1. 3 in Three

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    Our world is so much less magical than I wanted it to be. Like many teenage weirdos, I spent my adolescence grasping at the usual straws in hopes of uncovering one last portal to an adventurous, hidden, cooler world: tarot cards, auras, Wiccan girlfriends. All to no avail.

    I want to tell you about a game called 3 in Three. It’s a puzzle game, not in the Free-To-Play, Bejewelled sense, or the Wander-And-Wonder, Myst sense, but the Mind-Wracking Eleventh Hour sense. That’s the book by Graeme Base, by the way, not the CD-ROM. 3 in Three was set in a world inside a computer, and follows the exploits of an adventurous digit, 3, and her efforts to explore and restore a virus-laden Macintosh.

    Released in 1989, the development of 3 in Three would have been in parallel with the Cyberpunk movement in science fiction literature (Bruce Sterling’s influential short story collection, Mirrorshades, arrived in 1986, while Neal Stephenson’s novel Snow Crash debuted in 1992). Despite predating Cyberpunk’s transition to film, 3 in Three’s visuals were full of the black and neon, geometric landscapes that would form early “cyberspace.”

    Cyberpunk provided my teenage self with one last vector for arcane mysticism: computers. Sexy boxes of daemons and light, operated by console cowboy-wizards, tools for both self-enlightenment and world domination.

    Can there be a less Cyberpunk-toned game about the world inside a computer than 3 in Three? Our heroine, 3, is cast as the only sane woman in a world gone mad. In working to restore the system via a series of logic puzzles, hints are provided via running commentary from 3, who displays the put upon straight-man wit of Adam Scott’s character Ben Wyatt on Parks & Recreation. Gone are noir’s shadow, and the techno-shaman’s fetish.

    3 in Three tames the wilds of cyberspace with the order of a spreadsheet. It reminds us that every sorcerous dragonslayer eventually winds up a practical magician, whether that means controlling the elements to avert village droughts, or exploiting fundamental physical forces in a controlled reaction to power a closet light bulb.

    I eventually gave up my doomed rebellion against mundane reality. Perhaps I finally started to see that there were things about the world that dedicated weirdos could change without magic. Or I discovered that there was no Wiccan girlfriend who could transform my world better than I could transform myself?

    3 in Three is free these days, but you’ll need either a working computer from the 90’s, or an emulator. The designer, Cliff Johnson, has instructions for getting it running on Mac and Windows.

     
  2. Nordic Larp Talks 2013

    It’s Knutepunkt time in the Nordic countries, and that means it’s time once again for the Nordic Larp Talks. If you’re interested in game design or experience design, you really should spend the hour and thirty minutes it takes to watch the whole thing.

    However, given some of the recent conversations that have been going on in the American game development community lately, I wanted to highlight a couple of the presentations in particular.

    What Does Nordic Larp Mean?

    Jaakko Stenros, game researcher at the Game Research Lab at the University of Tampere, Finland, was given the challenge of writing a definition of Nordic Larp that was 50 words or less. He talks about the problem of definitions, but why they still matter anyway. This is going to be of interest to anyone who’s been following the recent “formalism” debates within the American gamedev community.

    Three Ways to Make Games More Inclusive

    Lars Nerback of the Swedish edu-larp company LajvVerkstaden creates larps that are usually played by children or employees who, unlike in recreational larps, did not individually seek out the experience. As a result he has to create scenarios and narratives that welcome participants regardless of their ages, genders, ethnicities, orientations, religions, or disabilities. In this short presentation, he shares anecdotes and lessons learned that may be of use to the broader larpwright community.

    If you’re interested in representation issues within game development, it’s also worth noting that more than half of the presenters at the Nordic Larp Talks are women, and that this is not unusual.

    You might also be interested in this year’s Knutepunkt book, which has expanded versions of most of these talks, plus a lot of other information, and is available as a free pdf from the Knutepunkt site.

     
  3. Slave Of God

    I want to tell you about this game called Slave Of God. It’s by a guy named Stephen Lavelle who also made the puzzle game English Country Tune. He’s the kind of guy who will make a game and just call it whatever.

    Slave Of God is the sort of game that makes some people ask “is that even a game?” which usually just means that it’s reminiscent of Myst, which was definitely a game, but was also incredibly commercially successful, and that sort of tacit popular approval gives you a lot of leeway.

    When you finally leave school and head out into the world of adulthood, one of the difficult things you have to learn is how to make friends when there’s not a scheduling computer throwing you into a room of strangers with similar interests every few months. I left school and fell directly into the world of AAA console game development at Electronic Arts, which left me with no free time, just outside of San Francisco, where I knew no one, so it took me nearly a year to figure out that I needed to own my own social life. I had been getting more into hip-hop recently, so I decided to go clubbing.

    Every weekend, I would take the N train all the way from the Outer Sunset where I lived to Milk, a small hip-hop club notable for being directly across the street from what had once been a bowling alley, but is now Amoeba Records, which if you’re unfamiliar, is one of the best record stores in the country. Once there, I would stand awkwardly in a room of strangers who all seemed to have come in groups (I always went alone, since I didn’t know anyone to bring with me). Saying nothing, I would wait until the music got too loud to talk to any of them, drink a vodka Red Bull, and dance by myself until close.

