5 reasons for Cliché

3 Comments | This entry was posted on Jun 24 2011

So I want to talk a little bit about why I’m here. Maybe we can get James to talk about his reasoning later.

  1. I want to create interesting worlds
    World building has been a past time of mine before I even knew the term for it. When I was young often in play I would take the imaginary worlds presented in games, books, and other media and try and extend them. I often wish I could literally create parallel realities just so I could mess with how they ticked and play with how they worked. As you can imagine I am a fan of SimCity and other simulation and god games.
  2. I want to create tools that help other people create their own interesting worlds
    Some of the things I want to create, especially in the realm of AI are tools. I think the creation of well made tools would encourage others to be more adventurous with experimenting in the realms those tools cover since they lower the cost of doing so. It doesn’t hurt that I’d have fun playing with the tools myself after their creation.
  3. I want to be captain of my own destiny
    Just like Captain Sparrow

    Just like Captain Sparrow

    My current day job is fantastic, but I’m still working for someone else. I have to work on the projects they decide and drop them for what they dictate is a priority. One of the most free times of my life was while I was unemployed shortly before the current job and I got myself out of depression and starting working on personal projects in the downtime when I wasn’t applying for jobs. Cliché will be a lot of work, but if I can recapture that magical sense of freedom in the process it will be worth it.
  4. I want to play in interesting worlds
    If I don’t build them who will? The tools fit into this as well. Hopefully by contributing to the industry through our products and the dialog between the industry and gamers here we can help make more interesting worlds happen everywhere.
  5. Doing something scary is a good way to grow as a person
    Starting down this path has been scary. Once I’ve saved up some money taking the next step and quitting my job will be even scarier. But we grow as people in my opinion when we face frightening things despite them scaring us, and I think I am growing wiser and more confident for persuing this endeavor.

Do you agree or disagree with any of these reasons? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

90% syndrome

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Jun 16 2011

The software developers among readers should all know exactly what I mean with this title. You get a project going, get some great momentum, and get almost done. Then bam, well this isn’t quite right and you need to back up, or boom you need to slow down and polish that a little bit, etc.

So it is with pleasure and pain that I say that Marco Polo is approximately 90% complete with its first iteration. A slew of issues seem to have veritably conspired to slow me down including some hard drive problems(Thank god for svn).

Please forgive the bluriness

Marco Polo on an actual phone

Despite the slow down this is still very exciting times. In the next few months we will finish up our alpha version of Marco Polo, head down to birmingham for play on con and begin formalizing our designs for the next game(we have at least 4 more planned out but we can start hammering out more specific details based on what we learn from the current project).

So readers, where do you usually get android apps from? Let us know in the comments!

Ride Ookla!

1 Comment | This entry was posted on Jun 08 2011

Hi, James here.

I don’t know about many of you, but I grew up in the 80’s, so I had the pleasure of growing up with many 70’s and 80’s cartoon shows. Dungeons and Dragons, Silverhawks, Spartacus and the Sun Beneath the Sea, and one of my favorites, Thundarr the Barbarian.

I’ll admit it, I still want that sunsword. It’s awesome.

Despite the awesomeness of the sunsword, Thundarr was not my favorite character. No, my favorite was Ookla. It saddens me that I never really got to know anything about him, but, for some reason, he was always my favorite. I think, perhaps, that it was because of his horse.

Ookla Riding

courtesy of

See, his horse told me more about the world than the opening credits did. It told me that, though it was Earth, it was not the Earth I knew. It was someplace else where things like Ookla’s horse existed.

It is true that there was Ookla, who was not human by any stretch, and there were monsters that Thundarr and his pals fought, but things of that nature are too easy to imagine. It is harder to make things that are fantastic part of the everyday world. This is something that many a RPG in the gaming world is missing (though definitely not all). What something like this simple horse does is defamiliarize the world in such a way that it attracts the interest of the audience, because it lets them know that there is more to this world than what is presented on the screen, without pandering or reaching such heights of fantasy as to be ridiculous.

Take Dragon Age, for example. There are dragons in this world and there are monsters, but outside of fighting things, it doesn’t seem to have changed the familiarity of a medieval inspired setting all that much. Wouldn’t a world where magic is not uncommon have different pressures on the local flora and fauna, making all sorts of new things that people, be they elves or dwarves, have use for.

