Thursday, December 27, 2007

The best alignment, truly

I don't usually do those internet personality quizzes but this one is D&D, so I had to.

I Am A: Chaotic Neutral Elf Sorcerer (3rd Level)

Ability Scores:







Chaotic Neutral A chaotic neutral character follows his whims. He is an individualist first and last. He values his own liberty but doesn't strive to protect others' freedom. He avoids authority, resents restrictions, and challenges traditions. A chaotic neutral character does not intentionally disrupt organizations as part of a campaign of anarchy. To do so, he would have to be motivated either by good (and a desire to liberate others) or evil (and a desire to make those different from himself suffer). A chaotic neutral character may be unpredictable, but his behavior is not totally random. He is not as likely to jump off a bridge as to cross it. Chaotic neutral is the best alignment you can be because it represents true freedom from both society's restrictions and a do-gooder's zeal. However, chaotic neutral can be a dangerous alignment because it seeks to eliminate all authority, harmony, and order in society.

Elves are known for their poetry, song, and magical arts, but when danger threatens they show great skill with weapons and strategy. Elves can live to be over 700 years old and, by human standards, are slow to make friends and enemies, and even slower to forget them. Elves are slim and stand 4.5 to 5.5 feet tall. They have no facial or body hair, prefer comfortable clothes, and possess unearthly grace. Many others races find them hauntingly beautiful.

Sorcerers are arcane spellcasters who manipulate magic energy with imagination and talent rather than studious discipline. They have no books, no mentors, no theories just raw power that they direct at will. Sorcerers know fewer spells than wizards do and acquire them more slowly, but they can cast individual spells more often and have no need to prepare their incantations ahead of time. Also unlike wizards, sorcerers cannot specialize in a school of magic. Since sorcerers gain their powers without undergoing the years of rigorous study that wizards go through, they have more time to learn fighting skills and are proficient with simple weapons. Charisma is very important for sorcerers; the higher their value in this ability, the higher the spell level they can cast.

Find out What Kind of Dungeons and Dragons Character Would You Be?, courtesy of Easydamus (e-mail)

also: Waaagh!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


So as part of my finals, I wrote a few essays. Here are two in case anyone is interested. I'm using Google Docs to share them. If anyone wants nicely formatted pdfs, just shoot me an email and I get one to yah. I'm make put them up somewhere if it turns out that there is some interest in it.

Abstraction :
George C. Berkeley in the Introduction of A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge has an argument against Abstraction (having abstract ideas of things) that bothered me for awhile. It's just not necessary at all to his Immaterialism. So I decided to write a paper objecting to that.

Learning and The Extended Mind :
So in the Philosophy of Mind there is this pretty cool theory of 'an extended mind.' The idea is that cognition may be a process that's not entirely in the head. Our brains may be taking advantage of external processes to do some of the cognitive work. Thinking may involve a causal loop that uses both internal and external states. That's the super quick gloss. The paper, really, is still kind of a gloss since the topic is so deep, but whatev. I even got to talk about videogames a little in this paper!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

the XP mistake

You know, doesn't the XP system of computer RPGs and many pen and paper RPGs seem odd sometimes? Doesn't it seem backwards?

I was reading an article my dad sent me about the role making mistakes has in learning. Consistently it was proven that those who think that doing things right was more important than struggling in the process i.e. being smart is better than trying hard, were more motivated to work hard and took on more challenging problems. In short, they learned better.

Playing and learning are intertwined, amirite?

So, shouldn't games reward players for trying rather than succeeding? And certainly XP is the appropriate bonus. A number that is supposed to be abstracting the total experience of the PC should be measuring the mistakes far more than victories. Giving the PC some badass scars would be cool too.

Methinks the "grind" would be discouraged, no?

'Course it requires and RPG where failure doesn't equal death and this is not exactly an original idea. Some RPGs do give XP for battle loses as well as gains, usually tactics games where its units who level up.

Though, I suggest that we do not give XP for successes. Especially if winning already confers enough game rewards. I can't think of any RPGs that do that.

also: this principle would work for use based skill systems.

