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Sneak Peek: Loonyland II: Winter Woods01:10 AM -- Tue May 30, 2006

I woke up this weekend with a thought... I had just the day before come up with the main thrust of how you'd get through Loonyland 2 - how the plot would proceed from the beginning to what I knew the ending was going to be - and it includes some new characters with some backstory to them. I tossed and turned on those ideas, and started thinking about Valentine Valley and Easter Island (other provinces of Loonyland that have had very brief mentions in the original game). I realized that this place is a really cool and totally original setting. I want to set more games in the world of Loonyland! So in pondering this stuff, I began to draw out a map. It's very crappy, and extra hard to see after being photographed and reduced, but there it is. That is the Kingdom Of Loonyland (subject to future alteration, mind you - and some of the places don't actually have names yet, like how it says "P Peninsula" at the bottom, because "Passover Peninsula" doesn't sound right to me).

Yes, it means all that stuff about how this is Bulgaria in the 1800s magically vanishes, but I don't care. I really like this world. I like Swampdogs, I love the mystery of Happy Stick (and oh, you have no idea where that is going!), and I really like the Order Of The Snuggly Bunny, which you will meet (and have the option of joining) in Loonyland 2, along with a classic Hamumu character who is going to appear out of the blue. It's never been in any Hamumu game before, but you'll recognize it right away anyway.

There may be more games set in this world. Not just Loonyland sequels, but imagine a strategy game where you march troops from one province to another, or a pure action game that takes place in the Northland (maybe that Viking game on the Dumb Idea page). Why not an MMORPG? Okay, that one I can tell you why not - because that it'd be an impossible task for one person. But who knows. It's inspiring! There's nothing quite like drawing a map. See over there by Friendship Fields, there's a crack across the entire continent which the ocean flows through, kind of a wet Grand Canyon. It's called The Break (that's the illegible text at the top of it), and no, I don't know what caused it, but I'm sure there's some good mythology lying in wait to belong there. Well, technically it's caused because I drew the continent ending at Summer Springs and then realized that Groundhog's Gulf wasn't much of a gulf unless I enclose it a little, but that's not very good mythology.

I love making things that tie together. I get a real kick in the brain when something fits neatly into an evolving storyline. This Loonyland thing, it appeals to me. But don't expect there to ever be an explanation to why almost everything is named after a season or holiday (and is alliterative). It's just their style. And in honor of today, I will point out that the mountains to the east of Valentine Valley are the Memorial Mountains (if you aren't American, today is Memorial Day - it also is, perhaps even more so, if you are American).

It's great - a big epic world (call it the Loonyverse if you so desire, I can't stop you), but one based entirely in silliness.
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Sneak Peek: Loonyland II: Winter Woods06:59 PM -- Thu May 25, 2006

This area is kind of a centerpiece to the Loonyland 2 experience. Well, actually, it's completely unrelated to the experience. It has nothing to do with the plot, and is completely unnecessary to win the game. But it's a place that most people will probably come back to again and again as they level up. It is surprisingly a battle arena. You can pay money to enter different matches, which all have different enemies and fighting conditions and rules, in the hopes of winning more money. As you win matches, your Gladiator Rank goes up, which allows you to enter tougher matches. You earn XP as normal when fighting in the Arena, but the enemies don't drop any items (still unsure about money), so it's no substitute for adventuring. It's sort of the equivalent of Survival Mode in the original Loonyland, only it's built into the main game, and it isn't just one continuous run.

That's Tina in the middle, surprisingly enough. On the right is Taylor, who you might guess is the guy who sells you Parkas. He's a bit blind. Loony is standing by Tina, and there is nobody else in this picture at all. Or if there is, it's someone hidden extremely cleverly, so you'll never spot them. How could you possibly??

