I love following game designers, critics and academics on twitter. Not only are they some of the more entertaining tweeters , but they often spark ideas in my mind with some of the comments they post there. Take Ian Schreiber for example who posted this on his twitter account sometime ago:

Game idea: player starts off with a bunch of uber-powerful artifacts, must quest to destroy them, reversing the typical RPG power curve.

This sounds like a great idea to me as a creative way to follow the basic difficulty curve of a game but also make players experience loss and make them think twice about taking the “heroic, right way” out of a situation. This also got me thinking about how you could take familar game mechanics and reverse them to create some interesting, new experiences. The idea that I’ve been rolling around in my head is a game I am dubbing sirteT (Tetris backwards) which take the familiar Tetris mechanics of guiding blocks as they fall and instead has you selecting which blocks to remove from a stack.

When I explain it to people it sounds confusing, but drawing it out makes the light bulb go off so I’ll have to go more in depth later since that is not the focus of this post.

Instead, I would like to list off my top 5 designers I follow on Twitter so you can follow them too!

Leigh Alexander (@leighalexander) – one of my favorite video game journalists. She talks a lot about music and booze but she also mentions when she writes articles for sites like Gamasutra, Kotaku and the like which are always interesting.

Brenda Brathwaite (@bbrathwaite) – I got to see her speak at GDC 2010 and have been following her ever since. Her 20+ year industry background combined with an interesting insight create a powerful presence. She also likes to talk about shoes.

Ian Schreiber (@IanSchreiber) – worked with Brathwaite to write a book, “Challenges For Game Designers” (which I highly recommend). he is currently wrapping an online class he taught this summer on game balancing that you can follow on a blog here.

Tim Schafer (@TimOfLegend) – who doesn’t want 140 characters of fun and hillarity? Obviously you, if you don’t follow this guy. Also, if you don’t know who he is educate yourself.

Adam “Atomic” Saltsman (@ADAMATOMIC) – Adam Atomic is well known in the design business for his work with Flash and for developing the Flixel library. Canabalt is what most people will probably know him from, but he’s been in a lot more stuff you might recognize if you stop to look.


Last week I lamented the passing of a great iPhone company. No, they didn’t go under, in fact, they are probably rolling in money as I write this, but as much as I want to congratulate ngmoco I just can’t bring myself to. I don’t want to get back into this rant, but its become fairly obvious to me that they are a company that has become more interested in profits than in creating the quality, fun products they use to.

In this same vein, Ian Bogost, has been creating turbulence within the game industry by being rather outspoken on the topic of social games and why he is disturbed by them. Trying to wrap his head around these traits, Bogost has created a satirical Facebook game entitled Cow Clicker which boils down the  social game to its core components, clicking on something every few hours to gain resources. The genesis of the game and more information on what Bogost is learning can be found on his blog.

Of the four ways Bogost cites as the reasons he despises social games the two I agree with the most are his enframing and optimalism arguments. Both of these arguments focus on how these socials games treat their players and the “play” they are participating in. I have often wondered how well a game like FarmVille would do without the social backbone of Facebook to hold it up. Even iPhone copycats like WeRule/Farm use a social network component to “virally” spread about their respective markets. Play is nothing more than clicking on a timer with the goal of the designer to keep the player in the game space for as long as possible. This often results in the starting crop netting the best returns offering no strategy other than trying to guess how long will sleep so they can set their crops accordingly.

This is why I like Echo Bazaar, a a narrative heavy, web-based game by Failbetter Games that utilizes Twitter as it’s social network. The writing alone makes the game worth playing, but amidst all the narrative twists and turns there is actually game play! There are items to collect, stats to raise and numerous ways to get your friends involved instead of just using them as a resource boost.

I’ve heard rumor that companies are starting to try and make social  games like Echo Bazaar; a product with more game in it, but I want to see it before I’ll believe it.


This ability to transport the player to impossible worlds is what I love about video games, and it’s what great art and entertainment has been achieving for thousands of years. It’s also why I don’t worry too much about the rise of Facebook and iPhone games turning these sorts of experiences into dinosaurs, rendering them obsolete and then extinct. As a species, we will always want to visit new places, born out of the imaginations of our most creative minds; we will always want to be immersed in worlds other than our own.

Steve Gaynor, source

If you asked me at the start of the summer if I was an ngmoco fan boy I probably would have told you yes. Their level of polish and craftsmanship towards their games fascinated me and getting to meet their president Neil Young at the past GDC was a real treat.

At the start of the summer they had just released WeRule and had announced God Finger would be arriving in a few weeks and I couldn’t have been more excited.

