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  I CAN HAS PELLIES! 11:48 AM -- Mon December 31, 2007  

Editor's note: I am embarrassed to be writing this, since this journal is syndicated at the Ludum Dare contest site, but hey, I gotta share it with you! So if you are reading this at LD, ignore it.

I won first place overall in LD48 #10! I actually did much better than I expected (and I question whether my entry was better overall than several others). Here are all the pellies I earned (for complex and forgotten historical reasons, the awards in LD are called Pellies):

1st Place - Overall
1st Place - Fun
1st Place - Polish
1st Place - Food (photos of the food you ate during contest)
2nd Place - Effort
2nd Place - Journal (how well you documented the development)
3rd Place - Theme (how well you used the theme, "Chain Reaction")
(and no pellies for these categories)
4th Place - Humor
6th Place - Graphics
10th Place - Audio (aww, after everybody said they loved the death scream?)
11th Place - Innovation (okay, it was pretty unoriginal)
13th Place - Technical (not exactly rocket science)

I'm surprised I did so well in Theme. I did the basic and obvious chain explosions. Other people did interesting things with the theme! My low placement in audio despite obviously wondrous sounds was DrPetter's fault. His program SFXr made everybody have equally great sound, so to try to do well there, I really needed to do something unique rather than just use a bunch of sounds from SFXr. The best ones were people who played their own background music on guitar or perhaps tuba. Then again, maybe just having background music would've helped...

All in all, it's probably my best showing ever in an LD contest, and I didn't expect that at all. But I'll take it! If you want to see the journal and food pictures that got me there, witness this link. Having a food contest made it a lot of fun, and not so intensely focused on the work, which is nice. Another cool thing was (as you can see at that link) the ability to award random trophies of any type you wish to any participant. Lots of those got handed out all around. I even got cake, twice. And if you consider a picture of cake as opposed to actual cake to be untruthful, then it was a lie both times.

To see the full contest results, click here. Congratulations to all the winners, including my personal favorites which should've beaten me in Overall: Lexaloffle's "Mr. Splode", GirlFlash's game I don't remember the name of but I can't stop seeing the award she got in my head: "I has power cables nom nom", and XMunkki's amazing "super advanced tech that actually includes really good/original gameplay". There were several others that really amazed me, but those three stick out in my mind immediately. Check out the full list, a lot of great stuff there. Profanity warning: several of the great ones have a lot of it. I find that very amusing, but I need to warn you, since it's not appropriate here (if you want to see entries without it, avoid Mrfun and Girlflash!). I can't recall there being any particular gore this time around, though, which is rare.

And no, I still haven't gotten Short Fuse ready to go up on the site officially... there are some tweaks I'd like to do, but it's so vacationy around here, I'm not doing much. I really should just pack it up as originally done, since I just don't have the inclination to make any really interesting changes. Guess we'll see... sometime! In the meantime, it is still available in a zip file via my journal/food link above. Happy New Year!
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  Short Fuse Post-Mortem 02:30 PM -- Fri December 21, 2007  

Let's dig this corpse up! Short Fuse turned out alright. It's definitely not among my favorites that I've done, but I think it's got solid (if limited) gameplay, and decent polish, since I actually got levels and level selection and instructions in there. So let's see how we do this postmortem thing...


I followed my usual 48-hour plan. Friday night, as soon as the theme was announced, I walked away from the computer and watched TV and that sort of thing, mulling over chain-reactive possibilities. My main concept right off the bat was a shooter where you fly around and blow guys up, and those explosions blow more guys up. That's guaranteed fun. There's just no way it couldn't be exciting and intense. Would've been a no-brainer and easy to code. I youtubed up some footage of Bangaio, because that seemed easier than setting up my Dreamcast to see it in person. I remembered Bangaio had something like that to it, but it turns out it doesn't - you get rewarded for # of explosions at once, but explosions don't cause chain reactions. Still, Bangaio's style would've been my model - side-view, free-scrolling, massive firepower.

