Monday, December 30, 2013

Entering The White Rooms

I'm making a videogame from scratch! How? Well, I'm figuring it out as I go and I'll be writing journal entries on this blog about my journey. 

I didn't go to computer scientist school and I don't know much about programming languages. So- is it even a possible venture for me? In November of 2013 I decided to find out. I downloaded the Unity 3D game engine. My school will be online videos and tutorials. 

I know what I want to make. The game is called The White Rooms, and it has a few dynamic goals. It will:
-be a first-person perspective
-look like a virtual art gallery
-be simple yet refined
-poetically combine reality with a real mystery of life

On to a quick description. On the title screen there there will be a die button. When you select it you'll hear a car crash. 

Fade into the first circle of the afterworld, which is a maze of white rooms. The goal of the game is to collect memories to piece your mind back together so that you may return to your body before you pass the point of no return (in which case you die forever). The idea being that our memories make up our lives. There will be nine circles to complete (loosely based on Dantes Divine comedy nine circles of heaven).

I began work on the project around the middle of November, 2013. I created a few circles in Blender and exported them to Unity. I taught myself how to add an HUD, timer and memory counter using javascript coding. Here is a temp screen shot of how it's coming along:

Now that it's Winter time, I have have time to work on this game. So, more on The White Rooms coming soon!


Monday, December 23, 2013

Mysterious App Store Rejection

I recently submitted my second location based game to the App Store. It is very similar in functionality to the first game I submitted, Bushwick Dimensions. However, this one was rejected seemingly at random like so many others. A developer once joked that it depends on what the reviewer had for breakfast that day that determines what his decision is. Sometimes you can just resubmit it and it will be approved, I was told.

Apple stated that it: "Was not intuitive. For example, there was no "back" button from the Map page. We have found that your app does not sufficiently take advantage of the iOS platform. It would be appropriate to include iOS specific interactive features to enhance the user experience of your app."

I replied with a photo of my Map Page with a BACK button (it DOES have one) and they replied with the same copy / paste rejection notice and a photo of the map page with the bottom 1/4th of the screen cropped off. They said they were using iPhone 5s. So I loaded the app onto my friends 5s and took a screenshot of the fully functional map page with BACK button. 

Apple sent this response, in BOLD:
10.6: Apple and our customers place a high value on simple, refined, creative, well thought through interfaces. They take more work but are worth it. Apple sets a high bar. If your user interface is complex or less than very good it may be rejected. We appreciate your feedback and have scheduled a call with an Apple representative in order to discuss your concerns. We anticipate calling within 3 business days.

Apple called when I was at a bar. I stepped onto the sidewalk and had a 10minute conversation with cookie cutter apple employee named Steve. In short, he told me my app wasn't set to "iPhone only." That could be the problem right there, then he told me that apps are tested on iPad as well and therefore MUST work on iPad regardless if it is set to iPhone only or not. Usually iPhone apps display the same way on iPad only smaller (and can zoom to 2x) so I don't know why it would crop off my back button?

Oh yeah - he then told me the app would crash after it played a video. Why wouldn't that be written in the initial rejection notes? Who knows. In closing, what I need to do is submit again (sometimes that's all a developer needs to do and it will go through even without changes) after I check iPhone only and perhaps port it to my iPad and see what happens. If all goes well you'll get a treat this Spring with a link to my location based horror survival game set on the streets of Gowanus, Brooklyn!

Friday, November 22, 2013

The audience for Location Based Games

I attended the 1st screening of The Institute at Cinema Village here in NYC last month. 

The documentary is about an interactive art piece called The Jejune Institute that took place in San Francisco in 2011. It was instantly dubbed an Alternate Reality Game that blurred reality and fantasy. At it's core, the film embraced the idea of injecting ludic sensibility into the everyday landscape. I would have loved to participate in the Jejune Institute, but experiences like this are for a fixed period of time at a fixed location.

It will surely get you thinking. Are games like this confusing for a mass audience? Will our role in the game make a difference if there are no clear goals?

A fun fact: Jeff Hull, creative director of The Jejune Institute, has a striking resemblance to Johnathan Blow.

