About ataxkt (twitter: @tomkail)

I'm a Uni student, Intern'er, and indie game dev. In reverse order first.


Ludum Dare 26

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Awarded by Jod
on April 30, 2013
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Awarded by WhatTheTeam
on April 28, 2013

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Open source FOR YOU – the narrative scripting language behind 80 Days

Posted by (twitter: @tomkail)
Friday, April 15th, 2016 1:00 pm

First off – I’m in! I’ll be jamming with a friend, doing something narrative-y and text heavy.

Inkle just open sourced the updated version of the language and tools used to write the IGF award winning 80 Days. It integrates realllly nicely with Unity, with a package that does all the heavy lifting for you. Grab it here! http://www.inklestudios.com/ink/

We’ll be using it over the weekend, if you’re interested in trying it out and need a hand, I’ll be around all weekend (I’m @tomkail)! Super excited to see if anyone gives it a go!

The British are awake!

Posted by (twitter: @tomkail)
Saturday, December 14th, 2013 3:50 am

Just woke up and saw the theme. It’s quite abstract and open, which is a double edged sword. I find that the best LD games tend to have simple unique mechanics and focus on allowing time for content creation and polish, so I might work with that in mind. On the other hand, I’ve got a first person skiing game in my head, and I’d like to see if it works!

I’m in!

Posted by (twitter: @tomkail)
Friday, December 13th, 2013 9:45 am

My 4th attempt starts tomorrow morning! I’ll be using Unity.

The newly formed Bournemouth Game Development Society in the south of England will be getting together for the Ludum weekend! If anyone is around the area and interested in joining in, ping me an email at tkail92@gmail.com. See you there!

On Minimalism

Posted by (twitter: @tomkail)
Monday, May 20th, 2013 3:11 pm

“It is my ambition to say in ten sentences what others say in a whole book.” – Nietzsche

It may seem odd to start discussing the theme as the last 3 hours of the voting stage tick away, but there’s a lesson to be learned in the theme that should be at the heart of any creative work. It means a lot to me, and from the games I played I felt it escaped many people. Here’s my interpretation of minimalism, and how to use the concept to craft innovative new games.

There are two groups of people I feel have actively, yet perfectly equally missed the point of designing minimal games. There’s camp A who took minimalism as “removing stuff” and made single button pixel-style black and white games, and camp B who feel that any game made in 48 hours is minimal by necessity and just went and made the game they’d been planning to all along. Both arguments could be considered true, but fail to cut to the core of minimalism, which is to reveal the essence of a subject. To say this should, by necessity, take less time than a non-minimal game, is a flat out lie. Team Ico have never spent less than 3 years developing a game, and while all their games are rich 3D adventures, they are all minimal to the core.

Minimalism is a subjective and artistic term, meaning that creating a minimal platform game could take you in many directions. There is no “one true” minimal game. Adam Saltsman’s game Canabalt was designed as a minimal game from the outset, and it created a rich sub-genre which still flourishes. It’s not minimal because it is controlled by one button, or that it only uses a limited color palette. These things certainly help, but Canabalt is minimal in how it targeted the very root of the genre, and selected one specific element to run with – jumping.

This diagram, taken from Dan Cook’s fantastic blog post, shows the power of reinvention. There are many other ways to reinvent, but minimalism is a powerful tool.

I played a LOT of Canabalt clones from this a tournament. I don’t want to appear to be slating anyone’s work, because the power to test ideas is my favourite aspect of Ludum Dare and I have made many a shoddy Canabalt clone myself, but I still want to address the issue. It is my belief that adding any new idea to Canabalt is a step backwards, because it is the act of watering down the essence of the game. To reinvent it, it must be stripped back to it’s core. A minimalist approach might have been to take another aspect of the platformer, such as the platforms, and consider their essence, and their purpose. I think a good example of a game that does this is Doodle Jump, which takes the idea of platforms as a tool to help you reach places in a very pure way.

So play some more games with the time left, and ask yourself which parts of the game could have been trimmed, and which parts helped make the total something more.

To wrap up, here’s some great games from this LD that I thought understood the theme perfectly.

You Must Escape: A game about mapping space with sound. When the enemies turn up, the concept complements them and makes them more terrifying than and visuals that might have been added.

Follow The Line: A game about twitch responses. There is nothing thrown in to distract you here, allowing you to focus on the single goal of the game – survival.

Centroid: A game about finding the center of mass. While I don’t like the end state of the game, it’s a beautifully simple mechanic where you actually feel you’ve learned something through playing.

The Ludum Dare drinking game!

Posted by (twitter: @tomkail)
Tuesday, April 30th, 2013 12:32 pm

Are you playing Ludum Dare games? Are you drinking? Could you be drinking? (whether you should be is another story)
Either way, consider this as a metagame with the added incentive of alcohol! Happy boozing!


Please don’t take this as an offence, it’s intended only as a lighthearted parody. If you’re interested in remixing or adding to the rules, the PSD can be found here!

Looking back on minimalism

Posted by (twitter: @tomkail)
Monday, April 29th, 2013 11:24 am

I finished Ludum Dare for the first time, and came out the other side with XYZ, and I’m damned proud of it. It goes without saying that I’d do it again in a heartbeat, but I didn’t expect to be saying those words yesterday. When time is running out and you don’t know what to do, its amazing how erratic you can become.

