Sunday, January 21, 2018

My favorite games of 2017

I started this post as the capstone of my "IGF nominees" post sequence, and then it fell to pieces because I kept wanting to write about games that weren't IGF nominees. Also the Meanwhile release swamped me for a couple of weeks.
If I just call it "favorite games of 2017" I can write about anything I want. Right?
"Favorite game of the year" is an indefensible category. I will not say these games are perfect, only that they did something perfectly. Did something right, with a rightness that felt both surprising and inevitable, beginning to end.
In this post, in no particular order:
  • Gorogoa
  • Cinco Paus
  • Universal Paperclips
  • Night in the Woods

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Meanwhile is now available on Steam! Plus extra DLC comic!

Jason Shiga's Meanwhile is now available on Steam, and also on Itch.IO.


iPhone owners (and people who frequent indie comic shops) are familiar with this groundbreaking interactive comic. Now we are excited to release a version for home computers: Mac, Windows, and Linux.
On the way home from the ice cream store, little Jimmy discovers a mad scientist’s wonderland: an experimental mind-reading helmet, a time machine, and a doomsday device that can annihilate the human race. Which one would you like to test out first?
Special thanks to Doug Orleans, Bob Igo, Cheeseness, Uxilo, and Oreolek for very last-minute Linux testing. I threw the Linux build together over New Year's and I never did figure out a way to test it. (Mac Parallels can't cope with Unity builds -- not enough OpenGL squirrels in the VM.) So the fact that it works is entirely down to the test volunteers.

But wait, there is more news!
The Steam version of Meanwhile comes with two DLC items. (The Itch.IO page is not set up for DLC, I'm afraid, so these items are currently only available through Steam.)
The first is Meanwhile Poster Art. This is a giant JPEG of Meanwhile, laid out just like the app. It's 8640x8640 pixels, so if you print this at 150 dpi, it will be nearly five feet square! (A PNG file is also included, same size.)
That's pretty cool, but the second DLC item is even cooler: The Case of the Missing Science Project!
The Case of the Missing Science Project is a new Shiga choose-your-path comic. Well, it's nearly new -- it was originally published in a 2016 comics anthology called Comics Squad: Lunch. Follow Little Jimmy, Kid Detective as he attempts to unravel the case! There may be dinosaurs!


Sunday, January 7, 2018

2018 IGF nominees: fascinating experiments

Reiterating: The IGF finalists are out! I was on the jury for Excellence in Narrative.
In today's post, the games that were really interesting but not necessarily entirely successful. This is not to say they were unsuccessful! Some of them go all-out in a particular direction which doesn't ring my particular bell. Some of them have tremendous flair and polish but also have a gap that bothers me. They're all worth playing and discussing.
  • Tacoma
  • The Sexy Brutale
  • Reigns: Her Majesty
  • Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy
  • Where the Water Tastes Like Wine
(I played free review copies of The Sexy Brutale, Reigns, and WTWTLW. The others I paid for.)

Thursday, January 4, 2018

2018 IGF nominees: real lives

The IGF finalists display a wide range of styles, themes, and kinds of interactivity. I say "wide", I mean "yowza".
But I can pick out groups, if not categories, so this post will cover games about real people's lives. Some of these are autobiographical; some are fictionalized stories about the authors' lives; some are fictions which are meant to illuminate real-life situations.
Yes, all fiction is meant to illuminate real-life situations, but I mean directly. Shush.
In this post:
  • Cosmic Top Secret
  • Lost Memories Dot Net
  • Another Lost Phone: Laura's Story
  • Bury Me, My Love
  • Attentat 1942
(Note: I was on the narrative jury and played free review copies of these games. The comments appear in the order that I played them.)

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Tacoma: design ruminations

The IGF finalists are out!
Once again I was involved in IGF judging, and I was invited back to the jury for Excellence in Narrative. And once again I have a long file of review comments which I intend to post here.
However, my comments on Tacoma got so long that they turned into their own post! So I'm going to start with that one. Tacoma isn't my favorite game of the year, and I wouldn't argue that it's the best, but I'll say it's the most discussable.

Tacoma is a highly polished narrative game which doesn't exactly work. I haven't done a comprehensive review of the reviews, but that's the impression I get of the broad audience response. It doesn't hit home for me either.
To be clear, I thought Tacoma was creative, interesting, and well-written; I had a good time playing it. And it got a Narrative IGF nomination, plus a couple of honorable mentions! So it's certainly not a failure. But I want to focus on what didn't work for me. That's what the design rumination posts are for.
(Also note: I bought Tacoma with my own money when it was released in August. I wrote this post while mulling IGF entries, but I wrote it before the finalists were announced.)

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Meanwhile launching on Steam on January 17th

The coming soon page for Meanwhile is now live on Steam! It will be available for Mac and Windows. Our planned launch date is January 17th.
(I'd like to support Linux, but I haven't figured out how to get or build the SkiaSharp library in a way which will reliably work for Linux gamers. Feel free to drop me hints!)
I intend to also release the game on Itch.IO. I haven't set up the Itch page yet, but I'll link it when the time comes.
If you're new to Meanwhile, it's an adaptation of Jason Shiga's groundbreaking interactive comic book. A thrilling tale of quantum mechanics and self-discovery with 3,856 story possibilities!
This Steam release has been a long road. The original iPhone version of Meanwhile appeared in 2011; I've been working on the Unity port since August of this year. Jason and I are excited to finally get it out the door.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Zarf life updates

My life has been more interesting than my blog, these past few months. Time for a public catch-up post.
The big news is that, as of December 1, I have accepted a full-time job at Spirit AI.