About Mechamew (twitter: @ben.rausch)

African animator, monster scribbler, cat friend, dancing VJ, padawan game-making auteur, cake eater, keytar enthusiast, marvelous biography writer.

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ProLapse: An intuitive screenlapsing tool!

Posted by (twitter: @ben.rausch)
Saturday, March 12th, 2016 1:34 am

Hey! I made a tool to help me create time lapses of my jams.
It’s like chronolapse but its a bit more visual and has some unique features.
https://teamlazerbeam.itch.io/prolapse
@teamlazerbeam

demo

LD34 Progress update from Team Lazerbeam!

Posted by (twitter: @ben.rausch)
Sunday, December 13th, 2015 8:27 pm

Hey everyone!

This is a quick progress report from Team Lazerbeam, and a video documenting the current state of our two button RPG Adventure! Since our last post we’ve been hard at work on our exciting, and yet-to-be-named, swan-slaying walk-em-up.

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We’re really enjoyed the past 2 days, making this game together. With our deadline now a little less than a day away, things are getting pretty scary. That said, we’re all really happy with what we’ve built so far, and feeling optimistic about sharing something very special with the community after a quick spin of the planet.

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We’re so excited to wrap this game up, share it with The Community, and see what you’ve all been up to. Till then!

Team Lazerbeam singing in!

Posted by (twitter: @ben.rausch)
Saturday, December 12th, 2015 10:11 am

Hello Ludum Dare community! This is Team Lazerbeam, signing on from Cape Town, South Africa!

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The three of us are assembled and super excited about knocking out another weird, playful video game experience. Ludum Dare 34 marks the 1 year anniversary of the three of us creating Bionic Bliss, which was the first game we made as Team Lazerbeam.


We’re really stoked to be back on a project together, and are all really happy with the themes for Ludum Dare 34. Our concept is one that follows the journey of an adventurer, going from humble beginnings through grand quests, into their final retirement. The whole game plays out across a series of contemplative moments, favouring those over the fighting, looting, shopping and talking that typically dominates most RPG experiences. Player interaction comes in the form of guiding the hero by choosing one of two courses of action (visualized by the hero in thought bubbles). Jumping forward in the story, music, audio and visuals will then change to reflect the impact of the player’s decision.
Step-by-Step---Concept-art2 Step-by-Step---Concept-art

As usual, we’re being ambitious as hell. That said, we trust that even in a very scaled down form, we think this concept will make for a pretty awesome, moving experience. Here’s a wee video of us explaining the concept!

Okay, I better get down to drawing! We’ll check in soon with more news! We hope everyone’s having an awesome jam so far!
IMG_0150 (Copy 1) IMG_0166 (Copy 1) IMG_0164 (Copy 1)

Our game: Snow Cones!

Posted by (twitter: @ben.rausch)
Thursday, May 7th, 2015 5:45 am

Snow-cones-03I’ve been holing back on sharing this, as it’s pretty half-baked. With the exciting stuff going down over the next while, I doubt Team Lazerbeam will be baking this treat any more, any time soon, so figured I may as well put this out there.
Snow-cones-01Snow Cones was a Ludum Dare entry, jammed between Richard, Jason and I. Rich coded the whole thing, Jason played and recorded a bunch of songs with an acoustic guitar and I took lead on art (while the rest of the team all made contributions on this front).
Snow-cones-07Taking the theme of “an unconventional weapon” we focused on the idea of love as the most powerful weapon of all. The basic concept of Snow Cones (a sweet game about two ice-cream cones enjoying a date in the snow) is one I’ve had knocking around in my head for a year or so. I showed Rich some concept art for the idea, and, being pretty in line with the kind of emotive experiences he, Jay and I have been interested in playing with, thought it was something we should pursue.

