Friday, October 19, 2018

7DFPS x PROCJAM, 20-28 October 2018 (make a first person game in 7 days) + (make a proc gen thing in 7 days)


For the first time since 2014, the #7dfps challenge is starting tomorrow. If you're not familiar, it's a week-long jam to make a first person game that tries to do something new.

Past alumni of 7DFPS include high-concept gun games like the original Superhot prototype as well as Receiver, but of course you don't have to do any shooting or violence for your first person game. Make a first person whatever-you-want.

If you need help getting started with making a first person game, even if you've never made an FPS or even a video game before, then here's a great free step-by-step tutorial with video examples on KO-OP Mode's "Make Weird Stuff in Unity" workshop page.

For a bit of historical perspective on this, also check out the 7DFPS video keynote from 2012, where a baby-faced JW and other game industry folks beg you to do something new with the first person format:



This year, 7DFPS also falls on the same week as PROCJAM, a community jam to make something that makes something (procedural generation)... they have their own list of talks, tutorials, and resources to help you make a proc gen thing.


Maybe this is a good time to make that procedurally generated first person game you've been dreaming about it? It seems the gods will it so.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Level Design Workshop at GDC 2019: submissions due November 2

GDC season is coming up soon. If you have any interest in level design and you have something to say about it, then please submit a proposal to the Level Design Workshop mini-track at GDC 2019.

Although it is supervised by AAA developers with a level design background, like Clint Hocking or Joel Burgess or Lisa Brown, you don't have to be a AAA developer -- hell, they even let me give a couple talks in past years, and I'm just some kind of vaguely-leftist pseudo-academic weirdo? Again: indie, modder, altgames, etc. folks of all backgrounds are all welcome and encouraged to submit, as long as there's some relevance to environmental world design for any game genre. I don't look at the submissions, but I know the committee truly does want to highlight any new voices and new approaches to level design.

(Also: this is a really great alternate way to attend GDC without going through the main submission process. The applicant pool here is smaller, the mentoring process is more cozy, and we often do some kind of group level design dinner that week.)

Submit a proposal within the next two weeks, by November 2nd. Good luck!

Full blurb is below:

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Kick the cover box

A soldier hiding behind a gray box in a futuristic lab, from Deus Ex Human Revolution (2011)
The room pictured above from Deus Ex: Human Revolution is, I argue, bad level design.

The playable area consists of an open flat floor with lab counters, yet all the counters are the same height (they have to be, so the player can recognize them as "those boxes I can hide behind") and each box offers basically the same affordance to the player. (Hide behind it! Look over it! Shoot the NPC that's programmed to pop his head out every 7 seconds!)

Any given object becomes bad design when it is numerous, redundant, and lacks context to the rest of the game. If you automatically repeat any type of shape throughout your game world, as a catch-all solution to fill a space, then that object is basically functioning like the dreaded video game crate. Whether it's a pallet of barrels, or a stack of bricks, or a concrete road barrier, it all boils down to a "cover box"...

Level designers often place these objects in the same faux-haphazard way, like tasteful glossy interior design magazines forgotten on a coffee table. But they're mostly responding to the game design they've been given, especially in a AAA system where combat systems feel like immutable facts. Water is wet, crunch must happen, and shooters need cover boxes. It's going to happen, live with it.

So whose fault is it, really? Well, I blame Steven Spielberg.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Queer Futures in Game Feel


This post is adapted from a talk I gave at Queerness and Games Conference 2018.

Game feel is most known through indie game developer Steve Swink, who wrote an influential article and a book about it. While I like Swink's book and methodology, I also think it limits itself to a very narrow subset of games and feels -- focusing heavily on platformer action games, but never really thinking about the game feel of strategy games, interactive fiction, or dating simulators, etc. There's a lot of pages on the input curve in Super Mario Bros, or the camera feel in Gears of War, or the animation in Symphony of the Night, but it omits something like The Graveyard or World of Warcraft. Do those games not have game feel?

Claiming these other genres and games under the banner of game feel might've weakened Swink's argument for closely coupled cybernetic loops and virtuosic traversal across game worlds back in 2008. But now ten years later, I think the time is right to expand game feel's concerns.