Monday, November 2, 2009


Okay.  So I think most of my writing energy is going to go into NaNoWriMo this month.  I just felt like posting to share it and to say that I am pretty pumped for this.  I can't believe I have never tried it before.  So far I think I am on track but it has only been 2 days.  We'll see if I can keep up with it.

Wish me luck!

Monday, October 26, 2009

I Wanna Start A Business

So... I feel like I should have double majored in business or something because never before in my life have I wanted to start a business more than I do now.  I have so many random ideas for businesses that I would love to see come to life.  Some are my own ideas, some are inspired by others, a few are shared.  Who knows maybe I'll sit down one day and figure out if any of them are actually viable.  Maybe one might even have potential to stay a float.

With that said... I have little to no knowledge of how to actually plan or run a small business so the likely hood of it happening is slim to none.  However, if I ever become rich or have a patron of any kind I will totally start a business and run it into the ground for fun (or maybe sell it for a small profit?).

Also, with no known way to fund said business I find it unlikely that this will happen any time soon.  However, if you happen to have a couple hundred thousand dollars lying around please feel free to send it my way and I will be more than happy to make a small plaque for you and put it in my business for everyone to see.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Ancient Co-op Games

Okay. To preface this post I must say I have been absolutely obsessed with ancient board games recently. Like, I have been playing Chess and Go non-stop. I have even been having Go dreams... like I am playing go against myself and losing (don't ask me how I am not also winning if I am playing myself but trust me I am not).

So in most obsessions of mine curiosity is close at hand. I have become very curious about where cooperative play had begun. Where are the roots of cooperative play? What are the best examples of it from ancient games? After asking myself these questions I started searching.

I honestly haven't found a lot of good examples of it. The strongest ones I can find are either puzzles or games like Chinese Checkers where it is possible to have teams but are not what I would call co-op. The only other examples I have found are mutations of solitaire with multiple players trying to accomplish the same goals (which basically boils down to a puzzle but perhaps I am being too much of a reductionist).

So, with these discoveries I have begun exploring potential routes for co-op games to take. I feel that the strongest route a co-op game can take is a game based around construction rather than destruction. What I mean by that can be explained by comparing Chess to Go or even better Solitaire to a jigsaw puzzle. In Solitaire players are trying to deconstruct a chaotic deck of cards and then reorganize it into their rightful stack, or in peg style solitaire puzzles players attempt to reduce the amount of pegs until only one remains. While in a jigsaw puzzle many "players" are trying to construct a picture from a single starting point.

The reason I feel this construction path is stronger is because it would force players to rely on one another to create a solid construction and foundation. In a destructive game one player could potentially do all the work while the other accomplished little to nothing and they could still be successful. This may work for some players but I feel to create a challenging co-op game all players need to be contributing to accomplish the goal.

However, even in writing this I have found that my point of view comes down to casual/social play vs. core/competitive play. If one player falters it may provide unwanted punishment to players and drive away casual players while on the other hand if a single player is carrying the "weight" of the team they will feel like they are being dragged down.

I dunno, I guess it is something I will continue mulling over. I wish to have a lengthy discussion about it in the near future. Anyone reading this with input please feel free to add something. My curiosity hungers for your input.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Game Review: Scribblenauts

Okay first of all, if you don't already know what Scribblenauts is (which, if you have been following upcoming games at all you should) I am going to explain it a bit.

Scribblenauts is a game from 5th Cell, makers of Drawn to Life and Lock's Quest. All of these games have grabbed a lot of attention from E3 and the game community at large for their unique play style and quirky art style.

Scribblenauts is a puzzle style game actually very similar in style to Crayon Physics. The basic object is to get Character A to Star-Thing B with all the crazy obstacles you could want in between. The trick is in the primary mechanic, the ability to write whatever comes to mind and have it appear on the screen.

Overall the game is a gem in the piles and piles dirt offered to those of us who love the DS. It stands alone as a thoughtful game with personality, depth, and most of all a lot of heart and thought put into it. It shows in every corner of the game from the simple introduction screen to the developer's room I found by accidentally stepping into a teleporter.

The puzzles are fairly simple to start off with and offer an easy way to get into the game and learn your limits (which there aren't many of... but they will be discussed later). As you get further into the game the puzzle start to take on their own style, putting twists on typical game situations. The art and characters give them game its own humor but when combined with the infinite possibilities offered in the game hilarity is a natural bi-product.

