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  The Next Phase 01:18 PM -- Sun November 30, 2008  

Well, the Winter Pack is done! I have everything set up so you can purchase it and play it, I just haven't put it up on the website yet. And as I sit here writing this, I find myself wondering why not... No reason it can't be up there for people to early-bird buy, right? I'll put it up once I finish writing this. Then I will of course announce it tomorrow in the newsletter.

If you're wondering where I have been for quite some time, the answer is vacation! I've been at home, but with the wife off work for a week for Thanksgiving, we just hung out and didn't do much. We watched a whole lot of Buffy. In fact, we got through the first three seasons, and now we are in season 4 (interspersed with Angel season 1). We had to watch that stuff since Netflix couldn't keep up with our sitting in front of the TV all day. I moved my laptop into the living room for this entire week. WoW+TV. That's relaxation!

So that was vacation and the end of the development of Winter Pack, all in one. Next up, two more Costume Party expansions of indeterminate content. Feel free to post ideas on the forum for what kind of new and interesting tiles and monsters you might like to see! I've got the costumes covered, I think. And what else is next? Well, I plan to develop those expansions on the side for fun, while I work on a real project!

Disregarding my earlier ideas, I have now struck on the perfect small-scale super-cool project that will upset everyone whose name is a cut of meat. A turn-based strategy game! Like I mentioned Happy Pony Wars before, but I am thinking perhaps that it will be Loonyland Tactics instead, with you going around trying to conquer the various lands of Loonyland (and using an army that came from one of them). What will be cool about this idea is that it has the same business as Costume Party - you can make battlefields on which to fight, or single-player scenarios people can try - but it also has another online element: multiplayer battles! A whole new world to consider there, but it'll be done in 'play-by-email' type format. Not that email is actually involved, but you log in, make your moves, and whenever your opponent logs in and makes her move, you'll be able to move again. So not a direct head-to-head at the moment, but rather a leisurely game, like playing chess with some old guy in Russia by mail. Of course, if you are both online at the same time, you can just wait a few minutes and get your foe's move right then.

Still very much in basic design for that, but definitely planning to rip off Land Of Legends, and make sure there's some leveling up involved, and items to collect. I have some cool ideas for the Eyeball Tree army... and there should be a Happy Pony army too. Definitely going to take some designing before I do any real work. I spent hours looking around for my copy of Land Of Legends, and the design I wrote long ago for a rip-off of it, all to no avail. And I know there were some vital key ideas in there! Very annoying.
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  What's Next? 07:26 PM -- Tue November 18, 2008  

Excellent question! I spent a lot of today pondering my options on that. I've had one particular idea marinating in the juices of my brain for quite a while, and only today did I realize that it's really much too big and complex to be done quickly (that's usually something I have trouble detecting...). Today I was bumbling around imagining what a cut-down version would be like, but I just am not sure. It's all very confusing.

Idea #1: Questies! (exclamation mark required) This is the one that is too big. It's an RPG that is loosely based on Costume Party, stylistically. The rough idea is that of course you make your own quests/dungeons/adventures (not 3 separate things, just covering all my bases), and players go adventure in them. It plays like WoW in the sense that you click on different skills to use them, but like Costume Party in the sense that you hop from place to place on platforms in a side view (easy platforming, unlike Costume Party, no tricks or traps). The leveling is a cool system I came up with looong ago (I just checked - the files that first discussed it are from 1999!) and have always wanted to use. And another key component, from that idea, is that you create many characters and build a town with them and they work together. Literally in fact - you have a team of 3 guys adventuring at a time. One you control, and the other two function automatically, doing their backup thing depending on what class they are.

Idea #2 - MMOTD. It's a tower defense game. Build your towers, and await the invasion. What is interesting about it, besides the fact that the attacks don't follow a path and you need to defend all sides (and can buy scout towers to get advance warning of where attacks will come from), and can have soldiers that run out and attack as well as towers, is that attacks come at midnight each (actual) night. You then get to watch a playback of the events whenever you log in. If you miss a day of play, you'll have been attacked twice since your last visit, and you could eventually lose. There could also be a pause option - no attacks, but no income or experience either. It's one of those games where you build up your city, getting some money each (real life) day to work with, but what you are building is your TD defenses. Then of course for the fun of it, you can capture monsters and unleash them on other peoples' towns (probably need a PVP on/off option) when they get attacked that night. When you lose, you can start over in a new town, but your character (a military strategist who advised the late king of your previous town) has learned more powerful buildings and such from the experience he gained in the first town. When you are strong enough, you can elect to start your new town in a more dangerous area. Every area gets tougher each night, so you will die eventually, but your character will continue to grow (oh, and also he steals some of the king's money when he leaves, so you start each new town with some money left from your last town). I've had this idea rattling around my noggin for a couple of years as well, but not nearly as long as the other.

