About Shades

Just an avid gamer who enjoys designing them almost as much as playing them. I also write fiction, when the mood strikes. Currently working on a novel.

I'm still deciding what game making software to use, but I'm open to suggestions!


Ludum Dare 35

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*Almost* Had This One…

Posted by
Sunday, April 17th, 2016 6:43 pm

It doesn’t look like I’m going to make the deadline for the compo, but I’m going to keep going and try to have something publishable for the 72 hour jam. Congratulations to all you superstars who made the deadline!



I’m in.

Posted by
Wednesday, April 13th, 2016 3:31 am

Probably using Stencyl and Paint.net. Not sure what to use for sound.

Soooo cloooose…

Posted by
Sunday, April 19th, 2015 6:25 pm

I very nearly got a complete game put together in 48 hours, but it’s just not happening this time. There are certain game behaviors that just aren’t going to come together in the short time that I have left. I may be able to publish something before the jam ends, but it won’t be the wonderful game that I first envisioned. Then again… are these things ever?

I got much farther on this, my second LD attempt, than I did with my first one some few years back. I’m amazed at what I did accomplish, and I learned a lot doing it. It’s just my poor luck that whenever I realize I want to do the LD, it’s already a just a week away from happening.

I have greatly enjoyed working on this concept, and I aim to complete the game whenever I can. I’ll be ready for make my third time the charm when August rolls around.

Good luck and have fun!

Good New, Bad News

Posted by
Sunday, April 19th, 2015 1:24 pm

Finally got my basic graphical assets to look acceptable. I doubt I’ve got time to make a credible game out of it now, but I’m still going to try.   😀

Unconventional weapons: The pitchspork vs. the halo

Finally Getting a Look at What I’m Building…

Posted by
Sunday, April 19th, 2015 1:56 am


Unfortunately, I drew everything small and THEN learned that Stencyl apparently does not scale assets in Flash mode, despite having all those cool settings for it.

LDs are very instructive.   😀

Featured unconventional weapons: To our left, we have Eddie the Imp brandishing his pitchspork. He’s too low in the hierarchy to have an actual fork, you see. To our right is the lovely Eliza, preparing to give her halo a good toss.

Armageddon Wasn’t Supposed to Happen this Way…

Posted by
Saturday, April 18th, 2015 7:59 pm

Battle Tableu describing the My characters: Eliza the angel and Eddie the Imp. He's a lower being, so they only gave him a picthspork.

Attempting to describe my characters via rough sketch. Yes, my art-fu is weak. It’ll get better! …erm, right? Here’s hoping!

Took me way too long to do this…

Posted by
Saturday, April 18th, 2015 10:52 am


Finally got a couple of tile patterns that might work. Ugh. I used to know how to do this. Art is such a time sink for me…

re: “That’s not a theme…”

Posted by
Wednesday, April 15th, 2015 11:02 pm

noun: theme; plural noun: themes

    the subject of a talk, a piece of writing, a person’s thoughts, or an exhibition; a topic.
    “the theme of the sermon was reverence”
    synonyms:    subject, topic, subject matter, matter, thesis, argument, text, burden, concern, thrust, message; More
    thread, motif, keynote
    “the theme of her speech”

Oh, please. So many people are saying that, but often incorrectly. Anything that provides the subject matter regarding a thing can be described as its ‘theme’. And different elements of a game can have differing themes. I’ll grant that I can agree with a few of the theme complaints, but mostly all this theme-hate is really just perplexing.

What I want to know is: where the hell is everyone’s imagination at? It’s up to the individual developer to come up with interesting ways to use the theme. Isn’t that the whole point of this exercise to begin with?


Posted by
Sunday, April 12th, 2015 5:55 pm

Today’s attempt kicked my butt, but I learned a lot about Stencyl doing it. Need to explore some more before the weekend. And I still have a practice game to try and finish.   😀

My workflow went really well for a little over half of the day, then fell apart when I got to the level & quest design stage. Definitely going to have to play with the behaviors a lot more.

I’m In!

Posted by
Saturday, April 11th, 2015 9:10 am

I’m in. It’s been a while, and my first attempt was a bust, but… I can do this!

I’ll be using this weekend to figure out what tools I’m using, and hopefully I can bust out a small game tomorrow as a warm-up. So far, I’m considering these for game making:

  • Murl
  • Craftstudio
  • Construct 2
  • Game Maker
  • Corona
  • Monogame
  • Stencyl?

I don’t have time to do a full evaluation for all of these, but I can try out a couple of them and go from there. I may stick with audacity and mouth noises for sound effects, I guess we’ll see. Music? No idea what I’ll do for that unless I can find a good autotuner or something.   XD

LD 23, Day 1

Posted by
Sunday, April 22nd, 2012 1:39 am

My first day on the Ludum Dare trail was bittersweet. I was quite happy with my progress at first, and then I had to spend several hours wrestling an errant graphics library. Stupid thing was working last week! *grumble*

Here’s what I have to show for my day’s toil.

