The Animal Farm

March 24th, 2010

Is it Still Selling Your Soul…

…if you pay money to a company you loathe, but you break their EULA in the same breath?

I now have access to a Mac-capable machine, and by that I mean I have OS X installed on a VM. It’s a bit touchy but by far more reliable than the Hackintosh variants, and it requires a comparatively small investment. It cost $30 for the OS, basically.

What does this mean for you, the reader? Well, I’m going to try porting my games. Laura has an iTouch I can use for development, and I know enough about Objective-C to make the transition less hairy.

There’s going to be a struggle with memory - C# is all garbage collected, whereas Objective-C isn’t. Well, it is technically using reference counting, but I haven’t seen anything that manages those for you. If I went all Objective-C++, writing my own smart pointers wouldn’t be especially hard. I already have the classes laying around.

Unfortunately my rendering isn’t especially abstract, so there’s going to be a lot of drawing code that needs rewritten. Which is why all future projects have a more robust abstract renderer. But the drawing code isn’t especially hard (nothing beyond rendering a textured quad), so a couple helper methods should make that seamless. And of course the controls will need to be reworked, but I have ideas there.

So I’m thinking See the Light first then Word Duelist. But both these ports fall back-seat to the other projects I have going on. I’m curious to see how the market compares.

Oh yea, and See the Light 1.1 (or 1.5 as I’ll call it) is almost ready. It’s done, I just need to spend a solid weekend in testing before pushing it to review.

You win, Ricky.

March 23rd, 2010

The Name of the Wind

Penny Arcade recently had a post on Patrick Rothfuss’s book The Name of the Wind and this caused me to go out and buy it.  I am a terribly slow reader, so as a result I haven’t really read that much in my life.  It takes a lot for a book to make me want to read it, and I can rarely will myself to continue reading a book that is boring for long stretches.  This is not that kind of book.  The Name of the Wind is a great read from the first word to the last.  I would say my only complaint, and this is my complaint with most things I like that aren’t finished yet, is that I have to wait an indeterminately long time for the second and third book in the series.  He wrote the book all at once and when it was purchased by a publisher, they decided to cut it into a trilogy.  This is probably for the best as the first book is about a quarter million words, according to Rothfuss.  But since it was one continuous story, the first book has no real ending, the subtitle is “The Kingkiller Chronicle: Day 1″, so the first book ends at the first day of a three day story.  This isn’t a bad thing, so long as you know there are two more books coming out some time.

At any rate, I recommend this book to any fan of fantasy.  I am not one for critics that I don’t read the thoughts and insights of weekly, IE Penny Arcade, but just about every review of this book/author is gushing with praise.  If that means anything to you, get the book. If it doesn’t and you like fantasy, get the book.

I actually got to meet Rothfuss last night here in the DC area, actually about a mile from where I work.  He is making a trip through the east coast and decided to do a book signing/reading at various bookstores that would have him on short notice (about two weeks).  The closest bookstore to my job site was one of them.  I had never been to a book signing/reading before, so I didn’t really know what to expect.  It was a pretty awesome experience though.  Rothfuss answered spoiler-free questions as they came, and said he would answer spoiler-full(?)  questions individually while he was signing the books.  I am definitely planning on going to his next book tour when he is promoting the second book.  I suppose that means I have to buy the hardcover version to actually read, as that will be out first, but I can get over that I guess.  Anyone else feel hardcover books are uncomfortable to read/travel with?

I really can’t wait for the second and third books.

No quote for you.

March 20th, 2010

Reviews for Zach

Zach asked me to fulfill my reviewing obligations, and although he hasn’t visited me once since we parted, citing lamer and lamer excuses each time (”I’m getting married” or “I just bought a house”), I will oblige. With not one but two reviews - and one of those reviews will be a sweeping generalization of multiple games at the same time.

First the generalized review:
While trying to push Word Duelist out the door, I had the pleasure of reviewing something like 20+ games. Plus I’ve playtested quite a number. I won’t go into each game individually - I don’t want to talk about games that aren’t out yet, nor do I have the time to touch on each game individually - but I will give you the general state of XBLIG: Unfortunate.

With something like 18 different variations of Blackjack, 5 massage apps, a host of Avatar games that are little more than screensavers, and a series of games that literally just show you a screen and ask you to pass the game pad around, the volume of junk is absurd. There are gems - beautiful gems that deserve your time - but wading through the rubbish is an exercise in pain.

Here are some of the gems to watch out for: Rotor’scope, Mega Monster Madness, Dungeon Adventure, Missing Reel, Zombie Armageddon.

One day I’m going to write up a nasty attack on $1 games, Race to the Bottom economics, and voluntary peer reviewing, and by the end of it I think I’ll hurt even my own feelings.

And Now a Resonance of Fate Review
I’m only about six hours deep into Resonance of Fate (RoF), so I can’t really talk about the deeper story, but I feel like I have enough feeling for the battle system and game flow to talk about it.

