ZINE #1 - June 2017
A downloadable project for Windows and macOS
This is the first DREAMFEEL ZINE, woo! We're gonna share what all of us are up to here in Dublin, but mostly I just want to share cool games with you, ones we make and ones made by others.
I realized recently that I have lots of unreleased games (and unfinished ones!), so let's get em out. Scroll down a lil to find the first game, The Citizen Kane of Video Games.
But for starters! Here's a music video I made yesterday with footage and music from SZeance, an upcoming DREAMFEEL game. I just love 2 Mello's melodies here, it goes in some very cool directions. Very spoopy.
I want to hear what you would be interested in seeing also. So if you want more source code, more old unreleased stuff, more game making essays/notes, more thoughts about what we're playing/reading/listening/watching, or anything else let me know! Tweet me @dreamfeelx, or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks to Liadh Young as ever for the cover art. And lastly, if you want to get these emailed to your door sign up here: http://tinyurl.com/dreamfeelzine
Pg. 2 - THE CITIZEN KANE OF VIDEO GAMES
Aaaa! It doesn't get bigger than this, Citizen Kane is BACK!, etc etc etc.
You can download it from its Itch page here.
CK was super fun to make. Liadh, with help by Alex Young, originally did the art for it in a class I ran in 2016. Then over a weekend I made the game around what they drew (and what happened in the film).
The first thing people tell me before they play is that they've never actually seen the film, I tell them it's pretty good but it doesn't matter, and the second question is "HOW IS IT A GAME?!". The main idea driving this game is that ANYTHING can be interactive, even a classic hollywood movie, you just need to use your imagination and play loose with video game conventions. So we recreated Every. Single. Shot. (for its first five minutes). Once the player is in control of something, they're engaged. From a design POV the controls are fairly consistent so players have an idea how to control even as the scenes change.
What makes vignette games interesting is that they express meaning without coding explicit value systems and interpretations into the mechanics. This is directly opposed to 'simulations' and the metaphorical mechanics of late 00's 'artgames', which both express meaning with literal rules and thus reduce meaning and simplify it until it often doesn't say anything. Vignette games try to get at meaning sideways, in a more poetic and interpretable way, such that the meaning can never be explicit or static. They recreate a moment, which may or may not illustrate something, whether it's a feeling or a theme, but it's left to the player to do the lifting and so players can have wildly different interpretations.
The Citizen Kane of Video Games is a vignette game that is almost completely impersonal. Vignette games do not have to be relegated to empathy simulators, I think they can be a powerful video game form. At the very least, in trying to closely recreate reality, or in this case film, you get mechanics and interactions that are totally novel. Citizen Kane was the perfect choice to adapt for all this as it is filled with such iconic, deliberate and over-analyzed shots.
I think using the original music by Bernard Herrmann is really important here as well, to ground it in the feel of the original and to contrast with the less serious artwork. The music also leant a structure to the overall experience that was consistent through the vignettes (something I talk about with respect to Edith Finch below). When the last thank you for playing title appears at the end in time with the music's final flourish, it gives the whole experience a punchline and relief from the tension that is building up throughout.
In the source code check out how I use Fungus to move between scenes. I was happy with the first scenes, which actually fade between images in order to preserve the camera's movement. Also check out the script used most notably in the bed/blanket scene. I gave this script to my students projects for these film vignette games, it turns any animation into something interactable, perfect for vignette games!
Let me know what you think! And if folks are interested I might start a "what is the citizen kane of GAME JAM" to recreate classic/arty films as video games. :3
Pg. 3 - WHAT WE'RE UP TO AT THE MOMENT
Here's some of Liadh's art from the game we've been working on lately. It's tentatively called Infinite. If anyone has seen me perform games live, particularly The Infinite Notebook from 2014, the lineage in the titles will be clear! This is a much expanded take on some of the ideas and themes of The Infinite Notebook.
Robyn checks their phone.
I love the shading style we're using.
These people are 2 cool 4 u.
Pg. 4 - EVENTS
Here's some things we went to recently! GAFE took place in Edinburgh on April 21st. I hadn't been back in Scotland in 3 years so this meant a lot, and it was awesome to see some old friends and hang out. The venue in The Caves is maybe the best venue for a games night event I've been to, look at the pictures! We showed 'If Found, Please Return' and even though it's single player we had an audio splitter and two pairs of headphones. This meant throughout the night it was usually pairs playing together which really worked for the experience. It was great watching them give each other advice & ideas and take turns. James Medd also made an arcade cabinet for Istanbul, Texas which was a huge honour and just brilliant (and awesome cabinets for others like super great Vaida).
The day after Edinburgh I went to an independent comics fair in Dublin. This was the first one I've been to in a while, and it was sooo gooood. The space was great, perhaps we could do some Eargoat events there, and I really enjoyed the panels. Particularly 'Art as a Tool for Social Change' chaired by Karen Harte.
