I've mentioned this before, but now that the site is functioning again, perhaps it's worth mentioning.
See that top ad bar? If you are an indie developer, we will happily run your ad there, in rotation with others, for free, for as long as you wish. It can be for an actual product, or for a Kickstarter/Indiegogo thing. All you have to do is a) send me a banner ad, b) tell me where you want it to link to, c) be plausibly indie, d) not link to malware, obviously, and e) not be an asshole.
Unlike the first game, you do not play one of the lovers, but a mad scientist who uses lasers and holograms to guide the lovers together. They are both zombies now (the male became one at the end of the first game), so do not kill each other when they touch. And the "platforming" aspect is gone, as you do not directly control any character on screen, nor are jumps possible.
Instead, it has much more of the feeling of a switch-controlled puzzler than an action game, though there is still a bit of a performative aspect: often, you need to switch quickly from one control to another to prevent the loss of one of the zombies. The basic scheme is similar, however: on each level, guide the lovers to one another.
As with the first game, it's a nicely tuned Flash puzzler with clean, intelligent level design, and worth your while if you like puzzle games.
i saw her standing there is a nice little puzzle platformer with a fairly novel core mechanic and a somewhat disquieting backstory.
You control the player character with WASD or the arrow keys; "up" is a jump. A second (pink, inevitably) character moves toward you when you are sufficiently close; your goal is to guide her to a cage ("I loved her but she was a zombie, so I kept her safe in a cage"). Since she is a zombie, if she touches you, you die and must restart the level; but apparently she doesn't mind being caged, because a heart appears above her when you guide her there.
Not that it's really relevant to gameplay, but why is it that when games go here, the active character is always gendered male? And while I don't have any moral qualms about mutually consensual restraint (in face I, ah... better not go there), this is a pretty disquieting subtext from a gender political point of view.
The zombie-girl cannot jump, and in some levels, if you are not careful, you may guide her into a gap in a platform, causing her to die (and of course you can mistime a jump and do likewise).
As is typical with puzzle games, new puzzle elements are added over time, including risers, enemy zombies that can kill either of you, switchable laser barriers, and "holograms" of you that you can trigger to guide the zombie-girl even if you yourself are not present. There's a tasty combination of solver's uncertainty (the difficulty of solving puzzles) and performative uncertainty (the uncertainty inherent in any skill-and-action game). And the story is carried in tight, evocative texts, two lines on each level, the first displayed on level load and the second when solved. Art style is minimalist, but evocative and appropriate to the game's aesthetic.
Most mobile games are little time-wasters, suitable for entertaining yourself while you wait for the bus; few are deep, involving, and require strategic thinking. Plague Inc does, however.
In Plague Inc., you play a disease, and your victory condition is the complete extermination of humanity. Experiencing fiero because you've just killed every man, woman, and child on the planet is... strange, but interesting.
The game comes with seven different plague types (bacteria, virus, parasite, and so on); only bacteria is unlocked at first. Each poses somewhat different difficulties; for instance, the virus mutates frequently, which is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it can gain new abilities without requiring you to spend "DNA points," but you may also evolve in a way to alarm humanity more quickly than you'd like.
Spaceteam is a crazy, highly creative little game that has more of the feel of a party game than a digital one. Like FTL, it's a kind of spaceship command sim, but the games could not be more unlike each other in terms of gameplay.
Its for two to four players in the same physical space, each of whom needs and iOS device. You connect locally to each other, and the game begins. Each player's screen shows a bunch of controls -- sliders, knobs, toggles, areas with two or more buttons. At the top of the screen, a command appears -- like, say, "Set Newtonian photomist to maximum." But the command on your screen references a control on some other player's screen.... So you shout "Set Newtonian photomist to maximum!" and hope that whoever has the Newtonian photomist control hears you, identifies the control on their screen, and turns the know or whatnot accordingly.
Submitted by sebastian sohn on Tue, 03/26/2013 - 01:30.
Strike of the Eagle (Sote) is a modern war boardgame, incorporating many contemporary game mechanics such as hidden orders, fog-of-war, diceless combat, and a card-driven system. As with many card-driven games, a card play starts a turn and a card can be played in three different ways: for bonus unit movement, for a combat bonus, or as a historical event. Giving three different ways to play a card ensures that a player never gets a bad hand because it is up to the player to make creative combinations.
The hidden order mechanics are implemented via order discs. Each order is disc is chosen secretly and placed on top of units, then flipped and resolved simultaneously; this way a player can bluff and be unpredictable. As with other block games, your opponent sees the blank back side of your units, creating fog-of-war; as well, the blocks can rotate 90 degrees to track hit points, a mechanic pioneered in Quebec 1759. Finally the combat is diceless: the combined combat strengths of attacking and defending units are compared on a chart. You can add two free randomly drawn cards to modify the combat result or pay with specific cards from your hand. Thus you can pay resources to hedge your bets or press your luck.
