— cjohnson games

Video Games

New Bot: Mirrored Game Covers

Recently I had a few idea for a bunch of new Twitter bots. I’m going to be working on these over the next few months. The first of these is the Mirrored Game Cover bot.

It takes popular game covers from Moby Games and creates two images one in which the left side of the image is mirrored over the right and the other where the right side is mirrored over the left. This idea came from a NeoGAF thread several years ago.

Here are some of the more notable tweets the bot has posted so far.

The Slaughterhouse

So over the last 6 weeks or so Catherine and I have been working on an extension for Hacknet called The Slaughterhouse. In it you break into the computer network of a meat company and expose its violations to the public. It takes about 2 hours to play through. You’ll need to have both Hacknet and the Labyrinths DLC to play the extension.

We’re quite happy with how it turned out. It takes a much more investigative and complex approach to the original game. We also hope that it challenges an audience that usually wouldn’t be exposed to this kind of material.

You can access the extension here.

Australian Games Mix Tape

Update: Due to personal reasons this project won’t be going forward. Thanks to those that showed interest.

For the Fete at the Freeplay Festival next month I have a stall that I’m calling the Australian Games Mix Tape. The basic idea is that there will be a pirate kart like games launcher with just Australian games. The intention is to show the diversity of games being made in Australia.

You can find more details and submit your game here.

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Free Local Multiplayer Games Website

One thing that I really enjoy doing is playing through the batch of games that are developed as part of game jams such as Ludum Dare. I usually sit down with my girlfriend and we take turns in trying out the different games. We also run through games listed on curated websites such as Free Indie Games and the recently released games on portals such as Game Jolt. When trolling through the list of games, those listed as local multiplayer games tend to stick because we both want to play.

Unfortunately there aren’t any websites that just curate free, local multiplayer games which is why I created a small tumblr blog to do just this. It’s called Free Local Multiplayer and was released a few weeks ago. I’m trying to regularly update the site with new games every week or so. The idea is to build a list of solid, enjoyable games that people can play together with a friend or at larger multiplayer parties. The spirit of playing games in a communal space with friends, strangers, family, partners or whoever is something that I think is definitely worth spreading.

Screenshot from 2014-06-05 01:42:29

I wanted to create something that was vibrate and fun. The website needed to quickly get across the types of experiences people could have which is why I opted for the grid design with large cells. I ended up choosing to use tumblr and modified an existing theme. The selection of themes on tumblr is impressive with most themes looking fantastic. I was originally hoping to use animated gifs for each screenshot however I ran into issues related to CORS so I opted for static screens instead.

All of the games posted are tweeted out at @FLMGames. If you’re interested in helping me curate the website then feel free to get in touch.

Starseed Observatory Interviews

Late last year I was interviewed by my twin brother Daniel about my experiences playing Starseed Pilgrim. This interview was for a feature called Twin Perspectives on a new website, Starseed Observatory. The intention of the website is to show a new form of games criticism that Dan and his friends have been working towards.

Screenshot from 2014-03-04 12:26:35

Dan and I also recorded an interview about my design philosophy and thoughts on games. It’s a bit rough but I figure it may be of interest to readers.

Random Free Indie Game website

Over the last few days I’ve been a bit distracted with maintaining the release of Moirai, reading and thinking about future side projects. Tonight I decided to put together one of these side projects. The project is just a small website that randomly chooses a game listed on the Free Indie Games website. Free Indie Games is a website that curates free indie games. It’s a really well curated website that gives exposure to a lot of great games.

So if you’re looking for something to play then maybe choose a random, free indie game.

Game Dev Adelaide

I thought I would do a short blog post to tell you about a new website that I quickly put together over the last few days. The site is called Game Dev Adelaide. It lists all of the game developers within Adelaide and creates posts depending upon what the developers post to their RSS news feeds.

gamedevadel

If you are an Adelaide/South Australian based developer and are not listed on the website then be sure to let me know. The details about how to do that are over on the sites about page.

What games can take away from Citizen Kane

Recently I watched Citizen Kane, a movie that was said to defy movies as having artistic legitimacy and be the best movie of all time. I don’t entirely agree with these thoughts. After watching Citizen Kane I was reminded of the buzz a while ago as journalists tried to claim the Citizen Kane of video games. In short this sort of discussion is pointless. I think this article sums it all up nicely.

However I think that there is something that can be taken from Citizen Kane that would prove useful. The idea of challenging authority and those in our society who bend their power for their own corrupt ends. The systematic nature of games allow them to replicate systems that are corruptible by highlighting to the masses how such corruption occurs.

Games like those from Molleindustria and Persuasive Games are examples of how games can create such systems that can be used expose the James Hersts of modern day society.

Thoughts on Two Anthropomorphic Bubbles

Recently I was referred to a game called Two Anthropomorphic Bubbles from a friend on Facebook. I started to jot down my thoughts on the game which started to get rather long, so I’ve decided to post them here. Before you continue reading be sure to give the game a go.

From the games title screen you get the impression that this game is intended to be a metaphor. The title partially gives this away with the use of Anthropomorphic. According to Wikipedia:

Anthropomorphism is the attribution of human characteristics to non-human creatures and beings, phenomena, material states and objects or abstract concepts.

So therefore these bubbles are meant to take on human characteristics which is further suggested through names of the two characters of this game, Mr and Mrs Pink Bubble.

Upon playing the game you move through the world which is populated by grey bubbles. You control Mr Pink Bubble using the mouse to, as you move the mouse Mr Pink Bubble follows you. A grey circle expands and shrinks around you based upon how close you are to the most recently touched bubble. As the grey bubbles traverse to the left hand side of the screen, this bubble inevitably becomes bigger. The more grey bubbles you touch, the more your score increases, as your streak of touching grey bubbles increases so does your size. It’s hard to tell but if you don’t touch the grey bubbles frequently enough or over time you, Mr Pink Bubble, decrease in size. I noticed that if you didn’t touch any grey bubbles for a while and went to touch them again then you would actually lose score.

