Saturday, August 13, 2016

Radiator World* Tour, Fall 2016 Schedule

This upcoming year I'm trying to attend more events and to go places where I haven't before. I'll sadly be missing IndieCade West and also probably GDC 2017! But in exchange, I'm mixing up my usual routine a bit.

Here's my current schedule for this season:
  • Living Room Light Exchange, September 13 in Brooklyn, NY. I'll be speaking at this contemporary pop-up salon series, which totally takes place in actual real living rooms around the city. It's been long popular in the Bay Area, but this will be its first time in New York City, and I'm honored to help launch it. (Free, RSVP required)
  • Weird Reality: Head-Mounted Art && Code, October 6-9 in Pittsburgh, PA. Me and a bunch of other people are cautiously optimistic about virtual reality -- well, as long as capitalism doesn't fuck it all up -- and I'll be presenting some of my work at this CMU conference as well as mingling with fellow weirdos. (Not free, tickets required. Some travel scholarships and subsidized tickets available, ask me about them if you're interested.)
  • Steam Dev Days, October 12-13 in Seattle, WA. I don't really know why I'm going to this, to be honest, considering how uncommercial my games are?... but I hear good things about the signal-to-noise ratio here (no press are allowed and all convos are understood to be off-record) and I'm curious to know what Valve's VR plans are. (Not free, developers only.)
  • No Quarter 2016, October __ in Brooklyn, NY. I curate NYU Game Center's long-running annual tradition where we commission original new "public games" from rising and veteran developers, and then throw them a big fun party. We haven't actually announced the date yet, but stay tuned for more specifics soon. (Free, RSVP required)
  • Noted Scholars Lecture Series, November 2 in Vancouver, BC. The Social Justice Institute at the University of British Columbia kindly invited me to speak as part of their lecture series. I'm a bit intimidated because I don't consider myself a hardcore theorist academic. I'm probably less well-read than most of their undergraduate students! But anyway, my talk is tentatively titled "You Can Have Gay Sex in Video Games and Eat It Too", and I'll try to be more sex theory oriented vs game design oriented. (Free, RSVP required)
If you'll be at one or more of these events, feel free to say hey to me.

* this season, "World Tour" means "North America Tour" I guess? but hey at least I leave the USA at some point, doesn't that count for something

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Finishing Moses

Me and Eddie now have 12 days (less than 2 weeks!) to complete this Robert Moses city game, so we're now transitioning into a late stage production mode: we're cutting systems and content we won't be able to complete, and trying to finalize the stuff we already have. We're cutting the park-building system to focus on the highway-building system, and we're trying to do a lot of mission design.

The finished prototype we're aiming to deliver will be kind of a "vertical slice" of an Act 2 of a larger game, and will represent Robert Moses' career from around 1934-1936 -- from when he is appointed as the first city-wide parks commissioner, to when he completes the West Side Highway and Henry Hudson Bridge. We're putting a lot of work into interpreting the "spirit" of Robert Caro's book The Power Broker as a very specific and detailed-oriented historical work; the in-game city must reflect the New York City of 1934, with historical streets and district names, and the mechanics must also reflect Robert Moses' real-life historical tendencies.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Why I am one of the most banned game developers from Twitch, and 3 steps they can take to fix their broken policy

EDIT, 14 July 2016: this original post has been cross-posted (with a few additional excerpts, for context) to Polygon.

A few days ago, Twitch banned my newest release Radiator 2 from all broadcast by anyone throughout their entire site. This is the third release of mine that they've banned. I am now the 3rd most banned game developer from Twitch (or perhaps the 2nd most banned, if you count each part of Radiator 2 separately).

I'm no stranger to Twitch game bans, but this is new even for me: the games bundled in Radiator 2 are actually kinda old! For the past year and a half of press coverage, interviews, game festivals, art exhibitions, and viral videos, these games were OK to broadcast on Twitch. I had thought I found a safe ground of "acceptable sexuality" (an extremely dangerous concept in of itself) but with this move, they've now banned basically everything I've made. Now, nowhere is safe for me as a creator.

What's too gay for them, what's too sexual for them? Why did they change their mind when I re-mastered my games and put them on Steam?

I have no idea, and that's the biggest problem: Twitch never says anything. No e-mail, no notification, no rationale, no reason, no pity tweet. Am I just supposed to keep refreshing the ban list page to see if they banned me, for every single game I make, forever?

This is humiliating and dehumanizing treatment, and I wish Twitch would stop it.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Radiator 2 reception and press round-up

As of June 23, a week since its release, Radiator 2 on Steam is rated "Very Positive" (85%) out of 595 user reviews, which seems pretty decent to me. The store page has gotten about 9,000,000 impressions (number of times someone has seen a link to the store page) and about 500,000 actual visits (when they actually click that link). (Moral: there is definitely an audience for gay stuff on Steam, let's put more gay stuff on there.)

