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About the Archives

This page contains all entries posted to GAMBIT in February 2010. They are listed from oldest to newest.

January 2010 is the previous archive.

March 2010 is the next archive.

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

CGCM is Underway!

And we're off. The Complete Game-Completion Marathon has officially started, and we are primed and ready to rock.

Philip started things off in Singapore with a marathon through Hatsun Miku: Project Diva. He's been streaming the whole thing, and he's been on Singapore time, which is much later (or earlier, depending on perspective).

We've got some great marathons coming up, and it is all for a good cause, relief efforts in Haiti. Check out the info over at the marathon webpage and check out the webcam feeds while you are there!

Friday Games: Marathon Kick-Off

Oh crap. It's on.

The Complete Game-Completion Marathon is coming up this weekend so we are gonna have a sweet kick-off party. Help us send our marathoners off with a good ole' fashioned, Texas high-school pep-rally inspired, cookie, soda and streamer filled, rim-rocking, lid-liftin', rollickin' kick-off bash.

If you haven't already, check out the website for the marathon. You can read about all the teams and check the schedule so you can be sure not to miss all the action via webcam.

Teams of players are gonna start marathoning at 6PM, so they'll need plenty of encouragement and cookies before they get started. Come on by and help cheer them on, and maybe play a couple rounds of Muscle March or something while we wait to get started.

See you this Friday!

Friday Games: God Hand is 2D

Jason Begy is going to wow you with his rhetorical, oratory super-powers this afternoon with a rant titled:

God Hand is 2D.

During the mid-90's when commercial games transitioned from being primarily 2D to 3D a lot of interesting things happened. One of the major outcomes was a new focus on "realism:" making characters look and move more realistically. This stands in sharp contrast to the earlier 2D aesthetics of exaggeration and fluidity. God Hand can be read as a reaction to this progression: a 3D game with 2D aesthetics.

Come by for the rant at 4:30. There will be Battletoads.

CSCW 2010

Following up on my post about the workshop, there was this whole rest of the conference there too. Most of it didn't have a very game-oriented agenda. Fair enough, it's supposed to be a conference about work. That's really broad. I would not expect the specific topics of the work of making games nor the work of completing games to take up a large portion of the conference.

By the by, if you ever want to eavesdrop on some lecture I'm attending, give me a follow at I tend to tweetcast, though I warn you, I don't tend to check twitter other than when I'm tweetcasting. And speaking of, anyone know of a tool to archive one's twitter feed?

These days, CSCW (which stands for computer supported collaborative work) seems to mostly be about large-scale social media. Twitter has risen to join Wikipedia as the cliche thing to study, though there was surprising representation from online dating sites as well.

Anyway, there were three gaming talks that I knew of.

Neunundneunzig Zehn Luftballons

The first one was a panel about the DARPA Red Balloon Challenge, where 10 balloons were anchored throughout the US and $40,000 went to the team that found the most, the implication being that teams would use crowdsourcing and social media to win. I actually hadn't heard about this at the time. Pity, because it sounded fascinating. The panel was from MIT (winners, hooray my alma matter!), Georgia Tech (second place, hooray my other alma matter!), and Penn State. MIT used a pyramid scheme for incentive. Anyone who found a balloon got $2000, the person who recruited them got $1000, and the next two people up the ladder got $500. It encouraged you to have as big a network as possible. They also learned it's really hard to give away money, what with taxes and all.

Another interesting finding reported by the MIT team was figuring out malicious false reports. Some were easy to spot (report of a balloon in California coming from an IP address in Montana), but language was another clue. Since reports were in the form of free text, people who actually were in the location tended to refer to nearby landmarks (e.g. "by the libaray," "near the statue.") Fakers had no such references. The Georgia Tech team also had problems with false reports, but much less than MIT did. The Georgia Tech team was giving the prize money to charity, so they figure people felt bad about scamming them.

