Archive for February, 2011

This game is several varieties of special. And my review for this is going to be way more verbose than normal. I wrote about this for one of my classes, so I’m just going to be lazy and copy paste my report 😛

The purpose of this game is to convince people that the immigration laws in this country are unfair to immigrants and to educate the populous about the truth of immigration. This game details things like that fact that many immigrants are afraid to call the police because they may be deported, or the fact that a misdemeanor to a citizen is a felony if an immigrant does it. It also shows the environment in detention facilities for immigrants who have been detained. The goal of the developers is that people who play ICED will be more likely to vote for changes to the immigration and citizenship laws. In fact, ICED stands for I Can End Deportation. This game doesn’t do terribly well at its goals. The fact that the information is all given in either voice overs which can be turned off or text boxes that can be ignored, or in Myth Or Fact puzzles that can be solved without any trouble by picking the choice that seems more against the immigration policies.

The setting of the beginning of this game is a nameless, fictional city with a large immigrant population. The second half of the game takes place in a deportation detention center. There are five different characters, made up of teenagers and college students. Each one is an immigrantwho is unknowingly breaking immigration law. For example, Suki didn’t take enough courses on a student visa. Another example is Anna, who thinks she’s a citizen but the lawyer that was supposed to get her citizenship when she was younger wasn’t a real lawyer. The story takes the player from a normal day walking through a city, through an immigrations officer raid and into a detention center. The story is brute forced at points. Even if the player succeeds completely at the first two stages, they still go to the detention center just to see it. The story does help the goals of the game, though the fact that the story doesn’t change based on player actions is quite odd.
ICED is played by moving the character around through a virtual city trying to gain points without raising their danger level. If their danger level gets too high, immigration officers show up to arrest them. The choices include the Myth Or Facct questions and other questions about whether or not to do certain actions such as registering to vote or calling the police on a man beating his wife. The actions don’t have any kind of mix or randomization though, and all of them should not be done because, for example, registering to vote while not a citizen is illegal. Scattered throughout the world are ways of getting points. The main way to find these is by looking at the minimap for the little green dots. The player doesn’t actually have to pay any attention to the main screen. The questions are the main gameplay which is intended for any kind of learning, though and while the questions could be very educational, they are very easy to determine the correct answer with out actually absorbing any of the information. The player merely needs to see whether the question seems to be expressed as a fact or an opinion and how reasonable the statement sounds.

ICED was developed using the Torque 3D engine to make a first person game. The controls are mouse to look and arrow keys to move, just like most first person shooters. The user interface has many different measures of the player’s success, include score, progress, freedom and risk. Despite being on the interface the entire time, the risk meter only seems to apply during the city half of the game and the freedom meter seems to only apply during the detention center half of the game. The minimap in the top corner of the game by-passes the need to actually look at the 3D environment that the player is inhabiting. The questions are the main gameplay that is offered to the player. To make the point really stick, the information should have been offered through another medium rather than textbased questions. Perhaps by making the options be something more immersive like conversations or by making more actions available.

In 2007, Breakthrough asked the Education Development Center to assess ICED. Their assessment largely showed that the game was having a strong emotional affect on the players, but it also showed that many of the players thought that the game was far too biased and was putting its own facts into question. Some of the open-ended responses from the players suggested that only part of the story was being shown and that it was hard to feel for a character who was being detained for breaking that law. The main strong points of the game, according to the assessment, were the roleplay and immersion aspects. The major suggestion from the assessment board was to make the questions from the gameplay be more complex, since a simple true/false question doesn’t cover the full depth of the situation.

ICED! is a basically good serious game with several flaws. The story is over-simplified, as are the choices, and the game bias is so strong as to turn off the kind of players who really notice, with some even noting that it puts their facts into question. For some people, this game and its emotional response will be enough to cause them to want to change immigration policies, but for many it will be lacking because of the overly strong bias. Had they used more complex gameplay and allowed less of their bias to show, perhaps the game could be more successful.

So, for an actual review, I suppose that means I should give it a score. I hate this game. It was boring and I felt like I was being hit with a clue bat. A really hard, possibly steel clue bat. The best way to describe it is that one of my friends watched me playing and said “I think this game hates America.” So I’m giving it a 1 out of 5.

If for some unusual reason you want to play ICED, you can find it at


Sorry for the lack of posts lately, I’ve been heavily entrenched in coding and design projects. It was several varieties of fun but also hard and stressful. As such, I’m taking a glorious mental break to tell you guys about Hello Worlds! Hello Worlds! is a Flash game where you are trying to get all the coins from multiple worlds at once, using the fact that you’re in multiple worlds to do so. This is one of the menu screens for going to other levels.

The goal is to gather all the coins on a given level, and manage to do this in under the par time. Did I mention that if there’s an obstacle or landing in any world on your screen, then it will stop you on all screens? Its really really awesome, so that’s how you solve all the puzzles in the game. The graphics are very minimalistic and kind of adorable.

The first few levels are very nice and simple, and then you suddenly hit head explodey. It was a really nice twist. Its not often that a puzzle game can actually be hard without just making me angry. It also has a really nice ramping up of complexity and features as you’re going along. There are also a few characters that you can play as including a wizard, a turtle and a crab.

