by Sylvia Kosowski

Lost is a procedurally generated 2D platformer. The player can explore a randomly generated world in all four directions, occasionally encountering non-player characters who will provide quests which the player can attempt to complete. However, there is a catch: platforms, non-player characters, and items are deleted once they leave the main camera view. With such an unstable, ever-changing world, can the player character ever complete the quests it is given?

The game is meant to challenge the “quest” system common in many games by providing the player with quests that cannot be completed. It is very hard to give a non-player character the item they are asking for. And even if the player does manage to do this, the NPC receiving the item will act ungrateful toward the player despite the long toil it takes to deliver the desired item to the NPC. The player gets no reward for completing quests except for harsh words from the NPCs. Yet if the player stops moving and refuses to complete any quests, a scribbly cloud of depression will form above the player’s head and cover the screen until the player moves again.

These game mechanics are meant to all convey a sense of depression and a feeling of being trapped. The virtually endless nature of the game is meant to portray the player character’s inability to escape their situation. Whether they are completing endless, meaningless, worthless quests for the non player characters or standing still and letting the fog of depression cover everything, the player character is lost either way.

The game is best played in larger window sizes (i.e. 1920 x 1080, or however large your computer can manage) because something in Unity’s text system is weird and the text doesn’t resize properly in smaller window sizes.

Windows download

Mac download

Sylvia – Jen Zee

I really admire Jen Zee, the art director for the indie developer Supergiant Games. She did the art for Bastion and Transistor, which both have a really amazing art style and are hugely inspirational games for me.

Trailer for Transistor:

Transistor Art: http://conceptartworld.com/?p=33458

Jen’s Portfolio: http://jenzee.deviantart.com/gallery/


Text Interview: http://www.reminisc3.com/2012/06/09/interview-jen-zee/

Video Interview:

One of the things I think is really interesting about her is that she didn’t have a formal art education. In college she majored in informatics with a minor in math. In this regard she’s really inspirational, since recently I’ve been wondering if computer science and the BCSA program is really all that useful for me and whether I should have just pursued a major in solely art or animation. However, Jen’s background proves that your major choices in college don’t have to define what you do in the real world, which is cool to see.

It seems her path into the game industry began with a class in college, in which her team pitched their final project to people in the game industry as a learning experience, but her art made a good impression so these people later contacted her about doing freelance work. After holding various freelance positions, she worked for Gaia Interactive before coming to her current position at Supergiant Games.

Sylvia – LTLYM #66: Make A Field Guide To Your Yard

As you can see from the pictures below, the backyard of the house I’m living in is kind of barren. Its pretty much a gravel patch with a ton of weeds, moss, and other wild plants growing around the edges.

For this LTLYM prompt, the goal was to wander around your yard and document as many unique life forms as you can find. As evidenced in the spread below, I found a lot! It’s cool to see that when you look closely there’s so much variety in life even in the “boring’ or “uninteresting” corners of the world (click on the picture for a larger view).

P.S. The last pictures in the spread are kind of hard to decipher. One is a dead fly caught in a spider web, and one is a REALLY HUGE SPIDER with TWO BAGS OF EGGS and its kind of freaking me out.

Sylvia – Best Games Fest

3:10 To Nashville

In this game, there were two teams assigned by red and black cards (outlaws and law enforcement). The goal was to wander around a predetermined game space made up of several blocks of the city, and to find members of the opposing team and duel with them. Each player was given a hand of 6 cards which they could use to duel by drawing one card. The card with the highest value would win the duel and capture one of the loser’s cards. At the end of the game, players would report back to their team leader with the cards they captured, and the team leaders would face off in a final duel with these captured cards.

Interestingly enough, what I found was the most fun part of the game was the “roleplaying” aspect of it. To initiate a duel with someone you encountered on the streets, you would have to say “Are you from Nashville?” and they would have to respond “Dem’s fightin’ words!” and the duel would only commence after this exchange. This increased the Western cowboy theme of the game, which was fun. It’s interesting to me that what I viewed as funnest part of the game was just a small ritual which didn’t really have any affect on the core game mechanics themselves. This shows that even the smallest thematic elements of a game can have a huge impact on the game experience.

To make Nashville better, I would suggest giving players larger hands of cards, since I ran out of cards really quickly and would have enjoyed having more time to wander around and duel with people. Also, duels were decided basically on chance (i.e. who was lucky enough to get a higher value card) so it would have been more interesting with more complex rules (maybe making the different suites have different power-ups, maybe letting the teammates you were walking around with be able to help you in the duel, etc.)

Turtle Wushu

This game was basically Joust. The core differences were that in Joust there are cool electronics involved (accelerometer in the playstation move controller, cool lights/atmosphere etc.) whereas in Turtle Wushu you have to balance a plastic turtle on your hand and try to knock off turtles from other players’ hands. I think Joust definitely has a stronger play atmosphere, but Turtle Wushu did add an interesting element to the game, which is the concept of protecting this turtle figure. By having a cute object to protect rather than just a glowing sphere, it made the object you have to protect more precious and adds more sentimental value to the game.

