Monthly Archives: September 2009

Free game | Randomness in games | IF suggestions

Wadjet Eye Games is giving away its game The Shivah (normally $5) in honor of Yom Kippur:

his weekend is the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur! It's a special time of year when Jewish folk reflect on the past year. So, on reflection, we're giving away The Shviah for free.

From now until Tuesday, simply use the coupon code "FreeShivah" when purchasing and you can nab the game absolutely free of charge.

Greg Costikyan posted his talk from Austin GDC about randomness in games. Definitely worth checking out.
Nick Montfort posted his updated list of interactive fiction suggestions, games he suggests for people who have some interest in IF but who haven't played much.

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Diplomacy Show is back up

Writing Yet Another post, just to get copacetic with alla y'all who read Gameshelf via RSS. If you tried to watch Episode 7, "Diplomacy", earlier today only to find that it didn't work - or that the video was missing entirely - please try again. It should be all better now.

And this is the last word on that. (If there any any other gaffes I missed, I'm not gonna pull the video down again; we'll just have to laugh at it together.) Thanks for your patience!

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Repairing Episode 7 - FIXED

Minutes after I made the last post, eagle-eyed Gameshelf librarian Doug Orleans informed me that the opening title identified the show as "Epsiode #7" [sic]. I really want to promote this episode more than I have any previous one, and a silly typo like that right out of the gate looks very unprofessional, so I tried to patch it. Sadly, my video-encoding kung-foo was not up to the task and I ended up breaking the whole deal, which is why the video is now missing entirely.

I'm now re-encoding the show from scratch, and should have a fresh and less embarrassingly spelled copy online before today is over. I'll update this post (and the last one) when it's up. Sorry for the unintentional tease!

Update: Fixed. Whee!

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Episode #7 - Diplomacy

I am pleased to present the seventh episode of The Gameshelf, a product of over four months' work from both me and my totally stellar cast and crew. In this episode, we focus on a single board game: Diplomacy, which celebrates the 50th anniversary of its original publication this year. In usual Gameshelf fashion, we show you a game in play. But this is a very unusual game, so we took an unusual approach to filming it. I hope you enjoy it.

Watch it through the embedded player above, or download it as a high-quality Quicktime video file.

This was the most ambitious show we've ever made, and I am as proud of it as I am looking forward to returning to humbler (read: easier to edit) show styles.

Continue reading Episode #7 - Diplomacy.
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The longest day of the year

Today is the longest day of the year! And so is tomorrow!

Yes, I know the equinox was two days ago. Nonetheless:


[ed: not "twenty-second" -- thanks, Elizabeth!]

A tie, as you see, with 29 letters each. Or 31 symbols if you count the punctuation. Which I do; surely TWENTY-THIRD beats SEVENTEENTH by a hyphen?

The ideal candidate would be a WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER TWENTY-SEVENTH. But we won't have one of those until 2017.

For runners-up this year, we have several candidates:


Those are 30 symbols each. Much too common, really.

Let's stick with discussing today (and tomorrow). I would propose a new title for these two interesting days -- the ONLY 2009 DAYS WHICH NEED 31 SYMBOLS. Unfortunately my paradoctor is running towards me, waving some sort of paper and screaming, so I'll have to break this post off and find out what she wants.

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Tweaks to Gameshelf RSS

If you are like most people, you can safely ignore this post and enjoy the next episodes of The Gameshelf as they happen to pop up here. You'll know them when you see them. The rest of you may be mildly interested in a bit of technical babbling and retrospective about a small change I've made to the blog's feeds.

I plan on publishing, in the near future, the first full 30-minute episode of The Gameshelf in two years. The blog you're now reading had its relaunch in early 2008, several months after the last episode went live, and therefore very few of the people now subscribed to its RSS feed (actually an Atom feed, but let's stick to tradition and call it "RSS") were subscribers when any prior episode went up. Given this fact, I've had to rethink how we distribute the show.

Continue reading Tweaks to Gameshelf RSS.
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Kory Heath's Blockhouse

Earlier this year I boosted Werewolf, Kory Heath's iPhone implementation of the cult social-game favorite. Now he's back, with an original iPhone puzzle game. Check it out: a sliding block!


Is this madness? Is this 1992? How can I possibly use the word "original" for sliding blocks -- a hoary and overused puzzle format that I've been complaining about since, I think, Heaven and Earth?

I'm sure you've already recognized this screenshot as the "block slides until it hits something, then you slide it again" variety of puzzle. And that's what Blockhouse is. But seriously. In buckets. In spades. Buckets and buckets of spades.

