Dear subscribers, if you feel like chatting about something from the September edition of the newsletter, please speak your mind in the comments here.
The critically-lauded sequel to the critically-lauded Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor (Tiger Style, 2009) has not done very well. When Tale of Tales had their own very public failure a little while back I wasn't sure we should draw any larger conclusions aside from "making money in videogames is hard, The End." The failure of Tiger Style to capitalise on a six-year old success is being called out as the dead canary emerging from the coal mine that is the mobile game market. THE INDIEPOCALYPSE IS HERE, IT'S REAL AND IT'S NOT JUST GOING TO EAT YOUR LUNCH - BUT ALSO YOUR CHILDREN'S LUNCH.
I'm still not sure we should draw any larger conclusions aside-- wait, wait. Let's think about this.
Side by Side is a video series on local multiplayer games. This is the second series, episode 1 of 10.
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Watch the video here or direct on YouTube.
The original script for this video essay was written in January 2014 and then I spent a mere 18 months thinking about making it. Two years after Bioshock Infinite (Irrational Games, 2013) was released to huge critical acclaim, I finally have a video about it. If you love the game, you're going to hate me. If you hate the game, you're going to have a laugh.
Oh the hyperbole. Not just a bad game. The worst game. Maybe he meant the worst out of those games that get called “game of the year”? That would have been okay. But I can’t think he really meant worst compared to all the crappy clones that are foisted on mobile users every month.
Watch this video below or direct on YouTube.
Here's an open comment thread if you want to discuss something from the August newsletter.
As you may know, I'm a BIG fan of Spheres of Chaos 2012 (Iain McLeod, 2012) even if I'm totes rubbish at it. (I've talked about it in the articles Entropy and Silver Bullet Cure.) So when I was offered a chance to play around with a test build of an Android version on my phone, I wasn't going to say no.
Touchscreens have a difficult relationship with shooters as your fingers tend to get in the way of the action and Spheres piles on the controls: shoot, thrust, turn, jump. I'm not too sure how it's going to pan out but it's lovely to see those beautiful pyrotechnics look exactly the same on my humble S5. This mega-early build eats battery power for breakfast and lunch, often crashes, does not close properly and the controls take some getting used to. I'm not even sure this will see the commercial light of day.
I’ve never really written anything about ANGELINA, Mike Cook’s game generating AI and that’s because I’m not sure what I think about it. My folded-arms-and-raised-eyebrow brain finds the goal of the procedurally-generated game as plausible as the procedurally-generated novel. My thoughtful-and-cautious brain sees it more as an ongoing academic project where the journey is more important than ANGELINA itself, baby steps into uncharted territories.
Lots of great work is being done in procedural generation and there’s a good reason I reserved a special section for Cook’s “The Saturday Papers” when I ran Marginalia. (The Saturday Papers seems to be on indefinite hiatus right now.) I guess deep down I was concerned that ANGELINA, for all its creator’s ambition, would end up as the machine-mother for narrow experiences that would merely appear to prove the point of Jesper Juul’s old paper that rules matter most and the rest is just skin deep.
But Cook together with Gillian Smith, wrote a paper titled “Formalizing Non-Formalism: Breaking the Rules of Automated Game Design” which proposes a game-generating AI which eschews rules and win conditions in favour of experience. I know what you’re thinking, that sounds an AI which makes secret boxes. You would be more than right. Electron Dance is actually cited in the paper! Cook and Smith deploy the term secret box instead of walking simulator.
Here’s the abstract:
Automated game design (AGD) is an exciting new frontier for generative software and games research, one which intersects many areas of AI as well as cutting across the many creative domains involved in developing a game. However, there is a trend throughout existing automated game design work to concentrate primarily on the rules that underpin a game–objectives, obstacles, and the notion of challenge. This paper examines this trend in automated game design, and argues that a broader understanding of games is needed. We examine the history of AGD to date, and consider this work in the context of game design theories and definitions. We discuss the term secret box to describe a class of game that does not fall into the purview of existing AGD approaches, and offer a design sketch of an AGD system we are building, ANGELINA 6, to begin to challenge these ideas.
If you’re interested, a PDF of the paper can be found linked from Smith’s site. Don’t worry, it’s fairly accessible as it does not go into technical detail.
Also, congratulations to Cook and Smith as their paper swiped the Best Paper in the Game Design category at this year’s Foundations of Digital Games conference.
Here's Cook talking about one of ANGELINA's entries to Ludum Dare.
You might also be interested in Mike Cook’s presentation The Lost Art of Dreaming.
The second season of Side by Side is coming! It has ten episodes and I'm run off my feet trying to edit them into shape.
If you can't wait, did you know that Gregg and I did a few videos before Side by Side which are pretty similar? This video includes excerpts and links for them. Plus, just to whet your appetite, I've included a bit of raw footage of season 2 at the end...
Watch the video here or direct on YouTube.
If you've spent any time on Twitter, you'll know that people love Alphabear (Spry Fox, 2015). It's official, it has won the award for Really Quite Cute Word Game of the Year. Congratulations all.
You know, I also once loved Alphabear, but not any more. This probably makes me sound like some kind of puppy-kicking monster. Are you sitting comfortably? Then let me tell you a story.
Here's an open comment thread if you want to discuss something from the July newsletter.