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Bennett Foddy

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qwopsmall.jpgBennett Foddy, creator of QWOP, GIRP, and CLOP among others, likes to play with his players, and he suggests that more of us should be doing the same.

At the top of his talk at IndieCade on Friday, he asserted, "I'm going to try to convince you to put more suffering in your games."

Learn a lesson from the Olympics, he says - it's all about the suffering. It's all about the pathos of second place.

"Nobody cries when they come second in a video game," he notes. "Nobody lays down and cries. Why not?"

In track and field video games, "The way that you run is to either hammer a button really fast, or waggle a joystick really fast," he says. "There's no joy in that, the joy is in the panic - in your friends watching you injure yourself as you hit the button."

"It's not just that games are easier - though they are," he says. "To me it's that games these days are more comfortable. There's less discomfort. My worry is not that games are getting too easy, because easy games can be wonderful. My worry is that games are getting too comfortable."

What's so good about suffering anyway? "When you're suffering in a game, it makes failure matter," he says. Counter-Strike uses boredom. If you fail, you have to just watch everyone else play, but frustration is more widely used.

"It makes success matter if there's suffering in the game," Foddy says. If you get to the end, you feel like this huge weight has been lifted. Thus, "this talk is a love letter to games that put you through Hell just for the sake of it," he says, "because we enjoy the suffering itself."

"Often when I start designing a game, I start by thinking about the aesthetics of the input," he says. Would the interaction be fun if there were no game? "Most sports pass that test," he says, noting that playing catch is fun even without rules.

One example is drumming your fingers on the keyboard - it's sort of inherently satisfying - and that became the inspiration for CLOP, which uses the H, J, K, and L keys.

"I'd like to have an anti-ergonomic game where it's physically challenging to play the game, and you could say to your friends 'I played for three hours, and I had to go to the hospital,'" he said.

Foddy has been researching pain, confusion, and nausea in games, to make games that give players those sorts of feelings.

Wolfenstein 3D makes people nauseous, but it doesn't make you feel good. "The reason I don't feel good about it is that it's not the point of the game," he says. "I think you could make a game where nausea is the point of the game, and people would enjoy it."

Motal Kombat gives you Fatalities, as an example of humiliation. "You might think that's for the pleasure of the winner, but I don't think that's right," he says. "The computer does it as well. I'm supposed to be enjoying it as a player, even on the losing end."

Ultimately it's all about playing with the player, as a developer. "The reason I'm cataloging these various dimensions of suffering, is why would frustration feel good? Why would confusion or humiliation be nice?" he posed. "I think one reason is it represents the developer playing with the player."

The idea among many developers is that confusion is an engineering failure. This means developer is teaching you how to stay interested in the game, rather than playing with you. "To me that's a warped way to look at the interaction between the developer and the player."

So in a single player game, the developer should be player 2. "Playing" is just an agreement that you won't kill each other - if you take it down to completely not hurting each other, it loses its teeth. "That's the flag football of video games," says Foddy. "I think you should make the real football of videogames."

If you do this, he says "you're playing with the player, rather than providing an environment for players to play with themselves."

Don't worry too much about frustration, and playtesting. "Maybe you shouldn't care so much about what people will think," he posed. "I wonder if Marcel Duchamp would've put a tutorial into his video games, if he made them? He wouldn't have focus tested his games."

"Don't water down your games. I think art should be difficult, I think it should be painful, it should be nauseating," he says. "It should be more difficult, more nauseating than music or other art because it's more complex," he concluded. "Don't make the easy listening of video games."

[Brandon Sheffield wrote this article, which originally appeared on Gamasutra.]

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trailers.jpgAsk IndieGames is a new monthly feature that takes a range of topics relating to indie gaming and development and poses them as a question to the editorial staff.

Whereas our sister site Gamasutra explored last month (in)effective press releases, we narrow our focus on what makes an effective game trailer.

We understand indies generally do not have big budgets for internal press teams, outsourced public relations or marketing outlets. That's why, as we curate the finest indie news for our readers, we view practically every trailer (at least in part) and appreciate when it's not embedded in a lot of marketing-speak.

What would compel us to watch a trailer in its entirety? When can a dubstep actually help a game? We attempt to address all this and more in this month's topic: what makes an effective indie game trailer?

mike rose.jpgMike Rose: I have a very specific formula that I've devised over the last several years for what makes an effective game trailer. While I'd say it's my own personal preference, whenever I've discussed it with other journalists they always seem to agree, so I must be on to something of a winner. So here it is: how to make the perfect indie game trailer:

Length: Preferably nothing longer than 90 seconds, and definitely not longer than two minutes, or else you risk losing the attention of the viewer and, in turn, their interest in your game. If you can't convey how great your game is in 90 seconds, you're doing it wrong! Which leads me to...

