Pyxis – 2014 Mayhem Jam
Anti-breakout. Play as Pandora, keep evil contained for as long as you can. Most polished jam game I’ve done.
[ download (PC) ] [ postmortem ]
As We Are – 2014 Global Game Jam
Short 5-minute puzzle game where you explore a situation from several different character’s viewpoints.
[ play online ] [ postmortem ]
Murmur – 2013 Global Game Jam
Atmospheric simple endless runner. Play as a biologist fleeing their terrible creation. Spacebar controls heartbeat.
[ download (PC) ] [ postmortem ]
Wirehang Reredux – Personal work-in-progress
Platformer where you primarily move by shooting out springy grappling hooks. I always fantasized about being Spider-man.
[ project page ]
Geology Island – Personal work-in-progress
Analogue board game where you play as one of four bickering gods who are trying to craft an island via geological processes.
[ project page ]
# cool things #
Greg Dunn Design – Beautiful gigantic gold-etched neuroscience art.
Extra Credits / Extra History – Excellent video series on all aspects of game design and culture. Branched out to begin entertaining + informative history videos, as well.
Critical Distance – High-quality weekly digest of writing about games, with an emphasis on signal amplification for voices that you won’t find elsewhere.
Strickler’s Laws of GeoFantasy – Being a geologist sounds awesome.
“A game is a series of interesting choices.” – Sid Meier
I’m going to argue that Civilization V fails at that central conceit of game design for the central mechanic of the series: cities.
Because I definitely already don’t have enough projects going, I’ve recently started poking around with a super super old demo of mine: WIREHANG RE-REDUX.
The core concept was: “I want a game where I can be spiderman.” The game that prompted me to actually start is an old (6+ years ago?) game called Wirehang Redux.
So in highschool I threw together a demo platformer (the first I’d ever programmed), but it got bogged down in physics and writing my own custom level editor with triggers and graphics layers and all sorts of other homebrewed bells and whistles. I felt the core flow of gameplay had a lot of promise (especially the control scheme: one hook per mouse button), but when I left for college it lay abandoned.
So here we are! The idea has stuck with me for a long time and I’m working with a friend to revive it to get some practice in collaborative programming. This time we’re working in Monkey X and using Fantom Engine to tie together maps made in Tiled to the Box2D physics engine. I’ve never worked with non-homebrewed tech before so it’s going to be a learning experience. Also, one of my biggest regrets from the development of Rubicon is that I didn’t document the journey, so I’m going to try to get some regular posts out about this. Here’s a gif of the current build::
Link : Pyxis (windows only)
Another weekend, another 48-hour game jam. Only with this one, we actually got it more or less working by the end of Saturday and then got to spend ALL of Sunday basically just working on polish. We got to dicker over the font of the title screen and how many pixels to move things to get them centered. I want to emphasize how usually the time constraint means that just doesn’t happen in jams.
Anyway, it’s not letting me take a screenshot, but it’s basically anti-breakout. You play as Pandora trying to keep the evil bubbles in her box and letting hope out. It’s solid and I’m proud of it.
What we did right :
- We were a small team. It was originally just me plus Sam Arei on sound/music, but we were fortunate to also pick up Elijah Blackwell who managed the production, aesthetics, and images.
- After quick but intense deliberation, we decided on a very simple core mechanic: paddles bouncing balls around. I was able to throw together a tech demo within the first couple hours. We had no idea how or if it would be fun, but ran with it anyway.
- Spending time developing what we had. It started out as only a sorta-interesting graphical toy so I focused on ways to give it a challenging objective. Since we didn’t have a strict idea of what the final form should look like, we had a lot of space to play with different mechanics. Multiple or single blue bubbles, different types of evil bubbles, the best paddle configuration, bounce powerup effects… they were all “hey, let’s try this” and keeping the things that worked.
- Playtesting. Just a few people who hadn’t seen it before in the last couple hours showed us that we needed to revamp the instruction screen font. Getting people to understand depends on lots of tiny stupid things being just right but are invisible to you since you already know.
As We Are is a short 5-minute puzzle game where you explore a situation from several different character’s viewpoints. It’s our entry to the 2014 global game jam.
I’m quite pleased with this self-contained little game. It’s simple (you just move around with the arrow keys) but is able to present comprehensible situations via puzzles (thanks to a combination of the I’m-quite-proud-of level design and clear visual style).
I made a couple of huge layout oversights (incl. one that lets you just skip 50% of the puzzle) but I think they actually ended up adding to the experience. The alternate paths let you feel clever if you find them, and help people who get stuck continue through the game.
Sure, there’s a couple of other rough edges (no clear instructions to use space when you’re a dragon, NPC item stealing noise loop, you occasionally catch on the edges of things, I really wish I had added another level after the first where you play as one of the pink ‘bros), but I am legitimately proud of this. It feels whole.
