Monthly Archives: March 2012

A very quick note, as Kevin has gone to bed:

The Apollo 18+20 IF album is now live. Most of the games are playable in your web browser; they can all be downloaded and played in your IF interpreter tool of choice.

This after ten minutes of work by me and three months by Kevin. So benificence upon him and all the album contributors. Also thanks to Ryan Veeder for the cover artwork.

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As I have alluded in some blog post or other, I've been working on an iOS port of the board game Fealty, designed by R. Eric Reuss. For the project, I chose to use the "turn-based game" API which is built into iOS 5.

(This is part of the GameCenter toolkit, aka GameKit; but not the whole thing. The original GameKit, in iOS 4.1, supported achievements, leaderboards, and peer-to-peer games, but it didn't have a system for turn-taking games. That came along in iOS 5. Just to be clear about the background.)

Building a game using Apple's API was kind of an adventure, which I may document on this blog someday. But the thing is, Jmac and I spent 2005 and 2006 building a platform for these sorts of games, with servers and APIs and everything. It was called Volity; it was very clever. (We weren't nearly so clever about PR, which is why nobody used it, which is why we took it down a few years later, which is why I'm not linking to it.)

We are not Apple, but we are gamers, and our Volity system is more general than Apple's toolkit. It can be used for more kinds of games. This blog post is my attempt to rattle off the differences. Not for bragging rights (Volity is down today, GameCenter is up, end of story) but to point at features that GameKit will (I hope) adopt in future releases.

Continue reading Apple's turn-based game API (and what it needs).
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The new version of Philippe Keyaerts' Evo is out in stores. I picked it up in Pandemonium and read the box: "Evo is a game of conquest in a hostile setting."

I stopped cold. Evo is a game that simultaneously pokes fun at evolution while showing how vital change and growth are to a species. Games of Evo always involve people laughing. Games of Evo let you alternate between dressing your dinos, attacking your neighbors, and bluffing the other players while bidding for genes. Games of Evo mean people yell "Babies!" every turn. Evo has a little bit for everyone, with bright colors, intriguing pieces and cards. There isn't a hostile bone in Evo's body (except maybe if you play the egg-launching card).

This is no longer your grandmother's Evo and I think that's a shame. While the art for Evo might have been whimsical, the mechanic never was. Nor was it ever trivial or obvious.

I haven't opened the box but I'm guessing the core of Evo hasn't changed in the new edition. However, the marketing plan clearly addresses a different audience with this version of the game.

The word "hostile" takes a big step away from the previous version, which was subtitled "The Last Gasp of the Dinosaurs". I think it's too facile to make a gender comment about this particular point so I'm going to skip that—I'm sure you can all fill it in yourselves—and move on to the division this word creates in the potential pool of players. There are a lot of players, although probably not hard-core gamers, who are going to put down the box of a game described this way, independent of their biology and gender. Not everyone wants a war game and not every game needs to be one. The colorful, cartoon style of the old artwork makes it easy for you to want to try the game if you haven't already.

The new artwork is realistic, streamlined, aggressive. The front cover shows two dinos attacking each other. Fighting certainly is a component of the game mechanic but it is not the only mechanic. And I doubt most people are going to produce a mental image similar to that on the new box cover given the pink Tyrannosauras Rex chits and the hair drawn on each Dino Portrait card from the first edition. It frustrates me that the game is now being presented as a war game when it isn't (solely) and that anyone interested in the other facets of the game will have no way of knowing they exist.

I want to digress a little here because I can already hear the grumbling. Most games have boxes that are not representative of the mechanic or tenor of the game. I argue that the Evo box changed from representing the game well—a whimsical, mixed mechanic of bidding, fighting, and costuming—to representing a narrow portion of the game. And while I'm clearly sensitive to portrayals that exclude diversity, I argue that the older edition does not resort to stereotypes for color and ability, and therefore panders to neither gender. (The majority of pictures on Board Game Geek show males playing Evo, clearly undeterred by the lack of violence on the old box.)

Lastly, I'm surprised by the need to force a story onto the game, taking it from quasi-science into complete fantasy: "Millions of years ago, the Island of Keth sheltered great wandering tribes who were accompanied by strange creatures belonging to a race that is today extinct."

Everyone goes extinct at the end of a game of Evo. Some dinos, hopefully yours, are just the last ones standing before the comet hits. Evo is a great game and the new box does it a disservice by killing off potential players before they can learn the game's full potential.

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I commented on Monday that I would get an update posted "in a couple of days". That wasn't procrastination; I wanted to be able to say I'd hit an interesting milestone before I headed off to a week of GDC. Didn't happen! Sorry. So, here's the somewhat-less-than-a-mile marker of progress I've got.

First, the game: the game is progressing. That is all I have to say about it. (Yes, there will be more detailed reports before the "It's done" report. But not right now.)

First and a half: Let's assume that if I had a release date to announce, I'd announce it, okay? (I wish I didn't have to explain that every time.)

But here is what I can say, because this is the open-source part: I have made great progress this month on the technical end of the project. That is to say, the iOS port of the IF interpreter.

Continue reading It is the (mostly technical) progress report.
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by Miyuki Miyabe; translated to English by Alexander O. Smith

I suppose I should write two reviews here: one for folks who love Ico the videogame, and one for folks who have never heard of it. (If you're in between, flip a coin and read both.)

Ico was a 2001 videogame (for the Playstation). I loved it; I still love it. It remains a landmark in atmospheric, engaging videogame storytelling. Notably, it was almost entirely wordless. Everything was conveyed through architecture, lighting, the body language of the protagonists, and -- most important -- the physical struggle of the game's challenges. If you haven't played the game, this makes no sense to you. Let me put forth that the most important button on the game's controller, the one about which the story revolves, is "hold hands".

So how does this experience translate into a novel?

Continue reading Ico: Castle in the Mist (book review).
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