Friday, August 21, 2009

Jason Rohrer’s Metaplace Talk

by Daniel Bullard-Bates

I just attended a short talk with Jason Rohrer on the website community Metaplace, which shed some more light on his upcoming DS game, among other topics. Highlights below (edited for spelling and punctuation, and to make a chat window more readable):

On his goals when making games:

I'm not looking for answers. I'm trying to make games that explore these interesting questions. Now I'm thinking about how we know what we know about what other people know (and what they know about us and what we know). E.g., the classic philosophy puzzle of the "cheating wives" or "muddy children."

On whether the
controversial subject matter of his DS game worries him:

Yeah, it is a bit strange to make a DS game like that... but I think the DS audience is growing up a bit. Also, I anticipate that the game will get an E rating... so it's not going to be filled with little kids carrying AKs or anything. But the backdrop is a little.... disturbing. Other than that, you might not realize that the game is controversial if you just sit down and play it. Diamonds are good, right? Everyone wants em! Get as many as you can!

I guess it's a bit like Defcon, which was a strategy game about nuclear war. So it gives you a bit of a creepy feeling when you play, but that doesn't stop you from getting into the strategy, which makes it even creepier. Anyway, the art in my game is not some ham-handed preaching about blood diamonds... it's in the exploration of the "know that you know that he knows that you know" stuff that I mentioned before. The diamond trade just happens to be a perfect setting for that exploration.

On clearing the DS game’s subject matter with his publisher:

In fact, they "red lighted" my first idea (about cheating spouses on the verge of divorce) because they thought it would be too controversial. So I came up with another idea that explored the same philosophical issues of knowledge chains, and surprisingly, they green-lighted that. No sex, I guess...

On the maturity of the DS audience:

As for the DS audience, what about Chinatown Wars? There are more and more M-rated games, when a few years ago, there were no M-rated games. So if the DS is ready for "mature" stuff like blood and boobs... well... maybe it's ready for intellectually mature stuff too! That's the hope.

On programming for the DS:

It's also a matter of scope and scale. On the DS, I can make an entire game by myself (small screen, low-res graphics) in 6 months or so. I couldn't possibly do that on an HD system like the Xbox 360... too many pixels to paint.

It all started when a publisher approached me. I would have never gotten into it without that. Later on, I learned that you can't get a DS dev kit without renting an office space... so I'm doing that now. I've been working from home for 6 years, so having an office is a big change.

And... I can't say too much about the DS platform (secret), but, it's weird! An embedded system, with all the stuff that goes along with that. Even the iPhone acts mostly like a "real computer" by comparison.

On why his game is going to retail and not DSiWare:

That is a little weird, isn't it? If I was making DSiWare, I wouldn't need a publisher. So, it's because the whole thing started with a publisher that it's going the cart route. I may make a DSiWare game too at some point, though.

Advice on starting to make games:

Two words: Game Maker. Get Windows, get Game Maker ($20), and start making games. It's an amazing tool... I've been calling it "the photoshop for games"... it's really that powerful. You can pretty much make anything... multiplayer too. 3D might be more of a challenge, though some people have done it. But the core of game design has nothing to do with 3D, so it's just a distraction anyway.

So, learn how to make games with Game Maker. Before you know it, you'll know how to program, too... and then you can start learning to make games on other platforms.

The full chat log is available here.


  1. I'm interested in eventually developing games, so that product Jason mentioned sounds very interesting. However, sadly, I just recently got a Mac and the Dell that I once used is good for nothing basically at the moment, so I was wondering if there are any plans for that Game Maker program being made compatible with Apple products. Also, how could I find out how to program on the program? Did you mean through experimentation, by looking up instructional websites online, does it come with some kind of manual with it? I'd really like to find out more about this program.

  2. I think Game Maker comes with a basic manual, and more complex manuals can be purchased that give more detailed information on how to perform advanced programming. Not sure, though!

    The Wikipedia page gives some more information about the program and how it works:

    And here's where you can get it:


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