Friday, May 18, 2018

So you want to try playing Thief 1


I've been streaming some Thief 1 for the past month, which has gotten some people interested in trying the game for themselves. You definitely should, especially if you like eclectic first person games, immersive sims, open world games, or walking simulators... it's almost 20 years old, yet it still feels really different and fresh and distinct from anything today.

That said, it can be a bit tricky to play for modern tastes, so here's a bit of advice for getting into Thief:

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Radiator does Australia, Summer 2018 tour (but, like, Winter in Australia though?): Artworld Videogames, August 9-29


People of Australia! Now hear this!

The kind generous people at Bar SK and the notorious Doug Wilson of RMIT Games, in partnership with National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) and Australian Center for the Moving Image (ACMI), and in conjunction with MEL&NYC Festival (phew, this is a lot of organizations) are running an "Art/world Video_Games" month and bringing three New York City area game designers to Melbourne, Australia this August.

Those people are me, Nicole He, and Zach Gage.

I'll be flying to Melbourne first, with a kick-off exhibition at Bar SK, later followed by a tag-team master class with Nicole He at ACMI. After that, I fly back to NYC and hand over all ceremonial duties to Nicole and Zach, who I'm sure will have further events / appearances planned. For more info and updates on the full Art_world Video-Games schedule, check out the main event page.

While in Melbourne, I'll probably try to hold some kind of open office hours in the afternoon (especially if it's raining) where anyone can talk to me about whatever (... well, within reason...) and I will graciously allow folks to buy me beers (... within reason).

See everyone in August.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

new interview: Tone Control with Steve Gaynor, Episode 26


At GDC 2018, me and Steve Gaynor sat in an empty rehearsal room and nerded out about level design and stuff for nearly two hours. Not only that, but it was also recorded for his developer-focused podcast "Tone Control"?! Make sure you also check out the rest of the Tone Control episodes too, like my colleague Bennett Foddy feebly attempting to defend cricket to a US audience.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Dreamhouse process diary and prototyping notes + a better retro 3D low precision vertex shader


In collaboration with local NYC-area arcade collective Death by Audio Arcade, me and several other gay / queer artists are making small games for an event at a Brooklyn queer arts space called Dreamhouse / (formerly known as The Spectrum). My contribution is shaping up to be a retro low polygon 3D brawler called "Dream Hard."

If you want to play it, you'll have to visit The Dreamhouse, which will house the only public display of the game in the world (for the time being), starting in late May 2018.

I don't have much time to work on this, so grounding the concept firmly within a clear retro arcade genre helps me work quickly with less realistic visuals and simplified character art, while also engaging deeply with the arcade tradition of game design. Specifically I'm riffing off one of my favorite genres, beat 'em up games like Die Hard Arcade, X-Men Arcade, Simpsons Arcade, or the iconic Street of Rage series, which all offer breezy brawling with strange setpieces and colorful sets.

Here's some prototype GIFs and notes from my development process...

Friday, May 4, 2018

What is the game university for?

I did not go to game design school -- not that I had a choice, since only a handful of game design programs existed when I attended college. Like many in the industry, I'm "self-taught" -- which is to say, I relied on informal learning from a network of creative communities and random online tutorials. Today, I teach in one of the better-rated and better-funded game design programs in the world. With my self-taught background, I'm often suspicious of the idea of formal technical education. So here's my experience with teaching game development for the past 5-6 years:

There's often very loud implications from students, parents, and industry developers that we, as universities, are never doing enough to prepare students for the "real world". This criticism exists alongside the skyrocketing cost of US higher education, the ivory tower elitism of academia, and a societal shift toward privileging "practical" "hard" skills like science and engineering, instead of "useless" "soft" skills like literature or ethics. This anxiety is understandable, but it also plays into a very politically conservative vision of universities: that we exist only to train a productive and compliant workforce.

Danette Beatty recently tweeted something that seems very reasonable and actionable, and her thoughtful thread started a long important conversation on generalism vs specialization and how we ought to teach game development... but a lot of people don't read beyond the first tweet in a Twitter thread so I'd like to get into why "set your students up with the skills to actually get jobs that are in demand in the industry" has been complicated for me as a game dev teacher.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

A MAZE 2018 after-action report


This year I attended A MAZE 2018 in Berlin. It's still probably one of the best video game events in the world; it happens in one of the coolest places in one of the coolest cities around. In the day, you basically hangout in a beer garden and drink some surprisingly affordable beer. At night, hordes of punky post-apocalyptic Berliner teenagers hangout and dance. This unique audience and format makes it all feel pretty special, and I think this year's award show host Tim Rogers put it best: usually people at games events are frantically planning where they're going afterwards, but at A MAZE, the after-party is the festival itself, and many people often linger into the wee early hours of the morning in true Berlin fashion.

There's also a strong participatory focus at A MAZE. Each night, there was an open booth for anyone to plug into and DJ, and "open screens" for anyone to exhibit their projects. There were also stand-up comedy routines, hypertalks, and a "devolution" show featuring various old builds of Superhot to understand its 3-4 year dev cycle. In that spirit of experimentation, I ran a "democratic lighting workshop" where I solicited lighting suggestions from the audience, and then attempted to realize their designs in a Unity scene. We laughed and we learned!!!

But wait, that's not all...