So those are two rather big ideas I've been mulling. I should probably try something truly small and simple instead, not overreach. Space Invaders!
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  The Big Fancy 10:23 AM -- Fri November 14, 2008  

Hey, I got the forum updated yesterday, and it's chock-full of new and exciting features! They're somewhat hidden really, but you'll stumble across them as you go. It's turned into kind of a mini-Facebook, where you can leave messages to people on their profile pages, and make friends and see giant blown-up versions of avatars which I quite like. For example, here's my page. Then you can 'social groups', which don't really mean much, but you can place messages in them too! Here's The Hamumians, a group nobody should not be in. Maybe I need to figure out how to work game-related info into one of those tabs on your profile page, so we don't have separate Dumb Pages... sounds hard.

In other news, don't miss your chance (if you own the Creator's Pass) to win a free and early copy of The Winter Pack! The contest is here. It's pretty confusing, but the gist is that to win, you must invent a contest for other people to win. If you make the contest idea I like best, you win! Then I'll run your contest, and two other people will win that, for a total of 3 winners. Perfectly logical, I assure you.

Chimneys, Fireplaces, Gas Mains, Baby Penguins, and Igloos are all now in the Winter Pack. You'll have to find out what those are all for when it comes out! I've also got a new background in, but I haven't yet found a place to fit a "change background" button. I am implementing a really simple easter egg related to that, though, you'll just have to find it. There are 4 slots left in the Winter tab in the editor, so I'm going to try implementing "North Wind" today, and if it's cool (as north wind tends to be), I'll fill those 4 slots with 4 directions of wind. Simply, spaces that blow anything on them in the given direction. That'll be in the Light layer, I imagine. Being a bit tired of invisible things, I'll try adding some little particles that get blown around to make them visible.
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  Sneak Peek: Winter Pack 05:02 PM -- Tue November 11, 2008  

More new Winter stuff! Candy Canes, of course. They're equivalent to Candy Corn, but the difference is that they aren't affected by gravity or block enemies (they work like Jawbreakers). They're also worth 75pts instead of 50, because I felt like it.

Snowballs! They roll forward, crushing all in their path relentlessly. But there's a twist! You can hop on top of them for a ride if you are careful. Of course, since they're rolling, they are constantly throwing you forward as you ride, so you really have to keep hopping the whole time if you want to avoid ending up crushed. It's also fun when other objects are on top of them. I had candy corn and crates getting flung all over the place.

Pine Trees! Like the Laser Tree, but with no decorations or laser. They're just an ordinary obstacle, unless you smash them with anything that would be capable of smashing a crumbly brick or blast brick (falling on them doesn't count). That blows all their needles off, and they become Dead Pines. Those are equivalent to grates. So you can have a setup where you need Frank to smash the needles off, then one of the shooting guys to shoot through it and trigger something on the other side.

And of course, the Moose Hunter! It fires constantly like a Deadly Tree, but it aims at you, with great accuracy. Of course, the bullets are quite slow, so it's not too bad. And you can kill it, unlike a Deadly Tree.
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  How I spent my weekend 06:40 PM -- Mon November 10, 2008  

This weekend was Mini-LD#5, hosted by none other than moi truly! The theme was "Cover", in the sense of "make a cover of any previous LD entry that wasn't made by you". A cover, of course, is a remake, but in this case, sequel or thing-inspired-by was perfectly fine too. But the main idea was to take the original idea and implement it using your own unique style. So I did that! The game I covered was Towlr, by PoV. Because of the nature of Towlr, I couldn't actually duplicate the gameplay in any way. The whole magic of Towlr is that you don't know what to do! So I had to invent my own puzzle, and I did. Good luck solving BABBY OF TOWLR! It will hurt you in ways you didn't know you could be hurt. And if you are epileptic, you better just skip it. It is hard on the visual cortex.

