A while ago, I watched a video where a pleasant man explained how humans tend to increase their abilities until they are “good enough” in any given field, afterwards they tend to stop improving. He called this the “OK Plateau”. One of the suggested methods to conquer this plateau is to try and appreciate the work of those better than you with a critical and studious interest.
I don’t mean to imply that I have conquered my numerous OK Plateaus, but long before I watched the video, I’ve seen the work of others this way. I will often find myself peering through a window into the creative effort necessary to produce a given work. For instance, when watching a movie, the way the camera moves makes me think of the crew behind the equipment, affecting how the scene is captured. Sometimes I’ll take it a step further and try to imagine what the director was thinking.
It’s not a look “behind the scenes”, it’s more of a limited intuition into the technical creative process.
In: Uncategorized · Tagged with: audience, creativity, ellaguro, film, games, l0stw0rlds, liz ryerson, movies, music, novels, problem attic, process, rant, scraps, thoughts, video games, writing
I don’t see myself as a Man of the Big World. But thanks to the internet, and Twitter in particular, I can soak up a lot of different world experiences without leaving my house. Why does anyone need to actually meetup physically anymore? Can’t we do everything digitally online?
This narrative has sustained me for a very long time. It took a trip to GDC last year to discover how incomplete a picture it draws. Everything changes when meeting face-to-face with like-minded people. The energies I witnessed there, with impromptu folk games, ideas thrown in every direction, and general excitement, were unparalleled.
Yes, there is a local scene in Israel. The GameIS people are wonderful and gracious. Meetings usually have an agenda (a lecture by someone from the “industry”, a screening of Indie Game: The Movie, Hackathons, etc.), and are generally large “events”. Events that give a feeling of hit-or-miss: if you didn’t show up, you didn’t go to The Big Event! You must not be serious.
And these are necessary as well. I’m glad we have a strong community, rife with technical and artistic proficiency. I’m glad we have multiple Global Game Jam locations, and a yearly Unconference that lets anyone speak their mind. And yet, something is missing.
A local meetup group. For anyone who wants to make games, no matter what their level of involvement or experience. Instead of making gigantic events, a low-profile, consistently-recurring meetup is the way to do it. Grassroots, get people who really want to be involved, and spread via word of mouth. This doesn’t mean reinventing the wheel: there are tens of these groups around the world. You meet every week or two. Learn from each other, share ideas, and get feedback from what you’ve made.
And thus, the Kfar-Saba Indies were born.
If you’re in the greater Kfar-Saba area, come join us every other Thursday, for a relaxed game-making meetup! We have an official Facebook group as well.
If you’re interested in doing the same, listen to what Andy Moore has to say about it:
In: Uncategorized · Tagged with: andy moore, community, game development, gamedev, gdc, kfar saba, kfar saba indies, ksindies, local meetup, unconference
I recently rediscovered George Buckenham’s amazing Games We Have Known and Loved, where he collects concise recordings of people talking about their favorite moments in games. It’s remarkable how so many different people can experience the same game in such different ways.
Listening to some of the accounts reminded me of a game that I really enjoyed, Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II. I was in high school, and it must have been either 1999 or 2000. A friend from my class lent me a precious CD, holding a number of games that were … less than legitimate. This was before broadband internet was widespread, meaning the original game, which spanned (I believe) two whole CDs, had been stripped of its full-motion video cut-scenes and CD-quality music and compressed into a single .ZIP file.
Around that time, my parents had taken me to a Pat Metheny concert, when his trio visited Israel on tour. On the way out of the auditorium, we bought his album, Trio 99->00, which I still love today. This CD was in my computer’s optical drive a lot during this period, so while playing Jedi Knight, the familiar orchestral Star Wars background music was replaced with a modern American jazz trio. As I would explore the industrial factories and extra-terrestrial valleys, I might be accompanied by A Lot of Livin’ To Do or Capricorn.
There was a lot of mystery in the game, because I didn’t have those full-motion video cut-scenes to help tell me what was going on or what my objective was. I also used cheat codes because I was a huge sissy. Despite Jedi Knight being a first-person shooter, there was a third-person mode for when the light saber was used, in order to aid combat. I would use third-person as much as possible, because it was fun to control this character jumping around, waving a light saber. This resulted in me wandering around an empty level, looking for something to trigger the next level, listening to cool jazz and brandishing a light saber.
It’s hard to explain how calm and peaceful it was. To be sure, I was trying to get out of the level and move on to the next one. But the exploration had a special feel to it. Maybe some of this magic is rediscovered today in games like Proteus. And I think the Megastructure and its endless chambers may bring back other aspects.
EDIT: A video to help relive the experience!
In: Uncategorized · Tagged with: atmosphere, cheat codes, dark forces, fps, games, games we have known and loved, jazz, jedi knight, megastructure, nostalgia, pat metheny, proteus, remembering, star wars
Note: this is a Very Long Post.
About a year ago, I finished the last semester of my Physics degree at Tel Aviv University. A few scary exams and written projects later, and I had completed my requirements. Two days ago, they announced a Higgs-like particle observed at the LHC. Yesterday, I received notice that my university user is about to expire. And so I feel the time has come for me to write a little about my own experiences. (Also inspired by a friend, turning 26, who wrote a few words to mark the occasion.)
In: Uncategorized · Tagged with: academia, learning, physics, retrospective, studies, tau, tel aviv, tel aviv university, university
(Looking for the links to the game? Skip to the end of the post…)
June began with a game development event called 7DFPS: the seven-day FPS challenge. Participants from around the globe built first-person shooter games. I didn’t sign up, and my game doesn’t appear in the list, but the fact that the event existed was enough of an inspiration for me to try my own take on the genre.
