Warframe Has the Best Worldbuilding In Video Games

(This article contains a discussion of the storyline of Warframe. It contains many things that some people may consider spoilers. Trust me. Read it.)

Warframe is a free-to-play online third-person sci-fi shooter by Ontario developer Digital Extremes where you control a cool, acrobatic robo-warrior in a grindy co-op game where the PR tagline is “ninjas play free”. You fight space nazis, mechanized capitalists, and a bioplague in a handful of standard mission types to get loot and level up your gear.

Warframe, written and designed by Creative Director Steve Sinclair, Lead Writer Cam Rogers, and a team of other designers and writers, is the story of a dark future set in a fallen posthuman solar empire, where the generational victims of the cruel, long-lost Orokin are in constant conflict and where solidarity and empathy are the strongest forces against an apparently-inevitable cosmic struggle borne out of the resonating echoes of exploitation and familial loss.

The Moon came back.

Continue reading Warframe Has the Best Worldbuilding In Video Games

Tabletop Garden: Ego Driver

We’ve finally completed the most recent campaign of my actual play podcast, Tabletop Garden. In “Ego Driver“, a group of misfit killers participate in a postcolonial road war in a postapocalyptic world. It draws from Mad Max: Fury Road, Trigun, Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, and Wacky Races. I’m super proud of how the campaign turned out, despite an embarrassingly long hiatus in the middle while I struggled with my own mental health issues.

I’d really love it if you checked it out, and if you like it, shared it with your circles. You can start with the first episode:

If you’d like more insight into how I planned the campaign, or how I feel about it looking back, you can sign up to support my Patreon, where I’ve just published over an hour of postmortem retrospective discussing things like how the players shaped the narrative and how I now feel about the extensive Michael Jackson references:

Become a Patron!

I’m real pleased with the story my players and I put together, and I’m looking forward to sharing the next campaign with you soon. It’s currently in recording and editing, and if you want a sneak preview, check out the end of the postmortem above!

All My Flash Games Now Downloadable With Source

I’ve released all my Flash games as locally-playable SWFs and Windows projectors on itch.io! That means that they should remain playable even after browsers and Adobe stop supporting Flash. These represent three years of my career, and they were pretty prolific ones!

Get all my Flash games on itch.io here!

If you’re interested in seeing the source code or resources for the games, you can get it for most of them1 by paying $5. If you want the source for more than one, it’ll be a better deal to get my whole Flash Source Code Collection for a flat $10.

Sometime soon I’ll get around to updating the game pages on this site to feature Itch widgets, like so:

I’m very happy to have these games available again without requiring players to enable a deprecated plugin. If you’ve wanted to support certain Flash games of mine directly, this is also a good way to do that! You’re welcome to donate a bit when you download one, although I don’t expect that of anyone.

If you’re wondering what’s been going on with me, I’ve gone into some detail on my Patreon, which I hope to revive in coming months: Become a Patron!

Let me know if you have any thoughts on this release, or if you run into any problems. Thanks!

  1. I haven’t released the source for the games repackaged by Future Proof Games.

Toward a Sustainable Resource Escalation Game

An emerging form of games, born out of Minecraft and Dwarf Fortress, has occupied my thoughts lately. It doesn’t seem to have a name yet; it grew out of some Minecraft mods and had its seminal work in Factorio. It’s a cousin, or even sibling, to the idle/incremental game, but usually looks more like a management or survival sandbox game. You could call it a resource management and automation game, or a factory simulator, but I’ll use the term “resource escalation game,” because its primary features are:

  • resources to collect, usually from a world you must explore
  • crafting of resources into more complex or rich forms
  • structures for automation of the crafting, allowing you to take a higher-level conceptual view where you are concerned with the logistics of automation rather than foraging
  • and an escalation created by those resources, where your initial low-level needs become inconsequential and the pace of progression is governed primarily by what complexity of resources you have instead of a more abstract research system1
Continue reading Toward a Sustainable Resource Escalation Game
  1. Factorio gates a lot of things behind research, but research is driven by manufactured resources, not the more typical research-over-time approach seen in strategy games.

Your Only True Choice – Complicity in Unavoidable Tragedy

Complicity is the most important distinguishing feature of games.

Other media still requires your interaction. You choose the order in which to experience a series (broadcast or DVD order of Firefly? publication or chronological order of Narnia?), the way in which you experience a painting or sculpture (from a distance? different angles? different lighting?), or how you experience a play (what cast? what seat? do you read it first? do you watch it staged at all?).

Continue reading Your Only True Choice – Complicity in Unavoidable Tragedy

Actual Play Podcasts Do Not Portray Actual Play, Actually

Actual play podcasts are not what the name suggests. They’re a form of podcast that purportedly serializes a recording of a group playing a tabletop roleplaying game. The listener hears the dice rolls, the out-of-character discussions, and the social interaction that surrounds the in-character story being told at the table. The apparent appeal is the fun of hearing the “actual play” occurring when creating an interesting story.

But actual play podcasts are a lie.

Continue reading Actual Play Podcasts Do Not Portray Actual Play, Actually

Ludus Novus 030 – Transcendentalism, Gentrification, and the Procedural Rhetoric of Stardew Valley

What does Stardew Valley say about the world with the rules of its simulation, and how does it compare to another Transcendentalist game, Walden, a game?

