Peace is hell

‘case you missed it in the post below, Xoldiers was updated with a level editor and an online database of levels accessible from the game! You will fight for us! Download the new version! That’s an order!

Since the jam I’ve been meaning to catch up on all the little things I’ve been working on lately, but I never seem to have the time to do it properly – so I’m just going to quickly summarise everything:

Buster Drake:
A little while ago I updated the flash prototype with the new version of Buster Drake that I worked on at the jam. Gameplay wise there isn’t any difference; but on a technical level it’s a huge improvement. The original prototype was written in AS2 using a trial version of the Flash IDE – this version is written in AS3 using the free FLEX compiler and the FlashDevelop IDE. Aside from the fact that I’m now using free tools, I’m also approaching flash in a totally different way – I don’t have to think of things in terms of MovieClips and whatever any more – and now that I’ve gotten my head around it, I think I’m more or less at a level where I can do anything in flash that I might want to do in C++, speed concerns aside! Well, hopefully, anyway.

As for the project itself, Buster Drake is maybe bigger than I’d expected. Even the smaller, scaled back version that I’m working on now is probably going to take maybe a week or two to put together – so I’m putting it on hold for a little while to focus on other things. Specifically:

New Strategy Game:
So without giving too much away, there’s this little game that I’ve had in mind for ages and ages and ages – since the qb minigames days, actually! It’s basically a turn based territory control game that I like because it has a really interesting “capture” mechanic, but I’ve never really tried to make it seriously because that’s really all there is to it, and I’ve always felt like there was something missing. Just recently I had a jolt of inspiration that makes the game work, so I’m going to give it a shot and see how it works out 🙂 And I’m going to use flash! More details soon…

Commonplace Book Competition:
Aside from the B-Games contest last year, I’ve entered every game-making contest on TIGSource so far, and I like this theme a lot so I’d love to make a game for it. I was originally going to collaborate with another guy on something small, but unfortunately our “schedules” clashed and that doesn’t look like it’s going to go ahead anymore. I have something else in mind though. Something a little… different. A little darker than the stuff I normally make.

The deadline’s next Thursday though, so I’m not entirely sure if I’ll be entering or not just yet.

Untitled Tower Game:
This is the main project I worked on at TIGJam – here’s the mockup that Dock put together!

Dock and Corpus were working on a simple platformer on rails about falling, and I had this tower platformer engine [EDIT: Inspired by Nebulus, obv] from the previous night’s 3 hour “pick a game idea out of a hat” jam (I got “Trees”), so we decided to combine the two! We don’t really have anything playable just yet, but this is going to be my main focus for the next couple of days, so I hope it won’t be long before we do! The basic engine is all in place now bar one little silly thing, so we’re at the stage of adding gameplay elements.


Some side projects, featuring the return of Buster Drake

I’ve set up a redirect from the frontpage to this blog until I actually have something worth putting up there! Somebody told me that it sucked, and they were right. Also, I got sick of updating it. This makes much more sense anyway – splash pages are, like, so ’90s.

Believe it or not, my April Fool’s post was dead serious. I really am working on a puzzle game. Though the word “puzzle” could be a bit misleading – it’s a word that’s come to encompass a load of games that I wouldn’t really consider to be puzzle games – you know, gem matching, falling blocks, all that nonsense. The game I’m working on isn’t anything like that. It’s more like this.

That game (which I still haven’t thought of a title for) is pretty much my main project right now, but it’s not the only thing I’m working on. I’ve been meaning to write a catch up post for ages now, but it’s been held up by the fact that it’s too soon for me to talk about my main, super serious project. So instead, here’s everything else I’m working on at the moment:

We Love Mind Control Rocket

Because of my other projects I haven’t touched this in about two weeks, but I’m going to make a big push this weekend to finish the update. One one hand, polishing a game that’s basically complete is really tedious, and I’d really prefer to just move on at this point, but on the other, I know there’s potential for a good game here – and if I don’t do it now, it’ll likely get pushed aside and eventually shelved, and I don’t want that to happen.

