Prototype – JUMPONG

For a recent class, I was tasked with making a variation of the classic game PONG for Windows.  I came up with a version of PONG with gravity, where the two player characters must jump in order to return the ball.  It’s called JUMPONG, and you can download it here.
JUMPONGI thought this was an interesting idea because it means that it’s more difficult to return the ball the higher it is on the screen.  Players must not only pay attention to the speed and direction of the ball, but must time their jumps appropriately so that their character is in the right place at the right time.  Try it and let me know what you think!

New Game – GRID

I’ve completed a new game, titled GRID.
GRID is an arcade game where you must dodge increasingly difficult patterns on the floor while collecting boxes to increase your score.
Play it online here, or download it for Windows, Mac, or Linux.

GRID represents a lot of firsts for me. It’s not only the first 3D game I’ve ever made, it is also the first game I’ve made using Unity. As with all games on this site, all in-game assets (graphics, sounds, fonts, etc.) were made by me. My commitment to creating all of my own assets was particularly challenging this time around, as I had to learn both 3D modelling and animation to achieve the effects I wanted! Overall, however, I think GRID is my best work yet. I hope you’ll try it and let me know what you think!

Post your high scores in the comments!

Zero Hour Game Jam – PHASE

Last weekend was the “Zero Hour Game Jam” (0hgame.eu) a unique game jam where people around the world make games in the hour gained by daylight saving time.  You begin making your game at 2 AM, and end at 2 AM, which means you’ve technically created a game in zero hours.  It’s pretty fun!  My entry this time around was called PHASE.  It’s a simple action game about color blending.  You can download it here.

PHASE

The game is a bit bare-bones, as you might expect from something made entirely in one hour.  The score doesn’t display correctly, and the Game Over screen isn’t where I’d like it to be, but overall I’m quite happy with it.

Revolvengarde and Audenary

Just popping in to say that I recently completed Mac ports of two of Andrew Gleeson‘s games Revolvengarde and Audenary.  Andrew’s a really cool guy who makes impressive music, art and games.  If you like my work you”ll definitely like his!  Check out his blog for more information and download links.  Also, follow him on twitter!

If you’re a game developer interested in Mac ports of your Game Maker games, get in touch!  I enjoy doing ports of smaller games!  You can contact me through twitter, facebook, or e-mail if you’re interested.

The Power of Play

After watching Dr. Stuart Brown’s excellent TED talk “Play is more than fun”, I’ve been thinking a lot about my experiences with play, and how they might showcase some of the more interesting properties of the phenomena.  Today I’d like to share with you a short story from my life which demonstrates the extraordinary power of play to break down the boundaries between not just people, but between people and other animals as well.
I hope it’ll be as enlightening to you as it was to me.  So, without further adieu:

This, is Gus:

Gus

Gus is a feral kitten that my wife and I trapped at a local feral cat colony.  Our hope in catching him was first to get him neutered and vaccinated, and second to see if he could be socialized and placed in a home, so he would no longer have to live out on the street.  The first task turned out to be easy enough, but the second was another thing entirely.

When we first trapped Gus he was somewhere between 6 and 8 weeks old.
He was young and impressionable.  This was a pivotal time in his life.  He could either develop a fear of humans, and become incapable of ever living with one, or learn to become comfortable around humans, and lead a much more relaxed and enjoyable life.  Unfortunately for everyone involved, Gus had already begun to develop a fear of humans, no doubt ingrained in him by his experiences living outside in a busy city district.  Since Gus already had this fear, our task was made exponentially more difficult.  We had to think of some way to build up trust with an animal who was both afraid and insecure.

We came up with a number of exercises which we hoped would help us build trust with Gus.  We pet him from a distance using a back scratcher, wrapped him in a towel and nestled him, gave him toys to play with, fed him treats, and spent long hours sitting by his cage, all in the hope that he’d become more comfortable around us.  However, as the weeks passed, Gus became more and more aggressive.  Eventually we couldn’t get within a few feet of him without him hissing and lashing out.  It was at this point that we tried something which we should have been doing from the start.

We played with him.

I tied a small ball that he was particularly fond of to the end of a long piece of yarn so that I was able to manipulate the ball by pulling the yarn.  I then placed the ball in his cage and started moving it about.  His eyes lit up almost immediately, and it was as if he were a completely different cat.  We quickly developed a kind of game, where I would place the ball on the shelf in his cage, slowly inch it to the edge, then suddenly drop it.  He would watch the ball intently as it inched its way across the shelf, and when it fell, he’d leap up and grab it from his position on the bottom of the cage.  As we played I slowly shortened the yarn so that I was getting closer and closer to him.  Toward the end of our game, I was nearly touching Gus, but he didn’t even mind, he was so entirely engaged in the act of play.  We played like this for over an hour, both of us completely engaged in the act.

After we stopped playing, Gus returned to his usual self, hissing and lashing out once again.  It was as if the only thing that could break through the communication barrier between us was play.  Unfortunately, Gus wasn’t tame enough to live the life of a normal house cat, so after months of trying to socialize him, we eventually decided that it would be best for Gus to return to the feral colony he came from to live out the rest of his days.

