Sunday, June 17, 2018

PRACTICE 2018, June 21-23 in New York City

Hey all, just a quick reminder about PRACTICE 2018, a yearly eclectic game design conference put on by my employers and colleagues at NYU Game Center. It's happening very soon, during this coming weekend in New York City, June 21-23.

I go to stuff like GDC all the time, and I'm often frustrated by huge industry events' limitations -- they're huge crowded anonymous affairs that must cater to an entire field and assume a wide general audience, or they focus too narrowly on a technical detail without reflecting on deeper implications. At this point, GDC probably can't change itself very much, but what if there were a bunch of different events that could do what GDC can't?

So I think this is one way of making the game design conference we'd like to see in the world. The PRACTICE speaker lineup is tightly curated, seeking a variety of deep case studies as well as deep primers outside the niche world of video game design. Generally, there's usually at least one tabletop game design speaker and one sports design speaker, and this variety helps a lot. In the past, there's been professional poker players, race car data scientists, breakdancers, rock climbers, all going into the actual problems and examples they work with -- as well as AAA game designers talking about combat systems and indie developers talking about game feel. There are zero 101-level intro talks here.

Basically, this is a conference for working game designers who already kinda follow what's going on, but appreciate deep critical takes on what's happening. Unlike a lot of these types of events, the post-talk Q&A actually has some good audience questions and isn't terrible! It's also great if you want a more laidback environment where you can chat with everyone, instead of running to the next party and apologizing to the folks you missed.

If you live in the New York City area, I hope to see you there -- and if you live outside NYC, maybe you should look at some last minute airfare deals... and the city is especially lovely this time of year too, you know...

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Why I'm not super excited about Valve's new Steam policy

In case you haven't heard: Valve recently announced it won't attempt to moderate the content on Steam anymore except when legally required to, or when it's "obvious trolling", whatever that is.

On the face of it, this is supposedly a net-win for queer people and marginalized creators. Supposedly I'll be able to publish as much dick as I want! But after many years of dealing with platforms, and their intentionally vague policies and selective enforcement, I've grown extremely wary of these many public statements that promise to do better, and then never do. Even if this new policy is for real, I can easily imagine a future where Valve suddenly changes its mind to disallow my games -- I'm used to being treated as a "controversial" edge case in games, and all these companies have successfully trained me not to trust them or take their word for it.

There's a lot to unpack in Valve's post, and you can read a lot of different editorials all around the internet for the full scope of those ideas. Personally I'm not interested in regulating "spam games" or "asset flips", and my analysis will focus more on my experience and attitude in using Steam as a developer.

I think one big problem with "Who Gets To Be On The Steam Store" is that it doesn't recognize how some developers are more On The Steam Store than others.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Remastering Rinse and Repeat

Rinse and Repeat remastered, for Radiator 3 (2018)
Rinse and Repeat (2015)
I'm nearing the end of the remaster process for my shower game Rinse and Repeat, as part of a future re-release planned for late 2018. As I've said before: if you have the time and energy, I highly recommend remastering your games -- you get to revisit all the compromises and sacrifices you inflicted on yourself, and now you're not desperate to get the game out the door -- you can finally do things calmly and properly.

The time difference helps you see the project with new eyes. In my case, it's been about two and a half years since the original Rinse and Repeat release in October 2015. Game engine technology has changed, my skills and tastes have changed, and it's surprisingly therapeutic to revisit my past decisions. Like, why did I give everything a weird green tinge? I don't remember. Maybe I had good reasons that I've now forgotten.

Here's some of the specific changes I made to the shower scene, and some of my reasoning: