Friday, May 25, 2018


Both of these games I found via bennet foddy's twitter. There's a bit of an alternate history of games there, puzzle games, if you're familiar with Increpare you get the general vibe, Stephen Lavelle's puzzlescript, just a few essentials like Getting Over It: one mechanical difficulty, a series of obstacles.

It's easy to assume that brand of games, singular-mechanic-puzzles, has its heyday now as alternative to the mechanically overloaded Assassin's Creed 2 stuff. There is only one way to solve the problem in Stephen's Sausage roll, just about (not actually true -ed), it's a puzzle box everytime, and so you get a very clear, focused message portaled into your brain.

I dunno, what was Portal compared to Infernium? That stock asset vibe, where everything is a self-conscious arrangement of assets, although Portal had surprising departures (as was the point maybe) and Infernium does not. I've talked about that "vision of hell" thing before, what with devil daggers, or really the critical work of Winter K. and Stephen Thecatamites, specifically Winter K:
“I wanted the player to feel the absolute despair of brick labyrinth, the deep cavern with no rope for climbing out. I envisioned a place of infinite width and depth—dark, yet illuminated. The softly glowing walls cast no guiding light into absolute void. They leer, useless. It is life, eternal, on the precipice of a pit, falling into the pit, scaling the pit’s rough wall, becoming irretrievably lodged in the canyon crack, in nowhere. This was my sketch of what I thought might be a 21st Century psychology: a mental world reduced to a skeletal arrangement of a maze-maker’s traps, and the obsessive drive to feed them both body and brain in hopes of purchasing escape. It is indescribably erotic.” - Shigeru Miyamoto (a fake quote by Winter)
Infernium specifically sets out to be prisonworld, as the designers and foddy said it's based on pac-man, "a maze with no exits" and although there is a consistent, jerking jump-scare every time you lose a life and a very real and very difficult "perma-death" system, I find the hellishness of the game to be centered in the sheer volume of work here, accomplished by a thin spread of creative effort, an absolute abandonment of video-game AAA density. If you can imagine Metal Gear Solid 2's reckless application of detail on one end, Infernium is much more on the single-developer unitygame just five assets end. But it's as large and as complex and *more* difficult than MGS2.

There's something obscene in a sheer volume of deathmazes, like one of those puzzlegames where every puzzle is four different colors and there's 299 levels. Moreover Infernium actually asks you to continuously harvest a fresh supply of lives or start all over again. I'll add that all this is mitigated by the unlock system, so there's uhh progression.

I guess the end point of Stephen's Sausage roll's depth came when I was able to visualize and complete the puzzles in my literal sleep. Not because they were easy, but because the sheer regard to mechanical action was enough to solve them, rather than a continuous & difficult visualization (like sweeping all the pieces off a chess board would require). The whole game is the exploration of about five moving parts; they interact in ways that are upsetting and confusing in their deepest as my brain churns and revolts at the ideas; you got to let the stupid shit go heh heh

two games by a solo developer: stephen's sausage roll by stephen lavelle and inferniuim by carlos coronado

* * * * instadeath: nights presents: was Portal (2007) all about stock assets? * * * *

this an essay which would be better done with pictures alone, but, if you can consider an essential stock-assetyness which happens every time you are gripping and pulling and grinding a metal folding chair and it makes the clankityclankityclank source engine sound as it tries to not clip, can you consider how much of that game was carefully re-arranging giant balls of energy disguised as hollow sheetmetal objects?

I think about "challenge" in video games as the reward when you get the thing in the thing. There's a clunk as it slots in. If you had to think it out before hand that's all well and good but there's still the careful, tedious process of slotting it in (especially with 3d controls). The thing so often resists being pulled in.

thunk thunk thunk bezowoop thunk

Then there's that careful, often magnetic attempt by the developers to help you out when you're close . Magnets, tractor beams always the easiest way to handle 3d-space objects . In Sausage Roll you have instead a precise and precisely non-abstract method of handling, non-abstract because the basic methodology of piercing, pushing, and sliding the sausages is so completely and depravedly explored.

You may begin to view 3D games as an arrangement of assets which all share these assety qualities, like, provisional friction. Speedrunning techniques common among several engines expose this. And how much of our imagination of these spaces gets quietly informed by the assetishness of assets. so many times where you're hoplessly sliding around a room full of superlight objects, uhh see lilly zone's geometry falls 

Friday, May 18, 2018


2010's "Scott Pilgrim": at once, a legitimate ballad to video games, the showcase for about 10-15 of ppl born in the late eighties-nineties, a visual spectacle and faithful adaptation of the (decent and fun and a little deep) graphic novel. And also completely ruined by Michael Cera.

Michael Cera in Scott Pilgrim Vs the World

Look at this excited, confused little asshole. Look at his stupid face. Sure, he's projecting a mix of misery and determination, he doesn't have the acting skills to back it up tho... maybe when he's fifty.

When he looks like a sad sack of shit, like he is. Michael Cera is a nebbish. A schlemiel. He doesn't deserve the girl. He's a much a son of a bitch as Leslie Knope was. 

