Stacking by Double Fine Productions

February 08, 11

Check out this cool preview of the new Stacking game from Double Fine Productions (Brutal Legend).  I love the look.  It just telegraphs fun.  Using familiar objects in new ways (like popsicle sticks and cigars) gives it a stop motion world feel for us to enjoy. 

It’s definitely something different, which is highly prized in my book these days.  I’m really excited to see some movement back towards fun, adventure, and friendly material.  Did I mention I’ve been playing Deathspank?

It’s a well earned coffee break from the vampire pop culture ownage of late.  Zombies are fine, but sometimes you need to reset the meters by spending some time with Russian stacking dolls.   

Marky Maypo Cereal Toy

February 06, 11

Here’s a series of four commercials featuring Marky Maypo for Maypo cereal.
In the first one, Uncle Ralph gets shafted on his couch snooze time.

They weren’t afraid to have fun in these commercials.

Kids actually talked and acted like kids.

Now we get live action kidults.
We get duplicate cream guys marching single file in sunglasses.
We get the “cream team” —

Cereal without fun animation should be illegal.

It isn’t right, and it’s harmful to a developing mind seeking sugar and monsters.

And here’s the toy I recently tracked down…

Warlords of Atlantis : The Searchers

January 06, 11

As you can probably tell by now, I love space and sea posters from the 60’s and 70’s (thanks Master Kreng! – he’s a genius at spending my money by remote control). I hope you’ll enjoy remembering them too.

He sends me every tempting craigslist find he possibly can.  It’s out of control. 

The sea/space posters always seem to conjure up the idea of The Searcher.

As a kid, the model “searcher” for me was Jacques Cousteau. He was my idol.

He created scuba.
He made underwater photography possible.
He filmed what most had never seen before in their own terrestrial experience.
He opened millions of eyes to our dependence on the health of the ocean.

I even got a red knit hoodie cap to wear (like he did after every dive).  I had homework, bad tonsils, leaves to rake, baseball practice, and a dog to try and walk. 

In sixth grade, I wanted to be a marine biologist and follow Cousteau off the edge of the Earth. Then everyone told me (early) that I’d never find work as a marine biologist. I didn’t really understand this, because Cousteau seemed to have a great thing going. Surely, the Calypso (his ship) needed another deckhand (me). Thereafter, I gave up on the dream of marine biology. 

In college, I majored in Philosophy and was again told that I’d never find work. By that time, I wasn’t even looking for work. Work, I figured, would be there regardless of any effort on my part to locate it.   

And now? 

Now, I just try and keep my eyes on the searchers where I find them.

Zaat (1975)

December 21, 10

They didn’t rely on air-brushed marquee actors, because they didn’t have any.

It was pure illustration.

“A creature like you’ve never seen before…”  Well?

And we can quickly learn that:

Monster walking catfish hybrids sometimes attack the feet.
Trouble may be measured using chemistry beakers.
A defensive stance with a rifle might repel the wayward catfish.
ATV designs were always dynamic.
Syringes figure all too frequently in 1970’s posters.
Attacking scuba divers is timeless and iconic.

Just for reference, here’s the trailer below.

I love the synth/step sequencer and sound design in the background near the end, and Zaat’s attempt to poison the world using only a spray bottle underwater.

Does anyone know why they positively wouldn’t admit anyone during the last 15 minutes, and why this strange fact was mentioned in the trailer?

The Mushi Ramenator

December 07, 10

Is this Mushi Ramenator 
a confused Otter pop?

Clone Star Wars : Ambush

December 06, 10

“Great leaders inspire greatness in others …”

You don’t have to be Alexander the Great, or in the stratosphere of modern society in order to lead.  

Most leaders are unknown, and often little celebrated.

Yet, their leadership often laces through generations.  They lead with ideas, empathy and compassion.  They find simple solutions to complex problems.   

They persevere.

Before his ruminations in the Agora, Socrates carried a spear. 

Where there is no hope, they shake the pillars hard enough to form a hairline crack in the sky.  They are always givers rather than takers.  Some takers like to masquerade as leaders, but don’t be fooled.

Maybe we know a leader most when their ability to give staggers our comprehension.

The Triple F: the fun fun fun games!

November 19, 10

ultimate-rush.net

What makes a game worth playing? Fun. What makes life worth living? The pursuit and enjoyment of fun.

Why do we crank away like creaky Texas oil pumps working so much? Because we hope that our labors, after providing necessities (iPhone 4s are not necessities),  somehow will translate into fun.

If they don’t, we start to shrivel up pretty quickly. 

Fun is relative, sure. But you know it when you’re having it.

