tools

exploring the world of freeware, free, and open source tools from small devs

Exploring the beautiful worlds of games made with “RPG in a Box”

This is a cross publish of a post I just put up on itch.io. Itch.io has started supporting blogging! My posts so far are… * Video game blogging at the end of the world (hello world!~) * Exploring the beautiful worlds of games made with “RPG in a Box” (get it free December 1st through December 8th) But I swear I will get back to posting here too! I mean to use my itch.io blog for short form things, and this one for long form writing… Tho it’s kind of turned on its head right now because blogging on itch.io...

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The Joy of Silly Useless Software

I was invited by the wonderful organizers of the “Gamez & ruleZ” conference to speak. I’m grateful to have been given an opportunity to discuss a topic that I’m passionate about: silly software (like desktop pets or other unusual programs that are hard to classify). Following is my talk turned into a blog post. There are a lot of recommendations here, and I hope you enjoy these wonderful, strange, silly finds… As you may know, I’m an experimental game designer, and make weird software that kind of exists in the space between games and “something else”. It’s the type of...

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Photogammetry, Meshroom, and Blender (some learning resources that helped me)

“Photogrammetry is the science of making measurements from photographs. It infers the geometry of a scene from a set of unordered photographs or videos. Photography is the projection of a 3D scene onto a 2D plane, losing depth information. The goal of photogrammetry is to reverse this process.” – Meshroom github I’ve been doing a lot of 3D modeling lately and, because I’m new to it, I have also been experimenting with finding workflows that I might be comfortable in. For example a friend of mine models a lot in VR. She swears by it. Anyone I have asked has...

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Use, participation, visibility, and anti-artificial scarcity… How small independent tools help us construct a reality that empowers us (something of a manifesto)

Tool development, as an umbrella term that is used to describe software that is both utilitarian and a toy, has become deeply important to me. I think there is something interesting to observe from that space, especially when it is centered around making interesting visual experiments functional to artists. It invites abundance and generocity. For example, J.Kirchartz’s Glitchy3bitDither has become invalualbe to me. It’s a browser based glitching tool that lets you import an image, and then choose from a series of glitch effects. Yes, I can make my own. Yes, there are so many of these. No, for me,...

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“RPG In A Box” is a cool tool! (an alternative game development curation)

– RPG in a Box by Zeromatrix I know I probably say this in every one of my Tool posts, but I’m constantly amazed by the breadth of work that’s out there from developers who are making independent tools. Just when you think you’ve seen it all a new take on “how to be creative on your computer” surfaces, and you fall in love with it all over again. I’ve written these tool roundups so much that I started a “Tools” category, and my Cool Tools itch curation keeps growing. I didn’t think this is something you could keep up...

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ZineCamp Workshop – using tiny open source tools in your own work, the values of preservation, and building your own tiny tool box

“There are countless tiny tools scattered across the internet, all made with love from independent developers. They might not look like much at first, but if you start using them in combiation with your Professional Everyday Tools, you open the doors for wonderful, unique, and beautiful art. This workshop will demo a tiny handful of these tiny tools, using them in combination with the Electric Zine Maker to make a zine! My hope is that you will leave inspired, and start collecting tiny tools of your own… to regularly find use for in your work.” Cool Tools itch.io collection Open...

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Generative art & tools (on the intersection of toys, tools, and games…)

I hoarded a lot of links to tools again, and am putting aside some time to share them here. Here’s another tool post! I just opened a blog category called “tools” in which you can read all my writing about open source, freeware, or small tools from small devs. At this point I feel like I’ve already said everything I can possibly say about the wonderful world of tools, coming out of this space… It’s an inspiring area that never fails to surprise! One thing that I’ve been thinking about lately is the intersection between tools and games. When you...

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A retrospective on the Electric Zine Maker, making tools, sharing the $ numbers, and more (after launching the really big update…)

Over this weekend I finally launched the really big Electric Zine Maker update that I have been working on for the last few months. This is a notable update featuring a UI overhaul (it’s less intense now!), new templates, and a lot of fixes. I spent a lot of time making the UI friendlier. I couldn’t help myself so pop-up windows are cute pixel art. There’s animation to many elements, but I think it’s much more refined now. The main menu UI was always very “placeholder”, and many decisions in it had been for the sake of compromising for the...

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Tiny tools and the ephemeral nature of digital art…

It has been a hot minute since I wrote about tools. I’ve got a ton of emails to answer, too much to do, and a lot of work on the Electric Zine Maker that needs doing but… I’ll just make a moment to finally talk about tools and digital art again! These links aren’t going to share themselves. Before I begin, here is some recommended reading: Parasocial Nintendo Complex: 10 Years of Game Dev by Melos Han-Tani My Procreate Curl Brushes Are HERE!! I made over 50+ different coil, curl, kinky, and wavy texture brushes! I also made more outline...

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Bitsy is Beautiful! (exploring the Bitsy space and some of my favorite Bitsy games)

This post is all about Bitsy! I vividly remember the very first Bitsy game that I played. I don’t remember who it was by, or how to find it again… it’s lost in the sea of Bitsy games that came out since. I almost brushed it off because, judging by the first impression, Bitsy looks so easy to not think much of. In a space like itch.io that is inundated with thousands of really great indie games, all with some pretty great and complicated visual styles, why even try it? On the other hand Bitsy runs in the browser so...

