Category Archives: Digital Games

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Headless Swarm Released

Headless Swarm” has landed.

It’s the first season of paid story for Exploit: Zero Day, our cyberthriller puzzle game about social justice hacktivism. The game’s still in alpha1 but buying “Headless Swarm” will get you immediate access to the game, the free season of story “Black Echoes,” and the first couple of jobs in the new season.

Our living story approach to plot in Exploit: Zero Day means that we release story gradually over time during the first run of a season. It means that you get to play story sooner and lets us adapt our approach as we see how story is received. “Headless Swarm” will be nine jobs in total, released over the coming months and all included in the single purchase.

This storyline is pretty cool, I think! It focuses around a real, scary hacking technique and explores the growing ubiquity of drones, the effect cyberintrusion and hacktivism can have on society, and how corporations use the fear of cyberattack to collect power. I’m also proud of the new characters and organizations we’ve written: Kilroy-sama is weird and silly, OnyxHorde feels like a good balance between sinister and contemptible, and Shay Oakes legit creeps me out. I hope players enjoy it, too.

Check out “Headless Swarm” here!

  1. With free access given periodically through our newsletter.

Exploit: Zero Day – Headless Swarm Landing December 1

For years I’ve been working at Future Proof Games with my partner Melissa on Exploit: Zero Day, a cyberthriller with living story where you roleplay as a hacktivist by making and solving puzzles that represent computer systems. It’s been in closed alpha testing for a while, but on December 1, 2016 we’ll be releasing our first season of paid story: “Headless Swarm.”

You can read more about the release and the game on our announcement blog post, but here I’ll just say that I really hope people check the game out and spread the word about the release. Even if you don’t want to buy the season right now, please sign up for the newsletter and you can get free alpha access when the season comes out. Make some puzzles, play the free story, and let us know what you think. And if you like it, consider picking up “Headless Swarm!”

With everything going on in the world right now, both Melissa and I want to feel like we’re making a difference. We’re trying to do that in a bunch of different ways but one of them is with Exploit: Zero Day. We want this game to be a way to explore difficult moral topics and modern technological ethics and encourage players to think hard about them, especially if they’ve never done so before. The more people hear about the game, the more successful we can be at that.

Please let your friends know about the game! If you’re press or a streamer, please reach out to us for free media keys on distribute().

Invisible Design in Picross 3D: Round 2

Why is no one talking about Picross 3D: Round 2?

Picross 3D Round 2 Complete Puzzle

To put it another way, what can I say about Picross 3D: Round 2?

It is an ideal game. It’s not perfect; I could list flaws like the error-prone controls if I were ever inclined to write a review. But as someone who likes to write about games as works of art and craft, it’s almost too ideal to grasp. Like the smooth carved-wood toys you produce when solving puzzles in the game, there are no hard corners or rough spots to get a rhetorical grip on.

The game just follows. It follows from its ruleset and its heritage and the decisions made in its design are all either necessary or arbitrary. The decisions are hard to even notice and games like these receive less attention in the critical space due to this invisible design.

Continue reading Invisible Design in Picross 3D: Round 2

“The Majesty of Colors” Remastered

Majesty Greenlight PromoBig news! As part of Future Proof Games, I’m remastering my classic Flash art game “The Majesty of Colors” for modern technologies. Instead of Flash, the game will be available natively for Windows, OSX, Linux, iOS, and Android. We’re polishing some rough edges but otherwise staying true to the original.

This feels very odd! “(I Fell in Love With) The Majesty of Colors” is one of the first games I made that got any attention and remains one of my most-recognized games. It can be a bit frustrating sometimes that a game I made almost eight years ago is more familiar to folks than my recent work, but the truth is that “Majesty” is one of my favorite projects I’ve worked on, along with Looming, Ossuary, and Exploit: Zero Day. Out of all my games that are becoming inaccessible due to the fading of Adobe Flash, “Majesty” is the one I most want to preserve.

I’m hoping that there’s an audience for weird little art games in the modern gaming world, especially on Steam. If you think there is, please vote for us on Steam Greenlight.

Otherwise, you can see the trailer and get more information on the official website of “The Majesty of Colors”.

Let me know if you have any questions!

Strange Symmetra: Accretive Design in Overwatch

Symmetra_Overwatch_001Symmetra is the most strangely-designed character in Blizzard’s Overwatch. In a game where most heroes’ roles can be summed up in a few words (“fast flanker,” “mobile area-denial tank,” “AOE healer,” “slowing defender”) and their story concepts naturally arise from their roles (“time-traveling jet pilot,” “leaping electric gorilla,” “portable DJ,” “cute ice Satan”1), Symmetra makes little sense.

She builds many tiny sentries, gives minor shields to allies, builds teleporters, and can attack with either a short-range cumulative auto-aim beam or a slow-moving death orb. This is explained by her being a combination architect and sci-fi construction worker, shaping solid forms out of light. She is the only character with “photonic” technology, and it is not explained how being able to project physical holograms also lets you bend space and time to craft a teleportation portal.

