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The Open Bundle

July 12, 2013 Leave a comment

open_bundle_header

There are so many game bundles on the internet (thank you, Humble Bundle, for making this a trend) that The Open Bundle is easy to overlook. Its name is simple but not descriptive, and to be honest it doesn’t actually include any games. Instead, it has art, music, and code for making games. What really makes it special, though, is that it’s a grand experiment in leveraging crowdfunding to make releasing things under Creative Commons licensing viable for artists.

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TorqueL, the Rolling Box 2D Platformer

June 5, 2013 Leave a comment

I originally posted this on April 18, 2013 on my blog on Gamasutra. Cross-posting here because this game looks great. It’s on Steam Greenlight Concepts with a demo available, and I urge you to check it out.

Overcrowding at BitSummit meant that in the short time we had for looking at game demos, there was no time to see them all. I did see quite a few, and while most of the games I saw interested me in one way or another, a simple platformer named TorqueL took first prize for being fun to play.

TorqueL’s concept is simple. The developer bills it as the 2D rolling box platformer, and that description basically sums up the game. The only thing that sets this game apart from other 2D platformers — and the only thing it needs — is that player movement has been completely rethought.

TorqueL screenshot

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What Ludum Dare has Done for Me

May 28, 2013 Leave a comment

I originally posted this on April 9, 2013 on my blog on Gamasutra. Cross-posting here, as I should have done before.

I first learned of Ludum Dare last August. I wasn’t in time to participate, but I was able to play a wide variety of interesting games. That got me fired up — I definitely wanted to participate in December’s 48-hour compo (hereafter LD48). I hadn’t programmed in years, really, but I was signed up for an Intro to Computer Science MOOC and was pretty sure I would be capable of pumping out something come December.

Participating in Ludum Dare #25

When December and its LD48 came around, I was not at all confident in my abilities. I had successfully brushed up on basic computer science concepts and learned some new things, but the MOOC had been taught in Python instead of the C/C++ I originally learned in. I could do some things with Python, like perform computations and output things to IDLE, but I had no clue how to do things like play sound and draw graphics. To make things worse, I live in Japan, which meant that the event would be starting at noon on Saturday for me. In order to be functional for work on Monday, I needed to get to bed around midnight on Sunday, leaving me with only 36 hours to make my game. In short, my limitations were many. Read more…

An Example of International Copyright Helping Nobody — Not Customer, nor Developer, nor Publisher

May 27, 2013 Leave a comment

This is cross-posted from my blog on Gamasutra.

This is the story all about how
My mind got flipped, turned upside down.
I’d like to take a minute, just sit right there,
And I’ll tell you how Apple’s customer service punished me for wanting to make an in-app purchase.

The Setup

When I make calls to customer service centers, I don’t usually have a normal problem. That’s the benefit of being more computer-savvy than most; I already know to check the cables, try restarting, clear the cache, etc. This time my problem was simple. I was pretty sure I understood the cause of the problem. When I made this call, I expected to be told there was no help for it and to be on my merry way, but Apple went a step further than that.

Here’s my unorthodox situation. I am a U.S. citizen living in Japan. I have a U.S. iTunes account, with which I’ve been merrily buying things for who knows how many years now from both the U.S. and from Japan. A little over a week ago, I got an iPhone from my Japanese phone carrier. I got it all set up and had no problems using my U.S. iTunes account with the Japanese iPhone.

I already had licenses for some iOS apps, from a time when my best friend got himself an iPhone and let me borrow his iPod Touch for a while. I added to that some new apps, including NimbleBit’s Tiny Tower. I decided that I wanted to make an in-app purchase, and that’s where I hit a snag.

My phone politely informed me that I couldn’t make in-app purchases and suggested that I contact customer service. Hmm, I thought. Maybe it’s because I have a U.S. iTunes account and am in Japan. So I tried making a purchase through a VPN. That didn’t succeed, either. So I called the U.S. Apple customer service.

The Punchline

I’m not going to give a full run-down of the call. In summary: I told the customer service rep what was up. He got me to give him my user ID so he could “see if [he] could find anything on my account.” He was gone for a couple of minutes, and when he came back he told me that they’d put a note of some kind on my account to keep it from allowing me to make any purchases outside the U.S. in the future, that I was in violation of the Terms of Service for having done so at all, and that I would still have access to things already purchased.