Some may point out that in Dragon Age, there is the Nug, a rabbit-esque creature that the dwarves eat, but that is about it, and though it is referred to, we, the audience, never see one being roasted. If we had, that small detail, and others like it, featured prominently, would let do more to let us know that this setting is so much more of a world apart from our own preconceptions of it that it is worth exploring for its own sake.

So, to the world builders out there, please, remember your world is more than the people and the monsters, but the beasts and the trees as well. Need inspiration, check out the works of Dougal Dixon, or watch The Future is Wild. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.



1 Comment | This entry was posted on Feb 25 2011

Today, Anthony brought to my attention two things:


A Philosophy that Extends Eastward: Social Games Zynga-Style

After reading and watching these, I couldn’t help but think of my friend Begoña, whose father hand-makes flamenco guitars.
Stuart Mewburn Guitar

I am sure many (or both of you) are wondering what on earth does this have to do with gaming?

Extra Credit’s open to letter to EA complains that EA is pulling the medium of gaming backwards into the realm of juvenile fantasy. In a sense, Extra Credits feels that EA is turning gaming into this:
Ancient Lyre

Sure, this thing may be easy to construct, neat looking, and even fun to play…for awhile, but it is not going to have the complexity a guitar brings. The same is true with gaming.

In the Gamasutra interview, Andy Tian talks about bringing metrics to the forefront for determining game design, and downplays the importance of creativity and artistry. In guitar terms, what is he talking about is kind of like tablature:
Guitar Tablature

This may be technically correct, but its not music, and, by its own admission, isn’t art. You do not get innovation or anything exciting from playing the same song again and again. Sure, it’s fun at first, and doing it well does lead to a certain sense of accomplishment, but if a player doesn’t do anything new, eventually they lose interest. It takes being able to create your own thing, or having something new put before you in order to maintain interest.

The other thing is that games are a medium of not just craftsmanship, but of art. Both have incredibly important roles. With art alone, all you get is something neat looking, and with craftsmanship alone, you only get functionality and lose innovation. Games are a medium that require both to work hand in hand with one another in order to create something spectacular, and when you do that, you get this:
Stuart Mewburn Guitar

Something that is not only functional, and not just beautiful, but versatile and teeming with possibilities.


(pics courtesy of Stuart Mewburn Guitars,, and Paul Smyth Guitars)

A Bridge Not Far Enough

5 Comments | This entry was posted on Jan 29 2011

One of these days I am just going to have to admit that Ant is the brains of this operation, and I’m just the face.

I am not admitting it now. Nope. Right now I am still going to do my best to take the lion’s share of the credit, but, eventually it is going to become so obvious that I will have to admit it.

Once again, Ant has sent me an interesting article concerning the network effect.

The network effect is simply the value a individual adds to a product of service by virtue of using that product or service. An example would be a couple of your friends go to a particular restaurant regularly, so they take you to the restaurant as well. The restaurant may not be exactly to your taste, but you keep going, and will most likely bring others because your friends like it and continue to hang out there. Later on, when the original friends leave, you continue to go to the restaurant with the people you brought later on, because that is where you guys hang out.

Such is the case with WoW. There may be more enjoyable alternatives out there, but players stay with WoW because their friends play WoW, and it would take a lot of work to convince all of your friends to move over to a new game.

Now, games can take advantage of this, in ways that no other media really can. The article points out that some companies are doing so by having achievements and such crossover to other games.

Personally, I think that’s just weak. Not just weak, it is stupid. We can do so much more in gaming. You know what made The Sims such a breakthrough game? The ability for people to add their own content and share it with others. Thanks to that, I had a built a Roman villa and temple. What was great about this is that not only did I keep playing that game because I could constantly get new stuff (which I did), the developers didn’t have to lift a finger to make more content, and the business didn’t have to spend extra money.

Imagine if you applied that to something like WoW. Not only would the numbers of people dropping off between expansions lower, but you could increase the amount of time between expansions, allowing the company more time to focus on quality and spread out the risk of development costs. Sure, you would have to put in controls to make sure that no one created omnisupergodsword of player killing, but I think that it would still be worth it, as doing so would increase the value players bring with them exponentially.


