Lucah: Born of a Dream is out on PC and MacOS

For the last year, I’ve been quietly producing melessthanthree’s incredible action-adventure game, Lucah: Born of a Dream. Lucah released today on PC and MacOS on the Itch.io and Steam platforms, and its easily one of the best games I have ever worked on.

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Key art by Brianna Lei

Shortly after Chambara released in July 2016, I was winded and took a few weeks to visit friends and come out of the isolation of the late project. I visited my friend Colin, who was an advisor on Chambara, to test out a new prototype that he made for a melee combat-centric action game. I gave him feedback and testing data and left to go on my way.

After Chambara’s intentional placidity and pacifism, I wanted my next project to be one that embraced and explored violence more directly. The social conflagrations of that year’s election cycle imbued me with complex feelings about rage, conflict, and confrontation that I avoided confronting about during Chambara’s development. That’s why I secretly wanted to work on Lucah and sought to help Colin out any way I could.

I temporarily moved back to San Francisco in the Spring of 2017. In April, I visited Los Angeles to interview to work on a VR project. While I was there, I met Colin in a Little Tokyo coffee shop where I learned he was planning on launching a Kickstarter to make Lucah his full-time job. Having some experience running crowdfunding campaigns, I offered to help him out.

The Lucah Kickstarter launched on June 9th, 2017. Using the skills I picked up from Chambara‘s launch, I developed press releases, handled communications, and conducted competitive positioning research. The campaign was an intense emotional rollercoaster, and as people would pledge, back out, and return again whenever we got coverage, we felt our hopes and faith in the project rapidly fluctuate. Ultimately, we succeeded and raised $22,017 to fund a year of development on Lucah.

In January 2018, I returned to the team as a producer to keep the game on track to release on time, on a budget, and to the standard of quality we wanted. This was a thrilling project to work on, and I’m incredibly proud of what we have accomplished.

Lucah: Born of a Dream is $20 on Itch.io and Steam. Purchase it now and support courageous, personal, and breathtaking experimental work.

Chambara is out on PC and Mac

Ha! It is finally here!

Chambara is now available on PC and Mac in all territories! Were you not able to get the game on your console or in your region, now’s your chance to get it at a great new price! This version is a little better optimized than the earlier one, so I recommend buying it and bringing it to the next party y’all go to!

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Buy it on Itch.io and get the artbook and original prototype! I put a lot of work collecting a big archive of art and media from production, a lot of which has never been seen before!

This concludes the Chambara project.

The first seeds of Chambara were planted in 2013 when Genddy T, creator of Samurai Jack, visited USC to give a talk about the series. I was 18 then. I’m 23 now. The story of Chambara‘s development, told in the art book, is largely the story of how my friends and I grew together and kicked off our careers in games. Please pick it up and give it a gander, as it means a lot to us.

#RemakeJam

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RemakeJam starts June 18!

#RemakeJam is a game jam where you remake your very first game!

#RemakeJam invites participants to contextualize themselves and their current state as game-makers by recognizing their past work and how they’ve grown. Jammers shall use the duration of the game jam to remake the very first game they created, adapting them to use any new skills, aesthetics, or techniques they developed since they started. In doing so, we hope that jammers can be inspired by how they’ve grown and evolved as creatives.

Rules of #RemakeJam

Right now, there are few rules and guidelines for #RemakeJam

  1. If you have the capacity to radically change the design of an old game in exciting new ways that reflect your current interests, you are encouraged to do so.
  2. Many of us might have lost access to our original games, either technology might have evolved to the point where they are no longer playable or original project files cannot be found. If that’s the case, that’s totally okay, but I encourage participants to include builds of their original games for comparison’s sake.
  3. Entries containing any form of hate-speech are not permitted, and will be removed.
  4. Working on an entry prior to the start of the jam is permitted if the game being remade is of large scope.
  5. Share your progress to the #RemakeJam hashtag!

We Have Nothing to Contribute (#GGJ17 Address)

I originally delivered this address to the North Hollywood Global Game Jam site on January 20th, 2017, coincidentally, the day of Donald Trump’s inauguration as President of the United States. I forgot to publish it, but here were my thoughts at the time. 

Hello, and welcome to the North Hollywood Global Game Jam.

You are amongst a cohort of hundreds of thousands across the world, who, over the course if this weekend, will bring a record number of digital, analog, and physical games to life. You should be proud of that. Games are ancient, and play’s influence spreads across history through our primal roots. In making games today, you’re practicing a potent, ancient magic with the power to touch and change hearts, and I think it’s pretty exciting to get the chance be part of something so vast.

This is my sixth Global Game Jam, and to me, the Global Game Jam has always stood out as a celebration of creativity, community, and collaboration, the very best aspects of the game-making community. I look forward to celebrating those values with you this weekend.