Show the gameplay: Game trailers are not movie trailers. We don't want to see the words "IN A WORLD..." appear against a black background, nor do we want to spend the first 20 seconds of your trailer viewing the various logos of your game and development team. Fill the trailer with what you're trying to sell - your gameplay! Find lots of interesting parts of your game, set a video recording program like Fraps running, and then bang them all together.

Music: If you're about to add heavy metal, techno or dubstep music to your game trailer, stop and think: does this even match my content? The answer is most likely going to be no. The music in your trailer is far more important than you believe, and in some cases, is one of the main draws - I mean, check this trailer for Fez to see what I mean. Give it huge consideration, and maybe explore free samples and tracks that you can use from the old interwebs.

KD.pngKonstantinos Dimopoulos (Gnome): I'll have to be brutally honest here and admit that even the very best trailer for an indie FPS or another tower defense variant would have to be more than exceptional to actually intrigue me. Other than that, I will also have to admit that screenshots and a game's description are usually more than important, but, well, let's focus on the subject at hand here: trailers.

On a rather more technical yet very important level developers should first of all make sure their trailers are readily available both on an easily embedded form (YouTube should do fine) and as downloadable files. More than a few journalists and bloggers do after all seem to prefer uploading videos themselves, most sites demand specific widths for their media and, admittedly, more options never hurt anyone.

Another important point, one that does actually determine whether I at least actually go on to watch a trailer or not, is its running time. Anything over four or five minutes, unless it's something I've been waiting for since the early 90s or has been designed by Tim Shafer, will most probably remain unwatched.

Assuming the above criteria have been met, I'd say that an effective and thus memorable trailer is a rare and difficult to analyze beast.

Yes, aesthetics are definitely important, as is a great soundtrack and enough information to actually describe the game on offer, but I'm pretty much convinced a good trailer needs to tell some sort of story. You know, have a beginning, middle and an ending; feel coherent and informative. Check out the latest Star Command trailer: one of the few recent ones I actually fondly remember and a trailer that provides enough gameplay footage to intrigue (but not answer everything), looks stunning and is akin to a very short movie.

Oh, and do keep in mind that any trailer mentioning the words ground-breaking, unique and innovative more than once doesn't make itself any favors. And, no, pre-rendered videos showing off cutscenes aren't a great idea either. Not unless you're preparing the next Starcraft of Dishonored.

Danny Cowan.pngDanny Cowan: Here's how I typically view a trailer:

1. Before it even starts, I skip to the middle, bypassing the company logos and that storyline you've put so much work into (sorry).
2. If it starts to drag, I skip toward the end (sorry again).
3. If I haven't seen any gameplay footage after about 30 seconds of
skipping around, I close the tab (super sorry about this).

Basically, I'm a jerk, and I'm sorry. Trailers are key to attracting interest in your game, though, and you should focus on making them concise and impactful, regardless of how dumb I am.

In skimming a trailer, I'm looking for a brief explanation of the game's mechanics and an idea of why your game is fun, interesting, or unique. Everything else is secondary. A length of one minute is ideal; thirty seconds is even better. Sound doesn't matter at all -- I reflexively mute most videos before they start playing.

Good stuff to include for people who want to talk about your game: a link to your site, a release date, and a list of supported platforms.

If your trailer is for a mobile or tablet game, I consider whether the genre is underrepresented on the platform and whether its controls are a good fit for touch screens. If I so much as catch a whiff of Angry Birds, I'm out.

steve cook.jpgSteve Cook: An effective trailer for me isn't too long; around 1 - 2 minutes length is perfect. If it is longer, I tend to lose interest after the 2nd minute, unless the game is complex enough to really justify it.

I prefer to watch snippets of gameplay footage cut together with a soundtrack that matches the mood from the game rather than explanatory voice-overs or bits of writing. I don't want so much footage as to show me every single mechanic in the game (I enjoy discovering some things on my own) but enough so that I understand how the basics will work.

A title or 'introductory' screen is a good way to begin so that I know the name of the project I am looking at. A fade out to an 'ending' screen is also acceptable - possibly announcing when the game will be released and for what platforms.

Humor can be a good thing to, if injected into the trailer properly. Making me genuinely laugh out loud definitely makes it that little bit more likely that I'll stick with a trailer to the end.

cass_colour.pngCassandra Khaw: I'm embarrassingly easy when it comes to game trailers. If it shows gameplay for something that I'm interested, I'll sit down and watch it, regardless of how crappy the music/sub-titles/introduction/video quality is.

