We just launched the Kickstarter for Four Sided Fantasy, a spiritual successor to The Fourth Wall: Kickstarter page
Many of you were interested in Perspective at GDC, so it is likely that you’re coming here for that. You can find the game here.
I’ve got another prototype up on the site, called Isolation. You can download it here. I turned this one in for a grade, so it’s more complete than the last one, but I wouldn’t quite call it finished. I don’t have any desire to come back to it any time soon, though, so I thought I’d just release what I had. Enjoy!
I’ve got a new prototype on the site, and I’m quite excited for people to see this abandoned project:
The game is called Smokestack Sheriff, and it’s my reaction to the game Thirty Flights of Loving. Thirty Flights was a revelation to me. The previous game in the series, Gravity Bone, was interesting, but not in the same way. Thirty Flights takes nonlinear storytelling to a whole new level, using film techniques that I’ve never seen before in gameplay sections of a game. It made me stop and think, why haven’t we been doing this? We can say so much more by taking inspiration from other mediums. But instead we choose to only take surface level inspiration from film by creating cutscenes.
Anyways, I was fascinated by this new concept, and so I wanted to delve into it. I wanted to go even crazier with film techniques, so that’s what I set out to do.
Thirty Flights of Loving is a crime caper, so I wanted to do a similar heavily influenced trope. Something I could draw a ton of inspiration from. I decided on the theme of a murder mystery set on a train, drawing inspiration from murder mystery novels of the ’30s and ’40s. The plan wasn’t to put the whole game on a train, but I wanted to have that feel, and some portions would be on the train. Trains are a great setting for stories, and there have been plenty of great murder mysteries on trains in properties that I love (Paper Mario, Adventure Time, etc.)
The core idea that I wanted to explore with the story was connected with the fact that it’s a first person game. In most first person games, it is assumed that the player is taking the role of the character, the main character is an empty vessel, and you never change characters. In others, (such as Call of Duty), the player may switch characters at points, but it is clearly called out for the player as to when they are changing characters.
With this project, I wanted to toy with the idea that the player isn’t sure who they are playing as at any one moment. I’ve never seen a game stay deliberately vague in first person to keep the player guessing. There was going to be a cop character and a criminal character that are established early on, but after that it jumps around in the story. In each scene, the player can try to figure out who they are playing as. The ending would reveal that you were definitely playing as two different characters back and forth, and ideally, this would cause the player to think differently about each scene. The idea being that each scene would cause players to say “Okay, so if I’m the cop here, then this is story, but if I’m the criminal, then this is the story. ”
After 7 weeks of work, I decided to quit working on it altogether.
Now, why’d I stop? First, I realized that Brendon Chung, the creator of Thirty Flights of Loving, has a very distinct style. I saw that, instead of improving upon his game, I was heading in the direction of aping it. It had a very similar art style and gameplay to it, and I wasn’t happy with that. I also realized that it would take a lot more than a semester to make a game in this style (and that was our assignment, make a game in a semester). When I make a game, the idea or inspiration usually comes from wanting to fix a flaw with a game or genre that already exists. With this project, I fooled myself into thinking that I was doing that, but I really wasn’t. I was just making more of the same.
Lastly, the most important reason was that I didn’t enjoy working on the game. It involved a ton of set pieces, programming, and art to tell the story that I wanted to tell. The art was super fun to make, but the amount of scripting that I had to do was ridiculous, and ultimately, not fun scripting. I enjoy the intricacies of systems and level design, and while I can respect the type of game that Thirty Flights is, making a game like that isn’t for me.
The upside to creating a game solo is that it’s easier to quit making a project if I’m not feeling it, and start something new. After quitting work on this, I had half a semester to work on something new. And it turned out, well…I’ll leave that for next time.
Giant Bomb just did a great little video showing off Perspective here.
I’ve been a fan of Giant Bomb for a long while. As a game designer, it is crucial that I know about and play as many games as humanly possible, so I can see what’s out there. When I can’t afford the time or money to play a game, the Quick Look format that Giant Bomb runs is extremely helpful for a person like myself. It has always been a personal goal of mine to have a game of mine Quick Look’d, so this makes me happy
I don’t typically like game of the year awards, and I don’t typically like writing things. But there were so many interesting things going on this year that I just had to write down some of my thoughts. That, and I hadn’t had time to write my thoughts on any games this year at all, so I hope this will make up for it.
