You Should Listen To The Radiance Game Dev Podcast!

radiance

Ever wanted to make a Christian Videogame?

You need to listen to the Radiance Podcast. Not that I’m biased as the host or anything. I kid. It really is invaluable.

Ever wondered how Christianity should work in a videogame?

You should listen to our fourth episode with the makers of Defender’s Quest.

Ever wondered what role your testimony could play in a videogame?

You should listen to our third episode with Josh Larsen who talks about his game, That Dragon Cancer. Then we explore what Christians can learn from Papers Please.

Ever wondered what kind of journey you can expect in games development?

You should listen to our second episode with Soma Games; where we explore the importance of knowing you’re not alone. And we talk about The Swapper.

Ever wondered what kinds of Christian games the hosts (other than me) are working on?

You should listen to our first episode and learn what Christian game developers can learn from Gone Home.

If any aspect of making videogames is interesting to you?

You should subscribe to our show on iTunes.

Multi-layered Skills in Transistor – Subversive Mechanics

Skills don’t overlap in single-character games. Except Transistor.

Functions are actions in combat, augmentations to other actions in combat, or are passive bonuses to benefit the player. It’s a robust system with over a thousand potential combinations. To add to that, each Function ties directly into the main narrative.

This mechanic got it’s own deep-dive over at Gamasutra. There, the game’s authors explain it better than I ever could.

Bonus XP for Mercy in Deus Ex 3: Human Revolution – Subversive Mechanics

Get within five feet of an enemy to find yourself in this moral quandary:

two-choices

Do I use my fancy new arm-katanas?

Or do I just use my robot arms to gently make him go to sleep?

While less cool, the merciful option that preserves your enemy’s life nets you a fancy bonus of 20 XP. You miss-out on this Merciful Soul bonus if you take the enemy’s life.

Loving Enemies in Valiant Hearts – Subversive Mechanics

Valiant Hearts takes you through a French perspective of World War One. As French grandpa, Emil, you find an enemy German soldier hanging from a rope as a result of a mine cart accident. What do you do?

As Emil gets the soldier down, the two rely on one another to make further progress, subverting definitions of enemy and ally.

I explored this mechanic in depth on GameChurch and how it would have been better as an optional action than a progress-gate. Nevertheless, the enemy-rescue concept conveys a subversive notion in a culture awash in conquest.

The Teleporter Pad in The Marvellous Miss Take – Subversive Mechanics

Miss Take has no weapons. None. No offense of any kind. Just tools for evasion and distraction. My personal favorite is the teleporter pad.

teleporter

At first, it might seem similar to Dishonored’s blink teleportation. But there’s a distinct difference in ambition and perspective. Namely, Miss Take is all getaway as it’s a heist game.

Toss the teleporter when you’re in a tight spot between a camera and a guard. Anticipate the two-second delay. Enjoy the exhiliration of almost getting caught, but making a clean getaway: The Marvellous Miss Take’s specialty.

No EXP For Kills in Deus Ex – Subversive Mechanics

You get experience points for killing enemies in role playing games. It’s a given. Except in the original Deus Ex.

killing

Killing an enemy only produces a dead body.

deadbody

This downplay of enemy termination subtly encourages other kinds of solutions; such as hacking a security system, using your tools to create an alternate route, or just keeping your head down as you avoid confrontation. Of course, you can go on a murderous rampage. But you may wonder why that seems to reward you a little less than the other options.

“I Forgot About You – Because I Stopped Talking To You”

I suck at calling my parents. We’re on really great terms. We just don’t talk. It’s mostly my fault. I’m not all that great at follow up. Or sharing the things I’m processing with others – especially when I feel like we have diverging interests/priorities. It’s got me thinking.

How do people grow distant?

I think you just talk less. Gradually. Over time. Before you know it, it’s weeks since you’ve talked. Then months. Your relationship descends into the lack of a relationship. It might still be there. But not any more there than the unread books on your shelf.

Maybe it’s the same with God?

Like you just stop talking. I don’t think people just stop believing in God. I think they stop talking to Him. Gradually. Over time. I’m noticing that exact flaw in my relationship with him. And again, it’s my fault.

I don’t wanna stop talking to God.

So I’m opening up. I’ve taken to unloading all my thoughts on God. Especially about videogames. What I’ve played, what I think about it. What I think he thinks about it. What I sense his spirit saying. How that makes me feel.

That wild and chaotic verbal spillage can turn into intercession for the world around me. But it’s really just talking.

Maybe God just wants us to talk to him?

Papers Please’s Sharpshootin’ – Subversive Mechanics

Papers Please is as far from a first-person shooter as one can get. Almost all of the mechanics are about reviewing passports, documents, and finding details gone amiss. So when you suddenly get a key and are told to only use it in emergency, you don’t expect this to happen:

Papers Please Sharpshooter

The whole thing is over before you know it. Especially if you aren’t watching what’s going on. But if you pay attention to detail, you might get enough money to keep your family alive.

sharpshooterbonus

None of this would be subversive or compelling if it wasn’t mostly about paperwork. But by pulling out the unexpected, you’re forced to adapt.

Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath’s Lure, Bind, and Bag – Subversive Mechanics

Oddworld Stranger’s Wrath does subversive and nonlethal action better than almost any game I can think of. It focuses on capturing bounties alive – as they’re worth more than dead bodies. To do this, fire live critters from Stranger’s crossbow.

Chippunks lure the enemy.

Bolamites bind them up.

And then you can bag them up with your bag-teleporter that sends them straight to jail.

Combine these together for devastating non-lethal results.

GameCell: Alternate World Night

crew

Less of me. More of you guys. That’s one of my goals for GameCell this year.

GameCell needs to exist and function with or without me. That means for the rest of the year, I’ll be trying to hand the night’s responsibilities off to others and see who thrives in what role.