Ask Cliche

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Jan 27 2011

We’ve added a formspring for anyone that wants to ask us anything but doesn’t want to leave it as a comment to a specific post. You should be able to see it on the sidebar to the right OR you can go directly to the website here:

The Man Who Sold the World

5 Comments | This entry was posted on Jan 16 2011

Not too long ago, I read an article about the development of economics in games:
Everybody Wants to Own the World

Mostly, the article discussed about how a world’s economics are becoming more a part of games, but also how developing cash sources are becoming more important than other aspects of character building.

One snippet caught my attention, though, “Eventually, I am overflowing with cash, which now allows me to get into all of that expensive equipment relatively easily since I now have the cash to be the hero that I need to be.”

You see this a lot in games, so much so that in every game I can think of where you have to buy goods, eventually you can become so flush with cash that nothing is beyond your reach, and this bugs me. True, a person can do this in the real world, but it is a lot harder (trust me).

One of the reasons why it is so easy in games is that money only has value for one person in the game-world, the player. No one else needs money. Sure, shops ask you for it, but nothing is done with it. It just disappears. Since there is no need for money outside of the player, prices never change, allowing the player to amass vast fortunes that do nothing for the player after they get whatever the most kick-ass equipment exists in the game.

Such is true even in games like Fable III. (Spoilers) After you take over, the world needs cash, so you have to raise it either one way or another. This may sound like this would be pretty cool, except that it is easily done. Just buy up the world and wait. Since the game doesn’t advance until you advance it, but your money accumulates based upon how long you play, you can just sit and wait and you will eventually have all the money you need and them some. And after you get enough money to put into the treasury, what do you do with the money you continue to accumulate? Nothing. Nothing at all. Sure, you can buy all of the equipment in the world, but that won’t even put a dent into your vast fortune. Plus, as an added bonus, the kingdom never needs money again.

Though that may appeal to some people, I see it as a problem. As such, I have a few ideas as to make this a non-issue:

1. Make the player character need more things than equipment. Make it so that they need to eat regularly. This will make it so that the player has to spend money regularly.

2. Necessitate upkeep and maintenance of properties. Fable III did this, though it was too cheap. I would also include the development of properties.

3. Have prices change based on supply and demand. Now, this is a bit more difficult, as you have to have a system in place to determine supply, a system in place to determine demand, and a system in place to determine how much money is currently in circulation. This will make it so that players will have to manage their money much more closely.

4. If you run a country or town or whatever, a system for tax rates, as well as upkeep and development costs. This is something I would have very much liked to have seen in Fable III. I mean, why can’t I keep the orphanage and turn one of the money properties I own into a brothel? Why not better develop Mourning Wood? How about restoring the fort to keep the Hollowmen at bay?

5. Speaking of property develop, military development as well. Even though I never control the army in Fable III, since I have insane amounts of cash, I would have gladly spent it all just to give them the nicest uniforms and equipment, even if it didn’t affect the game. Why? Just because I could.

6. If you own a ton of properties and shops, or have a staff, or an army, their salaries should be an ongoing cost.

These are only a few of the ideas that come to mind. Are they easy? Not really. Are they worth it? Absolutely, they will keep me playing, and the more I play, the more likely I will buy DLC.

Still, though I applaud the inclusion of economics in games, I believe that it should be as richly developed as all other aspects. Otherwise, at some point it becomes forgettable or useless.


Social and Cooperative Gameplay

1 Comment | This entry was posted on Jan 11 2011

One thing I can count on Ant for is interesting a new things to read.

Recently, Ant sent me a link to an article about Asymmetrical Cooperative Gaming. It’s a really neat idea. Basically, it is creating games that are a fusion of genres in which players of different kinds of games can play together in the same space at the same time. It reminds me of a project that one gentleman at SIEGE was involved in.

In that project, players were supposed to assume different roles in which to command a starship. One person would be an engineer, another a pilot, another the captain, another a gunner, and so forth. All players had to be involved in order to play. As impossible as it may be to believe, the project didn’t get far.