Friday, November 16, 2007


My first 'end' for games is (hopefully) the most egoist of them all. Not in the derogatory sense, just in the sense that it had mostly to do with me and what I want and need. It is simply the fulfill my need to express myself.

Games are a media, and by that I mean only that it can communicate ideas, regardless of any other capabilities it may have. I'm pretty terrible at any other conventional mode of communication. I can't play an instrument, my drawing never really makes it past the crappy sketch stage, and my writing is mediocre. Note that I don't actually give a shit, I will continue sketching or scribbling and such, but I know that I'd like to produce something really nice and I dunno, good.

So yeah, that's one goal I have for my games, but I have others that are not so self-centered.

Friday, October 26, 2007

approaching games

Sorry about the absence from blogging but who would have thought that having philosophy as major would mean so much reading and writing? Anyways...

I've been thinking about my approach to games (go figure) and I find that I need to clarify my thinking by putting some words down in text, and I intend to subject the Internet with my rambling.

First off, games are means to some end, they are not ends themselves. A game for the sake of itself is silly. You can have a basic end i.e. fun for a game but it is still not for itself. Now, like Aristotle said you can't really reason about ends, only about means.[in Nicomachean Ethics] Strictly speaking, we can choose any end that we want, or that makes sense to us, but of course some ends are better than others...

Having a well defined end makes determining the means much easier. You can tell from the game design blogs out there that those with strong, robust theories and interesting thoughts are those with a firm idea of they want to do. For Perko, one of his ends is creating robust social simulations, for Corvus its story creation. etc... (I know those are really huge glosses but bear with me) One of my problems I've noticed is that I don't have any well defined ends with regards to games. Some vague ideas about creating an "experience" and maybe "weirding people out" but those are so general as to be worthless (or nearly so).

I have been working on this though. Stay tuned...

Friday, October 05, 2007

Clicky : Guantánamo Bay

"You may think Guantánamo Bay is a prison camp in Cuba for Al Qaeda terrorists. A lot of the world thinks it’s a place we send visitors who don’t give the right answers at immigration. I will not vote for any candidate who is not committed to dismantling Guantánamo Bay and replacing it with a free field hospital for poor Cubans. Guantánamo Bay is the anti-Statue of Liberty."


Saturday, September 22, 2007

This day, these coordinates

For all those who care to meet me in person, I'm going to the time and place specified in a certain xkcd comic, which is in Boston and will be tomorrow FYI. I'm not sure if anyone who reads my blog will be in the area, but whatev.

^^This is me.^^ Notable feature shorthand list: Dreadlocks, Very skinny frame, ambiguously ethnic. A bandanna is likely.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

New Beginnings! (A life update)

The crisp breeze of September blows in! School's started again. It's like the third week and I think I'm already behind all my classes, which I suppose is typical. I recently moved into my new digs since bumming it for several weeks when the lease for the previous spot went up. It's a pretty sweet place and I finally have my own room and such. However there is no internet hooked up yet, so I've been mooching off the university wireless when I'm on campus to feed my internet addiction.

I also started work at a local pizza place because I needed more Snow Crash in my life. Maybe I can set up a wifi there... Also, many of the people who work there and indeed the people who own the business are foreign, Turkish to be precise. Being asked what words like 'advice' and 'remind' keeps one on their toes on the English language. I'm not used to giving definitions for words and such.

Gamer's Guild, the game club at UCONN is also starting up and such. I'm running a Mage: the Ascension campaign for our beginning game, to get everybody in gear for some awesome gaming this semester. I'm not setting it in the World of Darkness though, because seriously, I did enough of that shit. Also, we have the room for a ridiculous amount of time (for 6 hours), so we could actually probably get two games going. Perhaps, one-day D&D adventures? I'll have to think about this...

