A few months ago we detailed some search methods for discovering unknown Game-Maker games in the wild Web; as examples we detailed two games: Roland Ludlam’s rather wonderful Hurdles, and Matthew Groves’ modestly charming Space Cadet. Since our interview with the one author went so well, we now turn our sights on the second, Web developer and aspiring Android coder Matthew D. Groves.
Following our interview with Orb author Joshua Turcotte, we turn our information thresher to another isolated game, the closest that Game-Maker ever got to a respectable scrolling shooter, Hurdles. The game is short on presentation and deep in ingenuity; it does what it sets out to, and then moves on. To contrast with that focus, its author Roland Ludlam is something of a polymath: hacker, musician, illustrator, photographer, poet.
Most recently, Ludlam has co-founded a small game design company, Studio Walljump, with the aim of producing a new puzzle-music game for WiiWare. We caught him with a dual-edged interview; come for the moldy game, and get a preview for the bargain.
If you’ve been following our Game-Maker Archive series, you may recall a swell little Metroid-style adventure called Orb: The Derelict Planet. Thrown into an alien environment, you wander vast caverns, collect upgrades, and traverse hidden passages to deactivate an ancient, killer computer. As one of the better Game-Maker games, Orb has always been a mystery. It seemed to have been developed in a vacuum, and with an unusual amount of planning. It then appeared out of nowhere on the Game-Maker 3.0 CD-ROM, the only known game by its author. After a bit of detective work we managed to track down that author, the writer and illustrator Joshua Eric Turcotte.
by Eric-Jon Rössel Tairne
When I want to read Catch-22, what are the options? I can go to a library, and do it for free. While I’m there, I can browse the rest of his works or nearby, possibly similar, books. I can search by topic, author, or year of publication. If I want my own copy, I probably can find it at a nearby bookstore. Failing that, I can order it online for a pittance.
Thanks to Gutenberg, books are indexed and ageless. They may go out of print or become obscure, but one way or another you will always be able to find a copy. Then with a copy in hand, the only thing between you and their ideas is the work of digesting them.
How about if I want to watch Nosferatu — not the Werner Herzog one; the Murnau version? If I’m near an urban center, it may be showing at an indie theater or festival. If it’s October, I may track it down on a classic movie channel on cable. Or I can rent the DVD or VHS (or indeed borrow it from the library). If I go to a video store, there’s a good chance it’s in stock. Or, again, I can just hit up Amazon.
by Eric-Jon Rössel Tairne
A medium goes through its phases. Generally it starts off piecemeal, little snippets of ideas that stand alone, each studying the nature of the medium. What’s possible? How do things look? How do people respond? Later the ideas coalesce into short subjects, often delivered through a reservation in some passing medium. Periodicals set aside pages for short stories. Networks set aside airtime for TV episodes.
Later, as the public becomes accustomed to format and language of the medium and as its authors start to understand its implications and potential, the ideas will get more complex and demand more room to develop. That extra room in turn demands new methods and understanding of the changed space and its implications for communicating. Thus we have long-form subjects — your novel and your Sistine Chapel and feature film and television serial.
Although videogames have been around for a few decades, they have spent about half of their active life spinning their wheels. Part of the problem, I think, is in the eagerness about twenty years ago to move on to long-form subjects before anyone really mastered the short form. If we’re to look to any model for a healthy development of what we now know about game design, that model might be the golden era of television.