Archive for the ‘ElseHeartBreak’ category

On features and tiny computers

October 17, 2013

Screen Shot 2013-10-17 at 12.05.14

For a long time I have had the intention to start publishing small essays and opinion pieces on this blog, here comes the first one.

This morning I flipped through a fresh copy of a Swedish game magazine called Level. On one of the ‘indie’ pages I found an interesting looking game by Blendo Games, the creator of Gravity Bone & Thirty Flights of Loving (two famous and very good indie games, you should definitely try them out if you haven’t). This game was called Quadrilateral Cowboy and apparently it revolves around hacking and computers. It had also made a splash at IndieCade so I guess a lot of you know about it already and that I’m just really behind the times – that’s what happens when you work hard on your own things. Reading further I realized it’s a game where you learn how to program computers and get be a oldschool hacker,  breaking into places and doing other cool things. The computers in the screen shots looked suspiciously similar to the ones we have in our work in progress Else Heartbreak – a game that happens to also involve programming computers and “realistic” hacking. My heart started beating faster. Oh no, I thought to myself, please not another one of these damn great-looking programming games!

The thing is that Quadrilateral Cowboy seems really good and actually not that similar to the thing me and my friends are working on. I hope that both our games will find big (overlapping) audiences. The only thing that worries me is that they both share a very distinct feature (‘programming’) and unfortunately computer games and their critics are extremely concerned with these kinds of features. There is a good reason for this also, features are tightly connected to game mechanics and how something works. Games surely do work a lot. Seen as an artistic medium this  is really dangerous though, since it makes us focus too little on the themes, feelings and ideas expressed through the game. Put another way: most people would agree that a piece of art isn’t good because of the individual parts (the ‘features’) but rather because of how they all fit together and feel as a whole. This is true of games too but by always examining the parts first we get into tons of trouble when thinking about them, arguing whether gameplay is better than graphics, what elements they must contain to be called games and other strange things.

What I’ve realized is that as a creator and artist I can’t rely at all on features, it was a severe mistake if I ever thought I could. Back when we started working on Else Heartbreak a little over three years ago this whole idea of computers inside the game seemed so fresh and new, like a free ticket to get people interested. Games with programming were mostly Robot Wars like things or pure fakery with mini-game puzzles symbolizing hacking, to actually make the machines work “for real” was a very exciting thought. Today the situation is quite different and it seems like everyone is putting little computers into their game. Maybe it’s an effect of what is technically feasible to do nowadays or maybe it’s just the zeitgeist, I don’t know. I think we will have to get used to that they are part of games anyway, and I actually think it will be a lot of fun. It’s just not very unique anymore.

I hope that in the end people who play games will not be too obsessed with features, getting hung up on whoever thought of something first or that something which perhaps seemed like a very novel and weird idea pops up in several people’s work around the same time. In the end each game is its own little world of themes, ideas and things to experience. Seen as cohesive wholes they are expressions of their creators and their features should only help fulfill that cause.

Thanks for reading,

Erik

Status updates

October 3, 2013

I felt like writing a few words about what I’m working on right now and what is going on with my projects.

Most obviously I’m working full time on finishing our big game Else Heartbreak! You can follow the progress here.

The illustrations (by Nicolai Troshinsky) for my card game Slice & Dice are also done (!!!) and I’m currently looking for a publisher. Feel free to contact me if you can help out with this.

I’m also giving some courses on how to build interactive worlds and games with Unity. After leaving my job as a teacher in Skövde I haven’t had much chance to do stuff like that but I really enjoy it and want to find more opportunities for teaching in the future.

This past weekend me and Danish composer Anders Monrad had an intense work-session where we made a small sound app for iPhone/iPad, it should be up on the App Store very soon (we have submitted it). Despite being very small and simplistic it’s a lot of fun to play with so be sure to try it out in a week or so.

Clairvoyance is still in beta since we are focusing all our time on Else Heartbreak right now. When this intense period of work is over (February 2014) I’ll try to reach version 1.0 as soon as possible, I promise. The game is very much working as it is now though, so feel free to try it out and you’ll get the full version when that is completed.

Oh, and this upcoming weekend there will be an event here in Gothenburg called Automat where there will be different indice arcade games shown. I’ll try to have some things on display, come by if you have the chance!

Yours sincerely,
Erik

More Nordic Game Program Funding!

May 27, 2013

ScreenShot3

I’ve got some AWESOME news to share! The Nordic Game Program has granted us more funding for ‘else { Heart.break() }’. 300 000 DKK to be precise! We are super happy and thankful for this since it will really help us finish the game. Our plan is to basically get the whole thing done by the end of 2013. There will be some more waiting after that until the release (we have to do translation, testing, website, etc) but at least we are starting to sense the final goal of this long project.

Excitement and love!