Random Observation:
A new person came to the Guild last week, who said he had Asperger's syndrome. During chilling/bullshitting that happens at end of the club, I was showing peoples Overdrift, which I find hilarious. He, however, hated it. He said he hated the bad acting. I was a bit confused by this. One would think he wouldn't notice? Besides, it's ironic.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Birds, Beauty, and What We Eat

I was watching birds a little today. I was musing on the sexual dimorphism in birds and how extreme it is in many species, and (almost) always the males. The males are brighter and the color more vibrant. Some species have a fantastic spectrum of colors. The females are more subdued and more practical. Well, someone needs to tend to the nest. I was wondering why that is, and not so in mammals. Dimorphism in mammals, if present, tends to be more about body shape, or exaggerated features. In human culture, masculinity has alternatively associated with bright colors or subdued tones.

Then I noticed a bright yellow butterfly flitting about. I thought, well, consider what birds eat. Insects and seeds. Many various insects and seeds are multicolored for whatever reasons. Beauty could be linked to what is good to eat. A constant evolutionary force (because it definitely affects reproduction over long terms) acting with or against practicality.

In all animals, down to the lowliest of jellyfish, the brain is never far from the mouth. Eating is the basic action of life, it would make sense the decision maker be various close to the eating information center. Consider kissing, we explore each other by eating each other. Kind of an odd thought isn't it, but, I'm sure I'm not the first person to think beauty and eating are connected on a fundamental biological level. I should really take an aesthetics class.

What does this have to with games? (not that you were thinking that but it's a nice transition) That eating is an easy verb that should be done more in games. Pac-man and Katamari are not enough!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Boredom Hatred

I hate being bored. I'm not ADHD or anything. My patience is at the very least about normal, if not more. But if something does not grab my attention within that span, then I'm bored. And I hate being bored.

When you're bored, you're asking yourself "Why am I doing the thing that I'm doing?" It might be "Why am I listening to this boring old man lecture?" or "Why am I mowing this lawn?" It's because you're brain is tired with what is happening. It's forced to watch the same results from the same actions with no or very predictable changes, unable to switch to thinking-about-something-else mode. It's not being stimulated. That's a very painful state for the brain. The attempts to resist the paralyzing effects fail. It's like a slow rack, slowly pulling your I hate brain paralysis. There is two possible escapes either find something interesting or 'zone out' which is essentially finding something else so interesting, you are no longer paying attention. I've gotten pretty good. I interested and amused by a lot of different things. That's why I don't feel like I deserve to be bored or even zone out. I'm mad when I'm forced to zone out. I shouldn't have to.

Boring games are bad. Games are supposed to be fun! Boring is like diametrically opposed to fun. It's at least in the totally wrong direction. Bad, bad, games. And yet, terrible writing and unbelievable characters make bad movies. Bad, bad movies. And yet I love 'B' movies. I love 'B' comics. I enjoy the ironic joy and laughter watching them. Bad sci-fi is my favorite kind, but I'm not exclusive. Here's the thing that makes good 'B' movies. They do something right. And more importantly, something right that's cinematic. Flashy lights, shiny machines doing stuff, beautiful ladies wearing something hot, invoking schadenfreude, these are things that look good on screen. A 'B' movie needs a saving grace which becomes its raison d'etre. Even if it's just the idea of watching giant insects stomp through a major city.

Of course, you see where I'm going with this. We do play boring games. We enjoy boring games. We sometimes get bored and continue playing. Now a lot of games get boring sometimes. Hell, nothing's perfect. But some games go beyond that at take boring to an excruciating degree. And then perhaps they circumnavigate and end up good. They find a saving grace, a raison d'etre. The enjoyable monotony of smashing things, the strangely realistic action of doing something implausible to see some hot ladies, a intentionally hilarious results, etc, etc...

Monday, July 09, 2007

Game Playing; some results

Well, I completed a campaign in Battle of Wesnoth; "Tale of 2 Brothers" I think it was called. The writing was atrocious, however the missions were immense fun. I really like the map design in some of the later missions, because it had some really crunchy strategic options and choices. My complaint was that it could have been longer, but whatever. There are plenty of campaigns to choose from. I play around with some more.