Snow-cones-05Deciding to try make the game in 72 hours, Rich and I laid out the basic design: the player would take the role of a lonely gender-neutral icecream cone, they’d play through preparing for, and heading to a date, and then be presented with a non-linear series of date activities, while growing closer to their love-interest.
Snow-cones-06This was a pretty ambitious concept for a 72 hour game and what’s more the jam overlapped with Jason and I finishing our trailer for Desktop Dungeons and Anja and I having an out of town wedding to attend. Needless to say I only got to spend a fraction of these 72 hours on the game. By the wee hours of Tuesday morning, with moments to go before submission, we made the call to drop all but one of the date activities. This meant many songs that were recorded, cones that were drawn and codes that were coded aren’t seen in the current build of Snow Cones. We do have every intention of integrating them when we have a chance, but for now;
Click here to play “Snow Cones: Half-frozen Edition”

Snow-cones-08

Bionic Bliss results!

Posted by (twitter: @ben.rausch)
Tuesday, December 30th, 2014 10:23 am

It was a great joy catching up on the results today! Here’s how Bionic Bliss did!

Audio(Jam) 4.53
Coolness 73%
#6 Humor(Jam) 4.31
#9 Overall(Jam) 4.24
#11 Theme(Jam) 4.47
#14 Mood(Jam) 4.22
#41 Fun(Jam) 3.92
#46 Graphics(Jam) 4.45
#50 Innovation(Jam) 3.99

Right from the start Richard and I said we weren’t particularly fussed about making something that would be highly rated, but rather just wanted to have fun. We did say that that if we had to do well in anything, we would hope it would be humour. And so, we’re understandably very happy that we placed 6th in that category!

Beyond that, I’m blown away that we got a spot in the top 10 overall! And so happy for Jaysong that his sonic wizardry won the silver medal for audio!

Thanks to Dizzy, Anja and Kyle for lending their vocal chords to our cause. Thanks to Ben (of Raptor Polo fame) for proof reading our mountains of dialogue. Thanks Evan and the Free Lives gang for hosting the jam and special thanks to all the MGSA friends who’s high fives and sparkling company made for the most excellent game-making environment!

Thanks so much to everyone in the LD community that played, rated and commented on our game! Your feedback was massively encouraging. Discovering that you threw so many stars our way was as a huge honour. It’s fantastic to be able to participate in a uni

Extra special thanks to the rest of Team Lazerbeam. Richard and Jason, you boys were the greatest jam buddies a dude could ever ask for. Can’t wait to make more magic with you both soon!

Pop culture refrences in Bionic Bliss.

Posted by (twitter: @ben.rausch)
Saturday, December 27th, 2014 7:45 am

This is something I’ve been toying with doing since we unveiled our LD31 entry, Bionic Bliss. A chat-based game about amusing yourself while working in a support center for a cybernetic-limb-producing-megacorporation, making the game involved a lot of writing. This gave rise to a bunch of opportunities to reference some of my favourite little bits of popular culture. Even if only for myself, I figure it’d be fun to catalogue all the favourite’s I refrenced in the game. If you’d like to know what I’m going on about, I’d recommend you give the game a spin or two before reading further!

There are a ton of refrences hidden across the game, I’ll mostly just focus on main dialogue by one of the game’s six characters, or potential responses the player can give. I’ll break things down by character starting with everyone’s favourite grammar nazi;

Hercules Smithers:

“I hope you catch pneumonia and die!”

migrane boy
This one’s a throwback to an old MTV promo that I must have seen a million times as a teen.

“Detective….”

gi joe
Somewhere in the early 2000s Eric Fensler (a Chicago-based director) re-edited and re-dubbed the “educational” segments, irritatingly stuck onto the end of the extended toy commercials of the 1980’s known GI JOE. While he doesn’t know this, Eric changed my life in the process. Seeing the Fenslerfilm GI Joe clips for the first time in 2005 it shattered my brain into thousands of euphoric bits. Up to that point, I’d not seen anything else that spoke to my absurd sense of humor the way those little shorts did. I’ll still repeat some GI Joe one-liners on an almost weekly bases. This line in Bionix Bliss is taken from one of the most iconic episodes, also responsible for the cult catch-phrases “Porkchop Sandwiches!”, “Boy did that smell good!” and (who can forget?) “Ba-baba-bababa!”

Watch it here!

Fun Fact! Herculeus’ toes (SFA 9000s) are a reference to The Super Friendship Arcade, a local multiplayer party Richard throws with our friend Peter!