Image result for leslie knope

Don't get me wrong. I think Leslie Knope is a decent character. She's a schlemiel, and she's lucky. But I don't like the show's treatment of her. It gives her too much success. And not only that, but her success is aspirational. I don't want Michael Scott to succeed either.

It's because I like my comedies dark, and I don't want them moralizing at me. And I don't want the butt of the joke to get ahead. Comedy is for the suffering. 

So who could have played "Scott Pilgrim"? It is Paul Dano.

Image result

Paul Dano isn't a schleimel. He just plays one on TV. He actually can act. It's 'nuff said. But basically things have some dramatic weight when you can show real suffering, the comedy is good, baby!! Also... it takes a chad to play a virgin... a winner to nail the loser.

Saturday, May 12, 2018


in studio ghibli films:
the environment is primal and besieged
magic is akin to a wild animal
the young and courageous are righteous and win, usually

innocence usually (although not always) translates to friendliness

everyone including villains has good intentions

even forces of seeming pure evil can be turned for good (and vice versa

so the reverse would be:

the environment is technological and dominant

magic is like a civilized person

the young are ignorant cowards

innocence usually (although not always) translates to cruelty

no one has good intentions

forces of pure evil and good never intermix


Friday, May 11, 2018

veins of the earth at the table: a review now that the campaign is over

the good:
  • generally all the pariahs were cool and functioned like a charm. even very weird ones like the arachnopolis rex. spotlight dogs were a good awesome introduction! many interesting moments from pariahs like these.
  • light as initiative: simple, gave the PCs a much needed boost, drove home the importance of light. they loved this
  • inspiration: you can fit anything in the veins, and moreover, I felt inspired by the mix of off-realism and dirty fantasy to design a lot of cool shit like dvargir tanks. with the pariahs and the flavor and everything a definite original tone came across, like one player said repeatedly, "this isn't dnd".
    • I created so much content on the backs of this setting and tone, you can see it on my blog under the "veins" label or compiled here
  • I genuinely feel that the chaotic nature of anything-goes OSR style play was really supported by the alien architecture of play. I threw a modern day mall in, it was a little kitsch but it was also uncanny. They had troll teeth that could grow infinite food and several infinite sources of light; they had vehicles; all of these things came to ameliorate and negotiate a series of disturbing and perhaps impossible challenges which created very varied play.
    • quoth skerples: "You'll carry a sword that can cut a syllable in half but your face will be streaked with clay and muck. You'll cut your hair off and file your teeth into points, but you'll also find a machine that spins music into cloth."
  • players enjoyed the effects table and constantly asked to roll on it

the middling:
  • I only used two of the cave systems. I made a lot of them, put a bunch of hours into designing many and many different representations thereof, only used 2. Mostly because:
    • wasn't exactly sure how to link them up with the overland travel system
    • I felt trepidation about caving; climbing or squeezing challenges specifically
    • In retrospect I wish I had tried to use 'em.
  • overland travel system was a mixed bag. it works ok but some standing questions like how do you navigate weren't really answered and I didn't feel like the quad-directionality of the charts ever came up. Moreover, what the routes looked like was only lightly detailed in the book and this left me with little to use frequently.
    • some ambiguities were particularly bad, like the patterns of broken underground cities across the two segments of the map don't seem to match
  • the exploration table: both good and bad. good because it was good at generating consequences and it would direct you over to the "one hundred encounters" table which was great but bad because some of the consequences were tricky to implement or repetitive. "Separated by a traverse/pitch" or "one player gets lost" came up a lot and coming up with a climbing challenge or navigation difficulty on the fly was a struggle. I usually ignored "act as one level lower" results because they're all level 1 heheh.
    • I was frustrated by the ambiguity of when the table should came into play since it had such severe consequences for the players.
  • I wish I used the rapture more.
  • lumes and inventory mostly were in the background.
the bad:
  • over time I ended up not liking the stiffness of the pages of the book and I thought the art was printed murky, ironic, I know. I first got to know the book through PDF and I had a lot more appreciation for the art at that point. Like I've said before I wish the book was A4 although you gotta take what you can get
  • I wish I had some framework for designing settlements and regions, at least a little. It's my fine conclusion that part of the essence of the veins of the earth is a big question mark when it comes to things like "economy" and yeah you can slot whatever you want in, it does indeed function like an ak47 as the back of the book says. that being said there's virtually no starting point in the book for designing locales
  • Ultimately the method for designing cave systems is pretty shitty. Lots of long, thin tunnels, no dead-ends, it's even kind of awkward to roll the dice and note where they go. I found it's easier just to sketch a bunch of caves
  • As regards the book's races, I only ever used the Aelf-Adal (at least up close, the dvargir did most of the architecture of my campaign, the knotsmen were in the distance but not encountered in person). Honestly it was hard to roleplay Aelf-Adal from the included texts, didn't feel like I got a big juicy bite. Most of the time I just used "humans". w/e
  • biggest complaint: overland travel was ambiguous. second biggest complaint was cave systems seemed kinda inaccessible. the other stuff (no details for settlements, fucked up nature of the economy) sorta just threw me in the deep end and I learned to swim.
  • undeniably this was a successful hexcrawl. I had a great moment about 2/3 of the way through where I had written enough and I could just let the rest play out. there was this ultimate selection of priorities that the players had, they could choose between weird things. and everything was very weird. plus they actually managed to survive, for a while
  • you definitely have to hack a bunch to make veins work (as intended)
  • the excellent off-realism/dirty fantasy tone fucking functioned

