[Video Link] As I've mentioned before, I love PBS's Off Book video series about Internet culture. The videos are intelligent, well produced, and often reveal things that surprise me. The newest video, released today, is about indie video games.
The video game industry is now bigger than Hollywood, with hundreds of millions of dollars spent developing these interactive experiences. But there are also small-scale developers working in the indie game realm, creating unique and experimental video games without the budgets of the larger "AAA" games. These indie game developers devote time, money, and take great risks in a quest to realize their creative vision. They deftly balance game mechanics & systems, sound & visuals, and an immersive storytelling experience to push the gaming medium into revolutionary new territory. Much like indie music or indie film, the indie gaming movement provides a creative outlet for game designers who want to work outside of the mainstream.
[Video Link] My favorite tower defense game is Kingdom Rush. You can play it online for free, and there's also an iPad version. I don't want to admit how many hours I spent playing it on my iPad. (I will say that I finally finished the game by playing it the entire time I was on a plane from Los Angeles to New York and back to Los Angeles earlier this month.)
The cartoonish art is very appealing, as are the monsters and towers. The goal of the game, like all tower defense games, is to prevent the invading hordes from making it through a gate to your kingdom at one end of the display. You do this by placing towers staffed with archers, knights, magicians, and cannoneers along the path that the monsters run down (the monsters appear from a trail emanating on the opposite side of the display). As you kill the monsters, you collect gold, which can be used to buy more towers. Even though there are a few more bells and whistles, it's a simple game -- but addictive.
Today, Kingdom Rush became available as an iPhone app. I would say that the $.99 price tag is a bargain, but if take into account the otherwise productive hours you will spend playing it, the true cost is far more.
Dwarf Fortress may be the most complex video game ever made, but all that detail makes for fascinating game play, as various elements collide in interesting and challenging ways. The trick is getting started. In this guide, Fortress geek Peter Tyson takes you through the basics of this menacing realm, and helps you overcome the formidable learning curve.
The book’s focus is the game’s simulation mode, in which you’re tasked with building a dwarf city. Once you learn how to establish and maintain your very first fortress, you can consult the more advanced chapters on resource management and training a dwarf military. You’ll soon have stories to share from your interactions with the Dwarf Fortress universe.
• Create your own world, then locate a site for an underground fortress
• Equip your party of dwarves and have them build workshops and rooms
• Produce a healthy food supply so your dwarves won’t starve (or go insane)
• Retain control over a fortress and dozens of dwarves, their children, and their pets
• Expand your fortress with fortifications, stairs, bridges, and subterranean halls
• Construct fantastic traps, machines, and weapons of mass destruction
Jason Torchinsky of Jalopnik shows how to turn old car parts into a video game controller.
The idea came to me while adjusting the mirrors in a car, and realizing that the little mirror-control joystick was better than many video game joysticks I used. I then had a waking dream of the grand possibilities of playing old videogames with control pads sourced from cars. The dream was a beautiful, fantastical vision of a world we could all achieve. I woke up hours later behind a CVS, and headed straight to a junkyard to make this dream real.
Super-sleuth readers may note that in the final project I used a seat control panel instead of a mirror controller. There's a reason for that. When I got the mirror control pads and joysticks home and tested them, I uncovered one of the auto industry's darkest secrets: the "up" and "left" directions on mirror controllers are THE SAME DAMN THING. They're wired together! Think of all the times you've thought you were adjusting your mirror up, not left, thinking you were hot shit? IT'S ALL BEEN A FILTHY LIE. So I soon learned to look elsewhere. Luckily, 70s-80s American cars provided the solution, since they're full of funny little chrome joysticks for seat controls and other various duties.
[Video Link] Kirk Demarais (author of the great Mail Order Mysteries book) wrote a positive review of the PC train simulator Railworks, which is frequently derided for its lack of monsters, magic, aliens, or eastern european gangsters.
My respect for the Railworks community began to grow as it occurred to me that their passion does not require thrills, instead they are contented by life's subtleties. Their fantasies don't rely upon adrenaline or destruction, they just wish to peacefully command a Class 47 Triple Grey all the way from Oxford to Paddington. They bask in the sights of the uninterrupted countryside. Their serenity is found in the rhythmic valley echos of rumbling tracks. Hobbies are supposed to be relaxing, right? Most of my video gaming ends up driving me to internet walkthoughs in fits of frustration.
It wasn't just the Railworks state of mind that I envied, I also fantasized about having enough spare hours to leisurely delve into each sauntering level, gazing at my monitor blissfully, pausing only to adjust the camera angle every few minutes, or turn on the windshield wipers.
By the time Railworks 2 went on sale for eight bucks I was primed to join the ranks of the noble virtual conductors. I proudly bought a copy.
The cross-country journeys were as soothing as anticipated and I even felt like I was getting a pixelated glimpse into the United Kingdom where most of the missions take place.
Near the end of his review Kirk admits, "Such simple pleasures go a long way, but the truth is I can't say that I've been able to become one of them. I've played for twenty plus hours, but I rarely complete a level without acting on the urge to derail."
[Video Link] The upcoming SimCity looks cool. It uses something called the GlassBox Simulation Engine to run the simulation. I won't pretend to understand how it works, but here's Maxis' Andrew Willmott's GDG 2012 "Inside Glassbox" presentation that goes into detail about it.
For the fans of the Portal games, this is the latest 3d-printed weirdness I made, a puzzle box. It was much harder than I expected, went through 2 prototypes to get it to work out, and I still had to fix a lot of things with a knife and sandpaper to get this model to work just right. Not for sale though, unless you wanna do the delicate carvings to fix it yourself :)
My co-hosts for episode 51 of Boing Boing’s podcast are Michael Pusateri, a lifelong tinkerer and former television tech executive for Disney, and Blair Butler, a writer, comedian, and G4′s resident comic book expert.
Video Link to a short feature on the very popular "human sound machine" Hikakin, who has a growing following within and beyond his native Japan. His YouTube channel is here, and well worth a subscribe. Below, his take on the Donkey Kong theme song.