Saturday, June 15, 2019

Bloodjak II Devlog #1

We are making a game called Bloodjak II.

What kind of game is this?

It's the sequel to 2015's Bloodjak, an arcade-style shoot-em-up set in the darkest corner of cyberspace.

Footage from the original

Besides its fast-paced and unforgiving gameplay, what sets Bloodjak apart from other games of the genre is its scoring system. Dead players do not get to submit their score - in order to save your score, you must determine when to end your run and survive for the remainder of its duration. Complicating this is the fact that your ship is fragile and is destroyed in a single hit, resulting in a high-stakes, but rewarding, play experience.

The original version of the game was created in 48 hours for the 2015 Indies vs Gamers Jam at Game Jolt. It ranked in the top 10% of over 369 entries for the jam, and as a part of Underground Arcade Collective's exhibit, it's been widely enjoyed at the festivals and conventions at which we've shown it. While I've made countless small improvements over the years, the original is still constrained by the brevity of the original jam from which it was produced.

So, I'm leading an effort to remake the game, bigger and better than it's ever been. The game is being developed as part of Philly Game Mechanic's Profit Jam, an initiative to make, ship, and sell a game within two months. I've been itching to revisit Bloodjak  for a long time, and the Profit Jam seemed like the perfect opportunity.

What new stuff will be in the sequel?

At the very least, Bloodjak II will feature new enemies, more bosses, improved pacing, faster and more intense combat, improved visuals, and higher quality audio. My goal is to make a more complex, action-packed, and visceral experience.

The original was made a small team consisting of myself and Geoff Backstrom, who composed the game's music. To help deliver on the promise of a better game, I'm working with a larger team this time - Alex Cole and Dan Halma are handling the game's sound and music respectively, and Danielle Vuono is handling the visuals. They're all very good at what they do, and I am excited to work with them!

I'll be sharing regular updates about the game's development in the coming weeks - you can subscribe to this blog's RSS feed from the bar on the right, or you can follow me on Twitter @alchiggins. Thank you!

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

We Meet in the Dungeon

We Meet in the Dungeon is an asymmetrical card game for two players. I originally made it for Philly Game Mechanics' Try-a-New-Jam event earlier this year. The objective of the jam was to attempt something I've never done before - hence, the existence of this multiplayer tabletop card game.

Each participant assumes one of two roles: that of the Dungeon Player, or that of the Adventuring Player. The Dungeon Player is building a dungeon filled with monsters and traps while gathering darkness to summon a powerful overlord monster in an attempt to complete a sinister objective. In response, the Adventuring Player assembles a team of adventurers to conduct raids on the dungeon, attempting to recover two MacGuffins from the Dungeon Player and stop their ritual.

You can download the rulebook and card sheets from Itch.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Farewell, Waker

This is four years overdue, but I am formally declaring that I've abandoned development on Waker.

For those of you unfamiliar, Waker was a fantasy narrative adventure game that I was largely developing by myself from 2012-2014. The talented Ashton Morris was handling audio. It was to be a full length game with distinct puzzles and a branching story. A fair amount of people (strangers, even!) were excited about it. Folks were asking to collaborate. The game was blogged about. I never had as much engagement working on a project in the years since.

What lead to the demise of the game wasn't the scope itself as much as the fact that I had outgrown the project - my skills had improved considerably over the years I spent working on it. There are still a few really neat things happening visually and narratively - I still love Sue the Poggle.

During a couple of years following 2014, I had thought that I would one day return to and finish the project. While this possibility had rapidly dwindled since then, the release of Danger Zone Friends last winter was the final nail in the coffin. DZF became the full-length magnum opus that Waker was once meant to be, rendering Waker obsolete.

The last build I created is now publicly available in the Posterity Archive. It created consists of about half of the planned story. The game ends abruptly when you reach the castle of Eldria, which I never populated.

