Archive for Videogames

Throttled back

Custom rigs

The future is here, strangely enough.  3d printers can kit you out with a custom drone, you can create aggressive, combat ready items of clothing that deliver a jab or an electric shock if someone gets too close.  You can slip magnets under the skin  of your fingers (if you have a strong stomach and a lot of lidocaine) to get a tactile sense of the magnetic fields around you.  There are all these bits and bobs and emerging tech and inventive use cases that can be found in every corner of the world and, while they haven’t yet gelled into the inevitable dystopic future we all fear, the sheer number of things that we can do now that were just an idea less than 10 years ago is truly mind blowing.



The Peanut Perception

As a card-carrying member of the human race, there are a number of things that have to be fought on a regular basis.  The big one that I run across over and over again in Game Design is players going blind.

Not in a literal sense.  I could (and sometimes do) develop for that, but in a figurative one.  Once something becomes familiar, the brain sort of shunts it out of the way, you stop *looking* at it and it becomes background noise.

The peanuts at our local Burger Chain serve (to me, as a game designer) a dual purpose.  1. They give the customers something to snack on because it takes a while to cook food.  I can only imagine how many 7 year old appetites have been ruined by the “free peanut” policy.

Reason #2 is, as a game designer, far more interesting.  See, floors are annoying.  They gather crud of all kinds, they have to be mopped and swept.  In many eating establishments you find that the floors are brightly patterned or darkly colored to try and hide this.  They are high-traffic places and as such, have a high maintenance.  But to an employee, those floors become invisible after awhile, they go blind to the state of the floors.  Not because they necessarily don’t care, but because that’s just what happens after a while.  The floors are also one of the first things a player, erm, patron sees when they come in the door.

Your establishment is JUDGED by the state of your floors.

So a dark tile floor, coupled with peanut shells would be a recipe for disaster, right?

Not quite.

See, those shells draw attention to themselves.  The patterns change all the time, they get kicked around.  There’s always something new to see (unlike that one french fry in the corner), the patterns change and the brain is triggered to see what’s different.  Fries and other comestibles don’t really drop often enough, or in enough quantity to trigger this effect.

So the floors stop becoming invisible.

The peanuts, possibly incidentally, solve the problem of clean floors by making those floors dirty, but in such a way as to draw attention to them.  So while you might think that providing such a thing as un-shelled peanuts is crazy, I’m thinking it’s “crazy like a fox”.


Depth and Breadth in your IP

Go on. Ring it up.


I love depth.  It’s the stupid little things in any property, whether it be videogames, books, movies, television, theatre, the little “added value” touches and cookies that tell an audience that the team building this property really gets it.  They get what to is to be a fan (or at least they have someone on staff who does with the clout to make it so).  Fans respond (usually positively).  Go on.  Call the number.

Idea Propagation and Decision Cascades

image from:


I *like* the idea that we are able to track decisions, to watch as an idea or a meme cascades through a group of individuals.  It goes along with both writing and game deign, being able to drive an observer to one conclusion or another in spite of themselves.

I haven’t decided yet if that means (to me) that humans are a logical group, with thought processes that can be deliberately triggered by a “secret recipe” of ideas and images, or if it means that we are fundamentally emotional, and that these triggers  specifically touch thoughts and feelings that are common to all and thus cause common reactions.

Golden Handcuffs


Don’t get me wrong, I *like* the idea of being able to access all my projects at any moment in time, from any device I happen to have in my pocket.  As mobile game developer, the device I happen to have on my person at any given point in time is pretty d*mn random in fact.  It might be a laptop, it might be a phone, or a tablet, or a phablet, or something in between, depending on the product I am working on.  So I get the allure, I get the sexxy that is driving people to keep everything in Dropbox or on Google, or One Drive, or any of the myriad of other cloud-based options out there.  You want to take it with you.

Until sh*t goes bad.

I managed to lose access to everything one day last week, just one day which turned into nearly an entire week of lost time.  My internet services all went down in the office (which took my provider 3 days to fix, and they are still on alert because it may happen again).  I had to stay at the office in order to wait for the service person, so heading out to Starbucks for the “free” wifi was only an emergency option (and for what I do, their connection is way too slow and nowhere near secure enough).  I could access my information via the 4g enabled device in my pocket, but when you are working on slides for a conference, tipping-tapping away on your iPhone is tedious at best.

So while the cloud connections have allowed for a greater range of freedoms when it comes to access, to mobility and flexibility, they are, at the same time, becoming golden leashes, keeping us tethered.  If those connections get interrupted, work is lost.  I run a tiny game studio, everyone works via remote.  I only lost a couple of days of productivity, but imagine if I were a billion dollar corporation.  Even an hours worth of downtime could lose me millions of hours (a girl can dream, right?).

And, while I still have a bag of tricks I can use to get information to where it needs to be on time, those are all legacy bits.  Things I learned and developed a long time ago, back when “sneakernet” was still a likely option (if you all lived in the same town at any rate) still work today, but that’s all legacy stuff.  I’d have a hard time learning it today, simply because the up and coming generation doesn’t seem to take that kind of dead-air into account.