Welcome to Fight Club
HYPER #208, February 2011
Two must enter the ring to demonstrate their might. Only one may emerge victorious, soaked in the blood and shredded dignity of his bested enemy. The winner is decided by the cruel honesty of public vote. The loser is to be humiliated, carrying his shame for the rest of his lifetime.
It may sound like a Roman gladiatorial fight, but this is Indie Kombat, the virtual battledome in which indie game developers from across the world square off against one another to see who can produce the best game under strict rules.
Life in the Ruins
The Escapist, 5th October 2011
This desert may look barren now, but it wasn’t always. Small stone markers line the shifting face of a sand dune – gravestones, perhaps, of a civilization that reigned before shrinking into sand. Half-crumbled buildings sit despondently in valleys of gold. Occasionally, in the spiraling sands, richly-patterned scarves flutter plaintively. Solid structures that may have once carried bridges stand stoic, now supporting only the sky and the glare of a perpetual sunset. It’s been here longer than you have, after all.
But life glimmers in the ruins. Life moves amongst it still.
Peter Molydeux: The Games Industry’s Refreshing Breath Of Twitter Air
Kotaku AU and Kotaku US, 12th October 2011
While many parody accounts are run by ordinary people with a joke to make, Molydeux’s creator is a developer with roots firmly embedded in the games industry. Working as a 3D environment artist, his portfolio boasts an impressive range of titles from Gears of War to Kinectimals and Saints Row, and he’s worked on a total of 15 games across studios in three different countries.
So what’s an established game developer doing with a Peter Molyneux parody account?
The New Vegas Diaries: Boone
Alive Tiny World, 30th March 2011
I had not assumed that Fallout: New Vegas would have very profound stories to tell. It took me a long time to get used to its more thoughtful, slow-paced style of first-person gameplay; I died repeatedly to the dumbest things and was overcome with childish frustration at the V.A.T.S. system’s incapability to simply carry me through the wastes, downing radiated scorpions and geckos for me.
I had little clue of what New Vegas’ ‘bigger picture’ was supposed to be. I was truly a drifter, idly passing time as I traipsed across the desert towards some vaguely-defined goal.
I did not anticipate that meeting a surly sniper would turn the course of the game for me.
Free Agent: Stronghold Kingdoms
GameSpy, 7th September 2012
Firefly has taken its powerhouse medieval series online, but does its village-pillaging charm survive the move to free-to-play? This new iteration of Stronghold is the mashing together of city-building, real-time strategy, and even a little card play – and it’s an entertaining game in its own right, even in spite of its sometimes-crawling pace.
You start out, amusingly, as the village idiot trying to build his castle. This castle is your defense against incoming attacks from other players, and also acts as the epicenter for your future army. Alongside the castle is your humble village, which you’ll build up through humble industries such as apple farming and woodcutting. The reason for nurturing this village? So you can slap some armor on your hovel-dwelling peasants and push them into the line of fire when your burgeoning kingdom is under threat, of course.
Unwinnable, 27th April 2012
When we both first began to play Dear Esther, I expected a certain linearity. I expected the same game, played twice. I expected something momentarily lovely, something fairly decent with emotions quickly forgotten. I was content to resign myself to my slow trudge along her shores. I was content to simply experience and not feel.
I had not expected to see the fraying threads of a relationship begin to stitch themselves together again, no matter how tenuously. Buried in the narrator’s strident letters to Esther were my own letters to my boyfriend of the time, even letters to myself. I pored over this dialogue with wide eyes, feeling thick curtains fall away around me as something grew in the darkness.
Arcade Classic: The Winnitron AU Story
Atomic #139, August 2012
Gamers fill every available space of the cramped Mana Bar in Melbourne, sipping at coloured cocktails in between rounds of Super Smash Bros. In the corner of a dim, low-ceilinged backroom, a group of players wield plastic musical instruments; in another, a man wearing headphones stares rather intently into his game of L.A. Noire. Posters for up-and-coming video games are plastered across the walls and the room’s single window. The unlikely heart of this backroom, however, isn’t the flashy graphics of games being played out on giant screens.
Instead, nearly a dozen people are clustered around a clunky, anachronistic-looking arcade cabinet. This is the Winnitron AU, the Australian contribution to a global network of seven Winnitron arcade machines. It looks like a quirky source of fun amongst all the sleek consoles and sophisticated drinks, and judging by the numbers it draws, it’s one of the Mana Bar Melbourne’s biggest attractions.
Review: A Valley Without Wind
PC PowerPlay #204, June 2012
My mother once sewed a charmingly ratty patchwork quilt. Fabric scraps of inconsistent shapes and sizes were pieced together with little consideration for composition; colours comprised muted pastels and vivid, verging-on-fluorescent hues. The whole mess was unified by stitched threads, zigzagged throughout.
This is what A Valley Without Wind looks like. It sprawls near-endlessly, its procedurally generated maps forming a mishmash of textures, dotted by strangely sleek futuristic buildings and furniture. You are what stitches it all together, the thread that trails in graceful arcs and valleys through the discord.
Power to the Players: Warren Spector interview
HYPER #228, August 2012
“If I’ve done anything in my 29 years of making games, it’s that I’ve championed a single idea and been sort of bull-headed about pursuing that idea.”
Warren Spector – one of the most well-known, passionate guys in games development and with a head that is inexplicably not at all bull-shaped – is telling me about the various accolades he keeps receiving for his work in game design, the latest of which is the “Game Master” bestowed upon him by Melbourne’s ACMI. He seems a little confused by the fuss.
“It makes me feel uncomfortable, if you want to know the truth,” he continues. “I just put together teams that want to investigate my idea – that doesn’t seem like any particular genius or anything. I mean, I just find an idea that’s really interesting to me, and I manage to hire people way better than me to execute it.”
The Davey Wreden Parable: On Stanley, Melbourne, And More
Games.on.net, 24th November 2011
Just three months ago, The Stanley Parable leapt from obscurity to rock the gaming community. The two-years-in-the-making Source mod caused a stir, with its cobbling together of Half-Life 2 assets to form a startlingly self-referential, malleable dynamic narrative.
It’s been a sudden journey for first-time modder and developer Davey Wreden since its release, and he’s embracing the whirlwind. Amidst his recent move from California to Melbourne, he’s also on a constant lookout for new members for his two current game development projects, one of which is a remake of the Stanley Parable.
But why a remake so soon? What can we expect from his future projects? And why Melbourne?
The Skyrim Diaries: The Creation of Character
Gameranx, 9th December 2011
Before the pine trees and the snow of Skyrim had even faded into view, I was uneasy. Where was the character creation screen? Had I missed it somehow? Would I not have the chance to decide my name, my background, my facial features? Suffocated by the bleak cutscene I’d been dropped into, I mashed my WASD keys uselessly.
There were no fanfare: the word “SKYRIM” quietly gave way to a scene in which I sat on a horse-drawn, downhill-bound cart. I felt nauseous. I could only turn my head, crane my neck awkwardly at snow-dappled scenery that passed by too fast. I could not escape the cart.
Of course I felt trapped; I was a prisoner. And why wasn’t I able to craft my character? Because I was a prisoner. I had no rights, not even to that of how I looked. Nameless, unable to move or speak, without even a face to call my own, I felt trapped, powerless. Futureless.