Thursday, January 31, 2013

Proteus review, Waker update of sorts

And here's a review of Proteus that I just wrote for Beta Fish. I swear that I'll get back to critical game analysis and the Waker devlog sometime soon.

The main reason that I've been quiet about Waker  lately is that it's getting progressively harder to share screenshots and info on the game's progress without spoiling it. Development hasn't slowed down as much as I thought it would since the semester started - I'm stilling managing to find a couple of hours every other day or so to dedicate to the game.

Here's what I can share about the more recent changes I've made to the game: Giants! Explosions! Eye lasers! Commentary on eye lasers! Character back story! Revised dialogue! Improved scene of ruined ghost town in snow that now longer looks like ass! In-game camera that isn't centered on the main character square on! It's damn fine.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Kentucky Route Zero Review

I just wrote a review of the first act of the highly excellent Kentucky Route Zero for Beta Fish. Y'all can read it here.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Another Great Nghtmare Mode Article

Jonas Kyratzes wrote another great article, basically answering the question about how games have unique capabilities for storytelling, but using Photopia as the example instead of Shadow of the Colossus like I had. He does a better job of answering the question than I do, too.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Living for Yourself and Nobody Else: Why Skyrim Left me Cold

I was really, really confused when I had finished my playthrough of Skyrim. It was probably the most critically acclaimed game of 2011, everyone I knew who played it enjoyed the game, and there were many among them who absolutely swear by it. If you ask any gamer about Skyrim, they will tell you it is amazing. Starting the game for the first time, my expectations were high, but by the time I ended my quest, I found the entire experience to be unmoving and unrewarding. I felt totally ambivalent toward the game.

At first, I thought that I was just insane. The game's world is massive, detailed, and immersive. The amount of freedom given to the player is vast. The soundtrack is epic.The game is so gorgeous that I would often stop and remove the HUD just to take screenshots. Most of my friends who are enthusiastic about the game are people of good taste. Normally, I'd just leave it at a difference of taste and move on, but the more my Skyrim-enthused fans talk about the game, the more I found myself thinking about it, and I've since realized that I might not be entirely insane.

Now, an incredible effort was put into Skyrim's world-building. Not only is the literal, physical world massive and detailed, but great effort was put into creating the Tamriel, game world's, history and cultures. It may possibly be among the most well-developed fictional worlds of recent time.

This is an incredible waste, though, because I didn't give a shit about Tamriel or the people in it. I was never given a reason to.

Brilliant Article on Games, Social Identites, and Violence

Here's another great article on Nightmare Mode, this one about how typical game violence is so far removed from real world violence that attempts to satirize it are ineffective and how privileged groups own the means of production as pertaining to video games. It's brilliant.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Waker Update

First off, I am excited to announce that I've been in contact with the talented Jack Menhorn, and, as of right now, it looks as though he'll be producing audio for Waker! This should definitely speed up the production process a bit and add a lot of extra "umph!" to the game that would otherwise be lacking.

Second off, now that I'm fairly settled on the game's graphic style, I'm going to start posting less screenshots of the game world and more screenshots of dialogue snippets, since the game's writing is probably going to be the heart of it. There's more below the jump.

Redesigning Site, it'll look sort of ugly for a bit

I'm in the process of redesigning the blog, and blogger applies some changes automatically, it looks like. So, bear with me as it changes.

EDIT: Yeah, will definitely have to take another look at the color. Also need to replace that old echidna graphic with something that actually looks good. The site should be looking sexy by the weekend.

EDIT 2: Besides that echidna graphic, I am mostly satisfied with how it turned out. Excellent.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Oh, hey, modest popularity.

My upcoming game, Waker was just featured in Venus Patrol's Tigsource Devlog magazine (small box at the very bottom). I'm really not used to this sort of attention, so it's sort of weird. But I'll take it. :)

The Echidna Awards! (a delayed List of GOTYs 2012)

I'm currently bored out of my poor mind at Columbus International Airport and just realized that I never got around to making a list of the best games of 2012 like any respectable video game blog would do. Having little else to occupy my time, I figured I would take a few moments to remedy this travesty.

Six games make the cut this year. I decided to cheat and include two games from previous years that were only ported to PC this year or remastered this year because I love them so much and wanted an excuse to ramble about them some more, so forgive me. Also, only one non-indie game makes the list. The only mainstream commercial games from 2012 I played this year were Mass Effect 3 and Borderlands 2, the former of which made the list. Borderlands 2  had a few laughs and was sort of fun at the time, but overall it was a forgettable experience that didn't leave a lasting impression - at it's core, just another shooter. It also doesn't make the list because I'm a little salty that I wasted $50 on it.