I honestly haven't explored the Wi-Fi of this game but I truly hope that sharing levels in Scribblenauts will be the next Little Big Planet. The level editor in my opinion is where this little game will truly shine. I have only scratched the surface of the things you can do in the level editor but it is already satisfying. I can't wait to share some of them with my friends. (yea... gimme your friend codes.)

As a whole, the game doesn't leave a lot to be desired, but as they say the devil is in the details. The one glaring drawback to the game is the clunky movement controls. I have always hated point and click style movement and I personally feel if they had only swapped the D-pad controls with the stylus controls it would have made the game much more playable. I can't count the number of times I have restarted levels due to a clumsy jump where it should have been simple.

The only other major frustration I have is with the player's ability to interact with other characters. The interactions feel very limited unless they are part of the puzzle. For example I wish I could give clear orders to a creature I have created, or I wish that when I spawned a dragon it wouldn't immediately hate me (I wanna ride it!!). However, most of these problems are fixed by the level editor, the more in depth control of the characters in the editor is just what I needed to satiate my hunger for more control.

One thing I must say is surprising about this game is that when I first bought it I thought that a game with so many possibilities couldn't possibly account for all the ideas people have for solving problems. In other such games it can feel like a struggle to try and figure out exactly what the developer wanted you to do rather than being able to what you wanted. However, in this game it feels like (with a few exceptions... the major one being that flying seems to solve almost everything) I can solve each puzzle in my own way.

I guess all that's left to say is I hope to see more games takes risks like this one in the future. It is a pleasure to play and I would recommend the game to anyone of any age.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Why are Cute Games the Most Innovative?

Okay, you may be asking yourself where I got such an idea. How can I say something as seemingly simple as an artistic choice to make fluffier bunnies drives innovation? I tend to ask myself the same thing sometimes but I continue to find examples of this statement's truth in both past and current games on the market (and off the market to a large extent, meaning art house games and other indy titles).

I can't count the number of times I have found myself playing a childish looking game with adorable characters, plants with smiling happy faces, or even cute little bits of pixel art and found that the design around that art is ingenious, unique, inspiring. Heck look at Orisinal Games. Maybe it is just me or perhaps I have the cause and the effect, it could be that brilliant design inspires adorable art but I believe it is a synergy of the two. One drives the other.

I suppose I can't say it is only the 'cute factor'. What I guess I really mean by 'cuteness' is actually artistic abstraction. Art that is distanced from reality. It is inspiring in so many ways and seems to be a part of if not the best at least the most risky designs.

Artistic abstraction is an incredibly useful design tool in many ways that have already been discovered over and over again. I am not an expert on the subject so I won't talk at length about abstraction's strengths but I can give a few examples. Abstract art can draw on emotions realistic art can't. It lets the player see more of themselves in the characters and thus empathize with them more. It allows for more variety and unique style in games to set it apart from others. But I would argue that it also drives innovation in design.

I think this is because abstraction allows more freedom in decision making. With abstract art there are little to no assumptions about what the art should be or how the characters should act. This freedom from assumptions means that the mechanics of the game can be ANYTHING.

What I mean by this is that with realistic art it is much more difficult to have that freedom of mechanics. With realistic art players expect realistic gameplay, which leads to a sort of stagnation in what realistic games offer. Don't get me wrong, this has its strengths too. Having realistic art definitely has its merits. Players know what to expect from it, they know what they are buying when they look at it so these games are easy to sell and can lead to more subtle innovation and evolution of the different game genres without much economic risk. This is equally important in my opinion but does not excite me in the same way as a completely (or mostly) unique experience.

I guess what I am getting at with writing this is partly for my benefit, to try and focus where I find my inspirations. To realize that I need to look to visual art more to draw my inspiration and drive gameplay innovation. But it is also to try to get others to look in places they might not consider for inspiration, look to a medium or a game genre that you might not normally consider great. Even just writing this I have convinced myself to try and get more excited about hardcore games and realistic ones to look for more subtle design decisions in those experiences and learn from them.

SO I guess I am just trying to say, don't rule out a game just because the cover is an animu mushroom angrily kicking a plumber. That game might have something to it you have never seen before.

Thanks for reading.


