Hadean Lands

Map screen of the iOS version of Hadean LandsI’ve been playing Hadean Lands by Andrew Plotkin, a parser-based interactive fiction game that I backed on Kickstarter in 2010. It was just released; almost four years is a long time to wait for an IF game, but with this game’s complexity I can understand what took so long.

The game is an exploration of alchemical processes. It follows the tradition of steampunk and Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, among others, by examining a society in which a form of magic exists from a speculative fiction perspective: it’s set on a “marcher,” an alchemical spaceship, where you are a mysterious “swabbie” after a mysterious accident. At the same time, it’s a stunningly well-implemented work of IF programming.
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The Sublime Bioshock 2

Bioshock 2 is the best Bioshock. It has the best gameplay and story, yes, but it also is the best at being Bioshock. Bioshock games share a fundamental DNA. A lighthouse, a man, a city — okay, sure, but it’s more than such a banal recitation of symbols. Bioshock is about extreme philosophy, parenthood, and the subversion of flesh, mind, and environment. Bioshock 2 is the purest instance of this formula.

I’ll be discussing Bioshock, Bioshock 2, and Bioshock: Infinite. I won’t be discussing DLC/expansion packs, although Minerva’s Den is excellent and Burial at Sea is impressive if eventually disappointing.

There will be spoilers.
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Awaiting the End: A One-Sheet GM-less RPG

blog_awaiting200x200If you don’t follow our posts over at Future Proof Games, we released a free little tabletop roleplaying game earlier this month.

Awaiting the End” is a GM-less story-focused game for as few as three people where you play people trapped in a Place awaiting a Doom and you tell stories about how you got there. It requires minimal preparation and the rules fit on a tri-fold pamphlet.

If you’d like to get the game for free and read some more about the making of it, check out the release post on the Future Proof Games blog. If you’d like to give us a bit of money, it’s available as Pay-What-You-Want on DriveThruRPG.com.

What is Ludus Novus For?

Over the past year, I’ve put up a single post on this site that’s not directly related to our company Future Proof Games. Everything else has been FPG related, mostly promotional stuff for Ossuary.

I’ve been asking myself what I want Ludus Novus to be for. In the past it’s been rather focused on game design, but I think it’s time to expand that a bit. Games are my life, but I’ll be writing a lot about them for the FPG blog as well. So I hope to use this space for a bit more eclectic set of stuff, including:

  • Personal news
  • Posts about other things important to me like polyamory, feminism/queer issues, and nonviolent communication
  • Feelings about games I’ve been playing
  • Podcast episodes (hopefully!)
  • Brief FPG updates and crossposts

In general, I want to take some of the pressure off of myself, to encourage me to put up stuff that’s less polished and more frequent. I may still post more theoretical game design stuff, but a lot of that will show up on the FPG blog instead.

Is there something you’d like to see in this space that’s a better fit for Ludus Novus than Future Proof Games?

Ossuary on Greenlight

My recent game Ossuary is now up on Steam Greenlight! With enough “Yes” votes we can become available for sale on Steam and reach more people with the game.

We’ve been struggling to get Ossuary the attention we think it deserves. It’s really hard to stay up late sending out free copies to the press and then see that none of them get redeemed. Getting through the Greenlight process isn’t a sure thing, and even if we get on Steam there’s no guarantee we’ll do well. But making games that mean something is important to me, and I intend to keep trying to make it work.

Ossuary Demo: The Hodge-Podge Transformer

OssuaryDemo200x200We’ve released a new game in the Ossuary universe: “The Hodge-Podge Transformer.” It’s a demo, a prologue to Ossuary, and a standalone game featuring all-new characters, setting, and puzzles. It will give you a good idea of what Ossuary is like (and let you test it on your computer!) while still not showing everything about the full game.

“The Hodge-Podge Transformer” was an odd project. For a while, I had no idea how to make a demo for Ossuary, and then inspiration struck rather fast and it planned itself out in my head. I’ve been downplaying the spiritual aspects of Ossuary, probably to avoid it being known as “that Discordian game,” but it’s a little bit tempting to claim divine inspiration for this one.

The demo should go up on major Flash portals tomorrow, but for now you can play it at Future Proof Games.

Inspiration and Gone Home

Some games feel inspirational. They do something so different or clever or well-crafted that they make you want to learn from them, to use the same techniques in your own work. Ico and Shadow of the Colossus are big examples: they helped inspire everything from Knytt (still one of my favorites) to, surely, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. Half-Life did this for the entire medium, to the extent that we are still feeling the meager aftershocks every time we watch a scripted game event while we wait for an NPC to open a door.

Gone Home gives me that itching sensation of inspiration. I want to make a game like this, one that depends on exploration and exacting observation. One that feels calm but also ominous. One that explores themes like love and family, however sentimentally. Unfortunately, the game is singular enough that I have trouble imagining an inspired work that isn’t hopelessly derivative.
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What Is Ossuary?

On Wednesday, Future Proof Games released our first game for money, Ossuary. We’ve started getting cool attention from cool people, but something that I’m reading a lot is that people aren’t quite sure what to make of it. What exactly is Ossuary?

Personally, I think part of the experience of the game is finding that out, but in the interest of letting people know what they’re paying for, here are some more details about Ossuary.
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Ossuary Released

My latest game, Ossuary, is now available. It’s a game about order, virtue, and kicking bone spiders.

The last thing you remember is receiving an unsatisfying answer. A plunge through the fundamental chaos takes you to a place of bones. Great power can be found within the Ossuary, but those who are not lying to themselves are lying to you.

Buy Ossuary, DRM-free, at Future Proof Games.

This is the first game I’ve released for sale, and I’m really anxious about it! I hope it disturbs and enlightens you.