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.
Another Ümloud! is in the bag! While there’s still paperwork and other bits of things to do, the show is over and we have lots of money to give to the hospitals. Have to wait for the numbers to settle before giving a final count, but needless to say, it’s a much larger number than the year prior. 😀
This year we had a new host for the event: Tim Schafer. Growing up with the SCUMM era of games, never would I thought I’d be introducing him onto the stage of a show I’m putting on. Certainly a highlight of my life.
This year I'm getting a lot fewer complaints about how the show went. Sure, there are still improvements that need to be made, but we're starting to actually know how to do this show now. Moving forward, I hope we can expand the team even more and thus become a better production.
I'm still processing all of the things that went on with the show, hence this rambling of a blog post. One thing is clear for me. After all the bad things that happened to me this year, the show shined a very bright light into a darkness. There are many people to thank for that, which will be the subject of another blog post.
I have decided to do something that which is likely my destiny, but it took my broker to convince me to go forward with this plan.
I am developing my own game: A project about the art of video games.
One of the very few textbooks for my BFA at Emerson was Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud. The text looks at the aspects of visual communication in which comics work. It’s a comic book explaining the art form of comics in a comic book. I want to make a video game explaining the art form of video games in a video game.
The video isn’t bad. The thing that stands out for me is the human voice-over that represents the Steam and Valve, rather than a character in a game. Prior, the identity of Steam consisted mascots rolled out for the community pages and seasonal sales. Now there’s a voiceover and presentational framing of product without voiceless cartoon characters.
Combine this and the expansion to non-entertainment apps on Steam, it looks like our little Steam is growing up!
It’s rare that a title effects me so much as an artist. “To The Moon” by Freebird Games is such title.
The story is about a dying man who’s last wish is to visit the moon. Two doctors are commissioned to make this wish a reality by using a technology that supplants a second lifetime to the patient, giving them a second chance to make the dream a memory before they pass on.
What follows is one of the deepest interrogations of a character I’ve seen in a very long time. One that left me teary a few times while layers of the old man’s memories are pealed away one by one. It’s one of the best science fiction stories I’ve experienced in a very long time.
This is the point where I say you should buy this game on Steam or direct. Maybe a few weeks from now I’ll talk about it. For now, save yourself up to 4.5 hours to play this wonderfully written game!