Larry Hosken: New: Tag: double-fine

I played the computer game Hack 'n' Slash and it was pretty fun. It's that game where you get to change the game's program as you play through it. (I guess it's also a platform by which you can create a whole new version of the game if you change it "enough".) You start out with a sword that lets you change some of the game's variables. If a bad turtle attacks you, you can touch it with the sword and change "bad" to "good" and suddenly that turtle is nice. But if you accidentally bump into that turtle, it still hurts… but if you touch the turtle with the sword and change its damage from 1 to -1, the next time you bump into that turtle you'll be healed instead.

Later on in the game, you pick up an item that lets you edit event-handler methods. You can't change everything about them, but you can change some aspects. To get past some traps, you must disable the code that makes them work. This makes for some fun puzzles. You can't just delete the contents of the traps' event handlers. But sometimes you can change the functions they call: turn a game-ending crash into a harmless print; change an if greater than to if less than to confuse things. For any given puzzle, there's probably more than one way past it; as you monkey with the code and see how the game reacts, the solution you find depends on which part of the code you monkeyed with first.

The game is on Steam. In its community section on Steam there's also a nice walkthrough, so you won't get stuck, even if you *blush* have trouble spotting portals at the top of the screen. Fun game. Check it out.

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Adventure Design Group: Presentation and conversation with JP LeBreton and Brandon Dillon (Double Fine)

I'm up past my bedtime, so just some scribbled notes. They're both game nerds from the computer/video game company Double Fine. They've both come up with project ideas interesting enough such that I voted for 'em. (DoubleFine does some wonderfully transparent things, including their "Amnesia Fortnight" in which any DoubleFiner can pitch a game idea; fans can vote on which of those pitches get built into whatever-can-get-done-in-two-weeks prototypes. This year, the Fortnight was recorded by documentary filmmakers.) Actually—that's kinda why I got less out this Adventure Design Group than others: I knew too much going in. But it wasn't a waste of time. Allen Cohn was there, Tyler Hinman was there. There were more game programmers and fewer experience-designers in the audience. Anyhow, what did I learn?

They're both interested in making platforms for amateurs to create games. The whole point of Hack 'n' Slash (the game) is that it's tweakable; but perhaps there should be a way for players to share their mods with the world. DOOM is an old, now open-sourced shoot-em-up game that allows you to tell any story you want, as long as it's about a space marine shooting demons. But open source makes interesting things possible: DECK, the Doom Engine Creator's Kit aims to add some new art to doom, with some less-shoot-y choices; it aims to make games that flow like Doom, but perhaps with a storyline based on something other than demon eradication.

This talk was hosted by the Communications Design Group instead of the usual Go Game HQ. I don't know what those people do, but some of it must be interesting since they had some hexaflexagons attached to a wall. (How can an org named Communications Design Group not have a findable web page in 2014? And yet it seems to be true.)

As we walked from South Park back to Market Street and civilization, Tyler assured me that Puzzle Break is fun times, worth playing. And he says there's a game setting up in Richmond. And he says Egnor says there's one in Santa Clara. Maybe it's time to add a page to the BANG wiki keeping track of them? Or I could sleep.

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Notes on "Presentation and conversation with Nonchalance" Adventure Design Group Meetup

I'm pretty sure I'm supposed to keep secret some things I learned at Nonchalance's presentation at the Adventure Design Group hosted by the lovely Go Game people. But I'm not sure exactly what; not all of the presenters were mic'd so well. So I won't say much; maybe I'm saying even less than is allowed. I'm not being coy, just not so sure what was requested; there were many syllables but not all reached me.

Not that the presentation was spoiler-y. A panel of GC members addressed the crowd. They talked about the feeling they were trying to evoke; I'm guessing the feeling they're trying to evoke with their experience-in-development. (Later on, they said that the games of Nonchalance had had the mood of whimsy and absurdity, but that they'd perhaps drifted into that instead of that having been the plan from the beginning. So…maybe it's interesting that they're telling us the mood they're going for, like a pool player calling a shot.) But there was plenty of coy we-can't-tell-you-because-oo-woo-secret-squirrel-club stuff going on, too.

(Still, even amongst the coyness there was stuff to gnaw on. A member of GC led the audience in an activity. That's not so weird. Except—this GC member also mentioned that she's very much into personal agency. So it was strange…out of all the members of GC, why have her lead the audience in an activity in which we weren't really doing things very deliberately, but just following instructions? Just a coincidence? Some manipulation by a leader GC who's spent a lot of time thinking about cults and Esalen? Or…or maybe I just needed more to keep my brain busy as we got past the crafted presentation and it was gnawing on stuff that wasn't there?)

Afterwards, there was Q&A, and it started out with more cutesy evasions. But then we got an answer that was, while not spoiler-y, not gratuitously hiding stuff either. Ellen Juhlin asked: why give a presentation then? But she was kinda hesitating as she asked it, because by the time the microphone got to her, we'd got a straight answer or two. On GC, Jeff Hull says he doesn't like to talk about his art. But Uriah Findley and Kat Meler were able to talk about what they're trying to do. It's not easy stuff to talk about; and when it comes to describing experiences, words are treacherous—the memory some word triggers in my head isn't the same as the memory it triggers in yours, of course. But you could get an idea: why choose this medium instead of another. What makes a compelling experience. If participants change their life in X way after playing, these artists might have a sense that they've succeeded.

So it started out as cute-but-I-dunno-if-I-wanted-to-stay-out-late-for-this, but the Q&A got interesting.

Before the event, many folks announced upcoming projects. Usually there are perhaps three announced; this time there were a lot. Maybe a dozen? A lot. Allen called for DASH volunteers. Nikolai talked about an upcoming SMS puzzlehunt that Mastermind is running(?). Other folks talked about other games.

Amongst the upcoming events: along with the usual artists-I-haven't-heard-of, a couple of familiar names: Brandon Dillon and JP LeBreton of Doublefine. I'm hoping that they'll talk about Hack and Slash, a game which "breaks the fourth wall" for computer nerds. I played a sort of proof-of-concept version of the game: it's a computer game that came with its source code. You could figure out how to do things in the game by playing the game... or by reading the source code. That's an oversimplification, but I really liked the way that game messed with the usual boundaries.

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