Blog


Electropocalypse at The Tech—Saturday April 26 — 11 April 2014

250x250-open-makeThe Tech Museum in San Jose on Saturday April 26 is having an Open Make event on electricity and we’ll be showing our game there. It sounds like a fun day of electricity with a bunch of groups showing off their electrical projects, including the Young Makers who are preparing for the big Maker Faire in San Mateo next month.

Here is more information: http://www.thetech.org/partnership-programs-tech/open-make-tech

Counting Kingdom — 1 April 2014

ApprenticeRunI saw this great math game at a show recently. I don’t like most math games but this one was fun. It’s not out yet, but you can sign up to be a beta tester.

http://littleworldsinteractive.com

 

LaunchBall — excellent puzzle game — 30 October 2013

I was introduced to this game at London’s Science Museum site. It reminds me of the also excellent game The Incredible Machine. It’s a puzzle game where you use various physical phenomena like electricity or heat to make things work.

http://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/launchpad/launchball/

Some articles on puzzle design — 31 July 2013

I’m working on a game to teach basic electronics. It’s hard to come up with electronics puzzles instead of homework problems. I found these articles to be useful in understanding puzzles:

http://www.scottkim.com/thinkinggames/GDC00/bates.html — The art of puzzle design lies in creating an original set of problems and solutions that are appropriate to the story you are telling. Even so, puzzles fall into recognizable categories and it is important to know what they are and when you can use them. Here are some of the categories.

http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/5901/evaluating_game_mechanics_for_depth.php?print=1 — Former Insomniac designer Mike Stout takes shares a useful rubric for judging the depth of play mechanics, including checks for redundant ones, in this in-depth design article, which contains examples from the Ratchet & Clank series.

http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2013/09/20/untold-riches-an-analysis-of-portals-expressive-level-design/ — Hamish Todd’s writes, “Portal has the best-designed first-person puzzles I’ve ever seen. They’re surprising, focused, and concise. They are also designed very perceptively, and we can learn a lot from looking at this perceptiveness. Read on for an analysis of Portal’s level design, and some lessons about what learning from it can do to improve game design.”

Compare Experience of two Serious Games — 13 July 2012

I just played these two games about a serious subject, sweatshops. Both games are simple 2D drag-and-drop games, relative inexpensive to produce (compared to a 3D game), and they want to teach a little bit about the evils of Sweatshops.

 

http://www.playsweatshop.com/

In PlaySweatshop.com the boss fired the old manager and made you (forces you to be) the new manager. He yells at and threatens you to make production quotas, hire kids because they are cheaper, and tells you to find “well endowed” workers because he wants to look at them. Yucky.  The graphics are excellent and the gameplay is a tower-defense type game–you hire workers for a certain cost and deploy them along the assembly line.

http://www.simsweatshop.com/game/

In SimSweatshop, you are a line worker assembling shoes. You have to put each part in place. You are paid a paltry sum for a 12 hour days work. Sometimes when a big order comes in you have to work longer hours too. And if you don’t meet quota, your pay is docked. To make matters worse, you need to buy your own food and water otherwise you get tired and it’s hard to see what you are working on. The graphics are fair, definitely not as professional as PlaySweatshop.

The remarkable thing about these games is the difference in experiences.PlaySweatshop’s initial impression is much better than SimSweatshop–it looks more professional and more interesting of the two. But PlaySweatshop’s gameplay feels like the standard tower defense game. The evils of sweatshops are conveyed through the boss, threatening to fire you every minute, but is unconvincing because he is so sterotyped. SimSweatshop on the other hand feels like you are a slave laborer–when you get tired your vision of the shoes gets blurry. When you realize you have to buy your own water to drink, you feel indignant. When you are going as fast as you can but you didn’t meet quota, you feel hurt that you only got paid half for all that effort. The next day when you cannot afford to even drink some water and you have to try and work with blurry vision, you feel miserable. What a different experience.

SimSweatshop is a throughly convincing experience of being in a degrading work environment where all the odds are stacked against you. It was by far my favorite.

—Winston