That said, I'm probably not going to watch it till the end. Once I've assessed the game, I'm going to shut it down and move on to my next piece of work. OF course, that's only applicable if you're operating without a sense of humor. If you want an example of what works wonderfully, you should check out Magicka. Seriously. Check out the trailers for Magicka. They're one of the few that I would rewatch just for the pleasure of it.

As for what doesn't work, well, that's also pretty simple. Trailers that don't show anything. Those don't work for me. I'm talking about the ones that don't do anything but show two pieces of concept art for two minutes. I'm talking about the ones that linger lovingly on the logo. I understand there is a need to do teasers from time to time but there's a reason they're called 'teasers'. They're supposed to titillate, to entice, to make me desperately curious as to what is going to happen next.

johnpolson2.jpgJohn Polson: A trailer is effective for me if it educates and entertains.

I want to learn about the gameplay. Edited, short bursts of the game can be effective, but sometimes clips need a few extra frames to complete a certain mechanic. Words and transitions aren't cop outs if needed to explain what makes certain clips so special. At the very least, an educational trailer teaches me a game's pitch or message. A more educational, and effective, trailer demonstrates this game pitch to the point that I can explain paraphrase it to my readers.

I wouldn't mind learning about the game more, too. Aside from gameplay mechanics, inject the game's narrative, music, sound effects and even its personality. Learning if a game will be fun, sad, serious, fictional, dense, intense, or methodical helps me frame the game in a context as both an editor and a gamer. Release and platform information should either be in the trailer or in an accompanied website; otherwise, we can't help couple the game with its target audience.

I also wouldn't mind learning about developers in the trailer. Developers are vulnerable in exposing their work to judgment in under two minutes (a sensible length for trailers), so this is no time to feel shy. That said, not every person performs well in front of a camera or microphone, so I consider this an added bonus. If a trailer becomes slightly viral, though, the developer also becomes more widely known and has effectively already broken the ice at events like conventions and conferences.

Entertainment is entwined with a lot of what I feel should educate the viewer. While not revealing everything that makes a game special, clever snippets of dialogue, menus, cut scenes, in-game action, world maps, boss fights, or even customize or option screens can add flavor to a trailer. Stringing these elements together carefully in two minutes conveys that there's not just a bunch ideas, but a game, behind the trailer.

Audio and visual stimulation add to effectively entertaining. Unlike screen shots, I am looking at something in motion, hopefully with sound. I won't stop watching a trailer if the sound is poorly orchestrated, but rich audio (be it chiptune, 16- or 32-bit synth, or other instruments) adds heavily to my entertainment. Since the game is in motion, the importance of a cohesive art direction-- foreground, background, and everything between-- can't be understated, either.

Once developers cut a trailer, they should show it to someone who's never played or heard of the game before. If this new person can't describe the key mechanics or quirks, then the trailer needs to do a better job at educating the viewer. If this person is part of some targeted audience and doesn't want to play the game after watching, the trailer (or the game) may need to be made more entertaining.

I've spent too many words already, but I'd suggest checking out Kert Gartner's epic trailers or Tim Rogers's fourth-wall-breaking ZiGGURAT trailer. Gartner's also posted a lot of helpful, technical tips on making trailers, which were taken from his Indie Game Summit talk during GDC 2012.

Do you have a question that you'd like the IndieGames editors to tackle? Email EIC John Polson at johnpolsonfl at gmail dot com. Feel free to also check out our sister site's Ask Gamasutra, which inspired this new feature. [image source]

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molydeux gama.jpg[An offhand tweet from a Double Fine programmer snowballed into one of the largest global game jams ever. Jam co-organizer and Game Developer EIC Brandon Sheffield looks at how it all went down.]

Well, it happened. What began as an offhand tweet from Double Fine gameplay programmer Anna Kipnis has snowballed into one of the largest global game jams, and I can safely say it was a resounding success.

Not three weeks ago, Kipnis wondered publicly on Twitter why there hadn't been a game jam based on the tweets of Peter Molyneux (Fable, Populous, Black & White) parody account @petermolydeux. This came after Molyneux himself responded to one of Molydeux's tweets, causing a bit of an internet meta-explosion. The singularity was upon us!

But Kipnis took it a step further - if Molyneux can take this seriously, why shouldn't the rest of the world? Responding to Kipnis' original tweet were Patrick Klepek, Chris Remo and I. We four became the defacto organizers of this movement, which we imagined would happen in the Bay area, with a few close game developer friends.

I made a Google document to sign up potential developers, and we tweeted it out. Within an hour, we had over 70 responses, and realized at least 20 of those were from the U.K., and several were in the U.S., but outside the Bay area.

