Category Archives: Games

Musings, opinions, and unsolicited remarks

Boston FIG

Boston Festival of Indie Games announcement

A quick plug for an awesome event: Back at the beginning of 2012, some friends of mine from Boston Indies decided to throw a free convention dedicated solely to independent video games. Last fall their plans came to fruition in the first ever Boston Festival of Indies Games, which was an amazing success—and they’re bringing it back for 2013! If you’re into video games and can be in Boston on the 14th, you should definitely drop by.

(While I’ve had nothing to do with the planning or organization of Boston FIG—a host of energetic, dedicated volunteers deserve all the credit for that!—I did help out last year by designing their logo, which lives on today in a number of awesome treatments. Long live League Gothic; long live fig leaves!)

BostonIndies.com redesign launched!

Boston Indies Logo

Boston Indies is a local game development group, founded by Scott Macmillan as an offshoot of the larger (and more corporate) Boston PostMortem meetup. I’ve been proud to be associated with the Indies group, and was excited when Darren Torpey asked if I would be available to help them with a site design. Managing editor Jonathan Myers has brought in a lot of good content to the site so my design was pitched to take a backseat to the articles themselves, giving just enough structure and consistency to let the content shine. Check out the new, cleaner look of Boston Indies here.

Trapped in a Tiny Tower

This is my tower. There are many like it, but this one is mine.

This is my tower. There are many like it, but this one is mine.

I have spent way too much time this weekend playing tiny tower. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy my holiday—just that, every fleeting moment I could snag between grilling, family events and fireworks, I would dash to my phone to restock my tiny businesses.

As time-wasters go, Tiny Tower has a leg up on the competition. The writing is clever (and delightfully referential), and the pixel art feels fresh in a market over-saturated in nostalgia. The art’s strength is in abstraction of the familiar: an Apple Store, a wood-grilled pizza parlor, and a brewery are all represented, each row no more than about 50 pixels tall. With a nod to its social-game ancestors, Tiny Tower even abstracts Facebook: your ‘bitizens’ will post status updates about their jobs, favorite pop-culture quotes, or speculations on 8-bit existence. Sam Cooper, one of my “Mapple Store” genius bar associates (complete with blue polo—you can customize each character’s outfits) muses, “If we were thinking with portals then we wouldn’t need these elevators!”
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Slam Bolt Scrappers to be released next week!

If you’re not familiar with the video game Slam Bolt Scrappers, I strongly suggest you go check it out at Fire Hose Games’ site. I have worked with Fire Hose several times in the past, most recently this winter to design and launch their new website, and they are great folks. More importantly, the game is a lot of fun! It’s a mashup of sorts, combining elements of Super Smash Bro’s, Tetris and several other games—that may sound weird, but it works. I’ve yet to win a match, but this weekend at PAX East I will be challenging ‘Fire Chief’ Eitan Glinert to a rematch from last year’s PAX, where I suffered a crushing defeat!

Slam Bolt Scrappers is a PSN exclusive, and will be released digitally on March 13. Catch them this weekend at the Penny Arcade Expo, PAX East, in Boston to try the game.

Global Game Jam 2011

My first game jam experience was last year’s Global Game Jam, and I’m happy to announce that one year out I did it again! I’ve gone to a number of smaller jams over the past year, and was much more confidant that I knew what I was getting into this time around.

One of the achievements this year was to build a game using aggregated data. After Friday’s video keynote and kickoff meeting, the first idea I pitched was a trading card game where the deck is built from the list of people you follow on twitter. While that game didn’t gain enough traction to win a team, other jammers did grab on to the idea of twitter integration. My friend Ryan came up with a pitch of his own, and a platformer originally pitched as TwitAssassin came to life as @TwitApocalypse!

TwitApocalypse has a pretty silly premise: You are the grim reaper, and you have overslept the end of the world. Upon waking, you must use twitter to find and eliminate the survivors. Based on the idea of culling the people you don’t care about from your twitter list, the goal of the game is to traverse a platformer level and gruesomely destroy your friends. The game tracks who has tweeted most recently, and gives you a ‘Kill List’ of recent tweeters—These are your priority targets, and you get a bonus for taking them out. Killing somebody not on your list results in a penalty.

We had an awesome group of people working on this project: Ryan Kahn, Darius Kazemi and Imran Malek handled the programming; Shervin Ghaemmaghami served as our voice actor and narrative designer; Vytenis Krukonis and I took care of the art; and audio genius Akash Thakkar came on mid-Saturday to help us with sound and music. It was a great group, and I hope to continue working with this team on future projects.

Just as last year gave me an opportunity to stretch my musical skills, this game jam saw me doing my first ever pixel art animations. While previous projects had involved some pixel art, I’d never tackled anything as complex as our grim reaper player character. Despite my lack of experience I am extremely happy with how it turned out, and I will post an animation demo of the character soon. In the meantime, you can check out some of @Death’s poses there to the left.