Artsy Games Incubator banner by Rosemary Mosco

New Games Released and AGI Expansion

The games created by Round Three of the Artsy Games Incubator are available for download now.

AGI founder Jim Munroe will be running a modified version of the AGI as the Parkdale Video Game Creators‘ group for folks aged 16-24 starting the week of Feb 8th. Round 3 participant Miguel Sternberg (who also created the new masthead, above) will be taking over the coordinators’ role for Round 4 of the AGI, which is tentatively scheduled for February as well. If you’d like to be considered for either stream, e-mail us — & let us know what your favourite game is at the moment and why.

Also, for folks who are interested in running their own AGIs in their city, there is a manual of sorts to get you started. Email us with your city to get a copy.

Posted December 1, 2008 by jim |

Round 3, Session 6 Recap

The Artcade is over, and in a few days our games will be online for everyone to play.  To tide you over here’s a post lost in time from our final meeting, just before the Canzine Artcade.

We were meeting one last time, to show our games in in there near complete *cough cough* form, and give each other feedback before the big event.

Snow - a coffee shop somewhere on Queen Street West

Snow - a coffee shop somewhere on Queen Street West

Ben showed us a feature complete version of his game Snow which is based on his mini comic of the same name.   Snow is a traditional point and click adventure game, with an emphasis on character over puzzles.  The player can walk around exploring Queen Street West in Toronto and get in a series of conversations with people.  The goal of the game is to navigate those conversations and make the main character become more assertive in how she deals with people (she’s a bit of a push over). Many of the backgrounds were still using temporary art, but the game could be completed from start to finish and even had two different endings.

Before Canzine he planned to get all the final backgrounds finished, add more click-able objects for the player to look at and different dialogue if you talk to npcs a second time.

Night of the Cephalopods - work in progress opening screen

Next we looked at my game Night of the Cephelopods which could also be played from start to finish (with temporary art), but it was also missing a key feature from my original design: the fully voiced dynamic narration.   While running around shooting squidy things only two actions triggered over the top horror narration, and all these used poorly acted temporary narration I’d recorded myself.  I had done a recording session the day before with a real voice actor (Scott Moyle of Decoder Ring Theatre) and so I played  a section from my recording to demonstrate how much better the final version would sound (scientifically proving that everything is better when I don’t open my mouth).  The game was also way too easy and I had to purposefully die, throwing myself against the octopuses with abandon, to demonstrate the losing end because everyone else who played survived without effort.

Before Canzine, I planned to get as much of the final narration in as I could and polish the art.  I also wanted to reduce the number of hits it takes to die to see if that would make the game more difficult.

The Adventures of Plastico Bandera - now with marker art!

Jim showed us the newest version of The Adventures of Plastico Bandera which had gotten a major face lift since the last version.  All the art had been replaced by scanned marker drawings, giving it a charming kids drawing aesthetic.  Plastico Bandera also sported a new Che Guevara inspired look fitting of a revolutionary of his stature.   Since the last version Jim had added a second helper character. Joining El Jefe the garbage bag was Lil’ zip the ziplock bag who can be thrown at your seagull oppressors.   The seagulls had smarter projectile feces attacks, letting loose only when above Baggera, unfortunately this had lead to a bug where they would let loose huge streams, giving the impression that Plastico Bandera was being attacked by falling  “/” and “\” slashes rather then individual white drops.

Jim planned to fix the steam of feces bug and refine the game further in general before Canzine.

Bubl - random test level

Davin showed his game Bubl for the first time, while it wasn’t fully playable (it was very close!) it already had full working N style editor in flash making this the first Artcade game to support user generated content (I think?).   The game had changed in a few subtle ways from his original idea of mimicking the old  Waterful toys.  Instead of pushing a bubble around the level indirectly using water jets, Bubl plays more like a sort of platformer with floaty underwater physics where the player controls the bubble directly.  Several interesting obstacles fill the single screen levels: kelp slows the bubble, skulls damage the player (or would once implemented), and horizontal currents sweep the bubble sideways. Because the bubble is lighter then water the player must constantly push down to reach the lower parts of the level and reach the goal.

Davin planned on implementing the remaining objects and create a series of real levels (he demonstrated the game using a level with a random layout for testing) before the deadline.

