Tag: 1gam

LD34: Ecosystem


Another Ludum Dare, another little game! This time, by a coincidence, there were two top-voted themes, ‘Growing’ and ‘Two Button Controls’. I went with ‘Growing’, as I’ve wanted an excuse to make a little gardening game for a while now. And so, I present to you the unimaginatively-named Ecosystem.

Ecosystem is a sandbox where you plant seeds and then watch them thrive or die out. Sculpt your little patch of dirt, water it, and see what happens. As your garden grows, it’ll develop its own ambient soundtrack.

A lot of it is very rough. The audio gets messy when there’s a lot going on. There are bugs with how things float on water. It can’t handle underground sections very well. There are only three plant types. But it feels like a good starting point – I say this a lot, but I really think this game has a lot of potential as a background game that you leave running and just tinker with occasionally.

This game also is a bit of a personal milestone. It’s my tenth Ludum Dare entry, and I’ve made a game every month this year. Next year, I’m definitely going to work on fewer, bigger projects, but it’s nice to have done One Game a Month properly once.



This past week I’ve made a little 2-player version of Blackball Pool in Unity. Check it out!

The story behind this is that a few weeks ago, I had the idea of making a crazy golf game where players build their own courses out of clip-together parts and then share them with other players. As much as I’d like to make that right now, it’s way beyond my ability, so I put it to one side. Shortly after, I had another idea: a procedurally generated billiards game, where the table shape and the rules could be invented by the computer or specified by the player. I made a start on it, but quickly realised I needed to know 3D modelling before I could do it justice. I’ll be doing a course on that soon so I’ll finally be able to make 3D games using more than just Unity prefabs. Hooray!

Which brings us to this week! I’d just finished the part of App 2 that I was working on, and wanted to devote this week to 1GAM, so for a lack of any other ideas I put together a basic 2D pool game. No AI, no audio, and it’s no pretty, but it’s a start. ProcJam 2015 is coming up so I might use that to experiment with rules generation.

Mavis Bacon Teaches Typing

Mavis Bacon Teaches Typing

A couple of days ago I released a free little typing web game called Mavis Bacon Teaches Typing. Give it a try – it only takes a minute or two to play.

I’m very pleased with how this turned out – much happier than I have been with a game for a while, so that’s built up my confidence a bit. I did hit a wall as usual, and almost released it without the food flying everywhere, but I’m really glad that I did, as it makes a huge difference to the feel of the game. I guess the lesson there is that silly little details and effects matter a lot. There’s a great talk about this called Juice It or Lose It, which I highly recommend to anyone making a game – it’s embedded below.

Meanwhile, I’ve mostly rewritten the rendering code for Impressionable to use OpenGL. Quite a lot of work, but it’ll be much faster, and allow things like zooming in and out, and special effects via shaders at some point. It’ll also mean way less fuss if and when I start working in 3D.

Now though, it’s back to work on App 2!

April and May

A bunch of things to talk about, which is what happens when I don’t post at all for 2 months! Oops.

Food Fight!

Food Fight!

In April, Ludum Dare 32 happened, the theme was “An Unconventional Weapon”, and Food Fight! was my entry. It… didn’t turn out very well.

I was away from home, so was using my Eee netbook for development. It’s pretty limited in what it can do – OpenGL won’t work at all on it – so I chose HTML5’s canvas for the target. The big mistake though was deciding to roll my own framework rather than using somebody else’s. That seemed OK, until the deadline had passed, and people started reporting that the basic keyboard and mouse inputs were plain broken for them. Apparently they only worked on the exact combination of software and hardware I had been using. So, yeah.



Catsteroids, however, I’m much happier with. I finished a new build of App 2, sent it off to my tester, then realised I had two days left in May and no game for 1GAM. So I made a really dumb Asteroids clone with cats in it, using Unity. Is it a good game? Maybe. Does it make me laugh whenever I play it? Yes. You should give it a try for the soundtrack alone.


Impressionable has progressed a little, but without much to show for it yet. I’ve rewritten it in C/C++ after getting annoyed with Java’s memory management, and I’m still getting used to low-level programming. A problem I’ve had is the aimlessness of making an “engine” rather than a game, so I have a new plan now: Make a series of small games, aiming to take around a month each, which will gradually expand the engine’s features. For instance, the first game is going to be inspired by SimFarm, stripped down to the basics of placing fields, planting them, harvesting, and balancing a budget.

BREAKPONG and Impressionable


Firstly, a new game! BREAKPONG is a mix of Breakout and Pong, where your paddle wears away every time you hit the ball. It’s an entry into MiniLD58, the theme of which was ‘Pong’, so there are a lot of free pong games over there if that’s your sort of thing!

