Get ActionChess Now

Play Go Tetris Now

Get ’em while you can!

September 28th, 2016

Last week, as part of their initiative to clean up the app store, Apple marked two of my oldest apps as needing updates or they’ll be removed from the store (in 30 days). Since I don’t really have time to update them right now, I’m changed their pricing to free so everyone has a chance to download them before they’re removed. When I do get around to doing updates, I’ll definitely put them back back in the store as paid, so get ’em while they’re free!

The affected games were ActionChess and Oppo-Citrus.

These are games that I’m really proud to have made, so if you haven’t played ’em, please do go check them out. (And let me know what you think!) Enjoy!

Game Idea A Day – Retrospective

September 23rd, 2016

As should be obvious to anyone following along, (or stumbling onto this series), I basically quit doing the weekly summaries for my “game idea a week” project back in July. There are probably a lot of reasons I suppose, but mainly I got busy. I had 19 daily journal entries in August, so I didn’t fall off doing them entirely. But if I didn’t have time for the daily journal entries, I definitely didn’t have time for the Friday recaps. (Which always took longer than I’ll admit to myself to write.)

Anyway, I felt I should write something here. I’m still going to keep this project going through the end of the year, and I want to write a recap of the entire year at some point, summarizing the number of entries, frequency of certain types, and generally just doing some meta-creative analysis.

Game Idea a Day – Week 28

July 15th, 2016

Almost every week, I get to Friday, and before I start writing this post I’m thinking “wow, the ideas for this week were not very good, this is going to be a hard post to write”, but then I start looking at them, and it’s never as dire as I imagine. (Even bad ideas often have some merit!)

Also, I missed another day this week, and I’m thinking now that even if I skip one day a week, that’s alright. I don’t want this project to stress me out. (And I’ve got plenty of other stuff I should be working on.)

7/8 – I thought a bit about an augmented reality game in VR. So there is a virtual environment, and you put on a “headset” in the game, that then changes some aspect of the environment (either how it looks, or by changing it).

7/9 – Missed a day.

7/10 – A game where you are a walking flower, with littler flowers for eyes, and you collect flower petals to open doors that looks like giant flowers.

Maybe this was inspired by my donut on donut idea from the previous week. I guess idea inception was a theme for the week, since my next idea was basically the same thing for hats:

7/11 – A hat collecting puzzle game. A game where you put hats on cute furry animals. A game where hats are currency. A game with hats on top of hats on top of hats. A game where hats indicate status and occupation and stealing a person’s hat is tantamount to stealing their identity. A game with hats as achievement badges. A game with hats for guns. A game with hats to indicate belts in a hat-based kung-fu with hat-katas and hat-hand to hat-hand combat. Hattastrophie.

7/12 – A game inspired by some conversations on slack about Pok√©mon Go and “skinner box game mechanics”, labeled simply, Skinner Box: The Game. A game that attempts to recreate a Skinner box like experience as closely as possible. You are a rat in a cage. You have a single button and you are being conditioned to press it.

7/13 – Some thoughts on the milieu/setting/premise for a game set on the construction site for a giant city-sized building. The thing has been “under construction” for hundreds of years and the entire process has been meant to be self-sustaining from the beginning, so you have folks whose job it is to make food for the folks whose job it is to make concrete, etc.

7/14 – A game inspired by packing a moving truck full of boxes. Essentially you have a bunch of different boxes and you have to fit them into a truck. I was imagining this as a VR game, because I think it’s more fun if you have the 3D perspective on it. You could have a bunch of different sized trucks and scenarios. Maybe it starts out just packing trunks of cars getting ready to go on vacation.

Game Idea a Day – Week 27

July 9th, 2016

My game ideas from the first week in July:

7/1 – A sort of turret game where you control the angle, thrust, and explosion intensity of fireworks. Your goal is to line the trails up with stars in the sky above. Maybe this is in VR and you have to also line up your gaze at the right angle too.

7/2 – Had the revelation that it might be worth prototyping the playground games I’ve worked on in the Vive. My original journal entry for the playground games were written back in November 2014, so I’ve been thinking about these for a long time. This idea could use another entry (or two), since there are at least a few different games that could be evaluated whether they would “work” in the Vive, and how.