Areas like this in LL2 are kind of empty... the only people around are ones that are of interest to interact with. I could add Generic Villager Male and Generic Villager Female to wander around these places and spice them up, but I sort of feel like that would just make the game harder to play for the sake of looks. Do you really want to push your way through crowds to try to find the people who have quests and items? And the other issue is that if there are only 2 such villagers, it's a weird cloneworld look (a lot like the original Loonyland!), but I sure wouldn't want to put in the effort to make a bunch of different useless people! I could color swap them, but that's not too impressive either. My gut is to leave things sparse. That's how I like it. You know anybody who is there is definitely important.
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Sale!08:57 PM -- Tue May 23, 2006

I just got another order at my Cafepress store! Did you even know I had one? Probably not. Most of the time, I don't realize it myself. I've had a grand total of 3 orders there, two of them in the past couple months, I think. Thanks, Cafepress visitors! Obviously, if you look at the options there, I haven't done a whole lot of updating. In fact, it's almost all Sol Hunt stuff. But that is a pretty cool mousepad, and I'm quite fond of the bumper sticker. Anyway, maybe someday I'll really add stuff on there. Seems like people do actually visit it sometimes, without me even mentioning it!

How about you? Would you buy a Hamumu T-shirt, bumper sticker, clock, mug, boxers, tote bag, thong, button, teddy bear, magnet? Should I bother filling it with dramatically exciting products? The prices are a bit high, and I get no profit whatsoever*, but the pleasure of people wandering around emblazoned with Hamumu imagery is reward enough for me. Wear it all around, evangelize!

I think I'll go add a couple new items right now for fun.

* They let you mark it up from the base price as much as you want, but the base prices are so high, nobody would buy if I added on any profit!
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Sneak Peek: Loonyland II: Winter Woods09:09 PM -- Fri May 19, 2006

I won't bother explaining what this location is. That is left as an exercise for the reader. But what on earth are those flames around Loony?? Could they be Toasties? Toasties are the result of a fun spell. They hover in a circle around you, lobbing fireballs at any enemies they see. If you get hit by anything, one will explode. This is sad, because it leaves you with one less Toasty, but it's good, because it means anybody near you just got blown up. Balance is still very unknown in these early areas... I'm afraid the Toasties may be too mighty.

And in case I haven't shown this before, the white glowy circle is the 'exit' thing. Wherever you see one of those (they do kind of a black-hole-imploding animation), that's an exit to another area.

I've finally implemented the official shop functionality. Shops now gradually refresh their inventory as you play. This has two effects: first, if you wanted to buy something and can't afford it just yet, there's a good chance it'll still be there when you return. Second, it means you can't just keep entering the shop over and over hoping for the right stuff to show up. And hey, for third, it's kinda realistic. What doesn't currently happen that might be fun is if items you sold to the shop showed up in the shop's list, if there was room. That would give you a sort of 'undo' for accidentally selling stuff, although you'd lose a lot of money buying it back.

Here's another new tidbit: now that there are Talents, and enough game that I've actually done some serious playing, I have added a penalty for dying. It's pretty minor, but it'll hopefully encourage you to avoid dying. Previously, I'd sometimes just go ahead and walk into some badguys, just to get back to town more quickly. The penalty is that you lose 10% of the progress you've made upgrading all your Talents to their next level. You can't ever lose Talent levels, but if you keep on dying, you sure won't ever gain any! I like this penalty because it has the desired effect - discouraging suicide - but it doesn't ever put you in a situation where you're stuck (a gold or experience penalty could do that - if you can't afford better gear or gain any levels, you may never be able to survive where you are). It took a bunch of brainy thought to put that all together.

There's also a handy tip system now that guides you through the game initially, and I think it's pretty good at telling you what you need to know without overwhelming you. Eventually I'll have to see how it works for real humans. But first, I need to implement Alchemy, because I just put in the Guru that gives it to you!
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The Myth Of Time Management04:00 PM -- Fri May 19, 2006

First, nature note: saw a big, 3-foot, stripey snake riding a 4-wheel ATV. Seriously. It was being held by the (human) driver, though. Still don't know if he was taking a pet out for a drive, or if he caught it for some freakish reason. He did have a glove on, which supports both theories (although it does mean that if he caught it, he was out looking for a snake! Maybe it ran away. Looked pretty exotic).

Yesterday, I spent about 2 hours handling garbage. It's a big job. Went around the house collecting the interior bins, gathering all that up. Then untarped the trailer and hitched it to the car and pulled around. Loaded up the trailer, and drove down to the dump (20 minutes each way, if you're wondering how this could add up to two hours!). Came back and unhitched and put the trailer away and re-tarped. Man, was I sweaty.

