A Pseudo-Instruction That Has No Effect, with Zach Barth

ETAO Podcast, Episode 21.


Zach Barth sits down to complete our interview triptych. Having already covered the art of the anti-puzzle and the question of whether it’s even possible to spoil Infinifactory, we focus this time on the softer launch that Steam Early Access provides, the conversation alchemy of developers discussing development with developers on The Zachtronics Podcast, and Zach’s fearlessly esoteric new project, TIS-100, “the assembly language programming game you never asked for!”

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Zach describes TIS-100 as “kind of a terrible game,” and says “it’s abusive” and that “it barely makes sense at all.” And yet, as he’s well-aware, it’s more than a few people’s now-favorite Zachtronics game. There’s probably a lot to learn from that, as far as received wisdom in the realm of designing and selling games. One of those insights might be that we should stop thinking about elevator pitches and start think about loglines, or better yet, truthful and sincerely self-effacing jokes that players and would-be players can pass around.

We also talk about the small, oft-ignored potential value of Achievements, the annoyances of editing podcasts—très meta—and choosing to “aggressively” ignore the uncanny valley dog and pony show that is E3.

———
• As clarified in the intro, it’s not correct so say that I “don’t read much stuff about games.” I read all the game-related books that StoryBundle offers, and I’ve mentioned my appreciation for Boss Fight Books on a couple of occasions. Plus, I read all manner of blogs and blogesque pseudomagazines. I’ve been devouring Offworld (which I mention in the intro) and ZEAL (which I don’t). But, to the point that Zach and I were making, none of those estimable sources really take the form of news or reviews, like the enthusiast press of old so often did.

• Steve Gaynor was talking up Tacoma at Microsoft’s E3 press conference, and the weirdness of that moment figured into Experience Points’ E3 debrief.

• In case you missed it, Nintendo’s “Digital Event” for E3 was exceptionally and welcomely puppet-centric, as described.

• Here once again is that DoubleFine video about hacking Zelda.

• Slate did a great piece on the terrible power of Save The Cat.

• And Zach’s recent AMA is good reading.

• As is the ESRB’s summary page for South Park: The Stick of Truth.
———

“All The People Say” by Carpe Demon.
Some machine noise and a melancholy beep by Matthew S. Burns, from TIS-100.
“I’m in the Mood for Love” by Vera Lynn with The Casini Club Orchestra.
“Research and Development” from the Infinifactory OST, by Matthew S. Burns.

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