Feature

L.A. Game Space

California Dreaming

A new game artists’ space in L.A. raised $250,000. Now comes the tricky part: spending it.

By Drew Toal • December 4, 2012

“I think all the best indie projects have that sense, that this might come to nothing.” Game designer Ben Johnson is talking about game development, but he might as well be referring to LA Game Space, an ambitious community project envisioned by Adam Robezzoli and Daniel Rehn. Rather than seek funding through corporate sponsorship or government grants, Robezzoli and Rehn turned to the Internet and Kickstarter, a popular fundraising website which allows potential creators to explain their project and offer goodies to those who pledge money to back it. If the fundraising goal isn’t met, no money changes hands and everyone goes back to square one. For a while, it looked as though LA Game Space might fall short of its $250,000 goal—even as it offers a package of 30 indie games to anyone who donated at least $15—but a funding surge in the closing days of the campaign put this internet telethon over the top. (The project is still accepting donors.)

As it’s imagined, LA Game Space will convert a warehouse into a game design art emporium, complete with galleries, research labs, workshops, and, perhaps most intriguingly, artist residencies. This latter will throw game designers together with people from other fields—artists, architects, zoologists—to collaborate in unconventional ways, in the hope that unconventional games will result. “Our focus is going to be to really push the residents to do stuff that’s really out there, stuff that’s uncomfortable for them, and sometimes uncomfortable for people to play,” Rebezzoli said. “A residency like that is going to have a high rate of failure, because when you do have successes, they’re going to be groundbreaking successes. We want the effort and the focus to be, ‘Don’t do things that are expected, and if you know you’re going to succeed, then you’re not doing the right thing.’”

L.A. Game Space

It’s difficult to assess a project where failure (or, at least, the prospect of failure) is the benchmark for success. If viewed in terms of existing institutions, LA Game Space would seem to be a mixture of the academic and DIY aesthetics of some indie game communities. The NYU Game Center, for instance, hosts talks and lectures by established game developers and features new work in its annual No Quarter exhibition. And Babycastles, another New York-based outfit, installs indie-game arcades throughout the city and curates exhibitions of experimental games. (Babycastles’ latest event, Babyharvester, is at Manhattan’s Clocktower Gallery right now.) But neither of those entities provides an exact blueprint, and both of them have advantages LA Game Space will probably not enjoy.

“One of the things that I have learned from working at the academy, where we don’t have a huge amount of resources—but we do have a huge institution backing us up, you know?—there is something to fall back on,” said Charles Pratt, a researcher at the NYU Game Center. He noted that LA Game Space’s mission statement is remarkably broad. “When you feel like you know what the scene needs, you want to do it all at once.” Kickstarter is aptly named: It’s a great way to get a project going, but without institutional or corporate backing, the long-term sustainability for a project this size is untested. If measured failure is the goal, it could be difficult to convince your many shareholders (i.e., people of the internet) to continue donating money, no matter how many games you entice them with.

Babycastles is a low-cost operation. To fund resident artists for six months at a stretch is something else entirely, and where the money comes from in the future is uncertain. “It’s going to be difficult to maintain, in that you want it to come to something, especially early on,” predicted Ben Johnson, a Babycastles organizer. “You want to have successes that you can show. You know, ‘We sponsored this person, and they created this thing, and it was amazing, and the world is forever changed.’ When you’re going around trying to figure out if you can pay your rent next year, that is a good thing to be able to say.”

L.A. Game Space

Rebezzoli believes that the world is ready now and that the Kickstarter campaign offers the best route toward making LA Game Space a reality. To encourage pledges, the project directors offering never-before-seen games from the likes of Keita Takahashi (creator of Katamari Damacy), Cactus, and other indie luminaries, creators whose work is part of the project’s inspiration. Rebezzoli insists, though, that the Game Space isn’t going to be some kind of indie insider’s club. Its doors will be open to commercial game designers as well, or anyone with an interest in games. It’s not even going to necessarily be a local thing, as there are plans to broadcast talks and projects on the web.

Pratt suspects that this sprawling vision might hit a few snags. “It’s something I really want to succeed, and there’s a bunch of really talented people involved in [LA Game Space],” Pratt said, “but when I look at it, the two questions I want to know are what is it this thing does, which is very hard for me to discern. And the other thing is who is doing it, and do I understand that personality. A feeling for what that aesthetic is. And I don’t immediately get that from LA Game Space. It just wants to be this big awesome thing. And it can be a big awesome thing, but I think it’s also important to put a stake in the ground and say, ‘This is the thing we believe in.’” Pratt emphasized that all of the NYU Game Center undertakings are meant to advance the program’s sole mission—teaching people to make games.