The following are the thoughts I had on some games I played this year. They may or may not have come out this year, and keep in mind that I missed a bunch of games that came out later in the year.
Game of the Year Awards of the Year
Game of the year awards are filled with a bunch of, well, sterile lists. Giant Bomb changes that up every year, and it’s wonderful. This year, they went with a “Making fun of TV shows” theme, that barely has anything to with video games at all. But their humor shows through, sometimes being funnier than what’s actually on TV these days. The crew’s personality shines through, including gems like Jeff Gerstmann’s characters actually resembling his actual personality. The moment he flips out about NiGHTS being on his shelf in a fake Hoarders episode is hilarious.
Also, their podcasts deliberating which games to give the awards to are really entertaining, and probably more interesting than seeing the nominees themselves.
Best Sound / Game That Changed My Mind About Spoken and Written Word
I hate spoken and written word, especially in games. The games that I make intentionally leave text and spoken word out. It may be because I want people of any language to enjoy my games, or it may be because I spent a majority of my childhood playing games instead of talking to people; I don’t really know. But what I do know is that Thomas Was Alone changed my mind. I won’t be making games with a ton of text in them any time soon, but I can now see the value in it. Thomas puts the effort in to make you want to hear the next piece of that narrator’s dialogue. It even goes so far as to frame the subtitles in a interesting way in terms of screen composition. It’s not perfect, but the fact that it made me connect with basic rectangles spits right in the face of AAA games pouring cash into getting players to connect emotionally. I have to mention the soundtrack, too, which if it weren’t for Hotline Miami would win best music. I do have some critiques, though. I feel that the story becomes too spread out between too many characters as you get further along, and the level design could be better, but man oh man. What a treat for my ears.
Holy Cow. I can’t say enough good things about this game. Sure, most of the soundtrack wasn’t made specifically for this game, but the same could be said for Braid. Frankly, that doesn’t matter to me. The music fits so well, as I cruise through multi-story buildings and “Babysit” for my “Client”.
Local multiplayer is quickly dying. But Nintendo is bringing it back with the Wii U, and Nintendoland is an impressive start. Sure, not every minigame is great, but I have to give it credit for two things. First, I am fascinated by asymmetrical multiplayer and hidden information in games, both of which Nintendoland achieves amazingly well. Second, the game earns marks for doing so well in achieving the fantasy of whatever the theme of the minigame is. Of course, I’m referring to the big three: Mario Chase, Animal Crossing, and Luigi’s Mansion. Mario Chase makes you feel like you’re really playing hide-and-go-seek tag. Players yelling out Mario’s location as he dips and dives is wacky fun. Animal Crossing convincingly makes you feel like you’re criminals running from the cops. Every time I’ve played it, every player immediately starts using terms you would hear from a teenager’s party getting busted – “Cheese it! It’s the cops!”, “Run, just drop it and run!”, “Split up!”, etc. But, the Luigi’s Mansion minigame. Oh man, the Luigi’s Mansion minigame. I’ve long held the belief that it’s near impossible to create an effective multiplayer horror game. You see, I think that immersion and multiplayer are mutually exclusive. So it came as a surprise when I played this game that the players hunting the ghost, including myself, were genuinely scared of the ghost. And you know that feeling in the Batman Arkham games that you get when you start scaring the guards? Playing as the ghost actually allows for this feeling, but with real humans on the other end.
The “Proved You Wrong” Award
I don’t have much to say about this, other than that it’s really, really good. I don’t generally enjoy stealth games, but I did enjoy this one a whole lot.
The “Double Dip” Award
Pixeljunk Eden came out on Steam this year. I loved it when I played it on PS3, but there are some glaring issues with the design. With the Steam version, they fixed some of the biggest design issues with the game. I don’t know if they are the best solutions, but they at least fixed it in some way.
I can only hope to create a game with the sense of style and atmosphere of the original trailer for Superbrothers. That is all.
Best Use of Film Techniques
Finally, someone gets it. Game industry, stop aping films by having cutscenes. Start taking cues from Thirty Flights. We can use film-style transitions in gameplay. Why did it take so long for someone to do this? I was so impressed by this game that I started to create something similar to it for one of my classes (it remains unfinished, though).
Well That Was Unexpected
Not much to say, other than that it’s about the opposite of what I go to for games, and yet it was the first game in my career of playing games to make me tear up.
Perspective has been released, and you can download it here for free: