Archive for the ‘My Games’ Category

Threes! inspired

Tuesday, 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.

Another one bites the dust

Thursday, 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).

Get ’em while you can!

Wednesday, 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!

Notes from pyramid games playtesting

Thursday, September 17th, 2015

My good friend Nate was kind enough to playtest 3 out of four of the pyramid games I posted yesterday (we didn’t play the party game), and the results shouldn’t be terribly surprising, but they were generally disastrous. In short, none are ready for prime time. (But on the upside, none were complete throw-aways either, and all have potential!) Here are my notes:

Action / Movement Programming — This suffered from the problem where the player has the advantage, so nobody wants to make themselves the second-to-last player. This meant there was little incentive to try and make the target shape. We did play with a pretty cool variant / modification where there are 9 “goal cards” (in a 3×3 grid), and any 4 cards in that group can be the goal. The rule about “modifying” the programmed cards was very confusing to Nate, and I had to clarify / re-explain it several times. There was also confusion about being able to modify pieces on the gameboard, and I think adding an action that would allow you to modify (swap?) existing pieces would probably help. None of this fixes the disincentivization to make the goal shapes. We talked about maybe not replacing the cards. Also, I just had the idea to maybe only take one of the cards instead of all of them, so most of the shape would still be there, but it would obviously need modifying. Maybe then you also get points at the end of the game for collecting “sets” of a single color card. We also played on a very large gameboard (not quite a full chess board, but it was with the triangular chess boards that are sometimes used for looney Pyramids), and I think we could have just played on a 4×4 grid, and it would have been a tighter and better game.

Action Point Allowance System — This game suffered from the rules allowing you to totally screw yourself. If you didn’t play a combination of either 1) two 2-pip pieces or 2) a 1-pip and a 3-pip, you were giving yourself a serious disadvantage later in the game. I think the rules should just specify you can play one of those combinations. Also, the player who played first had a huge advantage, not because they played first, but because as the rules are written, they also got to play last. I think making both players play only a 2-pip on their first turn might mitigate that problem. Another issue was that we played on a 3×3 grid, but never really used more than 4 towers. Another rule change I’m considering is to make the players fill the grid first, before playing higher levels on any tower… or possibly just to play on a 2×2 grid. (Or both.)

Area Control / Area Influence — Finally, as I’d hoped, this game seemingly has a lot of potential, but we ended up not playing it while we spent like 20 minutes discussing how the captures could work. (Rules as written do not specify capture rules, and I thought I’d just make something up quick about surrounding groups, and we’d see how it plays, but turns out there are too many different possibilities!) It would take me a long while to write all the things down that we discussed, but briefly, we talked about: Switching it to allow ONLY swaps of cards with pieces on them (then you could capture from a swap or a placement). Allowing piece movement to capture, with cards containing pieces of the opposite color “frozen” in their place, essentially “locking” neutral spaces on the gameboard as kind of a suicide move. Finally, if we allow swapping cards with pieces on them (which I think is a good idea), I think maybe it should only be allowed if they have the same (or possibly only if the opponent’s card has lesser) pip counts. Maybe that parenthetical should always be true, which would mean you could only move cards that have pieces on them, since by default all the cards start empty.

I don’t know when I’m going to get around to revising the rules as written, but hopefully in the not-too-distant future!

pyramid games for every BGG game mechanic

Wednesday, September 16th, 2015

At least partially inspired by another BGG user’s lofty goal of 1 new pyramid game a month, around January 1st I had the even-more-ridiculously insane idea to make a goal of designing a new pyramid game for each game mechanic on Board Game Geek. There are 51 unique game mechanics on BGG, so that’s LESS than one a week. Totally do-able, right?!

Of course, I promptly forgot all about that idea, until I stumbled onto the first couple in my design notes earlier today. I spent some time subsequently flushing them out and writing a couple more, and so without further ado, here is a link to the in-progress results: pyramid games for every BGG mechanic.

