Friday, April 24, 2015

How the Internet liked Our Personal Space

It's been two and a half months since we launched Our Personal Space and it has been a great success! We've had over 3,000 downloads so far. We've received reviews from videogame websites, mentions on tumblr, and someone even did a let's play. It's possible you're sick of hearing me sing praises of our praises, and if so consider this post "for the record."

Probably our biggest coverage came from Rock, Paper, Shotgun's Freeware Garden feature. Konstantinos Dimopoulos enjoyed the game:
It’s up to you and the choices you make to help this wonderful game tell a tale of hope. A tale of cooperation, peaceful, interesting lives, democracy, love and community in a science fiction setting that masterfully blends future technologies with historical frontier sensibilities; thankfully this time without the brutal slaughter of indigenous peoples.
After the article went up our server went down and I spent the morning chatting with my sister about how to fix things. I found out that I didn't have the most recent installer anywhere! That's what I get for using git. Notes for next time: have a mirror link ready!

 Kimberly at JayIsGames also reviewed the game:
The cast of characters are well drawn and their interactions and the sense of community feel real. While the sci-fi aspect of the game is wonderful, Our Personal Space is not just about physical survival, but ultimately about relationship survival.
On tumblr, the Utah Games Guild, and Fuck Yeah Ren'Py blurbed the game (I actually submitted the post for the Ren'Py tumblr). Gwen at Welcome to Otome Hell wrote a lovely review:
This is a game that allows you to create a character that reacts in the same way you would yourself, and shows legitimate consequences for your actions. Do you want to leave your husband? You can. Do you want to be a loving and devoted wife? You can. Do you want to dedicate yourself to your work and make the colony succeed? You can. Do you want to laze around, learning and doing as little of importance as possible and causing the colony to suffer in consequence? Guess what: you can. I honestly cannot communicate how in love I am with this game. Play it.
Andrea got the game on the Google Play store and we had some very positive reviews there as well. My favorite is from Ace Penguin:
It teaches me to trust people and forgive them . This game makes me feel warm and happy. I wish there are more games like this!
Additionally, SuperPaulGames has done a complete Let's Play on youtube! His commentary is very crass, with lots of sex jokes and fart-type jokes. I didn't watch all of it, but I found it simultaneously annoying and entertaining.

We're grateful to everyone who has played the game and especially those who have said nice things about it. We're planning to submit our game to Indiecade!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Our Personal Space is live!

I'm happy to announce that Our Personal Space is now live! Download it here for Windows, Mac, Linux, or Android. We're giving it away for free!

My sister Andrea and I started on this game when we realized we wanted to see more games that explored a married relationship, and my sister-in-law Clarissa did all the character art. I had been playing around with Ren'Py a little, and it was a great way to get something working right away. 

I'm always hesitant to experiment with coding. It's one difference I've noticed between me and experienced coders like my sister and my husband--I'm always worried I'll mess stuff up, but they're quick to experiment and see how everything works. My "coding" was limited to things like changing variables and "if-then"-type clauses. But I did feel pretty cool when something I wrote worked!

Our Personal Space is like a dating sim in that you have a romantic relationship with a fictional character. But you're married, so it's more about the little choices you make from day-to-day than the excitement of "will we kiss?" at the end of a date. Like in real long-term-relationship, you have other things you're worried about too, like how stressed you are and, in this case, if your colony on another planet will survive. When I look back on the games with dating elements I've enjoyed, many of them have other elements to worry about. Since Persona 4 is part time-management game, when you choose to spend time with someone, it feels more like you're indicating you like them somehow (although if you're playing strategically, wanting to level up a relationship has other motivations). Each month in Our Personal Space you can choose to spend time alone, which decreases your stress more, or spend time with your husband, which increases your relationship (but doesn't decrease stress as much). 

