Simply beautiful game making

June 9th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

A beautiful game called Shape of the World has landed in kickstarter. Impossible to know if it will be an addictive or immersive game but based this Polygon play-through I’m backing it on style alone.

I hope you consider backing it too.

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They wanted to make a phenomenon. They made $10 million. The story of Crossy Road.

March 5th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

Dave Tach over at Polygon((My favorite gaming site as it’s not run by a bunch of HGDs (Hardcore Gamer Douchbags).)) as a great interview with the guys behind the best Free To Play iOS game I’ve ever played, Crossy Road. The game is good, don’t get me wrong, but the respect they have for their users is what really impressed me with the game. While the rest of the industry is cashing in on pay-to-win business models Crossy Road kept it classy.

“We knew it wasn’t going to make a large amount of money per user,” he says. “Obviously, $10 million is fantastic. That’s way, way, way, way, way more than we thought we would get. But someone on the free-to-play business would look at those numbers and think we could make a lot more per user.”


Several times a week, Hall says, he receives unsolicited emails from companies hoping to help Hipster Whale with things like monetization and user acquisition and all of the marketing terms that permeate the freemium gaming sector. Hall isn’t interested, even if he suspects they’d be effective, because there’s one term they use that alienates him: “Whales.” Players who spend inordinate amounts of money in free-to-play games, often despite themselves.

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Video Games and Companion Apps

February 26th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

I ran across some interesting news over at Polygon about a recent update to the Destiny companion app. I don’t own a console that can play Destiny so I can’t testify to the usefulness of this particular App but there are a couple of games that I’m playing where I’ve often wished for something just like this.

Borderlands 2

I’ve logged almost 140 hours since I first discovered this game last year and there are many things I really love about the game. It certainly did not win “Game of the year” for its inventory management though. I played the game on my Mac and every time I pulled up the inventory menu I felt like I was trapped in a UI hampered by its need to work for console controllers and crowded out by pointless eye candy. Going through my loot and figuring out what I wanted to keep and what I wanted to sell was a chore that ate into my quite limited game time (father of two over here). An app that would allow me to evaluate the quality of the various items in my inventory and flag them as sell or keep would allow me to take care of such chores while I’m in line at the deli. Who knows, it might even have a superior user interface though I wouldn’t hold my breath when it comes to game developers.1

Dragon Quest: Origins

I’m only 20 hours into this game and I’m not sure how much longer I will go but I feel this game would benefit even more from a companion app. Not only is the inventory manager even worse than the one in Borderlands 2, no small feat to be sure, but the game has a deep well of written material that not only provides background but can help you complete missions. It also seems as if reading the material can change the gameplay in subtle ways. Having to load up a full 3D gaming engine just to spend 20 minutes reading text seems pretty silly to me. It’s actually one of the things holding me back from playing the game more and it’s a real shame because I want to encourage game developers to add more back story and dynamic plot lines where the choices you make have consequences but I don’t really want to have my CPU fan cranked up full blast just to read about the characters in my game.

Wii U GamePad

The Wii U GamePad controller has its own screen that can display different content from what’s on the TV. While I don’t own one I’m very intrigued by the gameplay options that having a second screen can open up. Whether it be something simple like cleaning up the in-game HUD by moving less critical elements to the second screen or something more complex like displaying information that can be seen by one player but not others using the same TV. It could be anything from a map in a first person shooter to more complex dungeon master details you might find in a D&D type game.

Beyond the controller

It’s a great idea but it’s not one that necessarily requires an expensive controller. At this point most gamers have, sitting in their pockets, a fantastic, high-resolution screen with more processing power than a dumpster full of Wii U Gamepads. Games could take advantage of notifications both on and offline. Perhaps your phone will buzz when you pass by a hidden treasure or you could get notified when a certain friend starts playing. There could be time locked instances that open up at different times for different players and you must have the app setup to find out about them. There might even be mini games or plot lines that could be accessed to further your progress in the game.