The Landmarkers - around half way through the city's life

Jason then showed us the newest version of The Landmarkers.  While the game retained it’s simple linear gameplay of watching a city grow and change while picking which buildings to “landmark” and save from destruction Jason had added a bunch of new features to make the experience more engaging.  The game now starts with a peaceful town being ravaged by a giant fire.  Each building now displays facts when it first appears  such as it’s creator and the date it was built.  Best of all each transition between buildings includes a unique, often humorous, newspaper announcement. OK I lied, the best part is that by the end of the game there are flying cars in the background!

Jason planned on adding a challenge to the landmarking process where players would have to answer a question about the building they want to preserve such as what year it was built or who the architect was.

And so the final meeting of the Artsy Games Incubator 3rd round came to a close.  Only a few days left till the games are all online and everyone can experience joy and pain of playing the terrible creations we wrought.

Posted November 12, 2008 by miguel |

Artcade Rocks!

Several hundred people came through the Artcade to check out 20 homegrown games mostly picked from the TOJam and Artsy Games Incubator projects.

Co-organizer Jim McGinley explains to Gesundheit creator Matt Hammill that his Journey shirt is an ironic nod to the metalheads arcade operators of the ’80s.

Here you can see Jason Van Horne’s swell styrofoam cabinet facades.

And youngsters didn’t just play the games — Myfanwy Ashmore‘s kid Rhupert showed off two Scratch games he’d made during the presentation portion of the day after his mom had demoed her Gameboy poetry. As well as presenting the five brand new AGI games (Snow, Night of the Cephelapods, The Landmarkers, Bubl and Plastico Baggara), Craig D. Adams talked about some of the inspirations for Scourge, Fernando Restituto demoed the engine for Unnamed Tactics, Jim McGinley showed off his demake of Shadow of the Colossus, and Matt Hammill showed some of his original scratchboard art and revealed a brand new level of Gesundheit!

Attendees of the indie zine fair Canzine were pretty amazed at the variety of games that had been produced in the last year or two in Toronto. Click through to download them for free — except for the AGI games, which will be hittin’ the tubes in a few weeks. Stay tuned!

Posted October 28, 2008 by jim |


The Artsy Games Incubator and TOJam present ARTCADE at Canzine on Sunday Oct. 26th, where you can play over a dozen Toronto indie videogames on our totally awesome & totally fake arcade cabinets. At 5pm we will be having ten minute presentations of new and in-progress projects from the indie videogame community, followed by discussion and more game playing.

Schedule (Subject to Change)

1-4pm: Free play on our four cabinets rotating Toronto indie games:

1pm: Happy Goat Lucky, Lightspeed, Albacross, Cowgirl and Gospelboy Sue
2pm: Gesundheit, A Game About Bouncing, Babel
3pm: Scourge, Baby Runs This Mofo, Cupcake Challenge, Benny Hinn’s Bible Blast For Cash
4pm: Flowers of Error, Mouse Police, Mondrian Provoked, Bungee Fisher

5pm-6pm: In-progress and completed game presentations (10 min. each)

6-7pm: Free play of Snow, Night of the Cephelapods, The Landmarkers, Bubl and Plastico Baggera

Posted October 21, 2008 by jim |

Round 3, Session 5 Recap

Unlike the rest of the gang, I seem unable to participate and note-take at the same time. The smart thing to do would have been to dash this report off when my memory was fresher, but I didn’t. Apologies. Gang, if there were nuggets that you took away from the session that I’ve failed to document, please add them in the comments.

We started with Jason’s The Landmarkers, which had advanced considerably on the graphics front with more landscape and building detail. He had added the beginnings of a user interface — brass plaques — but nothing was clickable yet. We discussed how to make saving the buildings matter to the player, and the idea of having multiple endings depending on which/how many buildings were ‘marked was brought up. Miguel lent his Scratchpertise in regards to making the buildings clickable.

Miguel had added some nice touches to the Night of the Cephelapods, adding audio dialogue, bullet indicator and a improved the interactions between the player character and the enemies — when they’re shot, they become angry (faster and red eyed) and when they hit the player character there’s a little zapping animation. The player health hasn’t been implemented yet, but Miguel said he was interested in going with a Halo-style regenerating shields approach (where you have to avoid enemies until your health recharges). The Lovecraftian audio was as funny as expected though it sometimes overlapped, a bug Miguel intends to squash.

