Monday, December 30, 2013

Ludum Dare 28 Compilation Video

Here's a neat little compilation video of a few games from Ludum Dare 28. "Digital Toilet World" makes an appearance about 1 minute in. I really wish I captured higher quality footage of the game. It was my first time recording my own game; I'll definitely have to figure out how to get better footage when it becomes necessary for me to actually make trailers and the like.

Some great work is featured here. Over 2,000 entries were submitted for the competition, this barely represents the variety of work created for it. After judging officially ends, I'll share my favorites.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Waker Fan Art!

 I can't get over this.

My friend, artist and game developer Jon Sandacz, made this awesome 3D model based off of my WIP game Waker, featuring the Waker, Sue the Poggle, Feirn, and Gammon. I've never gotten fan art for a game before - it feels nice. It's especially interesting to see what characters and events other people remember from the game and decide to include in a work like this, and what they decide to leave out.

As always, you can download the October demo of Waker from the "My Games" tab on the website. I'm hopefully going to upload a new demo sometime within the next month.

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Echidna Awards! (GOTYs 2013)

After much careless deliberation with myself, I have chosen the top 8 games of 2013. These are clearly indisputable. Check out my list at Beta Fish mag and be enlightened.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Digital Toilet World is now on Game Jolt!

You can now check out my latest game, "Digital Toilet World," on Game Jolt right here!

I just realized recently that I forgot to change a typo in the game - the player character states that something's a "mute point" instead of a "moot point". Even though I am filled with much shame, I still claim that the game's otherwise rad.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Digital Toilet World Released

Welcome to Digital Toilet World.

One of humankind's server worlds is under attack, and its up to you, the cleaner, to purify it. You are accompanied on your holy mission by a brave little monster, the only one capable of fighting the viruses.

Unfortunately, this monster needs to go to the bathroom, often. And there's only one goddamn toilet on the whole server.

That's such shit.

"Digital Toilet World" was made for the 28th Ludum Dare, the 48 hour game making competition. The theme for this particular competition was "you only get one". I have always wanted to make a monster-raising game, and thankfully the theme was open-ended enough to allow me to do this.Obviously, I didn't have time to make a full fledged monster sim, so I restricted myself to the clearly most entertaining mechanic of the genre - pooping. I then added some combat and exploration on top to give the pooping context.

I've always wanted to make a "punk" game in the style of thecatamites or Porpentine for a change, and LD was the perfect opportunity for that. The game's crude as hell, but it's the most fun (complete) game I've made to date.

You can check out the game's compo page on LD here. If you could rate it up, I'd love you. Judging for the competition ends around January 6th, I think.

You can also directly download it from my dropbox here.

Right now I only have a Windows build. If you want a Mac build, I'm going to need actual physical access to Mac (if you're one of my Baltimore friends with a Mac and you want to play this, let's get together and make it happen.)

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Digital Toilet World Released


I just submitted a game for Ludum Dare 28. It's called Digital Toilet World. You can check it out here.

I'll write a more substantial blog post when I have more time and am not being pressured by my friends to leave the McDonalds from which we are obtaining internet access. I have to leave now.

For what it is, I'm quite proud of it. It's a fun little thing. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Look, I can do animations that aren't pixelated four frame walk loops!

So, I'm currently in an animation class. Below is my final project for it.

It's not strictly games related, but I figured that you, dear reader, would nevertheless be amused by it. For amateur work, I'm pretty satisfied with it.

Enjoy! If I can make a game version of this for Ludum Dare this weekend, I'll totally do it.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Grumpy Programmer Live Blog Spectacle

Okay, you sad sassy dipshits, here's the rundown:

I'm in this bullshit game design class this semester. I'm supposed to have a sparkling-cider-ass digital prototype of a game done tomorrow morning, 9:00 sharp. You need perspective? I'll give you some peanut-butter-shitting perspective - I haven't started, and it's 11:50 right now. 11:50 in the frackin' PM. It's supposed to be a group project. It's supposed to be an equal division of labor. Guess whose partner doesn't have any game design skills and didn't respond to his email  asking when to meet up to work on this piece of flaming spiraled ape shit?

Bloody hell like I've had time to get a headstart on this shit. Bullshit.Game design class.

You know what this means, right, you sewage guzzling skunk munchers? Yeah, that's right, it's the GRUMPY PROGRAMMER LIVE BLOG SPECTACLE. (Pricks).

Every 15 minute interval, you get an update on my progress, you privileged pompous bourgeois blowhard.

