Game talkGamemakingA vision exercise

 Posted by (Visited 2457 times)  Game talk, Gamemaking  Tagged with:
Jan 152014
 
…the real work is the film, and the tasks that go into the completed film are all parts of the process. To put it bluntly, as long as the film is made, it doesn’t matter what method was used…
- Hayao Miyazaki

A lot of times, we don’t quite know what the game we are actually making is. It doesn’t matter whether we’re working by ourselves or with a team… the problem can still arise. Maybe we have a collection of features we think we want. Or we have requirements from managers or money people. We perhaps have an IP license in the mix. We have a target market. We have a deep burning desire to express something, something personal or something aesthetic or something lofty.

For me, formalizing tools like this is like tying string around a finger. It’s to help me remember.

A lot of time is often lost to working madly on pieces of all this, without knowing what the core points of what we are making actually are. If you have all the time in the world, this can be just fine — after a while, you start cutting back things you put in originally, as the heart of what you are making becomes clearer.

In my experience, teams that can articulate the soul of the game are more likely to be successful than those who aren’t; and teams that have not yet jelled or that are new to gamemaking are the ones least likely to know their game’s soul.

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MusicThe Sunday Song: The Ballad of Chris and Chris

 Posted by (Visited 1716 times)  Music  Tagged with:
Jan 122014
 

I first got the storyline of this song stuck in my head maybe eight yearimages ago. But I didn’t have music for it, and that meant I also couldn’t write it down fitting a melody.

I finally shaped it into a lyric right around the end of 2012, when the guitar part came to me in a noodling session. It was thanks to a chord progression that is somewhat unusual for me (I rarely go from the I to the V, I find), though set in my go-to key of D. I pulled out the bass line that made the progression work, and doubled it on the mandolin, and shaped the melody around it. Add a dash of strings, and recorded a vocal (if I recall, I had a cold at the time… but ended up liking the tentative quality it gave) and here it is. I figured, it’s been a year, I should let it out into the world.

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Lyrics, chords, and similar details after the break. Continue reading »

Game talkReadingGuardian picks Six Gaming Books

 Posted by (Visited 2177 times)  Game talk, Reading  Tagged with: ,
Jan 122014
 

At #2:

Penned by veteran games designer Raph Koster, A Theory of Fun was written 10 years ago, a long time considering the rapid pace of advance for its subject matter. And yet the book remains a key games design text that is still in print and highly relevant. While it was conceived to help games designers, it will be fascinating and informative for anybody involved in any field of design, or those curious about, well, harnessing the power of fun …

– Six of the best gaming books | Life and style | The Observer

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Game talkHow I analyze a game

 Posted by (Visited 4567 times)  Game talk  Tagged with: , ,
Jan 062014
 

The first thing I do is set aside my experience. It is only mildly useful, a single data point, when everyone’s experience is subjective. Oh, I’d like to think it is in some ways more valuable than that of a typical player. After all, I have a very specific set of experiences to bring to bear. But in practice, it probably makes my subjective experience well-informed, but therefore less than helpful.

Looking at the experience is like seeing the top of a mountain without knowing about tectonic plates.

Looking at the experience is like seeing the top of a mountain without knowing about tectonic plates. I use that analogy because the typical analogy is that of seeing only the tip of an iceberg. But an iceberg is substantially similar above and below the ground. Sure, there is a lot hidden under the waterline, but it’s not different in nature. When we look around the world, Continental-continental_convergence_Fig21contcontwhat we see, what we experience, is powerfully shaped by things that we do not see. Without understanding fault lines, volcanic activity, and all the rest, we won’t come to understand why a chain of mountains is where it is, and why it takes one form versus another.

That’s why I start with the stuff “under” the experience. Mechanics, inputs and processes, rules and tokens and actions. I strip away the surface until Gone Home is a game about flipping over cards on a desk to see what is underneath them. Papers, Please is a Spot-The-Difference game. The Stanley Parable is a choose-your-own-adventure where some of the options are written in invisible ink. Continue reading »

Game talkSelf-promotion for game developers

 Posted by (Visited 3635 times)  Game talk
Jan 022014
 

I’m writing this for Mattie Brice, who was just listed as one of Polygon’s 50 game newsmakers of the year.

Sometimes the universe does drop your dreams and heartfelt desires in your lap. But usually you have to at least say please, and most of the time you have to fight for them.

We had a brief Twitter exchange after I offered congratulations, in which she mentioned that she didn’t know she could put this on a CV, and that she “know[s] nothing of self-promotion.” I have certainly never been accused of that, so this is a rehash of stuff I have written elsewhere and elsewhen.

To be clear, this post is not about marketing your games. It is about marketing yourself, and not even that, but about finding your professional place within the industry.

Why self-promote?

