Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Let's Pitch: F-Stop.

Let's speculate what F-Stop (aka Portal 1.5) was / is.

Come up with a game pitch in the comments, if you'd like. Focus on the mechanics and what possible puzzles / levels would be, and for extra credit you can think about what the technical implementation would require.

I'll start:

Sunday, May 29, 2011

I'm just going to leave this here.

"Half-Life Trailer by James Benson." Would body awareness work properly like this in an actual game?

Saturday, May 28, 2011

A Faster Horse

Did Valve hire fashion designers? I feel like their costumes are always so... solid? Not glowy bits everywhere.
It would be foolish to characterize a 95 on Metacritic as a mistake.

It was a resounding retort to all those naysayers against the Source Engine (i.e. me, every other week): Portal 2 would've been harder to make in Unreal. It's as if many Portal 2 levels never really leave the "grayboxing" stage -- maybe that's the joke here? -- and to graybox over and over, properly, you need great brush tools, which UnrealED doesn't have at all.

... Because brushes are supposedly obsolete? Ha.

Or maybe we'll just say that it wasn't a risk. Valve even said as much publicly, back in 2010: "We [asked people what they wanted, and they said more portals and GladOS, so we shelved this other promising prototype and did as they asked.]"

Within the first minute of the game, they ask you to "appreciate the Art." Ding! The implication is that this game isn't meant to be bold Art -- rather, it's a supposedly higher calling -- it's Entertainment.

This self-awareness even comes through in the pacing: they're fully aware of the "solve a chamber, listen to a joke, take the elevator" pattern of the whole game. You know they're aware because they break that pattern several times. Those breaks are effective because you, the lab rat, were conditioned to expect certain things.

Your growing ennui with that pattern mirrors the game narrative itself. You're tired of this game, of her? No, you've got it all wrong... GladOS is sick and tired of you, the player, panting and sweating as you run through her corridors.

Why weren't you grateful? She was just giving you what you wanted.

Now, there's a particularly relevant quote by Henry Ford on the subject of focus-testing game concepts: "If I had asked what people wanted, they would have said faster horses."

We would've said to put Half-Life 2 in Black Mesa. We would've said to make Team Fortress 2 a realistic military shooter.

... Well, looks like this time we got our faster horse. Ain't she a beaut?

Friday, May 27, 2011

Elijah Tebbetts' "I Can't Find My Glasses"

From the brilliant mind behind other weird Unity FPS things like The Captain and Bisected Essence II comes "I Can't Find My Glasses." An excellent short Unity FPS that anyone could've made in 2 hours... but we weren't clever enough to do it. I think it could've been more awesome with impact sounds, screeching cats, etc.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

First Person Films - Combat in the First Person: Haruti

Watch this amazing 7:33 real-life helmet cam video of a battle in Afghanistan, edited by the New York Times.

Required viewing for FPS-afficionados everywhere: this is exactly the source material we steal from, and it is clear how much more we must steal. Some observations:
  • It's kind of funny how desaturated and colorless the video is. Just like in the video games!
  • At one point, Watch the second time they come under fire. Watch the squad and the "player"; they go to great lengths to avoid stepping into the irrigation ditch. On a strategic level, maybe the water would get their equipment wet and less-functional -- but wouldn't the trench give them more cover? On a cultural level, slimy irrigation water is gross. How do we represent the consequence of materials / materiality in an FPS? Portal 2 presents a really blatant treatment of materials in the form of brightly-colored gel; but will it ever possible to represent how gross wet toilet-paper feels?
  • They hold their fire / conserve their ammo a lot. I think it's pretty clear we don't want to model this, though, because running out of ammo isn't "fun."
  • Reloading your gun while running seems pretty hard to do in real-life.
  • Covering fire plays a huge role. (Brothers in Arms was the first to formally mechanize this, I think.)
  • They almost never fire when standing. (Since Counter-Strike, FPS games now model this.)
  • They do not know the exact layout of the level, but they know rough architectural schemas: "this 150 x 150 enclosed orchard was unusual for that area." If we wanted to model that thinking, maybe we should only have procedurally-generated levels, in order to encourage pattern-recognition over rote memory.
  • They blew a hole in the wall. Currently, only the Battlefield: Bad Company series models that, and other games less interestingly with pre-placed static "breaching charge" locations for demomen player classes. Dynamic deformation is probably the most crucial real-life combat mechanic to explore in military arcade FPS games. (For more, see "The First Person Ruin")
  • At the end, they hug each other. Hugging is clearly important to the narrative of this battle. Why isn't "hugging" a game mechanic? Why aren't there any first person huggers? (Other than Portal 2?) Dear Activision: I want to kiss my squadmate's forehead at the end of a round.

