Find Me a Good One is a student project from a duo at the Parsons School of Design; as with many student projects, it's quite short. It's a sort of puzzle platformer, though the platforming difficulty is minimal, with hand-drawn, surreal graphics depicting a sort of dreamworld.
The backstory is that your brother is asleep and beset by nightmares; you must enter the dream world to find friendly creatures and bring them back to repel the nightmares. If you don't do so, the nightmares apparently abscond with your brother. But you are not required to do this; you can simply explore the world, and there's no "game over" when your brother goes away.
It's pleasant, but more the germ of an idea than a full game.
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.
Submitted by Tof Eklund on Thu, 03/10/2011 - 19:17.
“Be broken to be whole. / Twist to be straight. / Be empty to be full. / Wear out to be renewed. / Have little and gain much. / Have much and get confused.”
– Tao Te Ching, “Growing Downward” (Ursula K. LeGuin's version)
The Void is a game that I have been meaning to review for a long time, but have found it hard to know where to start. It isn't an easy game to categorize. It appears to be a survival horror game, and maybe it is, but the principle horror to survive is a kind of slow starvation (which is a lot more compelling than it sounds). It also appears to be a FPS, and it does involve combat, but it's not a “twitch” game at all. It appears at times to be a sex game, but the role of sexuality in the story is complex and ambivalent, not at all “sex for sex's sake.” More...
Submitted by TheDustin on Thu, 02/10/2011 - 19:51.
Huh, that picture looks pretty terrible. My little brother could draw better than that, and he's legally blind, arthritic, and also a tad dead. Aw, that Dustin artfag is reviewing again? Figures. He'll no doubt jabber on about how this little shitty platformer is "so fucking punk" because the author put absolutely zero effort into it. I'll humor him though, just so I'll have ammunition to say something snarky in the comment section.
Just as I figured. This game blows. The jump is floaty as hell, don't these punkfags play Mario? Whoo, I can shoot with "X". These spastic NPC's don't shoot back, he'll probably spout some bullshit about how it's "telling of the medium that when players are given the choice between violence and inaction, they will inevitably choose violence". Big fuckin' whoop.
Fuck. I game overed. Stupid controls. Restart.
Do you know what, fuck this game. I'll just leap off the first platform and end this pitif... woah, what's this dot for?Secret area, huh? Nifty. I guess I'll have to scope out the rest of the review below the fold.
A nominee for the 2011 IGF "Nuovo" award, A House in California is a surreal, magic-realist graphic adventure in which a small boy who is having problems getting to sleep is comforted by different members of his family.
It has a fancifully comforting feel without slopping over into twee sentimentality; it is also frustrating at times, since the developer takes "surreal" to also mean "puzzles need not be remotely logical," so the only real way to get through the game is the time-dishonored graphic adventure practice of "try everything with everything." (Or, of course, to use a walkthrough.)
But the game is most definitely worth playing for the feelings it evokes, the simple yet engaging language, and the charming if minimal graphics; a tone poem of a game.
Think of this as a hi-Rez, lofi take on You Have To Burn The Rope, but then don't, because the title is most likely just a way of being as minimal as possible while side-stepping all the commentators from shouting "not a game!"
It's better to feel of it than think of it.
You explore a space that seems like it should be illogical, Zork-style, but is actually quite logical. The use of shaders distorts your depth perception so that you almost expect to be deceived. A white noise cascade building based on your proximity to the game's spheric playground layers the expected warp with a sense of apprehension, which you summarily conquer through the usual hunter skills, now lost in space. It strikes a good balance of that passive, floaty, "this is so art, I'm like, immersed maaan" feeling that many art games of the 3d variety endow, and an active sense of accomplishment associated with quality in traditional game design. One wonders if these malicious, jagged vertices were hand-crafted by Increpare or concocted by some kind of chilling algorithm, or if he perhaps laid ground-work procedurally and then went into the code and manually tweaked an integer here, and integer there, to imbue it with a chronic sense of psychosystematic malignancy.
Not wanting to find out, I found the artifacts and breathlessly scrambled to get the hell out of there.
Submitted by TheDustin on Wed, 10/27/2010 - 01:30.