You, on the other hand, spend 15 minutes a week doing your garbage. You gather it up, toss it in the bin, and pull it outside for the trashman to come get. Then you come out later and haul it in again.

What's the myth? Well, people would look at what I do and say "well, you only have to do that every month or 6 weeks, so in a way you're better off. Not getting interrupted all the time to have to do it." We'll assume for the moment that the time spent adds up to be equal or even less for me. The problem is that in fact, what I do is much more of a pain than a quickie job every week.

This is because I have several hours a day that I'm not doing anything important. Back when I hauled weekly garbage, I would be watching TV and go "Oh no, tomorrow is trash day!" and rush out and do it and go back to TV. It didn't interfere with anything. It was effectively as if I didn't do anything at all - all I lost was 15 minutes of TV-sitting-in-front-of. But with this huge big-time chore that involves driving across town, I have to set aside time, it's got to be done. It's an event. And of course, it has to be done during the dump's business hours, which is when I'm doing stuff. I lost pretty much half my work day yesterday!

Sure, I don't lose that time often, but I just wanted to share that idea. That time lost from sitting around and doing nothing is really not lost. In fact, you're turning it from a waste of time into productive time. Maybe this concept only applies to someone like me who always spends the latter half of his day sitting around. Maybe I need to learn to be productive in the first place! I don't know if I like the direction this is turning...
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Running a Biz03:42 PM -- Fri May 19, 2006

While we're on the topic of how I do things, here's a post I made on the forum, which I am hereby upgrading to Journal status:

Why aren't my games (mostly) in stores? Because I'm an indie. Here's how I sell games:

(90% of money paid by customer goes in my pocket - the other 10% is the cost of the credit card transaction. So $26.96 on a Supreme sale)

Here's how you get games into a store:

(money paid by customer goes to store. Store keeps 50%. Distributer keeps 20%(?) of what's left. Manufacturer keeps 10% of what's left. Publisher keeps 95% of what's left. I get the rest. Math: I get 1.8% of the paid price, if I did that right... that'd be $0.54 on a sale of Supreme)

Of course, those numbers are approximate and invented, but they're the general idea. So why does anyone sell in stores? Exposure. When I sell myself, I only get a few sales, because nobody knows I exist. When a store sells something, they put it in a huge national chain that maybe a hundred thousand people a day enter altogether. They'll sell a thousand times more than I will.

In the end, I'd probably make more from the store sales. But it's not worth it. The main issue is that I have to make what a publisher wants, and then tweak it endlessly to meet their desires. That's not independent, and it's not why I'm in business for myself. And it doesn't last. Stuff is in stores for a couple months, then it's in the bargain bin, then it's gone. It's on my website for decades!

*Manufacturer isn't really a part of this chain. What I mean by them is the company that is paid by the publisher to manufacture the physical CD. It's an expense they have, that I selling downloads do not (though of course I do have that expense on the CDs I sell)
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LD48 Postmortem10:21 PM -- Tue May 16, 2006

It's all the rage, so I thought I'd do a quick postmortem of my last LD48 entry, Wee Ninja.

First of all, you should know my time zone, as it's very significant in how I lay out my LD48 process. The theme gets announced at 8pm on a Friday, then I have all day Saturday and until 8pm Sunday to do it. Not really by any particular plan, I always divide up my work according to this (although I believe it used to be 6pm all around, only this latest was 8pm).

Day 1: Thinkin'
Day 1 is very short. I go to bed around 10pm usually, sometimes more like 11 during these contests, so it's just a couple hours. I don't even start up the compiler, there's no point. I spend it thinking. I spend quite a while in bed doing the same. This contest, I had to do a lot of thinking, because I had no idea for the theme, Swarms. In the end, I couldn't come up with anything really innovative, so I just went with the idea of 'cloning' the game I had been playing fairly obsessively, Dynasty Warriors. In that game, you run around hacking huge hordes of soldiers to bits. It's very fun, because you can sweep your sword/spear/whatever across a whole group of guys and they all fall down at once. I wanted to capture that same fun of totally dominating a horde of weaklings.