Monday, May 23, 2011

MapCore "Door" Challenge: Done.

This month's MapCore Challenge: prototype a puzzle where the player has to open a door, using the provided template map as a base. (aka, the "Door Dare")

We had a lot of cool entries, so by all means check them out and vote for your 3 favorites.

But because this is my blog, I'm going to shamelessly promote my own entry, "Secret Mission." In it, you have to modify the entity scripting I/O of the map itself, in-game, in order to open the doors. (The actual map logic is all faked, but I imagine the proof of concept is there...)

You might see this mechanic come back in Radiator vol. 4 some day, perhaps in the heavily delayed level, "Being Adam Foster"...

Friday, May 20, 2011

Welcome to the Indie FPS.

Indie platformers spawned sub-genres like the sudden-death one button jumpers, masocore and explore-'em-ups among countless others. The indie RTS spawned tower defense. Most of these indie efforts have non-photorealistic visuals that focus on distilling their commercialized parents' core mechanics into a delicious syrup: run and jump, build stuff that kills other stuff to survive, etc.

Continuing that proposed template, what sub-genre is the indie FPS working on?

Today in 2011, mainstream commercial efforts still focus on arcade man-shooting with photorealistic graphics in military contexts. They are descendents of one vision of first person gaming, the lineage of Wolfenstein 3D (1992).

But back in 1994, video games were confronted with a very different vision of what first person games could be....

Friday, May 13, 2011

Pilsner: Pre-Thesis

"Pilsner" is what my masters' thesis project will likely be, (it's going into full production starting this summer) but maybe I'll completely change my mind in the coming months, who knows. It's pretty ambitious in trying to solve, like, 5 big game design problems all at once.

The pitch is the same as before: "a multiplayer browser-FPS where Jersey Shore meets paramilitary squad tactics."

More specifically, if you happen to be "in the know," it's Rainbow Six + Spy Party + Words with Friends + Wikipedia.

Here's the full 6 page end-of-the-semester brief, if you're curious enough to read it... or just mine the references for your own papers. Just keep in mind the intended audience, my professor -- an experienced designer who doesn't really play video games:

First Person Films: "Charlie Bit My Finger" and "Smack My B*tch Up"

A more recent addition to the "First Person Films" post... described by the creator as a "Left 4 Dead" short film, essentially one extended POV shot. Enjoy.

Ah, vulnerable children in survival horror contexts never gets old, eh?

And as a bonus, here's Prodigy's "Smack My B*tch Up," a (NSFW) first person music video that came to mind when watching the above. I remember watching this on MTV back when they still played music videos...

Look at what the first person mode can do! And look at how narrowly we use it in games! Loooook!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Now in the pipeline...

I'm playing with the Unofficial Portal 2 SDK.
UPDATE: huh, well whaddaya know, the real SDK is now up.

"The Meat Pack." Incredibly hard Portal 2 levels coming to a \sourcemods\ folder near you, this summer.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

May 12th, 2011: "No Quarter" at NYU Game Center


Terry Cavanagh's game is the only one I know anything about -- it's a Unity game that accomplishes the amazing feat of not really looking like a Unity game (or any other game, for that matter) with a really neat depth / dithering / colorspace effect.

See you there and say hello to me, because I'm probably too shy to approach you if I only know you from the internets. Maybe I'll even share one of the twenty brioche sandwiches I snagged from the table.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Ludum Dare 20: Condom Corps, or "It's dangerous to go alone... take this condom, bro."

My first Ludum Dare, and I actually finished it! (Kinda.) Maybe I'll polish it some more and sell it to NYC Public Health?...

 PLAY NOW: Unity Web (compo) | Unity Web (jam)

*** If you are judging, please play the COMPO version. [Link to entry on ludumdare.com]
*** If you are NOT judging, play the JAM version in its (legally) photosourced splendor. The two builds are identical except for the enhanced background graphics in the JAM version.

It’s a Match3 First Person Sniper for sex education.
“It’s dangerous to go alone… take this condom, bro.”

  • Mouse1 = fire
  • Mouse2 = zoom in
  • Mousewheel = change ammotype
1) Stare at a dude’s package. Decide what size of condom he needs.
2) Shoot the condom into his hand.
3) Match adjacent colors to create chain-climaxes for mega points.
4) Shoot well-fitting condoms to maintain a “fit streak” multiplier for your score.

Source code is here. (.unitypackage)