I’ve still got time to make something of it. Hmm…


A Closer Look…

Posted by
Sunday, April 8th, 2012 4:30 am

Earlier I presented a list that represents the internet’s idea of the Atari 2600’s 15 best games. This is a hard list make, because there were dozens of great games made for this system. Let’s see if we can figure out what made these games so good:

1. River Raid — The premise was simple: fly a plane through a canyon while shooting down targets, avoiding collisions, and keeping fueled up. But there were some terrific complications thrown into the mix as well. A small element of strategy was introduced with the fuel gauge: not only were you flying around shooting at things and avoiding getting shot, you had to think about how badly you needed that next fuel depot. Some of the enemies could shoot back, and a few of them would shoot at you from a safe distance outside of the canyon.

This game, like many others at the time, was big on innovation. It’s a scrolling shooter played from the top down. It featured a variety of enemy types plus the additional complication of managing your fuel level. The object of the game was basically “don’t crash”, and there were a lot of things in the game that could crash you.

2. Pitfall! — The legendary Pitfall Harry was an explorer and treasure hunter. He couldn’t fight worth anything, but he could do a decent Tarzan imitation. We could possibly describe this game as an early platform explorer, and it featured one of the scariest of all game bosses (no, not the giant scorpions, although those were scary too): a time limit! I hate time limits. Maybe that’s why I never managed to find all the treasures.

A very simple design based on beating the clock and avoiding obstacles. Look this one up; there’s some interesting reading on wikipedia.

3. Space Invaders — One of the icons of the early video game era, this space shooter features a fixed screen (no scrolling) and introduces barriers to provide cover for a small strategic element. It’s also a sort of a “goal defense” type of game, because if one of your enemies touches the ground you’re done. And all of this was played to the increasingly rapid sound of your enemy’s boot steps marching toward you…

4. Combat — This is where things got a little complicated. Players patrol a battleground (represented as a maze or sky field) and shoot each other into oblivion. Highest score wins.

The innovation here is the sheer number of variations you could set for this game. Need a more complicated maze? You could get that. Want bouncing bullets? No problem. Invisible tanks? Check. With 27 variations, it was a little crazy. And infinitely replayable.

How’d they solve problems like pathfinding A.I. back then? They didn’t. This was a two player game only, which was probably necessary considering hardware limitations, and is possibly the game’s only real drawback. Not really that big a deal, considering this game made #4 on the list. People remember it quite fondly.

5. Asteroids — Another fixed field space shooter fills out The Internet’s top five Atari 2600 console games. Notice a pattern here? These games are starting simple, and mixing two or three simple elements together to make the game interesting, grab the viewer’s attention, and then put it in a headlock. Maybe that’s why we look at the clock suddenly and wonder where all the time goes when we play games like this.

In the interest of brevity, I will shut up and save the rest of the list for later. I notice a few things looking at what we’ve got so far. Four out of these five games are shooters. But mindless shooting isn’t enough. Notice the elements included that make the player think: Fuel management. Strategic cover. Rebound angle. Force field and hyperspace options with their own inherent drawbacks. Players like to shoot, but not always mindlessly. They need variations on their field of play and their objectives. They want choices, and perhaps most importantly, consequences for those choices.

What else can we glean from this list of the five most popular games? What were your favorite Atari games?

Small Victory!

Posted by
Sunday, April 8th, 2012 1:07 am

Day One of Andrew’ s Eight Days of Game Design has ended in success! I thought about focusing on graphics today, but for the sake of other projects the first thing I need to figure out in FreeBASIC is networking. So, it made more sense to start with sockets.

I had to work off and on in between other tasks, and a lot of that time was spent reading and generally feeling like I wouldn’t get anywhere at all with it today. Most of the remainder was spent scratching my head wondering why the example worked but my modification wouldn’t compile and run… but after a bit of code voodoo and a lot of head scratching, I wound up with a bare bones (but working) TCP/IP socket server that will accept and snark at communicate with multiple clients. Yep. Typical day in the life for a programmer.

I’m not sure how useful this will be for the Ludum Dare, but it’s a huge step toward making that MUD codebase I’ve been wanting to build. I’ll have to add a lot to the mix in order to make it useful, but it’s a good start. I’m calling that a win for today.

Cheers! :)

The Best of The Best

Posted by
Saturday, April 7th, 2012 4:27 am

Chess — it’s one of the most enduring games of all time. I enjoy playing, but I’m always better at it when I have plenty of time to think. If I have to play fast, my game falls apart. The people who play speed chess well are the ones who study the game when they have time to think and analyze. They know the lines they want to play, they’ve already explored the traps and pitfalls inherent in the positions that develop, and so when the clock starts ticking, they explode into action based on what they learned beforehand. They did their thinking off the clock; now they’re playing by rote and reflex, and it’s an impressive display.

