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Self Control

07 November 201512:19PMpaxtravel

PAX is a little bit like The Louvre. No, no, bear with me. The Louvre is so impossibly big that you can't ever hope to see it all in one visit. So it is with PAX.

And, panels aside, the thing I came to PAX this year to do was scout out some cool local multiplayer games in PAX Rising. And I tried to stay as focussed as I could on that goal.

But nobody's perfect.

Possibly the most significant of these mistakes was a little game called Build ARVI. It started as watching over someone's shoulder as they tried to manhandle some kind of physics-powered sci-fi contraption through what looked an awful lot like a World of Goo level. I was probably there watching them for a solid five minutes, and eventually, I think they realised I was there, giving up with a shrug.

"I can't get it man. Maybe you'll have better luck."

I picked up where they left off, mid-level, heading back to the drawing board and pulling their vehicle apart. I made it more compact, more balanced, and did some fine tuning of parachutes and centers of gravity. Over several dozen iterations, I solved it. And I was presented with the next level, and some new tools.

I quickly mastered air jets, rockets, and anti-gravity balloons, and attracted the attention of one of the developers who occasionally interjected with helpful hints. And I beat it, scratching a puzzle-solving itch I hadn't remembered I had.

I left the developer's keyboard, covered in sweat, to a little kid, and got to talking. I learned some interesting stuff. I found that the guy was an accountant, but was really into getting his physics just right. I learned that they'd originally tried to build a game about evolution, but stumbled on this idea of having the player iterate on a design along the way. I discovered that this was a reskin of a much cutesier game with identical mechanics, to try and hit a more mature market, and that explained the cartoon-y levels in the demo.

"Man, that's the best 20 minutes I've spent at PAX today," I remarked as I was leaving.

"Dude. That was an hour."

Oh.

"I'm sorry. I have to run."


One panel later, back on the floor, I found myself scintillated yet again. This time, I feel I should add, was just because the thing was so darn pretty. On the screen is a gorgeous, bright, vector art planet, surrounded by darting chevrons and monolithic orbiting sky-towers.

"Hey, would you like to play Element?"

I looked up.

"Yeah. What is it."

The guy smiled the smile of a clever person who has a clever pitch and knows it. "It's a space-based real time strategy game for people who don't have time for space-based real time strategy games."

"Huh."

I kickstarted Planetary Annihilation just because I wanted it to exist. I think I knew full well that I'd never have time to play it. Maybe, one day, when the multiplayer is well and truly dead, I will finally get around to picking it up.

The RTS has its hooks deep in my gaming bedrock. I played the same single sprawling Age of Empires II game for about 3 years, all through primary school. I never got the hang of multiplayer, but-

"So, it's single-player. The idea is that each planet gets harder, and you mine a particular element from each one to escape the solar system."

I'm sold. He handed me a controller.

Element is everything it was pitched as. At the end of my play session, the dev asks me some questions.

"So how did you find the difficulty?"

"Good. It picked up really nicely from one planet to the next."

"And how many planets would you play?"

"In a row? Depends if I have work the next day."

Guys. Please. Please, please, please. Get this game Greenlit I need it to exist yesterday.


There was one more gem that caught my eye. It was, once again, brightly coloured, and once again, was scooped straight from my primordial soup. It was a 3D platformer. All whizzing death traps and impossible jumps. It was pretty great, if kind of unremarkable. I hopped from platform to platform, appreciating the map, and the way the hazards were placed to kind of invite you to solve the puzzle your own way. And just as I was about to start what I told myself would be my last run, a word floats past my ear.

"...procedural..."

I passed the controller to the incredibly patient kid behind me, and went in hunt of a programmer.

It turns out this whole glorious experience is crafted by a machine. Five worlds, each one generated in luminous colours from a random seed and then populated with exquisite mechanisms of destruction. They showed me a dev-mode shortcut which would rebuild the world in front of my eyes, and talked about plans for speedruns and leaderboards and challenges. But honestly, to me, it was pretty much perfect as it was.

And! And, it was on Linux.

The game was Rogue Singularity, and I kind of can't wait.


this post had no pictures, and i have nowhere else to put this one.

Tune in tomorrow for panels, concerts, and introspection.

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