Reprieve

This blog is ostensibly about the remake of Chimera, but the subtitle is just as important – a chance to reprieve past ambition.

Shahid’s recent burst of enthusiasm has even encouraged me to chip away at my pet project. I’m experimenting with an austere text and picture game that works in a small format. Its a space genre, developed with ruby shoes. I’m even using dropbox for access anywhere source control.

I have as much ennui as the next wage slave, but fewer reasons to not do stuff. But this is definitely the retro age, with a proliferation of devices that need content. So now is probably the time.

New old

Initially, I didn’t understand where the energy for retro-gaming was coming from. While one would expect a few old timers to look back at the past with rose tinted spectacles, what interested anyone else?  Why should Shahid challenge himself with a retro project?

Quite by accident, I saw a small article that introduced the idea quite nicely.

“..remakes, demakes and new games made in the old style.”

This is very much in line with other decentralizing and ownership issues bouncing around the internet at the moment. As game developers, Shahid and I naturally wanted to sell what we made. But we probably considered that whatever we produced was meant to be part of the continuing games culture as we understood it.

The connection between a book author and his readership is only briefly interrupted by the publisher. Once you have ordered a book online, bought it from Waterstones or borrowed it from a friend you have dealt with the mediation stage. All that is left is to enjoy the material.

With software, the publisher gets a big say in form and content. There is a perceived genre, performance, visual quality, difficulty, and flavour that a published game is expected to fulfil. This is equivalent to a book publisher telling an author that her novel should include a red house, only mention characters with popular Christian names and be split into exactly 12 chapters.

If someone remakes, or demakes your game they are to some extent taking back control of the mediation. They are usually preserving the actual material.

I don’t say this to damn publishing as an industry – but society does need to re-balance the needs of culture against the needs of a market.

Avians

This is an intermission from Shahid’s development diary and tangential revelations. I’m not going to start by talking about Chimera at all, or what I did back in the day. I’m going to talk about Angry Birds.

I hope most people reading this are aware of this popular mobile game is, but haven’t wasted any serious time playing with it. But it appeared on my Palm Pre store, so I downloaded it.

Angry Birds involves the repetition of a fairly simple task, with small gradations of difficulty. To my mind, it isn’t a game as such, any more than smoking is an entertainment. It is a well put together, and perfectly nice toy. Pull. Release. Ahh! Repeat.

But you see, it is called a ‘game’. Otherwise serious people call it a game. Now, it might well be fair to call it a puzzle game at a stretch, but that isn’t what I’m getting it. Its been downloaded over 5 million times, and so it can define itself as Mother Theresa if it so wishes.

With the power of the App Store behind it, the concept of “video game” is slowly being claimed by the casual audience. And they are entitled to do that. When I’m standing on a crowded rush hour train looking at a mobile screen, I don’t really want to read Karl Marx.

But we sort of know that a game should involve considerably more than what currently sells on an iPhone. Discovery, disappointment, surprise, frustration, suspense, success. That sort of stuff.

Chimera was one of the many way-points on the journey that was taking the gaming world to this particular Nirvana. Much as I like taking the head off a zombie with a shotgun, or even destroying pigs with falling masonry, it would be cool to guide more gaming back to epic virtues. Retro is but one way to follow this goal.