While that idea was constantly bubbling around my head, I actively sought other ideas for two reasons. One, I thought other people would be making exactly that (with only 5 games left to review, it appears that nobody has, though some are definitely in the same vein). And two, it was just too obvious and not a stretch in any way. I knew it would be fun, and it wouldn't be anything new. If I'm going to waste my weekend, I want to do it experimenting. So I needed something more inventive. Another idea I had was to make a side-scrolling fighter type thing, where you swing a chain around to bash guys, and when they get hit, they fly into other guys to hurt them (badguys reacting to a chain, along with actual chain reactions). I liked that idea, and I probably should've bravely tackled it. Some experience with chain physics would've been nice, but the chain physics also scared me off.

I had a really hard time thinking of anything that wasn't The Incredible Machine, or the aforementioned two. Then, inspired by something I can't recall, possibly IRC comments, I decided a miner hauling a leaky powderkeg around would be good. The idea completely fell into place from there, and I drifted off to dreamland. Oh, in a twist, I did implement my traditional "black screen that responds to the ESC key" on Friday night, not waiting until Saturday.

Saturday, I moved on to make a tile system, then a level editor. The game couldn't work without that, so I did it right up front. I didn't even have fonts at this point, so I had it displaying which level you were editing with little hash marks. Once I did that, I made a level, and developed the play control that runs you around (I find that super important - I always work on that until it feels good to move, not just "if press left, go left"). From there, the particles and stuff came along really fast (I kind of combined particles and game objects into one - the gunpowder was a particle, and the particles of the fire were the actual thing that caused explosions). Then I threw in sound early on, thanks to SFXr, and pretty much had the gameplay in at that point. I did the artwork, so I could see what kind of font I needed, then implemented fonts and chose one (I don't actually remember what it's called... some basic font that's nice and chunky. Chanson?), then got the scoring in, living and dying, and an end-level score tally. So I went to bed on Saturday with a finished game that had, I think, 2 levels (and to choose one to play, you had to change a constant in the code).

That all made Sunday really easy - I spent it developing the menu system, high score storage, and making the 10 levels. I also spent a while tweaking the zooming feature, and adding a bunch of features to the editor to make those 10 levels a whole lot easier to make. I also spent a while trying to make some music in Musagi, and that went so badly I didn't even bother to inflict it on anyone. I was done with about four hours to spare, and I walked on out of there feeling pretty good and very tired of looking at the computer.

What Went Right
  • Graphics - I had fun pixeling! I decided at the beginning to do 16x16 tiles, and so I really had to get down and dirty with those pixels to make something recognizable. I ended up making multiple floor and wall tiles, which randomly get scrambled when the level loads. That ended up making the floor really nice, I think. With the walls, you can't really tell.

  • Sound - Not my doing, but thanks to DrPetter, awesome sound that complements the pixels very well (and it was one reason I decided to do 16x16 tiles). The one sound that gets lots of positive press is the dying scream. That actually popped out of the Randomize button almost exactly as you hear it. I tweaked it a tiny bit, but it was very nice right off the bat, and I knew I had to use it.

  • Simplicity - I came up with a really simple idea and implemented it. That made things go very quickly and easily.

  • "Simulation" - Nothing is 'cheated' in this game. The fuse lights at the spot you start, and then burns any powder within a small radius, starting another fuse. Even though the powder falls a little randomly, this worked out, without being overzealous, almost immediately. It took a few tweaks, but it works. Similarly, when a barrel explodes, it chains to other barrels entirely based on where the particles randomly happen to fall. That, too, just works. There are very rare instances where a barrel you might expect to explode doesn't, or where more than you expect do (or where YOU do, when you think you're far enough away), but it's all well within the realm of realism and predictability. It just plain worked! And the fuse never goes dead on its own, which is a surprise. I thought I'd be fighting that for hours.