7/3 – A game you play with keys and locks. Maybe this is a match-2 game. The twist is that there is only one match on the board for each other tile. So it’s actually a lot like the match trivia games I made for Moai, with a sort of fantasy skin. Maybe there are also chests or safes, and any lock next to it is assumed to go with it. Once all the locks are open, the save opens and gives you a powerup, or maybe just another key that you need to proceed.

7/4 – You know how you can play “giant monopoly” at a bunch of different board game conventions? A lot of publishers have giant versions of their board games, and you can even buy some of them commercially. (Giant Jenga and giant connect-four are both playable at the recently opened Up Down arcade in Minneapolis). Anyway, this idea is basically just that you could play those giant versions in VR without having to have enough space for them. I was looking at my shelf of board games when I had this idea, and in particular imagining the game Spiel, (which is a pyramid of dice), and how fun it would be to walk around that game, and throw giant dice around.

7/5 – A VR relaxation/exercise game called Sway. The main game input mechanic is the name of the game. You progress “forward” by moving your weight from foot to foot, swaying back and forth. The game will also prompt you to look left right, up down, for neck stretches, and to swing your arms or spiral them, essentially doing upper body stretches.

Donut on Donut7/6 – As you can see to the right, I spent a bit of time this week (a few hours so far) prototyping a game from this entry. Some friends and fellow MN gamedevs recently conceived and built The Donutron, and I was basically lamenting the fact that there aren’t (yet) any games made for it specifically involving donuts. So this idea is just that you are a donut, rolling around a giant donut, collecting donuts. I’m soliciting feedback on a name for the game. Here are the possible names so far: Donutworld, The Little Donut, Space-Time Donut, It Came Frosting Space!, Planet Donut, Donut Moon, Space Case Donut Race, TorusTime, DonutFall, DonutGame, Donutroid, Donut Donut Donut!, Donut on Donut (on Donut?), Donut Eat Donut, Yo Donut, I heard you like Donuts!, Donut Moon. I’m leaning toward Donut on Donut, or Donut Eat Donut.

7/7 – A few different one-line game ideas yesterday: An open world board game (open in terms of you can do anything at any time). Game where your body is melting as the timer mechanic. Game where your feet are rats and you can’t really control where they go without cheese. Game where the world is a bicycle tire. Game where you are made of lava and melt / burn everything you touch. Game where you head is a book and you have to fill it with words.

Game Idea a Day – Week 26

July 1st, 2016

Some weeks pass so much faster than others. This week felt like an eyeblink. Here were some ideas:

6/24 – I teased two entries on this day in last week’s entry, but the second entry was very much just about some UI mechanics (specifically about menus attached to your controller in VR), and not really a game at all. The first entry was interesting, but also could probably be read as “all the ideas from Cosmic Trip that I really liked”. For instance, I really like the way the teleport mechanic works, how there are discreet parts of the map, tied together by this network of portals. In the game I imagined, they are all regularly spaced hexagons, with potentially different resource types on each, and you can harvest them and craft stuff.

6/25 – A simulator for those cute magnets that come in cubes of 6x6x6. Maybe in VR. The beauty of the idea is that they could be any size! Probably this would be a great way to teach people how to make specific shapes and patterns with them. But you’d be able to shrink / grow the creation at will. Also, you wouldn’t be limited in how many you own!

6/26 – In the same way Zombies!!! made bags of little plastic zombies popular, it would be fun to make a game with little plastic ants. I know I had some when I was a kid, and they were a blast to put all over everything. I’m imagining you set up a table with some obstacles and every player has a bag of colored ants (everyone with a different color). There are some objects on the table that represent food, and you have an ant hole where your ants spawn, and then you make trails of ants to the food nearest your hole. This happens one ant at a time, and no ant you place can be more than one ant-length away from at least one of your other ants. So you build lines and on your turn, you can place one ant then move any of the food objects that are within one ant-length from one of your ants, down the line, one ant toward your hole at a time. When you’ve collected a sufficient number of food objects, or when it’s obvious who will win, the player with the most food wins. Your ants can also fight, maybe, so there could be rules about that too.

