About TravisChen


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TravisChen's Trophies

"Cream of the Crop" - LD32
Awarded by Dreyan
on May 12, 2015
XOPSX Top Ten Award
Awarded by DesignerNap
on May 3, 2015

TravisChen's Archive


Posted by
Tuesday, December 22nd, 2015 12:15 am


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OPERATOR 42: Tips and Tricks from Killigan Industries

Posted by
Wednesday, April 29th, 2015 5:50 pm


Travis from Killigan Industries (Travis, Peter & Alex) here. Thought it’d be helpful to list out some tips & tricks we’ve learned over Ludum 32 and past jams. All focused on doing a lot with a little. Note this is the things-to-do list based on practices that have worked for us. The things-not-to-do list based on all of our failures would be far too large to post. A lot of what is below is incredibly obvious but fun to write out in a bullet point list nonetheless. So now, onto our game and the tips and tricks that went into making it!


  • Source Control – The first thing I do before any jam is setup a Github repo. Especially critical if you’re collaborating. Try to avoid Dropbox collaboration if you can. If you’re new to Github, here’s a resource full of great guides: https://guides.github.com/
  • Ideation – Start first with what you don’t want to make. Puts the brainstorming in a smaller box. Also, purge the most obvious ideas in the beginning. The gems are hidden underneath.
  • Team Size – If you’re doing a jam, make sure to not overdo it with teammates. Managing roles, code and assets between a large team in a small timeframe is very difficult. Two to three people feels right.
  • Reach Out to Collaborators – We found our sound designer Alex days before the weekend by simply reaching out to chiptune artists in Los Angeles. I’m always surprised by how willing folks are to collaborate. All you need to do is ask.
  • Dedicate Time to Polish – Try to dedicate a whole day to polishing your experience. No new features, just refinement. The scope of your idea should take this into account.
  • Play TestIt very difficult to put yourself in a fresh-eyed mindset for any project. This is especially the case when you’re cramming for two – three straight days. Observing someone play your game with fresh-eyes will surface obvious user experience problems.
  • Dedicate Time to Sound – If possible, have a dedicated person to execute sound. It’s no mystery sound plays a critical role in the best entries. Having someone care solely about the sound design through the weekend is immensely valuable.
  • Dedicate Time to Marketing I’m using marketing very loosely here but it’s often a last minute afterthought. Make sure your first screenshot is compelling and looks great as a thumbnail. Try a few options. Make sure you have a super tight and intriguing description.
  • Slack – Something we did this time around is setup a Slack team for chat. Especially useful for when our team wasn’t in the same room. Bonus, you can setup Slack to post to the chat every-time a Github commit is made! It’s awesome. https://slack.com/
  • Rate Games!The best way to get feedback on your game is to rate other peoples. I find this to be the most rewarding part of Ludum Dare. To learn from other’s work and get realtime feedback, the good and bad, on yours. Makes you a better game developer.
  • And finally, please play our game if you haven’t had a chance. Killigan Industries values you as a customer. Your continued support is important to us.


    Operator 42


    Posted by
    Monday, April 27th, 2015 8:18 pm


    Hi. I’m Peter Javidpour. I worked with Travis Chen and Alex Wimmer on Operator 42. I was responsible for writing the voiceover script, implementing puzzles, and building out the phone navigation. Travis has asked that I make a post about the writing process.

    I don’t normally like getting into the nitty-gritty of things I work on, but Travis assured me the Ludum Dare community likes to read this sort of thing. He also assured me a blog post would lead to more ratings on our jam entry, and I can really use the Ludum Dare Cash Prize, so here we go.


    Operator 42

    There are some light spoilers here, so stop now if you care about spoilers and you haven’t played the game yet. If you don’t care spoilers, but you have no intention of playing the game, I’m not sure why you’re reading this. But go ahead, I guess.


