Thursday, January 29, 2015

Lighting design theory for 3D games, part 1: light sources and fixtures

Contemporary Jewish Museum (San Francisco, California)
Here's how I generally, theoretically, approach lighting in my games and game worlds. Part 1 is about the general concept of lighting design.

Mood is the most important end result of your lighting. The "functional school" of game lighting, which maintains that lighting exists primarily to make a space readable so that the player can navigate it and shoot people -- can be useful in my eyes but only so far as that gameplay is tactical violence, and when that violence can support evoking a mood. The rest of the time, some designers often seem content to light their spaces like a furniture catalog, or even leave it as a total after-thought. Lights can do more than show-off your normal maps and show where to walk to trigger the next cutscene, okay?

So let's begin: lighting design is a discipline that has existed since the beginning of sunlight.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

"We Are Drugs: On New Indie Game Dev Tools for Psychedelic Hologram Futures" @ IndieCade East 2015

Salvador Dali, "Modern Rhapsody"
I'm giving a talk in, like, 3 weeks at IndieCade East 2015 in New York City. I'm going to be talking about art / art-making as a drug, and I'm going to show a clip of Hatsune Miku, and hopefully I'll be coherent and insightful and entertaining? And if you can't splurge for the full weekend pass, then I'd recommend at least attending on Saturday -- not because that's when my talk is! -- but rather because that's when the notorious Night Games takes place. Get your tickets sooner than later, I think there's some kind of "early bird" discount? Either way, see you around in a few weeks!

Monday, January 19, 2015

How to record animated GIFs and videos of your games with free tools

I feel like a lot of developers and artists just take some screenshots or photos to document their work, and then move on... don't! Think of your project as an engine to generate even more art.

Plus, making animated GIFs of your games and work process is fun!... and uh making videos is still a little painful, though it's a bit of a necessity for any news media or publications to talk about your game. It used to be much worse, if that's any solace? (It's probably not.)

Friday, January 16, 2015

Different Games 2015, call for submissions / session proposals

Different Games is a fantastic games conference running again in New York City on April 3-4 2015, geared toward diversity and inclusion, and they are actively soliciting game submissions and session proposals due by February 1st. Academics and non-academics, indie and not-indie, cisgender or trans or nonbinary, all are invited and encouraged to participate.

The three suggested tracks are:
Arcade: Designers interested in showcasing their game in the Different Games arcade should submit a brief overview of their game (no more than 500 words) that includes their design vision and concept of the game. In addition, please submit cover art and one or two screenshots of game play. We welcome pieces that will be in (beta) or play-testing phase as well as those further along in the development process.

Paper Presentations and Talks: We invite academics and creative minds alike to share recent work (written or otherwise) as speakers on our conference panels. We encourage participants from every field to submit writing or talks exploring topics pertaining to diversity and inclusion. Possible topics may include, but are not limited to: post mortems, design methodology, reflections on playtesting, analysis/commentary on games content (theme, gender, sexuality, etc.), game reception, and game culture/communities.

Breakout or Workshop Sessions: Topic-related discussions or those exploring challenges and solutions to promoting diversity and inclusion in the broader game community/communities and other pertinent subjects AND hands-on workshop sessions geared towards learning design and development skills are both invited (Your proposal should include an explanation of any equipment participants need to experience your workshop.) If your session will be facilitated collaboratively please include bios and links for all participants.
What are you waiting for? Hurry and submit! I'll be there too, presenting a bunch of games featuring photorealistic gay dudes, as part of the Different Games NEA artist grant. See you there!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

"Succulent" as hypnotizing homo hop homage

This post discusses my game Succulent and it completely spoils the ending, if you care about stuff like that. You should probably play it first.

There's a few scenes in the film Inherent Vice where you watch a man eat a frozen banana. They were unusually entertaining and not at all arousing, which got me thinking -- what if I made a game where you just watch a dude stick stuff in his mouth?

So for Succulent, I've put a fair amount of work into making this interaction feel "juicy", hooking it into particles, sounds, facial animations and "cheek physics"... here, the physicality of having his own arm do it, instead of a floating disembodied invisible player hand, was crucial to establish that he was doing it for himself and enjoying it. Inverse kinematics was finally good for something!

I borrow a lot of visual sensibilities from late period "homo hop" music videos, specifically those by Cazwell and Le1f. Both artists emphasize sweaty bodies glaring vacantly, bright backgrounds with intense lighting, and flat compositions focused on the center, evoking the go-go boy gay club / pin-up imagery that's thoroughly ingrained in US gay male culture.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Re-tumbl me on tumblr at

At Chevy Ray's insistence, I have started a tumblr at At the moment it is devoted to surreal screenshots, WIP images, glitches, random game dev stuff. Please re-blog or re-tumbl me or whatever! Thanks bye.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Radiator, US tour Spring 2015 ("May the Reign of Terror Begin")

I'm attending two three games events this season. Hangout with me! Here's my schedule currently:
  • Indiecade East 2015, Feb 13-15 in New York City. I'm giving a talk about dominant workflow patterns in game development, and how new (and often experimental) tools can shake-up our workflow and help us re-think our processes and possibly result in new kinds of games. I intend to live-demo most of these tools. Hopefully I won't fuck it up!
  • Game Developer Conference 2015, Mar 2-6 in San Francisco. I'm giving a talk about contemporary level design in relation to modern and postmodern architecture theory. I feel like a lot of level designers know they should pay lip service to architecture but when was the last time they actually looked at a real-life building with a critical eye? How was that building made? This is a discipline that's been around since the beginning of recorded history, I think it might have a thing or two to teach us, call it a hunch.
  • Different Games 2015, Apr 3-4 in New York City. A fantastic diversity-focused games conference. I'm part of the NEA artist grant disbursed last year, so I'll be presenting on my triad of sexy gay games: Hurt Me Plenty, Cheek to Cheek, and Succulent.
I'm also waiting to hear back from a few other things. Watch this space for updates! Or don't, that's cool too! PS: have people been playing The Talos Principle lately? I have a lot of mixed feelings about it. Might write a post about it.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Some Unity 5 beta impressions

I'm making a small Thief-like with integrated level editor (3rd time's the charm!) to test (and teach myself) four (4) main feature-sets of the Unity 5 beta -- physically-based shading, integrated image-based lighting, real-time global illumination, and the UI system introduced late in Unity 4.6 but might as well have shipped in Unity 5. Here's my opinion so far: