Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Preview "Flatlander Woman" at "Illuminating Noir," April 1-8, 2011 @ Parsons

If you find yourself around the Union Square area in New York City in the beginning of April, head over to the main Parsons design building (2 West 13th Street) and check out the noir-themed film / art festival here; in the main lobby, you can play a preview version of "Radiator 2-1: Flatlander Woman." (I mean, you shouldn't go out of your way or anything, but if you're in the area then go for it. You get to shoot a whole lot of virtual people.)

(Unfortunately it'll be running on a computer with an Intel GMA 4500, so I think I'm going to have to disable a lot of effects... Hmm.)

(And dude, they're screening Blood Simple and have booked Frances McDormand. Whoa.)

Monday, March 21, 2011

MapCore "Cube" Compo: Done.

Well, we're done. We got entries in UDK / Source / Prey for your perusal. (Yeah, a map for Prey. Seriously. Andrew Weldon's weird like that.)

See / download entries here.

Voting is open for a week too.

And if you didn't enter this time, then consider entering next time. It's good practice for starting and finishing something... Just look at these awesome people and what they accomplished in a month.

As for a post-mortem of sorts with my own entry, "Tintern":

I went gameplay first, which is weird for me. Usually I prototype a basic mechanic, then do a fairly substantial art pass, then I design some puzzles / level flow and finish another art pass. This time I went from mechanics to puzzles to an incomplete art pass.

In terms of art style, I was going for a mixture of Giorgio de Chirico's paintings with some architecture from Luis Barragan. You might recall Barragan's influence in my previous Mapcore compo entry; the colors, dude. The colors. Plus, I recently saw Chirico's "The Melancholy of Departure" at the New York Museum of Modern Art so I guess that was still fresh on my mind.

The main gimmick is from a previous project I was working on, which had you fighting a hunter that had a scanner following it around. The scanner would drop mines and generally be a nuisance, while the hunter was fast and would pressure you into running into the mines -- and the key to beating them would be to exploit their relationship.

You had to grab the scanner and basically hold it hostage or something. However, it was difficult to develop the relationship between the two when you're too busy fighting them. So why not make them allies? And following the Halo AI rule, maybe then the player can watch them do cool stuff, and they'll seem smarter?

Oh, and I kind of slipped in some Wordsworth on a lark. And if you happen to hate English Romantic poets and think the inclusion is too pretentious: it's okay, it's just the tip.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Newsflash: Attention-starved Man Invents Mod Team, "Makes" Fake School Shooting Mod

In my apartment, we have a dog. Every now and then she yelps and jumps a lot, until you pet her or take her out for a walk. Sometimes we're too busy eating or working though, so then we just tell her, "Go lie down!"

* * *

He promised "great gameplay" so I was eager to download and try it. Turns out he (or "they") hasn't released anything yet and probably never will. He also complained about Super Columbine RPG, saying it's poorly designed -- and I agree -- but I don't see any indication that this mod will be any better. If anything, it's worse.

All I see are boring, blocky rooms with the same supermarket lighting; sterile, lifeless things. Actually, it's not even really a school shooting mod, because the only thing that transforms this first week's exercise in level design into a "school" is his unconvincing insistence that this profound lack of imagination and craftsmanship is something that it's not.

It's fake; or if it's not fake, it'll suck and no self-respecting man-shoot enthusiast would bother with it anyway.

Don't get trolled so easily, people.

And to this attention-starved pseudo-modder: Go lie down.

(Not that being attention-starved is a crime, you should just hide it better... And of course, I'm not saying he doesn't have the right to troll you. Read ModDB's rationale for pulling the mod from the database; I kind of agree but also kind of don't -- but then again, I'm not the one receiving a flood of misdirected hate mail.)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Butte, Montana. 1973; a board game about open-pit mining.

Last semester I made "Feng Shui," a board game where two players discuss (or argue?) over how to place furniture using chopsticks. This semester I've made "Butte, Montana. 1973." (as in "Beaut" or "Bee-yoot" but not "Butt")

It's an art board game (or board art game? or bored art game?) about open-pit mining. And it's a box of dirt. It's not terribly interesting as a "game qua game" -- if you want that, go play Catan or Call of Honor or something -- but it's an attempt at wondering what else one can do with a game. It also made me realize that video game designers should be forced to make analog games more often.

First, a bit about the design theory that supposedly powers this beast:

Monday, March 7, 2011

Levels to Look Out For (March 2011)

These are WIP / in-progress levels or environments that look cool + some comments / analysis on my part.

Forbidden Place (Planet?) by Bram "Pericolos0" Eulaers and Anders Jansson
This is an amazing looking single player Source thing that's probably been dead for 2 years, but it looks positively stunning. I love the "had a lot of fun in zBrush" rock cliffs. I love the purple crystals. I love how seamless the skybox is. I love how it barely looks like the Source Engine. (Message to the authors who will find this blog post in their link referrers: "PLEASE PICK THIS UP AND FINISH IT FOR THE LOVE OF GOD")

> Untitled (Bachelor Pad) by Ryan "Loom" Bargiel
I'm a sucker for flat shaded anything. I'm not sure I'd actually want to live in this private orange hell, but gosh this blockout looks cool. (Note: All games should be vertex lit... forever. If it was good enough for Final Fantasy 7, it's good enough for everyone else.) It's also gotten me thinking about "composition" in scenes because I really like the floorplan here and all the shots seem well built.

However, I often see people post screenshots with people painting onto it treating it like a static 2D frame. Is that treatment of composition still valid in a freely-explored 3D space, where the player controls a camera and might spend the whole time staring at a wall or stare at enemies? Do leading lines actually "guide the eye" when we're playing? (I'm skeptical, to say the least.) I mean, yes, it's better portfolio presentation, but is is better game design? How does architecture handle the issue of scene composition?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

First Person Films: Doom and Enter the Void

The "point of view" shot is ubiquitous in movies -- an actor glares at something off-frame, then the next shot is an eyeline match to the thing they're glaring at, mimicking their point of view -- but full, sustained sequences with substantial camera movement that doesn't break the rules of first person navigation? Pretty rare, I think. (Please leave a comment if you know of any other films.)

Doom (2005) is an obvious example, and probably the most immediately consumable: you see the gun at the bottom of the screen, bobbing and swaying with the movement of the camera, as it seems to glide up stairs and through metal corridors.

The problem with this (occasionally cool, I guess) scene from Doom is that it confines itself to the boring commonplace parts of the FPS game tropes (reloading a gun that many times?) and ignores what playing Doom 2 was actually like: strafing like mad, back-pedaling like a lunatic -- firing, always firing! -- in a linear, confined metal corridor instead of a non-linear open plan layout.

Or maybe the problem was that they were adapting the powerful sedative that was Doom 3? That's right, I said it.

Gaspar Noe's Enter the Void (2009) does it better, mostly because it does stuff with the first person view that we can't do very well in first person games. Here's the first 10 minutes, omitting the crazy nauseating opening credits: