Lonely Gamer

Gaming for those who hate other people.

Go Beyond…

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Written by Joe Martin

May 15, 2008 at 2:21 pm

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Designing a Design Document…

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Whew. I just finished writing my first game design document, for Pacifist. It’s about twelve pages long and I wrote it all today, after I got back from a BBQ at a friends. Effort.

I’ve done all that writing for a reason though – I’ve somehow managed to drum up a bit of interest for the idea of Pacifist and have abused my position as a games journalist to get a coder or two on board from within the Bit-tech community.

In my job, I often get people saying things along the lines of “Yeah, but it must get pretty dull after a while, right? You play games all day, but it must take the fun out of the games you actually want to play, right?”

The answer is always no, it doesn’t. I get paid to play games, then write about them. That shit never gets dull when you only have three hobbies in life; drinking and the two previously mentioned activities. It occasionally creates a bit of hassle, yeah, but as long as I have a USB stick I can bring my savegames home from the office and keep gaming here. Ace!

Game design on the other hand is a different story and, though writing the design document hasn’t made this prospect any less exciting assuming it gets off the ground, writing that much about it has muted by vigor somewhat. I’m still eager to go and full of shit and salt (and piss and vinegar), but after writing paragraph after paragraph about how the Main Menu links to the Help page, I’m a little tired. Wasted actually.

On the other hand, it really does help bring your vision into focus. I had the idea for Pacifist when I was walking to work one day and I thought it would be cool to have a game built around pacifism because, hey, you could make a cool arty game out of it with a subtext about Tibet, right? It was loose and flabby.

By writing this Design Document though I’ve been able tone that flabby idea right up, changing a concept around several times to something I think could actually work.

And that brings all the excitement flooding back.

Out, LG.

Written by Joe Martin

May 11, 2008 at 8:02 pm

Pacifist Game…

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Pacifist - A GameIn my last post I talked about a game I wanted to work on, called Pacifist. I admitted that I had almost zero skills when it came to coding and so on, but that I would be interested in creating a simple platformer with what I hoped would be some exciting twists in the approach.

That’s still true, but after spending most of the day failing to get anywhere in particular with XNA, which was recommended to me by Acron, I’m somewhat out of steam for the moment.

Creating a game is hard and I always knew it was going to be that way. I’m not giving up and I’m still committed to finishing (and starting) the game at some point – I’m going to come back to XNA tomorrow with a clear head. I am however re-issuing the previous offer/plea for contributors to the project, or at least someone who can point me in the right direction.

Until then, enjoy the first piece of concept/poster art. I did it while flicking through some of the less-helpful coding tutorials. The simple black and white style is pretty much the only thing I can do art-wise, but it’s also an approach I envisaged for Pacifist, though that would hopefully look a little more hand-drawn and stylish.

That’s it for now, LG.

Written by Joe Martin

May 4, 2008 at 5:47 pm

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I’m thinking of making a game…

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Kieron Gillen once wrote something that stuck with me – that all games journalists are just game designers who never learned to code. Me, I don’t like it implied that I’m lazy and I recognize the truth in that statement.

So, I’m toying with the idea of making a game and maybe writing a feature on it for bit-tech.net. A kind of ‘Money meets mouth’ thing. Admittedly, I don’t know how to code so at the moment I’m thinking something simple made in Flash or something similar. Something I can get my head around. All I have right now is a concept.

The game I’m thinking of making would be a platformer and would, by design, fly in the face of many gaming norms. I want to call it Pacifist. The plot is basic at this point – there’s an oppressive government and the people are peacefully protesting. The player is part of a large crowd in the protest and recognizes that the people need a sign to unite them – but doesn’t want to provoke a violent confrontation which the government would win. Thus, the stage is set.

The player leaves the crowd and sets out to achieve the objective – what this is exactly is still hazy. The key is that the player must not attack opponents, though enemies are numerous and lethal. If the player dies then his idea comes to another member of the protest and another person leaves the crowd on the same mission. Each person in the crowd represents a life, but as the game goes on the crowd loses motivation and disperses – this puts a pressure on the player to complete the game quickly, but as the game gets harder and goes on longer then the player has fewer and fewer lives.

How exactly the player deals with enemies I’m not certain on yet. This could be a stealth game with set hiding places (think Trilby: The Art of Theft) or an avoidance game (think N+) or it could be something entirely new. What I want though is to have a situation where players can kill guards and so on, but aren’t supposed to and will be punished for when they complete the game. You’ll be rewarded for pacifism, hence the title.

Yes, I am aware how this game plays closely to the topic of Tibet. No, this isn’t the idea in full. The whole concept plays on the previously mentioned idea of Massively Singleplayer games which I’ve since relabeled to Offline Co-op and I’m ready to discuss that at later stage only. It’s kind of twisty.

What exactly I could lend to such a project beyond writing, publicity and vision is a little iffy – though I’m ready to get hands-on. Again though, I’m only toying with the idea at the moment and this post acts as a place where I intend to bounce ideas around and see if anyone else is interested in pitching in.

All I have right now is the concept and the urge to see how far I can take this. If you’ve got thoughts or offers or suggestions then drop them in the comments before this turns into an endlessly planned but never realized Blaze Bolden.

Out, LG.