I also completed a 'world' in Which Way Is Up. 'World' meaning a set of level. The game is interesting for the rotate level mechanic, which while it created some cool experiences became rather gimmicky after awhile. And it one had one enemy type, so by the end it got rather monotonous. So I wasn't going to continue to world 2, but I got a what-the-heck attitude and decided to try out the second world. Oooo a new enemy type! Oooooo more puzzley level design! Maybe I'll play it some more. But......

I started playing Wilfred, The Hero. Holy crap, this is engrossing. The art design and level design are well done enough that just walking around (usually the boring part of RPGs) is fun. Wilfred also puts in a lot of side bits, which are impossible for you to get right now, but seem enticing enough to make you want to try to get the ability to get them. Treasure chests on islands just out of reach, or behind a big, scary monster. My only real complaint is that there perhaps a little too many treasure chests. They don't exactly feel like uncolored keys yet, but I'm worried that I might be seeing a bit too many chests and then they will bore me. However, for the moment I remain cautiously optimistic. Because seriously, if even I'm wrong, would treasure chest saturation really make this game much worse? I say no, but who knows? The story seems cool enough, but I'm worried it might become too hamfisted for me sit through. Though really, a very subtle RPG story might only exist in parallel universes.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Everything/Nothing Fallacy

I always hate when I hear someone say something in the form "If you x everything, than you x nothing." Like if you believe in everything than you believe in nothing, or if everyone is special than no one is. The latter, of course, being an always trendy thing for guy into counterculture platitudes. The shorter version is "If everyone's unique then nobody is." The more correct argument is "If everyone's unique than nobody is, in particular." I mean, you wouldn't say, "If everyone's alive than no one is" because that is retarded... I mean absurd. It's also a premise used against an egalitarian distribution of wealth or equal education. Probably other ideas too. Point is, it's a bad argument that keeps getting repeated. Stop it. Please.

Disclaimer: This only applies to non comparative x's. If everything is hot, then nothing is makes sense. Special is not a necessarily an adjective that compares.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Game Playing

I finished Within a Deep Forest, thus finishing another indie game I just had to. I definitely like atmosphere of it. What I find interesting about both WaDF and Knytt (nifflas' other game, which I finished awhile ago) is that while both have a fair bit of backtracking, it never really felt tedious. Despite the games being low on the enemy count, traveling around was fun and compelling. I figure the blame lies in the fact that the level design in both are quite elegant. The levels were never too hard for too long, often after one difficult screen will be some easy relaxing movement. Also the nonlinearity of these games lends very nicely to exploration fun of it.

I'm now playing Battle of Wesnoth and Which Way Is Up? With Wesnoth, I'm very interesting in the possibility of designing campaigns or modding it in some such way. Turn based strategy is a favorite of mine, so I figure it'll do me some good to mess around with it. Which Way Is Up is 2d platform game done for the PyWeek competition, where python game coders will spend a week on making a game based on a particular theme. The game is obviously inspired by And Yet It Moves, but so far I actually like this one more. Some how the movement feels more polished, but I'm willing to go back just to confirm. I'm also interested in the idea of using open source games written in Python/Pygame with the possibility of playing with the code and seeing if I can make something fun.

Oh and I also started an imageblog, HUD Burn-in. It's an experiment, so I'm just running with it, seeing how far it goes, if keep up with it, etc, etc...

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Manhunt bad ... Hostel good!

Mike K over at tooNormal has written just put a post on the Manhunt 2-AO rating issue, raising a point I didn't even notice. Probably because I don't shop at Walmart...

But I want to bring your attention to something that’s generally being overlooked by these articles. Films in the same genre as the Manhunt game. Hostel and Saw. Torture films basically. Hey look! They’re sold at Walmart. What the hell’s going on?

Monday, June 18, 2007

Soul Calibur II Sexiness

I was playing a little Soul Calibur II with my little bro today in between cutting hedges and doing some coding while back home for the weekend. I tend to 0wn him but he can and does beat me often enough that I can't take it easy on him. While choosing characters for another match he referred to Yunsung as the "flaming homosexual character." I know he didn't mean it in a derogatory way nor in a way that denigrated his abilities as he did choose him to fight and managed an excellent match. It reminded me of Sexy Videogameland's post on the topic of creating a sexual context for Soul Caliber. For the record I played Yoshimitsu against him when he played Yunsung and won the match.

