About sfernald


Ludum Dare 26
Ludum Dare 24
Ludum Dare 21
Ludum Dare 20
Ludum Dare 19
Ludum Dare 17
MiniLD #17
Ludum Dare 16
Ludum Dare 15

sfernald's Trophies

The A+ Post Founding Award for Excellence in Explaining Code Monkeys ("Well, of course, the problem is there are virtuosos out there that can accomplish a ridiculous amount with code.")
Awarded by GreaseMonkey
on January 10, 2011
The "I got your cookies. I got your cookies right here." Award
Awarded by GBGames
on August 26, 2010
A jagged trophy as tall as your waist blocks your path
Awarded by HybridMind
on May 2, 2008

sfernald's Archive

Donations for Ludum Dare?

Posted by
Tuesday, August 30th, 2011 7:25 pm

I think I read somewhere on the site that the gentlemen who run Ludum Dare now have monthly server costs in excess of $200.00.

Shouldn’t there be some kind of donation system so we can contribute to the site?

I know I would be willing to contribute some of my money to keep this fine site up and running.

Hopefully this donation system comes up soon before the site goes into its inevitable hibernation between contests.

What do you guys think? Would you donate? (a star means heck yeah I would donate to the cause!)

Video Walkthrough for Scratchy Get Out!

Posted by
Tuesday, August 30th, 2011 3:48 pm


Some people think my game is unbeatable, but it is actually not that bad once you know what to do. It is definitely easier than about half of the arcade games in the 80s which is what I tried to model it after.

There is one bug that causes real problems, but the workaround is you just have to wait at least eight seconds before dropping a boulder. I don’t think there are any other bugs that are really an issue to beating it.

Here is the video walkthrough. This one shows the “eliminate the obstacles” strategy. This is not the quickest way to win, but it is one of the easiest ways to win for sure. I died three times trying to make this video btw.

Video Walkthrough for Scratchy Get Out!

My game needs a walkthrough

Posted by
Wednesday, August 24th, 2011 11:33 am


The feedback coming in is that my game is way too hard. The level that I managed to build would normally be like the last level of a 20 level game. It has everything thrown in it and I made it as hard as possible. If I had had more time I could have made the tutorial levels necessary to make it not so frustrating for players. The one thing I really screwed up on was running out of time before I could build more levels. I had this wonderful toolbox ready and I could have easily built more levels (especially easier ones) if I had just had time. Oh well, I learned a lot with Stencyl so next time my progress will be better. Game difficulty is something that I just need to start considering when I’m developing these games. It’s just something else that I’m going to have to add to the list. Hopefully I learn for the next entry 😉

Due to people having so many issues with making progress, here is the walkthrough:

Jump over the growlers and get a boulder. Climb the rope and jump on the cannon. The boulder should load into the cannon (if you aren’t standing on top of the cannon). Then the cannon should fire the boulder into the crane. Drop the boulder on the blue rock by controlling the crane. the rock should break if you hit it. By the way, due to a bug, always wait at least 10 seconds after loading the crane before dropping a boulder. Ok, now you have a way to get back down and get more boulders. Keep doing so and reloading the cannon and try to kill off as many of the obstacles (knifers and growlers) that you think you need to to make it easy to get more boulders. Once you feel safe, start dropping the boulders on all of the things above the exit. Once you have cleared a path to the exit, then this time load a boulder but stay on top of the boulder. This might take a few tries (you have to be on the boulder just right). But then if done correctly the boulder should shoot you up into the crane and you will be stuck in it. Now move the crane over to where the exit is and release down. You have escaped!
END SPOILER ***********************************

This Weekend’s Big Score

Posted by
Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011 11:06 pm

Hey the real good news this weekend was that I took late friday night off from the compo and managed to score a $99 HP TouchPad. Woot!

Welcome to the hotel TouchPad,
Where you can check out any time you like,
But you can never leave.

Postmortem for Scratchy Get Out!

Posted by
Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011 1:04 pm

The Planning (or Lack Thereof)

It’s funny the way things turn out. Every time the contest comes around, I hope that I have honed my game-making skills so I’ll really be ready to make something great. The reality is that I only make games as a hobby and I don’t have that much time to spend on it, so I’m always ill prepared when the time comes. I think I know what language and framework I’m going to use, but I’m always watching the board to find that Magic Bullet to help allow me to spend more time making the game and less time on all the other crap.

