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.
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