Charity Game Jam

Hey there! Last weekend the international game jammin’ community came together once again to make games over one weekend, but this time with a nice little extra twist: raising money for charity! I think the Funkytron (back to that shortly) is still open as I write and has recorded $1550 raised for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Which is great!

I donated myself as I worked away on a game that I eventually wasn’t up to completing. Why? Well I only started it on the Saturday night and it just didn’t quite come together. It was inspired by a delightfully insane story concept I heard from an office colleague wherein the Earth is a prison for an alien race, and other aliens are bombarding the prison to release them. Or something. Hmm maybe this one is best left unfinished…

The theme of the jam was to fit the limitations of the NES (I love restrictions like that) and the submissions can be played over on the Funkytron here: http://www.charitygamejam.com/

Oh, and see you in December for Ludum Dare 25!

A new (not-)game

Hello again! I’m afraid I haven’t touched Project Prophecy since the last Ludum Dare compo but I have continued to tinker around with Flash things. This weekend was Mini-Ludum Dare #37: I hadn’t especially planned to enter but the theme called out to me. Not making a game; or more accurately, making a not-game. A chance to forget reward mechanics and arbitrary challenges in favour of crafting a specific and personal experience for the player (if we still call him or her that) to take in.

It is literally full of stars

As you may not be aware I have always held something of a fascination with space and the universe: I actually studied a masters degree in Physics with Astrophysics while I still decided what to do with my life. And while I’ve long forgotten most of the hard maths I tried to absorb those years ago, this vague fascination formed the basis of the game I made this weekend. In it you are presented a fairly accurately mapped section of the Northern Hemisphere sky (thanks to this neat site) where you can pick out constellations amongst the stars. There is a little incidental dialogue from the out-of-shot stargazing couple to accompany your little exploration. I’m quite pleased with it really, I hope it can prove a pleasant distraction!

Play “Stargazing” here

Evolution!

Evolution! The theme seemed destined to forever look on from the ranks of Ludum Dare’s final voting round only to see another take the honour; but this time somehow Evolution pushed past “Parallel Worlds” by the smallest of margins to finally get its weekend in the Sun. Surely after noticing this theme time and time again I would be full of ideas to crack on with. Well… not quite. I couldn’t really get past the whole “evolve your character to be gradually better” idea that I ended up rolling with. Turns out this was actually a really difficult theme to properly dig into.

So, my entry then is an arcadey little top-down shooter. I figured something really managed and mechanically straightforward was a good idea, and in a sense it probably was. I think the 2 main reasons I ended up a bit disappointed with this are as follows:

  1. I struggled on Saturday. I had a few drinks Friday night but it wasn’t that, I just got distracted easier than usual, for which I could blame a number of things not least the fact I’m moving into a new flat imminently and have a lot of stuff to arrange. But yeah, excuses excuses.
  2. I didn’t love the idea. I don’t think it’s enough to just have a small, focused idea. Not if you want to make something of real value. Everything was a bit mechanical with this and my motivation suffered for it. Next time I’ll try to take this on board and go for something I can imbue with a little more passion.

So there it is – mixed feelings but as ever with these things, I reckon I’m better for it. Back to Project Prophecy! (I really need a better name for that at some point…) Oh and here’s the timelapse from my time doing LD 24:

Play “Mutation Flight” here

Jack and the Giants

Unbelievably the Ludum Dare 48-hour games competition has been knocking around for all of ten years now, though I’ve only been involved for the last couple of those. The near-exponential growth of games continues: 1000 entries was inevitably broken in the competition itself and the total finished just over 1400 including the Jam. Incredible. At this rate by LD 30 there’ll be more entries than stars in the sky.

Anyway! This time I went wild and made… a pixel-arted platformer! So cliché, I know, but it’s actually the first game of this kind I’ve personally put out there. The theme “Tiny World” once again didn’t fill me with delight, but here’s what I came up with: giants are threatening the Tiny Kingdom beneath them and you, as Jack, must defeat them! Obviously this is deriving from Jack the Giant Killer/Jack and the Beanstalk etc. It has a silly sense of humour, no less than 3 pieces of music I somehow found time to compose and can be finished in less than a minute.

Play “Jack”

And of course here is the timelapse. Ooh look, Windows 7!

The Pirate Kart

I think it’s a great idea: everyone spends a weekend (or whatever) banging out a stream of miniature slices of gaming; rough, bug-riddled fragments of joy. Unfortunately, the weekend in question happened to fall shortly before my imminent adventure to Seoul. Net result: way too distracted, and honestly my heart just wasn’t really in it this time.

Nevertheless, I forced my way through three of these “games” before finally giving up. They live on my PC/Mac game page in one handy collection with a silly name belying the rather plain contents.

