“Kingdom of Dreams. Land of the Dead.”

A Loving Look at the Narrative Themes in Hayao Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises

[Warning: there are spoilers in this]

The last film from Miyazaki is not a fantastical action-adventure tale that joins the ranks of Porco Rosso, Laputa and Princess Mononoke. It is not a touching, coming-of-age journey to join Spirited Away and Kiki’s Delivery Service. The Wind Rises (Kaze Tachinu) is an entirely realistic, historically-inspired, fictional biography of Jiro Horikoshi, the acclaimed Japanese aircraft engineer during World War II. While it may be partially regrettable that another entry in either of those two aforementioned Miyazaki-mastered genres is not likely to be made, this film is not in any way a disappointment, rather it is a radical triumph and potentially his most narratively complex work.

While masterful in the many ways expected of a Miyzaki feature, the film’s most unique strength is that it manages to convey deeply complex themes through a series of narratives that are elegant in their pacing, touching in their melodrama, but heavily haunted by their context. It’s an eerie, heartbreaking, and wonderful movie. Continue reading

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Some Of My Favorite Games From 2013

Here are some games that I enjoyed playing quite a bit and were either released or updated in some form in 2013.

League of Legends

Far and away my personal game of the year was League of Legends. If you want to get specific to 2013, then “Season 3” of League of Legends. I truly identified as a League player during 2013 and it’s where the vast majority of my video game playing time was devoted. In addition to that I spent countless hours watching professional play and reading the forums and subreddit. I went from a new player to a Silver I rank and that profound, painful, hilarious, rewarding mess of an experience was something I’ll never forget. I’ve taken a break from the game since Season 3, but I hope to return shortly.

A picture I took from the League of Legends Season 3 World Championships

A picture I took from the League of Legends Season 3 World Championships

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“Pulse of the Samurai” wins Juror’s Prize for Best Overall Game at the NYU Game Center 2013 Global Game Site

Screen Shot 2013-01-27 at 3.42.41 PM

The game I worked on in collaboration with artist Shiho Pate, and with background music by Nathaniel Chambers, was lucky enough to win not only the Juror’s Prize for Best Game, but also 2nd Place in the Audience Choice Award at this years Global Game Jam at NYU.

I had a lot of fun making the game and am really proud of it. Check out more info here.

A Beginner’s Guide to 2D Games in Flixel (ver 2.55)

Hello, there.

Recently, as requested by a few students and alums of the NYU Game Center, I created a sample project based off of a 2D platformer I made so that other students could work and learn from it. Beyond just creating and distributing the code, I wanted to make a brief Beginner’s Guide for anyone looking to start making games – specifically, 2D games using Flixel. This requires almost no programming knowledge really, rather just an interest to open up some code and poke around in it.

What is Flixel, you ask? Well the Flixel site answers it like this:

“Flixel is an open source game-making library that is completely free for personal or commercial use. Written entirely in Actionscript 3, and designed to be used with free development tools, Flixel is easy to learn, extend and customize.”

Basically, it’s a library of classes you include in your ActionScript3 project to make a lot of things easier for you. To get started, try to follow this guide to get setup with FlashDevelop or FlashBuilder (hint: you can get a free license of FlashBuilder from Adobe if you’re a student). Once installed, try to follow parts of this Hello, World guide here. However, with that one, about halfway down a ton of the images are currently missing due to some problems with FlashGameDojo. Continue reading

Chip – Conception to The Public Release

Sometime in 2010 a professor recommended I look into the Flixel library for Flash when I expressed to him both my interest in making a game and my complete lack of technical skills. I had almost no programming experience whatsoever.

However, given that piece of advice I decided to dive in. Below is a quick overview of the process that ensued before I ended up with this game Chip that I recently “released.”