The update is a massive departure from the gameplay of the contest version – which wasn’t anything like how I originally wanted the game to play – it sort of just emerged from incomplete features that I had implemented.

Untitled Futility/Dream Logic Game

This started as a sort of parallel game for the VGNG contest at TIGSource under the title “Boring Magic Power”, but it’s since become something very different, so I don’t know what I’m calling it at the moment.

There’s an interesting theory about dreams that I’ve always liked: it says that dreams are a way for us to practice handling difficult real life situations that may come up. They give us a chance to improvise, and just see how things play out. Not everybody can relate to this, I guess, but it’s always been the case for me – my dreams are like scenes from soap operas.

This game is a bit autobiographical (to a point, anyway) – I’m trying to make a point about fear of change, about taking chances, and so on. In the game, the main character works in a repetitive office job, and it plays out by offering you meaningless choices that either don’t really matter or lead to ruin. The point of the game is that nothing ever works out: any attempts to break out of the monotony of day to day living leads to failure, and eventually, to a repetitive and bleak lifestyle. Even rather innocuous choices lead to worse case scenarios – in the example in the screenshot above, if you run through the traffic lights you might knock over a cyclist, or get hit by a truck, and so on.

I’m using the Mind Control Rocket engine, so there isn’t really a lot of coding work involved – it really just involves putting together a script and getting some appropriate photographs. So I don’t know when (or if) it’ll be finished – really there’s just a few days work involved, but I’m waiting for inspiration to strike, to develop a clearer idea of what I want the game to say.

Benzido over at TIGSource has a somewhat similar idea in mind, so I put together this mockup for him with the engine 🙂

Buster Drake: The one with the descent into hell

Buster Drake is a character I came up with for the Text the Halls Interactive Fiction contest at TIGSource last Christmas. I was too busy to finish it, but the gist of the game was that you played this really over the top secret agent on an infiltration mission, and you had a load of high tech gadgets at your disposal that you had to use to solve typical little text adventure puzzles.

I’m not entirely sure why I decided to reuse the character for this – RPGDX were holding an ASCII RPG contest, and I had my mind made up that I’d really like to try making a shooter (since I’d never tried to make one before). It tied in enough with the old text adventure idea that I thought it would be a good chance to use some of the ideas.

I really liked where this was going, but then out of nowhere TIGSource announced their VGNG content and I decided to go with it instead, putting this on hold. I haven’t really gotten back to it, but most of the hard work is done – the engine’s finished, so it’s down to creating the content, which I figure would take about two weeks. I know it’ll work – I’m using the aiming system from Warning Forever, which worked out far better than I expected it would – it’s already fun to move about and shoot things, and there are some really nifty ideas with enemies that I’m dying to try out… Unfortunately, I think I pretty much have to put it on hold. I mean, I love the idea and I really want to work on it, but I’ve already taken over a month out with all these side projects.

What I’m probably going to do is spend about a month working on the puzzle game, and then revisit this. It’s either that or scrap it altogether 🙁

(By the way, in case you’re wondering, I came up with the title while watching episodes of Friends 😀 )


About a month ago, Cactus posted on his forums looking for level designers for a couple of games that he had in the pipeline. One of them was Space/Void – and I volunteered to help.

That’s the only screenshot he’s put up of it yet, but the game’s actually more or less finished. I made some levels for it and sent them his way, all he’s got left to do is to add a few game elements and some final touches (menus, save function, and so on). Given his prodigious release rate, I don’t expect we’ll have too long to wait before it’s ready – which is great, because it’s excellent, heh. It’s a total departure from the sorta games Cactus usually makes.


The end of experimentation

Funny thing – I was all excited about that top down RPG with the non-linear plot, but after a week or so of messing around with different ideas and a buggy engine, I’ve lost interest in it. Maybe a truly non-linear game would be interesting in the sense that it would be nice if one existed, but I’ve got a feeling that it would be a pain to play. You’d finish it, and then the next time through you’d be playing a different progression with the same characters and settings and I just get the impression that the whole thing would become very tedious, and not nearly as interesting as if I’d created one really good linear path. It’s as if the non-linear idea is a substitute for some genuine innovation.