And while it does seem like LA Game Space doesn’t have as concrete a statement of purpose to hang its hat on, it’s also a young enterprise, and it would be a mistake to underestimate the power of an idea. People have been making video games for more than 40 years now, Robezzoli said. “It’s not like we’re the first people to do this. I think [in] the last five years, we’ve seen tons of growth of people saying like, ‘I don’t need to sell my games for money. I don’t need to be a part of an industry.’”

“We’re going along with that idea—that this medium is incredibly powerful and amazing, so there should be a place that can help nurture that and help people who want to do that kind of thing, give them a place to talk and show their work.” As of this writing, the Game Space’s Kickstarter funding is at $253,000 and growing, so it looks like we’re going to see just how powerful that idea is.

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  • caspiancomic

    Woo LA Game Space!

    I’m super excited for this project, or at least I’m super excited for the version of it that goes 100% according to plan. To my knowledge a space like this with an atmosphere and a stated goal like this has never existed for games. I think this kind of atmosphere is an important step in giving gaming its true avante garde, like The Factory for games, a place where gaming’s most forward-thinking mental patients can really slap their toys together and see exactly what the boundaries of the medium are- if it even has boundaries- and what would happen if those boundaries were crossed.

    Of course, I’m wise to the potential avenues for collapse or destruction here too. I don’t know all that much about construction or reappropriating space, but I feel like a quarter of a mil is a kind of puny sum for such a huge undertaking. And, like Drew outlined, it’s wonderful to have a project with such ambition, but casting a net this wide might actually hinder what is in many ways both a toweringly large and a shrinkingly intimate project. The video on the Kickstarter page positions the LA Game Space as a studio, gallery, auditorium, living space, and cultural headquarters. That sounds rad as all crazy, but it’s a tremendously ambitious project as well, one that’s liable to collapse under its own weight.

    Still, sight unseen these guys were able to net some A-List talent to sweeten the pot for potential investors, so if their tongues are that silver they probably have more up their sleeve than they’re letting on.

    I don’t know how long this project will take to get off the ground (assuming it manages to take flight at all), but if it actually does manage to succeed at its stated goals, this could really change the way the industry, gaming community, and general public understand and grapple with video games.

    • Fyodor Douchetoevsky

      I’m actually really excited to see how this turns out. The people who threw in some junk for the $15 tier is pretty impressive, and I love the idea of having a place to foster cool new weirdo games and stuff like that. Good call with The Factory comparison. I really like that this is happening at all.

      VIDEOGAMES! It’s like watching the medium grow up in front of my eyes. Very cool.

    • Effigy_Power

      It’s great that this came along, and I really hope that something new and awesome springs from it.
      I am however, through some experience collaborating with various artists and organizing collaborations, a bit skeptical how much this will produce. Sadly throwing several amounts of talent and motivation together doesn’t always produce the sum of said talent and motivation, and artists are imho generally flukes who often lose track of time and progress, though I have never worked with game developers.

      Here’s hoping that this think tank for Indie games will get some great stuff together, and if, that it’s not all 8-bit nostalgia arcade poo. Best of luck for sure, innovation is sorely needed after Medal of Warduty 9: Black Snipermedal 4.

    • http://twitter.com/tapirman Kyle O’Reilly

      I imagine it will occupy a space similar to this place http://www.bemiscenter.org/

      It’s a studio that hosts artists, gallery shows, and lectures, and it is all free and open to the public.  It’s not an impossible dream, but in that case it is one that has corporate funding from Omaha Steaks and not Kickstarter.

      I’m pretty jazzed on the project though (I live in the same city as the Bemis Center and the prospect of a video game equivalent makes my pants shrink).  I understand it’s the press’s duty to cast a skeptical eye at projects like this, but seriously?  This is my favorite thing to come out of the internet all year.

    • Spacemonkey Mafia

      If this ends up being akin to the Factory, I call dibs on being their ‘Nico’.

  • GaryX

    AV CLUB AWARD UPDATE

    Hey all, I just wanted to let you know that the final round of voting is up for the Commies at http://www.avclubawards.com, and there’s several Gameological items in the mix, including the Assassin’s Creed III review for Best Article of the Year, Drew Toal for Most Improved Writer, and John Teti for AV Club Writer of the Year, plus some commenters that frequent these pages as well.

    If you’re interested, pop over and vote!

    • Jackbert322

      omigosh omigosh omigosh my nomination of Cults by Cults is on the ballot. Also, some of my other nominations of more popular things, but Cults by Cults!

      • GaryX

        I’m glad you did then. I love that album.

        • Jackbert322

          YEAH YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN *sways aimlessly*

          Seriously though, thanks for setting it up. I was only disappointed by there not being enough Gameological commentators nominates for best commentator! Also, the ability to remove items from our rankings was really really helpful, because I haven’t seen all of those movies or listened to all of those albums. It’d be great if this became an annual thing, thanks again.

