A more serious look at video games

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Red Dead Redemption: I had a lot of fun with it. I was very glad that they made it. And I’m glad they tried to do some emotional things, or some poignant things. But the ending to that game was totally absurd, ok? Because, they have this long plot where for 20 hours, you’re trying to work your way up and get to the right position as this character, and because it’s in the realm of an open world shooter, it involves shooting a lot of guys. The stats screen tells you how many guys you shot—I think I shot 860 guys. Imagine a movie that’s trying to be a serious drama—just picture that—a serious drama where the main character shoots 860 guys, and then goes home to his family at the end, and you try to have this touching moment where he’s caring for his family. It simply doesn’t work because you’ve changed the value of human life, right? Part of that shooting those 860 guys was [also] burning down a village of poor peasants so that you could get in with the Mexican army. And throwing molotov cocktails in to their house and stuff? Those are families just like your family you’re trying to have this poignant moment with at the end. So I think that poignant moment thing is good; but it does. not. work in that kind of a game—it simply doesn’t.
Jonathan Blow, again in a recent Gamespot interview, touching on one of the biggest obstacles facing games: dissonance. It’s the wince-inducing sound produced when the narrative and interactivity collide in contradictory ways.


Filed under gaming video games red dead redemption jonathan blow game design

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When I was in college, we had 20 years less of history of games. So there were fewer patterns established—because games are young, right? But the upshot of all that is a lot of games I play now, they’re not really doing anything that games I played 20 years ago weren’t doing—except maybe cosmetically. And maybe the game design’s a little smoother and the technology is much better and all that stuff. But just in terms of when you sit down as a player and the feeling’s you’re having and the way you’re trying to get things done and the mode in which you’re interacting with the game—it’s not really different. And after decades of that, you sort of say as a person I kinda want something else than this thing. I’ve done a bunch of that; it was fun. But how many more hours of my life am I gonna spend on what is essentially that same activity?

So for me now, the things that are progressive and thought-provoking and challenging—not in a difficulty-reflex challenge, but challenging me as a person—those are actually what I think is fun. And playing a first-person shooter where there are some guys in a shooting gallery is not very fun, even though it might’ve been much more fun when I was 17 and hadn’t played that many games. And so I think that’s also when [an argument] kind of starts, and some of the people participating in that discussion…haven’t played 40 years worth of games, and they just don’t have the same perspective; and they’re like “how can you say that’s not fun?” But those same people, 24 years from now, might very well see that perspective.

Jonathan Blow, in a recent Gamespot interview, on how decades of gaming hone and narrow your tastes, and leave you desiring genuinely meaningful experiences


Filed under gaming game design jonathan blow video games

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An Arborescent Calculus: Final Fantasy: All the Bravest (iPhone)


What a nightmare. It’s probably the most pathetic, piece of shit thing I’ve heard about from gaming in a long time. I’m sure there are others that have more pointed analyses, but here’s a few links:

Edge review - “All you do is tap quickly and repeatedly – we’d liken it to Whack-a-Mole, though that implies a level of sophistication that’s absent here – until you realise that scrubbing the right-hand side of the screen is a more efficient method of attack…one of the most contemptuously cynical games we’ve ever encountered.”

Kotaku - “ less of a video game and more of a massive middle finger to fans. It should really be called “Final Fantasy Fuck You Give Us Money.”“

Metacritic (26 MC score, 1.3 user score)

It’s because this game is 1) terrible and not very interactive, and more importantly 2) out of control with ludicrous in-app purchases. You can count me as no fan of that style of doing business in gaming. And it’s a pathetic nightmare because FF has a proud history in gaming…

Filed under final fantasy final fantasy: all the bravest game criticism iphone

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Project Timeline

I wanted to mention that I recently started another tumblr, a developer-oriented blog. It’s also home to a game project I’m working on for the Ouya.

When I started this tumblr, I had the ambition to write about esoteric topics in gaming and kind of explore some personal theories I had circulating around in my head, in hopes of contributing to the dialogue of gaming as a serious medium. But I haven’t been too consistent in that pursuit for whatever reasons. I think it’s morphing more into a tumblr where I just share info with a few comments rather than anything substantial.

Recently, I’ve found my passion and creative energies coalescing around development again. I started that new tumblr as a sort of outlet. Some of the stuff I would’ve posted here in the past may be posted over there instead. I can’t say what the future of this tumblr is, but I’ll let the proverbial chips fall where they may. I think the more time I spend developing, the better anyway.

261 notes




It’s such a shame that two of the most interesting, popular, and beautiful female Final Fantasy characters were put in the same game as love rivals. This has caused them to become like Coke vs. Pepsi, or Democrats vs. Republicans. You can’t like both of them. But why does it have to be an either/or situation? 

Both Aerith and Tifa help define Final Fantasy VII. And if there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that the game would simply not be the same without either of them. These two characters are a testament to SE’s genius — they were able to create two love interests that have developed equally passionate fan bases. Clearly, SE hit the ball out of the park with both characters. 

So here’s to both Aerith and Tifa! You two helped create what is my favorite Final Fantasy in the series <3<3

Couldn’t agree with this any more if I wanted to.

the older i get the more i love both of these characters - and see them less as romantic objects and more as individual identities within the story.

i always think of the “romance” in final fantasy 7 as perhaps the most innocent of all the FF romances - cloud has so much internal shit to work on (like putting his psyche back together) that it’s not really possible for him to experience any kind of mature love. so his relationships with the other members of the party are, to me, on a spectrum of partnership and friendship, not romance. they’re sweet and innocent relationships. aeris is a cute, positive person that shows cloud how to embrace the joy in the small moments of life; tifa is a strong but sensitive person that helps cloud to unlock a healthier relationship with his self and his past.

but neither of this women are solely devoted to helping our male protagonist develop - they’re fascinating individuals with their own stories and challenges. aeris is seeking to learn more about her past and understand her role in the extremely messed up world in which she lives; while tifa is cut off from her past, trying to forge a fresh identity that involves being the person she knows she has the potential to be, regardless of the way society perceives her role as a woman. these struggles are unique to these characters and, i would argue, are also uniquely female in a way that only final fantasy games have ever tackled in quite this way (IMO). 

so i love both aeris and tifa. more than i love cloud!