First? God seems to be revealing a supernatural theme for the discussion about life, belief, and how that relates to games. It starts with Alternate Worlds.

Friday night’s theme came from a realization: game-players are open to the Alternate World nature of the Kingdom of God. And they’ve got the eyes (and neural pathways) to see spiritual realities.

The world’s second most popular videogame series (Assassin’s Creed) has a mode called Eagle Vision. Press a button and you know where to go. Where your enemies are. Where important things are. But only if you’re looking. And you can’t stay in Eagle Vision all the time. You have to engage with the world. Other games do this same thing with different names. Wraith Sight. Dimensional Portals. The Fade. Detective Mode.

For this night, we laid the foundation for the notion that maybe these games are speaking to a greater reality that God wants us to be a part of.  First, a question from Alex Carter:

“What game world would you live in?”

There was an Assassin’s Creed mention. Some Mass Effect. Star Wars. Dead Space (a response which got some significant laughter). Pokemon got four votes. In a group of nine, this was the overwhelming majority.

“Why would you live there?”

Around this time, the Reigart brothers showed up (Dan and Josh) and only added to the Pokemon votes. This made it easy for everybody to agree: Pokemon trainers don’t die since all the Pokemon do the fighting for you. Plus, the world is really colorful and happy.

Vince took over the question asking for the next two questions:

“Do you think the worlds we go into make this world better?”

Our group didn’t really understand this question. But the general consensus was noThis world always seems more broken and disorienting in contrast to idealistic worlds in games. Or at least ones where the conflicts are clearly defined and you’re in a position to make things right. This might seem discouraging to non-game-players. “Just goes to show you that games are not good for our world,” one might say. But I think that there’s a holy longing in a better world. So our last question was a bit of a leading one:

“Did you know that God’s world and our world are two different worlds clashing?”

No disagreement here. We got a lot of “Hmm”s with head nods. And I heard a “Yeah, that sounds right.” Tyler looked around and said, “You mean like spiritual realities?”

“Exactly.” I said.

We discussed how Jesus said at the beginning of his ministry, “The Kingdom of God is now at hand.” And how Jesus’ emphasis on God’s spiritual reality is available to us. If we want it. We explored the metaphors of  Eagle Vision. Wraith Sight. Detective Mode. Bioshock Portals. The Fade in Dragon Age. And how all of these things are videogame metaphors that speak to our spiritual reality. Gamer-players are so ready for the Kingdom – because they know alternate worlds are better than this one. And they’ve got the eyes (and neural pathways) to see spiritual realities.

I threw out there a lot of spiritual and supernatural considerations, probably sounding a tad insane to our guys. Talked about bringing the Kingdom here. Being empowered through the Holy Spirit. And how there’s so much more that we’ll have to reserve to talk about in later GameCell get-togethers. Vince led prayer. I tried to encourage anybody else to share if they had anything. But I also realize that none of these guys have any familiarity with sharing prophetic input. So that was still in Vince’s and my court when it came up. That just included a word about forgiveness and love and how that defines all of God’s Supernatural Reality (The Kingdom).

After prayer, I conscripted all the guys’ help in moving doors we have to paint into our upstairs study. Thanks for the help, guys!

Game time.

Josh Reigart was our official new guy. So he got dibs on what we played. He picked from our official Alternate Worlds Playlist that I created in steam. And his pick was The Vanishing of Ethan Carter.

ethan

For a group watch-n-play with Josh at the helm, I’d give it a B+. I thought it would be a lot better to watch and experience, but as a first-person game with a controller, it was a little disorienting. Josh didn’t always know where to go. And being a backseat driver with a first-person game is pretty hard.

Still, the visual beauty of the game and the intriguing supernatural crime scenes created a sense of wonder. And when it came time to put the chronology of events in the first crime scene together, our crew got really into it and tried to help him figure it out.

Josh Reigart’s older brother Daniel came once before, so he got our honorary new guy opportunity to pick what’s next. His choice? The fighting game that Alex Carter brought on his 360: BlazBlue Continuum Shift.

blazblue_cs

Some say that BlazBlue is too technical for a game of every-man pick-up. But I’d still give it an A+ for how well it worked with our crew. We did an overall bracket of everybody gets to play once. It didn’t give a lot of room for experimentation. But it kept things fast and intense. And we were all amazed at how Jason figured out how to sword-spam his opponents into submission. We saved a final match for him and Alex Carter, who had been practicing for the night. And in the end, even Alex couldn’t get through Jason’s space-samurai spam magic. The final match between the two of them filled the room with electricity. And I don’t think we could all believe it that Jason won. They even went another round to see if it was for real. And Jason won again!

This meant Jason picked who played next and got to pick our final game. His choice? His opponent that he just bested, Alex Carter. Alex chose to pick from my Weird Game category on Steam. And though it may not be the weirdest thing, that game was Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance.

revengeance

The first level of Revengeance may be the most fun thing for people to watch in videogames. A+. Hands down. Unless you hate cyborg ninjas. Then, A-.

Alex fought a Spaniard samurai cyborg, chased a war-mongering American samurai cyborg, slashed cyborg terrorists into chunks, and got in a back-alley beatdown with a Metal Gear Ray (a Godzilla-sized robot). After using the Ray’s own weight against it and chopping off its arm, Alex gave it a good KO. Two minutes later, the thing was back and Alex had to run down the broad face of a building, jump off of the robots firing missiles and slash its face in half. Around this time, I said to our crew, “Just wait until this game gets cool!”

hively

Before long, we were over our time and had to shut things down. But not before a chorus of defeated, “Oh man!”s. Except for Alex Hively, who had somehow fallen asleep in the midst of loud explosions. Great night.