My brother also got ridiculously sick at playing Ivy, who of course is one of the most sexual characters in the game. (Seriously, his record for Ivy against my Kilik this morning is in his favor) I wonder if he's imagining the same kind of pornographic subplots that SVGL was talking about. Wait, he's 17, of course he is!

Friday, June 15, 2007

BackFlash: Master of Orion

I've been playing a ton of Master of Orion (the first), with DOSBox, recently.
Free Image Hosting at
I love space combat 4x games, although I've played an appalling lack. Mainly this and Ascendancy. I've got Galactic Civilisations (from retail no less!) but somehow, I always end up going back to this. Somehow Galciv feels almost clunky compared to MOO. Then again, I might just be more used to the older game. Still, it feels like there is more variation is Master of Orion, but somehow it seems to be a bit more elegant. It does not feel like any element is extraneous or pointless. The space created by the game by variation of species/races, variety of game types, and just randomness of the board setup is fun to explore.

What I find very interesting about this game is how much personality each race has. The way they acted diplomatically, style of playing the board, as well as the little bits of fiction seem to mesh beautifully and vibrantly. And the oddest thing is that when playing as the one of the different races, just via their advantages you tend to get into the personality of that race. You'll feel like a Darlok, always sneaking around stealing technology and upping your computer power. What's a Darlok? Think Jawa. Anyways, I figured I let you guys know about it.

Relevant Links:

Master of Orion @Wikipedia

Jon Sullivan's MOO I Resources

DOSBox, an x86 emulater with DOS

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Terroristic Webcomic

New Webcomic is welcomed with rave reviews!

"I love this new strip because I’m finding it a lot more minimalist and relatable… also ridiculously funny."

"He was promptly fired and not allowed back to work because people were scared of him."
Only the most badass of men will strike fear into the hearts of people with their art!
To top it all off, he was later visited by police detectives for making a comic about his experience, because it was a “borderline terroristic threat.”


Wednesday, May 02, 2007

72 what now?

Alright, I'll admit, I didn't come up with the idea for this joke. My dad did actually and he's pretty proud of it. Course as I type it, I am pretty sure that I'm not doing his exact formulation, actually not even close, but such is humor. (I'll subject you guys to my theory of humor some other time...)

So a suicide bomber dies and goes to heaven. He sees George Washington. George Washington walks over to him and sucker punches him right across the face. As the suicide bomber tries to defend himself, Patrick Henry walks up from behind him and holds his arms so the hapless suicide bomber is just getting a beatdown from Washington. Then Patrick Henry throws him down, and Thomas Jefferson comes and just kicks him repeatedly. James Madison also jumps in and all four are just kicking this suicide bomber while he's down. The suicide bomber yells, "Allah! This is not what I was expecting!"

Allah responds, "What? It's 72 Virginians like I promised. What did you think I said?"

Thursday, April 26, 2007

I want make a game, game, game and again game

Via the Corvus shared feed, on Destructoid, I found out about a great piece of art called "game, game, game and again game". When I played I must say I was freaked out. Not because I thought it was totally weird an schizophrenic (it is), but because I've had a similar idea for an aesthetic a while back. I sort of tried to do it, but I eventually got distracted from the project, school and all that. It was about squish bugs mainly, and I was going to give the bugs personalities of sorts, so you could have the ants talk like communists revolutionaries, flies as hedonists, and some other bug as a total nihilist ("Oh what's the point of doing anything if some giant hand is just going to squish me") Still even though he took it a different direction, I totally applaud his efforts while simultaneously feel overwhelming jealousy that he got their first. I bless and damn him at the same time!.

The game is more about semi-non-linear exploration of ideas then anything else, and the mix of text, images, video, and game mechanics definitely makes this a most play. It's definitely a Punk Game to say the least.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

I find myself drifting into the abstract

"Ariel, what going on? You've haven't said anything in awhile."

"You have a very contemplative face on."

"What's your thought process right now?"

It's true. I hadn't said anything in awhile and the small what some space of my Japanese car made my silence totally conspicuous. I was totally concentrating on some internal thought processes. I needed it to recharge, since I was totally jamming out a music festival earlier and
I was still reacting to that. Even though I liked it and had a lot of fun, social situations and large groups do tire me out in nonphysical kind of way.

"There's nothing sinister about my silence. I just trying to forget I have a body right now"

"Umm, please don't. You're driving."

"No, no. I'm concentrating on driving, trying to forget I have a body"

"Oh I see. You feel like that you are part of the car. Or that the car is a part of you."

"Not exactly. I'm trying to forget I have a car to. I am just concentrating on the road. And not what the photons hitting my eyes that my brain is interpreting is a particular road, but the Idea of road."


"Wow. That is some pretty deep shit."

Friday, April 13, 2007

Let us play... for honor!

I learned a new drinking game last night. It's not like most drinking games. Drinking games are usually either: (a) Everybody drinks at the same time, like drinking every time someone says "the Force" while watching Star Wars (b) Drinks are used as a penalty, like beer pong or some such or (c) or drinking is used as an obstacle to overcome such as flipcup. This one is different though. I forget the name (figures), but I remember the rules and they're quite simple.

You need one deck of cards. The dealer has to flip the top card of the deck onto the table, encouraged to do it with a flourish. Before he does any other player may announce that he will drink to the next card. Anyone but the dealer may do this, and any number may announce. The game will not proceed until someone does. When the card is put down face-up, anyone who announced they were going drink must drink sips/gulps/seconds half of the amount of the card rounded down. Aces you drink nothing. J, Q, K, you must drink 6,7,8 respectively. The dealer may pass the deck after three rounds but is not required to. After 3 rounds though, any player tell the dealer to "take a sip and pass the deck."

Brilliant. Most drinking games are about forcing people to drink. This game has totally flipped that around, which of course means that light drinkers can play with even your most grizzled alcoholic. So what's the point? Honor. Pride. That kind of stuff. It's about social status. I find that kind of intriguing. It is a game that doesn't just have a social context, it takes that advantage of that social context instead of just adding it on top. The mechanic also interests me enough to think about coding it. Hmmm, stuff to think about

Thursday, April 12, 2007


No more damn Vonnegut.

I wrote my senior paper in high school on Timequake.


(Ting-a-ling is a reference to that book in case you didn't know. It's not is most famous book.)

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Guerilla's know how to do it

(via BoingBoing) This caught my eye. A guy is putting on a Guerrilla Drive in and marketing it in a very interesting way. By broadcasting an access code on an AM frequency from a secret location, which you use to get updates on where its going to play. That's just friggin cool. Too bad it's on the wrong side of New York for me to go. Clicking on the links led me to the DIY instructions on starting your own. Myself, I'm going to Google for any near me, but I somehow doubt it.

Also I wonder if it is possible to harness this spirit for games. I've been every now and then considering how to create community events with games. I've talked about fun for the audience before. Games are supposed to unite people, players and spectators. I've considered the idea of Big Screen gaming events before. People taking turns playing console or computer games. Perhaps I should start this guerilla style?

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The Bet

I have this thing about observing games and play wherever I see it, and most importantly observing the people how they are acting and reacting. Like it always amuses me to see people buying lottery tickets. Recently I experienced an interesting sort of game. Recently a pair of my friends got married. Now, they dated in high school, but it definitely was not a continuous relationship since that time. Then again, even when they were apart all they really seemed to think about were each other, so who knows?

When faced with the sudden surprise announcement, after convincing us that it was not an April Fool's Joke, the other guys were of course conflicted. Would this work? How long will it last? The questions about the fate of these two hung in the back of our minds while we celebrated the beginning of the marriage process. Naturally, after those two left the rest of us started placing bets.