Because of all the endless chatter in the IRC room before the contest, mostly about the Wii, I quickly made that connection - I would make a game where you were fighting to be the first to get one of the very few Wiis shipped on launch day (inspired by so many past screwed-up console launches). It was not until I was making graphics on Day 2 that I decided you'd be a ninja. With the 'story' in place, I came up with my second major element. I got an image in my head of the player tossing their Wii up in the air (stop snickering), beating a group of guys senseless, then catching it and running on as they lay on the ground around him. That would be my 'cool moment' that the game was built to put you in. I don't think I've ever developed a game around a moment like that, but I've heard of people doing it, and I was picturing it so clearly, that it seemed a good plan.

Day 2: Crankin'
On the second day, I get up at 6ish (which is normal for me, I really don't tend to move stuff around for LD48 - 48 hours is actually much more time than I need, if I know I'm not going to be making a truly complete product, and it would be too draining and ineffective to work more), and immediately pop on the IRC, which is the most important part, and then fire up the compiler and lay down the basics. In an hour, I've got the project all set up and the classic "black screen that you can press ESC to exit". Every one of my entries begins in exactly that way.

The first half or so of this day is spent throwing down the core of everything. I move on from the black screen to a tile map (maps created in paint shop pro as simple bitmaps), then to a guy on that tile map which you can move around. After that, I fiddle with how he moves around for a while until it feels good. Play control is always the #1 priority for me. How it feels to move the guy around is totally fundamental to how the game feels to play. I don't like just having "if you push left, you move 2 pixels left" - there's got to be inertia and weight and friction.

Once that's down, it's a guarantee that I now don't like what I'm looking at, since it's just temp art. I immediately can't stand it anymore, and spend most of the rest of the day creating artwork and getting it into the game.

The last bit of the day is turning that stuff into a real game. Because this game has martial arts stuff, the player control was a little more complicated, since I had to set up the combo you could do and people getting stunned and knocked around, doing animated moves, and all that. But there was that, and making enemies move around, making things collide, and finally putting in getting hurt and hurting things. Oh, and the other stuff about picking up Wees (as they are known in the game), dropping them, getting them knocked out of your hands, and that stuff. So by the end of day two, I have something playable, but not really a game - no goals, just a level that starts up when you start the game, and you play it. It's completely done in terms of gameplay, just nothing around that gameplay - no winning or losing, no levels, etc.

Day 3: Cleanin'
The last day then is for turning that core of game into the full deal. It's a bit of a blur, but I made the different levels, implemented fonts and made those and put them in (I always postpone the fonts a lot...), made winning and losing possible. Then finally towards the end, I get around to actually putting in sound (always the thing I procrastinate on most), and menus. Seeing I had many hours left, I began implementing what I had thought up while laying in bed the night before - special abilities you can unlock. I knew that'd be cool and would make it feel a lot more like a real game instead of just a demo. Those were pretty easy to slap in. I also put in the feature of time slowing down when you throw a Wee, and voila. Game over. I was done about 4 hours early, and definitely ready for a break.

I took a few walks and watched two movies during the course of the 48 hours as well. I always take a lot of breaks and leisurely meals, because I need that to step back and collect myself. I think it's more productive. In the end, we have:

