Games I Made This Year


#23

Thanks! These are very cool ideas.

I’d originally planned to do some wild variations on and maybe even look at collapsing the border between the control booth and the stage, but I wanted to keep the game bite-sized and I was having a sufficient amount of fun just mining the core mechanics for level ideas (part of why I slapped Episode 1 on there, to encourage myself to go back and maybe do more). I really like the control disabling idea and the idea of more of a bidirectional communication from one character to the other. Your suggestions also led me to thinking about what might be a new core mechanic to base another installment around. Much thanks again!


#24

Oh hey, meanwhile, I’ve released a handful of patches to EXPLOBERS, which is now up to version 1.3. I’ve rebalanced some difficulty, added a Japanese translation, and hidden extra secrets in the stages. And I’ve now made it so the extra game mode becomes unlocked after beating 40 stages rather than waiting to clear the game.

Even more exciting, perhaps, is that the game’s gonna be part of the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s SAAM Arcade on July 22! I kind of can’t believe that’s a thing that’s happening, but it sure is. I should probably make business cards or something.


#25

Hell yeah! Congratulations, dude! That’s super cool.


#26

I feel like I’ve been working on this nonstop since I finished Liz & Laz for the Wumpus game jam I’ve been working on, for which I suggested people make things inspired by Hunt the Wumpus. It’s called Temple of the Wumpus.

It’s massive. The temple has over 100 unique rooms and thousands of words of dialog and manuscript text and some hidden systems and secrets.

You don’t hunt the Wumpus, but seek the Wumpus through prayer, with prayer substituting for the Wumpus’s smell and specials candles replacing your ammunition. The Wumpus slowly moves around the temple.

The geography of the game is weird, since I wanted it to be a platformer but didn’t want the player to navigate through the tops and bottoms of screens. So the bottom exit of one room connects to the top exit of another.

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The game comes from a few places for me. I’ve been wanting to make something that has a real sense of place. Most my games are stage-at-a-time progressions with abstract geography based entirely around mechanical function. Here I was interested in making a place that felt like a place. There are ten wings of the temple.

Another desire I had was to make something totally nonviolent with its approach to spirituality. I have a complicated relationship with religion and a fractured set of views on it, and that’s all written in scriptures and plaques and signs all over the temple in an almost stream of consciousness, kitchen-sink approach to writing.

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The game’s probably really hard and is meant to be a bit perplexing. Part of the reason there’s so much writing is I wanted people who couldn’t get to the goal to still get something out of the game. I don’t know how successful that’ll be, though I think a certain amount of this will be up to how players receive what I’ve wrirren and designed.

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#27

This game has attractive bookshelves. I’m still at the perplexed stage and haven’t reached the goal yet, but I like what I’ve seen so far.


#28

Thanks! It was when I drew the bookshelves that I realized that a lot of the atmosphere and structure the game snapped into focus for me.

I just updated the game on itch to 1.1, by the way. It has some fixed typos, a minor bug or two fixed, and a small smattering of new text.

EDIT: btw, I’m a little sheepish about mentioning this to you, but Seiklus was a definite inspiration on this, too.


#29

A couple months ago, Phil Shadsy wrote on his blog The Obscuritory about a furiously paced single-screen action game for the Commodore 64 by the UK-based Alan G. Osborne called AAARGH! CONDOR. I glanced at the post when it came out but only really looked at it early last week.

When I revisited the post, I was kind of in love. I immediately went and downloaded a C64 emulator and the game and played it a lot. It’s hard. Each chance to kill the condor gives you about 11 seconds. It gets increasingly difficult as you keep going. I can’t really get very far. You have three lives to rescue a captive from a slowly descending condor by launching a spear you have to collect into the buzzard midflight. The game’s controls and hit detection are sometimes frustratingly unresponsive. I’m not

c64condor

Of course, a major part of the appeal is that amazing title: AAARGH! CONDOR. It has beautiful box art that I posted in the dope box art thread.

In the fleshed out vision of the box art, the game’s tired male hero-saves-helpless female damsel premise is made visible (Shadsy rightly complains about this and chooses to consider the rescuee a baby).

It’s hard to say why exactly, but I became obsessed with the idea of remaking it, to the point where I couldn’t let it go. That was last Monday. And today I released my remake.