Ben did switch to the Adventure Game Studio tool which he was very excited about, having been able to drop the backgrounds in and get his character walking on walkable areas properly quite easily. We talked about the possible challenges his character would have to overcome on his pixelated Queen St. West, and buying coffee and getting a bum out of the doorway of her workplace were discussed.

I then showed Plastico Baggera, which I had transplanted from Scratch to Game Maker. Pooping was persistent but nearly random enough. Bouncing on El Jefe was implemented and declared to be quite fun. Some suggestions included an extra bounce off the seagulls to allow for chaining kills, and that the level of difficulty should be ramped up after a while.

I then talked about focusing on getting the games into a playable state in a way that was meant to be encouraging but probably ended up sounding stern and lecture-y. I am going to revise assignment 5 so that it focuses on playability rather than “getting a level working” because that’s not as clear.

Posted October 20, 2008 by jim |

Round 3, Session 4 Recap

It was a good night to be huddled around a set of laptops, snacks and game conversation at the fourth Artsy Game Incubator session. Most of us managed to just duck in before a major downpour hit the downtown core—most of us, that is.

Due to some ill timing, Jim arrived sopping wet though no worse for wear. A true leader, he hosted the session in a dashing pair of European pajamas.

As we got set up, we discussed our Scratch projects and N levels from weeks past. One story of note was Jason’s N level, which garnered some hilarious and telling feedback from NUMA users. (Apparently some people are perturbed by the amount of gold to be found in a user level named “Gold Depository Explosion.” Jason, though his subversion of the online feedback system, was deemed to have won the Internet.

Fed and warm, the everyone began to show the meagre beginnings of their final projects; we had to present what we had thus far and stake our claim as to our game-making tool of choice.

First up was Ben, who went ahead and took at stab a the narrative-RPG (the one based on his comic Snow that he mentioned in the first session). It appeared to be a basic artistic and interactive exercise using Game Maker.

The conversation included a roundtable discussion on Game Maker in general, which most agreed was a damn fine piece of software, even if all our experiences varied. Miguel mentioned the fascinating fact that some Game Maker-devised titles actually have been made into boxes, retail games. There is hope for us yet!

After further discussion, Jim suggested that Ben’s game might be better suited to Adventure Game Studio, given the premise.


Ben's Snow game


Next up was Miguel, who once again proved to be an inspiration to all present. His aforementioned Lovecraftian adventure, Night of the Cephelapods, was up in running in impressive form, considering how early he declared the game to be. The entire group reveled in passing a wired Xbox 360 controller around and blasting the unending swarm of bulbous, blinky-eyed nightmare-creatures with the character’s meaty-sounding shotgun.

Miguel’s fantastic pixel art was hard to miss, as was his attention to detail in the animation and atmosphere of the game. Miguel stated to agreement all around that the floating monstrosities needed some slightly more sophisticated AI, and more animation (such as a scattering effect when a fellow sea-demon gets shot).

Everyone chimed in with comments and suggestions. People wanted to see the player character get electrocuted when touched by the enemies. Also popular was the notion of finding a variety of shotgun-themed weapon upgrades, like a blunderbuss. (Who doesn’t like saying the word blunderbuss?) As well, ideas for varied enemies (invisible cephelapods) and win-lose scenarios (survive until dawn!) kept us chatting for quite a while.

Most impressively, the game supported rumble. Beauty.

Miguel's "Night of the Cephelapods"

Miguel's Night of the Cephelapods


After putting the Xbox controller away, Jim was up third to demonstrated the evolution of Plastico Baggera. Now in a larger-looking (though purposefully single-screen) game, Plastico was hopping via Game Maker on his mountainous pile of garbage, ruefully swiping at the birds flying overhead.

Everyone agreed that the concept made a great classic, single-screen arcade game, and soon the table was alive with ideas for making Plastico a richer experience in his final form. Folks wanted to see a great deal more activity in the background, such as scene transitions or day/night cycles as the game progressed.

Similarly, the Tetris-like notion of Plastico’s garbage pile increasing in height as the game continued seemed to fit; it would add difficulty (by making movement and the correct collision with the birds trickier) and a visual sense of achievement.

People definitely were looking forward to a more-animated Plastico, and offered the suggestion of fluttering animation and (wait for it) “persistent poop mechanics.” We’ll let you figure that one out on your own. (Trust us, it will be genius.) 


