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.  :)

Sunday, July 29, 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

Saturday, July 14, 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!

Friday, July 13, 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.

Thursday, July 5, 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!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

My Pet Programmer

When I tell people about the limitations of Game Salad, some useful souls like to mention helpfully, "You know, you should get a programmer."

As if that's easy.  As if that's just a decision you make, and you're done.  Oh you want a programmer to create your games for you from scratch, and support all the code bases you want to release on?  Oh!  Great, now you have a programmer, then.

Seriously?!  No.  

That is not the answer to my problems.

I've worked really hard to learn Game Salad, so that I can enable myself to make games.

Getting a programmer is not the answer that makes everything possible.

Game Salad has been my answer to making ANYTHING possible.

I spent 10 years working at games companies, surrounded by lots of talented people, half of them programmers.  And they don't want to go and program your game for you.

No, "getting a programmer" is not the answer.

BECOMING the programmer is the answer.  Doing everything myself is the answer... for now.

Until people want to join me, and work on my projects, with me, together, I will keep making them on my own.

Putting together games on my own, and having to assemble them bit by bit, has been really liberating and empowering... it makes me think about the design in its entirety.  And that is a really enriching and educational process.

Later, I would like to have a few more people work on the games, but right now, my job is NOT to go around begging and pleading at the door of all the programmers I know, or to trawl over forums searching through a bunch of wannabe programmers looking for someone to try to connect with, someone I can trust with my entire business.  No thanks.  

My job is to build games the best I know how, with the skills I have, and the skills I can develop.

Designers don't get much cred.  Everyone thinks they're a game designer.  That anyone could do that design task, if they had time.  Well, that may be true.  

Trying to get someone to program your game is like trying to get Hollywood to make your movie.  Why?  Why your movie instead of their own, or someone else's?

You can spend your whole life trying to convince people that your idea is great.  But I think the best test is to go out and do it yourself, build your skills, make better and better products.  And then, people will start to join you for future projects, because they can see that you have created great things, that you have a following, that you have a well deserved fanbase.

If I have to do it all myself, I am investigating the medium to its very fullest and being exposed to all the accidents and inner workings of every system.  It is an opportunity for discovery and self-empowerment.  I am in direct contact with every little detail.

So like a filmmaker who writes, produces, shoots and edits his own films, and then later brings in experts in their fields do shoot and edit and write the films, I want to move into my career as a game developer understanding all the disciplines involved as fully as possible, so that when and if I get the chance to work with other great people, I can understand as Director and Producer, how to create a strong, cohesive vision for the game that's moving the medium forwards.

I've started my own business.  I'm basically risking everything, betting everything on being able to make some good games.  I am not prepared at this point to bank my life on some programmer who may or may not hang around.  They might leave the project at any point.  Then I am back at square one.  I need to be able to proceed on my own.  So I choose Game Salad.  I've released a game with it already.  I can release more.  I know how it works.  It's a known quantity.  I feel I can rely on it as much as I can rely on anything for now.

I'm writing this because it actually makes me angry.

People say it, like it's something I've not thought of, or not tried.  "You should get a  programmer!  Yeah!  Get on a forum and get a programmer.  Ask one of the guys you worked with."

They say it like I need one, like I can't make games on my own.  It belittles what I have achieved on my won.

That after so many years of wanting to make my own games, and finally putting in the work to do so, people NOW say, "You know, you could really do with the expertise of a real programmer."

No shit.

No fucking shit.

This statement is ignoring the practical issues involved in "having a programmer", like having to find them, having to pay them, having to keep them interested and passionate in your project, and relying on them to stick around.

If I could have a pet programmer, entirely dedicated to my cause, of course I would!  :)

Rant complete.