After installing FlashBuilder (as I work on a Mac this was my only option), I started with the Flixel Hello World tutorial. This great resource talks you through setting up your Flixel Project for the first time, which can be overly intimidating due to small annoyances such as the need for a blank Default.css file and the additional compiler arguments you need to go with it in order to get the Flixel Preloader to run. (This may be fixed in a new version, but I still use flixel 2.34).

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Global Game Jam 2012: Pursuing the Infinite

This past weekend I participated in the 2012 Global Game Jam. I worked for ~36 hours in Flash/Flixel to come up with this prototype I named “Pursuing the Infinite,” after a talk by Flixel-creator Adam Saltsman at this past year’s Indiecade. The theme of the jam was the Ouroboros, and I wanted to encapsulate that through a sense of infinity, inevitability and a blurring of the lines between helping and hurting.

I think the system of the game is fairly interesting: blue gives you points, but speeds you out of control, while red slows you down, but takes away a big chunk of life. It definitely needs something further – some overarching goal or strategy on top of this. Yet as a 2-day work, it’s not a terrible arcade-style game. Anyways, enjoy!

Click the picture to play!

PTI screen

Some of my favorite games from 2011

Girp

by Bennett Foddy

Girp is simply one of the most interesting physics games I’ve ever played. The controls and use of the keyboard are innovative and personally inspiring. I played this game side-by-side with a friend who had never seen it before this week, and we both laughed and gasped as we finally were able to reach that next letter, which seemed utterly impossible only seconds before. A game that’s both rewarding, silly, and will cause you to exert a tremendous amount of force onto your keyboard is well worth this spot at the top of my list.

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New ‘Coral’ Demo

I’ve continued to fine tune and added some new art (art courtesy of Rachel Morris) to the game I started at (and which won!) the Parson’s x BabyCastles game jam last month, Coral. There’s a lot more I hope to do with this game, and I’ll likely update the demo as I go.

Click through the picture to give my latest demo a whirl! (I’ll host this stuff on this site directly in the future, once I finish building this site completely)

The Escort Quest wins Best Game of DC Games Festival

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A big game I co-designed, The Escort Quest, recently won the audience and judge’s vote for Best Game of the DC Games Festival. Grant and I are super thankful to everyone at the festival and everyone who helped with this game along the way. Most of all I’d like to thank Grant for putting the game on in DC when I couldn’t make it because of work, and our original and always helpful class collaborators, Andrew and Eszter, as well as the professor in the class the game was originally conceived in, Kevin Cancienne.

Players Who Suit Social Games: Identifying, Analyzing, Expanding, and Progressing

[This was a featured blog post I wrote that was originally published on the front page of Gamasutra.com on 10/19/11]

With each passing month, social games are growing. Growing in userbase, growing in revenue, but possibly most of all, growing in ambiguity. The term “social game” is pretty vague. Most board games involve far more social interaction than games on Google+ or Facebook! However, since sites like those have become the most pervasive locations for online social interaction, “social game” has come to mean any game played on a social network. With everyone and their mom, kid brother, and next door neighboor on Facebook these days, just who is the “social gamer?”

Statistics and stories from the last few years demographically place the average social gamer as an aged 43 female. (See this Gigaom piece that references a PopCap survey.). However, this assessment is far from set in stone, and new data, research, and surveys are constantly reexamining the social game audience. One is a RockYou survey (shown below) that attempts to frame the social gamer as a younger, more male, and more achievement-oriented player; three things that go against what almost anyone whose studied the demographics before would tell you. What is unfortunate about both studies is that they establish a fairly static precedent of the current social game audience. Now, being aware what a specific community of players is currently attracted to is not at all a negative. Marketing depends on it. However, in that strategy lies the the unpleasant feeling that social games are already being designed specifically for the historic demographic of the social gamers, when instead they could be branching out into untapped demographics.

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My game “Stones” Won the Jury’s Grand Prize at the Parsons x Babycastles Game Jam!