I’ve been ill the last week, and as I tend to do, I started a side project! Continuing on from my previous attempts at a city-builder, this time I’m making more of an engine, rather than a specific game. I seem to have different ideas for city-builders every couple of weeks, but they have the majority of stuff in common, so I’ve figured-out what features they all need, and have begun writing the engine in Java, calling it Impressionable because puns. Don’t expect anything soon, but I’ll be putting a few hours into it here and there when I get stuck on other projects.

Early screenshot of Impressionable. Not much to see yet!
Early screenshot of Impressionable. Not much to see yet!

Dev Log 28th of February 2015

This past fortnight, I’ve been working on something different again! Specifically, on an update to Snowman Sumo, which I was in the process of selling to a games site until I saw the terms of the contract, which I disagreed with. So, it’s now somewhat in limbo. Compared to the playable version, there are new single-player and three-player modes; you play multiple rounds, with the winner the first snowman to reach a certain score; and I’ve given the UI a complete refresh. Because of the previous interest in the game, I’m intending to put it up for sponsorship on FGL, and see how that goes.

For the sake of 1GAM, I spent a couple of hours this week quickly putting together a memory game. It’s nothing much so far, but I have some plans for it. Nearly 3 years ago when I briefly attempted making 49 games (I made 1. 😉 ) the second was to be this memory game. Now, I’ve never liked it as a game, so inspired a bit by Pongs, I thought-up 39 variations on it to make it more interesting… and then never actually made the thing! I was easily distracted, and arguably still am, but more so back then. I’d still like to make it, so maybe I will now that I’ve made a small start.

Snowman Sumo and Memory are both made in Unity. Unity is pretty amazing, just in terms of how fast it is to develop things, even without much experience using it. The SS update involved learning how the animation and new UI systems work, and they’re great! And with almost no effort, Memory works on Android. I’ve been hesitant so far about making a “full” game using it, but I’m gradually changing my mind… I’ve never been great at making decisions, and on the one hand, Unity is so quick to use; on another, Jonathan Blow’s language talks and Handmade Hero make me want to go low-level and use C++; Haxe and snõwkit offer something in-between, but I’ve never really got them to work; and I’m most familiar with Java but it annoys me. That’s 4 hands, plus another for just using JavaScript if I’m making a web thing. Hmmm!

Edit: Turns out that all I needed to do was update my snõwkit install and it all works, huzzah!


Spacelunky Post-mortem

As previously mentioned, I’m attempting 1GAM again in 2015. My attempt for January is Spacelunky. Download it free from Itch.io.


Spacelunky came from my admiration of Spelunky, and the fact I’ve not really made a platformer before. So at the beginning of the month I outlined my plans for what I thought was ambitious for my 1-week time limit, but felt I’d be able to complete a decent chunk of it. However… I barely finished anything. It feels like a 48-hour game jam’s worth of work.

What went well

Let’s start with the good! I tried to put into practice what Casey Muratori calls “compression-oriented programming“, where you don’t design the code in advance, but write it as simply as possible, and see what structure naturally emerges. The result is that I’ve written much less code than I normally would, but with the same effects. It’s quite liberating, but does take some practice.

I wrote music! It’s mutated a little as I converted it from in-my-head to on-the-computer, so it doesn’t really feel appropriate to the game, but it’s not actually painful for me to listen to, so I’m making progress from my previous attempts. Still very rough though, I hope to be much better by December.

I’m also pleased with the art. OK, the tiles are a bit horrible, but whereas I usually don’t animate things, this time I put some effort into doing so. The player and aliens have walk and death animations which I’m really pleased with.

Finally, and this will make more sense in a minute, I kept going, and made sure I had a playable game now, even if it’s not a very good one. I was really worried about meeting the deadline, and nearly just gave up on the whole thing, but I’m glad I finished something.

What went poorly

The first problem was over-scoping: the game design was too big. I knew this before I started, and hoped that as most of the design was optional, it wouldn’t be a problem. It wouldn’t have been as much of a problem as it was if it wasn’t for…

Having a terrible week! Many of you will be aware that I suffer from depression, and this week was not a good week. I don’t know why, but I just felt rubbish. I would sit down, intending to work, and just stare at the code with no idea of what I was doing. Not great.

I’m not at all happy with the generated levels. The algorithm I think is fine: it creates a 5×5 array of chunks, with connections between them, then slots in a pre-defined tile layout that matches the connections. (e.g. a chunk connects up, down and left, so it finds a layout for it with those connections.) The problem is the levels are dull and repetitive. Partly this is from the lack of available things to put in them, but also because of a poor decision I made early on that the layouts should be 10×10. This is much too small to fit anything interesting in, once the appropriate corridors are added.

