costik's blog

InstantAction & IAC

So apparently InstantAction is shutting down. It was a spin-off from Garage Games; back a few years ago, GG apparently decided that being an indie publisher was not getting them where they wanted to go, and embarked on a couple of ventures that were clearly designed as efforts to try to find something that VCs would fund. InstantAction, essentially a plugin that allows you to play Torque-engine games in the browser, was the one that did get funded (by IAC), while Great Games Experiment, essentially a social network for gamers, did not, and was passed on to Jeff Tunnell's Pushbutton Labs (Tunnell was Garage Game's original founder).

My take is that Unity has essentially won the war for browser plugins for 3D games, and their task now must be to get the plugin more widely adopted so that it becomes a more viable alternative to Flash.

The question this raises, however, is what, if anything, IAC is going to do in games now. They own iWon, which is apparently still quite profitable, despite its Gamesville-imitative business model (free to play games with cash prizes for a very few), which was among the few models that worked for online games a decade ago, but today looks rather dowdy as the universe moves toward FTP. Supposedly, Barry Diller is interested in playing in the space, and if so, another move is overdue.


Do What You Loathe

Oh god. It's probably not there now, if you go look, because Google serves random crap, but just now there was that godawful Full Sail "university" ad that shows:

A. BEFORE SHOT: Bored, burned-out looking fellow sitting at a computer, some text about how boring your job is.

B. AFTER SHOT: Delighted happy guy sitting at a computer, with the text "Do what you love, learn to make games."

Talk about misleading advertising. They've got their before and after shots reversed.

It's -after- you've had what you love beaten out of you by the industry that you'll be burned out and dreary. And God help you if you have an industry-specific degree from, say, Full Sail that does not reasonably transition into a job in some other field.

IGDA surveys indicate that the average game developer burns out on the field within 5 years.

I remember Harlan Ellison once saying, "Don't write unless you can't help writing." Which is good advice, particularly now that the Internet has drastically devalued writing.

Or as Jack Kirby said, "Comics will break your heart."

Ellison and Kirby weren't talking about games, but they might as well have been.


"Chamber LARPs" in Oslo, 19 & 20 November

Laivfabrikken (a group of LARP organizers) and Fantasiforbundet (a "national cultural organization for activities related to games, adventure, and imagination") will jointly sponsor a festival in which the jury of the LARP Writer Challenge will play the finalists for the challenge and announce the award, and participants may play four Swedish-designed LARPs inspired by the movie Dogville. All games will be played in English, to be accessible to pan-national participants. The event will be staged at the Chateau Neuf in Oslo.

More info here.


Mozilla Game On Competition

Mozilla is running a competition for "open web" games (meaning ones that run in the browser without the use of proprietary technologies such as Flash and Java -- AJAX/HTML5/what have you, in other words). Prizes aren't huge (top prize is a free trip for 2 to GDC), but with HTML5 and such, it's increasingly possible to do pretty good web games without a plugin, and I think it's something worth promoting. Deadline is January 11. (Full disclosure: I'm one of the judges.)


The Favor

So.... so very true. Arrgh. (Via Mike Sellers.)


Neverending Games Arcade Party

TOMORROW, Babycastles will be hosting a party at which winners and runners up for the Experimental Gameplay Project's "Neverending Games" contest will be available for play.

More information here,, but the basics:

Babycastles Arcade @ Showpaper 42nd Street Gallery
217 East 42nd Street
Nueva York
7 to 11 PM

The games themselves will be up and available for play every day and evening until Halloween weekend.


Brutally Unfair Game Bash @ Babycastles

People from the Copenhagen Games Collective will be at Babycastles in Queens this Saturday, October 2nd, starting at 6:30. Among the games shown will be B.U.T.T.O.N. (an Indiecade finalist this year) and Ruckblende. Also, Frank Lantz will be speaking.


2010 Indiecade Reviews

Just for the record, here are our reviews of Indiecade 2010 finalists:

Here are links to other Indiecade finalists we aren't reviewing (yet, anyway) and why:

  • A Slow Year: Not yet publicly available.
  • B.U.T.T.O.N.:Not yet publicly available.
  • Bit.Trip Runner: Wii game.
  • Cargo Delivery: Not yet publicly available.
  • Castle Vox:Not yet publicly available.
  • Faraway: Not yet publicly available.
  • feelforit: Requires iPad or iPhone.
  • Gentlemen of the South Sandwiche Islands: Not yet publicly available.
  • Groping in the Dark: Don't speak Korean.
  • Humans vs. Zombies: Open to a review, but we haven't played it, and it's live action.
  • Limbo: Requires XBox 360.
  • Miegakure: Not yet publicly available.
  • Monsters (Probably) Stole My Girlfriend: Requires PSP.
  • Recurse: Art installation; you can't play this thing unless physically where it is.
  • Retrograde: Requires PS3.
  • Sixteen Tons: Art installation.
  • Socks, Inc.: Live action game.
  • Spirits: Requires iPhone or iPad.
  • Tic-Tac-Totum: Might review in future on a Tuesday.
  • The Cat and the Coup: Not yet publicly available.
  • Nonchalance: One-time, live-action games.
  • Trauma: Not yet publicly available.

2010 Indiecade Finalists

...have been announced.


"Painkiller Deathstreak": Nicholson Baker on Games

The current issue of The New Yorker has a lengthy article by Nicholson Baker on videogames. I wrote the following, before I noticed that not only does The New Yorker not print letters to the editor, their website does not allow comments and supports no forum. So I will have to post it here, for what good it does me.

Nicholson Baker is articulate about his experience with the modern crop of mass-market, retail release, conventional industry console games; and while he does us the favor of not nailing the obvious subtext to the wall, we can see it, surely. These games are graphically beautiful, but based on a scant handful of gameplay patterns, and inexorably violent.

This is true; what is not true is the implication that "the game," in its manifold forms, is thereby adequately represented.

Baker has done the equivalent of watching the top ten Hollywood blockbusters of the year; doing so will not develop a particularly acute appreciation for the virtues of cinema as an artform. I would suggest that something of the same applies to games; the most interesting work is rarely done in the most commercial venues.

Of the games Baker plays, only Heavy Rain is, from a game designer's perspective, remotely interesting. Better he should experience Braid, Flow, Passage, Dwarf Fortress, The Baron... I could go on, but since I've already lost you, why bother?

Regards,

Greg Costikyan


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