Monthly Archives: August 2012

Zarfplan: On through August

Last time I said, "I can confidently say I'll finish the alchemical ritual code in August." Which I did! Barely. (I just finished the last unit test, at 8:30 pm on the 31st.)

I now have 34 alchemical rituals working. And 265 unit tests, which demonstrate that they're working. I'm feeling a little dizzy, honestly.

You'll recall I said something about "burning bits of wood and an alchemical retort" being the last bits of infrastructure. Well, inevitably, those were a nightmare. Burning things is one of the archetypical Hard Things To Do In IF. The other two are mixing liquids, and rope. Well, I implemented all the liquid-mixing back in July... and this game is not going to contain any rope.

(There's a silk cord, but you can't tie it to things.)

Long story short: I now have a setting-things-on-fire engine, to go along with the liquid-mixing engine and the ritual state machine. This is where I get very grateful for Inform 7 and its rulebook architecture.

Continue reading Zarfplan: On through August.
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On behalf of Dominique Pamplemousse

I know this project has been widely spoken of in indie-games-land over the past few weeks, so maybe I'm just gilding the grapefruit here. But Deirdra Kiai's indie musical claymation adventure kickstarter(*) is moving into its final week of fundraising, and it has half a progress bar still to go.

(* Kickstarter in this case is Indiegogo, but you know what I mean.)

Check out the online demo of Dominique Pamplemousse in "It’s All Over Once the Fat Lady Sings!" (Demo is Flash, but the completed work will be Win/Mac/iPad.)

The Kickstarter world is currently full of remakes, re-releases, decades-belated sequels, and other wonders of nostalgia -- do I even need to hunt down example links? Amid all this, we need some attention for new, original games by people who weren't already famous in 1995.

I think a stop-motion light-opera adventure game counts as original. I mean, I'm not familiar with too many games that do either of those things(*). And if you're still hooked on nostalgia, well, Pamplemousse is a third-person graphical adventure of the old Lucas/Sierra model.

(* I never managed to play The Neverhood.)

The artwork is charming; the music is charming; the sung and spoken dialogue is well-done and apropos. But this is not the soul of the matter. When I played Deirdra's last graphical game, Life Flashes By, I wrote: "Not too many authors sit down to write a straight-up high-quality story, in the interactive mode." That is what we are offered here.

It will be a shame if, amid all the crowd-funding frenzy, this project gets lost on the wayside. So, please give Deirdra some money. The funding deadline is the end of August.

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BostonFIG deadline extended

A tiny update to an earlier post: the BostonFIG submission deadline’s been extended by another 10 days, to Monday, August 20. That gives another week and a half to New England-based game creators, working in any medium, to submit their work for inclusion in this year’s festival.

A prize-list for the videogame showcase, comprising various hardware and software goodies, is starting to appear as well. Full details at the BostonFIG website.

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Interview about IF in Giant Bomb

Patrick Klepek of the gaming-news site Giant Bomb interviewed me last month about modern interactive fiction in general and The Warbler’s Nest in particular; the resulting feature story is now online. The article ends with an exhortation to play through PR-IF’s curated starter-games list, which is nice to see as well.

While I do wince a little at yet another Adventure games are not dead after all! headline, I can’t help but think to myself: Well, it beats the alternative. And when it sits atop thoughtful articles whose comments sections quickly fill with self-styled gamers enthusiastically recommending IF works at one another, that gives me even less reason to complain.

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No Show videos online

Speaking of the 2012 No Show Conference, all twelve of its talks and presentations are now online for public enjoyment and enrichment. Visit its presentation page with any Flash-capable browser, and click a talk’s Continue reading button to make its video player pop up.

I attended every talk that weekend in person, and found them all rewarding. Going by the metric of new things I learned, my favorite talks include Mitchell Smallman on how economic classes affect gameplay access and Andrea Shubert on practical card game design. But I recommend the whole lot of them; this was a really well curated lineup.

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Bored Games

Are you bored? Is it my turn? Are we still playing?

I've been playing Minecraft since the beta version. I still enjoy it even though it has turned into shopping and XP. (Its fear-of-the-dark made manifest is the best part of the game to me.) But I don't really enjoy playing for more than an hour or two, which surprised me for a long time. I'm nearly as reliable as a clock: after 60-75 minutes, I've probably added to my architecture, killed some spiders, planted something, explored somewhere—most of the actions you do in Minecraft. And I'm done.

Except at the beginning of a world; then I'll play for a while. But I've detected a pattern: given at least one awesome house, an enchantment table (and my kreeper-proof armor), some serious time killing mineshaft spiders, and a flock of chickens, once the terrain patchwork becomes uninteresting to explore, I'm ready to start over. And I've started over a lot.

But it took Kimi saying, about Skyrim, "This is not a game you 'finish', this is a game that you eventually grow bored of" to make me realize this was a class of games. Skyrim, Minecraft, Animal Crossing: things you play until you're bored.

But what a weird ending condition boredom is! It's not a state of satisfaction, it's not a state of closure, of success. It's not a positive state, it's uncomfortable and itchy, mind-numbing. It makes us dull when we could be witty. It's a rut in which we're stuck simultaneously knowing we'd rather be anywhere else but can't get there from here. Boredom is not worth achieving, better a shared win in Cosmic Encounter.

Boredom for an ending condition feels a bit too much to me like game over in first-world real life: keep working for the weekends, keep drinking to Fox News, until they come for you with a casket.

So why are we still playing? My mother wore out three Nintendo DS machines playing Animal Crossing and now has it for the Wii. Minecraft 1.3 just debuted with interactive NPCs. (I wonder if they'll get catchphrases eventually?) I don't hear the constant buzz that Skyrim discussion used to be but I have no doubt that it's just gone into a different room from this one.

Is it, in fact, the closeness to reality juxtaposed with the impossibility of real life (dragons, kreepers, talking tanuki) that keeps us changing the seed in

The whole experience has made me appreciate endings, whether I win or lose, not only the finality but the opportunity. That game's over and now we can play another, no more quasi-guilt from the number of saved world directories sitting on my hard drive. Who's in for Ohne Furcht Und Adel? Seven Wonders?

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BostonFIG game submission deadline: August 10

Update: The submission deadline’s been extended to August 20.

WebBannerThis is a good year for inaugural game conferences in Boston. On the heels of No Show comes The Boston Festival of Independent Games, held around Cambridge’s Kendall Square on September 22.

BostonFIG will be a public series of events centering around locally produced games, be they digital, tabletop, or otherwise. Admission is free, though the event’s website does request that you register before showing up.

New England-based game makers have through August 10 — that’s this coming Friday — to submit their own works for inclusion in the festival. Each game submitted will be examined by at least one of the festival’s curators (the list of whom includes Y.T.), who will provide studied feedback to its developer. Submissions that meet BostonFIG’s display criteria become eligible for inclusion into the festival’s showcase.

The game submission fee for the videogame showcase is $15 ($10 for students), and is waived entirely for tabletop and street-game submissions. We’re especially interested in receiving student work, in fact, as well as card games and board games produced around these parts.

BostonFIG’s own copy about the festival submissions process, including relevant URLs and more specific instructions, follows. Hope to see your games!

Continue reading BostonFIG game submission deadline: August 10.
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