Whenever a strict theme is chosen for any creative endeavor, I usually try to subvert it in some way, in order to fake a sense of freedom while remaining within the word of the rules. In fact, if I really want to go wild some time in the future, choosing a “no subversive themes” modifier would be quite out of the box indeed!
The 7DFPS challenge is most commonly referred to by its acronym, which gives quite a lot of freedom to the creative backronym writer. (Some people suggested making a 7-dimensional FPS.) I liked the idea of first-person being a literary term, so I turned to my old pal/nemesis: Inform 7.
In: Uncategorized · Tagged with: 14dsprl, 7dfps, browser, first-person shooter, fps, free, game, game jam, IF, inform, inform 7, play, play online, text adventure
Notch has offered to add names of indie game studios to the world of his upcoming game 0×10c, apparently as fictional hi-tech companies.
Megastructure Industries is already a tongue-in-cheek kind of name. It means to invoke Tsutomu Nihei’s fictional company Toha Heavy Industries, as well as give the feeling of a cyberpunk megacorp, with either millions of employees or a fully robotic staff (or both). We obviously build skyscrapers or planet-sized structures on a daily basis. It’s also a callback to Epic MegaGames, which was originally only a few people (and needed the most grandiose name possible).
I love the aesthetic of that era, where companies would spell out their techno-dream right in their name. Digital Equipment Corporation. US Robotics. Microsoft.
If Megastructure Industries had existed in the 80s, it would probably be called Megastructure Technologies, Incorporated.
I was so excited, I put together a logo that would probably work well as a letterhead for official correspondence:
It uses the Computer font.
In: Uncategorized · Tagged with: 80s, corporate logo, epic megagames, header, incorporated, letterhead, logo, megastructure industries, megastructure technologies, notch, ox10c, tsutomu nihei, twitter
This Friday, after five years, Fez is finally coming to households everywhere! … if you have an Xbox, of course. And if that wasn’t enough to give me a Feeling of Missing Out, a select elite who got the game early have already flooded the twitternets with reports of how wonderful the game is.
My answer to this was FEX, which you can play right now, on many home computers, for free!
This game is notable for being one of the fastest games I’ve ever made — having conceived of the idea late in the afternoon, and completing it only a few hours later. Daniel Zoran graciously made the music (also very quickly and at short notice!).
EDIT! See the FEX LONG SCREENSHOT teaser trailer:
In: Uncategorized · Tagged with: daniel, fex, fez, flash, flixel, game, music, polytron
Thanks to the efforts of ExciteMike (and the incredible Glorious Trainwrecks!), over 1000 games were collected for a “GDC Pirate Kart”! The concept is simple: getting to GDC is expensive, and putting up a booth is even more expensive. Making a pirate kart that would be displayed on the GDC floor enabled a conference presence to any game that anyone could think to make.
I ended up submitting three games to the Kart, and I wanted to present them here.
An “asset-free” game I doodled in Processing. The goal is to push the red squares (the disbelievers) off the ends of the earth (which you are proving to be flat), before they reach your scientific papers in the center. There’s no sound and no win condition, yet it provides about 3 minutes of solid entertainment. This was also an entry for SoS’s “nanoLD”, though it took me longer than 48 minutes to make it.
Play here (requires Java).
As part of the Pirate Kart kickstarter campaign to raise enough money to set up the booth, one of the rewards was to have any idea made into a game by the Pirate Kart people. I chose the raciest idea I could find on the list:
My wife is an ANTI-circumcision activist and I would like a game made for her about protecting foreskins. (Seriously.)
The result is the game “Forskin Defender”. This was built in Construct Classic, using original graphics and sounds! The music was ripped from smickandsmudew.com.
Realistic GDC Lecture Session Simulator
This game was created in a few hours while waiting in line for “Indie Game: The Movie” at the conference itself. Along with a bunch of other amazing indies, we held an impromptu jam in the queue. This was made in Processing and mspaint (and awkwardstockphotos.com).
In: Uncategorized · Tagged with: excitemike, gdc, gdc pirate kart, gdc12, glorious trainwrecks, glorioustrainwrecks, pirate kart, spindleyq
Ludum Dare #22 (December, 2011) is long gone, but I’m still feeling the repercussions. Alongside seven hundred and sixteen other people, I spent a weekend building a computer game from start to finish all on my own. This was the seventh Ludum Dare competition running that I’ve accomplished, and the learning experience never lets up.
Entering the Ludum Dare competition takes on different meanings depending on your experience level. At the beginning, LD was a reason to finish a game. Personally, I had never completed a single game project I had started until I joined the competition. This was the reason to participate, and finishing the game was the reward.
While finishing a game is extremely satisfying (and a worthwhile skill to have!), this eventually must cease being the only reason to compete. There are newer challenges that must be addressed — and all the while, retaining this ability to finish the games you start (ie. wisely choosing content, infrastructures, and keeping scope within range….).
One of the challenges is building a game worth experiencing. But if the player doesn’t actually have to “go through the experience” on their own, how personal could it possibly be?
Having finished my degree the previous summer, it would appear that everything should just go “back to normal”. The craziness is over, my brief foray into a bizarre and even slightly antagonistic field (Physics) has come to an end, and now I can return to the workforce with renewed vigor. Because there is only so much exploration a person can do, right?
But it seems that 2012 is already distinguishing itself from previous years. Just over a week ago, I found myself nearly halfway around the world, attending a conference with the most energetic, talented and interesting people I could possibly dream of. This was the Game Developers Conference, held in San Francisco, USA.
A few themes permeated the conference in my perception, themes that resonated with me, my thoughts, and the mindset that brought me ten time zones west of home. In the hopes of making this a mini-series of posts, I’ll discuss one of these themes here.