So this time the Magic Bullet that would save me was Stencyl (at least I was praying), which I noticed in posts on here a few times. It is a tool that lets you make games without coding. It is one of those, do-it-all game making environments like GameMaker, Multimedia Fusion and Unity. Out of those three I only really like Unity, but I don’t think it’s ideal for contests like this one because 3D tends to add a lot of complexity that can keep you from making a great game in the time frame allotted.

Stencyl is a java based IDE that generates flash games. Internally, It uses many popular frameworks such as flixel and box2d. I guess the idea of it is based on some sort of MIT project. Basically it lets you code your game with “lego-like” blocks that you drag and drop around. Here’s the funny thing. It actually works. It saves time. And it’s fun. It lets you visualize all of your code in one page, which is pretty amazing.

The Coding

Wait, there was no coding actually. I wrote not a single line of code. Now you can do that with GameMaker and such, but I always found them limiting. Building your game with Blocks in Stencyl did not feel nearly so limiting to me. Here’s the thing. When I started I knew nothing about Stencyl. The first thing I did when the contest started was build the 15 minute game which allowed me to create a few actors and behaviors and create a scene. I had something working immediately.

But I had no idea of what kind of game to make. All I knew was that I wanted to make something that looked like a classic arcade game. I was tired with doing experiments and weird stuff and wanted to try making a platformer for the first time ever.

Scratchy Get Out actually just came about through playing with the actors, deciding to try something, creating an actor or behavior, and seeing how it turned out. I was amazed at how quickly I was able to add AI details that I never would have had time to do if I were just coding this in FlashPunk. Every actor has multiple AI behaviors. All of the behaviors are simple but there were so many, that the game started to develop into something I had not comprehended before. I was very simply able to lay out accurate collision boxes (or other shapes) and control what actors interacted with what. For example, the crane was probably the most complex AI. It could catch boulders or players showing different animations for each action. When it was loaded, you could control it. It passed messages to tell the player to halt all movement. Then you could release the object the crane was holding (actually the crane created the object) and it would reset itself and reactivate everything. I know from my past experiences, that I’ve never had time in one of these contests to delve into such AI details and polish things as much as I was able to.

The thing is I didn’t have that much time so I was only able to do one level. I had to do all the graphics (including animations) and I barely had time to create some sound effects with SFXR. But later I made another level. A totally cool indiana jones style levels with falling boulders that would shake the screen when they hit the ground. I think I could easily pump out ten more fun levels today if I set my mind to it because stencyl makes level design so ridiculously easy.

And even though Stencyl was easy to learn, I did learn a ton over that 48 hours. If I was to redo it, I know some things that could probably cut my work time in half. I’m now aware of some things I was doing the hard way or incorrectly that should be much easier now.

The Graphics

I am really crappy with graphics. Stencyl really helped for this though. What I did was just design my game by picking out placeholder graphics provided by the Stencyl community. I think this has a big advantage to just making quick temporary graphics. I was able to pick out images that I actually liked and enjoyed playing with during development. I think it helped with the actual development because I was inspired by how cool things looked. Then when the game was completely done and I was running out of time, I fired up the Stencyl graphic editor and created my own likenesses of the graphics that were in placeholder. Because I kind of knew what I wanted, it was really easy and I actually think some of my art turned out better than the fine placeholder art (like the cannon for example).

The Sounds

I was determined to get sounds in. Usually I try to do something ambitious with my synths and effects machines, but I just didn’t have time on this one. I only spent about an hour on sound, generating a few sound effects with SFXR which is a wonderful time saving tool. Ok, it’s a classic must have for when you only have ten minutes left in a contest and you want sound! I mean what else is there for that?

