Category Archives: Digital Games

Fusion Time Released!

I’ve put out a new game! It’s a GM-less tabletop roleplaying game where the players are a team of people with special powers defending their home. When their interpersonal clashes grow strong enough, an opponent attacks, and the players will have to Fuse in order to fight back and protect their home.

I’m calling this a “playtest” version, a sort of early-access thing. It’s fully playable but I haven’t done pretty formatting or figured out illustrations or anything. I’d like to see if I’ve missed any issues and if anyone’s even interested in the game at all before I do work to lay out the book in detail.

There’s more on mechanics and acknowledgments on the game’s store page, so check it out! There are even free community copies there for queer folks and/or people of color who don’t feel able to afford the game. Additionally, if you’re in media (including being a streamer) and want a review copy, or would like me to facilitate a game session for you, let me know!

Check out Fusion Time!

You may have noticed that I’ve released several tabletop things lately and relatively few video games. One of the main reasons for this is that it’s simply less work: both media need design and testing, but I find it quicker and easier to write up and format a rules document than to code up and create material for a video game. That said, I’m still working on stuff over at Future Proof Games, and you can keep an eye on this space for more.

Oh! And for more on my thoughts around the concept of fusion in media, check out my post on one of the game’s major influences, Steven Universe: “Everyone Should Watch ‘Alone Together’“.

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

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

“The Majesty of Colors” Remastered and Released

In 2008, I made a game called “(I Fell in Love With) The Majesty of Colors.” It got played millions of times, won awards, and is still recognized by many people I run across randomly.

In 2016, in part as a response to the impending death of Adobe Flash, we at Future Proof Games announced “The Majesty of Colors Remastered”, a rebuild of the original game in Unity with enhancements. We estimated that it would take a few months.

Today, two years later, the game is finally released on five platforms: iPhone/iPad, Android, Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Buy The Majesty of Colors on the App Store Get it on Google Play Get it on itch.io

Every game release is scary for a different reason. One of the reasons I’m nervous about this one is that “The Majesty of Colors” is real short, and we’re asking money for it. Even on mobile. In the end, our estimate wasn’t far off; it took the two of us a few person-months of actual work, but that was spread over two years of working at day jobs. Even with the low price we’re asking, it will still take tens of thousands of sales to “break even,” making the game pay for itself. It’ll take even more to make a profit, supporting more steady work on future games and maybe even justifying further enhancements like extra interactions or (no promises!) more story.

We’re tentatively buoyed by the response to the game we’ve gotten so far today. Folks are excited, and we’ve gotten some press interest and are hopeful for more. But “The Majesty of Colors” is a work very close to my heart, and I’m still afraid that its time has entirely passed. We’ll see.

I’ve written this in various places over the last few days: thank you for dreaming with us.

Ludus Novus 027: Imposition of Order Results in Escalation of Disorder

In this episode of the Ludus Novus podcast: Prey 2017. The lie of a power fantasy is that power over others is something you deserve. Prey is a consequence fantasy: to take agency, you must incur risk. To escape a cage of lies, you have to open the door onto a world of new danger.

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.

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!