While some might write this off as simply a failure, I think that this experience is a great example of how play is exceptional at breaking through fear, and, more extraordinarily, the barrier between species, if only for a short amount of time.  We see this all the time with our companion animals: people throwing a ball for their dogs, having their cats chase a laser pointer, etc.  While playing, two different species of animal can reach an understanding with one another.  When you throw a ball for your dog, the dog knows that it’s their job to catch the ball, and it’s your job to throw it, even though you have no language with which to communicate.  In the future I’d like to explore the depths of this topic in more detail.

New Game – Motion

This past weekend I participated in Ludum Dare, a 48-hour game making competition.
This time around, the theme for the competition was “Minimalism”.
My entry, which I’m quite proud of, is called “Motion”.
Motion is a minimalistic arcade game about adaptation, memory, and control.
Will you figure it out?
Click the image above to be taken to the game’s Ludum Dare entry page.
As usual, all feedback is greatly appreciated!

Ludum Dare 24 Post-mortem

Ludum Dare 24 judging ended last weekend so I figured I’d take a minute to talk about the game I made for it, and what the development process was like.

For those who are unacquainted with it, Ludum Dare is an online game making competition in which people around the world try to make the best game they can in 48 hours.  A theme is announced at the start of the competition, and developers have to keep it in mind while designing.

The tools I used for Ludum Dare 24 were:
Game Maker 8.1
Inkscape
Voice Memos on iPhone
Audacity
sfxr

Virion Title ScreenThis time around, I made a game called Virion.  I’m not entirely sure what genre it fits into, but it’s a game in which you control the titular character, a virus particle, who must travel through the body, avoiding white blood cells, to infect a nice healthy cell.  The game has 17 levels and an ending.  Here’s a breakdown of how the game was developed:

Friday:
The theme for Ludum Dare 24 was announced at 9 PM on Friday while my wife and I were heading home from our favorite restaurant G-Zen.  (We decided to go out to eat before the competition started because I tend to forget to eat during Ludum Dare…)  Upon hearing that the theme was “Evolution” I really didn’t know what to think.  I had no real ideas, and didn’t feel too passionate.  3 hours later I was still in the same boat.  I contemplated giving up, but instead decided to make a list of features I wanted my game to have. Here’s some of the big ones:

  • Has to abide by the Pacifist Games mission statement.
    “To create interesting, thoughtfully designed, and primarily nonviolent video games that treat players ethically.”
  • Levels
    I hadn’t designed a game with levels before and really wanted to give it a shot.
  • An ending
    I have a theory that Ludum Dare games with endings get better ratings than those without them, so I wanted to test it.  More on that later.
  • Vector graphics
    I’ve been trying to learn Inkscape lately and thought this would be a good way to get some practice
  • A cute/relatable character
    Adding a face to the player character really seems to add a lot to games.
  • The environment/enemies should evolve, not the player character
    I figured everyone would make a game in which the player character evolved, so I wanted to do something different.

The last entry on the list got me thinking about what kind of environments in nature evolve based on the actions of a single entity.  I immediately thought of our bodies’ immune systems when they realize a virus is attacking.  Since I didn’t have any better ideas, I did a little research on viruses and decided to go with it.  The original idea was that you would play as a virus particle, attacking the same body over and over again until you destroyed it.  The white blood cells in the body would get smarter and smarter based on your previous playthroughs.

Influenza

The image which inspired the look of the main character: an influenza virion.

So, the first thing I did was design the character and controls.  Can’t really design levels until you’ve got the controls completely ironed out!  Since the game would take place within a body, I wanted the player to have a kind of slippery, slidey movement.  I spent the first night of the dare tuning the player’s movement until it felt just right!  I found that adding some rotation to the character made it feel a ton better, and decided to make him blink and pulsate as well.  Little details like these seem to make a pretty big impact on players.

Virion

The final look of the main character

Saturday:
On the second day of the dare I implemented the title screen, sound effects, background noise and background graphics then began work on the enemies in the game.  I brainstormed a few different types, the ones in bold made it into the final version:

  • Enemies that sit completely still
  • Enemies that move back and forth
  • Enemies that move around erratically
  • Enemies that travel diagonally
  • Enemies that mimic the player’s movements
  • Enemies that chase the player

I implemented the three enemy types that I thought had the most promise (the ones in bold) and then started trying to create the game’s level.  Since the idea was that you would repeatedly invade the same body, there was to be only one long level that you played over and over, with new enemy types appearing in later playthroughs.  It took me most of the second day to realize that this idea was really really stupid.  Not only would it be incredibly hard to design, it would also be boring for the player!  So, toward the end of the second day I began designing the one-screen levels that would be in the final game.

Companion

This level shows an interesting effect of the enemies that copy your movements.

My goal with each level was to highlight an interesting feature of the type of enemy that was in it.  There were to be 5 levels for each of the 3 enemy types, followed by a final boss room and a room in which you encounter the cell you want to infect.

