We have not run an Artsy Games Incubator in a long time, but the spirit lives on in the Difference Engine Initiative.
We have not run an Artsy Games Incubator in a long time, but the spirit lives on in the Difference Engine Initiative.
All the round 4 games are now up online in the Games section! Go play!
As mentioned previously the AGI is expanding to Montreal. If you’re interested in taking part in Montreal’s first round or the next round of Toronto’s AGI (sometime in 2010) email us your name, artistic skill, favourite game — and why it’s your favourite game.
If you don’t live in Toronto or Montreal and you’re Interested in expanding the AGI to your city email us and we’ll send you info about starting an AGI chapter in your own town.
The games from round 4 are nearing completion and if you’re in the Toronto area you’ll have a chance to play them at the upcoming Hand Eye Society Social for videogame makers and enthusiasts next week:
Thursday June 25th, 7-10pm at the bar Unit (1198 Queen Street W.) in Parkdale and totally free to attend. Meet some great people, have a few drinks, play some indie games, and catch what local game makers are up to. You don’t need to be a member, everyone is welcome!
At 7:30pm we’ll introduce the Artsy Games Incubator round 4 games* you’ve been reading about on this site and they will be playable for the rest of the night! So come enjoy games featuring: squidy things, raccoons, Luddite potatoes, criminally awkward breakfast conversation, stylish mountain climbing, and applying for arts grants!
Don’t worry if you can’t make it for temporal or geographic reasons, all the games will be available for download here on the AGI blog in the near future!
The Hand Eye Society is a not-for-profit coalition of projects and people in support of Toronto’s videogame communities. You can read more about it and get involved here.
*Time permitting I may also give a short demonstration of my current work in progress Guerrilla Gardening: Seeds of Revolution.
So here we are at the last official meeting of the Artsy Games Incubator. Unfortunately, most of us were in various states of unfinished. But have no fear! The games will be (more) finished by the time they are showcased!
We talked about our varying levels of busyness and how to shift possible future iterations of the AGI to accommodate this. Miguel noted when he did the AGI there were two two-week gaps that helped with development. Craig brought up how much T.O. Jam helped him and suggested a “jam” days for future AGIs. After watching the new Trico video and wondering why our games didn’t look like that, we got down to business.
Craig’s made some progress with The Alpinist. He admitted to only having enough time this week to get back into the game and break it. He told of his attempts to have his protagonist have a flowing scarf, only to, instead, have scarves appear at random locations. By the end of the meeting, he was able to get the scarf to flow majestically off of the little guy’s neck. Craig also attempted to replicate the effect of snow kicking up after movement, by having an animation spew snow from his heel, but this had the unintended effect of making it look like there was a snowblower attached to the poor guy. The gameplay speed has also been tuned since last week, which made for a more responsive control scheme. Overall, it’s shaping up awesomely.
Ludd the Potato has an intro screen! It also has sound and a bitchin’ old ragtime theme. Enemies are now implemented, and it is now possible to exit houses. Sockets now give a satisfying electrocution sound, and also inexplicably raises your score. Ludd the Potato also sports the best death screen in gaming, bar none. Touching the TV leads to a shot of a skull with red hair. It reminded me of Joan Rivers. And Joan, if you’re reading this, we love you, we’re just goofin’ around. Anyways, I look forward to playing some more of Ludd and finding new ways to die.
Miguel’s project now has most of the animation completed. The shotgun can now be used. Each pellet has its own shadow! The characters can also switch items and walk around with them. Overall it’s looking spiffy. Miguel talked a bit about how the barricades were going to look and work, and said he was going to concentrate on features. The game handles really well, and promises to be a rip-roaring adventure.
Phil, Daphnee and Nadine were swamped with real life the last week and didn’t make any progress since the last meeting.
Craig! Craig decided after some general tooling that he would modify an existing platforming engine for his Alpanist game. I have to say, its really, really pretty looking. It has a lovely sparse aesthetic, and some nice little touches visually that really bring you into it like: the background scrolling, moody sky and rippling scarf of the main character. Craig talked about some of the issues he was having working with a moded engine…namely figuring out the ins and outs. His solution of visually filling in the normal function of “jump to this block” with snow, was a great idea. It really feels like his character is climbing a mountain. Currently Craig is working on how to speed things up a bit but still keep a steady pace in the game’s timing and frame rates. He hopes to have more functionality and some more details in it by the end of the AGI.