So far (as of this blog post) there are only 4 rule-sets in a “completed” state. I have notes for two others, but they haven’t been written up yet, which means they may not even be playable. At least one of those not yet present require a custom game board (the one for Roll-and-Move).

pyramid cards backThis idea came, originally, hot on the heels of a renewed interest in pyramid games because I’d helped conceive and design these pyramid cards, a set of playing cards for icehouse/looney pyramids. (The card artwork, — ie, bulk of the work — was done by my sometimes collaborator August Brown.) At the time, I’d thought up a few different game ideas, but it turned out that none of them were really all that fun to play. A statement that may of course also be true about the ones in the link above. YMMV. Two of the designs listed below (and flushed out in the link above) use the cards. I think the ideas in the doc are better than the original pyramid card ideas, but they are still as-yet untested. Anyway, here are some brief summaries:

Acting mechanic — In this game, players take turns choosing a board game, and without revealing that game’s name, set up and play that game with looney pyramids. They cannot talk, and the other players must try and guess which game they are playing. Subsequent players cannot choose the a game that has been previously selected.

Action / Movement Programming mechanic — This game is a combination of seeing patterns in pyramids and using your hand to manipulate pieces on the gameboard. Game play happens in rounds where a “goal pattern” is decided, and players then simultaneously try and choose actions that will manipulate the board to create the “goal pattern” there.

Action Point Allowance System mechanic — This abstract strategy game is played with 4 action points per turn. (With the first player only allowed 2 points.) Some suitable small grid is chosen for the playing field, and each player takes a “stash” of icehouse pyramids and takes turns playing pieces onto the gameboard. At the end of the game, the board is scored and players win based on number of pips that are visible in their color.

Area Control / Area Influence mechanic — This 2-player go-like game is played on a board created with pyramid cards. Cards make up the gameboard, and pieces are placed to “secure” the territory. This is the game I’m most excited about / interested in playtesting.

I’ll post again about this project after I make more progress.

What am I even working on!?!

Thursday, September 10th, 2015

I have too many projects going right now. I wrote up these descriptions earlier, so I decided to post them. These are roughly in order of priority. (Although the last three are essentially just “on the backburner” for now.)

1) I want to get an update to Root Down pushed out that adds an AI player, as well as universal support. The AI isn’t good in any sense of the word, but it’s good enough to surprise me when I’m not looking too hard. I’m not sure if I’ll try and improve it, or if (more likely) I’ll just release it as is to move on to the next thing. (The universal support is about 80% there, and I should have that submitted sometime tomorrow or early next week.)

2) Last year I did some preliminary work and got my very first game (Go-Tetris) playable on iOS. It’ll be called ActionGo. Since the new AppleTV announcements yesterday, I now hope I can push this out sometime in the near future, with AppleTV support.

3) Similar to Root Down, I’ve had an update to ActionChess in progress for several years. Not taking the time to do it right means that I’ve got to untangle a large pile of spaghetti code to get it done, but the update will add 1) Universal support, 2) One or two minor added game modes, 3) A major new game mode that is more of a “static puzzle” game. I’m calling it puzzle mode, and may also release it as a stand-alone app.

4) I’ve got another action puzzle game in the works that is currently without a title. This is not a board game mashup, but does mash another game genre into the mix. I have an artist (possibly two) I’m collaborating with there.

5) I’m rather slowly trying to learn Unity. I have a project I’m going to make in it, since I agreed to work on a touchscreen version of Entrapment, (the great abstract strategy game by Rich Gowell). So far, I’m a bit hung up on some of the Unity best practices, but I can’t wait to make some progress when I can focus on it.

6) Finally, I have a series of playground games I’m working on. Don’t want to go into too many details, but essentially it’s a playground video game.

Hopefully I can bang out some of these app updates in the next couple of weeks, and focus on ActionGo until the new Apple TV comes out. I’m also experimenting with some cross-platform frameworks. I’ve played a bit with OpenFrameworks, and have also spent some time looking into OpenFL (HAXE). In theory either would allow me to publish games for iOS & Android at least, and whatever other platforms they support.

