costik's blog

Free Ads for Indies

I've mentioned this before, but now that the site is functioning again, perhaps it's worth mentioning.

See that top ad bar? If you are an indie developer, we will happily run your ad there, in rotation with others, for free, for as long as you wish. It can be for an actual product, or for a Kickstarter/Indiegogo thing. All you have to do is a) send me a banner ad, b) tell me where you want it to link to, c) be plausibly indie, d) not link to malware, obviously, and e) not be an asshole.

Uncertainty in Games

In crunch mode at work, which is why there haven't been updates here for some time.

However, as of tomorrow, The MIT Press releases my book, Uncertainty in Games.

There are a lot of books that attempt to provide a broad overview of the craft of game design; I wanted instead to take a single important element and go deep on it.

The central argument is that uncertainty, whether of outcome or path, is a central part of the appeal of games. I analyze a slew of very different games to unpick their sources of uncertainty, and provide some ideas for how to use an understanding of uncertainty to guide the design of innovative games.

You can find Uncertainty in Games on Amazon here. Or, of course, order from your favorite independent book store.

Interview with me at Raconteur Magazine.

Raconteur Magazine has an interview with me, in which I talk about indie games and the current market.

Kickstarter for Balance of the Planet

I very rarely mention Kickstarter projects here; it's a review site, not an indie news site. But I think this is important enough to highlight.

Chris Crawford -- one of the grand old men of US game development -- is seeking funding for a revised version of Balance of the Planet

Balance of the Planet is one of Crawford's more obscure title, but among his most brilliant. It's a sim in which you try to develop economically while preventing ecocatastrophe. Among its most brilliant features is that virtually every parameter in the game is user adjustable -- meaning that it is politically wholly neutral. If you believe that nuclear power is safe, you can tweak its danger parameter downward. If you believe that the effect of carbon emissions on global warming are overstated, you can change that parameter to. You can, in other words, adjust the sim to suit your personal beliefs -- or explore what might happen if the belief sets of someone else are correct.

Reddit "Ask me Anything"

Update: Was here, is over.

This Saturday, starting at about noon PST, I've agreed to do an "ask me anything" on Reddit. I'll post an URL here later when it starts.

You can -ask- me anything, although I don't promise to actually answer, say, questions about my sex life. Or, for that matter, to talk about any of the (unfortunately) myriad things that are covered by the many NDAs I've signed over the years. That still leaves a great deal, to be sure.

Also, to be clear, I totally do not speak for my employer, which in descending corporate hierarchy, are currently Disney, the Disney Interactive Media Group, and Playdom, Inc.

However, I'm happy to discuss:

....Roleplaying games, including my role in Paranoia, Toon, and the (original) Star Wars RPG.
....Boardgames, including The Creature that Ate Sheboygan and Pax Britannica.
....My role as an online and mobile game pioneer.
....My two failed startups (Unplugged Games and Manifesto Games)
....My reputation as the sort of angry middle aged man of the game industry (Scratchware Manifesto, Death to the Games Industry [Long Live Games], GDC Maverick Award, etc.)
....My independent game scholarship (I Have No Words and I Must Design, Games, Storytelling, and Breaking the String, etc.)
....How to cook gourmet meals for a family on a budget and in an hour or less.
....Why you should get on your fucking bike.
....How to tell the difference between a quality Oriental carpet and a cheap Belgian knock-off.
....And just about anything else that arises.

High Score 3

Russel DeMaria, a long-time writer and editor in the games industry, currently has a Kickstart project looking for funding to help him write the third edition of High Score!.

If you're not familiar with the book, it's one of the best histories of videogames, written by Russel and Johnny Wilson; my only complaint about it is that it's sort of the happy, "everything is good" history of the videogame industry, and we definitely need a sort of "Hollywood Babylon"-equivalent to document the other side of the equation. (And both Russel and Johnny doubtless know where the bodies are buried, and could write such a thing if they wanted to.)

If you're willing to put up $250 (a lot, to be sure), Russel is offering you the opportunity to have lunch with anyone of a veritable galaxy of industry luminaries, including Trip Hawkins, Will Wright, Lorne Lanning, and John Romero.

His promo video is kind of amazing, and worth watching just for the sense of history:

Submissions to IndieCade 2012 Now Open

Submissions Open for IndieCade 2012 Festival of Independent Games

LOS ANGELES - Feb. 1, 2012 – Submissions for IndieCade’s 2012 International Festival of Independent Games are now open at the IndieCade website:

IndieCade invites independent game artists and designers from around the world to submit interactive games of all types. Works-in-progress are encouraged.

The Problem with Gamification... that it tries to solve a problem that doesn't exist. We already have a universal points system, across all aspects of life, that represents status and is redeemable for real world prizes. It's called "money."

Games for Christmas

As always, everybody gets games for Christmas, both digital and non-digital. In years past, the digital have tended more to commercial release, but I decided to go indie this year.

Karen (my sweetie) wanted her own copies of both Puerto Rico and Minecraft.

Betsy, at Drew and a serious linguist, got Jaipur; she will doubtless read the German version of the rules. I got it for her mainly because she does not currently have a games group, and it's a two-player game, so she can play it with her b/f. And, on the digital side, The Blackwell Deception; Grim Fandango and the Monkey Island games are among her favorites, and she has enjoyed previous games in the Blackwell series.

Vicky, who is at Oberlin and living in the Sci Fi dorm there, got Small World, an excellent game to play with her dorm mates, as well as the Humble Indie Bundle 4

Simona, who is 8, got Matt Leacock's Forbidden Island; perhaps a little advanced for her, but as the kid of game designers, she'll probably take to it. And, on the digital side, Costume Quest (the PSN downloadable version). Coincidentally, Vicky gave Simona Psychonauts -- like Costume Quest, a Tim Schafer game.

Paranoia Novels on Amazon

Allen Varney is editing a series of Paranoia e-book novels (despite my advice to find more remunerative ways to spend his time), and the first two are up now.

They are set, obviously, in the Paranoia universe, where everyone lives in a vast underground city controlled by The Computer, a well-meaning but deranged AI that wishes to keep everyone safe and happy, but is convinced that vast conspiracies are working to destroy its utopian order. Paranoia fans will obviously be interested but so perhaps may others be: As Allen says, "In these books we're hoping to continue a tradition of smart science fiction satire in the mode of Philip K. Dick, Robert Sheckley, John Sladek, and Pohl & Kornbluth."

Reality Optional, by long-time UK game designer Gareth Hanrahan, follows Jerome-G, a Green-clearance worker for the Threat Obfuscation Department, whose job is is to invent imaginary menaces to keep the population on their toes -- until the things he created start coming true: there really are pirates in the transport tubes, and rogue robots really are conspiring to rebel. This, of course, places Jerome-G under immediate suspicion -- and to avoid being used as reactor shielding, he volunteers for the Troubleshooters -- and finds a pair of augmented reality glasses that reveal the truth behind everything he sees...

Stay Alert, by Allen himself (designer of the most recent edition of Paranoia), is the first of a projected three novels under the name "The Troubleshooter Rules;" naturally, the others will be Trust No One and Keep Your Laser Handy. It follows the adventures of Fletcher-R, a new Troubleshooter recruit who has the problems of all Troubleshooters (traitorous and untrustworthy team mates and his own hidden treasons), but has an additional problem: When doing paperwork or dealing with bureaucracies, he sometimes blacks out, and when he comes to, all the paperwork is perfect -- and he has navigated the bureaucracy to perfection. This is useful, but troubling, and unreliable.

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