Miguel! Miguel is currently working on his “swap weapons” function. He says he’s behind due to a ton of work things, but what he has looks like a really neat way to work with another player. The base of this is pretty strong, and the butler looks really awesome. I can’t wait to see this thing with some sound cues.
Myfanwy! Lud the Spud is coming along. Currently there’s two type of views, a street view that you can side scroll and explore, and a room view you see when you go into a building. Myfanwy sighted some weird back and forth with some of gamemaker’s functionality, and talked about getting the rolling on her potato to work a bit better. The death screen is pretty awesome looking, and she’s hoping to work in some rubber room bounce effects.
Daphne! Daphne’s game about grants took a total 180. Rather than continue on a talking / exploring based adventure game, she decided to mod the engine from the tutorial 1945, and is planning on implementing some staplers and other strange flying objects. She sighted doing this because it was more fun, bother for her, and for potential players.
Phil! Phil’s text adventure game is getting decently fleshed out. the writing is pretty amusing and has a solid voice. The character conversations are pretty interesting. So far you can look, examine, and do some general interacting. It was suggested that Phil work in a few more visual text cues and leading language, as Miguel spent a good amount of time trying to make the various characters lick things….to sadly no avail.
Nadine! Nadine’s raccoon game is at a decent playable stage and still needs some general tweaking. She’s still running on programmer art though. She mentioned that she is pretty behind on the visual part, but is hoping to catch up over the next while. So far you can run around, gain life, get chased by mean cats, and feed your pups by transferring part of your health to them.
There were numbers today! 256 x 224 640 x 480 320 x 240 .Today we discussed screen resolutions & people’s preferences in terms of aesthetics. We discussed how keeping things simple was pretty important because everything gets really big. We talked about getting pwned by our own game projects. There were quite a few conversations going on with regards to people’s ideas for projects. It was decided that we’re not meeting next week because there are so many things going on with
everyone and then we’ll have some time to catch up. Zachary Lieberman was mentioned.
Daphnee is using AGS for her game. We discussed using Adobe Illlustrator & sizes. Daphnee plans to have a moose character & is in the process of getting other characters for her grant proposal game. Daphne plans on making it more minimal. Some of her challenges within the game might end up being: flip two cards like a memory game We discussed the save for web feature in photoshop for saving as png’s and to get transparency you can also switch to 32 bit during that process. Other suggestions were to have a photoshop file with your screen size and work with that as a template.
Phil is using Inform7 for his game. One problem he mentioned he’s having is that he gets carried away with descriptions when writing so he pared it down to one room. (Again – keeping it simple) The synopsis of his project: you are a kid, your ex con uncle is staying over with you and your parents and you’re enjoying breakfast with him. Some of his implementation problems: there needs to be a weapon of some sort but what kind – implied that he’s a criminal but he wants you to hide the weapon – decision where you turn him in or not – which depends on how much you like him or not. We discussed some possible ambiguous scenarios to allow for the decision to turn him in to the cops to be a more problematic one. Other suggestions were to possibly to reveal the thought process of the character. We also discussed interjection of news and sounds in the narratives. ex. 24 hour crime station audio, sirens in the distance.Another tip for everyone: test your game after you copy files over to a portable medium. Phil wants to flush out the uncle and dialogue or maybe script out the game for two weeks from now. making everything in the first 30 turns work.for next time we’ll be able to look around, talk to the uncle.
Nadine is currently overwhelmed by Tojam. And she had to wipe her computer. Conversations involved the DS screen resolution – which is 320 x 240. She’s using Gamemaker. Nadine wanted to know how to do scrolling – but not just sidescrolling.but scrolling in numerous directions. She wondered how much larger the screen be. We discussed that you don’t need to make the map in photoshop but you can make a tileset. Nadine wants to have one of the levels/challenges for two weeks.
Craig – was boned for time this past week. He worked on some tutorials. The first tutorial said the first thing to do was to write a design document so he made a design document. He also got sidetracked by making graphics. Others in the group concurred this was a common struggle. Craig showed us his groovy usb Nintendo controller. He loves metroid and was inspired by this for his platform game. The working title of his game is: Alpinist. He also showed us the graphics he made. He’s using NES screen 256 x224 resolution. Miguel mentioned that Nes uses non square pixels.