I've also implemented Coelecanths in Costume Party. When you see them, you'll probably think they're piranhas (which is also what the game calls them internally), but to make them wintry, they're coelecanths. That's not really too wintry either, but I recall reading that the first time somebody caught one, they put it on ice and then it leaped up and bit them later even though it had been on ice for minutes or hours. So it would be quite happy in a winter wonderland. And vicious. They're basically underwater Screamers. I'm having a hard time coming up with good and unique winter enemies. For example, a Polar Bear is perfectly appropriate, but what would it to differentiate its behavior? More importantly, what good enemies would shoot?
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  Sneak Peek: Winter Pack 04:12 PM -- Fri November 7, 2008  

And the costumes are done! I might need to tweak the Penguin a little, but he's pretty fun.

The Snowman Costume - In the lower right image, you see that he throws snowballs. In the main image, you can see what his snowballs do. I just love the ice-cube-on-a-string effect of the frozen spiders! If you look closely, you can see that the lower block is a frozen frog. Guys stay frozen for 8 seconds, so it is possible to use them as a ladder to get places, but it's never too easy!

The Snowman's other feature is directly above the snowball picture. He can melt on command (aka "duck"), rendering him immune to bullets until he unmelts. Originally I had it just make his hit area smaller accordingly, but it turns out that Deadly Trees fire their shots at a really low altitude, and I decided it just made sense (not from a logic perspective) to make you simply unhittable when melted. Well, by bullets - enemies will still hit you with direct contact. If you jump straight from a melt (push down-up), you go 3 blocks high instead of 2.

The last bonus the Snowman has is that he doesn't slip on ice. That's very nice, although it prevents him from doing long jumps like everyone else can on ice.

The Penguin Costume - Out of the water, the penguin is slow (Kid speed). His jump is so short it doesn't even reach up an entire block. But don't fear, this isn't Santa all over again - he can air jump twice (or "flap his wings" as one might call it), for a total jump height equal to Frank's (two blocks). This isn't just an annoying way of jumping, though! It also gives him a unique capability. When airborne, he moves fast, so he can leap across really wide gaps that not even the Vampire could cross, since the Vampire always descends as he glides.

But of course, the real power of the Penguin is in water. In the water, he never stops moving, zipping along at high speed leaving a lovely trail of bubbles. He also doesn't need oxygen for some reason (gills). You can hit the button to Torpedo Dash and smash into enemies. It also smashes Crumbly Bricks and Blast Bricks, and even pushes crates. You can move any direction in the water, and he spins around smoothly. It's fun to control, but if there are spikes around, you could be in grave danger. The most fun thing is to Torpedo Dash out of the water for effect. You can go about 10 blocks up doing that, and you still have 3 wing flaps available once you get up there, to settle yourself onto something. You really need large water spaces to accomodate the Penguin's zippy movement, so that could be interesting.

All in all, these guys are fun! Unfortunately, I now need to invent some badguys, and having made a Penguin costume, I'm really questioning the idea of having Pengulons as badguys.
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  Sneak Peek: Winter Pack 11:40 AM -- Thu November 6, 2008  

