About @SamPotasz (twitter: @@SamPotasz)

I have a 16 year old Leopard Gecko named Andy who has lived with me in Rockville, MD, Brooklyn, NY, Austin TX, and now Nashville, TN.

Because she's blind, she can't hunt crickets or other food on her own so I feed her baby bird food and calcium powder with a tiny tiny plunger. The food smells pretty bad, but Andy is wonderful.


Ludum Dare 34
Ludum Dare 33
Ludum Dare 26

@SamPotasz's Trophies

@SamPotasz's Archive

Kill Your Darlings

Posted by (twitter: @@SamPotasz)
Sunday, August 23rd, 2015 10:31 am

It’s Sunday morning now, and I’m exactly where I was on Friday night. Last night, with the help of a good editor, I decided to cut everything I had put in the game on Saturday.

And that’s OK.

This game is definitely an artistic stretch for me. It’s more emotional than anything I’ve ever attempted to do before, and that’s great! However, it means that just because a feature is working in a technical sense it is not necessarily working on an emotional level. So everything I put in yesterday was out.

I was envisioning the game as a three-act arc. The second act was meant to be one of reflection for player- a pause and a questioning. However, the scene I created for that was incredibly heavy-handed. As in, laugh out loud and not sit and think to oneself.

Not the intended effect

So I’m cutting back on a lot of the effects and imagery I had put in. Obviously this is kind of painful because that work took up a lot of time, but I’m happy with the decision. Sometimes, you gotta take a few steps backwards to inch forward, y’know? I really want to hit the mark emotionally with this game, and I’m happy to sacrifice a few hours to make that happen. I hope I hit that mark today.



p.s. For your enjoyment, here’s a really soothing gif that’s not gonna be in the game anymore. Goodbye, ocean!



Teshuvah and Non-Monstrousness

Posted by (twitter: @@SamPotasz)
Sunday, August 23rd, 2015 10:11 am

My game is a take on the Jewish concept of teshuvah – which can be translated as “return” or “repentance.” It’s an important concept for this time of year because in the Jewish calendar we are now in the Days of Awe – the weeks leading up to the most important holidays of the year in Rosh Hashanah (the new year) and ten days later Yom Kipur (the Day of Atonement).

The time between these two holidays is considered the holiest part of the year in Judaism. Literally, they are the days when gates of heaven are open. It is your chance to do teshuvah, to return yourself from your misdeeds of the past year, and doing so ensures another year in the book of life.

I like the concept of teshuvah for the theme of “You are the Monster” because teshuvah is about forgiveness. It is about not being a moster. Forgiving yourself for being human. In fact, the most important prayer of the year, Kol Nidre, specifically absolves us of and repents for all vows and transgressions made for the coming year! Before we’ve even done them!

So as for the game itself, I want to hit at that feeling of being absolved. Of forgiveness. After a year of sins, bad deeds, broken promises, to be redeemed.

This time of year in Judaism is structured to lead up to that feeling. The weeks leading up to it go something like

  • Recognize our imperfection, our brokenheartedness, our unpreparedness.
  • Reflect and see ourselves for what we are. Acknowledge the emptiness.
  • The gates of heaven open.
  • We perform teshuvah and are forgiven.

This progression works really well for ritual (and if you’ve read this far, I really encourage This is Real and You are Completely Unprepared by Rabbi Alan Lew). Can it work in a game? I really want to try.

Taking Time with Technical Tricks

Posted by (twitter: @@SamPotasz)
Sunday, August 23rd, 2015 9:46 am

I’m building the game in javascript using Phaser.io, and I spent a lot of time yesterday trying to a) figure out how to import a gif to the canvas, and b) find and download this one very specific song.

For the gif, I was downloading Gimp extensions, scaling it horribly, and generally trying to pack it into a spritesheet. This was a terrible idea. I got it working by simply putting the gif behind the canvas in the html and setting the canvas transparent when I wanted to show the gif! Hopefully this is useful in the future.

For the song, I spent time mostly on many many fruitless searches for a version I liked. There was a version on soundcloud that couldn’t be downloaded, and that was extremely frustrating to not be able to use it. Until, that is, I realized I could just embed the soundcloud player in the html, too! That took 3 minutes.

