Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Super Friendship Club's "Mysticism" pageant, Sept. 1st - 30th

Make a game about "mysticism" by September 30th.

If you haven't made games before, and aren't sure where to start on the technical side of things, just ask: there're plenty of people here who can give guidance.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Try it once.

The real art of Deus Ex: Human Revolution is the fact that non-lethal players always inevitably start another playthrough as a bloodthirsty maniac. The weaknesses quickly become apparent in a combat AI optimized for stealth gameplay instead of your sociopathic gorelust. Cops and punks patrolling the city hubs suddenly become puzzles you must solve -- and there's never enough ammo. For bonus points: hack only when necessary, never use vents and play in a foreign language.

Just be careful: the civilians' "hide from murderer" AI is very sneaky.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

DX:HR photo safari.

Here are some out-of-order, non-spoilery screenshots of details that I liked in Deus Ex: Human Revolution. I'm no Dead End Thrills, so these are all un-antialiased, not gamma-corrected in Photoshop, and they're all low-res crops of in-game screenshots. Enjoy.

God, her hair piece is just so fucking awesome, you know? So... so crispy.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Ludum Dare #21: FuhFuhFire!

For Ludum Dare #21 ("Escape"), I made "FuhFuhFire," a short Unity-powered web FPS where you set fire to a building and then rescue people from it. Do you try to rescue everyone but leave others behind?... or do you just escape alone? Dynamic fire propagation / level destruction, physics thingies and 8 different endings. Wow!

WASD to walk, SPACE to jump, MOUSE to look, LEFT-CLICK to do stuff.

C'mon, just give it five (5!) minutes of your time and play it in your browser here. Project source in all its hacky glory is here too.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

"It belongs in a museum!"

It was all tucked-away in a half-hidden nook on the lobby level of the Museum of the Moving Image: games.

Several kiosks running Space Channel 5, Katamari Damacy and other critical darlings that represented an uncharacteristically decent sample from commercial canon. Aha, perhaps the curator was a fellow gamer! And far, in the very back of the exhibit was a dim chamber housing a lone pedestal, a keyboard, a mouse and a projection of Half-Life 2 on the wall.

The game was still stuck in the train station, the part where the guy mutters, "Don't drink the water," as if you could. So at least one person (probably more) tried playing the beginning of this era-defining computer game and stopped after the first few minutes.

I was angry. This was art and no one was appreciating it!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

I've killed my darling.

It's taken me two years to accept it -- that I'd have to kill my darling.

My darling was a 3000 brush submarine with a non-linear, multi-floor layout and a dynamic life support system, done in a non-photorealistic art style. I kept thinking Design could save it and so I plugged away for months on a bloated concept. Always just one better tutorial, one better puzzle, one better detail prop away from being good. Add more scripting! More complexity, more depth! Always more... Then one month became two and two became twenty-four.

The level was so difficult I couldn't complete it without resorting to cheats -- and I designed the damn thing. So I started stripping things away, digging through the debris and the cancer to rescue the concept. Delete mechanics, close-off rooms, simplify. Get to the bottom in time, quickly.

But it was already dead.

 I've never thrown away so much work before. I'm sure it'd feel even worse to work in an industry that regularly de-funds entire studios and projects, or to spend a decade of your life on a space probe that plows straight into the Martian surface from a minor conversion error.

Still, this is the first time (in a long while) that I've made some real progress. This is what Radiator 1-3 looks like right now:

I hope it's better for it.

And to my darling: I'm sorry. I'm so so sorry.

Monday, August 8, 2011

So close, and yet...

Even after given a generous extra week, we weren't able to finish our game in-time for the Super Friendship Club's "Justice" pageant -- we hit a showstopping, completely bewildering bug in Unity3D that corrupts texture memory or something, but only when we build out to a web player or standalone deployment. It's very frustrating. Hopefully we'll get this sorted out and released within the next two weeks.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Stanley Parable, by Davey Wreden

I'm a bit late on the trolley here, but here's the latest postmodernist / poststructuralist artsy Source mod to hit the scene -- it's Davey Wreden's "The Stanley Parable." Relatively spoiler-free critique follows:
  • Tree of life. There are lot of branching points in this game. Do they matter or not? You'll see. I will say, though, that critiquing the Branch as a ludonarrative structure is becoming increasingly misplaced these days because no one is defending it. Take the Landsmeet in Dragon Age 1, or Deirdra Kiai's "Chivalry is not Dead" -- there are so many branches and interactions, they're more "bushy" than "branchy," to the point that you can just barely distinguish between branches -- and if it's in both an AAA console action game and an indie PC-only notgame, it's safe to say that bushiness is a growing design practice.
  • Them thematics. The level design says a lot. Some of it has been said before (and maybe with more subtlety) and some of it is novel and predicts your reactions uncannily. I hate to call it a "trick," but the level design has a lot of tricks, much like Ian Snyder's "Feign" or Alexander Bruce's "Hazard: The Journey of Life" "Antichamber" or even the stuff I do in Radiator. These devices work once and only once... Which is okay. Tricks aren't bad.
  • Sotto voce. There's a lot of voice acting involved here, and (at least to American ears) the British tone is incredibly resonant and charming. To be fair, some of the credit should go to Wreden for writing a decent script too. It's all very well-done and probably the stand-out feature of this mod, though it's important to NEVER press "Escape" to go to the menu or it'll desync a lot of the dialogue.
  • Theme songs. I didn't like his choice or use of music. It was a missed opportunity to do more with the sound in general. I suspect Wreden was still learning the toolset (more on that later) because this type of thing is ripe for soundscapes and fun setpieces that might've interacted with the voice acting.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Nostalgic for the Collective

Valve operates 2 main mod community presences: the Valve Developer wiki (with occasional transfusions from the private licensee wiki) and the Steam forums for the Source SDK; a quiet library and a McDonald's. It didn't always used to be like this.

Back in the rose-colored days of Half-Life 1 modding, among those wondrous whisper-filled parties in East Hampton manors with the incorrigible antics of Gilda Gray, Valve staffed a dedicated liaison named Chris "Autolycus" Bokitch who actively maintained the Valve Editing Resource Center. The Valve-ERC brought together a loose confederation of websites and tools across the entire modding food chain:
  • The Spirit of Half-Life, a sort of open source Valve-sanctioned "skunkworks" mod intended to boost other mods, with stuff like a particle system and entity parenting.
  • Map reviewers (Pixel Maps for TFC, Ten-Four for HL1)
  • Small single player map contests on the main VERC site 
  • Anomalous Materials, a forum for discussing experimental design projects
  • Entity references and tutorials, then partly outsourced to Handy Vandal's Almanac and TFMapped
  • Remote Compile System; upload your map, let some servers bake it, then get an e-mail when it's done
The last few years, it also hosted the first Source SDK reference docs and what I consider to be the crowning achievement, the "VERC Collective."

Monday, August 1, 2011


Phillip Marlowe, bless his heart, is always running these cool mapping competitions that unfortunately don't get many entries nor exposure -- but this time he's lined up some pretty cool judges, a cash prize and a pretty workable theme, so maybe we should support him with our levels, yeah? (I'm thinking I'm going to make something for it too.)

The goal of "GravityGunVille" is to make a short Half-Life 2: Episode Two single player map with heavy use of the gravity gun by 19 September 2011. There's a $100 prize, or maybe they'll split it or something.

Let's dance.