Basically we, three, each put down a bet. One bet that the marriage would last for a year or two before divorce, another bet between two and three years, and I optimistically bet three to four. If no one was right, all the money would go toward a party or something. We had talked about how much we wanted them work but our brains telling us that it wouldn't last. The other two reflected it seemed kind of cold to take bets on that. I firmly protested just because we act this way in the Magic Circle of a Game is not indicative of any lack of respect for two, on the contrary we wanted them to last! We all in fact wanted to lose!

That sent reverberations through my skull. A game we all wanted to lose. An interesting idea, no? It may or may not unique in that respect, especially with the way some people play certain drinking games, but it is certainly not common at all. It seems to come about when there is a cost outside of the game to winning. I'm not sure if that's the only time though. I'd have to think about that some more. The point is that I wonder if one can design a game to be like this. Some games are of course moddable so that this is an out come like a Vampire game where everyone takes the Flaw Dark Fate. Not that Vampire games are 'won' as such, but its close.

What would be more interesting was if the alternate endings in Wing Commander III, which were accessed by losing certain missions were somehow better. Like better ships at the end, or somehow more satisfying and less tragic.

I wonder what a game designed from the ground up to encourage losing would look like.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Carving out the Underground

That Patrick is definitely on to something (and perhaps on something :D). Punks are where its at. Punks are what's happening. Let's rebel against convention. Tear down anything we can. Graffiti anything we can't. Groupthink drains the vitality of life. Color outside the lines and make a difference. Many more cliches besides. To really feel it though, you gotta find and participate in vibrant community of like minded people. A few punks jamming in their basement is cool, a concert invigorates the soul. So where are the groups of game making punks, cranking out games to express themselves. Oh the punks are out there, Super Columbine RPG!, flow, and the rest of usual suspects, but why does it feel so scattered. It feels like they are justs blips of brillances, I want a whole damn guitar riff of crazy games to blow my friggin mind.

There are attempts in the right direction, but they all seem to fall short somehow. Slamdance might have worked but it pull a courted game because of fear of backlash, the exact opposite of what we need. Manifesto has got the right gusto but somehow it feels too commercial for what I'm talking. They're going to be important distributor and marketer, functioning like indie record label, but that's only part of the puzzle. I'm talking about a community that'll be cranking out game to piss people off that Manifesto will be clamoring to put on their page.

TIGSource is closest thing actually. I've looking at the Indiegamer forums, frankly they are just oo insular for my tastes. Actually, you what's closer, the community of game design + theory bloggers. The problem with them (us? Do I posses the hubris to count myself among them?? Alas no...) is that they don't produce enough. Lot's of great ideas but very little experiments. They don't need to be complete, 40 hour games. Hell, they don't even have to be polished casual games. Just games with a lot verve and ideas.

There was a website, called I think, where they wanted to make a game every week roughly. A bit extreme, but that's the kind of thing I thinking of. Creativity should be busting people at the seams just trying to get out. We shouldn't be afraid of putting up incomplete works. We probably should be against sharing some code or designs neither. Sharing is caring! Seriously, though, some collaboration would be cool.

There's more to this. Developing our own aesthetic that's our medium's, the way noir developed for film (yes I know noir was inspired by novels but inspiration is okay, the point is the the style as whole). One besides retro please. And yes, pixel art does not automatically make a style retro. Some other ideas, but hey, who likes long winded blog posts.

Not me.

Man, I really hoped to end this post on some sort of inspirational note, telling everybody to go out and break something or be an individual. I really mucked that up.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Philosophy Majors...

So I'm was studying with few other people in my Philosophy 297 class which is entitled, "The Metaphysics of Truth" and we worked our brains so much on some nuances of a particular theory of truth we all got really hungry. So we ordered pizza instead of wings (the best foods available) because every time we were about to decide wings, we spiraled into this debate about what is the "nature of wings," "what is it?" "what makes a wing, a wing?" "whether boneless wings are subtype of wings or something else closer to chicken fingers" were all things we discussed until a wave of hunger hit one us reminding us of the immediate problem of feeding ourselves. There's a moral here. I think its don't let philosophy majors make a fast decision.

