Tuesday, July 31, 2012

MUZBOZ and Rad Skater Apocalypse in The Age

On 26th June 2012, The Age ran a great little article about my game Rad Skater Apocalypse with an eye-catching photo taken by Michael Clayton-Jones.  Click the image to read the full size article!

My long-time friend Luke made a touching gift for me, getting the article framed with a little Dr Seuss quote at the bottom.  Thanks Lukey.  :)

Follow-up Addendum:  This poster lasted about 6 months on a wall on Smith St in Collingwood!  It was awesome seeing it age over time, and smudge with the rain.  :)

Saturday, July 28, 2012

ACMI Chiptunes Workshop

Had a great day at the Chiptunes workshop down at ACMI.  It was a quick introduction to making music on the Gameboy with "Little Sound DJ".  Very informative in a short amount of time!

Thanks to the presenters and mentors: (L-R) Dot AY, Derris-Kharlan and cTrix!

There was quite a bit to learn in a short time, and I only got about 20 minutes to actually put a song into the program, but it was fun, and now I want one of my own!

Here's the little song I managed to make in the time.  It's really just a short pattern that I was tweaking on the fly...  

Listen to Muzboz Lightning...

or download Muzboz Lightning.mp3 (2mb)

I used to make tracker songs on the Amiga in a program called "Sound Tracker", so the basic approach was familiar.  I'd quite like to make my own original soundtrack to one of my games, entire using the Gameboy!  
Anyone got an old Gameboy they want to donate to the cause?  :)

Where are the great iPad games? Where are our arthouse games?

Seriously, where are the GREAT iPad games?  Where are the games that capture your imagination and completely engross you?  Not with graphics, but with craft.

I'm 34 years old.  I grew up playing King's Quest games, where a rich world lay before you, and you interacted with it using verbs you typed in.  It fired the imagination on all cylinders.

It can be hard to separate your memories as a child from the actual true qualities of a game, but I simply cannot believe that a game like King's Quest 3 is anything less than miraculous.

Later I played Thief, immersed in it's richly crafted world, beautifully simulated systems of light and shadow, sound propagation, and characters who "thought they saw something... but noooo, must have been nothing".  I love these richly realised, deeply detailed worlds.  The art, writing and sound design in the game are superb.

These games crafted a rich tapestry of their game worlds.  The player must navigate a high-resolution space BETWEEN "alive" and "dead".  These games barely care how much ammo you have left, or the accuracy of your aiming.  They're about a much richer story space, where you try to figure out the secrets of locations and characters, the missing pieces of the puzzle, how to sneak past a wary guard, or what might entice a character to help you out.

I know that I have rose colored glasses for these games, but I don't believe for a second that it's impossible to evoke these values that I long for, still.  And you don't need high definition 3D graphics to evoke these feelings, although it does benefit from great art and writing.

I look for games with this richness on the iPad, and I come up empty handed.  Nothing.  
Some would argue that it's a high demand to expect these games on iPad, considering that tantalisingly good games are far and few between on the high end platforms like PC, Xbox 360, PS3 or Mac.  Maybe that's true.

I don't think it's a matter of these games being especially hard to make (although they do take great skill and care), I just think that they are not perceived to be the sort of games that will make the most money.  Because a dinky little throw-away game will probably sell more, due to mass appeal, and an audience that largely isn't looking for a deep experience, but instead wants a fairly shallow, non-committal experience, especially on iPhone, but also to some extent on iPad.

I'll take that as true.  That's fine.  But I'm still disappointed that a platform perfectly capable of running these amazing experiences is not being exploited by some developers to give these experiences to people.

Where are the truly great games?  What brings a thirty or forty year old back to the glowing screen, promising "we have something truly great and wondrous to offer you."

I guess as I've gotten older, I really want better WRITING.  And not just writing, but an actual PURPOSE TO WRITE.

Why are today's games being made?  

What do they have to say?

I understand that many games are not written for the purpose of engaging people in this manner.  That's fine.  But seriously... 



I know it's not easy to make these games.  And perhaps a sense exists that there is no calling for these games.  That no one will play them, or at least not enough people.

Well I want to challenge that.  I want to build up towards making games that are considered arthouse games.  Games with something to say, or at least, a great sense of style, of story, of writing.  To have an artisticness to them, even if this is in the entertainment side of arthouse, like Amelie, or Pulp Fiction, or Twin Peaks.  I'm not asking for "high art", just something unique and joyfully intriguing.

I don't want to be a star marine.  I don't want to drive a racing car.  I've done that.  I loved it.  But my life is calling for other things now.