We realized quickly that a single spreadsheet couldn't contain this jam - it was bigger than us. We moved to an "organizers thread" on Facebook, and the rest is history. Over 900 developers signed up to take part in jams in almost 35 cities across the world, from the original U.S. site in California's Bay Area, to the U.K., to Israel, to Mexico, to Finland, to Australia, and beyond. More developers jammed on their own in solidarity from their homes.

How the heck did this happen? Why was it so successful? What can we do better next time (as it seems certain there will be a next time)? To get at a chunk of it, I'll write an abridged postmortem of the event, followed by my thoughts about the jam I ran in Oakland; the first #Molyjam to get a location, and the last to present its demos.

What went right

1: Organized like a jam

Everything came together organically, just like in a game jam itself. A few people started out with no concrete idea of what the end result would be, and people stepped up when they needed to. Jake Rodkin of Telltale came up with great t-shirt designs, as well as the "What Would Molydeux" jam name. Zane Pickett stepped up and created our web site, and organized our game submission form. Justin Ignacio of Justin.tv came in to help with our livestreams. The list goes on. When something was needed, someone stepped up to help.

We also had a number of generous sponsors. Unity, Game Maker, Gamesalad, and Construct 2 offered temp licenses of their engines during the jam (coordinated by Kipnis, among others). Individual cities got sponsors for food, locations, and more. The event had to happen, no matter what - and people made it so.

One of the smarter things we did was set a date early on. Not only did April 1 fit with our Molydeux theme, it happened to fall on a Sunday, meaning we could have the entire weekend to make these games. From the start, we had a date to work toward, and it was a hard deadline. This helped us get everything ready, and I have to say, it went off surprisingly well considering the accelerated timeline.

Everyone's overwhelming goodwill was very much in keeping with the theme of the jam, and there was positivity throughout. Every organizer sacrificed their time and energy for the greater cause, and I think I can speak on behalf of everyone when I say it felt amazing to be involved in such a crackling ball of positive energy!

2: Molydeux/Molyneux

"Peter Molydeux" signed on to the project immediately, which lent the jam legitimacy. The jam was based on his tweets, so participants had an instant idea of what the theme was, and the ability to think about what they might like to do. Molydeux curated some of his best tweets for those who didn't want to sift through everything, and we also got a Google doc of every one of his original tweets.

We had a solid vision from start to finish, and this really helped get things set up. There was no confusion about goals, no back and forth about theme, and no dissent - the reason new cities joined up was because they had already bought in!

The day of the jam, Molydeux even made us an introductory video, with closing words from Molyneux himself. And amazingly, Molyneux showed up at the London jam, giving an opening speech, and participating in the first day.

Who could have predicted that this would come full circle? Molyneux showed up to a jam based on a Twitter account making fun of his grandiose ideas. Why would he do such a thing? Because he correctly recognized that while this was based on a joke account, the participants actually do care about emotion in games. They care about making silly projects that might make us think differently about games.

In essence, this game jam encapsulates everything Molyneux himself has actually tried to accomplish over the years. Perusing the livestreams, every event seemed in keeping with the spirit of whimsy and emotional game making.

3: Popularity

My goodness, we got a lot of press about this thing. People were astounded that it was happening at all, and our success in making it happen was a self-perpetuating hype machine. Almost every day the core team of organizers would get a new email from a new city somewhere in the world that wanted to join in.

We fielded dozens of press requests. Friends outside of the industry heard about it. The massive popularity of the jam showed what power individuals and indies have in this industry now. It truly feels as though we have the power to make the games we want. So many amazing games came out of this jam, that people would absolutely willingly pay for.

Molyjam was in the global spotlight, especially since almost every part of the world had a jam going, inspiring local press to get involved. This means our message of emotion (and silliness!) in games, was actually spreading throughout the world. We weren't toiling in isolation, patting each other on the back and only seeing our own games.

Over 250 games have been uploaded so far, with more to come. Our results are bare, here for all to play and see. It really feels like this jam could have a lasting impact. Teams and friendships were formed, and those who couldn't join could hear about the process, or play the results. That's success.

What went wrong

1: Organized like a jam

Not one of the original four organizers had ever organized a jam. None of us had even been to one (though Anna had participated in Double Fine's internal jams). So the fact that we were suddenly at the helm of an international event was a bit of a surprise. We did the best we could, but there was confusion at times. We fielded questions as best we could, but sometimes there simply were no answers.

That's when others stepped up to help, which was amazing - but we'll have a lot more experience doing this when we head into the next jam, and a lot more of the systems and processes should be in place.