Amy Voida, yo mama plays Wii
The second gaming talk... I was lame and didn't go to. I'm sorry, there were all those overblown snowstorm reports about Boston, and I was trying to figure out if I was getting stranded. Anyway, it was by Amy Voida, who does ongoing research about console gaming as a social group activity. Luckily her paper "The Individual and the Group in Console Gaming" is online, though has the usual problem of academic papers, which is that it's pretty opaque to people not used to reading academic papers. Pity I missed the talk, the twitter feed reports "amy voida on trash talking during gameplay. she claims it reinforces power relationships and is, basically, bad. like yo mama #cscw" Does that not sound like an awesome talk?

Norman Makoto Su: "HADOKEN!"

The last gaming lecture, I did get to see. Norman Makoto Su is a rather adorable PhD student over at UC Irvine who spends all his free time playing violent video games, Street Fighter IV in particular. See kids? Playing video games makes you graduate!

What? It makes as much sense as most of the other arguments about what video games make you do. Ahem.

Anyway, the talk was called "Street Fighter IV: Braggadocio Off and On-Line", and was delivered with an insider's knowledge and a researcher's eye. Basically it looked at the social, competitive culture that had grown up around Street Fighter II and how it changed with the introduction of Street Fighter IV, which is basically an online console game you play from home. It was especially interesting to hear as a designer, since I could immediately see things to try if one wanted to transfer some of that culture over. Introduce guilds to create rivalries. Allow games to be automatically recorded and downloadable, so people can mash them up to add soundtracks, obscene gestures, whatever. In game taunts that take dexterity to execute ala Mortal Kombat, so players can humiliate rather than just defeat... Really, when one stops to think about it, there are many ways to make this rather off-putting game even more appalling.

Yeah, this culture is clearly not for me. But I did enjoy his discussion of it.

Fun at CSCW? Seriously?

Last week, I attended the conference for Computer-Supported Collaborative Work (CSCW) in Savannah, Georgia. Mmmm... shrimp and grits.

I was there mainly to contribute to a workshop called "Fun, Seriously?" Yes, for those who follow this blog, this is where the wacky Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure paper I cowrote with Philip Tan was for. Here we are at the conference, dressed up for a roleplaying segment organized by Henriette Cramer and Helena Mentis called "Player's vs. Haters," exploring various attitudes toward fun in the workplace. I'm wearing a genuine Dutch Girl Scout uniform provided by Henriette to represent the military. Words cannot describe how much I covet that shirt.

Players vs Haters

My segments went ok, I think. I did an overview of some video game literature that I thought would be relevant, which were Nicole Lazzaro's "Why We Play Games: 4 Keys to More Emotion", Mahk's "MDA: A Formal Approach to Game Design and Game Research", and the four page redux of Jenova Chen's thesis, applying Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's flow theory to video games. There was also an extra bonus rant about the concept of the magic circle of games as a safe place to play, where we digressed into an extra extra bonus rant about Ender's Game, which I cannot properly convey here without spoiling the ending. Fun times.

My second segment did not go as well. I was trying to use an actual problem I was having at work about people mistaking playful behavior for a lack of seriousness to frame a debate about social cues, but we got bogged down in the details of my particular issue. Which was fine as a therapy session, but not really the goal. Ah well.

Beyond that, Andrew Sempere guided us through a bit of Second Life, thus creating the first positive experience I've ever had with the system. I made a glowing pink ellipsoid! All by myself! Henriette and Helena, besides the dress-up activity, asked people to bring examples of papers and presentations and such where the format was fun. We all seemed to show up with objects with high production values, which is sort of a difficult way to incorporate fun. I wish I could draw; I'd love to submit academic papers in comic book form. And last but not least was Zach Pousman, skyping in to talk about using data from print queues to be playful, not creepy.

The big takeaway is that I need to hang out with the IBM Research guys more. Besides Andrew, organizers Li-Te Cheng and Sadat Shami were there to represent the cooler side of IBM. Seriously, they're like four blocks away. We should be having lunch together and stuff.

We're also doing a blog now, so if you want to follow our thoughts on the subject of fun in the workplace, get over to the Fun, Seriously? blog. I've promised to be the wacky one with the fringy ideas, and Andrew's promised to make snarky comments. Should be good times.