In short, there are some great advantages to working in html, I just have to be aware of them!

Click, Release Technical Postmortem

Posted by (twitter: @@SamPotasz)
Wednesday, May 8th, 2013 6:36 am

[Cross-posted from my blog over here]

This is a 30 minute post on the technical side of things from my recent (and first) Ludum Dare 48-hour gamemaking competition entry. Maybe these notes will help me in the future. Maybe they’ll help you in the future? Maybe not. Either way, head over here right quick to play the game and get a sense of what I’ll be talking about for the rest of the post :)

To start off with, I made the game in GameMaker: Studio. I really like GameMaker because that’s really all it is- software that helps you make games. What’s really nice about it for me is how quickly you can get things to show up on the screen and lots of common game interactions are built right into it. With only 48 hours, speed is crucial, and since I knew I wasn’t going to do anything too fancy, there was really no reason why not to use GameMaker for me.

“Click, Release” is a pretty simple game, and there’s not too much magic going on behind the scenes. One slightly tricky thing though was creating the “squares” (or regions of blocks) properly and in the right place. Each region is actually comprised of many smaller squares, and the squares are what individually appear or disappear when you hit them. To accomplish this effect, I used what’s commonly referred to in programming as “the Factory pattern.”

A factory is something which makes other things. A car factory makes cars, a balloon factory makes balloons, yadda yadda yadda. For “Click, Release,” I made a Square Factory. The square factory knows how to make the little colored squares which interact with the ball. Once I have this factory, I can tell it where to start making squares, how many rows to make squares for, and how many columns to make squares for, and then voila- my square factory makes nice little regions of squares! If I move the factory around the screen, it’ll produce a new region whenever I move it and say “GO!”

My little squares getting sent out to their regions

You can think of how the balls are created the same way. With a Ball Factory. Whenever the game registers a “Left Mouse Pushed Down” the ball factory fires up. Until the mouse is released, the factory keeps increasing the angle of its ramp – or the angle at which it will send the ball into the world. To let the user know this is happening, I draw a little black dot outside the ball’s edge at the current angle. When the mouse is finally released, the factory says, “Ball, go out into the world at this direction! Godspeed.”

The squares and the balls are the main visual components of “Click, Release,” but there’s a whole other channel of sensory information that makes the game work. For me, getting the sound right was the biggest pain while making this game. Ideally, I wanted the game to create your own personal “Gong bath” – to cover you in long full tones as the ball bounced around the screen.

However, two things stopped this dream from becoming a reality. 1) I couldn’t find many good gong sounds online and 2) I learned that making your own sounds was highly preferred for competition entries over using somebody else’s sounds. So naturally I started downloading free synthesizers as fast as I could.

Not gonna happen in 48 hours
Not gonna happen in 48 hours

I downloaded A LOT of free synthesizer programs. How hard could it be to find one which had an interface easy enough for a complete novice and also could simulate a chime? Apparently, very hard. After tons of trial and error, I went back to that good old indie sound effect staple http://bfxr.net.

After generating random sound after random sound, I stumbled upon one that had a decently clean enough tone and was free of bips and boops. From there, I modulated the tone’s frequency to produce and download different notes in the same key. I settled on a pentatonic major scale so that each note fit together with all the other notes. This allowed me to simply play random notes from the scale to create a “bath” of sounds.

Yes, the sound is a little cheap, and if I could do it again, I’d be smart enough to say, “Why don’t I just go outside and record the real wind chimes hanging in the backyard?” But I wasn’t that smart, and I made do with what I had.

Additionally, post-competition it’s easy to think how nice it would be if I had made the game in Flash. It would be great to be able to play the game online. And exporting a Mac build from GameMaker turned out to be a serious half-a-day waste of time. But for those 48 hours, I was happy to have GameMaker’s help, and I’m happy with the result.

Thanks for reading! Now go play the game and see this wizardry in action!

Click, Relase 30 Mintue Design Postmortem

Posted by (twitter: @@SamPotasz)
Sunday, May 5th, 2013 7:07 am

[Cross posted from my blog over here: http://www.sampotasz.com/blog/clickreleasedesign/]

In the spirit of making a game in only 48 hours, I’m giving myself 30 whole minutes to write this postmortem. Make more things, deadlines spur action, yadda yadda yadda.

