Monthly Archives: October 2009

Embittered Movie Review: "Metro Polis"

If you enjoy my game videos, perhaps you will like this. The idea for this literally woke me up in the pre-dawn hours last Saturday, and I found the time to put it together last night.

There actually is a game connection, here. I was inspired to try applying the attitude of certain contemporary reviewers of very old video games -- who often make little to no effort to place their comments in the games' historical context -- and apply it to a very old movie. It flew off the rails from there, of course, for the sake of comedy. But, there it is.

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Conquer by the Clock

Another little bit of behind-the-scenesery for you: I had a great deal of fun raiding The Prelinger Archives, a collection of public domain films, to fill out the Diplomacy episode's visuals. I expect it to be a well I'll return to often for future episodes.

One film I borrowed from extensively was Conquer by the Clock, a jawdropping American propaganda film from the WWII era. Not only is its delirious visual motif of belligerent, floating clocks wonderful (and quite useful for recontextualizing), but its message is a fascinating window into the psychology of a nation completely mobilized for war. Of particular note is the lesson that every time you take a break from work, soldiers die (and/or go insane). Think of that, the next time you take a minute to screw around reading game blogs!

On another note, I've added Twitter and Facebook links to the bottom of every post on this site, as well as a few other small design changes. Feel free to let me know what you think of them!

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IF activity at PAX Boston!

...will happen. Details when we have them.

What? No, I really don't know yet.

What? I'm talking about Penny Arcade Expo East, scheduled for March 26-28 next year, in downtown Boston. I'll be there. Quite a few IF folks are interested in showing up. We all said "Yeah, we should get together at PAX and do some stuff!"

What? We could do some IF panels. Demo some games. Talk about Inform 7, or about interactive storytelling. I hear Jason Scott has been working on a movie, he might have something to show. I like the idea of an MIT tour, featuring "Lurking Horror" locations. Nothing's set up yet; this is all still ideas. But if you're interested in IF, and Boston isn't out of your way, stick a note on your calendar.

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Boston IF Meetup, Tuesday, October 27

It's Boston IF Meetup time again. This time, bucking tradition, it's on a Tuesday, not a Monday. Come join us on Tuesday, October 27, at 6:30 in The Trope Tank (14N-233 at MIT). We have two people talking this month:

  • Andrew (aka Zarf) will be talking about procedural text generation, using room descriptions in his game Hunter, In Darkness as an example (go play it if you haven't). Late-breaking news: he's also working on a second example in Javascript.
  • Michael (aka Mike) will be showing off and talking about the games he made for IFWM earlier this year (IFWM was the impetus for the Boston IF Meetups (Meetsup?)).
There will, I'm sure, also be the usual talk about games in general, and I'm sure there will be at least some mention of the competition that's happening right now and that I'm not discussing in public. Usually around 8 or 8:30, we head over to Cambridge Brewing Company for food and/or drinks.

This is free (except for food and/or drinks) and open to the public. Please feel free to come by and talk, listen, or present (if you're planning to present, some heads-up to me might be nice before the actual presentation, but it's not strictly necessary).

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Go Euro Games!

My friend Devon Weller and I were at Barcamp Nashville and after attending some sessions we saw that there was a Impromptu session room, and it had a couple of open slots. We decided that we wanted to talk up EuroGames and to help build the local gaming community. Mainly, to try to introduce people to the awesome world of great board games. We came up with a talk during lunch, and even got some great slides! You can see the slides we did below. Feel free to steal our slides to talk up your own local games. We think everyone should try to introduce as many people as possible to the world of great euro games (we do include all games even the ones invented here). Why? Because they are awesome! We hope to give this talk again, and hope to refine it. Anyone have comments on how to get people interested in just trying games?


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DoKashiteru's music

I just happened across the homepage of DoKashiteru, a duo whose music I have used liberally in recent video projects - Gameshelf included. They put much of their work into the Creative Commons under remix-friendly licenses, so I plan on continuing to use it as an aural background for my own stuff. (Before today I knew the band's music via its page on ccMixter, the site I raid for all my legally clean background music needs.)

They really hit the spot for the kind of blip-happy electronica I'm quite fond of, and I encourage you give them a listen. They make videos, too: here is Sander, one of the pair, giving you a lesson on how to torture some chunky sounds out of an ancient, analog Moog synthesizer.

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Diplomacy: Deleted Scenes (confessionals!)

As my disheveled and shaky-cammed head at the top of the above video explains, our shoot of the Diplomacy episode featured a "confessional cam" that players could operate in private in order to spill their guts about the game, even while it was still going on. They made great use of it, as did certain members of the crew, and other persons who happened to be in the house at the time...

