Hi, I'm Blake. My first game was '89 Doors', a rage game where you escape mazes whilst being pursued by an insatiable creature of hunger, and now I'm working on a tower defence game called 'Forgive Me My Henchman', where you play as a typical head 'bad guy', deploying henchman and sabotaging a building in an effort to stop a one man army action hero.
Over the past few days, I have played and finished Hotline Miami.
Usually, I am not a fan of ultraviolent games, but Hotline Miami does it so well!
Props to the creators who made a game where aesthetics, music, story, and gameplay all mesh together perfectly to create an awesome gaming experience. If you are looking for an indie game to play, and don’t mind being completely traumatized, then I would highly recommend Hotline Miami. Ultraviolence has never felt so good!
PS - have you played Hotline Miami? What did you think?
A petition was started to remove this game from the app store – I was one of the 60,000 people who quickly signed it. Yesterday evening, I saw on the news that the game had been removed from the app store. Yay!
So what was it about this game in particular that offended me so much? Why did I draw the line there? I wanted to blog to clarify my feelings.
I have spent time in countries where you have to guard what you say, because if you say something that disrupts the powers that be, or offends the general population, there can be real and dangerous consequences for it. To give some examples (from several Countries I haven’t been to), if I went to Dubai, and made an Allah joke, then it would have been smart for me to sort out my will first. If I went to Thailand, and said something against the monarchy, then my time there would likely not be spent on a beach. Even body language isn’t safe - if I went to the Philippines, and I did the beckoning gesture at someone, that gesture could land me in jail.
Even though I would not do any of these things (I have no desire to offend/provoke people for no reason), I find it uncomfortable that there would be such serious consequences for doing so. I am not sure I could ever feel completely comfortable in a country placing such strict limitations on what I say, because I feel that the role of a government is to allow its citizens to be as free as possible. What I love about being in Australia is that to a large extent I can say what I want without fear of jail, or even death. Even though I don’t use that privilege to be an asshole, it is a nice comfort to know that I could be an asshole if I choose to be (I don’t know why that is important to me, haha).
The thing is, I actually don’t have COMPLETE freedom of speech in Australia, there are limits to what I can legally say. The legal limit on my freedom of speech is that I can’t use my freedom of speech to incite hatred against a particular people or group.
This made me reflect on is how every government has limited freedom of speech in order to protect the order of its nation. Whether this is used justifiably or unjustifiably depends on the country. Whether this order is worth protecting or not also depends on the country. I believe that the limit Australia placed on freedom of speech – in this case* – still allow people to voice justified dissent, but also prevents people from acting like a bunch of Hitlers. That is why I am okay drawing the line at this point.
Contrast this to Survival Island 3 – it is not far removed from reality. The events that this game is based on actually happened, in a real country, to a real population, and it was tragic. Survival Island 3 attempts to make that very real tragedy entertaining, inconsequential and fun, and that is deeply offensive, especially since the tragedy of all those years ago (in addition to others caused by colonisation) has had repercussions that negatively effect the aboriginal population today as well.
Survival Island 3, on the other hand, only targeted the aboriginal population, and portrayed them as violent and dangerous. In contrast, there are no judgments made against the main character you play as: the white man. This negative judgment of aboriginals, coupled with the neutral judgment of the protagonist, shows that satire was not intended. Rather, this unbalanced portrayal of characters serves as a horrid reminder of the apathy and racism of the colonisers. Therefore, making this game was a reminder that - at least in a small percentage of the population - that attitude still exists today. Overall, the effect this has is that it makes the player feel that they are participating in and reenacting one of the most (if not the most) tragic events in Australian history and that it isn’t even being recognized as a tragedy. This – simply put – is wrong.
I don't believe that games should shy away from controversial issues. As a matter of fact, I believe that games have a unique opportunity to explore controversial issues because of the interactivity of the medium. However, Survival Island 3 has been an important reminder that delicate subjects and controversial issues should be treated with tact, or approached through satire. Otherwise, a game can cause a lot of harm, and propagate some really negative attitudes. It has also been a reminder that if you are lucky enough to live in a place that has freedom of expression - use it responsibly.
