So Valve Software recently released their much-awaited sequel to Portal. Before its release they published a number of in-house generated trailers, and promoted the release with an alternate reality game. The game came out, the critics almost universally loved it, but on Metacritic, the forums and blogs there seemed to be general ire against the game and Valve in particular. I’d like to explore this to get a feel of the current games market and blow off some steam on Portal 2, the ARG, Steam and Valve themselves. (Click here to read the rest of this entry)

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Work on my projects has been quiet lately, not because I haven’t been doing anything, but more because I have. I’ve got a good foundation down for the game/simulation side of Kung Fu Chronicles in terms of game objects and the supporting framework. I’m now in a weird position in that I’m really happy with that framework but don’t have the experience with such a thing to dive right in, even though I designed it. I tend to learn by iterated imitation until I feel confident I’ve mastered it. But since the game engine is so new to me and so specialized to the task it needs to do, I’m a little hesitant. Dumb, I know, but that’s how it is.

I’ve been a little entranced with Kingdom of Loathing recently, and had an idea for a cyberpunk, conspiracy-theory-laden browser-based game. The chief gimmick was that you’re a hacker and your base measure of power is your aggregate MIPS across all your computers, electronic devices and “borrowed” machines. I even had a good name for it (Synaptic) with a few hooks and ideas. But I need another game project like I need a punch in the groin. I wrote down all my ideas and I might revisit them in a few years’ time.

My board game The Day After is coming along nicely. If you weren’t sure what this was about, it’s a board game about a city recently struck with a terrible catastrophe. People have gone insane and are killing each other left, right and center. You are part of a band of Survivors who need to survive in the city until rescue comes. Survivors have their own hidden agendas, so survival isn’t just about combat – it’s about compromise.

Early in development The Day After felt like a sack of misshapen cogs and sprockets, but now the different components are slotting together and everything feels much tighter. I still need to iterate the card design to get the right balance of information on cards and rules. I’m finding the different mechanics work best when a hard strategy has a soft counter (kinda how they balanced Team Fortress 2). For example, the base goal for a team is to be rescued. This requires certain tasks to be fulfilled in a coordinated manner, and you need all the people you can get. But some characters can have success conditions if they set up shelter, skip the rescue and try to live out the apocalypse. Both have their risks, but there’s a strong asymmetry in how you try to achieve them.

Another one that I really like but I’m having a little trouble getting perfect is The Truth. The apocalypse didn’t just happen. Perhaps an enemy superpower launched a bioweapon into the city. Perhaps a meteorite hit and brought an alien virus. Perhaps it’s a government conspiracy gone awry. If you’re the Hacker character, you have to try to uncover The Truth. If you’re the Spy character, you have to try your best to suppress The Truth getting out… using any means necessary.

I’m pretty sure that I’ll try to get the game printed and published through The Game Crafter. While they suck for international shipping, they are pretty awesome for everything else. By the way, if you or someone you know is a good artist and would like to make some money doing some artwork for the game, let me know.

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