One part of Our Personal Space that we might have gone a little overboard on is on choices. The above screenshot is from a New Game+, and the options in italics are only available if you have a certain skill at a certain level. So, on a first playthrough, you might only see one of these options in italics. We wanted to make the game fun to replay, not just to get different endings, but also to see what other options are available (like if you choose to have a baby or not). It's kind of a slow build-up, but I think it's pretty fun! Please try it out, and if you do, I'd love to hear what you thought of the experience--good and bad! There's some discussion going on over on the Lemmasoft forum. Here's the trailer:

Note: Content-wise, I think this game would have a T rating. There are some parts where it's heavily implied that you and your husband are having sex, but it's not explicit. If you were reading it I'd call it a "clean" romance. So feel free to let your teenager play!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

some Professor Layton vs. Ace Attorney thoughts

I promised myself that I would actually take screenshots from a game I played and then make a blog post with them. I don't really feel like writing a coherent essay about it, but here are some screenshots and observations from Professor Layton vs. Ace Attorney

They used a historical fighting stance! (img)

this trial... inspires her to sell flowers? I had some insight about it that I forgot.
If you're depending on a human being or set of humans to judge a court, logic isn't always the most persuasive thing.
the plot was weird 
Luke demonstrates that the first time you remember something is probably the most accurate, and further remembering actually changes the memory. I was kind of impressed to see this concept in a game, but they didn't go anywhere with it.
We are so tired of self-awareness that we need to be reassured it is fun in a meta-meta moment.
I enjoyed the game but it was basically half of a Prof. Layton game and half of an Ace Attorney game stuck together to make one game. I was hoping for a bit more synthesis of style, like with puzzles you'd have to solve to solve the court cases? No such luck. But it was still fun/ridiculous.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

October BoRT: A playtesting mask

This month's BoRT is about masks in games. I usually play choice-driven games very sincerely, so I don't feel like I'm wearing a mask when I play them. Obviously, I'm not a Japanese high school student or whoever the player-character is, but I usually choose options that make sense to me.

In his Designing Virtual Worlds, Richard Bartle discusses why players play in virtual worlds. He says things like "virtual worlds enable you to find out who you are by letting you be who you want to be." But he's clearly against the mask metaphor--if you become the character you're playing (your "mask"), then you're not really role-playing anymore, are you? For Bartle, role-playing is a kind of psychologically helpful exercise in acting. He's passionate that playing a character completely different from yourself is freeing. It inspired me to create a guardian character in Guild Wars 2 (since I usually play magic-users). But I found that simply playing a different character class didn't make me feel any different about how I played. For me, it took role-playing as a different kind of player (a playtester) to change how I played my characters.

My sister and I have been working on a marriage-relationship-sim game called Personal Space, and lately I have been doing a little playtesting. As a playtester, I want to try different play styles. Instead of choosing what I know will "win," I start role-playing different kinds of players.
no, I don't want to help you right now
My last playthrough, I maxed out my spiritual stat, but I chose somewhat impulsive or selfish replies when interacting husband character. I was studying spiritual writings every week, but there was nothing forcing me to actually change my character's personality. It's a simulation, so there's some limitations to what your character can do, but I felt like maybe I was more like this "impulsive" character than I'd like to be. I study my religion's teachings and I have aspirations at being a more "spiritual" or loving person, but on the other hand, sometimes I'm kind of an impulsive jerk. I'm sure it's possible to role-play a hypocrite in other games, but I hadn't really tried it until I felt like I had to explore different options as a playtester.

I don't think that catharsis or "venting" is helpful for controlling my emotions. But I do think that exploring my options in a videogame is a safe way to see that my habitual way of interacting with others isn't the only way (kind of an odd thing to discover while playing a game I helped write, but there you have it).

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Love and Dating Visual Novels

And now, just in time for Halloween, it’s…

Love and Dating games!  What could be more frightening than admitting a possibly unrequited love, or taking that first leap to a deeper relationship, or staying with just one person for the rest of your life?!  Time to face your fears with these visual novels about love and dating!

All of these below are available for free for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Save the Date

Have you ever felt like dating was a game that it was impossible to win? Like all the cards were stacked against you?  Things quickly devolve into the improbable and surreal as you try to overcome impossible odds and save your date in this love sim parody.  

That Cheap and Sacred Thing

If an android could love - true love - how would it manifest?  What kind of a relationship can an android and a human really have, when both are so limited?  Explore these questions in this kinetic novel.

Wedding Vows

Not only does this kinetic novel follow a couple over the course of decades, but it does so in a sweet and non-linear fashion, showing both the influence of the past and its impermanence.  


With a beautiful, ancient Egypt-inspired setting and gorgeous character art and backgrounds, this visual novel examines slavery, romantic and non-romantic love, and our perceptions of our own culture and other people. Make sure you get all the endings and then the true ending!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Results from the videogame preferences and morals survey

Back in March I asked for volunteers for a survey about videogame preferences and morals. Then I had a baby and I kind of forgot about the results for a while. The blog link to the initial call for responses also has information on what questionnaires we used.