Also, we all had our own jobs to do, on top of organizing this event. Anna Kipnis in particular put in long hours, and at one point became ill. As the event exploded, I was driving to Phoenix, and could only communicate via smartphone. Since we couldn't anticipate the event's popularity, we couldn't plan for it, and had to scramble to put things together. San Francisco didn't have a venue until three days before the event, for instance. Next time around we'll have it planned for scale from the start. We learned a lot through this process.

2: Fragmented information

We started out asking folks on Twitter. We graduated to a Google doc, but that grew unwieldy. We moved the event to Facebook, which worked for the most part, but not everyone has a Facebook account, so we also had an Eventbright signup.

In San Francisco, since they needed names in advance for security, Eventbright became the only signup that mattered. Also due to the crazy size of the event, San Francisco and East Bay had to split up. Oakland was originally the home of the whole jam, as we had gotten The MADE to agree to host us, but they can only reasonably hold 50 people.

Once signups ballooned to 225, San Francisco had to get its own event - but since this happened late in the game, it was hard to let everyone know about the shift, and many folks from the East Bay went to San Francisco, and many folks from San Francisco had to come to the East Bay due to the Eventbright scenario.

Again, in the future we'll be able to streamline this process, and get our venues set up far in advance. Under three weeks it was a pretty tough sell to begin with, but we also needed projectors, good internet, public transportation access, and late-night access. That we got venues at all is amazing.

3: Upload system

This one we're still working on. We haven't quite solved the problem of how to get so many games out to the public. As I mentioned before, hundreds of games are already available, but some were simply too large for our uploader, and the thing broke very early on in the process.

On top of that, it was getting flooded with requests, since people wanted to play the games. Popularity is a great problem to have, but it killed our web volunteers. As we figure out how to package up all the larger games, we'll be tweeting out how folks can find them, but it's unfortunate that not all games could be uploaded at the same time, to ride the wave of popularity. Again, this is something to fix for next time.

A word from San Francisco

San Francisco had the largest Molyjam jam in the world, with around 150 developers participating. So many games came out of the jam that the closing presentation lasted three hours. "We had a guy that came by and made a game during the presentation, that's how long the presentation was," Anna Kipnis told me.

The major success in San Francisco was the livestream. There were lots of antics, as Kipnis says, but the teams also did walkthroughs in the space, updating the stream about various developers' progress, and keeping the audience engaged, which is somewhat unusual for a jam. That caught on to other locations, which started doing similar things. "The internet was very supportive of the game developers as they were working," said Kipnis. "That I did not expect at all."

The team panned the camera a lot, and folks started to notice a guy with an orange hat. His name was Bill Kiley, and he was a musician - once the San Francisco jam showed some of his music, he became a mini-celebrity, with folks sharing his soundcloud in the chat. The team also interviewed some of the more famous folks in the crowd, and really created a sense of community.

The sunny side of the Bay

I was the organizer of the Oakland/East Bay jam, and I felt like we had a somewhat unique event. We had around 40 people across the whole weekend, though some folks filtered in and out. We managed to produce around 10 games, and everyone finished something, including one participant who made a fantastic game entirely on the last day, after showing up at 3 p.m.

What was really striking about the Oakland jam though, was the diversity. We had straight folks and gay folks. We had Black people, White people, Asian people, and Hispanic people. We had a very healthy distribution of men and women, including transgendered folks. The ages ranged from under 20 to over 40.

It may sound odd to point all this out so specifically, but I'll remind you that this was all happening within a group of 40. The diversity of the crowd was astounding to me, and if the Oakland jam were a microcosm of the industry, discussions of gender, race, and orientation in games discussions would be far fewer and further between.

What was it about this event that brought so many people together? Oakland is a very diverse place, which could explain some of it. But more than that, we all cared about making games, and we all cared about the content of these games. The ideas in these tweets were silly, but laden with good ideas and the potential for real emotional involvement.

And that appeals to people across all walks of life. To look at our jam, the problems of diversity in game development would appear to be solved. I can only hope to one day walk into any given game development studio and have it look like Oakland.

Thanks to every organizer and participant across the globe. This has been an amazing experience for all of us. We love you all, and I know we'll see you again.

Individual city organizers are welcome to add their local impressions in the comments below!

[This article was written by Brandon Sheffield on sister site Gamasutra.]

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Arvi Teikari (Hempuli) has teased his blog followers with a metroidvania going by the code name of Environmental Station Alpha for the past few months. While there is no public demo yet, he was kind enough to let me tinker with an early build of the game. As a fan of metroidvanias, I couldn't be happier; it's got the genre down to a science.

