Thursday, March 27, 2014

After 8 Years, My Game Is Done


In development, there's something called the Second-System Effect.  Essentially, SSE means the second thing you build will be hugely more complicated and time-consuming than the first.  I am living proof of SSE, as I have just finished my second game, and it took me eight years to finish.

"But it's just a text adventure with a two-word parser!" you say.  "You did it in Flash!  How could it have taken you that long?"

Well, I'm glad you asked.  See, way back in the ancient mists of time (2006), I lived in Chicago.  My son was two years old, and I taught at the Illinois Institute of Art.  I'm actually quite a good teacher, much to my own surprise, but I had one absolutely horrible class.  I'd like to be able to blame the bad class on my students, who insisted on no homework, but I screwed it up.

I wanted them to work with very simple tools to reinforce basic level design theory (and understand the pain I went through making levels in Python).  There really weren't many good tools in 2006, so I built a text adventure generator in Flash.

Even with the tutorial I wrote.  Even with the sample adventure I made to show them how it worked.  Even when I made the assignment pass/fail.  Even when I devoted a whole class to how to do it, most of them decided to skip the assignment and fail the class.

As I said, they hated it, but I thought it was great and wanted to do something cool with it.  I took an old idea (a world which changed slowly as you played and a beginning like Chamber of the Sci-Mutant Priestess) and began to code.

Then here were a few complications that slowed me down:

We moved back to the SF Bay Area.
We had another baby.
My pet died.
I worked on another game.
I got a job.
I started work on ANOTHER game.
I published a novel.
But of all the problems and slow-down, the biggest one was quality assurance.  Someone needed to test my game, but not just any someone.  I had tons of people try to test my game, but give up in frustration.  Text adventures are a lost art form that nobody gets.  I had to find someone who would sit with me and get it.

After two years of just sitting around on my laptop, my friend Patrick Goodspeed agreed to help.  He took the train down to my house and sat with me for hours playing through the first half of my game.  His help was invaluable, and all it cost me was lunch.  Suddenly, I had pages of bug fixes and suggestions to work through.  After a couple months, I finished and asked him to come down to test again.

But Patrick was having troubles.  After more than 40 years, he was being evicted from his rent-controlled apartment.  He fought in court, but lost.  Still, in the midst of all that turmoil, Patrick managed to find another free day to finish my game.

And here it is.

Ten rooms.  Five objects.  Three monsters.  Infinite worlds. Flux Warden

And here's my "games page" which also has links to the walkthrough.  Trust me, you'll need it.
www.vacuumgenesis.com/games.html

Also, if anyone has an apartment in the East Bay, please let me know.  Patrick is looking to rent a room.  He's honest, and hardworking, and quiet, and can fix any computer you put in front of him.

As for me, I'm looking for a new game to make.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

GDC 2014 Booth Babes

I was planning on writing, as I do each year, about my amazing experiences at the Game Developer's Conference.  I was going to talk about the celebrities who came up to me to talk about my work, the expensive free gifts (A gold brick?  Seriously?  Uh, okay.) we all got, and the multimillion dollar business arrangements I made with captains of industry.

But, let's face it, you just want to hear about the booth babes.

Ladies, can't you see how uncomfortable you're making me?
For the uninitiated, "booth babes" is the term for spokesmodels who wear costumes and work the show floor.  I've always had a problem with GDC's spokesmodels because they won't keep their hands off me.

You can tell the blonde is hitting on me because she said "Don't come near me."
Ladies, I understand it's hard.  You see a hunky game-developer guy and think "I will not stop until he's mine," but show some restraint.  I'm not just some piece of meat.  I'm a person.  An incredibly handsome, brilliant, funny person with washboard abs.  Still, a person.

This hot number kept asking me to hold her hand(le) and talk about "rockets."
Perhaps next year I won't wear deodorant so they'll keep away.  Oh, no, wait, I did that this year.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

I Fucking Love Humans


In case you haven't heard, I Fucking Love Science is making a jump from Facebook to television show, following in the footsteps of the Twitter account Shit My Dad Says.  For those of you who don't follow IFLS, it's the creation (pun intended) of science student Elise Andrew who posts pictures like these:


Since I've followed her for a couple years now, I've decided to rip off legally parody her work on my new Facebook group: I Fucking Love Humans.  Every day, I will post fascinating pictures about the fascinating lifestyles of those most fascinating creatures: humans (fascinating).

Some examples:


For our cosplayer friends (of which I have none):


And for those of us who went to school in Wisconsin:


I expect to start my Facebook account three weeks after I get the cease and desist letter from Ms. Andrew.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

What Kind of Harry Potter Wizard Are You?


I've decided to do a quiz this week on I Can Write Funny.  Having read the Harry Potter books out loud dozens and dozens of times, I figure I have a better handle on the character types than even JK Rowling.

So, without further ado, here's a quiz that tells you what kind of Harry Potter Wizard you'd be.  I not only have no magical ability, but I've also no programming ability, so record your answers separately and check them against the results below.

Question 1: What is your patronus?
A: Dog, cat, or other mammal.
B: Bird, fish, or other animal.
C: What the f-k is a patronus?
D: Don't you dare patronize me!

Question 2: Have you ever had a pet owl?
A: No.
B: No, but I bet it would be awesome!
C: Do you know where I could get a pet owl?  Is it legal?
D: Yes.  Also, I'm a big, fat liar.

Question 3: Lord Voldemort charges at you, wand raised!  Do you...
A: Cast expelliarmus on him.
B: Kneel and pledge your allegiance.
C: Swear off those killer 'shrooms your buddy gave you.
D: Offer him BreatheRight Strips for that awful snoring problem he must have.  I mean, seriously, look at those nostrils!  He must have sleep apnea.

Question 4: What house would you be sorted into?
A: Gryffindor - I'm brave.
B: Slytherin - I'm a jackass.
C: Hufflepuff - I'm a loser.
D: Ravenclaw - Er, what are Ravenclaws, again?  Good at cooking?

Question 5: When I look in the Mirror of Erised, I see...
A: My family, alive and not judging me for reading children's literature all the time.
B: Kate Upton in a bikini holding beer and pizza.
C: Adam Levine in a Speedo, holding chocolate and wine.
D: Adam Levine and Kate Upton holding lint rollers in a bathtub filled with blueberry yogurt and Goldfish crackers and didn't you read answer A?  I said don't judge me!

Great!  Now check your answers against the results below:


If you answered mostly A: You are a squib!
Congratulations, you are one of the very rare people born with no magical ability.  Sure, you may know about the world of wizards and witches, but you'll never be a real part of it.  If you're lucky, you might be allowed to sweep up old castles or raise cats... But, let's face it, if you were lucky you wouldn't be a squib.


If you answered mostly B: You are a muggle!
You are one of those completely non-magical people who never get involved in the wizarding world.  Maybe you'll wander into a wizard camp-out, be abused and ridiculed,then have your memory erased, but that's it.


If you answered mostly C: You are a muggle who wants to be magical!
Not only are you unable to perform magic, something that will never, ever change, but you're upset about that.  The best hope you have for a normal life is to marry somebody who owns a drill company and abuse any wizard children you can.


If you answered mostly D: You are a person with no magical ability!

Congratulations, you're... Oh, right, you're normal, just like everyone else.