Sep 22 2011


I’ve been working pretty slowly this week. Maybe I need to disable Internet access while I’m working? It’d probably help… but I’d fall behind on Twitter… o_O

I’m just hitting some minor snags with this Newgrounds build which I’ll hopefully get cleaned up shortly. I’m also coming down with a cold (a pretty minor one so far, at least!). Good thing I didn’t book Eurogamer Expo tickets, eh 😀 I think that means that finishing off Vigilance is about all I’ll achieve this week, work wise, but I reckon I can live with that.

Non-dev aside: I had a play of Sengoku’s demo last night. It’s possibly the least accessible game I’ve seen in years! What I think happened is that I waged war on a minor island clan, and the ensuing loss of honour meant most of my clan lost all respect for me and started voting in some jerk as my successor until I could recover enough honour and marry off my daughters to some of them as bribes.

I still have no idea if the game is incredibly simple or horrifically complex. Either way, it’s a good reminder of how far tutorials and general player education approaches have come and how much they bring to gaming.

Sep 20 2011


Civ 5 is weird! I’ve been playing it on and off for the past few days and it’s… nice? Balanced? But… a bit too balanced, possibly. I haven’t felt like there’s any actual possibility of making a bad decision. In fact, what with the advisors, the recommended worker improvements, opposing civs coming to you to make deals and so on, the game will play itself perfectly adequately if you just follow prompts at random.

And you have to sign “research agreements” now instead of trading research? What the hell is that about? 😀

Anyway, this week, I’m wrapping up the portals build of Vigilance (oh my goodness this has dragged on long enough). I’ll also be starting work on turning those Fight Back screens into glorious pixelly reality, which will be interesting. I’ll finally have to figure out what I want the level backgrounds to look like – that’s going to be tough.

Let’s see if I can get to Friday and be able to say that Vigilance is FINISHED FOREVER. I fixed up some title screen stuff and implemented scoreboards today, so it’s going alright. Onwards!

Sep 14 2011


I got interviewed for one! Against All Expectations – Episode 9. Leo (@limbclock) asks me a bunch about my background, Beacon and Vigilance, what the plan is with Fight Back, Mac stuff, HaXe stuff, Finland stuff… taking in things like the unfortunate name conflict with Chevy Ray’s Beacon (spoiler: totally my fault!) and how Vigilance was partly inspired by an RPG Maker game.

Hell, I’m not going to go on about the Sam HaXe work I’m doing right now. There’s plenty about it in the podcast. 😀

Some interesting stuff kicked off over the weekend. Ars Technica put up this post about contract clauses from game development studios which specify that anything employees create, even in their own time, is the property of the company. (My personal opinion: it’s taking the piss!) I sent this on to Jas Purewal (@gamerlaw) who, being super awesome, wrote up a whole article addressing the legal situation, sharing what developers think on the topic, and giving sensible real-world advice on how to deal with these issues. If you do any kind of software work yourself then give it a read, though I guess it’s written for a UK audience so the legal stuff might not be universal.

Right… back to implementing the SWF spec!

Aug 16 2011


I’ve let blogging slide a bit these past few days. I haven’t been able to focus on work, so I’ve been catching up on games instead!

“From Dust” is a God game of sorts. Unlike many, though, the landscape itself is alive – rivers erode and deposit earth and flop around as they do so, volcanoes erupt and lava drizzles unpredictably down the volcanic rock, tsunamis and rain can surge periodically and gradually wear down the earth.

With all of this going on, you’re mostly concerned with shoring things up for a few minutes at a time with your limited powers so your little people can achieve the next minor objective. Building bridges through water; diverting rivers and lava; putting out rampaging wildfires. It’s often a game about coping with, not conquering, a hostile environment.

In practice, that’s engaging and very physical. With the range of levels – one has the land itself sinking up and down, another is set within an active volcano, and each gives you different powers to play with – it’s fun and quite atmospheric, though having played it to death now I wish there more to it than just manipulating lava, earth and water.

I’ve also made a start on Bastion. In contrast to From Dust, which is very much built on complex simulation and clever mechanics, Bastion’s a real case of presentation over everything else. What presentation though! The narration’s constantly charming. If the demo pulls you in then rest assured the full game keeps it up as far as I’ve seen, and there’s plenty of optional difficulty on top thanks to the Shrine. I’m maybe two thirds of the way through the game now, but more than anything else it feels solid.

They’re honestly both great games. XBox Live Arcade’s library just got even more formidable 😀

Aug 03 2011


It’s here!

Well, strictly speaking, the link’s over here, in the discussion thread on the VVVVVV forum.

Here’s why I designed it like I did.

First up, the lack of checkpoints was to force me to make an interesting, balanced level without them, which in turn would by necessity be substantially different from VVVVVV itself (and the great majority of other people’s levels). With any luck, this forces you to approach the challenges differently – more cautiously.

I believe poor checkpointing like this is bad design, as you’ll know if you’ve played Beacon. But it was more important to me that this was different from VVVVVV – I figure a version of the level with adequate checkpointing would be less interesting.

There’re a few spoilers for the level in the rest of this post.