It was fun to play! I was quite worried about all the issues with making a 'fighting' game, but it panned out and felt solid. The 'cool moment', even in slow motion, was not particularly cool at all in the game. In my head, it was like a scene out of the Matrix. In the game, it was just a flailing of invisible limbs. The slo-mo of the sound was cool, though.
The subject matter worked out well and made for something that people did express amusement at (always good to play up the things they were joking about right before the contest!). I really regret not coming up with any kind of new and innovative idea. That's what I do these for - an opportunity to try out something crazy and unique, and see how it works. It was still fun to make, at least.
After the last couple LD48s, I was worried I just couldn't hack it anymore, so the fact that I released a finished, and I think very polished, game was a good thing. It felt good to know that I can still actually finish things... at all! I definitely didn't capture the feel of Dynasty Warriors in the least. It's fun to knock down the big groups of shoppers, but it just doesn't have the kick that Dynasty Warriors does. One part of this is that there's really nothing interesting to do - you just keep pounding the fire button until they all fall down.
The design of the characters - weebles, pretty much - came out exactly as I wanted, and was pretty amusing to see. In case you didn't know, it's a play on how Nintendo claims that the i's in Wii represent the people playing the system. My people looked exactly like i's. I totally failed on the tile art... there are a bunch of tiles included that are actually my original temp tiles (check out those lovely cash registers!), blown up to double size, since the game originally used half-size tiles. I had tons of time to fix it, I just didn't notice them anymore. I had also wanted to go to '3D' tiles - making the objects stick up so things could be behind them, and for example have the shelves be facing various directions. That, I did remember, but I was just tired of working on the thing!
Putting in unlockables was great. It made the game much better, and made it feel much more polished (I know that boosted my Production scores way up!). I will certainly try to do stuff like that again. I reinvented many wheels (well, not so much reinvented as copied my old work, generally). I've got to get a library set up of the stuff I need to make games! It would also be nice if I upgraded to the latest version of PTK. This game, like several previous gamelets, uses OpenGL, and so a lot of people can't run it. The newer PTK uses OpenGL only on the Mac, allowing you to use either DirectX or OpenGL on the PC. So it would've been much better. I wanted to switch near the end of the contest, but the newer version changes way too much stuff. It would've broken everything. I need to get set up with that!
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Sneak Peek: Loonyland II: Winter Woods08:51 PM -- Thu May 11, 2006

Look, it's the first real boss in the game, Klonk! The brown stump is what happens when a tree gets between him and you. There's a lot of shrapnel that flies when he smashes trees, so you need to hide when he does that. Of course, it's also bad if he smashes you. There a couple mini-bosses before Klonk, but they are just recolored regular badguys.

Directly behind Klonk is another new enemy that I don't believe I have shared before. It's a Sock Monkey. They're quite dangerous really.

A lot of progress has been made since last we peeked. Everything is still very early-game stuff. You can level up to level 50 in this game, and the content in so far is good to about level 10. But there's more than there was by far. There are now wondrous chests to find (but you can't open them yet, since beating Klonk is how you get the first of the special keys needed), several hiding spots for the Great Guru, and a few new maps and quests. So, I better go put Klonk where he belongs and finish up the quest involving him. It's about time special keys and chests and doors were implemented!
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Assorted Flavors04:46 PM -- Wed May 10, 2006

* Nature Note: a giant lizard was in our garden, which incidentally we have finally set up and it's looking really good. This lizard was maybe a foot and a half long total, all sand colored with leopard patterns. He was cool. So cool in fact that he didn't move when touched... until I touched his back. That made him rocket across the garden, right into the chickenwire. I wouldn't think that would hurt too much, but thereafter he never moved again. He's still in the same place we moved him after that. It's sad.

* Nature Note: Also, Sol saw a garter snake in the garden too. I missed that!

* Nature Note: A mouse got in our house! We believe it came in the window we had open for the cats to visit their cat run. But we had an adventure chasing it down and catching it. It was the cutest thing ever to live. That's not past tense, mind you - we captured it with my official Bug Catching Gear (a little plastic tub, and the cardboard CD case for Rise Of Nations for a lid) and released it outside after marveling at the cuteness. It was quite a struggle to save it from the more efficient hunters that live in our house. It was squeaking like crazy when two of them had it cornered in the bathroom (that was how we finally nabbed it though, teamwork!).

* Domesticated Nature Note: Our dogs have gotten very very bad. They have developed a technique for jumping over our 6-foot fence (it's a Jackie Chan style ricochet off the corners, quite impressive). They really like to be out in the world chasing rabbits, so this is a big problem. They now live in their kennel at all times unless they are on a leash. Nobody's happy with that at all, so we're looking forward to getting some electric stuff to keep them from jumping there. In the long term, we are also hiring a trainer to help out. That is so very not cheap. There are 3 corners they could do this in, though so far they have only done it at one, so we hope that's the only one they want to use. Stupid dogs!

