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A Catchup Rules Change

November 16th, 2017

Some time ago, Nick Bentley, the game designer behind my app Catchup, proposed a slight change to the rules over in the forums on board game geek.

Please see the forum link above for all the specifics, but the crux of it is that in the original version of Catchup, you could claim a hexagon creating a group up to the largest group on the board without triggering the catchup mechanic. But with this new rules change, even tying with your opponent now triggers an extra claim for them on their following turn.

I’m working on an update to Catchup to make it iOS 11 friendly, and support the new iPhone X screen size, and figured while I’m at it, I’ll add this new rule as an option in the app. So I’ve created a new toggle in the game options, and I’m leaving it off by default, because I don’t think most people will know about it, and I don’t want it to take anyone by surprise. Also, for now, because I don’t really know how I would indicate which version is being played in the UI, you won’t be able to play with the new rule in online games. If there is enough (any?) clamber for it in online play, I may consider adding that in the future.

Vive Hockey

October 27th, 2017

I did a quick (~15 minute) presentation at the last MN VR & HCI meeting earlier this week about the hockey game I worked on with/for Visual and Hiway Credit Union. When I polled the audience before launching into it, almost nobody in the room was a developer (it was one of the sparser attended VR meetups in recent memory), so I rushed through most of the technical bits. (Which was the focus of the whole talk!)

Anyway, here are the slides, for posterity:

Donuts In Space, Unite Austin, and 2017 Recap

October 24th, 2017

I’ve been pretty lax on posting here this year. The main reason for this post is that I realized I hadn’t posted about Donuts in Space, which is a game I made explicitly to put on the Donutron. In case you’re not familiar, the Donutron is a donut-inspired arcade cabinet installed at Glam Doll Donuts on Nicollet and 26th in South Minneapolis.

The Donutron currently features all games made by local-to-Minnesota game makers. Donuts in Space was the first donut-themed game on the cabinet, and is a game where you play as a donut rolling around on top of a giant donut floating through space, racing the clock to collect mini-donuts. You can also play split-screen multiplayer. Here are a couple of screenshots:

So the other reason I wanted to post is that I keep meaning to write about Unite Austin. First of all, I decided to go to Unite because a) Unity is a good chunk of my freelance work now, (easily 50% in the last year, possibly as much as 80%), and b) it had been a while since I went to a technical conference where I expected to learn anything. I did learn a bunch, mostly about the new Timeline and CinneMachine features built into Unity 2017.x, but also a bunch about various AR stuff. I also got to try out demos of the Microsoft “mixed reality” headset and software, as well as the Meta 2 AR headset.

When I registered for the conference, the website also managed to upsell me on taking the Unity Certification exam while I was there. (So yes, I am now Unity Certified, at least for the next two years.)

Let’s see, other random stuff that’s gone unmentioned this year:

Chaos on the Green Line

August 2nd, 2017

I was immensely lucky to be able to work on a project this summer for Motion Poems and Northern Spark called Chaos on the Green Line. It’s a mobile application (for iOS and Android) built to playback some beautiful 360-degree video (created by Pixel Farm) while on the Minneapolis/St. Paul Green-Line train.

Last Wednesday, July 26th, I presented on this project (along with Jeff from Pixel Farm and Patrick Swinnea, my developer collaborator) at the MN VR & HCI meeting. The slides are embedded below. Mine are after Patrick’s, and start at Slide 48. Enjoy!

Threes! inspired

June 20th, 2017

In part because I’ve only just found out that someone beat Threes! for the first time, I’m finally going to write a post about my game Slide Quest.

But it won’t (just) be about Slide Quest… (Feel free to skip to the list of my three favorite Threes!-inspired games below.)

Okay, first off, I’ve never publicly talked about Slide Quest before. There are several reasons for this, but namely I’ve been embarrassed by it. I actually never meant to release it. (This is hard to believe, I know, but in some past versions of iTunes Connect — apple’s publishing webapp — you had to set a release date for your app. If you started creating the app in there, but you didn’t know if you wanted to publish it, one technique was to just set the release date to some far off date in the future. I did this, but then that date passed, and the app was released. No fanfare, I didn’t even get notified, or if I did I was too busy with client work to notice.) Anyway, when I found out it was released, it was to a few pretty terrible reviews. (It was basically not much more than a prototype.) I decided I’d rather it was out there than not, but I felt dumb, and basically never promoted it in any way.

I was also embarrassed because of all the issues around whether or not games inspired by Threes! are clones. Threes! was famously cloned very soon after its release, with a game called 1024 appearing in the app store only three weeks after Threes!. This was exacerbated by the release of another game (called 2048) by an 18-year-old developer who claimed he’d never even seen Threes!, and had written his game based on 1024. 2048 was made in javascript, in a weekend, and released for free on github. It proved to be extremely popular, in part because there were a ton of versions of it that appeared for free, often with Ads. (Threes! later went “free with IAP”.) 2048 was also an easier game. It’s wasn’t as punishing as Threes!, and a casual player was more likely to hit upon a winning strategy.

