September 26, 2008

Excit Clones

The Success of Exits never fails to amaze me. Back when we made it, we only hoped it would spread virally. Actually, the briefing was to create a viral game. But viral marketing is a tricky beast and the results aren't predictable so it felt more like a stab in the dark.
But we hit something after all and Excit had more then 2 Million Plays. Even today we get around 3000 hits a day. We were paid for the game itself by the client and we even made some change with ads. How ironic that the game is more prevalent then our client. The project was so successful that I consider flash games as a means to earn my money.
Recently, some people started to contact me to show me their Exict clones. I must say that I really enjoy seeing them. Having people play your game is one thing but seeing how your work inspires people to follow your steps is a whole different ballpark. So here is a list of the Excit clones that came up so far:

Excite (not a well chosen name) is a clone of Excit in C#. It seems like this one is in an early phase of development yet. At this stage, it lacks a lot of polish but it already comes with some interesting features. For example, it introduces "harmful" blocks. Back when we made Exit we decided against them to simplify the rules (only one game over condition). They do allow some different level designs, though.
Unfortunately this clone also shows quite nicely the advantages of Flash as a game platform: no installing, no compatibility issues - it just works, right here right now.

Spreadsheet Escape came out recently. Visually, this one is obviously Excit-inspired but there is a nice gameplay twist: the cursor stops "inside" of walls rather then in front of them. Walls also become passable after the cursor hit them once. I really like it because of this small difference. Too bad it lacks so much polish, I wonder what kind of impact this difference has on level design possibilities with a higher difficulty.
It is also interesting how the author has to endure a lot of flames on the Kongregate comments for "ripping off Excit". In fact, all of them do. Even we had our share of that because of similarities of Excit with Orbox and Roadblocks. Isn't it strange? Why is this considered a bad thing with this kind of game but no one complains when yet another Tower Defense game comes out? It seems like there is a certain resistance to clones if the genre is not well established yet.

Target is one I found by accident by checking comments on Spreadsheet Escape. The level of polish is somewhat comparable to Spreadsheet Escape, unfortunately. However, what I like about it is how it features a look and feel similar to Excit without explicitly adapting its spreadsheet theme.

Traction 2 is the oldest ones we found. Technically it is not an Excit clone. The Author claims that he never saw Excit. If this is true, the similarities are uncanny. Either way, Traction 2 is the most polished one. The graphics and animations are simple, crisp and functional. The the controls are responsive, the Interface is well thought-out. My personal favorite is the typography - I have a thing for Futura. So why does Excit outrank this one by a factor of 100 on Kongregate? What do you think?

That's all for now. If you found a game that was clearly inspired by Excit, please tell me!

If you want to make a game similar to Excit - I don't mind. On the contrary: by all means, go ahead! Just tell me if you finished. And it wouldn't hurt if you could link back to Excit.

September 25, 2008

Meditation, spielbar: Crayon Physics

Crayon Physics

Es mag an der einschläfernden Musik liegen, am meditativen Gameplay oder an der ruhigen Selbstinszenierung: Crayon Physics ist das entspannendste Spiel, das mir bisher untergekommen ist. Buntstiftgrafik FTW!

Ziel des leider nur sechs Level umfassenden Freeware-Games ist es, einen roten Ball zu einem gelben Stern zu führen — ohne den Ball selbst steuern zu können, nur mit Hilfe von selbst gemalten Vierecken, Linien etc. und der hervorragenden Physik-Engine. Was sich einfach anhört, ist spätestens nach dem dritten Level eine echte Herausforderung; zwar nicht unlösbar, aber doch, wie sagt man, challenging.

Eine Fortsetzung mit deutlich mehr Spielumfang, noch mehr Interaktionsmöglichkeiten und einem einfach zu bedienenden Leveleditor ist bereits in Arbeit. Veröffentlicht wird das Spiel Crayon Physics Deluxe vom finnischen Entwickler Petri Purho, ebenfalls für den PC, und zwar “when it’s done”.

Download Crayon Physics (5,6MB)

September 23, 2008

Knytt Stories

Knytt Stories

Knytt Stories ist ein kostenloses, abendfüllendes Jump’n'Run mit leichten Adventure- und Puzzle-Elementen, bestehend aus liebevoll selbstgebastelter Retrografik, abwechslungsreicher und wunderbar passender Musik und einer Rahmengeschichte, die man locker per Doppelsprung (und aufgespanntem Regenschirm) überfliegen kann.

