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  Will the debate ever end!? 10:03 PM -- Fri January 30, 2009  

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  Dumb Pack Beta Is Here! 09:36 PM -- Thu January 29, 2009  

Costume Party Dumb Pack Pre-release Beta!
Go get it. I've already fixed a bunch of things, so it ain't perfect (it's a beta!). Maybe it's actually an alpha... betas are feature-complete, and this is missing 5 tiles and a lot of sounds. Anyway, it's available and as wondrous as you ever dared dream (minus 5 tiles).

Since release, so far, I've fixed Yerfdog's inhale effects (inhaled guys didn't trigger switches they got pulled over, but they do now), added a display of what he's inhaled, Happy Stick's clinging (he remained airborne if you clung to a colored block that vanished), made the remaining tutorials, and fixed an issue with the E-Crates! Those fixes will appear in the next patch in a day or two, hopefully along with lots more new stuff. I'm currently debating exactly what to do with the remaining 5 tiles. I feel like Squashes should be in there somewhere, but there's already Pumpkins, and I'm not even sure what the Squashes should be able to do.
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  B.B.B.B.M.M. 05:52 PM -- Tue January 27, 2009  

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  Dumb Packin' 09:19 PM -- Mon January 26, 2009  

I don't want to spoil too much of the fun, so I'll skip sharing too many details and tricks, and just say that I completely redid how wires worked today, and they now look sorta better in a way, although there is one thing I bet people will complain about, and I'll leave that for you to discover (and complain about!). Mainly though, they function better. They used to use bullets for the sparks, and it was very easy to completely overload the bullet limit by filling wires with sparks. Now there is no limit on sparks, except that multiple sparks that share a space (if they are heading in the same direction) become one, so, effectively I guess there is a limit of the number of tiles onscreen times four. Anyway, it doesn't slow things down anymore, it's great.

When electricity gets to the end of a wire, it shoots out bullets as 'sparks'. They're only harmful to the player. I should probably add a Blaster device that does the same but harmful to enemies. That way you could benefit. I've also added electrifiable floors (usable as an alternate type of wire, as well), pushable blocks that conduct electricity, and special wires that make sparks multiply. Oh, and the batteries I was talking about. There are a whole lot of potential tricks involving all these devices, so enjoy.

In other news, I've decided the best way to get this tested, best deal for you and for me, is the same deal we had with Loonyland 2! This week, I'm going to get pre-orders set up, so you can buy the Dumb Pack in advance and try it out. I get my testing, you get to play early. Everybody wins. I guess I need to get to work on some sound effects and music pretty soon... still a few tiles to go, too.

The real question is, which music is most appropriate for each of these characters? Yerfdog's never had a song, unless you'd like to hear the "doo-doo-doot-di-dit-doot HAMUMU!" song repeated endlessly. And Bouapha's got tons of songs. I don't know which is fitting. Happy Stick Ninja is new... but there's the secret music from Dr. Lunatic, which would fit since that was where happy stick was born. Then again, he's a ninja. Maybe he should have the Ninja Academy rockin' tune. And no, still don't know quite what background image would be good either. Maybe green hills and sunshine, to go with the Cliffside tiles.
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  Sneak Peek: Costume Party Dumb Pack 06:08 PM -- Fri January 23, 2009  

New stuff! Only three new things, two of which are kind of old. Yes, after all the desperate demands, we now have sideways spikes. The third new thing is very interesting, and I'm mainly posting a sneak peek so I can get lots of ideas for them.

