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Locked in a game jam prison: The making of Deepweb

Posted by (twitter: @alecthomson)
Sunday, April 27th, 2014 6:23 pm

Well this weekend has been exciting. Shortly after the compo started my apartment’s front door broke so I couldn’t open it from the inside.

While waiting for my superintendent to answer his phone, I made this game, Deepweb about shady dealings beneath the surface of the internet we know and love.

I’m still trapped inside my apartment, but now the game is done and you can play it too.






Back in December, I made “Cruel Cruel Dastard” for Ludum Dare 25. Folks seemed to respond positively to the mechanic, so I’ve spent the past few months making an updated version. The new game, now called “Ragtime Ruffian” was just released today and is available for iPad/PC/Mac/Linux.

The new version includes completely re-done art, new mechanics, 50 designed levels, and the procedurally generated endless mode I originally wanted to implement during the compo. You can get it here if you’re interested.





Cruel Cruel Dastard Postmortem

Posted by (twitter: @alecthomson)
Tuesday, December 18th, 2012 3:16 pm

A little bit belated, but here’s my postmortem for Cruel Cruel Dastard (play and rate it here)

Things that went well

Recording my own sounds: 

Usually when I’m working on jam games I tend to make heavy use of free sound libraries (such as freesound.org) and content generators (such as bfxr). Since the main Ludum Dare Compo disallows use of sound libraries, I decided to give recording my own sounds a try. It turns out recording sounds was actually a lot easier than I imagined (and also a ton of fun).

Under normal circumstances, I might have spent ages searching through a free sound library for a train sound. While recording my own sounds, all I had to do was record myself blowing into paper and then tweak the result in Audacity to get what I wanted. Everyone who plays the game seems to love the evil laugh I included as a victory noise. That thing is basically just my own voice sped-up and it only took me about a minute to make, so I’ll definitely be recording my own sounds more in the future.

Re-doing the controls halfway through:  

When I started making the game, the idea was that it had a simple “click to place things on screen” control scheme. To build a large amount of train tracks, the player would have to place each piece of the track individually and switch to a different shape every time the track turned. To illustrate, here’s a screenshot from the game on day one:

notice how each shape has its own menu item

notice how each shape has its own menu item

If this sounds like a terrible and tedious control scheme to you, well you’re right! About halfway through the competition, I decided to scrap this scheme and make a much more intelligent track building system that allows the player to lay tracks or re-route existing tracks just by dragging their mouse across the screen. Even though it took a good chunk of time to implement, I think it was a pretty good idea, particularly since it’s now much easier to build tracks in the game than in my level editor.

still have to choose pieces by hand

still have to choose pieces by hand

Practicing Art Beforehand: 

I was using the Make Pixel Art web app for making my art. I like this program because it’s really simple and it has super useful “lighten” and “darken” tools that I can’t seem to find anywhere else (if you know how to get the same thing in photoshop or gimp, please tell me).

Of course, it’s simplicity has some drawbacks, such as not being able to easily constrain the size of your drawings. Fortunately, with a week of practice beforehand, I was able to get past these problems via silly solutions such as creating “frame” templates.


Things that didn’t go so well

No Time for Levels: 

Hey look at that! I kind of mismanaged my time for this jam. My original intention for the last day was to do some basic polish, make a few designed levels to introduce the mechanics (complete with tutorial text), and then build a procedural generation system for making the game more of an arcade style puzzle game (like tetris) rather than a deterministic puzzle game (like a rubiks cube).

If that sounds kind of over-scoped to you, you’re correct! I was still adding polish on Sunday when I looked at the clock and realized I only had one hour left and no levels to speak of yet. It didn’t help that my level editor wasn’t fully set up yet either.

In the end, I had to scramble all ten of the levels together in less than 20 minutes, which basically meant I got the tutorial levels in and not much else. Whoops!

Poor Prioritization: 

Part of the reason I ran out of time on Sunday was definitely due to poor prioritization. There are a bunch of mechanics in the game that are either not explored fully or not properly implemented at all (such as the rope mechanic). I think if I had done a better job pruning these ideas down to only about two or three basic mechanics (say, laying railroad tracks and dynamite), I wouldn’t have run out of time towards the end.

Also, certain pieces of polish that would be essential for a larger release–The “undo” button in particular–might not have been really necessary for a 48 hour game, particularly one as short as this one, so I might have benefitted from focusing more on the core gameplay.

Playing it “Safe”:

One of my goals for this weekend was to create something fairly polished that I could easily expand upon for a bigger release. In practice, this meant that I discarded a bunch of ideas during the planning phase that were a lot more experimental or interesting because I wasn’t sure I could expand them into something worthwhile in only 48 hours.

Of course, this means I ended up designing a game that was distressingly similar to games I’ve made in the past. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing (plenty of people riff on the similar concepts several times before moving on), I think I could have benefited from going with one of my wilder ideas.

Another game with 3x3 explosions

Another game with 3×3 explosions

I think I still might be able to differentiate this game from some of my previous work by implementing the “arcade mode” which I didn’t get around to, so I’ll keep updating as I do post-competition work on it.

That’s about it. Thanks for reading!



Cruel Cruel Dastard is done!

Posted by (twitter: @alecthomson)
Sunday, December 16th, 2012 8:45 pm

Phew. I didn’t get everything I wanted to do with the game done, but it should be a reasonably complete experience. You can play it here! Now I think it’s time to sleep.



Some more dastardly trains

Posted by (twitter: @alecthomson)
Sunday, December 16th, 2012 11:05 am

Going to try making a bunch of levels today


Dastardly Trains Screen 1

Posted by (twitter: @alecthomson)
Saturday, December 15th, 2012 12:09 pm

Making a game about derailing trains. So far i’ve got some trains moving around. Next up, Dynamite!



I’m in again!

Posted by (twitter: @alecthomson)
Saturday, December 8th, 2012 7:10 pm

This’ll be my second Ludum Dare.

I’ll most likely be developing in either Flixel or Unity, using GIMP for graphics, sfxr and Audacity for sound effects, and Figure on iPad for music.

See you guys there!


I Think I’m In!

Posted by (twitter: @alecthomson)
Thursday, August 18th, 2011 10:23 pm

This’ll be my first Ludum Dare and my first time Jamming solo. Here are my most likely tools:

Code: FlashBuilder 4, AS3, Flixel. Box2D if I end up needing physics

Graphics: GIMP for me

Music: cfxr most likely

Good luck, everyone!


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