The fact is that the world is a) crowded and full of distractions b) competitive and full of other people who do what you do. Getting noticed is hard. Staying noticed is also hard. You can be utterly amazing and people can simply not know. You can be utterly amazing and people can simply forget. The result, simply put, is that without self-promotion you won’t get to do all the things you want to do. Yes, sometimes the universe does drop your dreams and heartfelt desires in your lap. But usually you have to at least say please, and most of the time you have to fight for them. Continue reading »

Game talkYear in Review

 Posted by (Visited 3047 times)  Game talk
Dec 312013
 

CASlide6I didn’t write that much on the blog this year. It has had the lowest traffic in years, as a result. I only know this because I actually bothered to go look at the stats, for the first time in ages. I used to track this stuff every month, adding it into a big spreadsheet, so I could keep track of what people wanted to read about. Of course, I was also spending an hour a day or more writing stuff here, back then.

With the big blog revamp, it occurred to me to do an oldschool “this is what happened on the blog this year” post like I used to. So… here we go:

The most popular posts I wrote this year:

  1. On getting criticism:
    A post I wrote about how to deal with inbound criticism of your work. This was the most read thing on the site all year, and has popped up in all sorts of incongruous places; I’ve found it reprinted in Reddits about fitness or about stand-up comedy, in countless game forums, and on websites for self-published writers, artists, and so on. Continue reading »

ArtArt section updated

 Posted by (Visited 1614 times)  Art  Tagged with:
Dec 292013
 

The gradual conversion of the old site into the new format continues. Old links out there still point to old pages, since I haven’t put any redirects in. But the new pages are appearing, and if you are mostly hitting the front page of the site, the menu choices will start pointing to the new pages rather than the old. Don’t worry, I won’t switch over the top pages until all the lower pages are in place!

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Open threadMajor blog overhaul

 Posted by (Visited 1769 times)  Open thread  Tagged with:
Dec 182013
 

biglogoYou may have noticed that the site looks a little different today! It has seen a major overhaul — years of hacks in files have been overwritten by a modern customizable theme (Suffusion).

The goals were

  • Get it looking nicer, because, damn, it was dated. I usually overhaul it every few years, and it’s been overdue.
  • Get it faster and more responsive, thanks to streamlining all the cruft away. We’ll see. The database for the blog is, by the way, around 5GB of data. Yeesh. So it may be that getting it faster will require major DB surgery.
  • Cut away some of the stuff that was outright obsolete, like the links list (I’ll have to create a new one, sorry for anyone I wiped out!)
  • Give better and faster access to frequently desired material. This is being done with the nav bar up at the top. You’ll notice that this still takes you to the old site’s static pages (static pages that now date back to 1998 in some cases). Over time I expect to migrate all this into WordPress proper and redirect all the old links.
  • I also plan to add new stuff now. Like, some gallery pages for the games I have worked on. Seems silly to be a game designer with a game design site and not have a portfolio page… There’s also all the books that I have had chapters in, I ought to have those up here too. Maybe Slideshare widgets for all the presentations.

Among other things, the site is now fully responsive, so it shouldn’t take pinching and zooming to read it on a smartphone anymore. I swapped out the tag cloud widget, and the translator widget too. The old translator actually cached all the pages; this one just sends you off to Google Translate to do it yourself, so that should save a lot of space.

There are still many things that I have to sort out: whether to keep the frames on images, the weird bottom edge of the nav bar, what to do about comments (I like having the Twitter comments show up seamlessly, but I don’t think I like the reverse chronological order they show up in!), how to handle the older parts of the site, the bits of stuff left over like the blue highlighting of my comments that no longer matches the theme, the way drop caps are messing up when there’s an image in the top left, the bad headers on the right side…

Of course, feedback is welcome! Let me know what you think of stuff like the color scheme, the layout, and so on.

Game talkImaginary Realities is back!

 Posted by (Visited 1925 times)  Game talk  Tagged with: , ,
Dec 172013
 

And here’s the link to Imaginary Realities vol 5 issue 1!

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For those who don’t know, Imaginary Realities is the mud-related journal originally published by David Bennett. It disappeared way back in 2001, but Richard Tew has resurrected it. I’ve already glanced through the first new set of articles, and there’s some interesting stuff there for both MUD devs and non-mudders, I think.

All the original issues are mirrored, so if you want to look at the stuff that ran from ’98 to ’01, it’s there too!

 

Game talkWritingTouring the print edition of Theory of Fun

 Posted by (Visited 4681 times)  Game talk, Writing  Tagged with:
Dec 052013
 

The print edition is out! Yay! Hopefully I get author’s copies tomorrow.

In celebration, I thought I’d share some images of what it looks like now. I really couldn’t be happier with how it turned out. All glossy and hefty, it feels very substantial and classy. And I have trouble going back to look at the black and white now, having grown used to color everywhere. Read on for some before-and-afters on the imagery, some looks at the text additions, and how I tackled the issue of revising away some of the sexism in the cartoons!

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The first thing, of course, is the layout. Yes, it’s in a portrait layout now, instead of the horizontal format. Not only will it fit better on shelves, but it also means that the book shouldn’t fall out of stock as much, because we selected this layout because we can  use Print On Demand to constantly keep hard copies available. Before, copies had to be manually ordered.

Ironically, the actual size of the book is almost exactly the same. The new edition is actually just slightly larger.

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