Electron Dance

Electron Dance Highlights


Talos, 2: I Am The Words

This is the second part of a three-part essay on The Talos Principle which includes commentary from writers Jonas Kyratzes and Tom Jubert. The first part was posted yesterday.

Talos-P2-QR-2014-12-12 01-43-36-50

“I see now that none of us are yet ready. The cycle exists so that we may improve ourselves. But the one who reaches the summit is not our superior, for they stand on our shoulders to reach it.”

-- The Shepherd v82.6.0174

When I first saw the QR texts, I sighed. Jesus, not another game with it’s-not-exposition-honest-guv graffiti on the wall! I initially paid little attention to them, reading them out of a completist need to do everything. But gradually I realised the walls held stories.

Spoilers for The Talos Principle follow.

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Talos, 1: The Words Made The World

This is the first part of a three-part essay on The Talos Principle which includes commentary from writers Jonas Kyratzes and Tom Jubert.

Talos Beams

“In the beginning were the Words, and the Words made the world. I am the Words. The Words are everything. Where the Words end the world ends. You cannot go forward in an absence of space. Repeat.”

The most glorious moment in The Talos Principle (Croteam, 2014) is one that comes again and again. The moment occurs when a “sigil” is liberated from a devious puzzle, but the sigil itself is an empty token of advancement, the kind of dull trinket that games thrive on. No. The sigil has no power.

Turn around. Don’t speed on to the next challenge, just stop. Turn around and survey the glorious red and blue stitchwork you've sewn across the puzzle. Look at this ingenious thing you have made and be proud.

Spoilers for The Infinite Ocean and The Talos Principle follow.

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Side by Side: Rocket League

Side by Side is a video series on local multiplayer games. This is the second series, episode 2 of 10.

Joel Goodwin of Electron Dance and Gregg Burnell of Tap-Repeatedly throw around words like "glorious" and "pathetic" when discussing what might just be multiplayer game of the year: Rocket League.

  • "It feels like a game that's come straight off a 16-bit console"
  • "I thought you were aggressive Gregg, but you're like a pussycat"
  • "And BANG - I've gone up in the air."

If you enjoy the series, please like our videos and subscribe to our channel.

Watch the video here or direct on YouTube.


Discussion: Let’s Punch An Indie In The Face


[collage of internet abuse]

Dear subscribers, if you feel like chatting about something from the September edition of the newsletter, please speak your mind in the comments here.


Stop Making Sequels

spider shrouded moon

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.

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Filed under: Longform 12 Comments

Side by Side: Assault Android Cactus

Side by Side is a video series on local multiplayer games. This is the second series, episode 1 of 10.

Joel Goodwin of Electron Dance and Gregg Burnell of Tap-Repeatedly develop Cactus thumb in a bullet hell shooter for "beginners" called Assault Android Cactus. The game is out today!

If you enjoy the series, please like our videos and subscribe to our channel.

Watch the video here or direct on YouTube.


Bioshock Infinite Is The Worst Game Of The Year

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.


"On Videogame Reviews" by Tevis Thompson

"Stanley Scores Reviews" by Joel Goodwin

Video Transcript

Counterweight podcast where Eric and I trashed Bioshock Infinite.


Adrián Berenguer "Iaia"

Tipsy "Tuatara (Remix)"

Blake Robinson Synthetic Orchestra "Educating Stanley"

Jurassic Park Theme (slowed down 1000%)


Discussion: Goodbye, Dr. Freeman

blast pit

Here's an open comment thread if you want to discuss something from the August newsletter.


Spheres of Smartphone Chaos

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.


ANGELINA and the Secret Box


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.

Further Watching

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.

Filed under: Short Notes 1 Comment