Monthly Archives: February 2011


This was a problem at Rose, for me and other students. It was an insular environment, and it was entirely too easy to never leave campus except to replenish your supplies of ramen, soda, and snack food. The city of Terre Haute didn’t make it much easier; it wasn’t the sort of place that had a lot of date options, especially for socially-inexperienced geeks. Often, the most culturally-interesting performances took place at the big auditorium on campus, and it lacked a certain romantic quality to take a date to a classical concert a stone’s throw from your dorm room and then on a walk down the mosquito-infested path to the second, lousier baseball diamond.

A Ride Home

Playing With My Food

I played one of my favorite games today: grocery shopping.

I am a geek: a person inclined to get excited over the minutia of a topic or topics. One of the ways I manifest this is by being a foodie. I enjoy the history, science, and craft of food preparation and consumption. Food has more in common with games than one might think. In fact, everything about food can be appreciated in the same way as a game.

The first-world way we approach food fundamentally a luxury. We need to eat, but our basic needs can be taken care of by any number of inexpensive and simple foods. The countless choices available at a grocery store and the multitude of preparations are frivolous from the perspective of our pre-technological ancestors or even from the perspective of a less-well-off third- or second-world citizen.

That means that my grocery experience was only a short hop away from being a game.
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We had some sort of sportball tournament against a school named DePauw my sophomore year. Someone — the SGA? a fraternity? — had the bright idea to craft shirts that said “DePauw Sucks.” You know, for the school spirit and sportsmanship. This bothered a lot of the faculty.

There’s a generational divide here, I think. For people my age, saying something “sucks” is generally a harmless insult. I try not to use it anymore, because it’s rooted in some unpleasant homophobic and sex-negative concepts, but it doesn’t cause a strong reaction in me. However, for people who are old enough, I get the impression that “sucks” is strongly associated with its roots; that is, every time a person of a certain age hears “sucks,” they think “sucks cock.” For my generation, “sucks” is a casual insult. For someone sufficiently older, it’s irredeemably vulgar.

So someone — the faculty? parents? a passing DePauw alumnus? — objected, as they probably should have. In response, the Powers That Be offered a deal: they would provide, free of charge, a shirt that said “Beat DePauw” in exchange for the “DePauw Sucks” shirts.

If you know anything about the obstinacy, rebelliousness, and willful vulgarity of college students, you can guess how well that was received.

Fine-Tuned: Being Troy Sterling

I’ve just gotten around to playing “Fine-Tuned,” a 2001 work of interactive fiction by Dennis Jerz. It’s a fun piece about a 1920s dandy with an automobile and an opera singer given a strange job. I’m about halfway through, and the game reportedly ends in a cliffhanger (which is disappointing), but so far I’m impressed at how excellently the game puts me into the heads of its characters.

I’ve had a shift in my gaming tastes over the years. There was a time when I most wanted story from my games; that is to say, a narrative, an interesting series of events that needed not be too interactive. These days, however, I’m most interested in character and setting; I want to be an interesting person and/or explore an interesting world. Oh, I still want a good story, but it’s now third on my list of priorities instead of first.

“Fine-Tuned” does an amazing job of letting you roleplay its characters. Miss Melody Sweet, the opera singer, is proper and polite yet independent and practical, and playing her is a pleasant joy. However, it’s Troy Sterling, a daredevil-for-hire(-in-training) and all-around likeable guy, who steals the show. There’s an early sequence where Sterling, controlled by the player, drives to town, pausing only to clean up litter, rescue a baby bird, and wave to a passerby. It’s a joy playing the cheery and friendly Sterling. Read along in this edited transcript:
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Pretty proud of this one. Civil-teasing was always a rather clumsy and cruel affair; it always seemed to me that civil engineers got the brunt of the teasing from other disciplines (with computer scientists a close second), and sort of had their own cliques that in turn looked down on everyone else. I wanted to do a comic that was laughing with the civils, not at them, and I hope I succeeded. Civils didn’t wear overalls, really. But I imagine it can be nice to date someone who likes to play in the dirt.

“A Ride Home” Released

I’ve just released “A Ride Home.” “A Ride Home” is a game about patience, futility, and walking. It’s my first finished experiment with Unity.

Morning again. Time to check the beacon.

You can play “A Ride Home” at Kongregate. Give it a rating if you like it!

3D is an interesting tool to work with. Unity is an amazing tool and its free version is totally worth checking out for anyone interested in dipping their toes into 3D. EDIT: This game was made entirely with the free version, along with free tools like Blender, GIMP, and Audacity.

The Cost of Content

The most expensive part of game development is content production. This is a bit unintuitive: if you look at a game like Kirby’s Epic Yarn, you immediately see the cool graphical style, the fun game mechanics, and the well-polished charm. The clear advancements Starcraft II made over the first game are its increased graphical fidelity and its modified gameplay elements. The levels are just where the game happens; they’re rarely the interesting part. However, I’d bet you that more person-hours were spent making those levels than on any other single aspect of the game. This is a big part of the appeal of procedural content.
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The mitten hands were a stylistic choice, not a reflection of laziness, but here they look especially bad. And again with the Featureless White Void. I really should have put some sort of background in, even if it was a single horizon line.