I ended up not using any of this footage in the final episode, but it was too good to just leave on the cutting-room floor. So, I glued most of these bits together into a bonus episode, complete with a surprise twist ending. Enjoy!

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Winceful games-for-girls marketing

On Ian Bogost's Twitter feed, we find this striking photograph by Allison Moore of a Nintendo DS game retail rack:


Yes, it's one little slice taken out of a greater visual context, and its true that I'd have no reaction either way to seeing any one of these titles sitting by itself. (And you won't hear me saying boo about Peggle, in any case.) But it's still hard to look at this particular picture and not think of another culturally representative game, albeit one from over 40 years ago...


Miles to go.

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Another Secret Project KLD image

Back in July I posted a teaser image from Secret Project KLD. I said I'd say more in "three months, or six, or a year, or however long it takes".

Well, it's taking a while. I still don't know when it'll be done. But it's been three months, so the least I can do is tease you some more.

Project KLD Teaser

This image is actually a month old. I've done a heck of a lot of work since then. But it wouldn't be much of a secret project if I showed off everything I had.

(Note: Some of you reading this post have already seen this image, because... I like to talk about my secret projects. And show off. But I'm trying to keep it within strict bounds now.)

Anyway, see you in another three months! Unless I change my mind some more.

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A bit of housekeeping

I've been tidying up the place a bit. Please note, in our newly leaner left sidebar, that I've updated the blogroll ("Friends of the Shelf") section for the first time in more than a year, including several long-overdue links to people and places of interest to the game-studying reader. Explore and enjoy. (I also seem to have added more links to the "Ego Inflation" section, but I'll let those speak for themselves, ahem.)

Note also, in the same sidebar, the more obvious links to a page containing all the show's past episodes in an easy-to-watch format, as well as to another page that will instruct you in how to obtain copies of these same episodes on shiny, shiny DVDs.

The thing that finally had to get around to all this, in fact, was a kind viewer's purchase of a Gameshelf DVD set, despite my having done approximately nothing to promote them since my initial announcement months ago. This spurred me to, er, actually create the DVDs. And now that I've gone and made myself an inventory, it seemed prudent to sweep some of the cobwebs out of the storefront...

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System's Twilight turns fifteen

Fifteen years ago today, I released my first full-scale original game: System's Twilight.

And when I say "released", I mean "I uploaded it to the Info-Mac FTP archive at SUMEX-AIM." I set up a web page for the game, but I didn't publicize the URL much, because what was a URL? Everyone used FTP.

(I think Info-Mac had a web server too, by that point. But HTTP was merely an alternate way to access the files. It wasn't a web site.)

For fun, here's the announcement I posted to Usenet. (Thanks to Google Groups for preserving it; no thanks for making it really hard to find.)


  From: "Andrew C. Plotkin" 
  Newsgroups: comp.sys.mac.games
  Subject: NEW: System's Twilight 1.00
  Date: Sun,  9 Oct 1994 13:36:56 -0400
  Message-ID: 

  I just sent this out to the archives yesterday; it's on the faster
  mirrors already. It's in ./game/systems-twilight-100.hqx on Info-Mac. It
  should appeal to the Cliff Johnson / Heaven&Earth fans that have been
  talking recently...

  --------------------------

  System's Twilight: An Abstract Fairy Tale

  This game is a story and a puzzle. The story is made up of several
  parts, not all of which may be obvious. The puzzle is made up of
  many puzzles, some of which aren't obvious at all.

  That's all I'll tell you. The rest you get to figure out yourself. Have
  fun.

I haven't pasted in the whole thing, but check it out for historic amusement. Bang paths! Compatible with System 6.0.7 and System 7!

Continue reading System's Twilight turns fifteen.
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Not IFComp adventure reviews

Since it's IFComp season, I thought I'd get my ducks in a row by clearing my brain of commentary of the last few non-text adventures I played.

(Note: any linearity of ducks is strictly accidental. Use of "ducks in a row" as a metaphor does not constitute any guarantee of IFComp commentary, express or implied, now or later, leaded or decaf. Void where used in void context.)

Continue reading Not IFComp adventure reviews.
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IFComp begins

If you know what the IFComp is, then you didn't need to read it here. Nonetheless! I'd feel dumb if I didn't mention it.

The 2009 Interactive Fiction Competition has begun. Twenty-four short text adventures. Including one by the Gameshelf's own Kevin Jackson-Mead. Play 'em, vote on 'em by November 15th. Or play and vote on as many as you get around to. Or just play some. Up to you.

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