    Happy Accidents - The simulation stuff above may be described as this. I'm really glad I didn't have to figure out how to do that stuff by force if it didn't just fall into place. But there are other more specific ones: like the barrel explosion that shoots so vertically. I knew the explosions needed to be small, so one barrel didn't set off others halfway across the screen, but making it a vertical blast was an accident. It looked so cool, I kept it. If I hadn't, the explosions would look puny and insignificant, since they can't spread very wide. Also, when you get exploded, there was a bug where it continued to constantly re-explode you every frame. It is a bug, but it is awesome, and I left it. If you don't know what I mean, stand still when you get exploded. It's a great sight. The moving when you get exploded is also an oversight that I kept because it was fun - after being exploded, you can keep playing for a second or two, running around as a pillar of flame. And in relation to that, of course, I've already mentioned that the dying scream was a happy accident of the randomize button. So, in an abrupt turnaround, fate conspired to help me this time, instead of stomping on me.
What Went Wrong
  • Simplicity - Unfortunately, the idea was so simple, that I didn't have that much fun with it. While it's not a game like any I've ever done before, 95% of the work was everything I've done before - running around a tilemap with particles. Not a real exciting weekend. The only notable challenge (which I pretty much failed) was...

  • Zooming - The feature where it zoomed in on the level if the level was smaller than the whole play area. I could never wrap my brain around the different elements of that and get a proper zoom (it was the panning that was a problem). Any solution that worked would break with a different level. In the end, I just added a display to the editor showing where the center of the screen was, and a feature to let you scroll your level around in the editor. With that, I just manually centered every map, so that the zoom-in doesn't have to pan! Horrible solution, but it got it done.

  • Music - I tried, and failed miserably. I think it's for the best that the game remains musicless.

It went well! I got a good solid game. It's not my favorite, but I found it fun to play, and the sounds really spice it up. And I think the old miner is really cute, no matter what you think. I mean, come on, I got flannel working in 16x16 pixels!

In the future, I still hope to come up with more inventive and original LD48 ideas, though. I tried hard this time (should've made that chain fighter thing), but ended up making something that just isn't too surprising or new.
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  Portal 12:53 PM -- Fri December 21, 2007  

If you own a PC, and you don't own Portal, you should remedy this.

Portal is going to get a lot of Game Of The Year awards. I just read one right now, at Gamasutra. And it's going to deserve them! Even if you're not much of a gamer, it will rock you. Although it could make you physically ill. I know it got me very dizzy more than once. It is a very easy game to finish. Nothing in it is really tough. It's also very short. It has no fighting (though you do get shot!), and it's a puzzle game. But it's a first person view.

If you don't know, you play a test subject who is given a gun that shoots portals. You shoot one wall with a blue portal, and another wall (or floor or ceiling perhaps) with an orange portal, and you can walk through one and come out the other. That's the entire game. Well, you can also pick up boxes to set on things and use as a step up. And I suppose you can walk, jump, and duck too. That's the entire game. So using those capabilities, you need to get to the exit of each testing area, and it's an absolute blast. You'll make a hole in the wall and drop yourself through the floor to fling yourself across the room, you'll drop a turret out of the ceiling to knock out another turret, and so much more.

That's the gameplay, and it makes for a lot of visceral fun, just in flinging yourself around, as well as a lot of puzzling fun, in figuring out how to achieve your goals. But the gameplay is only half of it. The other half is the constant chatter of GLaDOS, the story, the humor, and the serious fun of it all (including Jonathan Coulton's amazing wonderful song at the end). It's not just funny, it's sort of oddly moving, and it's definitely among the best writing you've seen in a video game.

So far, I've played the game through once (with the wife watching the whole time, because it's that entertaining) just to finish, a second time to hear all the developer commentary, and I'm at the very end of my third run-through, hoping to knock out all the security cameras (a bonus achievement). I've also finished all 6 advanced maps, which are really cleverly done - they're regular test chambers, with one small change. But the one small change completely changes how you have to solve it. For example, in one level where you previously completed it by dropping out of the ceiling all over the place, the ceiling is now no longer a surface you can make portals in. So you need to come up with entirely new ways of getting places. Those are great. Then there are the challenge maps. I have not done much there. They are normal levels, but they give you a goal - do it with as few portals as possible, as few footsteps as possible, or in as little time as possible. The fewest portals one is really fun, because it's a tricky puzzle to come up with the least you can do. The fewest footsteps one is AWFUL and I hate it. Footsteps are very iffy. If you tap forward, you might get one, two, or three. If you jump, you might take 2 when you land, or one. And the required number is so insanely low that I can't even get bronze medals on those. So I hate that. I have not accomplished a lot on the challenge maps, and I don't think I ever will. But I don't mind, because the rest is awesome.

