Saturday, November 22, 2014

Writing - Incognita: Flip, Interrogation of a Prisoner

Writing - Incognita: Flip, Interrogation of a Prisoner

If anyone noted one more Halfling hedge wizard than usual in the docks of The Maw, it was unlikely they would’ve spoken on it.  After all, the flood of refugees had thrown the usually ordered, rocky harbour into a sense of disarray in the past few months.  Flip was adept at navigating the crowds, utilizing his mage hand and subtle applications of freezing winds around him, he managed to craft a bubble of space which pushed the press of bodies.  Somewhere behind Fyarr had been distracted by giving healing blessings to the rabble, but Flip pushed forward unhindered.

Instructions that had been given to him were clear, and he abruptly turned down an alleyway between buildings.  Another turn and the stone walls pressed ever closer, until he came upon a nondescript wooden door, carefully set.  He approached and rapped once upon the wall alongside it, careful to not trip the magical markings on the step.

“What’s the password?” a muffled voice from within.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Game Design - Tiny Moments

Game Design - Tiny Moments

I've been designing games around singular moments for the last two months.  In the depths of night, completely alone, with only hand crafted assets around single things.  I've been designing small games, tiny, infinitesimally small, unpolished games, usually one a week.  A lot of them are exercises.  To make sure I still know how to code in Game Maker, Flash and Unity.  Sometimes they are about figuring out how to do one little thing, dynamically dealing with specific problems or solving specific ideas.

Sometimes though, I make a tiny little game, because there's an idea that needs to get out.  It encompasses everything I do when I walk home, or to work.  I think about it while I eat lunch, I sketch it in the margins of my notebooks, I recite the lines of text or ideas of the game to myself while I listen to music.  It has to get out.

So I build a tiny little game.

This one is called Crosshair.

It's very simple.  You're a soldier on the back of a jeep, you have a machine gun, a .50 cal mounted to the back.  You're in an urban environment, and you have a spotter.  Your spotter designates possible targets, you swing around your crosshairs and sweep the street to check for the target possibilities.

45 seconds in, between the 4th and 5th target possibility you get a call out on the alley to the left.  The instant you swing over there, your crosshairs fix on a young Iraqi girl of 5.  She freezes.  Her mother appears behind her.  She also freezes.  As long as the crosshairs are pointed at them, they stay frozen.  You get text, and chatter, voice over, information...but as long as you stay pointed at them, they stay frozen.  If you point it away, but where they are going, they stay frozen.  You can only disengage and point it straight up, and you won't see them then, but they'll run across the screen and leave.

The game takes just over a minute.  The 'game'.  It's not really a game.  It's just a moment.

You're in full control.

I needed to make this.  And I'll never release it.  Ever.

I've been making tiny games, about super tiny little moments.

I'm not sure if it's for my sanity, or everyone else's.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Announcement - Desert Bus

Announcement - Desert Bus

It's Desert Bus time again!  Updates will be sparse, but if you want to tune in to an awesome charity that every year raises money to buy games and entertainment for sick children in hospitals, then you should go check out Desert Bus!

Desert Bus!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Writing - Remembrance Day

Writing - Remembrance Day

Forgive the late night ramblings of madmen.  Namely I.

Our house is quiet right now, half the household is out, working or partying, doing what they do I suppose.  I worked a full 10 hours today, then came home, ate some food and hung out with friends over the internet to play some games.

Tomorrow, I am waking up early with some of my compatriots, going down to Victory Square in the chilly November air and paying our respects.  We're going to wake up early, I'm probably going to shower and shave three weeks growth of beard off.  Don some nice clothing, and stand in the quiet of a tuesday morning while we listen to song, and poem, and the Last Post.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Incognita - 301A Interlude

Incognita - 301A Interlude

There was no sound made save the rustle of leather and cloth.  No halfling feet pittered over the stone, and no voices carried in the desolate dungeon rooms.  Above somewhere, the din of the refugee mob could be heard, the stamping of feet and the shouted voices.  The air above was jubilant, now that the plague had been solved and it looked like the Refugees would be shortly on their way.  The mage had drifted away, slipping silently down the twisting passages, he passed by underfoot unnoticed, subtle machinations of his magic weaved a safe course that ensured he'd never be trod upon or bumped into accidentally.

The door to the dungeons was still half open, and the application of some magical force crafted him a round invisible disc which he rode the stairs down on, leaving no trace of bootprint or otherwise in the dust.  The soldier in him was stoic, but some other part of him, oft forgotten, retched a little.  The stench of old blood was present, if muted.

The room was an array of cells and shackles, rotten straw lay about, refuse and dirt had been swept into corners but never scooped up, and the efflua of the living coalesced in the sewer troughs beneath, never being washed away into the sea for lack of caring.  The disc carried him soundlessly as he appraised the surroundings.  There were no prisoners here now, had not been in some time, except for the now shattered cage at the far end.  But the signs were telling.  Splatters of blood had stained the stone forever, would likely be impossible to clean.

He raised a hand, and a ball of flame formed between his fingers as he continued to drift around.  In his minds eye he could see the people that were once held in these cages, that were shackled to the ground.