6/27 – I think it would be fun to make a game called “Crash Reports” about debugging. (Or maybe just an extended metaphor game about debugging.) The story is that you are a galactic traffic cop, and you have to go to the sites of major interstellar space ship crashes and write up reports.

6/28 – This idea is literally: “just add water!” Basically, a waterproof board game where the box has a fill line and maybe some cups that look like towers. Maybe you have pieces that sink (anchors) and pieces that float that you can attach to them (or not, but you can’t reposition them between turns!). Not sure what the goal(s) would be yet though…

6/29 – A dinner table in VR, you pick up the corn on the cob and play Tetris on it.

Another game: You are a butcher, cutting up a cow in VR. (Butcher Simulator!)

6/30 – Turrets are cool in VR. You are in a circular room more or less the size of your room-scale (smaller than your chaperone). Maybe there are different levels for different eras in time. A castle level, where you have arrow slits and have to shoot out of them with a bow. A WW2 level, with rifles and sand bags. And a future level with cool telescoping windows and laser guns. You are basically just shooting enemies as they approach, but maybe you can send waves of enemies out of your tower… and it’s multiplayer, so you are sending them to your opponent’s tower. Or maybe you build the castle itself before you get into your tower.

Game Idea a Day – Week 25

June 27th, 2016

Sorry for the delay on this post (and the short writeups)! Here are the game ideas from last week.

6/17 – A pen-and-paper game with destructible element mechanics. Kind of a complicated last-man-standing tic-tac-toe variant. Co-credit for this game idea should go to Zach Johnson.

6/18 – A connect-the-pipes game in VR. Thoughts on mechanics and UI.

6/19 – A mountain-climbing game, where you realize the mountains you are climbing are actually human fingerprints.

6/20 – A Poi simulator for the Vive. (This came out of the news that the Blarp! source code is available on github.)

6/21 – Some thoughts on shared mechanics in table top games Splendor and Ticket To Ride. I then outlined a game that does something slightly different but draws on those elements.

6/22 – A VR bird-simulator. I’m pretty sure I’ve had thoughts along these lines in the past, but apparently I didn’t remember that at the time.

6/23 – I actually didn’t write an entry on the 23rd. (3rd or 4th missed/skipped day, I’m not sure.) I wrote two the next day to make up for it, but you’ll have to wait till next week’s writeup for those!

Game Idea a Day – Week 24

June 19th, 2016

My game ideas for last week:

6/10 – Three rhyming ideas: Weasel Easel, a drawing app where everything turns into fuzzy animals. Cube tube, a puzzle game played by swapping adjacent tvs, what’s playing on the tvs is how you match things. Two episodes of the same show, for example. Cop Mop, a game where you are the janitor of a police station, and have to clean up messy (bloody) jail cells and solve crimes.

I also wrote an entry about shoving giant blocks around in VR, and how it might best be accomplished.

6/11 – An intriguing idea for a two-player abstract where you move a piece, and then choose a square anywhere on the gameboard to raise. Once a square has been raised, the other pieces on the board would slide away from it, assuming the spaces beyond them are empty. I first started by thinking of this as a chess variant, and it works as that, but I think it also works with simpler pawns and I could imagine any number of different victory conditions. The first thing that came to mind is the last player with a pawn remaining on the bottom level would be the victor. One interesting aspect of this idea is that it would likely be rather difficult to play with a physical prototype, and yet, unlike a lot of my other digital board game ideas that meet that criteria, I didn’t start out trying to think of a game with it in mind from the beginning.

6/12 – A brainstorm that started with the title “VVVVVR”… The obvious idea is just a 3D version of Terry Cavanagh’s VVVVVV. You are in the platformer, but you can teleport around for movement, and if you teleport onto the ceiling, the whole universe flips upside down. Obviously, it wouldn’t be a literal translation of the mechanics from the original. That clearly wouldn’t work, but it might be fun to take inspiration from as many mechanics as possible. I even thought a bit about one of the possible levels or areas.

6/13 – More thinking about my VR RTS idea from 5/22. I outlined some details for 5 different ship types: Fighter, Scout/Sniper, Shield Generator, Destroyer, and Miner.