Bringing it up to my standard resolution of full-screen 320x240, I ended up expanding the playfield a lot. I traced a lot of the character/enemy sprites and modified and added animation to them to bring them up to full color and imposed my own character designs. I added some texture to the blank scene of the original game, imposing my interpretation of its abstraction.

The first characters you’ll see are my inerpretations of the box art illustration overlaid on top of the outlines of the original game’s sprites. But once you rescue someone or die. I refigured the 3 lives of the player as 3 heroes who each take a stab at fending off condors and saving people who are about to become condor prey. Both rescuers and rescuees are a range of genders and colors.

It’s really interesting to play a game and then try to remake/port/reconstruct it without being able to poke around inside the actual code. Everything is based on observation you can gain from playing it and trying to make the new game behave the same way the old game does. I really like this (I made a similar remake last year with Skeletons in the Closet Plus (see above)) kind of exercise. It ends up putting me in the role of a kind of forensic game designer, beginning to understand the motivations for why the design was as it was and then–once I’ve got a reasonably faithful approximation of the mechanics–trying to add to it in ways that synthesize with the spirit of the original and also add something of my own flavor.

condorshot0 condorshot


#30

I try to mainly update this thread when I actually release something but I wanted to mention that I did this last weekend and it was awesome.

My game was at the damned Smithsonian for a day, y’all. It was wild. You could walk through a door next to a portrait of Henrietta Lacks and BOOM there was Explobers.

I wish I’d had more time to play other devs’ games and to check out the classic computer and console games that were there, but it was awesome (if a little voice-destroying) to talk to other devs and dozens of players all day about my game.

Anyway, that was rad, and I really hope to do some more shows with this or other games I’ve made, because it was just a ton of fun. I’ve mostly shown my stuff off at smaller game events where the audience is mostly fellow devs and so to mostly have just players and especially younger kids there was really, really dang cool.


#31

Congrats again dude. This is so cool.


#32

Here is Invasion Versus. It is a two-player versus riff on Space Invaders that pits Earth and that also has a single-player arcade mode.

I started this project back in 2016. Around then, I was really interested in asymmetrical two-player experiences, both cooperative and competitive (the cooperative ideas have been harder to implement, so I haven’t really put one together yet). I thought it’d be fun to riff on Space Invaders by allowing a second player to control the invading aliens.

Figuring out how that would work exactly was a bit tricky! The first big breakthrough was to allow the second player to move forward and backward, able to dodge the Earth player’s bullets. Of course, this meant I had to devise a way to keep the Invader team from just hugging the side of the screen and descending quickly enough to just force a win. So I made it that reversing course also means the Invader team ascends instead of descends when reaching a horizontal screen boundary.

Another major thing was figuring out how to balance the game and make it possible for the Invader team to have the possibility to actually kill the Earth player (it moves slower than the Earth player). I made it so the bottommost Invader in any remaining column launches a bullet. And then I realized that it’d be even better if each Invader type had a different sort of bullet/bullet pattern.

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I initially programmed the Invader team’s movement very poorly, so the columns of Invaders would get misaligned. I thought it was as bit sloppy but game-breaking, so I brought it to an event for playtesting in spring 2016. My first pair of players immediately broke the game by playing it in an obvious way that the developer just wouldn’t think to. I was deeply embarassed and removed the game from the event, putting up an old game in place. I realized I’d have to rewrite all the Invader objects from the ground up. At the time, I was busy with grad school and didn’t feel like I had the energy to do that (I hate redoing my own stuff), so I put the game on the back burner.

Which brings me to two weeks ago! It took me a while to figure out how the hell it all worked under the hood (I’m a much better, slicker coder now than I was 2.5 years ago), but I figured out what my variables meant and what objects did what well enough to cut out the junk and rewrite cleaner, smoother movement that actually did what it was supposed to do.

It took me a while after that to balance bullet speed and patterns, movement speed, bullet regeneration, etc. to make the game feel relatively balanced. My play testers said I did okay with that! I hope that’s true!

