Things Have Changed

I’m now writing at: piedgames.blogspot.com .

I think this is probably a better fit for what I want to do, especially as I’m no longer going to be able to dedicate full time to game design.

I’m working on things that can be built from the start in an hour to two hours to have a finished product; that’s not games. Its a multimedia illumination on the world.

Things Change; Things Don’t Change

So I’ve been reading the new pages of the Old Man Murray website for a little while now, as you may have noticed by my quite commonly having linked to it.

I think I’ve gotten to the the end of the line. I think that because clicking the ‘Next Page’ link brings up a 404 page. Then again there is a ‘Next Page’ link. Then again, the last new item is written in January of the year that the site was founded, so there certainly isn’t much more on the new front, regardless.

The people have changed. I recognise some of the names in the news pages, but mainly as historical characters rather than the still active, with the rather amusing exception of Valve and the associated which is where the two writers of the site now, I believe, work. I think that this is to some extent due to the PC, and thus western, focus of the site.

Still some things timeless and there was a lot to learn. Since that was the news pages that bodes where for the actual content pages of the site, doesn’t it!

Speaking of things changing and not changing; things might be changing for me quite soon (and also not changing), and things might be silent here for a while until I’ve got that sorted (possibly less than a day, I’m impatient.)

The Shared Expectations

This was inspired by my making my newest demo and also watching this video by on game design by one of the Vlambeer guys. It is also going to be far more specific than the name suggest based on the idea that focusing on the specific can provide illumination on the general.

When attacking an enemy how effective are you being? A health bar could help, perhaps. Maybe spreading blood splatter when a hit is done. There are numerous things that one can do to say ‘this enemy is getting weaker’. However, in a Pirate Versus Several Ninjas your bullets aren’t doing any damage to the ninjas. When your strike against them is being effective, you’ll know about it, however you can’t deduce from the lack of indications of the effectiveness of your bullets that your bullets aren’t effective.

That’s because I have no reputation. Nobody looks at JohansenIndustries and says to themselves ‘this is someone we can trust to have implemented good player feedback’. This means that the current possibilities are different – I expect smaller – for me with no reputation than studios that have one. To focus on the opriginal point, if people don’t expect well-implement player feedback when injuring an enemy then a lack of indications of injury isn’t evidence of a lack of injury.

Trying to get into a superior area of Shared Expectations can be seen as a reason for going into those trends, or reasons for trying to get ‘high-quality’ graphics and other assets. For example, making it clear that you are willing to put a lot of effort into music can make people more inclined to think you’ll put more effort into more important things such as player feedback.

What’s that? That’s signalling!

A Pirate Versus Several Ninjas

http://www.kongregate.com/games/JohansenIndustr/a-pirate-versus-several-ninjas-beta

Yes I said I’d write something about signalling today, but I’ve got this new prototype to release. I’m now putting it on the back-burner for a while to let me get back my perspective. For the rest of the month, I’ll be doing Write A Game in a Month.

Now, A Pirate Versus Several Ninjas is a game that is playable on your browser  and exclusively uses keyboard controls. It is a top-down adventure game where you must explore (with the use of your compass attached to the ‘C’ button) the world to be able to kill three ninjas – your gun is too weak to do the work itself.

Its hard to say things about the game because the key factor is working out for yourself what to do, and how to solve it. What, I will say is that the difficulty curve will be far less steep if I do choose to keep working on it, since the easiest and the hardest are where I want it, they’d just be further apart.

Thoughts on the Audio Tag

Many games on the internet have sound. What is the key feature to always remember when you have sound?

The ability to turn off that infernal music!

Now those games on the internet that may be made using HTML5 assets probably use the audio tags for their music. If you were to look up the audio tags in Bing the default things you see will likely include the ‘controls’ attribute in the tag. The ‘controls’ attribute creates a bar that includes volume controls. It also includes the ability to skip around the audio and to pause it.