There have been about 34,000 downloads total, with a peak of 132 simultaneous players on the day after launch. 18% of downloads are from the United States, followed by 10% of downloads from Russia, 7% from China, 6% from Brazil, 6% from Germany, and 4% from France. (Moral: localize your game! A lot of the world doesn't use English!)

As I've always said, numbers don't really mean much in the end, but I guess they're fun to think about. If I were selling this game for like ~$5 USD, those user numbers would've qualified as a respectable commercial indie effort that easily funds another project... But in terms of free games, many of which get hundreds of thousands of installs, Radiator 2 is more or less within the statistical median between "ultra obscure" and "viral", which I think isn't too bad for a 15 minute compilation of 1 year old gay sex games.

Here are some quick write-ups at Rock Paper Shotgun and Eurogamer, and here's a more in-depth interview with Nathan Grayson for Kotaku about more of the details behind putting and maintaining something on Steam.

Now, what's next? As I told Nathan, I'm currently re-conceptualizing the gay bar game, and I'm also doing some more technical design work for that Robert Moses game, which will hopefully be done in late July.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Radiator 2 as loud and quiet

Radiator 2 is an "HD remastered" (whatever that means) bundle consisting of previously released sex games Hurt Me Plenty, Succulent, and Stick Shift, available on Itch.IO and Steam.

(If you're interested in knowing more about the process and intent behind the individual games, see the Hurt Me Plenty talk I gave at NYU Poly, or the write-up I did about Succulent or the write-up I did on Stick Shift.)

Originally, the plan was to package them together to avoid going through Steam Greenlight three whole separate times, but now I feel like they all function similarly and share code / assets, so why not put them together?

I'm also concerned with accessibility and preservation. I want this game to function on a wide variety of systems, now and for a long time -- and Unity 5.4 finally fixed an OpenGL crash a lot of players have been reporting to me, so that's a big reason I've had to wait until June. The engine upgrade also brings better lighting and physically-based rendering, and I also added some language localization and gamepad support while I was at it. I'm now pretty comfortable with this being a "definitive version" that I don't have to worry about or maintain too much.

There's also a lot more to this release, other than these boring technical details...

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Working with custom ObjectPreviews and SkinnedMeshRenderers in Unity

Unity's blendshape controls -- basically just a list of textboxes -- were going to cause me a lot of pain. After wrestling with broken AnimationClips for my previous attempt at facial expressions in my game Stick Shift, I decided to actually invest a day or two into building better tools for myself, inspired partly by Valve's old Faceposer tool for Source Engine 1.

To do that, I scripted the Unity editor to draw a custom inspector with sliders (based on Chris Wade's BlendShapeController.cs) along with an interactive 3D face preview at the bottom of the inspector.

The workflow I wanted was this:

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Progress report: Moses

Now that summer vacation is here and I don't have to teach, I now have a lot more time to put into some projects. Here's one of the new ones I'm doing for the summer:

"Moses" (tentative title) is a collaboration between me and Eddie Cameron for the Power Broker game design challenge. It's kind of like 80 Days plus SimCity / Cities In Motion -- you are famous urban planner Robert Moses and you have to drive around New York City and visit various locations around the map, but to make commuting easier, you can also build public works projects like highways, bridges, public housing, a UN building or two, etc. which all interacts with the traffic simulation and public approval. Maybe there will be little narrative vignettes and conversations along the way too.

Eddie has been doing all the complicated math simulation stuff, while I've been writing a lot of the basic game code and UI. We're still basically in the early prototyping stages, trying to figure out a lot of the game as we go along. Here's some of our thinking...

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

new game re-release: Cobra Club HD is celebrating Week, and on Tuesday they featured a short interview with me and the creator of Emily Is Away. A bunch of indies are also doing random sales or non-sales of their games on itch too, so I thought I'd join the fun and re-release my free downloadable game Cobra Club as "Cobra Club HD."

This is basically the new build that has been going around at some events and festivals, like Now Play This and A MAZE -- it features a completely new rebuilt penis, pubic hair support, strap-on mode, and various other tweaks. Unfortunately, I couldn't get foreskins working 100% properly all the time, and dudes kept straight-splaining "what foreskins actually look like" to me, so I decided to just disable that feature entirely. Happy now? NOW NOBODY GETS FORESKINS!!

As always, if you encounter any problems, just follow the troubleshooting instructions on the game page, and send me an e-mail with your logs. Have fun!