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I’d created a 1-player mode mostly for myself for testing, where the Invaders basically fire at random (programming AI to make them make good movement calls was too hard). I ended up having a lot of fun with this, so I evolved this into a full-fledged “arcade mode” complete with a high score table and 1-up systems and varying waves of enemies with increasing difficulty. Still, I want to keep the focus of this game on the two-player competitive aspect. I think it turned out more or less like I wanted!


#33

These are all amazing!


#34

Earlier this month, I went back to a ZZT game I’d started some time between 1999 and 2003 and hand’t touched at all since 2003.

It’s called Nibblin’.

It’s a snakelike. There have been other snakelikes and snake variants in ZZT, but one of my aims when I initially built the core objects for that make this game work were to build a fairly fluid snake game in ZZT. I more or less accomplished that!

But it still needed a raison d’etre beyond the minor novelty of doing a smoothish ZZT snakelike. That’s what I brought with me back to the game in the year 2018 (along with a cartoony, storybook, feel-good frame). I added pellets you can’t eat until you eat all the regular ones. I added two NPCs who share the field with you and have their own abilities. I added blinking lazer walls that can kill you if you time things poorly.

Yep. That’ a thing I did.

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nibblin0

nibblin4


#35

MONSTER HUG

I came back to making games in 2009 after a six-year hiatus. That’s when I purchased Game Maker and followed some tutorials by Derek Yu on the TIGSource forums. Shortly after I completed my first little game (About a Ball, also in 2009), a friend of mine named Eli suggested a title to me: “Monster Hug.” That was about the extent of the proposal. I liked the idea, and wanted to do it, possibly at a Glorious Trainwrecks Klik of the Month event, but I never hit upon a satisfying way to present it.

Then in 2013, when I was in Tokyo on a study abroad and running out of money, I ran an Indiegogo to submit Caverns of Khron to IndieCade and also for living expenses (partly framed as if I have more money maybe I can spend less time scrounging for eikaiwa work and have more time to make games). Eli and his wife Miriam sent me money at the reward tier where I would make a game for the contributor. They requested “Monster Hug.” I never got around to making it.

Until the end of last month, when I started work on it on Eli’s birthday.

I had thought maybe I could get it done in my old GT-style trainwreck time. But it took me a week and a half to through it. Not entirely sure where it was going from the beginning, I decided to just sketch a monster and a protagonist in a scene in MSPaint.

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And from there, I kinda started to see where things might go. I started imagining motion on the part of both the monster and the PC. I went home and hammered it out. This is the form it eventually took:

monsterhugscreen1

After that, I quickly sketched five other monsters in a similar fashion, not thinking too hard about gameplay implementations. I took four of those (the discarded one I did want to include, but I never figured out quite what to dow ith it) and, then, using the same kinds of player actions (a tall, fast jump; a slow walk cycle; a hug button) and the kinds of movement suggested by the monster designs, designed stages and monster behaviors from there.

monsterhugscreen2

Some probably work better than others!

I spent way too many hours one day generating (thanks bfxr and Chiptone!) and messing with sound effects for this game. But I think they more or less work.

I added a storybook-like frame narrative for the whole endeavor, too. It seemed fitting, though I had to rewrite it a few times to find an approximate tone that I liked.

As a last-minute addition, I gave the protagonist eyes. I wasn’t sure if they needed them, but I think eyes probably help humanize the blue-skinned humanoid in a way that works best for the game.

Anyway, after 9 years of thinking about it, here’s MONSTER HUG


#36

I spent a few hours over the last couple days porting my 2012 Game Maker 8.1 Halloween game Village Vampire Feast to GMS 1.4 and fixing it up a bit, with some enhanced visuals and some small gameplay tweaks. I added gamepad support too.

I did it mainly so I could have a version that I could feel good about putting up on itch alongside my other Halloween-themed games (also, the old version had a MIDI from one of the Ultima games and I wanted to substitute that with a CC0 track so the game was actually totally legal).

I still think this is kind of an interesting concept. You have to constantly be feasting on villagers while dodging bullets from police. Villagers and police can be converted into vampires as well, but while you get points for doing so, you don’t get life out of it. Ordinary villagers may turn into police if they are close enough to witness you murdering a villager. Villagers respawn sometimes when they run into each other or at semi-regular intervals when a new one will move into the village.