In no particular order (although I save the best for last), my six Echidna Awards:

Friday, January 11, 2013

Nightmare Mode is the shit, just about

Here's a fantastic essay that Dylan Holmes wrote for Nightmare Mode about Dear Esther, accessibility in games, and the isolation that one feels as a gamer. It resonated with me on a couple of levels.

The first thing that resonated with me was his necessary defense of Dear Esther. It really irks me it when people dismiss certain forms of interactive entertainment entirely just because it doesn't fit the conventional definition - it's a pointless act of destruction, a cultural murder of sorts. Games like Dear Esther, The Path, and other games without traditional interactive elements or challenge-reward are dismissed by gamers and developers for not meeting their narrow definition of games, and they for some reason they feel as though they need to protest when such games are given media attention or nominated for Independent Game Festival awards.

Why do people feel so compelled to knock these games down? If you don't want to play them, just leave the poor things alone and let the rest of us enjoy them, please. All you're doing is prolonging the inevitable evolution of the medium into maturation. People are finally figuring out that we can do more things with computer code and motion graphics than raid dungeons and win deathmatches, and nothing's going to stop that. If you're content with traditional hack-n-slashes and first-person-shooters, don't worry- they aren't going anywhere, trust me. They're here to stay. So please, let us create and play our "notgames," "artgames", "interactive narratives," or whatever the hell they're being called these days in peace, and maybe if you keep an open mind and shed your expectations of what a game is you might find that you enjoy them. By excluding and dismissing experimental games, you're doing nobody a favor. The debates about whether games are art or what constitutes a game are nothing but outlets for pointless and self-destructive in-fighting. Every game has an audience; don't deny that audience what they desire.

The next thing that resonated was the isolation that he felt as a gamer. I'm certainly well familiar with this both as gamer and developer- I try to explain my passion to middle-aged non-gamers, and none of them really get it. Out of all of the people in that demographic, only one asked to see one of my games. So, I played through the first couple screens of Waker for him. As I made the avatar walk across the screen, he remarked that it reminded him of Super Mario Bros. It seemed like a strange comparison to me, but given his limited exposure, it was likely the only one he could make. Once I demonstrated a couple of conversations with non-player characters, I think he started to understand much more clearly what it is that I'm actually trying to do with the medium. After the demonstration, I talked about my story-first approach to games and my dissatisfaction with the OU Game Developer's Association. He remarked to my mother afterward, "hey, did you know that your son went to game clubs, and ended up quitting because it was too mainstream for him?" He ended up understanding better than most, but it was still a rudimentary understanding. Most non-gamers (and most gamers, for that matter) I talk to tend to have a "oh, well, that's nice" attitude to the conversation and don't really listen to what I try to say.

Then there's the alienation that I receive from mainstream gamers and conservative developers, but I will refrain from writing about that out of fear of using the phrase "alienation from the mainstream" one more time and fully descending into hipsterdom. Anyway, I honestly can't think of a good way to conclude this blog post or bring it all together, but the essay that Holmes wrote was refreshing and served as a great vehicle for me to get a few things off of my chest. Did I mention that I love Nightmare Mode? Because I do.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Recommendation - Embric of Wulfhammer's Castle. Also random Waker Screen

Embric of Wulfhammer's Castle is a free open-world RPG Maker 2003 game by Saint Bomber. It was originally released in 2010, but an enhanced version of the game came out this year. I had never gotten to the end of the original, so I revisited it and was pleasantly surprised.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Waker Update

Over the past month, I've written and implemented Act I of Waker - a quarter of the story. If I had stuck to my original plan, I've done enough work to have been 2/3 of the way done, but had I done that the game would be far too short. The first act of the game was originally took about 5 minutes to breeze through - and there's no way in hell that I've put all this work in for a mere 20 minute game! So, I've trying to expand the story and the game's world, and thankfully it's been easy to do in a meaningful way and I've managed to avoid mere filler.

Thursday, January 3, 2013


I had just finished the surreal and deeply disturbing RPG OFF, and it left a large impression on me. It's incredible. The art and music are great, the sound and writing are chilling, and the story is masterfully constructed. The game's combat is dull, but it's a small price to pay for such an experience. I will admit, it's probably not to everyone's taste, but it's easily among the best free RPGs I've played. If you're willing to endure a couple hundred random encounters to play though a dark and satisfying story, then you should give it a play .