They're Wires. They go on the overlay layer, and automatically connect up, like roads in Simcity (I was actually inspired in the first place watching my wife play Zoo Tycoon and lay out paths). If you have one wired up to a pressure plate or switch (you can see both in this pic), then stepping on the plate/switch will send a spark down the wire. You can also wire them to Targets, and they'll spark when you shoot the Target. You can see two sparks on the upper wire in this picture, if you look closely. So what do the sparks do?
  • Detonate Blast Bricks (see left)
  • Light or unlight Fireplaces (see upper right)
  • Open doors (see lower right)
  • Notice the upper Kid is standing on a Switch... but that Switch isn't down! How is that possible!? Sparks pop Switches back up! That's why there's a loop in the wire.
So far, that's all sparks can do. But doesn't it seem like there should be more? I want to have a light bulb you can light up, but that's tricky to decide just what tiles it would create (also, since Wires go in the overlay layer, the wire would prevent light from happening in its space!).

So I'm just asking for ideas. Either existing things that should react when sparked in some way, or new things that the sparks could be used with. One idea I really like is a Battery. Each time a spark gets to it, it goes inside, and once the battery is full, it empties and... something!? I am not sure. A simple idea is that when full it fires a spark upward, so you could have something where you need to get 8 sparks to go into a battery in order to get a door open (because the battery then sends one spark to the door). Want to need 64 sparks instead? Stack two batteries on top of each other! Each time the bottom one fills, it will fire one spark into the upper one. 512 Sparks? 3 Batteries.

Another idea I sorta like is if a wire runs into water (both being in the Overlay layer, you can't actually string wire through water), it could shoot out Blast Brick shots when a spark hits the water. Maybe it's better to just have a Blaster that fires a shot each time a spark hits it. Maybe dead-end wires should always shoot out a little blast of Lasers each time a spark gets there, to simulate sparking electricity, and to be dangerous. I think I will do that one at least right now!

P.S. Dumb Pack Status: 15/25 tiles.
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  Spam Spam Spam Spam 03:55 PM -- Fri January 23, 2009  

It has happened! I hit the big time! Someone bothered to make a bot to spam my journal comments! So now I implemented a 'captcha'. Try posting a comment and you'll see it. It's mighty tricky! I hope you can figure it out.

In other news, I got Rock Band 2 and Guitar Hero World Tour after Christmas. Yay! I got them on the Wii, which meant a whole new set of instruments. I was not happy with that, but it means I can now download songs and if I had an internet, I could do the various internet options. It won't connect to that on my satellite, but thankfully it will connect to the music store. I downloaded a Disturbed song (not Still Alive yet - the Wii has a limited selection, they're gradually adding the songs in).

Guitar Hero is a pale imitation of Rock Band. It's really kinda sad. The thing that kills me the most about it is that, apparently in an effort to be "rock n' roll!!!!", the fonts in it are horrible and unreadable. When singing, I have to squint and lean right into the tv to try to understand. When it says what song you're doing, it's like a game in itself trying to guess what they say. It's not just the fonts, though. Like all the different types of notes you can have look almost identical. Where in Rock Band you get these glowing white notes for energy that you can't miss, in Guitar Hero, you just get normal notes that are star shaped. They stand out, but not that much. There are a pile of other note types that are also very slightly different.

Rock Band 2 arrived later, so we had Guitar Heroed for a few days first, and it was such a breath of fresh air! Such nice clean fonts, such fun touring madness and earning of fans! Guitar Hero does have some superiority - a way better intro movie (for whatever that's worth), the music studio feature (but Rock Band has a very cool drum training program that really helps!), and better/more character customization. Oh, and you can do cool stuff on the GH guitar. Guitar Hero drums, by the way, are terrible. Expect to be returning parts or whole drum kits if you buy some (I am currently waiting on a replacement cymbal and microphone... luckily, Rock Band only uses one cymbal, so I am still rocking on my chosen platform!).

Rock Band 2 is far and away the better game, and I suspect the drums on it are way better, probably because they're not velocity sensitive. I had weeks of going back and forth adjusting the sensitivity on these drums and dealing with the broken cymbal. On the other hand, Guitar Hero drums have one plus: a nice, solid, well-built foot pedal. But even that has a serious downside - it's not locked into the drum kit, so when you are kicking madly away, it starts to slowly crawl away from you. It has velcro under it which is supposed to help it stay in place on the carpet, and let me tell you, it does nothing.