* Music: To celebrate our tax refund, we ordered a huge pile of used CDs and DVDs from Second Spin (which I am again recommending). That's cool and yay. We have eclectic tastes, and our tastes don't entirely overlap, so we got everything from 80's to emo rock to Ozzy to Sixpence to 60's/70's folky stuff. Only, we got a little more eclectic than we planned. You see, for some reason, Sol's copy of Crosby, Stills and Nash's Greatest Hits was shrinkwrapped together with a CD we didn't order. Like a bundle package, a free bonus. It wasn't on our order, and it was shrinkwrapped on, so I presume that was the intent. So what music did they decide made a great match with Crosby, Stills And Nash? That's easy enough - Method Man, of course! Kind of the same genre and all. I'm sure there's a lot of fan crossover. So I'll be checking that out. I don't think I like it so far. It's not that I don't like rap, but I liked rap when it was rhythmic. These days, the music is nice and thumping, but the words are just a ramble of things that kinda rhyme, with no particular connection to the music. Seems that way to me. But you know us old fogies - what the kids listen to is all just noise! Git offa my lawn!

* Those are all the flavors I have to offer you at this time. Look for a Sneak Peek tomorrow, though. And I have a new schedule as usual, to get me on the ball with these Journal updates, Sneak Peeks, and the two hundred other things that fill my day to overflowing.
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Wee!04:55 PM -- Tue May 2, 2006

Wee Ninja is now available on the Gamelets page. Give it a try! There was a specific "cool moment" that was my goal when I began working on it, although it didn't really pan out at all. It was the idea of throwing the box up in the air, beating up a group of guys, then catching it and continuing running. You can definitely do exactly that in the game - in slow motion, no less! - but it's not 'cool', it's just kinda fun. It didn't fit what I had in mind, but it works as gameplay at least. And overall, the game is pretty fun. It gets pointless fast, but unlocking the Ninja Skillz is entertaining, and then using them is too, for a little while.

I got Guild Wars: Factions, and Morrowind yesterday, so that should be very helpful to my productivity. It is having the intended inspirational effect, though - little ideas pertaining to my game. Every time I play a game, I always automatically think up what my take on that game would be, and suddenly desperately want to make it (incidentally, I've been playing tons of Dynasty Warriors 5 lately - if you've played any Dynasty Warriors, you know exactly where Wee Ninja comes from!). So this idea of stocking up on RPGs while I'm working on one is rather brilliant. It's making a big difference! The Talent system in Loonyland 2 came from looking at a World Of Warcraft website, although I am not sure what inspired the "improves with use" aspect of it (that is in Morrowind, and has been newly added to Guild Wars in the form of titles you can earn, but I encountered both of those after adding this). I think mainly from how the 'craft' skills in World Of Warcraft level with use, so that you don't have to divert your skill points or whatever toward things that aren't directly useful. That was an issue I kept thinking about it, and it works out nicely this way. You're welcome to spend hours and hours mixing potions, but now you don't have to compromise your fighting ability to be good at it.

Okay, so that was mainly just to tell you I got new games, so hooray for me! I also recently got an Aero Ace radio controlled plane. It's really cheap - just a styrofoam plane with two engines, and the controller tells it how much juice to put in each engine (so it steers like a tank!). But it's very cool! Way cheaper than getting into 'real' radio controlled planes, but you can fly it around and have fun. They have a cool gigantic 4-foot wingspan one for a bunch more money, but I read that you need tons of space to fly it, and I'd end up landing it in the neighbor's yard. My biggest problem with my little plane is that it can't tolerate even the tiniest bit of wind (it probably weighs an ounce) - and Anza is like a perpetual hurricane. Even when it seems dead calm around here, the trees are just slightly waving, and that's enough to make the plane almost unflyable. So I recommend this little plane (which, by the way, is nearly indestructible), but only if you live somewhere unwindy. You can fly it indoors too, but the turning radius is so big, you'd have to be in a gymnasium for it to be remotely usable.

So, to all my new games and toys, I say this: WEEEEEE!!!
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Sneak Peek: Wee Ninja12:10 AM -- Mon May 1, 2006

Well, I finished my entry for the latest Ludum Dare 48-hour contest! Witness it. The theme was Swarms, which shows in the screenshot quite clearly. It'll be available on the Gamelets page in a day or two. It's rather silly and a bit lame, but it's got unlockable Mad Ninja Skillz, which makes it fun. I'm tired and my back hurts. See ya!
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