The premise: A guy going up through the mountain through the snow.Craig likes the idea of making something with slowness of the blizzard: The blizzard a filmby Akira Kurosawaa. He talked about how he likes the precision jumping in Prince of Persia – and the conscious decision making in the game play. He wants to make a state that affects the room, waiting for the wind and using wind as a central mechanic. He wants some parts to be agonizingly slow. Stats will be body temp, alertness and coherence. We discussed: what’s the characters motivation? Information would be gathered by breathing,and ambient sound. dude exerting himself in a storm. no enemies – mostly about movement. knit stories - game Miguel mentioned. you can’t kill anything but the movement is interesting. Nadine mentioned base camps & equipment that makes it harder to carry and move through the game, cooking meals. Miguel suggested having a guy struggle and seeing a guy you have to rescue. Craig’s goal for 2 weeks from now: first screen, title screen, animated chracter, jump & exert. cabin, low risk jump and high risk jump.task to get two characters to walk around the screen.
Miguel showed us his co-operative game in progress. He gave himself the task to get two characters to walk around the screen. He also offered access to his code in gamemaker. He will be happy to provide. One of his characters was animated – with shadows. He mentioned that keyboard conflicts were something he had to deal with. If you press sideway and press up it was fine but if he pressed the other chracter things would get messy.
Myfanwy has been spending her time getting to know the Gamemaker software. She showed her characterludd the spud – the ludological luddite potato moving around (while blinking) in gamemaker.There were some wall sockets that kill you and some water bottles that were animated to spill on collision. She wants to make a sidescroller but then have alternate spaces that you enter. There was some discussion surrounded side scrolling and face on interaction. One suggestion was that as soon as you have anything self contained – get someone to try it out, get feedback, see through their eyes. Advice: Pick your resolution and then make the graphics.
Myfanwy’s goal for two weeks: Character movement, background scrolling, a room, some interaction with “things”.Myfanwy also showed us her scratch gamewhich allowed you to hammer a nail.
Last Wednesday after some confusion as to which floor we were meeting on we gathered at a swanky high tech conference room in the Ontario Arts Council where Daphnee works to play and discuss our Scratch creations.
In general people found scratch to be interesting and fun but also frustrating at times. Everyone agreed it was good for sketching out small ideas but that it definitely didn’t scale up well. Even with our small projects we ran into issues like having to constantly re-import individual pieces of art every time we wanted to change an art element and having to copy identical bits of code into multiple objects. However many found that the limitations on visuals were liberating since they forced us all to concentrate on the game mechanics and programming. Still a few of us were disappointed when our carefully crafted art was imported and lost its detail and smooth edges.
Here are the games including some feedback and suggestions we gave each other for creating the final versions. These final versions, when completed will eventually find there way onto the blog for everyone to play!
Nadine – “Sheep Dodge”
Nadine’s vertical non-shooter wowed us with it’s trippy artwork and several layers of parallax scrolling background and foreground elements. In it the player must manoeuvre their flying blue sheep through twilight skies dodging submarines and gathering healing hearts for score and life before the timer runs out. One unique aspect of the game is it’s vertical controls, hitting up or down moves the sheep to one of several discreet heights giving it a snappy digital feel.
Originally the game had an additional enemy, tiny super fast puffer fish that flew past and expanded exponentially when touched. Nadine decided to take them out because they were super annoying.
Suggestions for the next version included:
Daphnee – “Grab that Chedda yo! II”
In what is, to my knowledge, an Artsy Games first Daphnee remixed a previous AGI scratch game, Devin Risk’s “Grab That Chedda yo!“ subverting it’s pro-capitalist message and updating it for our troubled economic times by adding elements of extreme personal risk and scatological content to the money grabbing action. Control remains the same as the original, drag your mouse and the hand will slowly follow it. However, along with grabbing for random wiggling cash the player must now avoid the hazards all too familiar to the denizens of Wallstreet: meat cleavers, electric eels and floating feces. In a terrifying twist grabbing any of these randomly appearing threats will result not in the loss of health or life, but in the loss of cold hard cash.