Day 1

I woke up at 8.30 (UK time), checked the theme and made some breakfast. My idea came to me nearly instantly. It was to be a game about the link between power and human relationships, and it was going to be mindblowing. The narrative and gameplay meshed together beautifully in my head, and I immediately started coding. Mistake 1: Don’t attempt to create an HTML5 engine from scratch. By 5pm I had my engine at a reasonable level (I’m still damned proud of that engine), and I quickly built up the mechanics of the game. Except they didn’t work. It was a game built upon 3 simple rules; 1. People seek power, 2. People gain power by taking it from others, and 3. The powerful need more power to sustain their egos; but I couldn’t balance my AI. Power, it seems, is a freight train. The 1% effect. I learned a valuable lesson about mankind, and lost 12 hours of coding. Mistake 2: Prototype everything, even your prototypes. What now? I spent the rest of the night trying to salvage my beautiful engine, attempting to justify using it at any cost. Every 15 minutes I would alternate between a new idea and attempting to fix the original game, swinging from delight to depression like a pendulum. Mistake 3: Cut your losses. By 3am I had finally given up. I sank a couple of beers and went to bed.



All I have to show for 24 hours work.

All I have to show for 24 hours work.

Day 2

I woke at a more reasonable 11am, and rose feeling defeated. Bitter. Game designer ego does not take well to defeat. I couldn’t resist taking one last crack at the contest. This time, it would be different. It would be simple, concise and different. I chose Unity, my trusty silent compadre, and took a very small and underdeveloped part of a concept I had floating around my mind. Understanding 1: Work with what you know. It was to be the puzzle side of the fast paced racer which had been long ago silently converted into a fast paced racer with no puzzles (shameless plug – you can totally play the alpha of that game here). I cut everything from the idea that didn’t support the core, and carved out the perspective tricks brought forward by the excellent Fez. Understanding 2: If it can be cut, cut it; especially when the theme is minimalism. I started with a test level to make sure the concept worked. It worked. Satisfied, I started work on some essential middleware tools I would need to save time down the line. Creating and saving meshes from within Unity, that sort of thing. If you don’t know it Unity Answers is a beautiful place. This wasn’t fast, but it was worth it – I could create shapes and levels rapidly. I worked up the first 6 levels in an hour. I had 8 left, but I wanted a finished game as soon as possible. Understanding 3: Polish is 90% of your game’s appeal. I created a simple menu and a few more levels. With 6 hours left, I could spend plenty of time on sound and visuals. The style was born from effective of a single Unity filter, mimicking the beautiful world of Echochrome. I am not a sound designer, but FruityLoops makes it insanely easy to create quality sound in a short space of time (and skill). Despite all this, I submitted just 10 minutes before the deadline. I narrowly avoided the greatest mistake I could have made: Understanding 4: Allow an hour for submission. Screenshots within the Ludum Dare submission page lose their splendour and be aware that people pick games based on how they look, not the quirky name or genuinely original mechanic. Exporting and uploading too, takes time. I’m sure some Dare’ers missed the submission date by seconds, and they will have learnt this lesson the hard way.

Keeping it simple in every way but the puzzles.


That was my Ludum Dare. It had highs and lows, but there’s nothing quite like the feeling of finishing something you’re truly proud of, even if it isn’t objectively very good. But it’s not my place to argue whether I made a good game, it’s yours. You can play and rate XYZ here – I’d love to know what you think.

XYZ – a unique simple puzzler about shape and space.

Posted by (twitter: @tomkail)
Sunday, April 28th, 2013 7:18 pm



Hi there, reader! I made this game, and you should definitely play it on Kongregate.


Posted by (twitter: @tomkail)
Sunday, April 28th, 2013 9:14 am



Whoa, I might even finish this time! Just got to fit a few more levels in and I’m done!

Play it here!

Now we’re getting places…

Posted by (twitter: @tomkail)
Saturday, April 27th, 2013 6:01 pm

After a false start (spent the whole day on the engine for a game which didn’t work out), I’ve got a new idea and a new uber-minimal style! Its about interpreting 3D geometry in 2D space.



Posted by (twitter: @tomkail)
Saturday, April 27th, 2013 6:51 am


Spent most of the morning making the engine, now we’re getting places! It’s called Ego, and its about relationships and power.


Good Morning Vietnam!

Posted by (twitter: @tomkail)
Saturday, April 27th, 2013 1:33 am

It’s 9.30 here in Britain, time to get started!

A New Challenger Appears!

Posted by (twitter: @tomkail)
Wednesday, April 24th, 2013 2:52 pm

Hey world! This’ll be my second Dare, and potentially the first one I finish. I’ve bought a fresh bag of coffee, and readied a Unity3D trial. I’ll be either using my own HTML5 engine or Unity, depending on the theme! Got all sorts of juicy pretentious indie ideas floating about. I’ll be twittering away into the night, say hi! @tomkail

Another new guy

Posted by (twitter: @tomkail)
Monday, August 20th, 2012 4:32 am

Hello! I love coffee and games, so this is just made for me.

I have no idea what I’ll do this in, but I’m looking forward to seeing the final theme!

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