Erik

 

Work in Progress…

March 26, 2013

Burrows

Station

Ghost

 

Postcards from Dorisburg

February 8, 2013

We now have a blog where you can follow the work on ‘else { Heart.break() }’

http://postcardsfromdorisburg.tumblr.com/

The poet lives there?

January 15, 2013

ContainerHome

New double album by El Huervo

April 29, 2012

A lot of these songs will be in else { Heart.break() }

You can also get them on iTunes

Open Source

April 10, 2012

Hello,

There is going to be a lot of programmer lingo in this post so if you’re not into that kind of thing – be warned! :)

I didn’t go to the Game Developers Conference this year but I did read stuff about what was going on there, for example this article from “The Indie Soapbox Session”. What caught my eye was Steph Thirion‘s talk about open source and how we in the computer game community should become better at sharing our code and helping each other out to improve the tools we use. I have been thinking a little bit along these lines before but never had the guts to actually share anything – mainly because it is so scary! I have also never contributed to an open source project for pretty much the same reason. Anyway, Steph and his talk made me take the plunge and a couple of weeks ago I put most of the libraries we have built for “else { Heart.break() }” up on github.com/eriksvedang. The gameplay code, art and sound is not up there though, so you can’t try the game (sorry!) Here’s a quick explanation of the different repositories that actually are available:

  • Grimm – A story scripting language that makes it easy to write branching dialogue, to listen for events and conditions in the world, etc. It doesn’t have any dependencies on our own game logic and can be easily extended from the client code. It is heavily tied to our own database system though, which is something that I want to remedy in the future to make it simpler to reuse.
  • Sprak – The programming language we have created to be used by the player inside the game. It is mainly inspired by Python and Ruby. The main goal has been to make it easy to learn and use, hopefully it will also produce better error messages than what is currently the norm. The test suite should give a pretty good view of how the language looks and behave. It will probably change a lot during development though, since we evolve the language as part of the overall play testing. It doesn’t have any dependencies so it can be tried out on its own.
  • Pathfinding – A node based A* implementation.
  • TingTing – A tiny game entity framework. We use it so that we can run all our game logic separate from Unity in a MVC-kinda way. We actually have a working command line interface for the game also, but that’s a story for another day :)
  • Relay – a simple database we use for saving and loading of state. Used heavily by both Grimm and TingTing. We built this when our old, reflection-based save system proved to be too inconsistent. With this solution we can save all the state in the game as one big file if we wish. It makes everything very cohesive and reliable but unfortunately also forces its users into adapting certain paradigms that might not be optimal (specifically inheriting from a special base-object).
  • GameTypes – most of the other libraries use this component for some basic stuff like logging and a few basic data types that we need throughout the game. Should probably be split into a few more pieces but this is a practical solution to keep the number of projects down.

All the code is written by me and my friend Johannes Gotlén during the last 1½ years. If anyone wants to check them out or try to use them for something I would be very excited and I am willing to help out as much as possible! If you just wanna browse the code and give me some thoughts about it, that’d be interesting too.

XOXO,

Erik

else { Heart.break() }

February 16, 2012

After more than 1 year of pre-production, plus another full year of actual production (supported by the Nordic Game Program), I feel that it’s really about time that I reveal something about the project I am currently working on together with some friends.

It is called else { Heart.break() } and will be a kind of adventure game. Here’s an excerpt from the initial description I wrote for the game:

else { Heart.break } is a game about being able to change reality. It is set in a mysterious world made up of computers and their code; a place where bits have replaced atoms. The player – who is assumed to have no previous knowledge about programming – gets access to the code and is taught by other characters how to modify it. As the story unfolds the possibilities of what can be reprogrammed, hacked and controlled increases greatly. Eventually the inner parts of the gameplay code are revealed and the barrier between our own world and the game starts to dissolve.

The idea is to create opportunities for truly creative gameplay that goes beyond the kind of puzzle solving and stats improvement normally seen in games. Ideally it even allows the player to free herself from the designer of the game! The goal is an experience that borders the metaphysical, and to create a kind of game where thoughts and knowledge mean everything.

An arcade machine at 'Bar Yvonne'

Besides the programming aspect, we also focus on creating great possibilities for interactive drama. The game world will be inhabited by characters living their own little lives. Talking to them and becoming part of their world is a big part of the game and just being in the world should be a fulfilling experience in itself.

We are a team of five people working on the game: me, Johannes Gotlén (programming), Oscar Rydelius (sound design), Tobias Sjögren (graphics) and Niklas Åkerblad (art direction, music and graphics). Here are some drawings that Niklas has made for us:

So far, work on the game is going well but there is still a ton left to do though, so we won’t be finished for another year at least. Hopefully we can share some videos and smaller demos soon. Come back again for more information!

Best regards,
Erik

PS. For readers of Swedish, here is an interview we did about the game last spring: http://www.blogemup.se/?p=11588

Entrée

February 2, 2012

Hotel Babcia

September 13, 2011

Work in progress.

Men With Hats

June 6, 2011


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