Author Archives: Kevin Jackson-Mead
Twenty years ago this March, They Might Be Giants released the album Apollo 18. I'd like to create a kind of interactive fiction tribute album, i.e., a set of games, each inspired by a track on the album. And I'd like your help!
The games are now available for online and offline playing.
Sign up for a game. Make a short (or extremely short) game. Betatest others' games. Release the games.
It was a really great experience for me, and I'm really glad I went. The key takeaway for me was that being forced to collaborate with a small group of people for many hours with a hard deadline really gets the creative juices flowing, even if it can be frustrating at times. One of my teammates does a great job of explaining the various iterations we went through. There were definitely times I felt like quitting, and I'm sure my teammates were similarly frustrated at times, but we kept at it and developed a pretty nice auction card game that plays in around an hour. And having other people there to playtest it was key, since we certainly wouldn't have gotten it to where it needed to be without some key insights from other smart people.
I thought it was some neat synchronicity when, this week, Craig Perko talked about how college should be about doing lots of projects with people who share your interests, and last weekend really felt like a mini version of that. I'm keen to try this again in the very near future, although I don't know if I'd be able to organize something like this before Boston Game Jams decides to do it again. I'm also keen to just make more games, even on my own. If you're keen to do that, too, then you could do worse than checking out Ian Schreiber's free blog-based course that he ran two summers ago (and that is still around) called Game Design Concepts (and you could also check out his book with Brenda Brathwaite, Challenges for Game Designers).
I had a simple game idea, too, which I actually solidified enough to pitch at the game jam. I didn't get anyone to work on it with me, but I've been thinking about it since then and definitely have a set of rules to try out with some people the next time I can find three other people and have my Sevendeck and Icehouse pieces handy.
And I'm serious about wanting to think about pulling together another cardboard game jam, even if it's only with a group of 8–10 people (I'm not sure what the critical mass is, since having people for playtetsing, as I mentioned, is pretty key). If something like this were to happen again, even if it didn't take place in a cool place like GAMBIT, are there any Boston-area Gameshelf readers who would be willing to give it a shot?
- Spring Thing entries have been released. We'll probably at least mention this.
- PAX East postmortem.
- Cambridge Science Festival.
- Possible talk/demo of common-sense AI stuff.
The next PR-IF meetup is today at 6:30 in the Trope Tank, 14N-233 at MIT. IF you’d like more timely notices in the future, you can join our mailing list.
Potential topics include:
- the new pr-if.org
- PAX East
- IF Theory book update
- Zarfhome Software Consulting, LLC update
- scheduling the next Grue Street
- scheduling the next playing group
- Cambridge Science Festival update
- a talk about an AI project
New faces always welcome. Hope to see you there!
[Sorry for the short-notice announcement here. If you’d like to keep up with what’s going on with PR-IF in a more timely manner, you can join the mailing list.]
We’re having our monthly meetup today, December 6, at 6:30 at the Trope Tank, 14N-233 at MIT. We’ll chat about various IF-related topics, likely to include at least the following:
- Zarf’s Kickstarter, which ends today.
- IF Comp results.
- The Cambridge Science Festival.
- A potential revamp of our website.
I played some more IFComp games. Behind the jump you’ll find mini-reviews of seven games. There will be some amount of spoilerage after the jump, so be warned. If you would just like to know whether I think these games are worth your time, here are the non-spoilery micro-reviews:
- Rogue of the Multiverse: Highly Recommended
- The Sons of the Cherry: Not Recommended
- A Quiet Evening at Home: Not Recommended
- Gris et Jaune: Recommended
- The Chronicler: Not Recommended
- Death Off the Cuff: Highly Recommended
- East Grove Hills: Highly Recommended
Here’s a different take on “weighted voting,” from a CNN article about the French Senate passing the pension bill:
As is the custom in the Senate, senators voted Friday by placing plastic credit-card sized tokens into one of three different urns indicating a vote for, against or in abstention. The cards were then poured out into a scale and the vote was calculated by the total weight of tokens in each urn.Just knowing that something like this exists makes me happy. I wonder if there are other funky voting things out there. I’m trying to think about how something like this might be used as a mechanic for a board game. You could have a plastic tub with several divisions. Each turn, players would put marbles or something into the different tubs based on something in the game. The tub would have a removable bottom, and at some point during the game the bottom would be removed, letting the marbles fall onto some sort of balance scale device, and you would see the result by which way the balance tipped, or maybe there’s some more complex mechanism, something Rube Goldberg-esque, that is affected by the weights of the various divisions.