K, that is the end of this week's blog entry. I think there is a lot more to explore about where the line is (and indeed if there is one), but for now, I will stop writing and get back to programming for my upcoming game - kitten punching simulator
*Australia also has placed a limit on the freedom of speech on those who want to speak out about the horrible conditions at Manu Island (which is where Australia sends its Asylum seekers). Speaking about this can get you jail time. In this case, I am NOT okay with my freedom of speech being limited. What makes these cases different is that in the game example, limiting free speech prevents the aggravation and propagation of violence. In the Manu Island case, limiting free speech allows violence perpetrated by the government to continue.
In this week’s blog entry, I am going to write about a milestone I reached, the game ‘Undertale’, and the game making community.
The Milestone – as mentioned last week, my upcoming game is going to be divided into three major parts. I completed the levels comprising part 1 a few weeks ago, and then Wednesday this week, I completed the levels comprising part 2.
Do you ever worry that your game will never be completed? I know I sure do. Sometimes I think that by the time my game will be released, people will play it on their iPhone 23! Focusing on how much there is yet to do sure can be daunting– that being said, I won’t ever give up. I’ve already come so far, so know that if I just keep on moving forward one step at a time, I will eventually get there. Furthermore, I really like the development process, so I am not going to stop doing something that I enjoy so much.
You can choose how you go about resolving conflicts with the monsters – through relationship, or through domination. It is a game where your choices matter, and you can see how they impact yourself, others, and the world around you.
Despite its simple, 2D appearance, this game is a lot deeper than many games on a multi-million dollar budget certainly have been. In many AAA games, violence is the only solution, and indeed, the preferred one. In contrast, Undertale makes people think about and question their own actions.
I want to make the type of games that make people think and question human nature and the world around them, and Undertale executed that perfectly. The game simply blew my mind. To know that someone can create a game like this – which is vastly different to most games on the market – and still do well, gives me encouragement that the path I am choosing may potentially work out.
Within a day, I had heard from about 5 different people, each proposing a different solution. My issue was quickly solved.
I know I wouldn’t have been able to come as far as I have without substantial help from other gamemakers, so I guess I just want to say that I’m grateful. It is humbling and awesome to be part of such a cool community. If every industry comprised of people as cool as those in the gaming one, all of the world’s problems would have been solved years ago ;)
Anyway, an interesting week – gotta keep moving forward. Wish me luck!
Today, I wanted to continue writing about Tower Defence Level Design. This is my third blog entry on this topic. I am still learning a lot about effective level design for this genre, so am happy to share what I'm learning and how it is impacting my game.
Not long ago, I was struggling with the concept of progression - how do you make a player feel that they are progressing at the correct rate? This is an important concept to understand because if a player is progressing too slowly, they will get bored. On the other hand, if a player progresses too quickly, they will feel overwhelmed. How do you hit that progression sweet spot so that players can experience flow?
To help with this, there is a fantastic GamaSutra article by Mike Lopez that breaks down the key elements of gameplay progression. They are:
To get a deep understanding of these elements, I suggest looking at the original article. What I will be writing about is what I have done to ensure that my game progresses along these elements.
1) Introduction of an ‘area’ system – Just like Plants vs Zombies 2 has different worlds, I decided to split my game into three different areas. Each area will consist of around 20 different levels.
2) Each level slightly bigger - As just mentioned, each area will consist of around 20 levels. Every one of those levels will be slightly longer than the one before it; therefore, each level will (in general) take slightly longer for the player to complete. Why this was important to do was because – even if I introduced new elements – nothing impacted the feeling of progression like having to put in more time to complete a level. All in all, what effect increasingly level length will have is that the player will always feel like they are facing slightly bigger challenges, and thus always progressing.
3) New Game Mode and Practical Rewards linked – My game is going to have a ‘time trial mode’ that can be unlocked. In this mode, players will get to see how long they can last against an unrelenting wave of enemies. However, (and I think this is genius), the units available to you in this mode will completely depend on how many of them you have unlocked in the main game. This gives an added incentive to unlock practical awards, and will also lead to greater joy when they are unlocked.
To conclude, thanks to Mike Lopez for writing that amazing Gamasutra article. It really helped me to understand the progression process a lot better, and my game will be better as a result.
I think this will be my last blog entry on level design for a while because I want to start blogging about other topics. Is there something in particular you would like me to blog about? let me know in the comments.
Hope you have had a successful start to 2016, and will write again next week.