The Transfiguration

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Journey of the Day #2615

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Today went by on the sofa as I tried to fight off the bugs that have paid me a visit. It’s the sort of sick where you really can’t do much of anything at all, but fortunately I had Laurel here with me, and I watched her go through Journey twice.

Journey is a gorgeous game when you play alone, taking you through beautiful deserts with sparkling sands, but one of the best parts of it is the way it handles multiplayer. As you journey to the top of a distant mountain, you may occasionally run into other players who are at the same part of the adventure as you. Your only way of communicating is by creating little bubbles with a single rune; you don’t even know the other person’s name. There’s nothing that forces the two of you to stay together, though you do keep each other warm in the cold winds of the mountain.

For a game with such minimal communication, it does an amazing job of drawing people together, and if you stay with your companion through to the end it feels like you’ve made a friend. There’s something comforting about having a complete stranger come back to wait for you as you stumble over a few tricky jumps.

I will be getting to sleep soon, I think – hopefully I’ll be strong again in the morning.

yup yup yup

Written by Umbrella Man

November 19, 2015 at 10:08 pm

Posted in friends, games, people

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Photo of the Day #2589

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Photo of the Day #2589

Pearce didn’t quite get to save the land of Hyrule before the move, so we need to have him over now and then to finish his adventures. There’s a bit more left than I remembered, so Laurel and I snacked on spooky Oreos and milk while Pearce battled a flying leviathan infested with eyeball parasites.

Today was a bit of minor maintenance and a bit of time just to Be, and I think I feel better for it. Laurel and I went out for a walk, hoping to find the little mistress kitty she’d befriended, but no luck today. Another time, perhaps.

the core

Written by Umbrella Man

October 24, 2015 at 11:42 pm

Posted in friends, games, people

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Stage of the Day #2567

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Stage of the Day #2567

Here’s Anton and Pearce, sitting on our injured couch and trying to get through one of my Super Mario Maker stages.

Level design is a surprisingly difficult art, and the process of building something fun and interesting takes a lot of thought and iteration, building ideas and scrapping them for new ones. It’s not a skill I”m ever going to master, but it’s fun to dabble in with this game. Creating a good level requires placing yourself in another’s mental state; players will know nothing about what thought went into your design, so you have to build it in a way such that it teaches them as they go.

That is to say: it’s very interesting to watch people play levels I make, since they will miss things I thought were obvious, make mistakes I didn’t expect, take shortcuts that I thought were impossible; my mind creates a shape and theirs digests it by an entirely different process, and the discrepancy is so fascinating.

This particular level, though, was maybe a little cruel. Anton fell off the angry caterpillar onto the spikes below many times before giving up, and that’s entirely my fault. There’s plenty to learn here, as in all things.

the great wiggler robbery

Written by Umbrella Man

October 3, 2015 at 1:06 am

Posted in friends, games, people

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Colony of the Day #2542

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Colony of the Day #2542

This was taken moments before the pivotal dice roll that spelled doom for our colony in the wintry zombie apocalypse. With morale low, our refugees near starving and the zombies closing in, we needed one survivor to journey out from the colony and secure the hospital. There was a 1 in 12 chance that he wouldn’t survive, but the die came up with a foreboding human tooth, and that last refugee’s death lead to the collapse of our colony.

I wonder how we’d do in real life.

Anyway, Anton is back for good now, and made it out to see us even after a flight across the country. It’s good to have him back with us again.

So ends our little vacation – tomorrow works begins again, and I won’t catch quite enough sleep before then. So many things to do, always, always.

mega man 2

Written by Umbrella Man

September 8, 2015 at 12:55 am

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Inkling of the Day #2490

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Inkling of the Day #2490

Laurel and I are trading off fighting for the glory of Roller Coasters and Water Slides, respectively, in an in-game festival tonight. A loss for her team is technically a win for mine, but we have to cheer each other on anyway.

Both of us seem to be on a pretty good losing streak, so it seems to be balancing out. We’ve got junk food and each other here, and it’s been a good night.

Mom came by during the games to drop off a fold-up lightbox she found – a set of screens and lamps for isolating subjects in soft light. Our little hero here made a good test subject, ready to coat the world in artificially-flavored macaroni cheese sauce.

Pearce is here now, squeezing a few more bass lines into his neurons for tomorrow.

you are the only one

Written by Umbrella Man

July 18, 2015 at 1:35 am

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Couch of the Day #2480

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Couch of the Day #2480

We go to work, come back home, and do our little nightly habits – a bit of game, some coding, burritos and Star Trek on the couch, talking about nonsense things in low light. These are not nights of any great spectacle, but it’s still a fine way to spend an evening, and I am glad to share this sofa with Laurel.

A little more than a month and we’ll be able to claim our home together. We’ll make something lovely of it, and it will be such a different place to wake up in the morning.

laurel sneaks ahead

Written by Umbrella Man

July 7, 2015 at 11:10 pm

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Movement of the Day #2472

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Movement of the Day #2472

More and more over the past few years I’ve come to view creative works – books, movies, music, video games, comics – as the product of a fellow human, something personally crafted, driven by inspiration and flawed like every person is, rather than as something materialized from the void by deep magic. Even if I am not as much of a creator, I’m seeing artists as peers, and the things they make as part of the lives they live, and that’s letting me appreciate creative pieces in a different way.

Through the creator of the PICO-8 I learned about this game, Strawberry Cubes, in which the world is constructed of cellular automata, growing and shifting in an aesthetic that straddles the line between mechanical and organic. You need to see it in motion to appreciate it; for a game working with such a simple palette it’s very eerie.

Loren Schmidt kept using the hashtag #altgames, which I’d never heard of, so I did some exploring. It turns out to be something of a subset of Indie game development; there seems to be a community growing around the concept, but it’s so young that most of the explanations online are made of clouds of Twitter messages.

@erichermit says: to me it’s like, making the game you want to play or tells the story you want tot ell w/o compromising for wide appeal?

@lectronice says: #indiedev is for people who want to make games to live, #altgames is for people who want to live to make games.

@inurashii says: To me, #altgames are works with alternative audience goals. They may be for a niche, or everybody, or the author themselves… …but the goal of #altgames is, in my belief, to evoke an emotion or set of emotions in the audience(s). To make them feel something.

(These tweets found here)

In short, these are games made by individuals driven by creative expression rather than by what’s profitable in the gaming industry. Altgames are tiny worlds to explore, or encapsulated emotions, or just an aesthetic to submerge yourself in for a moment, and I think that’s wonderful.

A lot of altgame talk discussed the economic difficulties of it: creators who want to create something that pretty much by definition is not marketable, that will appeal to only a few people (but hopefully resonate deeply with some of them). The quandary is how we go about supporting creators like this, who are working so hard in such a niche field.

There is also a strange sort of moral question to it – should these people even be spending so much time on work that few others will appreciate? It would have been an absurd use of time long ago, when every hand was needed for communities to survive, but we are reaching a point where very little human labor will be necessary to support everyone, and on that path to a post-scarcity economy, artist exploration will be so important.

I want to create, too; but I have decided thus far to be practical about things, to make a decent living instead of dedicating all of my time to creating. This does free my from a lot of economic stress, and in my remaining free time I can still make things – albeit slowly. What’s more, I afford to help support these other creators. Strawberry Cubes comes out on Thursday, and I’m looking forward to seeing what strange worlds Loren Schmidt has crafted.


Written by Umbrella Man

June 30, 2015 at 12:23 am

Posted in games, pixels, ruminations

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