        • GaryX

          @Jackbert322:disqus So long as I don’t get too busy/die in between this year and next year, I’m planning on doing it again.

    • Fyodor Douchetoevsky

      First of all, thanks for this. This thing was a lot of fun. sorting commenters and writers was awful though. I want everyone to get a trophy! 

      Glad to see Adventure Time in the best shows category, but of course some bullshit like Community is gonna win. Lame.

      Also, IF HOTLINE MIAMI DOESN’T GET GOTY YOU’RE ALL DEAD TO ME. /dons wolf mask

      • Jackbert322

        I really hope Louie or Adventure Time wins best show, but there’s no way. It better be Breaking Bad then! Community though, bleh. LAAAME.

        I was amused by the fact that I played every single game of the 2011 list this year, but haven’t played any of the games on the 2012 list. (Well, excluding Dishonored, which I wrote a review for.) Everything this year was rated M/a PC indie game! *surrenders hip gamer badge* So I voted based on what seems coolest to me. Hotline Miami won!

        Are there tiger masks? Because tigers are my very favorite animal.

        • Fyodor Douchetoevsky

          There is a tiger mask! It’s called “Tony,” because cereal, and it gives you FISTS OF FURY so that just one punch kills dudes.

          I also voted Bastion for best game of 2011 even though I played it in 2011. Frozen Synapse was the REAL goty 2011, for those who were curious.

          I was also vaguely bummed that I didn’t show up on the ballot at all.

        • Fluka

          I see my tactic of nominating “Deus Ex: Human Revolution” in every single category was successful at least once!

          Tiger mask was okay.  Mr. Fluka preferred Don Juan, the Horse mask, because that gives you one-punch kills, except you’re punching with the goddamn DOOR!

        • GaryX

          Well, the idea of the rankings system for that stuff was to hopefully generate a more robust list and result. While Community is probably still the front runner (I’m not going to look at how results are coming in for at least 24 hours so I’m just guessing), I think the weighted ranking will allow some surprises to sneak up in there. 

          I still really need to watch Adventure Time though.

          Fyodor, I believe you were nominated several times, but one of the ones that didn’t make the cut. I kinda felt bad about everyone that happened to. Sorry!

      • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

        Hotline Miami and Walking Dead are both tops in my book, and my listing.

        Community was fairly high in my listings, but not right at the tippy-top. Which probably means I’m granting an assist to the army of folks who will undoubtedly push it to their tippy-top. But whatever, it’s a pretty good show, even if I don’t enjoy it as much as Louie, Breaking Bad, or Parks, etc.

      • http://twitter.com/tapirman Kyle O’Reilly

        Sorry dude, I love Hotline Miami (finally unglitched and beat the whole game/ biker missions were the best) but it had the unfortunate luck to come out in the same year as Spelunky.  I haven’t even beat that game and it’s my GOTY.

      • GaryX

        I’m pulling for Hotline Miami personally, but I think it’s a surprisingly strong list overall. I think it’s gotta get best music though. Fingers crossed anyways.

        • Fluka

          Yeah, if Hotline Miami doesn’t win best game soundtrack, there is no justice in this world.

        • GaryX

          @Fluka:disqus Without saying much, I’m not happy with the direction it’s going. :(

        • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

           @GaryX:disqus : Is it going south for “Best Game” or “Best Game Soundtrack“? The former would be sad, but the letter would be cause for busting heads.

      • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

        I put Sleeping Dogs and Dishonored on top of the list, since my personal favourite, Stacking, didn’t make the cut. (Then again, being released for consoles in 2011 but for PC in 2012 probably makes it a 2011 game.)

        • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

          I think I had written it in as a best 2011 game of 2012, myself.

    • caspiancomic

       I hope “fourth empty space from the top” wins “Meme of the Year”

      • Jackbert322

        FLAGGED for not picking my favorite.

      • Chum Joely

        THIRD EMPTY SPACE FROM TOP OR GTFO

    • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

      Thanks for setting this up! It was a lot of fun. Nice to see Gameological getting some recognition too.

    • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

      Things this iteration of voting has taught me about myself:

      -I have not seen a single new good movie this year. (Is the only thing I’ve seen in the theaters this year really Prometheus?! Good God.)

      -I don’t read any new books (apparently, they still make those things).

      -I’m lucky I live in a country with a bone-headed two-party system and not a parliamentary system with proportional voting where you enumerate your preferred choices…Because I tend to only feel strongly about spots 1 and 2, then let laziness, conjecture, and hearsay shape the rest of my ballot.
      -JOHN TETI 4EVAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!