Hotline Miami is a brutally difficult, brutally violent, top-down brawler and shooter. With retro, 90s-style graphics, it has something of a feel of a Sega Genesis game -- not a SNES one; Nintendo would never have let anything this violent on their platform, but Sega was edgier.
You're assigned your missions via mobile phone by strange people who wear animal masks and claim to know all about you, though you're apparently amnesiac. The story, such as it is, is a somewhat surreal one, but it's a transparently thin veneer to provide some strange context for what's simply a game of killing everyone on each stage.
You can pick up a variety of both melee weapons and firearms; it's possible to play it stealthily, sneaking up on enemies and dispatching them hand-to-hand, or simply to blast away. Enemies are alerted by the sound of gunfire, though. Additional weapons are unlocked over time, as are additional animal masks; each mask provides a special power, and you can choose among them to suit your strategy.
Kentucky Route Zero is a beautiful visual novel with something of the timeless, surreal feel of Southern Gothic fiction, though without the elaborate language of Faulkner.
The graphics are simple yet striking, in a twilight palette that reinforces the moody nature of the game. It's slow moving, meditative and emotionally impactful.
You play as Conway, a truck driver, who needs to make a delivery to Dogwood Drive. The people you meet tell you that you need to use Route Zero -- which does not appear to exist on any map. Magic realism at work, in other words.
It's played in a point-and-click, graphic adventure kind of way, but there are no real puzzles to solve; more, environments to explore, and characters -- well realized ones -- with whom to chat. As in hypertext fiction, the appeal is in the story, not the gameplay; and the interesting moments are those of epiphany, when you understand something more about the underlying story, putting pieces together mentally.
In crunch mode at work, which is why there haven't been updates here for some time.
However, as of tomorrow, The MIT Press releases my book, Uncertainty in Games.
There are a lot of books that attempt to provide a broad overview of the craft of game design; I wanted instead to take a single important element and go deep on it.
The central argument is that uncertainty, whether of outcome or path, is a central part of the appeal of games. I analyze a slew of very different games to unpick their sources of uncertainty, and provide some ideas for how to use an understanding of uncertainty to guide the design of innovative games.
Submitted by sebastian sohn on Tue, 01/15/2013 - 03:38.
Solitaire, also known as Patience overseas, is a class of puzzle games played with a standard French 52 card deck. The most popular is Klondike Solitaire because it is bundled with every version of Windows since 3.0. Solitaire may be the most popular videogame ever because besides Windows it is preinstalled or freely available on UNIX and Linux flavors including MacOS and on mobile phones before smart phones existed. Solitaires are easy to implement because they are puzzles and do not require AI.
There are many variations of Solitaire, but all are similar in that you have a deck that has been shuffled put in random order on the tableau, some cards face-up and some face-down. There are rules on how to move cards around to sort them in numerical and suit order. Since you are organizing cards and matching them between numbers, it is akin to jigsaw puzzles in which you match a piece between other pieces to form a picture. Like jigsaw puzzles, most Solitaire games have binary scoring systems, solved (1) or unsolved (0). It is difficult to track your progress and it will take several games before you score.
The late Sid Sackson, a pioneer game designer, was making Eurogames before they were called Eurogames. He created Bowling Solitaire, a modern, intelligent Solitaire. Sackson did what Reiner Kniza does today, creating games with simple mechanics but with complex scoring. Setup requires only two suits, A-10; aces are ones and 10s are zeros. Shuffle the cards and setup the ten bowling pins, an inverted pyramid of face-up cards. The rest of the cards form three stacks of five, three, and two as face-down balls. Following bowling rules, you get ten rounds, starting by revealing the top three stacks of ball cards face-up. If a ball card is played, the next card is revealed face-up. You can knock up to three adjacent pins by adding up the total and if they equal the last digit of your ball card. If you cannot knock any pins, you can discard the top three ball cards and get three new ball cards twice, once per round.
Prom Week is the creation of a group at UC Santa Cruz that includes Michael Matteas, one of the people involved with the creation of Facade. Like Facade, Prom Week is an attempt to create interactive drama, a sort of theatrical story with multiple characters and some agency by the player to shape the path and outcome of the story.
True interactive storytelling is, of course, an enormously difficult technical problem that many have attempted to solve without great success, despite the efforts of some of our most creative designers.Facade succeeded, in a limited way, its success and also its limitation dependent on the fact that it did not try to solve the general problem, and instead create a single, hard-coded, and specific work.
Prom Week is an ambitious attempt to solve the problem more generally. In a fashion reminiscent of Crawford's Trust & Betrayal, it tracks the social graph among a handful of characters, particularly how much they like or dislike each other. The underlying engine also tracks specific traits of the characters, and how they respond to traits of others, and provides a dialog system, not unlike the story-telling system of Tales of the Arabian Nights, that interpolates specific terms into generalized but prescripted dialog in response to certain conditions.
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