Tuesday, March 18, 2008

/flounders for ideas

Bambos says:
plus he doesnt know c++ and isnt interested in learning

Ricky says:
I don't understand people who get hung up on languages


Ricky says:
it's like saying:
"well I can ride elephants, but only if they're Asian elephants"
"I don't know how to ride those African elephants!"

Ricky says:
it's EXACTLY like that.
especially the part about the elephants.
/firm nod

Friday, March 14, 2008

Hohokum Meeting

Had a really productive meeting yesterday evening about Hohokum, with Dick and Nat - a designer at Morpheme who will be helping us with the game. In retrospect it's surprising how many things we managed to work out, especially since I wasn't sure exactly what we were aiming to achieve before we started.

It's amazing the extent to which three heads are better than one. Issues that seem intractable when you're thinking about them by yourself are solved instantly the moment you have to explain or justify your thoughts to a group. And as you think on your feet, solutions seem to come from nowhere. It's like putting the game design over a flame - the assumptions burn off the surface, and the design heats up, becoming more fluid and can be molded into a new shape.

Working with a graphic designer is interesting too. I find it allows me to decouple gameplay mechanics from their visual representation in a way that isn't so easy when I'm working solo. This means I can consider mechanics in the abstract, knowing that someone else will be worrying about to communicate them visually.

Plenty of coding to do over Easter anyway!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Blueberry Garden

Erik Svedang's game looks like what you'd get if you gave the comic artist Lewis Trondheim a physics engine.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Prism on Gamefaqs

No matter how happy you are with a game you've made, I don't think anything quite matches the feeling of finding it on gamefaqs, and seeing that someone liked it enough to do something like this - meticulously create solutions for every level.

Thanks to both of you, Darkstar Ripclaw and Anarcho Selmiak!

The Fruit Farm team were filmed yesterday for a short documentary for 4Talent, talking about what each of us does to get a game from its initial concept to final. It's going to be interesting to see how the two and a half hours of footage gets edited down to 5 minutes! I thought we all did okay - it takes enormous concentration to make succinct points about something as complex as game development without stumbling over sentences, and switching focus smoothly from screen to face, but the filmmaker did a great job of helping us organise our thoughts and movements.

I've added a bunch of new links, including some games which I've tagged with [NEW], not because they literally are new (I've been meaning to add em for ages), but to make them stand out from the others you might have played already.

Monday, March 10, 2008


Two of my favourite adventure games are Samarost, and its sequel, which are visually sumptuous, and based around delightfully whimsical puzzles.

Here is an interview with their creator, Jakob Dvorsky, about his new game, which is called Machinarium.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Every Puzzle Has an Answer!

If Hayuo Miyazuki, the creator of Anime classics like My Neighbour Totoro or Spirited Away, created a story based on Tintin, after watching Les Triplettes de Belleville it would be a lot like the world of Professor Layton.

Professor Layton and the Curious Village, for the Nintendo DS, is a wonderfully absorbing game, which I gorged my way through in several days whilst in San Francisco for GDC (yes - I have a lot of draft posts backed up).

It's an adventure game, in which the eponymous Professor and his plucky assistant Luke explore the village of Mystere for clues surrounding a case involving a lost treasure bequeathed in the will of a rich baron.

But the primary game mechanic isn't the traditional fare of point and click adventures, which usually involves locating objects in various locations and combining them in unpredictable ways to progress. Instead, this game uses brain teasers, which the residents of Mystere require Layton and Luke to solve in return for assisting with the investigation.

The puzzles are far richer than in a game like Dr Kawashima's Brain Training, which provides a limited number of puzzle types (like mental arithmetic) and has the player repeat variations of these over and over. Instead, the Curious Village contains 150 hand crafted puzzles - the kind you might get in a broadsheet newspaper. So you get riddles, math, matchstick or chess problems. Some involve physics or mazes or sliding blocks - there's a lot of variety, which is one reason why this game is so compelling - it makes you think hard, but continually changes the *way* you have to think so as to provide exercise for all your mental muscles - a bit like swimming in that sense.

Level 5 have done a terrific job of building on the core game mechanic with a number of design decisions which are right on the nail. There's a friendly and forgiving hint system (the writing in this game is strong throughout) in which 3 levels of hint can be provided for any puzzle by spending 'hint coins', hidden throughout the village. There are hidden puzzles too - interesting asides provided as a reward for exploratory clicking.

There are also a number of metagame sideshows: a number of the puzzles reward the player with various objects - gizmos which come together to form a useful tool, painting scraps which must be put together like a jigsaw, and furniture for Layton and Luke's lodgings - initially bare - which the player must share between the two to maximise their happiness.

The difficulty level is pitched just right - until the very end, you're not forced to complete any puzzle that's really hard, though there's a good chance that you won't be able rest until you've solved them all.

The music and the art (with its limited palette and art style which evokes Belleville) paint a wonderful picture of that fantasy Europe that the Japanese seem to have in their collective consciousness, and the cut scenes are of the quality of a 'proper' Anime film.

In addition to everything else, what makes this game especially noteable is the plot, which is genuinely surprising and delightful, and about which I shan't say anything further, except for..

Game of the year so far.

Saturday, March 08, 2008


Gravitation is a new game by Jason Rohrer, and joins his previous game, Passage as one of the few autiobiographical games ever made. Gravitation is a comment on the artist's creative mania, which swings from periods of great creativity when ideas come thick and fast and work is frantic, to times when he feels lethargic and can't achieve much. It also discusses the difficulties of balancing time spent working with time spent with family or friends.

I feel Gravitation is a successful game, more so than Passage. Whilst I identify with the sentiments behind both, Gravitation provides richer interactions for the player, and this makes its message stronger and more emphatic. Without giving too much away, I also feel that the level design does a decent job of communicating what it feels like to be buzzing away on a creative drive to programming something new and exciting.

Download Gravitation here.