The first session of the Artsy Game Incubator began with introductions by the four members.
Emily Pohl-Weary is a writer who’s very interested in visual storytelling: recently she’s written for comics and movies. Despite this experience, an attempt at making an adventure game with Sally McKay a few years back was not completed: it became a large and unwieldy project, and it was difficult to deal with the varieties of text input without any framework or engine. However, she liked many aspects of the collaboration — basing her “sassy detective” on a mutual friend gave it a flavour of its own.
Chris McCawley is an actor and director who is an avid fan of FPS videogames but with no technical prowess to make his own games. A while back he and other entertainment professionals put together “what amounted to a TV show bible” for a couple of game ideas, and brought them around to several game companies in an attempt to break into the field. No one took them up on them, and a candid comment of a friend who worked in the game industry said that “unless you’ve been programming at a company for fifteen years, forget it” — kind of a pay-your-dues mentality.
Marc Ngui is an illustrator and graphic novelist who is excited about the art and storytelling potential of gamemaking. With Jim Munroe, he conceived and created an animated demo of a simple Flash/Java game that had two sets of programmers take on and then drop the project over a two or three year period.
Jim Munroe, the coordinator, has been able to collaborate with various people to make movies, graphic novels, and audio dramas. Programmers — either because they don’t travel in the same circles, are busy with their own game making, or program all day at their well-paid day jobs — have not been easy to connect with. He did make an interactive fiction game called Punk Points on his own for the Interactive Fiction Competition in 2000, but feels like he could do a better job the next time around with making it less frustrating and more fun.
Discussion About N
The members had all played N for a half-hour previous to coming to the session. Emily found it very frustrating, and said it reminded her how she found run and jump games stressful. Chris, as an experienced twitch gamer, said that he had to adjust back to the 2d style, and that he also found it very difficult but that he got hooked on the Pinball level. Marc said that he liked the feel of how the character moved and that it made it feel like Spiderman, and Jim loved its elegant simplicity and the multiple deaths required to master a level — the old school approach. It opened up an interesting discussion on the frustration-satisfaction tension in game design.
Using a pencil and paper sketch Chris had made, Jim started to build a level in the N level design application. He talked through while he was doing it, mentioning that while it was a point and click tool and very well documented there were some counter-intuitive parts that took some getting used to. But the most complicated part — cutting and pasting the string into the user level txt file — was something Marc and Chris liked, saying it was kind of “behind-the-scenes, programmer stuff”.
Show and Tell
Jim had Chris play Everyday Shooter by Queasy Games, and he nearly passed the second level on his first try (!). Everyone admired the art and musical interaction and Emily liked that you weren’t shooting aliens or other creatures.
Jim also showed a couple of Klooni games, the amazing one-game-a-month project by a Finnish computer student. People were impressed by BBQ and the Cow one, but Crayon Physics had everyone oohing and ahhing. Marc played it for a good ten minutes while we watched on. Then Jim fired up the PS2 to show off Persona 3, a Japanese game where you play a school boy who invokes a battle beast by putting a gun to his head and pulling the trigger. Everyone agreed it was bizarre.
Next Week’s Assignment
Each member is going to design an N level by following the excellent tutorial and we will play them next session. Although it was pointed out she could design a puzzle (rather than action) level, Emily opted out and offered instead to share some of the graphics and assets they’d created for her previous stalled adventure game project. Everyone was fine with this.
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