Usually I use the first Tuesday of the month for a book review on some book about writing or game design or narrative. This month, I’ve had enough going on that I don’t have such a review ready.

Instead, some news: for a bit over three years, I’ve been at Spirit AI, first leading the Character Engine product and then for the past seven months as Chief Product Officer.

That has been an amazing experience in many ways — educational, inspiring, and requiring a huge amount of growth. I am immensely grateful for the opportunity to do that job, and very fond of the people I worked with. I still believe in the mission of both products.

That process also, however, meant more and more distance from creative, technical, and design work, and I found that I didn’t want to sustain that path indefinitely. So I have left Spirit: yesterday was my last day. (I think I’ve fixed all the places in social media profiles that say otherwise, but if you find something else I should fix, ping me and I’ll fix it.)

In the short term, I’m doing a little contracting. Also getting a bit of a rest, because this has been almost as intense as it has been enjoyable. And maybe playing some IF Comp games.

Sunless Skies: Carillon, Sky Barnet, et al

Failbetter Games’ Sunless Skies is out, as of January 31, and I contributed: Carillon, a port in which Devils work to refine the souls that come their way; Sky Barnet, the gateway to the Blue Kingdom; and the Repentant Devil’s officer quest. There was also some nightmare content, a story that you can fall into if your terror grows too great.

I’m going to talk a bit more about those stories; this will be light on any actual specific spoilers, but it will touch on the general lore of Sunless Skies and the Fallen London universe.

Continue reading “Sunless Skies: Carillon, Sky Barnet, et al”

Procedural Generation in Game Design

Screen Shot 2017-06-08 at 7.10.14 AM.pngProcedural Generation in Game Design is out! Kate Compton of Tracery fame writes about generative art toys; Mike Cook (PROCJAM, Games by Angelina) writes about ethical generation and also about the procedural generation of game rules; Harry Tuffs (A House of Many Doors) writes about procedural poetry generation. Jason Grinblat and Brian Bucklew (Caves of Qud) each have a chapter. Gillian Smith (Threadsteading, plus lots of cool research) writes about evaluating and understanding what’s been generated. Ben Kybertas (Kitfox Games) covers procedural story and plot generation.

The whole volume is edited by Tanya X Short (Moon Hunters) and Tarn Adams (Dwarf Fortress). And I am leaving out a lot of cool people and chapters here, but you can check out the full table of contents on the website.

My contribution — drawing on experiences from Versu, my character-based parser IF, and assorted other projects — is a chapter on characters: how generating dialogue and performances can help realize an authored character; approaches to generating characters; considerations about what is even interesting to auto-generate.


And in a related update to a previous post: I’m happy to say that the PROCJAM Kickstarter has succeeded and has now put out a call for artists to make art packs for procedural work, together with a call for tutorial authors. If their funding goes even higher, they’ll be able to commission two art packs; translate the tutorials they build into additional languages; and hit some other cool stretch goals.