Man, when was the last time I did a sneak peek!? It feels so odd. Here are the elements I've created so far for the Winter Pack. From left to right, that is:
  • Laser Tree - shoots DEADLY LASER BEAMS from its star. It's the vertical equivalent of the Deadly Tree. There is no downward-shooting version, and I am not so sure one is necessary! Although there could be Missile Toe...
  • Ice - Slippery, of course! It's possible to build up an unlimited amount of speed on ice (provided you have walls to bounce off of), and then when you jump, you go flying incredible distances.
  • Icicles - When shot, they fall down, and work as crates (crushing those beneath them, working as platforms). As you can also see, they float in water! That gives you a handy way across. Interestingly, Icicles are perfectly content to hang in midair like bricks do, until they get shot. It makes for some unique platforming situations.
  • Santa costume - Just like the other costumes!
  • Water - Hop in. Everything moves slower in water, and gravity is greatly reduced. It feels really 'right' to me. You also get a breath meter, which runs out scarily fast!
  • Bubbles - Luckily, there are bubbles, which can restore your breath. Not the floating ones, though. You have to stand on the bubble source to get breath back.
  • Gifts - Push down when you are Santa to set these on the ground. You have a limit of 10 of them active at once, and they can't be overlapping.
  • Santa! - There he is, at last. It was tricky getting to where I am in this shot. As I've mentioned before, Santa drops gifts, and then presses the action button to detonate them all. You can stand near edges to drop your gifts on guys down below too. And of course, blowing up the gifts under you (as I am about to do in the picture) rockets you skyward. These two gifts are enough to get me almost up to the ledge in front of me. Santa can jump, but he only goes up 3 pixels. Even underwater, it's not enough to get up a block! Jumping right before you detonate can give you a tiny extra boost, though. If you line up a bunch of gifts and explode with you in the middle, you can go about half the screen in height!
That's the Winter Pack so far! I am going to make the Snowman today, who will throw snowballs that freeze enemies temporarily, making them useful stepladders. Or at least I'm going to try that. I thought that made more sense with freezing breath, but snowballs will be a lot more useful (and with the arcing effect, you can hit things below you!). I am considering the idea of letting him freeze the water too, but that's a pretty big issue technically, and I am not sure it's worth the complexity (plus, one little snowball freezing up an entire lake?).
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  Game-A-Week And Beyond 02:01 PM -- Wed November 5, 2008  

There have been a lot of questions (and freak-outs) about what Game-A-Week is. That actually hasn't been solidly defined, but in various thoughts and discussions over the past few days, I think we now have an official consensus on exactly what it would be.

First though, let me say that in the process of taking a shower this morning, I decided officially that I'm not doing Game-A-Week just yet. I want to do a few more 1-2-3 month games first (with the same web-power that Costume Party has). Maybe 2010 will be the year of Game-A-Week, or I'll start in mid-2009. One of the main considerations is that, as I've said, I really need to work on marketing. Doing Game-A-Week will be a very full time job. No time for marketing then. So I want to do some of that first.

Well, it was just a random shower thought. I guess official is a strong word for that. But it's what I'm thinking. I absolutely for sure want to do it. I don't want to be one of those guys. You know, the ones that die never having made a game a week? That would be a travesty. But seriously, it is one of those things - I don't want to miss out on the crazy experience that it would be, and never know what it would've been like.

So what is Game-A-Week officially? The name gives most of it away. Game-A-Week is a 3-month process (we call that "a season" of Game-A-Week - there could be many seasons). For 3 months, I create one game every week. During the process, I blog about it, and when I'm done, I post up a youtube video or such to show it off. Even if the game isn't really functional at the end of the week, it's done, and I move on. Of course, it better be good, because I will be trying to sell it! You can buy a Game-A-Week season, presumably for $19.95. You choose when to buy - if you have faith in me, buy it the first day I start, and you can play each game as it comes out. If you are cynical and cruel and have no soul, buy it after the whole season is done. You are buying a fabulous pack of twelve awesome games.

Other notes about the process:
  • A forum thread would be created for ideas (I see there is one already!). I would dip in there and do one of those each week! Assuming there would always be at least one worth doing...
  • Some have suggested 'banking' 2 or 3 games before I start, but no. I am not a wimp! The challenge is to make a game each week, and I will make a game each week!
  • Many have suggested 'game a month' or some equivalent instead. To me, that's a terrible idea, and I won't do it. If you give me a month to make something, I'm going to come up with something massive that should take two years (Yes, Happyponygate was supposed to be quick and simple...). Give me a week, and I know it has to be quick. Game-A-Month would be an enormous flop, a string of failures. A month feels long to me, while a week feels short. That's just me recognizing my own psychology.
  • The original idea was to do this for a year, but cutting it to a 'season' is really nice. Less risk (which bothers me!), a cheaper product (as opposed to the $52 Year-O-Games, which would probably sell less, not to mention take a year to make), freedom to take a break after those 3 months and do something else for a while... or continue and do a second season right away! And it still manages to rip off Jonathan Coulton, who sells his Song-A-Week songs on 4 separate season discs.