 Competitions like the Ludum Dare remind me of speed chess. For those who choose to play, the clock starts in just a couple of weeks. It pays to be thinking about game design now, while we’re more or less off that clock. No panic inducing pressure now, just a day here and there to study the elements and see what we can glean.

 What exactly goes into making a good game? There are the obvious answers: proper game balance, interesting details, fun rule variations. But then there’s that nebulous… something… that’s harder to define. Some games take the world by storm, and we may not even know why they’re so fun to play. But we know one thing: we’re hooked. We can’t stop playing. And when we do manage that incredible feat, we find ourselves thinking about the game and looking forward to playing it again.

 So let’s think about this most elusive of qualities while we have the time to study our game design. We all know by now what kind of games we enjoy playing ourselves. But what kind of games make the biggest splash? To answer this, I went back to the days when video games were coming into our homes, before it was technically possible to have pixel perfect graphics with cinematic effects. I’m talking about the days of the Atari 2600. Sure, the pixels looked like bricks, but let’s face it: we game designers are still borrowing concepts from some of the awesome games made for this system. Why do you suppose that is?

 It all boils down to one thing: either a game is fun, and we waste hours of our lives playing it, or a game isn’t fun and we put it away and find something better to do. There’s a reason so many collective hours were spent playing on game systems that are technically inferior to our modern day calculators.

 To consider this in greater depth, I polled The Internet informally (scoured it for top ten lists and related commentary, mostly) to find out what a Top 15 Atari 2600 Games of All Time list would look like. It took longer than you might think to compile enough information to make one, but here it is:

The Internet’s Top 15 Atari 2600 Games of All Time

1.   River Raid
2.   Pitfall!
3.   Space Invaders
4.   Combat
5.   Asteroids
6.   Pac-Man
7.   Adventure
8.   Kaboom!
9.   Frogger
10. Breakout
11. Yars’ Revenge
12. Enduro
13. Spider Fighter
14. Missile Command
15. Demon Attack

Runners-up include Joust, Keystone Kapers, H.E.R.O., Dig-Dug, and Berzerk.

I’ll be taking a closer look at why each of these games was good enough to get on this list. But for now, read over it again and see if you can answer the questions: Why do people remember these games? What kinds of games do people enjoy the most?

Not to Worry, I Have a Plan

Posted by
Friday, April 6th, 2012 4:17 am

I mentioned before that I’m quite rusty in the games programming department. To have a chance at producing something worthwhile in a 48 hour weekend cram, I’m going to have to practice. In the spirit of stretching my mental muscles, relearning old stuff I’ve forgotten, and learning the new stuff that QBASIC couldn’t do back in my high school days, here comes… Andrew’s Eight Days of Game Design!

Yeah, it needs a catchier title. And possibly a different number of days. The choice of eight was completely arbitrary. Each day will feature a focused effort to learn and develop the tools necessary to address a different game design issue. Most of these are interchangeable:

  • The Graphics — most of my games were text based, but that’s not going to get me very far these days.
  • The User Interface — explains itself, really. Heck, even Progress Quest had to include an interface!
  • The Network — most any game I design will want to be a multiplayer game. It’s a pain, but it has to happen.
  • The Audio — should be straightforward, but I haven’t messed with audio in my programming in many many years.
  • The Engine — will depend largely on the particular game design but without a good idea of how to control, blend, and regulate all the other elements, I won’t have a game.

I’ve got about two weeks to get ready for my first Ludum Dare. Will it be enough? We’ll see.

Hello World.

Posted by
Thursday, April 5th, 2012 3:44 pm

Andrew here. I just discovered the Ludum Dare. By accident, no less. It’s been a long time since I seriously attempted to create a working game from start to finish. It’s kinda funny. My game building binges in high school using QuickBASIC largely resembled what I imagine a LD weekend looks like. Anyway, the timing fits. Things are coming full circle and I’m already in the process of returning to several old projects anyway, so I may as well take the plunge.

My weapon of choice is FreeBASIC. It basically claims to be the spiritual successor to the language I have the most experience in, so it shouldn’t be terribly difficult to pick it back up and rediscover the art of game building in BASIC. Go ahead and laugh if you want, but assuming the compiler isn’t broken (and it looks pretty solid so far), BASIC is a powerful general purpose language that lends itself to gaming as well as most languages, and probably a great deal more easily than some. Then again, maybe I’m just biased. Ah, nostalgia. I am a sucker for the retro games, come to think of it…

I hope to be up to speed for the next Ludum Dare. Even if I’m not, I plan to try, assuming I don’t find the theme objectionable somehow. I’ve got a lot of catching up to do, including the need to rebuild some of the old tools that used to make my game programming life easier. But that’s okay. I have a plan. :)

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