Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Radiator Blog: One Year Anniversary (kinda)

Holy shit, I've been posting consistently almost a year now? Blogging is weird; sometimes it feels like a job ("I need a post in a few days...") and sometimes it's like, wow this is amazing and totally rewarding (e.g. an impromptu discussion of brutalism in the comments).

Anyway. Here's a round-up of my favorite posts from the past year. If you just got here, you'll be all good if you just catch-up with these:
  • This post about Dragon Age, gay marriage and mods got re-published on Kotaku and scored them quite a few page views. It's a shame the Escapist didn't pick it up; I think it's one of my stronger pieces with a decent close reading of why nearly everyone likes Alistair / a non-obvious angle to approaching Dragon Age.
  • Before the Sterling Affair, it was earning by far the most comments / discussion for a single blog post: the "Sexiest Game Developers Alive." This bodes well for the future of deep, thoughtful discourse on games.
  • Out of the GeoComp2 Quake 3 Arena levels series, I liked Charon's "Demon Pigs Go Hog Wild" the best. It's just so disorienting... yet readable. Ahead of it's time perhaps. I think this level, perhaps, is a "digital brutalism" in some ways.
  • So I have a trinity of game developers whom I deeply admire, and I've done decent write-ups about Adam Foster and Brendon Chung. Unfortunately there's no love for Stephen Lavelle yet, because the man has released, like, 500 games. One would require a degree in "Increpare-ology." I think I'll just write about Opera Omnia and keep it to that.
  • My story of interviewing with Valve's Robin Walker at GDC 2010, him playing my mod, him being the most charming man I've ever met in my life and I want to marry him then divorce him then marry him again. I'm still not sure why I went; my chances of getting a job were pretty slim to nil. (Advice to students: unless you're a finalist in the IGF or have some card up your sleeve, it probably won't really be worth it.) But it was nice to meet people / breathe the same air as Robin Walker, and those sandwiches at the Valve booth looked nice but I was too scared to take one.
  • A post about a "casual" indie game about oil drilling, "The Oil Blue," a game that apparently no one cared about. I really liked it though: it has great interface design, especially lots of nice touches when your interface is "warming up," etc. In a sense it's from the Miyamoto school of design, where just pushing buttons and switches is fun and satisfying. (Good sound design here too.) It makes me want to learn Gamemaker.
  • I tried to channel some Roland Barthes for my essay, "The Death of the Level Designer." Procedural generation is only getting better and better, the nature of postmodern warfare today is almost diametrically opposed to the current static notion of level design, etc... And photos of ruins are cool.
  • I modded Brendon Chung's mod, "Droptank Oscar," and re-released it. Modding mods is kinda crazy to think about, but I heartily recommend it.
  • This post about free-roaming levels (usually cities) pushes Tony Hawk as more parkour-esque than Mirror's Edge. Speaking of which...
  • ... I complain about the signposting in Mirror's Edge, and use that as a springboard for a general rant about how we approach player psychology in level design. This was clearly a case of blindly following theory rather than testing to see if players actually behaved that way -- not to single Wesley Tack out or anything. (I'm not a jerk. I'm not a jerk. I'm not a jerk...)
  • Legends of the Hidden Temple is an awesome 90's American children's game show, and it has some valuable level design lessons. There are also some cool links in the comments to crazy British game shows with playful level design in a similar vein / Adam Foster graces his loyal acolytes with a rare appearance from his fortress in Seattle.