      -I am apparently my 30th favorite AVClub commenter (I imagine if I could have selected from more members of the Plaid Jacket Club this time around, it would have bumped me down a couple more spots…)

      • caspiancomic

         Dood, go to the movies! This was actually a really great year for film. I was legitimately struggling to rank my favourites in some sort of comprehensive order while still keeping Prometheus at the bottom. I thought I had it all figured out until I scrolled down a little and saw that Arietty came out this year, and that was pretty clearly top 5 material, so I had to rejigger my whole ranking!

        Also, I placed you first for Best Commenter, so we basically cancelled each other out.

        • GaryX

          Yeah this year was nuts for movies. I’m waiting to fill my ballot out because I can’t figure it out yet. I think it might have been stronger than 2007 honestly.

        • caspiancomic

           @GaryX:disqus In the end my Top 5 (I’m big on Top 5s) was Looper, The Master, ParaNorman, Seven Psychopaths, and The Secret World of Arriety. The Cabin in The Woods, Skyfall, The Avengers, TDKR and their ilk were not far behind, in much looser order. Sole regret: I haven’t seen Wreck-It Ralph yet, I feel instinctively that I would have ranked that pretty high.

          Bonus regret: we had to vote before The Hobbit opens.

        • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

          I suspect when I am home for the holidays, my lack of schoolwork combined with my being at home with family will result in my seeing a fair amount of things that are out at present – The Hobbit and Wreck-It Ralph will almost certainly happen, and I can sometimes sucker my mom into seeing something more arty/independent at the Cedar Lee, so maybe I’ll fit in Anna Karenina or Holy Motors…

        • GaryX

          @caspiancomic:disqus Yeah, the bit with The Hobbit couldn’t be helped, but it’ll be eligible next year for that reason.

          Girard, fit in Holy Motors. For America.

        • PaganPoet

          @GaryX:disqus And for Kylie Minogue

      • GaryX

        W/r/t either category, you’ll probably be pissed. I know the music one leading right now is the one I thought most disappointing.

        • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

           Weird! None of those other games, at least in my limited experience with them, have much beyond your typical orchestral movie soundtracks. I honestly have no idea which of those would be in the front.

          Also, when I logged in to check the other nominees (on a different computer than I had used to vote), none of my votes were preserved, and I had a “fresh” ballot – is there a way you can confirm that my vote was submitted? I don’t mind not being able to go back in and edit my previous votes, but I’m worried that this means my selections aren’t in the system.

      • GaryX

        Yeah it’s all there. If you went on from a different computer, it won’t show what you wrote because it’s just cookies based, but your filled out one is there.

        • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

           Phew! That is the silver lining to my laptop giving up the ghost during finals week!

    • Effigy_Power

      It’s interesting how many of the TV, movie and album choices I was utterly unaware of, but I managed to fake my way through after all, making sure to downvote Community wherever I could in order to provide at least a bit of a challenge and also because I think it’s bullocks.

      • caspiancomic

         Yeah, for most of the music, TV, and literature choices I was making up opinions on the fly based on word of mouth and gut reactions to titles. It brought back bad memories of going to freshman parties and trying to trick everyone into thinking I had opinions.

        • Jackbert322

          Nate Silver? He wrote for Baseball Prospectus! Number 1 spot for sure. Stephen King? He’s good, right? Number 2, definitely. That guys first name is DJ? Number 3 for you, DJ!

          I made liberal use of the N/A button for music and television, feeling very thankful it was there, because I’m neurotic enough that if I had to rank them all, I would’ve had to look them all up. Sadly, I have seen Community, so I had to put at 12 out of 12, although I’m now thinking I should go back, research the shows, and spitefully put Community at the very bottom. Blergh, I hope Community doesn’t win. Music wise, man, this year I’ve just been listening to albums from 2011 (CULTS!), so I only ranked like 8. Channel Orange for the win, I guess? And pretty much the rest of the 8 I just voted from previous knowledge of the artists.

          AND in response to your response to Girard, this WAS a great year in film’ Moonrise Kingdom,
          Paranorman, Arietty, The Avengers/Dark Knight Rises…

        • GaryX

          @Jackbert322:disqus Honestly, if you don’t want Community to win, a N/A would probably do more damage: it keeps it from getting a ranking at all. Otherwise, it still gets some points.

        • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

          …and THIS is the point when I wished I’d recognized that the “N/A” over on the right side was a clickable button. So many pieces of pop culture I arbitrarily condemned or elevated in a haze of total ignorance….

        • GaryX

          @paraclete_pizza:disqus You can go back and change it if you’d like. It’s open for almost two weeks.

    • Swadian Knight

      Some of those decisions were quite grueling, but you can’t imagine how relieved I am that I wasn’t forced to choose the best dressed Gameological Society contributor.

