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Built to Play 56: The Procedural

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Built to Play 56: The Procedural

Back from PAX East, we discuss isolation in space, handcrafted design, and how abandoned buildings can set the mood.

On our trip to Boston we discussed both the fruits and failings of procedural generation. You might risk sacrificing distinct worlds for the illusion of replayability.  But, if successful, you end up with a nuanced environment that makes you want to dive deeper into its world and its mechanics. If you want our opinions in depth, we rant for about 40 minutes on two earlier episodes, however, we did end up talking to a few people about having a world procedurally generated versus handcrafted design and wound up the episode you're hopefully about to hear. 

Procedural generation, by the way, is a fancy way of saying that there's a bank of possible design elements that the game places at random. That can be story, levels, enemies, artificial intelligence or animation. The process isn't truly random, otherwise the game would be an incomprehensible mess. Usually there's a sophisticated algorithm behind the scenes that builds the game, providing it with rules for how the game should look. If done well, the randomized element should feel distinct without being too alien.

The most common expression of procedural generation can be seen in the roguelike, which generally randomizes its levels and makes you restart the game each time you play. Though, it's hardly the only kind of game to use that process. In this episode, we'll discuss one or two of those special cases that got the process right, while espousing some of the benefits of handcrafted design.

On episode 56 of Built to Play you'll hear the following segments:

  • Tom Jubert, narrative designer of FTL: Faster than Lighttalks about writing a world that feel infinite, and how not to break that illusion. (0:25 - 11:20)
  • In the news, Game Freak leaves the nest, virtual reality goes wild,  the PlayStation 4 lands in China, and the end is nigh, because there are no games coming out in November. (11:20 - 34:00)
  • Mark Foster explains the inspirations and design of Titan Soulsand how developers have reacted. (34:00 - 41:35)
  • Alex Jansen shows us how to be Loud on Planet X, and why Tegan and Sara want to fight off an alien horde. (41:35 - 47:00)
  • James Primate and Joar Jakobsson of Videocult discuss the importance of mood in game design, and how the beauty of decay led to a world of rain. (47:00 - 56:40)
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THANKS TO THE FREE MUSIC ARCHIVE FOR "Is That You or Are You You" and "Oxygen Garden" by Chris Zabriskie, "Flying Pea v1" by Daddy Scrabble, "Rest johnny_ripper remix" by Alphabets, and "As Colorful As Ever" by Broke for Free.

We also used "Nightmares" by Patrick Ellis, Guns and Ammunition (Luke Lalonde/Born Ruffians Remix) by July Talk, and "hard-rain" by Barkenov on Free Sound.

BUILT TO PLAY IS A PRODUCT OF THE SCOPE AT RYERSON RADIO STATION IN THE HEART OF DOWNTOWN TORONTO. IT WAS PRODUCED AND EDITED BY ARMAN AGHBALI AND WRITTEN BY DANIEL ROSEN.

IF YOU LIKE THE SHOW PLEASE SUBSCRIBE AND RATE US ONLINE. IT HELPS MORE PEOPLE FIND THE SHOW AND GIVES US AN IDEA HOW WE'RE DOING. FEEL FREE TO COMMENT DOWN BELOW.

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Built to Play 33: MAX PAX

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Built to Play 33: MAX PAX

Built to Play travelled to the distant world of Boston, Massachusetts, to attend PAX East. We collected a series of interviews about dancing, cannibalism, the fourth dimension and being the perfect gentlemen. 

One of our producer's favourite games was Bounden, which tricking you into dancing. Two people hold a phone and try to weave it around so that the gyroscope matches ups with markers on a ball. So as you swing the phone between each other, you end up moving in circles and pirouetting around each other.

Download. Subscribe on iTunes. Subscribe on Stitcher.

As it says on developer Game Oven's website, it's twister meets ballet. The ballet half of the game was actually choreographed with help from the Dutch National Ballet. So it might not surprise you that producer Arman Aghbali was caught dancing on the floor of PAX East, despite his agreement with the world at large not to after the Christmas Day Fiasco.

The Utrecht, Netherlands based team is no stranger to making players do uncomfortable things with a friend.  Fingle, an iPad puzzle game, is about following dots on the screen with your fingers, as they inevitably interweave and rub up against each other. All the while porno music plays in the background. It's like a whole game made out of the finger going inside the ring motion. 

Eline Muijres, a producer from Game Oven, had the misfortune to dance with our producer and, in spite of the trauma, told us more about it and her inability to not laugh at bad dancers.  You can hear her starting at 20:00

Bounden is out for iPhone and Android May 21st.

Meanwhile, features editor and noted potential cannibal, Daniel Rosen, found some solace in Gods Will be Watching.

The point and click adventure game about facing extreme situations, including torture, starvation and hostage negotiation, all in the life of a single man, Sgt. Burden. It's all about solving moral dilemmas that have no good outcome, with varying levels of gruesomeness. The game evolved out of an entry for the Ludum Dare competition, which turned out to be fairly popular.  The competition entry is actually still playable online though it only has you attempting to survive on a deserted island. 

Deconstructeam had their game right in the middle of the Indie Megabooth, coming all the way from Valencia, Spain. Director Jordi de Paco's favourite scenario, however, is the one they started off with. Once you're stuck on that island you can do your best to search for supplies, gain everyone's trust and escape. Or you can eat everyone. Up to you. 

