Obitus is a disorienting game. Its Tolkein-y fantasy setting of Middlemere has a certain stateliness that’s both enhanced and muddled by its labyrinthine stages. The game would play far better with a map or a compass, but there’s mystery in drudging too deep into the woods. The opening title scene of Obitus finds that exciting spot, where the discomfort of getting lost in the unknown is still electrifying.
The opening credits to the game appear against an endless forest tunnel, and the music, composed by co-creator Giulio Zicchi, complements that entrancing image with the dank foreboding of a new adventure. Several other renditions of this theme exist for other platforms including the Amiga and the Super Nintendo, but the electric piano and flute-like instrumentation in the DOS version work best. You could imagine this scoring confusion as much as triumph. It resembles something from the soundtrack of Jim Henson’s Labyrinth – probably not a coincidence given their shared maziness and inviting-but-scary fantasy worlds.
To boot, it has one very hummable melody. The main hook was stuck in my head for weeks before this post. Maybe it’s odd for a title theme that shoulders a game’s thematic contrast to be super catchy, but that’s far from the most perplexing thing about Obitus.
How do you teach creativity? Educational software too often gives children a blank canvas for art without inspiring them to use it – not just painting or making music but doing it with purpose and an idea. Constraint and direction aren’t flashy, but they’re undervalued.
Imagynasium is a masterclass in meaningful creativity. It shows how to find art in circumstance, like a deep interest or a scarcity of supplies. Rather than throw players into a bottomless toolbox, it teaches the value of drawing from your environment. Any program can let you paint a picture; Imagynasium helps you figure out why you would want to. Imagynasium » Read more
I’ve cooled down post frequency a little bit as I enter my final semester of graduate school, but I’m excited about participating in an upcoming event!
I’ll be a guest at “Everything You Wanted to Know About Game Dev,” an International Game Developer Association-sponsored meet-and-greet event with industry veterans about game design and development. I’m honored to participate alongside people like Chris Klimas, the creator of Twine, and Grant K. Roberts, lead designer of Never Alone. Although I don’t develop games, I hope my knowledge and criticism of historic game design will be useful for attendees looking to bounce around ideas or learn about what has been attempted in medium’s margins.
Plus, it’ll be a fantastic event with a ton of talent to mingle with.
The event takes place on Saturday, September 26th at 6pm at American University in Washington, DC (my alma mater!). This will be a friendly mixer event, and we’ll likely head for drinks afterwards. If you’re interested in game design from a professional, hobbyist, or just plain-old curious perspective, come on by.
Time for a moderate-to-big announcement: I’m dipping my toes into game streaming!
I love taking The Obscuritory into the wild and meeting people with an interest in the weirder corners of gaming. Streaming is another great way to share unknown games with an enthusiastic audience, so I’ve decided to explore it a bit. I have no intention of becoming a dedicated or regular streamer, but broadcasting obscure games and talking with viewers is a new opportunity that I’m extremely excited to try.
My goal is to put on a show that’s entertaining and informational, mixing history and design discussion with game-playing. Don’t expect memes and over-the-top reactions; I want my channel to be a more thoughtful and open place where everyone can learn, share, and build positive culture with obscurities. Again, I might not even stream much after my first trial run – especially if it turns out to be too much work – but when I do, I want to use the platform for good.
My first stream will be on Monday, September 7th at 7pm EDT on twitch.tv/obscuritory. To celebrate the occasion, I’ll be playing a grab bag assortment of games I haven’t previously covered on this blog. (Not telling which ones…) It’ll run for two or three hours, so please drop by! This’ll be a fun event that I hope you’ll come watch.
(Any future streams will likely be announced via Tumblr.)
UPDATE: Thanks to folks for coming by for the stream! I was a little incoherent during lots of it and said spoke out of turn a bit, so I won’t share the archived video link, but everyone seemed to have fun regardless. I may do other sporadic streams in the future.
Last month, as part of a big batch of CD-ROMs I ordered from the terrific Wayne Bibbens, I came across a prototype of Subterraneans, an unfinished first-person shooter by direct-to-video shlock horror group Full Moon Features that seems at least loosely based on one of the studio’s unproduced movies. The Subterraneans disc – dated February 6, 1996 and labeled as a demo – also includes Origins of the Puppet Master, an unpublished digital comic based on Full Moon’s most successful franchise.