Category Archives: Life

1GAM 2013: Postmortem

2013 is over and, thanks to OneGameAMonth, I managed to finish 12 games over the course of the year. I wanted to talk about each one a little bit.

January — Must’ve been rats!

rats_arcadeJanuary’s game was the result of my participation in the Global Game Jam, working with Chris Logsdon and Paul Ouellette (with voice work by Mike Elser). It was a lot of fun to make despite not entirely fitting the jam theme, and its a lot of fun to play thanks to its overall silliness. I’m really happy with how well it turned out given the limited amount of time and relative complexity of the systems we were working with.

Here’s my full post on this game.

February — Humphrey’s Tiny Adventure: Remastered

htar

I’m still very happy with Humphrey. For the small amount of time I put into it, it’s one of the more polished games I’ve finished and I enjoyed figuring out ways to convey the story without any words. Despite my love for open-ended systems-driven gameplay, point-and-click adventures will always have a special place in my heart due to their role in my childhood, and I’m glad I was able to make one even as minimal as this.

Here’s my full post on this game.

March — No Other Home

dsjChris and I made No Other Home for NASA’s “Dark side of the jam” event that we attended at NHTI. It was pretty ambitious and we ended up taking a bit longer than the initial 48 hours to finish it.

Looking back on it there are a bunch of things I would change to make the gameplay feel better, but overall it’s pretty solid and I love the way the solar system looks.

April — Vanguard Charge

vcVanguard Charge was born from a combination of my frustration with the limitations of Mass Effect’s Vanguard abilities and inspiration from the results of TIGSource’s “Bootleg demake” game jam. The goal was to capture one specific element from a well-known game and present it in a way that feels like a cheap knockoff product. I only spent a few days making this and there’s admittedly not a lot going on, but it’s fun to play and that’s what matters.

May — Bit Cave

bc

Another game jam entry with Chris, this time to celebrate the revival of the Flashpunk forums. I love the atmosphere in this game. The tension between exploring further and staying alive can actually get pretty high, and the caves are unpredictable enough that even I still get lost despite having designed the system that creates them.

 

June — Gunbuilding

gb

Gunbuilding’s caption on my 1GAM profile reads “The worst misnomer of all time”, and that’s no exaggeration. As a game it’s an abject failure. The gameplay is simplistic, the visuals are terrible, and there’s no way to win or indeed any reason to keep playing. The only redeeming quality this game has is that it allowed me to put my C# port of Flashpunk through its paces and fix a ton of bugs.

Here’s my full post on this game.

July — Slide

slide_arcade

I’ve written a lot about Slide elsewhere, so I won’t go into depth about it here. This was a fun game to make because I had to think backwards in order to create puzzles, which gave me a newfound respect for mystery authors and other puzzle game designers. It was received very positively in its initial state and I’m currently expanding it for a commercial release on mobile and desktop platforms.

 

August — MicroRL

mrlMicroRL is another experiment without much in the way of gameplay. I wanted to take the ASCII aesthetic of classic roguelikes and try to make a minimalist game that felt good to play. Since the systems involved were so limited, I had to use some sneaky tricks to create situations that weren’t explicitly allowed, like having friendly monsters that healed you by dealing negative damage. Overall it’s not especially worth playing, but I’m pleased with the way it turned out.

September — SlangVN

svn

My final pure experiment of the year (yes, that is a screenshot on the left). SlangVN was a testbed for my experimental scripting language Slang, in the form of a minimalist Visual Novel engine. Technically I guess I would call this a success since the purpose was only ever to test the expressiveness of the language, but the result isn’t a game by any stretch of the imagination. The script is pretty nice though.

October/November — Color/Shift demo

csd

Part of my strategy for hitting as many platforms as possible with Iridescence (formerly Color/Shift, formerly Slide) was porting it to the Haxe programming language. This release marked the point where the port contained all the features from the original game and could make use of all the same content. I spent part of the second month porting the game to Linux, which (thanks to Haxe’s cross-platform magic) was almost entirely painless.