Transcript: Transcript for this episode

If you like this episode, check out the other podcasts I’m involved in: Audacious Compassion, The Future Proof Podcast, and Tabletop Garden.

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 under a ccby3.0 license.

REFERENCES
Barone, Eric. Stardew Valley. Chucklefish, 22 February 2016. https://stardewvalley.net/

Bogost, Ian. Persuasive Games: The Expressive Power of Videogames. MIT Press, 2010.

Brice, Mattie. “My First Year in Stardew Valley.” Alternate Ending, 29 April 2016. http://www.mattiebrice.com/my-first-year-in-stardew-valley/

Fullerton, Tracy et al. Walden: a game. USC Game Innovation Lab, 4 July 2017. https://www.waldengame.com/

La Fl├Ęche, Gersande. “The gentleman farmer, labour and land: ecocritical possibilities in Stardew Valley.” Gersande’s Blog, 3 May 2016. https://gersande.com/blog/the-gentleman-farmer-labour-and-land-ecocriticial-possibilities-in-stardew-valley/

Keegan, Brett. “Stardew Valley, Sorge, and Martin Heidegger.” Backyard Philosophy, 27 March 2018. https://backyardphilosophy.com/2018/03/27/stardew-valley-sorge-and-martin-heidegger/

Olson, Dan. “The Stanley Parable, Dark Souls, and Intended Play.” Folding Ideas, 26 July 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZHmivGmkjJw

Piel, Michael. “The Video Game Based on Thoreau’s ‘Walden’ Will Bring You Closer to Nature.” Motherboard, 25 October 2017. https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/7x4vmz/video-game-based-on-thoreau-walden-will-bring-you-closer-to-nature

Schultz, Kathryn. “Pond scum: Henry David Thoreau’s moral myopia.” The New Yorker, 19 October 2015. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/10/19/pond-scum

Thoreau, Henry D. Walden; or, Life in the woods. Ticknor and Fields, 9 August 1854.

Tabletop Garden: New RPG Podcast

I’ve started a new podcast! It’s called Tabletop Garden, and it’s an “actual play” show where a rotating cast plays tabletop roleplaying games and talks about them.

Tabletop Garden is an actual-play podcast where we collaborate on short, self-contained stories about interesting characters, and we do it with an agenda. Throughout each campaign we discuss values, techniques, and how to play with intention.

Our first pilot campaign uses Mechanical Oryx by Grant Howitt to tell a tale of looming violence in the solarpunk postapocalypse. During each campaign, episodes will release weekly. Check out the show at tabletop.garden.

Ludus Novus 029 – The Goalless Path of Bernband

What do people actually mean when they say “walking simulator?” Bernband by Tom van den Boogaart doesn’t even seem to have a goal. But then why do you keep playing it?

Bernband: https://gamejolt.com/games/bernband/34864
Bernband Remake Twitter: https://twitter.com/bernband

Youtube (MP3 below):

Transcript: Transcript for this episode

If you like this episode, check out the other podcasts I’m involved in: Audacious Compassion and The Future Proof Podcast

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 under a ccby3.0 license.

REFERENCES
Ashe, Pat. “Walking Simulator Simulator.” Feral Vector, 2014. https://soundcloud.com/thepatashe/walking-simulator-simulator (Transcript on The Pat Ashe, 6 July 2014. https://web.archive.org/web/20141007075156/http://thepatashe.wordpress.com/2014/07/06/walking-simulator-simulator/ )

Barlow, Sam. Her Story. 2015. http://www.herstorygame.com/

The Fullbright Company. Gone Home. 2013. https://gonehome.game/

Goodwin, Joel. “Screw Your Walking Simulators.” Electron Dance, 16 July 2014. http://www.electrondance.com/screw-your-walking-simulators/

Juul, Jesper. “Without a goal”. In Tanya Krzywinska and Barry Atkins (eds):Videogame/Player/Text. Manchester University Press, 2007.
http://www.jesperjuul.net/text/withoutagoal/

Key, Ed and David Kanaga. Proteus. 2013. http://twistedtreegames.com/proteus/

Koster, Raph. A Theory of Fun for Game Design. 2nd ed., O’Reilly Media, 2013.

Nygren, Nicklas. Knytt. 2006. https://web.archive.org/web/20170509070555/http://nifflas.ni2.se/?page=Knytt

Schell, Jesse. The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses. 2nd ed., CRC Press, 2015.

van den Boogaart, Tom. Bernband. https://gamejolt.com/games/bernband/34864

Ludus Novus 028: Candyland: Game as Critical Lens

What is a “game?” It only matters in context. When we examine things as games to learn from them, what does that mean? Any useful definition of game used as a critical lens must encompass Soccer, Candy Land, Sim City, Doom, and Gone Home. But Candy Land doesn’t have any player choice. Is it just dancing?

I’ve tried something new with this episode. I’ve put together a video version, currently hosted on YouTube, with some nonessential visual aids. For now I intend to keep the show audio-first, but having it available via YouTube may make it more accessible and attract new listeners/viewers. If you’re seeing this on my website, the normal audio player is still below.

I’ve also put together a text transcript for the episode: Transcript for this episode

If you like this episode, check out the other podcasts I’m involved in: Audacious Compassion and The Future Proof Podcast

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 under a ccby3.0 license.