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4:50 PM on 09.07.2012

Test Subjects Wanted!

After mucking around with the Puzzle Editor in Portal 2 for a bit, I've finally published a test chamber! This is the first one I've made that I felt was worthy of seeing the light of day. Or, the light of Aperture Science lightbulbs at least.

The only person who has tested this map is... me! Brilliant as I am, I cannot find all the odd ways of breaking the puzzle alone. No, I need Test Subjects for that. I need you!

For Science!   read

6:43 PM on 08.06.2012

UDK club anyone?

I'm teaching myself UDK through video tutorials and poking around and such.

It would be fun to have some folks to share pointers with and maybe collaborate on projects.

Anyone interested?   read

5:15 PM on 06.28.2012

Modding Dragon Age... Maybe?

Recently I spotted Felicia Day in line at my favorite local coffee shop, which inspired me to actually pick up and play my copy of Dragon Age 2 (specifically its Mark of the Assassin DLC, of course). This in turn inspired me to revisit the original Dragon Age, and as I've wanted to try modding a game for a while now I decided to check out the DA Toolkit.

I expected that there would be some initial frustration and a learning curve. I did not expect this to occur during the actual installation of the toolset.

I have now installed, uninstalled, reinstalled, repaired, modified and updated Microsoft SQL (2005 and 2008, tried both with similar results) more times than I care to count in one afternoon. Finally I get the darn database up and running, and what do I learn?

Dragon Age: Origins encountered a fatal error. Yep, I need to reinstall the whole game. Nope, I did not keep a copy of the installation file from Origin. I should be able to begin reinstalling in approximately.... two hours? Oh good.

Have any of you made DAO modules? Did you also have a frustrating time attempting to get started?

It's been quite a few years since I modified games beyond the Sims Create-a-World tool. I forgot how much mental exercise it can take to get set up, especially if, like me, you've installed your games in files other than the default configuration. On the plus side, I can still troubleshoot all this stuff without aid. My brain is just in need of a better workout routine...   read

11:28 PM on 05.31.2012

Game Trucks, snowballs, and marketing for games.

Last week I went to a pre-E3 panel on marketing for games, hosted by Digital LA at the Beverly Hills Porche (of all places, I didn't expect a car dealership to be so cool). The whole thing was fun, starting with Breezy Freeze flavored snowballs and everything from Call of Duty to Mario in the Game Truck.

This isn't related to gaming, but I gotta say: Breezy Freeze is delicious. I stalk them on Twitter now. Must have more yummy snowballs!

Most of you probably haven't experienced the Game Truck. Until now, most of their business has been in making kids' birthday parties more epic. I spoke to Mark of Game Truck's LA franchise, who set up Little Big Planet 2 for me. Not having a PS3 of my own, this was a delightful surprise. Mark was at the panel because they're looking to branch out into promotions for new releases.

Picture this: you're hanging out downtown with your buddies, when suddenly a truck pulls up, containing four TVs and sixteen controllers, all loaded with a demo of the new multiplayer game you're dying to get your hands on. Sound's awesome, right? This might actually happen soon.

As for the panel itself, I soon learned that game marketers pretty much think about the same things gamers do. Does bundled day one DLC sell enough special editions to counteract the people who won't buy the game at all now on principle? (Hi ME3! Turns out, yes, it does.) How can we make this partnership with a popular gamer actress even more awesome? (DA2's answer was: Make game content about her! I bought DA2 just for the Felicia Day...)

I'd like to provide a list of all the panelists, but silly me did not write them all down. I'll update once I can get the names from Digital LA.   read

7:12 PM on 05.30.2012

Brief update on games played and Digital LA

I apologize for the long silence, friendly followers. I've been gearing up for the start of summer classes (this Monday!), and really sinking some hours into internship applications, plus we had a friend staying over for the past week. Exciting times!

As I said last time, I dove into Bastion and League of Legends. Bastion stuck (finished it twice in three days), LoL was harder as I wasn't very good at it yet. I still plan to look into it more, though.

Then last week I went to a Digital LA panel about marketing for games. It was very interesting, so I'd like to give all of you a writeup on that as well.

Only a few days left of freedom, time to really pack it in!   read

9:36 PM on 05.17.2012

Next up: League of Legends, Bastion

There's still a lot I could write on Dwarf Fortress and Dark Souls, but time is short my friends. I am moving on to other games for this blog. Diversity in experience is important after all! I do plan to keep playing Dark Souls, but likely not as much.

Bastion is next up for single player. I'd like to play this on XBOX since that was its first platform, but we have 2 avid gamers in this apartment and only one XBOX so it might be easier to schedule if I play it on PC. To those who have played it on both: is it a good port to PC? Will I have a significantly different experience playing on XBOX?

League of Legends is next for multiplayer. One of each seems to be a good balance for blogging about. Who here plays? I'm brand new so if you're high level we won't be able to play together effectively for a while yet, but no harm in building a list of friends! Any tips for the newbie? :D   read

1:23 AM on 05.12.2012

!!Fun!! with Dwarf Fortress

I got a little obsessive over building fortresses the past few days. This is what happens when I have neither class nor work. I play god with ASCII dwarves.

In my last post I talked about similarities between Dwarf Fortress and Dark souls in that they both have steep learning curves to get going. After reading comments, discussing with the boyfriend, and some more time invested in each, I've realized they're two distinct types of hard to get into. That's another subject that deserves its own post.