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Software is Art! (KhK Games class talk transcript)

This is the talk transcript of a talk I just gave as a guest speaker at the KhK Games class. Thank you for inviting me!
They also have a beautiful itch.io page here, where you can see equally as beautiful work.

This talk is about viewing software, the desktop, and all our virtual environments as art. Treating all these platforms as legitimate spaces that we can create stories in. The intersection between software, websites, and games is an inspiring area…

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Talk Transcript: Spring 2021 #OSSTA Lecture Series (my talk on tiny non-commercial tools, fantasy consoles, and tools-as-games)

For the past few months the Electric Zine Maker was part of the STUDIO’s OSSTA Residency Program (at Carnegie Mellon). They have been funding and supporting development of the Zine Maker. They are to thank for the comming UI re-design, and all the new features that have been coming to it. You can follow them on Twitter here (they host some amazing things). As of writing this I just finished giving my talk in their OSSTA Lecture Series. Speakers included Everest Pipkin (who just published this vital repository of Open Source tools), Marina Kittaka (of Zonelets), and Kate Compton (who...

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Talk Transcript: The browser is a creative playground!

This is the transcript of a talk I gave for the Web Art Jam. A jam that will start at midnight tonight (March 19, 2021), hosted by @Synodai and @tomagotchidad. You can join through discord (as of writing this it’s currently running). Thank you for having me! My name is Nathalie, I go by “alienmelon” online and in my work. I make experimental software, experimental games, and basically love exploring experimental creative stuff on computers. I’ve done A LOT of interactive web art in the past. I started as a net-artist in the late 90’s, so this is a topic...

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The inspired brilliance of Katelabs, a foray into glitch tools, and what zine culture has taught me about games & software dev…

Here is an inspired find that’s… just… an amazing encapsulation of everything good about freeware tools. Trust me. You need this one! It’s a level editor of sorts, reminiscent of old school tools like Nickelodeon Director’s Lab, mixed with what feels like a very personal approach to what it means to create on a computer from the developer that made it. Katelabs “In KATELABS, Kate Barrett (Ready Player F**K, Flamingo Quest) brings you her most advanced tech yet… But with a twist! YOU get to be let loose with it! It’s a deep level editor with lots of features including...

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Start making tools! (on making experimental art tools and why it’s valuable for indie game devs to make them)

This is the talk transcript that I gave for the ENJMIN Game Conference, about the practice of making small tools and why it’s valuable for indie game developers to do that. Thank you for having me! – — – — – — – — – — – — – — The topic of my talk will be about making experimental art tools, or just tools in general, and why tool making is such a valuable contribution to this space. Links in this slide: * Cool Tools on itch.io * Open source, experimental, and tiny tools roundup * The wonderful world...

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More from the wonderful world of tools by small devs, shareware, and freeware (art tools, music tools, and toys to create with)

This is a followup to my first post where I talked about the wonderful world of tools and art toys that exists outside the mainstream. Some months ago I asked if there was interest in another one of these, and yes. There was interest! The level of interest that exists for freeware and shareware tools (in general, tools made by small creators) is really exciting to me. We see genuine enthusiasm for quirky artistic tools… things that you could basically call a creative “toy”. These things are like a breath of fresh air. To me, they remind me why it’s...

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UI design is fun! (inspirational ways of looking at UI, and discussing how to better understand UI’s place in game design…)

This post is an extended writeup of what would have been my GDC2020 talk. Since the conference has been postponed I’m sharing parts of this talk as a blogpost (I elaborated on what would have been my talk. This post is much longer). Last year I wrote about some of this on Gamasutra (link here). I also have a twitter thread where I’m collecting links to historic UI’s (link here). It’s kind of a source for inspiration. Also, here’s a youtube channel of interesting synth UI’s… There’s lots to be inspired by! UI design can be pretty amazing :) UI...

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The wonderful world of tools made by small teams, solo-devs, and shareware (weird, beautiful, and experimental things to be creative in + an analysis on building for approachability)

Since starting development on the Electric Zine Maker I’ve been hoarding links to interesting, unusual, strange, small, or just cute tools. This has grown to be a strong area of interest as I’ve been diving into what even makes a tool approachable… How much experimental UI or humor is too much? Do people even want tools that are goofy? What else is out there from creators making small and interesting tools that solve a variety of creative problems? Before I begin, you should definitely go check out Galaxy Kate’s work on Casual Creators. She has done A LOT of work...

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on UI design & using UI as a means to tell a story, convey emotion, create personality… an in-depth look…

Throughout development of the Electric Zine Maker I’ve been trying to find some time to finally talk about UI, and how important it is to view it as part of your “world building” rather than just UI work. All of my work heavily relies on UI to convey the message of the game, or further build on it. To me UI is just as important as, say: dialogue, music, design… if done right it reinforces the themes of your game, and even builds on it in a way that you might not be able to convey anywhere else. So, OK,...

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