We solicited responses from Twitter and Facebook and a forum I frequent and received 75 responses. About 70% (53) of respondents were between the ages of 25-34. 29% (22) were women.

 Some people complained about how I switched the likert scale halfway through (i.e., 1 became "strongly agree" rather than "strongly disagree"), so after about 50 responses I added a heads-up about that. The reason for this switch was to preserve the wording of the original questionnaires. You can see everyone's responses here (yay for open source social science). There are a few different sheets on the results spreadsheet. We used the most conservative method of converting the videogame preferences to subscales (detailed in this master's thesis).

My friend Michael Davison helped with the data analysis (I have done similar analyses in SPSS, but it's been a long time I don't have access to that software anymore). He used the R project software to compute correlations between the videogame preference subscales and the morals subscales and within the subscales themselves. This was an exploratory study so we didn't try to predict the results, although I kind of thought a preference for shooting games would correlate negatively with harm/care, or possibly positively correlate with in-group loyalty.

Probably the most interesting correlation was that preferences for adventure and puzzle games were correlated with the fairness/reciprocity moral subscale. A preference for adventure games had a .33 correlation (p < .01) and a preference for puzzle games had a .31 correlation (p < .01).


I was wondering why there weren't any other interesting correlations between the moral subscales and the videogame preferences. One possible reason is that we had a better range of preferences for adventure and puzzle games (14-100 and 31-93 respectively), whereas the range for Action: shooting was 22-74. It's possible I didn't have enough participants who really liked shooting games, or that there is simply no correlation between liking shooting games and wanting other people to suffer.

As for why a preference for adventure and puzzle games correlates with wanting justice and things to be fair, I'm not sure. Perhaps a desire for fairness and a penchant for puzzle-solving stems from a desire for things to be logical or predictable?


I was hoping to be able to learn the R software and figure out how to compute Bayesian t-tests (this article inspired me) or a factor analysis and try it out with these data, but I'm not sure if I'll get around to it. If you would like to, go ahead!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Video Games Live: hyperreal!

I went to Video Games Live yesterday! I didn't make it to SLC comic con, because I have a baby, but sitting down for some entertainment without waiting in any lines was definitely more my speed. It was pretty fun to hear some familiar game music in a concert hall. Here are some observations I had:

-It was weird to go to a concert a experience music in a way the composer specifically didn't intend. Usually when I go see a symphony I feel like I'm finally setting aside some time to TRULY enjoy this music like I'm SUPPOSED to. But with videogame music, it's more "true to the original" to listen to the music while you play the game. They played two songs from the Journey soundtrack and it actually kind of bothered me that the video clips of the game didn't match where the song occurs in the game originally: "no, you're supposed to be going through the apotheosis level now! And now the credits should roll!" (yes, I can feel your eyes rolling from here. It was just a weird feeling and I wanted to tell you about it.)

-The symphony participated in an OCRemix version of Celeste's theme, and I was weirding out about how it was an orchestra trying to sound like a remix of a digital symphony. So hyperreal!

-At first I wasn't sure why they didn't have a classical conductor, but then I realized that conducting for this concert was a completely different job. Each piece had a video that went with it, and yes, it was synced to the music, so there was some soundtrack-timing-level-preciseness with the tempo that went on (either that or their A/V guys were just really good at adapting to tempo). There was also one part where they took a volunteer from the audience to play space invaders with motion controls and they played the music live. It reminded me of how before movie theaters had speakers, they had organists who made up music to go with the silent films (I went to a recreation at BYU once and it was pretty cool). Most soundtracks these days do have some procedural elements, so it's like the improvisational aspects of performative soundtracks are built-in.

-Another way that game soundtrack music is exciting in ways that classical music used to be exciting is that most of the composer are alive and many of them know each other. So you get things like the composer conducting their own music (when/why did this tradition stop?). The soundtrack world is where our classical music is still living, in my opinion (in that it's both popular and still classical).

-There were some moments where the "founder of Video Games Live!" felt a little cheesy, but in some ways I identified with the "gamer" crowd in that I was pretty excited to hear music from games I've loved. As much as I wish I could help reclaim the "gamer" label though, I feel like it's a stupidly polarizing term, and maybe I'll just be "someone who enjoys videogames, as well as other entertainment media."