If you are not yet convinced to buy, consider this: you buy The Orange Box for the same price as any retail game (maybe $40 or so), and it contains Portal, Team Fortress 2 (the best multiplayer online experience ever), Half-Life 2 (I've been having fun with it, but whatever, it's just a regular FPS game), and Half-Life 2 Episode One and Episode Two (sequels to Half-Life 2, despite the name). That's 5 games! And I'm getting a lot of fun out of them. Portal is worth the price, Team Fortress 2 would be worth the price if I had decent broadband, and the other games are a nice little bonus.

This is one game where it truly has lived up to the hype, a completely unfamiliar experience to me. I try to hate everything, all the time, but I can only love Portal. "Where are you? Are you still there?"
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  Mysterious 11:40 AM -- Mon December 17, 2007  

Well, I am sad now... I made a journal entry last Friday, explaining what I was going to be doing this weekend, and a lot of other details about it. It was a Ludum Dare 48-Hour Game Development Contest! I don't know if anybody reading this would want to be involved, but if you did, too late now. Sorry, I think what happened is that I didn't fully submit my journal, I just previewed it and got distracted. Anyway, the contest was here, so you can check out the entries. That site is great too, because it contains a bunch (and hopefully someday, all) of the past entries of LD contests.

The contest theme was "Chain Reaction". My entry was called Short Fuse. I'll put it up as a game later this week with a few small enhancements, but you can grab the original contest version here (1.1mb). It's a game where you are tasked with destroying condemned mines so kids don't wander into them. You for some reason decide to do this by carrying around a leaky powder keg, to spread powder to all the remarkably numerous explosive barrels in the mine (theoretically, this is because you're a very old miner, so you are doing it in the old-fashioned way). Then for no visible reason, the end of the line of powder lights up, and a chain reaction begins. Your goal is to blow up a certain percentage of the barrels without exploding yourself. Completing the levels is not that hard. Some are tricky, but I beat them all after a few tries. The real goal of the game is high scores, as there is gold to collect for bonus points, and score multipliers which are the real key. On "Patently Absurd" (which may run very slowly, depending on your computer!), I broke a million points!

I think it's a good game, not spectacular, so I won't be dedicating my life to it like I did with Moon Invaders. But it's fun, so give it a try. The sound effects are great, and come courtesy of DrPetter's SFXr, an awesome little program to randomly generate computery noises. It does include a level editor, and the editor is very very very capable of totally destroying existing levels, so don't lose your zip of the original files if you plan to try the editor. And DO read the readme a lot if you want to try it.

Tech note: It may run either better or worse if you create a shortcut to it with the command line argument "opengl" to run it in openGL mode. By default it runs under directX.
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  Sneak Peek: More Bouapha 01:17 PM -- Thu December 13, 2007  

More clues as to where, when, what, and why of Bouapha's next adventure? These are some things I've created for the first 'scene' of the game. What I want to do is make it sort of cinematic, without doing cinematics. When you get close enough to the gentleman pictured here, there will be an in-game cartoon bubble conversation, which is where you learn what the situation is. It's something quite serious, for which Bouapha has been called in to help, since he is of course the only one who can. So I am trying to integrate the storytelling right into the game. It'll be really cool if I have it go on while you are playing, like in Half-Life (coincidence that I have been playing Half-Life 2 the past couple of days?), but that is much more complicated. I'd have to worry about where you are standing and stuff like that (and have people say "Hey, get back here, I'm still talking!"). If I just pop up cartoon bubbles that you need to click through, it'll be a lot simpler.

