Tag Archives: Thoughts

The Cathedral of Your Relationship With Your Mom

from the snail on the slope

BoRTs are back! September’s topic was Spatial Representation in Games

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about spatial & behavioral representation in games.  In a course I teach, we played the party game Werewolf, aka Mafia, as an example of the use of inter-player dynamics.  Werewolf  uses a majority vote to decide who is eliminated in each of the day phases.  Players are free to lie, cajole, bully, trick, plead or by any other means persuade other players to support their decision.  Aside from laying down the basic core loop, phase progression, etc., the game lives and breathes according to the relationships developed between the players.  A kind of psychic/emotional/relational map is drawn as play progresses.  What does this look like? How does it feel to walk through the Cathedral of Your Relationship with Your Mom?

From the moment we meet someone, whether consciously or not, we mentally place them in relation to ourselves and everyone else we’ve ever met.  We draw highly annotated, constantly shifting mental schematics of our relationships as we go through life.  Whole business-plazas made from our professional contacts.  But do we do this in video games?  Are we able to utilize this innate tendency of the human social structure?

As mentioned above, it is used as a mechanic in games such as Werewolf and Diplomacy,  but is it ever used in a video game? Is it even possible? MMOs seem uniquely placed to do this.  Could interplayer relationships be spatially represented in a MMO? How could it be used?  Levels, continents, whole worlds generated from the topology of the interpersonal relationships of its players.  One day you find yourself raiding a dungeon whose twisty little passages remind you uncannily of fights you’ve had with your ex.

Please visit the Blogs of the Round Table’s main hall for links to all entries.

Flight from the Dark

Two weeks late, but I’m finally able to get around to a short post about my previously mentioned pseudo-perma-death CYOA playthrough of the Lone Wolf books.

I started out in a blissful cloud of nostlagia.  Outfitting my character (always my favorite bit), choosing special Lone-Wolfie super-powers (not really, but almost) and turning the first page, or in this case, clicking that first link.

My notes are a bit fuzzy about what happens after this, but I’ve tried to piece it together as best I can from my “screenshots”.  This may be an amalgamation of all the times I’ve played through this book, my mind being the giant, soupy vat that it is, but hopefully it’s as close to my most recent foray as can be.

Apparently I crossed a bridge at some point.  My notes make no mention of it, but I must have thought it important enough to save.  Huh.  Nice bridge, though.

This is me.  Sadly returning to the ruins of the monastery.  I was out collecting wood as a punishment.  Note the axe.  And the wood.  That’s how you can tell.

Ironically, the most misbehaved Kai is the most ALIVE Kai.

So starts my perilous journey to the capital to warn the King of the impending invasion of mean, evil, unpleasantness.

According to my notes I headed south and met some refugees whose children were then, astonishingly, attacked by some flying beasties with other ugly beasties on their backs.  Since all the adults ran-away, I valiantly sped to their rescue with my meager little axe.  Much to my bemusement, I won.  My first dangerous encounter didn’t end up with me dead.  Is this CYOA broken?

I fled to the woods, to avoid the moral responisibility of protecting someone else’s offspring, er.. to cut more wood.  That seems to be my best survival instinct.

While hiding logging, I met some soldiers who were appropriately impressed by my logging skills.  That or my pretty green Kai cloak.  They kindly gave me a horse to sped me along to the King.  Thanks, guys.

Then the shit hit the fan.  I came across a raging battle.  In the midst of this battle was this giant, pissed-off looking lizard mumbling something about “…the tapping, oh god, the tapping…”  It looked like he was going to eviscerate the Crown Prince, whose dad I needed to talk to, so of course I ran to help him out.  A truly remarkable battle ensued.  or so I think it did.  My notes aren’t the most complete.  I lived, that’s for sure.  Truly Dangerous Situation #2 survived.  Maybe this CYOA really is broken?

After being given a sword and thanked profusely I took off for the city again and made it to the outer reaches without any trouble.  Now there was ANOTHER raging battle between me and the front gate.  I was offered three choices here.  Swim the channel, race to the gate or go into the (probably) haunted Catacombs.  So what did I pick?  Yep, the Catacombs.

I had survived most everything up to this point, so I was feeling pretty good, pretty sure of myself.  As I descended into the dark, dank, utterly creepy depths of the Catacombs, I remembered what “catacombs” meant: “an utterly dark, dank creepy depth.”

I was having second thoughts now.

Out of nowhere I was attacked by a winged demon, which now that I think about it was rather appropriate.  I killed him, or whatever happens when you destroy demons and ventured further.  Soon, I came across an ornate lock.

I didn’t have the key it asked for, but, due to my earlier successes, I felt that I could pick it and live.  I didn’t. I died.

This CYOA is definitely not broken.

Had this been a real perma-death playthrough this post, this project, would end here.  But, taking into consideration the pervading meanness of CYOAs, a little fudging is in order.  So, I restarted.

After picking the “Race to the Gate” option I made it without any further mishaps, talked to the king and was sent on an errand to find a mythical sword that (surprise) was the only thing that could help win the coming war.

