Kicking the tires

It’s true that we’re probably not here, we do not exist, we are simply experiencing a memory or a dream, and there’s nothing but our own personal sensory impulses to back anything up. Furthermore, what if there’s nobody else at all, and this entire elaborate illusion is nothing more than a product of my [your] own imagination?

There’s no way to prove anything at all, but there’s a degree of confidence we can restore by experiencing things that “couldn’t possibly be” products of our imaginations. One way is by “going out”, and seeking “evidence” of external creation: faraway lands, miracles, relationships, religion, nature, serendipity, luck, magic, fantasy, coincidence.

Another way is looking in: delving into specialized fields and exploring their complexity. If something is unknowable to a human mind, it must not be a product of a human mind. As we discover more and more of a discipline or a theory, we learn how much more there is left unknown.

I think that at a subconscious level, we yearn towards these two extremes in everything we do, in order to convince ourselves that this is real. And by seeking and learning about these phenomena, to root ourselves therein and feign some level of control, meager as it may be, over our destiny and our environment.

Posted on October 19, 2014 at 9:19 pm by eli · Permalink · Comments Closed
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Expression through play


Among some recent thoughts I’ve been having is the idea that “play” is more important than “game”. When you play with a system, or with people, you engage in a testing of boundaries, an exploration of the configuration space. A game is just one kind of system supporting such an activity. Read the rest of this post »

Posted on April 5, 2014 at 11:21 am by eli · Permalink · Comments Closed
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So Twenty-One [Abandoned WIP]

I’ve been sitting on this project for a long while, and it’s time to come to terms with the fact that it will probably never be completed. So I’m releasing it and the source code in the very state it exists on my hard drive.

The game was inspired by (and features) So Twenty One by Sleepy Town Manufacture. This song is a free download on archive.org, but I also got permission from the creator to make the game. The idea was to have a short, interactive experience in time with music. There is a challenge involved (you can lose) but it was meant to be something anyone could play through in one or two tries.

I’ve exported my old SVN-based code to git, and uploaded it to GitHub. I hope someone finds it informative  or even helpful.

Posted on December 28, 2013 at 9:58 pm by eli · Permalink · Comments Closed
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The creative veil

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.

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Posted on June 8, 2013 at 6:41 pm by eli · Permalink · Comments Closed
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The Kfar-Saba Indies: local game development

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:

 

Posted on January 17, 2013 at 9:57 am by eli · Permalink · Comments Closed
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Nostalgia: Late 90s

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!

Posted on September 19, 2012 at 11:35 pm by eli · Permalink · Comments Closed
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Retrospective: B.Sc. Edition

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.)

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Posted on July 7, 2012 at 3:15 pm by eli · Permalink · Comments Closed
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FPSTXT: the text-based first-person shooter

 

(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.

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Posted on June 27, 2012 at 11:03 pm by eli · Permalink · 3 Comments
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80s corporate name and logo

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:

(SVG version)

It uses the Computer font.

Posted on April 25, 2012 at 5:34 pm by eli · Permalink · Comments Closed
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Presenting FEX

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!).

Go ahead! Give it a try!

 

EDIT! See the FEX LONG SCREENSHOT teaser trailer:

Posted on April 9, 2012 at 9:06 pm by eli · Permalink · Comments Closed
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