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!

Monday, December 5, 2016

A progressive future for VR: why VR is already getting worse, and how to make it better

Last time, I wrote about how I think of game culture as too conservative and too product-oriented to truly change or redirect toward more artistic ends -- and I confessed that over the next few years, I'm going to start transitioning out of working in games, and more into"virtual reality." Why? First, let's talk about what's happening in VR right now.

The audience isn't really flocking to VR yet. Only about ~0.21% of Steam users have Vive headsets, which means about ~200,000 users in the entire world. This slow VR adoption makes sense, considering how the Vive is still really expensive at $800.00, and there's still a lot of unpleasantness to using VR, from simulation sickness to judder to obtrusive tethers, but these are all engineering problems that the industry thinks they know how to solve. In 2017, we'll start seeing tetherless third party headsets, and then in 2019-2020 one of the big three (Valve, Oculus, Sony) will presumably sell a technically-refined "VR Jesus" headset that will finally save us all... or maybe it'll just turn out to be another Kinect rotting in your closet.

Until then, even the most embarrassing VR evangelists are preaching patience for 3-5 more years. But it would be a huge mistake to "wait and see" until VR is a success or a total waste of time. Artists and queers and weirdos need to hit VR now, and hit hard, before VR culture ends up as conservative as the worst of gamer culture. Why is it worth saving?