Monthly Archives: April 2010

Waves: A Ludum Dare 17 Postmortem

This past weekend I took part in Ludum Dare 17. Ludum Dare is a periodic informal competition where participants make a game in 48 hours based on a certain theme. This time, the theme was “Islands.” By the end of the weekend, I created a game called “Waves,” which can be played on my site. Kayla Kinnunen posted a postmortem of her own experience, and I thought it would be fun to do one of my own.

Note that the work-in-progress builds linked below will probably require you to click on the game to give it focus before it will react to your keystrokes.
Continue reading Waves: A Ludum Dare 17 Postmortem


Saira is an explorer. Three years ago, she was a photographer, working to take pictures of exotic and dangerous wildlife. She is brave and athletic, able to leap from rock to rock without hesitation. Her eyes are trained to notice things hidden in the world around her, and her hand is steady as she takes each picture. She can scramble up air shafts, dodge hungry wildlife, and hazard cruel environments to achieve her goals.

Saira is a character piece. Continue reading Saira

Difficulty and Walkthroughs

I had an interesting discussion at GDC with a guy I know named Tasselfoot. Chances are that you know Tass, even if you don’t think you do; if you’ve ever used a YouTube walkthrough of a Flash game, that walkthrough was probably made by Tass. As far as I know, he’s the only person in the world who makes his living off of walkthrough videos.

While we were on the bus to the ill-fated Zynga-hosted afterparty, Tass and I had a conversation where he tried to convince me to put links to video walkthroughs inside my games. Obviously, he has a vested interest in this, but he also believes in it from a player’s perspective. Walkthroughs, he feels, should be as accessible as possible to the player. My initial reaction, as a video game auteur, was to disagree. The presence of a walkthrough ruins the carefully-crafted difficulty curve I’ve prepared for the game. But as Tass continued, he began to sway my mind.
Continue reading Difficulty and Walkthroughs

The Brutality of Saints Row 2

I’d like to take a moment to discuss a game that does some really interesting things with character and storytelling: Volition’s GTA3-em-up, Saints Row 2. Wait, where are you going? I’m serious. Here’s the thing: SR2, more than any other game I’ve played, makes me despise my player character. By the end of the game, my PC is the most reprehensible person in Stilwater.

SR2 is a game that borrows liberally from Grand Theft Auto 3 and its successors. The player character is a sociopathic criminal, doing a series of missions to gain power in a city while murdering thousands of people in the process. Playing a game like this, the player should expect to do horrible things; it’s a game (in this case) about a street gang leader taking over an entire city. These games set up an environment in which the player can suspend their ethical disbelief. The world is farcical, with corrupt police, over-the-top raunchy radio ads, and stereotyped characters. All of the characters with dialog are criminals, and none of the bystanders get enough characterization to make the player empathize with them.

But there’s something weird in SR2‘s approach. The middle of the game consists of three parallel storylines, corresponding to the PC‘s strengthening of her gang, the Saints, through destruction of three rival gangs: the Sons of Samedi, the Ronin, and the Brotherhood. The Sons of Samedi plotline is a drug-running crime story in the Tarantino vein. The Ronin is a full-on action movie, complete with katana duels. But the Brotherhood is the brutal story of the cold-hearted destruction of a man and his family.
Continue reading The Brutality of Saints Row 2