There must be something in Sweden's water that makes them really good, really punk, game developers. Game Maker is to game development like drop-D tuning is to guitar composition, and let me tell ya, them Swedes can make their games sing. Krimelo is certainly no exception, his titles have that infectious homemade charm going for them -- it's like he tapped into the collective indie unconscious and conjured pure, well, awesomeness. I'll keep my commentary succinct and let the games do the talking.
Autocannibalism is a short platformer about chowing down on your fellow man. Creepy stuff.
Medi Climp, pictured above, is another platformer that has you playing as a monkey who Touches Fuzzy. He indeed Gets Dizzy.
Nation of Reincars is the indie answer to Doki Doki Panic -- you control everything from rabbits to inchworms to get from point A to proverbial point B. It's a spatial puzzler of sorts, as you have to discover which order to run through the stage in.
Glaucoma is a trippy minigame of sorts with neat graphical tricks. Think cactus's GAMMA entry and you'd be sorta near the mark.
Last but assuredly not least, we have Siamese Enemies. It's a two player game where each player controls half of a Siamese twin. To continue the duality theme it's half-cactus, half-messhof, and 4/3 surreal. Salvador Dali's ghost nods his head in approval, shaves off his mustache, and shoots a random passerby.
Submitted by TheDustin on Sun, 10/24/2010 - 19:44.
My interest in RPG's waned just around the onset of puberty. It doesn't help that this happened around '03 -- long after all the classics were chiseled in stone -- but it's been years since I've been able to enjoy an honest to Allah number-cruncher. Lord knows I've tried. I'm replaying Mother 2 right now, and I'm obviously loving it, but the combat is such a goddamn *chore.* It brings me great pleasure to say then, kind reader, that this game is not only my favorite RPG of the millennium (hey, a little premature but it still counts) but one of my favorite indie games to come out this year. Fuck it, outside of a superhero ninja game that made me love again (*review forthcoming*) this is my favorite title since VVVVVV.
Tembac's latest is simpler and less ambitious than El Beso, but it weaves a hypnotism in a differen thread, perhaps more efficiently. You drive an Atari 2600-style, pixel-art race car around a linear track, trying to avoid colliding with people, other cars and rails. Or do you try? Failure is rewarded with video clips of spectacular accidents taken from real-life-race-car-racing, boludo. It's got a sort of zen simplicity to it that seems like a good idea when freshly lit.
When I first played it I tried to avoid the stars too, thinking it was a deadly bomb or something - every other collision ends the game, why not the star? Because it's flashing? Well, yeah. But I didn't figure that out for a while, so I'm just going through this monotonous grind, looking up at the big centered 0 that is my score, wondering if it's just there to taunt me, to juxtopose the idea of a score against the absurdity of a flat game. Then, after keeping up with the grind for a few minutes, I must have complted a lap, because the score increased by 100. I thought, "well shit, look at that." Then I ran into a star, and though "ok, it increases the difficulty of incrementally earning 100 points every few minutes against the limits of patience". Then I accidentally hit someone in that mode, and it didn't end the game, it scored me points. I learns real good.
Symphorophilia is a fancy term for getting a hard on when people get wiped out of existence in entertaining ways, the anticipation being the core thing. It's ostensibly the reason that this guy watches NASCAR. It's the reason that the TV exec in the film Live! claims that the pitch meeting was the first to actually give him an erection - such is the power of strongly implied risk probabilities. Sending that up with the contrast of extremely lofi art and sound assets with grainy but still live video may not be artistically inspired, but trancing us out to Ronald McDonald slowly raising his arms in cheer against stereoscopic colors and OCDJ tones pulls my trigger.
For this week's "Tabletop Tuesdays," class, we will explore the Fluxus art movement, a neo-Dadaist movement, originated and named by George Maciunas from his pioneering SoHo loft, but involving also many other artists in the 1960s and early 70s, including George Brecht and Yoko Ono. As an art movement, Fluxus was, like Dada, "anti-art," poking fun at the seriousness of modern art; it was multimaterial, involving the use and interaction of different media; it fostered "simple" works (meaning those that were short in length, size, or duration); and it was intentionally fun and often humorous. "Play," in other words, was a central value.