I’m really pleased with and proud of how my game turned out. There are a few things that I’d change if I had the chance to do it over again, but they are far outweighed in my mind by what actually went right! And in a game-jam-first for me, these positives are not just “Hey, I made something and it’s finished and you can play it w/out it crashing!” Artistically, I actually like what I made :)

So, before focusing too much on the product, I want to look a little bit at the process that got me there. As you may know, the theme for the competition was “Minimalism.” I was excited by this theme because it was abstract and didn’t seem too limiting. Immediately after the theme was announced I did some quick googling for inspiration. MoMa and this page had some good information and a few things stuck out for me. I loved the phrase, the Minimalists attempted to avoid metaphorical associations, symbolism, and suggestions of spiritual transcendence.” To me, this had echoes of Eric Zimmerman’s “Let the games be games” mentality, and I liked that idea. I wanted to make a game that wasn’t about anything per se, but rather had the feel of minimalism.

To this end, I looked for minimalist art that I liked, and was immediately drawn to Donald Judd, Sol Lewitt, and Carl Andre. I looked and tried to pay attention to how I felt while looking at their pieces (Ed Note: Ugh. Too ushy gushy). I loved the way they drew me in – I wasn’t exactly sure what was going on and I wanted to explore them. I was a little confused, and definitely intrigued. I felt some hidden logic guiding the pieces, but was unsure about its exact rules.

To me, this was all great fodder for a game. I immediately had in my head some interactive piece that is somehow very exploratory. I wanted the user to not be quite sure what was going on when the game started but be drawn in to look further. I wanted a feeling of slight perplexity while playing.

My first idea was for the play to take place on a field of hidden “magnetic” forces. You would be able to see how they pushed and pulled you, but you would not be able to see them directly. The game would not present itself to you – you had to go out and find it. However, when built out, the invisibility turned out to be completely too obtuse for my liking. I made the fields somewhat visible and the game felt a million times better.

level 2.png

On the non-feelings side of things, I also wanted to mirror the repetition that I loved in a lot of the pieces. Variations on a theme. This is where the multiple rooms in the game come into play. Each one introduces a slightly different take on the basic click, release mechanic while still staying very much the same. Additionally, with each variation, I think it enhances the “what exactly is going on?” feeling that I was striving for.

I feel happy with how I captured the mood that I was going for. I think the exploratory aspect of the game works really well, and I’m extremely pleased to see that the game that it is having its desired effect on players. One commenter summed it up rather perfectly for me:

“I don’t really understand purpose, meaning and what you really wanted to express. Nonetheless, the experience was engaging.
I must confess I did not finish the game but I played it for quite a while. There were times I got myself just playing around with the sounds.

And now, I urge you to go experience it for yourself!


Posted by (twitter: @@SamPotasz)
Sunday, April 28th, 2013 10:19 am

I’m really enjoying listening to my game, and you can too!

It never never never ceases to amaze me how much more alive a game feels when you add sound to it. It helps emphasize and illustrate the player’s actions an infinite amount, and so I’m really pleased thus far :-)

If possible, I’d like to add a few more modes before tonight…


Saturday Night Progress

Posted by (twitter: @@SamPotasz)
Saturday, April 27th, 2013 10:10 pm

Hey y’all, here’s a little look at my game so far:

In Game Look

It’s called “Click and Hold” which is what your fingers / mouse do in the game. By doing so, you draw, discover, explore, and possibly even make something awesome.

Development wise, it’s going pretty well. I’m happy that I’ve kept the game small, and I’m looking forward to finishing it and having people play it! POSSIBLY EVEN YOU!

Saturday Morning

Posted by (twitter: @@SamPotasz)
Saturday, April 27th, 2013 7:04 am

I was happy to wake up this morning and still like my game idea. Coffee helped.

Also, after doing Flash work for a few weeks, I’m really happy with how much I got done last night and how smooth & fast GameMaker makes this progress.

Here’s a little video of my “minimalist” drawing / search & find type thingy :)


Short Gameplay

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