This past weekend I worked on a new, random game idea at the Parsons x  Babycastles game jam. I ended up pursuing a rather odd, Bennett Foddy-  esque game, I called Stones. The game revolves around pressing odd,  interveaving combinations of keys to levitate stones into sets of sockets.  Using balance and strategy, the player must float all the stones into  position at the same time to complete the level.

I made the game in 48 hours in Flixel, and was lucky to get helpful advice  from great  designers like Charles Pratt and Naomi Clark along the way. I  feel really honored to have won the jam, and I’m going to keep working on  the game over the next week in order to slip it into the IGF Student  Competition, since this is my last year I can qualify for it.

You can play the game jam version of “Stones” here .

Next Stop: Come Out and Play San Francisco

So “The Escort Quest,” a big game I co-designed, was recently featured in the Big Games Program at Indiecade 2011. It was a remarkable experience, and I’ll be writing more on that whole weekend shortly.

However, I’m just announcing here that the next stop on the game’s tour will be Come Out and Play San Francisco. Check out the festival site here and stop on by if you’re around SF on November 4th or 5th.

QWOP Charity Run (via NYU’s Play On) to Support Child’s Play Tonight!

UPDATE: I Managed to run 35.8 meters (* $5.45 pledged) to raise $195.11 for charity!!

(To informally pledge, scroll down to the bottom and comment “YOUR NAME : Donation $ / meter”)

Hey, everyone! The NYU Game Center is currently hosting an amazing 24-hour videogame playing marathon, called “Play On” to support the incredible charity, Child’s Play. The whole thing is streaming and you can donate at any time here.

For my small, silly addition to this event, I’m going to do a QWOP marathon charity run.

What is QWOP? Well it’s an innovative game by Bennet Foddy where you control a runner’s individual calves and thighs to try and make him run as far as possible without falling. You can play it free in-browser here to get a sense of it and it’s extreme difficulty.

At 6:30pm on Friday September 2nd (Today). I’m going to play QWOP for one hour straight. I’m going to pledge to donate 50¢ for every meter in my longest run of the hour. Hopefully it will be live streamed via the site. Now, I’ve only played the game for probably about 20 minutes total in my life, and my longest run is 13.5 meters. I’m hoping that with an hour straight tomorrow, I can beat that by at least a decent amount.

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Brief Notes About Level Design in “Chip”

I’m at the process now in my Flixel game, Chip (demo, trailer), where most of the content I want for this release is there. So lately, I’ve been focusing on level design and plan to delve into fine tuning all of my levels shortly. First though, I thought I’d reflect on a few things I found interesting while really experimenting with level design for my frist time. As a quick preamble – I have close to zero idea what I’m talking about. While I write this in the style of advice, it’s purely meant to be reflective and based off my own individual experience.

1.) Don’t be swayed by aesthetics…yet

My very first levels revolved around making interesting patterns or an elegant overall structure. This was a disaster and I ended up reverting to a functional perspective as much as I could. I even switched out the tilesheet I was using in my Tilemap editor (DAME) so I wouldn’t be swayed by how it looked.

Using and old tile matrix to edit my levels in DAME

A brief note on DAME. If you’re editing levels using a simple tilesheet I highly recommend it. It’s free and while at first I couldn’t stand it, I’ve grown to love it. It’s like editing film on a Steinbeck: the fact that it’s not quite so flexible makes you think harder about what you want to do.

2.) Small Changes Make a Big Difference

I found that depending on your mechanics and the interactions you’re trying to invoke in a level, making smaller changes from level to level can often have a more profound effect on how people see your mechanics. If you look at these two levels… Continue reading

On “Gravitation”

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with art games over the past year or two. I find I Can Hold My Breath Forever and I Wish I Were The Moon sort of pretentious while I adore Small Worlds and The Company of MyselfPassage was somewhat interesting to me, but probably fell a bit in between adoration and apathy for me. Still, Passage is somewhat charming and interesting for what it does. Regardless, this post is not about Passage, it’s about Gravitation, which I find actually more interesting.

Jason Rohrer’s “Gravitation”

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