But as the summer comes to and end I find myself respecting them less and less as a company. Why? Well with the release of WeFarm a few weeks ago it has become apparent to me that ngmoco is no longer interested in making fun, compelling, high quality games like they use to. Instead they are content with pumping out re-skins of systems that create traffic to their Plus+ network.

From a business standpoint you have to applaud them. They are making boat loads of money but I miss the early days when they made boat loads of money because they made awesome games.

If anything, this experience has made me more determined to not let money get in the way of me making video games. I wouldn’t mind being successful, but I’d hate to “sell out” and start pumping out clones so I could roll around in piles of money.

Following on the heels of my last post here are six games that feature zombies as enemies (and maybe one with a zombie main character).

Resident Evil Franchise

There are zombies everywhere in these games (in all shapes and sizes too). Zombie dogs, zombies with chainsaws, black zombies; it has everything. I never really got into these games until Resident Evil 4 when your character stopped moving like a tank. Also, here is an excellent comparison between Kingdom Hearts 2 and Resident Evil 4 that everyone needs to made aware of.

Dead Rising

Lots of zombies in this one too, plus a shopping mall full of things to kill them with. I’ve gotten to play around with this game a bit but never actually played it all the way through. It was fun to squirt zombies with squirt guns until they ate me. There is suppose to be a sequel coming out soon that I will have to check out.

Zombies Ate My Neighbors

Speaking of shooting zombies with squirt guns this is a game all about that. Well, that and saving your neighbors. Sadly, I have not played this game (I’m sure there is a ROM of it out there somewhere) but I’ve been assured by a good friend of mine that it is most definitely worth checking out.

Plants Vs. Zombies

The name pretty much says it all. There are zombies and there are plants. You can guess which one wants to eat you.

Stubbs the Zombie: Rebel Without a Pulse

It’s nice every once in a while to experience the story from the other side and Stubbs the Zombie is your chance to do so. Shamble around the town of Punchbowel devouring brains and adding to your zombies ranks.A nice change of pace when you’re tired of taking off a zombie’s head with a shotgun.

Bonus! Zombie Hooker Nightmare

Play it. Now.


Wow, and I totally forgot Left 4 Dead. I fail at this apparently…


Zombies are everywhere in video games these days. Off the top of my head I can probably rattle off half a dozen games or franchises that feature zombies as their main enemy and can probably dig up two dozen more I’m not familiar with via the Internet. So what’s with the fascination with the shambling undead? Why are there so many zombies games out there?

I’m sure many game designers have a fascination (or at least enjoy) B horror movies many of which feature some kind of zombie or another. I’m sure they have all seen “Night of the Living Dead” or reveled in the hilarity that is “Shaun of the Dead“. Either way I’m sure they have all wondered if they could survive a zombie apocalypse and what better way to prove that than to make a video game about doing just that?

Another reason zombies could be so prevalent in video games is how many different kinds there are. Everything from slow to fast to intelligent zombies have been featured in video games and film. Zombies can be super strong, wield chainsaws, or be dressed up as long dead Nazi soldiers. Got a game where you need to shoot something? You can probably fit a zombie in there somewhere.

Where there’s one zombie there are more. Seriously, have you ever seen just one zombie? I didn’t think so. This mans that as a game designer you have a large number of enemies to throw at the player without having to get too creative. Dead Rising was all about killing zombies in interesting ways and gamers loved it.

Finally, there is the almost human aspect of zombies. Zombies are on the good edge of that uncanny valley where we can get the satisfaction of splattering them all over the walls without feeling too guilty about it. I’m sure there is also some genius marketing in making the enemies of a game zombies so activists don’t cry wolf because gamers are shooting at other people.

Earlier this week I lost my valuable Internet connection to what I can only guess was a borked router. I spent three days huddled alone in the darkness at home with only the light of my iPhone to provide me with access to my email. Why is this so bad? Well, aside from not being able to post for three days I was also unable to play a number of the games I have been recently because they are all on Steam.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love Steam. The platform has taken more money from me since I started using it again back in December than I have spent in the past few years on video games. I sometimes shudder when I look at my list of 50+ games and think about how I’m ever going to get through them all. Regardless, the past few days I couldn’t even touch them because of my lack of Internet connection. This is where I see the problem of cloud computing coming to bite the gamer in the ass.

The biggest hurdle I see with getting cloud computing working long term is creating a stable system for Internet delivery. I’d like to think that our network is stable and could handle something like cloud computing, but if this past week has been any indication to me it shows me how easily the system can be broken.  Cloud computing just adds more parts the equation (modems, routers, ISPs, stream size, signal strength) on top of all the computer pieces that need to be in order before you can play your games.

I’m not going to stop using Steam (I’ve sunk to much money into it to back out now anyway), but I will definitely keep my consoles around for the days when my connection to the cloud keeps me from playing my games.