Games I Made This Year

I released my first game on the Internet in 1997, a terrible ZZT adventure game called Bob: The Adventure. I don’t know if it’s that, or if it’s because I’m in the middle of working on a bigger game project (Explobers, maybe coming out next month?), or if I’m just trying to procrastinate on my master’s thesis, but I’ve been really back into making games and want to make a point of making more this year than I have the last few.

I also got really nostalgic and made a website that houses all my games, instead of just letting them be distributed everywhere across the Internet. That’s over 80 games.

Anyway, I don’t know how much interest this will be to anyone here, but I thought I’d keep a log of the games I make this year.

Starting with the next post.


First thing I made this year was Skeletons in the Closet PLUS. This was for a “appreciation nicejam” at Glorious Trainwrecks, where the idea was to make a remake/sequel/tribute to a game on the site you admire. I chose the 2012 game Skeletons in the Closet by jfroco, because I really dug that game, but thought it would benefit from some more levels.

jfroco made this game as a tribute to the Sinclair ZX Spectrum, which they have fond nostalgic memories of. I never had a Spectrum, so in my remake, I decided to port it over to my nostalgia, which would be 3-color CGA games for DOS.

The first thing I did was remade the first stage, trying to get the jumping and movement speed to hit the right targets and feel about equal, which ultimately led to me fucking around with framerates. Once I remade the first stage, I was free to make up whatever levels I wanted. While I intended this to be an evening’s work, I spend about three nights on this, fine-tuning levels. I remade all three of the game’s original levels and added nine more.

It was a neat challenge. I have my own proclivities in doing single-screen platform level design with specific kind of movement, but jfroco’s mind works a bit differently from mine. Something I really liked about the original game was the importance of finding safe spaces in the level. It’s not a stealth game, but the enemy movement surprisingly recalls the alternating hurry/wait cycles of that genre. Ultimately, the levels I made probably more reflect my sensibility, but it was a super cool experience to get inside the way a game I like works and both rebuild it and try to meld my own way of doing things with it.

I really leaned heavily on the CGA retro thing. I gave it a title screen like an Apogee shareware game, replete with “Instructions” screens and everything.


Second thing was _Watch Ducks Legacy._ This is the fifth game in my Watch Ducks series (previous, Watch Ducks, Watch Ducks II, Watch Ducks CGA, Watch Ducks HD Remix), which started with Glorious Trainwrecks’s Pirate Kart II in 2010 as the first game I made for that site’s events. I made this for the 10th anniversary of Glorious Trainwrecks, which I figured was fitting for an anniversary event. It actually probably wouldn’t have happened if a friend of mine hadn’t sent me an email fondly remembering the first game the day before I made it.

The core mechanics haven’t changed. You sit on the bench and you get points for watching ducks, occasionally receiving bonuses like the gold duck bonus. In Watch Ducks II I had added a sleeping mechanic where your character could fall asleep and you’d have to stand up and sit back down to resume getting points. I undid that for this version.

The main hook now is that the game saves your points, so you can continue your session after you reboot your computer (hence “legacy”).

I also went a little crazy adding in new bonus ducks, beyond the original gold duck and WD2’s silver duck. More unlock the longer you play. I’m thinking if I port this for web (see a hilariously bugged out version of my first attempt here), I’ll space it out so rare ducks are more rare and they take longer to unlock.

This game is terribly silly.




And last night I made a game for Glorious Trainwrecks’s 10th anniversary of Klik of the Month Klub events. I meant to take just a few hours with this, but it took over six. It is called UNGRATEFUL BIRDS, and it is about saving ungrateful birds from captivity.

When I sat down to start, I first thought it’d be interesting to have a cloud following the player that would drop deadly hail on your head, which evolved into a cloud of birds shitting on you, and then–because that’s gross–became rocks. And then I thought “Oh, hey, you can use these SAME rocks to free the birds and then you have to fight over them.”