I wasn’t sure for a while, but I’ve made up my mind. That project isn’t really all that interesting to me, so I’m going to scrap it and move on to something else.

The point of that project was to satiate a desire I had to experiment with game ideas that are a little off centre – that mightn’t necessarily work but would at least be a bit interesting. I still feel that way, and earlier on this week, that led me to start a topic on RPGDX wondering if anyone was interested in another contest this weekend; the old style ones, the 48 hour timeframe that seems to have come out of nowhere. Turns out quite a few people are interested. So I organised a contest for this weekend on the forum, and I’m taking part.

Here’s what I posted (in this thread):

Alright, let’s do this thing.

This weekend we’re going to have a 48 hour RPG making contest. It starts from whatever time you wake up on Saturday to whatever time you go to bed at on Sunday, and can be extended into next week if a majority of competitors wish. The theme of the contest is Completion – the idea being that the time limit is the real restriction of the contest and the challenge lies in actually finishing and releasing something.

You may use a premade engine, premade graphics and premade music – anything you have at hand from old placeholders to ripped spites. You may also opt to start from scratch. That’s up to the individual entering. However, the rest of the game’s content must be made during the contest’s 48 hours – content meaning dialogue, level design, and so on.

The contest will by judged on Ms. Congeniality terms – everyone who enters gets one vote and may vote for whoever they like, including themselves. The winner will receive a significant boost to their street credibility.

These rules are not final, so free free to discuss them in this thread. The idea is to keep restrictions to a minimum – however, as the theme is completion and the time limit’s fairly short, it’s recommended that you keep your ideas simple and aim to release something by Sunday night.

Just to clarify a few questions that have been asked (and to preempt a few more):
* You must design the actual game during the contest, but you may use premade graphical and music resources, and you can use a premade engine.
* By premade engine, this can be any core program you’ve made yourself, or alternatively game making software of any kind, including Gamemaker, RPG Maker, OHRRPGCE, Multimedia Fusion, etc…
* It doesn’t matter what platform your game runs on.
* You may work in teams! However, teams only get one vote, so you’ll have to decide among yourselves who you want to vote for.

That’s it. Like I said above, feel free to disagree with any of this or ask for clarifications and we’ll amend the rules.

Also, if you want to discuss your projects during the contest you can drop in to our IRC channel at #indie-rpg on

It starts tomorrow!

So, after suggesting that, I got to work thinking about what I’d enter. At first I was just going to do a traditional enough game, but that led to me thinking about what engine I’d use – it’s either a choice between starting from scratch, or using the monolithic, bloated “Project Distraction” RPG engine that I used for Major Arcana. Getting reacquainted with the distraction engine at this point would probably take a day at least, and tailoring it for the contest a day more. On the other hand, making any RPG engine from scratch is pretty time consuming.

I couldn’t decide which way to go, but then I remembered this:

The platform game engine I’ve been working on for Indie Brawl. It’s gotten pretty sophisticated in the few weeks I’ve been working on it on and off. It led to me to thinking about a much more interesting project: a Platform/RPG hybrid.

It all came together very quickly: the mechanics of the game, the plot, some cool gameplay ideas – out of nowhere I suddenly had a game idea I really liked! And it’ll work with an engine I’m really familiar with!

So that’s my plan 🙂 First problem is that I’m going to need to do some significant work on the engine before it’ll realistically support an RPG – in fact, I even need to do some work on the platforming elements. I don’t see myself finishing this in 48 hours – but I do see myself having something playable.

Wow, didn’t mean to ramble on so long… I’ll probably be posting a lot tomorrow too – hopefully by sunday night I’ll be able to release something.

Oh, and if you’re a programmer with nothing to do this weekend, join in!


I am on the road crew! This is my stop sign!