The point is, within a month, there were probably hundreds of games inspired by Threes!, both in the app store and elsewhere. For more about Threes! and clones, you should read the Polygon writeup, but also read the post by the developers of Threes!, where they also post all their correspondence (emails) during the game’s creation. That post is rather heart-breaking, but the email archive is actually a pretty amazing resource for aspiring game developers.

Anyway, I loved Threes!, and played the hell out of it at launch. I bought the tshirt. At some point I started thinking about an RPG with the same “swipe mechanics” as Threes!, and the thought kept me up at night. I too put together a prototype of that game in a weekend. That game was initially called RPGeez, but eventually I changed the title to Slide Quest.

There are several subtle differences (aside from the obvious aesthetic ones) between Threes! and 2048. In Threes! a swipe only moves each of the tiles on the board one space; in 2048, they move until they can’t move any farther. There are of course other differences, but this is the main thing.

With Slide Quest, the main mechanical difference is that there is a character on the board. That character is “you”, and you slide around the board with every swipe. You have a level, and you level up if you attack (combine with) a monster on the board that is the exact same level as you. You can attack and defeat lower level monsters without effect. Higher level monsters just block the board and lead to (eventual) game over. Like 2048, Slide Quest is definitely much “easier” than Threes!, but it does have one more interesting twist, in that every 33 levels, the algorithm for what level monsters spawn on the gameboard changes, getting more difficult.

Over the 3.3 years since Threes! was released, I’ve sometimes taken note when I see other games inspired by Threes!, mostly because I’m curious to see how they tweak the mechanics.

Here is a list of three Threes!-inspired games that I quite enjoy:

Stencilsmith, by Nicholas Sepi Jr. — This game is probably easiest to describe as Threes! meets Minecraft, though much simpler than that makes it sound. Essentially, there are pickaxes that need to combine with land to make materials, and the materials can then combine with pickaxes to make more powerful pickaxes. There are also swords, which need to combine with materials before they can then combine with enemies to take them off the board. You have three hearts (in the main game mode), and when you combine an enemy with something not a sword, it takes a heart.

SideSwype, by Radiangames} — This game combines Threes!-style swiping and match-3 mechanics. I really enjoyed it, and it’s got an elegant graphical style. Incidentally, it’s also by the developer of Slydris, which is an amazing game.

Puzzle Chips, by Curt Stein — Curt Stein created one of my early app store favorites called DropOut. In this poker-chip-themed take on the genre, each tile is a stack of chips. When the stack gets tall enough, it can be tapped to remove it from the board. So basically the numbers don’t really combine or increase, but as you play, chips that are worth more will spawn more frequently.

In a post back in 2014, I talk about small grid games, and said that 2048 was my favorite threes-inspired game. But in my memory of the time, I didn’t actually play that much of 2048, I was actually just really excited to surf the many forks of it that added different mechanics. Now when I try and view forks on github (it says there are 15,037), it just gives me the error “Too many forks to display.”

Please let me know (either here in the comments, or over on my twitter) if you have other Threes! inspired games that you like.

The Biggest Smallest Tetris

May 10th, 2017

Via a slack I’m on, I only just this morning became aware of the MegaProcessor, a 16-bit microprocessor with LEDs attached to all the gates and transistors, that is then blown up to the size of a room and mounted on walls so you can see it working.


Oh, and it plays Tetris.



Frankly, this thing is amazing, and I would love to see it in person one day. Here’s the computerphile video that let me know of its existence:

My slides for Unity for VR 101

May 7th, 2017

I am giving a talk this afternoon at GlitchCon 2017, a local games and game development con here in Minneapolis. Here are my slides:

Another one bites the dust

April 20th, 2017

Tonight Abstract Puzzle got a slight refresh, removing some expired App Store links, as well as adding headers for “Forthcoming” games Puzzle Prison and ActionGo, and “Retired” games ActionChess and Oppo-Citrus that were removed from the app store last September.

I also added Root Down to the lineup, and changed some wording here and there.

Sadly, For The Win will be moving from “Mobile Board Games” to “Retired” sometime in the next month or so. I got the same email from Apple about it as I got for the other two games. I don’t have time to update it to support all the new screen sizes (and that app in particular would probably require some new graphics).

Slides for my Unity talk at Minnebar

March 25th, 2017

I gave a very similar (but slightly different and less long-winded) talk at Minnebar 2017 to the one I gave a few months ago at Cocoaheads. Probably the only notable difference is the inclusion of a screenshot from my new Unity port of ActionGo, for which I made this 30 second trailer.

Anyway, here are the slides:

GDC / VRDC 2017 Recap

March 22nd, 2017

I gave a 7 (-ish) minute presentation tonight at our local VR & HCI meeting. I was one of three folks invited to share their GDC / VRDC experiences. Here are the slides:

Additionally, I was contacted today by a student looking for more information about my experiences in the local game industry. If you are interested in that sort of thing, I’ve posted the transcript below.

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