What Went Right

Well, everything went right this time. I’ve done this enough to know every time the contest starts, the experience is going to be different. Sometimes it’s going to be easy as smooth sailing and somethings things are going to go so badly that I will want to kill myself (or at least just give up, which I have done more than once). This time I felt very calm the whole time because when using stencyl I was spending about 95% of time actually making the high-level AI for the game. I knew that at any point, I could just add a couple more actors and behaviors and whip up a game of some sort. So the whole time I could just work with total confidence and spend the time adding more and more cool game AI like fun death scenes and little animation details like the player’s head stuck in the crane.

What Went Wrong

I wish I had had another few hours because I really didn’t get to utilize one aspect of Stencyl which is its great level designing tools. Once I had the first level done and the art and the sound and all those actors and behaviors, I could have easily built ten more cool levels in a matter of a couple of hours. I mean, just with the actors and behaviors I created, I left so much on the table that the player will never see that it is kinda sad. Because of that, I’m going to work up about 40 levels or so and release a new version later on. Hopefully it will have the things I didn’t have time for like a menu screen and all the features a game should have.

Final Comments

As always, it was a wonderful experience. I look forward to trying everyone’s games. I hope all of you got what you wanted out of this contest as well. In the end, we aren’t competing against each other, but against ourselves and if there’s one thing I learned is that doing as many of these contests as you can, will only make you better and better at making games.

Scratchy Get Out!

Posted by
Sunday, August 21st, 2011 8:53 pm

Wow, finished my game and am just exhausted.

This is an arcade game that I tried to model after classic arcade games like Mario Bros. The objective is to escape from the room (alive).

I should point out this is as much a puzzle game as it is an arcade game. It is pretty tricky but it is solvable. You will definitely have to use your brain to escape the room.

Well, please check it out. It is in flash and I posted it on Kongregate. Let me know if you like it. Hopefully I can do more levels now as that should be super easy.

Warning, this thing is probably buggy as hell. I got what I could, but there have to tons of issues left.


Taking a Break at Five Guys

Posted by
Sunday, August 21st, 2011 12:32 pm

Ok, it’s probably a good time to take a break and post an update. I’m at five guys eating a nice cheeseburger and some peanuts. Dig Dug, my Jack Russell, is barking in the car. I’m saving him one of the patties. The wife is gone for the day at the spa.

Yuummm, these burgers are really delicious.

Anyway, it turns out I’m doing my first platformer. It’s very arcady like Mario Bros or something like that.

You just have to figure out how to escape the screen by doing a bunch of arcady things like getting shot out of a cannon and jumping over baddies and so forth.

Ended up using stencyl which is awesome. No coding whatsoever done so far. For graphics I’m using the stencyl editor and graphics gale. I give stencil an A+. It’s a bit buggy and crash prone but besides that it really lets you get done to the task at hand – making fun games.

I think this will end up being my best game in terms of fun if I finish it.

Well, I better finish this delicious burger and get back to it.

Good luck guys!

Committing to ludum dare 21

Posted by
Wednesday, August 10th, 2011 4:56 pm

Missed the last couple minis even though I had intended to enter. But I’m going full board on Ludam Dare. Already pre-allocating the time with the wifey.

This time I plan on using JavaScript for the first time. I’m going to use ImpactJS. My goal is to make a simple but fun puzzle game. I’m going to keep my ambition in check this time so I can allocate as much time as possible into just making it fun. My intention with JavaScript is that the game will work on every computer, tablet and smart phone out there. Hopefully ImpactJS is up to the task there.

I’m hoping the theme is fun. Somewhat silly is cool. It seems like most the themes end up being so generic. It would be nice to really have to put a lot of thought into the theme.

How to survive a zombie apocalypse

Posted by
Sunday, June 19th, 2011 2:42 pm

well, since this minild so closely aligns to the kind or game I’ve been working on lately (including the last full ludumdare), I’ve just got to give it a go.

I think I have a terrific idea for a dialogue based zombie thriller. It will be another chance to use all my audio equipment.

Basically you make contact over cb radio with a man in a neighboring city which is under seige from zombies. You have to use your general knowledge of zombies from books and movies to help the man make the right decisions so he can rescue his girlfriend and escape town.

It will be a first person affair in which you listen to him describe his situation and then you choose from a dialog tree on what to say to help him. In some cases you might lead him right to his demise.

To improve on my last game, the audio clips will be shorter. No more than a paragraph or two and there will be more interaction.

