My current project-time black hole: I’m building a video game!

I generally have only a limited amount of time each day to devote to projects that don’t directly relate to life-maintenance or my job. Lately, my job has been eating up a slightly higher than usual amount of time, and I’ve developed a new goal for the new year: to create and release a video game.

Yeah. I know.

However, even if I fail at it, I’m building this game in Java, which I’ve never programmed in before. So, regardless of anything else, I’m learning a good deal, at least.

I figured I would start writing a bit about my experience designing and programming a game, and describe my roadmap and to-do list, so as to keep the blog active and still feel like I’m doing something toward the end of completing this game. Join me below the fold, if you’re interested!
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Ascension of the Jackdaw

So, Assassin’s Creed 4. You’re a pirate. It’s kinda awesome, though I’ve mostly so far only watched Ben play it rather than playing it myself. But like all games, there are glitches.

This one was amazing.

Yes, the choral music was added as a joke.

I love glitches like these in games because they illustrate a topic I always find interesting: emergent behaviour. These actions were not specifically programmed, but came out of something askew being input in some variable in all the existing equations that under normal circumstances worked perfectly sanely. It’s like how Newtonian physics works in most cases, until you get into cases near light-speed or around black holes, where you need special relativity because something wacky happens to the calculations. This was something very wacky happening to the calculations despite all the calculations working perfectly elsewhere.

The whole damn universe is a set of emergent properties for a very simple and very fundamental ruleset that probably is itself a result of some other extradimensional brane-collision or fold in the fabric of the multiverse. Time itself is an emergent property of the existence of our universe. Physics and chemistry and life, all emergent. This sort of complexity emerging from simpler rulesets is exactly why people are so frequently inclined to assume Goddidit.
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GoldieBlox commercial wins the internet over

This commercial’s taking the internet by storm, because who doesn’t love Beastie Boys, girl engineers, and Rube Goldberg devices.

Some time ago, I wrote about the kickstarter for this project, and how I could live with the pinkification it took to sell these engineering projects for girls to parents already steeped in rigid gender roles. Looking at this commercial, though I love the commercial itself, I sort of feel like it’s overselling the product.

See, the actual product introduces a specific goal and a narrative in the form of a story book, drastically limiting the engineering potential of any one set. There’s only so much you can do with the ribbon and sticks and crank, so letting your imagination run wild doesn’t seem really, truly all that possible.

As a gateway into the wider world of toys, though, if GoldieBlox leads any girl to ask her parents for LEGO or K’Nex or some other engineering toy, I feel like it’s worth it — even if it requires not only retraining girls that it’s okay to like “doing things” instead of “being pretty”, but also getting in under parents’ gender policing radars.

And everyone loves a Rube Goldberg device. Hopefully inventive girls with enough toys can invent all sorts of crazy devices, if unfettered by the prescribed play mode.

River City Ransom: Underground kickstarter

Holy shitting fuck, you guys have to see this. There’s a kickstarter by some indie devs by the name of Conatus Creative, with a not insignificant amount of Canadian developers, has the official license for an honest-to-goodness sequel to the king of 8-bit fighters, River City Ransom.

Their goal is met for Apple, Linux and Windows development, but they have flex goals for consoles. And you could get your name in the game — or your likeness, or your favorite quote — by funding at one of their higher tiers.

I totally wish I had the dosh to throw at this right now. I cannot wait to see this game. The Scott Pilgrim homage was good, but it wasn’t quite all I was hoping a modern RCR would be. This, on the other hand, would be 24 hour gameathon fodder.

(If you don’t know what the original was, here’s a great review, proving the vlogger, PixellatedMemories, eerily prescient by the end.)

Hat tip to David Rolfe who knew me well enough to know this was right up my alley.

Pat Robertson: “Virtual Sin” is as bad as real sin

I must be a genocidal maniac for having murdered so many video game characters. I must also be a racecar expert, and a canny businessman, and an expert marksman, a seasoned space traveller and terrestrial archaeologist, and an athelete extraordinaire, with superpowers of all stripes, and an endless series of chances at getting things just exactly right in my life.

I will say this for Pat: he’s right that playing video games cut me off from God. I have previously told you that my childhood was steeped in video games, and that one of the major video games was Final Fantasy, which included a number of mythological figures treated in the same category as mythological figures from the Bible. That was formative for me. I realized that they were in fact the same category, and it helped me free myself from the shackles of belief in a non-existent supernatural entity.

If video games helped loose me from those bonds, I feel as though it is my duty on this planet to create video games and loose others from those bonds. Though, I am keenly aware that my experience is unlikely to be anything like universal, I do have to admit that I do have a pull toward creating games. I don’t have anything like the time it would take, or financial freedom to quit my day job, though.

What would you folks like to see in a video game that could theoretically help kids deconvert?

Fez

Pixellated white character wearing a fez, leaping ecstatically at a 3-D golden cube

Late last week, I got the latest Humble Bundle (this one was another Indie-games Bundle, so of course I had to get on board). Humble Bundles are a pack of cross-platform games where you get to choose how much to pay. By default, most goes to the devs, some goes to Humble, and some goes to charity — but you also get to choose how to split the proceeds, so you could give it all to the devs, all to Humble, or all to charity. And if you give more than the average, you get extra games. One of those extra games was something I was particularly interested in — a little indie game called Fez.

This post will be EXTREMELY spoiler-heavy, so if you are looking to enjoy puzzle games with clever twists, go get it now and close this browser window. I’m serious. Then come back when you think you’re done, once you’ve collected your measley 32 cubes and “finished” the game, because you’re just getting started.
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Tropes Vs. Women in Video Games: Damsel In Distress, part 3

Hey look, it’s that video series that never existed because Anita Sarkeesian took the money and ran! Funny that it keeps existing, despite the trolls’ narratives.

If you want to play a game where the Princess rescues herself, there’s always Zelda Starring Zelda. And various other rom hacks. Sad that you need to hack the existing media to give an underrepresented demographic them-shaped heroes — and sadder that the responses to such efforts are not always positive. Some demographics really, REALLY hate it when their representation in a medium goes from 99% to 98%, and they can get pretty damned vicious about it. (See some of the earliest comments on the Pauline Donkey Kong rom hack Youtube video, for instance.)

Check out Feminist Frequency for more of Anita Sarkeesian’s videos, and her Tumblr for other assorted gaming and feminist goodness.

#FtBCon: Video Games, Religion and Morality

Thanks to the tight timing between the Atheist Music panel and our panel, where we had many of the same participants, we ended up turning into a pretty raucous and jovial crowd at the top of the panel while killing time waiting for Ashley and Brianne to join in. That translated into a much looser panel than I was expecting, but I really enjoy those sorts of panels so I encouraged it gladly.

Best single moment for me: Ashley humming the Katamari Damacy theme.

CONvergence – Gods of Geekdom panel audio

I absolutely enjoyed this panel. It was thorough, informative, and hilarious. We discussed gods and god-concepts in various sci fi and fantasy fandoms, including comic books, novels and even video games.

Panelists were Nick Glover, Ryan Consell, Jason Thibeault and Fionnuala Murphy.

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cvg2013-skepchickcon-godsofgeekdom.mp3