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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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  Happy New Year! 05:55 PM -- Tue January 6, 2009  

I have been away for a while! Not actually away, most of the time, but away from working. I had a lovely winter break, thanks for asking. Except when my back exploded. I'm still recovering - in fact, I'm wearing an ice pack right now. But it can be dealt with while I enjoy the comforts of sitting around playing WoW and watching movies and getting presents. I also took a short trip to Texas for a family Christmas.

So, when the New Year happens, people make resolutions and such. I don't. But I do try to come out of the cocoon of slothful winterdom and emerge as a productive butterfly of functionality. A lot of times I'll set goals, but not this year. This year is more exploratory. I'm working on setting up a schedule to pursue many different creative venues. I even got a book on how to compose music! Who wouldn't want Loonyland 3 to be a musical?? I also got painting supplies for Christmas (I foolishly put on my list "Painting supplies (don't know what kind or anything, it's your job to make me learn to paint!)"), so I need to do that. I was very inspired by seeing Gabe from Penny Arcade try out painting. Of course, he started out being an amazing artist. But it might be a fun thing to try.

Another venue that I'm always trying to dip back into is board games. Every Christmas it comes up again because I play some board games again (sometimes my own, though not this year) with people, and my gears start cranking on the possibilities of rulesets and how they intertwine. The limiting factor with these is of course manufacturing. Unlike a video game, you can't just put it out there yourself. You need someone with skills to produce a physical manifestation, and they want to make a lot at once, for a lot of money. A lot of games sitting around the house gathering dust...

So all that stuff should be fun and really expand the old cranium (not physically, one hopes). I also have a ton of post-holiday house cleanup to do, including making the office much better. I want to set it up as a really good, comfortable studio for all these pursuits, instead of a pile of junk with a computer sitting on top. One of the reasons I wanted a video camera was so I could shoot Making-Of videos! I better have a non-horrible office if I do that. I also need a tripod.

In the same-old, same-old vein, I'll be working on The Dumb Pack and Loonyland Tactics. Did I mention at some point that there are now Shrooms in Dumb Pack? They work as suggested on the forum - they are walking trampolines, and if you jump on them, they spew poison to either side, which hurts enemies (and you) other than Shrooms. You can also kill the Shrooms, but then how will you bounce? Making those was the closest I came to doing work during my break.

Now I need to make a newsletter! Something I have been dreading and postponing since the 1st. I forgot to do the interview, haven't done anything productive in the past month, and there's only one Winter Wackiness world. So don't expect it to be very interesting.
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