Maybe this will be entertaining, as you derive intense pleasure from documentation of my pain. Maybe it will just be sad. Actually, you know what? It'll probably just be frumpin' sad. You know why? Because I'm making a piss-wallowing game about a young woman who can repair elevators. Guess what you do in the game? Repair the motherfucking elevator. Press R to restart and repair it again in a different way! DO IT YOU CAPITALIST SLAVE.

Let's go.

I paid money for new software because I expected improvement. Literally feeling myself get arthritis is not an improvement.
Jesus Christ.

Thank god I can just rip old platformer game code from previous projects for this. Oh, did I forget to mention?
This isn't just a game in which you fix elevators.
It's a game in which you can fix elevators and  jump.

What the hell is my roommate watching? Did the sports announcer just say ninjitsu fight?
i wish i could watch two ninjitsus fight BUT NO I MUST WORK because SOMEBODY HAS TO DO IT
Fucking ninjitsus. They're not all that cool.

Shit, is 64 pixels too great of a range within which the player can interact with the elevator? How close does one have to be to elevators to fix elevators? Judas Priest.

Yeah if anybody was wondering 64 pixels is too much distance.


No my bad 48 is totally the right distance.
If you're trying to work on an elevator and you're more that 48 pixels away from the fucker you better put your fancy-ass elevator tools down and hightail it out of there before you hurt someone.

There used to be a strange joke about aunts here but I removed it because it was dum.

Guess whose game has an elevator that can detect bullshit?

It's on to you, pansy-farter.

Why the hell is Tahoma the default font?
Who the hell types in Tahoma?
What the fuck is a Tahoma?
I expected improvement. I didn't pay money to type in Tahoma in the built-in graphics editor.
Fucking ninjitsus.

Look, I hate it when humorists make self-referential, self-depricating humor or commentary. It's never funny, and it never helps. But in all honesty? This post has lost me any credibility I've ever had as a writer. I lost the credibility precisely when I wrote about the aunt dying in the elevator accident.
The proofreading and review processes are not by any means underrated. Make no mistake, this is an unfiltered vomit of words.

         I continue to write this for the slim chance of self redemption.

on another note sewage guzzling skunk muncher ha ha

You know, this is a lot like Ludum Dare or 7DFPS.
Except not fun, and if you fail to meet the deadline you lose your scholarship money.
That's sickening. What sick turn of fate this is.

Look, the game has choices in it now. And what meaningful choices they are.

I should work for kitten-huffin' Bioware.

What kind of sadistic elevator repair simulator is this. Jesus.

Oh shit.
I forgot to change the font from Tahoma.
Fuck me blind.

Should I just censor that moronic post about the aunt? I should probably do that.
Oh geeze.

I hope your computer's badass enough for this game, because it needs to run at a howling 60 frames per second.

Yeah, definitely censoring that stupid elevator crash with dead aunt joke. Geeze. Can't believe I wrote that shit.

Yeah that looks better.


And now the game has exploding elevators.

I swear to god I'm being productive.

Now the game has bad guys.

This is going to be great for my portfolio.

I have a headache and my stomach hurts.

What am I doing.

You see, over the bad guy's head, it says, "bad guy".

Did you notice?

I noticed.

Wait a second, I'm almost done.

The game prototype's done. If you want to download it for some reason you can do it here:

It's a Windows build as usual. Not bad for three hour's work.

That... that was the

Never... never again...

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Waker Update

     This past semester's kind of been kicking my ass, but I've still been putting time into Waker whenever I can. The past month, I've expanded the game's opening - extended the chase scene, quadrupled the size of the snowy area, and spaced out the game's dialogue. These changes have helped much with the pacing - I'm really happy with how the opening sequence plays out.
      However, for those of you who played the demo, I've removed the character of Roger, the hooded Juror, from the game. I had a subplot planned out for him, but he doesn't contribute much to the main story and is just another character to keep track of. In any case, I need to take shortcuts wherever I can if I want to finish this within the next year. I hear artists talk all the time about having to scrap good individual work for the sake of the whole, and it's really not easy, but the more I replay the first section, the more I realize that it was for the best. R.I.P Roger.
     Current goal for the end of the month is to implement a dashing mechanic (Go Go Boots make you Go!) and puzzles with turrets. I hope to finally begin progressing the story again by the end of December.