Representation and Game Bits

My thesis research has given me the opportunity to think a lot about how game objects - the things we use to play a game, be it board or digital - can be representational. Questions such as "what do they represent," "how do they represent," and "on how many levels do they represent?" are not only fascinating but hint at the larger questions of how games can be expressive.

For now, though, I am just going to present a few of my favorite examples and talk a bit about the many layers on which these objects operate. Click on the pictures to open a larger version in a new window.

(I'm also going to do my best not to mention semiotics and Walter Benjamin, or make this too pedantic.)

To begin, a common example is a rook, from Chess.


This is my favorite example from a standard Chess set. On the surface, the piece seems to represent a castle, or a tower. To a person unfamiliar with Chess, this object is nothing more than a miniature tower. But for someone who knows Chess it is impossible to think about a rook without considering the rules; this miniature tower moves orthogonally between one and eight spaces, and may capture an opposing piece. A more experienced player may find deeper meaning - the rook is more valuable than the pawn. The rook thus has meaning on two levels.

A different example is a Go stone.

go stones 1.jpg

Go stones are interesting because unlike the rook they only represent on one level: as Go stones. Taken in isolation, these are just small hard discs, made of plastic, rock, shell, or whatever. An observer unfamiliar with the game may have an aesthetic reaction ("this is a pretty rock") but it is not meaningful in the way the rook is. As with the rook, a player of Go will likely recognize Go stones (especially when in play, as in the example), thus imbuing the stones with meaning.

A more complex example is this Viking set of Settlers of Catan pieces (courtesy a good friend who brought me these from the Netherlands).

settler vikings small.jpg

These pieces are a replacement for the standard pieces, and operate on a few levels. From left to right, these replace the city, settlement, and boat. The city replacement is modeled on a Nordic stave church, the settlement replacement is a traditional Viking house (identifiable by the gable cross roof), and the boat is based on a Norse merchant ship known as a knarr. These pieces thus represent various bits from Viking and Norse culture, yet at the same time represent the base pieces from Settlers of Catan. This is in addition to the deeper meaning of how these objects function in-game. For someone familiar with these pieces they operate on at least three levels.

The last example is also from a Chess set.

chess pieces small.jpg

These are the most interesting game bits I've found so far. Here we have collections of letters, which represent sounds, combined in such a way that they represent ideas of objects, which in turn represent specific game bits that also represent real-world objects, but then contain game-specific meaning on top of it all.

This was just a short glimpse at some of the interesting questions that arise when we study game objects, and think about what they represent and how they do so.

2010 CGCM: The Players
Check out the new website for the Complete Game-Completion Marathon!


Ladies and gentlemen, this year's participants for the Complete Game-Completion Marathon are in! Now we need your help. You can click on the link to the left to help us reach our goal of $10,000! All the proceeds directly benefit Haiti through the organization Partners in Health. We need to fill up that thermometer, and you can help us get there! Every single dollar you can spare will go a long way in helping the beautiful country and the people of Haiti to recover.

And now, without further ado, here are the teams who'll be marathoning on February 26-28:


The Stickhandlers


Abe Stein

Andy Bouchard

Lord Generoso Fierro

Game: NHL 10

A full 82 game hockey season (plus playoffs) with the beloved Boston Bruins on EA's NHL 10 on the Playstation 3. Trades will not be initiated by the players, but computer initiated trades will be reviewed. Acquisitions via free agency are fair game. We are also going to play the All-Star Game. Lots of fights will be instigated by the players. We will probably wear the alternate jersey with the bear, or throwback sweaters for the majority of the games. Also, Scott Thornton will probably be moved to the first line. Abe intends to spend the entire 25 hours speaking Canadian, Andy might knock out some teeth training for the event, and don't be surprised if Gene is wearing skates and tearing up the lab carpet. The B's might not win the Stanley Cup this year in reality, but they sure as hell will this February!

