Tuesday, January 17, 2017

RIP, Vine.

The short video service Vine shut down today. I know a lot of game designers and devs who used Vine to document and share their work, and we're all pretty sad to see it go.

Below is my only claim to Vine fame -- nearly 2,500,000 loops before Vine died. This was a vine of the first sex game I ever made, called Hurt Me Plenty.

After I posted it, it quickly jumped to 1,000,000 loops within a few days. I was stunned. I had never really made anything "viral" before, and it only took me like 10 seconds to record that clip! I mean, numbers and view counts mean very little in the end, but when you haven't done much, even "very little" can be a strong boost to your self-confidence.

The breathtakingly thirsty response to this vine convinced me that there was an audience for my work, and that I should see it through, which is exactly what I needed to hear.

So thanks, Vine... rest in power.

Monday, January 16, 2017

rescheduled for Spring 2017: "Level With Me" Twitch level design show now on Tuesdays at 6 PM EST

Just a quick note that my weekly level design show on Twitch, called Level With Me, is now on Tuesdays at 6 PM EST (GMT-5) for the new season. (That's... tomorrow!)

Keep in mind that it's a different kind of video game livestream show -- I talk a lot about the level design and environment art, and freely use cheat codes during difficult segments. I care more about analyzing the game rather than experiencing it "purely" or whatever. It's more like a guided improvised tour than anything.

Feel free to tune-in and hangout as I stumble / cheat my way through Half-Life 1! See you then.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

"Pylons are my penis": a phenomenology of building in Offworld Trading Company and other strategy games

Game feel always has a narrative aspect tied to the player's in-game identity -- but in a top-down strategy game, who are you? Why do you know all this stuff, and why are you able to do the things that you can do?

I'm not asking for more bullshit handwave-y game lore ("it's the future, you're a space wizard") but rather I mean it in terms of interface and "raw experience". Even in strategy games with fog of war, there is still a fantasy of absolute certainty involved with your command. If you see a unit, it's almost definitely there; if you order a unit, they will definitely try to obey your order. If your unit dies, it is definitely dead.

These are all myths and abstractions away from how a real-life military often works, where commanders must constantly act on incomplete information, even about the state of their own forces. Few popular real-time strategy games let troops ignore an order, be routed, or be "missing in action", because maybe that's too unfair or it would weigh down the game a lot. (Some notable exceptions: hardcore military sim games often simulate supply lines and unit morale, the overburdened 2011 game Achron had time-travel and alternate universes of troop movements, while the admirable 2010 experiment R.U.S.E emphasized military intelligence and decoys.)

I'm going to propose that top-down strategy games let players build their own identities, and part of that identity is a body, in the form of your "base."

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Resolutions, 2017

A few general goals for this year:
  • be more active in VR communities, push for critical theory in VR
  • finally put out a publicly available VR thing
  • write more often, finish posts more often (fun fact: apparently I have ~300 draft posts)
  • finish more games and projects
And some more specific project goals for this year:

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

On legacy systems and Kentucky Route Zero (Acts I-IV) by Cardboard Computer

A lot of people will say Kentucky Route Zero is "minimalist"... but I think that label is pretty misleading.

It packs every single scene with countless details and thoughtfully executes each of those gestures. Every playthrough you'll read tens of thousands of words, much of it expended on long evocative description -- this isn't actually a "minimalist" game, in terms of literary tradition nor in terms of what it demands from its players. Every scene is lush with history, detail, and allusion, and KRZ never patronizes you if you don't really get it. Instead, it patiently pushes you to grasp it as a whole.

This "whole" is something that carries over to the game's technical infrastructure as well. Everything is connected; the game frequently calls back to your previous choices, and awakens seemingly dormant "meaningless" choices. It is one of the most complex narrative designs ever attempted in a video game. Instead of a few discrete branches, there are dozens of small branches -- like Chivalry Is Not Dead, it is more "bushy" than "branchy."

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Radiator Blog: Seventh (7th) Year Anniversary roundup

In keeping with tradition, I do a round-up of this blog's "notable" posts from the past year, and offer a bit of reflective commentary. This year, it arrives about a month late, because I forgot. (Oops.) As always, past years' roundups are accessible here.