I endorse Rock Band 2. Play it. It has Master Exploder in it (so does Guitar Hero, actually). My band is The Founding Muthas, featuring Abe Linkin and Mary Todd (I know Abe Lincoln wasn't one of the founding fathers, thank you). Originally it also had Martha W. and Benny Frank in it, but they were both kind of weird looking (Martha W. extremely), so last night they got replaced with B. Rock and Shelly O. I always get a kick out of Abe, he looks awesome. What Abe Lincoln would be if he was in Jimmy Eat World.
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  Sneak Peek: Costume Party Dumb Pack 01:38 AM -- Wed January 21, 2009  

Things coming together quickly now! Here's a little Dr. Lunatic themed scene for you. Pumpkins are very simple enemies, they just constantly head forward (turning if they hit a wall), walking right off ledges. They take only one hit, and are worth no points! The one that appears to be flying is actually just falling off of the Candle, which one can of course stand on like any ordinary candle.

Now why would an enemy be worth no points? Because of the Pumpkin Patch (half-hidden behind a Pumpkin)! These generate a Pumpkin every 2 seconds (alternating left and right). They'll stop generating when there are 10 Pumpkins of theirs around. As soon as you smash some, though, they start right up again to get it back up to 10. It takes 10 hits to destroy a Pumpkin Patch, and you get 200 points for it, so it's good stuff.

Of course, where there are Pumpkins, you need a Pumpkin Gate. It works just like a Bat Gate, but thankfully Pumpkins are much easier to beat without getting hit. It always bothered me how the only Gate available was for creatures that are such an incredible nuisance. It's also fun that you can be annoyed by Pumpkin Patches while trying to get one of these open.

And where there's Bouapha, you absolutely need Candles! They are worth 10 points each, unless you get them all - the last one is worth 500 points. However, like Keys and Hearts, they can be destroyed by enemies and spikes. If even one is destroyed, you can't get the bonus. So that could be used for some fun levels (and nicely, you can still pass the level without them, they are only worth points). As an added bonus, just for fun, Candles are destroyed if they hit water (can't burn in water!).

I'm at kind of a loss for what else to include that is truly based on our other games... Stockboy surely has several good choices (if tricky to implement...), but other than that, the games don't lend themselves that well to being put in this game. I thought a Moon Invader would be kind of cool, or a Killer Kiwi. Hooray for obscurity! I do have a few other things I'd like to get in, though. Not all particularly Dumb Pack style, but this is Costume Party Dumb Pack - if adding something is going to make Costume Party better and add more potential puzzles, that matters a whole lot more than shoehorning in things from other games.
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  Sneak Peek: Costume Party Dumb Pack 02:44 AM -- Fri January 16, 2009  

The two costumes I've got all nice and finished, minus some polishing that they are sure to need! First let's recall Yerfdog. In the upper right is a lovely shot of his mighty inhale. It makes the same puffs as the North Wind does. You can't tell, but the Laser Tree is further left than it was when he started. Actually, notice the bullet? That came from the tree. His breath also moves bullets (but he can't inhale them, they just hurt him if they get to him). His breath works through walls, which could have puzzle purposes. Not that he can pull guys right through walls, but he can make guys on the other side of a wall move.

In the lower left is an inset shot of Yerfdog with his mouth full. He looks kind of fuzzy. That's a result of something I'm considering - it's a smooth rotation he goes through while bouncing around. It looks kind of nice except that, as you can see, it makes his pixels frizz out a little.

So Yerfdog can inhale enemies and spit them out! They're not weapons when he spits them out. His job is purely to get things from one place to another. That makes it much more of a puzzle tool than if he had the ability to kill things with it. If he had that, he'd just suck up a crate, spit it at someone, inhale again, spit again, until the victim was dead, then move on to the next. Without that offensive ability, he has to plan. What does he want moved, and where should he put it so that it won't hurt him? He can only jump 1 tile while carrying stuff, so it limits him a lot. His normal jump is huge and very floaty. But it can be controlled - a light tap will make a small hop instead.