Direct Dropbox Link
Tumblr is being a butt and not letting me edit the original post, so for any and all interested parties: here’s the python source code for Tanks.
(You need python 3.x and pygame. Run “Application.py” in codeApplication to play the game.)
Tanks for all the Fish: Source
TANKS FOR ALL THE FISH
My second game jam is over and done! I competed in the Indie Speed Run with Greg Krsak and Eric Goldman. Our theme/element was Agriculture/Aquarium.
As per usual, I tended to bite off more than we could really chew design-wise and we ended up with a top-down game where you command all these little invertebrates and plants (not fish. Fish are jerks.) to expand your aquarium and… well, get to the other ones? The idea was to have to collect the right seeds to grow a spaceship before an interstellar catastrophe befell the planet, but between AI and pathfinding and making it look pretty, the end product is more of a strategic aquarium simulator.
This was the first project I’ve worked with others in writing code! I was dragged kicking and screaming into object-definition madness instead of my usual monolithic huge single file approach. Of course, as soon as my co-coder Greg Krsak left for a wedding, I reverted to my old habits. But I think I learned some important things about how non-me people code (read: how to actually do stuff right instead of fast).
Aesthetically, I’m pleased. Eric Goldman put together some very atmospheric music and I had a lot of fun in drawing and animating the graphics. I haven’t worked in this quick-sketch-but-realistic style before, but it just sort of happened.
Of course, the power went out with an hour and a half left on the clock, right as people were starting to upload their games to the Indie Speed Run website. We got an extension on the honor principle to not work on it for any more time than we had left, so I threw in the music and a splash screen and called it done.
We did the whole thing in Python, which unfortunately means that I can’t really link to an easy thing for people to run and play it. There are tools that’ll spit out an exe but I’m not clear how to use them and I’m about to crash. God, I love game jams.
– Download – (available for PC and Mac)
At the request of a friend, I made a little productivity timer gadget called ClickClock. The timer counts how much playtime you’ve earned: it’ll count up or down depending on whether you’re working or playing, respectively, and plays a little reminder noise every so often if the timer goes negative.
You can also set the work/play ratio (e.g. 4:1 will require four minutes of work for every one minute of play) and manually bump the timer up and down. It’s meant to be a tool, not an enforcer, and I’ve found just the fact that I’m on a timer at all helps me focus.
Design-wise, I wanted something simple but aesthetically pleasing, so I focused on condensing all the functionality upfront on one small screen in a manner that was clear and elegant. The fonts used are: Microstyle Bold ATT for the letters and Microsoft Uighur for the numbers.
It saves your time when you close the program. You can reset the clock by either manually bumping it back to near zero or by deleting the “state.cc” file in the same folder.
Murmur – Global Game Jam 2013
–Download– (windows only)
The 48-hours-to-make-a-game challenge put on by the Global Game Jam just wrapped up here in Portland, and here’s what the team I was working with produced: Murmur, a “ 2D side-scrolling one-button rhythm-based survival-horror” game. You run away from this monster you’ve created (you are a BIOLOGIST who has a problem with compulsively creating flesh-eating beasts) by tapping the spacebar on the red beats as they pass under your feet. The prompt for the jam was a ~10-second audio recording of a heartbeat, and we tried to reflect that with a rhythm game that represented/induced the same sort of pumping heart of TERROR.
To get away from being, as a fellow Jammer put it, “a one-note guitar hero”, you can also hit optional nodes to direct yourself down alternate paths. The highlight of this is being able to lead the monster to fellow scientists in order to buy yourself time while it chews on their bones.
We designed this choice (among others) to just add some variety and interesting gameplay decisions to an otherwise simple mechanic. We didn’t intend for the fact that it was a “human” powerup to be particularly meaningful. It was really interesting, then, to see people playing Murmur learn that they could do so, initially avoid it, then as the game got harder begin to resort to the sacrifice. There’s some message in there somewhere about people being moral only until it’s inconvenient.
All in all: I’m very pleased with the the scale and focus of this project. There were only three of us (plus one physically absent audiowizard- Mike Skalandunas) and we were able to come up with a core mechanic, design enough variation to keep things interesting, and produce a polished product within 48 hours (a little bit less, even, since we started late).
There was a bit of talk among us to throw in a couple more I’m not a huge fan of the lingering-commitment variety of gamejam. I like my projects wrapped up neat and tidy, which doesn’t allow me to fall into the habit/excuse of “I’ll fix and work on this more this later”. Working within your constraints, setting realistic goals based on available resources, etc etc, I’ll get off the soapbox now. Long story short: I think it’s a polished little nugget and that feels great.