Friday, July 21, 2017

announcing: No Quarter 2017 on November 3rd in Brooklyn

poster by Sophia Foster-Dimino
A short while ago we announced the date and lineup for No Quarter 2017: it's on November 3rd at the Starr Space Gallery in Bushwick, Brooklyn, featuring new commissioned work by Auriea Harvey (of Tale of Tales), Droqen, Pietro Righi Riva (of Santa Ragione), and Kitty Horrorshow. We'll be flying out all four artists for the show, so if you attend, you'll be able to meet them and talk with them at the event.

For more info, check out this NYU Game Center page for the event. I'd like to copy and paste my short curator's statement here though --
For 8 years now, the No Quarter Exhibition has been paying game designers to make the games they want to make, and then throwing them a big fun party to celebrate and amplify their unique voices. We claim no ownership over the resulting work — we just want these artists to speak their mind, and so we give them space and support to do that. We think it’s a pretty great deal for them, but we also get a lot out of it: their act of creation, and our shared acts of play, help strengthen our communities.

Now, we do all this at a time when many people think we should isolate ourselves from the rest of the world — but we know that’s a very destructive attitude. It’s so destructive that, for the first time in the history of No Quarter, we are temporarily suppressing our vocal and insufferable belief in our city’s exceptionalism: this year, we are commissioning only artists based outside of New York City. We believe a wider diversity of backgrounds and identities can only enrich our understanding of art and community… oh, and it helps us make better games too.
Also happening right after No Quarter -- game convention GaymerX East in NYC runs Saturday / Sunday. Sounds like a cool fun weekend to me! Not to mention that flights and hotels are cheaper in November too, it's off-peak... just sayin'...

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Paseo, devlog

the original prototype from early 2017, with a weirder style to match the artist's vibe
A few months ago, a big record label asked me if I wanted to make a short gay sex thing set to one of their artist's tracks -- for a few weeks, I thought the collaboration was going well, but then one day they just stopped answering my e-mails. Oh well, that's just how it goes sometimes...

I still kind of like the basic idea, so I'm going to replace the music and expand it to be part of the Radiator cycle. It's tentatively called "Paseo" (but the name will likely change before then) and it's about stripping, which is a popular intersection of sex and money. As a male performer, you will do strip routines and incorporate beautiful dance movements, but you also have to work the crowd and collect your tips.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Bevels in video games


Like a lot of digital artists today, I learned Photoshop in the late 90s in order to make awesome-looking fan sites and "professional" forum signature images. One of the Photoshop tricks I learned was the "Bevel" layer style, which embosses a faked thickness and depth onto a layer, as if it's popping outward toward / inward from the viewer.

When I first learned it, I felt powerful, like I could use Photoshop to "paint in 3D" and make my Starcraft fan forum avatar look even more professional. But then I realized that the bevel had a very specific look to it, and I started seeing that look everywhere. My astounding bevels quickly lost their sheen. To this day, the conventional wisdom in 2D game art is that you should just handpaint your own bevels, and it only takes a few minutes when you get good at it anyway.

Today in 2017, the bevel has arguably taken over 3D environment art, and like all the other game art gods, it demands labor from us. But unlike 2D bevels, there's no strong consensus on what the best 3D bevel techniques are, which means we're free to experiment...

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

On first person one-roomers and grass games

old WIP production still from an early version of The Tearoom
I want to talk a bit about the formal design constraints in my gay sex games -- I don't usually emphasize this aspect of my work because it's a very game developer-y thing to care about, but sometimes I guess a little bit of shop-talk is called for:

A lot of my games have been what I'd call short form "one room" games, where I constrain the scope of the game to one room or one small area. When I first started doing Radiator 1 ("Polaris") in 2009, that constraint emerged from my frustration with working on a large international group project like Black Mesa Source, where I wasn't sure if we were ever going to finish and release anything. I wondered, could I work alone, and quickly make a short experience in a small room?

Cut to today in 2017. I've just finished and released The Tearoom, a game that takes place in one single public bathroom. Because it was so small and controlled, I could focus on the interactions and production value very tightly, and produce something with relatively high fidelity and density even though I was working mostly alone. (But it still took me like 8-9 months of part-time work to do all that! Maybe the room should've been even smaller?)

But I also don't exist in a vacuum, cut-off from the rest of video game culture. Maybe my attitude is also a reaction against the rise / dominance / golden age of open world games and walking simulator-type hiking games today? I know other designers counter AAA hegemony in different ways, like how Firewatch adopted a non-photorealistic illustrative art style, or how The Signal From Tolva focused on a somewhat sparse rocky-chunky-sculpted look. Both games feature large open world environments that differentiate themselves with talented art direction that also helped them scope better too.

However, I'm not really a good art director, and I still feel really tied to realism for political reasons, so I guess I have to differentiate my creative strategy in a different way... I specifically set my games in small man-made domestic spaces instead of trying to build huge sweeping landscapes. And even if I did attempt to build a huge landscape, my shabby default Unity 2 tri indie grass will never be able to compare with photoreal translucent Unreal grass, or Breath of the Wild's lush Miyazaki grass, so maybe that's why I don't bother. As much as I enjoy and admire all these grass games, I recognize that it's out of my wheelhouse and capability. Instead of trying to build a giant grassy forest landscape, I can rest with a decently crafted urinal and lean on that.

It might seem like I'm boxing myself in, and maybe I am, but honestly it doesn't feel that onerous to me. Grass is nice, but perhaps there's enough people making grass games already. I'm not sure if I have anything new or interesting to say about grass or trees anyway. (But who knows? Coming in 2018: gay trees)

By constraining the physical-geographical space, I think that helps me explore a wider conceptual-cultural space. One room doesn't just mean one idea? Or if it does, then for now, I think I'd rather make 5 one room games than 1 five room game, or 0.271 forest games.