Maybe you like to play exotic Kurdish percussion instruments and multiplayer Call of Duty, and I like to hang glide in my Fat Albert shirt and shoot potato cannons off my roof at the neighbor’s RV that blocks the view of the lake. Maybe neither of us can resist legos or Bit-O-Honeys. 

So, fun fun fun games are what we’re all after. Let’s call it the magic Triple F. The Full-on Fun Factor. If not for fun, let’s take the bus home and pull some weeds or clean the bird bath. 

But how do you build a super fun game? Do you need 400 programmers, zoo animals, a waffle iron and the latest graphics card officially sanctioned by Giganta? No, but please keep the waffle iron handy. 

You just need to build up the saggy fun muscle (and explosions help too!).

Build up some fun with stuff you’ve got lying around you: 

RC cars. Pizza boxes. Fill some Coke cans with Slime and poke holes in them. Get some dry ice, fireworks and string. A few ramps (boards and bricks). Maybe some packing bubbles and carpet samples. Kitchen grease and garden hoses. Make some rules and then un-make them. Add some stuff, and then take it away. Use time pressure or forget it.

Delayed fuses. 

Everyone thinks you have to write Halo 4 in your bedroom.  You don’t.   

Fun starts with play. It isn’t some mystical thing.

Science Fictions : Magnetic Monsters

November 11, 10

We all work to become Magnetic Monsters. We want to attract ideas, people, projects and kindred spirits.

Fwaaaang!

We can do much as individuals, and it’s entirely on us to develop and pursue all that we think worthwhile while we have the power to do it.

The worthwhile part is always a personal definition.

Sometimes we let the magnetism draw in everything attractable around us with little filtering. This disables the tractor beam of our Magnetic Monster. It distracts us from seeing more clearly what we’re really about and what we’re really going after. 

We are very proficient at self-deception. Plato says so if you want to believe him. 

So maybe the optimal magnetic monster has a good set of filters. They attempt to filter out greed, hastiness, short term thinking, doing too much or too little, and attempting everything all at once. 

I’d rather try to be a Magnetic Monster than a vacuum cleaner.

Science Fictions : Mission Mars

November 08, 10

The strong caulking gun influence.  The hypodermic barrel.  Soldiers of the ice, chained together alone on the distant surface.

Who can relate?

Mankind held prisoner by the force of his desire to explore.   Martian rays arrest one of them already, his belt clip carabiner of no use now. He has been had.  

Our hero boldly faces the unknown – visor down. Why? 

There is the promise of the bikini.

The insert shot sits to remind us like a polaroid tacked to  memory’s own corkboard.   Remember the sand speckled bikinis. The simple joy of the beach dance. 

The background tendrils spiral like a giant colorform plant.  

It’s nothing short of fantastic.  It’s A Fantastic Adventure into the Unknown!

We must find a way to conquer and endure.  The bikini frolic is our destiny.

Star Wars Spiele : Personality

November 02, 10

How does developer personality influence Star Wars spiele or game building in general?

Can you make a great game against a well known Universe?  Absolutely.  Yet, we might agree that it doesn’t happen very often. 

There are many reasons for this, way too many to dig deeply right here.

One simple danger is that the personality of the developers is often entirely lost in the translation of a game based on a pre-established world. 

This sounds obvious and trivial, but the effects in practice are pretty far reaching.  It’s quite different from the “not so distant history” of how games tended to evolve. 

Earlier games like Frogger, Pac-Man, Q-bert, Mario, Paperboy, Robotron, Sinistar, Asteroids — left plenty of room for developers to show something and try something.  They had what looks like tiny graphic and processing power to us now, but actually expressed more than many console titles do. 

When I say “expressed” I really just mean offered up a particular kind of play value that has a direct connection to the personality of the developers.  When I experience a flat level, or a game that plays hollow and soul-less, I often wonder if it was a matter of inhibited personality.  And, sneaking in a practical point, you often don’t have the software tools (or time/resources to build them) to go after what you would really like in the game anyways. 

So the equation looks like : no personality + bad tools = flat, hollow, soul-less

When you’re simply executing a level section detail as part of a 100+ person team, against strict brand standards, well, you can figure the difference.  Yes, you can innovate somewhat with a brand, but the range of experimentation is minimal — and here’s the killer: experimentation is the only way to make a great game. 

As in any medium, if you can’t experiment much, you will end up with something that rings flat and ignores the personality of those doing the building.  So developer personality is at the heart of the matter because almost anything new, interesting, captivating or unique in a game comes from the expression of personality on the part of the builders.

I think this holds true way beyond games.