Jim's Plastico Baggera


Jason showed us his game next. Using Scratch, he created a working mock-up of his architecture-management sim The Landmarkers. Showing an ever-changing skyline with myriad building designs, the game’s unique concept was much better represented, though Jim still had some questions about specific gameplay elements and win-lose scenarios. Through discussion, Jason was able to convince the group that a sort of public trust sim was the way to go; a game in which you’ll never be able to save all the buildings you want to, but through a balance of per-building value and public sentiment, the player could feel a real struggle.

We all commented on the game’s lavish buildings—all from different periods in history—and suggested that the game should have readily apparent cycles, such as the transition of decades. Comments were also made to the background layers, which people felt needed to be both more subtle and yet more complicated to add to the effect of being in a large city.

Finally, people wanted a clearer way of assessing each building’s value and public opinion. The solution of simple rollover status boxes for each structure seemed like a good, unobtrusive way to do this. Jason agreed to solidify these specific game mechanics by the next session so we can all play-test them.

Jason's The Landmarkers

Jason's The Landmarkers


Davin chose to present his game last—a choice determined, no doubt, by the fact that he didn’t have a working model to demonstrate. (Davin, by all accounts, is a busy man!) He too wanted to execute his original concept—a physics-based puzzle game based on the Tomy “Waterful” series of water toys from the seventies and eighties. Based on his previous experience, Davin confirmed he would be creating the game in Flash; this was a good fit, everyone agreed, as so many popular Flash games (some of which, like N, become “real” published titles) are physics-based. As well, the easy online distribution of “toy-like” Flash game made sense. We predicted a lot of wasted hours in several thousand cubicles in the near future.

Davin declared that he didn’t just want to make the game, however; he also wanted to create the tools so players could make their own scenarios. Citing games like N as an example, he noted how player-generated content adds a lot to these sorts of Flash experiences. Perhaps it will be a staple in future Artsy Game Incubator rounds?

As we wrapped up, the discussion turned to trash talking—not actual trash talking, mind, but a conversation thereof. It was suggested that a game centred around the idea would make for an interesting meta-game of sorts.

And so, with heads full of ideas and pants mostly free of water, we thanked Jason and Rose for their persistent hospitality and headed our separate ways.

Posted October 8, 2008 by benjamin |

Round 3; Session 3 recap

Today we were one person shy …Rose wasn’t able to join us due to other projects of hers piling up.  However   we decided to carry on anyway  (with Davin’s  wonderful  snacks helping  us to move past this loss)  and show what we had come up with for modifying some of the simple games that come with the Scratch game-maker.

Now for the games!


 First Miguel amazed us all with his scroll game modification epic The Kraken Dreams which had the player assume the role of a giant floating squid that appeared to be attacking a quaint European village, or at least devouring its starry night-time vista.  The squid would grow as it consumed the sky’s stars but it had to watch out for the many floating Zeppelins for bump into them, much to the dismay of the horrified captains, would send the ships crashing to the ground and also decrease the size and health of the squid.  The squid had a nice little animation to it as it gingerly floated up and down in the sky. The group felt it would be fun to get to eat increasingly large objects as the squid grew to ungainly proportions.


Next up was Jim’s very funny take on the scroll game which saw the first incarnation of Plastico Baggara, the revolutionary trash-heap hoping red wind-bag… the point being to get the bag to high enough   ground that it can intercept the seagull (a bags natural enemy of course) to asphyxiate it…   it was pretty satisfying to watch the poor bird drop like a stone when hit. We talked about ways to make it a bit more challenging, such as having the seagull’s droppings be a potential hazard, as too many poops in the bag could weigh it down too much to keep it airborne. Jim also revealed a former Scratch project that got banned. Apparently baby’s first bowel movement, nursing breasts and creepy teddy bears with bloody knives don’t bode well in the Scratch community… good to know.



Jason showed us a few very unfinished attempts at a Scratch modification which included a Pong mod of a devastated city containing a monster defending itself from a UFO attacker, which used photos of a toy and a smoke detector respectively and a photo from an installation of Jason’s of a cardboard city in ruins as the background.  He also showed an attempt at a mod of the RPG template which had an artsy dude waking up late in the day in his messy studio apartment to then scavenge the street looking for trash to make art with, another version of the RPG was started with two artist characters reuniting after having   engaged in a performance project where one slept for 30 years while the other stayed awake to create much art.