So, about that thought…

Basically, I’ve been thinking about where I go from here, and I had two projects in mind. One is something I’ve been toying with for about a year now – a plot driven puzzle game that I think could make a good shareware title; the other is an RPG for a Retro Remakes contest that I’m kinda sorta already working on. That project would be another freeware game, mind.

I was originally going to write up my thoughts on both games and hope that my astute readers would point me in the right direction – but I realised that I’d already made my mind up. I know I’ve squandered a lot of time already and you all probably think I’m mad for even considering working on another free game at this stage, but I don’t care. When I started this I promised myself that I’d focus on making games that are interesting to me as opposed to games that could make some cash for me, and this seems like a pretty clear test of that theory. I do like the first idea, but it’s a bit shallow, really – anyway, I can always come back to it later when I’ve developed the concept a bit more. Right now, I feel like working on something that takes itself seriously.

Retro Remakes are holding a top down 2D dungeon contest at the moment, which runs from two weeks ago till four weeks time (December the 8th). I’m a little far behind at the moment, but that’s fine: what I have in mind is quite simple, and I hope to be finished long before the deadline. I’ll post more about my game later, but here’s the jist of it: it’s going be a very traditional D&D style RPG, with a character focused plot. It’ll be very short, but non-linear – it’ll start with a few short quests that basically serve to introduce you to the characters, and then there’ll be one big quest that the game revolves around. How it plays out will depend on who you choose to team up with.

I kinda see it as an experiment in non-linearity; a lot of design documents I’ve read discuss the problem of linearity in plot driven games and either decide that traditional linearity is the way to go, or compromise by having a linear plot with non-linear sub-plots. However, I think it might be interesting to make a game that attempts true non-linearity, and that’s what I hope to do with this.

One major problem I’ve seen with games that do attempt this is an inability to commit. This, essentially, is what I hope to focus on with my new game. To take an example, “Deus Ex: Invisible War” allowed the player to side with any of the game’s factions, and went to some lengths to make them all sympathetic in their own ways. The game’s real problem is that you never really felt like you were a part of whatever faction you sided with: the game allowed you to side with anyone or indeed everyone whenever the hell you wanted, and only rarely forced you to choose one side over another – and even when it did, you never became an “enemy” of the rival faction. They’d still call you up and ask you to do things for them. T’was quite frustrating, actually.

Sorry, I guess I’m getting a bit off topic – as for my game: It’s really too early to say anything about this one just yet… so I guess what I’ve said will do for now. I’ll post some more details in a few days.

The contest has already been running for two weeks, and there are a few entries brewing that look like they could be pretty interesting. One that’s caught my eye is an interesting “hunting” game by JTR, the author of the lite-roguelike Crypts of Despair and that excellent Death Worm simulator. In the game, you trek around a dark cave shooting arrows at rats looking for the legendary beast. The atmosphere is spot on, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a hunting game before – when you get a shot in at the beast, he’ll leave a blood trail which you can use to track him down. It’s an interesting idea. The working title is “Rat Cave” (there’s a playable demo at that link).

I actually have a fair bit of trouble coming up with ideas like that; I always tend towards complicated ideas that slowly creep out of control that never go anywhere, so I’ve got a lot of respect for small, simple, original game ideas that work well like this one does. It’s why I’m such a big fan of guys like Cactus and Ikiki, I suppose.

DevX is also entering this one (he entered that spring contest over at too); he’s got a devlog of his progress up here.

In other news! I haven’t been doing all that much recently, to be honest – for the last few days I’ve been playing Psychonauts. My expectations were pretty high, so I was kinda worried that I might unconsciously be too critical of it – but the game doesn’t disappoint – so far I’m loving it! Believe it or not, it really is as good as everyone says it is. Hell, even Yahtzee likes it. And he hates everything.


Yet another project

A proper update is coming! I haven’t been progressing as fast as I’d hoped, and I want to get my engine to a certain point before I say anymore about this little platformer I’m working on.

