Jan 202013

Rise of the Videogame Zinesters coverThe first book I read this year was Anna Anthropy’s Rise of Videogame Zinesters.

It’s a short book on a very good topic: democratization of videogame creation.

In the age of expensive, publisher-driven, minimum-risk AAA games, there’s clearly a niche for interesting, topical alternatives written by a minimal team.

And that’s exactly what this book promotes: an era when videogames have been taken back from the few big publishers, when the barrier of entry has been lowered and the barrier of discovery kept really low symmetrically.

However, behind the admirable aims, the execution leaves quite a bit to be desired. Currently the outlook of gaming is far from the bleak present laid out in the initial chapter – the indie games movement has significantly expanded frontiers, and the era of the appstores has eliminated the need to court publishers for an audience. Even the basic premise “games are for white males interested in shooting each other in the face” is increasingly less valid even in the mainstream – apart from the annual Call of Duty-dose (and its colleagues), it’s quite a varied world out there (especially outside the consoles where both development and distribution costs are orders of magnitude lower).

The answer to the dearth of interesting games is for the gamers to create new ones and distribute them.

Certainly a noble target, and the author both describes quite a few tools to get started with as well as laying out her own experiences.

The former is an eclectic selection – it covers the obvious (Scratch and a few commercial toolkits), not-so-obvious (Inform and Twine) and downright awkward (ZZT, which doesn’t even run in modern machines without emulation). The role of programming (and even understanding the basics of the art) is not really described that well (and a golden opportunity for tools like Processing is missed altogether).

As is the latter – the author’s quite keen on highlighting the queer (her word, not mine) agenda of her games thus far. But in quite shallow fashion, she doesn’t describe how she crafted the games, but lays out her biography via them.

The book is short and quickly read.

It provokes the reader in many ways.

And while hardly a real manifesto for changing the industry, it’s definitely a worthy read.

Mar 112012

Fables logoTelltale Games, who have been snapping up licenses to abdandoned game franchises, films, television series and whatnot, have picked up one more.

Their take on Bill Willingham’s Fables has nothing but an announcement, but the concept is very intriguing.

After all, the take on fairy tale characters’ continued existence in 21st century does provide an almost infinitely extensible milieu for additional adventures.

Mar 062012

Minecraft screenshotTutorial: read.

Necessity of a tutorial: quite high.

Games played: two.

Appreciation: growing, but I still wonder about the popularity.

Unexpected event #1: a bona fide snow crash of the Macbook. Quite an accomplishment by a windowed java program.

Unexpected event #2: inability to respawn in a normal game.

Feb 062012

Pinball Arcade screenshotPinball Arcade, an extensible collection of pinball tables from multiple eras is set to hit iOS devices on Thursday.

Sadly, the web page is more or less useless, and the description and updates are available on Facebook only.

The game ships with four tables, with more to be released as DLC on a monthly interval.

The visuals are impressive, but as usual, a pinball game either lives or dies on how it feels.

Sep 012011

King of Dragon Pass logoA Sharp’s King of Dragon Pass is slated to arrive on iOS devices soon.

The game is undergoing evaluation right now, and hopefully will be available during september.

King of Dragon Pass is a kingdom simulation game, but deftly avoids the traditional drudgery of micromanagement, and places the player into the boots of an Orlanthi chieftain, leading the tribe through troubled times.

The game should fit the touchscreens well, and this looks definitely like one of the highlights of the gaming autumn. The development blog has provided good insight into what the porting has been like.