Hempuli doesn't hide the fact, either. "The game is basically sort of a 'dream' project of mine; a traditional metroidvania is something I (and probably many other devs) have been longing to do for the longest time. As the pictures show, it's very, very traditional to the point of bordering a Metroid ripoff, so I don't really want to claim that the game'd be very innovative or otherwise interesting. To me the most important thing is that the game's a lot of fun to work on, and I get to do certain parts of game design that I enjoy (mainly boss fights)."

I found the first boss, and it felt like an introductory boss, spraying me only lightly with shots (animated images of bosses after the jump!!). This boss could change, but the basic metroidvania ingredients won't probably go anywhere: a world map that fills in as you explore, different areas of the map which become accessible after obtaining certain statuses, rooms of different sizes to explore that are littered with enemies, false walls and platforms, lots of challenging jumping sequences... you get the drift.

boss 3 5.gifWhile Hempuli can't set a proper release date, he feels about 40-45% of the game content is finished from when he started this January, so that might give some kind of idea about when it might be released. As for what platforms, Hempuli shares, "The game is made in Multimedia Fusion 2, and due to the heavy use of very specific extensions the game unfortunately can only be played on Windows; there's slight hope that a mac/linux support might be viable later on, but that depends on Clickteam."

I am particularly fond of the aesthetic, but Hempuli says the visuals may change. "Since I have a track record of losing interest in games relatively quickly, I settled on a very low-res approach in order to be able to get done with the graphics quickly. The game also uses a 32-colour limited palette. I personally kind of like the looks of the game, but also admit that the visual look is mostly based on my desire to get done with it as fast as possible."

moop.gifWith even the main character looking a bit like a low-res Samus Aran from Metroid, I wondered if this game was more of an homage to the series. "While the game probably won't have much of its own stuff going, I wouldn't call it a 'homage' per se; it's more about me making a game that'd have all those metroidvania designs I've wanted to make for quite some time (although this description might fit the 'homage' title, heh)."

He's a little worried how indie fans will receive such a game. "I'm quite torn about the fact that the game isn't innovative and admittedly has nearly no originality in it, but while I consider that a bad thing I thought it'd be better to make an unoriginal game with a setting I enjoy working with instead of trying to come up with an original one and not getting anything done."

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egs.jpgWith just days remaining before the Game Developers Conference 2012, show organizers have chosen to detail a special workshop dubbed "Experimental Gameplay Sessions," which returns to GDC for its 10-year anniversary.

This jam-packed, two-hour session -- which takes place Friday, March 9 at 2.30pm in Room 3014 of West Hall -- will showcase an eclectic mix of unusual game prototypes that defy convention and explore new ideas and genres.

Led by Robin Hunicke (Journey) and Daniel Benmergui (Storyteller), it's an exciting opportunity for presenters and attendees alike to explore some brand new territory in game design.

In fact, a number of 'experimental' titles that debuted in previous years have gone on to become some of the most well regarded in the industry. Some of these standout games include Katamari Damacy, flOw, Braid, Portal, World of Goo and Today I Die.

This year, the session aims to recapture that innovative spirit with 11 titles from some of the industry's most creative developers.

Among the presenters this year are Douglas Wilson (Johann Sebastian Joust) and Bennett Foddy (QWOP), who will demonstrate a special enhanced version of one of Foddy's acclaimed physics titles. WallFour's John Sear, meanwhile, will show off a particularly unusual large-scale cooperative game.

In addition, developers such as Vlambeer's Rami Ismail will take a moment to go over some seemingly broken game ideas in GlitchHiker, and Kurt Bieg from Simple Machine will detail his studio's new Twitter-powered golf game.

The session will even highlight a number of more well known titles, including Jenova Chen and Nick Clark showing thatgamecompany's much-anticipated Journey, and Daniel Benmergui showcasing his IGF Nuovo Award finalist Storyteller.

Other participants including Shadow Physics co-creator Steve Swink showing a new title, Pietro Righi Riva and Nicolo Tedeschi showcasing Mirror Moon, Alex Kerfoot, Anna Anthropy, and Mars Jokela displaying Keep Me Occupied, part of the OAK-U-TRON 201X, Mathias Nordvall showing Sightlence, and Robin Arnott exhibiting the claustrophobic Deep Sea.

Since limited information on many of these titles is available online, the best way to see what's on offer is to check out the Experimental Gameplay Sessions for yourself. Attendees will also get the chance to actually participate in a number of these games, leaving plenty of opportunity for spontaneous mishaps and hilarity.

The session itself is open to All Access and Main Conference pass holders, and will take place from 2:30 to 4:30 PT on Friday March 9. Interested parties that have not yet registered for a pass can do so on-site in San Francisco starting March 4.

For more information about previous Experimental Gameplay Sessions events, visit the independently run Experimental Gameplay website.