The games then:

  • Flip On – An ode to a primitive 90s puzzle toy
  • Balance – Balance blocks on a precarious beam (thanks Unity rigid bodies!)
  • Goals, I Do Adore – A challenge to “score goals” with the kind of controls and physics likely to make you a little bit angry

I set out to make these in Unity, and stuck to it. But absolutely, for games intended to take at most two hours, I wouldn’t do the same again. I just want something to put pixels on a screen in that time.

Download Paul’s Premier Pirate Kart Krap Kollection over here

Fear and Colour

After a busy Christmas and New Year of doing things entirely apart from game development, I decided to throw myself into another 48-hour Ludum Dare effort. This was Mini LD #31, and I saw it as an opportunity to redeem myself for what I saw as a somewhat disappointing entry into the main competition last month. This time I would make something more ambitious…

The result is a Unity game titled Three Colours: DEATH (thanks to a friend for the excellent suggestion), but this time delievering a full 3D experience (In 48 hours! Unity really is something). I called it a “first-person survival puzzle game” on submission at the Ludum Dare site.

The concept is that the world is made of three colours (red, blue, green) and that the player can acquire the ability to phase through one or more of these colours – walls, enemies, the lot. It is also purposefully creepy, complete with a whispered rhyming narrative from yours truly. Maybe the weirdest thing I’ve released, but I think one of the most worthwhile.

Download Three Colours: DEATH on my new PC/Mac game page!

P.S. The tower can be climbed! There is an “end” (of sorts) at the top.

Ludum Dare 22

I did it again – that makes 5 successful Ludum Dare entries (including one Mini LD). And one year on from making a clunky game with RPG leanings in a fantasy setting, I have made another clunky game with RPG leanings in a fantasy setting!

The theme this time around was “Alone” and once again I wasn’t immediately struck with inspiration. I eventually decided to approach the theme from the “fighting alone against many enemies” angle, arriving at a scenario where the player must guide a baby in a fight alone against numerous monstrosities. I’d already decided to use the competition to go through the motions of making a game with Unity, having always used Flash and Flixel before; and in that regard I’m really pleased with how it went. Unity has taken a lot of getting used to for someone much more used to traditional programming projects but I feel like I may have now made the breakthrough. I’ll definitely be returning to Unity in the near future.

Admittedly, the game itself – “Tower of Abominations” – was a mixed success. Possibly due to spending a little more time on art than I could afford, combined with my relative uncertainty with Unity, resulted in me struggling for time. The game needs usability improvements: particularly I realise dumping the player back to the beginning for failing at any of the floors is unnecessarily cruel for a game that requires trial and error to complete. But all-in-all a great experience once again, and one to build on in future I have no doubt!

Play “Tower of Abominations”

And once again, just like last time, I ran a timelapse of my screen during the whole sordid thing.

 

48 hours, 511 games

Ludum Dare’s 21st 48-hour game development competition has just come and gone (with the 72-hour “jam” part entering its final hours as I write), and it has smashed all previous turnouts for participation. Over 500 games were made for the competition this weekend. Wow. It’s no real surprise that the site suffered server issues throughout.

And for me personally, outside of the maelstrom of attention centred on Notch’s entry, this was surely my most satisfying Ludum Dare completion yet. The theme was “Escape”, which was fine but didn’t give me an “I’VE GOT IT” moment. I ended up with this game set in a maze of interconnecting rooms in which you must escape to the exit while evading ever-increasing numbers of mysterious hostile humanoids.

The most pleasing thing was the fact I got the features finished to the point I could actually tweak and polish the game. The background rendering effect was a very late addition that I would normally have not had time for, but I think it really helps the aesthetic.

Play “Southward Lies Escape”

Additionally, I ran Chronolapse as I worked allowing for this fascinating insight into just how long I can shift lines of code around without really getting anywhere:

All Talk

So my latest adventure in panic-developing a small game idea was provoked by the most recent Ludum Dare event – this time it was MiniLD 27. The theme was “All talk”, encouraging an emphasis on dialogue and conversation. I do have this habit of fancying myself as a writer at times, so it seemed a good fit for me to explore something a bit different.

The game that came out of it is really very short (on a 2 minute timer, in fact), and concerns a small conversation you might have with a fellow commuter on a train. There is branching dialogue, an “approval” system for the target of your chat and a bunch of achievements to provide a little purpose.

Play “Chance Encounter”

That time again

So I hadn’t especially planned to follow my first Ludum Dare event with an immediate second, but then it got all snowy outside and I thought “why not”. The theme was “discovery”, which is exactly the kind of open, uninspiring theme I didn’t want. But I got to thinking outside the box and ended up with something that is essentially a series of menu screens, but it provided me with amusement. I think the core idea has potential, at least.

Click to go play