Saturday, January 29, 2011

Monday, January 24, 2011

20 Brush Challenge @ MapCore: Vote Now!

"Ludonarrative Dissonance," by Matthew "Lunaran" Breit
The MapCore 20 Brush Challenge (as previously mentioned) has wrapped up and we saw some really awesome turnout (as well as some really talented new users!) submit maps. There are four (4) categories: best overall, coolest visuals, awesomest layout, and most creative brushwork. Guidelines / advice for voting is included in each thread.

Voting is open to the public (though I think you'll need an account) and it's more or less a screenshot contest -- but some of these entries really do deserve to be played, if not simply just to see them in motion, as with Lunaran's "Take On Me"-esque entry pictured above.

Anyway, please have a look and vote! You have 47 hours! (And stick around MapCore too, you might enjoy yourself...)

(Oh, and credit for running everything / being awesome goes to Mr. Weldon)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

20 Brush Challenge @ MapCore: wrapping up!

This post shall serve as your last reminder to make something awesome for the 20 Brush MapCore compo. You have until this Sunday (January 23rd).

We're seeing lots of new faces / less than regular faces popping up and putting out amazing work, so you owe it to yourself to join our illustrious level design community and revel in the virtual camaraderie of a lifetime. (... But don't go into EOT. Don't don't don't go into EOT.)

Here's some stuff being thrown around in the WIP thread. (Note: I did not make any of these levels)...

Look at all this raw creativity oozing out of your monitor right now. Can you feel it? Can you smell it? Yes, it's urine -- but it's the urine of joy.

So if you know how to use Hammer, Radiant or UnrealEd, just whip up a crazy-looking 20 brush map and throw-in! You won't regret it. And it probably won't take you too long either.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Dark Past (part 2): On level design, hookers, cybernetic architecture, Tony Hawk and all that converges.

Last time, I mentioned a lot of games that we like for their emergence and "cool stuff that happens" -- but the difference is that games like Thief, or "immersive simulations," actually do something with that emergence.

If, in Grand Theft Auto, you beat up a sex worker to get your money back -- an immersive sim approach would have that hooker tell other hookers about you, and no hookers would ever service you again or help you in missions -- unless maybe you stole a nice car and left it in their parking lot as a gift, or ran over a pimp for them, etc. In this way, all your actions "listen" to each other.

A "hooker map" for GTA4. (Apparently they prefer the MET, Times Square, Long Island City...)
... But GTA doesn't do it because that's not what it's going for. (Too much thoughtfulness in my bowl of destructive mayhem.) And that's okay. But an immersive sim, like the Thief series, does it differently.

What I've always loved about Thief was the level design -- and by level design, I mean mainly the floorplans and complexity of the spaces -- not so much the visuals.

Not that the games are ugly or visually boring, but... Thief II, released in 2000, used essentially the same Dark Engine used in Thief I from 1998. Compare this to more powerful engines as those in Unreal Tournament or Quake 3 Arena, which were released months before in 1999... Thief II was already severely behind from the start. Plus, a lot of the models and animations remained untouched from Thief I, which was smart for production but limited its visual novelty.

Fortunately, "immersive sims" aren't "immersive" through their graphical fidelity or photorealism. (see: immersive fallacy) Rather, they're immersive in how they simulate / simplify the complexity of interlocking systems and the beauty of exploiting these systems or getting caught unaware by them.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

20 Brush Challenge @ MapCore

The impressive (and rightful) winner of the compo, a Q3A CTF map by Corsair.
Most previous-gen FPS engines (i.e. of Quake / Unreal genealogies) extensively used "brushes" -- basic geometric primitives -- to rough out the basic structure of a level. Increasingly, today's game engines are relying less on brushes (even for blocking out levels!) and more on static, pre-fabricated modular props created in a modeling package. To some degree, we're forgetting the power of the brush.

So when I saw this competition at, which tasked people with making small MP maps with only 20 brushes, I was excited... but it was too late to enter. Agh! (The best entries remind me of the GeoComp2 maps.)

