Reality is a Game

Game thinking from Adam Clare

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Support DeepCity 2030: A City Sim About Cats And Resilient Cities

DeepCity Pitch video from DeepCITY Project on Vimeo.

DeepCity 2030 is like Sim City meets Clash of Clans plus a Laser Cat and at least one Disco Jesus. The game has a hyperbolic approach to climate change and it’s up to the player to figure out what sort of city they want to create. Players can deal with environmental issues by harming other players or by trying to build a green utopia. It’s a social game with a fun environmental twist. The team includes theatre of The End of Suburbia.

By the year 2030, 6 out of 10 humans will live in cities. The way these urban centres evolve to manage their energy and waste will determine the fate of the planet. Deep City 2030 asks the question, ‘What if cities could save the world?’.

The game combines a gritty steampunk aesthetic and off-beat humour with ongoing opportunities for players to demonstrate strategic prowess by inventing possible world futures.

The goal in Deep City 2030 is to survive and build a livable city, using whatever tactics you choose. It’s in your power to create a city that reigns supreme in the face of hostile competitors, a greedy Overlord, and cataclysmic world events. Be the leader of your own futuristic empire in Deep City 2030!

The game starts in a city in the year 2030. Dark, whimsical characters inhabit and can change the city as you play. Players explore deeper post-apocalyptic settings or work towards building resilient cities, solo or multiplayer. Your friends in social networks can be key advisors or adversaries. As in the real world, there are a lot of ways to “get ahead”. You can forge alliances with other players to make your city a better place for everyone. Or you can embrace the dark side and go rogue.

Support DeepCity now.

More coverage about the game elsewhere:

Boing Boing
Cliqist
Animal NY

Full disclosure: I provided some advice for this game.

On Failure And Preventing Failure

The games industry is always in flux which is why it appeals to me. When things become static and predictable they also become boring. Game companies seem to reside on a precipice of abject failure or great success. This post will look at the hardships and finish on a positive note.

Raph Koster goes into the current state of the troubling financial scenario with game companies at Gamasutra. Most apps on the app store don’t break even (including games) yet we see games like Flappy Bird come out of seemingly nowhere. As a result, the “smart” companies are taking fewer risks and the path to consumers is harder than before for small companies.

So what happens when markets mature? Well, whoever had the largest piles of money tends to start swallowing up more roles. And they get entrenched, and they stay entrenched until there’s a massive enough shift. In those mature markets, creators have to compete on money. Not creativity. Not innovation. Money. Money in the form of marketing spend, in the form of glossy production values, in the form of distribution reach.

If that’s not depressing enough, at Pixels or Death they have an article with interviews on developers who have dealt with failure. The article was inspired by none other than the talented Alex Bethke.

“In 2010/2011, I was hired as a contractor for a studio to be the lead programmer on a Facebook game which was going to be something like Farmville meets a tower defense game,” Bethke begins. “It was a great project with a ton of personality, but it also inevitably ended up in the ‘failed’ column on my personal score card due to the fact that it only made it to public beta before one of the main partners pulled the marketing budget, dooming the project to obscurity.”

On the brighter side, not only can we learn from the failures and difficulties of people and companies that have come before, we can also learn from success.

The talented people from Vlambeer have created a toolkit that contains “a number of tools, and talks that can help with developing, marketing and releasing games.” They include the ever excellent resource of PixelProspector (which will be revamped this summer).

Just like you were told in kindergarten – try to learn from other peoples mistakes. As adults we can critically assess success and try to replicate it.

Be Interested In More Than Just Games

Teaching in a game design school it’s not rare to find students who only care about games. I make sure to tell these students that the most important thing to do is to care about something outside of the world of games. Most look at me confused. We’re at a game design school after all.

Without exception, the students who have interests outside of games are the ones who make the neatest projects and tend to have the most success after graduation. The topic of the interests don’t matter so much as that they exist.

Over at Vox there’s an article titled Buzzfeed’s founder used to write Marxist theory and it explains Buzzfeed perfectly. The article lives up to the title, it’s a good read and shows that being interested in fields outside of your primary one is a worthwhile venture.

You never know where a path of inquiry will lead.

So where did Peretti get that idea? Peretti’s academic writings offer one clue. After graduating from UC Santa Cruz in 1996, Peretti published an article in the cultural theory journal Negations entitled “Capitalism and Schizophrenia: Contemporary Visual Culture and the Acceleration of Identity Formation/Dissolution.” After the paper was mentioned in New York’s Peretti profile, Critical-Theory.com’s Eugene Wolters read through it, and found that it more or less lays out (and critiques) Buzzfeed’s entire business model—a full decade before the company was founded.

Study Marx and start a million dollar website.

There are other ways that a variety of interests can manifest themselves. Maybe you love games and you also love space, or orbital mechanics. Then you get Kerbal Space Program.

XKCD

And who knows, maybe combining two fields you love will eventually get you to work with NASA.

The success of the game hadn’t gone unnoticed. In March 2013, Squad received an intriguing tweet: “Interested in exploring an asteroid with us?” It was from Nasa, and after a year of cooperation, the Kerbal team was able to implement the real-life Asteroid Redirect Mission into its game. Players can now experiment with a genuine space programme, using Nasa rocket parts. “It’s been a truly amazing experience,” says Falanghe. “When we first started, we had very little help from experts, save what we could research on our own. For us, it was a great learning experience – none of us in the team have any formal background in aerospace or any related field.”

Space or Marx may not be your thing, perhaps running is. There are tons of “gamified” services and apps out there that encourage you to be fit, but what about an app that makes you run to defend your territory? It exists: Run an Empire. From an article about the game:

The beauty of Run An Empire is that the game requires a balance between maintaining the security of a home base while also compelling players to attempt to intrude and capture other players’ territories by running further and longer, making the habit of running less a task and more of a mission-based activity.

In the process neighborhood blocks become kingdoms, daily walks or runs become battles, and an element of strategic planning absent from typical running programs can make each mile felt earned, not endured.

So if you find yourself thinking about only games I encourage you to explore the rest of the world. Get out and explore the world around as reality is the game and games aren’t the only thing that matter in reality.

The Hardships Of Indie Game Marketing

95% of indie games are not profitable.

Emmy Jonassen shares facts and scary tales about marketing indie games in this talk she gave at Konsoll 2013. It’s worth watching and has a ton of tidbits of knowledge that can help you promote your game.

I wish I had watched this before we launched AstroDoge. Some of what she talked about we have already done, for example the proper landing page to YouTube trailers we created ahead of time for the launch. To be honest, the hardest part of all of the indie game marketing I’ver ever done is the social media aspect.

Relatedly, today we launched an update to the game that adds functionality that people wanted from the original release. You can download it on Android and iOS.

Edit: Emmy just posted a template for a great press release page.

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