In 2010 I spent some time at a simulated training company making a bog standard platformer with some educational content about mining safety. I’m not really sure what else to say about the game other than that it exists so I guess I should acknowledge it. Possibly the most interesting thing about this project is the level editor that I built. The level editor wasn’t particularly interesting.
Created for the Global Game Jam in 2010. The theme was “deception” and we took it far. The premise of the game is that the captain of a spaceship has been murdered and you are the murderer. A space detective arrives you must tell a convincing story about the hours leading up to the murder, whilst simultaneously trying to frame another crew member. The game plays out in chunks that are in reverse chronological order, starting several hours after the murder and leading up to just after the event itself. This backwards time mechanic means the player must make sure not to break causality or the detective will know you’re lying. YouDunnit is broken and confusing in a lot of ways, but it’s still one of my favourite game ideas ever. The time breaking idea has loads of potential if some gameplay mechanics and a narrative can be found to make it work.
TDA is supposed to be a little bit Desktop Tower Defence and a little bit of Geometry Wars. It’s not as good as either, but it’s not terrible either. In TDA, the player controls a small ship which must fly around constructing towers to defend their base from increasingly worrying waves of enemies. Some of these beasties will hunt the player, and some will go straight for the base. Players must fend off the enemies, and then gather fallen loot to be re-invested in new towers, weapons and upgrades.
A multiplayer arena combat game with some RPG elements tossed in for good measure. And of course, no RPG experience is complete without grinding for experience and gold by slaughtering hapless NPCs. The grand design featured skill trees, spells and items that could all be bought and unlocked as the rounds progressed. But in typical fashion, I never made it past implementing a basic levelling system before AI and networking crept in and I lost interest. There’s a decent stamina/blocking/dodging combat system in there though. In fact, some say this game was the inspiration behind Dark Souls, a popular game that released by From Software later the same year (coincidence? You decide!). They solved the AI and networking problems by simply choosing to implement those features poorly and at the last minute as far I can tell.
A rather clever re-imagining of the classic guessing game Mastermind. But than guessing a sequence of coloured pegs, players must guess the terms of a mathematical equation. In addition to positional hints as in Mastermind, players use their mathematical understanding of the equation to deduce which numbers and symbols must go where. I’ve played through Mathstermind several times and I still think it is one of the most engaging educational games I’ve played. Mathstermind also has a bit of an interesting back-story. The game orginally stemmed from a prototype I made which won a prize in one of the old Game.Dev competitions. The crude prototype caught the eye of Mindset Learn, who then contracted Danny Day and myself to make a complete maths game for a research project. Interestingly, in order to pay me for work on Mathstermind, Danny founded QCF Design – a studio I would re-join years later to work on Desktop Dungeons. The research project by the way, was a great success, Mathstermind was shown to make a noticeable difference in the maths literacy of school students.
This was my high-school final year computer science project, and it was the only program in the class that wasn’t hang man (not even joking about this). In my youth I spent about two and a half years writing an FPS arena combat game in Java and OpenGL. Unfortunately I seem to have lost that project, but this game made good use of the same engine. Roll a ball around procedurally generated mazes! Oggle and gasp as the physics code somehow works! Be amazed at the casting of shadows and the orthographic rendering of bitmaps on top of a full 3D scene! Immerse yourself in the wonders of technology as this game uses an actual SQL database to store profiles and save games. Also, I printed out sleeves and stickers for the discs that I burned of this. I still own some professional looking physical copies of Ball Roller. One day those’ll be worth millions.
As the masters of deduction amongst you might have guessed; Tower Builder is a physics based game where you build a tower. The way that you do that is by drawing polygonal shapes which then pop into existence and stack together (or don’t, if you’re bad at drawing). However, the cost and weight of polygons is tied directly to the area of the shape. Do you go for big, solid, expensive blocks? Or maybe you’ll risk a thin spindly piece that might get blown right off the top of your tower as you place it. The goal is to get as high as possible, but be warned: the higher you go, the stronger the wind gets!
So this is pong right. But with network multi-player and made in Java. Inexplicably it never gathered the player base it deserves. I should have never released it in the same year as Team Fortress 2 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. The lack of a dedicated server feature also probably hurt player numbers, but other than that, the net code was completely solid. Much more reliable than those other two games I mentioned. This is probably because it just passes the entire game state over a TCP connection. That’s how real pros do it.
My first real attempt at a management game. UberKing is all about training your peasants, growing your economy and sending out your armies to conquer the map! Unfortunately it is atrocious and thoroughly incomprehensible. I had a lot of fun making this, but I think teenaged me is the only person who was ever able (or will be able) to play it. It has a lot of numbers, way too many numbers. And it has even more numbers that are completely hidden from the player. All of these numbers tend to get into a big feedback loop and become completely unmanageable (which is bad for a management game). I’ve made much better management games since. And one day, I will make one that is so good, that it will put right all the wrong doings of the past.
Generic zombie shooter before it was cool. Not too much exciting going on here. Standard fare of navigating obstacles and shooting zombies as they amble towards you. The 2D lighting tech is cool for a 2006 Game Maker game, and it does a decent job of allowing zombies to lurk in the shadows. The gameplay feature I wanted the most (but of course, never got around to) was the ability to run around on the relative safety of the roof tops. Leaping from building to building until a mistimed jump sent you plummeting to battle it out with the zombies swarming below.