The other hero you see is none other than the Happy Stick Ninja! As you can see, he has 3 main abilities. At the bottom, you see him in stealth mode, lurking like the Vampire does. No real difference from the Vampire except that he hides much faster, and he has no attack, so he has to hide! That always bothered me with the Vampire. His attack was so effective that only Scream Queens really ever need to be hidden from, and you can even kill them in the right circumstances. Oh, also he has to push down to hide (if not in the shadows, it just makes him duck, which doesn't dodge anything, it's just for looks).

Further up, he's standing. He can stand. Further up still, he's doing a wall-cling. From there he can hop across and back and forth to move up that pipe he's in. Pretty standard ninja ability, implemented in a very user-friendly way. I find that wall-jumps tend to be one of the harder to execute abilities in most games. They're always quirky in some way and you can slip with little mistakes very easily. So in this game, I made it as simple as I could: the fire button is "Grab". If you are holding it when you hit a wall, you hang on to the wall. While on the wall, you can tap up or away to leap off. If you release Grab, or push down, he'll drop down instead. All very simple, and won't lead to mistakes and slips.

And at the very top is something few ninjas can do (but few are so lightweight and 2-dimensional!): a ceiling grab! Like a wall grab, you hold Grab when you hit the ceiling. One tweak though: you also have to be holding up. That's because I ran into issues where you'd inadvertently grab the ceiling a lot, and it's a problem, because once you are up there, the only thing you can do is drop down.

Happy Stick Ninja has no attacks. His purpose is very simple and raw: he provides the joy of fast-paced running and jumping. He's very easy to control, moves very quickly, jumps fairly high (almost but not quite 3 blocks), and can stick to things all over the place. He should prove fun to play, and be used to make really solid platforming challenges. Oh, and of course he can pass through grates. I am considering letting him climb on grates like they were ladders, but that may be uncalled for.
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  Sneak Peek: Costume Party Dumb Pack 06:54 PM -- Tue January 13, 2009  

What's to see... the new rounder-headed Bouapha (yeesh, the complaints!), the Yerfdog costume, Shroom, Cliffside, Color Tickers, and the new 'fake bricks'. The fake bricks aren't just a Dumb Pack feature. I got really tired of people cheating by editing their graphics files, and then making levels that are impossible for non-cheaters to win, or at least incredibly annoying. So now, even though it doesn't look nearly as good, we all get partially transparent fake bricks. If you look closely, you can always spot what's behind fake bricks now. I think it's really dumb, and it ruins a lot of nice things (such as having invisible 'machinery' in a level that controls your platforms appearing and disappearing), but don't blame me. Blame the people who cheat and the people who think "challenge" is synonymous with "trial and error". I've also made No Costume Zones deadly if they are on grates now.

Ranting aside, you know about Bouapha already. The Shroom I have explained before. Cliffside is just a new terrain, equivalent to bricks, except unsmashable (so Witches can zap it). It automatically applies grass on top as needed.

Then of course Yerfdog! He's not fully implemented yet, but my plan for him is that he's light and floaty, like the ghost, but can't actually bounce in the air. He just has a regular (but very high) jump. The unique feature of his jump is that, if it works right, he'll be able to control his jump height by holding the up arrow longer. But his important ability is, as people suggested in the forums, the ability to inhale enemies (and crates) and then spit them out later. That should prove a lot of fun. Sneak up behind a Scream Queen and inhale her, then you are safe to move through before depositing her somewhere else. He will probably be impaired in some way while carrying a monster - unable to jump at all, perhaps? Maybe just a shorter jump.