Finally the disc came to a rest, half a foot off the ground where he had stood hours ago.  His arms crossed, and he waited, feeling the ebb and pull of magic as it swirled around.  It was difficult to describe to those not in tune with the weavings, but it was a living, if languid thing that pushed and pulled.  He just occasionally reached in and pulled what he wanted from it.

The lightning he had summoned had been draining.  It was still a spell new to him, and perhaps in many ways still outside his expertise.  Any skilled mage would be able to see the lancings which had scored much of the pathway between him and the abberation woman.  It had been a merciful and powerful spell, and he took no pride in its use.

He drifted closer to where she had stood.  There was nothing left of her.  Turned to dust and ash, any chitinous remains had been put to torch, not that there had been more than a handful to begin with.  She had hardly been defenseless, indeed, had she gotten loose there might have been a sense of true chaos for the group.  But he relived those scant moments before the fight over and over, the others had been quick to attack the source of the problem, but he had been unable to bring his magic to bear against the creature.

She had just been protecting her child.

So quickly had she turned to magic as the method of her revenge.

Just like him.

And in her haste, her magic had consumed her.  Her methods just slightly imperfect, her plan undone ever so slightly.

It was a strange thing to think on too deeply.

It would be some hours later when he emerged.  When asked in the dusklight of where he'd been, he would only shrug and point at his spellbook.  If anyone had noticed the stones of the Keep of Watcher's Crag warmed that day, they would not comment on it.  For surely the bluster of many people, rushing to and fro as they made haste to get off the island was the reason for the stifling air and unseasonable warmth.

It wouldn't be for a long time, weeks or months, when finally they forced the heavy wooden door of the dungeon open, it having been inexplicably barred from the inside, that soldiers would discover the dungeon had been completely wasted.  All the iron cages, the shackles, the soot and detritus had been scoured clean and melted to slag.  A rusted, flat iron floor left in its place in the dungeon.  It would be completely unusable, even the sewer drains had been plugged by slag metals, even the bolts that once held restraints had been melted from the walls.

They would stare in wonder then, at the whole floor which while rusted, was covered in unreadable arcane sigils.

And on the walls, they would murmur and speculate as they watched out over the sea.  What the sigils meant, and if they were indeed the work of that strange little halfling, feisty and boisterous who always proclaimed himself "Right".

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Charity - Extra Life

Charity - Extra Life

For most of the day I've been on and off watching the Wizards of the Coast DnD Extra Life Marathon.  Basically a large cast of rotating players, with DM Greg Bilsland are playing a 25 hour game or Hoard of the Dragon Queen.  As of the time of this writing, some...I guess 15 hours in? We've raised almost 75 000 dollars for Extra Life just through Wizards of the Coast.  Extra Life is a large, charity streaming event of gamers all across the world playing to raise money for the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals.

Across the entire Extra Life program, we've raised 4.2 million dollars this year so far.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Art - On Death

Art - On Death

I spend a lot of time as an artist thinking about death.  It’s morbid I know, but bear with me for a moment.  It’s a fixation point in most of the artwork I create.  I’m fascinated by grief, and more keenly than death itself, by the loss of possibility.  I obsess over chance and possibility, what people could or do or choose to amount to.  I find it fascinating to observe the decision-making process.  And there is something keen about the onset of death and how it presses on all the people around who observe it.  Whether they are personally connected to the death itself, or are a more casual observer.

I’ve done a tremendous amount of writing about death, and grief, loss and loneliness.  Truthfully I don’t really know why.  Stories about loss and death are my favourite, I write them, draw them, paint them, and make games around those moments.  I know it’s weird.

But for a long time I have struggled to really capture the myriad whirlwind of how humans deal with death.  I was really touched today when I read an article today by William Hughes.  It’s available here.  The article is beautiful, and sad, and raw.  It's raw because it means something, it's not covered in flowers and pretty words, it's harsh and hard, savage and ripping, and angry.  Really angry.  Angry at the possibilities of what might have been.  Angry at the trivialities that creators are taking with death.

It’s hard for us as creators to think about death and grief.  When we are in mindsets of creation, we want to capture pure emotions and reactions. Unfortunately we live in a society that is not obsessed with death like I am, but rather with killing.  I find myself at a strange crossroads where people push me to put the action of killing into my games.  Combat, warfare, weapons and guns. We are intrigued by the possibility of shooting, of pulling the trigger, of ending life.  Killing has become the causality of this strange fantasy we have of power.  We have actually lost sight of the possibility of death.

We rack up tremendous kill scores, ever increasing strange numbers of heads bashed in, limbs chopped off and bullets to the brain.

I’m walking this strange balance these days between designer and artist.  As a designer I understand the fundamentals of a repetitious cycle that reinforces engagement and entertainment.  I want to provide satisfaction, enjoyment and sloped ever-increasing challenges to my audience of players.  As an artist, my heart writhes in boredom.  I want to make games with stories, where there are no guns and no killing.  I want to think about absorbing people in the ideas of what grief really is, where there is only one death, and never another replay.  I’m in love with the game That Dragon Cancer, while my designer brain analyzes every challenge they will eventually face and wonders about how effectively they will overcome it.

These two sides juxtapose themselves against me, and I have no answers.

Well not no answers.  I’m making a game, quietly.  And I don’t know what it means.