Next up, distressed mechamom;

Gabba-Ray Southern:
Tap your heels together three times…’

wizard of oz

Wow, this is a huge one; three references in one potential response! Two of these call back to massively famous slices of pop culture. The third is impossibly obscure. “Wizard of Oz” and The Hokey Pokey should be clear to most everyone. “R3DtRnCHgOAt” on the other hand is one half of a two way reference between Team Lazerbeam and our pals Evan, Ruan & Fil and their (sadly unsubmitted) Ludum Dare Jam. A massively ambitious game about mind control in cyberpunk city their game featured Bionic Bitz billboards. . “R3DtRnCHgOAt” was our reference to their game and it’s red trench-coat sporting hero.

Fun Fact! Gabba-Rays’s “KITD Ghst-hntA” legs are a reference to local multiplayer game I’ve been making called Kick In The Door! It’s all played with your feet and is about hunting down ghosts and kicking them to bits with your friends.

Okay, now the anarchic cyber-babe;

Kiki KiloByte:

Okay robot man. It’s been swell, but the swelling’s gone down. Bye!

TANK GIRL

This is a straight up rip from my favoruite of the teens, 90ies cult movie based of the underground comic of the same name; Tank Girl.

You sad little man. Sitting behind that screen, going through life like some damn player piano doing what it was programmed to do, repeating the same tune day after day, call after call. What kind of life is that?

Not exactly a reference, but rather a nod. The Player Piano simile works perfectly as a comparison to someone acting like an automated machine, but it’s also a little shout out to my favourite author, Kurt Vonnegut, and his first novel.

player_piano

“Megazergs…”
Mergerzerdz

Another obscure! Mergerzerds is a killer local multiplayer game some friends are making. it’s incredible.

Now for the bratty hacker;

Alcopep Gardener

“Shake it baby!”

red alert

This is reference to the game that ruled my life back in 1998, Red Alert. A line by the C4-planting, infantry-slaughtering machine known as Tanya, I thought this would be hilarious when connected to actual dancing.

*any of Alcopep’s terrible lines*
In general, Alcopep’s broken semi-english is a nod to the science fiction works of writers like George Orwell and Anthony Burges. In books like 1984 and A Clockwork Orange, we’re exposed to the idea of language devolving, and taking our humanity along with it. In our turnt up modern age of intentionally moronic use of language, this rings more true than ever.

“Dance Colin! Dance!”

What we have here is a refrence to a TV show that was itself largerly a series of interconnected references to the pop culture milestones. 2001’s “Spaced” launched the careers of the director Edgar Wright and writer/ actor Simon Pegg. Two of my favourite humans on the planet, it goes without saying that I adored Spaced. This line is lifted from one of the shows many absurd moments, which pretty much just needs to be seen to be believed.

“Dance, dance, dance! Dance some more!”

Instantly recognizable to anyone who (like me) grew up in South Africa in 90ies. Absurdly obscure for anyone else. This lines comes straight from one of the biggest hits of one of the biggest SA bands ever, Mango Groove.


Well, I hope this was interesting to someone out there! If nothing else, if this leads to anyone to watching Spaced or reading Player Piano then I think I’ve done some good!

While I’d wonder why anyone would get this far without playing the game, here’s another link to play Bionic Bliss if you’d like to do that now!

Bionic Bliss Dev Diary

Posted by (twitter: @ben.rausch)
Wednesday, December 24th, 2014 7:22 am

I’ve long been wanting to get this up and I’m very happy to finally present to you the diary of the making of our team’s entry Bionic Bliss!

Friday 8 Dec

After a frantic day at work, I make my way through to Free Lives HQ; the awesome new dev house that the Broforce creators have just moved into. They’ve graciously invited members of the Make Games SA community to invade the house during Ludum Dare 31. By the time I arrive, the house is already packed with friendly faces from the MGSA’s Cape Town contingent, plus a few devs who’ve gone so far as traversing the 2000 kilometers down from Johannesburg to be there. I find and high-five Richard, the man I’ll land up making a cyber-punk customer-support game with over the next three days.