    I did this every weekend for a year. The music was cool (Diplo and Prince Paul came through regularly, which was awesome), but I wasn’t solving my fundamental loneliness problem. Today I still have very mixed feelings about the whole thing. I legitimately enjoyed the dancing, but it was also an incredibly isolating experience to be around those other dancing people, but feeling like I couldn’t interact with any of them.

    Slave of God is like that, but it’s free, which is a lot better than a $10 cover ($7 before 10pm).

     
  4. Crystallon Design Notebook

     
  5. Thoughts On Riot

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    Some Italian developers have gone to crowdfunding site IndieGoGo to ask for funds to make a game about riots. And to bite Sword & Sworcery’s art style, apparently.

    I think this is really fantastic, and seeing this coming out of Italy, which is itself undergoing some popular civic upheaval right now, is really exciting. Part of their pitch reads, “Living in a country drowning in debt and corruption, it is practically impossible for Team ‘Riot’ to find way to fund the project in Italy and we are therefore asking for your help.” (emphasis theirs)

    I have some reservations about whether they have any idea what their core mechanics are. I also worry that their dedication to representing “the protest experience” by “attempting to depict both sides of the fight without bias, only objectivity and facts,” may not lead to the most compelling gameplay, even if it might be an interesting approach to journalism.

    The fact is that you’re making a game about civilians getting their skulls cracked by armed representatives of the state. In real life, protesters “winning” an encounter after it turns violent is extremely rare. In the end, The Man almost always has the bigger weapons. If the public gains any benefit from a riot, it’s usually in the aftermath, when governments react to public outcry over cracked skulls. This just isn’t how popular strategy games work, so in order to succeed at their stated mission, Team “Riot” may be forced to make some pretty fundamental gameplay innovations, lest they be reduced to a dismissible fantasy that overlooks the reality of power imbalances on the street, or a game where The Man always wins.

    Anyway.

    Back when I went to Zuccotti Park during the Occupy Wall Street protests, I started thinking about how you could adapt the experience of protests and riots into game mechanics. A bit of research revealed that there have been a handful of tabletop strategy and war games that take protest as a model.

    Results of said research are after the jump.

    Read More

     
  6. We’ll be there along with 5 other games that are being made locally. Tickets are $10, but beer & pizza are provided. Come say hi!

     
  7. image: Download

    Babycastles.com redesign is up!

    Babycastles.com redesign is up!

     
  8. Plays: 249

    gamejam:

    Margaret’s excellent track for the Crystallon soundtrack. Can’t wait to hear it in action.

    Things got pretty harried at the game jam, so we didn’t share as many assets as some of the other groups, but here’s a little something Meg made for Crystallon’s background music.

     
  9. Somehow, despite having never used C# or the Play Station Mobile SDK before the start of the IndieCade East gamejam, I managed to help my teammates get our game, Crystallon, into the semi-finals, the results of which will be revealed at GDC at the end of March.

    Now I have 4 weeks to add a bunch of features, fix all the crash bugs, AND OH YEAH, MAKE THE WHOLE THING RUN ON THE PSVITA.

    If I manage to split my time between coding and crying in the shower, I might just pull this off. Wish me luck.

    gamejam:

    Phoenix Perry, Ben Johnson, and Margaret Schedel are hard at work on their entry for the Playstation Mobile Game Jam here at IndieCade East. In line with the “evolution” theme of the jam, Crystallon is a match-three puzzle game about exponentially increasing geometry.

    I know what you’re thinking; “Crystallon? Isn’t that the greek word for “cold drop” which is also the way atoms are arranged into solids?”

    Yes. Yes it is.

    And the atoms of this group have arranged into a solid team. Professionals, and professors; Ben is an ex-AAA gone indie dev/designer and fellow core member of Babycastles, Margaret is a composer and cellist who teaches at Stony Brook University, and Phoenix is an experimental game designer who teaches at NYU Poly, ITP, and Steinhardt.

    -Colin Snyder, Gameifesto

     
  10. Quick Reaction to David Cage’s Controvercial Prescriptions

    1. Make games for all: Time to invent interactive experiences for adults.

    This is already happening.

    2. Change our paradigms to something other than endless violence.

    This is already happening.

    3. We should make games that “say something.”

    This is already happening.

    4. “Become accessible: Let’s focus on minds, not on thumbs!”

    This is already happening.

    5. Bring other talents on board.

    Yes. Game developers need to learn how to collaborate with other creative people.

    6. Establish new relationships with Hollywood.

    Qualified yes. This is a specific example of number 5, but should not imply that successful Hollywood creatives are necessarily the only, nor the best source for these collaborators. That said, I can’t expect anyone but myself to create the sort of collaborations I would most like to see; that’s my job.

    7. Censorship: the marketplace’s gatekeepers are too conservative.

    This is basically only a problem for big commercial games, and it seems likely that changing attitudes about this will have to come from a surprise hit bubbling up from the weird fringes. Think “Freaky Minecraft.” The conditions for this happening already exist.

    8. Criticism: more analysis, less numerical scoring.

    This is already happening.

    9. Gamers need to vote with their dollars.

    Capitalism predates the videogame industry. This has never not been happening.