Vier unterschiedlich designte Welten gilt es mit dem Charakter Juni in The Machine, dem Hauptteil von Knytt Stories, zu durchlaufen. Des Öfteren werden Passagen im Spiel mehrfach besucht, da die im Laufe der Zeit erworbenen Items (schneller laufen, höher springen, Wände hochklettern etc.) in bester Metroid-Manier dazu einladen, auch die verstecktesten Winkel zu erforschen, um Geheimgänge und zahlreich vorhandene Easter Eggs zu finden.

Das Gesamtpaket Knytt Stories macht einfach Spaß, weil alles ineinander greift und zusammenpasst: Leveldesign, Sound, Steuerung und vor allem die Liebe zum Detail machen das Spiel des schwedischen Entwicklers Nifflas zu einem der besten Indiegames überhaupt.

Download Knytt Stories 1.1.0 (34,6 MB)

(Ebenfalls zu empfehlen sind die offiziellen Addons A Strange Dream und An Underwater Adventure, die neben zahlreichen Fan-Leveln für weitere Stunden Spielspaß im Knytt-Universum sorgen.)

September 17, 2008

Spore Alternatives: Q-Pop

Q-Pop Evolution

With Spore having some troubles and being not exactly the most complex game, I would like to point out very quickly a neat alternative: Q-Pop. The game is VERY old. I think back from something around 1995. It is also technically not the most amazing one. It is partly turn-based, you can't customize the appearance of creatures, it's obviously not online and it only covers the creature stage of Spore. On the other hand, it has more strategic depth then Spore. You can change the attributes of your creatures and they DO affect the survival rate of your species. You can also play it multiplayer at a single PC and the best part is that it is free and only 2,5 MB in size (the game is avalible only in German, sorry).

die collagen auf der ars elecronica

bilder der der collagen und des auf der diesjährigen ars electronica 2008 “an new cultural economy“.


September 12, 2008

Spore Problems Piling Up

I think everybody was at least curious how Spore would turn out. Now it seems that success of the highly anticipated game is heavily tainted by some draconian security measures.

There was a big outcry because of the DRM system SecuROM being implemented. The system was especially tight: it would have to "validate" an installed version of the game every 10 days online. This was - of course - a problem for those who couldn't go online regularly so the system was changed to its current form and it is not better. Now you validate the game only once but you can do it only 3 times in total. And you loose a validation every time your hardware configuration changes. After you've lost all 3 validations, you can't play the game anymore. You can however gain a validation back if you un-install the game before the system configuration changes. This is a bad idea for many reasons, obviously. One which I think is particularly important is that you can't really re-sell the game after you've bought it because the buyer can't be sure how often the game was validated.

But there is more: it seems like you can have only one online account per CD-key. This is especially inconvenient for families (major target group?), where different members of the family play the game and want to post their creatures independently from each other. To add insult to injury, the European handbooks incorrectly state that you could have several online accounts.

It seems like the problems pile up. As I've already pointed out, the amazon reviews are flooded with anti-DRM rants (it's over 2000 now - ouch!) and I can hardly blame them. I would expect that implementing effective and non-invasive anti-piracy measures shouldn't be a problem in a game where a vital part of the joy comes from playing online. Am I missing something? It is a shame seeing how the obviously game suffers from these problems. Considering how there is already a perfectly working pirated version out there, I do hope EA gets the clue.

September 11, 2008

Mooments of Truth

MooCards customer service

Moo is awesome! Seriously. You might remember that I've ordered some Moo Mini Cards and I wrote a small article judging their quality and mentioning how the edges weren't cut as smoothly? Well, imagine my surprise when I got an E-Mail from Moo apologizing for the quality issues and informing me that they will send me another batch of my Moo Minicards to set it straight. Wow! Impressive customer service. I didn't even send them anything. I guess they are constantly scanning the interweb for comments on the quality of their products.

This made me Think:
It is great example of an effect called "Moment of Truth" which comes from a short book by the same name. The idea is that in a customers don't judge the company by the things that go as expected but by the things that don't. It's called a Moment of Truth where the customer believes he is able to take look behind the procedures and norms of a company to see their true intention really is about. From a point of view of a company, it seens counter-intuitive to invest money in customers who cause them trouble by complaining, returning products and asking for additional free service. After all, these things don't create any revenue and you don't want to reward this kind of behavior. But in fact, it is the smartest thing a company could do because it is exactly here were the reputation of a company comes from. A customer who had a good experience in a Moment of Truth will be emotionally bound to the company. Not only will he buy lots of other products in the future, he will also tell other people about his good experience. A customer who had a bad experience will be EVEN MORE eager to spread the word and might be lost forever.