In the meantime, here’s some “concept art” from another project I’m thinking about getting involved with on the side:

What’d’ya think? 😀 Working title for now is simply Indie Brawl. Check out this thread I posted about it over at TIGSource!

[edit: Higgens posted some more concept art in that thread to go with Pacian’s!]


Surprise! I’m actually posting what and when I said I was going to post!

Ok, well, I said I’d post these three ideas, so I’m going to post them. Thinking about it, though, there’s only really one realistic option. I just don’t have time for game 1 or game 2. You’ll see what I mean in a moment.

Game 1: The Soap Opera RPG

This idea plays on the “sincere” side of B-Movies that I mentioned in the last post. If time wasn’t a factor, I wouldn’t even hesitate to go with this one. I think this game has by far the most potential, at least for me.

Basically, it’s a short plot driven RPG in the vein of Pulp Fiction – five short stories within a story that intertwine with each other. The interesting thing about it would be how seriously it took itself: everything in the game would have a double meaning – every character’s name would be a reference to figure of Greek tragedy, every item would have significance and a detailed description – even the structure of the game would have meaning. The game, ultimately, would be about death, and coping with death. With that in mind, each of these five stories would be about a different stage of coping with great loss – Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance.

Some of the things I was considering:

* The game would have a kitschy, soap opera style plot line. Every other scene would have a plot twist – the main bad guy killed your father, and then IS your father. The love interest is having an affair with your best friend, and then gets pregnant. And so on!

* Traditional elements of RPG design would be used to tell the story – as the plot went on, you would gain physical items called things like “Guilt“ and “Remorse“ – in one particularly dramatic cutscene, for example, you would be presented with a menu like this one:

* The game would ask a lot of rhetorical questions about politics, religion, morality, and things like that. It would use the word “sheeple” a couple of times.

* As the game went on, thing would get less and less coherent – near the end the whole thing would just be the main character in the middle of a black screen, mumbling and saying the title of the game a lot. Eventually the whole thing would break down into a stream of consciousness and dump you at the command prompt – but get this – for “effect”, it would dump you at an actual command prompt, like a picture of it or something, and just leave you there for a couple of minutes.

* This last bit is key: I wouldn’t be the designer. I’d create an alter ego to act as the designer, and little elements of this guy’s life would ever so subtly make it into the game. For example, while most of the characters would have fancy Roman or Greek names, there would be a few characters with ordinary names like Bob and Susan, who’d play the really detestable people in the game – like the “best friend” who cheats or the girlfriend who gets pregnant, or the end boss who’s trying to take over the world, or whoever. Also, the main character would basically be a copy of this fictional designer.

I really like this idea 🙂 I think it’s a fun interpretation of the contest’s theme, and potentially a very funny game. But there’s no way I can do it with my time constraints. No way.

Game 2: The awful, awful warioware style game

Another idea I liked is to play up the exploitation aspect (or bizarre aspect) of B-Movies – to make a game about doing something *awful*, as in starting a nuclear war or cheating on your taxes. None of those games seemed substantive enough for a whole game, though, so I didn’t really go anywhere with it. Until I thought about the warioware aspect, and it all fell together.

This game would just be a mash up of a few dozen minigames that got you to do really reprehensible things, but only for a few seconds at a time. A screen would come up with (for example) instructions to “deny the holocaust”, and you’d control a pen that had to scribble in a book for a few seconds to win.

Some examples of the minigames I’d thought about:

* Cheat on your taxes
* Steal an election
* Deny the Holocaust (Thanks Stephen!)
* Start a nuclear war
* Stop a war prisoner from escaping
* Lie to the electorate
* Rob a bank
* Shoot a puppy

“¦ I honestly don’t know if I have the stomach for this game. I think it would have been kinda cool, but I’m such a wuss that I don’t even like listing horrible things. Anyway, this game would have taken too much time. So it’s not really an option either.