Davin showed us his hilarious Grab for that Chedda Yo!  which was his mod of the chomping fish game. He had replaced the larger predator fish with a skinny mans well-dressed arm, which flailed around trying to grasp Canadian currency ($5s, $20s, $50s) that floated  in front of a bank vault.  The group felt that the game could use a counter of some sort so the player can see the tally of cash collected –either showing the actually amount or with an icon like a wallet getting fatter as more is grabbed… also the money seemed to fly in mainly from the left side of the screen and we felt that randomizing the cash flow would be a good idea.


Ben then showed us his dreary (in a good way) apocalyptic mod of the Pong-ish template called The Beach at the end of Forever. He was inspired by Cormac McCarthy’s  book The Road, and it showed, as he captured the gritty feel with a palette of washed out grays and browns. He depicted The Boy from the novel on a beach playing a solitary game of volleyball.    The artwork was lovely with a half-submerged shipped resting off in the back ground , however it did lead to a conversation about stylistic choices as Ben had created a pixilated character and ball and a more painterly background. Ben wanted to rework things a bit so that the ball had more of a sense of gravity to it.


 Are assignment for next week is to polish up our Scratch games and post them for the others to play and comment on, and also pick which game maker program we’d like to use for our final project and let the others know why we chose it.  Also, Miguel is going to be out of town for our next meeting so we decided to skip the in-person, just posting on the interweb instead, and add another meeting in October.




Posted September 29, 2008 by jason |

Round 3, Session 2 Recap

Last Thursday we gathered again at Rose and Jason’s warehouse apartment for our second session of the Artsy Games Incubator.

Last week our fearless leader Jim asked us each to create a level for the game N using its included level editor.  So this week’s session was all about playing and critiquing each others N levels.   After a short discussion of how we found the editing tool we got down to business passing Jim’s laptop around the room and suiciding our little geometric ninjas.

I’ve labeled each of the levels with red letters to point out interesting points that came up during our discussions. The images should be clickable if you want to see a full sized version.

Ben’s Level “The Road Less Travelled”

Ben's N Level

Ben’s level was a tribute to Metroid with a layout based on a section of the classic game Super Metroid.

Almost all the ledges in this level were created at an angle.  Ben said he found this sort of geometry the most frustrating to interact with when playing but also the most rewarding once mastered.

The large stalactites on the ceiling (A) are not only aesthetically pleasing they also serve as useful cover from the missiles on either side.

Ben was concerned that the player have choice in how they approached the level and so created 3 potential paths to the exit.

We quickly learned that the easy looking wiggly path along the bottom (B) was actually very difficult to navigate since the slopes combined with N’s physics causing the ninja to bounce around hitting nearby mines.

The other route up the first vertical shaft was much easier since the player could wall jump all the way to the top.  However a last minute change in a single tile that was made for aesthetic reasons (red circle) made the first jump a lot more difficult then intended.

Finally there was some discussion about whether the room full of wandering enemies (C) could be made more attractive to players since there was little incentive to take that path.

Davin’s Level – “Iceberg”

Davin's N Level

Davin’s level “Iceberg” resembles an ant hill with a maze of tunnels beneath.  Ben mentioned that it reminded him of the game Out of This World with it’s stark alien landscapes.  Several of us enjoyed running around the top section and encouraged Davin to lower the map slightly so that players could jump over the mountain.

When we first tried the level we quickly found that it was unwinnable.  A stray half tile near the end of the level (red circle where it was) made the passage slightly to thin for our svelte ninja to fit through.  Like Ben’s last minute change, Davin had added the tile for aesthetic reasons just before saving and had assumed the path was big enough.  These two examples really made it clear to all of us how important testing was, even after a small cosmetic change.

The level was easy and fun to navigate through, but suddenly ramped up at the end.  The jump at (A) to open the exit is tricky and requires precise timing and ninja control to complete.   A few of us spent several jumps trying to make it and then had to dash for the exit before the time ran out.

Several of us went out our way to get at the bits of gold scattered off the main path, even the single one down a long tunnel at (D).  Unfortunately the gold at (B).  Was impossible to get at since the enemy AI refused to leave the room.

Finally one of us found out the hard way that the floating block at (C) wouldn’t save our ninja from long drops.  N’s physics make it difficult to tell exactly how an object will react, since a slight change in force can have a dramatically different outcome. Maybe a second floating block would help?

