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About the Archives

This page contains all entries posted to GAMBIT in July 2008. They are listed from oldest to newest.

June 2008 is the previous archive.

August 2008 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

Backflow on Singapore's National Day official website!

Zul, the Scrummaster for Backflow at GAMBIT, writes:

Backflow, the addictive pipe-switching puzzle game conceptualised and prototyped at the 1st Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab Summer program in June-August 2007 has been going through a major makeover at the Singapore Lab since March 2008 and our online demo is currently being featured on Singapore's National Day website, where users can play a 2-level demo online. They can even download it to their phones for free or get the full game at $2.99 via our website at

Channel Newsasia has been very supportive as well by having our game demo featured at their environmental awareness campaign website.

Since March 2008 we have been further developing the 5-level prototype into 15 levels and 3 difficulty modes of crazy pipe-switching experience. After completing the 15 levels, you'll earn medals and unlock the challenge mode where you lose power-ups one at a time leaving you to rely on pure pipe-switching skills to rise up the ranks. The final challenge is a brain-twisting level where the recycle bins will be randomized and turned black, and sorting will be done by memory.

We also included a survival mode where you choose any one of the 15 levels and play through increasing difficulty until you drop to compete for the highscores which you can then choose to submit online to compete with other players. You may also challenge a friend in our turn-based versus mode!

We have just completed playtesting fresh players and will be porting the game to more phones very soon... In the meantime, here's our trailer:

Halo Kid slides backwards down the uncanny valley

Already hyped as "the new Star Wars kid" and "the next Tron Guy" by peeps in the know, Halo Kid mania is on the rise.

Using only cardboard and packing tape, the Halo Kid achieves an astonishing level of detail in his work. To date, he has crafted all of the weapons in Halo 3 and built a custom set of armor. More subtle, yet even more fascinating is the way that he uses his body to perform Master Chief, the player-avatar in Halo 3.

After showing off each weapon to the camera, Halo Kid steps back into the frame to demonstrate the weapon's proper use. In doing so, he mimics the body language of Master Chief with surprising accuracy. Slowly spinning on the balls of his feet, he aims a laser, reloads his rifle, kneels down repeatedly, and silently mimes a pistol's recoil. These actions looks strange and unnatural to the non-player because they were designed within the limitations of the gamespace. By removing them from their original context and performing them in his garage, the Halo Kid places the movements of Master Chief in relation to the archetypical human body rather than other computer-generated body-representations.

In-game, we see the best that the dev team could do within an imperfect technical environment. Presumably, Master Chief might move differently were the game able to more finely compute his movement while maintaining a smooth physical simulation. The dance of the Halo Kid, on the other hand, is the result of a sequence of deliberate human choices. By using his relatively more free human body to mimic the constrained motion of an anthropomorphic avatar, the Halo Kid denies compromise in Master Chief's movement. No matter how awkward they may appear, Master Chief moves deliberately. The Halo Kid's imitations permit viewers to see Master Chief move without constant reference to a distracting technical context.

When thinking about the visual evolution of games, I generally assume that developers steadily progress the from left to right along the "uncanny valley". In this case, however, Halo Kid confounds this common understanding by positioning the movement of his own body somewhere closer to the dreaded corpse-pose at the valley's punto más bajo. While developers struggle to bring human likeness to the avatars in gamespaces, fans like the Halo Kid willingly yield a bit of their free movement to enjoy the mild bondage that characterizes life in a 3-D game engine.

The best thing to come out of E3 '08

You need to watch this. The Trailer for Duke Nukem Trilogy:

Watch the whole thing if you can. You don't want to miss the multiple MS Paint guns or the Duke Nukem Crotch Shot.

What you have just viewed is the trailer for a game that will never, ever get made. It's like the people at Apogee are going for the world's longest Shaggy Dog joke, and the punchline will somehow involve bubble gum. I mean, the damn thing has a visual chorus of the three titles flying by. Hilarious!

The Real Tragedy Is What Passes For Tragedy.

WARNING: What follows are major spoilers for Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots.

There was an article at Kotaku a while ago about tragedy in videogames. More specifically, it was about tragedy in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. The following passage sums it up:

That's what feels so unusual about MGS4 even compared to the other MGS games. This is a sad story, one that feels destined to end in defeat. Snake is aging and dying. He's literally become toxic to the people around him. And his back hurts. (Which you'll see him clutch in pain if you let him crouch too long). MGS4 is the rare effort of video game blues and tragedy.

I find it amazing that people are saying such things about Metal Gear Solid 4, a game where the good guys win, the bad guys lose, the world is saved, and everyone lives happily ever after. Somehow the fact that Guns of the Patriots has a schmaltz-drenched Hollywood ending doesn't stop Kotaku from concluding:

Gamers are used to being asked to save the day and be the hero. Metal Gear Solid 4 is so unusual in that it's the rare game that asks them to be interested in something else: a march toward defeat, an interactive tragedy. That's what feels novel.