Thursday, May 3, 2018

some spells

1st level spongebath eviscerate demonstrate // vividness color scheme 2nd level diamond hand brash neo dynamite powder the lesson is learned, by the damage inevitable 3rd you can’t keep coming here anymore the nose imagine // siamese twin the breaks spongebath 1st level wizard s,m: a sponge cleans any identical surface, makes it so you can see the larger void beneath them- essentially peering into it, whatever it is. you can even reach in and take something out or put something in. after d4 minutes the hole closes. does d4 damage to a living surface. eviscerate 1st level tiny hands come up and pull at the feet and other organs of any creature touching the ground. d4 points of damage/body part touching the ground. great on prones demonstrate makes an invisible object appear visible for d8 minutes. can be prepared and cast interchangably with vividness. v,s vividness small hands emerge from a point of your choosing (they’re illusory) and point to any nearby invisible auras, persons, objects, such as magic auras, whatever. more hands appear if the thing/person/aura is stronger. can be cast interchanbly with demonstrate. v color scheme all the colors on a person or object of up to house size are rearranged, brightened, whatever. does d8 damage permanent v,s,m m: a magazine or other small publication with colored ink casting time: 1 action DIAMOND HAND v,s yours or another’s hand becomes immune to damage and in fact can produce unlimited amounts of force for a short time. this means you can push pull, or otherwise lift anything of any size, albeit don’t expect most large things you pick up to hold together under the enormous strain of your powerful hand. used as a fist this attack does 3d10 damage (you still need to roll to hit). duration: d4 rounds rolled secret by gm BRASH target: one subject, save vs. magic to avoid someone is teleported far away, and then back again at high velocity. there is enough time wherever they are teleported to do one round’s worth of actions. you choose the destination- it either is familiar to you or fits a general description. when they come back they have 30ft of momentum, which if slammed into a wall/floor will produce 3d6 damage. teleporting to somewhere very dangerous such as the inside of a volcano: works but then the subject plus some of the dangerous stuff are aimed at you the caster on the return v,s,m m: 100sp in currency, casting time 1 round neo dynamite powder v,s,m. m: broken up pieces of either a coin or a banknote of any value, 1 ounce casting time: 2 rounds your material component is transformed into very high power gunpowder. explodes when you snap your fingers. total of 5d6 damage, x3 dmg if carefully packed inside someone/thing. THE LESSON IS LEARNED, BY THE DAMAGE INEVITABLE v,s,m level 2 m: book of common prayer, focus, not consumed a wave of force, 15’x15’ wide, passes through 30’ of space, tracing either a straight line or an arc of no more than 30*. everyone caught within the wave forgets the last 30 seconds of their life, save vs. magic to avoid. if you save you forget 5 seconds. if you crit fail you forget 8 hours. confused people will probably take at least one round to figure out what is going on. casting time: free action (this is clearly a cleric spell -ed) YOU CAN’T KEEP COMING HERE ANYMORE save vs magic to avoid. if u save heal 1 hp the emotions within one subject boil up and create a tumor, which will activate dealing 1d8 damage per round if some condition is met. the condition can be anything; even “existing”. if you roll an 8 for tumor damage it bursts and then the subject has cancer. cutting out the tumor? need to make a heal check = to spell’s save dc, d10 damage per attempt the nose summons a large nose shaped demon. it will do your bidding but it is easily distracted by such as delicious pies. the nose: 8hd, two attacks: inhale (save vs. para to avoid) then grapple for 8 auto damage/round. fly 30ft ml 7 v,s,m, m: a large slice of a pie baked with human hair casting time: 3 rounds imagine acts as a minor wish, meaning you can conjure up some minor effect, like “all the walls in my house turn to glass”. if the effect is lethal: it is illusory, lasts only d4 rounds, save to disbelieve. can be cast interchangably with “siamese twin” v,m. m: an adult cat siamese twin for the duration of the spell, you have two sets of arms, two sets of legs, two sets of eyes, ears, two mouths, double genetalia, double organs. you get an extra save to resist any effect that gives you a save. you get two rolls to notice anything, hear anything, or otherwise use your senses. you can hold double the amount of stuff and your speed is doubled. you can still only take the usual amount of actions per round. duration: four hours v,s can be cast interchangably with imagine the breaks v,s m: 700 identical wooden boxes all of the boxes flap and begin gnawing on something, chewing it to bits. if they are succesful they then store the bits of whatever it is inside of them. thus you can only effect matter equivalent to the total volume of the boxes. each box: 1hd, 1hp, 1dmg, speed 10ft