Now perhaps you don’t want to use the built-in controls feature since you don’t want to give them those later abilities? Why not? If your game could get messed up by player’s being able to skip around the sound – and would not by them muting it – then that seems like you’re taking a slightly risky and shortsighted approach to your coding. If I was you, I’d worry about it breaking on me.

By putting your sound controls on your game canvas you force for one of either two things: it becomes part of you default UI and contributes to cluttering that, or you require players to go onto a separate menu and generally be a bit of a irritation. The third possibly is binding it to a key on the keyboard, this includes its own handful of complications; none of them huge.

I suppose a key thing I’ve yet to mention here is when you have multiple audio tags for different types of sound types (e.. music versus enemy sound effects). However, unless you have very many it wouldn’t be a great difficulty for your player to mute everything as they want. In addition to this it will again give the player a greater degree of customisation assuming that everything is properly labeled.

Using the raw audio default controls could be considered as pulling back the curtain, or dispelling the illusion. Its allows people to see what’s going on underneath the hood. This is something that’s going out of style in the real world. Even with literal car hoods. However, that trend in work and domesticity is only a reason to go the opposite way when it comes to recreation. If the world is full of near-magic opaqueness then that’s a greater reason for us to be distinctly transparent.

This post was originally going to be about signalling. I’ll deal with that question more widely, tomorrow.

Unique? No.

There is a book by Carola Hicks called ‘Girl in a Green Gown’, the subtitle then explains the concept of the book – isn’t that always the case? – being that it is about ‘The History and Mystery of the Arnolfini Portrait’ alas, as somebody interested almost exclusively ‘in the mystery’, the reviews I’ve read have suggested it is not for me.

However, it does appear to have the most fascinating history. That is only possible because it is unique. It goes from one famed figure to another. That is not a usual situation for painting, unique or not. But it is something that is essentially impossible for computer games, even indies.

Or is it? The best comparison to enlighten us of this issue is not painting, but books and novels after the invention of the printing press. In books, a work of enough interest, will go through many print runs and a work of even more and prolonged interest will create an interest in first-runs. These are usually more than one book long, but that’s not relevant.

These first editions have a certain feeling of import than the later prints. Could, therefore, this be the way for that Great Indie Game be such an interesting creature of anecdote? No. Digital media is so much more fragile than paper. It is less transferrable than paper. Ultimately, it needs to be constantly copied.

Could that be the basis of a status games where things are more worthy the less removed they are from the original? Perhaps. Is that unique? No.

Spark The Imagination

‘Spark’, that a fire metaphor. Fire metaphors are common for a reason. Perhaps, there’s something primitive burning inside us that is sparked by the flicker or a fire simile, or perhaps it is just similar exemplifies many concepts without rival.

Whatever the reason, let us think of the three things that fire requires: fuel, oxygen, and heat.

Is there anyway that one can fuel an imagination? I say that we can, by giving the player something they can think bout. To think about something requires at least some understanding of at least some of the concepts. I’ve sometimes named a game with random character strokes, but there’s absolutely no fuel there. This might actually be a weakness of the abstract square-based graphics style that I adore too.

Can the imagination use oxygen? Can the brain have some breathing space? Absolutely. It just needs to avoid being spoonfed everything. Spit balling here, but with those uncanny valley animations you can see everything there is to see, while with live-action there are beating hearts and lungs, not to mention, that they’re naked under those clothes.

Is this the elusive explanation for that phenomenon? Ultimately, graphics-wise most games are not going to extinguish the imagination through lack of breathing space. Even with names, it would be near impossible to explain everything in just one title. Examples such as Cut the Rope actually prove that.

Heat, fire gives off heat and fire needs heat. Is that what they call multiple equilibrium? Probably. Once sparked, the imagination should be able to survive on its own roaring and consuming all the fuel in its path to hit a crescendo of all-consuming burning passion.

Yes, this article has been composed entirely out of cliches. But we have to assume, don’t we, that they cliches for a reason.