To check out even more updates for GDC 2012, please subscribe to the GDC news page via Twitter, Facebook, or RSS. GDC 2012 will take place March 5 through March 9 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, and is owned and operated by Gamasutra parent company UBM TechWeb.

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In this video filmed during the 2011 Independent Games Festival, two finalists in the excellence in audio category relate their experiences attending the Game Developers Conference.

Danny Baranowsky was nominated for his music score for Super Meat Boy, and has since published the soundtrack to The Binding of Isaac. He will be joining a panel this year titled "The Indie Composer Speaks." Mattias Häggström Gerdt was selected as an IGF Awards finalist for the music of Cobalt, and has previously scored the Xbox Live Indie Game Kaleidoscope.

This year several indie summit talks on audio are scheduled to take place. They include The Dynamic Audio of Vessel" by Leonard J. Paul, "Build That Wall" by Darren Korb and "Music is Storytelling" by Austin Wintory. Further details can be found on the GDC schedule builder.

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the floor is jelly.jpgWhat if everything players touched in their game world was made of jelly? That is the question Ian Snyder's IGF Student Showcase finalist The Floor is Jelly seeks to answer, in the form of a colorful but atypical 2D platformer.

Snyder has explored this question since July 2011, while continuing his studies at the Kansas City Art Institute. He's been exploring the boundaries of games in a larger context since he began honing his craft in 2005, his freshman year of high school. His unconventional maze game Feign even earned him an honorable mention for the Nuovo Award at IGF in 2011.

While wrapped in the shell of a 2D platformer, The Mac- and PC-bound The Floor is Jelly will be unconventional in many ways. However, Snyder aims to make it extremely fun and rewarding, especially for the players who like to "poke at the holes in the corners of their universe until it unravels." Here Snyder begins to unravel his mysterious, gelatinous universe in-the-making.

Could you tell me about yourself and the development tools you've used?

I've been making games in general for about 7 years now. I also made the game Feign, which you may have heard of before.

I'm using flash to build this. It's the program I've worked with since I began making games, so it's just easiest for me to use that. Someday I will teach myself a real programming language, really! I've been making the game off and on since July, and it is still in development.

What bits of games served as your inspiration?

Videos of games like Loco Roco, Patapon, Pixeljunk Eden/Shooter, and Hohokum have all had an influence visually, I think. I haven't actually gotten the change to play most of these... That vectored style is something that stuck with me though.

I keep returning to Everyday Shooter when I feel like I'm out of ideas. There is a synthesis of graphics, sound, and play in that game I find particularly inspiring.

Proteus got me thinking about games as a place the player exists in. Somewhere you are rather than something you do, which is important to the kinds of aesthetic decisions I'm making in the game.

How are you making the jelly be gelatinous in technical programming terms?

The jelly works a bit like cellular automata. If you take Conway's Game of Life, for example, one way to understand the rules is in terms of neighbors (each cell has nine) and their relationships (depending on their neighbors, a cell expresses either an "on": or "off" state). The jelly is made up a of a series of points surrounding each island like a band. The line these points make defines the shape of the island. Each point has two neighbors, one counterclockwise and one clockwise. Where something like the Game of Life might express relationships between these in boolean values, each point's relationship to its neighbors is expressed and defined by their x/y position.

In more concrete terms, when one point gets far enough from its neighbors, it pulls the neighbors toward itself (and simultaneously, its neighbors are pulling it back toward them). Once these neighbors have been dislodged from their position, they will pull their neighbors, and those neighbors in turn will pull away theirs and so on creating the rippling effect of the jelly. There is also a force acting on the points to make sure that they return to their original position instead of ending up a crumpled heap somewhere in the infinite void beyond the screen's edges.

It's actually quite a simple simulation.

How would you label your game?

Well, jumping is something that happens a lot... My hope with the game is simply to present a space where players can interact with these weird physics. A platformer is a pretty efficient way to accomplish that. I'm working to make the environment just a nice place to be in. The game will have a good amount of hidden things for those who want to look. So there's looking for things, there's being somewhere, and there's jumping on things. I guess I'd say it has a focus on the kinetic or sensory experience of the player - it's an experiential platformer.

Why do you think your game deserves to win the Student Showcase?

I never said anything about thinking I deserved to win. Talk to the judges about that...

I've been looking over the other Student Showcase [finalists], and I'm honored to be counted among them. All the games look great this year, and I'm excited to meet them all and play their games in person.

What feedback from IGF Nuovo Award Honorable Mention Feign and other games helped in making Jelly

Wow, I can't think of two more disparate games!

They do share certain characteristics, though. The central focus of both games is less about how awesome the protagonist/player is and more about the supernatural nature of the environment around them.