Written by Joe Martin

April 23, 2008 at 5:26 pm

Massively Singleplayer…

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This is just an idea and, though I think the term has been used elsewhere and before, it is pretty much the only description I can think of. Massively singleplayer games.

I’m not really a big fan of multiplayer games – they can be good, but I don’t see the point in boasting to people who I’ll never meet and who hide being l33th4XX0r names. If I’m multiplaying with friends, sure, but that rarely happens. What I do like though is talking about games and playing singleplayer games.

So, how about massive singleplayer games – an idea stemming from the RPS article about Pathologic – or, one specific bit at least. I’ll quote directly instead of bludgeoning the point with flimsy interpretation. Pathologic is a game with three seperate characters who you can play one at a time, but the key is that in any one game the PC will follow the quest path of the remaining two characters because you need to work with the other two characters in order to complete the game.

I played through the game at the same time as a friend. He chose the Bachelor, and I was the Haruspicus. Because we played at the same rate, we had the chance to discuss developments in the plot each day. This went wrong fast.

“WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?” he asked me after we’d both finished day three.

It took me a few seconds to figure out he was referring to the Haruspicus. In his game he’d been sent to investigate a body of one of the infected citizens that had been sliced open and left in the street, and his investigation ended up pointing to me as the perpetrator. But there was no evidence as to why I’d done it. Whereas in my game, yeah, I’d snuck up on a doomed man and cut him open, but I knew it was justified. For thousands of years the Haruspicus had held the right to open the dead in situations like this; what I’d done was the most natural thing in the world. To try and save the thousands of men, women and children in the town who were at risk, I’d brought one death on just a couple of days early. Sue me.

“I needed to see the infected organs” I told my friend, realising as I typed that this defense probably wouldn’t hold up in court.

We bickered for a while, each of us oddly firm in the beliefs of our own characters. He called me a murderer, and I called him pathetic. We left it at that.

When I was playing the game the next day I ended up going to a meeting with the Bachelor. The NPC called me a murderer, and our characters bickered. He wanted nothing to do with me. He said that, as doctors, we could never be justified in killing people.

Now, imagine that idea as applied to a mainstream and more fluid game – something not as oppressively bleak as Pathologic. Take BioShock as an example, where the game could have two campaigns with players starting seperate but intersecting at certain points and working to either opposite or similar ends. It’s not co-op because the PC will take on the role not filled by the player. It’s kind of like the relationship between the expansion packs and main game in the original Half-Life, except taken to an illogical end.

On it’s own it isn’t all that great, but the kicker here would be that the game is designed for players to play in clans, with each player taking a different role – in that regard it’s like co-op, but with player communication forcibly removed. The game would then force players into a particular mindset, but different players into opposing mindsets and groups with the idea being to provoke a discussion and see how people can be manipulated by the game.

Commercial? Really not, but an interesting concept none the less. Massive singleplayer emotional experiments. You get your two best friends together and agree to play through a game and meet up when you have all finished the fifth level to discuss it. Each player has a different role – A is a secret agent trying to stop an evil madman, B is a madman trying to change the world for the better by force, C is an agent for the madman who is in the process of betraying him to aid the spy. Each one however is presented the game world from the point of view of that person – so each believes he is the hero, despite any objective reality.

Hell, you could even fiddle with the entire look of the game. The madman is playing something like Evil Genius, the spy is playing something like GoldenEye and the traitor is playing a point and click adventure.

At the end the three players meet up and talk. The game has a set path – lets say the traitor is betrayed by the spy, but not before the madman is tipped off and the spy is caught – so the players have a common ground to talk on. What they do though is discuss the motivations of characters. Player B has come to think of the madman as a brilliant and misunderstood hero, while A thinks B is evil. C on the otherhand appreciates both sides but is primarily concerned with himself.

As a concept, it has potential. Think about how much fun you have when you and a friend compare tactics for a game like Deus Ex and you spend ages saying “Well, I saved Alex Jacobson from UNATCO when I left and used him later…” or “This is how I saved Tiffany Savage…” and the other player often did it in a utterly different way.

This is just that idea, but applied to philosophy and not tactics.

Out, LG.

Written by Joe Martin

April 11, 2008 at 7:02 pm

This Blog…

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I have two blogs now. One for my personal stuff and this one. This one is supposed to be more about games – specifically singleplayer games (hence the title) since these are what I’m most interested in. Here I’ll be chronicling the games I’m playing, what I think of them and so on. I’ll be going in more of an analytical and art direction than I do when I’m at work and I’ll be looking mainly at classic games – think more Deus Ex than BioShock.

I’ll also be posting links to some work I do in my day job as a games journalist for bit-tech.net and, in that vein, I link to this – an article by Mark Morris of Introversion about how to start your own games studio. It’s part of an on-going series of articles on the topic by the folks at Introversion, with this one looking at how to generate ideas for a game.

I’m not an industry analyst so I’m not going to compare different business models or analyse case studies, but I’m going to dig into my mind, and the minds of my pals in the industry, and try to build a guide to ‘doing it the Introversion way’. That’s not because I think we are a perfect company or that we’ve ‘cracked it’, but because I know everything about Introversion and I think we’ve done well for three guys who started out with a small stash of left-over beer money and one potential game idea.

You can read the article here and Digg it here.

That is all, LG.

Written by Joe Martin

April 9, 2008 at 8:07 am