00 richardBy now, the theme for LD is only going to be announced in 8 hours (4AM on Saturday morning, South Africa time). Richard and I take this as an opportunity to talk about the sort of game we might like to make once the jam starts. The obvious way to do this seems to be with beer, in a jacuzzi, overlooking the distant lights of Cape Town city.

01 jacuzi boyz

In between a bunch of silly ideas involving a hot-tub-hot-air-balloon, we set up a loose collection of attributes we’d our LD entry to have. We want to do something small; a simple idea that we can quickly complete within the first 48 hours and then polish for the last 24. We want to do something with a significant written aspect. If the concept allows, we’d like to fit in some recorded dialogue. We’re hardly out to win anything, but if our game should do well in any of the jam’s categories, we want to focus on humour.

I have a gig to play. I jump out the jacuzzi, dry myself, get dressed, grab my keytar, high-five my partner adieu and hit the road.

Saturday 9 Dec

I only make it back to Free Lives by mid-day on Saturday. By the time I arrive the house is already buzzing with the energy of 20 or so devs excitedly laying the foundations of their jams.

I discover the theme Entire Game on One Screen, which (as one of my favourite options) makes me pretty happy. Now 8 hours behind (so that our 72 hour game will in fact be made in 64), Richard and I head out into the garden with a pad of paper and an adorable pup in tow. In the next 45 minutes or so, the concept of Bionic Bliss will be born.

To try get the ball rolling, we start by listing some game genres that we’d might like to work within (or smash apart). Dating sim? Single button 4 player co-op? Service game? The ideas that come out of this last option get us so excited that we don’t bother putting forward any more suggestions. Our idea is perfectly in line with the simple rules we set up in the hot-tub the night before. What’s more, the concept has us in stitches, perfectly satisfying the absurd sense of humour Richard and I share.

02 laying-it-down 03 bionic bliss is born 04 whats-up-dog

Our take on the theme will be that the player will experience the game from the point of view of a customer-support chat-center employee, looking at their desktop. You’ll receive a series of complaints from people; it’s up to you whether you chose to help them, or mess with them to get through your boring day at work. Each caller will have a profile pic and mood bar that’s affected by your responses. We’ll have some other supporting details worked into the UI. We’ll set the game in a cyberpunk future. You’ll deal with robotic implant recipients. We’ll have multiple endings based on how you treat people. The endings will play out in the “real world”, beyond the space of the screen. There will be blood.

Some more crazy ideas are thrown around. Your boss will check in on you from via the chat window. He’ll be a dick. You can surf the net. It will be entirely made of cats. Ultimately we choose to narrow the scope of the game down only to the customer interactions and head back into the house with a simple, clear idea of the game we’re about to make.

05 yeah

I fire up Photoshop and start working on designing what our player’s desktop will look like. The result is pretty close to the original sketch we laid out in the garden. Characters are done with pixel art. Text is similarly chunky. I finish things off with some scan-lines and distortion for classic cyberpunk, lo-fi, sci-fi goodness.

06 early UI

Richard gets to work in Unity, building a set of tools that I’ll be able to use in putting together the customer interactions. Primarily, we need to set up something that can input lines of dialogue from our customers and from there link up to multiple response options from the player. Past that, each response needs to lead to new customer dialogue as well as have an effect on the mood bar and possibly activate specific endings.

07 unity dialogue

Next Richard jumps onto working in the UI I designed, integrating this with our dialogue-tree tools. I jump onto laying out and writing our first chat; an absurd interaction with a 300 year old man and his malfunctioning junk. I do this in illustrator, complete with scribbly arrows connecting things up and colour-coded numbers indicating effect on mood. Responses options are generally helpful, bored or mean. I work in a path were you can be a dick up to a point, then help the poor guy out. Given his age, there’s also the possibility of leading the old man around in circles, getting him to keep repeating his problem as you toy with him. I read Richard what I wrote. We laugh.

08 dialogue tree

I get going with the rest of the interactions, but I can feel my wits dulling as time ticks by. We call it a day at somewhere around 3 AM. I pack up and head home. Richard lands up coding till the sun rises.