Maybe it's not possible.  Maybe it is the wrong medium.  But I'm determined to find out.  Can I make a game that meets my own desires for atmosphere, story and exploration?  

I want to make a game that I'd be delighted to find myself.  One that makes me love the maker, to feel a bond for the joy they've crafted in that world.

That is my mission!

Indie Game Developer

Friday, July 13, 2012

2012-07-13th Dear Diary: TIGJAM 2012

Dear Diary...


It's Friday 13th!  Oooooh!  Bad luck?  Or great luck?!  It's been an excellent day!

I went to meet up with Lester about being in his documentary about indie games!  He wants to make me a character to focus on, hopefully, like Phil Fish or Jon Blow in Inide Game: The Movie.  I'd love to make it work, and it helps give me a lens to see myself, to question what I am really trying to do.  He wants to interview me, and film where I work and things.  I need to make sure I have something to say, and connect with the camera.  To have myself figured out a bit.  I'm excited!

After meeting with Lester, I went to Kill City bookstore on Swanston St, full of crime novels (a place he'd just told me about, because he's a pulp novel fan himself!).  I bought a compilation, "Women on the Edge", which seemed to be full of writing that was fast moving, and instantly catchy.  The sort of stuff I needed for my game.  Short snippets that moved fast, and kept the reader engaged.  A lot of the novels I picked up were slow, dry, languished in pacing.  That just wouldn't work where I needed the action to move ahead with every sentence.

My friend Luke called me, and said he'd put up some posters for Rad Skater Apocalypse in some skate stores around Frankston.  The kids all asked if it was free, and he had to say no, it's 99 cents.  I really need to get a free version out, with advertisements in it.  Maybe I'll wait until my our game is out, and link to that game directly as well.  Shame they're very different games, for totally different markets.

Then I took some photos around the city, of the old buildings...  Flinders St Station, the Nicholas Building elevator shaft, the Regent Plaza theatre, the Town Hall Clocktower, and the Carlton Gardens.  All possibly locations I could use for a more graphic novel style presentation of the story.  I could photoshop filter them, like Max Payne...  or use them as reference, and trace over them.  I could take photos with actors in them too, and exaggerate the lighting and design in Photoshop.

TIGJAM is tonight, in Richmond.  I'm gonna go and work on something!  Dunno what yet!
Might team up with some people.  Might just work on my own.  Happy to just meet people, and see what happens.  

My life is so much more exciting since leaving my day job!

- Muz

Note to self:  TIGJAM will be a good way to experiment with the idea of a Travelling Game Dev Setup.  I can take my laptop, and some basic tools for creating all the content.  Pen and paper, H4 audio recorder, phone camera.  Will be interesting to see what I can come up with in 48 hours!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

2012-07-12th Dear Diary: Detective Word Game, Mark Frost, Story Ideas

Dear Diary,


Tying to work out the core game design mechanics, and story for my detective word game.

A word game, alternating with story snippets.  Must be an excellent story, gloriously written.  The player must be yearning to know, what happens next?

I was thinking of asking Mark Frost, co-creator of Twin Peaks, if he would be interested in writing it.  I watched some interviews with Frost, and in 2008 he was playing World of Warcraft and interested in where interactive storytelling is heading, with the audience wanting to be in the middle of the action.  He is a master of mystery, and weaving fascinating driven stories, so it could be a really interesting match if I could get him on board.  He's currently writing a trilogy of teenage fantasy books, so probably not!  Maybe later down the track...

I read a great article by Steve Farrelly called Growing Pains: An Exploration of Mature Game Design about games maturing as a medium and dealing with more mature themes, and consequences, and I got totally inspired to write the story myself, and actually make it meaningful, relating to the state of the world, the things that threaten the freedom and happiness of all mankind, and the animals and the planet, and the solar system.  

Perhaps to have a criminal who is a sort of anarchist, tying to take down all the forces in the world that seem to be held up as great, but I actually bad for the earth as a whole.  Unrestricted capitalism.

He's questioning... "What is progress?  Is progress always good, is it always moving forwards?  At what point do we need to hold ourselves back, to say that we are happy, to say that we have enough, to indeed try to trim down our population, to pear back our impact on the earth."

I like the idea of the criminal seeing humans as a cancer on the earth, building our cities, these concrete melanomas over the body off the earth.  And that as the story unfolds, we start to question what is right and wrong, who the criminal is, whether the laws of the world are protecting us or emprisoning us.  Where we are being manipulated and deluded.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Pulp Diction: Dev Diary - "Early Days"

This video shows the very beginning of the project, making sound effects on my granny's old typewriter, and exploring different game ideas, some of which made it through to the final game, some of which did not!