Games are basically magic. Want to walk around in a non-Euclidean maze? No problem! Want to run around wildly on a floor made of jello? Go for it!

One big lesson I took away from Feign is how patient the player can be. Maybe I had to abuse that relationship a little bit to understand that it was there. I felt for a while after Feign that I had to make these 'apology' games that were much kinder to the player.

There's a certain threshold a gamer crosses when they really commit to a game though. There's this point between where they're only trying it out and where they're actively trying to reach the end. Once the player steps over it, you can basically take them anywhere you want to. That's one of the key differences to me between games and other mediums, suspension of disbelief is a built in feature. When something happens in a game, no matter how fantastical that thing is, it is actually happening.

Water cooler talk: why should the average gamer play your game?

Ok, here's the deal, Average Gamer. We have our separate tastes, I know that. I stopped playing those shooters a long time ago because they just weren't my cup of tea. You still like them, and I respect and appreciate that. My game won't be following many of the conventions you're used to, let me warn you.

You won't be killing anything, there will be lots of colors, it occurs on a 2D plane, you can sit still to enjoy the environment and nothing will kill you, and it's made by me alone, meaning it's probably a great deal shorter than what you're used to.

I'm trying to make something that's just a nice place to be in. Maybe you like to be in nice places sometimes? I know I do.

What are some interesting things about your game that you haven't talked about before?

I'm always fascinated by areas in games which you are not supposed to enter. Maybe they're secret rooms, or they're a place where you can stand behind the scenery, or a room where you can fall through the floor into a black void if you stand in the right place and press the right buttons.

As I am making The Floor is Jelly, I'm trying to find those little places the player is not supposed to go and putting secrets there. I want the game to be really rewarding to the kind of player who pokes at the holes in the corners of their universe until it unravels.

Why jelly, and why not pudding? Are there talks with Bill Cosby for celebrity endorsement?

When it comes to jelly vs. pudding -- and believe me, it is a quandary I have spent long nights losing sleep over -- it is ultimately a question of movement. Jelly, and specifically its slightly trademarked cousin Jell-O, has a lively quality of movement that pudding just doesn't have. Pudding just sits there. Even the word "pudding" has a way of falling dollop-shaped from your mouth.

Initially Mr. Cosby seemed to like the idea of a world made of jelly, but in a voice recording session someone let it slip that this was all for a video game. It was at this point he barged into my office screaming something about how "videogames are ruining the childrens of today," and proceeded to meander out of the studio in a vague rage. We did try to appease Mr. Cosby with food, but he would have none of it.

However, I haven't given up hope for his involvement in the project, and we are trying to peaceably work things out between us.

Unfounded Rumor: You are working on a theme park made out of jelly. Discuss.

Ian Snyder does not comment on rumor or speculation. I can neither confirm nor deny the existence of a theme park and series of corresponding residential areas made of jelly.

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Mike Bithell, designer behind the graphically abstract puzzle platformer Thomas Was Alone has uploaded a new gallery of screenshots, showing off some of how the game has progressed since we last saw it.

I was fortunate enough to get an early hands on with this at Gamecity in Nottingham last year, and it's a promising little title. You take control of several different abstract shapes, with characteristics that you'd expect based on the their appearance. The tall thin block is tall and thin, the tiny little square is tiny and little, and so on. You switch between them, and need to use their different properties to work out how to get them all from A to B. Fun stuff.

Have a poke at the rest of the new screenshots over at Flickr. It's coming to PC/Mac and is due for a release some time in April/May. More info over at thomaswasalone.com.

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Lazy Brain Games has set up a Kickstarter campaign to fund a proposed sequel to its "retro action climbing shooter" Infernal Edge.

Inspired by climbing sequences from classics like Strider and Contra III: The Alien Wars, Infernal Edge 2's gameplay centers around a grappling hook, which must be used to traverse deadly terrain and defeat boss enemies. Creator Johnny B notes that other new additions -- including camera rotation and a plasma saber -- are inspired by Sin & Punishment and Super Mario World, among other titles.

Lazy Brain Games hopes to raise $5,000 by March 13th.

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If you're one of those people who simply must have all their games on Steam and have been putting off an afternoon with Realm of the Mad God for that solitary reason, you have no more excuses. Realm of the Mad God is currently available on Steam as a free-to-play title. For those who've missed the memo, Realm of the Mad God is kind of like a co-operative bullet hell of sorts. You have one life. You get to pick a class and after that, you'll have the opportunity to rampage through the pixelated landscape in an attempt to gather as much fame and fortune as possible. Once you die, however, you're going to have to level up another one from scratch.
Official site here.

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