Suggestions for the next version included:
Craig – “A Hit Videogame”
Craig hit it out of the park with his metaphorical sports sim “A hit Videogame”. Employing the abstract distressed pixel style he uses in his films the game presents a setup that is Warioware like in it’s simplicity. You’re at bat and must push ‘space’ to get ready and then hit ‘a’ at the proper time to hit the ball. Success results in an image of two programmers atop a podium laptop held high in triumph as they are cheered on by several suits. Failure results in a chance to try again… and again… and again… as buggy hit detection made hitting the ball an exercise in random frustration. Perhaps an unintended extra layer of commentary on the unsteady, hit driven nature of videogame production. The game also features some stunning audio with chiptunes, banjo sound effects, and Craig voicing the announcer. Craig described his experience with Scratch’s instant audio recording setup: “You’re sitting at your laptop and you’ve got a banjo and a microphone and you can do anything!”
The original concept for the game would have been packed with terrible puns, after hitting the ball the player would run around the bases and then get shot by the mob. “Hit A” was going to be the only control however Scratch was unable to tell the difference between a keyboard button going down and being let go and so the spacebar had to be added as an extra button.
Suggestions for the next version included:
Phil – “Rutger Hauer: The Movie: The Game: The Ride!”
By far the strangest game of the evening RH:TM:TG:TR also has a elegant Warioware like approach to gameplay and takes that games surrealism to new autobiographical heights. Like Craig, Phil made great use of the sound effects recording function with lots of voice over. The only thing missing was a losing condition.
Unlike the rest of us slackers Phil has already updated his game with a loosing condition and uploaded it so you can play it now!!! Rather then ruin it with more description I suggest you go play it.
Miguel - “Here be Monsters“
The final game of the evening was my two player game “Here be Monsters” a classic cyclopidian squid vs flying turtle battle for coins. Players steer their respective monster using asteroid like controls, fire bouncy lasers and cast magic circles in an attempt to stun their opponent so they can grab more coins before the timer runs out. Shooting your own magic circle causes it to grow larger and larger. Since the magic circles can be used both as shields against enemy shots and offensively to stun enemies on contact several emergent strategies are possible. After several fierce monster battles, I mentioned wanting to some day make an expanded version of the game in Game Maker and we started brainstorming ideas for other monsters such as flying stingrays and robot whales.
Suggestions for the next version included:
Myfanwy – wrong file!
Unfortunately Myfanwy brought the wrong version of her game, hopefully we’ll get a chance to see it next session!
After playing everyone’s games I introduced the tools available for creating our final games and showed a few examples (all local to Toronto and almost all from previous Artsy Games Incubators) of games created using those tools including: The Landmarkers, Gedzundheit, Snow, Albacross and the incredibly disturbing Mouse Police. For next week we have to each pick a tool and get at least a simple interaction working.
The team met again over delicious snacks to go over their N-level creations. The group discussed the challenges they faced and shared the quirks and fun bits they discovered as they acquainted themselves with the software.
The group checked out a few videos about N-level games on Youtube, then played each other’s N levels to offer feedback.
Miguel went over the components of Scratch, by downloading a few games and disecting them in the editor box. The group learned how to combine commands, upload sounds and graphics, duplicate scripts, etc.
N LEVEL SCREENSHOTS
Craig // N vs Superbrothers
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, gather round for another glorious adventure in DIY videogame creation – it’s the fourth iteration of Jim Munroe’s famous Artsy Games Incubator!
The tried and true recipe:
-find a leader who knows the free tools (eg: N Editor, Scratch, Gamemaker, The Adventure Game Studio).
-take a handful of brave and determined mostly non-technical creative people, no tourists allowed!
-meet once a week for six consecutive weeks to discuss, develop & support the creation of each other’s videogames.
-add as much elbow grease as necessary.
This recipe is positively guaranteed to make a batch of tasty videogame creations – just the thing to share with the thriving indie videogame crowd here in Toronto & the broad audience online.
This first session for the fourth edition of the AGI was held on a cool Wednesday evening at The Pape Estate aka Superbrothers HQ, a nice old house on Toronto’s east side.
As the participants arrived the session began with introductions and some general discussion about people’s backgrounds with videogames, and then Miguel described the A.G.I. curriculum.
To illustrate what ‘the real thing’ might eventually look like, Miguel presented a youtube clip of 100 GameMaker Games in 10 Minutes. By and large these videogames were in 2-D, many of them presenting a play space from above or from the side. The implied lesson? Keep it simple, keep it creative.