Jordi de Paco tells us about his psychopath detection system starting 28:46.

Gods Will Be Watching comes out in June for at least PC.

Courtesy of Deconstructeam

Courtesy of Deconstructeam

But so long as we're thinking in extremes, let's think about the fourth dimension in the upcoming puzzle game, Miegakure. 

Inspired by feudal Japanese aesthetics and fourth dimensional geometry, Miegakure is hard to wrap your head around. The game exists in four dimensions. Inside the game's code, you'll find a 4d grid of where all the objects are. However, the game only renders three dimensions at a time, depending on where you're standing. This allows you to briefly cross into alternate worlds to find shortcuts, climb ledges, or cross rivers. 

The game looks at first glance like a simple platformer, but resembles Fez. What Fez did for turning two dimensions geometry into a 3D world, Miegakure does for three dimensions into four. It is more direct than Fez. The levels are short, and are about being able to navigate from one point on the map to another by flipping through different universes. The game will occasionally give you maps to help you visualize how the worlds overlap, but a lot of it is imagining where the barriers between ancient Japan, a desert, and a forest are laid out.

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Marc ten Bosch, the San Francisco based designer, says that the most remarkable 4D shapes they've managed to render include the 20-sided dodecahedron, which has flexible 3D shapes as each of its faces. You can hear more about how it works, and whether Arman actually knows anything about physics, starting 36:38.

The game will be out for at least PC, Mac and Linux.

Taken from 2DX.com

Taken from 2DX.com

On the upper floor of the Boston Convention and Exhibition Centre lay the Diversity Lounge. The diversity lounge, appearing for the first time at PAX, was meant to provide a place for the LGBT community, women's groups, and other diverse members of the game playing world. 

Unfortunately, this area was only created after a number of controversies involving Penny Arcade founders Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik. Most recently, Krahulik claimed that the dickwolves merchandise shouldn't have been removed from sale, despite the complaints that their comic strip it was based on encouraged rape culture. Whether or not it did, the two founders acted poorly in response and created a furor online that incited quite a bit of misogyny and homophobia.

Samson Romero helped run the Toronto Gaymers booth in the diversity lounge, so we asked him whether it made up for prior comments. You can hear him explain starting 45:15.

Samson had his own opinion, but he's not alone in discussing whether it's effective. Many have argued for and against. 

Courtesy Men Who Wear Many Hats

Courtesy Men Who Wear Many Hats

Lastly, Daniel and Arman discovered how to be the perfect gentlemen with the hat-stacking beer-guzzling game, Max Gentlemen.

Max Gentlemen is a free game about stacking hats on shirtless dudes, and Victorian dames, while drinking beer. The Men Who Wear Many Hats, who last created Organ Trail, had the game on display in an arcade machine. Ryan Wiemeyer explains how they reached the limits of hat-stacking gameplay thanks to a spam email about penis pills. Also, why he may be buying more body pillows in the future. You can hear him talk about it starting 52:45.

The game will be out for Ouya, iOS, Android, PC, Mac and Linux.


he music in this episode came from the Free Music Archive. We used "Lyly" by Violeta Pivnkakkara, "Hungaria" and "Songe D'Automne" by Latch Swing, and "Flying Pea v1" by Daddy Scramble. From the Ontario Independent Music Archive, we used "Diego Suarez" by Rimbombante. 

If you feel like your music was used inappropriately in an episode of Built to Play, be sure to send us an email.

Enjoyed this episode? Leave us a comment! Or review us on iTunes. 

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Built to Play 19: Mexican Controllers

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Built to Play 19: Mexican Controllers

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On this Tuesday edition of Built to Play we won't stop Mexican wrestling. We put Valve's final announcement last week, the brand new Steam Controller, under a chokehold of criticism. Then we body slammed our way through the new Nintendo Direct, giving special mention to the open world of Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds. Meanwhile news of Sega Sammy's recent layoffs come like a knee to the groin. We tore off the mask of some Kickstarter news, with guest Matt Gilgenbach handing us a chair for more details on the end of his campaign for Neverending Nightmares. China then broke into the ring and declared an end to its game console ban, at least within the new Shanghai Free Trade Zone, meant to attract foreigners to one of China's largest cities.

Once again we have more comical news in our bonus round, including the Deus Ex Universe and the new Sonic TV show. 

Plus we have a tag team match with Graham Smith and Chris McQuinn, two of the leaders from Drinkbox Studios in Toronto. They gave us a post-mortem on the Luchalibre-themed game, Guacamelee, making all of these bad puns completely justified.  

Music used in this weeks episode comes from the Free Music Archive, featuring Johnny_Ripper - Carousel, and the Guacamelee soundtrack, which you can check out below. 

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Built to Play 10: No Biting in China

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Built to Play 10: No Biting in China

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We're back after a long delay with our MolyJam special! We documented the progress of two teams of game designers at the Toronto Molyjam. Plus we have comments from Chris Remo of Idle Thumbs and Anna Kipnis from Double Fine. As for the news, we recap Super Smash Bros at the EVO video game tournament, what we'd like to see in Kingdom Hearts 3, and the future of consoles in a more open China. 

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(Edit: Chris Remo also works at Double Fine)

 

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