0G: Ludum Dare in zero gravity

Last weekend, I took part in Ludum Dare #33 and made a game about flying around a messy space station in zero gravity. In 0G, a mysterious explosion ripples through the station, disabling the gravity stabilisers and leaving the player character in a state of disrepair. The player must then find a way to repair their body and get the station back in order, all while gliding through an ethereal environment and listening to Bach.

You can play it via the Ludum Dare page.

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I was really happy with how this turned out. Unlike most of my Ludum Dare forays, I managed to implement almost all of the features I had initially planned. I made the sneaky decision to work off an idea I had been mulling over for a day or two before the start, which meant that I mostly ignored the theme of “You are the monster”. One the one hand, I missed that chaotically fun brainstorming session that happens when trying to come up with a game idea around a theme. On the other, I was able to quietly throw out a few of the more tangential ideas and come up with a more focused list of features for the game.

I’d like to carry on with 0G, but even if I don’t, it’s a fairly complete and entertaining game which has had one player confessing a play time of around 40 minutes! I may extend it to include a bit more of a cohesive story. I didn’t pay enough attention to the writing and story design process while jamming, so I’d like to try to add more of a mysterious narrative to the game. I also think there’s room to play with some physics and gravity-based puzzles in a zero gravity environment.

Overall, I had a ton of fun with this Ludum Dare! It was great to do a solo jam for the first time in ages. Over the last year or so, I’ve been jamming with my fellow RetroEpic devs, which has been fantastic, but in the solo jam I get to stretch my creative muscles and level up a multitude of skills.

GGJ 2014: Glorious Nation

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I took part in this year’s Global Game Jam, making this my third. Apart from being enormous fun, I’ve been suffering from a holiday-induced slump in productivity and I thought it would be good to kick things into gear again with 48 hours of twitchy coding, “free” pizza, and hopefully a game at the end. This year, I went in with a bigger team consisting of Matt de Villiers (@mattdev), Damien Manuel and Tim Smith. Matt and Tim did the majority of the AI, pathfinding and flocking code, I worked on design and interface, and Damien created all the awesome art!

We created Glorious Nation, a city-building sim from the point of view of an evil dictator!

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As it is with many jam games, we didn’t get as far as we would’ve liked, but we were still thrilled with what we managed to accomplish in 48 hours. The basic idea for the game ping-ponged between a number of different core mechanics: pure city builder, tower defense, even arcade shooter, but the one thing we were adamant on keeping was a satirical narrative. The theme of the jam was the phrase “we don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are”. From this, Matt developed the idea of a dictator who had to build a wonderland for tourists and foreign dignitaries, while viewing his desperate and disenfranchised populace as evil.

It was really interesting having a biggish team this time. In all honesty, I was predicting disaster, with us fumbling through the division of labor. However, apart from a few GIT hiccups, we each managed to have plenty to do without stepping on one another’s toes.

Overall, it was another amazing GGJ event! Many thanks to the organizers and UCT for hosting. Until next time!

Tear Those Waves Apart!

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Well the deadline has arrived and I’ve submitted Legends of the Swell! You can download and play the current build for Windows and Mac OS X.

As with most of my jam endeavours, I plan to carry on working on this until it both looks and feels a lot better. This game seems to be another step in the right direction of me actually making fun games (y’know, the one thing they should probably be). Maybe it’s having clocked up hundreds of hours of gameplay, but wave ramping, jumping, spinning,  and dodging jet skis feels good!

That being said, a competition submission would be nothing without it’s share of bugs and broken mechanics. There’s still a lot to do to make the movement feel right. At the moment, the result of ramping off the crest of a wave is entirely unpredictable. Sometimes you slip over it anticlimactically and lose the wave, other times you rocket into a wild looping spin. Incidentally, this looks pretty awesome but it doesn’t feel intended, which takes some control away from the player.

I also need to modify the wave movement logic. There are still situations where waves magically collapse, sometimes followed by a sneaky tidal wave. I also want to see if I can add a breaking/barrel shape to the wave.

Any and all feedback is appreciated! If any real surfers want to lynch me for brutalising the realism of the sport, feel free to do so. But while you are, let me know what the game needs to feel more like surfing :D

Legends update

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The deadline for the makegamessa 2-button competition is rapidly approaching. Here is an update of the game’s progress:

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I’ve mainly been working on the wave shape and getting the movement to feel right. This has turned out to be quite a challenge, so I’ve been left with less time to implement things like obstacles and character animations for tricks. However, it seems that most of the fun comes from just cruising around on waves, trying to reach the powerups, so a slew of environmental features might not be necessary after all.

Radical bra! Legends of the Swell

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Silhouette has been really well-received since Rezzed, but while it marinates I’ve been working on a new prototype for the makegamessa month-long game dev competition. This time round, the idea is to make a game that only has two usable buttons, which provides its own set of wonderful and maddening challenges!

We’re encouraged not to limit ourselves to game ideas that we think would be totally suited to two-button input, but rather to explore what other game genres would be like with only two buttons. This would include games that are traditionally suited to having many inputs, like sports games, beat ‘em ups, and strategy games.

With that in mind, I started making a surfing game! I’m tentatively calling it “Legends of the Swell”, but that may change. Here is the current state of the game:

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The left arrow turns the surfer left, and right right, while holding down both builds up a jump. There will also be powerups floating above the crest of the wave. So, the gameplay will have the player trying to navigate the wave shape and build momentum, grab powerups, and perform tricks.

At the moment, my challenge is trying to come up with a novel but fun way to perform tricks given the two button constraints. It’ll probably involve a system of combining left, right and hold moves together to form combos, and maybe even being able to create custom tricks.

The competition ends of the 9th of August, so I’ll post a build soon!

Rezzed aftermath and a new Silhouette

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Phew! Well, despite not being able to attend, Rezzed looked like a whirlwind of fun and Worms-based madness from over here! I spent a lot of it on Twitter watching from my otherwise dormant account, and cheesy as it is to say, I was very much wrapped up in the buzz from afar. The games on show looked like a huge amount of fun to play, and the developer sessions provided some incredible insight into the thought processes behind some very clever game developers.

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Silhouette was well received too which made me very happy. The game even got a positive little writeup in The Guardian! It seems there was some amazing stuff on display. In fact, the sentiment from this article and a number of other commenters is that the PC indie scene is going in a very good direction, which is really exciting.

I’ve released the version of Silhouette that was playable at Rezzed, which you can play and download here. I’ve also added a map editor for the game, which you can use to make your own creepy, impossible-to-navigate mansions. As always, feedback is welcome.

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So a big thanks to the organizers of Rezzed! It was a real privilege to have the game played by loads of people at such an awesome event. I’m proud to be part of a collective that produces video games in which you can perform “surgery” on someone with the blunt edge of a clipboard, in virtual reality.