• Accessibility
    A few years ago, I released my first commercial indie game: an extremely-simplified RTS game called Auralux . My design goal for Auralux was to take the joy I felt in playing games like Command and Conquer or Starcraft and boil it down to its most essential components, and I think I succeeded, more or less. Auralux was eventually ported to mobile, where hundreds of thousands of new players encountered the game for the first time. I don’t have any...
  • The Gender Gap in VR
    During the Q&A section of the Oculus Connect keynote panel, a woman stepped up to the microphone and asked a question :
    “What is Oculus’s approach to their clear gender gap and how you’re gonna not port that into VR?”
    Palmer Luckey answered first, acknowledging that the gender gap existed and attributing it to the wider gender gap in the tech industry. He essentially said that, although Oculus doesn’t discriminate among applicants, not many women applied to attend...
  • Darknet at Oculus Connect
    I just got back from Oculus Connect, and I can report that Oculus did an incredible job with their first conference. There was new hardware to try out, lots of interesting and useful talks, and tons of virtual reality demos cramming the halls. It was pretty much VR heaven.
    Unlike PAX or the various demo events I’ve attended, I wasn’t an exhibitor at Connect, and it was nice to relax and just be part of the audience for once....
  • Not “Just A Mobile Game”
    When Oculus was acquired by Facebook, I liked to joke that I was “making a Facebook game”. Since announcing that Darknet will be a launch title on Gear VR , I’ve been saying that I’m not only making a Facebook game, but it’s a “mobile game” too! It’s pretty much Candy Crush VR at this point.
    I worry, though, that other people might not get the joke. The term “mobile game” has a lot of baggage; gamers seem to...
  • Taking Stock
    In the past week, I ran a booth at PAX for the first time, received a ton of feedback from my first wave of beta testers, and announced that Darknet will be coming to Gear VR . All of this temporarily distracted me from actually working on the game, and now I’m gearing up to dive back into the code and finally finish the thing. It seems like a good moment to pause and do some public reflection.
  • Launching on Gear VR
    Moments ago, Samsung announced Gear VR , a mobile VR headset built in collaboration with Oculus, which uses a Galaxy Note 4 for its screen and processor. This means that I can finally make an announcement:
    Darknet will be released as a launch title for Gear VR!
    Whew! I had been holding that back for a long time. I’ll talk more about my specific plans for Darknet later, but for now, I’ll focus on my experience with the...
  • Darknet at PAX Prime
    I've spent the past week either preparing for PAX or actually exhibiting at PAX, so it's been busy! This is my first real booth, and thanks to some help from Oculus, I was able to demo with 3 Oculus Rift DK2s at once, and they saw almost constant use!
    Darknet was the first VR experience for a lot of players, and there were some great reactions along the way.
    I also had some good meetings with...
  • Making the Tutorial
    Like everyone else, I hate tutorials. The mere word conjures visions of long, lecturing paragraphs and big, orange “CLICK HERE!” arrows. Blech. Tutorials aren’t always so bad, of course, but it feels like the best a tutorial can do is blend into the background, unnoticed. They might be a prerequisite to fun, but they aren’t fun themselves.
    Alas, a tutorial seems like a necessity in my own game. If Darknet were a twist on a typical genre like a...
  • Narrative and the MDA Framework
    I often identify as a mechanics-focused designer. Most of my previous games have been abstract, and my relationship with narrative is usually a bit awkward, which I’ve written plenty of blog posts about already .
    For all my talk, however, Darknet has been shaped around its narrative theme from the very beginning. I didn’t design the gameplay and then pick a story to wrap around it. Instead, I picked the theme of cyberpunk hacking first, based in part on...
  • Hiding Secrets
    “The purpose of gameplay is to hide secrets.” 
    I started hearing that phrase thrown around last year, after it was posted on the  Arcane Kids manifesto . It seemed like an overstatement at first, but it grew on me once I started to interpret the idea of "secrets" more broadly. Figuring out a winning strategy feels, to me, like discovering hidden knowledge. Viewed that way, rich gameplay is just a big pile of secrets, and uncovering them is a...
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