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Chikinware Blog

More Musings

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Original Native Americans=First Punk Rockers
-Rebellious
-Mohawks
-Simple Standard Of Living

Vikings=First Metalheads
-Metal Clothes
-Beards
-Viking Metal (Modern Genre)

Viking Man+Native American Woman=Lumberjack

Lumberjack=First Grunge Rocker
-Pacific Northwest
-Noisy Saw Sounds
-Isolated/Outcasts

Utter brilliance on my part....

Another Day At Camp....

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I'm in the middle of a Zen Moment at camp so I thought I'd write a blog post. I'm sitting in a lonely corner of the room rejoicing in the high of game development. About two days ago I wrote that I was recoding Noise and I feel great because at this current moment, it plays better than it ever did and the gameplay is really almost done. I know that you've heard me talk about my game for the past two years and throughout I've said I was almost done. This time I really feel it. The amount of confidence I feel as to implementing various features in a game is skyrocketing because of how much control I now feel over the game's code. I still have two and a half hours tonight if I want to work on it more. I'm excited because now that I've broken through the haze of sloppy code I can finish Noise in a reasonable amount of time and finish a few more of my abandoned game projects for the rest of the summer.
I'm also completely satisfied with the high of listening to music free on Youtube. Fugazi to Mudhoney. Led Zeppelin to Black Flag. Modest Mouse to Engine Kid. Particularly though I felt a huge moment of nostalgia while listening to the song Chloe Dancer/Crown Of Thorns by Mother Love Bone. It was a different kind of nostalgia though. Mother Love Bone is very regional and non-famous Seattle band and their songs remind me of the time I spent in that fine city. I realize how much influence that city has had on my influence. I've moved around a lot during my relatively short life and gained a lot from the places I've been but for some reason the two years I spent in Seattle have eclipsed the others. I believe it was because I became a true teenager in Seattle. I began to transition from childhood and my true self began to develop. I went through puberty and the innocence of my life began to fade and as I began to understand the world more my interests began to specialize. It all really happened in the course of the two summers I spent in Seattle.
The first summer was the one in which I moved to Seattle. It was late June. I had no friends. I had just been on a perceived mega-highway into the West for a week. I played games a lot that summer. In the hot, above-garage, room I honed my gaming taste. The game of that summer was Metroid Prime seemingly. I mostly thought about Star Fox Armada as it was called then. Yeah I was a real loser. We had G4 that summer. I went to the mall and I recall buying some vintage games about every week that summer. I think I replaced my recently lost friends with games. That's why the games were so personal. I play Metroid Prime like I visit an old friend. I remember meeting my new friends with games as the common ground. I knew I wanted to make games.
The second summer of Seattle was slightly different. I went through puberty. I remember the day it happened. It was about a week after school let out my brother and his friend were having a sleepover. I went to the library that day. I remember thinking about how I was going to adapt Nintendo's Japanese Star Fox comic "Goodbye Beloved, Falco" in game form. Naive. I remember that we watched Lord of the Rings: Return of the King that night. I remember I had a dream that night. I was never the same
That summer I also discovered the Internet's capacity for communication. I'd later call it "teh Netz!" I began to use it as a resource for my life. I figured myself out through the Internet. That summer I overcame all fear. I got into horror movies. I read Stephen King. I read IT. IT was like an abstracted version of my summer. I don't know about all that coming of age stuff but I totally fought a metaphysical clown. I thought about death. I thought about life. Are we chemical reactions or are we characters? I couldn't figure it out. I remember that my mom got me Halo after refusing for a year that summer. Perhaps the M-Rated boundary crossing was symbolic. Probably not. I remember how I'd feel hot in my clothes and so cool in my night clothes. The hot to cool, discomfort to discomfort transition was transcendence. At that point in time I couldn't die. I had no idea of the existential inspiration of a red eye flight. We'll All Float On hit the scene that year. I listened to it on the plane. It helped me sleep through the discomfort. I missed living while sleeping though. So was the song a drug? It killed me but I stayed alive. I made it out of stagnation and then the ride started again. I want the stagnant wandering to come back.