Let’s see how it goes!

MiniLD – 26 – Destroy All Kittens!

Posted by
Friday, May 27th, 2011 2:37 pm

Theme: Destroy

A: Destroy All Kittens!

B: You have a limited number of bombs you have to place in order to destroy all the cute, sweet kittens on the screen.


You must kill all the cute little kittens on the screen

Gonna get me some kitten mittens!

D: 5 levels, soundtrack, some narration

I’m going to use flashpunk starting from scratch. This is memorial day weekend, so not sure how much I will get done. But can’t wait to blow me up some kittens, so that might drive me to finish this.

Regarding Change of Heart

Posted by
Wednesday, May 25th, 2011 8:32 am

Wow, my entry Change of Heart was #1 in audio and #7 in innovation. I would have never expected it.

Thanks guys. I’ve never had a game win an award before.

I should probably stop now and retire but I think I’m going to try to utilize some of these audio skills in a more action oriented interactive type of game. So let the fun continue with the mini this weekend!

Hey, and just to get the party going here, here is a little song I performed the other night (House style dance genre):


Change of Heart Postmortem

Posted by
Saturday, May 7th, 2011 12:58 pm

Well, let me tell you my foray into game building this time was an interesting one. My goal was to create a dramatic movie experience using just audio and music.

While everyone else in the competition was busy playing with game ideas or throwing together some code for their game infrastructure or perhaps even creating a level editor, I was just trying to fight back writer’s block. I had about 15 pages of narration to write (and that was after cutting the initial scale of my game in half) and initially I had allocated about 6 hours to do it. I was planning on being done by the time I went to bed that night, but when I was too tired to work any longer, I had only a third of the story written!

In the end it took me about 12 hours and it was still unfortunately a pretty rough draft but I had to go with it. The end of the narration definitely suffered compared to the beginning when I was able to add so many extra details, but that’s life in a 48 hour competition. At this point it was 1pm on Sat. and all I had to show for it was a stack of papers.

Luckily I was prepared for the recording session. I had done a test the day before and knew exactly what I wanted to do even though I had never narrated before. Of course, the fact that I didn’t have time to even rehearse the material meant the narrations didn’t come out as well as they could of. And of course it’s harder to narrate than you may think. Sure a paragraph or two is simple, but when you are reading page after page, the mistakes add up and so you end up doing everything several times and then have to go back through all that later and sort out what is good and what is not. There is just a ton of painstaking processing involved with audio.

In order to get the best possible sound, I shut down my pc and got rid of every possible sound in the room. I recorded the audio using logic pro with my mac mini. I recorded through the preamp of my Mackie mixer and through a comp54 compressor (which is an amazing reproduction of a neve compressor). I used a Shure sm7b microphone which was the one that Michael Jackson actually used to record Thriller. It works as well for voice as it does for music. So I was pretty confident that technically the narration would come out well and it did.

So I finished the recording and then that evening (maybe 4pm) I exported everything to my pc and put the chapters together using Cubase 6. Cubase is by far my favorite daw; it really is the best there is if you are using midi and virtual instruments and don’t want to feel limited with what you can do. I had originally planned on scoring the narrations using my prophet 08 analog synth, but I realized there just wasn’t going to be time to do all the tweaking necessary to get the sounds I wanted (I did use it for that intro sound though), so I fell back to using Omnisphere, which is a software synth in a class by itself. I had never scored a narration before (a lot of firsts here). I tried several different techniques during the process of creating the 12 different scores (which is a heck of a lot of music to try to create in such a short time). I think from the first one I did to the last one I definitely improved quite a bit. I hate the first one (chapter 1) and plan on redoing it for the iphone version. My favorite is the helicopter flight score. Well, that and maybe the score of the hive with all of the gross creature sounds. I found my process was getting much more elaborate during these last few scores. I spent the rest of the night working on the scores, maybe to 3am.