Or I suppose you could have marbles that weigh different amounts but that are the same size and are painted the same color. So you would have them made of different materials (different metals or metal alloys? different woods?), and their weights would be such that a computer inside a scale could determine how many of each are in the container by weight. However, no one would know what anyone else was contributing to the tub (you would know either by the weight difference, or perhaps there could be different textures put on them so that you could tell the difference by feel). OK, maybe that doesn’t work out mathematically, at least not for large numbers of marbles, but maybe there could be something for smaller numbers of marbles. Or maybe the tub could have a mechanism inside it for sorting the marbles by weight, something that is invisible to the players.
Anyway, just some random thoughts about using weight as a voting mechanic. Anyone else have ideas? Anyone know of an existing board game that uses some kind of weight mechanic?
It’s time for the annual Interactive Fiction Competition. Since I’m not participating as an author this year, I’m going to be participating as a judge. I might not end up reviewing all of the games, but I wanted to start off by looking at the two games that are not in one of the standard formats (Z-code, Glulx, or TADS), since they will likely be getting somewhat less attention because of that. They are R by therealeasterbunny and Leadlight by Wade Clarke.
After the cut, there will be some spoilers (although not major ones). Don’t read further if you haven’t played the games yet and don’t want the experience spoiled. I will briefly say that R is maybe not worth it unless you are into pirates or you are nostalgic for Scott Adams games and that Leadlight is definitely worth playing despite its unusual platform.
Our September meetup will be on Monday, September 27, at the usual time (6:30, with migration to CBC for food/drink around 8 or so) and at the usual place (the Trope Tank, aka 14N-233 on the MIT campus). We don’t have any kind of official agenda as of yet, but here are some things we might discuss:
- Aaron Reed’s book is out, so we’ll probably discuss it some.
- The Tufts University IF month is coming up (October), and various of us are helping out in various ways, so we’ll probably discuss that.
- And, as usual, we’ll likely just yammer on about IF in particular and games in general.
The last PR-IF playing event was very successful, so we’re trying it again, this time with a more modern piece of interactive fiction: Lost Pig. Come join us this Sunday, September 12, from 2-5 pm at MIT in Building 1, Room 135. For more information, including live stream information, check out the PR-IF website.
Our August meetup will be on Monday, August 30, at 6:30 in 14N-233 at the MIT campus. See our website for more details about the group. This month’s agenda:
- We’ll be the first to check out a new adventure game from GAMBIT.
- We may check out a few bits of GET LAMP.
- If it’s out in time, we’ll likely flip through some of the new book on writing IF, Creating Interactive Fiction with Inform 7.
- We’ll play the IntroComp 2010 games that we didn’t get to last month, and we’ll discuss the results of the competition (which came out this past weekend).
- If our Tufts contingent is represented, we’ll talk about how planning for IF month at Tufts (October) is coming along.
All are welcome, and please feel free to come with your own suggestions for things to do/discuss.
For the Zork-playing event I mentioned earlier, there has been a slight change. It turns out that the room we were going to use didn’t have a projector, so we’ve acquired a new, better, easier-to-find room. It’s still at MIT, but it’s in Building 1 Room 135. Hope to see you there.
Sorry for the short-ish notice. This is our second attempt at an IF playing group to complement our IF writing group.
The People’s Republic of Interactive Fiction Presents: ZORK
July 25th, 2 - 5 pm
MIT Campus: Bulding 1 Room 135. NEW ROOM!
Come and play Zork where it all started. We will be venturing together into the dungeons of the Great Underground Empire.
Inspired by Adventure / Colossal Cave, Zork was one of the first text adventure games, developed by a team of students at MIT back in 1977 on a PDP-10. If you’ve never played a text adventure game, this is your chance to experience the joys of playing through the command prompt by joining others in the adventure. If you’re an old Zork hand, help us track down in-jokes and historic references.
Also, we’ll be trying to broadcast the session on Ustream: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/people-s-republic-of-interactive-fiction-zork.
It’s that time again. We’ll be having our monthly meetup at 6:30 on Monday, July 26, at the MIT campus in 14N-233. See our website for more details about the group. On the agenda so far we have:
- Talk about how Zarf’s Readercon talk went and what we might want to do regarding other local conventions.
- Take a look at some of the IntroComp games.
- Talk about what we might want to do for PAX East 2011 (it’s been confirmed for Boston for the next 3 years).
- Watch the latest Gameshelf episode! We’ll be watching the YouTube-sized Gameshelf #8: Modern Interactive Fiction.
And as always, everyone is welcome, even if you don’t know anything about interactive fiction and just want to sit and observe.