Regionalism In Game Design

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I've been listening to the album The Lonesome, Crowded West by Modest Mouse which is on whole based around the sonic and lyrical tendencies of the Pacific Northwest. It sounds like the Pacific Northwest and it talks about the Pacific Northwest. This property is known as regionalism. Regionalism in music comes from a lack of convenient communication between different music scenes. The isolation allows each region to develop its own sound. When the sound matures and is then exposed to the larger world, that sound becomes an identifier of that region and thus a cultural aspect of a distinct "tribe" of people. Regionalism is an amazing artistic technique because in addition to its primary themes, the songs allow a person to experience an alien way of life and thus connect people without compromising individuality. This leads us to my new realization that the "high tech" world of the Internet is destroying a potential artistic property of games.
The Internet is too convenient for its own good. An indie game developer, regardless of location, can be instantly exposed to games from around the world in an instant. Influence spreads quickly and suddenly a "Seattle" gameplay trend becomes an "Internet" game trend available to everyone. Gameplay that may draw from the reason is snatched up so fast it really doesn't even have time to be further developed by those of its original region. This means that we as gamers and we as developers are being cheated out of an important experience because of the "convenience" of the Internet.
Some of you might cite the difference between Western RPGs and Japanese RPGs as regionalism. This is utterly wrong however as WRPGs and JRPGs are actually designs derived from whether or not the narrative is going to be told in the third-person or first-person perspective (writing, not camera). The United States is large and undoubtedly certain gameplay types would represent the sensibility of one region better than those of another. The large, empty northwest for example could inspire gameplay of an adventurous or wandering quality. The hustle and bustle of the northeast could definitely inspire crowded games or frantic games. At one point Texas even had a first-person shooter "scene" which lost its regionalism with the Internet. These are just two examples of the possibilities. The locations can become more and more specific or perhaps states on the border of two regions would produce entirely new hybrid gameplay trends.
The games as art discussion seems to be really overdone at this point but regionalism is just another way that game developers could enhance this aspect of their passion. Think about where you live and encapsulate THAT experience in a game. Those close to you can identify with regionalism and those far away will find excitement in the alien feelings of another world. Perhaps gaming needs to be less about expanding technology and the Internet (MMORPGs=death of art) and more about expanding the cultural force of gameplay. Please, unplug the ethernet cables and just start making YOUR game.

Some Indie Games I Like....

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In my last post I scolded the mainstream gaming community for having bad taste in games and also for affixing the title "Indie" to games that are merely original but still published by the mainstream game industry. So I'm going to put my money where my mouth is and give you guys a taste of the indie underground currently operating just below the radar. For more information on the indie game scene you can checkout The Indie Game Source and The Indie Game Database.
The first game I want you to check out is called Seven Minutes.Of all the indie games I've played so far, this is my favorite. In fact I really credit this game with selling me on the idea of indie games as a serious scene. The main thing you need to know about this game is that the game is an experimental platform as well as an example of the indie subgenre that is being termed masocore (the "maso-" prefix being derived from the term "masochism"which refers to pleasure gained from pain). Masocore games tend to use the death of the player not as a restriction or penalty but a significant narrative and gameplay tool. In this particular game, the death of the player is used to emphasize the necessity for patience and limits when it comes to existence and at the same time draws the player into a serious fight with the game design itself as they are subjected to every platformer no-no in the Big Book O'Game Design. So please check it out and look not for fun but for enlightenment. Other than that you have to know that you haven't won the game until you see credits.
The second game I need to mention is a mesmerizing game that I played very recently called Phyta. Phyta definitely seems to be influence by Flow but ironically enough this game captures the essence of flowing gameplay much more than Flow. The reason? This game contains gameplay in addition to hypnotic interaction and beautiful aesthetics. Here's the premise: You control a giant sun with the mouse, vines grow towards the sun, the player tries to trap creatures within the vines. Give it a playthrough (the game continues forever without further advancement after reaching level 5.
The third game is the absolute example of the indie game and also the first masocore game (I believe). The game is called Psychosomnium and it was created by the most indie famous game developer, cactus. This game is a lot like Seven Minutes but with even more of an ambiguous nature. There is no description, just play it.
Randy Balma Municipal Abortionist--If WTF were a game this would be it. No description could do this much insanity justice.
Remember when Jack Thompson proposed his own game? Here it is made by indie scenester Derek Yu. I'm OK. This game was made using the same software we use for 2D game design at camp.
Derek Yu also worked on a serious game. It's called Aquaria. Check out the demo.
By the way, those of you who know about my Developer For A Day project called Rain might be interested to know that Rain is an example of a masocore game and thus the scene's influence on me.