I had fun making these, because I actually referenced real pictures (and then strayed very far from them, of course). I'm trying to create a real world here, not a realistic one, but something cohesive. I think I'm putting too much time into a game again... and I so wanted this to be a quick one!
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  Vote Hamumu! 02:17 PM -- Mon December 10, 2007  

Here's what I want for my birthday (today, by the way!). It's a simple present, so pay up! Go to GameTunnel's Game Of The Year Poll, and slap down a vote for Loonyland 2! So far it has a big zero votes (Even I have been too lazy to do it, but I'll do it right after this post, okay?). These polls are really dumb. As an example of how dumb they are, last time I looked, Wonderland Adventures had some tiny number of votes (not sure how many, just that it was unremarkable. Probably a single digit). Today, I see 43 votes on it at the moment, making it the Best Game Ever. Now you know the difference between yesterday and today is that the author of that game has stuffed the ballot box. He made a post on his forum or newsletter or something, asking his customers to vote, and they did. Sound familiar? Yeah, let's stomp him!! But by the way, that game is pretty cool too, I've reviewed it.

So it's all a farce. I guess you could call it a measure of who has the most dedicated fans... sort of... but it's definitely not a legitimate survey of which games people find the best. But hey, make it a farce where I come in a distant twentieth instead of dead last!

Oh, and by the way, feel free to vote for a different game if you like it better. It's no skin off of any of my facial features at all. Also by the way, you will need to register on that forum to vote. But it is my birthday, is it really so hard? (puppy dog eyes activated)
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  First Snow 04:23 PM -- Sun December 9, 2007  

Well, it's the first snow of the season! As I write this, there is none left and it's very sunny out, but we had quite a bit of snow for a while.

Look at that - the whole mountain is snow! I'm a Californian, I'm used to seeing snow on the tops of mountains, but it shouldn't be on the rest! As you can see below that, our yard was quite snowified as well. And that's our propane tank, which is now sadly draining away, heating our house. I resist as long as I can, but eventually, you gotta avoid dying of hypothermia.

The other funny thing is that the dogs hate rain and hide in their doghouse all day when it rains, but they love snow and run around in it all day. Mia will even go roll in snow when there's still some left in the shadow of the house and the rest of the yard is dry.
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  Ninja Time! 06:57 PM -- Fri December 7, 2007  

I wanted to try out the screen capture program I got, and I wanted to try out Youtube. So I looked around for something to put up a video of, and I discovered Super Happy Go Go Ninja Time! It's dead. I don't think it will ever be worked on again, but there's some slim slim hope in there, because it's definitely a really cool game. Check out the video and see for yourself. The song is from Ninja Academy. It seemed appropriate. Also, enjoy the chatroom noises at the beginning.

In case you didn't know much about this game, it's an upgraded version of Ninja Academy, which was a mini game I made for a 1-button game contest. Yes, this game is controlled entirely with a single button (well, the menus are mouse controlled, but the gameplay is one-button).

And there's a "surprise" twist at the end! Actually, it's about what you'd expect from a defunct game.
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  Sneak Peek: Next Adventure Of Bouapha 08:37 PM -- Wed December 5, 2007  

I bet that image confirms some suspicions! If not, keep wondering. Today I ripped apart the innards of Sleepless Hollow to set up the next adventure. It feels so good to delete giant chunks (and entire files) of code. Makes it seem like I have a nice clean environment to work in. By the way, the bullets in this shot are temporary, they will be marshmallows in the end.
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  By The Way... 09:20 AM -- Wed December 5, 2007  

Speaking of T-Shirts as I did in the newsletter (if you're not signed up, you need to be!), there are SOME Hamumu merchandise items you can buy, from Cafepress: Cafepress Hamumu Store. Oddly, it's mostly Sol Hunt stuff! But there are a couple of other fun things. That store has been around for years and sold about 3 items. I just never mention it or link to it. I hope someday to offer real merchandise direct on this site, but it's always been lower priority.
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