Estimated Duration: 25 Hours

Fire Hose for Haiti


Eitan Glinert

Tovah Heller

Sharat Bhat

Ethan Fenn

Games: Final Fantasy, Mega Man 9, Mario Kart(s)

It's the Three Ring Circus!
1. Final Fantasy (NES), all White Mage run: We will complete the entire Final Fantasy with the worst party possible, four white mages. No partial credit here; we only get points if we finish the game and defeat Chaos.
2. Mega Man 9 Challenge Run (XBLA/PSN/WiiWare): Mega Man 9 is a ridiculously hard game with 50 insane challenges that make the game that much harder. We will attempt to finish AT LEAST 40 of the 50 challenges, with extra credit for each achievement beyond 40.
3. Mario Kart Extravaganza: We will play through every 150cc cup in every console Mario Kart game (SNES, N64, GameCube, Wii). Our success will be based on the LOWEST trophy level we get; thus if we get 19 golds and 1 silver then our performance is rated silver. We will be trying for all golds!

Bonus: While we play we will blog, pontificate, and generally do interesting stuff for people following online.

On top of all that, world famous Fire Hose artist extraordinaire Jacques Pena will be making incredible video game art of the games we are playing and taking requests during the weekend. Contributors who donate a certain amount (probably $100) will be getting free one-of-a-kind art as a thank you! Details coming soon!

Estimated Duration: 35 Hours

Fire Hose Website

Being Bad in the Service of Good


Rik Eberhardt

Mike Rapa

Games: Mass Effect 1+2

Rik's Game: Mass Effect

Completion Goals: 1 complete playthrough, gaining the achievements: Long Service Medal (Complete 2 Mass Effect Playthroughs on any setting), Distinguished Combat Medal (Complete 1 Mass Effect playthrough on the Hardcore difficulty setting. Do not change the setting.), Renegade (Accumulate 75% of total Renegade points) for a total of 65 achievement points to my gamertag: nrrdk0re (inching me ever closer to the breaking 10000 points)

The setting of Mass Effect has one man forming a team of experts to save the universe, despite protestations from the galactic council that there is no real problem. Developed by Bioware, the game has a system of morality, wherein your character can be a 'Paragon' or a 'Renegade' based on the things you say to other characters in the game. It's kind of like good or evil, but the universe still gets saved either way. It's really more like playing as a nice guy or as a jerk. I'm always the nice guys in games like this, so my challenge to myself is to be the jerkiest jerk I can be. I'll also be playing as a female character, because again, I always end up playing nice white guys in games like this. I'll be the stereotypical American Jingoist blow-hard in a foreign country (although replace 'Human' with American, and 'Alien galaxy' for 'foreign country'). But the Universe will still get saved, and I might even get the guy or alien.

Estimated Duration: 32 hours

Mike's Game: Mass Effect 2

Completion Goals:  Complete a playthrough as the polar opposite of my first playthrough: A Renegade Female.

Whenever I play ANY Bioware game I always find myself unable to play as an evil character, Mass Effect 2 was no different in this regard (I played a male paragon). This time I plan on going against every bone in my gamer-body and playing as an evil (renegade) character, taking ALL do-evil opportunities that are given to me during my playthrough (I'll also play as a girl, for the sake of variety!) 

Estimated Duration: 25 Hours

A Song for the World


Philip Tan

Game: Hatsune Miku: Project Diva

Completion Goal: unlock all 39 songs at Normal

I've already been outed as a Hatsune Miku enthusiast, so I'm glad to have a chance to use her music to support disaster relief in Haiti. So if you're also a Vocaloid fan (and I'm sure there are some of you out there), this is your chance to help out!

Much as I love this game, I haven't been able to get past half of the songs... on Easy mode! The game is pretty harsh when it comes to timing. I'm not even familiar with all the songs in the game, which range from swing to heavy metal to Finnish Polka.

Other folks may have an easier time, but this is tough for me. I expect to spend one hour breezing through the simplest songs, and spending an hour on each of the rest, memorizing the songs and button presses, and hoping that my timing isn't off. This will get much harder as I get tired, so I will take breaks to maximize my chances of completing the marathon, but I won't count those breaks as part of the marathon.