Playing it is a manic experience, and the nine levels are probably something most people who try it won’t see their way through. I was surprised how easy it was to code the relatively complex stuff I wanted the birds to do (with the odd game-breaking error costing me a few minutes here and there, natch). I’m not sure how good this idea is, but it makes me laugh.

Actually, if I hadn’t reigned myself in, I was still coming up with new ideas for different kinds of birds (there are three kinds: robins, seagulls (which are like speedier robins), and ravens (which target the player more precisely with their rocks)) and new environmental ideas to build levels around, but I figured this was actually sufficient for the present project. I can see myself coming back to/reworking/making a sequel to this one.

In particular, all of 18 hours later, I’m wishing I’d done some cooler stuff to showcase the ravens. there’s some real shmup-type nonsense that could come out of that.

Game Maker gave me some annoying error where this game in particular won’t work in fullscreen. It’s maddening. I’ll look into it when I’m feeling less stressed out about shit.

That’s it for right now! I’ll keep this updated as I release more games throughout the year.


wordfilter duck to dick because i’m 5


I haven’t played any of these yet, but the screenshots are exciting. I’ll check them out sometime next week hopefully.

i love this

I played Ungrateful Birds up to level three last night as my wife watched and we had a good time laughing at the comedy of it. I enjoy titles that are understatements.

Oh fuck, Clyde, hey.

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good 15 minutes

Aw, jeez, thanks folks. Glad people are enjoying the manic pace of Ungrateful Birds. Good 15 minutes is usually what I’m aiming for with most these little platformers.

Someone recorded a let’s play of Ungrateful Birds that I think has me thinking that maybe I need to make a 2-player version.


I started work on this back in February and I’m just today releasing it. EXPLOBERS! 80 stages (plus hidden stages) and challenge goals and secret graphics modes and stuuuuufff. Pretty proud of this one.

I sketched the idea out almost fully formed when I was supposed to be paying attention in a class I was observing and thought I would do it as a quickie 48-hour project, but found myself seeing a lot more potential in it than I thought the usual dashed-off ten or twelve stages would do. For a couple months, I would develop a new stage or two a night or rewrite/add a new gameplay system. I added a secret alternate game mode just about 6 weeks ago with a slightly different ruleset.


Like a lot of ideas, it started out as a rework of Lemmings, borrowing a bit from The Lost Vikings, with my own Super Stone Ball from four years back as a kind of template, infused with the nightly games of Spelunky I was playing.

For the main game, I restricted myself to 14 of the colors from the standard EGA palette from old PCs (leaving out yellow and brown) more to keep the scale and unity of the graphics in check than for any retro cred. I complicate this by including several unlockable graphics modes with different/wider palettes. It’s weird pouring a bunch of time into unlockable/endgame content you wonder if anyone else will ever even see.

ANYWAY. There it is. EXPLOBERS. I’ve missed a few game jams since I’ve been working intensely on this (also I wrote an M.A. thesis and moved to Baltimore in the time I was workign on this).

I wrote and drew an illustrated manual for the game that’s included with the download. Because I’m a fuckin dork.

Oh yeah and I made a trailer because why not.

I’m looking forward to doing something smaller soon.


And here I’ve got something new I released the other day, after starting it on Tuesday. The idea came to me at work. I was planning on making this a one-night-and-done thing, hoping to bang it out in a few hours, but I worked on it for quite a few hours for four consecutive days and have made a few tweaks since initial release.

It’s called Dr. Creepinscare’s Pumpkin Patch Match.

It began with the idea that it would be a falling blocks game that was inherently frustrating because all the blocks would look almost identical–jack-o-lanterns with slight variations in their faces. It was supposed to basically be a joke idea to drop on Glorious Trainwrecks. But it turned out that programming that little joke idea took a bit more than I expected it too. Initially you just needed to match the faces in a 2x2 field. Then I decided to add a second configuration and then a third and suddenly I got interested in trying to make this ridiculous, throwaway novelty game that no one would probably play and try to actually balance it. My wife suggested adding a cat that added a whole other dimension to it, too.