     I'm sorry I haven't been writing many recommendations/reviews/opinion pieces lately - there has been little time for blogging. I hope to have some more entertaining writing as a holiday gift. ;)

EDIT: Here's a screenshot of the turrets. Still working on getting them to shoot - the lasers are for detecting threats:

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Waker's Still a Thing

     Feedback to the demo has generally has been positive or helpful . Some people were turned off by the sheer amount of reading the game required: in that case, the game frankly isn't for you. Everybody else wants to see where it goes. I feel refreshed, and think that I'm going to enter another period of relatively rapid development.

     New things that will be added to the game not in the demo (besides the entire second half)
-Character temperament that is more strongly determined by how the player has treated them in the past.
-Plot developments more strongly shaped by player choice. While choices made throughout the game will impact the ending, I can only afford to make the consequences of those choices apparent later in the game due to the sheer amount of extra work required by branching plots. Hence, player choice in the short term will primarily have an impact on the temperament of other characters.
-Slightly larger game world.
-Music! I've been in contact with another talented musician who seems to be interested in the project.
-Anticipated release date: November/December 2014. I will probably miss this date, but it should be humanely possible for me to finish the project by then.

     The game may or may not represent what I am most capable as a game designer, but apparently it's still damn good, and it's worth fully realizing. Thanks to everyone for helping me pull my head out of my arse.


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Waker: Demo Up, Possibly Discontinuing Development

     Internet, it's been a while since I've talked about Waker. For one thing, little progress has been made over the past month. This past semester of college has been the busiest yet; mustering the time and energy to work on the project is a challenge. For another thing, I'm starting to feel constrained by design decisions I made in the beginning of development. As an artist, writer, designer, storytelling, and thinker, I've grown a bit over the past 16 months of game development, and working within the design mistakes made by my past self is frustrating. I'm feeling incredibly low motivation to continue the project at the moment, and even if I recover that motivation, being able to work on the game frequently enough to get the damn thing done anytime soon will be a challenge.

     I made especially bad decisions in failing to implement meaningful core gameplay mechanics from the beginning of development. My approach was a of the "create the story first, add unique mechanics to support each specific plot event as you go along, and achieve ludonarrative resonance!" sort. Unfortunately, most plot events in the game don't inherently demand game mechanics, those that do don't demand meaningful ones, and because I'm only one man with limited time, when given a choice to implement new, really complex core mechanics or forgo them altogether, I will make the choice to forgo them. Lesson learned - don't develop games this way.

     That being said, I've received substantial praise from everyone whose played the game so far, especially for the characters and the writing. One playtester stated that the game gave him good "feels," and others feel genuinely motivated to continue playing for the story's sake. Frankly, the game, despite it's awful, barely existent gameplay, could still end up being a great interactive story. I just don't know - and the only way to know is to commit to at least another year of development.

     I need to know, if I am going to commit my time to this substantial project, will it be worth it? Strangers on the internet have expressed interest in this game in the past - I need to know if people are atill anticipating this game, if there's a large enough audience for it, and if that audience will actually enjoy it. So, I am releasing a public demo of my work up to this point. If you decide to play it, please supply feedback, especially by letting me know 1) if you would really like this game to be completed and 2) whether you would like it completed ASAP, or if you can wait an indefinite amount of time. Please be honest. You can leave a comment, or shoot an email to    

Click here to download the demo.

System requirements: Windows OS, screen resolution exceeding 960x720. A finally version would be able to support greater screen resolutions.

Esc quits. F4 exits fullscreen. F5 saves, F6 loads. F9 takes a screenshot. All other controls explained in-game.

There's currently no sound or menus. There are bugs. The whole thing's a little rough. I am aware of these things.

Thank you so much for taking time to play this and provide feedback. It means a lot.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Recommendation: Super Hot

I don't know how I missed this from 7DFPS, but Super Hot is amazing. It's a shooter game in which time only moves when the player moves. It's really an amazing mechanic. Play it here.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Recommendation: Save the Date

Play this.

It's called Save the Date. It initially appears to be a visual novel dating sim, but it isn't. At all. It's really best to go into it blindly, so I'll try not to spoil it, but it's really, really funny, fantastically written, and provides really great commentary on storytelling (esp interactive storytelling). (Tip: keep playing after each bad ending. Try to avert them. You will progress.)

It's short, it's free, and it's quality. So much quality.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Recommendation: Hate Plus

Oh, *Hyun-ae. I really shouldn't be romancing you in-game because you're an underage genocidal computer program and it all kind of makes me uncomfortable, but I'll still drop everything and make you a cake when you ask me to ~! In a mug. In the microwave.