      Also, what the hell did I do this year? I seem to have skipped most of the stuff that happened in it.

      • Chum Joely

        Totally, me too. Pleased to see here that there are other folks here and at AV Club that are in the same boat.

        Almost wrote “in the same boar”, which should also be a saying.

      • Fluka

        I am so relieved that I didn’t have to choose between Todd’s Girls comment and The Story of Dawes!  The Citizen Kane and Annie Hall of AV club commenting, they are.

        Also, I definitely had one of my strongest “Oh god, I am getting old!” moments when I read the music list.  At least I’d *heard* of 95% of the 2012 movies.  I used to be cool, guys!  No, wait.  I’m still cool.  It’s the music that got strange and upsetting. 

        • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

          The kids. They ARE ON YOUR LAWN.

        • Effigy_Power

          -makes Fluka some mashed apple-

      • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

        A lot of the stuff I nominated didn’t make the cut, so I was left looking at lists of works with which I had no familiarity. I don’t think I even recognized any of the names of the albums nominated for Album of the Year.

    • http://twitter.com/tapirman Kyle O’Reilly

      Well, logging into Disqus with my Twitter account apparently disqualifies me from voting… Sad face.

      But shame on all of you for not even nominating Dark Souls for 2012 2011 Game of the Year. 

      • GaryX

        You can go through. I’m the one monitoring the name, so I’ll clear yours. You comment on here, so you’re good.

        • http://twitter.com/tapirman Kyle O’Reilly

          Just did! Moonrise Kingdom for all the awards!

    • stakkalee

      Just finished my voting.  One thing is definitely clear, I have no idea what’s going on with modern music – I just left the entire category blank.  Thanks for doing this man!

      • GaryX

        You’re welcome!

  • EmperorNortonI

    So, they’re committed to doing games research, eh?  To push the genre in new, dangerous, and possibly uncomfortable ways, eh?  The need an aesthetic statement, or a goal, eh?

    How about they find a way to make fetch quests fun?

    Figure out a good way to use motion-sensing controls in a game outside the sports and rhythm/music genres.

    Help build the next generation of conversation-based combat engine.

    Figure out how to design an RPG that is not dependent upon leveling as a key mechanism.

    For that matter, figure out how to design an RPG that does not rely on the accumulation of XP and loot via combat.

    Develop a theory or technology for the creation of open-world environments that do not rely on obviously artificial blockages, roadblocks, or locked doors to contain the player in obviously artificial ways.

    Show how strange and unusual settings can be effectively deployed in games – Medieval African Kingdoms?  A cargo container ship?  The mythical India of the Ramayana?  The real slums of modern India?  Heian-era Japan?

    Or, just figure out how to make properly interactive porn, preferably using motion-control technology, and rake in the dough.

    • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

      Those all sound like valid pursuits. Draw up a decent proposal for any of those and maybe YOU could get a residency…

    • Afghamistam

      “Develop a theory or technology for the creation of open-world environments that do not rely on obviously artificial blockages, roadblocks, or locked doors to contain the player in obviously artificial ways.”

      Spikes.

    • Effigy_Power

      I think the invention of HD and motion control has made porn exponentially sadder.
      Otherwise good ideas, especially the XP-less RPG. All XP-less approaches so far have been intolerable.

    • Destroy Him My Robots

      LET’S DO THIS, GAMEOLOGICAL.

      1) When the player cares about the characters, they’ll care about the fetch quest. When Swanson asks for fruit, I will bring her fruit, posthaste. When some farmer in Elwynn Forest asks for fruit, I tell him to get lost.

      2) Pointer controls if we’re talking about Wii, Flower in general or aiming the cannons in Super Mario 3D Land if we’re talking about gyroscopes.

      3) What now? You mean something like a turn-based RPG but with a parser?

      4 & 5) That’s pretty much what Kudo tried to achieve with the Tingle games and Paper Mario: Sticker Star. I think he explicitly mentioned it in the Nintendo Direct.

      6) Make it a really small planet you can circumnavigate, I suppose?

      7) Yes, please.

      8) No, thanks.

      • EmperorNortonI

        I agree, the Japanese have been making attempts at alternative RPG mechanics for a while – but at the same time, their proper RPG’s are the most combat and level and XP heavy in the genre.

        I’ve not played the Tingle games or Sticker Star, lacking the proper hardware, but weren’t the Tingle games Zelda variants?  In a way, they are level free, but in another way the items are just levels in disguise.