Again, lots of y'all were really excited about the project, and I appreciate it. Thank you for your support.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Cecil Con Updates

Underground Arcade Collective is returning to Cecil Con this upcoming Friday and Saturday! Woo! Stephen, John, and I will be showcasing FIFTEEN VIDEO GAMES this weekend! Which is a lot! It's a lovely event and we are thrilled to return.

The games on display will include:

As is always the case leading up to a con, I've updated some games of mine in preparation for the event.

Danger Zone Friends Update!

In response to player feedback, I've improved the tutorialization in the introductory level of Danger Zone Friends, better explaining JRPG fundamentals to players who may not be familiar with them. The tutorialization was not something I handled gracefully as the game's audience shifted from one person (my partner who has played JRPGs before) to a general audience (who includes... everyone). Hopefully this makes the game somewhat more accessible.

The new version can be downloaded here!

Exclusive to people attending Underground Arcade Collective events is a special demo version of the game that features a demo exclusive boss! The demo exclusive boss is called Demo Exclusive Boss. Yes, the Demo Exclusive Boss is a palette-swapped Screaming Tortoise Sword who can shoot lasers and turn invisible. No, the Demo Exclusive Boss will not be available as paid DLC for the full version of Danger Zone Friends. You have to come to a live event to fight Demo Exclusive Boss. Those are the rules.


The Danger Zone Friends demo starts at the game's introduction and concludes shortly after the first dungeon. In the context of the full game, the first dungeon itself doesn't need a climax, but as a stand-alone episode, it badly does. Hence, the creation of Demo Exclusive Boss.

Bloodjak Update!

Four years after being asked by several people to add gamepad support to Bloodjak, I've finally done it! I've resisted buying a gamepad for a long time on account of being poor. I now own a gamepad, but I am still poor.

There is a mechanical difference between playing with the keyboard and playing with the gamepad: the gamepad joystick uses vector math, while the arrow keys do not, meaning that, when playing with a keyboard, you will travel faster diagonally than you do orthogonally. However, the advantage to the keyboard player is slight and does not outweigh the extra finesse granted to the gamepad player.

This difference in diagonal speed would not normally be ideal, however, the physically incorrect keyboard movement has been present in the game for four years. It can be hard to walk the line between updating a game in a way that respects the original work and doing it in a way that fundamentally changes it, and improving the keyboard movement falls in the latter category. Meanwhile, adding physically correct gamepad movement is easier than having it match keyboard movement. Purists can still play with a keyboard if they want the "true experience," but if you own an Xbox controller, that is now the best way to play the game.

You can download the latest version here. Someone please beat Teapawncha’s high score.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Danger Zone Friends Soundtrack

Thank you so much to everyone who's played Danger Zone Friends so far! If you liked it, please share it, and rate it on itch, Game Jolt, and If you didn't like it, please share it anyway, but maybe don't rate it! (that is a joke)

The game's soundtrack is one of my favorite aspects of it, and serves as the emotional core for the experience. You can stream and download the tracks here:

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Danger Zone Friends: Now Available

Danger Zone Friends is out! It's a JRPG about two roommates on a grocery trip gone awry. You can download it for Windows from itch.

Agnes and Lulu set out to make a simple errand, but along the way, they find themselves taking a wrong turn into the Danger Zone! Will they be able to survive the hazards of the underground world, return to the surface, and complete their shopping trip?

2+ hours of JRPG adventure, featuring tactical combat, an original score, and jokes.

You can read more about the game here! The trailer is below:

As many of you know, this game is special to me for many reasons. I've been working hard for the past seven months, and at the end of it, successfully produced what is arguably my first full-length game. If you only ever play one of my games, please have it be this one.

I normally offer more thoughts about my projects upon release, but I'm comfortable letting this one speak for itself.

Gamejolt and soundtrack releases soon. Thank you for playing!

In other news, American Wallrunner is now on Gamejolt and itch, with downloadable HTML builds for those of you without Windows. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

American Wallrunner and Other News

American Wallrunner!