Entanglement – a new board game

Friday, February 13th, 2015

entanglementI had a strange idea this morning. “What if every time you moved a piece in a game, you were also moving one of your opponent’s pieces?” I don’t know of any other games that have this same mechanic. I present for you here, a very simple abstract small-grid game I’m calling Entanglement.

Entanglement Rules (1MB PDF)

BGG discussion thread

Edit: A bit more details about how this came about and playtesting (over lunch) with my friend Nate. Usually when I have an idea for a new game, I enter some minor details in a google-doc/journal I keep for that purpose. I make sure to record the date, and what I was doing when I came up with the idea. In this case, it was such a simple idea, the game came to me practically fully formed, and I went straight to a new file to write out the rules. I jotted them down in about 20 minutes, and got back to work. Then over lunch I played the game a couple of times with Nate, and immediately it felt too complicated. (Which felt weird, because it was already SO simple!) So then I revised, and we played a few more games (without the variant rules listed in the .pdf).

Overall, I don’t think this is one of my better games, it feels likely to be “solvable”, but it has some interesting decisions to make, and I was quite happy with my 10-minute prototype. If you play it, please let me know!

L3D Games

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-12-23 at 11.39.59 AMIf you haven’t already seen the L3D kicksterter, head on over there and check it out. As of this writing, there are still 13 days left to get one of these awesome LED cubes.

I’m excited to announce that I’m working on some games for the L3D. As of last night, I’ve got a project with 4 game controllers working with the L3D “simulator”. You can see one controller working with my sample project here:

I’ll be posting the code in the next week or so, after I get my cube in the mail and test on some actual hardware. The L3D library (including primitive simulator shown in the video above) is all written as a plugin for Processing, (which, incidentally, I’ve wanted to work in for AGES), so it was a relatively simple matter to get the L3D plugin working with the Game Control Plus plugin.

Now that I’ve got them working together, I’m planning on working on the following projects:

  • L3D Snake — a 3d version of this classic game, for 1-4 players — this one is practically done in my example code, just needs some auto-movemet, and an array of previous spaces for each player, and end-game conditions.
  • text library — I’ll be helping write a general library for scrolling “marquee style” text. This should help with displaying who won once the game is over, along with maybe showing the score, or even game selection, if I get around to wrapping up several games into a package of some kind.
  • some games of my own design — I’ve already got a simple color-selection territory game ready to go. This should look really pretty, as well as (hopefully) being fun to play. For 2-4 players. There are some other ideas I’m floating around also.
  • L3D Tetris — This just needs to happen. I’ve written a lot of tetris variants, but never a 3D one (though I’ve always loved 3D tetris), so I think it’s finally time.
  • L3D Invaders — A 3D space invaders could also be really fun.

I’m also really interested in the possibility of designing some turn-based “board games” using the L3D. I haven’t written anything down yet, but there are some ideas percolating in the back of my head.

Catchup Reviews

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-08-07 at 2.46.50 PMI’ve been meaning to write a post for a while now with pull quotes from the two big Catchup reviews. (It’s kind of a shame I haven’t even mentioned them yet on here.)

But before I get to those, Catchup is free in the App Store today. I’m hoping for a big influx of new players who might then tell their friends about how great it is, and maybe some of those folks will purchase the app tomorrow, when it’s back to $2.99. So if you haven’t already, go download it now! (But if you’re reading this, my guess is you’ve already got it, so thanks for that.)

Anyway, Catchup’s first big review came from Pocket Tactics on the 14th of August, exactly a week after its release. It’s an absolutely stellar review, giving the game 5 out of 5 stars, and I’ll just let some of the quotes speak for themselves:

“Catchup is as elegant as a game can reasonably be, presented in a marvelously user-friendly way.”

And later:

“…it’s packed with all kinds of options, some of which are unprecedented in my experience.”

