(Of course I had to find a photo with Stephen holding Move controllers)
Exciting news from the factory!
We’re happy to announce that our friend Stephen Ascher has joined the Gute Fabrik team to work with us on our forthcoming action adventure “swamp opera” game, Mutazione. Stephen is going to take the role of Lead Programmer, but he’ll also be helping out on the design (on a team this small, everyone wears multiple hats).
Stephen lives in Montreal, Quebec, which means that we’re going to be working together remotely. But we hope to steal him away to Copenhagen, at least for the summer. I also secretly hope that this will give me an excuse to return to Montreal soon.
Thanks to a recommendation from my friend Mike, I recently finished reading The Master of Go (1951) by Yasunari Kawabata, a famous Japanese author and Nobel laureate. The book, though semi-fictional (some of the names and details have been changed), follows the story of a famous game of Go from 1938, between the Go master Shusai Meijin and his younger challenger, Kitani Minoru.
I know a little bit about Go, but my grasp of the game’s subtleties is rather tenuous. Nevertheless, Kawabata’s book was still very enjoyable! A deep understanding of Go might provide some additional color to the story, but it certainly isn’t necessary. The book is primarily a character portrait, as well as a chronicle of a specific subculture and a specific time in history (keep in mind that in 1938, World War 2 was looming close on the horizon). Kawabata overarching argument seems to be that the Meijin-Minoru game marks a fundamental shift in how Go was played (at least in Japan). The end of an era, so to speak.
The book is an easy read, and I imagine that most game designers will find it rewarding. For the discerning reader, The Master of Go offers some useful lessons about game design and game culture more generally.
Typically, we tend to think about Go as the shining exemplar of “elegant” game design. It features a simple ruleset, yet also boasts mind-bogglingly complex strategic depth. There’s certainly some truth to that evaluation. But if Kawabata’s tale has anything to teach us, it’s that any competitive game – even Go – is necessarily riddled with awkward ambiguities.
Here’s a postcard of us Jousting in the factory offices! That’s Nils, Ida, me, and our friend Ricky Haggett, who was nice enough to come visit us at the factory. Right, Ricky? It’s always nice to Joust to an oceanside view.
Nils just prepared that graphic for my new business card. I’m excited to share it at GDC this year!
Three armies of six face off in an epic battle. And there’s an additional twist – there’s one traitor lurking on each team! The traitors, though they don’t know who each other are, comprise a secret fourth team. A small rumble at the beginning of the round tells you if you are a traitor. It’s kind of like J.S. Joust meets the famous parlor game Mafia.
The suggestion to introduce backstabbing to the game came from my friend Manveer Heir. Partially inspired by some scenes from Akira Kurosawa’s Ran, I decided it would be more “epic” to have three colored armies, rather than an 18-person free-for-all. Actually, I’ve been joking about calling the installation “Johann Sebastian Bushido.”
Tom Mc Shea and some of the other folks over at GameSpot recently tried out the working alpha version of Johann Sebastian Joust at their office. They edited together this excellent video that nicely captures the intended “spirit” of the game:
Slap Poker is a simple card/party game for several players. It was “invented” by my friend Ramiro Corbetta and some of his friends. It’s a very physical variant of the famous betting/drinking game “Indian Poker” (er, perhaps not the most sensitive name…)
Each player is dealt a card, face down (that is, you’re not allowed to look at your own card). Then, all players simultaneously put their card on their forehead, such that they can see every card except for their own. The first person to physically slap(!) the player with the highest card value gains a point. The best part is, this might entail slapping yourself, if you only see low cards! Any player who slaps wrong loses a point.
I suggest playing multiple rounds – to a set total, or until the deck is depleted.
Admittedly, slapping each other might be a little too… “confrontational” for some people. The game is best suited for friends, most likely in a party setting. Still, when you’re in the right mood and/or with people you trust, Slap Poker can be a total joy! Highly recommended.
It’s certainly fun to design brand new games, but one thing I learned this past year is that it can be equally fun to design around existing games – to recontextualize them in new settings and with new control schemes.
In this post, I want to write about two physical installations I worked on in 2011. Both installations are based around well-known Flash games by Bennett Foddy. In particular, I want to talk about the rich comedic opportunities that reside in simulating simulations.
I wish the video was able to convey how wondrously beautiful it was to play the game under the quiet desert starlight. Once the sun set, I switched out the Bach soundtrack with Steve Reich’s Electric Counterpoint. It was utterly magical (“And there were lots of stars… at night…”). I remember looking up at the stars, listening to Reich at 70% speed, and taking it all in. One of my all-time favorite gaming experiences. I’ll never forget it!
Huge thanks to my good friend Matt Broach for shooting and editing the video. Best birthday present ever!
More good news! Johann Sebastian Joust is a finalist at the 2012 Independent Games Festival! It was nominated for both the Nuovo Award (which honors “abstract, shortform, and unconventional game development”) and the Seumas McNally Grand Prize. It was also given an honorable mention for Excellence in Design. Wow! We’re honored.
Our PSP/PS3 puzzle-platformer Where is my Heart? almost made it too – the game was given three honorable mentions (for Excellence in Design, Excellence in Audio, and the Seumas McNally Grand Prize). So close, yet so far. Still, we’re humbled. The game had been featured as a Student Finalist back at IGF 2009.