It was super inspiring seeing all the creativity in the comics scene in Dublin, and I think games could learn a lot from a comic/zine fair layout. Games events are still largely, if unconsciously, modeled after trade shows where folks play games (often in front the creators - awkward!) and then leave. This suits commercial games who want press coverage or to sell to a publisher, but not smaller independent projects who often travel to these events on their own expense and aren't set to gain anything concrete personally from showing them.
I would love to see a games event where folks set up art and video of their games, like a zine fair, and you can TALK to them about their work, or just peruse it. If you like the vibe of the game or the idea's in it, then you can buy a download key for a few euro/dollars and go home and play it in a more conducive, chill setting. You have a nicer experience, the creator gets something, and there's less awkwardness for everybody!
I'm really tempted to run a new digital/games zine fair in Dublin next year!
Pg. 5 - WHATCHA' PLAYING
- TRANSIT by Natalie Clayton
TRANSIT is a really confident game in its execution, and it stands on its own. I'm always amazed more first person games over the last 5 years haven't made use of scene cuts as a narrative device. Here it lends a strong sense of time and progress. This game has STRUCTURE! You inhabit these spaces, visiting each of them in turn almost ritualistically, and experience them become difficult, and ultimately experience them become a little easier in the end. There's no grand saving-the-world here, just someone trying to get by. Having the narrator talk directly at you like a conversation is powerful.
However, I don't want to hold this game up as some sort of so-serious, touching empathy game. It's wickedly funny in subtle ways. At one moment as the narrator retreats into her student flat, her bedroom becomes increasingly filled with monitors. Even the very first choice you're given when you launch it is to choose between two graphics quality settings: bad or AWFUL. I loved how the real world sound contrasted so well with the impressionistic visuals and grounded it in reality. Lastly I want to note how recognizing the architecture of Scotland, where I used to live, and maybe even to the layout itself of the train station, made it particularly meaningful for me.
- CHOICE GAME by Karina Popp
One of my pet peeves is in developers talking about 'choice' as the most important element of videogames. It's not. What makes Twine special for example is not 'CYOA' but the extra possibilities Twine gives you in creating flavour, pacing and experience. If you want to include choices in your game, include them for a REASON.
Choice Game by Karina Popp does exactly that. Presenting a game which contradicts your will is a bit of an indie game trope, but here it's elevated by placing it within a story which makes it meaningful. The contrast with the ending, gives the whole experience a really good structure and makes this a perfect short story.
- Vignettes by Pol Clarissou, Armel Gibson, Patrick Ashe & David Kanaga
I picked up Vignettes about a week after launch and couldn't stop until I beat it. For a good day afterwards I was rotating everything I saw in the world in my head. I would in particular I would stare suspiciously at every lamp in my house. I played some early versions of this and I liked the core idea a bunch, but the finished game is leaps and bounds even better. I think this is due to the incredible music of David Kanaga which compliments it exactly, but also some brilliant design which makes the game's structure more understandable.
Specifically I mean the map which shows you which objects are connected, which are undiscovered, and whether you can reach them in the current objects current state, or do you have to play with it a little. Sometimes playful games fall into the trap of becoming too puzzle like and ultimately frustrating, but Vignettes walk this line as well as anyone since Vectorpark. After Hidden Folks it's been a good year for iPad, and this is one of the best ever iOS games.
- What Remains of Edith Finch by Giant Sparrow
This game surprised me in so many ways and the biggest surprise of all was how much it plays and reads like a 21st century love letter to the 20th century magical realist movement of short fiction. For example like the author Julio Cortázar who often explored the curious and slightly unreal world of a single person for a dozen pages, before his story takes a dramatic twist in the final few and ends in a dramatic and bitterly ironic fashion.
Edith Finch is most of all a collection of moments, they stand out in ways most video games don't, and I've found myself thinking about them weeks since. Each one is the wholly unique and magical and tragic and awe-filled and brilliant final moment of a Finch family member. Each one has its own unique controls and experience, because each person is unique and each story has something unique to express.
There is environmental storytelling here, to a level of attention of detail that I haven't seen outside of the AAA titles by Naughty Dog. However, this isn't Gone Home, the trick is that the walking parts are to provide sharp relief to the vignette moments. Even here though, there are little expressive interactions like opening a gate or turning a key. It's incredibly linear, but like a good book I find myself playing it a second time almost immediately.
Pg. 6 - UNRELEASED GAME: SPACE 1
Before I go, here's something cool. I don't want to just post finished games, but games of mine which are a bit rougher and that I might not share otherwise. This first one is just called 'Spaces 1', the download is below. I came across it recently looking through my olds projects. Back in 2015 for a week I started a project to make a 3d walk-y unity game in an hour every a day. This is the first one, it was late at night so I tried to make it v v quick! This walking sim a day would be a cool project to revisit.
Leave your letters below, and see you soon for Issue 2!!!!
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