Cave Trip.

I had things to do and places to be Friday night and all Saturday, so only got started on my Ludum Dare entry by Saturday night. LD is a 48 hour competition in which I also participated four months ago; back then, I made Heart. This time, I didn’t get to make such a complete game. The theme was ‘caverns’, so I had planned to make a rhythmic game about flying through a cavern (okay, more like a tunnel) and avoiding obstacles to the beat. It was actually pretty hard to just get the visual effect right, so I got only as far as adding some randomized obstacles, and throwing in a sound effect upon hitting one. So, it’s far from a complete game. The code that would allow me to add in a music track and have it be synchronized to the images is already there, at least.

Play Cave Trip (Flash)

This one was made using FlashDevelop and Flex SDK 4, coded in actionscript 3. Below you can see all those hours of work, squashed into just a few seconds.


Allegr screenshot

Sort of a Towlr-like game, created for this month’s Klik. The twist comes at the end. You’ll need to play it more than once to “get” it, though.

Download Allegr (Windows; requires updated DirectX)

It was hard making this one. Or, rather, it was disappointing. It took me an hour an a half to realize that my approach was not facilitated by the software, so I ended up having to patch it up and turn it into a much simplified version of what I had envisioned.


Sheets screenshot

This latest TIGSource video game competition has a double theme: adult/educational. I have to say, it’s a fantastic combination. The idea was that entrants could create a game under one or both themes. I wish more entered games had used both simultaneously, but, well, not even I did that in the end.

During most of the duration of the competition, I didn’t find the time to make my game. Also, I was finding it hard to come up with an idea. Educational games are tough to make; they require familiarity with the taught subject, therefore they involve plenty of research, usually. I wanted to make an educational game foremost, but the adult theme also intrigued me, so I was thinking of incorporating it somehow. When I finally came up with an idea, it was already too late to really consider trying it; a week wasn’t going to be enough. That idea was a puzzle game about additive and substractive color theory, which I still think is good enough to archive for a future opportunity. But since it would take me too long to make that, and educational games in general were already out of the question, I decided to just go for the other theme.

Next came the question of how to make any game in a short enough amount of time. I’ve had the idea, for some time, of creating a small engine for text-based games in Flash, which I would use to make a series of games, and which I would also release independently. Trying to plan that proved to be too difficult with my limited knowledge of programming best practices, design patterns, and whatnot. But I figured I could use the occasion of the competition to just hard code a game in that fashion, which would be an easy thing to program, and in the process figure out what kind of structure my code would need to turn it into an engine. So, by making this game, I fulfilled two goals: I entered the competition, and I learned a bit more about programming.

The game is text-only, but it does deal with subjects such as sex and rape, so it is meant for mature players.

Play Sheets (Flash)

Studying game design.

The past five weeks I have been ‘attending’ an online course on game design, generously offered by Ian Schreiber, and named Game Design Concepts. His only condition was that one purchase the book he co-wrote with Brenda Brathwaite, precisely for the purpose of teaching, which turned out to be a very good acquisition in itself, and which I might review at some point in the future. The course itself involves a blog, a forum, and a wiki. In the blog, Ian posts, every monday and thursday, a ‘lecture’, and lists a couple of extra readings; plus, he leaves a ‘homeplay’ (as he calls it) assignment that usually consists of designing a game under certain limitations, or to make changes to an existing one. That’s when the forum comes into play, as everyone is expected to post their game and comment on a few of their peers’, to generate some inter-feedback. The wiki is mostly just an aside that has served no significant purpose other than as a space to offer translations of the different lessons.

I’ve had lots of fun reading the varied essays on games, some of which I would not have read otherwise, as they are about aspects that don’t particularly call for my attention. For instance, I’m not very inclined to reading on game systems, even though it’s pretty much the core of what constitutes a game, so it’s been very useful. The practical work has been stimulating; since I graduated from university, I’d missed that feeling of rushing things to get them in time for class, which ultimately helps to keep me active and on my toes. The course may not be the equivalent of an in-class course, but given the price of admission, it’s been fantastic.

