Games Are Better Than Life

June 21st, 2013

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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Stated Goals

December 6th, 2012

Anna Anthropy posted a list of her games’ goals in response to a challenge by Andi “Jumpman” McClure. Seemed like something worth doing for my own games. So below are the stated player character or plot goals in my games. I’m not including LORE, since goals depend entirely on the individual group playing it.
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Available for Contract and Commission

November 16th, 2012

Hi! My work on Ossuary is wrapping up, and I’m currently in a planning and evaluation mode. It’s a good time to announce my availability for contract and commission work! If you’re interested in hiring me, contact me at gregory.weir@gmail.com.

Writing and Design Contractor

Do you have a digital game in development with fun mechanics but want a story to go along with it? Is your core gameplay solid but you’re struggling to create interesting puzzles, challenges, and situations? Do you just need some help producing enough content to complete your game? You can hire a writer and designer with an established record and experience doing game design, puzzle design, and critically-acclaimed game writing. I’m also experienced in programming and have a decent understanding of visual art, so I can communicate well with the rest of your team.

My portfolio includes interesting, tricky puzzles, mental challenges integrated with strong story, and pure environmental storytelling. Upon request, I can show you a complete but unreleased dialogue-based adventure game or testimonials from previous contract employers.

Bespoke Commissions

Do you want a digital game for a special event, to promote a cause, or on a certain topic? Do you want someone who can provide a strong creative vision? Do you value meaning, narrative, and aesthetic choices instead of the flashiest technology? You can commission a custom game from me. I’m happy to work with you to determine the scope, design, and costs that are appropriate to your requirements.

For an example of my work, see “Passing the Ball,” commissioned by the organizers of the GDC Online professional convention to promote the charity WebWiseKids.

Mod Commissions

Do you like one of my games? Would you like to see a game a lot like it? I can modify an existing game of mine with new content or replace elements of the game with something of your choosing. I’m not selling my creative soul here; I’m happy to work with you to make a modified version that satisfies my standards. This option is likely to be a lot cheaper than a fully custom commission!

Because of my obligations to my sponsors, some distribution options may be unavailable for certain modifications. At the very least I’ll be able to make a downloadable version of your mod that can be played offline. We’ll discuss pricing based on distribution options and the degree of the changes you want made.

How to Contact Me

If you want to hire me, please e-mail me at gregory.weir@gmail.com. You’re welcome to discuss this post in the comments, but I’d prefer to discuss any actual projects in private!

Ossuary: Long Screenshot Saturday

November 10th, 2012

Welcome to the Academy! This is where the members of the Hemlock Fellowship practice the virtue of Prudence. Prudence is all about knowing enough about the world to properly judge between right and wrong. The Academy is on the cutting edge of understanding morality. Our Academy has proved through research and study that the moral precepts passed down by our forebearers are held up by cold scientific fact! Isn’t that impressive?

Ossuary is in testing. Soon you will become trapped in the place of bones.
Captured with FRAPS. Edited with Blender.

ConTeXt: an alternative to LaTeX

November 9th, 2012

I’m working on a full release of my tabletop roleplaying game LORE, which I released as a beta in 2009. The game will be extensively updated with clarifications, rebalancing, enhancements, and a far-better “conflict” system that provides a unified rule set for combats, debates, and other interesting situations. There’s one problem with the LORE beta that’s more visible than any of these.

The LORE beta is ugly.

I laid it out in OpenOffice.org, which is a word processor, not a document layout application. There’s a standard solution for the terminally technical author who wants to produce beautiful documents: LaTeX, hereafter referred to as “Latex.” Unfortunately, as great as Latex is at providing low-effort, decent layout for things like academic articles, it’s really awkward and frustrating if you need to do the kind of complex page layouts that a roleplaying sourcebook demands.

My alternative? ConTeXt. Or, for my sanity, “Context.” Context is based on TeX like Latex is, but it’s focused more on general purpose typography and page layout than Latex, which mostly tries to keep those concerns out of the user’s way. Despite its frustratingly limited documentation, Context has proved far better-suited to my project. I’ll explain in more detail below.
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The Sea Will Claim Everything

June 14th, 2012


Jonas Kyratzes’s new game, The Sea Will Claim Everything, is now on sale as an individual product. This is an amazing work, and you should get it the next time you have $10 to spend on a game.
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Courtly Intrigue LARP Rules Part 1

May 21st, 2012

I’ve found myself longing to play in a Live-Action Roleplaying Game that focuses on courtly intrigue. What I mean by this is the social sparring, witty repartee, and backroom dealing that happens among aristocrats in the movie Ridicule or among university professors jockeying for tenure. I’ve experienced some of this when playing Vampire: The Requiem using the Mind’s Eye Theatre rules, but that game has a major problem for me. Characters can kill each other with strange powers, so someone playing the political game has to also worry that the person they’re verbally sparring with can decapitate them with a swipe.