And that is too bad. It’s a good idea. And the game talked about in the article sounds like fun.

It’s not a new idea, either. You talk to any gamer and ask them what their dream game would be, and it is almost invariably a game that does everything. They want to kill things, and build things, and they want the things they do to be persistent, and the want to own a shop, and farm, and solve puzzles, and run a town, and command an army, and take over the world, and be the bad guy, and take down the bad guy, etcetera, etcetera.

Of course, when you talk to game makers, the answer is that such a game is not possible, too hard to build, or simply not feasible.

Well, I think such genre-bending games are possible. There are no physical or mental reasons why they would not be. What I think is the problem with such games such as the one mentioned in the article and the unnamed starship project is one thing, synchronicity.

See, we don’t do everything at the same time in order to get things done. We do things when we are able to or when they are required of us. True, there are tasks in which things need to be done in tandem, but most things do not require that. Think of an office worker. Most jobs in an office are dependent upon other people in the office. Each person needing something from the others in order to get things done, but none of those things are ever delivered, or even worked upon at the same time. Each worker gets their piece to where it needs to be whenever they do, and usually by a certain time (hopefully). When the task at hand is completed, all of the workers share in the experience of having the task or project done, no matter when they contributed their piece.

Asynchronous cooperation and competition, I believe, is the future of (and, if you played games on BBSes, the past of) gameplay. For example, a friend of mine’s stepfather used to play the same RPG she did on the original Nintendo. She would go and further the story, but when she wasn’t playing, her stepfather would spend all of his time trading items from port to port. When she would get back to her game, she would have a bunch of money to help her in her quest and further the story. When she stopped, her stepfather would have more ports and goods available to trade in and with. They were both playing the same game, and they were both gaining the joy of accomplishment, but they were involved in two radically different activities.

Think of what this would mean if this principle were applied to modern MMOs and guilds. Many different players with many different gaming styles and preferred genres could share the same successes and experiences, without having to resort in gameplay that does not appeal to them, or during times that are not convenient to them. This would not only increase the audience of the game, but also increase the emotional investment of players, as they would have an even larger group that they are connected to within the game.

Now, imagine that same MMO, but now, everyone has to do their parts at the same time. Imagine an office where all tasks had to be worked on at the same moment. Both fall apart and are way to complicated to design elegantly, but, if you take the synchronous actions out, things slide into place. That is why I believe that asynchronous play will lead the charge in the future of multiplayer games.


Exciting Times

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Jan 05 2011

So, Ant has come forward with a status update for me, and I have to admit, I am very excited. He believes he has most of the back end stuff finished. We will see when he demos, but, I am confident. I am sure there will be some problems, but I doubt any will be insurmountable. He’s a talented guy, and I am lucky to be partnering with him.

I can only hope that our first game becomes a household, or at least newsworthy, phenomenon. It’s already a big hit in pools across the country, after all. Even if it doesn’t, it will certainly make some waves, as it shows what new and interesting things can be done with a smartphone.

And it’s only the beginning of what we are going to do.


Here It Goes, Here It Goes, Here It Goes Again…

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Dec 10 2010

…Oh here it goes again.

But I don't wanna!!!

I know. We’ve been remiss in updating. I don’t know about Ant, but the truth is, for me at least, is that I am not looking forward to all the promotion work that it is going to take to get this thing off the ground.

Don’t get me wrong, I love to talk about games, our company, our talent (yeah, I’m talking about you), our plans, and our philosophy, but doing it formally is intimidating.

Still, we are planning to do a panel at Fairy Atlanta Escape, where we will talk about games as a force in narrative media, as well as how games con be used to further explore creative properties, and about their use as a marketing, promotion, and merchandising tool. We will also be talking about our work with Mercury Retrograde Press (thank you Barbara).

Though it is intimidating, promotion is a necessary thing for business. How else will people know about the great things you do unless you tell them? So, despite my squeamishness about putting myself out there, I am going to do it, and I will drag Ant, despite his screaming and kicking, along the way.

(Hey Ant, you can chastise me later for saying that I will have to drag you. I already know who the more talented person is between us. You don’t have to rub it in, you jerk.)