Game 3: The tribute to Ikiki

This is the game I’m almost certainly doing, if I do anything at all. It plays up the “amateurish” aspect of B-Movies”¦ sorta. Actually, it would just be a simple game built around a slightly bizarre game mechanic. I’m thinking a big destructible world where you make things explode by headbutting them. I’d mess around with it, get it to just about work, and then make the whole game with it, similar to how people like Ikiki seem to approach their games.

This idea is a lot less ambitious than the others, but it’s the only one I have any hope of finishing. Also, it’s potentially the most fun to play out of the three. I also kinda like that I really have nothing planned here – I’ll probably end up making a good deal of the game’s content up as I go along. Which sounds like an interesting experiment to me. 🙂

By the way, all of these games are up for grabs if anybody else wants to do them!

I’d love some feedback on this. Is game three a decent enough choice? Or should I try to simplify one of the first two and go with that? Hell, are any of them any good?

Cheers for reading down this far, anyway 😀


Introducing Reset

There was a thread on RPGDX about a one hour contest that got me thinking a bit about development time. I’ll cut this inevitable rant short – I thought it might be fun to try developing a game in just one weekend. Here’s what I have so far.

I’m using Reset as a working title. It’s going to be a silly little platform shooter designed to look and play like a Commodore 64 game. So far I’ve just got the backend and a quick map editor working, but I might have something playable tomorrow evening. If not, sod it.


I don’t understand – there’s only supposed to be one in each pack!

So the other day I said something a little outrageous – “this year I’ve gotten more done on the engine than I did in all of last year. That is, believe it or not, completely true, but only because last year was so unproductive.

Basically, because of my finals, I spent the first half of the year doing nothing more than scribbling down ideas and making short, guilty additions to the engine. I was literally counting the days until I could put my last exam behind me as start working on a new RPG. And then, of course, I got writer’s block.

I spent the rest of the year hating everything I tried to put together. I couldn’t program, couldn’t write any music, couldn’t draw a pixel that didn’t look strangely out of place, couldn’t come up with a single line of dialogue that I didn’t hate. In fact, all I have to show for my hobby in 2006 is a crummy GBA remake of a game that wasn’t any good in the first place.

Finally, thankfully, this creative drought appears to be at an end, though I’m terrified that things are going to go back to the way they were. That’s why for the last couple of weeks I’ve been spending practically every minute of free time I’ve had working on the game.

One thing I’ve been thinking about is whether or not I should to scrap the old “Project Distraction” engine that I’ve been working on since my second year in college. On the one hand, it’s the most sophisticated program I’ve ever designed. On the other, I hadn’t worked with it for about a year, and a lot of the early code is really awful. That in itself is a perfectly good reason for a complete rewrite.

I gave it serious consideration – hell, I even made a start at a new RPG engine. Eventually I just sat back and had a look at the engine I’d been working on, and decided that it would be a huge mistake to walk away from it. The engine can do some pretty nifty things – you can edit maps from within the core engine just by hitting F1, for example. The scripting engine is pretty powerful too – it currently understands about 50 commands, and supports things like variables and conversation trees, as well as supporting a simple cutscene engine. On top of that, I’ve got the whole puzzle mechanics thing. All NPCs are treated identically by the engine, and can jump, be pushed around, and stacked on top of each other. It would be pretty silly to scrap all that work, I think, just for the sake of tidier code.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been working on the battle engine. I have something in place that I’m calling the Battle participant system. All NPCs are treated the same in battle, so whether an NPC is an ally or an enemy simply depends on whether a boolean is set. It also supports alliances and different opposing parties, so three groups of heroes can be set up to be hostile to each other if necessary.

It’s all managed thanks to a simple “target” class, that works out an array of targetable NPCs given their designation. For example, say an enemy is using a spell that affects all allys – then the target set is just the NPCs that are in party 1. Or if the caster is using a heal spell that just works on himself, the target set simply contains the caster. The class assigns the set by checking the context, and everything else automagically takes care of itself.

