Friday, September 19, 2014

Void Hero Blues and Toilets Meat and Drugs update

First, I'm going to start with the bad news. I'm formally putting Waker on hold until next year. For the next few months, I need to write half a thesis and finish The Void Hero Blues, and I'm aiming to get Toilets, Meat, and Drugs all done and out of the way. The sound guy for Waker, Ashton Morris, also has plenty on his plate to deal with. People ask me about Waker on a semi-regular basis, and I'm sorry that I haven't been able to resume development on it. Yet.
Good news is, Toilets, Meat, and Drugs: A Pink Monster Story, is nearing completion. I need to add a couple more endings, update the tutorial, update the story, and add music. The bulk of the work is done.

I went ahead and jacked up the speed of the player and all NPCs - it improves the game tons. Combat is oodles better than before, if you wanna play that way, and fleeing/evasion is now a more effective strategy than in the original.

The closer that TMD: PMS gets to completion, the less I have to say about it. When it comes to these projects, silence is often good.


Development on the Void Hero Blues is picking up. It's my first time working in (true) 3D since my teenage years, first time using Unity, and my first time coding in Javascript. Development is slow. Building the test level above, and simply getting the player to shoot and reload, has taken up the first couple months of development. But I'm finally moving on!

Here's an early model of the grunts you'll be fighting in the game. Designing the grunt was tricky - because the point of VHB is to humanize the victims of game violence, and perhaps re-sensitize players to game violence, I needed something with a human face that could be a subject of sympathy. However, I also needed something that could be mass produced. I compromised by settling for a character with an androgynous build and exposed, expressive mouth, but with their face mostly covered. However, I gave the bulbs on his visor "eyelids" so that they could remain expressive.

Not bad for my first serious attempt at modelling a humanoid, I think.

And here's the player's weapon! It kinda reminds me of Quake III's rocket launcher. I left a blade in there in case I have time to add a melee attack. The texture's still a work in progress - this thing definitely needs a bump map.

If you're looking for something to play in the meantime, why not check out Empty Chambers, Digital Toilet World, or How to Fly?

Monday, September 8, 2014

You Are Their Shield

Dear Gamer Gate,

I first wrote about your movement nine days ago.  In my original essay, I had written that, no matter how you look at it, Gamer Gate was never truly about journalistic integrity, and always about social/identity/gender politics. Recent developments involving the leaking of certain internet relay chat logs confirms my sentiment.

I want to talk about what the leaking of these logs means for the ethics of your movement, and what you can do to be a positive political force. I hope you can read this with an open mind, because I sincerely believe that the path I propose is best, both for your movement, and for the gaming community as a whole.

The Purpose of Gamer Gate

The majority of you organizing under Gamer Gate have done so for many reasons. Some of you feel that your identity as a gamer, and your favorite hobby, are under attack. Some of you feel that games journalism is corrupt, biased, and unfair. These are understandable concerns: nobody wants an exclusive gaming culture, nor a corrupt press. Disagreement stems from different perceptions of where we currently are, not from where we want to go. Please believe me when I say there genuinely is common ground.

However, many of us knew from the start, before the IRC logs got leaked, that regardless of what the movement had become, it had misogynistic roots. The first usage of the #gamergate tag was in response to the debunked Zoe Quinn "Scandal". The rally for journalistic integrity didn't come along until later.

A few days back, Quinn revealed screenshots of some 4chan IRC channels  and they pretty clearly indicated that Gamer Gate was created as a vehicle for harassment. Besides containing some undeniably hateful, misogynistic rhetoric, the IRC record very clearly revealed that #notyourshield and the cause of "journalistic integrity" were smokescreens for the movement's real purpose: to attack women, including Quinn, and so called "social justice warriors." If you don't believe me, please read it yourself.

As you're probably aware, many critics accused Quinn of faking the screencaps, or cherry picking specific examples to unfairly condemn the movement. In response, they revealed the entire, actual #burgersandfries IRC chat log as "proof" that Quinn's selections weren't representative of the whole, thinking no one would read it. Someone read it.

Quinn's screencaps have now been confirmed as representative of the entire #burgersandfries IRC. If you haven't seen it for yourself, do it. This is the indisputable truth of your movement. If you didn't know, you need to.

Maybe you still don't see Gamer Gate as inherently hateful. Maybe you think your own values, your own actions, justify your cause, and justify your involvement. Maybe you think that you're turning Gamer Gate into a force for good.

The Impact of Gamer Gate

But can we please consider the real effects of Gamer Gate so far? Countless women in the industry have been harassed and threatened as a direct result of this movement. Four freelance female writers have left the industry because Gamer Gate. If this is not the result of a misogynistic movement, I don't know what is.

I also hear that certain gaming review sites are feeling financial pressure as a result of Gamer Gate. I do not know if this is a rumor, but if it is true, it's troubling.

