Comfort Food

Games are beautiful and amazing and art and all that shit. I truly believe this. I think the videogame is the artform of the 21st century, like the movie was the artform of the 20th. (Let’s just go with that grand, sweeping narrative, shall we? Yes, it’s comforting and I want that simplicity right now.)

But sometimes you don’t want The Seventh Seal or Citizen Kane. Sometimes you want to huddle up with a bowl of popcorn and watch, I don’t know, Buffy.

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The world is a found object, and we are imperfect archeologists

So I decided to get on TIGsource in a proper way. I posted on there years ago but drifted away. This time, though, I made a post about “Masques and Murder!” So I’m on there now, for realsies.

On my jaunt I stumbled upon “Ultima Ratio Regum”. I’m a pretentious twit, so I know this is Latin for “The Final Argument of Kings”, and that this was proudly engraved on the elaborate barrels of Renaissance cannons. (Renaissance princes were also, I think, pretentious twits.) So I click it, because this is totally my thing.

I’m now a little bit obsessed with this game.

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Why is there so much combat in RPGs? – also, vents!

Heads up: This is a bit more design-focused than my usual posts. It also approaches RPGs with the desire to play them as I want to play them: as a narrative-producing machine ala pen and paper RPGs, rather than as a challenge or competition.

I like RPGs, but when I make a new character I can’t help but sigh. Should I be sneaky? Agile? Powerful? Should my expertise be in sniper rifles or shotguns, swords or battleaxes? Because I always end up putting my points into these skills – based around combat or, at the very least, sneaking around combat – rather than the other skills. You know the ones: charisma. Wisdom. Maybe even “gambling” or “seduction”.

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The Gods Are Hungry

Hey look, I made a game!

TGaH_title

Play it here!

From the game’s itch.io page:

As leader of a prehistoric tribe, it’s your job to keep your people fed, housed and safe.

But before long, you discover that this paradise is dangerous: natural disasters sent by jealous gods can wipe out huge swathes of your island, destroying your hard work. It’s up to you to decide how to portion out work and prayer: do you send that spare villager to gather much-needed food, or to pray at the Fire God’s shrine? Maybe those prayers will stop any future volcanic eruptions – which is good, right? But if your food drops too low, your people start dying.

Have a neat animated gif-screenshot:

tGAH02

Enjoy!

Colonising History: The Culture and Politics of Assassin’s Creed

I used to like Assassin’s Creed. I enjoyed the climbing and stabbing.

There are lots of reasons to dislike the games, though: super-linear mission structure, the AAA obsession with cutscenes, the twitchy and cluttered controls. I can live with those, though. I played these games year after year because, okay, I can hold down three buttons to run if I really have to. I can deal with the merciless checkpointing. This game does running, jumping, climbing and stabbing like nobody’s business, and that’s why I loved them.

“Loved”. Past tense.

With Assassin’s Creed 3, though, I just couldn’t ignore it any more: the series is, in a word, sickening.

By which I mean it mouths off about this, that and the other – it gets up on its high horse at every opportunity – to make itself feel good. To make us feel good. To congratulate us on how far we’ve come, and something something freedom, something something liberty, and don’t we have such a refined culture, and ooh aren’t the baddies nasty because they want to take our rights away, and oh my God could this be any more American?

The games have some really problematic things to say about freedom, government, politics and history. They shower us with these uncritical messages while taking our money for the privilege. They feed us the same nonsense as most mainstream fiction, and a lot of mainstream news. They are, to coin a phrase, part of the problem.

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Announcing: Masques and Murder

I get restless. Why work on one project when you can work on fifteen? Surely there’s no downside to that at all, and I have limitless time, and none of these projects are poorly-planned or done on the spur of the moment and would take months if not years to finish!

So, for this update there’s good and bad news! Which would you like first?

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Devlog: updates!

About time for an update!

“The Gods are Hungry” is nearly done! About time too. I need to send it round for a final batch of testing but it’s going well.

Someone stole all the apples, see.

Heavy tutorial hint.

The plague game is also progressing. It’s a much, much bigger project so it can be demoralising, unsure of how far today’s work gets me to the finish line. I thought I’d show you what I’ve done recently, though.

This is what it looked like a week or so after I started development:

The "abstract game" port.Barely functional, and desperately in need of prettification. This is what it looked like a month later:

Notice the awful wall texture. Medieval pictures of walls are hard to find - perhaps because walls are just boring.

I was excited to get to this point. I wanted a game that looked like a medieval woodcut. The avatar, NPC beggar and corpses are all taken from engravings or prints, as are the heart and stomach in the GUI on the right hand side. This was better than image 1.

But you can see the problem. It’s painfully obvious that the world is made of poorly-stapled planes with the bungliest of textures. So I decided to spend a single day prettying it up to the best of my ability, just to see how far I could take it in a short space of time. I was terrified of bump mapping but it turned out to be very simple in Unity with the help of crazybump, a program for generating normal maps that’s quite pricey but has a 30 day trial and is really rather splendid. I also remodelled the street in an external  modelling program, which gave me more control over how to place those pesky planes.

This is the result:

plague_Street redesign

A great improvement, I think. There are a few small problems (the roofs need redoing, for one thing) but it looks much nicer.

I don’t know if this will be the final art style for the streets. I’m still attached to the idea of a woodcut aesthetic, but the truth is those woodcuts never depicted 3D space, and seldom depicted space the way the game does. Plus, for a while I’d been asking myself how I can make the game feel plaguey – atmospheric, poxy, the air thick with disease. It’s not there yet, but this update definitely takes a step in the right direction.