Jason’s Level – “Gold Depository Explosion”

Jason's N Level

Jason’s awesomely named “Gold Depository Explosion” resembles a bank that’s suffered a terrible explosion.   It also has a ton of gold.  But that gold obscured a lot of hidden mines (D), many games ended with a empty line through the gold marking the ninja’s path and ending with a bunch of blown up ninja bits.

We all found that the alternating section along the top (A) was a lot of fun to run along since it caused the ninja to skip around in an entertaining way.

The path down the right side (C) is also tricky but for different reasons.  Not only  is it blocked by several laser shooting enemies but the door at the bottom can’t be opened (circled in red) from that side making that whole section a dead end.  This brought up a short discussion on whether it would be better to open up that section and make the path useful or  to to keep this area as a trap for un-observent players.

We also discussed whether the white space in (B) should be kept for aesthetics or altered to make it a useful play element.

Jim’s Level – “Don’t Frak it Up”

Jim's N Level

Jim’s level is deceptively simple.  It requires that the player make a perfect long jump across the entire level to a small trampoline set between two landmines (B), hitting the switch at (A) along the way.  Failing to hit either of those on the first try is fatal.  If the fall or mines don’t kill the player the machine gun (C) will make short work of them.  The jump back to the exit is also tricky, it’s possible to make it while suiciding, but using the wall to slow the ninja’s fall allows the player to complete the level and live.

Ben said the final jump was a metaphor for believing in yourself.  ParRappa agreed.

Jim said he created the level this way because he found long jumps to be the most fun aspect of N’s gameplay and he wanted to emphasize that.

Before Jim’s level we were usually passing the laptop after 3 tries, but because the level was so short and punishment for failure so swift we each took several more turns, throwing our ninja to his/her doom till we succeeded in that one perfect jump.

After we had all tried his level Jim loaded up “Don’t Frak it Up: Gold Edition” which has training wheels made of gold.

Jim's N Level: Gold Edition

Miguel’s Level – “Untitled”

Miguel's N Level

Next came my level, shaped like a pagoda with clouds and lots of hidden traps.  Like Ben I was concerned with giving the player multiple routes through the level and placed two exits to help achieve this: The obvious one is (A), but there’s also an exit in the “guard house” at (B).

Because of there are lots of interactive objects and traps some aspects of the level aren’t clear in the screen shot.  The puffy clouds contain lightning blocks that will dive down on the player as they run across the level (and can be ridden into the clouds by clever players).   The birds in the sky (C) are made of a series of switches.  The large ones trigger missile launcher doors to open on the tower and bridge.  the small ones create platforms underneath them saving the player from falling.  In fact it’s possible to make a leap of faith from the top of the tower (D) across all the birds to the cloud just by holding left.

We discussed whether it would be good to remove the exit at (B) and force the players to go for the top exit where some of the more interesting gimmicks in the level are.

Rose’s Level

Unfortunately Rose’s level was corrupted and we couldn’t play through it.  Hopefully we’ll get a chance this week.

Next Assignment!

Before we left Jim gave us our next assignment.  Download the kid’s programming language Scratch and modify one of the included games with our own graphics and gameplay.

Posted September 17, 2008 by miguel |

Round 3, Session 1 Recap

Artsy Games Incubator 3.1 kicked off last Thursday with 6 of us gathering at Jason and Rose’s quite wonderful apartment with piles of good snacks provided by Benjamin. Jim quickly recapped the goals of the Incubator and then we went around the room introducing ourselves.

  • Benjamin Rivers is an illustrator, comic artist, and designer and he worked on the game Office Party at the last TOJam with Jean-Luc David.
  • Miguel Sternberg does game art and art direction professionally, has previously worked in web and film, and studied programming and AI several years ago (but hasn’t programmed in a decade). He’s currently developing the PC game Guerrilla Gardening: Seeds of Revolution.
  • Jason van Horne is a visual artist with a sculpture background. He has exhibited post-apocalyptic miniatures with Katharine Mulherin, holds workshops with kids as part of the Soft City project, and has beautified urban spaces as a member of the City Beautification Ensemble.
  • Rose Bianchini is a visual artist, filmmaker, documentarian, and writer. Her graphic novel Amygdala has recently also become an animated short. Rose runs the Soft City project with Jason.
  • Davin Risk has a intermedia fine arts background and has been doing graphic design and new media production for the last 15 years or so. Davin has worked on a number of casual games made in Flash and is also a photographer.
  • Jim Munroe is an author, filmmaker, publisher, and more and also the guy connecting us all together. Jim has recently completed Time Management for Anarchists with artists Marc Ngui and released Infest Wisely on DVD.