After this presentation, each participant described an idea for a project they might like to build. Of course, these ideas may change over the course of the AGI, or an entirely new idea may present itself.
When all the ideas had been presented and discussed, Miguel gave a little presentation about the assignment for next week: creating a map for N using the existing level editor. He showed the results of previous AGI assignments and gave a few pointers to supplement the existing tutorials for N-Ed.
Towards the end of the session there was some discussion about videogame designer and critic Jonathan Blow and his lecture ‘Design Reboot’, which has recently been illustrated in a Superbrothers pixel clip called ‘Design Reboot HD‘.
PARTICIPANT PROFILES AND INITIAL IDEAS
Miguel Sternberg is the diabolical genius behind the Lovecraftian horror of indie videogame gem ‘Night of the Cephalopods’, created using Gamemaker in last autumn’s epic edition of the A.G.I. Miguel has dabbled in A.I. programming, cognitive science and film, and he contributed pixel art to the the Jason Stratham flick Crank as well as the back cover of the Toronto-centric comic Scott Pilgrim, Issue #4. More recently, Miguel is the founder of Spooky Squid Games and is currently hard at work developing something called ‘Guerilla Gardening: Seeds of Revolution’, an indie videogame for PC that’s ‘like Harvest Moon for anarchists’. Miguel plays videogames when time allows, mostly indie videogames on the computer and on the DS. He is also well versed in text adventures.
Keywords: two players, cephalopods, survival.
Miguel’s idea is to build a ‘Cephalopods’ style survival horror videogame that would present a necessarily co-operative two player siege scenario. The location: a country cottage that doubles as a science lab. The characters: a lady scientist and her steam-punk robot butler. The situation: the Cephalopods have surrounded the cottage, the two characters inside must stop them from getting in. The tools:one shotgun with unlimited ammunition, and one hammer for nailing boards to windows and doors. The co-op mechanic: the two characters can swap the hammer and the shotgun between them as necessary. Sounds awesome!
Myfanwy Ashmore is a conceptual artist with a fine art, sculpture and installation background. She is known for Mario Battle No.01, a Super Mario Bros hack that functions as a piece of software art. She currently teaches at Ryerson in the New Media Program. She doesn’t currently play many videogames, although as a kid she played Commodore-64 and Nintendo videogames like Super Mario Bros and The Legend of Zelda.
Keywords: procedural behavior, flocking, destruction, player-made structures.
One of Myfanwy’s ideas is to create a situation where the player can set up some objects or structures and then allow the player to destroy or dismantle the structures in interesting ways, using a variety of domestic tools (hammers, screwdrivers) and household objects (egg beaters, screwdrivers). Another idea Myfanwy mentioned was a battle between a bottle of water and a wall socket, which seemed pretty amusing. Sounds promising!
Craig D. Adams is an artist and freelance illustrator for books, magazines and other creatives agencies, he’s probably best known for the pixel art and film clips created under the ambiguous pseudonym Superbrothers. He has a background in traditional illustration and 3-D videogame art and has been employed in the mainstream videogame industry since 2006. He started playing videogames on the Vic-20 and Commodore-64 and he has played and studied videogames on Nintendo systems over the years. Nowadays he keeps up with some of the latest videogames but is much more interested in the ascendant indie videogame scene. He also sporadically maintains a blog-type-thing on the topic of videogames known as The 1 Console with a related Twitter feed.
Keywords: pixel people, film language, music, sketches, illustrations.
Craig’s currently still-vague idea is to do the obvious thing and explore the Superbrothers pixel style in a videogame, perhaps best represented by the 2005 film clip The Children of the Clone. The pixel characters would be simple but subtly painted, static images might have a rustic folkart feel, the animations would be carefully created, the camera style would be grainy and handheld, music and sound would be integral. The NES controller would be the desired input device and non-violent character interactions like shaking hands, dancing or walking around might form the core of the action. The experience could be time limited, like Hotel 626, it might be slightly disturbing, like ‘I Made This You Play This We Are Enemies‘, or it might try to model a meaningful system of logic, like The Prisoner’s Dilemna. The concept has changed twice in a week but it seems to be settling on something involving mountains. Sounds peculiar!
Filipe (Phil) Salgado is graduating with a B.A. in film theory at York University. He has a long standing interest in videogames and has been closely interested in freeware indie videogames on the computer while at University. He maintains a Twitter feed consisting of film reviews and a well written blog on the topic of videogames called The Surgical Gamer. He is currently involved in writing screenplays, and he has some interesting ideas on how to his ideas on story to the text game space.
Keywords: story, text, dialog, choices.
Phil’s idea is to create a text game with a meaningful choice. Phil identifies the problem with choice in many text games: they’re a bit like the ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books, where it’s hard to understand what the pre-defined consequences of a given choice might be, so the choices tend to feel arbitrary and meaningless. Phil mentioned the freeware videogame ‘The Execution‘, where the player is invited to shoot and kill a victim character, and when the player restarts the videogame to play again, the character is still dead and the player has to live with the consequences. Also discussed: the award-winning text game ‘Galatea‘ by Emily Short, the browser-based RPG about internet culture ‘ForumWarz’, Jonathan Blow’s lecture about story and game design and a radio show about ‘Choice‘ by WNYC Radiolab. A hypothetical idea started to take shape about a player in a text game playing the role of a moderator in a high stakes online chat. Sounds powerful!
Nadine Lessio is a freelance web designer for ad agencies, artists and other creatives. She has a robust portfolio of professional digital work and some amazing wax and collage artwork at nadinelessio.com. She played videogames as a kid and enjoyed Metroid on NES. These days she plays mostly on DS, although she has started to dabble in first person shooters.
Keyword: raccoons, survival, urban neighborhoods.
Nadine’s idea is to make a videogame about raccoons. Basically, you’d play as a raccoon and your task would be to find food in an urban neighborhood – opening trash cans, exploring back alleys, jimmying locks – and survive to scrounge another day. You may also have a litter of pups that you need to keep alive until they’re ready to fend for themselves. The action would probably be presented from an overhead perspective, and Nadine might use Google maps as a basis for constructing a neighbourhood. As the game progresses, the raccoons might learn new techniques for finding food such as: tipping over a garbage can, figuring out how to open garbage cans with tricky lids, getting inside people’s houses. Like in the online comic ‘The Abominable Charles Christopher by Karl Kershl‘, the raccoons may converse with each other but they wouldn’t be overly anthropomorphized. Some other things that were mentioned: the strangely powerful tanuki eco-fable ‘Pom Poko‘ by Studio Ghibli, the animal-centric online videogame ‘WolfQuest‘, and the criminal urban survival videogame series ‘Grand Theft Auto‘. Also discussed was the idea of introducing seasons as a way to for the pup-narrative to naturally unfold. Sounds Rad!
Keywords: accessible, assembly, clarity, fun, random
Daphnee is a communications coordinator by day who moonlights as a world traveler, social media enthusiast, visal artist, dancer and Capoeirista the rest of her time. She grew up during the era when videogames graduated from Atari to SuperNintendo and the like, and still fondly remembers her first NES. Her favourite all-time games are the SuperMario Brothers 3 series.
Daphnee wants to demystify the granting application process for artists who apply for Ontario Arts Council grants in a visually stimulating way. The game would be reminiscent of Link and would follow an adventure-style, choose your own story format where the player has to get key pieces of their application together before their deadline by facing various challenges (rescuing their co-applicant from artist-nappers, dodging papercut attacks from grumpy foes, fencing with rogue staplers, facing vengeful photocopiers that threaten to drown the player in paper, etc.). After completing each challenge successfully the player will learn about the next step in the process and receive a description of the challenge they need to complete before moving on to the next level.
Erin Robinson has made a free point-and-click adventure game with Adventure Game Studio called Nanobots. She wrote and designed the game, with help from others with sound and scripting. You control a handful of nanobots, each with one function, who have to escape from a laboratory desk.
Unlike a lot of point-and-click games where the rooms are just painted backdrops, the objects in the environment are surprisingly interactive. The inherent fascination with very big and very small draws you in, and the dialogue, illustration and sounds of the individual nanobots keeps you playing. There’s even a built in hint system through the Audbot. Beyond just being a great game on itself, it’s made by a female, Canadian developer and it runs under Linux with Wine! More screens and download it for Windows and Linux here.