New Programming Regime

I’m currently in the frame of mind where I want to program games. Often, I flit in and out of this mindset, but this time there’s a genuine plan.

Inspired by Petri Purho, other Indie developers like Cactus and Increpare, and – strangely – Intel, I have decided:

  • Games will be produced on a tick-tock basis.
  • On a tick, a new game will be made.
  • On a tock, an old game will be improved.
  • The cycle will take some regulated length of time.

Currently, I’m working on Slimetanks, which has recently suffered a few huge setbacks which are making me sad. I had to move the number of Slimes you have from a simple counter into an inventory entity, which means re-writing a lot of subs.

The next game will be me bringing up to grade something I started a long time ago. Teaser to the right.

In blog news, I had over 40 views per day just after my post on BASS. This is strange, and I’m trying to scope out why that happened. My most popular post is the Pokémon cards one.

See you soon, tubes.



OK, so I’m working quite hard with the newly named ‘slimetanks’, getting it polished and making it fun in some way. In the interim, like I promised, here is the full version of WorldGen, now called:



A game where colourful ascii blocks lie between you and some zombies.

  • Tutorial
  • Never-ending game mode
  • Sandbox mode

For pictures, see the linked trackback.

For download: craftscii version 0.11

Slimes soon!

1 hour game

At 9pm I decided to make a game in an hour. I already had a design, but spent 5 minutes smoothing it out on paper first.

It’s a console-based game called Slime Ranch, and is inspired by Victorian fish farming methods. I didn’t finish it, but I did get one piece of core gameplay done. The game flows as follows:

  • You are a “slime rancher”.
  • Slimes must be caught in jars as they fall from the roof of a nearby cave.
  • Slimes are then put in tanks, with algae food to make them multiply faster.
  • Slimes can be sold for money.
  • Money is used to buy dyes, which add value to a slime tank and their offspring, etc.

The piece I got done was the slime cave. You are shown a number on the screen, and must press “C” to catch the slime after that number of seconds. If you’re right to within rounding thresholds, you catch the slime. You get 5 tries before leaving the cave with your “winnings”.

There isn’t much to see, but I’ll probably finish the game by tomorrow. Exciting!

Empire Earth is bad

In honour of my friend Leon starting his blog, Gripes On Games, I have decided to gripe about a game today. First, some setting:

Recently, some friends and I have started playing Age Of Kings very competitively, over LAN. This has led to intense training against computer enemies leading up to heated matches against each other. As part of a “balanced training program”, I thought I’d take another look at Empire Earth, a game which I used to play very regularly.

…I was bitterly disappointed.

Here is a game with no finesse, and all the balance of a two-legged rhinoceros. Allow me to expand on that:

  • Morale system. Makes it easier to defend a tiny piece of territory at the core of your homeland as long as you have some soldiers there.
  • No population dynamic. You can instantly house as many units as the population cap of 2000 allows. Houses are put, instead, towards the morale system.

Firstly, these two points are important in blowing to pieces one of the most critical RTS game aspects: Builds. In competitive Starcraft, there are more fixed opening strategies than in chess. You can predict what unit or building your foe will be producing at any time, and arrange your forces so as to cut their game short as quickly as possible.

If you don’t need to build houses, and you can’t build a dock or a mill in the opening age, what are you supposed to do?

  • The military use a primitive and annoying rock-paper-scissors dynamic. After considering their raging tempers, and unintuitive behavioural controls, this oft results in mass troop suicide, as ‘paper’ units surrender themselves willingly into deep-blood conflict with ‘scissor’ types.
  • To build a balanced military in the opening stages, you need to gather all four resource types. I think that that speaks for itself in balance failure.
  • Gathering takes too long, and gathering patches last too long. This leads to complacency and no drive to control resources in other parts of the map.

Cosmetically, the 3D is just dandy, but the textures are too dark, and the fog too imposing. I prefer the pixel-based diffusion and sunny tiling of Age of Kings. I don’t like getting Seasonal Affective Disorder while playing games.

In AOK, I can have an unfaltering economy in 10 minutes, and an army in the next 5. It takes half an hour of grinding until EE yields the slightest satisfaction.

This post is a little bit out of the spirit of Gripes On Games. Leon takes games he loves, and talks about the parts that let them down. I think you should go and read that.

As for myself, I will be sticking to Age Of Kings. It has its problems compared to competition-standard games like Blizzard’s masterpieces, but at least it works as a game.

A little toy

After that angsty interlude, I now return you to scheduled programming. heh. “That’s the joke”.

The following is a 2D, text mode crossover of a ‘little’ game called Minecraft and a littler game called Paradise Fort, by Hempuli. It started off only as a map generator, which I hacked together with revolting code in about an hour, based on the wisdom of Petri Purho to “build the toy first” and make it into a game later.

Flush with success at having a working build, I set about rewriting it in beautified object-oriented code, so that I could add a moving player and enemies. Enough words; here are some pictures of what I have so far:

World Generator generatingThis one isn’t very exciting. The generator makes worlds until it has one with the desired amount of water, wood, and stone blocks. This is very fast. This more colourful picture is the world into which you’re propelled. It has land, some of which is below the water table. It has trees of various shapes and sizes, a cave, and a lake. You are the @ sign, as is convention in ASCII games, and can walk around this world with the ‘m’ and ‘n’ keys. I’ll take me to the other side of the lake:

A World Generator World

World Generator zoomed in

We can then dig and change the landscape with the wasd keys.

Not yet implemented is building with Shift+wasd. Digging in World GeneratorEventually, the game will be pretty much Minecraft, but more “stay in base” and a little faster-paced. Each level will have an objective, such as escaping the screen via the left, right, top or bottom, gathering x number of a certain block, fending off x enemies, etc.

This necessitates enemies, which will likely take one step to every couple of yours.

Materials will be valued as they are in MC: Wood will be required in order to gather stone, which will be necessary to gather the as-yet-unadded iron. This progression also represents sequentially better weapons. Also like Minecraft, I plan an infinitely long sandbox level.

I’m writing it in VB out of ease. It will be releasable quite soon, and if I never work on it again, I’ll put it out in its current form, for the laughs.

Godspeed netizens!

Game Design

I think about this topic a lot, so this may the first of many posts on the topic.

Leon introduced me to 1000 blank white cards. It is a game which was already present in my brain, as an ideal, but which I’ve never considered by name. In years 8 through 10, I think, Alex Tear created a card game called Smogioh, which was a comedy more than anything, lacked balance, and had no real strucutre, but was still engaging and amusing.

What is the base level of a “game”?

Triangles are popular in gameplay. If Rock, Paper, Scissors had two elements, it would not be a game. If it had 4 elements, it would be too complex. I once wrote a computer RPG where you had one stat: the game was CNinja Express, and the stat was Ninja. It served as currency, power, and high score. It turned out to not be very good, but it was playable.

Gameplay has to be fun… I suppose I miss that a lot in my search for clever dynamics, and valuing skill over chance. One of the best games I ever invented was almost entirely chance, and that was Ste and Trebble’s Paper RPG. Think Dungeons and Dragons as procedurally generated by dice rolls.

My conclusion is that the best games are the ones that you take the most satisfaction from, and I think a good source of gameplay satisfaction is how much of yourself you put into it. Games you invent and which then work, are awesome… perhaps the best. Games that somebody else made that aren’t fun, are surely the worst.

Now click for the above paragraph in the form of a bad comic:
Making a game with friends