    The theme of the jam was Unconventional Weapon. At the start, we didn’t know we were going to make a game that would require any kind of writing. All we knew was that we didn’t want to do a lot of work and we wanted to make something unique. So to kick off our brainstorming session, we swore to follow three simple constraints:

    – Minimal use of unique assets.
    – Infinite playtime.
    – No guns.

    After 2 hours of brainstorming quirky arcade ideas* that would make a game designer’s mouth just water we settled on an idea that needed:

    – A ton of unique assets (mostly voiceover).
    – Finite playtime.
    – One giant gun.

    Somehow we became fixated on the premise of needing an owner’s manual to operate a doomsday device. We replaced the manual with a phone and we had something we were excited about. We broke the only rules that we gave ourselves, but we were collectively too excited about the idea to fall back on better judgement.

    *Here are some of the ideas we didn’t use. Please don’t steal them. I might come back to them one day.

    – An old lady trying to navigate through traffic, causing accidents
    – A ceiling fan that seduces people
    – A back-handed compliment simulator



    operator 42 logo

    Once we knew that our game was about a doomsday device, the rest of the setting fell into the place easily. The player is an incompetent henchman who’s just going through the motions of a job that should, for all intents and purposes, be exciting. I think this is an example of irony, but honestly I’m not sure. Let me know in the comments if it is.

    Of course, we never tell you you’re a henchman. You’re an “operator.” Your boss’s name isn’t Professor Evil, it’s Jeff, and Jeff has an implied hierarchy of bosses that lead up to the evil (but never explicitly stated as such) Dr. Killigan. And your organization isn’t The Legion of Bad People, it’s just Killigan Industries. Any indication that you’re operating a weapon of mass destruction is only implied by the orbital view of Earth and the giant red “LAUNCH” button. Also, Jeff explicitly requests that you destroy Paris. A bit heavy-handed, sure, but we had to get the point across somehow.

    The stakes implied by your assignment aren’t “Will I have to destroy Paris?” but “Will I be able to appease my passive-aggressive boss?” It’s another example of irony, I think. Let me know in the comments if that’s true.



    I don’t know why phone menus still exist. I’ve never had a “conversation” with one that felt smarter than talking to even the dumbest person I know (Greg).

    In writing lines for the phone system, the main challenge was making them complex enough to contribute to the absurdity of the world (and the difficulty of the puzzles), but making them simple enough for the average listener to parse out the details they needed to solve puzzles. I also had to throw in some jokes.

    Fun fact: every option in the phone menu will take you somewhere. Some of the dead ends are just fun little gags, others are false tips in case players press the wrong button. In a perfect world, the controls of the console would have been randomized on each playthrough, justifying those extra options. Of course, in a perfect world, we would have had more than 72 hours.

    Strangely enough, I actually wrote the script before we started working on the puzzles. Probably not the smartest way to design puzzles, and I’m not sure I would work that way again, but it was still fun. Plus, we had to front-load as much of the voice recording as we could early on, so we didn’t have much of a choice but to work “backwards” in that way.

    Alex Wimmer, our musician/sound designer was responsible for creating all the content you hear in the game, including the awesome hold music loop, which I couldn’t get out of my head. He’s also the voice of the automated phone system (over 120 lines of VO)!



    We hoped the humor of the game would come from presenting the player with a solution to a problem, then keeping it out of reach with layers of frustration and mundanity. I feel that pretty much describes any exchange I’ve ever had with an automated phone operator.

    This idea of complicating a solution led to my favorite moment of the game, the fire:


    Ideally, a fully fleshed-out version of the game would be built on a chain of scenarios like this one. I would love to play a build of Operator 42 in which the station is sparking and burning, and you’ve had to open every single panel only to reveal more and more confounding machinery, with a dumb phone robot as your only guide through the tedium and frustration. But we only had 72 hours.



    Operator 42 panel

    There are a lot of weird labels on the control panel. I don’t know what “retroautomative” means, or if it’s even really a word. I don’t know what a “phase matrix” is supposed to be or how it would help you launch a weapon payload from a satellite. We just wanted buttons. So I just mashed a bunch of words together to make things sound technical and confusing. Did it work?

