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868-hack cap

Michael Brough has frustrated gamers before with his extremely cryptic games like Corrypt and Zaga 33, but 868-Hack is probably his best yet. Why? Because it’s easy to understand yet still incredibly complex. I’m going to be talking about how the balancing in this game makes it stand out as a simple structure that still has great depth. Many games employ some very complicated balancing strategies that are never really witnessed or understood by their players: 868-Hack is the opposite, opting for a balancing system that is bold-faced in its simplicity. It’s for this reason that I saw how much potential it has as a lesson in balance.

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Spelunky was definitely one of those games that I avoided like the plague because I hated the look of it: cartoony characters, basic 2D platforming, flaccid whip. Lame. I attributed its popularity mostly to video game nerds geeking out over the retro-ness of it (it’s a remake of an old Microsoft freeware game).

But it was hard to ignore. People kept talking about it, whether it was on podcasts or gaming news sites; even Twitch was filling up with Spelunky “daily challenge” feeds. So I finally caved. I bought it for the PS Vita at some ridiculously low price (I don’t think the PSN people had really caught on to how popular it was yet) and tried to get into it, if only to validate my apathy.

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comparison of old and new Spelunky

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I’ve been looking into different Computer Science programs in my area, hoping to find something that’s accessible and that will (maybe) still let me work and make a decent wage. I really don’t know where to start.

old-apple-computer

There are a few programs that boast a focus on game development, something I’m obviously interested in, but I’m still flip-flopping on whether it’s a good idea or not. Even though I may seem to be a pillar of strength and self-confidence in my posts on this blog, I actually doubt myself a lot. I keep telling myself that I can wade through all this programming stuff on my own, that it’s all online and that I don’t need to pay some exorbitant amount of money (again) just to get a piece of paper that says “You learned stuff.”

But then I try to wade into yet another argument over whether or not beginners should try to learn C# over UnityScript. Or an article on all the steps you need to do to get a decent job in this industry. Or a podcast about how these big developers all started designing websites and text adventures when they were TEN EFFING YEARS OLD. Time to get real: I’m 26 this year and I have a wife and pets to take care of. I have bills. I have a job I need to be able to perform well at. I still need to replace my windshield cause it cracked two winters ago but I keep telling myself it’s fine because if I pay for a new one, I won’t be able to afford to take my lady out on date night. None of these things are going to mesh well with spending twelve hours a day on campus and even more time at home hunched over a textbook and my laptop.

“But still, I could do it.” This is what I keep telling myself. Maybe it’s what’s holding me back.

Sad face emoticon.

these eyes haunt my dreams

these eyes haunt my dreams

So I spent a whole bunch of time last night trying to really get real with the Inform 7 manual, even referring to the website @type_ins on twitter gave me (intfiction.com) but I kept getting stuck on one stupid little thing.

I guess I should back up a little. I’ve been trying to make this game where you get stuck in a laboratory (see my previous post) and I’ve made it to the second scene where you wake up with your hands tied behind your back. Great. No problems yet. Now, to set the stage, I put a table in the corner with a box on it. Inside the box (if you examine it) are shards of a key. You will eventually (after some more reading on my part) be able to use that key to cut the nylon ropes that tie your arms together. For some stupid reason, I thought this would be THE EASIEST THING IN THE WORLD to program but, somehow, it was so, so complicated.

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So I’ve been playing with Inform 7 now for a few days. I will say one thing, the level of frustration I’ve achieved is probably only matched by the last time I was trying to learn code (JavaScript). I consider this to be a good thing, if only because it means that it’s a frustration that I’m sure to encounter time and time again as I learn other languages.

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“It is a radical reinvention of the way interactive fiction is designed, guided by contemporary work in semantics and by the practical experience of some of the world’s best-known writers of interactive fiction.”

A little while ago I posted my first experience with some software called Twine, an interactive fiction engine. It’s a great tool, one where you can explore a lot of space in a very aesthetically pleasing way. Since then, however, I’ve come across a program called Inform 7 (thanks to the new “Clash of the Type-Ins” podcast starring Video Game Taco’s Jenni Polodna). This program outputs something a lot less pretty than Twine does, but I’m finding that the options are a lot more diverse.

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