What I would do differently

Definitely next time I will shrink the scope of the game significantly. In February I’ll aim for the sort of game I would attempt for Ludum Dare, and see how that goes. I’ll try to look after myself better and hopefully avoid feeling so low.

Anyway, if you want to check it out you can do so on Itch.io. It’s a free download, but does require Java.

Goals for 2015

So, last week I mentioned wanting to make more games this year. I’ve had a bit of a think, and decided on several goals for 2015. I think this is the first time I’ve made a conscious effort to do this. Anyway, let’s go!

Become fit enough to run 5 kilometres

For probably at least a year I’ve been intending to start Couch to 5k, a running program that takes you from no exercise at all, to being able to run 5km in one go. I’m incredibly unfit, but as it hasn’t caused any actual problems I’ve been basically too lazy to do anything about it. I’ve always felt too busy to devote time to exercise, and too embarrassed to go to a gym. This time though, I think I can really do it. I made a start on January 1st, and I’ll be running M-W-F mornings from now on. It should help my mood too, as I’ve generally been pretty low recently.

Make One Game a Month

I wasn’t sure before whether to actually participate in 1GAM or to come up with my own system of doing lots of small projects, but I think 1GAM is the better idea, if only because it’s an external thing that I can’t change the rules of. How I’ll actually go about it is subject to change, but to start with I’ll devote the last full week of each month to a small game project.

Become competent in a music program

I’ve wanted to learn to compose music for ages. I hum a lot, often making the tune up as I go along, but any time I’ve tried to use software I just get confused and give up. I’ve created very short songs for a couple of jam games, but always in a rush, and the next time I go to do so I can’t remember what I’m doing. So, a proper effort this year to learn some software properly – I’m considering buying FL Studio so I’ll feel obligated to get my money’s worth. 😉 I’m not going to worry about making good music, only being able to make music at all. By the end of the year, I want to be using my own music in my games.

Become competent at Blender

Being able to create 3D models, however basic, would be very useful. I’ve learned from experience that Blender isn’t the sort of thing you can just pick up in a game jam and start using! I want to be able to create simple models, texture them, and animate them. As with music, I’m not going to worry about making good models. Just being able to use the software is the goal, and then I can practice and get better. Again, by the end of the year I want to have made some games with my own animated models in.

Draw more

I used to draw constantly in high-school, then got out of the habit. I’m using a desk calendar with a daily drawing prompt to get back into the habit. The goal is only that I stick with it all year. 🙂

In other news, the website redo is progressing well. I’m not entirely happy with it, but it’s a definite improvement on the current one. I also got distracted and started tweaking Snowman Sumo – mostly polish, but also fairly-inept AI that I may or may not keep as it’s too easy to fool. I’ve also made F!shing pay-what-you-want on Itch.io, because the EU VAT changes mean either that or removing it from there entirely. Enjoy!



It’s done! There are still some rough edges of course, but I submitted Lorries In SPAAAAACE! to Ludum Dare yesterday. You can play it now over on Itch.io, and the source is available on GitHub.

Lorries In SPAAAAACE! is a management or “tycoon” game where you run an interplanetary haulage company. Buy space-lorries, give them orders to buy goods at one planet and sell them on another, and gradually expand until you can buy whole planets. You win when all the planets belong to you, and the goal is to do so as quickly as possible. It takes around 8 minutes to play through.

This was the first time I really got my teeth into Unity, and it went really well! Development was rapid, as I’d hoped, and meant that I’ accomplished what I’d planned within the 48 hours. I carried on into Monday in order to add a way to win, and to add polish, and even then I was done hours before the deadline. Unity is quick to work with, even though I wasn’t that familiar with it, so I’ll definitely be using it in future game jams, and future games.

Fight Magic Run: Fishing!

The weekend just gone, I entered the FightMagicRun ‘Fishing’ contest. My entry is here.

FightMagicRun is a weekly HTML5 48hr gme jam, with a $100 prize. The forced-HTML5 meant I finally tried making a game in JS, and I chose to use Crafty, though there are quite a few different javascript game engines. Crafty is a bit lacking in the documentation department, but it’s also very simple and minimal, so it didn’t take too long to get the hang of it. That said, I’d like to try some of the alternatives for future games.

This marks my second attempt at making game music, though my first attempt was pretty bad. I decided to give Terry Cavanagh’s recently-released Bosca Ceoil a go, and it’s so easy to use. I’d previously tried using Musagi, and while that has more features, I mostly just got confused by it all. Bosca on the other hand, is very limited, but in the most positive way – there’s very little there to be confusing and distracting. Pick a pre-existing instrument, draw some notes, and you’re away!

I hope to participate in the future contests – the great thing about it being weekly is, if it’s inconvenient one week, it’s not a problem. Maybe some time I’ll even win it! 😛 Plus, it’ll help me catch-up on 1GAM.