Variety MegaJam 2016

This past week I participated in a game jam called the Variety MegaJam. The goal of the jam was to create 10 games in 10 days in 10 different genres. I only completed 4 games within the time limit, but I still had a lot of fun and learned a lot. I think the primary thing I learned was that I have a hard time putting down an idea before I feel like I have adequately expressed the core of the concept. And one day is not really enough time to do that most of the time.

Anyway, if you want to download the games, they are available here.

Opposition Remix

oppositionA short while ago I made a game called Opposition. It was a short puzzle game designed in an afternoon. I was pretty happy with the design for how much time I had spent on it, but some of the puzzles towards the end of the game felt a bit too fiddly to me. So I have “remixed” the game so to speak, redesigning most of the puzzles to make them simpler. Perhaps you’ll enjoy it more, perhaps you’ll enjoy it less. 🙂

Play Opposition Remix

Again, both this game and the original on which it is based were made with Stephen Lavelle’s excellent PuzzleScript tool.

Opposition: A Small Puzzle Game

oppositionSo, there’s this cool little tool called PuzzleScript made by Stephen Lavelle. ( Of English Country Tune, and Stephen’s Sausage Roll fame) Maybe you’ve heard of it, or maybe you have not, but either way it’s an extremely easy to use tool for creating certain types of puzzle games. I’ve played a few games made with it, but I finally decided to try making something with it myself and the result is this game:

Play Opposition

I really had a blast designing it, and I hope you enjoy playing it. Let me know what you think of it, and be sure to try out PuzzleScript for yourself if you’re so inclined. 🙂

DiveDive is Alive!


This picture shows some of the new artwork that I have been working on. I wanted to do typical Zelda perspective walls earlier but I knew it would take a lot of time to get right. Now I have that time.

So, I’ve decided I’m going to keep working on DiveDive for the time being. I was surprised at how much I accomplished within the limitations of the 7 day challenge, but I still think the game needs a lot of work. There were a lot of bugs in that first release, and some serious balance issues. I have tried to fix the major problems so that I can start moving forward with adding more variety to the base game. The thing with rogue-likes as a genre, is that they are designed to be as replayable as possible. Sadly DiveDive is pretty limited in this regard so far, feeling much more like a linear and finite experience.

Anyway, before I get too verbose. I will just post a new build which improves several aspects of the play experience and fixes some bugs:

Click here to download the new build.

Pencils Down. DiveDive, my #7DRL is complete! (redux)


This has been a great week, but also a rough week. I stayed up 22 hours yesterday, and only slept 3. It’s been exhilarating, but also extremely challenging. It’s been a powerful and emotional moment in my life. I feel like I’ve leveled up as a designer, and I want to keep this momentum going. This week has reinvigorated my understanding and faith that THIS is what I was born to do. Unlike probably some of the 7DRL participants, I work a day job 40 hours a week. Being too conscious of this has always held me back from engaging with most of these similar challenges in the past, but something changed this time.

The challenge coincided nicely with my reading of Anna Anthropy’s Rise of the Videogame Zinesters, which helped solidify some of the thoughts which were brewing in my mind from being unable to work on Duet effectively. The book finally convinced me that the only road to me being a more productive designer is to start focusing on finishing very small scope things, and making that a priority above trying to polish them to perfection. Don’t think about it, just make a game!

I think you only get good at things by doing them, and I’ve gotten awfully good at languishing in the middle of a gigantic multi-year project with no clear path to completing the game. It is so demotivating to work on a project for 3 years and still not have something you are really proud to show to people. But DiveDive is that, and I only spent a week on it!