        By conversation-based combat, I’m talking about a real and meaningful conflict resolution mechanism that is challenging and entertaining in its own right, that engages with player stats and in an interesting way, that has numerous interesting and meaningful tactics and strategies for the player, and that is suitable for resolving situations where two people are having a discussion or an argument.  Most real life interpersonal conflict is not resolved by combat, but so far no gaming genre has really managed to capture that in any way, resulting in non-combat conflicts being shunted off to the side, scripted entirely, or awkwardly tacked on to RPG scores via trait-specific or stat-specific speech options. 

        And as for the open world, I don’t mean something that simulates literally the entire world.  Honestly, I have no reason or desire to travel to most of the world in reality, and in games you usually have something to do that makes traveling to most of the world a bad idea.  There’s no time to go take a holiday in Cancun while you’re trying to save the world.  What I mean is a system where all the places that I might reasonably want or need to go, and the places next door or around them, are reasonably accessible.  I can’t tell you how tired I am of quests being little more than, “I need to go there, but the door is locked, so I need to do a bunch of stuff to get the key” kind of quests, no matter how they are disguised.  The artificiality is painfully obvious.

        • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

           The Tingle games used a tertiary Zelda character, but their gameplay was wildly different from Zelda games or JRPGs.

          You only have one stat, money, which counts as your HP, your gold for buying, and as the mechanism for advancing the game and unlocking new levels. This means you have to be strategic about the amount of money you spend, since it also depletes your de facto life, and also will mean you have to earn that much more money to advance, etc.  There’s a significant bargaining element to the game (you bargain for info, for key items, and for support party members), which plays upon this tension, since you always risk paying too much money for stuff, or paying too little and not getting anything for your money.

          There was no direct or menu-based combat, instead you bump into an enemy on the screen, and a cartoon “fight cloud” appears over you and the enemy and the fight occurs automatically. You can tap the screen to speed the fighting, or move the cloud around to try and engage multiple enemies for better drops.

          In a sense, since the money functions as a kind of ur-stat, and your sums get progressively larger, there is a bit of a functional similarity to XP and levels, but the ludic feel of the whole enterprise is totally different.

        • Destroy Him My Robots

          In addition to what Girard said, the storyline of Rosy Rupeeland (I’ve yet to play Balloon) is very much an indictment of letting acquiring as much as possible be your motivation. It’s hard to say though whether it’s an RPG without XP or an experimental graphic adventure. What is and what isn’t an RPG is subject to much debate anyway (and at some point there’s always a smart-ass who claims “Well then Gran Turismo is an RPG because you play the role of a race car driver”), and I usually prefer to leave it at a Potter Stewart-esque “I know it when I see it”, but this is an especially tough one.

          Another one that might work for your “no levels” criterion is Way of the Samurai, which I’ve written about before. On the surface it’s a clunky swordfighting game, but you get the branching paths typical of WRPGs and every sword has its own set of moves and stats. So the swords basically represent your class and build (some are faster, some are more suited to fighting defensively etc.), and since they’re lost when you die and they can break (and you can’t load old saves), there’s an element of permadeath involved. Stats like durability can be increased by going to the blacksmith, moves can be learned with scrolls dropped by enemies, and the sword can even learn the ability to automatically block a certain type of attack once you performed a perfectly timed parry against it.

          Thanks for clearing that up about the conversation-based combat. I had googled it and what I found was mostly people asking for a fighting mechanic for IF. You’re completely right. Rolling a dice against your Persuasion or Charm stat isn’t very sophisticated, and I’d love to see something better take its place. We’re still playing conversations with D-Pads instead of analog sticks, so to speak.

          And sorry for not getting what you meant re: open worlds at all. I thought the problem was getting eaten by a big fish when you’re swimming too far from the shore in Jak & Dexter and figured you could do Just Cause 2, but when you cross the Western end of the map, you pop up at the Eastern end. The thing where you’re only able to enter the building you have to enter could probably be solved soon by procedurally generating interiors and, once generated, commiting them to memory. With increasing amounts of RAM, that seems doable to me. I don’t really see the other point going away, though. GTA-type “The bridge is out” situations seem like deliberate design chosen so the player won’t be overwhelmed to me. I guess what might happen, though, is open worlds with destructible environments. Keys in particular would become a lot less mandatory once you have access to functional rocket launchers.

      • EmperorNortonI

         Replying here because I can’t reply downthread.  The way that i can imagine properly open worlds working is by using the element of time properly.  In most games, it is a worthless, unlimited quantity, and thus players are able to, say, goof around for hours on random things and places while their boyfriend is waiting to be rescued from ninjas, or whatever.  On the one hand, it’s nice to give the player a bit of freedom.  On the other hand, it’s obviously artificial, AND it leads to monstrous situations for the designer – the player has unlimited time to poke all the holes in their design.

