Category Archives: News

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 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.

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.

“The Whispering Thing” Released

In honor of Halloween, here is a new game: “The Whispering Thing,” released by Future Proof Games, the company I’ve started with Melissa Avery-Weir.

Triggers: suicide, bullying, impostor complex, etymology, cannibalism.

Lynn stands on the edge of the roof, the back of her heels over nothing but air.

The whispering thing slowly creeps toward her, its voice lost in the wind. Lights glitter below.

She loses her balance and falls backward.

Today did not turn out how she expected it to.

The Whispering Thing” is a hypertext horror game created with Twine.

You can play it at Future Proof Games.

Future Proof Games is still in its infancy, but we’re preparing to put out our first big work: Ossuary.

Games Are Better Than Life

I’ve been sorting through my inbox lately in pursuit of the elusive zero. As I’ve done so I’ve come across some disheartening things: business opportunities I missed or let languish, messages from people who played my games whom I never responded to, and personal communications that (with hindsight) I would have handled differently or continued longer.

At the same time, I’ve been playing Assassin’s Creed II (which I put off for a long time due to the awful DRM, now improved). Its sidequests have grown tedious, so I’ve been soldiering through the game just to complete the plot, despite the fact that the story would be a disappointment even if I got it in a 25-cent used-book-store paperback.

So much of my real-life time is taken up with things that don’t leave me with anything lasting, while things that are actually important have languished. What does it mean when I can focus on the important part of a game, but I let life’s sidequests distract me from the central plot?

It means that games are better than life.
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Passing the Ball Released

A screenshot from Passing the Ball showing a parent and child in a field of grass.My latest game, “Passing the Ball,” has gone live on the GDC Online website. It’s a game about parenting, playing catch, and digital safety for kids.

The good folks behind GDC Online, a professional conference for connected gaming, commissioned me to create a game for Web Wise Kids. Web Wise Kids is a really cool non-profit that provides curriculum materials and classroom video games for parents and teachers that focus on teaching kids to be their own first lines of defense against digital threats. They help prepare kids to avoid online bullying, viruses, and dangerous adults by teaching them how to safely surf the web and use other digital technologies. They use their own games to educate kids and encourage safe behavior without a lot of fear-mongering. You can donate to Web Wise Kids here.

I tried to make this game communicate a concept about how to protect kids by using game mechanics. I’m usually a story-focused person, but game rules are a great way to make a statement about the way the world works. I hope that you’ll play the game until you win, get the message I was trying to convey, and maybe even donate to Web Wise Kids!

Play “Passing the Ball” at GDC Online at Newgrounds.

Interview on Quote Unquote

A clip from a screenshot of my unreleased OssuarySteve Cook interviewed me for his great quotation and interview site Quote Unquote. In it he asks some good questions, including putting me on the spot regarding the pixelly aesthetic of a lot of my games.

I go back and forth on pixel art. A lot of people regard it as amateurish: a way to compensate for lack of drawing ability. Others dismiss it as nostalgia for childhood games. I think that there’s bad pixel art and amazing pixel art, and while there’s definitely nostalgia there, that very nostalgia can be useful for artistic purposes. My own pixel art isn’t anywhere close to the quality that many artists achieve, of course, but I think it’s passable for my purposes.

Pixel art is visual video game shorthand for an array of things: childishness, simplicity, or even a sort of wisdom born from history. It’s also the video game equivalent of cartooning. Pixel art stylizes and pointillizes, making its subjects more universal and accessible. It’s also a deliberate acknowledgement of the artificiality of the device being used. In a time where the iPhone’s Retina display resolution is at the upper limits of the human eye, pixel art exposes the underlying structure of the screen.

Anyway, enough rambling. Check out the interview, and read some of the other stuff on the site; there are a lot of cool things there! He also included some previously-unseen pieces of concept art and miscellany behind a link at the end of the article, if you’re interested.

Character Progression in F.E.A.R.

An enemy from F.E.A.R. seen through the scope of a sniper rifleI’ve resumed writing for GameSetWatch. My latest column just went live; it’s called Character Progression in F.E.A.R., and it’s about how increasing the player character’s options instead of increasing their strength can prevent a game from feeling flat.

F.E.A.R. was an odd game for me. The shooting part was fun and pretty and it was just the right amount of difficulty (or sometimes a bit too hard), but the rest of the game was… not very interesting. The horror elements rarely grabbed me, the story was almost pastiche, and the dramatic twists were clear to me after the first level. That’s not even bringing up one of the most offensive video game characters in recent memory. Hey, it’s a fat guy! And he’ll get bumbling clown music! And you’ll know that you’re about to meet him again when you see food wrappers scattered around. Seriously.

So while F.E.A.R. is technically advanced for its time and well-designed from a gameplay perspective, I was ready for it to be over about halfway through. And that’s never a situation you want a player to be in.