See, you play through a few of these levels, and the little block goes zipping around, and you figure you're done with Blockhouse. Except then you hit the level with two blocks. Then you hit the level with two L-shaped blocks. And they're getting harder. The blocks are turning into zig-zag polyominoes and getting stuck on each other. Occasionally blocks contain other blocks.

And then you realize that there are one hundred of these levels, and none of them suck. No filler. One simple game mechanic, in a frankly astonishing spread of variations: wide-open levels, divided levels, levels where you have to get the blocks wedged together, levels where you have to get the blocks knocked apart. (Go ahead, ask Kory how he invented them all.)

Continue reading Kory Heath's Blockhouse.
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Spoiled by GemCraft?

Just a little post to note that I may have been spoiled by GemCraft. I tried out a new tower defense game recommended by Jay is Games, Silver Maze. The problem I have with it is that it's really more like a puzzle game. Each level pretty much has one strategy that you need to use to beat it, and the trick is in finding that strategy. With something like GemCraft, there generally several strategies you can use to beat a level, and you can also level up and get more ability points in order to be a bit more powerful in tackling a level that you can't seem to beat otherwise. In Silver Maze, yes you can combine towers in different ways, but you're basically stuck from moving on until you figure out which kind of towers you need to build and where you should place them. I played through a few of those, doing it over several times until I hit on it. But after my fourth time on yet another level, it just stops being fun, and so I stopped playing it.

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Boston IF Meetup, September 28, 6:30

For those in the Boston area (or those who will be in the Boston area on September 28), you are cordially invited to attend the monthly Boston IF Meetup. We've been meeting for the past 6 months, and we've got a pretty steady core group (which includes 4 Gameshelfers). We usually just randomly chat about IF (interactive fiction) and games in general. Sometimes we have something more focused, like when we played the commercial IF game Jack Toresal and the Secret Letter, or when Nick demonstrated his IF system Curveship to us.

So, please come to the next meetup, which is Monday, September 28, at 6:30 PM, in Nick Montfort's office at MIT (14N-233). We have two main items on the agenda.

  1. Andrew Plotkin, aka Zarf, award-winning IF author of such games as Spider and Web, A Change in the Weather, and So Far, will be presenting a new work-in-progress that he describes as a "kung fu text adventure." [Zarf adds in comments: "By the way, my game demo is an experiment in a particular way of handling combat interaction in an IF game. So I want to let people play the game (jointly) for a little while, and then talk about why I did what I did, whether it worked, etc."]
  2. First-time IF author Kevin Jackson-Mead (that's me) will be showing off his first entry into the annual Interactive Fiction Competition, where he hopes to place not-last.
Other than that, we'll just chat about IF and games in general, depending on where conversation takes us. Afterward, usually around 8:30, we head over to the Cambridge Brewing Company for some food and/or drink to continue the chatting.

RSVP not necessary, but if you feel like joining our mailing list and saying hello, please do. And if you can't make this month's meetup, we'll be doing it again every month.

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Game Design Concepts | Free Games

Ian Schreiber posted his last blog entry for the Game Design Concepts course today. My Russia trip followed by actually working derailed my plans to work along with the whole course, but I plan to go back and finish it some time soon. And you can too! He's leaving the course up, and there is a lot of valuable information in the 20 posts. In his last post, he says that he plans to do a class with a similar structure next summer, but this time on game balance.

I just won my second free game from Out of the Box. They have a contest in each monthly newsletter (you can have it emailed to you or you can grab it from their website), where you usually have to solve some kind of puzzle associated with a game. They have 25 winners each month, either the 25 best answers or randomly selected from all the correct answers. I won a copy of Letter Roll a few months ago, and I was just informed that I won a copy of Super Circle Stacking. I'm not sure how fun either game is yet, but, hey, free games!

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Spelunky: out of beta, heading to XBLA

Derek Yu's jawdropping Spelunky, a mechanical mashup of Nethack with a 2D platformer, has finally hit version 1.0 and is celebrating with a real homepage (its homepage before now was a forum thread somewhere), and the news that it will show up on Xbox Live Arcade in 2010. Congratulations on your excellent work, Derek, and props to Microsoft for picking a winner, too!

The game runs on Windows, and, sadly, doesn't work under emulation on a Mac, at least not my MacBook running VMWare; it needs special graphics-card voodoo that doesn't pass through. But if you can run Windows natively, you really should give this game a spin. Or 20 spins. (It's short and you die a lot, but I guarantee you'll die in a new and thoroughly entertaining way each time.)

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