Completing each song not only unlocks more songs, but on normal difficulty, it also unlocks the music videos for playback. So I'll start a brand new save and work from the beginning. My proof (if I succeed) will be to play back any music video requested on the Ustream feed.

I will be in Singapore during the CGCM, but I will have my PSP with me, as well as my laptop for video streaming. Hope to see you online!

Estimated Duration: 30 Hours

The Panzerfaustian Bargain

Owen Macindoe

Greg Varga

Katrina Panovich

Brandon Rahhal

Game: Left 4 Dead

You want Zombies? We got em. You want fire, oh we've got fire. Who knew you could shotgun blast hordes of flesh/brain eating undead all for charity?

This is a 4 player cooperative simultaneous multiplayer marathon, which means check in to the webcam to watch all 4 members of The Panzerfaustian Bargain sweat it out in the Airport, the woods, the hospital, and wherever else they end up.

Estimated Duration: 8 Hours

Team FunWolfe

Jen Lak

Joe Canadas

Ben Wilson

Matt Cheung

Game: Shadow of the Colossus

Not Airwolf, but FunWolfe, but there's not too much fun in slaughtering innocent Collossi. Oops, did I blow it for you? 

Watch as FunWolfe launches itself into the bleak world of Shadow of the Colossus. Don't forget to wear your chaps, we're gonna be doing a lot of horseback riding!

Estimated Duration: 8 hours

Team FunWolfe: LoneWolfe


Casey Malone

Game: Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

Not Airwolf, but FunWolfe, and this time, a team offshoot. Yes it is one of our favorites OF ALL TIME! Pick up your flutes, strap on your pointy ears, and whistle a tune. We're headed to Hyrule for some classic 3D Zelda action!

You know it is the best Zelda game out there, so support Casey in a quest to finish in one sitting!

Estimated Duration: 15 Hours

Metal Gear: Game Design Matryoshka - Part 2: A New Dimension

This post originally appeared on Matt Weise's blog Outside Your Heaven.

For me the Metal Gear series doesn't fit the franchise model of "same game plus one new feature". It feels more like a 20-year-long prototyping exercise in espionage dynamics. Rules are reshuffled from game to game to create different flavors of emergence. Sometimes the same mechanics dropped into new kinds of level architecture creates a different experience. Unlike most videogame sequels the Metal Gear games are actually different games. Well, except for one.

Metal Gear Solid (PSX 1998) is notable in that shares more with its immediate predecessor than any other game in the series. MG2's additions of crawling, the radar, and enemy alert phases remained unchanged in MGS. Even the wall-tap, which MGS added as a way to distract enemies, was functionally the same thing as the wall-punch from MG2. One thing it did add was camera manipulation. Being the first Metal Gear game in 3D, Solid essentially took MG2's design and dropped it unchanged into a 3D space. Hiding under things now forced the player into a low angle view. Pressing against a wall caused the camera to swing down into a landscape view, allowing players to see down long hallways. And at any time the player could enter "first-person view mode" which allowed them to look at the surrounding environment through Snake's eyes, although in this mode they could not punch, shoot, or otherwise interact. Certain weapons, like the sniper rifle, allowed such actions in first-person, but they were the exception. By and large combat and movement happened in the same top-down perspective as in the 2D Metal Gears. The camera was pulled much farther in on Snake, giving the player a more limited view of the surrounding space. This is what necessitated the various camera actions, to approximate (albeit with some new cinematic flair) the kind of spatial understanding that was effortless in earlier games.

Gameplay-wise the only new core actions MGS added were in hand-to-hand combat. Players could now grab, choke, and throw enemies. These new moves were useful because of another big change: punching was no longer lethal. Fisticuffs now simply knocked enemies out temporarily, which necessitated alternate silent take-down methods. In MG2 players could always punch enemies into oblivion if weapons failed. In MGS the same behavior would only delay a threat, not eliminate it. And since choking was a lot harder than punching, attempting silent take-downs in MGS generated a lot more anxiety. There were more possible outcomes, more ways to both succeed and fail than before. This, combined with the stronger need to observe before acting thanks to the camera limitations, gave the system largely inherited from MG2 a higher-stakes kind of tension.

Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty (PS2 2001) added a slew of elements that changed the core experience. New kinds of environmental architecture prompted the existence of new moves, including hanging off ledges, somersaulting over obstacles, and hiding in lockers. More significantly, all guns could now be aimed and fired in first-person, which made marksmanship a key factor in play. Precision was necessary because enemies now responded differently to being shot in different locations. Leg shots hampered movement, arm shots hampered aim, and head shots were fatal. Another big change was enemies would now respond to threats of violence rather than just violence itself. Pulling your weapon on an enemy would make them surrender, at which point training your weapon on different parts of their body would terrify them into revealing items or information. Disposing of these soldiers once at your mercy became another new aspect. For the first time players had the option non-lethal take-downs, in the form of a tranquilizer gun. Enemies could be put to sleep for long periods of time (as opposed to briefly dazed, like in MGS). Bodies now needed to be hid before other enemies saw them, which players could do by dragging them to lockers and other hiding places. Soldiers responded to fallen comrades with complex group tactics. Enemies now functioned as units rather than individuals, performing complicated sweep-and-clear maneuvers. Enemies on the offensive would try an flank the player, cut off exits, or call for reinforcements.

The stealth basics of MG1 and the expanded palette of MG2/MGS did not prepare you for the dense and subtle world of MGS2, which required a very different approach to problem-solving. You couldn't just run around killing everybody anymore, even if you did so quietly. Your strategy had to include removing evidence of your encounter. This catapulted Metal Gear into into a new realm of Hitchcockian suspense, as the game was now basically about the logistics of murder and not getting caught. Bodies were not the only evidence to be dealt with. Snake would now bleed when shot, leaving telltale trails of gore for soldiers to follow. Bandages would stop bleeding, but the easiest way was to simple stop moving for a period of time, further reinforcing the value of tactical stillness. The collective fury that would be unleashed on the player if caught made covering your tracks imperative. Engagements had to be kept on an individual level, to prevent group tactics by any means possible. The highest moments of tension were those between when the player was discovered and when the group was alerted. Unlike in MGS, where public alerts would sound the moment anyone saw you, enemies in MGS2 needed to communicate with HQ before the group responded. Killing an enemy just as they reached for their radio was a crisis averted, just as disabling a radio with a well-placed shot was a free ticket to make mistakes.

MG1, MG2, and MGS were fun little cat and mouse games, but MGS2 was really where the series opened wide as a possibility space. The number of dynamic outcomes involved in any given encounter, based on the various cascading levels of enemy behavior, was huge. More importantly, MGS2 required different types of thought and problem solving than previous Metal Gear games. Just because you were good at MGS did not mean you were good at MGS2. Enemy soldiers were different behavioral animals, ones which demanded private attention to be dealt with effectively. MGS2 is when your relationship with the enemy became intimate. "What do you do with enemies once you have them?" increasingly became the key question of the series, and as we'll see many of the big design changes--at least in the next two games--revolve around this idea.

Friday Games: Diamonds and Dragons

Hey folks,

We're rolling out a slightly different format for our Friday Games at GAMBIT. Don't worry, we'll still have plenty of games to play, and of course, cookies.

What we are introducing however is a series of game related "rants" from people at the office, or friends of the lab. We are tired of just ranting at each other over lunch, so we decided to bring our ideas to the public, that being you!

So at 4:30 we will begin with a brief rant, followed by a series of games demonstrating principles or ideas from that afternoon's diatribe. So this Friday's rant features:

Diamonds and Dragons:
Why my RPG is Better than Yours!
by Abe Stein

As the lab's resident sports game fanatic, and as a former paper and pencil RPG player with repressed childhood Final Fantasy memories, I am going to rant about why modern sports games' "Career" and "My Player" modes are the best example of quality video game RPG's available today. Stats? Check. Dice Rolls? Check. Drama? Check. Oh, but it doesn't end there.