So basically you have to keep a villager population at a sustainable level for feeding, while also trying to fight off and/or dodge enemies while not creating more enemies.

Yeah, you’re going for a high score.

(fun fact: 90% of the villager code is borrowed from the koi in my game Koi Puncher)

From the beginning, I’ve thought about adding some other gameplay features and expanding the game, including power ups and/or other items, more scaling difficulty, and either a two-player werewolf vs. vampire mode or a werewolf AI competitor. I thought about going nuts with this update and adding some of those, but I think that might ultimately be best left for a future sequel/iteration. Anyway. Village Vampire Feast! Not a game I made this year, but a game I re-released and polished up this year!


#37

I don’t know whether it would take away from the intended challenge (or be prohibitively difficult to code), but I’ve found myself wishing for a button to undo my last move. Even with the slow-motion, I don’t always place a block or explode at exactly the point in my jump that I’d like, etc.

Nice work on the game. I sense a theme in your work.


#38

This would be a really wonderful thing to have. I wish I had the programming prowess in Game Maker to make this a reality (or, rather, to append it onto my system that already exists).

Haha, thanks. I actually put together a small sampling of two decades of spike pits in my game. I love me some spike pits. And Lemmings. I’m still obsessed with making games that riff on Lemmings.


#39

Hi y’all. I’m back for this thread’s third year. I made 9 games last year. We’ll see how I do this year! I’ve got several things in development, but I’m not working dedicatedly on anything right now–the scope for my average project is getting a lot bigger.

I find it intimidating to write real devlogs or postmortems on my actual website or anything. I prefer the more casual feel of this forum, so this is where I work out my thoughts. I don’t know if people like to read them, but… I enjoy it. Anyway, on to my first game of 2019:

ORBITAL PALADIN MELCHIORY

A little less than two weeks ago, I saw a retweet from John Harness mentioning the “Emotional Mecha Jam” for tabletop RPGs and other analog games that he was hosting with Takuma Okada. That jam was wildly successful, with hundreds of participants! I love my Gundams and my Evas and my Ideons so very much. I don’t do TTRPGs, though (haven’t really played one even, and I know I’m missing out), so I replied to the tweet saying something to the effect of “Man, if this was digital games, this’d so be my jam.” And then Harness and Okada launched a concurrent digital jam–much less popular than the physical game jam, but it still garnered 12 entries! (the hashtag for the jam was #sadmechjam)

So, beginning on February 1, I started feverishly working on a game. I started designing the mechs and a combat system before I got a really firm sense of who the characters would be or what story I was going to tell. Soon I had an idea for an end point for the story and I started sketching out core character roles to get there with simple descriptions, which evolved into the team of four young pilots, a slightly older team leader who was the title mecha’s previous pilot, with a couple other supporting characters.

Initially I was going to have the characters be 14-17, but that age range got bumped up to 18-22 when I began considering exploring romance paths for the characters. Younger felt icky. So by the time I started designing and writing the characters, I’d settled on the pilots being post-high school age.

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Some specific giant robot anime things I thought about while making this game:

  • Smith Toren’s fate and relationship with Noriko in Gunbuster
  • That part at the end of Gundam 00’s first season where the ship is destroyed and one bridge crew staff allows another staff to think they’ve saved their life with their dying action, when in fact they’re still mortally wounded
  • The invocation of Ideon
  • That bit in that one episode of Gundam: The Origin about the two young people in the colony used in Operation British
  • How sad Amuro is when we meet him in Wyoming in Zeta
  • The part in Gundam 0079 where Amuro can sense the colony laser
  • When Amuro lies to Bright about what he can sense as a Newtype to make Bright feel better about the battle at A Baoa Qu
  • Fucking everything with Lalah
  • All the Newtype goodness in Gundam, really

These aren’t all directly referenced, but they formed a kind of emotional grounding on which I attempted to stage my story. Readers of this thread may not know that I wrote a 100-page master’s thesis on techniques for exploring emotional interiority used in the first Gundam series. So I think about emotional/sad mech content a whole fuck of a lot.