Today, I want to talk about Fun.

A few years ago, I went to a panel at ConnectiCon called "Losing Should Be Fun," run by Rym and Scott of GeekNights. One of the first games they mentioned was DF, which they introduced with "In Dwarf Fortress, you're always going to lose." The DF community uses the word fun as a synonym for losing your fort (or a portion of it) to disaster.

At first, I wasn't having a whole lot of fun. I built a couple fortresses, and either got bored or got destroyed by a random megabeast before I'd even explored much of the game (I thought those were supposed to be a later game thing!).

Then something new happened.

I turned on my dwarves.

There was a megabeast on the prowl. I gave my dwarves all the instructions they needed to lock themselves safely up in their fortress until they could get a proper attack ready. The fortress was nicely self sufficient and could easily stay locked up indefinitely. Or at least until everyone got cave adaptation. Should be long enough.

So what did my dwarves do? Nothing. They were all too depressed from the friends they'd lost so far. Frustrated with their uselessness, I let the beast in. I proceeded to draft every remaining dwarf into my military and ordered them to attack, then sat back and watched as, one by one, they rushed to their doom. After a long a bloody fight, they took down the beast. Only three survived.

It was fun.   read

11:52 PM on 05.05.2012

Dark Souls and Dwarf Fortress: How could the game help you learn to play?

Heading into my month of game immersion, I was a decent part of the way through Dark Souls.

For those who have played Dark Souls, you will understand why (after being shot off buttresses in Anor Londo about three thousand times) I have decided to take a break from the main game and simply engage in Jolly Cooperation for a few days. Co-op is all well and good if you're summoned in a reasonable amount of time. Some areas have amusing distractions, like repeatedly burning the slimes outside the Depths bonfire in an attempt to beat my own best time, or farming green titanite in Blighttown, but even that gets old. What's a girl to do while waiting to be summoned?

Enter Dwarf Fortress.

Dwarf Fortress is a game I've known about for a long time, watched other people play, and been somewhat intrigued by, but had never tried for myself. As part of investigation of worldbuilding and simulation games, my boyfriend had pulled up DF a few days ago, and I started spending my wait time chatting with him about his dwarves. An idea emerged: I could play DF between summons! I drop my summon sign in Dark Souls, put down the controller, pick up my laptop and build that fortress. Perfect.

I quickly noticed an interesting similarity: both games have steep learning curves that have driven off more than a few potential players. Starting out goes something like this:

Your buddy has been raving about this game, and encourages you to check it out. Said buddy tosses in a warning or two that it can be frustrating at times, but assures you it's worth it. You start playing and immediately fail at life. At this point, you might push through, you might abandon the game forever, or you might be like me and abandon it for a day (or longer) before being overcome with a powerful need to figure it out and show that game who's boss.

Both games have extensive fan-made wikis detailing how to survive and strategies for nearly every situation, active and enthusiastic fan communities, and little to no in-game guidance for newbies. This is vastly different from the classic level design of Super Mario Bros, where a new player quickly learns all the basics for survival without any need for a tutorial.

The necessity to learn how to play without any help from the game itself turns a lot of people off from Dark Souls and Dwarf Fortress. They both have a lot more complexity than the original Super Mario Bros, making that kind of integrated "tutorial" more difficult, but surely it can still be done.

What are your favorite integrated tutorials in recent video games? What are the worst?
How on earth do you build in lessons on playing something like Dwarf Fortress or Dark Souls without patronizing the player?
The absurd difficulty of getting into these games creates a sense of camaraderie among fans, which might be lessened with too much in-game help. Are they fine as they are?

Please discuss, dear readers!   read

7:15 PM on 05.02.2012

Immersion Month: Diving head first into all things game!

This month I've got some free time on my hands between semesters, and I've decided to put this to the best use: learning as much as I can about as many games as I can, on as many platforms as I can get access to.

Why am I doing this?
Aside from the excuse to play games all day and call it research (bonus!), I'm playing catch-up on years of little gaming time. As an undergrad, I barely had time for gaming--some Plants vs. Zombies and Soul Calibur fight nights here and there, sure, but most new titles were filed away to play "later." I emerged with a sense of vertigo, looking back over all the games I'd been meaning to play. It was 2010, and I'd never played Portal. Something was wrong.

See, it's not just that I'm a gamer who'd been missing out on her game time. I'm working in the game industry. It was at my internship this past term that I realized how behind I'd become. There I was, making art for an iPad game with a planned Kinect port... and I'd never played an XBOX game, much less one using Kinect.

The Plan
All month, I'm diving into games I've heard are particularly innovative, engaging, or otherwise noteworthy. I'm tracking my notes and observations on these games here, on my CBlog. I'll be delighted to hear recommendations on what to play next, and your thoughts on the games I write up.

Simultaneously, I'm submitting internship applications for the summer semester. This means I'm keeping up with all the job postings, news, and industry trends I can get my eyes on. Hopefully this will lead to interesting insights as I compare current goings on with what I'm gleaning through play.

The third part of my plan is R&D on my thesis project, which is (big surprise!) also a game. I'll blog about updates on that end as well, and would absolutely positively magnificently LOVE feedback from the community on it.

Stay tuned for reviews, insights, and musings on game design.
I'll be updating as often as I get the chance all this month. I hope you'll enjoy the series!   read

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