In another quote that I found quite amusing, the author, Kelsey Rinella, also manages to call Nick (the game’s designer) a yahoo, while still complimenting him:

“I am not amused that some yahoo can waltz in and make what I do look easy and sound like a caring, brilliant guy at the same time.”

Catchup’s second big review was from the iOS Game review behemoth Touch Arcade. It absolutely floored me to get a full review on the front page of Touch Arcade, and they gave it 4.5 out of 5 stars to boot. Here are a couple of quotes from author Shaun Musgrave’s review:

“If you’re even a little bit into strategy games, you need to get some Catchup all over your mobile device.”

“There are also a number of achievements set up through Game Center, some of them very cleverly devised to force you to play outside of your comfort zone. That’s my favorite type of achievement.”

The Touch Arcade review didn’t appear until August 22nd, slightly more than a week after the Pocket Tactics review. Another week after that, Catchup was back on Pocket Tactics (on the 29th) for their “Games of the month” for August. Here is another great quote from that:

“The greater the ratio of fidelity to a complex system to rules overhead, the better I tend to like a design. Catchup doesn’t even attempt to satisfy my strongest gaming craving, and yet I feel excitement every time I see the badge saying it’s my turn in a game. It’s like rediscovering excellent vanilla ice cream after years of trying all sorts of tarted-up frozen confections. It’s such pure gaming goodness, without dissonance or unpleasantness of any kind.”

Obviously, I’ve added some of the above to the app’s app store description. (Let me know if you have any opinions about the ones I chose!)

I will probably write another post at some point about stats, including download numbers, and what kind of impact these reviews had on those. But anecdotally, the Pocket Tactics review got us slightly more downloads on the day of the review, (I’m guessing because their readers are closer to our core demographic), but the TA review had a longer impact, for more days. Possibly we fell off the front page of PT faster.

Catchup v.1.0.1 & v.1.0.2

Sunday, September 7th, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-08-07 at 2.46.50 PMHere are the release notes for Catchup version 1.0.1, which was approved and went live in the App Store sometime late last Saturday night (September 6th).

v.1.0.1
* added a setting to let you change who goes first in a vs AI game
* minor changes to text strings, mostly consistent capitalization of AI and Catchup (thanks go out to Martijn Althuizen for help with this work!)
* minor changes to Dutch localization
* relatively significant changes to the german translation
* fix for the “next game” button flashing after you take an async turn
* close the GameCenter UI if the app goes into the background
* misc additional minor bug fixes

Thanks again for playing Catchup!

After getting two emails almost simultaneously on Sunday morning, both letting me know their game over screens were reporting the wrong winner, I pre-pended the following message to the 1.0.1 release notes, and sat down to find the problem:

WARNING: this update actually causes inaccurate end-game win reporting on the game over screen. (The stats and leaderboard submission should still be correct.) This will be fixed in the next update.

And here are the release notes for version 1.0.2 that I submitted to apple on Sunday afternoon, (September 7th):

v.1.0.2
* fixed bug with incorrect winner name on game over screen (Sorry!)
* corrected title bar string on game screen

All of this illustrates one of the frustratingly difficult aspects of solo application development — regression testing. Or, for anyone unfamiliar with the term, testing existing functionality after a code change “to make sure everything still works”. Basically, it was my work on the new feature (letting the user pick whether or not they go first in an AI game) that broke the game over screen reporting. As bugs go, it’s fairly minor. (I don’t mean to belittle the frustration if you encounter it!) Nothing is crashing, and the win statistics are reported correctly, both to Game Center and the internal stats page. I definitely tested quite thoroughly playing against the AI before submitting 1.0.1, but I just plain didn’t think to check local multiplayer, and might have played through an async game, but I’m not 100% sure. Anyway, I clearly didn’t encounter the bug. (Or didn’t notice if I did.) The specifics are kinda funny: the wrong player name is reported as winning the game in async, but only to one of the players. (Which player depends on who actually won the game.) In the local multiplayer scenario, it basically always reported player 1 as winning.

I have plenty more features to work on for the next build I submit, but figured I should get this fix out there ASAP.