About axcho (twitter: @axcho)

I like making awesome things.

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Archive for the ‘LD #26’ Category

Patience of Ninja

Posted by (twitter: @axcho)
Tuesday, April 30th, 2013 11:25 pm

Two ninjasI was scrambling to come up with a suitably minimal idea to make tonight, so I could have a game out for April and keep to my #onegameamonth challenge.

After playing Bladeless and Potato Dungeon, I realized how much I liked the idea of a minimal swordfighting game, and spent most of my evening trying to figure out how I could do that without resorting to ragdoll physics.

I didn’t come up with anything, so I ended up thinking about the simplest possible game design I could imagine, where all you do is press a button at the right time to win, and otherwise you’d lose. It could be a sort of meditation game, where you just have to sit there attentively and wait for the signal to press the button. If you succeed, you move on to the next level. The time before the signal appears is random, but the maximum time keeps increasing with every level, so you have to be more and more patient to progress further.

I remembered that the word “ninja” means “one who waits”, and I thought it could be fun to theme this as a ninja game, where you have to wait for a long time for the right moment to strike.  But I was having trouble thinking of how this would actually look on the screen, especially if I was going to make this happen tonight.

Of course, then I realized this could simply be a samurai dueling game like Bladeless, where you stand facing your opponent, and you must press the button to draw your sword immediately after your opponent does. Or maybe it would make a bit more sense as a cowboy duel, but I like swords better. Still, it would have to be samurai, as no self-respecting ninja would stand around in the open, waiting to strike second.

So I tried drawing a person holding a sword.

Okay, yeah. This isn’t going to happen. I give up. I’m way too tired, I feel terrible, and there is no creativity left in my body.

So much for one game a month. :(

Erasing is minimal

Posted by (twitter: @axcho)
Tuesday, April 30th, 2013 11:43 am

As predicted, I didn’t end up making a game for Ludum Dare this past weekend.

But I just realized that one of my old ideas actually fits the theme perfectly. It’s called Freetrace. Basically a game where you erase drawings.

So maybe I’ll make it. I just contacted some of my artist friends about it. It would be cool to use some drawings like these:

My time is minimal

Posted by (twitter: @axcho)
Sunday, April 28th, 2013 8:50 pm

As stated earlier, I did not have time to make a game this weekend. But of course, I’ve been thinking a lot about the theme, and actually the last idea I posted about seemed to get quite a bit of interest, for some reason.

And now, I finally have a bit of freedom, before I go to sleep and then go to work tomorrow, and so it’s entirely possible that I could make something in this last hour or two in time for the jam, as long as it’s… minimal.

Or maybe I should just go to sleep. I am very tired… 😉

Refactoring code is minimal

Posted by (twitter: @axcho)
Saturday, April 27th, 2013 11:17 pm

Here’s another idea for the “minimalism” theme.

For a long time I’ve wanted to make a game about refactoring code. But I’ve never really had a concrete idea of how that would actually work, short of putting someone in front of Visual Studio with a big, messy codebase to untangle.

The theme of “minimalism”, of course, lends an interesting perspective to the problem. Code refactoring is often a process of taking something redundant and convoluted, and reducing it down to something streamlined and elegant. That sounds like minimalism to me. But even further, you can take a minimal approach to representing the “code” you’re refactoring, both conceptually and visually.

What if the “code” were not actually a bunch of lines of text, but a bunch of colored boxes in specific spatial relationships with each other? Then when two configurations of boxes are the same you can merge them into one, as long as they are connected in the same way. Actually, it seems kind of impossible to explain this in words, so I won’t even try. But just imagine it, if you can.

It could be a game like Tetris, where random boxes get added, and you have to continually merge boxes and shift them around to keep the whole conglomeration from getting too big. Maybe there’s a boundary, and once it hits the edge it’s game over.

Cool. So do I have time to make this for LD26? Well, no, probably not.

Oh well?

Using the bare minimum

Posted by (twitter: @axcho)
Saturday, April 27th, 2013 12:37 pm

Did you know that Canabalt was originally made for the theme of “Bare Minimum” at the Experimental Gameplay Project? Okay, yeah, I said that already.

But I think it could be a good angle to approach the theme of “minimalism”, by thinking about the bare minimum that you can scrape by with in developing your game [wow, three prepositions in a row!].

What’s the bare minimum in terms of input? That would be one button, right?

How about in terms of output? Could you make a game with only sound and no graphics? Or how about using as few pixels as possible, to maximize data-ink ratio? Could you represent a 3D space with only a few moving dots? Or lines?

Or could you use as few rules as possible? Could you keep your game systems to a bare minimum?

Maybe I’ll just make my game as quickly as I can.

Minimalism is inspiring

Posted by (twitter: @axcho)
Saturday, April 27th, 2013 11:49 am

Searching for minimalism in Google images brings up some common themes. I see a lot of monochrome black and white, a lot of stark geometric shapes, a lot of open space, whether that is actual architectural space or white space in a graphic design sense. Basically a white open space with a few things in it.

