Last night, by chance, I started down a Wikipedia rabbit hole regarding the "Far Realms" in later edition D&D, basically an outer plane for the outerplanes where Lovecraft dominates Dante and Tolkien. Tentacle monsters and whatnot. This world beyond reason is composed of numerous layers that can be anywhere from a few inches to miles in width, reminding us of Stephen Hawking's 11-dimensional strings rolled up very tightly. Mortals, if not driven mad or torn asunder by sheer chaos, can traverse one layer at a time, but native beings of this realm float in higher dimensions, like an ink blot on a stack of papers, perhaps blotter paper. Revisiting D&D, "the Scottish game" for those who wish to avoid bad luck, I'm reminded of a Dungeon Master running a game I casually attended in my final half-year of college, who told me "I'd like to do more character interaction, but I do a lot of hack-n-slash because that's what these players want." Jason Rohrer, after having created a 2-player, digital version of a storytelling game, has created the equivalent of a tactical combat generator set in a bizarre "far realms" scenario, but with deterministic vectors instead of weighted dice rolls.
Inside A Star-Filled Sky
Stars Not Included
|Submitted by the99th on Fri, 03/11/2011 - 18:06.|
Final Fantasy in Six Minutes
|Submitted by costik on Mon, 01/04/2010 - 02:08.|
Turn-Based Battle isn't as satirically perfect as Upgrade Complete or Achievement Unlocked, two games from the same developer with the same snarky metacommentary on common game tropes. But it's still pretty amusing.
You Only Live Once
Life Sucks, and Then You Die
|Submitted by costik on Wed, 08/05/2009 - 00:20.|
Why has there suddenly been a rash of games that provide metacommentary on the conventions of the videogame? Upgrade Complete and Achievement Unlocked, Ginormo Sword, and now You Only Live Once. It may sound like a Bond title, but take it literally.
Free Will: The Game
Metagame or Philosophical Argument
|Submitted by costik on Fri, 07/10/2009 - 18:20.|
Like Upgrade Complete and Achievement Unlocked, Free Will is metacommentary on games in the form of a game. In this case, the design trope it is addressing is one of the oldest mechanics of the videogame: the ability to replay or continue, the fundamental consequencelessness of "death."
In form, Free Will is a GameBoy-like Flash title, with the sort of black-and-white sepiatone graphics you would expect to see on a primitive handheld device, and the moment-to-moment gameplay is a spot-on re-creation of the platformers of yore. It is, however, only one level in length (despite the existence of stage-and-world numbers at screen bottom, which imply a lengthy Mario-like saga).
The surprise, and indeed the point of this short game, comes when you die and replay. Spoiler and discussion below the fold; you might want to play it yourself first, which won't take long.
Multiple Layers of Meta
|Submitted by costik on Mon, 01/05/2009 - 00:44.|
Normally, new reviews appear in full text on the front page -- no need to click through for more. In this case, I am going to post only the first part, however, with the rest below the fold, because this is a 3-minute game (actually, a 2 minute and 10 second game, precisely), and almost anything I might say would amount to a spoiler.
In other words, play it first, then read the rest of the review. Failing to do so is a lot like hearing the punchline before the joke.
Tabletop Tuesdays: TV On The Tabletop
|Submitted by sage on Tue, 09/02/2008 - 14:17.|
Most RPGs are all about the characters: who they fight, how they advance, what they can do. Primetime Adventures in the antithesis of this: the characters only matter in their place in the story.
Matt Wilson's game can be a challenge for gamers who cut their teeth on classic roleplaying games. A character's strength depends on only two things: how much the story is focused on that character and how much the player has contributed to the story. Everything else is just description. Characters are based around an issue, which guides sessions where that character is the focus, but has no mechanical effect on the game. The system is clean and simple, but its effect is to bring out a story from those playing it.
Ben There, Dan That
I Laughed Out Loud
|Submitted by costik on Sun, 07/20/2008 - 01:44.|
Graphic adventure are, to be sure, among the few game styles that actually do humor well -- but when you come to down to it, a lot of the games that try to recreate the humor of Monkey Island or Grim Fandango don't quite hit. Oh, they're jocular enough, but it doesn't quite work -- a smile at best. Yes, yes, we know, dying is easy and comedy is hard, but I can't remember the last game I played that actually made me laugh out loud. Ben There, Dan That did.
Why Many VCs Will Lose Money
|Submitted by the99th on Mon, 06/16/2008 - 00:38.|
Subscription based MMOs... it's a genre that reminds me of my retarded cousin Jamie, or Falstaff; forlorn, comically maligned, blunt in its triumphs and sloppy in its failures. After WoW hit a milestone and started making headway in China, a flood of venture capital went to start-up studios making WoW-esque subscription based MMOs - this is actually a pretty standard pattern for venture investment, but what's significant is that all of these investments demand 3 to 4 years of lead-time and tens of millions of dollars to get to a revenue event. Meanwhile the market trended toward free-to-play, gameplay patterns started warping out of the level-n-grind mode, and global consumer confidence hit the peak of a 25-year boom. A comedy of errors if there ever was one.
MMORPG Tycoon is an interesting experiment in meta-game design, created in just over a month for TIGS' procedural gameplay contest. On hearing this concept, you're probably thinking a lot more grandiously than what's actually delivered, but that's ok. You'll find yourself boxed into the RPG model, adjusting monster and class numbers, setting up zone distributions for a smooth leveling curve - you won't be doing any bold economic or social experiments with your virtual MMO (so meta). What you will be doing is getting an interesting insight into the 'script MMO business, and if you have any experience working in an MMO studio or have friends who have, then you'll get a good chuckle as well.
The game involves setting zones with level ranges, trying to keep them distributed so your servers don't overload ("due to the coding practices of ShadiSoft"), making sure there are enough towns and respawn points, and trying to keep monster and class stats on keel. Your primary metric for success is your forum buzz, you want more positive posts than negative, and the main factor for this is how hard or easy the game is. Here's where the punchline starts getting set-up: no matter how well you do a portion of players will complain the game is too easy, and a portion will complain the game is too hard. However, as long as you've got some content in, and you've got a half-competent balance, people will play, get addicted, and you'll grow, even though your churn rate might only be slightly lower than your growth rate. And you'll make money. You only have to get the basics down and then just let the game run. The implication is that you don't need a good game, you just need an addictive game. It smacks you in the face with a procedural resonance, the derivative names of the rival MMOs are just icing on the cake.
In addition to being a clever commentary and fairly interesting experiment in procedural content, the game also features a really slick vector-graphics engine. I don't know if Trevor Powell has experience working in MMOs, polishing derivative content just enough to let the McDonald's-esque cognitive process do its work, but I sure hope he keeps doing innovative stuff with procedurally arrayed vector patterns. I'd also like to officially christen a new genre of games that lampoon shady design and business patterns in the game industry, with Petri Puhlo's game being the original. Or is there some obscure game from the 80s that I don't know about?
You Have To Burn The Rope
You Have To Encourage Your Friends To Subscribe To Play This Thing
|Submitted by the99th on Thu, 04/10/2008 - 17:15.|
There are apparently a lot of people who play this game and have difficulty figuring out what the fuck you're supposed to do. That factoid is the pearl of this game, and an indictment of the way the games industry has trained its population of players. It also says something about the algorithm of human stupidity. This is a game that is fun because of how you relate to it, relative to how other people relate to it.