Filed under final fantasy 7 ff7 aeris tifa aerith

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Why everybody loves Final Fantasy Tactics
Epic music, political intrigue, somewhat broken yet totally engaging and synergistic game mechanics, and Calculators/Arithmeticians&#8212;that&#8217;s why.
A few random notes on the article:
I never got &#8216;stuck&#8217; in that game. I don&#8217;t see how it is possible if you grew up playing JRPGs, because you learned to have multiple save files, for that potential or the possibility of getting a corrupted save file
"The story has all the weight and intrigue of a Shakespearean tragedy" &#8212; alright, that&#8217;s a bit grandiose, but yeah&#8212;intrigue for sure
I really need to play the PSP version, just for the translation. The original is&#8230; lacking, you could say. But it didn&#8217;t matter much to me back then, because the game evoked a thing, and subjective imagination filled in the gaps

Why everybody loves Final Fantasy Tactics

Epic music, political intrigue, somewhat broken yet totally engaging and synergistic game mechanics, and Calculators/Arithmeticians—that’s why.

A few random notes on the article:

  • I never got ‘stuck’ in that game. I don’t see how it is possible if you grew up playing JRPGs, because you learned to have multiple save files, for that potential or the possibility of getting a corrupted save file
  • "The story has all the weight and intrigue of a Shakespearean tragedy" — alright, that’s a bit grandiose, but yeah—intrigue for sure
  • I really need to play the PSP version, just for the translation. The original is… lacking, you could say. But it didn’t matter much to me back then, because the game evoked a thing, and subjective imagination filled in the gaps

Filed under fft final fantasy final fantasy tactics gaming jrpg

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Free cross-platform game dev tools

So I’m working on a humble yet personally ambitious game that I plan on releasing for the OUYA. However, it’s not exactly commercially ambitious, so it didn’t warrant me purchasing an early-model developer version or anything like that, heh. Anyway, thought I’d share a list of tools I’m using or will be using (subject to change):

  • @Gideros Studio (SDK+IDE) — this is the game engine I decided on. As of now, you can write games for iOS and Android (they’re working on a runner for Mac and Windows). You script/code your games in Lua (the engine API is Lua), and you can write & use libraries in Java, C/C++, and Objective C if desired. Should be fairly trivial to get a Gideros game running on OUYA since it’s Android
  • Lua (open source lightweight multi-paradigm programming language) — the game scripting language of choice these days. A small and elegant language.
  • ZeroBrane Studio (open source IDE/code editor) — designed to work with Gideros (and other game frameworks). Also: Lua debugging, live coding, as well as a ton of other features modern IDEs have.
  • +Sublime Text 2 (text/code editor) — superior text editor with tons of programming support. I’m using it mainly to outline ideas for this project, as a kind of scratch pad.
  • Tiled (open source 2D tilemap editor) — create levels or maps for your 2D game using ‘tiles’. Lets you define custom properties for tilesets, layers, and objects. Can export your map data as .lua code!
  • TiledAsWorldEditor (open source code library [for Gideros]) — allows the aforementioned Tiled to be used as a more proper level editor for Gideros. It does this by translating your custom object shapes on your Tiled maps (polygons and polylines) into Box2D entities in the game. Box2D is the physics engine Gideros SDK uses
  • *#TNT Animator Studio (sprite animation editor [for Gideros]) — create variable speed animations out of sets of similar images. Animations are time-based so that they run the same speed on different platforms
  • TNT Particles Engine (code library [for Gideros]) — define and create particle effects (sparks, smoke, etc)
  • SunVox (chiptune music tracker) — I actually don’t know much about chiptune creation, but I really like them and I’m gonna teach myself for this project. Tool of choice subject to change.
  • Inkscape (open source vector art editor) — create and mold resolution-independent objects into shapes via mathematical primitives!
  • GIMP (open source raster art editor) — define the location and color composition of pixels with a variety of tools and filters
  • TiddlyWiki (open source personal wiki) — write down notes/ideas and cross-reference them in a quick wiki style—all in a self-contained, self-modifying HTML file

* = source provided after optional donation.
+ = not exactly free, but there is an unlimited trial time with all features available. The software seems to ask you to buy the program after x number of document saves.
@ = there are paid versions of Gideros. With the free (community) version, there is a forced Gideros splash screen before the game is launched. Other than that, it’s the same as the paid versions (indie or professional).
# = not available on Linux 

Note on GIMP for Mac: Version 2.8 is now a native Mac app, but from my experience, it is kind of laggy and generally glitched. So I’m sticking with version 2.6.2, which relies on the  X11/XQuartz GUI system.

Filed under game development gamedev programming game dev

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Penny Arcade Ouya Report

Initial report detailing opinions on the prototype hardware and software from Kickstarter Ouya devs. Mostly positive, but the controller could use some work.

Even though Boxer8 and the Ouya are nowhere near the scale of Sony or Microsoft and their XBox 360 and PS3, it’s still crazy to think that this little TV gaming console is becoming a reality, and that indie developers and gamers are shaping its design to a certain extent.

image[Ouya prototype controller and console next to an XBox 360 and PS3 controller]

Filed under ouya gaming tech