I’m working on the rules, but I want to design in the open so that I can get feedback and suggestions. Here are my base concepts for the game:

  1. This will be a LARP in the American Theatrical style. No foam weapons, and the game runs similarly to a tabletop roleplaying game.
  2. Sessions take approximately four hours and can be linked into an ongoing game.
  3. The game can be played with minimal intervention from a Game Master, although an organizer may help with bookkeeping.
  4. The game can be played while standing and moving around, with limited interference from out-of-character mechanics.
  5. Direct combat is not useful. Any victories or defeats will happen through social interaction.
  6. Special in-character skills or abilities may help a character, but they will not take the place of social intrigue.
  7. While a player’s strategy and charisma will be helpful, a player lacking social skills or cleverness can still have fun and influence things.

My idea so far is a combination of concepts from the card game Whist, the TV show Survivor, and the mancala game Oware.
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Namatjira Dawn

May 8th, 2012

For some time now I’ve been working on a project called Namatjira. It’s a game that Melissa Avery-Weir and I have been designing and working on for years now, but we’ve only recently gotten serious about it. The following shots are pre-alpha; the final product may look different.

Namatjira Map View Screenshot
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Two Interviews

November 22nd, 2011

I’ve spoken with a few people lately, and two of the interviews have gone live. First, there’s my talk with the Armchair Gamer Podcast. We chatted about games each of us is playing, and then the hosts asked me an array of questions. I even talk more about some upcoming projects than I believe I have before. You can listen to the episode on its page.

I also spoke with Games For Change about my recent title “Passing the Ball.” They asked some interesting questions about mood and interactive storytelling. You can read the interview on their blog. I understand they’ll be posting a part 2 soon with an interview with some of the GDC Online folks who commissioned the game!

I Just Uninstalled GTA IV

November 8th, 2011

I started playing Grand Theft Auto IV a few days ago. I uninstalled it today. Steam says I spent 16 hours playing, out of its assuredly fifty-plus hours of content. Many of those hours were spent paused while I was doing something else.

Nico Bellic was drawn to America by his cousin’s stories of wealth and comfort. A life without killing or pain, where things were easy and nothing hurt.

The main characters and relationships in the game are endearing in a dark way. The graphics were quite nice, especially when compared to the previous game in the series, GTA: San Andreas, which my wife is playing right now. The amount of detail in the city and the number of things one can do are amazing.

In reality, life in Liberty City was a struggle. It was the same cycle of steal, kill, flee as before, except in an unfamiliar place where everything is harder and everyone is a stranger. No respect and no opportunities. And always the need for money.

But the game isn’t interesting. The gameplay is the same as previous games, with clumsier driving and walking and slightly better shooting. The missions are more restrictive than ever. In GTA III, you could cleverly solve missions by blocking an escape route with a car or planting a bomb in a target’s truck. In most of GTAIV‘s missions, you must use this car and go here, and then the guy will escape in a cutscene that removes any obstacles, and then you must chase him across the city and he’s impossible to catch and then he flees on foot and you confront him in another cutscene. And if you screw up at any point, you need to start the mission over because we don’t have any checkpoints.

Nico slowly learned something about America. America had a vision of itself: rich, easy, luxurious. And it forced you to pursue that vision. Everyone pursued that vision. Even if you wanted to do something else, be someone else, you couldn’t. You needed money. And you had certain talents that were valued, even when you weren’t valued as a person.

This is one of those games where the developers have crafted this world and this game that they’re incredibly (and rightfully!) proud of, and then realize with dismay that some grubby player is going to get her grubby fingerprints all over it. So they do their damnedest to make sure the player can’t interfere with their lovely work. Any place that the player could screw up the game with her insistence on cleverness, they stop that shit.

And when you got money, it corrupted you. It hurt you. Money made you crazy, bought you drugs that tear you apart, got you in debt, got everything you love set on fire. You needed the money, but the money ruined you.

In the end, once I moved on to the game’s second safehouse, I gradually lost interest. The mission structure sprawls out and the characters are less interesting, and I became less invested in Nico Bellic’s “I’m a man full of guilt who wants a different life yet I don’t even blink when you tell me to kill folks” routine. I simply realized that I didn’t want to play any more. So I stopped.

And so Nico walked away. Got on a boat, a bus, a plane, and went somewhere else where he didn’t need to kill for money. Nico just stopped.