I have a tendency to be too detail-oriented when working on a project. I tweak the tiniest details before I finish the broad strokes of the game. It is SO much better to make a complete experience as early as possible and then polish afterwards. I have heard an analogy with sketching from Derek Yu: The best way to get better at sketching is to put a time limit on it. Try to capture the subject in as few strokes as possible. Limit yourself to 10 seconds, then tyr moving up to 30 seconds, then a minute. And finally, remove the time limit all together. It’s so important to not start your creative works with the details. Those don’t matter at all if you never finish the big things. My brother played an earlier version of Dive Dive this week and what did he point out? There’s no boss at the end. He didn’t even notice there were only two enemies, or that the slimes didn’t behave the way I wanted them to, or that the sprites vary wildly in color palette and rendering style. As a creator, you are the most intimately familiar person with your creation. All you will see is the flaws, but don’t get caught up on polishing the slash animation for a whole day. Try to do as little as possible to get all of your points across. The audience won’t notice that that one pixel doesn’t have the perfect color, but they will notice an experience which didn’t even have an ending!

I didn’t get everything into DiveDive that I hoped to, but I got way more done than I expected. I think this proves to me something I already thought I knew, that you really can build a functional prototype of any idea in a week. But, before I thought that meant it was “kinda working” within a week, but it actually means that by the end of the week you can have something that is really working because it either shows the potential of the idea or doesn’t. DiveDive has heaps of potential, I could work on it for years if I want, just adding more and more features and secrets, tweaking and polishing the art, writing my own music rather than using licensed tracks…but I have reached a point within a week where it is polished enough to not embarrass me and I believe it has some great ideas in it already, while certainly firing the imagination about how much more could be done.

It’s just impossible for me to overstate how satisfying it is to actually have something that feels like a complete experience so quickly, so that I can show it and feel confident if I choose not to ever work on it again. The funny thing about games (and art in general), is that you really can work on a project for as long as you like. But there eventually comes a time when you need to put the pencil down, and the sooner you can feel safe about doing that, the better.

So, here it is, DiveDive. A hopefully surprising “Roguelike ” Zelda-style game. I like it, so maybe you will to. 🙂

A MINOR ADDENDUM: So, the game was completely finished yesterday and I uploaded it only to find out from the first player that it was totally bugged. In the game, you start with no money, but I had put in a hack to give you $500 so I could test things. I unfortunately, in my sleepprogramming state had forgotten to remove the hack before I released. Let the lesson be this: ALWAYS BE SURE TO TAKE OUT YOUR HACKS.

Click here to download DiveDive. You will need 7-zip to unarchive the game, which you can get here

Uses music by Kevin MacLeod, and a sound effect by “RA The Sun God.” Both are used under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Final Hours of DiveDive

So, no new build tonight because I want it to be “complete” before anyone sees the ending. Trust me though, it is amazing. I have never been as productive in my life as I have been this week. I slept 5 hours last night because I couldn’t for the excitement to work. Just wanted everybody to know I’m pretty proud of this little game, and I want you to see it in the best state I can get it over the next 24 hours.


A whole roguelike in only seven days!


So, theres this thing called Seven Day Rogue-like. (or 7DRL for short) It’s a friendly challenge held once a year to produce a game in the genre. I won’t go too much into what a roguelike is, as that can easily be satisfied with a Google search, but I will say that I am working on an entry called “Super Legend of DiveDive” (Dumb name, thats what you get when you name something before you start working on it.) Its basically a roguelike modeled after the dungeons from Zelda 1. “But wait,” you say, “Isn’t Binding of Isaac already a game?” Why yes, you irritatingly attentive little boy or girl. But this game is EXACTLY LIKE ZELDA! Just look at this screenshot up there!

So, please excuse the work in progress, but I would love to allow you an “early access beta” to try out DiveDive. (everybody’s doing it these days!) And if you buy in now, you can get it for the low low price of $0! (That’s €0 for you Youropean types)

DOWNLOAD THIS SHIT MAN! (It’s like 8.8MB of pure mindboggling beta software, all wrapped up in an easy to unzip package, haha I said package)

Features music by Kevin MacLeod, used under Creative Commons license.

An experimental “game”

As you may know if you follow me on twitter, I am currently working on a side project. It is still very early on, so I won’t really say much about it yet other than it is a sci-fi game coming out of a love for the pacing of Alien and 2001: A Space Odyssey, the characters of Firefly, and the sense of freedom and exploration in Super Metroid.