The thing is, I won’t be making any use of this cool functionality. Over the last week or so, I’ve had an idea for a new game for RPGDX’s contest that’s dead simple by comparison to anything I’ve been working on. It’s room by room, FF style battles, and no real complications except a slightly ambitious skill system. The working title, for now, is Major Arcana.

The theme for the RPGDX contest looks like it’s going to be “Gothic”, which is fine by me. Something I’ve wanted to do for a while now is make a simple RPG that uses FFVIII’s junction system. I’ve always thought that it was a really cool system, that just didn’t quite work as well as it should have. The only real problem with it is that in order to be any way powerful, you need to max out the spells you have, which involves looking for weak enemies and drawing as much magic as you can. Of course, if you don’t do this, you’re quite weak by the end of the game, and you’re basically relying on summons to get you through battles.

There are a lot of different approaches that they could have tried, I think, ranging from simple solutions like having the quantity of the spell involved not effect the power of the junction, to more complicated solutions like having a draw fill up your stock of a certain spell, but having more powerful spells have lower stocks. (i.e. you could get 100 Fire spells, but only 10 Ultima spells).

Anyway, this approach led me to thinking about what kind of creatures I would use as Guardian Forces – and I decided on the Tarot cards. In this game, you will encounter all the creatures along the major arcana and fight against them. And if you win? You get to junction them! I haven’t decided yet what abilities you get if you junction Death, heh.

This lends itself quite easily to a good fantasy story – I’m thinking that one of the cards (probably the Magician, or maybe the Emperor) was once a powerful ruler who “enslaved” all these creatures in this form. At the start of the game, something happens to release these creatures, and it’s up to the heroes to track down the cards and save the world. (And get the girl, obviously).

I hadn’t planned on making much of a story beyond that, but the imagery in the cards has been quite inspirational. Mirroring the Final Fantasy tradition that I’m aspiring to, I’m going to have four characters, each of them represented by the suits of the Tarot’s minor arcana – Wands, Cups, Swords and Pentacles. I bought a deck of tarot cards, and I’ve been using them to help me design areas, group major arcana creatures and come up with a backstory for each of the characters, which has been a lot of fun, heh.

Where I go from here, I’m not sure. Although I’m eager to start, since it’s an entry to the RPGDX competition, I’m constrained by the rules of that contest. It may not officially start until the end of February – or they might forbid me from working on the graphics or battle engine before the start date. If that’s the case, I might just forget about the contest and get to work right away.


Looks like Kya ha ha ha and Gya ha ha ha are up to something again.

A quick primer for those who haven’t heard of NaNoWriMo : it’s an annual endeavour that thousands of people from around the world undertake – to write a 50,000 word novel from start to finish, in November of each year. There are chapters worldwide, in particular, there’s one in Dublin that meets every week. I’m not taking part, exactly – I’m using this month to make a game. Though to be fair, the NaNoWriMo rules are pretty clear on this restriction : If you believe you’re writing a novel, we believe you’re writing a novel too.

I suppose there’s no reason why I need the writing competition to inspire me – but I’m so tired of the same old stuff I’ve been working on. I want to do something new, something a little quirky and pointless. Something that doesn’t take itself so damn seriously. And this seems like as good a time as any to do it.

The thing is, I still haven’t decided on exactly what kind of game I want to make yet – I have narrowed it down to three, though.

Game 1:
This one’s a little silly, but I can’t bring myself to let go of the idea.

Basically, it’s a character based puzzle game. You’ve got 5 characters stuck in some sort of difficult situation, and they can all do different things, like one guy can knock down walls, and another can jump over large holes, and so on. They have to work together to progress with the game. Pretty simple, really. I envision something along the lines of a multiplayer Lufia II, where you switch between the five turn by turn.

Here’s the weird bit – they’re all chess pieces. The rook is the one knocking over walls, the knight is jumping over holes, the queen is doing pretty much everything, with the objective of each level being to get the feeble old king to safety. And it lends itself pretty well to some decent characters – the queen could be some kinda terrifying golddigger, bossing all the other pieces around, the king some bubbling old fool who hides behind the rook at the first sign of trouble…

There’s something to be said in defense of this idea, and I’m not altogether certain what it is. I mean, it could be absolutely atrocious – it’s kind of a silly idea to begin with, and it would need to be put together with a lot of care in order to have any merit. Or it could just end up being really boring. I don’t know.

