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Pro-social Game Design

Today I published an article I’ve been working on about pro-social game design, making things that are good for people. It takes as inspiration games which I very much respect and distills some of the lessons from them. Here’s an abridged version:

There’s an analogy between fast food/slow food and types of games in that the former are easy, low cost upfront, high cost later and the latter are higher cost up front, more challenging, but ultimately better for you.

Three ways to go about making a game that is good for people:

  • let people sit, give them space
  • encourage growth
  • reward the player

If we make enough pro-social games then people’s standards will raise and they will realize that they didn’t really want the cheap stuff to begin with. That’s the job of the indie game designer.

Points of Pride

There’s this big black dog hanging around in the village of my mind. He’s probably always been there. I don’t always notice him. I notice him something fierce though, when he’s hungry. Now Hubris, he’ll stake your flank, tear it off and eat it raw. Leave you a gapping hole in your ego.I’m pretty sure he doesn’t make himself to obvious, gives me some rope, so to speak. Gives me enough space to get fat, get juicy. Then, well, he sinks his teeth in. It’d be arrogant to think he’s only feeding on the flesh of my ego. I do though. I do think that. Oh, Hubris. Maybe you’ve met.

We are at a point where we have no direction.  We’re isolated. Unsure. Regretful. Barely able to look at the long list of failures. So we started keeping score of our pride points. (A pretty useful method when looking at painful truth. No sugar coating or counter points are needed, cuz, well, WE SCORED POINTS! Here’s what we found:

Let’s start a company without doing any research on the space or startups in general! (Avoiding feeling small, insignificant, and likely to fail; firmly placing my flag at the summit of a delusional mountain) Pride 2, 3pxh 0

Let’s think that we are the BEST and not shatter that conception by walking on eggshells around each other!  Pride 4, 3pxh 0

We’re too good for income. Hint: steady income is a bit of stability. A bit of stability is wonderful to holdback the creeping void. Pride 6, 3pxh 0
I don’t need a job, I’VE GOT A STARTUP! Hint: you do need a job, and it might be a hobby. Pride 8, 3pxh 0
I can be awesome without trying! Taking care of myself? That’s what people that are not great have to do. Hint: this is not facts.  Pride 10, 3pxh 0
Advice? Pffffffffuck that. I’ma do something UNIQUE! Pride 12, 3pxh 0
Investors? Why do we need investors?!??!! Hint: it’s not mostly about the money. Pride 14, 3pxh 0
I think I’ll wait for someone to notice me and roll out a nice carpet for me. Hint: what?!?! GET HUSTLING. Pride 16, 3pxh 0
If we’re not the best, we are nothing. Not the best? Better cry about it a little. Pride 18, 3pxh 0
Sure, people have been playing games for THE WHOLE TIME, and the industry is decades or centuries old. But fuck that. We’re great and don’t need to pay attention to all that noise. Hint: at least acknowledge it. Really though.  Pride 20, 3pxh 0
“Selling Out” Pride 22, 3pxh 0

Now alpha pride; that’s your best bestie. Your bestie’s got your back. Your bestie let’s you know. Let’s you know that you can do it, motherfucker. You can keep running. You can survive sharing something incomplete. That you can overcome anything. That you gotta do your work. Your bestie will let you know: you did that great. Now keep going. 

That’s the pride we want to celebrate going forward.

I published this post. Is it perfect? Ahahha no. But it’s done. And for someone who often hoards data locally, waiting for it to be perfect, waiting to emerge full fledged and brilliant, I say, I’ve got a long way to go in expressing myself. And: I did this great.

Pixel Blocks

Back in the early days of Block Party, Ben took a bunch of the small cubes we’d acquired to turn into minis and painted them single colors, calling them pixel blocks. Being me, obsessed with only the thing at hand (Block Party) and unwilling to dedicate cycles to think about things not directly relating to it, I dismissed pixel blocks as something Ben’s artistic side fancied and not much more (bad job at input, past self!).