Thursday, July 23, 2009

Some Pictures

Here are a couple pictures I snapped during my visit with Kaleigh. They are mostly taken from a small bridge over a pond where we ate a short picnick. I like the shadows on some, the reflections on others, and some other things about them so I thought I would share them.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A Compendium of Thoughts

I have decided to start working on a project to get all my thoughts together on a bunch of topics that I deam important. This will be a sort of compendium of my knowledge and refer to a number of famous works (though I probably won't cite or anything). It might be riddled with accidental plagerism for now but hey, oh well. It is better to ask forgiveness than permision.

Anyway, I am posting to try and collect a number of topics together in one place which I can then condense or expend. If people have suggestions I'd love to hear them. I am hoping to make this a sort of philosophical thing and a look into my morality.

So far I have the following:

Chaos vs. Order
Story Telling
Cooperation vs. Competition/tit for tat/Prisoner's Paradox Game
The Rat Race/Corporate Living/The Trap of Modern Living

I dunno, these are just thoughts for now. I hope to start writing about them soon. Everthing I write will be almost purely opinion and much of it will probably draw on famous authors that I don't remember so they might not be all my ideas originally but they will be what I think currently.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

What I've Been Up to

Well, I applied to a few jobs in/around Boston today so wish me luck!

But besides from the job search I have been keeping busy, mostly writing actually. It has been a while since I have really sat down and writen a bunch of stuff so it felt good.

I am getting pretty excited about my D&D campaign, it feels like it is coming along but I have a ton of stuff still in my head that I haven't gotten onto paper... er... wiki.

Other than that I have basically been writing character bibles for use in role plays as well as some of my own stories. Heck some might even cross into my campaign.

I have also finished reading 3 small books recently. The Power of Myth, This Book Does Not Exist for only 9 bucks at Barnes and Nobles I recommend it, and The Universe in a Single Atom, not to mention four short comic books.

I really enjoyed the first two and recommend them as easy/awesome reads. I may have already mentioned Campbell but I have been looking into his other works and the works of Bill Moyers (his interviewer). I really want to find his PBS series so I think that is my next project.

Other than that I have recently downloaded the trial for Multimedia Fusion 2 and finished the tutorial. I am hoping to challenge myself to do rapid designs of different types of game and perhaps then redesigning them with a twist.

Finally, I have been playing Guitar Hero II with my father recently, I think he is almost ready to move up to Medium difficulty. I myself am only just breaking into Expert (I don't think I can even beat all the songs on hard yet...) but I am getting there. I also am hoping to show him CoD 4: Modern Warfare as I think he will love it.

Thats all for now. Thanks for reading.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

What To Do?

Well, again I fail at keeping regularly updated. I guess I have just been distracted as always. But I have to say, it is quite nice to be able to get my thoughts out in one place every now and again. I think it helps keep me sane(ish).

Since my last post I have been fairly busy. I have been applying to jobs (a somewhat daunting task). The strange thing is, every time I send out a copy of my resume I realize something else that can be fixed on it or something I need to do to improve it. I suppose it it probably like that with everyone straight out of college but it is such a strange feeling to be "finished with school" and have so much to do.

So on that note, to improve my portfolio/resume I am currently working on a level design. I haven't decided what engine to use. I'd like to learn Source a bit more so that will probably be the one I use, though using Unreal isn't out of the question. I am also kicking around designs for a card game. Even though I have no idea how to even try to publish one it is something I want to try. Lastly, I have been trying to jot down ideas for rapid design games (and failing because unfortunately it is a little lower on my totem pole of things to do).

Besides all of that I have also been working for fun on a number of things. A Pathfinder campaign using Obsidian Portal, an incredibly easy tool. Improving my writing through various RP forums, RP gaming, and personal writing. Keeping a dream journal. Amature photography with my new camera (a nikon d60). Amoung other random things (reading Campbell mostly).

So I have a lot on my plate, I am having a bit of trouble prioritizing but only because all of it is so interesting. I need to create deadlines for myself...

Anywho, I am off to to help my father ventilate our roof. Thanks for reading.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Graduation Work

Okay, so I realize that I have not written a post in a long... long time. This is primarily because I have been preparing to graduate. I have been getting my projects in line for my portfolio, I have been working on my resume, and I have been searching for jobs online, all while trying to figure out the best place to live for the time being.

Anyway, this is going to be a short post but it is mostly to remind myself to write here consistently for once and to post up a link to my portfolio for those that are interested in looking. Check it out!

Thanks for following me if you do, Wish me the best of luck in the future and soon I will be writing like closing thoughts on my graduation, my senior projects, my experience at Champlain, and all kinds of good stuff. Maybe even a video game critique or two if I am feeling up to it.