    If we could do it again, I would have littered the control console with more fake buttons and levers and thrown all kinds of scary labels on them.



    I’m not sure if this was a comprehensive or cohesive write-up of what goes into writing a dialogue-heavy game over 72 hours, but I’m bored now and you probably are too, and both of us probably want to go do something else.

    Thanks for reading and thanks for playing Operator 42 and thanks to all of you have been saying nice things about the game!



    Operator 42

    The Paper Dance

    Posted by
    Thursday, December 11th, 2014 1:31 pm


    I’m particularly proud of The Paper Dance because it’s the first game I’ve made in collaboration my fiancé. I’ve worked with her on projects before but never something in the gaming space. Pro-tip, LUDUM is a great way to stress test your relationship! We’re stoked with the results. I think we’re going to be using some variant of it for our ‘save-the-date’ invitations. Thanks LUDUM :)


    The Trader

    Posted by
    Tuesday, August 26th, 2014 12:18 am

    GLITCH Indie Impressions

    Posted by
    Saturday, September 7th, 2013 4:02 pm


    My game GLITCH on IndieImpressions!


    Posted by
    Tuesday, August 27th, 2013 12:32 am


    Posted by
    Monday, April 29th, 2013 6:26 pm

    Moonshine, Level Design

    Posted by
    Monday, April 29th, 2013 5:01 am

    Almost done. Thought this screen grab of the level design was pretty.



    Screen Shot 2013-04-29 at 4.57.05 AM




    Moonshine, the second night.

    Posted by
    Saturday, April 27th, 2013 10:11 pm

    Moonshine | Progress Shot

    Posted by
    Saturday, April 27th, 2013 12:26 am

    We got some sweet isometric lighting working tonight…





    FOR THE darWIN! Post-Mortem

    Posted by
    Wednesday, September 12th, 2012 2:25 pm

    FOR THE darWIN – Jam Entry

    The Idea

    Before starting to come up with ideas, we sat down and wrote a list of what we were NOT going to do. By determining early on, what we were not going to do, it greatly helped narrow the scope of the idea. The biggest things we decided was that we would not do anything related to character evolution (leveling up, gaining powers, etc). That threw out a ton of ideas we were spitballing. Over a bowl of ramen, Nolan and I started brainstorming a game where you played Darwin, and had to discover evidence of evolution. As soon as we connected this idea to fast paced Match-3 style mechanics, we were set.

    Code, Travis Chen (@TravisChen)

    Most important thing here is to use what you’re comfortable with. For me, that’s Flixel. When I’m making game jam games, I dedicate more than half of my time to tuning and polishing the gameplay and user experience. Being comfortable is key so you can get to polishing and refining the experience as quickly as possible. Below is the code and also a game jam template I’ve created for future games:

    The code for the project can be found here: Github: FOR THE darWIN!

    Template project, I’ll continue to refine this: Github: Flixel Game Jam Template

    Art, Nolan Fabricius (@ShiftlessHobo)

    I’d like to point out a couple of things that may not be obvious upon one’s first play through. Firstly, the preist has Gout, That’s why he winces when he walks. He spends every waking moment in total misery. Secondly, Darwin’s jumping ability is historically accurate and not exaggerated at all. In sumation, I  regret the lack of weather effects, I feel like setting the game during a hurricane would’ve “totally flipped the script” so to speak.

    User Learning

    I wish we made the skull sequences for the game more clear and gave a little more instruction on what the player is supposed to do. While people seem to love the game, I think a number of people are missing some of the experience because of not understanding the sequences. So here’s a hint!

    Play and rate FOR THE darWIN here!

    And play our other jame games here!

    Hope you all enjoyed playing our game as much as we’ve enjoyed playing all of yours! We’ve played over 100 games and are continueing to play more each day. 

    Until Next Ludum!

    Travis & Nolan

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