I really like doing Secret Santa Jam, an online game jam where you are randomly assigned a giftee to make a game for. I think I might be too old and creaky for those high-intensity 48-hour jams now, but having a specific person to make a game for really works to get me focused on finishing a game, even if it takes weeks rather than days.
In previous years, I made Witchcraft, a non-violent game about being a helpful witch with a gigantic hat, and Corvus Sector, a 100-turn space 4X game. So perhaps I was setting the bar a bit high, because this year's game, Isle of Beasts, took a lot longer than planned.
A Mesopotamian Necromantic Cyberpunk visual prototype.
A rather verbose postmortem of my Ludum Dare 49 compo game, The Unstable Zone.
Last weekend, I participated in the Stop Waiting For Godot Jam, organised by Terry Cavanagh. The aim of the jam was to try out Godot, an open-source game engine broadly similar to Unity. It's been making great strides over the past few years, and I've been meaning to check it out for a while. A lot of other people have also been stuck in this "I should check it out" state, hence the jam, which ended up with 299 entries.
I decided to make a colourful alien market from 2D pictures arranged in 3D space - a kind of "cardboard stage" aesthetic. Here's how it went.
I signed up to the Secret Santa Jam on an impulse. I attempted to do the last two Ludum Dare jams while at home, and it just didn't work. A game jam is kind of an altered state, and to get into that state, it helps when I'm in a different place, surrounded by other jammers. Sitting at home meant I couldn't get into it.
The idea of Secret Santa Jam is that you sign up and make a game for a specific other person who's signed up. It also lasts for a month rather than just days. Having someone specific to make a game for - and to disappoint if I didn't make one - helped me stay on task.
So I'm part of a shared game developer office now, at Swiss Game Hub. I've been talking about game design with Philomena Schwab of Stray Fawn and we decided we'd team up to make a prototype at Global Game Jam 2020.
We ended up completely ignoring the theme (oops) because we had a clear idea of what we wanted to make: a game about a city travelling on the back of a giant turtle.
Occult Defence Agency Budgeting Simulator: Defend the realm from vampires, werewolves, pixie swarms. Cut your budget mercilessly. Survive.
I did Ludum Dare 41, which was about combining genres. I was looking at random genre combinations when I got horror/sports. This piqued my interest because:
So I decided to make a gruesome turn-based hotseat sports horror game. Potentially as a way to process school sports memories.
This is my Global Game Jam 2018 entry on the theme "transmission". It's a short experimental piece of interactive fiction, where I tried to do A Thing with stories.
You are very, very hungover. An alien admiral urgently wants to talk to you. If only you remembered why.
Asteroid Storm is the first game I made and released to the public.
I found the original downloads and am re-releasing it on itch.io for posterity. You will need a classic Mac or install an emulator to get this game to run.
EARTH BLOSSOM is a Ludum Dare 40 Compo game about an alien macro-organism on a course to devour Earth. It's inspired by Mushroom 11 and the Zerg.
Before Airships: Conquer the Skies, I spent several years working on another project, Space Exploration: Serpens Sector. This was a game about exploration and crew management heavily inspired by the first Strange Adventures in Infinite Space. I put a lot of work into it, but the result wasn't really satisfying because I had neglected to create a good core game design. So I built up a complex UI and complex encounters too early, and each change became a lot of work. Eventually, I rebooted the development and started on a new, simpler prototype that concentrated on the core mechanics.
Then Airships came along, a "side project" that pretty much instantly got more traction and interest than SE:SS. Within a few months, it became my main project. I was tired of going around and around with SE:SS and wanted something else. SE:SS was never exactly cancelled, just put way on the back-burner. This was four years ago.
The other day I re-downloaded the source of the first SE:SS version and got it up and running, and I found myself pleasantly surprised. Yes, the core mechanics are probably ultimately not satisfying. Yes, it's overcomplicated in places. But it runs, it's perfectly pleasant to use, and there's quite a bit of nice content. The pre-rendered graphics look kind of dated, but in a way that can plausibly pass as charming rather than hideous.
So why not release it as is?
At around 1 AM, with a solid two hours to go before the jam deadline, I uploaded and published Dryad, my 3rd Ludum Dare entry.
It's a platformer about a forest creature wishing to become human, and, uh, killing a whole bunch of humans in the process. As you become more human, your magical powers wane, and you become slower, weaker, less perceptive, making each successive level harder. You can choose the order in which you lose your powers, and some orders are easier than others.
In Annulus, you guide a stone-age tribe living on a ring-shaped space station. Apart from hunting and gathering, there are strange technological artefacts to study, and on occasion, there's an opportunity to shape the culture of your tribe.
You are in a spaceport, and your Mars rocket is ready to board.
This game is dedicated to Elon Musk, who very much wants to go to Mars, but won't stand up for people just trying to get home.
And each day, they dare a little closer to your cabin.
A tiny horror game made in about five hours.
Around this time two years ago, I was working on a simple Java 2D game engine with swappable rendering implementations. It occurred to me that I needed to make a simple game to try it out and find its flaws in real-world use. Then I stumbled on Context-Free Patent Art, a wonderful collection of bad and creepy patent drawing. I decided to base my test game on bad patent art, and Patent Blaster was born.
Over the last weekend, I again got to participate in the Global Game Jam. It's a pretty big event here in Zurich, with about 80 participants each year, held in one big ex-factory hall.
Like last year, I worked together with Kaspar Manz, though Kristina Balanc, who did the art for Art Critic, couldn't make it. What made this year different was that we were joined by Jan Graber, a local journalist who wanted to experience the jam from the inside. He would both work on the game and report on it, and if you read German, I recommend his rather more expert coverage. This post, as a postmortem, is going to focus on the good old "what went right, what went wrong" side of things.
In the Grim Meathook Future, the urban area around the Tower has been submerged. Outside, there are rooftop slums and barges, inside thrives a shadowy economy of drug dealers, hackers and plutocrats.
Last weekend, I participated in my first Global Game Jam, together with @LK_Ink and @xeophin. Together, we built ArtCritic, a simple and snarky game where you visit a series of art openings and try to impress the other visitors despite your total lack of knowledge. Playable unity game within.