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M-Rated Games and Parents

Grand Theft Auto V is coming out for PC.

Do you have kids? Above say… ten years old, or so.

There is a good chance that if your kids are interested in gaming at all, they’re interested in Grand Theft Auto.

I went to a middle school computer club last week and talked with a bunch of brilliant kids about how games are made. At the start of a school lecture, I like to show pictures from different games and ask if the kids play or know of those games. I start out really easy, and work my way to more obscure indie stuff. Continue reading

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Trip Report: BarCamp Philly

On Saturday, I went to BarCamp Philly. At this “Unconference,” I learned that the “Bar” in “BarCamp” comes from the phrase “Foo-Bar” rather than having to do with alcohol. That answered a big burning question of mine, let me tell you! I also delivered a talk about Gamification, wherein I tried out a new crowd game called Cat On Yer Head.

Join me below the fold for an explanation of the game, the game book, the talk, and talk acknowledgements!

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Putting Real Map Data in Unity Game Engine – Philly Game Jam

Last weekend I was part of the Philly Game Jam with some talented Philadelphia folks – Tatiana, Andrew, and Laura – at the Cipher Prime studios in Philadelphia! It was a lot of fun and we made a quick game called Evacuate Philadelphia which will be demoed at the next local IGDA meeting. It’s a little rough, but that is the nature of a game jam piece after all.

I want to talk about something that made me pleased about this game. The topic of the jam was “Deconstructing Philly.” I immediately thought it might be fun to use real Philadelphia data from the Open Data Philly project in our game. So I started looking through the data sources for something that might make for an interesting game idea.

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Learning Game Production Basics

A big common question I get from people is “how do I get started making games?” I’ve spent a lot of my career answering that question for people and trying to de-mystify the process and make game development more accessible to beginners. On November 6, I’m working with Microsoft Game Evangelist Tobiah Marks to answer that question on video for Microsoft Virtual Academy! This is a jump start training for beginners, where we’re looking at some game development and game asset creation tools, and talking about a few of the ins and outs of games as a business in 2014. There’s no real pre-requisite and the training is 100% free!

Here’s some stuff we’re covering:

•​​Game Development Roles
•Skills Needed to Create a Video Game
•Commonly Used Video Game Creation Software
•Modern Business Models in the Game Industry

All you have to do is register and watch us on-line when the time comes. Register Here

Game Production Basics

Date: November 6, 2014
Time: 9am‒1pm PST
Where: Online virtual classroom with live Q&A
Cost: Free!

Bring your questions and we’ll see you there!

 

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Ariadne

Yesterday I went to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Primarily, we were there to see the David Lynch exhibition, because David Lynch is great. While we were there, though, we browsed the entire gallery. I always found history dry in school. But in a museum, I love looking at history, partially because it’s so interesting to see what things were different in the past, and what things remain the same.

In a salon-style gallery in the Academy, this picture is hanging in a prominent corner.

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This is a painting by John Vanderlyn, depicting the mythological figure Ariadne. The full title of the picture is Ariadne Asleep on the Island of Naxos. It was completed in 1814, so this is its 200th anniversary year.

You may recognize the name Ariadne from its use in the move Inception. Ariadne is associated with the classic labyrinth story. In the myth, Ariadne fell in love with the hero Theseus, and helped him to escape from the minotaur’s labyrinth. This picture is supposed to depict the moment where, after eloping with Theseus, Ariadne woke up to find that the man she thought she loved had slipped out in the night and abandoned her.

You can click on the picture above to enlarge the painting, and there’s another image of this painting here in this long internet gallery of Ariadne paintings. She’s a fairly popular subject! She’s kind of a cool character because she was a problem-solver, but artists did seem interested in depicting this sad moment in her story.  In some versions of the story she’s then discovered by the God Dionysis, who falls in love with her and ends up marrying her. Being the wife of the goddess of wine doesn’t seem like a bad deal at all. I think it would be super chill to get a bottle of Merlot with Ariadne and talk about adventure games.

But the thing that really struck me about this piece is this.

An info screen in the gallery explained that when this painting was initially hung, it was controversial. Some concerned women wrote a letter to the gallery about some pictures that they found too offensive, the Ariadne among them. I took a picture of the info screen containing the text of the letter.

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I think it’s legible when enlarged, even with my reflection on the glass. In case it isn’t for you, it reads:

Philadelphia, February, 1891

Gentlemen:
While thanking you for the many beautiful pictures with which you have decked the walls of the Academy, we desire, in the name of the womanhood of Philadelphia, and as voicing the expressed sentiments of very many, — several of whom are stockholders in the Academy, — respectfully to protest against the flagrant indelicacy of many of the pictures now on exhibition.