Winter is coming. When will the temps be acceptable enough to go outside again and play some location based games. By the time Spring rolls around, will there be a renewed interest in this form of gaming? Who wants them? Do people need to get their hands on the newfangled virtual reality headsets and wearable computers about to hit the market?

Shadow Cities closed down Oct. 7, and Wise Guys Events behind in LA only reached half of their kickstarter goal for The Augmented Detective.

I believe there is hope when the weather turns for the warmer with Clandestine : Anomaly and the latest full fledged app from Mark Skwarek called Play AR. Of course, you can always check ARGNet for games playing now online and perhaps even in your region!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Artcade 3000 Meetup Group is live!

The Artcade 3000 project is getting it's start through the website and we couldn't be more excited. The meetings will take place in my Bushwick apartment. We'll "study" all kinds of game innovation from mind controlled movies with Mindwave Mobile to 4 player Towerfall battles on OUYA. All on a projector with surround sound and a huge HDTV.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Hyper location based game design issues

A game made for a specific physical location has the advantage of using site specific objects, architecture and other features for enriching the story and creating puzzles. If that game must be playable at any time a player chooses, what happens when the environment changes? This is a hyper location based games fatal flaw. No big deal if the game ran on one night and was over, but an ongoing game existing for more people to play would have to have some safety nets in place for the inevitable. 

This is a problem I had with my location based interactive adventure game Bushwickdimensions. Bushwick is one of the fastest changing neighborhoods in Brooklyn. Buildings are going up and being torn down everywhere. I had puzzles based on murals and months later those murals were painted over with a single color and in two cases other murals. One mural was painted over three times in the past year!

What are some solutions to this problem?

1) I could implement a location sensor so that when the player enters a specific area this story advances automatically. What I would lose is some of the fun of interacting with the environment in a very direct way.

2) I could make the puzzles based on only more permanent structures that would have a less lesser likelihood of being destroyed or changed.

3) I can work the changing landscape into the story. The story needs to be maleable enough to change along with a rapidly shifting cityscape.
      4) The game is able to continue without correctly solving a       puzzle. This way, if the player is stuck because the        surroundings changed, they can still finish the game fairly.
And Bushwick Dimensions Version 1.8 is out now so download it and enjoy! 

Monday, July 1, 2013

And so begins the revolution. Of video games!

Last week I picked up my Ouya console (preordered from GameStop), got home and opened it up. I was greeted by this packaging:

What does this mean? Consider what the Ouya stands for. It is a crowd funded console - the people definitely wanted it. Check the Kickstarter final tally:

The important lessen here is that Ouya listened to what the people wanted from the start.

-Let the console war BEGIN-

AAA titles have become homogenized with a cookie cutter business model to sell you the same game over and over. Big publishers are again being accused of being anti-consumer, especially by their employeesThis short documentary by CleverNoob addresses this issue in gaming.

Microsoft must not have asked ANY consumer what they thought about the new XBox One policies and changes because I haven't heard of anyone embracing them. Even though they confusingly waffled on the issue, there's still a console killing controversy forever surrounding Microsoft because they didn't ask the consumers what they thought about the idea.

Ouya is doing the opposite, selling the console for the price of a controller and then giving away games to play out of the box! Instead of polished predictable shooters, you don't know what treasure or trash you're about to download on Ouya. The discovery is the most fun thing about it. Treasures like Saturday Morning RPG and The Ball await you. For free.

There are other gaming experiments coming to market soon.

Nvidia Shield is attempting to sell an Android phone with an Xbox360 controller attached to it for $300. We already have smartphones in our pockets. See the problem?

Piston aka Steam Box aka Xi3 will be priced more like a PC than a gaming console, but packed with the power of Steam might be worth it. The games I buy on Steam barely work on my PC (laptop) if at all. 

So are the big consoles really scared of the little guy? Enough to play dirty at E3 where the Entertainment Software Association parked a giant truck blocking the Ouya Park then called the cops. Perhaps they didn't like the tagline on Ouya's sign which read "Open to all."

Back on Xbox, XNA is a bitch for indies to publish on, because doing so only benefits Microsoft. Because of this greed and oversight, XNA Studios is being killed (in 2014). More incentive for developers to go the Ouya route.