It goes without saying that there are things out there that should not be celebrated, injustices like xenophobia, discrimination, intolerance, territorialism. Unfortunately, that’s our world today, and we can’t deny what’s clear and present in front of us. We all have our brief time to affect the world around us, and it is baffling that there are folks who are using those precious moments to celebrate the toxic values Donald Trump and his base embodies.

But we, here, won’t be part of that. We have nothing to contribute to a stark mountain of cruelty and pain. We can practice that potent, ancient magic of playcrafting for good, and take responsibility as creators. Even if we are privileged by the security to not be marching the streets tonight, we can still take action with our practice. We can make games that uplift, empower, and inspire. We can shine a light and give those around us something genuine to celebrate.

What will you give to the world this weekend?

 

2016’s Games Read/Watchlist

I ran an impromptu Twitter poll the other day, asking my followers what were their favorite pieces of games writing & criticism of this year. I got a number of responses. They’re all good, so let’s list them down here off of Twitter for future reference. This listing is not complete at all, especially when avenues like Patreon and Medium have continued to flourish with a glut of great writing.

I’ve been thinking of throwing my hat back in the ring myself, having ceased games writing three years ago.

To be honest, I haven’t been able to pay as much attention to games writing as I wish I had, being so mentally dug into making Chambara happen, though I did discover the wonderful long-form videos of Noah Caldwell-Gervais, who is one of the smartest new cookies around. I think this was a good year for smart games writing.

Heather Robertson puts forward this long form critique of Fallout 3.

Jocelyn Kim suggests two videos and two essays. One by the amazing Mark Brown, who runs Game Maker’s Toolkit, one of the best new YouTube shows of the year, and another by Dan Floyd from Extra Credits.

There’s also a good article about the surrealist art roots of “walking sim” games, which goes back to stuff like derive, as well as Robert Yang’s piece on VR’s potential as a haven for queer & fringe artists. Its all good.

@Wirehead2501 suggests Enjoying It: Candy Crush & Capitalism, which seems to be in the same thematic vein as Games of Empire, which was a formative book for me on imperialist politics in games.

@20xxJester puts forward a Waypoint article (Waypoint’s fantastic, you should read their stuff) about a secret door in an MMO that could only be opened by players who reached an absurd level of experience. One player made it through, and the mystery of what’s behind that door remains only known by them. Wow. Mystery like that which arouses the imagination is stuff I live for.

@TheGreatDarkOne suggests Cara Ellison’s amazing article about this year’s Kentucky Route Zero episode and what it meant to her, as well as Jason Yu’s examination of the musical storytelling of Undertale.

Colin Horgan suggests this article about culture & gender as expressed in Final Fantasy XIII’s last episode, and these videos.

A longform video-examination of Bloodborne in relation to From Software’s other Soulsbourne games.

And Matthewmatosis’ longform analysis of Devil May Cry on a beat-by-beat level. Its a curious video and its interesting to see Resident Evil’s design approaches mutate into the action-game it ended up being.

Patrick Scarborough suggests this retrospective by Philip Kollar on WoW’s evolution from expansion-to-expansion.

Abhishek Biswas brings up The Game Design Forum, which has this series of “reverse-design” analyses which deconstruct JRPGs on a design level.

Mike Effenberger suggests this video by John Romero, where he plays through a level he built for Doom. Its a nice piece of creator commentary, and I love stuff like this.

@TacticalMullign suggests this haunting Waypoint piece about Dark Souls II and Walter Benjamin’s idea of historical teleology and a certain relativity to modernist narratives about “progress”.

While I was in Scotland two years ago, this video about Phil Fish and the impact of attention and notoriety made the rounds. @gayanimegirl suggests this video about Davey Wreden and The Beginner’s Guide by that same person.

@Warstub suggests Electron Dance’s video about The Witness, its curious structure and progression, and where it stands as JoBlow’s Bizarre Adventure. It goes into great detail about its pacing, with its aspirational goal of creating a meditative rhythm of play.

@OnyxOblivion suggests Patrick Klepek’s piece about the opaque systems that govern the “Poise” stat in Dark Souls 3.

@tfeatherson12 puts forward Jason Schrier’s review of Final Fantasy XV, which has a nice, nostalgic rhythm to it with considerations to the multiplicity of things people want out of a Final Fantasy game. I can’t wait to play it.

@StefanSterber1 appreciates Mark Brown’s Boss Key series on Zelda level design. Its a fun series since you get to see his ideas, theses, and language evolve as the series goes on.

That’s what I have from 2016. What are your favorite bits of criticism & writing?

I’m not a curator or critic by any means, but if you’re looking for good writing, you might want to consider checking out Critical Distance for more nuanced craft.