        Tying realistic consequences to the use of player time would cut dramatically into the amount of random wandering the player is likely to do – they’re not going to go to Cancun just for the heck of it if it means they lose automatically.  Majora’s Mask had a system somewhat like this, if I have heard correctly.

        A progressive time system, where player actions take realistic amounts of time (driving across town is not a 5 minute action – it costs time even if it’s accelerated), and where the plot, NPC’s, and antagonists progress according to reasonable schedules (which the player needs to discover and take advantage of to win) would make open world design much more reasonable.  They could be allowed the freedom to go places without it becoming an burden on the designers because the player would lack the motive to do so, and would be penalized for wasting time.  

    • Fluka

      Pretty much all of those goals made me smile happily and nod.  (Though I’m pretty sure the porn one *would* lead to the downfall of civilization and/or us finally being hooked up to machines a la The Matrix.)

      The strange and unusual settings would be great too, although my disappointment would then be tenfold when invariably all one would be doing in those locations is killing dudes (looking at you, Assassin’s Creed).  I once again state my desire for some kind of stealth intrigue game set in 17th or 18th century French court.

      • Destroy Him My Robots

        So much Francois Couperin! I’m sold!

      • Effigy_Power

        Court intrigue is generally a topic that’s vastly underplayed in gaming. CK2 has some and a few other trading or war simulators, but in general it’s a fertile soil left untended.
        If I had a vast and long game where I could seed the seeds of distrust in my fellow nobles, making them assassinate and defame each other, all the while sucking up to the ruler and planning my own takeover… Householding my own lands, taxing my peasants in order to afford hiring a forger who will fake some incriminating letters…
        All that without just being some tacked on mechanism to an RTS or war-game… that would be fantabulous.
        I don’t even need a sword or pistol. I’ll let my wit and my seething hatred of my fellow nobility be my weapons. ^,..,^

        • Fluka

          Yessss, some weird hybrid of Civilization and character-development and dialogue heavy RPGs. I want the battles to be tense, full-of-double-meanings conversations, not actual battles.  (Though sending out assassins would be pretty awesome, too.)  *Puts research points into Correct Fashion and Fancy Shoes*

        • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

          Varicella is a classic free text adventure that is pretty awesome and is one of the best games about “court intrigue” out there. But you don’t have to take MY word for it…

    • stakkalee

      On the matter of non-artificially-constrained open worlds, Outerra has been developing a 3d rendering engine that essentially creates whole planets.  They’re still only in alpha, and there’s not much you can do with the engine yet, but I’d be willing to bet the “open worlds” in open-world games 2 console generations down the line are going to be much bigger than anything we’ve experienced so far.  Of course, populating that vast amount of territory is another problem entirely.

      • Effigy_Power

        Depends on the game of course, but in general I’d just love to play a vast empty landscape that’s actually vast. Deserts and oceans especially are thus far fairly limited either by shoehorning them into mountains to separate them from other lands or by ringing them with invisible walls.
        Give me a low-flying space ship or something and let me blast at murderous speeds over vast, endless desert to drop some troops off 10 minutes away or something. I’d play the hell out of that.
        Vastness is something that technical constraints are still holding back and I’d really rather like to get me some of that.

        • stakkalee

          There was this game for the C64, I can’t remember the name now, where you were a space captain on a frontier world.  You could trade resources, or deliver medicine, fight raiders, etc.  It wasn’t quite open world, in that you set your destination pre-flight and couldn’t change it, but the flight between locations could go smoothly or it could be broken up by an attack, so sometimes you’d just get to have a leisurely flight between ports.

          I could easily see a game based on Firefly, or something similar, combining space exploration with planetary exploration or terraforming.  Keep the world big, but the NPC settlements small and far apart, throw in some antagonistic fauna or flora, and just enough randomization between planets so that things don’t feel too static, and you don’t even need a plot.

          Or we could make the Lands of Mormon MMO, where everybody gets their own planet to dink around with and various factions can fight over control of Kolob.  Mmm, that’s good blasphemy!

      • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

        Eventually the system will just procedurally generate civilizations, characters, and dialogue… eventually they’ll achieve such a level of complexity that emergent consciousness – genuine machine intelligence – will develop, at which point video games will provide a thrill they’ve only hinted at until now: virtual murder will be actual murder!

        …in Girard’s Cypherspace, coming out from Tor books this holiday season!

  • http://twitter.com/tapirman Kyle O’Reilly

    This is the Kickstarter for which I became “that guy”.  Bugging my friends, tweeting constantly, posting videos on Facebook etc.  I even upgraded to a rewards tier I wasn’t remotely interested in (What am I gonna do with a 24-hour dublab mix?) but now that it’s done I couldn’t be more excited.