I haven't finished as many projects as I would've liked this year. Ideally, I would've had one big new sex game ready by now, but both WIP sex games are much more complicated than previous games, so it's taking quite a while to develop the technology for both.
  •  "Shapeshit" is a short vulgar pooping game made for Ludum Dare 35. (The theme was "shapeshfting"...) Prototyping the dynamic poop technology for this was pretty fun, and this is probably one of the most game-y games I've made in a while. Hopefully it'll make a triumphant return in VR in 2017! Imagine: VR pooping...
  • "Cobra Club HD" remaster, prompted by various games festivals needing updated builds. Big features included pubic hair, strap-on mode, over-hauled dick physics, and a half-functioning foreskin mode. At this time of writing, there have been about ~55,000 dick pics from this game uploaded to the internet... yes, you're welcome.
  • "Radiator 2" remaster, mostly to put it on Steam and to get my foot in the door on that platform / test the waters. In the end, all I had to do was to mark my game as "for mature audiences" and it was allowed; I hope my future releases go as smoothly? At this time of writing, there have been 150,000+ users, and the game bounces between an 85-90% user rating from time to time.
  • "Good Authority", the Robert Moses-y urban simulation game I made in collaboration with Eddie Cameron, is still unreleased. Although it did well in the Power Broker game design competition, we feel the game still has serious problems, and we need to overhaul the mechanics. Look for it in 2017, when me and my husband are less angry at each other, and can finally work on it again.
  • "No Stars Only Constellations" was an unfinished stargazing game prototype from 2013 that I cleaned-up and finished for the Fermi Paradox jam. If you're a fan of my Radiator 1 work, from before my sex game phase, then this is basically an alternate remake ("alt-make"?) of Radiator 1: Polaris. Expect this to be remastered for VR in 2017.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Radiator University, Spring 2017 catalog

Registration for most students at Radiator University has already begun. Make sure you sign-up for these classes soon before they completely fill-up! Here's a selection from our Spring 2017 catalog:

    It is said that no game developer enjoys developing menus for their games. We believe this is a fucking lie, or at best, a misleading myth that reflects a developer's anxiety about framing their work. A game menu is the first thing most players see upon starting a game, it is the first second of the first minute of the first five minutes of a game.

    Does the game's options menu feature a field-of-view slider? How does the game describe "easy mode"? These trivial choices in menu UI design, while seemingly insignificant and boring, constitute a powerful paratext that suggests the intended audience for such games.

    To bypass unproductive fears about a menu's power, we will instead design and prototype main menus for video games that do not actually exist. What new games can we imagine into being, by simply imagining their menus?

    (Only offered at Lisbon campus.)

Monday, December 12, 2016

Call for games / installations: Now Play This 2017 in London, England

I highly encourage any designers and developers reading this to submit their games and things for Now Play This:
Now Play This is a festival of experimental game design, showcasing some of the most interesting games and playful work being made around the UK and the world. It will run for the third time at Somerset House in London from 7-9 April, 2017, as part of the London Games Festival. There’ll be an exhibition of games running throughout, plus special events including a board games afternoon, a strange controllers showcase, and, on Friday, a day for discussion between practitioners. Tickets will be available from February 2017.
It is a curated show, but they're also open to submissions and contributions. There's "a small honorarium of £75 for work [... they] also cover limited travel and production costs." Here's the basic brief, which seems to encompass, "basically anything interesting":
We’re interested in everything you can play: videogames, boardgames, street games, performances, paintings or drawings that invite you to play while you look, responsive sculptures, artist-designed toys, interactive installations, games for one person, games for twenty, things that probably aren’t technically games but never mind, strange contraptions, unreleased work, old favourites. Our 2015 and 2016 lineups given an idea of what Now Play This is like, but for 2017 we’re particularly interested in:
  • Games that look at landscape in an interesting way
  • Games that experiment with duration – very short games, games that build up gradually over time, games that are different depending on when you play them
  • Games that were never made: thought experiments, doomed proposals, prototypes that never received a public release
  • Play objects: things – digital or physical – that invite players to invent their own games or decipher the rules of the object and its interactions
  • Games around embodiment which consciously consider the physical existence of the person playing
  • Games with strange controllers
  • Games that can take place in the outdoor areas of Somerset House
We’re also particularly interested in work that uses paper in interesting ways, or that’s fun to play as well as watch, or which can accommodate a large number of players (whether through short play sessions or many simultaneous players).
Last year, they featured my dick pic game Cobra Club HD in their exhibition, and I'm told lots of giggling moms hogged the kiosk and kept shooing their kids away. Sounds really fun! If you're in London, make sure you don't miss it!