Obviously there are a slew of other use cases, some good, some bad, as I’m just scratching the surface of what can be done. When the iPhone was first released in 2007 there would not be an App store until the iPhone 3G was released the following year. To many it was clear, even before the app store, that the multi-touch all screen phone was going to usher in a slew of new applications but it was very hard to imagine the possibilities that lay beyond the limited number of services that our dumb phones provided. To me it seems like we are in the same place with companion apps for games. There is the potential to completely transform how we play games it’s just hard to see what the possibilities are in 2015.

  1. If we wanted to take this one step further the App could even have more access to information than the game. Players of the game will know that certain weapons have “mystery” stats that can be figured out through either trial and error or a google search. Once I figured out that wiki has all of the weapons and their stats laid out I would often find myself using my phone while playing the game to look up gun stats like this as it would determine whether I would keep the weapon. If this information was baked into the companion app it would encourage more adoption of the app and ultimately more engagement with the game. []
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Is ‘SimCity’ Homelessness a Bug or a Feature?

January 16th, 2015 § 1 comment § permalink

The players of the latest SimCity are running into a very challenging and ultimately existential problem; homelessness is proving very difficult to eradicate.

For Bittanti, it’s impossible not to see the connections between the homeless problem in the Bay Area and the way it’s portrayed in SimCity.

“That is, can we fix homelessness in SimCity, or because we haven’t fixed homelessness as a problem in real life, therefore we are bound to lose?” Bittanti asked. “Is SimCity a reflection of what’s happening in reality, and therefore is very realistic, or is it a programming issue?”

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Oculus Rift + Roller Coaster

September 4th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

As with all Virtual Reality demos it’s impossible to get the full effect without actually being in a, you know, virtual world but the idea seems pretty cool. Head over to Vimeo for the HD version.

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Dwarf Fortress: A video game on display at MOMA

August 13th, 2014 § 1 comment § permalink

Dwarf Fortress looks like a color version of ASCII art. Needless to say it is not on display at MOMA because of it’s aesthetics. Yet it is indeed a work of art. When you start the game it first takes a few minutes to generate the world. When I say world I don’t simply mean the physical landscape but the entire world. Set in a Tolkien like middle earth it generates a couple hundred years of lore and it doesn’t stop at large scale conflicts between Orcs and Dwarves. The game dives deep into it by creating individuals that have their own history that begin and end before you even start playing. The detail is so deep that the mod community has created tools that allow you to dig through the lore of your randomly generated world. It’s like your own personal Wikipedia. If you were to gamifiy The Silmarillion I expect it would looks something like this.

For more watch this screencast as some folks from Polygon stride into war atop a cave dragon in Dwarf Fortress.

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Sequelitis – ZELDA: A Link to the Past vs. Ocarina of Time

August 4th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Egoraptor, of Mega Man X is FUCKING AWESOME fame, takes a look at the Zelda franchise with the same keen eye towards game design. He spends most of his time completely tearing apart one of the sacred cows of gaming lore, Zelda: Ocarina of Time, while also finally making clear to me why I was unable to finish Skyward Sword.


Shigeru Miyamoto once described his idea for Zelda as coming from a feeling of wanting to explore caves near his house as a child. Which led to an amazing game where you explore caves and dungeons and found wondrous things. The irony is that when it came time to make sequels Nintendo cared more about the things that were found, rather than the mystery itself. There is no mystery in modern Zelda games.

Dopy figure representing Zelda Skyward Sword

Hey man! I’m mysterious


(turns red with anger) GOD, SHUTUP! Seriously. You want all this attention like you care, like you really gave it your all in a “new innovative Zelda experience” but instead you led Zelda into a frustrated monotony. You know what started the franchise was this sense of wonder and what has this far concluded the franchise is a sense of formality. A predictable, time consuming mess that asks you not of your sense of your sense of adventure or even your wits but instead on your ability to listen andfollow directions. You ask us of our ability to point something [wii mote] at something else and walk towards it. You ask of us to get another bow & arrow and fight another boss with a giant glowing eyeball. Gee, I wonder how to FUCKING beat it. I fucking WONDER Skyward Sword.

Also, now I really wish I could play A Link Between Worlds.
(hat tip: Kyle Starr at

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