Maybe a day or two late, but I've gotten off my butt and set up a sixty second shooter holiday promotion. I've slashed prices and increased energy output - amounting to a 75% off sale, until January 8th.
Other than that, haven't worked on anything much last week, been doing the house-husband holiday thing.
What I thought were fairly minor tweaks last week seems to have had a pretty big impact on the scores! jumsimbab87 is still world champion, but it was a close thing - his 1.76m points to an anonymous player's 1.70m and guchaoyi in a solid third with 1.68m.
Hey, want to know something? The guys at Imba were the ones who got me excited about Native Client in the first place. They've just launched their game, and it's pretty hot: takes me back to Wing Commander. Unlike other browser-space-games which feel like farming hitpoints, this one requires skill - control your throttle, lead your shots. It's hard, but destroying an enemy ship is so satisfying. It's a sweet piece of work. Check it out.
Ok, as promised, I've tuned up sixty second shooter a bit. The main goal is to make grabbing power-ups less frustrating - Tomo's biggest issue with the game as it stands.
I also discovered an exploit: one could play in a long, flat window and see the whole board and know where all the power-ups spawned. I don't know if anybody was actually using that exploit but I fixed it anyhow - part of the game is supposed to be exploring the unknown, so if one can see the whole board, that's not the experience I had in mind.
It raised a problem though - no matter what I did, I was going to make some window aspect ratio optimum. At first I said, "Okay, let's just use the longest dimension as the cap." But that would incent people to play in a square window, to see as much as possible in each direction. I want to incent full-screen play. But monitors are different sizes. I ended up with a compromise: about a third of the visitors to the site are 1.8; about a third are 1.6; and about a third are 1.4. So, 1.6 it is. Not optimum for my display (16:9) but close enough that I'd still rather play full-screen (and not misclick off screen.)
I'm tweaking the mechanics slightly this week - Tomo requested a tighter turning radius and less-frustrating pickups during slow-mo and I aim to please. But it's not quite ready yet - should have it in sometime tomorrow.
Even better, though, was Little Alchemy - http://littlealchemy.com/ - you start with air, earth, fire, and water - and mix them - and see what you can come up with. Combine them in the right ways and you can make snowmen and zombies. Who knew? Although part of me says, "This is just a sparse matrix of combinations that I'm filling in," another part of me says, "When am I going to stop? This gets harder and harder as I go along," I still sat there and tried to come up with new combinations for hours. My daughter loved it too: 'the best game ever,' she said. Hey, what am I, chopped liver?
No updates this week - I've been working on an article about native client for Gamasutra. I forgot how much I hate writing technical articles with working code. The writing's easy - making sure the code works is hard.
Google did a launch event on the 8th, getting some more coverage on native client - I've noticed a small spike in installs since then, and I've added some new native client games to the list.
Graham Walmsley's Play Unsafe (which I highly recommend if you play TTRPG's) took a lot of its ideas from this book Impro . I just read it recently and it was pretty mind-blowing.
First - the idea that all human conversation can be considered a status transaction. Once you start looking at the conversations you have this way you'll be both alarmed and maybe even a bit depressed, but it will also give you new insight and understanding. Just as an example, the thrust-parry-riposte -- "I'm reading War & Peace" "That's my favorite book!" -- has the first speaker trying to elevate their own status by showing how smart they are, reading such a big novel; and the second speaker trumping by saying not only have they already read it, they have a deep appreciation for it. (And it sounded so innocent at first!)
So, yeah, after reading that, I can't make a blog post or write an e-mail without being aware of how I'm trying to elevate my own status, bragging, etc. (Look at this book I just read! Look at this thing I just coded!)
But also there's insight into other people: if somebody else says something that seems arrogant, it's usually because I've played high-status first and they're just trying to keep up.
Playing high-status can often get you what you want but it also can make you look like a jerk; it can lead to success but nobody likes you. Elevating someone else's status starts to look like a magic weapon, a way to create enough space for you to play high-status without coming off as a jerk.
Notice how almost all the media we consume is retread - or, at best, remix and mash-up? (sixty second shooter's a good example of mash-up.) Nothing unethical about that (though it does get tired) but what if you want to do something truly creative? Johstone has some neat tricks for getting right at your subconscious that can even be done by just one person. I played around with his 'automatic writing' trick (you imagine you're opening a book in a library and reading the text there) and came up with this weird thing. Another trick is to write a list of unassociated words. Combine that with reincorporation and boom - instant story.
What I'm wondering now is how to apply that to video game mechanic ideas ... using this technique, it would be easy to create a truly creative game story, but what about its mechanics ...? Any ideas?
Hypnosis and Trance
At the end of the book, he starts talking about 'mask work' and here he starts to sound batshit crazy. Apparently in his workshops when people wear masks they get 'possessed' and truly become different people. But it's actually not that far-fetched: no, I don't think that his students were suddenly taken over by gods, but there are lots of studies that show being cast in certain roles or being 'hypnotized' can make people do some surprising things.
I'm not sure how to apply this to videogames but some of the best roleplaying experiences I've had were when the game rules encouraged or allowed me to play characters or act in a way that was totally out of my comfort zone. When I used to play 3rd edition D&D I tried to 'stay cool' - rarely talking in character, not getting too excited, usually keeping things to the math of the tactical situation (skip the role-playing, GM, we want to kill something!)
The other end of the spectrum is playing Munchausen - a party game where you play someone else telling stories. Maybe it was the booze (the game, I think, requires or at least strongly recommends that you drink) but the last time I played this I acted in a way that I never would have done if I didn't have an excuse. ("It wasn't me! It was the Munchausen!") Apocalypse World, Fiasco, and Kagematsu have all had similar effects on me - have me playing gay characters and love relationships like it's the most natural thing in the world. In a way, these games have hypnotized me - given me permission to act in ways I normally never would.
Top five games of all time Yahtzee Croshaw Top five superhero games of all time MSNBC Top 100 PS2 games of all time Official Playstation 2 Magazine 1001 Games You Must Play Before You DieNomination for Excellence in Gameplay Engineering Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences
Penny Arcade PAX 10 Award Nominated for XBLA Best Original Game Nominated for XBLA Best Co-Op Game