Once we were suitably introduced, we started presenting our game concepts.

Davin was first describing an rough puzzle game concept based loosely on the series of Waterful toys produced by Tomy in the 70’s and 80’s. The premise of the game is to use jets of water as the sole means of navigating through a series of fishtank-like rounds. The first levels would have a single water jet and involve basic stacking and sorting. An Tomy example made was Waterful Robot in which the pieces of a robot have to be assembled in order. As the game continued, the jets would multiply and the control would get more complex.


Benjamin went next and he described a game based on his comic Snow which is part simplified RPG and part existential narrative. He did a great presentation, showing us some his influences like Link’s Awakening and Super Metroid. He stressed the importance of story told through gameplay. Benjamin had loads of visuals like this well thought out gameplay storyboard:

The game environment is an isometric view of Queen St. West from Spadina to Augusta using existing buildings and businesses as landmarks and plot points. Benjamin had the great idea that the main character Dana would show some resistance to “wrong” choices in the game.

Next Miguel presented Night of the Cephelapods a top down game in which a dark forest is explored by a character with basic shoot and move abilities. The twist being that the players actions would be dynamically narrated in a melodramatic first person style reminiscent of H.P. Lovecraft. For instance if the player failed to move for a while the narration might be: “I knew I should move but I couldn’t. The fear gripped me.” The other characters, like the titular floating octopus would feature very limited AI. Possibly the “life meter” in the game would be accompanied by a “fear meter” that could change the tone of the narration. We also briefly discussed the “hell gate” as a narrative device which allows easier suspension of disbelief.

Based on what Benjamin and Miguel had presented, Jim brought up the idea that character, atmosphere, and tone were often much more important that plot in gaming and that breaking from literal Authorial control could create deeper player shaped experiences.

Jason presented his game concept, The Landmarkers which draws from his own interests in architecture and urban planning. The game begins in a fictional city ravaged by fire in 1874. A single structure remains and the city must rebuild under the guidance of a planning and preservation committee which is essentially the role of the player. In decade-long rounds, the player has to make choices and leverage “sway points” to shape the city’s development, preserve some structures, and let others be redeveloped. The overall timeline would be 200 years with the city being once again razed by some great 2075 calamity. Along the way, newspaper headlines would inform the player and track the history of the city.

Rose’s game concept is based on the Amygdala character from her graphic novel. Rose showed us a new Amygdala animated short she’s created. Amygdala is equal parts fragile and powerful. She can ride on the wind, see into the future and the past, and is a friend to the birds. The game would have a needed female perspective in part as a reaction to the glut of high-violence and misogyny in games like Grand Theft Auto and Bioshock. The player would be taking the role of a somewhat timid girl who becomes stronger and more self-assured and could end up saving a boy in a reversal of game stereotypes. Amygdala would use elements of choose your own adventure and also incorporate basic games into the narrative.

Finally, Jim presented The Adventures of Plastico Bandera in which the player is in the role of Plastico a plastic bag among many other bags in a landfill. The bags use their nearly indestructible nature to battle against the swooping dump birds. Plastico and his buddies Hefty GB and Lil’ Zip poison and asphyxiate the gulls as a first stage in a war that will eventually lead them to rid their plastic world of humans too. fire and seagull shit could be possible dangers to the bags. McVideoGame was brought up as an example of this sort of reverse psychology approach to issues.

To end off the night, Jim mentioned plans for Canzine which is on Sunday, October 26, 2008 at 1:00pm – Gladstone Hotel 1214 Queen Street West. For round two, we will all be creating and play-testing a level design for the game N.

Posted September 11, 2008 by davin |

Round 2 Open House

The AGI’s mandate is to help arts professionals make a videogame using point-and-click tools rather than coding. Having met every week for six weeks, members of AGI Round 2 now each have a game we’d like to show to the indie game community.

We also invite people to bring in and demo their own works-in-progress or new works for feedback.

This month the open house is being hosted by OCAD’s Mobile Experience Lab.

Wed. April 23, 7pm. 52 McCaul St. (3rd floor) just north of Queen.

Admission: A work-in-progress or a snack/beverage for the snack table.

Posted April 4, 2008 by jim |

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Masthead: Miguel Sternberg | Design: Bob