Owner and game developer at Oreganik in Eugene, Oregon. Loves Super Metroid, Celtic Folk Metal, and going to church.
About Ted Brown (twitter: @oreganik)
Ludum Dare 28
Ludum Dare 27
Ludum Dare 26
Ludum Dare 25
Ludum Dare 24
Ludum Dare 23
Ted Brown's Trophies
Narrative excellence in LD25
Awarded by Winterblood on December 19, 2012
Ted Brown's Archive
Day zero was the night of the theme announcement. Eight of us sat around and bounced ideas off of each other, trying to identify what people would immediately think of (“one shot,” “one life”) and then move on from there. While wondering about objects that were inherently unique, I thought of the Olympic torch, and rapidly got to a concept where you are a primitive tribesman trying to carry a precious gift of fire through a raining jungle fraught with danger. In fairly little time, I had a 3D capsule moving around terrain tiles in Unity, with fire reflecting off normal maps generated with Crazy Bump. It was a promising start, with the potential for procedurally generated levels.
But something didn’t feel right. At one AM, six hours after the competition had started, I was moving around my world and realized it wasn’t fun. It worked, and it would be challenging once more gameplay was in, but it felt claustrophobic and tense. I think there’s a time and place for that, but if you aim at that target, you have to crush it. Falling short would just result in a comical failure that undercuts itself at every turn.
What broke my momentum completely was the realization that dynamic shadows are a no-go in Unity if using an Orthographic camera. Shadows were critical to the mood, and while I’m capable of creating 3D assets in a weekend, it would soak up far more time than a friendlier sprite-based solution. Tired and emotionally drained, I shut down the computer and left.
On the drive home, I thought about how people would be going through these games like popcorn, and how the games I enjoyed playing were light-hearted and fun. So why the hell was I making a game about a frightened Mayan warrior pounding through the Yucatan in the middle of a night storm?
I had to have an orthographic camera to keep art costs in line, and I wanted a sense of speed and motion. A knowing smile crossed my lips as I realized I would be following one of our medium’s ancient and accepted forms: the platformer.
After four hours of sleep, I returned to the lab, created a new project in Unity, and got to work. By midnight, I had a game with:
- A platforming hero run by physics
- A torch that burns down a stick for fuel (providing a handy in-game meter)
- A realistic fire that dims and eventually dies
- An ability to “blow” on the fire and see it blaze back to life
- Rain that stopped you from blowing on the fire unless you were under shelter
- Terrain that was low friction if a) stone and b) under rain
- Procedurally generated levels that had inputs like total length, number of platforms, gap min/max, height change min/max, enemy placement, rain shelter, big blocks, etc.
- Two enemies
- Game progression (start, level 1, level 2, etc. end)
Here’s a timelapse of all that being put into play. Tomorrow I’ll post the art portion. Thanks for reading!
BONUS FRESH PRINCE DANCING GIF (if you enjoyed the ones in the video)
Reflecting on past successes and, mostly, failures, here are my testaments of game jamming, version 7.
- Go 100%. There’s always something socially fun going on during a game jam. The trade-off to an effervescent social call is a punishing effect on your game project. The project lives forever, while events come and go. If you’re in, commit, and skip the party or campout or tournament or whatever. Shore up social capital beforehand, and recoup losses afterwards.
- Give love. If you are romantically attached or have scions, minions, or children, give them lots of time before and afterwards, because you won’t really interact with them for several days. The project lives forever, but those closest to you are more important.
- Get eight hours of rest. If you sleep for eight hours during the compo, you’ll “only” put in the equivalent of a 40 hour work week. Plus, you’ll perform more consistently.
- Use state machines. There is nothing worse than trawling through pages of switch statements when adding or fixing features. Commit to a state machine early, even if it’s only a handful of states at the start, because then you can expand and collapse easily.
- Mechanics or Story. Pick one, and focus. Trying to blend both at the start is what you do with a full game project, not a jam.
- Avoid learning something new during the jam. Seriously, Ted, didn’t you learn from the flocking fiasco? =)
Because then it’s totally legit to turn Bieber into a Lich. Looking for love. Trying to sing with the voice he traded in for eternal life.
Hey everyone! I’m just dropping by my favorite ol’ game compo site to let you know my solo indie project Chess Heroes is on Steam Greenlight! Please give it your vote, and if it really piques your interest, share it on teh twitterz and facebookin’s! Thank you! =)
This might be my oddest Ludum Dare to date. I started late, and taking sleep into account I’ll only have had 24 hours to create a game. It’s so frustratingly close that I can feel it in my teeth… but deep down I’m worried about crunching the final sprint and not being any closer to A Final Game.
Time to take a break and see if I can plot a course towards the finish line.
Because, seriously, making these little boxes go Bang is quite fun.
All these buttons and bars and light-up indicators actually work, and the big boxes talk to each other, and it’s all in 3D, and I really should have started Friday instead of Saturday afternoon. :/ But I after some sleep, I’m looking forward to tightening the feedback loop between the three devices, then scaling up, adding fail-state scenarios, and giving you ten seconds to figure it out before you’re treated to an explosive ending in full-on cheapo three-dimensional laservision!
The sound effects are pretty decent, too.
This delayed Ludum Dare start (my fifth LD to date!) is brought to you by my independent project, Chess Heroes! Please check out the website and Like it to follow development, and check us out at Seattle SIX on Sunday during PAX!
If you’ve ever been fishing, you probably know the feeling of hooking something big, pulling it to the surface, getting it almost to the shore and… splash! The hook is out and the fish is gone, deep into the weeds, cartoon curse words bubbling up in its wake, and real ones blotting out the sun from the hands holding the rod.
Normally, that’s how I feel after 48 hours of Ludum Dare: like something got away, and I lost whatever I was after. But by stretching this out over seven days, even though the fish got away (like it always seems to do!), I really enjoyed the fight to bring it home.
This was my first compo entry since I officially founded Oreganik LLC as a business. When I started, I tried to balance working all day on one game (Chess Heroes), then coming home, being a good husband and father for a few hours, then working on this game. THAT WAS EXHAUSTING. Then I realized: hey, I make games for a living! I can just do this as my day job! So Thursday and Friday were full dev days, as were Sunday (after waking up deep in the forest) and Monday. All told, this represents about 40 hours of work, and hey! It’s a great foundation! Now I get to see if enough people are excited about what Mobius could have been to see if it’s a candidate for full-time development at a later date.
I also learned some good rules to follow for next time. And, because this is officially “what I do” now, I can take the time to properly write it all down. Stuff like “how to write an extensible transaction model that simplifies functionality and centralizes data.” And then MAKE that model, and then have it in the pocket for the next compo.
Time to wrap things up!
I’m going to think out loud here and write my final task list:
- Finish all menu text
- Finish all upgrade purchases scripts
- Create a health bar for the Hero
- Replace the Red Sky background with a Deep Ocean one
- Implement new gun type: spread
- Implement hero speed and bullet rate increases
- Add Fortress Armor
- Make coffee
- Add Hitbox to Fortress and Hurtflash effect
- Add “bang” graphic for when Flyers and Heroes die
- Make sure Flyers collide with heroes, bullets, turrets
- Add shoot function to Flyers
- Drink coffee
- Set up CPU player to have all towers built at start
- Set up CPU to launch waves at a regular basis
- Set up CPU to make decisions at certain intervals, and either repair or make upgrades
- Title screen
- Game Over screen
- Post builds
- Crash asleep
After waking up early in the Oregon wilderness (because I didn’t get any sleep! LOL) and having a fantastic breakfast, I return to the city, dropped my family off at the county fair, and returned home to lay on my couch.
How long do you think it was before I warmed up a tankard of coffee and got back to work?
NOT LONG AT ALL, MY FRIENDS
I’m putting the finishing touches on upgrades, economy, and in-game menus today. So you’ll be be able to invest resources into getting resources faster, building heroes, building defenses, and repairing damage. After that, I’d love into adding more guns to shooty-shoot with, but there is no opponent at the moment.
Well, there is: it’s a carbon mirror copy of your team, minus the player. Decisions, decisions. Clumsy AI, or giant, evolving boss monster? Or MONSTERS? HMM
This is a solo endeavor, and trying to spend a full day working on one game, then coming home and working on this one, with all of the extra curriculars that are going on, at my age, yadda yadda yadda. GUYS THIS IS SO HARD :D
I’ve made a lot of progress in the past couple of days, but I’ve got a once-in-every-few-years chance to going deep, deep into backcountry on a camping trip with my son, and I won’t be missing that. I’ll be shelving this instead.
I leave you with a color comp and the silhouettes of the main “actors” of the game: the whale “fortress”, the crab “turret” (minus his floating rock), and the two flying heroes you could spawn: the tiger and the damsel. The goal was to hit a Darius vibe, but … I don’t know where it’s heading, art-wise, anymore!