Angie is a disgruntled former CIA agent with uncanny parkour skills. After quitting her awful job in an inglorious fashion, she attempts to earn some money by working some side jobs - jobs that require an experienced wall runner. But nothing can prepare her for the truth of her very existence...

Another year, another Glorious Trainwrecks Secret Santa game! American Wallrunner was created for mbtzl, who asked for a game that featured parkour with a Cold War aesthetic, among other things.

Currently, you can download it for Windows from Glorious Trainwrecks. A web version will be on Gamejolt and Itch soon.


I spent about half of the past five weeks developing most this project from scratch, splitting my attention between it and Danger Zone Friends,  the Bloodjak Phillytron port, grad school applications, and holiday mirth.

The most unusual aspect of this game's development is the soundtrack. A day before the game was due, it had no sound! So, I dug through my hard drive and found a series of bass recordings, most of which I made back in the fall of 2016. During that time, I hadn't yet found other people to play music with, was trying to develop a solo act for open mics, and recorded instrumental song ideas that I could reference later. Ultimately, I never developed a solo set, but I was glad to have finally found a use for the recordings!

I spent more time developing the mechanical aspects of the game than usual. Many games have featured wall jumping, but wall running? In 2D? If there's a similar game I could have referenced as I designed and programmed American Wallrunner's movement, I had never heard of it.

This game combines the movement logic of 2D top-down games with that of 2D side-view platformers, and it needs to switch between them on the fly. The problem with this is that, in top-down games, the player only collides with the walls. As far as game logic goes, floors do not exist - they are defined by the absence of anything rather than the presence of something. However, in side-view platformer games, the player collides with both walls and floors - floors are defined by the presence of floor rather than the absence of wall!

As I made American Wallrunner, I began with the logic of top-down games, and added platformer logic later. This meant that floors were defined by the absence of wall instead of the presence of floor. So, when the player lands on platforms suspended on walls, their character is checking to see if they're making contact with nothing. In theory, this sounds simple. In practice, this is the complete opposite of how game collisions are supposed to work, and it's provided a series of technical design problems to numerous to fully document.

What I'm trying to say it, the game's movement seems straightforward on the surface, but it's terrifying under the hood. Take my word for it.

As is the case with most games, but especially games of small scale, I didn't get to implement as much content as I would like. While this is often invisible in the rest of my projects, the foundations for systems and events I wanted to add later are a bit more plain. For example, the whole game was structured around having a good handful of odd jobs for the player to complete before they could unlock the ending. While the final game works well with the two jobs that exist, the game's structure would have made more sense with at least one or two more. I also had planned for nearly every statistic displayed in the player menu to have some sort of bearing on the game world, especially hunger, thirst, and bladder. I laid the groundwork: the numbers are there, and they're dynamic, it's just that only a few of them have any sort of practical significance.

Overall, I'm happy with this! Part of the reason I do the Secret Santa jam every year is that it pushes me far outside of my comfort zone and forces me to make design decisions I never would have considered. Who the hell makes a 2D top-down game with wall running as the main mechanic, set during the Cold War, with fantasy creatures as the supporting characters, that casually condemns American foreign policy? I do. I am that guy.

Other News

Well, would you look at those control prompts on that there menu? Are those... buttons? Yes, folks, it's true! Bloodjak has been ported to an arcade cabinet! But not just any arcade cabinet - it now lives on Philadelphia's community arcade cabinet, the Phillytron! While I was unable to attend MAGFest myself this year, the Phillytron and its assortment of local games did. Thanks again to Philly Game Mechanics for encouraging me to port the game to the cabinet, and showcasing Bloodjak as part of the collection.

Speaking of conventions, I am excited to announce that Underground Arcade Collective will be returning to Cecil Con this April! We had a lovely time last year. I hope to see the rest of you mid-Atlantic nerds there!

Finally, after I finish porting American Wallrunner to the web, I will be able to give Danger Zone Friends my full attention, and release it this month. Stay tuned.