His conduct was kind of insulting; he got amazingly defensive in anticipation of hostility which was never going to come from me. He was just doing his job. I was in violation of the Terms of Service, which I should have read more thoroughly. I understood that he had done what he’d had to do to comply with Apple’s policies. And that those policies had been put into place because of international copyright law.

I also understood that international copyright law is the devil.

Here’s How This Hurts Everybody

First, the obvious one: I, the customer, am impacted. This decision to half-lock my account so the iTunes servers will pay attention to my global location infringes upon my life by making it so I can’t buy anything with that account. Yes, I can (and do) have a Japanese iTunes account for making purchases, but then I am stuck with getting my apps in Japanese — if the apps I want are available at all. Assuming the games I want are there, I don’t want the mindless games I play before I fall asleep to be in a foreign language. Furthermore, although I can use both accounts with my iPhone, I can only use one at a time. It’s incredibly inconvenient, at best. My motivation to buy anything is drastically reduced — not to mention the fact that the soft-boiled chicken egg of faith has cracks in the shell now.

Two, it hurts the developers. Why? Because even if I want to buy their software… I can’t! You have an amazing new game on the iTunes store? Fantastic. I’ll buy it when I go back to the states. If I ever go back to the states. Because I might not. If I do, it’ll be years from now. Hopefully I’ll remember that your game exists when the time comes.

And third… it hurts Apple itself. Because every lost sale is a sale that Apple doesn’t get its 30% cut of.

So if — as the customer service rep suggested — these policies are in place because of international copyright law… who the frell is this law helping?

The Soul of BitSummit

May 21, 2013 Leave a comment

This was originally posted on March 9, 2013 on my blog on Gamasutra. I really should have cross-posted it here in the first place. BitSummit is awesome and I am proud to have helped out with it. I fully intend to help again next year.

So, BitSummit happened on Saturday. It was a one-day event organized by James Mielke and Q-Games with the goal of helping Japanese independent game developers expand their reach. Epic Games, Unity, and Valve were in attendance to promote their tools and western media representatives from outlets including Wired, IGN, and GameSpot came to see what the game developers already had to offer.

The presentations were mostly informational, but James Mielke had the opening speech, in which he talked about his reasons for organizing the event. With the world of independent game development expanding, he feels that it’s a shame that talented Japanese independent developers see less recognition for their efforts. Japanese developers have a different pool of cultural expectations and experiences from which to draw, he pointed out, and the games they make reflect that. Mielke believes independent game developers in Japan have a lot to offer the industry, and that’s why he put BitSummit together.

BitSummit T-shirt back

The BitSummit T-shirt back was deliberately designed to include not just video game icons, but references to other parts of Japanese culture.

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Trifecta: Poke for OSX, Itch.io, and the Ender’s Game Trailer

Item one: there is now a Mac OSX build for Poke, the game I mentioned in my last post.

It can be downloaded from item two, which is my profile up at itch.io. Itch.io is a web site made by another Ludum Dare person. It’s designed to just be a place where indie game developers can host their game files. The site supports pay what you want models, with the minimum price being set by the developer and $0.00 being a viable minimum price. It’s a neat site.

Then there is item three, the first trailer for the Ender’s Game movie adaptation.

The book and I have a history. When I was 9, Ender’s Game became the first book so engrossing that I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning to finish reading. To this day, it and its inseparable sequel Speaker for the Dead are, together, my favorite book. I’ve waited many, many years for this movie adaptation to come to fruition.

If I love this book so much, you might ask, why would I look forward to the adaptation? Aren’t they usually bad? Read more…

Poke

April 28, 2013 Leave a comment

Another Ludum Dare has come around and once again I have participated. The theme this time was Minimalism, and I did not do as well this time as last time.

Poke Screenshot

Granted, this time my game looks more like a game; it has graphics instead of a text interface. It’s easier to get into, since it’s short and simple.

It has one major flaw, though, and that is that I cannot build the code into something a non-programmer can play. This has been extremely frustrating.

So now I am going to go play and rate other people’s Ludum Dare entries. Maybe next weekend I’ll try using a different graphics engine and see if I can get that one to build. If I do, I’ll link the file here so everyone can try it.