Phew.  Well, hopefully it won’t be two weeks before my next CYOA post and given enough prodding, TheAutumnalCity will do his.

Back from the Dead

Two months ago my second-hand 360 RRoD’d on me.  I couldn’t send it to M$ for a fix cause I’ve already voided my warranty (which I don’t have anyway) by installing a new DVD drive.  So, thanks to Llamma I was able to ressurrect my machine just in time for all of the new LIVE updates.  Mon and I are going to disappear in a Netflix hole for a few days.  Bai!  Oh, and many thanks to #GBConfab for the support during the very difficult, trying procedure.

The Return of CYOA

Inspired by Ben Abraham’s instigation of the recent Far Cry 2 Permadeath playthroughs, TheAutumnalCity and I have decided to go old school and jump into the seminal and nostalgic Lone Wolf series of Choose-Your-Own-Adventure (CYOA) books.  In the summer of 2007, Project Aon made the entire series of 28 Lone Wolf books freely available online.  That coupled with some stat tracker software and a heady air of nostalgia has made this foray into CYOA-land all the more enticing.

Travis and I both played/read these as kids and I’m excited to go back and see how they’ve held up.  We’ve agreed to play a book a week and post our summary/thoughts on either Sunday evening or Monday morning.  We’re not quite going to stick to Ben’s strict permadeath rules as there are some deaths in CYOA that you just can’t anticipate.

Over the next few weeks we’re going to explore the nature of the CYOA as a game and literary format.  This oft-dismissed hybrid deserves some serious reflection and failing that, at least it’ll give us some hilarious situations.

Let the games begin!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=maDe7_5ds7c Besides the sheer hilarity of Guile bouncing about like a

Besides the sheer hilarity of Guile bouncing about like a hyper-active Tokyo pre-teen, the really interesting thing to me, is that this seems to show that the animations are controlled by a skeleton independent of the model/skins.  Granted, I don’t know anything about the current SF’s architecture, but the implications seem pretty clear.  How much more surreal could you make this?  Swapping all the big/small characters to maximize the distortion? How are the backgrounds handled? Can the animations be swapped between background characters, too?

TF2 Sunday?

Just finished a nice lazy evening of TF2.  There’s something about this game that is tickling all the right places for me lately.  Given certain maps, the variety of classes & the chaotic nature of it’s spawn-system, TF2 is strikes me as more strategic than it’s tactically driven cousin, Counter-Strike.  It’s like a chess game where the pieces aren’t out for the entire game, just for 15 seconds.

Counter-Strike is tactical because it’s always concerned with the present engagement. Each round is a distinct contest between both sides.  One that is only concerned with the present engagement.  Whether or not that engagement should happen is not even a concern.  Chess is the same way.

TF2 on the other hand, is strategic.  Certain maps become wars fought over potentially endless periods of time.  Capture points become the scenes of titanic struggles.  A near perpetual balancing act, always in flux.  The non-linear level design and capture system creates the potential for strategic thinking.  Players do not have to progress across the map from A to B to C to D, ad nauseum.

Certain points must be taken before others are opened, but, as is the case with Blackmesa, the back-and-forth between these points, the ease in which they’re won or lost is always in motion.  Sometimes it makes more sense to capture a point two steps removed from the linear progression in order to lock out the caps closer to your end cap.  This type of level/game design rewards non-linear thinking.  It’s always better to find the weak points than to try to a brute force solution.  This is exactly the difference between tactical and strategic thinking.

Also, I wanted to mention something about the achievement system.  There’s been a lot of moaning and bitching about the internets about how achievements encourage grind and kill the fun.  I’m sure this is true for some, but for myself, I’ve never cared.  I was in it for the play.  Though, I was happy when Valve opened up unlockables with their random, time-based algorithm.  It makes things a bit more even.

In the two months or so since the update went live, I’ve collected/found/achieved a large number of the unlockable weapons which has gone a long way to making me feel on equal footing with the mob of TF2 regulars that eat&breathe this game.

Anyhoo, these were just some thoughts I was having about why I’ve been so infatuated with TF2 lately.

another quick note?

Ok, these aren’t really questions.  I just do that in order to enable tumblr’s feedback option.  I want to take a quick moment to layout what I’ve got going on in the near future:

At the end of July I’m taking part in a group show with some friends at the Bancroft Gallery here in town.  Mid-August I start teaching at the Metro and UNO and then sometime near December I’ll have a show here.  That show will be similar in material, not execution, to my show here.  Not a ton of stuff, but enough.  Oh, Mon and I are also planning on attending PAX in Seattle, but more on that later.

And I’m cooking up some new pieces.  I’ve already started on the framework for my next installation.  I’ll be my first real collaboration.

things to say?

In one of my many fits of casting about for just the right internets identity, I’ve made THIS is lew of THAT, because THAT was just ugly and awkward.  THIS is different than THOSE because THOSE are just for projects, etc.  THIS is for thoughts.

my first thought?  atm, I’m just going to play some vidja-games.  I just finished my MFA, I’m a bit tired and looking to recharge.