The last new thing was also suggested on the forum (sorry, I haven't been keeping track of who suggested what! Take credit in the comments!), the Color Ticker. Three colors available, as you can see. When anyone steps in front of one of these, all Tickers of that color begin ticking, and it acts as a switch. After 8 seconds, it switches things back and stops ticking. You can restart the time by touching it again (or another of the same color). So this should be really handy for timed challenges. Can you hop across the spike pit before you lose your platforms? You can do the same thing with monsters moving on switches, but it's more elegant to have the player able to control when the time starts. Of course, you could also have a monster controlling that, couldn't you? Also, it looks cool because a little hand sweeps around the clock as it counts down.
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  Flood 01:24 AM -- Mon January 12, 2009  

This weekend was a Mini-LD48 contest with an interesting theme. Each contestant was to make a game that had a single level, and was completely monochrome (you pick any one color and then can only use shades of that color). You got to pick from a pile of secondary themes (pretty much every theme that had ever been chosen for an LD in the past) for your entry. That didn't constrain me enough, so SpaceManiac told me to use "Flood" as my theme. Thusly limited, I could create!

Well, sort of. I didn't take the whole thing very seriously and didn't actually code anything ever even draw a pixel of art. But I did come up with a semi-working game! It's a card game, and you can give it a shot yourself. We played it a couple times to try to work it out, and I think it's actually just a tweak or two from being good. It's not really fun for humans to play, but you can. It would be better solitaire, since the Flood's strategy is easy to automate (but it's still too much thinking and doing for an 'opponent' in a solitaire game). It really would work best played against a computer (where I could also change the specific cards available to make it more challenging), but go ahead and give it a try to see what you think, and where you think it could be improved most easily:

One player is Player, the other is Flood. Each player has a full deck of cards, but Flood has all cards lower than 5 removed from the deck. Both shuffle separately. To start, Flood lays out a row of 8 cards across. Any that are lower than 10 (Aces are high) need to be discarded and redrawn until they are 10 or higher. Reshuffle the remaining cards, including any discarded. This row of high cards is The River.

The Player's set-up is a lot simpler: just draw 3 cards from your own deck.

Each card in The River is representing the middle of a column of cards 7 tall, so there are 3 empty spots above and below each card. Imagine, if you will, that there is a house in that 3rd empty spot. The Flood's goal is to destroy the house by rising its water to that point. The Player's goal is to save as many houses as possible by blocking them off with sandbags.

The Player goes first, choosing any card from her hand to lay down in any of the empty spaces. This is a Sandbag. A Sandbag blocks the Flood from playing any card there that is lower in value than the Sandbag. Player should play cards sideways just to differentiate her card from the Flood's (if the decks look the same). Then draw a replacement card.

The Flood then draws a card and plays it off of the River, extending any column up or down by one card. It can only play a card if it is equal to or lower than the value of the card it's being played off of. It can play in empty spaces, or on top of a Sandbag if its card is equal or higher than the Sandbag. The flood's robo-strategy is simple: play the card drawn off of the lowest card that it can be played off of, preferring to extend longer columns over shorter ones. If there's no valid place to play a card, it is discarded.

The game is over when the Flood is out of cards or every column is either completely flooded (all 3 spaces in that direction have Flood cards) or unbeatably Sandbagged. The player then receives 62 points for each house that is saved (the contest said your game should award 0-1000 points, this makes a max of 992). There's no winning or losing, just scoring higher or lower than your previous attempts.

There is only one special trick to make things interesting (it probably needs more, and there was another, but it made it too easy for the Player): if the Player can get 3 Sandbags in a row horizontally that are the same value (and none of them are flooded over yet), those 3 are unfloodable, regardless of value.

All in all, this is a game you tend to win with most of the houses unflooded. You pretty much inevitably lose one or two, but it's very easy to keep more than that from going away. It's extremely luck based. I don't think it makes a very good card game, but probably kind of a fun quick diversion when on the computer. And of course on the computer, I would get to tweak what cards each side had available until it was reasonably challenging.
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