First an overview: RoF is a JRPG that came out a week after FF13. It takes place in a futuristic dystopia where mankind lives in a giant tower, and the cast features three bounty hunters taking on missions to survive. None of this should be new if you’ve played games since the year 2000.

Where RoF breaks the mold is that it throws away conventional battle mechanics for something much more stylized - your characters are John Woo-inspired gunslingers, jumping around the battlefield and over enemies, hiding behind cover, rolling and dodging and darting around the map as they fire submachines or dual pistols into their enemies.

There’s a lot going on in the battle system, and you’re not gently nudged into this - the game has a monolithic battle tutorial in the beginning which shows you everything you’ll be doing from start to finish. Luckily it’s mostly intuitive - the tutorial makes it seem more daunting than it is, but a lot of things just happen fluidly, and you have plenty of time to react.

Which is not to say that battle is easy, because it isn’t. It’s actually very, very hard. Mismanage for a moment, and you can get snubbed out quickly. So while getting the hang of battle isn’t too bad, getting the hang of battling well is a job in itself. But it’s a rewarding job.

Outside of battle, you’re greeted with at times a very linear and at others a very non-linear game, and I think this game hits the perfect balance. There’s a main hub town where you accept missions - one story mission per chapter and a host of optional side missions. You have your choice of how your approach things.

When you’re on a mission, the mission is generally pretty linear. Dungeon design is light - often a line of connected rooms, where each room has a new battle. And you know what? I like this. Finally a game that realizes that I don’t need to explore every nook, that wasting my time with worthless rooms is really just wasting my time, that there is no shame in going from Point A - Point B with each point in between punctuated with something interesting.

The game also introduces a lot of nifty things, like an interesting weapon customization system that semi-mirrors what I had planned for Steam Powered.

In short, it’s a pretty fun game, and I’ll probably be playing it through to completion.

But my battery is about to die, so I’d better cut this off.

Dont’ make passes.

March 17th, 2010

Word Duelist in the Press

I’d like to share some of the reviews the game has been getting for your pleasure: gave the only negative(ish) review I’ve seen, so I’ll start there. The reviewer had a number of positive things (”Word Duelist is very close to being a perfect word game”), but mostly focused on the game’s difficulty - the one negative toward which most of the review focused. In short, he thought it was too hard (or that many of the words were too obscure), which may be a valid criticism. I don’t know, neither Laura nor I had much trouble getting through the game on Normal.

Conversely, Small Cave Games gave the game glowing marks, picking it as one of the two games for their “Try it or Die” weekly segment, where the reviewer picks two of the standout titles of the week. No exciting quotes to yank out of that one really, but making the cut is reward unto itself. also had nothing but positive things to say - giving the game a 5/5 score (!). “Word Duelist is an excellent game for young and old alike.” “The game is a definite must have for everyone.”

That’s it so far; I’m glad initial reactions have been pretty positive. The game is looking to beat See the Light’s sales so far.

Gettin’ high on inspiration

March 16th, 2010


I’ll be the first to admit I own the most inferior of the three current gen systems this go ’round.  I don’t regret my decision to buy a Wii, most of the time.  When it took me 6 months of weekly searches to get, I was annoyed and frustrated, but I’d imagine I would’ve been more so if Ricky and Brian didn’t have one at their apartment.  When I was trying to get Mario Kart for my father for months on end, I was pretty annoyed as well.  In fact, it seems that the only way to get a popular game for this system is to either preorder, which is what I usually do, get extremely lucky, or just wait out the demand.

The true inferiority of the Wii system is actually in the fact that everyone and their ehfing grandmother owns one.  It is absolutely ridiculous for a game to be over a year old, 15 months to be exact, and STILL be sold out for the most part nation wide.  Come on, the game even has a high price of entry, at at least $100 for the game/guitar.  I mean, I’ve found the game by itself in one store, but never the guitar.  The people at Gamestop looked at me like I was asking for a kidney when I asked them about it. I guess I should mention I am talking about Rock Band 2: Wii.  Every store I’ve been to/shopped online at has had plenty of PS3/360 versions on sale for $40 cheaper than the Wii bundle would be if it were actually there.   I really don’t understand how this happened, but it happens enough that I should be used to it I guess.  I find it really annoying that when I want a game that old and can’t find it that it isn’t because it is “out of print”, or whatever the video game analog to that statement is, but this is different.  The game and peripherals are very much IN print, they apparently only print one per week, however.

Sigh, If I played video games more that weren’t WoW, I’d just bite the  bullet and pick up a 360, wireless ethernet adapter, and rock  band 2 for it.  But I don’t, so I’ll instead whine for a week or so, then wait it out.

Brian, I generally rely on you to review video games on this site.  You should probably get back to your obligations.  Also, I really want to play the games you are making for XBLIG, make them for the iPhone, kthxbai.


Rediculous: v, To diculous again.

March 14th, 2010


It’s been a busy night:

What you’re looking at there is the pre-Prototype 1 for a board game internally code named Steam Powered. It’s basically the product of Laura and I going nuts on some poster board for a little while.

