature, so I'd advise players to be, um... patient.

Friday, August 8, 2014

"I'm young and I love to be young": on ZZT, by Anna Anthropy

Anna Anthropy's book "ZZT" is impressive. In only 129 pages, she gives a robust and accessible technical overview of the game ZZT, a nearly 23 year old text-only DOS game with a built-in game editor. She then explores how that engine design -- combined with nascent internet technologies like dial-up BBS boards, AOL archives, and IRC channels -- afforded several generations of a vibrant creator community. Her analysis effortlessly straddles computer science, design, art history, anthropology, and gender theory, all wrapped in a personal story of her childhood. It is a very easy, enjoyable, and insightful read.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

On video game corridors in "Elements of Architecture"

I wrote about video game corridors for the huge expensive hardcover 1000+ page Rem Koolhaas book-set "Elements of Architecture" -- it's part of an entire book about corridors, alongside books about doors, walls, etc.

The bit that I've read has a pretty contemporary approach to things, talking about film geography and nationalism in the same breath as my lonely page that touches on the technical / level design aspects of corridors.

Look mom, I'm a published architecture critic now!!!