Sunday 10 Dec

I get back to Free Lives at 2PM. Richard has recently jumped out of bed and proudly shows me that, since we parted, he worked in the text of our first dialogue and we now have some sort of playable experience. A good place to be in, given that we’re just short of halfway through the 72 hours we have.

Jason (the third part of Team Lazerbeam) makes it through as well. He gets to work making the game’s music with his iPad, as he hangs out in a deck chair next to the pool.

09 jaysong poolside 2 10 jaysong poolside

I settle back into crafting dialogue. Since I left I’ve had an epiphany; there should be a character who (rather than looking for help) wants you to joke around with them. She’ll be a cyberpunk babe, bored and looking for someone to amuse her. If you do well, she’ll ask you out on a date.

Writing the dialogue for the girl that will become Kiki Kilobyte is a turning point in the game’s development. Creating this dialogue tree, the game goes from a silly extended joke to something much more. Somehow, through Kiki’s responses to options where the player is a helpful , this game becomes a reflection on society turning us into robots. Not physical machines, but machines in mind and spirit. Model employees that do and say as they’re told while faceless corperations strips away our humanity, mind-numbing day by mind-numbing day.

Progress UI

I’m pretty absurdly excited about the game by this point. Music is sounding awesome, we’re making great progress on Richard’s side and Kiki (beyond brining forward some heart-felt thematic weight) has also thrown things in a new direction. There’s now the idea that the “right” response may not be right at all. We also now have two potential endings, one where you get yourself killed and one where you get taken out on a date. We factor in a potential third ending; your terminal is hacked by someone you made fun of. If the player doesn’t qualify for either of these three, we write two more endings in, one where you’re commended for being helpful or one where you loose your job. I’m not sure which of these would be better in this strange dystopian future.

We now have an outline of the 6 characters the player will engage with; the ancient senior citizen, the grammar-nazi, the distressed-mom, the cyber-babe, the juvenile brat and the aggressive “tech-neck”. I bounce between fleshing these character out in writing and working on a logo for our company. Jason has neatly dubbed your employer “Bionic Bitz”.

Bionic Bitz logo

This in turn finally gives us a name for our game. It will be ironically called “Bionic Bliss”.

As Richard and I power on, we see our friends one by one each break away from their own exciting games and head home or too bed. In the end Team Lazerbeam are the last men standing. By the time I call it a day, I’m almost done with the last dialogue tree; the surprising tricky grammer-nazi. The two of us leave from our workstations to quickly draw up a list of what’s left to be finished before the end of the jam, which is now less than 24 hours away.

16 master list

I find myself bursting with joy, taking the long walk down the Free Lives driveway as a watch see the first rays of light breaking through the trees above me.

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Monday 11 Dec

I work from home for the first bit of the day. I’ve started working on the pixel art for our customer portraits, something I’ve eagerly looked forward to. Jason’s busy on sound effects, and sends me along to Free Lives armed with a flashdrive with most all of our audio on it.

Richard shows me the first build featuring the system booting up and coming to life. It’s looking awesome. I jump onto finishing the last dialogue tree. From there I script the voiceover we’ll need for the terminals interactions with the player as well as the dialogue for our two off-screen endings. I send these along to Jason, who (with the help of our friends Kyle, Limpho & Anja) records these scripts and starts creating a little soundscape for each.

All writing finally in the bag, I fully settle into the portraits. I’m glad I’ve left these for the end. This is not only because it means I can’t afford to spend too long on them (which I knew was a danger) but also because, having written heaps of dialogue for each of them, I can draw on some pretty well established personalities when figuring out how each of our customers should look.

20-characters

10PM: everyone has a face. I’d have liked to do some shading, but we’re happy with everyone and I need to jump into Unity to start working in these profiles along with connecting up the dialogue trees. I push these over to Richard while he’s furiously racing to incorporate audio and work in all the endings. My last contributions on an art front are an off-screen (for before your terminal is switched on) and a blood splatter to get on said screen if you rub the tech-neck up the wrong way.11 beer and mice

 

1AM: we have (in some form) got our game done. It’s relatively solid, but so very rough around the edges. Endings are half-baked, bits of audio are missing, mood impacts are unclear and we can’t get full screen working. Richard powers through these issues. I spend the last few hours bouncing between preparing our submission and play testing. Because of the multitude of options, this is rather a tall order and I have to play through the game over and over again. I make notes of issues; which of them call for me to head back to Unity and which of them Richard will need to magically fix alongside the mountain of things already on his to do list.