It’s a similar scene on deviantART, though with a bit more color.

As you may notice from some of my own work, this is a style that I am very comfortable with.

So, games…

Last night as I was trying to fall asleep there were two ideas sticking in my head for this “minimalism” theme.

One is an idea I’ve been musing over for the last couple weeks, a game about my struggle to work on my game projects in the evenings and weekends outside of my full-time job, while balancing my sleep and energy and all that. I had already been thinking about how to make that as minimal as possible, both so I can actually finish the project in a reasonable amount of time, and also so people can easily understand what’s going on when they play. However, it didn’t seem minimal enough, so last night I spent a lot of time visualizing the game as an abstract geometric arrangement of circles and rectangles and such. But I’m not sure I really want to make it that abstract – because I want you to feel like a person when you’re playing it, and not just any person, but a person like me.

The other was a more formal exploration of the “minimalism” theme, thinking about what the most minimal game could be. FarmVille is an example of a very minimal game. In terms of systems, all you do is invest some resources into an asset, and then after some amount of time, you can liquidate that asset in exchange for more resources than you originally put in. And you can have a portfolio of a bunch of assets going at one time. So why not build a game around that? Except sped up really fast, instead of stretched out over hours and days.

Keeping with the “minimalism” theme, everything could be very simply depicted, with even your resources represented by a pile of pixels on the screen instead of a number. But what if you went further, where your goal in the game is actually to simplify and reduce clutter toward the aim of minimalism? Maybe your resource is actually empty screen space, blank pixels, and the screen starts out almost full. But you can invest screen space into assets that temporarily take up space until their time is up and they erase an even wider area of pixels than they initially displaced?

That sounds really boring. But then again, so does FarmVille.

In any case, it’s an interesting start, and I really like the way it incorporates the theme in multiple ways at once. The idea of empty space as a resource is intriguing to me.

Maybe if the empty space is also a venue for another aspect of gameplay, like an action game where you move around and need open space in order to do well…

But there are a lot of ways to take this theme beyond the two ideas my mind was obsessing over last night.

For one, I think it would be great to try taking a common game genre and distill it to its essence, kind of like what Sophie Houlden did with The Linear RPG. I am still really inspired by that game. And personally, I’m looking forward to seeing some interesting takes on a minimal RTS this weekend, as strategy games have always been close to my heart. The first game I really got into was Civilization II, and almost all of my early game ideas as a kid were strategy game ideas. Of course, I’ve never made a strategy game because they’re so much work! But I have a few ideas for minimal strategy games and I would really enjoy the chance to make an entire RTS in a single weekend. Could I do for the RTS genre what Divekick does for the fighting game genre? That would be awesome.

Another approach would be to make a game within the constraints of a very limited hardware platform, like the TI-83 Plus graphing calculator. As you may or may not know, the TI-83 Plus was where I really got my start in terms of game development. I made a lot of games. And so, how about a game with a 96×64 monochrome display, and no sound? Similar constraints produced the gem that was the original Triple Town – maybe I can do something similarly brilliant here. At the very least, it could be a fun nostalgia trip for me to revisit my game development roots.

Or how about making a physics game with very simple rules, but with a lot of nuance because of physical interactions between objects, like Particles? I’ve got a few ideas to explore there. The only thing is I don’t have a physics engine all ready to go at the moment, and while it probably wouldn’t be hard to learn to use an existing one or reuse some of my old code, I’m a bit wary of going that route. Lessons learned.

I’ve also been thinking about a game that tells a story in as minimal a way as possible. I read this talk by the creator of Amnesia yesterday, and found it very inspiring. I have an idea I’d like to explore along these lines, and it may be simple enough to qualify for “minimalism”.

So, there we have six different directions to take the “minimalism” theme. I’m sure there are many others. Now it’s time for a break! I want to do this so badly, but I still don’t see it actually happening this weekend. Well, I’ll be there in the back of my mind, searching ceaselessly for a crack in my schedule like water in a wooden box. We’ll see if anything seeps through…

So tempted…

Posted by (twitter: @axcho)
Friday, April 26th, 2013 11:13 pm

I already decided I wasn’t going to do Ludum Dare this weekend.  I’m way too busy trying to finish up Space Lord, and more incontrovertibly I will be entertaining visiting relatives all weekend, so there’s obviously no way I can compete.

So yeah. Definitely not doing LD26. Yep.

Gah! That theme! It has my heart clutched tight within its iron fist.

If it were any other theme I would realize that I have no hope of accomplishing anything in the realm of game development this weekend. But now I have hope. False hope. Treacherous false hope!

Somehow I believe that I could come up with something really simple and quick to make.

Yeah right.

You know, Canabalt was made for the theme of “Bare Minimum“. I remember the idea I had for that theme, an audio-only shooter. I still haven’t got around to making it.

No, I’m not going to try making that idea this weekend.

Hmm, minimalism…

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