Friday, 14 March 2008

A course production experiment?

So these people (I think out of the OU - of which I suppose I am a graduate having completed my PGCHE with them) are braver than me -- a course on games developing daily online that includes adaptations of the GameMaker tutorials. So far both the basic functional stuff about the drag 'n drop menus in GM and the more game studies angles are both covered. I have nudged my students interested in protyping and making games (as opposed to getting to grips with Maya or focusing on some other area of asset production) in their direction, and it will be interesting watching it unfold.

Thursday, 13 March 2008

Proof that machine-gunning your own brain is popular with gamers...

OK, so this is something of a statistical anomaly (after 5 ratings and only 47 plays), but Brain in a Jar certainly gets a generally positive response, especially after I followed the advice of 2DCube and switched the controls to keyboard.

Monday, 10 March 2008

Ooops, I forgot

Yep, it is called Brain in a Jar. And populating the highscore table with high scoring brains was fun.

The game I wasn't going to make

I don’t make games with guns in them (too easy a design decision…). I don’t have loud bangs or explosions in the games I do make. I try and avoid easy sci fi as an aesthetic. I don’t make games any more in any case, as I am too busy. So this is the game I really didn’t make over the weekend when I should have been doing something else. 36 hours, but it has some nice touches, I think. A little influenced by the comments on suicide games on Jesper Juul’s blog and by the GM game Karoshi, this is yet another attempt at doing something interesting with deferred control.

The mute button is in the bottom left corner…

Available here and here.

Friday, 7 March 2008


I have a huge amount of respect for this guy and his work (which is required reading on the degree) and it is interesting that he seems to share some reservations about Wikipedia. This one is a note for my students, after our discussions of a couple of weeks ago.

Thursday, 6 March 2008

Experiments in Games Design

I have said it before, but it is worth reiterating: I am not a game designer, and am not a wannabe game designer. I am, however, interested in the nuts and bolts of making games, and in the whole process of making rewarding interaction happen in games, and the last year has been an interesting exercise in catch up as I have used some pretty basic middleware to start making little scratchy game prototypes. It all harks back to the days when I was fiddling with BASIC on the ZX Spectrum, and was buried under RPG rulebooks, 1/300th microtanks, and Avalon Hill boxes. The presentation I gave on Tuesday was a real reminder that I have other stuff to do, and I have a monograph in my head that needs to get itself on paper, so I figure I will have to shelve my little hobbyist attempts at game making for a while.

Before I put everything away and get onto the serious business of writing, however, I thought I would leave a record of what I thought I was doing with these little games.

Penguins and Polar Bears was all about deferred control – seeing if there was any satisfaction in forcing a bifurcation between looking and doing that meant the visual attention was split. It is a shame that it doesn’t completely work – the randomness of the reset renders it a non-game after a while, but it verges on the successful in a way that really frustrates. So near and yet so far. As a system it appeals to me – it has a balance and symetry that I find pleasing. Perhaps one day I will have the eureka moment I need to solve the gameplay problem.

SCMIV was more of the same, although it taught me more about my ignorance of a bit of PC gaming (the venerable Sokoban) than anything else. Another attempt at splitting control and effect. It is far more successful as a game, however, and tends to get mixed reviews erring more on the positive than the negative. I have an almost finished sequel that will probably never see the light of day that adds an anti-match 3 mechanic (three aligned blocks of the same type leads to meltdown) and so ratchets up the sarcasm.

Particle Tango was another experiment in taking ontrol away from any avatar and externalising it. I was incredibly busy when I made it, and yet wanted to nail the basic mechanic, so it is more an indicator of possibility than a fully polished game, but I think the setup has legs. This then got a second treatment in Flight of the Snowman, which took the control scheme and dumped it into a single wrapped screen environment (which is moderately successful again), but I have a version in my minds eye that is much closer to a platform/exploration game that would really work. Having seen the pulling on stars that happens in Super Mario Galaxy I am even more convinced that there is something there I could expand on. In that other life I occasionally consider where I have an independent income and no kids. Sort of a geeky version of the Woolfian room of one’s own.

Shush was a success. It did everything I wanted it to do. A lot of people find it a little too easy, but I really like the loop of interaction, the basic premise, and what I think is an original control methodology that works. It is the only thing that has made me want to grapple with Actionscript and get myself a wider audience. Add some decent audio and it could hold its own, I think, against a fair few of the more casual freeware games out there.

So Hail Caesar! Is a bit of a swansong. It answers a brief I give my students every year, so it will be useful as a tool in class. It is fairly original, and I like its brutal modelling of a simplified version of Roman political understanding. It was made with my 7 year old daughter’s input throughout (the audio screams were only added afterwards, so it remained pretty anodyne) and was a nice exercise we went through together (one thing I will continue to do is make little games with her in GameMaker – her artwork snapped on my phone camera, dropped into the game space and quickly assigned behaviours and we have little minigames up in minutes).

Things learned? I have no instinctive feel for faking Z depth in 2D. I am weirdly wedded to surfaces and left/right up/down thinking. Good ideas often change radically in the process of making. I can’t really draw.

And that I am too busy to make games.

Monday, 3 March 2008

Less WIP

Ah, living and working in Caerleon (with its own little ampitheatre and the National Legionary Museum barely a pilum's throw away) it is hard to avoid the Romans.Hopefully this will get it out of my system.

Sort of Where's Wally mixed up with Find Mii from Wii Play. Available here as PC download.

I wonder if this is just a way of distracting myself from the paper I am due to deliver tomorrow?