When I was writing the story, I tried to think of the scope a little bit like a short 6-episode OVA, though of course the content is much smaller scale ultimately. Thinking of it that way helped me understand what I was trying to accomplish though.

melchiorcharacters

It’s been a while since I wrote anything that had real characters I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about and fleshing out and writing (to the extent that my games have characters, they’re traditionally sketched very thinly, and I haven’t written any fiction or screenplays longer than a couple pages in years), and, well, I came to care about my characters a whole lot by the time I was through writing what became a 40-page script. I loved them all. So much so that it was really painful to write certain scenes that I’d committed myself to writing.

So, yeah, the game’s format is alternating story/dialog/narrative choice sequences with fast-paced space combat. The title mech, the Melchior, piloted by the protagonist Wick is the only suit that has both a bullets and a sword. Of course it has a sword. Mechs with swords fucking rule.

It was really fun to write the behavior of both enemy and friendly mechs. It was really hard. I’m not sure it’s as good as it could be, and the performance of your team in any given individual fight ends up seeming a little random ultimately, but that actually added something thematically to the game that I really like.

team

As I’ve been making more and more games and as my design philosophy is evolving and my programming and design skills are getting more sophisticated (or I hope they are), I’m thinking more and more of game creation as critical praxis. For example, a game I thought a whole lot while making it was Persona 5, and I consider certain choices I made in this game to be a critique of Persona 5 (a game I have a lot of fucking thoughts about). Another game I thought about was Princess Debut, a game that I love for its fusion of rhythm game mechanics in a visual novel/dating sim story.

For a while, I’ve been thinking about learning Ren’Py so I have an outlet for some ideas that are more story-oriented. Thanks to this game, I’ve now basically built a visual novel engine in GameMaker Studio 1.4, and even worked it out so it interacts with other kinds of gameplay. So I may never get around to learning Ren’py now. Oh well. GameMaker 4 lyfe.

It’s kind of wild how if I’d thought this thing reeeeeaallly through, I almost certainly wouldn’t have attempted something of this scope. All told, I probably put 60-80 hours of work in this thing over 11 days (I’m so fucking sleep-deprived, y’all, and I spent more than half the day I took off from work to celebrate my birthday seated in front of my computer furiously coding). But I did manage to make it in at the last second.

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Like, yo, if I had thought all this up independently outside of the scope of a game jam, I probably would have either found the prospect of trying to integrate and build the systems either too daunting to really try, or I might have spent 3 or 4 months on it. Instead, I banged it out so damn fast.

There was actually a two-day extension on the time frame of the jam. I actually could’ve had something finished-ish by the deadline, but those extra two days allowed me to polish it up, fix some errors and bugs, add a few things, refine the soundscape of the project, and just make it the best I could. There’s a handful of things I’d considered adding (including the beloved mid-series mech ability upgrades) that I might’ve if I’d had unlimited time (and I also wanted to add another small story element I couldn’t get written in time, and if I was going to expand the scope, I probably would’ve added a couple other characters and added some more story stuff to the middle section of the game). That said, even though I’m experiencing a bit of that after-the-fact I-hate-everything-I-make feeling, I’m pretty happy with where it all ended up. I made what I set out to make.

I’d be remiss not to talk about how all the awesome folks at opengameart.org making so many music assets CC0 or CC-BY-3.0 licensed allows people like me to make (solo hobbyist developers who have moderate skills/talents in several areas, but none whatsoever in music) the kind of full game experiences I want to. I need to tip everyone’s ko-fis and patreons in the coming days.

I’m conflicted about how much to promote mention aspects of the game when I’m posting about it or whatever. I designed it with the hopes that the things that happen in the game that might be surprising would be surprising. Choices matter. Time is limited. I intentionally made it so the player cannot hope to see all the story content in a single playthrough (the game aggressively autosaves to make you stick to every choice).

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I did put a cat who lives in the spaceship in the game at any rate. This was literally the last thing I added to the game and it almost made the game late.

Phew! There it is! ORBITAL PALADIN MELCHIOR Y

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EDIT: I wish I knew of a place where I could swap translation services with, like, Japanese devs or something. I would totally translate a short visual novel or RPG from, like Freem if a person or two would produce a translation of my script. (I’ve translated two of my games into Japanese, but for something this dialog-intensive, I’d want a proper translator.)


We Be Jammin'