It is the general sentiment, that never before in Philadelphia has modesty been so ruthlessly assailed. As Christian women, as modest women, we feel this to be an offence to our womanhood, an attack on the delicacy of our daughters and the morality of our sons.

While in thus expressing ourselves, we do not mean to impugn the motives of those who admitted these pictures, yet we are convinced that the claims of ‘Art,’ often so loftily insisted on, should never take precedence of the higher aims of public propriety and morality, the interests of which would be greatly subserved by excluding from public view such pictures as […] the ‘Ariadne’ of the Permanent Exhibition.

To emphasize this protest we would add, that one of the ladies endorsing it, whose relatives and friends have contributed a number of beautiful pictures to the Exhibition writes: ‘I am very glad to sign this paper; I only hope it may accomplish its object; I hate these pictures with a bitter hatred.’

Signed,

[Fourteen names]
Representing, by actual count, over five hundred (500) of the Christian women of Philadelphia

I thought that this was incredibly interesting.

 

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New Local Flavor

A new edition of Local Flavor is up at Tap-Repeatedly! This time, I went to New Jersey to visit the islands. No really, check it out!

I have some other great content in the works right now, but first I want to take a small moment to talk about journalistic integrity.

You see, everyone that I’m interviewing for the Local Flavor series is … someone I know. In some cases, I’ve clicked on their Greenlights, backed their Kickstarters, or watched them develop their games while they were developing those games. For anyone confused about the relationship between game journalists and game developers, rest assured that I am still a journalist developer critic academic who works for a company that manufactures hardware and does game publishing. Hope that clears that up.

If you’re interested in being part of the Local Flavor series, even if I haven’t met you yet, let me know! You have to be making cool things (games or game-related) and in reasonable physical proximity to me (though I have one interview from Boston coming up).

Travel Schedule and Downtime Update

Technical posting will mostly be on hold starting July 19. That’s because I am getting ready for a busy travel schedule in the second half of July…

Starting with MGX and TechReady, in Atlanta and Seattle, in the next two weeks. These are internal Microsoft events so I won’t be able to post much or tweet much publically. Sorry! If I’m quiet, that’s why. I return August 2.

After that, I am speaking (!) at VGU Con in DC on August 16! If you’re in the area hope to see you there!

ETA: I was hoping to get another post out, but I gotta board a plane for a wedding. Ah, summer. See you next month!

To give you some more game tech content to whet your appetite, check out my co-worker Dave going over the Prime 31 plugins. These are the same free plugins I plan to try out to enrich my game for Windows Phone. You can find plugins for all platforms here: https://prime31.com/

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Sun Run: HUD Stuff

My game more or less works now. I added an additional enemy type, a “hill” that the player can crash into. I also added a quick HUD that shows a score which increments as the game progresses. None of the things I’m showing right now look nice. The hill is just placeholdered with the “capsule” in Unity and looks pretty weird, like an old Mario World hill in silhouette. The HUD is just black text. And my startup and end screen that I’m about to show are even worse… but the time for makepretties will be later; now I just want to get things working.

The code I wrote just does a “break” when the player dies. This obviously won’t work, so I need to add some additional scenes to my project.

I have two additional scenes: Splash, and GameOver. Splash will be the scene the player sees when the game first loads up. GameOver is after the player dies.

To make sure my game sees these scenes, I have to to go File-> Build Settings, and add each new scene to the build with the Add Current button. I should see a list of three scenes.

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Notice I am working in Windows Phone mode right now. So here’s this very ugly loading screen…

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Ha ha, I’m sorry, I still don’t even have a proper title for the game. But this is just a single sprite, so later, when I have a very pretty loading screen, all I will do is replace this placeholder with my pretty screen and we’ll be good to go! A small script advances the scene. I add this script to the sprite and set “scene” to be SunScene (the primary scene for the game). Then when the screen is clicked, the scene loads and the game starts. The updated script to kill the player uses Application.LoadLevel to load up the game over screen, and the game over screen also uses a click to return to the home screen.

Stuff to do:  make prettier splash screens, make a prettier score HUD and keep track of the player’s score, maybe with leaderboards? Playtest and work on feel and hitboxes, then add some Windows Phone features and publish. When HUD and score tracking are complete I’ll upload a couple web builds. Maybe you can test for me?

Amanda Lange's Blog