So here I am and even though I understand the mechanism, I can't help loving Moo for what they did and seriously recommending you their excellent service. But the beauty of the Moment of Truth is that it will always be a sure way for customers to judge a company. After all, a company has to consciously choose a customer-oriented strategy in oder to improve their Moment of Truth experience. If a company sucks when something goes wrong then there is a good chance that they don't value the satisfaction of customers very high and that they will suck again when something goes wrong the next time. That's also what DRM does: it shows that a company is willing to burden their EVERY SINGLE customer with additional, dubious and troublesome software if it might slightly improve their revenue for a short period of time. No wonder most customers will say "fuck you too" (I've just seen the Amazon reviews on Spore. Jeez! What a PR disaster!).

So with that out of the way, did they do a good job with their new cards? Well, yes. The cuts on the new cards are generally cleaner. The cleanness of the cut vary from card to card like in the first batch. I took some time to pick the best and worst card from the new batch and compare them with the worst card on the old batch. As you can see, the new cards are better but it seems to me like they generally have a small quality issue with the way they cut their cards. Again, it doesn't make the product BAD. It appears just in a few cards anyway and the card isn't ruined by that. It's just a small quality issue where Moo could improve.

MooCards cutting quality issues resolved
Top: the worst card from the first batch.
Middle: the worst card from the new batch.
Bottom: the best card from the new batch.

But more importantly, seeing how they handle quality problems, I will continue using Moo because now I know that they will act if other problems happen. And in print, other problems will ALWAYS happen.

September 10, 2008


So, I got myself on the full version of Spore for one very long night. I de-installed it right after I got to the civilization stage because I found it very addictive and I've decided to buy it. In fact, there is a special edition I fancy. So Spore is defiantly on my "to-buy" list as soon as I get some time.

Here are some quick insights:

  • The game runs amazingly smooth and bug-free, even on my aged machine. This was my biggest concern and I'm floored that it works so well.

  • The game is basically a collection of 5 "mini"-games with harsh cuts in-between including radical (in a bad way) interface changes, loading screens, different rules, different content, etc. I was wondering how Spore would manage the transition between the stages and I'm a bit disappointed that it didn't.

  • Each one of the "mini"-games is loosly based on a major strategy game genre but much less complex. Although I advocated not to be afraid of simplicity, already in my first play I could see how simplicity is limiting the game. For example, I like the first, rogue-esque amoeba-stage but it just dosen't involve ANY serious strategic decisions. I have some ideas on making a more sophisticated amoeba-spore stage in flash.

  • Although the creature editor is great in many way, its major flaw is that its impact on gameplay is largely cosmetic. I understand that this is a difficult dilemma in designing this kind of game and I guess it still works this way. In the end however, besides fueling Intelligent Design delusions, it also presents a picture of evolution of being mostly irrelevant with some more profound "god-given" rules directing the development and behavior of life regardless of it. So my creatures can be whatever the color I choose and have mouths on their asses but they can't live in water, are alway symmetrical, have roughly the same size, reproduce sexually, always lay eggs, have nests, (strangely in completely unprotected areas) and are judged ONLY by how ether "agressive" or "peacefull" they are.

  • There are still some great moments like the point where you get to the tribal stage and suddenly instead of fighting the other creatures in a rogue-like style, you can hunt them down like in Age of Empires.

So Spore features very simplistic (too simplistic?) gameplay with a lot of disappointingly patronizing rules on how your creatures MUST turn out. However, the technical execution is great and I think simply sharing the inventions with other players can be enough to play it once in a while. I can see how user generated content can infuse any kind of game with a layer of fascination. So in the end: Do want!

dokumenation ‘der künstler ist anwesend’ – bilder der installation

der künstler ist anwesendder künstler ist anwesendder künstler ist anwesendder künstler ist anwesend
der künstler ist anwesend
der künstler ist anwesendder künstler ist anwesendder künstler ist anwesend
der künstler ist anwesendder künstler ist anwesendder künstler ist anwesendder künstler ist anwesend

bilder der installation und performance im glashaus am worringer platz in düsseldorf
der künstler - in diesem falle ich - sitzt zuhause vor der kamera. das signal wird live über das netz in den ausstellungsraum, das glashaus übertragen.
dort wird das bild per beamer auf eine leinwand projeziert. - der künstler ist anwesend.