Yesterday I began thinking of games that could be played with less information than complete block party glyphs, and possibly result in an easier manufacturing process as well. Attached are pictures of the first prototype which features 28 cubes and 3 colors where each cube has a unique distribution of colors (and this is all of the distributions over 3 colors and 6 faces–check the math for yourself!).  Not entirely sure about gameplay yet since 28 cubes is a little small and 3 colors is really minimal on information, but there are no doubt some fun solitaire puzzles with these pieces. The set with 4 colors might be more interesting, though iirc it requires 84 cubes to be complete, and I didn’t feel like painting that many by hand. Perhaps another day.

Moral of this story? Listen to your partner and take time to have thoughts that are outside of the narrow box that might be your primary line of inquiry.

image image image

Harder than expected. Completed


At least 4 times I wasn’t going to finish my work tonight. “Make 4 sets, document them, and blog about it with next steps.”
“It looks shitty.”
“the process is fucked, I need to start over with a better process”.
“I’m tired.”
“What about tomorrow. I’ll wake up early tomorrow, jog over here, and knock ’em down!”
Ok, so at least 5 times. It happened less when the music was on, and good.
I even put all the things away once. Then I was like: hell no. You need to train yourself to finish. Even when you don’t want to.

Especially when you don’t want to.

This framing made the tomorrow option infeasable.
It clarified the job: complete the production at some quality. It was not: solve the production process from seed to game table


I’m quite curious to see how playing classic with these blocks is. There is a lot more noise and the pix have a lot more personality. I wish that the symbols were on straighter and closer to the edge.

Challenges:  Switching color paint with each symbol. No running water. Searching for pix (reduced by placing stamps on the pix map). The paint got tackier and tackier as the night wore on. This was a major contributor to the added time and the in-my-opinion lower quality stamping.

Next steps: Make instructions. Sell them at the farmers market. Make a stamp + pad and make more.

The end

A First Look: Unity and Shaders

I’ve been hearing about Unity for some time and I figured I’d finally check it out. The big takeaway from today: it is a monstrous piece of software and I have a lot to learn. It’s really powerful though, so that’s neat.

I also decided to take my first dip into shaders given that unity makes it really easy to bind shaders to objects. So I read through a tutorial and looked at the math here to produce the following images (they’re animated as in the link above). These are all being done in a shader which is running on the gpu.

Screen Shot 2014-02-19 at 5.18.29 PM Screen Shot 2014-02-19 at 5.32.54 PM Screen Shot 2014-02-19 at 5.35.03 PM Screen Shot 2014-02-19 at 5.38.48 PMScreen Shot 2014-02-19 at 6.16.38 PM Screen Shot 2014-02-19 at 6.22.21 PM


For those interested in the shader, the short version (image 1 above) is below. It could probably be optimized a bit.

float wave0 = sin(i.uv.x*300+_Time.y*.5);
float wave1 = sin((i.uv.x*.90096886+i.uv.y*.4338837)*300+_Time.y*.5);
float wave2 = sin((i.uv.x*.62348980185+i.uv.y*.78183148)*300+_Time.y*.5);
float wave3 = sin((i.uv.x*.22252093395+i.uv.y*.97492791218)*300+_Time.y*.5);
float wave4 = sin((i.uv.y*.97492791218-i.uv.x*.22252093395)*300+_Time.y*.5);
float wave5 = sin((i.uv.y*.78183148246-i.uv.x*.62348980185)*300+_Time.y*.5);
float wave6 = sin((i.uv.y*.43388373911-i.uv.x*.9009688679)*300+_Time.y*.5);
float z = 1.0/(1.0+exp(-1.0*(wave0+wave1+wave2+wave3+wave4+wave5+wave6)*2));
return float4(z,z,z,1.0);

Just a first post. Nothing special.

Photoshop teaches us the way fecundity, of mass production of seeds with expected flowers in the few range. But it’s not waste. All the seeds that don’t make it to flower-hood. Some of the seeds feed the birds. Some distract the monkey, get him off our back for a night. Some of the seed sprout, die, and fertilize something yet undreamed. I might have broken my metaphor. So be it.

This is a study for Iris [working title]