Instead, I asked around MapCore for interest -- and there seemed to be a lot -- in running our own 20 brush compo. And now we're doing it. It's open to anyone using any FPS game engine that uses brushes / BSP. Rules are here.

I'm giving myself a constraint of building one map per weekend, up until the deadline. It's going alright so far, it's easy to take risks and try crazy stuff I wouldn't normally build:

(That second level is an attempted tribute to the legendary Mexican architect Luis Barragan)

Global Game Jam 2011, January 28-30

If you're in the New York City area (or anywhere, really) -- you should participate in the GGJ 2011. I'll be at this one at NYU, but there are a lot of jam locations so there's bound to be one near you. This'll be my first jam, but it seems like it's gonna be fun.

Don't be intimidated -- the jam rules specifically say that anyone can participate... and if you don't know how to code or use any design tools, you can work with someone who does OR just make a non-digital game with some cardboard and notecards. (I'm kinda trending towards non-digital myself.)

See you there maybe!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

I don't know of many mods with their own Christmas-themed fan art...

... but MINERVA's one of them.

OPEN Fire by ~swirekster on deviantART

Much like Santa, Foster's loyal acolytes await his eventual return, let his name be praised!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Pity the First Horseman
"Competition is the basis for most of humanity's progress and evolution."
Unfortunately, the documentation's rife with errors: "Engagement Curve" should be re-labeled as "How to Interfere With The Player's Daily Life and Make Them Worry About Monetizing Their Friends Frequently Enough to Collect Enough Virtual Points to Buy a Re-Colored 128x128 PNG of a Kitten."

Or maybe it's one of traditional gaming's double agents operating in the field, deliberately planting false information like this gem -- "Playtesting in traditional gaming happens very early in the design process" (Wrong. Playtesting in a digital context happens at an intermediate stage, when you finally have a working prototype to actually playtest).

... Okay, I have a penchant for exaggeration when clearly just one foolish individual wrote all this, and most of it is "blah blah blah" but some of it is downright absurd. We're probably falling into that "first we'll make fun of them, then we'll fight them, then they'll win" trap, but hey, we might as well enjoy ourselves before we're competing for NikePoints(TM) by kicking each other in the groin repeatedly.

(hat tip to Andrew Weldon's Facebook profile.)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Resources for Source Modders (Update #4)

(This is an ongoing post that'll get updated periodically with links to tools, texture packs, prop model packs, etc. for Source modders, along with a few remarks on what they're useful for.)
(UPDATE #4, 4 January 2011 -- added Twister and FontForge, check the "Special Teams" section... and a note about using D3 / Q4 textures)

Monday, January 3, 2011

Levels to Look Out For (January, 2011)

These are WIP levels / env art that I liked, and most of them are hopefully close to release / are released. I command you to like them as well.

 > l4d_yama by Mark "the0rthopaedicsurgeon" Edwards
Four years in the making (?) and probably the most ambitious custom L4D campaign being made, surpassing even the impressive I Hate Mountains custom campaign. Whereas "I Hate..." was the work of three very handsome Europeans, l4d_yama is just a one-man effort, which is perhaps even more impressive. I've personally learned two important tricks from watching this map get made: (1) vignette the corners of a texture and add a subtle gradient to make it seem like one of those lightbox signs, as seen in the electric city section of this level, (2) use Propper once you've finalized level geometry to optimize everything, as Edwards did with all those signs in the alleys.

> "Tron Scene" by Joshua "Vassago" Stubbles
I featured the concept art last time, but here's the final product. I chose the wireframe screenshot because I liked the way he did the giant blue laser writer tower things. Specifically, the furthest one in the back is actually a sprite imposter. Final Fantasy XIII did this a lot too, the ol' "real 3D tree close to you but fake 2D sprite away from you" trick -- and here I didn't even suspect it. Also pay attention to his gorgeous use of matte painting in the background... Mobile devices these days, e.g. iPads, seem to have a lot of texture memory but not as much polygon pushing power. Expect more matte painters to find work in mobile games and a shift towards higher production photorealism. (If / when Square Enix does a Final Fantasy game for iPad, it's going to make Infinity Blade look like scribbles.)