I highly suggest checking out this game. Its really fun and has very simple mechanics for a complicated puzzle environment. Its very nice for relaxing when you’ve been having a stressful week of projects and exams. In conclusion, I give Hello Worlds! 4.5 out of 5 hearts for a very well made and fun game.

4.5 out of 5 zelda heartsFor anyone interested in playing Hello Worlds!, it can be found here.

HTML5 and the Canvas Tag

Posted: February 14, 2011 in Uncategorized

I’ve been super busy with my classwork lately, but I have a little time to pop in a write something up. So, today I thought I’d tell you about the newest shiny object to pass through the game development world, especially the indie community. For a long time, Flash has been the standard for making a web based game or app. Now, with the newest iteration of HTML, we have the canvas tag which allows for amazing things like games that can be played in browser without any plugins and for game windows that can resize themselves dynamically. Currently, HTML5 is supported by Google Chrome and recent versions of Firefox, Safari and very, very recent version of Internet Explorer. Remember Prokaryote Hero, the little game that me and my friends made for the GameJam, that’s an HTML5 canvas tag game.

We’re currently developing a library to streamline the production of further games using this platform and I’m hoping for a more widespread adoption. I spoke with Kongregate and while they’re not actively adding support, they haven’t rule it out yet. Everyone who can should update to the newest version of their browser of choice and start exploring the games that are available. Check out, for example. If you were thinking that HTML5 games are just low resolution, arcade style games, think again. Check out FreeCiv! And that’s just one of the amazing games using the wonders of the canvas tag. I’m hoping to make a game or two during term break. I’ll be sure to post links when they become available. After all, dear readers, you’re also my playtesters. ^_^

BETA events and board games

Posted: February 9, 2011 in Uncategorized

Sorry for the lack of posts lately, I’ve been really busy with my school work. But despite that, I have some interesting things to talk about. First off, I got a beta key for the new MMORPG that’s in testing now called Rift. I haven’t had a chance to play it yet, but hopefully after the next event I can tell you guys a little bit about it. Along with that, I got into an open beta for the browser based MMO called A Mystical Land. Anyone who is interesting in taking part in that one should check it out here. It looks pretty neat and its free to play with extra paid content. The graphics in the trailer remind me of a more cartoony WoW.

Along with all the excitement with the two betas, I’ve also been looking into ways to release games into the wild. Preferably, I’d like to be able to make a little bit of money off my designs, but its not a requirement. Just getting my name out there would also be really nice. My friends and I are putting together a small development studio to make small games, most of which will be free to play on the internet. I’m all looking at making some board and card games. Thanks to searching through all the information about good ways to release games, I found two things that I wanted to tell you guys about.

The first is Kongregate. The basic idea here is that developers can make a flash or unity based game (both run in browsers) and upload it to the site. Then, they gain a percentage of the ad revenue. I love this idea. It basically means that the players are rewarding the developers, simply by playing the game. The downside is that flash requires a developer license in order to use. The licenses can be quite expensive. I’m still keeping that available as an idea for if I ever get a license or or if they start supporting HTML5 development. I’m talking to them about the possibility of using HTML5 games for them, but until then, I ponder whether or not its worth it to get a flash license. To be perfectly honest, I’m not a fan of flash as the dominant game development language that it is. On the other hand, I just picked up the free version of Unity to start learning it, so I’ll probably talk about it in a few weeks, once I have gotten a good feel for it.

The second is The Game Crafter. Now this is a super neat idea. Basically, you design a board or card game, write the rules, design all the art and everything and then they print it so that its a real game. You can then sell it in their store, and they don’t charge a publishing fee until your game sells. If you’re interested in making a game or in buying games made on this site you can check that out here. One of my favorite things about this site is that if you’re a developer, you can buy your game at cost, rather than at retail. They specifically do this so you can give copies to your friends, have a copy for yourself and (my favorite part) sell the game yourself at cons and at local stores. This is very exciting for me since some of my friends are planning on opening a gaming store near my campus and have offered to carry any board or card games that I make.

I’m also working on beta tests and development for an expansion I’m making to an existing board game called Stoneage which was made in 2008 by Rio Grande Games. Stoneage is a really fun game but you can tell it was designed by an anthropologist and not a game designer. The expansion that I’m developing adds some difficulty but I’m in an interesting place where in order to actually do anything with this expansion other than play it with my friends, I need to contact that developers of Stoneage and pitch the idea to them and hope they like it. Well, once I’ve done all that balance testing here, I’ll see how I can do that.

Tasty Planet : The Flash Game

Posted: February 8, 2011 in Uncategorized

So, I noticed a lot of people finding this blog through searching for Tasty Planet 2 on Ubuntu. Well, my friends and I have tried long and hard and can’t seem to get Tasty Planet 2 to run in Wine. I figured I should make sure that people are aware of the flash version of the original Tasty Planet. Its available through Kongregate, which made me really happy. Sure, its not as awesome or hilarious as having the full version or the sequel. I hope this helps people who have been searching for a Ubuntu version at the very least.