Archive for December, 2010

Daily Linksplosion: Thursday, December 30, 2010

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‘Leaky World’ game aspires to explain the philosophy of WikiLeaks

Earlier this month, the Wikileaks Stories project invited independent game developers to turn leaked documents into playable computer games (c.f. Storytelling 2.0: Exploring the news game).

And now for the first complete game submission! Leaky World: a Playable Theory is, its developers explain, an interactive illustration of Julian Assange’s 2006 essay “Conspiracy as Governance.”

As a demonstration, Leaky World conveys how information travels among nations, but also how too much centralization (imperialism?) permits these informational “leaks.” And because uncontrolled leaks will eventually result in radicalized dissent from the unwashed masses, the leaked headlines must be squelched as fast as possible by severing diplomatic ties between nations. I think? Is that what is going on?

As a game, Leaky World is high-speed connect-the-dots. Aesthetically it resembles an Introversion game, probably because of the world map and the metaphors and all the stress.

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Daily Linksplosion: Sunday, December 26, 2010

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The Best Video Games… of the DECADE

Kevin and I wrote this end-of-decade wrap-up last Christmas, and even as we neared the piece’s natural end, we couldn’t stop adding to our joint Google Doc. Maybe our selections are obvious and not inventive, and probably we are blowhards who like the sound of our own writing, but here is the whole unwieldy mess, not even in its entirety, as it has appeared in my draft box since 01/01/2010. Blah, blah, blah. —ed.

When Jenn asked me if I’d assist in compiling this list, I was pretty excited! Ten years of games! I thought. Why, I have quite a few favorites in that lengthy time period I could mention.

Of course, narrowing it down is no easy feat. In terms of gameplay, video games haven’t exactly taken the huge technological leap the way they have in decades past, and graphically, the only real change is in visual detail. Nonetheless, this decade heralded the advent of downloading games and the return of in-console saving. Some games introduced these fresh innovative ideas; other games didn’t necessarily bring anything new to the table, but did what they did extremely well.

I’m not saying I played all the AAA titles and underground hits—I have eclectic gaming tastes, a low budget, and a proclivity for gaming mostly with other friends—but that has not stopped me from proselytizing the multiplayer goodness of Powerstone 2 or wild system-pushing 2600 homebrews like Adventure II to anyone unfortunate enough to get me started on the subject.

So here are some top picks from the gaming experiences of both Jenn and myself from the past 10 years, and hey, maybe you’ll find something interesting to check out! Kevin B.

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Daily Linksplosion: Friday, December 24, 2010


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Daily Linksplosion: the magical one

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Playing through the 2011 IGF Nuovo final-list: Loop Raccord

Now that the IGF’s Nuovo Award Finalists have been announced, I hope it’s safe for me to post my impressions of another strong contender, Loop Raccord.

In Loop Raccord, the player is tasked with finding just the right spot in an animated gif, splicing it there, and then reversing the footage so that it creates an infinite loop.

In any given stage, videos are arranged in a grid, 12 at a time, everything moving and bobbing and jumping all at once. Its no-frills presentation is jarringly ugly. It’s a YTMND migraine. It isn’t even fun. And I couldn’t stop playing it. Oh, my god, I came back to it again and again.

And I was horrified, too, because I knew that clearing all these stages was pointless: the game was developed according to the Experimental Gameplay Project’s Neverending theme. Loop Raccord’s visual cacophony is endless. I knew I was headed nowhere! And yet I was completely arrested.

What should video games do? Often we—I am lumping myself in with critics and reviewers, but game-makers say this, too—tell designers to ‘engage the player,’ without considering what we’re really saying. What does that even mean, to ‘engage’ someone?

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Playing through the 2011 IGF Nuovo final-list: A House in California

I have a Mystery House ROM for my Apple II emulator, and I’m going to be truthful, Mr. Jake Elliott: your A House in California did not exactly resemble it as advertised.

Oh, sure, A House in California, recently named a nominee for the IGF’s coveted Nuovo Award, is all stark white flixels against a black backdrop, in the style of some early 1980s graphic adventure game. It is point-and-click interactive fiction, terribly sparse, with all possible parser commands weighting the bottom of the screen.

But the commands are strange—“Remember”? “Forget”? “Befriend”?—and sometimes, depending on what I accomplish in the game, the commands change. That is disturbing. But also, inexplicably satisfying, to see that I am somehow changing things with my actions?

I now totally get why House in California was included in this year’s Learn to Play gallery exhibit: the game uses a lot of “dream logic” and “guess-what-the-designer-wants-you-to-do,” and as you explore and progress, you find yourself making real sense of the game’s mediations. Like other good games that toy with their chosen genres, this game demands that the player learn its secret language.

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Happy holidays from the Wilderness

Every metropolis on Spaceship Earth is stacked with motion graphics firms jockeying to make the very best Gatorade ad, it’s true, and a lot of innovation and artistry get lost in the whir of business gears.

But every December, all the motion graphicians invariably put on their Santa hats, check their client lists, and send out the absolute cleverest Christmas cards and merry-miXmas CDs, made to impress. And suddenly, Behance and Motionographer are thick with seasonal ingenuity. Like this thing!

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Daily Linksplosion: Tuesday, December 21, 2010

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How to design your video game character

(I have a weakness for Russian villains.)

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Ready to print! Game Boy holiday gift tags

22-year-old artist Ian Anderson whipped up these nifty little gift tags, featuring pixel animals and seasonal goodwill. (I like the tiny walleyed kitten—it somehow reminds me of Mochi the Dog.)

With the right pea-green paper in your printer, these might dress up your Christmas presents very nicely.

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Emulate in style with Retro Thing’s limited-edition USB joystick

That gleaming lunar landscape is my trusty MacBook workhorse, but also my primary Game Center. So of course I splurged (US$35) on Retro Thing’s Clear Classic USB joystick, available now in both blue and red (but the cool kids are all about blue). The controller’s chassis, sturdy, crystal-clear plastic in the original 2600 joystick’s likeness, is illuminated by a single LED.

I am anti-emulation—I play all my Atari cartridges on a girthy CRT television, thanks—but the joystick integrates with Stella software seamlessly, no re-mapping required. And as emulation goes, this as good as it gets. The stick itself has that apt resistance that feels authentically Atari, yet its diagonal movement is an improvement on the classic joystick’s, making Mountain King a much happier experience. Still, this ain’t no d-pad: homebrew twitch-titles like Lead are best with the keyboard’s arrow keys.

Retro Thing—yeah, the blog! I know, right?—has manufactured just 1000 of these babies for the holiday season. I ordered mine through Amazon (painless; free shipping), and it arrived in only a couple of days. Legacy have done a great job with the joystick’s design: it feels sure and true, and it won’t crumple under aggressive play. Really nice.

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Yoshi Mech (with flip-top nose)

Ten months since the debut of his Mario Mech (which I blogged about at GameSetWatch, here), Donald Kennedy unveils its sequel, the Yoshi Mech.

Maybe the Best Thing about this particular customization is the robot’s flip-top snout, revealing Yoshi’s inner workings—the command center along the back wall was reappropriated from a Playmobil police station, Donald writes, while Little Yoshi’s laptop-console was ganked from a LEGO set.

“I can’t wait to do another,” Donald writes. “I think Luigi may be next.”

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Daily Linksplosion: Tuesday, December 14, 2010


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