Making games has been a long term goal of mine for a few years now, probably since I outgrew astronaut as a life goal. This year I really started making games in earnest. While I had made about 4 games prior to this year, I didn’t really have the drive or the understanding to do it. A bunch of things came together this year though, the most important of which was the funding of Lucky Frame by Channel 4 and Creative Scotland. That allowed me to stop doing my day job of making websites and dedicate myself to making games full time. What a year it has been too.
The most recent thing is that Pugs Luv Beats was nominated for an IGF award. I had entered the year with the goal of having a single game that would be worth submitting to the IGF at all, I had zero expectations of anything more than that. To be clear, I did not have any game that was even worth submitting last year.
It turns out that over the course of this year, I have made 10 things that qualified as video games. I also made a card game, which may have helped a little bit in my understanding of games, but I am not really sure. This is a super far stretch from 2010 where made 4 games, only 2 of which were arguably playable. And an even further stretch from the other 27 years of my life where I made 1 video game.
TEN SECOND FIRE JUMP
This is the third Glorious Trainwreck that I had done. Glorious trainwrecks is where you make a game in 2 hours, so it is a slightly crazier jam then the Ludum Dare, but good for testing out ideas. For this one I decided to learn flixel. Also I had not even tested out the tool chain, so I had to get that all working within the 2 hours. This game kinda sucks. But Flixel turned out to be totally awesome, and I ended up using it on a few more projects throughout the year.
I actually ended up cloning big part of flixels engine into the iphone engine that I am using, because it is so enjoyable to work with. This may also be because it is the first real game engine that I have worked with, so I didn’t know anything else. I suspect it is because flixel is really great.
Direct link to SWF - arrows to move, space to jump
During the month of March I started working on Lucky Frame all day, and made a few prototypes that were not released. Sound Track is probably the most complete of these.
I had been playing a bunch of trainyard at the time, and wanted to make a game that accentuated the rhythmic aspects of that game. Yann made about 10 levels for it, and we user tested it a few times before realizing that it was far to complicated for people to control. I think that we didn’t fully understand user testing at that point, nor did we understand our market, so we may have been more harsh on this prototype than we should have been.
However, it was good that we scrapped it, because the toy at the core wasn’t that fun to actually play with. It felt more like a chore to build songs by drawing roads.
This one doesn’t have a link because I was not diligent about saving working builds back in this time period. Also it is for iPhone, and I neglected to port to PC.
My second Ludum Dare entry, this one is a literal take on the genre “tower defense”.
Boy, does it have some problems. I made the controls far too losey goosey, you have to hit buttons at the exact right times to place pieces. There is a strange cool down period on the placement that has nothing to do with the actual game play, and feels really divorced from it. There is no difficulty curve, and it starts out pretty darn hard, so you don’t really get a chance to practice your skills before being bombarded by enemies.
All that said, the core toy is pretty fun to play with. Basically it is a human controlled Diffusion Limited Aggregation system, so you can make super cool looking structures super quick.
Sean, the artist at Lucky Frame keeps bugging me about this one, so it will probably have a sequel at some point. One of the things that I want to draw from is Rampart, which was pointed out to me by Tony as a pretty similar concept.
This one started out as a text adventure slot machine, which I did in 20 minutes as a joke. When I saw how sucked into it Yann got, I decided to add graphics to it. Still was basically a joke.
I ended up putting it in the IGF Pirate kart, so a bunch of people have played it in the context of other strange games, so that is good that there is a context for this type of thing. The Pirate Kart ended getting a bunch of news coverage, which is strange and cool. I think I am going to do more of those if I have the time.
I still think that slot machines are a great model for thinking about simple game play. Mining in minecraft is basically a big slot machine. Every time you break through a block, it is like pulling the handle.
Did this one with Alex and Yann in 6 hours for a dundee game jam. I didn’t do too much of the gameplay code because I was handling the bridging between the pitch tracker and the game engine. Unfortunately because of the crazy setup we used, it is pretty hard to setup. I think that it would be possible to rebuild it, but I am not sure why you would.
I also did the character art for this one. It is “OK”.
Working with Alex was awesome, it was great to have another programmer on a project. A++++ Would work that way again.
Martin vs Monty
A game for Ludum Dare, made with Lucky Frame. This one is half vvvvvv, and half super crate box, but not as successful as either of those by a long shot. I burned half of the compo time trying to get the collision code correct, and ended up not tweaking the gameplay enough. I should probably revisit this one now that the collision code is solid.
Also, Super Crate Box for iOS has convinced me that platformers can work on the iphone. I may revisit this one, if for no other reason that platformers are a well accepted genre, and one of the things that people like to cut their teeth on when learning level design.
After the stress banging my head against collision detection for MvM, I decided to take it easy and do something super simple. I ended up making a clone of crossfire for iPhone. This one didn’t require much work, but turned out pretty great. There are still some rough edges, but I don’t know how much I want to fix them. We should probably make this free.
One thing to learn from this one, it is that games where you play against another player are much easier to make engaging then games that you play by yourself.
This game is an object lesson in not getting bogged down in systems. After spending a week or so writing a parser for BulletML, I decided to make something with it. BulletML is a programming language for programming bullets, and is used in some of my favorite shmups. It turns out that using the same systems as your heros is not the best way to make the same things as your heros.
I would like to actually make a shmup at some point in my life, but I need to actually spend some time trying to understand them first. This thing I banged out in a few hours, and it made me realize that shmups are far more complex then they seem. I am probably not going to attempt one for quite some time.
This one is the final outcome of an idea that I had been thinking about making for over a year. Unsurprisingly, it is not very good, as many over worked ideas turn out to be.
The initial plan was to make a game called rocket gun, where you control a gun with rockets attached to it, and have to control your movement either by shooting or firing your rockets. I made a prototype for that, and it turned out to be impossible to control. I didn’t even get as far as making levels for it.
I revisited the idea, but took out the shooting, and just made a game where you are an oblong object controlled by rockets. Turns out that this is still super hard to control.
If I revisit the idea, I think I may continue to lower the complexity of the control system, because that seems to be the real issue here.
Pugs Luv Beats
Not going to say much about this here other then the gameplay is an ongoing revision, partially because we really care about this one, and partially because the gameplay isn’t the best it could be yet. It is interesting to change gameplay on games that are already “finished”, but I think it will be an important lesson.
However, as a toy, it is super fun to play with and make music with. I think that fulfills where we wanted to go with it. Any further things that happened with this game are amazing. I am so excited and humbled that it got into IGF.