The past few weeks I have been honored to be producer and ‘professional extrovert’ to my good friend, Deirdra “Squinky” Kiai’s IGF nominated work “Dominique Pamplemousse“.
There’s a lot I have to process in the experience which I will share later. But now I need to point the microphone to Squinky on a very important speech. The following link is the transcript to their talk at the #1ReasonToBe panel. Sitting in the audience, I cried as my dear friend had the courage to publicly share such a raw experience. I am extremely proud of them and honored to work alongside them.
Developing my updated portfolio, I realized I had a lot of API development experience that was internal and can’t be disclosed in the public. While I’m accomplished in interactive narratives, I needed to supplement my portfolio with my technical design aspect background.
I decided to make a proposal to extend the Steam WebAPI with information missing from the current offerings. I’ve worked with WebAPI and Steamworks with Telltale Games; Particularly the global statistical displays for Jurassic Park and Puzzle Agent 2. Recently I started contributing to Steam Condenser and discovered the Groups info was still in an XML format announced as deprecated by Valve. Yet there was no WebAPI method to fill the gap. I decided to dust off my API design skills and get to work!
I needed a home to showcase myself professionally, so I started working on this site. While this blog fits to my occasional musing of writing, this is a more professional site highlighting my career of the past few years.
This isn’t the only website I released over the weekend, but it’s certainly the most important! A special thanks goes out to the number of people who’ve gave a lot of feedback during my process. Thank you all so much!
A few weeks ago I stumbled upon the Steam Condenser project. It’s library to make sense of the Steam Community, Source, GoldSrc and Steam master servers information for PHP, Java, and Ruby. They’re still using the deprecated XML data which Valve replaced with the Steam WebAPI. I’m starting to work on converting the PHP library to WebAPI, when I discovered the community data was stuck in XML and no replacement.
I wanted a public demonstration of my API development work. I’ve done a lot of this stuff before, but it’s all private and can’t be shared. While this is just a proposal and lacks the consulting with Valve employees, it does demonstrate my skill under the limited circumstances. Course, I wouldn’t mind working with Valve on this. Or working at Valve on this. 😀
I also found there’s no good way to get game information — including pricing and other data. There’s gameplay stats and the news feed, but there’s no way of getting the kind of data you’d get at a store page. That’s my next step!
First a quotable quote from me in case anyone wants the soundbite:
LucasArts in the 80′s and 90′s helped shape me into the interactive media artist I am today. My time at Telltale Games was as close to working in that environment, and I hope shaped positively the careers of future men and women of interactive media. – John “Seg” Seggerson
I am the product of the adventure gaming genre of the 90′s and squarely in the SCUMM engine camp. Besides Myst, Sam & Max and Monkey Island titles are the most influential titles in my life. They shaped how I created my career and thus my life itself. The news of the closure wasn’t unexpected, so I have already made peace with the fate that occurred. But this is a time to reflect on the importance LucasArts has made in my life.
My love for video games is rooted in an interactive narrative. I’m not one for shooting at things a lot. I’d rather be a part of the storytelling process than a hired gun. Growing up with the SCUMM engine games, I had a lifelong goal of working at a place like LucasArts with the likes of Dave Grossman, Tim Schafer, and Ron Gilbert. When the Star War prequels came out, the slow burn to the end of LucasArts began. The shutting of the successor of Sam & Max titles was a solid push in that direction.
With the advent of starting my own game studio and using the term “non-fiction games,” I figure I should explain my reasoning behind the term.
My work as an artist is narrative based interactive fiction. I grew up on SCUMM era games like Sam & Max and of Live-Action Video (LAV) titles like Tex Murphy. I explored the ages of Myst and the saved the time-space continuum in Buried in Time. Art to me is exploring the space between the audience member and the work of art itself. Good art allows the audience to fill in that space by giving enough information to make the experience owned by the audience. I’m constantly perfecting my skills in this craft to explore this space.
The Current Serious Space
While and establishing myself in fiction works, I started to think about the other areas of thought this art form can tackle. I’ve mused about this before with topics like “The Corporation for Public Gaming” for the Serious Games space. Loosely described as games that have a real-world purpose. While there are great works, I find the space lacking. There’s a series of toys created to find the quickest way to illustrate a narrowed concept. They’re not rewarding experiences for the most part and at best a sense of guilt that you must play this game rather than wanting to.
A browser based LAV game called “Bow Street Runner” has stuck out with me in what I want from non-fiction works. Done by Littleloud as a commission for a Channel 4 show called “City of Vice,” the game is arguably more rememberable than the show. The player is a Bow Street Runner, the pre-cursor to our modern police system. While the game is historical fiction, it is still taking history and only filling in gaps to make it approachable in our history. Different from the attempts that Assassin’s Creed takes where a completely alternative universe is created with our existing understanding of history.
For the better part of my career, I’ve worked on making games that fit within the universe of an existing IP. While some were more restrictive than others, the titles I help to realize had a certain degree of rules mandated by the franchise. The question I ask: How is this different from a non-fiction topics? How difficult is it to follow the rules of the universe of a fictional franchise to the universe we exist in?
Non-Fiction Gaming is my approach to close this gap. Non-fiction gaming is taking the same approach of fictional game development to non-fiction topics. Instead of deep-diving into a fictional world, I choose to dive into our own world. Gaming needs it’s Maus and Persepolis. It needs it’s NPR: Planet Money and This American Life. It needs it’s Cosmos: A Personal Journey. I choose to take the same love and care I approach an existing fictional universe to the world of science, history, art, and anything else I care to talk about though my art.
In the end, what I care about is the space between the work of art I create and the player themselves. That part where both sides come together and only the player can create. A space that isn’t restricted to works of fiction. This is why I started my studio.
Edits: Added headers and corrected grammar. (1/15/2013)
Dear Lazyweb: As I eye Kickstarter for funding (and marketing) tools for my next project, I’m realizing something that I feel should exist already and doesn’t. Since it doesn’t already exist, I feel it’s either against the rules as I can’t be the only person to see the need.
When your project gets funding, there’s the matter of reward fulfillment. Right now the process is creating a survey for each tier asking the info you need to deliver the reward. You can only ask this survey once. As a backer, you can only submit this info once and after 10 minutes it’s locked in. Need to change it? Manual contact and update for both sides. Change of address? Contact project directly for manual update. You’re asked to wait till you can make send the final award to users, but what if you a digital package to devlier sooner than a physical package? It’s horrible support mess.