Look, a computer game made me do this. If you've learned anything from my blog, learn this: computer games are evil. Ugh.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Recommendation: Ultra Business Tycoon III

     Porpentine's has recently become one of my game dev heroes - she's more aware of everything that's fucked up about the medium more than any other public figure that I know - but this had only been because of her incredibly insightful writing about games. Ironically, I had actually never played one of her interactive fiction games until this evening: Ultra Business Tycoon III, a (semi-autobiographical, I assume) text adventure in which you're in the role of a young girl in a dysfunctional household playing a game. I really don't want to spoil any more of it, but it really struck an emotional chord with me, and you should really do yourself a favor and play it.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Recommendations: Various 7DFPS games by other people.

     I've spent a few days now playing through as many of the hundreds of 7DFPS entries released last weekend as I could stand before growing sick of the FPS genre altogether. Here's some pretty cool games from the jam.

There's a bunch of planets with turrets on them and you jump from planet to planet and there's PLASMA FREAKING EVERYWHERE and it's kind of epic.

Tunnel Revision
Not much of an FPS, but you race through a tunnel in first person view. Kind of like those helicopter flash games everybody played as a kid except it doesn't suck.

Terror From Another Dimension
Roguelike-ish shooter where you blast cute aliens, but after a certain amount of time the level's ceiling flies away and aliens come down from space and it's really awesome.

Boarding Party
Procedurally generated shooter in which you blast through hordes of aliens with what precious ammunition you can scavenge. One of the most polished entries by far, and a load of fun. Borrows some of the best elements from Doom, and then adds some of its own flair.

Notch, the guy who made Minecraft (dur), made a game, and it's kind of been hogging up all of the 7DFPS press from those of us who don't have name recognition, which kind of pisses me off, but the game's really, really good. It's the zombie apocalypse, and life is hard.

Ned Kelly's Last Stand
In which you play as Australian folk hero Ned Kelly during his final moments. There's a couple of really great moments in this game, but I don't want to spoil them. Pretty neat.

A game by Vlambeer, those guys who made Super Crate Box, in which you blast bacteria with guns using guns. Very solid gameplay.

Anything you've played from the game jam you've enjoyed? Please lemme know!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

"Empty Chambers" now on Game Jolt!

You can now download "Empty Chambers" from Game Jolt and apparently give me ad revenue or something/whatever. There's also more screenshots and shit. It's nice.
Check it out here.

Friday, August 16, 2013

7DFPS Challenge: Day 7

     "Empty Chambers" was completed at 3:00 AM this morning. You can read the pitch about it and download it on the games page. It's entry on the 7DFPS site is here.

     Before I talk about the game itself, I want to mention that the 7 Day FPS Challenge was a wonderful experience. I really enjoyed reading up on everybody's progress at the end of each day. Even though each team used a different development tools, were of varying sizes, and had wildly different end goals, I felt a lot of solidarity with the whole community. To each of you who completed a game this week, congratulations! Also thanks to those of you who helped organize it.

     Also, this is the first damn videogame that I finished making in three years. This is a really big milestone for me. Most of the time, I don't even get far enough to begin implementing sound. It was a good experience to have gone through the entire development cycle for once. Not only is it good practice, but it's a good reminder to myself that I am actually capable of making and releasing a full game.

     Now, I'm still damn tired from working lasting night and won't write too much else. I have a lot of things I want to say about game violence, shooters and storytelling, and this game in particular, but that discussion will be much more fruitful as I receive feedback on the game. This is in a few ways an experimental game - I made some creative decisions without knowing what the effect would be, and from the little feedback I have received I don't think that the effect was at all what I had intended. So give me feedback. Pretty please? Thanks!

EDIT: Oh, and as far as the last 36 hours of development went, it was pretty hellish. I spent 4-5 hours working out the gunfight at the end, another hour adding the zeppelins and bombs, another hour making and figuring out sound effects for the first time in forever, and still another hour doing boring mundane shit. Totally worth it, though.

     There was a lot I had hoped to get done that I didn't get to: there was supposed to be a section with turrets, and the last level was supposed to be a war zone with civilians under attack from the zeppelins and stuff, and I wanted to add more banter between the player and the fugitive, but it was all low-priority stuff. Perhaps I'll add it later.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

7DFPS Challenge: Day 5

     Today is the day that "Empty Chambers" actually became a game (by a more conservative definition of the word, anyway). There is now a mini-dungeon with falling ceilings that will result in your untimely bloody death! It's really amazing how much variety there is in falling ceiling trap configurations: one could easily make an entire game out of such a concept.

     Also added player death and made the other character run away from you. Tomorrow is pretty much the last day of development: the challenge ends Friday at 8:00, and I have dinner plans with coworkers. All I have left to do is an optional boss fight, level transitions, bombs, zeppelins, and sound effects. There was originally going to be a section with turrets, and I was hoping to be able to do music, but there will be absolutely no time for those things.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

7DFPS Challenge: Day 4

     Crap, it's day 4 already? I'm so far behind schedule it's not even funny. I predict that Friday night will be a coffee-filled all-night extravaganza.

     It's not as though I haven't been productive. It's just that I've been working altogether on the wrong things. I spent too much time making fancy health/stamina/ammo bars that disappear at full health/stamina/ammo (because I hate HUDs with a passion and just want them to go away), and I spent way too much time working on the sprite for the game's other character (I had to make sure that she was perfectly anatomically correct. Bah. Actually animating her is going to be such a pain.) I'm proud of my work and all, but pretty much all that I got done today on my to-do list was the title screen.

     Oh, and speaking of title screens, the game has a title now. I'm calling it "Empty Chambers".

Monday, August 12, 2013

7DFPS Challenge: Day 3

     Pretty much done with the levels. Running a little behind schedule - starting off working on a game during the weekend and finishing it during the workweek is really misleading in terms of what you think you can accomplish during a given day. I didn't get much sleep last night, and the game's suffering a little because of it- the level I made today doesn't look as good as the three made yesterday, and I can't find the willpower to populate the levels with the hazards and the game's other character - so I'm going to try to go to bed early tonight. Writing the AI for the game's "enemy" will be interesting - I haven't gotten far enough in an action game's development cycle to needed to have written combat AI in a loooong time.

     The look of the abandoned city that the game takes place in is probably subconsciously inspired by the poorest areas of Baltimore city - rows and rows of boarded up and decaying buildings. A lot of cities I make in games end up turning out that way.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

7DFPS Challenge: Day 2

     I can't begin to tell you how satisfied I am with how the levels are starting to turn out. I hope to be finished with the levels tomorrow, hopefully I'll have enough time to actually start implementing the gameplay by then.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

7DFPS Challenge: Day 1

     So today was the first day of the 7 Day First Person Shooter Challenge: an initiative for game developers to breath new life into the oversaturated, overdone, ever violent, and ever popular first person shooter challenge. Here's a screenshot of what I have to show for the first day of work. I'm working on the game's engine right now, trying to get as much coding out of the way as possible before I work on art and level design. I've mostly been recycling old code and graphics from old, unfinished 3D projects.

Fun Fact: The game on the left is the spiritual predecessor to Waker (see the aesthetic similarities?). I even ripped the text box scripts from it. Mostly ripping code from the unfinished FPS on the right, though.
      One of the keynote speakers for the events, Bradon Chung (creator of Gravity Bone and Thirty Flights of Loving) encouraged developers to questions the fundamentals of the genre. I've been thinking a lot lately about game violence, morality in games, the stories that violent games tell through gameplay, and how the stories told through the violent gameplay synthesize or conflict with the story that the game is trying to tell. In most first person shooters, the player's violent actions are "justified" in that the player character almost always acts in self defense. Whenever you encounter an enemy in an FPS, the enemy will fire first if the player does not. One of the premises of the game I intend to make is that the player is forced to be the aggressor and remove the moral crutch given to most shooter players, making things suuuuper aaaaawkward for them. What will follow the initial act of aggression is essentially a long, glorified chase scene and boss fight - I want to make the entire game focus on the relationship between the player and his victim with as little filler as possible. What I intend to do with this game is explore a new sort of story that can be told through shooter mechanics - hard to do since there are really so few stories that can be told primarily through shooting.
Game Maker really isn't great for 3D. Should have learned Unity... wish me luck!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Recommendations: Tower of the Blood Lord and Leigh Alexander's Critique of Bioshock Infinite

Here's an interactive fiction game made in Twine called Tower of the Blood Lord, which starts out as an amusing parody of the first 20 minutes of Modern Warfare 2, but then takes a surreal twist, and eventually ascends into a really well written essay about games and culture and violence and prejudice and interacting with culture instead of just consuming it. The game gave me a much needed reminder to consider the relationship between narrative and gameplay, especially violent gameplay, and to consider my own role as a game developer in proliferating (or not) certain cultural attitudes about violence, gender, and race in games. Definitely worth a play/read.

Especially relevant to the themes of Tower of the Blood Lord is this brilliant critique of Bioshock: Infinite by Leigh Alexander. While I enjoyed Infinite very much, I was a little off-put by the narrative context of the game's violence, as well as how the game addressed race. I might write more about race in Infinite some other time (I need to go to bed), but Alexander does a fantastic job in critiquing violence in the game. Well worth reading.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Review of Thomas Was Alone

Cheers! I just (somewhat scathingly yet always quirkily) reviewed the indie puzzle platformer Thomas Was Alone for Beta Fish magazine. You can read it here!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The 7dfps challenge

The 7 Day First Person Shooter Challenge is on again this year, and I'm thinking about taking a break from Waker that week to create an entry for it. Hopefully I actually get a game done in 7 days this time (Waker was originally an entry for a one-week compo... oops), but I need to shift gears from making a giant narrative-heavy "notgame" and take a little time to make something short, stupid, and fun. I highly recommend that other devs give this a try!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Waker Project is One Year Old

     As of yesterday, Waker has been in development for one year. I really do mean to write less about its development and write more about other games and game development theory (you generally prefer reading that stuff - I know!), but Waker's birthday a significant event for me personally. I don't think that I've ever worked more than 9 months on a game before scrapping it, and I'm pretty happy with all of the progress I've made this year. May the next year be even more fruitful!

     I'm going to write something cooler next time, I promise. In the meantime, here's some screenshots charting the game's graphical development over time.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Waker Update

     So, I've finished adding all of Sue's lines to the game. At this point, I've got about 30-40 minutes worth of playtime to the game. Having worked on it for almost a year now (the game's date of inception is July 9th), it's a little discouraging - but not surprising considering that I'm just one guy working on it on-and-off primarily concerned with school and work. I keep hoping that development will speed up as I have more assets and code to draw from, and as I get better at figuring out how to tell the story I want to tell - but we'll see. I think that I have finally figured out how to write good interactive dialogue, though. I no longer have the same misgivings about the writing that I used to. I've spent the past four months polishing the same first 30 minutes over and over again without creating much new content. I think that, now that I have a working example of the sort of quality I'm aspiring to and know how to obtain that quality, that the rest of development will be relatively quick.

    The first half of the game will essentially consist entirely of fairly linear exploration, dialogue trees, and a little bit of puzzle solving. I aim to get this half completely done by the end of the summer. I'm currently thinking that the second half of the game will consist of some old-school action-RPG action and more open-world exploration, and will be the focus of the second year of development. We will see.   

     This project is crazy.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Recommendation - A Thing About Nothingness

     The list of free indie games  in my bookmarks menu that I've been meaning to play has been overflowing, and I've finally started hacking away at it. Today's recommendation from that list is a Ludum Dare entry called A Thing About Nothingness in which you are a man in a barrel who tries to adhere to the philosophy of cynicism. It's short, free, and remarkably well written - download this little gem here. You will be amused.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Waker Update - Introducing Poggles! What's a Poggle, you ask? Read on!

     It usually happens after 6-12 months of working on a game that I lost interest in it, cease to work zealously on it, scrap it, and move on. Emotionally, I had reached that stage with Waker a few months ago., but wasn't willing to give up on it. I've had strangers on the internet (such as yourself!) tell me that they think the game looks great and that they're looking forward to it, so scrapping the project isn't really much of an option. Besides, I think the game looks great, and it has a lot of potential.

     Problem is, I enjoy designing games and imagining characters and stories a little bit more than I do actually creating them. There's this sweet spot in game creation where I'm still fleshing out characters, figuring out mechanics, and determining where I want the story to go AFTER I've begun actual development. I am most obsessive and dedicated to game development during this period. For a while, though, I've been outside of that sweet spot. I know who my characters are, I know where the story's going, and so the thrill of committing those characters to pixels and code hasn't been with me.

     Not only that, but the story and world that I've created are fairly melancholic. In my list of supporting characters, I have: a depressed office drone, a potter who's lost her family and is seeking revenge, a loner whose girlfriend is probably dead, a soldier who's seen his husband ripped to pieces, and a psychopathic vigilante. Lots of room for character development and heartbreak, but not much room for humor and upliftment. There's no contrast, no point of comparison for the heartbreak. What I want to be an emotionally deep, but enjoyable story was instead just masochistic fantasy that's hard to stomach.

     So, I came up with a solution to both of these problems, and now making Waker is fun again.

(More, including screenshots, below the break)

Toward a Cutie Aesthetic

It's a little old by now, but I had just stumbled across a thought-provoking article by Andrew Vanden Bossche about the underepresentation of women and the LGBT community in games, the lack of "human" stories in AAA games, and what he calls "The Cutie Aesthetic" as a tool of cultural subversion. You can read it by clicking the fancy hyperlink here.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Waker Update

     Waker now has a working inventory! It didn't need it before, but the as the game grows and I find that I need to add more and more ways to reward exploration, I'm finding that the game is becoming more and more cluttered with items. Not totally happy with how it all looks, but I can worry about that further down the road.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Review of Fez

I just reviewed the delightful Fez for Beta Fish magazine, and you can read my thoughts on the game and on exploration in games in general here.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Waker - It's Back On, and a Quick Question

     So, I'm done with school for the year, but I'm stuck in the town without anything to do for a week. You know what this means?

     A week of full-time game development in coffeeshops. I hope to have something interesting to show you all by the end of it!

     Also, quick question - I'm not sure how I feel about titling the game Waker. It's sort of awkward to say by itself, sounds a lot like wanker, and leads to people asking me what a "waker" is, which leads to having to discuss some of the game's original fantasy lore, which leads to me feeling super goofy. So I'm thinking of renaming it Wakers and Dreamers. Any thoughts? Seriously, though, I just need one person to comment with the word "yes" to confirm that this is in fact a good decision. I want this to be the last time I rename it. Do me a favor and be that person.

     In terms of Waker's development, this summer should be interesting. One week in a college town with nothing else to do, followed by three weeks in Baltimore with nothing else to do, followed by working for three months in Baltimore with nothing else to do in the evening. If I really, really push myself and find the motivation, I hope to be done with the damn game by the end of the summer so I can move onto the next big thing. I've been wanting to make this game about a girl who goes to high school in a walled-in dystopian corporate city. You see, life sucks for this girl, because she's in a dystopian sci-fi setting and  she's in high school (insult to injury, amarite?), when, one night, she stumbles across this creature from another world trapped in the city, and they become super good friends. Problem is, the corporate police state isn't okay with this, and they want the monster dead, because that's just want villainous corporate police states do - they hate fun. So, basically, it'd be a mix of 1984, high-school commedy/drama indie film, and Pokemon. I'm probably going to ditch the idea by the time I actually start my next project, but it excites me nonetheless.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Also, Jurassic Heart

Also! There's a short dating sim parody in which you play as a young woman who is friends with a ukulele-playing Tyrannosaur. The Tyrannosaur has the hots for you.

It's called Jurassic Heart. It's freakin' odd, in case your afternoon doesn't have enough weird. Yer welcome, kid.

Miscellaneous Short Essays I Had to Write for School

     So, I recently applied (and got in, of course) to Ohio University's Games and Animation program, while keeping my good ol' Political Science major. To do this, I had to write six short essays for an online blog - I don't know why it was necessary to post these essays publicly on the internet, since they're just going to be a general waste of server space - but a couple of them might be of interest to you.

     For the first of these, I had to explain why I applied to program. I ended up explaining why I want to make games, why I want to make them independently, and how I want the medium to evolve. If you want to know why I do what I do, give it a read here.

     The second is a review of The Binding of Isaac, a wonderfully twisted zeldalike roguelike. Those of you who are Indie Devs are probably quite familiar with it, but for the rest of you, it's cheap and good - and I give a good synopsis and short analysis of it here. Not my most in-depth review, but it'll do.

Please, for the love of God, no not read the rest of the entries.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Waker Update

Hey all,

     I haven't been making much progress on Waker lately. School's generally been kicking my ass, and I've been out of town for a few days to take care of family business, and I've started designing a competitive tabletop collectible monster roguelike game to which I've foolishly been dedicating my creative energies. More on that some other time.

     The game's still about 40% of the way to completion. I've been adding plenty of new content over the past few months - new areas and puzzles and characters and all that -but I've generally been expanding the beginning of the game. Now that I have a grasp on the world and the characters, I've been embellishing pre-existing content quite a bit. For example, I'm currently working on the interior of an apothecary in a town that previously had no explorable interiors to its buildings. The player is sent on a short quest to find a key in this town, and in the original version the key was placed in plain sight on the same screen in which the town is entered. This didn't feel like much of a search. By adding a "dungeon," the search is expanded, and the player is required to solve a puzzle (and thus actually work for the key). I also took the opportunity to give the player the opportunity to find (or fail to find) a sample of anti-venom that holds severe consequences in the story later on, and I felt as though it would be a good point in the game to introduce one of the game's monsters, and a dungeon is a fine place for that. It's a lot of extra work that isn't necessary to tell the complete story, but I'm already finding that it's enriching the game a lot.

(more below the jump)

Monday, April 1, 2013

Recommendation - Get Punched! (also swearing)

     Okay, so if you've read any of my writing, you know that the reason I make games is to attempt to tell emotionally engaging and meaningful stories and be part of a movement to help mature the medium and press its limits and blah blah blah yeah yeah whatever.

     I lied - that's only half the reason I make games. The other half is this:

     This is a short punk game in which you punch people called Get Punched, and it the most fucking fun you will have all week. The game's feel is amazing. It's crude as hell, but I love it. The download link is further down the thread here.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

On the Ideal of the "Notgame"

This week for Beta Fish I offer my thoughts on so-called "notgames," game difficulty, ludo-literacy, non-gamers, storytelling, the future of games, and more. Lots of theory and shit! Read it all here.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Mention on Indie Game Hunt

     Thanks again to Paul Hack of for featuring Waker on Indie Game Hunt! It's really, really weird for me to see strangers on the internet get excited about my creative work - really not at all used to it - but it's greatly appreciated nonetheless  Stuff like this motivates me more than anything to work on the project and make it the best that it can be - I'll try my best to meet expectations!

Friday, March 15, 2013

1000 hits

I mean, in the grand scheme of the internet, 1000 pageviews is small fry, but damn it, it's something, and I really appreciate it. Thanks for reading this blog, and for reading my column on Beta Fish you've been doing that too.

I will write something soon. In the meantime, here's a Ze Frank video of True Facts about the Baby Echidna.

Also, there have been 50 posts previous to this one. Coincidence?

Sunday, March 3, 2013

On Mad Father and Protagonists in Games

Here's a review I wrote for Beta Fish on the quite good freeware indie horror adventure game Mad Father that also talks about the problem that having a player avatar as the main character poses for storytelling in games. Enjoy!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Recommendation- The King of the Wood

Also, here's  a cool game inspired by Blade Runner called The King of the Wood. Mechanically, it's an FPS, but there really isn't a whole lot of action - instead it's all about atmosphere, suspense, and storytelling. It's a short and well-told story, so if you have 15 minutes to kill give it a play.

Waker - Glitching like it's the 90s!

Sometimes, when you compile your game, this happens:

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

On how most modern level design sucks and reviews of Anodyne and OFF

     I wrote a couple of more pieces of Beta Fish. The first is a review of the RPG OFF, and the second is a lengthy rambling that's part continuation of my Skyrim rambling, part personal reflection, part level design analysis, and part of review of the recently released dungeon-crawler Anodyne. I put quite a bit of effort into the second one, give it a read! I mean, I put effort into the first one too, but the second one's juicy.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Recommendation- Actual Sunlight

From the game's site:

Actual Sunlight is a short interactive story about love, depression and the corporation.
 The game puts you in the role of Evan Winter, a young professional in Toronto, as he moves through three distinct periods of his life. The story is linear, unavoidable and (hopefully) thought-provoking. You experience his perceptions, fall under the consequences of his decisions, and meet everyone who didn’t change him.
Gameplay is minimal, and serves only to move from one part of the (admittedly) text-heavy story to the next. The game fiercely attempts to be worth it.

     It's a game about depression, hopelessness, and suicide, but it's not of the "whiny emo" variety. Instead, it's a brilliantly and very thoughtfully written work. It's short and free, and you should download it here.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Waker Update

     Frankly, working on a game of such large scope all alone can be depressing as hell sometimes. Every time I play through the current build of Waker, I make a list of every imperfection I come across that I need to fix, and the list is really daunting at times. I've rewritten entire in-game conversations two or three times, have had to overhaul the overall layout of the game world, and even had to add an entirely new opening sequence because the story's original beginning was super weak. When I started the project, I had accounted for all of the new content that I would have to produce, and figured it was a reasonable workload. What I had failed to account for was all of the re-writing, re-programming, and re-drawing that I'd have to do. The way things are going, I could be working on this game for years.

     That being said, there are moments when I play the game that it just sort of, I don't know how else to say it, comes together in a way that no game I've ever made has come together. There are a few moments where everything just works and I lose myself in my own creation. And it's really, really exciting. I don't care how long it takes me to do this, or how miserable it might make me. It'll all be so worth it.

     Here's some new screenshots, by the way. More below the jump.