There are several metaphors conveyed here, each with different effect. When you touch the grey bubbles you become larger, this could be interpreted as a metaphor of, the more you share love and understanding, the more fulfilled you become. The shrinking may represent how we become bitter and less fulfilled when we are alone and don’t share our love. The fact that grey bubbles move off screen could represent how we have to eventually let go of some of the people we love. The dynamic in which you inevitably touch another grey circle could represent how we meet people in our lives unexpectedly and we share our love with them. The loosing of score could represent how it hurts to start to share love again.

The game consists of dialogue between Mr and Mrs Pink Bubble as well as a background that slowly scrolls to the grave of Mrs Pink Bubble. These only lightly serve as means to provide loose context. In a way they are redundant.

At this point you may be thinking that this game mirrors the strong metaphors in other experimental games like The Marriage. I strongly disagree with this because I feel that this game is missing a strong sense of conflict between the mechanics that could be used to enrich the metaphor. Despite relating to these metaphors I feel as though it misses stronger and much more interesting metaphors about love.

Love to me requires sacrifice. The sacrifice to open yourself up to something that could hurt you and something that will make you vulnerable. There are no mechanics in this game that play off against each other to represent sacrifice. As a result I feel that it only hits the surface of being a metaphor for love.

Thoughts on Metal Gear

Recently I played through Metal Gear Solid(MGS) for the GameBoy Color(GBC), a surprisingly hard to find and often overlooked game in the popular Metal Gear series. As with other games in the series, especially the Playstation version of MGS, it doesn’t let the technical limitations of the hardware hold it back from delivering a surprisingly deep game with a detailed story. The game raises the standards of games on the GBC, not just technically but through it’s enquinety with control and sheer content.

Today I want to share my thoughts on the Metal Gear series, currently I’ve played Metal Gear 1/2, Metal Gear Solid 1/2/3 and Metal Gear Solid on the GBC.

I find that the series contains many aspects that sets it apart from other games, however these aspects make it such a polarising series. The story would have to be the most polarising aspect of the series. Relative to other video game stories, Metal gear presents a more complex, stylised story, be it through the use of modern history, the discussions of the technicalities of war or the layered relationships between major characters.

More complex entertainment demands more from its audience who are trained to accept the lowest common denominator of complexity in entertainment. Clearly anything that steps up the complexity is at risk of alienating a few. However I think the expense of alienating a few in order to raise the standard of entertainment is a perfectly okay sacrifice to make.

Parts of the story become very convoluted with plot twists that layer and intertwine and become so complicated to some that the story comes off as being incoherent. I can understand how people don’t like this. Personally I enjoy the plot twists and there are points where I am at a loss to describe what is going on. However because of my attachment to these games such twists and entanglements encourage me to pay closer attention to the details. This problem is evident in MGS2, while confusing I found the ideas that were presented to be incredibly compelling.

The stories of Metal Gear are layered on thick and arguably too thick with long cut scenes that drown out those who don’t take interest in it. The argument that there is this balance between interaction and no interaction in games confuses me. Video Games are just software, the classification of games can narrow our mindset to what we can do with such software. However thinking just in the steeped definition of games doesn’t do us any good when you have games that push that definition into interesting places.

The game play in Metal Gear focuses of setting up environments in which the player much use her arsenal of stealth items and sometimes lack of, to sneak through without being detected. This open ended style of play allows players to create their own narrative if they take to the games mechanical system. The game offers few in game rewards for experimentation and ultimately the player is self rewarded through the interesting scenarios that can play out. The process of the players rewarding themselves goes against some silly ideas the industry has of baiting players with rewards in order to keep them playing.

As you’ve probably noticed I’m really a fan of this series. I’ve just defended some of the major complaints people have with it. I can understand these views however they don’t bother me so much, sometimes they do quite the opposite. However there are things that bother me about the series and I want to talk about them too.

MGS borrows heavily, as do most games in the series from the well established Metal Gear 2 mechanics. MGS is practically Metal Gear 2 in 3D and MGS on the GBC is just more Metal Gear 2, with the only new mechanics being added were 8 way movement and colored box puzzles. MGS3 and probably MGS4, I’ll find out when I play it, add more to the base mechanics but it barely changes the fundamental mechanics at play. The fundamental mechanics of the Metal Gear games is ‘stealth’ which basically boils down to avoiding enemy viewing boxes. Not really all that interesting. The different scenarios that play out can be interesting but they don’t always remedy this core problem. The major mechanic of a game should be the most fun/interesting/whatever and avoiding hit boxes is not.

Repetitive story structures are another problem that plagues the Metal Gear games. Repetitive villainous groups are in every game, be it Fox Hound, GRU, Dead Cell, etc with each group containing around 5 members that you must destroy through the entirety of the game. This story choice greatly influences the games structure with boss battles set at regular intervals that can make for predictable pacing. This point is rather subjective but it does tire when in every introduction screen you hear about of a rebel group of 5 or so members.

What information is hidden and revealed and to whom great affect the mood of games. One frustration that I have with the Metal Gear games is that once you have alerted an enemy in the game, then all enemies appear to know where you currently are if you are within a certain range(physical distance, not necessarily the enemies viewing distance). There is nothing in the game to indicate that all enemies should know exactly where you are. The enemies use radios to communicate but that doesn’t explain why the realism presented in these games graphical system doesn’t match the realism present in the games mechanical system.

I think that’s about all I have to say on Metal Gear. It’s a great series that I recommend people try, even if it just to see if you’d enjoy it.