Archive for the 'features' Category

Space time.

Mar 29 2012 Published by under features

Today was spent in space. I made an endless space simulator for the beginning of the game. The idea is to suggest the underlying premise that the action takes place on a remote space station. I didn’t want to use a cut scene of a fixed length because I want players to decide for themselves how deep into space they want to travel. If you like, you can spend hours in this scene before starting the game.

I had first created a program that generates solar systems with a sun in the middle, a random number of planets circling around it and moons circling the planets. It wasn’t even close to realistic but still the enormous size differences between suns and planets and the distances between solar systems made the scene far from evocative.

So then I made a program with simple particles and a planet here and there and its lovely and mesmerizing.

It doesn’t look anything like the arresting view we get from Jupiter and its four moons through our newly acquired telescope. Actual navigation through space must be maddening, crossing the vast emptiness between planets and obsessively staring at your destination for months, years on end. But that’s stuff for another game.

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The childish language of love.

Mar 21 2012 Published by under features,musing

Editing the text for the dialogues in Bientôt l’été, I’m struck by how much I adore the self-pitying childishness of the language of love. Of course Duras has a way of playing this up. And maybe I am more sensitive to the charms of feminine naiveté -or is it playing at being naive for the sake of self-glorification?

There’s also a strange sort of joyous humor in the exaggerated expressions of desperate infatuation. Not in the least because of the polite form that Duras often uses to address a lover.

Je vous aime comme il n’est pas possible d’aimer.
— I love you like it is not possible to love.

Avant vous je ne savais rien de la souffrance….
— Before you I knew nothing of suffering.

Rien d’autre arrivera dans ma vie que cet amour pour vous.
— Nothing else will happen in my life but this love for you.

Votre corps va être emporté loin de moi, et je vais en mourir.
— Your body will be taken far from me, and I will die from that.

And then there’s the wonderful playing with cruelty, the purpose of which may be to provoke pain in the lover which will then count as proof of love.

Quand j’écris, je ne vous aime plus.
— When I’m writing, I don’t love you anymore.

Je préférais que vous ne m’aimez pas.
— I’d prefer you didn’t love me.

Je crois sincèrement que j’aurais pu ne pas vous aimer.
— I sincerly believe that I could have not loved you.

Parfois dans la journée, j’arrive à m’imaginer sans vous.
— Sometimes during the day, I manage to imagine myself without you.

I hope players will enjoy this sort of language as much as I do. I have no idea if this is supposed to be good or bad writing. I only know I find it incredibly endearing. It makes my heart tremble, brings a tear in my eye and a smile on my lips.

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Minimalism and failure.

Mar 12 2012 Published by under features,project

Last week, I removed two features from the game design that I really liked. Both would take a lot of time to fine-tune and polish. And frankly I’m not even sure how much they would contribute to the whole. But removing certain features gives me more time to work on all the others, so they can become better.

The continuous exercise in minimalism when creating a videogame can be very frustrating at times. There is never enough time, there is never enough money, and the technology is never good enough to make what one really wants to make. But in my experience, this is the only way to come to a finished project. And it is of the utmost importance that projects are finished and released. Without that, there is no progress. Even if the game is not as good as one envisioned it, and not as rich, a released title will always be better than an unreleased one. The former can make a difference, the latter cannot.

I do believe in the aesthetic value of a videogame that is as sparse as it can possibly be: where everything in the game is essential and beautiful and nothing is excessive or badly implemented. But such minimalism goes against my creative nature. I keep having ideas and often only know if they are any good after implementing them. But that takes a lot of time, so I need to continuously reject ideas at the risk that some of the few sparse features that I do decide to keep, turn out to be completely uninteresting. Minimalism may be the only way to come to a finished product, but it’s also terribly risky.

The only solution for this dilemma is to accept the possibility of failure. Let’s make this one project as good as we can and if it turns out to be bad, so be it. Then we simply move to the next project, older and wiser.

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Doing the undefined, with each other.

Mar 08 2012 Published by under concept,features

When making the kinds of games that we do, it’s common to think in terms of expression, meaning and narrative. And while it is important to at least guide the player a little bit towards an interpretation that makes sense, I believe that a videogame should allow for as much freedom as possible for the player to play how they want to. Often technical limitations prevent us from offering all the possible interactions and features a player might desire. But sometimes reducing the amount of features can lead to more ways of playing.

My best experiences in multiplayer games are often the ones in which I “abuse” the system for my own story. Having our avatars intersect with each other in A Tale in the Desert is a beautiful romantic memory. Having Jin and Xiaoyu tackle each other in Tekken turned into an erotic fantasy. We didn’t need our avatars to play animations of hugging or having sex. In fact, it was more fun to attribute our own meaning to what we were doing. It made the activity more personal.

I remember adding such personal layers to table top games as well: inventing stories that are only vaguely related to what the board and the pawns and the rules represented. It’s a fun thing to do together.

So rather than defining the meaning of certain actions that a player can do in Bientôt l’été, or figuring out how to implement a wide range of recognizable gestures and interactions, I think I will offer simple, rather meaningless things to do instead. Putting an object on the table and moving it around means nothing. Until you do this while another person is watching and when this other person can do the same. Then a communication can develop. This communication may not have any specific meaning. But does that matter? How many of our conversations in real life are actually exchanges of information? Is communication often not simply testing how much we like each other and expressing these feelings? Even when we might not really feel all that fond of someone, it’s often simply fun to act as if we are.

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Close your eyes to interact.

Feb 22 2012 Published by under features,ideas

One of the things I want to capture in Bientôt l’été is the sort of introverted, concentrated way in which almost nothing happens but a few words spoken, a small gesture made, the way in which Duras seeks for precision, accuracy, by standing still, and focusing. I wanted to find an interaction, a “mechanic” if you will, to express this, so you would feel this process when you play, do this activity of focusing, of freezing in your steps and concentrating. I felt I couldn’t use the “let go to interact” mechanic of The Path because, this time, the player needed to be in control. He or she needs to do this, engage with what they are looking at. But in a way that is almost passive, almost nothing.

So I came up with a simple idea: press a key to close your eyes: the screen becomes black, and the object you want to interact with fades in. You need to hold the key (=keep your eyes closed) long enough for the object to be completely “there”. When it is, the interaction happens (in most cases, collecting something from the beach, often a phrase).

This activity of closing your eyes is always available. You can also do it when no object is nearby. You can blink, if you like. As such it is our version of Grand Theft Auto’s greatest feature: honking the car horn. :) When you keep your eyes closed for a bit longer, your inventory of collected items fades in. We’re thinking of these items more as memories (as in The Path). Though there will also be real objects that you can carry with you and play with in the café.

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