I went to a game night this past week at my FLGS (friendly local game store). One of the new games I played was Anomia. It’s a fun little quick-thinking social word game. It’s pretty similar to Jungle Speed but with words instead of grabbing. If that doesn’t tell you everything you need to know, read on.
In Anomia, there is a face-down draw pile of cards. Each card contains one of 8 or so symbols and a category (“Shampoo Brand”, “Restaurant”, “Radio Station”, etc.). On your turn, draw a card and place it face up on top of a pile in front of yourself. If at any time the symbols on two players’ top-most face-up cards match, those players race to name something from the category on their opponent’s card. Whoever manages to get something out first gets to take their opponent’s card as a point. Play continues until the decks run out.
There’s a nice tension between your turn and everyone else’s turn. When it’s someone else’s turn, you know what symbol is face up in front of you, so you’re just looking to see if that one symbol turns up. But on your turn, once you turn up the card, you have to see if your new symbol matches any of the other three. Switching back and forth between those modes, especially if everyone is playing quickly, is very mentally stimulating. And there are a couple of twists thrown in, in the form of wild cards (where it declares two different symbols as matching in addition to the normal matching rules) and lower cards being revealed when a card is taken for scoring (we had a chain of three scores in one of the games we played).
There was quite a bit of laughter in the game, and I think everyone had a good time. The game comes with two different decks, and after we played two games in a row with the same deck and found some of the same answers coming up, we made the rule that you couldn’t say something that had already been said, which made it even more interesting. And I can’t pass up the opportunity to mention that one of the points I scored with the category “Palindrome” was “Able was I ere I saw Elba” (generally, the shorter the response, the more likely you are to score a point, since we were awarding the point to the person who finished first, not started first).
And since I’m known as the person who hypes local things on this blog, I’ll mention that the game was self-published by someone living in Boston.
Our current guest blogger here on the Gameshelf came to visit the Boston area several months ago to do some guest lecturing. On his plane ride over, he read in an in-flight magazine about Eames Demetrios and Kcymaerxthaere (or Kymaerica). Kymaerica is “a global work of three dimensional storytelling,” wherein plaques are placed throughout the world and give little bits of story related to a parallel universe.
It turns out that there is a plaque not far from Boston, and as our visitor also wanted to see some graves nearby, we decided to make a trip of it.
Two recent bits:
- Following the success of the IF summit at PAX East, the Seattle IF group is organizing some IF content at PAX Prime in Seattle this September.
- IF newcomer Neophyte has teamed up with IF veteran Juhana to build a game that will act as an IF trainer, teaching people what they need to know to play other IF games. They're collaborating on a wiki for everyone to see. Right now they have some of the initial concept done, and they're hoping to have the game done by September 1 (just in time for PAX Prime, although I think their timing has more to do with the annual comp than PAX).
In case for some reason you didn't hear this elsewhere, Portal is now free for the next week and a half. They're doing it to draw attention to Steam being available for the Mac now, but it's free for everyone. So, never having played Portal before (except the 2D version), I downloaded it onto my PC laptop and tried it out. I was at first a little worried because they told me that they didn't recognize my video card, but everything seemed to play fine. I played for about half an hour, and I really enjoyed it. It's certainly playable with my laptop's trackpad for now, but I think I'll hook up the mouse to make it a bit more comfortable, since, like most shooters, you move with WASD and aim with the mouse.
Distant early warning for our June meetup, since we (read "I") have been a bit late lately getting the meeting time settled. So, our next monthly meetup will be on Monday, June 28, at 6:30 in Nick Montfort's office at MIT, 14N-233. Agenda to be determined, but we'll likely talk about a couple of June conferences/meetings that will have taken place, the ELO_AI conference and @party. All are welcome, regardless of your experience with or knowledge of interactive fiction. Afterwards, usually around 8:00 or 8:30, we head over to the CBC for food and/or drinks.
I'm sure we'll also be talking about two PR-IF splinter groups that will have met for the first time. This Sunday is Grue Street, the first meeting of an IF writer's group. And then on the day before the meetup, Sunday June 27, we'll have the first meeting of an IF reader's/player's group. Links to information on both of these (as well as a link to our mailing list) can be found on our website.
Time again for the monthly PR-IF meetup. We'll be meeting on Monday, May 3, at 6:30 in Nick Montfort's office at MIT, 14N-233. On the agenda for this month is talk about the new release of Inform 7 (if it is out by then) and some play of the TWIFcomp entries (for which voting will be over by then), some of which are by people who will be in attendance at the meeting.
As usual, we'll head over to the CBC for food and/or drink afterwards (we usually head over there around 8 or 8:30).
All are welcome. If you've got something you'd like to show off or suggest that we all play or look at or discuss or whatever, please feel free.