Continue reading »

Aug 01 2011


I promised a VVVVVV level, didn’t I? Well, something came up, so that’s not coming out for a few days. For what it’s worth, I’m using the time to balance it a bit better (ie. everyone’s dying way too much and I need to fix that).

My main project besides that, now Vigilance is done, is going to be getting my TIGJam UK 5 collaboration with Adam Vian, “Reels of Steel”, into shape. It’s currently lacking a lot of important stuff; we have an okay fishing mechanic and his awesome art, but the game needs a lot of work in terms of higher structure and level design.

Since we’re focusing on atmosphere, it’s going to be a very slow-paced game with a lot of sound work. Should be fun!

In lieu of actual content – I spent a bunch of this morning playtesting a friend’s game, and I’m off to London Indies in a sec – here’s the extremely nautical title music I knocked up for Reels of Steel at TIGJam:

Reels of Steel – So I Fish

Jul 30 2011


Yup. I’ve spent the past two days writing what amounts to indie game fanfic.

The single best thing about VVVVVV – the thing that made it work, I think – was that it had instant restarts from checkpoints all over the place. You could tackle incredibly hard challenges and failing wasn’t a problem, since you were straight back in there for another go.

Yeah, I’m doing things a bit differently. 😀

The approach I’m taking is totally different from VVVVVV. The levels are a bit easier, I think; you should be able to clear them on your first go, if you sit and think and work out the timings. Likewise, a lot of them have multiple paths through to reward observation as much as timing.

The other thing I’m doing differently is that collecting trinkets (“power cells”) removes gravity lines in an area. This is how your progression through the central tower works, but it also means that once you’ve collected a power cell, the challenges on the way back to the hub are slightly different. Of course, you can just die and walk back to the hub… but where’s the fun in that? That’s the loser way out. 😀

I’ll finish and release this over the weekend and write up a more detailed breakdown (with spoilers!) on Monday.

Jul 22 2011


There are two reasons to get Earth Defence Force: Insect Armageddon.

The first is taking on fifty or a hundred things larger than you, each of which will take half a clip or a few clips to dispose of. All of them advancing at such a pace, you’re forced to retreat while firing wildly into the crowd and hope you don’t run out of room to backpedal until they’re worn down enough to make it a remotely fair fight.

The second reason is, after minutes of dodging and frantic salvos of gunfire… winning that fight.

EDF:IA isn’t a particularly sophisticated game. Hundreds of ants – or spiders, or flying robots, or wasps, or whatever – run at you. You try to not die. Occasionally there’s a giant robot with them, or you’re given a mech, but the principle is that you’re given city-levelling weaponry and then set against an enemy force epic enough to laugh at that weaponry.

It has two player split-screen co-op and three player online co-op. It’s also fairly cheap, as games go. It doesn’t seem like it’s got the same grindy, levelling-up endurance as its predecessor EDF 2017. But then I’m not sure I have the patience to collect over 6000 armour drops again before I can survive the last level of Inferno, either, or hunt that last exclusive weapon with a less-than-1% drop rate. So maybe that’s a good thing.

Eurogamer’s review here.

Jul 18 2011



The weekend was ace! I made a few games, met lots of cool people, somehow got enough sleep…

Alistair put some photos up on Google+. Most of the weekend was spent feverishly dev’ing away upstairs in the CB2 café, but after they kicked us out in the evenings we headed to The Tram Depot, possibly the only pub in the world to have Grolsch Blond on tap. It’s all the better for it.

Stephen Lavelle (increpare) kept the whole thing running, walking round every few hours to issue themes for another three hour jam. Hardly anyone did a game for each three hour jam, of course – that way would lie madness – but each new jam was a fresh project. As the weekend wore on people began to stick with their favourites and develop them further.

I fell in love with the second project I started, so stuck with that to the exclusion of all else. But before I talk about that, here’s the first. I made it on Saturday in about four hours, and it’s an arcadey game about ants and bears and cherries that explode:

It’s an unbalanced mess, but it’s fairly dynamic. Dragging a cherry trail to an ant hill (hive? lol) brings a friendly ant out who’ll follow the trail and pick up other cherries for you, and if a bear finds a trail it can follow it to find ants to eat.

Here it is: BugsNThings

A few other jam games you should TOTALLY CHECK OUT are

– Inside a Starfield Sky by Alan Hazelden and Phillip Webster

Untris by increpare

line bender by increpare

The second game I started – the one I spent most of the weekend on – was a collaboration with a fantastic artist, so it’s much prettier. It’s a game about fishing with magnets, in which you hunt for robot fish hidden amongst the normal fish. It is REELS OF STEEL:

The art’s by Adam Vian of The Super Flash Bros, who is every bit as professional as he is talented. This one’s maybe half done, so you can’t play it yet but it should be out soon 😀

It’s been a busy few days so I took the day off. Back to work tomorrow!

Jul 15 2011


I know I haven’t been updating this site the past few weeks, but I can now! See, this contract project?

DONE. Finished.

Money. 😀

With that out of the way I’m OFF TO TIGJAM to make games and music and stuff and hang out. Back on Monday, perhaps with some rubbish prototype games nobody will like!