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 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
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.
(to the tune of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”)
Have a merry Ludum Dare
Have a merry Ludum Dare
Have a merry Ludum Dare
And your favorite game theme
(image courtesy of this artist)
Last year, I tried to Kickstart a game called Ninja Baseball. It fell flat on its face. And eventually, I stopped working on it altogether. It was a very public humiliation for someone as driven and competitive as I am. (though I did get good press out of it… even this great interview by Junglist at 5 Inch Floppy)
It’s 100% new code, assets, etc. Of course it’s incomplete in some areas, but you can play a game and have a smile. In some ways, it’s more cohesive than the multiple versions and permutations (in full 3D) living on my hard drive. =p
And it’s all thanks to McFunkyPants. Cheers.
Direct link: http://oreganik.com/ninjabaseballnes/
The Buffalo Joe LD 24 Compo Post-Mortem
A common question I get is, “What does Buffalo Joe have to do with Evolution?” That’s a good question! Because, I mean, all concepts evolve, right? And, well, the evolutionary concept at the heart of the game sort of caved in to outside pressure and, you know, didn’t survive? It’s actually sort of meta! Right? =D
Ludum Dare Competition Count: Second
Tools: Unity (C#), Blender, Photoshop, Audacity, iPhone Voice Memo
Hours spent on:
- Sleeping: 9
- Meals with wife: 3
- Exercising: 1
- Solitary Eating Rituals: 1
- Wondering about it all, man, like: 0.9
- Fruitlessly Flogging Flocking Fixes: 2
- Audio: 1.1
- Texture/Model Creation: 3
- ??? (missed time due to likely abduction by forces unknown): TBD
- Fire (Discarded): 1.5
- Level creation/design: 1.5
- Remainder: 23 hours
Choosing the Concept
My wife and I went on a dinner date right after the theme was announced, and because she’s a bubbly font of creativity, we soon had a long list of good ideas. Ultimately, I had to decide between:
- Polytoad: Evolutionary Frogger! Your body adapts to match the cars which crush you. Mack truck? Throbbing metal hindlegs. Speedbike? Tapered waist. Honda Accord? More beige!
- Guy On A Buffalo: “Evolutionize” your flock in unspecified ways to meet unspecified dangers!
Really, in my heart of hearts, I knew Polytoad was the game to choose. It was Doable. But this damn song kept playing in my head: Guy On A Buffalo! Right. Who could resist the Call of the Buffalo?
Right away, I made an LD n00b mistake by wasting time on tech I’d never used before. Flocking is a pretty basic computer science thing, but I was an English major. Oops. That time could have been spent on getting evolution in the game. Speaking of…
The Original Game Design
- A fire is raging across the plains. You must escape across the river to safety.
- There are packs of wolves / Indian hunting parties / Pioneer wagons barring your way. You can run them down if your herd is strong enough.
- Eat grass to get baby buffalo and grow them.
- Find special plants — Fireweed, Cloudpuffs, and Rustleaf — to start adding special DNA to your new baby buffs.
- These plants will evolve your herd into stronger, faster, more powerful animals, which you’ll need for later levels.
- You are personally a man on a buffalo who can shoot bad guys (slowly) and can’t get killed.
This had everything I needed:
- A clear goal (get across the river)
- A clear obstacle (enemies blocking the river will try to kill you)
- A clear way to overcome the obstacle (grow the herd so you can overrun them)
- Time pressure (fire, which was effectively a timer)
- Dynamic pressure (wolves would spawn at an increasing rate)
The one problem I recognized — but hoped would solve itself — was that evolution was not necessary for this game design. It would make your buffalo stronger, helping you achieve certain goals, but it wasn’t necessary. But instead of solving it then and there, I stuck with production, hoping I’d figure it out.
- I made sloppy states for my leader, buffalo, and wolves. This made finding bugs difficult. I ended up rewriting everything as components, making it more like a state machine. LESSON: Start with state machines.
- I got fire working, functionally (burned plants, animals, moved across the plains), but there was no way to make it look good in 3D in the time I had. That was about 60 to 90 minutes wasted right there. LESSON: Make sure game objects can be visualized in your game for a low cost. Cut them if they can’t.
- I spent a lot of time getting wolf and buffalo interactions to feel more life-like. In other words, buffalo would kill wolves if hit head-on, otherwise wolves would hurt buffalo. And wolves would eat dead buffalo, so you could sacrifice a buffalo to get away. Oh, and baby buffs would be weaker, right? And maybe couldn’t kill wolves… TLDR: Too complicated. Did not contribute to high concept, nor was it required. LESSON: Core gameplay must be simple systems. Expand later.
Final Game Design
- Get your herd of buffalo over the deep canyon to escape the marauding wolves
- Do this by eating enough Cloudpuffs to give your buffalo wings, so they can fly over.
- Baby buffalo eat grass to make more buffalo.
- Wolves kill baby buffs. You kill wolves.
- Wolves will spawn at a continually faster rate, creating time pressure.
- Your base score is number of buffalo divided by time.
This was a great design for a Ludum Dare. Too bad I figured it out so late!
- Goal is still clear and physical (get over there).
- How to achieve goal is clear (fly).
- Wolf / Buffalo / Leader interaction is simple and clear.
- Resources make sense (grass = health, blue grass = power up)
Everything got in… except the cloudpuffs and flying! So then the super final game objective became:
- Protect your herd while it eats grass to create more buffalo. Win when you get ten!
Ah well. Had fun, made some stuff, let’s do it again!
Ted Brown / oreganik.com