That's about it. But like I said, I think I want to do some Monthies first (or Bimonthlies). I want to perfect and simplify this connectivity stuff to the point where it's a no-brainer to make all these 1-week games be connected to the community too. It feels like cheating to do that, but I've got a lot of larger (still small) ideas I really want to do. Who wouldn't like Happyponygate Wars (a la Advance Wars)? Or an Ichabod Steamshovel adventure in search of a myth? Or a mini-RPG like Costume Party, but where the levels you make are all stuck together in one big world (like the Maze Of Ludicrosity, in fact)? There are so many possibilities...
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  And VOTE! 09:25 AM -- Tue November 4, 2008  

Today's the big day! Whatever you are voting for, or voting against, if you can legally vote today, then


If you don't, then everything is your fault. Everything. Except good things.
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  The Winter Pack 09:14 AM -- Tue November 4, 2008  

I hope to have many expansions for Costume Party. I built in room for no less than nine expansions! I have plans for 3 of them fairly firm in my mind, but it all depends on how well the game sells and how much people get into it. This first expansion will happen regardless - it's half done now, and it'll be done before anybody gets a chance to get bored of the game!

Each expansion will offer three new costumes, ten awards (three for each new costume, and one that is unrelated to the costumes), ten tiles to be unlocked via the awards, and an unknown number of tiles and monsters. The total number of tiles in an expansion would be 25 or less, because that's how many tiles fit on one tab in the editor. So 3 costumes, 10 bonus tiles, and up to 12 non-bonus tiles/monsters.

Of course, it's the costumes that define the game the most. And since this is the Winter Pack, you don't even need to flick your eyes downward to guess the first costume:
He's fun and unique. For many years, I've been fascinated with rocket-jumping in FPS games. There's just something about the ability to use explosive force to propel yourself that intrigues me. I've considered a game about a kid who has the odd supernatural ability of immunity to explosions (but not to spikes, monsters, etc) who goes around planting different kinds of bombs (time bombs, triggered bombs, proximity bombs) and using them in different ways to get through a level and kill monsters. Still like it, might do it someday. I also like PuffBomb, a game from an earlier Ludum Dare which used timebombs to blow up hamsters, sending them flying into a goal (a concept subsequently stolen by various flash games). So anyway, Santa can drop Gifts anywhere he likes. Then when you hit the button, all the Gifts onscreen explode at once. He's immune to them (they're very lethal to monsters), but they can bounce him skyward. It's a good thing, because as you can see by his girth, he's not much of a jumper. His jump carries him about 3 pixels upward. He can't even get up a single tile, but with well-placed bombs, he can be blasted higher than anyone else can jump!

In addition to Santa, there will be a Baby Seal, I think (with machine gun in flipper?). I've already implemented water, which is pretty cool, and so I want some kind of aquatic creature. Water is really awkward for the regular characters (and you run out of breath very fast!), so I want one character that totally rocks it instead. Baby Seal was the best I could come up with fitting the theme. And of course the third is a Snowman. That one is obvious. I have several different ideas for what abilities a Snowman would have, and haven't really picked what is best and most unique. My favorite character is the Witch, because she really changes the entire game. Do you have ideas for someone else (or ways a Snowman could work) who could change it completely?

Other tiles that are in so far are the water tiles, bubbles (for getting air when underwater), and ice (hooray for obnoxious video game ice! But this isn't just annoying, it also allows you to leap absolutely incredible distances). Also planned are pine trees, candy canes (some as candy corn, just a new look), and a couple of other ideas I've forgotten. Oh, wind tiles that blow anything on them to the left or right (and maybe 2 more for up and down, if I have room). Feel free to suggest your own tile and monster ideas. The only monster I have planned for sure is the Pengulon, which flies in a diagonal pattern, endlessly bouncing off of things. There should probably be a Yeti. I've considered having that be the costume instead of the Snowman, but Snowman is very iconic.

My main thing is to keep adding stuff that really adds new elements to the gameplay. I don't want a whole lot of wasted tiles. I like to have a few that are just for show (like the Candy Canes), but I really think levels should be built around "I need this effect here, so that means this tile/monster". I want the expansion to open up new ways to build, not just put a new coat of paint on the same old levels.

This expansion will of course be released in December. I think the next one I want to do is the Hamumu Pack - Bouapha, Yerfdog, and Happy Stick Man. I could just see Yerfdog carefully drifting his way through a field of spikes...
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