Many, though by no means all of the works created by Fluxus practioners were games (or game-like objects); and many other works, while not games in a formal sense, are sets of rules designed to create an artistic effect, and therefore related to the game qua game.
One example: Yoko Ono's White Chess:
White Chess is simply a Chess set, but one in which all the pieces are white and the board itself consists of alternating squares of white and, um, white. If you view this as a game in a formalist sense, it is nonsensical, since it is essentially bad UI for the game of Chess; but if you think about the implications, it is something very different. You can play White Chess with someone else only so long as you (and your opponent) are able to remember whose piece is where; if you, or your opponent, have a lapse of memory and disagree, the game is impossible to sustain, because both sides' pieces are identical. The game is specifically, and very intentionally, an anti-war statement by Ono, relying on the common trope of Chess as an metaphor for war -- and of course the idea of the moral equivalence of all humanity.
White Chess is only one of many Chess variants created by members of the Fluxus movement; but their interests were not restricted to Chess alone. As an example, here is Maurizio Cattelan's version of Foosball, which can be played by up to 24 players:
It is a box containing a variety of items -- a Chess rook, a key, an acorn, some seeds -- along with the instructions "Spell your name with these objects." It's an example, actually, of a whole series of little boxes that Maciunas sent to his friends, with the same instructions but different assemblages of objects. Indeed, many Fluxus artworks, from other artists as well, consist of boxes of objects along with what they called a "score," by analogy to a musical score, which is a set of instructions to musicians; here, they are instructions to the user, the audience, the viewer -- the player, if you will.
Of course, Maciunas's instructions are absurd; playing his 'game' is impossible, since only objects that do not produce letterforms are provided. But we still have here the external indicia of a game: a set of instructions, an inventory of game pieces to use in following them.
In a similar vein, many of Ono's "texts" are instructional in nature: e.g., her Tunafish Sandwich Piece:
Imagine one thousand suns
in the sky at the same time.
Let them shine for one hour.
Then let them gradually melt
into the sky.
Make one tunafish sandwich
This is poetry, of course; but it is poetry in the form of a set of instructions for an activity in which you could, in principle, partake. The activity is certainly absurdist, a combination of a meditation exercise and a prosaic lunch, but it is possible to perform. Just as a game is an experience, crafted by a designer but instantiated by its players, guided by rules, so Tunafish Sandwich Piece is an experience, crafted by an artist but (at least in potentio) instantiated by members of its intended audience, and guided by rules. I won't tempt another argument over the meaning of 'game' by describing it as a game; but there is a connection to games here.
Fluxus artists did not restrict themselves to "games that cannot be played," of course; at the Fluxfest in New Brunswick in 1970, a number of "Flux sports" were introduced, including soccer played on stilts, ping pong played with paddles with holes in them, and a "slow speed cycle contest" in which the goal was to reach the finish line -last- by cycling as slowly as possible without, presumably, falling over.
This is all somewhat amusing, but what, we may reasonably ask, can modern game designers learn from a decades-old absurdist art movement that happened to experiment tangentially with games?
Mainly this, I think. Just as absurdism in art is designed to explore the boundaries of a form and poke fun at its more pretentious commentators, so "absurdist game design" of this kind is useful in making us think about what games are, what they are capable of doing, and how they achieve an effect on players. Moreover, Fluxus games challenge the sort of reductionist, formalist approach to game design championed by Eric Zimmerman and others. They say that games can be funny, games can be entertaining in ways beyond the interplay of rules and struggle of players, that a creative, off-the-wall, try-anything approach may well be more fruitful than the sort of disciplined, systems-oriented design philosophy that is today the conventional norm in our field.
When I was playing the original Command and Conquer, back in 1995, I remember thinking "wouldn't it be cool if all those tanks and soldiers that I'm controlling were real people, running round a 3D battlefield, playing in first person?" I wasn't the only one to think of this. Over the years a few other games have attempted to mix FPS with RTS, but they all seemed to be lacking something. None were on quite a big enough scale for me. Nobody tried to grab the idea and really run with it. But with Empires, after years of disappointment, I'm finally playing the game I dreamt of as a teenager.
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