Computer Camp Days 2 and 3

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Yesterday I did not have time to write a blog. Thankfully, not much of interest happened. Basically, I got Noise to where it needs to be in this design. It plays so smoothly now that I got rid of all the excess code. The excess stuff added a lot of small sub-rules that interacted to cause errors and lag. My design however changed radically enough that I found it necessary to recode and I'm so glad I did because now it rocks! That's most of the work I did today and yesterday on my own.
I've also been playing Star Fox 64 for Retro Revival Week. Anybody else remember the level Katina (the one with a mothership that tries to destroy a pyramid-shaped building)? Simply one of the top 10 levels of any game. Ever. Period. I'm also gonna probably revisit BattleTanx: Global Assault tommorrow.
On a final note, I'm going to try and post my students' games here when camp is over. That way you guys can revel in the work of wholly mainstream-tainted game opinions and the non-creative new gamer generation it is creating. Perhaps some of you will decide to try out REAL indie games (not flow or any "mainstream" indies--also Psychonauts is not indie as some of you seem to treat it) when you see the damage YOUR gaming habits cause.

Compy Camp Official Day 1

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As I said yesterday, I plan on blogging about my experiences at computer camp everyday and I also mentioned that today is the true first day. So pretty much, here's what happened today in blog form. Also, I don't have a camera so I can't do the whole picture show thing BlueBirdTS suggested. Sorry!
I'm going to start with my first epic phail of camp. I dehacked my PSP while trying to get a Sega Genesis emulator running on it. I was previously running PSP 3.71 m33-2 which allowed for homebrew games and software. Unfortunately I was trying to find a custom firmware that would be compatible with the emulator but mistakenly upgraded to the official firmware version 4.01 which has no easy downgrade. So until true hackers crack this one, I'm living a totally non-1337 PSP existence. It's really disappointing though because I spent most of the morning and afternoon trying to make this all work.
The biggest part of today is of course the arrival of the campers which allowed me to begin by teaching two hou-long sessions of 2D Game Design with the application Multimedia Fusion 2 by clickteam. It works a lot like Game Maker and can do a lot. Generally it's an awesome tool. I'm teaching seven kids, six of whom are competent and at least a couple who have already exhibited some natural game design skill. I'm hoping to do just a little more general instruction and then let them start on their own projects. I'm genuinely excited to see what they can come up with. This early in, there haven't been any notable incidents although I'm sure there will be some.
Finally, I did get some game design/development work done today. I began work on a Game Maker game I've been turning over in my head for about three days. Tonight I plan on doing level design work for the game in the dorms. The game is called Sprawl and the only gameplay influenceI can really see is ToeJam & Earl. It's totally different from that game in tone however. I also did some concept game design work in my head on another strange platformer experiment I may find time to work on during camp. I did this while waiting to aid people as they moved into their dorms. That's the most boring job ever by the way. Finally I began to recode Noise more efficiently in XNA. The code became so complex due to all the design changes I've made and then implemented. I actually should be able to get back to where I was in a day or two at the most considering all the free computer time I'll have throughout the rest of the week.
Anyway that's all for now. I assure you I will get around to non-camp blog posts this week and the descriptions will become more interesting. I don't really care though because I blog for myself. I'm suddenly mad at all of you.... See you tommorrow!

