Thursday, October 26, 2017

Games in public; games as public exhibitions

pictured above: "Now Play This" at Somerset House, London, UK. 2016.
Sometimes people want to exhibit my gay sex games for the public. It's an understandable feeling. If it's a large funded and ticketed event, I sometimes ask for a small honorarium... and in most cases, I usually give my blessing, send over some special builds and give advice, and ask for event photos afterwards.

When I look at these photos, they usually fall into one of two categories. One category is the huge industrial game expo. Because of their large scale and scope, each indie game inevitably takes the form of a standardized booth within a huge grid of booths. At minimum, that means a laptop sitting on a forgotten table as part of a large expo -- or if you invest a lot more, maybe there's a whole booth with black cloth partitions.

While I do appreciate any resources or labor that these events provide to me, I also wonder whether we can create alternatives and different ways of presenting games in public. Why does these public games events always look the same and function in the same way?

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Call for submissions: Level Design In A Day at GDC 2018, due November 6th

Steve Gaynor (before he changed his hair!!!) presenting on Gone Home at Level Design In A Day 2015.
If you have something to say about level design, the folks who run GDC's "Level Design In A Day" (a level design track of sessions that runs throughout the entire day) would love for you to submit a session proposal.

Historically, many of the presenters have been game industry level designers -- but there have also been architects, indie designers, procedural level designers, programmers, artists, and more -- and the directors are committed towards a diverse and inclusive idea of level design. They even let ME give a talk once! Wow what were they thinking?!

The most common type of session here is a case study, where a speaker talks about specific levels in a game and analyzes some facet of the design or production, what went right and what went wrong, etc. There have also been broader talks about level design as a discipline, questioning how we generally think about level design or how we practice it. And sometimes there's talks that try to translate a "different" field, like architecture or writing, to level design. (This isn't to say your talk must fall into one of those buckets, but those are just the most common buckets.)

To submit your proposal for consideration, please use this web form. (Don't use the official GDC submission procedures.) You must submit by November 6th (in ~2.5 weeks) to be considered. Good luck!

(Addendum: traveling to GDC is expensive. Traditionally, GDC does not pay any travel grants or stipends to most speakers. If you work in the game industry, your employer is supposed to pay your way; if you're a student, your school or government hopefully has travel grants for you to participate. As a last resort, you may also want to try a GoFundMe to raise the funds.)

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

No Quarter 2017, RSVPs open! + mini-interviews with Droqen and Auriea

poster art by Sophia Foster-Dimino
As you may know, I curate the No Quarter exhibition run by NYU Game Center. Each year, we commission new games from 4 artists and debut their work at a big fun party in New York City.

This year, for the 8th exhibition, we've commissioned Kitty Horrorshow, Pietro Righi Riva, Auriea Harvey, and Droqen -- and we're doing it all on the night of November 3rd. 2017 in Bushwick, Brooklyn. That's in only a few weeks!!

To whet your appetite, we've also been running brief interviews with the artists. Check out my short chat with Droqen and chat with Auriea to hear about what they're making, with more previews soon!

If you live near New York City, or can afford to travel over for the weekend, then you may want to attend... and our RSVPs are now open! Keep in mind that space is kind of limited, so to ensure you're allowed in, you may want to sign-up now. It's free and open to the public.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The second death of the immersive sim (2007-2017) and a dark prophecy for a third-wave immersive sim

This post contains a few general gameplay spoilers for Dishonored: Death of the Outsider.

Many years ago, Rock Paper Shotgun published a Dark Futures series that wondered where all the immersive sim games went. Why didn't Deus Ex 1 prompt a huge burst of similar games back then? Self-appointed immersive sim experts like me roughly date this "first wave" from Ultima Underworld (1992) through System Shock (1994), Thief (1998), System Shock 2 (1999), and ending perhaps with Deus Ex 1 (2000). From there, we don't really see a larger return to this tradition until the "second wave" begins with Bioshock (2007), Stalker: Shadow of Chernobyl (2007), Fallout 3 (2008), etc. and this is also when we starting using the term "immersive sim" more often. (How narrowly or widely you define this genre is up to you, I take a sort of "moderate" line on this.)

Unfortunately, word on the street is that sales weren't very great for Arkane's recent immersive sims Prey (2017) or Dishonored: Death of the Outsider (2017). And outside of Arkane, the faith has not been kept: the Bioshock series (basically) ended with Irrational's closure, and Square-Enix / Eidos has basically discontinued its rebooted Deus Ex series. The systems-y 2016 Hitman reboot was critically acclaimed but also sold-off by Square-Enix. Basically, big expensive complex systemic single player games are not exactly thriving in an industry now dominated by giant multiplayer titans that can sell a new hat and rake in millions. (Also file under: "why was there never a Half-Life 3"?)

Well, we got what we wanted, immersive sims returned to the world from 2007 through the 2010s -- but it turns out that no one else ever asked for this and the games apparently did not resonate with a larger audience. So let us all look up and bear witness to the passing of this great age, and mark the second death of the immersive sim genre.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

new re-release: Radiator 2 Anniversary Edition

I just finished a re-remaster of my game Radiator 2. This "anniversary edition" is now live on Steam and, so feel free to check it out, and/or look at the new screenshots for five seconds before closing the tab immediately. The new changes mostly consist of improved stability, more supported languages, fancier graphics + skin shaders, and a very high polygon cupcake in the menu screen.

This is the 3rd time I've remade these games, and I think I like remastering games, it's kind of fun. You get to dive back into your awful code base full of terrible mistakes, but that addictive feeling of progress is still pretty fast and tangible because you already have a working game!

I think I'm going to keep remastering and re-releasing my games every few years, which oddly enough, is a common AAA practice but is very rare in the indie world.

Let's take it back, and remaster the shit out of our work! Remaster your games 2 times, 5 times, 10 times, 100 times... let every game become an infinite game, an eternal game that never ends...

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Open world level design: spatial composition and flow in Breath of the Wild

So, like much of game dev Twitter, I too saw Matt Walker's Twitter thread that summarized a CEDEC 2017 talk on how Nintendo built the game world in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

If you're not familiar, Breath of the Wild is highly-regarded as a return to good game design within the Zelda series -- if you want to know more about how the various game systems or simulations work, you should check out their GDC 2017 talk, where they emphasize an emergent physics / problem-solving perspective with the general game design.

But Walker's thread caught my eye (and everyone's eye!) because it was about something more basic and fundamental, which is composition of 3D worlds. The development team came up with a great memorable typology / design grammar for their vision of open world level design, and I want to recap it before Walker's tweets get lost in an unsearchable Twitter soup.

Again, I didn't really write this stuff or come up with these insights, but seeing as this is sort of a level design blog, I feel it's important to archive this stuff for all history, etc...