I think my favorite video game these days is making video games.

When I decided to attach an original mascot character–who I imagined as a character from a forgotten children’s cartoon for which this game was a licensed title–it kind of solidified for me that I wanted to polish the presentation too.

While I’ve gotten past the idea of it being borderline unplayable, the game is still supposed to be frustrating. You’re not supposed to be able to play indefinitely, as the field will inevitably become too crowded as the randomizer gives you more and more pumpkins (I think someone with really great reflexes and a super keen memory could go on for a very long time) that don’t fit your current projects.

I really liked making and even like playing this now, even though it’s totally intended to be frustrating.

IMPORTANT EDIT: My wife’s cat Boris gave a fantastic little vocal performance for this game.


I went ahead and released another game. This one’s pointedly unpolished and has a weird experimental jump and occasionally glitchy platforms, but I wanted to see what I could do with this concept. I actually started working on it in February 2016, when I was aiming at releasing a game every month for the whole year (I’d released something on January 31, but would only actually finish 2 more games the whole year that year). It’s called CYANiDE, only because the game has a monochromatic cyan palette.

Basically, you manipulate tilting platforms by using your player character’s body in a seesaw effect, setting a path up so that when you change yourself into a ball you roll to the goal.

It came from ruminating on the balance/seesaw platforms from Super Mario Bros 3, wondering what could be done with them. I imagined an implementation that would be focused on making higher areas accessible, kind of like the motion-control iteration in NSMB Wii.


Because I wanted to keep it a single-screen platformer (a design obsession I just can’t shake these last five years), I gave the PC a really high jump but a slow walking speed. Not sure how successful that was.


I really liked the idea, though. It was supposed to be a Glorious Trainwrecks-style one-evening project, but I realized that with the idiosyncrasy of movement I’d chosen, making good levels required a lot of testing–and Game Maker Studio takes a bit longer producing buildsd than i’d like–and so it got pushed back to a weeklong project and then i showed it at a Eugene, Oregon playtesting event and got a good response. Then i got busy with grad school and teaching and getting married, so I never got around to finishing it.

And thus I picked it up last week and decided to polish it off a year and a half since I’d done anything with it. I gave it 7 new levels for a total of 15 levels.

The movement of the platforms is a little weird, and I’m sure there’s a more elegant way to go about it, but for this experiment, I thought this would suffice. A more polished version is surely possible, but I didn’t want to let this swell up and take over the next month.

Anyway, this may or may not be fun to play. I think it might be fun despite the slight awkardness. That’s what the first comment from a Gamejolt reviewer said, anyway.

I kinda want to return to something with this basic conceit some time soon–like an Incredible Machine you have to navigate. In a sense, I explored something like that with my 2015 game Shadow Wrangler, though that required more active intervention and a different kind of automation.

Not sure what comes next! I’ve been thinking more and more about playing more with game narratives (the most story-heavy game I’ve made in the last five years was Ungrateful Birds, I think, as thin as that is). I also need to rewrite some components of my game-making toolkit so I can get out of redundantly writing identical menus and functions in every game.


Okay, I’m gonna go ahead and extend this thread to 2018, too. Just released my first game of the year, a remake/expansion of my 2012 made-in-3-hours-for-Glorious-Trainwrecks game KOI PUNCHER. This one is called KOI PUNCHER MMXVIII.

I spent 3 hours making the original game and spent 3 months making this revision. I changed a lot, though. I showed Koi Puncher at an event in Eugene last year, and people loved playing it. So after finishing Explobers, I thought on a lark that it would be fun to revisit this and make a somewhat slicker version. I added a lot of polish. I tweaked a bunch of stuff, added a bunch of maps, added four-player multiplayer and eight characters, a bunch of extra game modes, and a whole shitton of other stuff.