6/14 – More thinking about the idea from 6/11. I basically just wrote down more of the details, and outlined some specifics for the non-chess game.

6/15 – A brainstorm devoted to video in VR. Thinking about how we might capture a scene in realtime, both with standard cameras and kinect. This would enable lots of game ideas, charades, hacky-sack, social dance games.

6/16 – A game where you play as a turtle swimming around in a murky swamp. I outlined rules for how you might control a 3rd person turtle character that swims in front of your HMD (head mounted display), avoiding Crocodiles and looking for other turtles.

Today (after doing my brainstorm) I started re-reading Raph Koster’s A Theory of Fun, and got to the part about how games take place in a “magic circle”. This reminded me that I had picked up The Magic Circle back at Indie Cade last year, but hadn’t played through it yet. I spent most of this afternoon doing so, and highly recommend it. I think it’s probably the kind of thing where I shouldn’t talk about it too much, or I’d be spoiling it for you, but obviously, it’s (at least somewhat) about game design. This led me to wondering what other games there are out there specifically about the making of games. I can only think of The Beginner’s Guide, and some others that are more accurately summed up as “game developer simulator” games. (Game Dev Story and Game Dev Tycoon are the ones I’m familiar with, but it looks like there are a bunch more on steam.) If you know of any others, please let me know!

Protocols all the way down

June 15th, 2016

As a programmer, one of the things I like to argue against is the concept of “magic code”, code that works because of some unseen bit of code elsewhere. In iOS, the principal is exemplified by “magic” methods you can include in various subclasses that do rather important things. Want to handle touches in your UIView? Just implement the method touchesBegan:withEvent:, touchesMoved:withEvent:, touchesEnded:withEvent:, and touchesCanceled:withEvent:, and you’re good to go. Want to set up your UIViewController‘s visual layout? Make sure you do so in the layoutSubviews method.

But how do you know about all these magic methods? This is definitely one of the questions that I found the most difficult when I first began iOS development. Learning about all this magic is basically the same thing as learning iOS development. Knowing Apple’s APIs is how you develop iOS apps. Knowing their quirks is how you get to be an expert.

But if you’re just starting out, it’s important to know that most of these magic methods are (generally, not always, but generally) defined in a protocol. When an object conforms to a protocol, it basically says that it (or one of its subclasses) will implement some set of methods. Want to know what protocols UIViewController conforms to? In Objective-C, you would simply open up its header and check it out. (Of course, a protocol might be defined even further up the chain, in one of the headers for a class the view controller inherits from.)

But how do you figure out what protocols a class conforms to in Swift? As near as I can tell, the only way is to open up Apple’s documentation. This seems like it would not be enough, since you might be working with a non-apple framework, or worse… it is possible (gasp) for Apple’s documentation to be spotty or outright incorrect. (I’ve done a few google searches, and read about 20 tutorials and blog posts, and I still don’t know how to figure this out from code alone, so I’m really asking this question. I’ve also started a stack overflow question on the topic.)

I don’t want this to be a “I think Objective-C is superior to Swift” post, but I do think there are legitimate reasons for header files, and this is one of them. Once you get beyond a certain level of iOS proficiency, poking around in those header files is akin to using the “view source” as an intermediate web developer. It’s one of the ways you learn how other people approach a problem.

Game Idea a Day – Week 23

June 13th, 2016

This week was Eyeo Festival, and I felt inundated with a million interesting ideas. I don’t know if any of them made it into this week’s game ideas, (looks like maybe some from 6/8) but I did post some really interesting stuff on twitter.

6/3 – Writing up last week’s entry inspired a comment about puppet shows in VR. It would be cool to make a marionette game in VR. So tilting your controller would pull the strings, and make the puppet walk and dance. Maybe you would play the whole game that way, a platformer or some other running/moving forward game might be cool, but the puppet only walks if you make its legs walk. Maybe it’s more of an obstacle course, and you have to move the puppet around and through the space.