Sunday:
Since it was now the final day, I entered panic mode and started designing levels as fast as I could.  In the end I was only able to design 3 levels for the enemies who mimic your movement, but did succeed in designing 5 for the other 2 enemy types.  In a crazy hour full of half-assed code I implemented the game’s ending, then went around sprucing up the rest of the game.  I made the background graphics slightly different for each room, and implemented the crazy circle graphics which make up the walls in the game.  (The walls were previously just black squares)  I also added a secret warp zone, gave all of the levels names, and updated the look of the enemies.  In the end I was unable to create a final boss, so I just placed the hardest level in the game right before the last room.  And so, just after 9 PM on Sunday, I submitted my game to the Ludum Dare website then promptly fell asleep.

Results:
Skipping forward now to the end of the judging period (a few weeks after the submission deadline) I’d like to talk about the results of the dare!  Shockingly, I placed 21st overall out of 1006 compo participants!  Here’s a detailed breakdown of my results:

RatingsThe coolness rating is based on the number of other Ludum Dare games you played, I only had time to play 60 this time around.  I was surprised by how high the overall and fun ratings were, since I didn’t feel too passionate about the game when I was making it.  I think the number and quality of the levels is what impressed most players.  It may also be that since they were able to beat it and see they ending, they got a nice high and rated accordingly.  The rest of the ratings fall about where I expected them to.  It makes sense that my theme score was the lowest, since I scrapped the part of my game that was overtly about evolution.  Overall I’m very happy with the results, and had a great time!

Quick Update

I’ve added a link and some info for my Ludum Dare 23 game Planet ZOOB to the games page, check it out!  I’m gonna do a full writeup about the game once I get a working scanner.  I want to scan in my design sketches to go with the post.

Also, the site now has a (barely functional) store where you can buy a Pacifist Games logo tee if you for some strange reason want that.  I wanted a logo tee for myself, so I figured why not sell them?  They’re 100% organic cotton!

That’s it for now, back to work on the mobile version of Planet ZOOB.  :)

On Logo Design

Since I finally have the site up and running smoothly, I thought I’d take a moment to explain the Pacifist Games logo.  Back when I started thinking about creating Pacifist Games, in early January, I knew I’d need some kind of logo to represent it.  After a little bit of pondering I came up with a list of the three most important features such a logo would have:
1. It would be easily recognizable, at any scale.
2. It would be a simple and colorful vector drawing.
3. It would represent the name and mission of Pacifist Games in a unique way

The first two features are pretty trivial, but the third is where I started to have problems.  How can I represent the name and mission of Pacifist Games in a unique way?  I began by looking at common symbols for pacifism.  The symbol most commonly used to represent pacifism is the peace sign, but to me, the peace sign doesn’t mean much.  How do three lines and a circle represent peace?  I decided that I would begin to look for better representations of the pacifist ideal, and, if I did end up incorporating a peace sign into the logo, it would be in a subtle way.

After some more thought, I decided that a tree is a much more suitable symbol for pacifism.  A tree never consciously causes harm to other living things (as far as we know) and has only beneficial effects on the health of the Earth as a whole.  From this conclusion I decided that the Pacifist Games logo would have to prominently feature a tree of some kind.

Combining these two ideas, and keeping in mind the three main features that the logo had to incorporate, I designed a few prototype logos before settling on the current one shown at the top of this page.  Now, you may be wondering, how does it incorporate a peace sign?  Well, folding the logo in half, as shown below, reveals its true nature:

Introduction

Hi, and welcome to PacifistGames.com!
I’m Kyle, and this is my personal website!
Here’s a little dialog to introduce you to the site:

What can I expect from Pacifist Games?
If you have a look at the mission statement on the About page:
“Pacifist Games’ mission is to create interesting, thoughtfully designed, and primarily nonviolent video games that treat players ethically.”

What does that even mean?
The Pacifist Games mission statement can be broken into 4 main ideals:
• Interesting – Games that are interesting arouse the players’ curiosity and hold their attention, one might also call them “captivating”.
• Thoughtfully designed – Game design in which all parts of the design have been thoroughly considered.
• Primarily nonviolent – Don’t expect to find the next big war-themed first person shooter on this site.  All games released by Pacifist Games will be suitable for general audiences.  In-game violence will be used sparingly, and only where it is absolutely necessary to achieve a certain effect.
• Ethical treatment of players – All games under the Pacifist Games label will respect the
players’ time, money, and mental health.  Games should be enjoyable, with no adverse
effects on their players’ lives.  Basically, I won’t be making Farmville or World of
Warcraft.

So what can I expect from this blog?
The Pacifist Games blog is where I’ll be posting information about the current progress of my games and game ideas as well as talking/ranting about game design and development.  Follow Pacifist Games on facebook or twitter to be notified of new blog posts.

Cool, where can I play some games?
All games will be posted on the blog and added to the Games page as they’re completed.  At the moment the selection is pretty sparse, but I hope to change that soon.  I participated in the Ludum Dare 48 hour game making competition last weekend.  If you want to try the game I created for that, go here.  Expect a blog post about its design soon

Thanks for checking out my site!
If you have any additional questions, ask them in the comments!