September 9, 2008

video: Jahtari and Work_2.0

funny video on Work_2.0, incl. disrupt and the Jahtari office!

September 7, 2008


Recently, I have found out that I am at the cutting edge of urban culture trends: I was doing Urbex the whole time. Urban Exploring that is. Wikipedia informs:
Urban exploration (often shortened as urbex or UE) is the examination of the normally unseen or off-limits parts of urban areas or industrial facilities.

Jokes aside, it's alway strange to find out that the things you "just do" are in fact being performed systematically as part of a sub-culture somewhere. I remember it started when I went exploring the Warsaw metro with my dad back when I was a kid. Although, we weren't as hardcore as those guys:

On the other hand, I did my recent explorations for Illucinated which was explicitly designed to tap into various recent cultural movements. I actually went ahead and listed them in my thesis. Too bad I missed Urbex back then. However, now that I found this connection, I think it shows that I'm on to something. Back at c/o pop people responded very well to the Urbex-themed levels.

But wait, that's not the whole story. There is this strange feedback loop. Urbex is sometimes called also Vadding which comes from VAD, which is an permutation of ADV, which comes from the game ADVENT aka CollossalCave Adventure, the first Text-Adventure ever. Apparently, at MIT, the first Urban Explorers were called after the game because their activities were so similar to what you did in Text-Adventures. The bizarre thing is that Illucinated is supposed to be a modern type of an adventure game.

So anyway, I thought it might be wise to share locations with other Urban Explorers in Cologne. So I started a Flickr Group called "Urban Exploration Cologne".

Urban Exploration Cologne. Get yours at

September 5, 2008

Videoliveperformance über das Netz im Glashaus

‘Der Künstler ist anwesend’ -
Sonntag 7. September 2008 21 - 23 uhr
Glashaus Worringer Platz, Düsseldorf


eine der ideen der netzkunst war und ist die loslösung des autors vom werk. durch die quasi-anonyme struktur des frühen netzes war es problemlos möglich die eigenen arbeiten zu publizieren ohne jemals selber als person in erscheinung zu treten. die nutzung von pseudonymen - historisch gewachsen aus der kultur der hacker - gehörte durchaus zum guten ton. die dadurch ermöglichte überwindung des egos gehört(e) mit zu einer der utopischen versprechen der frühen netzkunst.

doch netz und damit natürlich auch die kunst, welche sich damit beschäftigt, hat sich gewandelt. das internet ist massenmedium und damit teil des öffentlichen raumes geworden. mit dem wandel des netzes, verändert(e) sich auch dessen nutzung. die anonymität verschwindet. dies geschieht teils aufgrund der veränderten nutzung, teils durch staatliche und privatwirtschaftlich initiierte kontrollmechanismen.
die inszenierung der eigenen persönlichkeit ist zu einer wichtigen triebkraft im netz geworden, ein phänomen welches aus der kunstwelt nur zu gut bekannt ist.

welche rolle spielt nun der künstler im jahr 2008 an der
schnittstelle zwischen kunst, gesellschaft und der netz?

was bedeutet es für uns wenn wir die anonymität in diesem öffentlichen raum verlieren?

September 4, 2008

End of Hardships?

Down into the Yellow Hell

So, yesterday I had a somewhat successful night photo session. I went to the hobo-shit-infested bridge again to get some descent coverage for Illucinated. I didn't want to use the location at first but now time is running out. Besides, it IS a remarkable place and it fits well into the overall theme of the game so instead of searching for something better (which might never come) I've decided to use it anyway.

The photography was quite tedious. I had to make 30 seconds exposures to get enough light in and even then at some places I had to help out with a flashlight. If I got enough coverage, this might be my last excursion for Illucinated, which is good since I got a nasty cold on the weekend I'm currently recovering from.

But generally, my mood is pretty low as the game is nowhere as far as it should be for the upcoming IGF deadline. I'm considering dropping out. But then again, Braid and Aquaria weren't quite finished either and still won. I guess this is the moment where I have to eat my words and risk shooting below my expectations. Getting anything done is ALWAYS better then giving up. I also consider going for the student competition instead of the main competition. There are no prizes but I believe the chance to get an award are better and there is no cost involved. What do you suggest?

Preis für holt in alys beach, florida den ‘Best Still Image award‘ im rahmen von Digital Graffiti at Alys Beach.
500$ gibts oben drauf.

Brett Phares ( professor of interactive studies at Marist College in New York,):
“We were blown away by the quality and diversity of the exhibits.”

mit dank angenommen.