I have no special insight into the Overwatch design process, but I can speculate with some confidence about how it proceeded. Symmetra (and indeed all the heroes) were not designed from the ground up. They were assembled using an accretive process, where abilities were assembled piecemeal and then unified with a story-based concept.
Continue reading Strange Symmetra: Accretive Design in Overwatch

  1. I find Mei infuriating to play against.

Challenge is a Calibration

I’ve read one too many “git gud” posts arguing that challenge is essential to games and that including an easy mode on, say, Dark Souls would ruin it; if you don’t want a hard game, don’t play Dark Souls. They’re wrong. Firstly, challenge isn’t an inherent aspect of games: it’s just one way of evoking certain player responses. Challenge is partly a personal preference thing: some people want a smooth experience and I do think that Dark Souls is a poor choice for that, and that experiencing Dark Souls as a cake walk won’t let you understand Dark Souls.

But that’s not the point. My perspective was summarized pretty eloquently by Rob Fearon but I feel like it can be distilled even further. The argument: what is hard for you might not be hard for me.

Look at it this way.

Continue reading Challenge is a Calibration

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The Transformative Power of Good Writing – Wolfenstein: The New Order

Wolfenstein: The New Order, developed by MachineGames and published by Bethesda, should have been awful. If you’d asked me before release, I’d have predicted that the ninth game in a franchise, an alternate-history game set in the 1960s where the Nazis won World War II, featuring B.J. Blazkowicz as a recovered locked-in veteran, would only be good for a few hot takes and maybe some mediocre shooting with nose firmly held.

Instead, this game is one of the best I’ve played. It’s not just great, it’s well-crafted. That is to say that, beyond the things that appeal to my personal preferences (alternate history, cool sci-fi, a diverse cast, a dark tone, a considered pace) it shows great skill in how it executes what it sets out to do.

The credit for this success belongs to various factors—the expressive visual art, the excellent voice acting, and the well-polished rule systems—but more than anything, it’s thanks to the excellent writing.

Continue reading The Transformative Power of Good Writing – Wolfenstein: The New Order

Ossuary in Steam Summer Sale 2016

Our 2013 game Ossuary is currently on sale for $7.49 on Steam!

Blog Summer Sale 2016 Offer

I wrote all of Ossuary and released it with my partner as the first project of Future Proof Games. It’s a little game that’s pixelly and funny and strange. You’re a newcomer to a macabre philosophical underworld, and to escape you have to solve conversation-based puzzles and use sins as inventory items. I used it to explore a lot of Discordian concepts and perspectives, so in a sense it’s a religious work for me.

It’s weird looking back on Ossuary. I’m really proud of how it turned out, although it’s never had real financial success. We’ve sold maybe a couple thousand copies. For now it’s paying Future Proof’s monthly expenses for servers and such, but it’s certainly not making enough to provide us with paychecks. Each sale on Steam helps a bit, though, so if you haven’t picked up the game, check it out! It’s cheap! (And hey, if you know someone you think will like Ossuary, you can always get it for them as a gift!)

And a final request: if you have played Ossuary, please do leave a Steam review. Our 17 reviews are 94% positive, but Steam won’t list them as “Very Positive” or “Overwhelmingly Positive” until we have enough of them. Anecdotal evidence strongly suggests that these categories make folks more likely to check out an otherwise-unknown game.

Thank you for reading!

A Stillness of Mind, Skill Honed Sharp – Hyper Light Drifter

Screenshot of Hyper Light Drifter from Steam user 芊一.
Screenshot of Hyper Light Drifter from Steam user 芊一.
Hyper Light Drifter, from Heart Machine1, is an inscrutable game: one which presents you with various mysteries and challenges, inviting you to overcome them, but doesn’t bother guiding you along that path. It’s part of a new trend in so-called “retro-inspired” games that recontextualizes the challenge and low fidelity of console game from the 1980s as intentional, stylistic choices. Because of these choices, it has limited accessibility but provides a specific mood and emotional journey that would be difficult to evoke in a more populist game.

Continue reading A Stillness of Mind, Skill Honed Sharp – Hyper Light Drifter

  1. A company with whom I feel a sort of kinship, as their logo has some strong similarities with that of my company, Future Proof Games.

Ludus Novus 025: Idle, Incremental

In this episode of the Ludus Novus podcast, I discuss incremental games, also known as idle games or clickers. How did a formula that started as satirical jokes from people like Ian Bogost yield things like A Dark Room? Games discussed: Cow Clicker, Progress Quest, Candy Box, Cookie Clicker, A Dark Room.

The Ludus Novus podcast is supported by my patrons. To help, please visit my Patreon. The theme music is “A Foolish Game (Vox Harmony Adds)” by Snowflake, Admiral Bob, and Sackjo22, available on ccMixter.