    I realize there are similar spaces like the NYU Game Center, but Teti gave a talk their earlier in the year, can I find it somewhere to download so I can listen? Nope. It’s only for those who live in the area.  Can’t even find a transcript. Not cool NYU Game Center. Not cool at all. 

    I don’t live in L.A. and I doubt I’ll ever travel there, which is awesome because all their lectures are going to be online.  If even one of those lectures is as good as they could be, it’s a success, if even one of the games in the 30(!) game bundle is great it’s a success, if one codemonkey kid sees this, and thinks, every game out there doesn’t have to be inspired by DOOM or Mario, then it’s a success.

    Everybody loves to play the Negative Nancy, and point out, “Gee, that’s an ambitious idea” “Boy, you sure wanna do a lot of stuff, I don’t know…” “These guys don’t have an established goal, they could fail.” SHUSH! Just for once, Sh-SHUSH! Let us have this moment where the community came together to support Indie games!  Go bother that Wing Commander guy’s ambitious Kickstarter. Let us have this moment.

    Look at some of the best games this year, Hotline Miami, Spelunky, Mark of the Ninja, all of them are indie and 2 out of 3 of those developers are involved in LA Game Space. Hell, Sundance even played a documentary about Indie games! This could be the year that Indie really comes into it’s own. 2012 has been a period of rapid growth and 2013 could see even more! So let’s celebrate dammit!

    • Effigy_Power

      NYU – Too stoned to upload transcripts.
      I miss that place.

    • Fyodor Douchetoevsky

      I always like seeing people not be cynical on the internet. Also Indie games rule. I’m not even sure what the last big budget AAA game that I bought was. Dota 2 is made by Valve, but I didn’t buy it really. Maybe Portal 2? Either way, it’s a pretty exciting time to be into games right now, if you ask me.

    • caspiancomic

       This project officially had two “guys”, then, because I’ve been banging on about it nonstop to my friends. Hell, I even emailed Teti about the Kickstarter hoping the site would write it up. I think Drew had this round in the chamber already, but I choose to believe it is through my efforts, possibly single-handedly, that this article was written and indeed the project was funded.

      • Effigy_Power

        @caspiancomic:disqus – Indie game messiah.

    • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

      I hope “indie” games really break big this year, because then I can look down my nose and talk about how I was into “indie” games before it was cool.

      But seriously, while I’m not a guy who NEEDS “return on my investment” when supporting something great, the fact that these guys have built into their plan the on-line dissemination of their lecture series and stuff is a big source of my enthusiasm for this project and definitely contributed to my desire to support them. It’s nice to know that I’ll be privy to the bleeding-edge stuff they’re working on over there in LA, even if I end up in, like, Podunk, Kentucky, or something.

    • http://gameological.com/author/johnteti/ John Teti

      I love the spirit of this comment. I’ll just offer one factual correction in NYU’s defense: The talk you’re thinking of took place at the Museum Of Art And Design, not the NYU Game Center. So you can blame MAD for the lack of video, audio, or transcript.

      I’m talking to some folks about delivering the talk at a larger venue next year. When that happens, I plan to post a version of it here on Gameological as well.

    • hastapura

      Wholeheartedly agree with this. I took a game design class at NYC before the Center had an MFA, and before I bailed at the prospect of a life in the bleak blackness of incomprehensible debt. Thing is, to get the game courses there you have to attend the school, which is not cheap and not for everyone. So that’s quite the barrier to entry.

      This seems like a really awesome, creative, egalitarian approach to a game collective that for once is not in NYC. Even that is enough to get my vote.

    • http://robmeyer.tumblr.com RobMeyer

      The NYU Game Center actually tends to upload a ton of their stuff. A bunch of old stuff is on iTunes U, at least it was. There’s also tons of stuff posted to their vimeo page from Practice and most other lectures are available somewhere on their website or their vimeo. If you don’t find one particular one it’s possible it just wasn’t recorded. I can’t even seem to recall Teti ever speaking at the NYU Game Center, even. Are you sure you’re not confusing this with his talk at the Babycastles summit?

      Anyways super happy for LA GameSpace, and the NYU Game Center is already incredible – for everyone.

      http://vimeo.com/user6998742/videos/page:1/sort:date

      • babycastles

        That was def. the Babycastles summit, though I bet we smoke a hell of a lot less weed than NYU.  Babycastles is a volunteer run effort – so we get what people really feel committed to, unpredictably, and from all angles, and there’s a beauty in that, too because it allows people to express themselves with whatever efforts they’re personally invested in.  We just kinda channel it into specific times and places.

        This is a full documentation of all the talks from the entire summit put together independently by game designer PigFarmer – tried to promote the hell out of it and it didn’t stick – but some fucking fantastic talks here so check it out please! I believe John Teti, you are included:

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=229bXB3M5tw