I’ll be sharing the most noteworthy of my ‘homeplays’ in more posts to come. They’ll certainly be improved over the rather rushed state they’re at right now before I post them, though.

The Tomb.

A few months ago, as I was waking up, and while I was halfway between being asleep and awake, I had this dream/idea for a game. When I woke up properly, I wrote it down in my sketchbook. And only a few hours ago, for this month’s Klik, I made it concrete.

The Tomb screenshot

Download The Tomb (Windows, requires the latest DirectX)

Construct and NitroTracker were the tools used this time around. I sampled my voice for the sounds.

Heart, complete.

Heart logo

Heart is finished. It is a short, bleak game that questions one particular human ideal/cliché.

Play Heart (Flash)

The game was created originally for the Ludum Dare competition, and polished during the following week. Coded in Actionscript 3, using FlashDevelop as IDE and compiled using the Flex SDK. For the graphics I used Photoshop and Illustrator, and for the audio I used LMMS and Audacity. […]

What (video) games are.

When I posted my entry for the Ludum Dare competition, Heart, I received mostly positive comments, though many of them were appended with something close to this sentence: “But it is not a game.” I was not too surprised. Indeed, when I talk to people about games, they normally think of them in terms of gameplay, interaction, challenge, fun, goals. Which is not wrong, as most video games can be accurately described with these words, but it is unnecessarily restrictive to categorize the whole art within these boundaries—doing so is an exercise in exclusivity. This ties directly with my previous post about expanding the scope of video games. Do we really need to keep a short leash on what video games are or can be?

I came across a definition for game today, by Corvus Elrod. It is the most elegant and explicit that I’ve found so far. Here it is:

Game is a set of rules and/or conditions, established by a community, which serve as a bounded space for play.

Where play stands for “the self-guided exploration of possibility within a bounded space”, which is a definition I feel to be accurate. I believe that Corvus is forcefully nudging the ‘community’ element into the definition, though (where is the community if one person creates a game for himself alone to play?), so I would actually simplify it into this:

Game is a set of rules and/or conditions which serve as a bounded space for play.

I can’t think of a single game that this definition does not embrace, including board games, sports, playground games, and, yes, video games. It also suggests that games can be entertaining or not, challenging or not, involve goals or not. By this definition, exquisite corpse is a game, which rings true to me.

The definition speaks nothing of the amount of interactivity that is to be expected of a game, but the mention of rules and conditions implies that choice needs to be present. In Heart, the player is required to explore, as the game does nothing without their input. They would discover that the right arrow key makes the character move in that direction. And the opposite key? It triggers a response in the avatar: he cannot go back. It is part of the process of discovery. In Heart, the player is the force that drives the character forward, for without their input, he would stay in place forever. Nothing would happen, the game would not be played, the character would not confront his fate. Is it not a meaningful choice that the player is making, then?

I didn’t mean this post to be in defense of my game, though it looks like it turned out that way. This subject is something that I consider to be relevant, as I don’t see enough game makers thinking about where to lead video games, so I feel the need to touch upon it. I hope to spark debate in some circles, frankly!

Heart & Hope.

What you see above is my computer screen during the past weekend (each hour reduced to 2.5 seconds), as I make two games for two events that were held concurrently. One is a competition called Ludum Dare, on which, during the 48 hours of its duration, participants are expected to create a game by themselves and ‘from scratch’. The week prior, participants vote on a theme. ‘Advancing wall of doom’ won this time, which is not one I’m too fond of, but I did participate and make a game. Or two, in fact, because for the other event, my usual two-hour Klik of the Month, I made a game based on the same theme.

Heart is the name of my Ludum Dare entry. The game is not final, and neither is the name, so let’s say it’s the competition version’s name. It was inspired by Stephen Lavelle’s Defect. It was made for Flash, using the Flex SDK and coded in Actionscript 3. I’ll probably post more about it in the future, when I decide that the game is finished.

Hope! is what I called my Klik of the Month. It was made in Construct, so it’s Windows only. You will need the latest DirectX to run it.