Some games we will be looking at:
NBA 2k10
MLB 09: The Show
NCAA Football 2010
NHL 10
Fight Night Round 4

See you Friday afternoon. Bring your helmet.

Snap Escape nominated for the Mochi Awards!

Snap Escape

Snap Escape has been nominated for "Best Social Game" for the Mochis, an industry award for the Flash game industry! The award show will be held in San Francisco on March 8th as part of Flash Gaming Summit 2010.

Snap Escape is our follow-up to Picopoke, our IGF Mobile finalist in 2009. Like Picopoke, you upload photos into the game and vote on photos submitted by your friends. Only now, you get to go shopping... and run from dinosaurs!

Snap Escape was developed by alumni of our GAMBIT Summer Program, working for 4 months from the Singapore lab. All you need is a Facebook account and Flash, so sign up for free and start playing, or vote for Snap Escape as your choice for the Mochis People's Choice Awards!

Friday Games at GAMBIT: Global Game Jam 2010

This week, we will be demonstrating games from all over the world created by the 2010 Global Game Jam! Including:

Flixel Logo

... and any others that people recommend!

Based on the success of Matt's and Darius' presentations last year, we're going to start scheduling speakers for every Friday to talk about some game in-depth. Don't expect a dry, academic Powerpoint presentation; more likely, we'll just be geeking out about our favorite (or least favorite) game of some given genre. We may be entirely wrong, but we will be entirely passionate.

This week, I'll rant a bit about Flixel, the ActionScript 3.0 game engine used by my Global Game Jam team, describe how it really wasn't the right engine for our game, and how we managed to get it to work anyway. I'll probably start around 5:30pm.

Metal Gear: Game Design Matryoshka - Part 1: The MSX Years

This post originally appeared on Matt Weise's blog Outside Your Heaven.

I just finished the demo for Peace Walker, and I am struck by how streamlined its game design is compared to previous Metal Gear games. The number of core actions available to the player have been significantly reduced, at least at first glance. Some have just been made context-sensitive, while others have indeed been eliminated. Given that Metal Gear is basically a 20 year old game design, one where the core mechanics can still be traced with impressive fidelity back to the 1986 original, its interesting to chart how they've mutated over the course of roughly eight games.

Metal Gear (MSX 1986) had a fairly small set of core mechanics. The player could move, punch, and shoot various weapons. Enemies would patrol around and attack if you crossed their line of sight, which was pretty straightforward since they had no peripheral vision. Levels were simple affairs where each room was a single screen, and all level design architecture was in right angles. (There was no diagonal movement.) Escaping to the next room/screen meant escaping your pursuers. Enemies could be dispatched up-close and quietly, via punching, or from a distance and loudly, via weapons.

Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake (MSX 1990) added quite a lot of new elements. The biggest was probably the radar system, which was really several new design elements working in concert with each other. Unlike the first game, enemies in MG2 would follow you from screen to screen. Thanks to a 3x3 grid radar, the player could see which of the adjacent screens had enemies and which did not. If an enemy spotted you, they went into high alert and gave chase. If you managed to break their line of sight (usually by escaping to the next screen) they would begin searching for you. Since moving to the next screen no long constituted "hiding", new hiding mechanics were introduced. Crawling allowed you to hide under tables and sneak into air vents, which was now the only way to shake pursuers.

MG2 still contained all the same core player actions established in MG1, only now some of them were given additional meaning in the context of the new system. Punching, which before was only useful as a silent take-down technique, became a mode of distraction. You could punch walls to make noise, which would lure enemies towards you. This example of appropriating old mechanics and given them new meaning in the context of a larger dynamic system is primarily what makes Metal Gear an interesting case-study, an on-going game design matryoshka in which each new design encapsulates the last but still manages remain a distinct experience.

Waker, IGC Finalist!

IGC.jpgWe are excited to announce that Waker has been selected as an Indie Game Challenge finalist! There are so many good games nominated as well, it is truly incredible and an honor for our lab to have Waker in the mix! You can go over to IGC and vote for Waker in the "Gamer's Choice" award category.

Thanks so much to IGC for selecting Waker.

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