6/4 – I played Bloxyz for the first time, and it gave me lots of ideas about in-VR controls for block puzzle games. I don’t think it quite nailed the controls, but it was better than I was expecting. I couldn’t help but feel that it didn’t really need to be in VR, but it was a solid experience nonetheless, and gave me lots of ideas. Three that I wrote down.

One is that simply every wall of a space is filling slowly with blocks. Maybe even the floor and ceiling. The blocks simply fade in, or appear with a *pop*, or something, and you can grab them and move them to a different space, attempting to make 3 to 5 in a row of the same color, whereupon they’ll disappear. Easy enough.

A second idea is that you would have Tetris-shaped transparent trays in your hands, and you could only grab blocks in a configuration matching each tray. You can then put them down wherever they fit, again, attempting to make large groups of the same color. (Maybe more than 3 in this version.) If you ever grab a tray full of the same color, you also clear them, and get some bonus for doing so. Since you only have two hands, you would pretty much be looking for ways to grab some blocks with one hand, put them down in such a way that you make a group of the same color matching the tray in your other hand. That sounds like a much more interesting game to me.

A third idea is that you would have a “block fountain” in the center of the room. You grab blocks from it, and place them around the room, trying to make specific “target” shapes out of them. If the fountain overflows, game over, so you have to be fast.

6/5 – This started by thinking about using the cardboard API camera in conjunction with text input and 3D models of the alphabet to let you type in a sphere around you. (And then maybe letting you “save” the sphere to read/view later.) Several game ideas came to mind: you could have a crossword that is a full sphere around you, (with “visual” clues that are just images floating behind the text boxes). Or maybe it’s an elaborate 360 photo, and there are clues hidden in it, one for each letter of the alphabet. You have to “tag” the part of the photo with the correct letter before proceeding to the next photo.

6/6 – This is one of those meandering entries where I started out with one idea and ended up with another. I think I knew as I began that I was just starting from my idea on 3/14 (which I sometimes think about).

A game with a grid of physical spheres set in rollers (so they can be freely spun in any direction). Maybe there are 9 spheres, maybe 16. The spheres all have white at one pole, and black at the other, and are a full color spectrum around the middle. You start by aligning the spheres to all black or all white. Then in turn, each player can spin one sphere. They choose how hard to spin it, but they can’t keep their finger on it for more than a second. It’s a sort of dexterity game. You try and match the colors shown on the other spheres, or maybe the color of something in the room. If you see something in the room that is basically the color of the sphere, then you get a point or something. Maybe we only need one sphere for this game. That might make mass production easier. The sphere should be very well balanced, and freely spinnable, like a ball bearing.

6/7 – A game called “this little light of mine” about a candle flame that has the power to set things on fire and turn into a monster (a big red one, with horns). The bigger the flame the longer you stay as a monster. Levels involve timing events where you have to transform, then beat up something or someone quickly (maybe “enemies” are cherubs and Angels) before the thing you set on fire runs out of flames. The music for the game is already written! The trailer should have the second verse about hiding under a bush, and then the bush lights on fire and then you kill a bunch of folks. The game should have a clear anti-religion message.

6/8 – First idea: Take the 9-up video camera work of David Hockney as a starting point, and build a camera system in VR where you are looking at a scene from 9 perspectives, essentially the middle one is basically from the user’s eye position, but the others are all offset some significant amount of space, and all are visible in the user’s periphery. Then the game should involve noticing minute details of something. Or maybe there could be something you wouldn’t even be able to see except from multiple vantages at once.

Second idea: Extrapolate the previous idea into hexagonal bee-vision. 8-cameras / eyes.

Third idea: simulated physical augmentation. When you move your tracked controllers, a skeleton also moves with you. The skeleton might include: 8 arms arrayed around the player.

6/9 – A team-on-team game in VR. (VR MOBA, or VR Killer Queen.) Maybe the “play space” is relatively small, 1×1 meters, and appears in the center of each player’s room-scale tracked space. Players then control different avatars of their team color within the space. The avatars move around as in a 3D platformer game, but there are multiple ways to win. Level design would (obviously) be very important.

