Monday, March 17, 2008

Unnamed project

That's a lie. My project does have a name, but I'm trying to keep it off the web, as it's still very much in the design stage. I mentioned this, but I am trying to work on game design daily, because persistence is the key to success. Right? I love simple ideas like that and all the exceptions they allow.

But onto the project. Tonight, since I must get up early, I am combining my blog with my game design thoughts and musings for the night. The questions I have to ask as I'm constructing this series of game vignettes is: what do I want the player to experience? What is my goal for making this game? Do I want the purpose to be on an individual level? What should the player feel after playing? Do I even want to use the term that the person "plays" the vignettes?

The potential I see within games and the particular area that fascinates me the most is the idea of simulation, specifically an organic simulation, such as Will Wright's godly game Spore set to arrive in a few months. I have not really gotten into playing an MMO for the simple fact that I want my environment to be authentic. I'll admit that I'm looking into Lord Of The Rings Online, as I heard it was a great game for entering the environments, but in general, the environment within an MMO is set by the players, and thus just another social world. The possibilities that I see revolve around creating entirely new simulated systems and placing the player within. How does a player react to the world around them depending on how that world lives? MMOs are safe social environments, they're about the interaction with other humans.

But my vignettes, I've realized, along with the games that I'm either most interested in or most interested in making, create simulated worlds. Set the starting conditions, and let artificial life have its go. Indeed, one of my games will be a derivative of pac-man and part of the reason for that is that pac-man is one of the earliest game biology simulators. It puts the player into an environment with 3 hostile creatures that will navigate terrain to eat the player, meanwhile the player has to consume all the food (white bread tablets?) to survive until the next environment. And maybe I'm putting Pac-Man on too high a pedestal, but that simple game still is one of the most renowned "video games" of all time and I would argue it is because it created a simple simulation system with varying environments to change the challenge. And so, in addition to attempting to create a variation on that, I'm working on multiple other knock-offs of other games, all the while trying to make it worth my while. Hopefully my imitation will pay eventually.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Surfing my music

Well, I've discovered the game that everyone else is discovering via Steam, and that game is Audiosurf. It would seem that I've become most enamored with 5-minute games of late with my limited free time, and Audiosurf is the perfect game, because it's a game that makes music interactive. I am a radio dj on my college station, wrbb (, Sunday nights 9-11pm EST ::wink wink:: ), and part of the reason I volunteer my time 2 hours a week to working at the station is that I love the depths of the music world. There are so many genres and so many amazing pieces of music that I can't help but enjoy playing music for others.

Meanwhile, Audiosurf allows me a new way of interacting with music by building a simple Puzzlequest/Guitar Hero game on top of any music you have on your computer. It analyzes your music and constructs a 3 or 5 lane track with various blocks spread out over the length of your song and placed on beats. You must collect the blocks into groups. The thing that makes the game great is that it gives you a real sense of the flow of your music, from the tempo changing how fast your character moves to the beats determining the frequency of collectible blocks. Also it gives a multitude of play styles available through the choice of avatars, which interact with the track in different ways or affect the difficulty of the track. I've been playing on the simplest mode (albeit at medium difficulty) and the game has allowed me to explore my music. It's a fun diversion for random times and further destroys the little amounts of free time I still have.

So don't play Audiosurf unless you're in the mood for only listening and experiencing music. It's great for that, but an evil timesink otherwise.

Meanwhile I'm trying to work on game-design half an hour a day no matter my other tasks, because I need to start really getting better at this stuff, and only with persistence can I complete my goals. Struggle onward, readers, fight through. And rest once in a while, that's the other thing I gotta work on...

-the musater

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Cell-phone waist clips and Fez

What do you think about people when you see that they're wearing their cell-phone on a waist clip? I think nerd, and I wonder if the person wearing said clip thinks nerd? There is something about wearing a utilitarian item in view that makes people look like they want to be known for what they do. And so you're either a sandwich-board crazy or you're a nerd. Well, I guess you also have policeman with their belts, and then there are construction workers with their tools. But nerds break the boundaries, because they continue to exist as such beyond their working hours. Even the sandwich-board guy probably doesn't wear his hellfire filled piece of plywood around during all of his waking hours. I wonder if he has some sort of carrying case for it.

Has anyone ever known they look cool when they have something clipped to the side of their clothing? I often forget to take my nametag off after meetings/events and realize a couple hours later while riding public transportation. I know right then I'm not cool. I also will check my hair in the windows of the subway at that moment to check for double-humiliation. I guess my point is that I found recently the waist clip that came with my cell-phone and I laughed at its existence. I realize and want to acknowledge that some will wear the clip for a set period of time and with the utilitarian view in mind. I just want to be there for the person that found that clip and couldn't wait to try it it.

And how many people wear fezzes? Is that a common thing elsewhere? Where? The reason I bring up fezzes is that I was recently shown a game called Fez that looks brilliant. In the vein of Paper Mario (which I have not played but seen), this game takes a 3d world and brings a 2d element to it. But one of the coolest interpretations I've ever seen. The basic task I saw was to ascend from one floating platform to the next (woop-de-doo, every platformer ever...) in a 3d world. However, when you switch views, you go into a 2d-view and the z-depth is no longer relevant. So if something is almost directly North of you by a couple hundred feet , go into the North-South view, and suddenly the North-South distance is taken out of the picture! Only East-West and up-down matter, the other axis is negated as it becomes a standard 2d sidescroller. And then once you've gotten to the new platform, go back to 3d. Awesome. Check it out, people, check it out.