Probably the most fun thing to work on–and what got me interested in returning to the project in the first place, really–was the complex genetics that make up each koi. It’s invisible to the player, but each koi has a long list of genetic traits passed on to them by their parents and that they pass on with each mating combination. The original game had 4 patterns that were randomly assigned. I haven’t calculated the number of koi color/pattern combinations possible in this game, but it’s gotta be in the high hundreds, if not over a thousand. If you desire to play it this way, you can use the home pond’s permanent collection of koi to keep a selectively culled population to breed (and punch) interesting variations over time.

There’s a bunch of other things in the game I haven’t touched on. This was a blast to make and allowed me to go really deep on some of my weirder fixations. It’s both my most polished game and one of my most intentionally sloppy-looking, with a pointedly drawn-with-a-mouse style. It’s a game about punching koi. Why the fuck did i even make this.

EDIT: Important update: I thought there were HUNDREDS of koi possible. It turns out, after doing some math, there are THOUSANDS.


Hot on the heels of Koi Puncher 18 is KNIGHT MOVES.

Made for Sophie Houlden’s rather brilliantly simple idea for CHESS JAM, this was an excellent opportunity to tweak a millennia-old game that needs absolutely no tweaking. I’ve actually been sketching out chess variants since I was a kid, including a sphere-based game I worked on a lot on paper called CHESS WORLD. There was also a chess RPG at one point, also on paper. I think a lot of that was influenced by my childhood encounter with the Parker Bros. chess-for-beginners game All the King’s Men as well as Battle Chess.

ANYWAY, I’m fascinated by the weirdness of the movement for the knight piece. It’s weird! I love it. I don’t know where it came from, but it’s the weirdest and most useful thing. Only it can skip over pieces. Only it can move in its weird L-shape. Only it isn’t bound by a direct linear movement. Only it must move 3 spaces at a time, making attacking an adjacent or kitty-corner piece really hard to engage with, a multi-point turn affair.

So I thought it’d be interesting to narrow chess down to just this one piece. Initially, I thought it’d be an RTS where one or multiple knights face off against a rapidly-cascading flow of pawns, as the note I scribbled in my phone can attest. The mania of grid-based RTS movement with an ever-moving linear opponent sounded fun. However, when I sat down to start scripting movement, I realized a turn-based version of the same concept was also pretty promising.

So we have KNIGIHT MOVES. It has four different difficulty levels. Beating either of the two highest difficulty levels will give you ENDLESS mode, where pawns initially spawn every 4 turns and then every 2 turns. I thought it’d be hard to break 200, but Sergio Cornaga just showed me his record of 738.

Also I added a 4-panel “cinematic” introduction scene, putting to use a dialogue/text box engine I wrote six years ago for my game design toolkit and literally haven’t used in any of my 50+ released projects since then.

Anyway, there’s that.


I made my first game in Bitsy. I made it in under an hour “for” a five-year-old Sudden Death Jam. I made it because I found out it’s what inspired wengwengweng’s wonderful Find the Pink fish.

My game is called So I Heard You’re a Fish.

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New game. Started this one as an experiment at the end of April. Had been playing some old ZZT “engine” platforming games that had you control a walking object by pressing other objects that had direction and action controls. So here, I isolate one player character (Liz) from the action who jumps around on a life-sized gamepad to give directions to the blindfolded character (Laz) who has to do the standard platform nonsense.

Visually I was really inspired by two games by the awesome Japanese indie dev Kabusoft. Been playing their two games a lot lately.


So it started as a silly little experiment and then I got really into making interesting stages. Jump timing and transitioning from walking to jumping to shooting are really different. I ended up putting a lot more animation and polish (there’s some cinematics and dialogue) than I often do for my smaller games.


The only normal enemy in the game is a “plug snake,” an enemy from a series of (basically) Mega Man clones I drew on paper called Powerball between the ages of 9 and 14 (1992-1997). Because why the hell not.

I called it episode 1, also, because why the hell not.


itd be cool if in episode ii you shake up the gamepad segment to be suited for different stages and added challenge. like, doing some part of the level with half the controls (one direction and jump), so the one in the action field can hit a switch that restores full command and lets them turn around and fire.