Hailing Metal Gear Solid 4 as a tragedy is wrong on so many levels I hardly know where to begin. First of all, MGS4 isn't a tragedy. Secondly, even if it were it wouldn't be an interactive tragedy. Thirdly, Metal Gear Solid 2 and 3 qualify as better tragedies than MGS4. And fourthly, there are several other games out there I can think of which are both more tragic and more interactive than any Metal Gear game.

MGS4 may present itself as bleak and cynical, but its ending proves this entire attitude is a smokescreen. The Metal Gear series has grown more and more morally complex with each installment, but all that comes tumbling down in Guns of the Patriots, crushed to death under a mountain of fan-service. The Patriots, the totalitarian puppet masters of America first introduced in MGS2, are dismantled in an instant by a computer virus without the mechanisms of modern civilization so much as shuddering. This is followed by a 20 minute scene where two long-time series characters get married. Then there is another 20 minute scene where even more characters are reunited with lost family members, accompanied by ample tears of joy. Somewhere in the middle of all this Snake decides not to kill himself, at which point his long dead father, Big Boss, shows up thanks to some ridiculous plot magic, gives Snake a 30 minute monologue about the value of life, and promptly dies. Taken all together this is an endless, pummeling assault of mushy sentiment and convenient resolutions. It's all about as tragic as the end of Independence Day.


Metal Gear Solid 4: Everyone Gets Married.

And even if the ending of MGS4 was tragic, even if Snake died, even if destroying The Patriots meant leaving a gaping hole in the world that only anarchy would fill, and even if no one got married at the end, MGS4 would still not be the "interactive tragedy" that Kotaku claims it to be, because it would still not be interactive. There is not a shred of meaningful choice the player is given during the cut-scene strangled final hours of MGS4. Is that what tragedy is? Just a bunch of cut-scenes? Wouldn't tragedy, realized in a procedural way, be a system in which it is impossible to reach a proper win state? Wouldn't it be a game in which the player's own inability to master the system and reach their end goal is cathartic, illuminating, and meant to encourage reflection on the limits of choice and agency a fundamentally unfair world? Wouldn't it be something like Deus Ex, where at the end the player is actually given the choice between anarchy or totalitarianism... and both kind of suck?


In Deus Ex there is no perfect solution to the world's problems.

The frustrating thing is, Metal Gear has historically been quite clever at working tragedy into its gameplay structures. While they never aspired to the clear-cut open-endedness of Deus Ex, Metal Gear Solid 2 and 3 did some wonderful and subversive things with genre, exploiting videogame conventions for commentary on the horrors of non-agency in the face of corrupt political power. You want tragedy? Try Metal Gear Solid 2, the game where the bad guys win. In the final stretch of that game The Patriots rub your own pathetic lack of agency in your face as you soldier on, their willing puppet, forced to complete the "story" they've designed for you: killing the terrorist and saving America. Is it just a clever excuse for MGS2's own lack of player choice? It certainly is. It's also a very effective metaphor for totalitarian control. You have no freedom to do anything beyond what that game forces you to do, and that's the chilling thought MGS2--quite intentionally--leaves you with: you are a slave. Metal Gear Solid 3 is a variation on this theme. This time the player is forced into a familiar genre, the James Bond film, but the morality is turned upside down. Killing anyone results in their ghosts haunting you. And your final objective, to kill your mentor and friend whom the U.S. government has branded a traitor, must be carried out with cold determination. The game even pauses in the final cut-scene so the player can pull the trigger himself. Metal Gear Solid 4, by comparison, doesn't come close to the bleakness of these two games. Anyone who claims it does clearly has put no thought into the matter.


The Patriots give you a pep talk before the last boss of Metal Gear Solid 2.

Even Metal Gear Solid 2 and 3 are not the best examples of tragedy in videogames. They are interesting examples (far more interesting than MGS4) but they still don't come close to what other games have done. I've already mentioned Deus Ex, but there are many others. How about Fallout, where your reward for saving the world is being kicked out of your home and forced to wander a nuclear-irradiated wasteland? How about Shadow of the Colossus, where the player must literally let go and accept the fact that Wander will never be with his lover again? How about Suikoden 2, where you are forced for murder your best friend before the game is over? How about Ikaruga, where the goal of the entire game is to survive to the final boss so you can commit suicide? Or how about the mother of all tragic games: Planescape Torment, the game where the "best ending" is going to hell to atone for your sins? The length of Torment's entire playtime is about discovering what a bastard you really are, how you've hurt all those around you, and how the most noble thing you can ever hope to do is accept responsibility for all your wickedness. How's that for a win state?


Your best friend dies in your arms at the end of Suikoden 2.


Those you've wronged demand justice in Planescape: Torment.

I can't imagine how someone could be aware of all these things and still be impressed by Metal Gear Solid 4. I want nothing more than to see a real watershed in procedural tragedy, but if people think Guns of the Patriots is it we've got a big problem.

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