Game Idea a Day – Week 22

June 3rd, 2016

I missed/skipped a day again this week, only the third time this whole project, I believe. I did three (shorter) entries 5/30 to make up for it. My enthusiasm for the project was pretty low last week. Not necessarily the idea of it, (I’m committed through at least the end of the year!), but enthusiasm for actually sitting down and doing it. It’s definitely natural to loose enthusiasm for any long-term project, or at least I expected it. I find (as with most creative endeavors in my experience) it does help for me to get away from my desk and be someplace different while I’m brainstorming. Ironically, the day I missed was (again) a day I was traveling.

5/27 – Missed a day.

5/28 – I was playing Factory Idle, and the same developer’s older game, Reactor Idle, and this idea was essentially to bring the gameplay from Factory Idle (which is apparently pretty similar to Factorio, but I haven’t played), to VR. You would connect different components with tubes, and then watch resources flow from one component to the next, but you end up with physical building blocks that you can stack in VR. And later, you might find there’s a use for them, so you have to feed them to a new machine, or stack them on top of something that will use them in some different way. Much of the game would be organizing and storing the blocks you’ve created.

5/29 – In this, you have a map and a magnifying glass. Each location on the map can be zoomed in on to see a scene (photo) that can in turn can also be magnified. But in the photos, a puppy might be made out of wooden sticks and a concrete sidewalk is made out of cathedrals and ancient roman pillars. Everything has things that it is made out of, repeating every-day objects, and later in the game, which things and where they are located is important in some way. Maybe there are dialogue mechanics too and you have to answer riddles about what things are made out of.

5/30 – You wake up only to find out your parents switched your gender while you were asleep the night before. You have to figure out what prompted them to make this change, as well as decide if you want to stay this way or go back to the way you used to be. Maybe this is a point and click adventure game, but there are character creation screens at the beginning, only after you’ve picked your gender you find out you used to be the other way (or maybe the opposite, your gender choice turns out to be who you were before the night before). Either way, gender is presented as fluid (and a choice) in this future-set teen drama. You can play the game with either gender from the beginning and ultimately decide to stay or switch back based on your choices and story decisions.

5/30 – Second entry: A game set on a space ship filled with an alien zoo. There is a room full of pedestals, with a different animal on each one, specimens from each of earth’s species preserved in stasis. Maybe you are one of them, and wake up unexpectedly. You have to explore and find your way back to earth.

5/30 – Third entry: A worker placement board game with mechanics like the factory/machine games I’ve been playing: essentially buying components to place on your board that produce resources and convert them to other (more valuable) resources. Turn-based video game variant: You only “win” when you are an order of magnitude more productive than your opponent, so two very close players might play for a very long time.

5/31 – Just some thoughts on a Game of Thrones RTS. Different races to play: White Walkers (Protos-like, VERY powerful, lots of cheap minions though, when you cast the spell to raise your enemy’s dead). Daenerys Targaryen’s Army (horsemen and dragons and unsullied), House Stark (dire wolves and powers that let you take over enemy units (warging), ultimately pretty pathetic, sorta like humans in Starcraft). It remains to be seen whether it’s worth separating out the other human GoT “houses” as playable races, maybe the class/race should just be “human”. (Note that it would still not include Daenerys.) Maybe the Children of the Forest could have a few levels toward the end of some campaign.

6/1 – Thought of this one in the shower, later, before writing it down, I realized the original idea was a bit like Journey in VR (which would of course also be super cool). The only really unique mechanic was that instead of teleporting, you can only move “one playspace away”, and you see your character roll or jump to that location. There might also be a cooldown during which you have to recover from that exercise. Initially I imagined you shooting at other players, but then I was imagining you helping them out, getting to floor switches so they could open different puzzle/exploration elements, and vice versa. There was definitely also a Tarzan / jungle theme in what I was imagining in the shower.

6/2 – More thoughts on my VR game idea from 5/15. I had forgotten about the holding two hands out to show the hoop between them, and was thinking you’d have two hoops, one for each hand, and you would be able to manipulate the size of the hoop with the trackpad. I was also thinking about perspective, and how it might be interesting to look down on the player as you manipulate the hoops, so you are almost more of a puppet master. I didn’t explore this (yet), but a VR puppet show simulator might be kind of cool.