There’s a lot I like about it though. It’s simple. It’s very easy to put together and design levels for, it’s the sorta thing I can realistically work on with a piece of paper during my morning commute. And of all the game ideas I’m considering, it would probably be the most fun.

Technically, there are a few challenges to overcome here. Putting together some good enemy AI, for example, is bound to be pretty tricky. But I still think there’s a good chance that I’d have this one done in a month.

Game 2:
This is probably the most serious of my ideas, and unlike the others, I don’t really know what to compare it too. So no screenshot then. Bah.

A couple of weeks ago, I was chatting with a friend about Alan Turing (as you do). During the course of the conversation, he reminded me of a fairly obscure historical character, Marian Rejewski. Before World War II had even started, Rejewski had cracked the famous German cipher Enigma. He spent the rest of the war being evacuated from country to country as they fell to Germany, first to Romania, then to France, then to Vincy France, and finally to Britain, were he worked on comparatively trivial ciphers until the end of the war. Apparently, the Mathematicians in Bletchley Park didn’t even know about him.

I don’t know what most people think when they hear this story, but here’s what I think : that would make a great computer game.

Here’s the basic idea – you’re a regular person in a minor European country at the beginning of WWII, say Poland or Austria or Ireland or Greece or something. Before the game starts, a sequence of events is predetermined for the coming six years – say instead of invading Poland, Hitler decides to sucker punch France before it can prepare and takes over west Europe instead of east. Only now, the Soviets have had plenty of time to prepare and just stroll right into Berlin. Or instead of getting greedy and invading the USSR, Hitler just takes a few central countries and then consolidates his power, so that the war doesn’t even really begin and all counterattacks fail. Whatever way things turn out, the idea is that you, as a citizen of somewhere in the middle, won’t have a clue what to expect.

And what do you actually do in the game? That’s up to you. You can partake in the war effort, if you want, join a resistance movement and fight against the invading forces. Or you can flee – sneak your way out to safety and live out the war making bullet casings in a London factory…

Oh, ok, I haven’t a clue yet. But I think there’s a cool game here, if I could only visualise it properly… I’ve got no idea how long this would take, really – I suppose it depends on the scale I go with.

Game 3:
I think this is the most likely course of action – unfortunately, it’s the most traditional game of the three. It’s an game I’ve been thinking about for a couple of months now – an adventure game set in space.

You start on a dying little planet that has just discovered faster-than-light travel, and sends a crew out to explore the universe. It’s a pretty open-ended RPG will no real objective, just to explore and discover new things, meet new civilisations, that sorta thing. I guess you could compare it to Sid Meier’s “Pirates”. Only in space. Space Pirates, if you will.

Isn’t google images wonderful?

Over the past few months, I’ve had a lot of specific ideas about how the game mechanics would play out – how battles would work, how communication with aliens would work, how the game would look and play – and that’s sorta why I’m leaning towards this one. I know exactly how the game would play, but I’ve got no idea what it’s about. And seeing as I’m supposed to be doing all this as a writing exercise, I can think of no better approach than to make it all up as I go along.

Don’t get me wrong, I want the game to be plot driven – I just think it might be fun to write something that isn’t character driven. I really like the idea that I could just have a basic game in place, and then start adding unrelated random planets and quests as they come to me.

That’s it, I guess. Right now I’m leaning towards game three, but yesterday I was sure I was going to go with that second one, and I’d been thinking about how the first one would work all last week!

I suppose for now it doesn’t matter. All three games are basically RPGs, and I’ve got a little bit of generic engine work to do before I make a decision.

And now for something completely different – a great article I came across a few days ago. Well worth checking out.

Top 50 worst Video Game names of all time.