4AM: I send through a submission with a mostly finished (though patchy) Bionic Bliss. After that we realize there’s an hour set aside for submissions, so we spend this time putting a few finishing touches on this bizarre little baby we’ve brought into the world.

5AM: our submission is done and the two of us are feeling on top of The World! Somehow, in 64 hours, Richard and I have made a functional game, that’s relatively polished, funny, weird and amusing. Bionic Bliss exists and it’s something that we’re both really proud of. We head out into the garden, dogs in hand, and take a set of portraits to capture the moment.

17 woooo

I find myself driving home just before 8AM, the morning light falling across my face as all around me people are racing off to yet another day at work. For me, I’ll be crawling into bed, so happy it hurts, looking back on 3 of the best days of my life.


You can play Bionic Bliss here!

Team Lazerbeam present: Bionic Bliss!

Posted by (twitter: @ben.rausch)
Monday, December 15th, 2014 3:46 am

We did a crummy job blogging about it while we made it, but it’s been my hope to do a few posts looking back on Team Lazerbeam’s experience during Ludum Dare 31 and our process in making Bionic Bliss. But before that, I guess the right thing to do is just a small post introducing our team and our game!

Hello from Team Lazerbeam!

We’re a three-man team of friends; Richard, Jason and Ben (me). We live in Cape Town, South Africa. Richard works as a programmer with excellent people known as Free Lives (who’s upcoming title Broforce was itself born as a Ludum Dare jam). Jason and I work together in a small animation studio called Cool Your Jets. I’ve only been into game development for a few months, but in that time have made some great friends and worked on some little games that I’m very proud of. Jason has made music for all of them, including Star-crossed Lovers, an interplanetary dating sim created for the last Ludum Dare. Richard and I had jammed together once before (making a supernatural sports game called Child Ball), had a great time on that and deceided to team up again for LD#31! And so, Team Lazerbeam was born!

And now, I’ll jump to the end! Out of this union, we created a cyberpunk customer service gamed called Bionic Bliss!

I’m excited to write about this game, our thoughts and processes in making it and the awesome three days we spent together doing this. But I’ll save that for another post. For now, let me just say;

CLICK HERE TO PLAY BIONIC BLISS!

Home stretch!!!

Posted by (twitter: @ben.rausch)
Monday, December 8th, 2014 5:01 pm

I’ve been doing a totally crap job of posting about the process of our jam, but Richard, Jason and I have been participating in the most excellent jam, here at Free Lives HQ in sunny Cape Town, South Africa. We’re planning to do some after-the-fact posts on the jam itself, but we’ve basically been very hard at work on a cyberpunk customer service game!

We’re tearing through these last moments getting “Bionic Bliss” as excellent as we can before the deadline. So looking forward to sharing this bizarre creation with the rest of the world!

Hey ho!

Posted by (twitter: @ben.rausch)
Saturday, December 6th, 2014 12:20 am

Hi jammers!

I’m hanging around, eagerly waiting for my partner in crime to wake up so we can start jamming. Really stoked with the theme and dead keen to make something weird and fun for people to play with!

This will be my second time participating in Ludum Dare. Last time I joined forces with my friends Ryan and Jason to create an interstellar dating sim called Star Crossed Lovers. Had the best time doing it and I was really happy with how the game was received.
http://ludumdare.com/compo/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/IMG_6081.jpg
This time around, I’m teaming up with a  super friend called Richard Pieterse. We previously worked together on jamming a multiplayer basketbally sort of game involving South African monster and slam-dunking children into pots. It was heaps of fun and I’m stoked to be teaming up with him again.

As for what we’re going to make, that remains to be seen. It may involve hot-tubs attached to hot-air balloons, frantic button mashing, absurd dialogue or rock and roll. Then again, it may not. Only time will tell…

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