Next morning I was on schedule but immediately things went horribly wrong. I had used Unity in the last LD to make a nice little 3d game, but man when I tried to use it for the simple purposes of this game, I was just fighting it the whole time. All I wanted to do was a simple fade, but I was jumping hoop after hoop and things weren’t coming together. It was noon and I had nothing, so I switched immediately over to flashpunk which I had used to make a game last year. Thank god I did. I didn’t even have flashdevelop on my computer, so I had to download it all and follow the flashpunk instructions to get it all working, but that only took about 10 minutes. Almost immediately things were working and I was coding the game. The actual code was about as simple as could be, so I won’t spend much time talking about it.

The final big hurdle I hit when I was all done and testing was that I found that flashpunk (probably flash actually) was very picky about the sample rates of my mp3 files. In order to upload the game to Kongregate I had to get the game under 10MB so I had to make the sounds mono and as low a sample rate as possible. I had done all the final wav files at 96k and I was having a heck of a time getting wavelab to convert the 96k wavs to small mp3 files that flash would actually accept.

I finally ended up creating the mp3 files in Cubase actually, which I think gave me a higher quality sound in the end. I went with mono, 32kb, 11khz and I liked the quality of the output, but ran into a huge problem. It was really affecting the volume levels of the different tracks. I had the music much quieter than the narration and in some cases the output mp3 had actually silenced the music. So at the last minute I had to go through my projects and adjust the volume levels, bringing up the volume of the scores so you could actually hear them in the mp3.

That’s it. Overall, to be honest, I’m just amazed I was able to complete it. There were several times when things weren’t going right that I considered just giving up. But I think I continued because with this project I choose to do the things that I enjoy the most, writing and making music, and so that’s why I was able to persevere. I know a game like this is sure to be rated poorly, I knew that going in and accepted it from the start. Even if my voice was like Orson Welles and my prose like Hemingway I wouldn’t have a chance. And yet I really think there is a niche for this kind of game. Sure it falls more under interactive fiction than game (it is less interactive than dragon’s lair even), but there’s almost limitless potential for the number of epic stories I can tell. I almost see it as a way to bring game-players back into fiction.

If you feel like listening to a good story, check it out. It is a dark, apocalyptic science fiction / survival horror thriller that will depend completely on your imagination. I’m working on a mobile version now that will have some beautiful artwork and a bunch of other features as well (not to mention a re-write or two). I should warn you that there is a ton of profanity so I would say if you don’t like listening to audio books or if strong language or gross imagery disturbs you, then stay very clear of this one.

Change of Heart

Change of Heart (flash 10)

So much work. So many problems. The story took twice as long as I thought it would to write. The audio files took forever to record and process. My voice is so unprofessional – I just suck – and make it so hard for myself. This morning started with an aborted attempt to program the game in Unity. Unity just sucks for 2d to be honest. I punted it for flash punk and working every second managed to throw it together. Then I couldn’t upload to any flash game sites because it is too large (30 megs). Funny that is less than many hi-res pictures i click on these days. Anyway. I have thrown it in my dropbox for now and will release a much smaller version on kongregate when I have time.

If you like audio books, specifically dark science fiction/horror novels (like world war z for instance), then you might enjoy this. Before you try this make sure you are in a mellow mood. This shouldn’t be the first game you try. Turn the lights out and just chill. If you feel in the mood for a good novel, then that is a good time to try it. The story will probably take you about 20-30 minutes to listen to, depending on your decisions during the game.

Anyway, it was a blast. I am going to recover now and then read every post since this epic LD started.

Hope everyone had fun!

bkacj on sdhchyeudle

Posted by
Sunday, May 1st, 2011 3:09 am

One hour brejiomf drhvul;r nui iz finish ton time. REally tiimred. Good anightg all.

Things progressing. Back on schedule.

Posted by
Saturday, April 30th, 2011 1:24 pm

Finished narrations. Now going into recording. Ugh, so much work! Why do I put myself through these things?

That didn’t take long, already behind schedule

Posted by
Saturday, April 30th, 2011 2:04 am

Crap, already behind. It’s 2am and only half of my narrations are written. I have to go to bed. I am setting a goal of finishing all of the writing by 2pm tomorrow. Then I’ll have 12 hours tomorrow (until 2am on Sunday) to finish all audio. If I accomplish that I will manage to stay on schedule.

Hope things are going well for everyone. I am not going to have much time to peruse these forums until after the contest this time I’m afraid.

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