Until I disgorge these games on some level, I will hurt. I need to show them. Months of struggling to learn things my brain was not accustomed to. Games that excite me but no longer stir praxis. Opiate dreams.
These are the wreckage of me learning how to make graphical games. Before I started making these, I only knew how to make text games. I wanted to be part of the world of color and motion, to rise from the antiseptic black and white maze of words. *tosses book over shoulder, lands in trash with basketball hoop sound*
“Failed” isn’t the right term–I learned a lot from making these.
I was very interested in each game as I began, but I grew to accept that you need sustained interest from beginning to end. One thing to envision a cool idea and do the first level, it’s another to actually finish the game.
Beyond mere inspiration, the components of the game make a huge difference in finishing it. Since I’m making the game by myself, adding a new feature represents the cost of making the art, the cost of coding the mechanics and connecting it to the rest of the code, and the cost of integrating it into the UI (monitor real estate, fonts, spacing, etc). I realized that to make a game, I had to work within a certain scope, both artistically and mechanically. I started learning how to represent things using just a few pixels. I didn’t want to sit down at the computer and be groaning and burbling and vomiting and puking at all the things I needed just to accomplish one simple thing. I wanted a low psychic cost. So now my code is cleaner, I use way more scripts, I draw simple, prototypable sprites, and I envision my scope carefully.
They range in length from vignette to a few seconds of clicking.
Everything by me except for music and part of the mouse gesture system.
2-player Alien Cyborg Wasp Duel (windows download, or laggy earlier uglier version in html5 if you’re a gross person)
Description: On purple platforms with stylized fringes, above a lake of toxic green goo, two alien cyborg wasps of opposing tribes fight it out.
Controls: WASD + Space for left player, arrow keys + Shift for right.
Playability: High–you can play a complete round with no problems. Jumping directly at a wall is “sticky” though, and there’s no respawning.
What I Like: Figuring out how to make eyes and goo bubbles randomly appear in the platforms and toxic lake. Shades of Sonic Spinball. The wasp design and the fringes under the platforms are cool too.
Begscape (windows download)
Description: You’re a beggar. Drag yourself around and fill your bowl with coins. I was pretty depressed when I made this. Also at all other times.
Controls: Arrow keys.
Playability: Medium–you want to crawl around on the dirt and be a crippled beggar and wait for coins to drop down? Go ahead. Just don’t touch the walls or the other beggar, they’re sticky. And the game has no end, you just crawl around that one screen forever. Realism in gaming.
What I Like: The premise. The aesthetic (shape, color, movement). The tide (no frames, the lapping effect is algorithmically generated). The fact that people avoid you just like in real life.
Description: A game for inhuman sentient geometry.
Controls: Mouse driven.
Playability: Low–you can click on the first sequence of options to advance but it won’t do anything after that.
What I Like: Everything.
Star Wagon (windows download)
Description: Oregon Trail + King of Dragon Pass. Travel linearly in your ship, upgrading, recruiting, and responding to random cyoa events of varying complexity. Starports are safe havens where you refuel, improve your ship, and hire crew. Planets have limited amenities but each one has a gimmick–there’s a gambling planet (which utilizes the hidden luck stat), Sade the planet of pain where you can play the pain games, pitting one of your crew against the champion pain junky, and so on.
This was the most ambitious game I worked on. I got a lot done, tweaked tons of little things, but my will was broken–for now(!).
Controls: Mouse driven + press Space to start the ship at the beginning of the game.
Playability: High–You can hire crew, refuel, read the guide and encyclopedia (click the little question mark), and complete most events. You’ll find broken planets and events though, and a lot of other stuff is missing or glitchy.
What I Like: If a crew member dies their portrait turns blood red. The randomly generated bios and the different alien races I came up with. The character customization at the beginning, the evocative career options. Thinking about naming conventions for each race. The fact that each planet is a different gimmick. The star-mile counter rolling up as you zoom through space, the idea that you have to live or die by the choices you make as you careen in a straight line toward…whatever was at the end.
Description: I wanted to make an avant-garde strategy/sim city game in a weird world instead of the usual capitalism-driven sim set in a boring, contemporary world. Bizarre alien advisors cheer you on or groan as you make decisions (why do so few games no longer have talking head advisors? those are so cool).
Controls: Mouse driven. Click on buildings to set workers (“Blargs”). Shift-click to remove them. Click on the middle tentacle on the left part of the screen to see my revolutionary tentacle-driven UI. The three orbs ostensibly save, load, and quit your game. Click on the mud mound to show a little temple icon then click on that to build the temple. Clicking on the temple will sacrifice one of your Glargs.
Playability: Low–you can assign workers and build a temple and see what the advisors say.
What I Like: The aesthetic. The tentacle-driven UI. The ADVISORS.
2-player Coop Game (windows download)
Description: Two players on the same screen, their world split in two by a wall. Will they ever be reunited? Beat the challenges together but beware–a misstep may mean doom for your partner, for each side has touch-activated platforms that fire missiles to the other half.
The middle sequence forces players to constantly reevaluate their path and choose between a fast path that’s dangerous for their partner, or a slow, difficult path that makes it easy on their partner. The idea is for players to pay attention not only to their own progress but that of their companion–to be empathic and aware of how much their partner can handle.
Controls: WASD for left player, 8456 numpad for right.
Playability: High-Low–you should be able to complete the three levels with a partner, but if you die you have to force quit the game for some reason (the second stage may be challenging to some). Also the second stage scrolls slowly sometimes so you may have to wait for the screen to catch up.
What I Like: I enjoy that each stage is a different kind of challenge. I like the need to analyze not only yourself but your partner’s skill level and progress. It would be cool to experiment more with that idea–coop where you’re not merely cooperating to solve brute puzzles, but feeling the other person and bearing some of their pain (inasmuch as pain can be represented in games–inconvenience being the usual substitute.)
Mouse Gesture Driven RPG Battle System (windows download)
Description: Use mouse gestures to fight an rpg battle. The mouse gesture recognition itself (i.e. returning whether the mouse traveled in a certain path) is from code I found on the Gamemaker forums.
Controls: Displayed ingame–drag and release right mouse button in the shape described by the icons. Turning your cursor into a heart will heal whatever you click on. Doing the screen flashy spell will damage the closest enemy to your cursor.
Playability: High–for what it is. The motions are really forgiving.
What I Like: The fluid ease and speed of a battle using this system. Less clicking through menus, more fighting. The magical blue-white spheres following the cursor are cool too. I…love them.
Tentacle RPG (windows download)
Description: I coded part of an rpg engine from scratch (basic combat, basic inventory, cool dialogue box that kind of bounces in and supports branching conversations) then lost interest. The excerpt you can download above lets you talk to two people, see a tree, and play a whack-a-tentacle game and see your high score at whacking tentacles. I was playing some obscure game called Chrono Trigger and after spending most of the game in the carnival playing the different minigames I realized I had way more fun playing those than the actual game. Especially the test-your-strength hammer slammer bell dinging game–such a satisfying, simple mechanic, with none of the annoying prep time of the other games. I don’t enjoy most RPG combat, I just enjoy being in the world.
Controls: Arrow keys to move, Shift to talk to people, numbers to choose dialogue options.
Playability: High–whack them tentacles.
What I Like: The subtly bouncing dialogue box that flies in from off screen. Designing the conversation system was my favorite part–making the dialogue type itself in (classic~) but also being able to speed it up, as well as supporting multiple conversational paths. The texture on the grass with its soft cool colors.