Tuesday, January 17, 2017

RIP, Vine.



The short video service Vine shut down today. I know a lot of game designers and devs who used Vine to document and share their work, and we're all pretty sad to see it go.

Below is my only claim to Vine fame -- nearly 2,500,000 loops before Vine died. This was a vine of the first sex game I ever made, called Hurt Me Plenty.



After I posted it, it quickly jumped to 1,000,000 loops within a few days. I was stunned. I had never really made anything "viral" before, and it only took me like 10 seconds to record that clip! I mean, numbers and view counts mean very little in the end, but when you haven't done much, even "very little" can be a strong boost to your self-confidence.

The breathtakingly thirsty response to this vine convinced me that there was an audience for my work, and that I should see it through, which is exactly what I needed to hear.

So thanks, Vine... rest in power.

Monday, January 16, 2017

rescheduled for Spring 2017: "Level With Me" Twitch level design show now on Tuesdays at 6 PM EST

Just a quick note that my weekly level design show on Twitch, called Level With Me, is now on Tuesdays at 6 PM EST (GMT-5) for the new season. (That's... tomorrow!)

Keep in mind that it's a different kind of video game livestream show -- I talk a lot about the level design and environment art, and freely use cheat codes during difficult segments. I care more about analyzing the game rather than experiencing it "purely" or whatever. It's more like a guided improvised tour than anything.

Feel free to tune-in and hangout as I stumble / cheat my way through Half-Life 1! See you then.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

"Pylons are my penis": a phenomenology of building in Offworld Trading Company and other strategy games


Game feel always has a narrative aspect tied to the player's in-game identity -- but in a top-down strategy game, who are you? Why do you know all this stuff, and why are you able to do the things that you can do?

I'm not asking for more bullshit handwave-y game lore ("it's the future, you're a space wizard") but rather I mean it in terms of interface and "raw experience". Even in strategy games with fog of war, there is still a fantasy of absolute certainty involved with your command. If you see a unit, it's almost definitely there; if you order a unit, they will definitely try to obey your order. If your unit dies, it is definitely dead.

These are all myths and abstractions away from how a real-life military often works, where commanders must constantly act on incomplete information, even about the state of their own forces. Few popular real-time strategy games let troops ignore an order, be routed, or be "missing in action", because maybe that's too unfair or it would weigh down the game a lot. (Some notable exceptions: hardcore military sim games often simulate supply lines and unit morale, the overburdened 2011 game Achron had time-travel and alternate universes of troop movements, while the admirable 2010 experiment R.U.S.E emphasized military intelligence and decoys.)

I'm going to propose that top-down strategy games let players build their own identities, and part of that identity is a body, in the form of your "base."

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Resolutions, 2017

A few general goals for this year:
  • be more active in VR communities, push for critical theory in VR
  • finally put out a publicly available VR thing
  • write more often, finish posts more often (fun fact: apparently I have ~300 draft posts)
  • finish more games and projects
And some more specific project goals for this year: