Electron Dance

Electron Dance Highlights


A Girl and Her Chopper: On Goals and Sandboxes

HM is on sabbatical for June and guest writers are filling in for him. This week it’s the turn of Emilie Reed, who wrote the blackly comic twine Duck Ted Bundy and has been published in The Arcade Review. This essay has been cross-posted from her website.


It’s probably 1998 or 1999…ish. My pre-adolescent memory doesn’t care much for dates. Like just about every other evening that week, I’m perched on the big green chair in my dad’s computer room, where he keeps his old engineering textbooks, a filing cabinet full of stuff like our birth certificates, and of course, the family PC. It’s an HP in that ever popular mid 90s computing shade of taupe, which frequently bluescreens and whirrs like an air tunnel. This one is probably our second computer, since there’s a picture of me on the desk next to the monitor. Me: a chubby baby bald as a cue ball and butt-naked, standing up on a metal folding chair to reach the mouse and keyboard of our first PC. That one only played floppies, but now CD-ROMs are the order of the day.  

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The Self and Software

Last month, while writing an article for Rock Paper Shotgun, HM asked several developers for their thoughts on the physical interface between player and game. Robin Arnott, the audio engineer behind Deep Sea and Soundself, responded with a short essay. Extracts of this essay appeared in the completed article, but today Electron Dance presents the essay in full.


The original motivation behind Deep Sea was a dirt simple question: how do I maximize immersion? It was a curiosity drive! I started out knowing from my own experience that fear can short-cut the rational mind and touch players at a pre-cognitive level. But all the design decisions, like blinding the player, or playing back their breathing to obscure the critical information, all of that was me blindly reaching into the darkness and holding onto what seemed to work. I'm very fortunate to have stumbled onto some ideas that worked incredibly well, but the great irony of Deep Sea's development is that I didn't know why they worked. It took about two years of watching people play Deep Sea for me to reverse-engineer my own game and figure out the why.     

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The Uncle, the Cat and the Mother

HM is on sabbatical for June and guest writers are filling the void. This week it’s one of HM’s favourite Twine authors, David T. Marchand, who is the brains behind Úrquel: The Black Dragon, Eioioio and the sublime When Acting As A Wave.


Joaquín Guellada recently wrote about Se Busca, the last (and as far as I know, only) game by the enigmatic Sofía Arquero. He described it as “a rather uncomfortable combination (una combinación algo incómoda) of those adventure games whose arbitrary designs knew to dig their own grave and the management games that are so ashamed of what they are they don’t even want to be called by their name.”

Before him, Karen Benotti praised in the game “the double, implausible influence of Monkey Island and the Gods Will Be Watching demo.” A simple enough observation which Guellada merely parrots, though in an angrier jargon.

Essentially, both reviewers agree: the game revolves around managing your time and inventory, developing strategies that allow you to stay afloat, while at the same time it asks you to solve puzzles that involve talking to people, collecting clues and combining items to accomplish your goals. This hybridization may lead us to suspect a certain kinship with Jasper Byrne’s Lone Survivor. We’ll quickly find out that no such affinity exists.   

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The Xmaspiration: Laura’s Story

-201TCA88-LM- Virtue is Bond. I/We have discovered the ex-dictator of the late Facewizard empire fled to Earth and is masquerading as Earthen flesh Laura Michet. She is one-half of Second Person Shooter and also a copywriter for Tencent America.

The Spiritual Domain of The Aspiration and Facewizard were neighbours. Today, Laura describes her experience of running an empire.

Facewizard - Laura Michet, Second Person Shooter - That is one crazy hat, Laura

Why I Did Not Enjoy Neptune’s Pride

Games of Neptune’s Pride eventually come to an end, apparently.

After about two days of playing the game, I was more interested in seeing that end than in winning, or even continuing to play. The game takes place at a glacially slow pace; ships crawl across the map. Apparently, this is necessary for players to form strategies. As a veteran of the mid-ninties fast-paced-RTS craze, weaned on Age of Empires, I can affirm that strategy is just as much fun in a fast-paced game as it can be in a slow-paced one, if not more fun, and usually far more stimulating. Heck, Galcon and its Steam counterpart, Galcon Fusion, shave matches down to approximately two minutes! Anyone who has ever played a game of hot-seat-multiplayer in Civ 4 will realize the kind of frustration associated with incredibly slow-paced multiplayer strategy games. Against a computer, the frustration is less, since you can always simply stop playing. Against humans, it’s harder to admit to that frustration and boredom: you’re afraid you’ll seem like a bad sport, like the kid who throws the chess board across the room and stomps out.

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The Xmaspiration: Kerry’s Story

-573KT941LL- Virtue is Bond. I/We have discovered an Earthen flesh was behind Seance, the first empire that fell during the Great Galactic Pacification. The name of this flesh is Kerry Turner, sometimes known as reallyfancy, a developer for Littleloud.