Computer Camp

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Right now I'm writing from my job in Atlanta as a counselor at National Computer Camp. Basically, I spent all day yesterday driving here to help set up today. The official camp starts Sunday (tommorrow) at around 1 pm so until then I have free computer time. At camp I always end up having a lot of free computer time so my plan is to work a lot on game development as well as blogging. As such I will be blogging everyday about the happenings of camp.
Today, as I said, was just for setup. The camp is at Oglethorpe University which has a really nice campus. At this point in time, everything's set up. We have about 25 computers across two rooms and we're in really nice suites. On the curriculum side of things I'm going to be in charge of 2D game design (I was hoping for that role this year). I have a lot of plans, one of which includes forcing (jokingly of course) one of the campers to make a Sonic game. In all honesty it would be a good project. Other than that I've been hanging out with the three other counselors and the director of the camp and essentially settling into the rhythm of life for this week. I'm really excited and there isn't sufficient time left for me tonight to really explore my feelings about how wonderful this camp is. We're going to be heading to the dorms in less than 15 minutes. I plan on reading and notebook designing and even possibly writing tonight. This would make me uber-prepared for free-time I will have tommorrow. As I said, game development is going to be my activity and I'm not going to let anything except for the work here to distract me. Anyway that's it. It's sort of boring but tommorrow through the rest of the week is when exciting blog posts will come (not all will be about my day, some will be carefully composed blogs)
Also, one of the game designs I plan on trying to build a demo for this week takes inspiration from the retro Genesis game, ToeJam & Earl. Thus, I too will be participating in Retro Revival Week. That's all for now.

Some New Games, New Music And Some Other Updates

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It's been a few weeks since I last blogged and as per my summer plans I'm hoping to fix that in the coming weeks. First of all, I have to say that although I didn't win and actually did poorly in the Developer For A Day 6 contest, I'm extremely proud of the icon my finalism won for me. I'd also like to congratulate the winners and everyone else who participated in the contest. I hvaen't had time to read all the entries but I certainly hope to make time. Also I want to especially point to Oilers99 and Braindeadracr, both of whom are my friends and supported me throughout the competition. I'm glad we all made it into the finals. The last thing I want to say about the contest is this: I didn't get feedback so I don't know why I did poorly, but I'm not changing my design. The industry needs to broaden and my game's niche appeal will find an audience.

As I may have mentioned in my summer plans blog, summer plans tend to change with the flow of summer and so far mine definitely have in good ways. First of all, I havent accomplished much in terms of playing games or reading. I got stuck in Shin Megami Tensei so I plan on coming back to that later and for some reason I just don't feel motivation to play any of my other current games (GTA:Liberty City Stories, Twisted Metal: Black, Siren). I was worried about my lack of playing games until I stumbled upon something great yesterday in Savers (a thrift store like Goodwill). I found Doom 2 for $2.99, Myst for $2.99 and Wing Commander IV: The Price of Freedom for $1. So I plan on playing these retro games. They all have either enough gameplay rhythm or narrative hook to keep me playing. These games are masterpieces so I'm really excited. Plus I enjoy retro games. I also found Soundgarden's Superunknown and Pearl Jam's Ten for $2.99. Although I'm not a big Pearl Jam fan, I needed that CD as an amateur Grunge enthusiast. On the idea of music, I also bought Mudhoney's 20th Anniversary remaster of their grunge masterwork, Superfuzz Bigmuff. So far all the albums are really good. As for reading, I haven't even finished Moby Dick. I've been reading a book called "Our Band Could Be Your Life" which is about American Underground from 1981-1991. It includes bands like Black Flag, Mudhoney, Dinosaur Jr., Husker Du, Fugazi and Sonic Youth among others. It's a great book and I don't think I'll move on to anything else until I finish it.

I haven't done much with friends but I have taken to watching Home Movies on [adult swim]. It's such an underrated gem.

As far as games, I have been working on stuff for camp in July. Last night I finally finished that, leaving time for my own game projects. I have the time, I have the means and I have the rejection of DFAD6 to inspire so I'm totally going to bang out Noise and begin work on other parts of my big secret game project. Although there is a huge indie game scene, I'm going to debut the Noise demo here. GameSpot is my home online so why shouldn't you guys get 24 hours or so to yourselves. I'd prefer to know what you guys think because you aren't quite an indie audience and you aren't quite a mainstream audience but you are an alternative audience.

Anyway that's all for now so hopefully I'll be blogging more to keep you really updated. Hopefully I'll be able to add something exciting to my blogs soon.