Time Squares

Each participant in the festival got a card with some sort of instructions on it. You had to trade cards with other players based on the rules of the card, and if certain rules were fulfilled, you could add things to a sheet of paper.

It was kind of hard to find people to trade with, since there were specific rules for trading, and people kept entering or leaving the festival. I only traded one or two cards I think. Also, people were adding things to the sheet of paper in a random way, by just writing the date and some event that occurred in that date. The sheet of paper was kind of unorganized. It probably would have been more successful if it was more of a timeline, so people could see what is happening in each year. It was an interesting idea to keep a kind of passive game going on in the background in the form of Time Squares, but I think in this case Time Squares was a bit too passive. There was no motivation to look back at the sheet of paper and see what kinds of things people were adding to it.

Ladder Toss Thing

This game isn’t listed on the website, but basically it consisted of two orange ladder-like objects facing each other. You have to throw objects which are two balls connected by a string at the ladder and try to make them land on the rungs of the ladder, with each of the three rungs of the ladder being worth different amounts of points. It was a lot harder than it sounds. The game points you earned would be reset to 11 if you got more than 21 points (so you had to get exactly 21 points to win). This meant that you had to be really precise in getting the exact points you need to win, which was hard to do. Overall it was a fun skill-based game.


Subversive Magic: The Gathering

Re-shot video so its not vertical.


Old vertical video (what was I thinking???? but a more interesting round, oh well.)


For this assignment, I played several games of Magic: The Gathering, with the modification that all cards are played face down, and card names aren’t “announced” as they are played. The videos above include some highlights from two of the games played.

For those who haven’t played Magic, it is a trading card game in which two or more players take turns drawing cards from their deck, playing cards on the battlefield, and using these played cards to attack/manipulate the other player or the other player’s cards. There are certain “land” cards which must be tapped for “mana” which is used to bring out creature cards, enchantment cards, sorcery cards, and instant cards into play.

Since Magic is a trading card game, of course the cards themselves play a huge role in the gameplay. By playing with the cards facing down, I was experimenting with how playable a trading card game could be if the normally visible cards which are crucial to gameplay, and in fact define the very existence of the game itself, become mysterious and invisible. Additionally, a huge part of Magic gameplay is that there is a lot of talking going on. Players are always announcing what cards they are playing. For example, as a player plays their turn, if they played one “Mountain” land and tapped six lands to bring out a creature onto the battlefield, they would be talking through it as they did it, for example: “Mountain…and I’ll tap for six mana to bring out Moonveil Dragon.” This announcing of what exactly is being played may not be as obvious as the cards themselves, but it is still a crucial part of the whole “ritual” of playing Magic. So by taking the announcing of card names away, it made things a lot more confusing.

Of course it was more difficult to understand what was going on, and it became something like a trust exercise between myself and my friend. For example, when I played an instant card that destroyed one of my friend’s creatures (in the vertical video), he had to trust that that card was actually what I said it was and not something else. And at some points in the game I had no idea what was going on (the end sequence of the vertical video when my friend does some really complicated stuff went completely over my head.) In that regard, this experience brought me back to the time when I was first starting to play Magic and didn’t know what everything did. Often in those early games when I was still a beginner, it felt like I just had to trust what the other person was doing blindly since they knew better than me, and this evoked the same sort of feeling.

At the same time however, I was interested to see that the game was still playable and followed the same pattern as a game would go if we were playing with normal rules. The flow of the game remained largely intact. Even though we weren’t announcing what specific cards we were playing, after playing so many games of Magic it was pretty straightforward to infer what was a creature and what was a land, for example, since lands constantly get “tapped” to bring creatures out into play. It was therefore an interesting experience for me to realize that much of Magic is in the “rituals” that occur while playing, the movement and placement of cards for example, and not in the cards themselves. It felt almost like playing the same game, which was really interesting since it seemed to prove that although Magic is a trading card game, the ritual of gameplay is more important than the cards in defining what can be thought of as a “game of Magic.”

Additionally, I could see how the inclusion of some cards can kind of “cheat” the new rules. For example, at one point (in the vertical video) I had a card out called “Suture Priest” which, whenever a creature enters the battlefield under my opponent’s control, causes that opponent to lose a life. Therefore, in order for this game mechanic to work I was forced to ask my friend whether an unknown card he just put down was a creature or not, so that my creature’s ability could still take affect. Therefore, in this style of play, cards which have abilities like this which can reveal extra information about a player’s mysterious cards suddenly become a lot more valuable to include in decks. A huge part of Magic and trading card games in general is how valuable each card is in terms of its money cost in the real world. So some cards which are not as good or valuable in normal MTG could become extremely useful and valuable in my subverted MTG. It was interesting for me to see that card worth is dependent on gameplay, and changing gameplay mechanics could make shitty cards transform into expensive cards. Therefore, changing the gameplay mechanic affects not only the game world, but the real world too.