I look forward to playing the games I’ve seen emerge thus far. You folks are amazing.
Today was all about foundations.
- Setting up a sprite system in Unity, with debug text to name each sprite until the gfx are ready
- A camera that follows whatever object is in focus
- Scrolling battlefield
- A controller that lets you switch active objects and send them commands. This should make implementing AI easier, as well as implementing controllers, etc.
- A base that drops out “heroes”
- Heroes that fly and move within a set of boundaries
- An object pool for bullets (so I don’t get unexpected FPS drops when everything is going full-bore)
- Collision using rigidbodies and setting up layers for each player’s team
Next up: adding foundations to support two teams, win / loss conditions, economy, upgrades, and fixed emplacements (each team gets a base and two defense towers).
Huh. I guess that isn’t too bad for a few hours of work after working all day on Chess Heroes. It sure feels better writing it all down like that!
For the next couple of nights, I’ll be taking a break from Chess Heroes to join the super duper seven day real-time strategery compelooza!
After spending (wasting) time on a generic fantasy idea (with clever mechanics, but still) and getting my mind blown by McFunkyPants (again), I went back to the drawing board. Instead of trying to create something brand new and falling short (which I often do during competitions), I’m going to mash some stuff together.
Hence: MOBIUS: A portmanteau of MOBA and the -ius genre of side-scrolling shooters (Gradius, Darius, Parodius… kids, ask your parents!). I’ll be using Unity and Photoshop, as per the usual.
Post-Mortem // Play and rate it here
How could someone justify ending the world?
That was the question I wanted to answer. So I told a story indirectly, using personal narrative, correspondence from other people, and cold, scientific descriptions of doomsday scenarios.
To keep it from simply being a “click here to read more” game, I tried to make it emotionally difficult to progress. This led to the decision to start at the end, then have the player go back in time. The emotional weight would come from the scale of devastation, the local impact, and letters from other people (pleas, threats, news) that would show different perspectives on your actions, and also inform you of the past that brought you to the point of being a messiah of the apocalypse.
That chart was in my head as I wrote the narrative, which I did first. Then I settled on a graphical look (super 16-bit) and created a setting that would be part of the story: a location that showed the effects of latest disaster you enacted.
Here, you can see the final stage (which is played first), compared to stage 2.
Each stage has a visible change. I think that’s one of the things that really worked out well.
There’s a glowing square in each scene. That’s a “memory” of the previous stage, showing how things used to be. This interactive object lets the villain provide some context and commentary, while serving as the “gate” between stages. This is probably the weakest part of the design, as the player has to walk around and touch things to discover how to unlock it. But once they figure it out, it’s the same each time.
There are two computer consoles in each scene. One shows the effects of the previous disaster:
The other shows the impending disaster, giving you the option of activating it (sending you forward in time) or disabling it forever, which can end progress (“this is how it ends”) if you decide to abandon the memory forever. Here’s the Acid Ocean activate screen, which would be seen in the stage following the one with the result:
Finally, there are the Letters, which provide external perspectives on your actions, as well as insights into your personal history (including the dark events that turned you into what you are). There are a few one-offs, but I use several recurring characters to show progression. Here are two letters from the President, in reverse chronological order:
I’ve heard the colorful letter from the Fisherman’s Union of Anchorage Alaska (after you’ve acidified the oceans) is a particular favorite.
Ending progress by disabling the doomsday device AND closing the memory gate — thus stopping progress forward or backward — was supposed to trigger a narrative explaining what happened next, which would have further justified you moving forward. But time, alas. She’s a monster.
I hope I get enough feedback and votes to justify putting that in the game, giving everything a coat of polish, and posting it online for a few bucks. But even if that doesn’t happen, I feel a tingly sense of satisfaction at a story well told.
Thanks for reading. Merry Christmas.
I feel like I had a strong idea, but a packed weekend of can’t-miss events (e.g. friend’s Christmas party, son’s birthday party) made it impossible to hit the Compo deadline. Now I’m gunning for Jam, even though I’m going solo. But enough whining! Here are some screens as I do my best to thrash this out in the time remaining. The game is called “This Is How It Ends”. You are a villain who has effectively ended life on the planet. To understand how a person could get to that point, your story plays out in reverse, on a single stage that changes to reflect your latest calamity. Below is Stage 7 (the beginning) and next is Stage 5:
*wipes brow* *chugs energy* OK, let’s go.