December — The Heroes’ Tourney (beta)

thtThe Heroes’ Tourney started in yet another game jam and has gone on to become a serious project that I’m still working on along with the other guys on my team, as well as some new talent. So far everyone we’ve shown it to has had a blast playing and we think we might be on to something good. The official website is under construction here.

 

Wrapping up…

It’s been fun participating in 1GAM, and I’m really happy with some of the games that came out of it. Looking back on it, though, I wish I hadn’t followed along so rigidly. Some of the months would have been better spent concentrating on more serious projects instead of stressing about meeting the deadline, and I felt more pressure to polish up my experimental projects to submit them where I probably would have abandoned them earlier otherwise.

In 2014 I’m going to participate more casually, following the revised rules which encourage working on fewer projects for extended periods of time. I’ve got a promising solo project and a great team project to occupy my time for the next few months. We’ll see where it goes from there.

What’s in a name?

I’ve heard it said that it’s easier to name something before it even exists than to try to sum a thing up into a name after the fact, and I believe it. For nearly every game I’ve ever made, it seems like naming the darned thing is the task which takes the longest to complete.

Slide was an exception to this. I had the name picked before I made my first commit to the source repository, and it remained throughout the entirety of development. When I released it there was no other game by that name anywhere on the internet. I was feeling pretty good about it.

Yesterday I went to make an IndieDB profile for the remake. I created a boxshot image, collected screenshots, entered all the required information…and pressed submit.

  • There is already a game listed with the name Slide on Indie DB.

Tragedy!

I checked out the conflicting entry and came to the realization that, while I had become attached to the name “Slide” in reference to my own work, it really wasn’t a great fit as it described only the most basic mechanics. In this new game, the core mechanics are all about puzzles based on ice sliding in classic Zelda and Pokemon games. It obviously has a lot of polish and has likely been in development for a while, so even though I had technically released my game first I didn’t want to be “that guy” and ask that it be taken down.

And so began a frantic day of brainstorming as I tried to come up with a new name before the rapidly approaching OneGameAMonth deadline of November 4th.

Fortunately this all has a happy ending. The name I chose (with the help of some good friends) is Color/Shift, and I’ve retroactively renamed it in all my posts about this new release. Not only is this new name more tightly related to the core mechanics overall, but it’ll also help me distinguish between the original prototype and the new commercial release. All’s well that ends well. :)

Hurricane Irene — Day one

To be honest I didn’t think Hurricane Irene was anything to worry about. Turns out I was right — what ended up hitting my part of New Hampshire wasn’t even classified as a hurricane anymore; just a tropical storm. No matter what you call it, Irene hit us hard enough to put a damper on my day.

It started out like a normal Sunday…the kids awake, dressed and ready to go, the parents sitting infuriatingly in bed having coffee while I wander around wanting to leave. I hadn’t even considered going to church this morning because of the rain, but my Dad said he was going, and that was good enough for me.

On our way down the road we watched out the windows at the stream that runs alongside. Usually it’s a tiny little brook, but today it was a raging torrent, easily two feet higher than normal. At one point when the road dipped too low we had to drive through water that came a few inches up the wheels. We decided to leave church as soon as it finished to get home before the roads washed out. Of course, even that was too late.

On our way back the water had carved huge gashes in the road. We tried a few different routes but no luck; our best option literally got us within an eighth of a mile from our driveway before we couldn’t go on. Some friends offered to put us up at their place until we could get home, but we needed to get home and make sure everything was okay. We managed to get a ride most of the way up the mountain, then walked the rest of the way. Here are some pictures from our walk.

We’re home now and the power’s out, so we hooked up the generator to the sump pump to pump out the eight inches of water that got into the cellar. It just finished now, two hours later. Even though the power is out the phone lines are fine, so our DSL modem is plugged into the generator now. I’m anticipating that it’ll be a few days at least before we can get out of here, but we’ve got food in the fridge and enough gas to keep the generator running for a good long time. Life could be a lot worse.