Nothing about games here, just something funny that happened.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Fun for the audience

The other day I was wondering why more computer games, especially multiplayer games, don't have a spectator mode. It's implemented in a primitive way in some FPS games (HL, Unreal Tournament) but I wish to see it more developed and widespread. A problem I see with computer games is that they lack the community aspect of console games and any other type of game; board, card, sport, etc. To watch a FPS fight or a racing game bout, the would be observer must become a full participant, and there is only so much room. Of course, there is also the needed skill to have fun playing with your opponents. Crowding around the computer screen is a possible solution, but c'mon, computer screens are only so big.

I became aware of this particular problem at a LAN party, where there was a big screen setup so that everyone at the party, even those not participating could be simple onlookers. I was at once both excited and disappointed. I was glad that I got to watch and cheer my friends on, but disappointed with how crudely the tech was. I wanted to watch the fight, not simply cycle through the views the players. To be certain sometimes it was supremely satisfying, but other times I wanted to take control of the mouse, just so I could see. Wouldn't it be great if I was a newbie and I just wanted to watch some advanced players do what they do. Hell, I could chat it up with some of the others watching the game and have some running commentary going. I think this would be totally cool for racing and fighting games. You have that mimicry fun of cheering in the stands for your favorite, or all of them if you prefer. Honestly, I think the key here is to design the system so that spectators use up much less bandwidth then players.

But what about single player games? Consider this. Imagine playing first person rolepaying game on the computer. I know, I know, I've been using the first person perspective a lot in this post, but it so neatly illustrates the different perspectives of the player and the audience. You've got a cord running from the TV you have so nicely set up into the computer and your friends are watching you play this game. And this would not be just a clone of what you're seeing. First person perspectives tend to get disorienting after too long on a TV for some people. What they see is a more cinematic view. Cutting from various angles as the world calls for it. Possibly also a frequency setting so that you can go from something that's like a Kubrick tracking shot and/or John Ford landscape shot (long takes) to something that is more from an MTV style of editing. Uncluttered by all the UI elements that you as player need to properly play the game, your friends on the couch get to follow and cheer you on your various exploits. You've just turned a couch full of friends into a merry band of minstrels singing songs of how brave you are. And who doesn't like a band of ministrels? Maybe more some elements from sports TV and have stats and other various pieces of info displayed in a easy to read and digest manner on the screen on a part time basis. Sports know how to present their game on TV and get people excited to watch it; it might be wise to learn a little from them.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Slamming Slamdance

Of course the internet is abuzz with this Slamdance controversy. It is a pretty serious affair. I am a firm believer, not only in freedom of speech, but that every artist deserves a forum for their expression. Skipping over the discussion of "what is a artist?" and whether SCMRPG! is work of art, the fact that they were actively courted by Slamdance and then kicked out of the festival is just despicable. I cheered from my computer chair as other games withdrew in protest. It is well documented how the Comic Code strangled the comic book industry's voice for decades. It wouldn't be too wise to submit another medium to that prison.

So when I first read Jason Rohrer's The Death of Slamdance I disagreed. You have to stand by your principles for them to mean anything, I thought. It would be sign of weak morals if you backed out of your decision to back out. But I got to thinking that line of thought was far too stubborn to be right. It's a little too Dubya for me. I mean, what's there to gain from continuing to stay out of the competition? They've already garnered a ton of publicity for their actions, they've draw attention to the issue; they've accomplished all the goals that an action like that can plausibly have. To continue along that course would be to condemn what could otherwise prove beneficial to our mission*, the Slamdance Games Festival. We should open the avenues of discussion. People from both sides should talk about why this occured, what caused it, and what can be done to make sure this never happens again. If its regretful decision they should be able to talk honestly and candidly about why this decision occurred. If they can't, then we should probably rethink attending next year, but we should at least give them a chance to defend their position, no? They probably won't take it but whatever, it's only fair we at least give them the opportunity. Can't hurt, right?

* which is making awesome games of course!