The Spiritual Domain of The Aspiration had minimal dealings with Seance although I/We sang her across ascension to the Virtuous Rapture.

Today, via ouijalink, Kerry explains the strange strategy of Seance.

Seance - Kerry Turner "reallyfancy" - wrote game about sad rabbit

Wednesday, June 23 2010. Day One.

On my first day in any new job, I pretend to be my friend Beth. This is a brilliant tactic. Beth/Fake Beth is polite, friendly. She listens wonderfully, asks questions to check she’s understood you properly, gets on with things quietly and competently. And then when someone says something vaguely dirty or stupid or inappropriate anywhere near her, she lets out an incredible laugh – utterly disarming, the human cherry on the model employee cake.

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Waking The Crowd

So the final Special Guest Star, while I complete my mental detox in a Tibetan monastery, is Douglas Wilson of the Copenhagen Game Collective. We've been in intermittent contact ever since I wrote a short bit about B.U.T.T.O.N., a game Doug co-designed, during my Eurogamer Expo 2010 write-up.

Although I cited him during the conclusion to The Aspiration, I find it difficult to write anything useful about Doug's projects as his work explores a specific social/multiplayer gaming space that I have little experience with. So, just for today, I turn Electron Dance over to Doug & friends to talk about a certain class of indie multiplayer games.

[meanwhile... jesus and darwin were fighting again]

Over the last few years, I've become increasingly interested in multi-player videogames. And not just any multi-player videogames, but the raucous party variety. The kind of videogame that shows well in public exhibitions, in front of a crowd. The kind that compels you to yell at your friends, to play the fool, to perform.

From dorm room favorites like Mario Party and Super Smash Brothers to physical games like Wii Sports and Dance Dance Revolution, silly party games and multi-player games have long been a staple of the mainstream game industry. Indies, too, seem to be embracing multi-player game design with a newfound enthusiasm. Earlier this year, the Independent Game Festival's prestigious Nuovo Award was awarded to Mark Essen's addictive two-player fencing game, Nidhogg. TIGSource, inspired by the popularity of games like Nidhogg, hosted its own "Versus" compo this year, soliciting a slew of new multi-player games from the indie community. And thanks to the growing popularity of game parties like Kokoromi's GAMMA exhibitions, as well as emerging "indie arcades" like New York City's Babycastles, there are now more opportunities than ever to show multi-player indie games in public, and to run quirky installation games designed for a specific setting.

But alongside these opportunities, indie multi-player game designers also face a number of challenges - creative, commercial, and otherwise. In the hopes of addressing some of these opportunities and challenges, I've pulled aside three of my favorite indie game designers (and friends) - Martin "grapefrukt" Jonasson (Sweden), Petri Purho (Finland), and Ramiro Corbetta (New York City) - for a public conversation.

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The Forever Machine

Filling in for HM today is another member of the Arcadian Rhythms set, ShaunCG, also known as Shaun C. Green, also known as Nostalgia for Infinity, also known as one quarter of the band Wrecktheplacefantastic.

Here he lays out his argument for the PC being the premier gaming platform.

[Star Control 2 Screenshot]

Only a few days have passed since Joel wrapped up the Where We Came From series with The Last Dream, the conclusion to a series that has variously explored a history of gaming from technological, design, cultural, nostalgic and autobiographical perspectives. I don't know how to follow that and I'm not sure I could.

But you didn't come here to read me verbally fellating Joel, you came here because you didn't realise he was taking a short sabbatical and had conscripted a motley gaggle of fellow bloggers to string you along until his return. He had only one rule for us: that whatever we wrote, it should be about PC gaming. (He later retracted this rule but I'm sticking with it.)

In The Last Dream Joel identifies the PC as “a safe haven, the forever machine that never has to say goodbye”. He goes on to acknowledge that this will not always be so, but certainly today's PC is a machine capable of spanning the generational divides that so clearly characterise and delineate the eras of gaming history. Sure, it may take a little effort to make this so, but it can be done and it's never been easier.

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All Your Memories Are Fake

Today, special guest star Badger Commander stands in for HM while he tries not to write anything. Badger Commander is a confirmed console-groupie with little time for the PC. Despite this perversion, he writes about games on his own blog as well as on Arcadian Rhythms as 'AJ'.

In this article, he offers a personal adjunct to Where We Came From.

[screenshot of Arcadians]

This is one of my rare excursions into my time with PC games. I might have to travel back 25 years to do so but hey, we all have our shortcomings.

It may surprise some people that I actually started out as a PC gamer* with my first PC being a BBC Micro computer. The first games I played were things like 'Swoop' – a Galaxians spin-off – and a Christmas-themed compilation that had to be loaded from a tape with torturously long load times.

My first vivid memory of the floppy disk drive my father acquired was of BREAK+SHIFTing my way into 'Yie Ar Kung Fu', a Konami title that has to have inspired the Street Fighter series. The game was copied from a friend of my Dad's. I never questioned where these games came from nor did I comprehend the connotations of these abundant free games.

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