Friday, November 25, 2011

What do we call these things?

Somewhere back in my Ascension post, I mentioned that nobody uses the official terminology "runes" or "power" or "honor" in my group. Similarly, when we play Catan, do we talk about "clay" and "ore"? No. You build a city out of rocks and wheat. Sheep are a structural element. That's how the game works.

This is an obvious consequence of purely nonverbal game design. Board games often do this out of a desire to save money on translation -- they don't have to rework the card art in every country to say "moutons" or "πρόβατα" or "Schaf" or whatever. (Or rather, "laine" or "μαλλί" or "Wolle".) (Or rather, "wool", because the game was originally in -- no, never mind.)

Anyhow, videogames tend to do the nonverbal thing too -- sometimes for the same reason, but sometimes for artistic effect. Look at the Lego movie game series, which has endless fun with wordlessly grunted, growled, and groaned cut scenes. (Did you know that Lego Star Wars: The Clone Wars uses many of the same voice actors as the TV show? Even though they never say a word? That's awesome.)

Sorry, what was I talking about here? Right. Ico. The original US release had half its lines in unknowable-language, and the rest in Japanese. Wordless as far as I was concerned, although the current PS3 version has English subtitles. (I'm not sure it's an improvement.) Then came Shadow of the Colossus, which was always subtitled, but only uses text when introducing the story and each chapter. The sixteen Colossi are never named.

They have names, although you have to look through supplemental material to find them. I never did, and I bet you didn't either. And that leaves open the question: what did everybody call them, when playing through SOTC that first time?

Monday, November 21, 2011

A weekend chatting about electronic literature

I spent the weekend hanging out at Dangerous Readings, a small-scale (un-)conference about hypertext, interactive literature, and all that sort of thing.

The event was hosted by MIT, and organized by Eastgate, a publisher of hypertext and hypertext tools. They originally envisioned a BarCamp-style event, with sessions proposed and scheduled on the fly. But we didn't wind up being even that formal; it was just eight-to-twelve of us hanging out at MIT, talking about hypertext-like things for a weekend. Afterward there was pie.

I do not have a detailed report for you, I'm afraid. I had a really good time; the group was small enough to drill through my usual reticence. (At least by the second day...) So I was, for once, in the conversation rather than sitting back taking notes.

I'll note a few things, though:

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Cold Iron: my (very short) IF entry in the Comp

IFComp is over, and it turns out I entered this year! Cold Iron placed fifteenth of 38 entries. It's a tiny little game -- so if you're hungry for Zarf IF, you can either be disappointed that it's so small or happy that it only took a few days of my time to write. But I think it's pretty good, and reviewers seem happy with the quality of work (if not the quantity).

But there's more to the story than that. I collaborated with three other Boston IF authors to create a secret, cross-game bonus puzzle.

The idea was originally suggested by Kevin Jackson-Mead at a PR-IF meetup. He thought it would be cool if several of us entered IFComp with games that shared a metapuzzle. We talked over ideas, and then I wrote a small puzzle structure and passed it around. I set it up to fit into four games. Doug Orleans and Mike Hilborn volunteered to handle the other two parts, and we charged off on our quest.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Meanwhile for iOS is available

Last week, I wrote:

In other news -- or rather, the news I started with: Meanwhile has been sent off to App Store review. If nothing goes wrong, it will be available Tuesday, November 8th...

Nothing went wrong, and so Meanwhile is available, right now, in your local iOS App Store.

Full press release is below the cut.

And Hadean Lands? It's on my "make progress every day" list now. I should have the puzzle structure completely outlined by the end of this week. That's a small step, but comforting to me.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Halloween and progress report

A week ago I tweeted: "With Meanwhile stable, my Next Damn Project Slot is open as of Monday. And that means Hadean Lands (aka the Previous Damn Project)."

Perhaps you read that with a detached, urbanely ironic skepticism. Or not. Maybe Twitter can't tolerate that much irony. Who knows. Anyhow, last Monday, I opened up my HL design notes file. I brushed the dust and dinosaur vertebrae off it and read through. Here's what I quickly realized: