Archive for September, 2007

Stumbled Upon

Looks like someone’s linked to my site from Stumble Upon, and my traffic’s just quintupled multiplied by an astonishing factor. Hope the site doesn’t fall over when I’m away…

Haven’t mentioned my little platformer in a few days, have I? I’ve added a few bits and pieces since I got back from Galway on Sunday, but nothing too serious. I actually ended up making a ridiculously overpowered map editor, considering the scale of the project:

(They’re just temporary tiles, by the way)

Right, I’m off. See ya in a few days 🙂

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Upcoming indie games

See those catagories on the side? I added a new one 🙂 I figured since I talk about the “indie games” topic so much, it’s about time I stopped lumping them in as interludes and owned up to the fact that I’m posting a lot more to the blog these days than just progress reports.

I play a huge number of indie games, but I always seems to have a backlog of stuff to check out. It’s absolutely incredible just how much there is – even at the rate I’m playing these games, there are still huge areas of the scene I know very little about! I’ve hardly looked at the AGS scene, or the Shareware scene, or the Bullet Hell SHMUP scene, or the RPG Maker scene, or the Flash scene, or the Interactive Fiction scene, or… man, I could go on for a while here. Just off the top of my head, I’ve still to play “5 Days a Stranger” and Yahtzee’s other games, “La Mulana”, “Fate by Numbers”, “Darkside Adventures”, “Fedora Spade”, “Last Scenario”, “Wilfred, the Hero”, any of Emily Short’s stuff apart from Galatea…

…again, I could go on for a while here. 🙁

On top of that, there are loads of games coming up that I’m really looking forward to! These in particular have got me pretty excited:

AkuchizokuCactus

Akuchizoku is an upcoming semi-professional game by the fantastically prolific Cactus, who I mentioned here just the other day with his B-Game entry Mondo Medicals. He also created Clean Asia (which is still one of my favourite indie games), as well as about sixty thousand other games.

I wasn’t sure about this one when I first saw the screenshots – but it looks absolutely glorious in motion. Retro, stylish and weird, but in his usual good way. Check out the video above, and see for yourself.

World of Goo2D Boy (Kyle Gabler and Ron Carmel)

Remember the experimental gameplay project? If so, you’ve probably played Tower of Goo, Kyle Gabler’s most popular submission (he also made Attack of the Killer Swarm, Darwin Hill, The Crowd, and Gravity Head – a pretty fantastic track record, all told).

There were a lot of cool mini-games created as part of that project, but Kyle’s stuff really stood out, with its quirky style and character. This guy really knows what’s he doing, so I’m looking forward to seeing what this is like. Even though, to be honest, this isn’t the sorta thing I’d usually be interested in, heh.

(He’s being assisted by Ron Carmel, but unfortunately I’m not familiar with his stuff. Apparently he worked for EA.)

AquariaBit-Blot (Alec Holowka & Derek Yu)

I’ve been eagerly anticipating this release since it won the Seamus McNally grand price at the IGF back in March. Apparently it’s basically finished, but the developers have held back the release to further test it and give it a bit of polish. Always a good sign 🙂

Alec just recently posted this gameplay video to the Bit-Blot blog, which shows about seven minutes of gameplay, and a boss encounter.

The UndersideInsignificant Studios (Arthur Lee)

I don’t know if we’ll ever see a finished version of The Underside, but there’s a very good demo available – check it out here. According to the site, it’s still being worked on – and recently, too. This is the only game in this list I’ve actually played, so I can sound more convincing when I say that this is going to be pretty good 🙂

Upon releasing the first screenshots and gameplay videos, the poor game (and developer) took a lot of slack from a certain knuckleheaded subset of Cave Story fans. Sheesh. Some people, eh?

Anyway, I can’t wait to play this one! 🙂

BraidJonathan Blow

There’s no video “as such” (aside from a little bit in a lecture here), but Graham Goring played a demo of it, and did a neat preview of it for the arsecast.

I read Jonathan Blow’s blog from time to time, and I really like his whole philosophy on game design. From everything I’ve seen and everything I’ve heard about this game, I don’t doubt that he’s on to something with this.

And that’s that… Hey, reader – you know all these blog posts are pure procrastination, right? I think I’m going to go to the library instead tomorrow and try to get some work done before I head to Amsterdam for the rest of the week.

Anyway, I’m done rambling for the day 😀

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My Picks

TIGSource’s B-Game’s contest is now at an end, and by my count, 27 people have submitted entries to it. This doesn’t include games that have been privately submitted to the mods over there, but I suspect we’ve seen the bulk of them.

The overall standard is phenomenal. Practically everyone got a good grasp on the idea behind the contest and as a result, everything submitted is worth playing – be it for a cool gameplay mechanic or just a brilliant concept.

There are a few exceptional entries, though. I haven’t decided on the best one, but my favourites are these three:


Mondo Medicals – Cactus

The concept: Mondo Medicals needs your help to research a cure for cancer: to do this, you first need to be tested. The game faces you with a number of counter-intuitive first person maze puzzles, and on completion of each you’re treated to bizarre cutscenes that reveal more about what’s going on.

What’s good? The “twilight zone” interpretation of the B-Games concept is the most underexplored take on the contest, and none of the other participants handle it as well as Cactus does. This game is seriously creepy, but in a good way. It’s by far the most stylish game entered.

What’s not so good? The puzzles are fun and the game plays well, but as it goes on, it’s just much too difficult. So far I’ve haven’t been able to beat the “count to 15” stage (even though I’ve counted to 14!), and I’m half thinking about resorting to the walkthrough. On top of this, some levels drag on a bit too long.

My evaluation: One of the best entries to the contest. Had Cactus worked a little more on the puzzles and shortened some of the repetitive levels, it would probably stand out as the clear winner.


The 100-in-1 Klik & Play Pirate Kart – Team Glorious Trainwrecks Dot Com
(Alan Gordon, dessgeega, Develop CO, Eudaimon, Haze Rever, J. “Botagel” Reed, Jeremy “SpindleyQ” Penner, Kirk “kirkjerk.com” Israel, Laco, Matthew “Shapermc” Williamson, MR ISAAC, PizzaTime!, Preston Whited, Quaggy!, Raphael Freight-Train Shinners, Seppel, six, and Swimmy)

The concept: Anybody could have taken a month and thrown together a bad Klik & Play game and called it an entry to this contest. Forming a team of 17 and making a hundred of them in one weekend, on the other hand… that’s just too awesome to put into words 🙂

What’s good? All the authors bring something different to the table – Alan Gordon’s black and white games are probably the best; funny and mostly playable in their own right (My favourite of his was “Keys Keys Keys”). There are good and bad in here, but no game is really “Bad”, so to speak.

You might not feel like playing all of them, but you should probably give these a shot, at least:
Alan Gordon – Duelling Sandwiches, Keys Keys Keys
dessgeega – here comes the judge
Eudaimon – Kill Yourself, Slide Puzzle Insanity: Special Edition
Haze Rever – Hungry Hedgehogs MMORPG
Jeremy “SpindleyQ” Penner – Don’t Stop Believing, Pick up the phone and die (pictured), Piano Tutor
Matthew “Shapermc” Williamson – Sad old man
Raphael Freight-Train Shinners – Emotional Rollercoaster
six – Shakespeare Shakespeare Revolution
Swimmy – Don’t hit the spikes, This game stars my penis

… hell, you should just try them all 😀 I was in stitches the whole time!

What’s not so good? It kinda stretches the “amateurish” interpretation of the B-Games concept to the max. It’s good, but then it can only be so good, if you know what I mean.

My evaluation: Definitely one of the highlights of the contest. I’m totally amazed at the scope of the games on offer – 100 games of any standard is a huge undertaking, but believe it or not, there are very few repeats, even though that was basically their original intention. Incredible!


Poizoned Mind – Pacian

The concept: You’ve been poisoned. Slow acting, but very deadly, according to Death, who accompanies you at the monorail station where the game begins. Before stepping into the afterlife, Death allows you to take one last look around Zone Five, the run down city where the game takes place.

What’s good? Everything, actually. It’s superbly well written, and consequently, lots of fun to explore. Even the music (various Beethoven Midi files which seem to have been at least partially chosen as a joke) suits the game really well. The author claims that the game has only one ending – and it does, I suppose – but there are many interesting and funny ways to get there. The game’s eight fleshed out characters joke, purr, and wax philiosophical about issues as diverse as death, Elvis’s mothership, and gonzo burgers.

What’s not so good? I’m having trouble seeing how the game interprets the theme of the contest. The only thing that seems to qualify is what the author calls “Unparalleled lyneWrap™ technology”, which results in practically every sentence incorrectly wrapping at the edge of the screen. It adds an air of amateurishness to the game that I guess the author felt it needed.

This is minor nitpicking, though. The game is excellent!

My evaluation: I don’t see a lot of people talking about this one on the forums, and it’s a shame, because it’s probably my personal favourite. I hope it isn’t overlooked when it comes to the voting.

The really amazing thing is that the author claims it’s his first game. In that case, I can’t wait to see what he comes up with when he starts on something serious! 🙂

These three are my favourites, but they’re not the only good games that have been submitted : here are a few more highlights that are worth looking at:


Space Barnacle – Golds

An excellent little platform shooter set in space. Again, I’m not quite sure how the author was interpreting “B-Game”, but he’s created something really good nevertheless.


Cottage… OF DOOM! – Haowan

Another very strong contender – Cottage of Doom is a shooter which seems to be roughly based on “Night of the Living Dead”. The niftiest thing about it is that you don’t just have to run out in the middle of a group of enemies and start shooting; to survive, you need to barricade the doors and windows and pick them off in small groups. It needs a little polish, but I had a lot of fun with it.


Gunlimb – Radnom

Play a torso, on a mission to avenge his limbs. Encapsulates everything that’s great about this contest 😀


Hickbilly Bride – Can-O-Spam

GOT SUM PRETTY DCENT LEVL DESIGN IN HERE


Weißer Punkt in der Schwarzlücke – Movius

Here’s something a bit different: A parody of arthouse gaming! Complete with director’s commentary, trailers for upcoming releases, a gallery and a lengthy credit sequence. Wish I’d thought of it 🙂

This is only the start of it – I’ve barely scratched the surface! Check out the rest here: TIGSource B-Games contest forum

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TIGSource B-Game Contest

TIGSource’s B-Game contest has now come to an end. Well, in this time zone, anyway.

I really loved the concept behind this one, and I wish I could have entered properly. No harm though. There’s nothing stopping me from continuing with my entry over the next few weeks!

Once all the big entries have come through tomorrow, I’ll write up a little post with some thoughts on my favourites.

[edit: By the way, here it is.]

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So now what?

Em – this little rant does go on a bit. I’ll just summarise it at the end in case anybody wants to see what I’m up to, but couldn’t be arsed reading all this 😀

Ever since I got back from Spain on Sunday, I haven’t so much as thought about doing any coding. It’s amazing how tired a holiday can leave you.

I don’t think it’s really hit me yet – that I won’t be going back to work, that I won’t have another paycheck coming – or that I really should be working on something, instead of lounging around the house browsing the internet and playing the new Phoenix Wright.

So here we go. I think it’s high time I put my plans together in a more concrete form.

    An overview of my approach:

I’ve had a change of heart. A couple of months ago, I was able to motivate myself into quitting my job and giving this a shot by convincing myself that I could realistically make a living as a full-time indie. And I don’t think that’s a good idea anymore.

Going full-time indie means that I’m completely dependant on my savings. It means that I need to pay my way by selling my games – and as a consequence, it sorta implies that I shouldn’t be working on anything that I don’t intend to sell. Not if I don’t want to go bankrupt, at least.

I really don’t like that idea.

Also, as much as I’d like to insist otherwise, it does put a limitation on what I can work on.

Without getting into the details of my savings and living expenses, I estimate that I can live for about six months or so before I need to look for a new job. That’s like, next March. Let’s be realistic here. Even if I was to spend every day from now to then working on a masterpiece, it’s a huge gamble – if the game doesn’t work out, I’m in serious trouble. On top of that, I’ll have spent all my savings – which really leaves me with no option but to don a shirt and tie and go back into the working world.

Hey, it could work out, I suppose. But there is a better alternative.

    The part-time route:

Working one 9 to 5 day a week at the Irish minimum wage would pay a little under my weekly living expenses (provided I start getting a bit stingier with my money). Working two days a week would cover my rent. This would stretch out my survival time to between 10 months to a year an a half, depending on whether I work one day a week or two. And if I can find a job that pays more than minimum wage, the numbers get even better. Obviously, this is all just roughly speaking, but it’s something to think about.

I have no idea what kinda job I’d get yet, but I’m not picky. There are supposedly nearly a thousand pubs in this city – I’ve done a bit of bar work before and wouldn’t mind doing it again. Anything would do though. Tescos, McDonalds, whatever. I don’t think I’d have much luck finding a part time office job, but that’s worth a shot too.

Aside from the money, there are other benefits to this approach. Having to go do something every Saturday (or whatever) would be a nice way to mentally keep track of my progress. Or, to put it another way – it would keep me from slacking off.

But the main benefit is the obvious one – I’d no longer have to worry about money. This means no obligation to make a living with every little game I try making, and it means no worrying about how I’m going to pay my rent a few months down the line. It’s not that I particularly want to work in a chipper or something, but this approach just makes the most sense to me. Still, if anybody out there’s got some better suggestions, I’d love to hear them! 🙂

Right. Enough of the approach – here are my actual plans:

    My short term plans:

First thing I need to do is to get into some kind of sustainable lifestyle. I need to find a decent part time job first of all, and this may take some time. I also need to start budgeting, like, right away. And the longer it takes me to get a job, the more money I’m going to waste.

However, I won’t be any position to get a job for another couple of weeks, at least. I arranged a few holidays for myself in the last few months of the job – the week in the Spain with my trad band being the biggest one, but I’m also off to Galway this weekend for a friend’s house party, and then to Amsterdam with a few friends the week after that. And then, I’m going home for a few days. It’ll be October before I’m really ready to start.

But enough of that! My immediate concern is my next game: for TIGSource’s B-Game contest. Or, I should say, the game I was making for TIGSource’s contest. Given that I’ve only till Thursday, and given how lethargic I seem to be at the moment, I just don’t think I can do it justice. Instead, I’m officially dropping out, but I’m going to casually work on it over the next few weeks with whatever free time I can muster up. I had some pretty cool ideas for it over in Spain, and I still think the game has at least some potential!

But don’t worry. Not all my games are about kicking someone in the crotch or jumping around naked. I have some serious games in mind down the line:

    My long term plans:

The full-time indie thing cornered me into what I’ve been calling the Sound of Music scenario – or to use a gaming analogy, the Final Fantasy scenario. It meant that I would squander every last cent I had on one big project that was either going to make or break me. Since I’m now going down the part time route, that’s no longer essential, and I can think about taking on a couple of smaller projects instead, and leaving the big ones till later on.

Here are a few things I want to try:

A puzzle game: Unfortunately, Puzzle Games have been hideously abused by the casual gaming sector of indie gaming. It’s disgusting. Anybody who’s played any of my early QB games, however, may note that aside from the failed RPG attempts, they’re almost all puzzle games. But not in the Bejeweled or Tetris sense. They’re real puzzle games, where you have to sit back and carefully consider your next move – where you have to think ahead and there’s a deliberate logic at work – not just a momentary trigger finger reaction to whatever damn piece you’ve been served.

I would love to make a good puzzle game. Something cool and addictive that people want to play five minutes of before they start working on something, with a level editor so people can create their own stuff and levels that actually require you to sit back and think about what you’re going to do. I think there’s a lot of room to make something really cool within this genre. And it so happens, I have something in mind.

A flash game: I’ve had an interest in doing something in flash for a while now – people who work in flash seem to be able to work quite quickly, and it appears to be a fairly nice development environment. Flash games also seem to attract a lot more attention than the average indie game, though they do attract a different kind of attention.

The main reason I’m curious about flash, though, is because you can make money with it without charging a cent for it. I don’t really like ads, but hey – if some stupid company selling smileys or whatever wants to pay me for putting an ad in the loading screen for my game, then I guess I don’t really have a problem with that. They can go right ahead.

Fundamentally, I really just don’t want to have to worry about money in the slightest. I don’t want to cut down my game and ask people to pay for the rest or anything like that – so a system like sponsership or the less intrusive ads (like MochiAds) is pretty interesting to me.

It is a little on the dark side, though. I’m not sure if it’s something I really want to explore. Especially after reading articles like this one:

Generic Defence Game: The Experiment

A few little freeware games: Back when I was in school I used to make little free mini-games, just for the hell of it. I haven’t done that in years, even though I’ve learnt a lot from all the big projects I’ve worked on in the five years since. It would be really cool to go and revisit that mindset: to take a random week and work on a random game idea, and just see how it goes. There are a lot of indie developers out there at the moment who work like this, and it really seems to help them develop an individual style (compare one of Cactus’s old games to Clean Asia or Burn the Trash, for example).

I kinda worry that I’m not able to make games this way anymore. That’s probably irrational, but it would be nice to finish something again, at long last. This untitled naked platformer I’m working on seems like a good place to start.

Major Arcana: I’ve abandoned a lot of projects over the years – but there’s something to Major Arcana. I dunno. It might be nice to have another look at it, at some later point.

Summary: I’m going to get a part time job. I’ve won’t be around a lot for the rest of the month, and I’m dropping out of the TIGSource contest, but I’m still going to work on my contest game over the next month with whatever free time I can manage. I also have some vague ideas about what I’m going to be doing down the line.

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[insert title later when I’m not so bloody shattered]

I’m back from Spain!

I dunno, Just thought I should announce that. 🙂 Though I’ve only four days, I’m still thinking about entering this B-Game contest at TIGSource. When I’ve rested up a bit, I’ll post something about it.

For now, I think I’ll have a look and see what I’ve missed out on in the scene over the past week. I try to play everything that’s posted to TIGSource and practically everything that’s posted to the Indygamer Blogspot, and I’m already pretty far behind. Just one more advantage of going full time indie, I guess – I’ll finally have a chance to catch up on my backlog of games to check out 🙂

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