Being honest and upfront with the consumers is as important as the variety in the games we play. Now we the people have a home console platform to publish games on easily, for better or for worse. Vive la revolution!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Real location based AR gaming with Clandestine: Anomaly

Remember when I wrote the "steal this idea" entry a couple months ago? ZenFri Inc in Winnipeg, Canada was several leaps ahead and is developing possibly the most mind-bending reality-blurring game experience ever.

Clandestine Anomaly is the game I've dreamed of playing since I first discovered augmented reality. See the tremendous "emergent reality" prototype in action:

The game didn't reach it's Kickstarter goal, but the Indie Game podcast interview with chief executive artist Cory King assured us that the game will appear on tablets and PS Vita early next year. Fantastic news!

In short, this project must exist to set a standard for those that follow. Mucho Gusto to the Clandestine: Anomaly team!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The New Artcade Experiment

This past weekend I conducted an experiment: build an arcade in my apartment with a range of indie game formats, intermix it with game themed art and see what the response is.

The response was an overwhelmingly positive storm of jubilation! The GamePad 3000 Experimental Artcade at Bushwick Open Studios in Brooklyn had proven that this format was an exhilarating experience and was the pick of several organizations:

What is the next step? The retro arcade may have died out long ago. So what is the modern arcade experience? A bar filled with old-school cabinets and fancy beer?

It came to my attention after attending game meetups and demos over the past year that there simply isn't a place to regularly play new indie games in a social setting where gamers, enthusiasts and designers can mingle and have fun. And look at gamey art!

Game culture is flooding the mainstream, and such a place must exist. 

Monday, May 6, 2013

Sexy Tapeworm screen shots

One of the games to premiere at the Bushwick Open Studios Experimental Game Arcade May 31-June 2.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

GamePad 3000 Experimental Arcade May 31-June 2, 2013

Every Summer Arts In Bushwick organizes NYC's most epic arts festival: Bushwick Open Studios. This neighborhood-wide Brooklyn event includes thousands of local artists of all disciplines. The dates are: Friday May 31st-June 2nd, 2013. Save em'!

What is GamePad 3000, you may ask? It's my apartment! I play the latest videogame tech on a 3D projector. But for BOS it's transforming into an Experimental Games arcade. Premiering at the show are these works:

Bushwick Dimensions. Remade and updated for release on the Apple App Store! Coming soon.
The Bushwick Board Game. Free beer when you sit down to play this interactive art piece.
Sexy Tapeworm. My first videogame, served up in a worm cabinet.
Video game themed art by Ken Kosces
A new game from the progressive game developer team Globhammer.

Other artists will contribute games, so keep it locked here for more updates. And see you there.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Steal This Idea - INVASION: EARTH for PS Vita

     I'll be posting game ideas for anyone and everyone to steal, patent, copyright, call their own and make millions of dollars from. l'll do this is because I have no resources to make it a reality and I would love to see the game exist to the full extent of the vision.
     I preordered the Playstation Vita from my local Brooklyn Game Stop. It titillated our psyches: GPS tracking, Augmented Reality gaming and a host of new ways to interact with the handheld console through rear and front cameras and touch panels.

     A blast was had with the AR cards and games. But what I was most interested in, naturally, was the GPS capabilities of this portable console. The Near screen provided indicators of other users in the area by distance, but not on a map. You can trade items and get free game upgrades and power ups from them. Fine and dandy, but what I want to do with my Vita is play


     Gameplay: On a specific day and time, Vita owners must go to a GPS location in their city such as a park or other open area (e.g. Central Park). There they must stand in "battle position areas", listen to audio commentary from a commander and watch an enemy spaceship approaching on their screens from what looks like a mile away in the sky. As the spaceship gets closer, several smaller ships break away and scatter into the park. Players can view them in AR or on a top down map of the area. They must coordinate their efforts and unleash their arsenal on the invaders to destroy them. Then run to weapon drop zones in the park to replenish their ammo.

     After defeating the horde or being overpowered, the players can form platoons and prepare for the next invasion which could be a week away in another park. Other cities will suffer invasions and platoons can keep in touch and trade items through social networks and anticipate upcoming attacks.

     Does the Vita have the power to do this? Smartphones do. Do we have to wait for Google Glass and the wearables to easily and successfully blend the real world with video games?