(Side note: Would it have been cleaner and more efficient to do everything on a computer and transfer it over? Yes, but we got excited.)

What you’re seeing is, as has been hinted, not the finished prototype. There are various mechanics that need cut-outs & cards. Plus the tiles need things on them!

So what is the game? Basically it’s a steampunk cross between two games I love and one I’ve never played: Descent, Last Night on Earth, and Tannhauser. At the beginning of the game, players pick a ‘quest’ to complete - depending on the quest, some number of players take on the role of ‘heroes’ trying to do what the quest says while others take on the role of ‘adversaries,’ trying to stop the heroes. Usually by killing them.

From that point it’s mostly a tactical strategy game, with players moving their selected character on a board and killing things. Adversaries control a character as well and other minions that they can throw at the heroes.

In the middle off all this is a weapon upgrade system - players can find materials on the board which can then be combined to create an upgrade, making their weapon more powerful.

The goals we set out when making the game:
* Make something we’d enjoy playing (obviously).
* Make something where the rules are very short and easy to learn and lacking edge cases but still provide depth.
* Make something that can be played in an hour with 4 people (but potentially longer depending on the quest).

Without reciting all the rules for you, I think we’re close. There’s a lot of balancing we’ll need to do (notice how the stat boxes are empty), and I’m hoping to recruit friends & gamers to help playtest.

Why am I doing all this? *shrug* Fun? Something else to fill the fledgling bits of free time I have left? If it comes together well, I’ll submit it to some of the companies that do board game publishing, but that’s a ways off and not something I realistically expect.

That was a very poorly organized post.

March 14th, 2010

Word Duelist Sales Update

The short version: I won’t be quitting my job any time soon to make XBLIG games full time.

The game is selling nearly identically to See the Light (read: low). It has a decent conversion ratio (7%) but an abysmally low number of trials (around 800 so far). And this is while it’s on the New Arrivals section - once it leaves that, I expect trials will drop sharply.

I have no clue how to drive people over to the game. I did a marketing blitz, but that had to wait until after the game was released since I wasn’t sure when it would come out, and so none of the reviews are up yet. There are trailers and promo videos, but their views are limited by the number of people viewing the sites they’re on.

I think one mechanism to employ is to start blogging about a game early and often, getting the blog as much exposure as possible so that people know something is out there and have incentive to keep up with it. It’s a strategy I’m going to try employing with my next projects.

As an aside, this site gets nearly 200 hits per week. Which isn’t big by any standard but is a fair bit larger than what it was a year ago. Which makes me curious who’s seeing this site and where they’re coming from.

I can keep rhythm with no metronome.

March 13th, 2010

Why Haven’t You Purchased Word Duelist?

This post isn’t actually about Word Duelist, but I thought you needed some reminding.

I recently discovered that Lock ‘n Load accepts board game submissions, which has inspired me to begin mucking around with a game idea. My knee-jerk idea is a steampunk-themed cross of Last Night on Earth, Descent, and Tannhauser. If you’re local and want to help me prototype or playtest, that’d be neat.

I just call it ecstacy.

March 10th, 2010

Word Duelist is out NOW

You can go buy it. Hint hint.

And by “hint hint” I mean “go buy it.”

March 8th, 2010

The Pipeline

Let’s chat about the road ahead, both in life and in love.

Actually just in life. Not really in life as a whole, even - the small portion of life I dedicate to projects, personal endeavors, and being sexy.

See the Light
Development for the next project is running concurrently with the See the Light update, which should wrap up sometime next week and go into review.

Word Duelist
Word Duelist is essentially finished, and as far as I know bug free. It needs about 3 more reviews before being released, though that’s been the case for the last two times it failed. I’m confident this time around though.

The Next Project
The “Next XBLIG” game has been scoped back radically. Laura and I looked at it, looked critically at the time we have available to us, and decided that we had put forward a losing proposition. In the interest of full disclosure, the project was a cross between Mario Party, Dokapon Kingdom and World Duelist with the inclusion of (!) math games. We had actually made some significant progress, but we still had over 90% to go and then probably another 90% after that.

You can probably tell that the math games would’ve been our downfall.

OK, that was a joke. 90% + 90% = 180% = impossible in this context, just in case you weren’t laughing. The math games were actually all implemented (roughly).

ANYWAY. So the next project, we think, will be the spiritual successor to Penguin Push, tentatively titled Space Panda Push about a - think hard - panda in space. We’re building a lot on the core mechanics of Penguin Push and adding in a quirky story and more depth. It’s not nearly as grandiose, but it’s achievable in the time available.

I’m still hoping to bring back the other game (tentatively titled Mind Games), as I think there’s a fair bit of merit there if done right. One day.

The Next Next Project
I’m hunting around for art help for something a little bigger. I honestly don’t know what it will be yet - I want to do something small, polished, and fun, without rehashing old ideas. There’s potential here, but it all needs prototyping.

I broke hearts all weekend long.