While innocent people are experiencing pain, fearing for their well-being, and losing their livelihood, corruption in gaming journalism, both real and imagined, has gone unchecked. No constructive solution has been proposed or adopted. Whatever charges you're trying to file simply have no legal merit. Your movement, so far, has only had a destructive effect, and in the case of the harassment, an irrefutably misogynistic one. For a movement that's supposedly dedicated expanding the number of voices in games media, the reality is that Gamer Gate has only silenced them.

Yes, the harassment is done by a minority of individuals in your movement. However, your movement is what makes this organized harassment possible. If these terrible people acted on their own, the whole gaming community would descend upon them in an instant. But, because of this movement, the people experiencing harassment are now your political enemy, and the harassers, like it or not, are your allies. When we call out the harassment, instead of helping us, all you do is shrug. You say "we don't endorse their behavior, but they don't represent the majority of the movement, and we can't control them." What would have been isolated incidents of harassment are now masked as political activism. Because of this, they are harder to isolate, criticize, and unite against. For the time being, this is their movement, not yours, and your participation endorses their behavior.

You are their shield.

If you don't organize, define clear goals, and pursue them through constructive means, you are not only going to fail to realize your goals, but you're going to hurt a lot of people along the way.

Responsible and Ethical Advocacy

If you still want to advocate for integrity in gaming journalism, or defend gamer identity, I won't ask you to stop. I believe advocacy for these issues is not inherently unethical. However, if you're against online harassment, as most of you say you are, there are primarily two ways to continue your advocacy.

  1. Organize your movement. Find leadership. Define clear goals for Gamer Gate. Pursue those goals in a non-destructive manner. If you're really going to reclaim the movement for your own purpose, you need to commit to it. You are responsible for your movement, so act like it.
  2. Find another avenue for your frustration, and please abandon Gamer Gate.

Yes, these options are inconvenient. The first one will require coordinated effort, and is likely unrealistic. The second one will lose you momentum for your cause, if not terminate it all together. In the short term, either of these options will put you at a tactical disadvantage. I understand this.

Tough shit.

When your political movement is based out of hatred, you don't have the option of letting it continue as is. It's unethical. It benefits the assholes who created the movement. It's disrespectful to everyone who has been a target of the hatred. It's simply the wrong thing to do.

You have probably guessed by now that I don't believe that significant corruption in gaming journalism exists, as Gamer Gate defines it. I will openly admit this. If I'm right, then there's no harm done by adopting my advice, as your movement was doomed to begin with.

But if I'm wrong? Do you know how much more effective your movement would be if you had clear leadership and centralized strategy? Do you know how much better you'd be able to challenge corruption? Do you know how much more credible you would be if you collectively condemned Gamer Gate's roots and started a separate movement?

I'm not writing this to destroy your movement. I'm writing this because I don't want to see anyone else get hurt, and neither should you. I ask you: stop being a shield for harassment, pursue your agenda through other means, and make the world a better place, as you set out to do. It's the right thing to do.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Toilets, Meat, and Drugs Update

 Alright, enough talking about politics for a while. Here's an update of Toilets, Meat, and Drugs.
I've recently figured out what the game really is about: a bizarre remix of stereotypical masculine and feminine styles, not only in terms of aesthetics, but in terms of game mechanics. While the combination of ugly monster and pink cutie aesthetics has been obvious for a while now, the combination of play styles has not. For example, if you want, you can play the game as your typical violent masculine power fantasy and kill everything. But the game's charming (or is it flirting?) and fleeing mechanics pose unusual alternatives to the traditional masculine play style, and don't only supplement the violent experience, but with adjustments I've made to the game, can now totally replace it. Instead of playing as a lethal force of dominance, you can play as a force of love, or as a victim of violence.

And, regardless of which path you choose, you still need to feed your character, take them to the toilet, and maintain their health. The game deliberately includes a return to the (usually) mundane, but relevant experiences, but it reminds us that those seemingly mundane needs can sometimes prompt memorable experiences.

I've always been disappointed by many open world games in that they don't let the player decide whether or not they'll be a killer, but rather what sort of killer they'll be. Toilets, Meat, and Drugs is a challenge to that. It's as though a mainstream shooter, an art game, and a social justice game got together and somehow made a super sexy baby. It's all of these games at once, or none of these games at once. It depends on how you play.

This means that it's either the sort of game that'll be enjoyed by everyone, or hated by everyone. I don't care. It's still a super sexy baby to me.

Now that I've realized that, I feel a lot better about making it. What started out as a Digimon World fan game (lame) has become something I feel proud of.

Now, here's some more technical notes:
  • The final game will be renamed Toilets, Meat, and Drugs: A Pink Monster Story. I figured that the title should be at least somewhat reflective of the actual game.
  • Expect a release in 1-2 months. I'm almost done improving the game's mechanics (I just threw in a reputation system that actually adds some depth to the previously underwhelming charm system). I just need to finish with the new levels, re-implement the story, and add music. 
  • Expect actual NPCs that can talk to you.
  • The new game world is nearly 3x the size of the old one. Complete playthroughs  of the game should take about 1-3 hours. For a game made by one person in a couple of months, I think this is pretty good! 

Just a pair of reminders of how gosh-darned complicated this game is.