I have started working on this new project for a few reasons, most of which I wasn’t conscious of when I began. The biggest reason is that I am straight-up burned out when it comes to working on Duet. I have been working on it for somewhere close to three years now, and it is still far from finished. I am not very technically skilled when it comes to game development, primarily from a lack of experience. This makes it difficult to implement even relatively simple features in a appropriately simple way. Although Duet is a small game, with only six worlds and somewhere around an hour and a half of playtime, it is still extremely ambitious because of the level of polish required for a beautiful HD hand-painted world that feels alive.

I have learned a lot of things over the past 3-4 years. One of the best lessons I have learned is how unbelievably hard it is to finish building a game, even what you think is a small one. Duet is not finished. It is not even remotely close to being finished. Looking at the state of the game in comparison to the length of time it has dominated my thoughts makes me feel like a failure. I don’t know how to see the good things in it anymore, all I see is an incomplete game which I am taking way too long to complete. I still believe in the idea of how great the game could and should be, but I find it increasingly hard to see a clear path from here to there. That makes even thinking about opening up the code for Duet a pretty draining thing.

A good piece of advice I have heard for beginning game designers is “think of the simplest possible form of your idea, then make it simpler.” I would add, “and then make it even simpler than that.” This is much easier said than done, of course, since it can feel to a young designer such as myself that simplifying an idea necessitates compromising the vision. However, the past few years have made something clear to me: lack of experience is the number one thing that will kill your game. The reality is that you only get better at things by doing them, and that includes completing games. Since I have spent most of my game development history with a level of ambition far beyond my ability to achieve, I have gotten quite good at being stuck in the middle of development on a game, and have next to no skill at finishing them.

i have been making games for 14 years, so why have I never released anything? Because I haven’t been trying. Oh, I’ve worked pretty hard on a lot of projects, but I am never considering how I’m going to be able to complete them as part of my grand visions. This is a pretty big oversight on my part, because games can balloon very quickly into being much bigger and more complex things. It’s easy to keep dreaming up new features, new locations, and new characters without even contemplating or understanding how much work you are adding in order to reach a state of “completion.”

As an aside, but giving more context to my predicament with finishing projects. I usually exist in one of two modes: I either tie my self-worth to my productivity and feel terrible about myself all the time because I’m mostly unproductive apart from the rare moments when my self-loathing actually inspires me to get a little bit of work done, or I don’t care whether or not I do anything creative or useful or career-building, and so I don’t. It is very difficult to find a middle ground.

So, what was the point of all this?

Duet is on hold until two criteria have been met: First being that I feel like I can actually finish the project without having to compromise the vision. And second that Erik is not working full time on a different project which actually pays for his living expenses.

In the mean time, I want to make more games, and start getting better at finishing things. This new project is already ballooning like crazy in my mind, but I’m cutting it down as much as I can. Realistically, I can only really excel at one thing per project with my current level of skill. That naturally limits the scope or appeal of a project, but I would be much happier with a small but complete game that I can show everyone than I am with a much more ambitious game that is so half-baked that I’m embarrassed to even show screenshots of for fear of letting on how incomplete it is.

As part of this goal to finish more games more frequently, I’d like to make more games under limited development timeframes. Consequently, I actually did make a full game in around 4 hours this past week, so I’d like to post it for you to play and maybe even give some feedback. It’s super experimental, and you probably wouldnt even call it a game. But it is at least, a complete experience:

Experiment Number 89

Click here to download. (.ZIP 8.9MB)

Created with: Game Maker 8.1 Lite (apologies for the watermark, as I haven’t paid for the software)

Uses great spooky music by Kevin MacLeod, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution License.


Another dumb game, but hey, it’s learning experience for me, and at least it’s better than tic-tac-toe:


As you can clearly see, the left paddle is going to lose.
As you can see, the left paddle is going to lose.


Pong (release).7z (7-zip format) – 1.15MB

How to Play:

Uhm, seriously… It’s just pong. Try not to miss the ball while also trying make the opponent miss the ball. First player to 10 points wins. There’s a single player mode with AI, and a two player mode as well. Have Fun!

Libraries used:

SDL ,  SDL_image , SDL_mixer , SDL_ttf