Game Idea: Spin of friendship

A simple game idea that came to my mind when watching a Heroes of the Storm video – the Spin of Friendship.


2 Player game.

At the start of each round, each player holds a button to spin their character.

The longer you spin, the faster you spin.

While both players are spinning, “Friendship Points (FP)” are accumulated but not awarded.

Either player may release their button at any time.

Once a player releases their button, their character (“Shooter”) takes aim at the other character (“Friend”). The faster the Shooter was spinning when their button was released, the faster the Shooter will finish taking aim.

If the Friend does not also stop spinning before Shooter finishes taking aim, the Friend immediately loses, regardless of the number of rounds remaining.

If the Friend manages to stop spinning before the Shooter finishes taking aim, the Friend gains  all the FP accumulated for that round.

3 rounds are played. If within these 3 rounds a player’s FP exceeds a certain set amount, such player wins.

If by the end of 3 rounds neither player has been shot or has FP exceeding the set amount, the player with the highest amount of FP wins.

Undertale and why I’ll never make a game like it

Undertale is a good game narratively, as well as mechanically. It’s even good narratively and mechanically for the same reasons – it breaks/subverts expectations.

We are quite used to subversions of narrative – the anti-hero, the unexpected twist, genre breaking, all of those are common at this point. As is to be expected – there is nothing new under the sun, especially in literature, which has been around for thousands of years.

So, when Undyne cuts short her monologue, it’s surprising, but not unexpected. Very well executed. Similarly, when Asgore is set up as the main villain, the dissonance when he is revealed as an unwilling actor is again surprising, but not unexpected.

The subversion of mechanics is amazing, though. The first time you get hit by the “blue attack”… and turns what you thought was a “bullet hell” avoidance game into a platforming game, that was amazing. When the special attack hits, and the screen expands, that was amazing again.

Heck, in the very first fight, where games would normally insert a tutorial character, Flowey’s instructions for you to basically damage yourself and set him up as a monster, that was amazing use of mechanics and narrative together. Mechanically, you learn to move yourself around the world, that pellets damage you. Narratively, you learn that Flowey is evil, and sets the tone for the world coming up (that it’s kill or be killed, encouraging you to kill monsters), and sets the course for your redemption.

The fact that it is so amazing, is also what makes it impossible for me to make. Each fight that subverts your expectations is unique, and that’s what makes it wonderful. It also means that it is content. Each fight is content, not just an expansion on current mechanics. It is an amazing amount of content to be packed into a 2 hour experience, not just narrative content, but game systems content, and I am forever grateful for the experience.

Most games take one mechanic and polish the heck out of it, and use refinements of this mechanic to make an entire game. For all the narrative goodness of Portal, the portal mechanic never changed throughout the game. We were never surprised mechanically. For Portal to create a “blue attack” moment, one of the portals would have dropped you into a different dimension or something, and that would never have been done because it would be so much work for just 1 encounter.

I wouldn’t be able to create so much content on my own, though. Both in terms of resources (money and time) and in terms of potential audience.

I’m glad Toby managed to get Undertale funded and I’m glad that the world has this game – games are better off for it being around and expanding the medium.


What is a fighting game? What is the core game loop of a fighting game?

Someone on reddit had a topic – Theorycrafting: Smartphone fighting game done right. Now, his thoughts were restricted mostly to UI, but there is a more fundamental issue with fighting games on mobile, and that is the issue of latency.

But we actually beg the question – what is a fighting game? Without really answering this question, you can’t really design a “fighting game” for mobile, taking into account mobile’s limitations. Put another way, what kind of elements would need to be in a game for such a game to be recognised as a “fighting game”, and can such a game be executed well on a mobile platform?

Nothing really stood out when I did a quick search, so I’ll just pen though my thoughts and compare with whatever comes up later.

Elements of a fighting game:
2 or more players
Each player controls a player avatar
Win condition involves eliminating the other players’ avatars
Avatars are eliminated via attacks initiated by other player avatars
Attacks have a startup, active and recovery phase
Avatars can avoid attacks spatially (dodge or be out of range of attacks)

Core Game Loop:
Each player simultaneously controls their avatar.
Avatars can attack
Avatars can move spatially

I think this covers what makes a fighting games recognisable as fighting games.

Level 5: Postmortem of a game

SGrunner last gif

So it’s been some time since the last update. The last time I posted, I was working on a platformer that I was calling “scapegoat”, but as it turns out, it’s really just not the sort of game that I like making. I’ve made the decision then to just stop working on this game, and move on. It’s useful to think about what I liked and didn’t like about the game, though.

I wanted basically to make an endless runner – one thing about endless runners that I don’t like is that in order for endless runners to work, you have to die somehow at the end. And that feels terrible! Take for example, temple run – you steal the macguffin (again??) and are chased by monkeys and get ripped from limb to limb (again.). And then you do it again? How does that work?

One endless runner that I did like was basically a re-skin of Jetpack Joyride, except that instead of Barry stealing a jetpack, flying through the lab and getting sniped off the jetpack in the evil scientist’s lab (either by catching a face full of laser or eating a missle or getting zapped) and faceplanting dramatically, your witch was in a race, and after faceplanting dramatically, got up and flashed you the victory sign. And got up and went at it again. For some reason, that really changed the whole tone of the game – it wasn’t some nihilist act of suicidal lemminging over and over again, but was working towards a goal of some sort – getting the highest number in a race.

My goal for scapegoat then was to make the endless runner make sense. The theme would be that your player was the scapegoat for a manical bank robber. You would be summoned to the scene of the crime by your “boss”, ostensibly for some cockaninnie reason, and would be stuck running from the police who assumed that you were the one who pulled off the bank robbery. Everything would then flow from there.

What I liked doing:
Tuning the jump. That was really interesting, getting a certain feel for the jump that I really liked.
Making the physics objects. Barrels that fly when knocked into, animating the sprites, so on. That was fun! Setting up a stack of barrels to plow into was fun too.

What I hated doing:
Basically what caused me to stop working on this game – level design. I realise that I kinda hate level design. All that positioning of platforms, making sure that there’s some flow, some challenge, some way of arranging the platforms that make sense, all of that is seriously what I’m not interested in doing. Huh! Another issue might be that it’s supposed to be an endless runner, so all of the sequences ought make sense in any order. That’s hard! Also, the platforms are one level of obstacle, whereas the police which were going to catch you was another level of obstacle, and neither of them on their own gave any level of challenge.

I think this was a design issue rather than anything else – consider Jetpack Joyride’s design, where there’s only one main obstacle – the electricy zaps, and occasionally there are missles and lasers that provide alternate challenges, but keeping in mind that if there weren’t any missles or lasers, the electricy zaps would provide sufficient challenge for an interesting game all by themselves.

In the end, I guess I guess I hate storytelling, kind of. I had a premise for the game, but that was just a one off thing. The continuing “story” of curated experiences that I would supposedly provide to the player, though, that.. I can’t seem to do. That’s good to know, I guess. In any future game, I’ll know not to make level design or storytelling part of the core design of my game. For all the ragging I did on random level design… It looks like I’m going to go down that path. 😉

I’m working on another new game at the moment, having new knowledge of my own abilities and preferences. Hopefully, I’ll be able to stick with this one a bit longer! =D If you want to try out what Scapegoat ended up as though, well, I’ve complied it and here it is. It’s basically just an exercise in programming at this point, but hey, since we’re here. 😉

Level 3: jumping on things

I dare say the first gaming experience most people had back in the day was a platformer. It’s hard to imagine, but back in the day, platformers were like greybrownchesthigh spunkgargleweewee games are today – the default for every game. Some were great, most were not. Those that were great went on to do great things, like Mario and Sonic, and we never really questioned why the act of jumping on things was so entertaining.
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Level 2: Why do we make things?

SG screencap

So my current project is coming along… nicely… as you can see from the gif up there (for certain values of “nice”. Animation is hard). Unity actually provides really good physics, so you never really have to code too much. For the above, including keyboard controls, I didn’t have to code more than 15 lines or so, and the barrels are completely code free!

I need to get the police officers done, and I’m wondering if should leave the shooting off til later – shooting would be totally help the theme of the game, but at the same time, I don’t want this to become a shooting game – it’s a game primarily about running. Hrm. Still, for prototyping and testing, I should probably have a semi-finished build. Then, I’ll start working on creating the “endless” part of the endless runner. Continue reading

Level 1: snake, snake, oh it’s a snake

SnakeIt’s been 3 weeks since I started learning how to make games, and I’m happy to say that my first game is finally up! Of course, it’s just snake, but finishing anything is always an accomplishment (especially for INTPs. We’re notorious for never finishing stuff once the “good ideas” have been kind of sketched out).

I’ve basically only been able to do anything during my lunch breaks, so I’m squeezing out the game in 1-2 hour blocks, and even then maybe only thrice a week. Some days I start coding after my wife and kid have gone to bed, and go on to midnight, but that’s rough on my body – I’m not twenty any more! All nighters are just no!

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We must make the games we wish to play in the world

We must make the games we wish to play in the world – Auntie Pixelante

Those crystals are toast

I’ve been playing a lot of Hero Academy lately, for the past 2 years, really, and even started a rather in depth blog, Oh My Void Monks, about the strategies and tactics in the game.

There’s just one thing that Hero Academy lacks, though, and that’s fireballs. What? Fireballs? Yes, fireballs.

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