Sunday, December 12, 2010

Score Rush

Pixel Perfect Production Proudly Passes Peers, Presents Players Performance Proudly.

Click To Download the Trial

I must admit to being a little concerned about my ability to play this game. My concerns were unfounded of course, especially once I realized that my ship's collision box wasn't actually the entire ship. No, that tiny pixel there in the lower right of the screenshot above, surrounded by a green energy field is. It's actually a 4x4 pixel grid.

Maneuvering that tiny dot through the stream of rainbow colored bullets required me to sit extremely close to the screen and my speakers. Something I highly recommend that everyone does. Please remember to always go to 11.

Score Rush, developed by Xona Games as a part of the indie games winter uprising is not quite horizontal and not quite vertical. Actually my knowledge of SHMUPS is not extensive. Luckily others have expounded on the matter in great length and detail. The playfield under consideration is similar to Geometry Wars, as in slightly bigger than my television set. It allows for a bit of movement to the game's camera which is nice but I'm still a bit undecided about the style, part of me wants to see everything and part of me likes to imagine the unknown.

The Geometry Wars reference is not without its merits, indeed,

Brittany says, "It looks like Geometry Wars, MAKE SOMETHING DIFFERENT. Stop writing everything I say." She doesn't call herself a gamer but I know better.

I don't mind that Score Rush recalls memories of such a classic game, and the fact that we are only charged a tenth of what we were charged for Geometry Wars is pretty interesting I think. I still play Geometry Wars from time to time, and that game is going on five years old. Will Score Rush hold up to this test of time?? Or is it even supposed to? 

Xona Games The developers of Score Rush, call it a spiritual sequel to Duality ZF, their upcoming XBLA release. Score Rush uses the same engine as Duality ZF. I believe that Score Rush is more of a tech demo actually, showcasing to the gamer what their engine can do. But here we begin to blur the lines of what exactly constitutes a game and so we must retreat.

At any rate, Score Rush is probably in the top five percent of enjoyable titles on the indie channel, at least to me. 1500 games on the channel, 75 that I have thoroughly enjoyed. That sounds about right.

When I play SHMUPS, score is not my main concern. In fact I purchased Geometry Wars about the same time I got my first HDTV. I was interested in how the colors would look mostly. Score Rush definitely delivers in this regard. My only problem is that my ship always tends to explode just when the screen is being lit up to its full capacity. But is this problem worth looking into and fixing?

Whenever you start a playthrough you are offered a helpful tip on the loading screen. One said, "Find your path through the stream of bullets." A bit Zen there but I did make some attempts. Perhaps this game does require the player to enter into a sort of trance while they play. To that end,

Auditory stimulation of the senses. Sound is extremely important to any game,  perhaps even more so than the Visual aspects. 

Copy from the Xona Press Release,
"The 60 fps adrenaline-rush experience is complemented by a hard-rocking Dragon Music Productions soundtrack" 

I'm not much of a fan of the game's soundtrack but I just load up whatever I think will get me into the zone and blast it at maximum value. Adult Contemporary usually results in very short games, but I've been having excellent results playing along to Dan Deacon,


One of the game's menu screens encourages the user to Blog about the game and SHMUPS in general. Which I am doing now as you are of course aware. Matthew from Xona Games has also asked bloggers to blog about XNA Connect issues, which affect the future of the XBOX Indie Channel and so are good to vote on. Making and voting on Connect issues is one of my guilty pleasures in this life,

Friday, December 10, 2010

Rise Up, Gaming...

Well, I hope you have been enjoying some of these Xbox Indie Uprising Releases as much as I have. We are about halfway through it and I think the best of them are still yet to come. I'm particularly looking forward to Alpha Squad myself.

To me it's not so much the games, but the ideas behind the games, and the process that must have occurred for these games to appear on our 360 Dashboard. A space for independent developers on a consumer games console with limited oversight from the console manufacturer on what shall and shall not appear in that space, That kind of thing just doesn't happen overnight. The Indie Channel spent a good portion of time as a beta on the web and then a beta on the dashboard before it was ready for primetime as they say. And here we are two years later with nearly 1500 games on the service. Some are great, some are not, and some should probably be sent back to the drawing board.

I'd like to draw your attention to Microsoft Connect. It's a website where users of MS products can easily submit feedback and log bugs concerning Microsoft Products. There is a page on this site dedicated to all things indie games and there are a number of suggestions listed currently which you can vote and comment on. Here is just a sample of them,

Create an "Indie Game Winter Uprising" list under the XBLIG dashboard

Optional Free Playtesting Membership

XBLIG Leaderboard/Highscore Access

XBLIG Achievement Access 

To access these issues and vote on them just click on the link below,

And scroll down a bit, looking for the XNA Game Studio line, there should be a sign in link on the far right. Sign in with your Windows Live ID and you can start voting on issues that affect XBLIG Development, Distribution, and Our Indie Game presence on the 360 Dashboard among other things. Vote Early, Vote Often and leave lots of comments. Come on now, who doesn't like leaving comments??

Friday, December 3, 2010


Deep space welding by wire

No, but that robot did cost a few million to manufacture, is it the same?

UberGridder from BadgerPunch Games continues the Winter Uprising. It's a sort of thinking man's pacman where you don't actually have to think. The protagonist is a nicely rendered three dimensional robot who is displayed on a two dimensional plane.  Programmed to build in a vacuum our robot finds company where there was expected to be none. The work continues regardless.

I've often wondered what we will be listening to when we finally reach the stars, and are given eternity to contemplate.The background music to this game sounds like it might be pretty close. I found it very relaxing.  There might be a couple tracks that the game loops through so I will have to play again to hear more.

Here's the website of the game's musician, pretty good stuff,

I played through the trial a few times on the XBOX, not really anxious to get the level complete, I just knew that it would eventually get done. If it wasn't for those pesky monsters! For some reason I got stuck on level 3. The high score table lists a nine as the highest level so I assume there's that many levels. Unless it is endless.

Interestingly I had a look at the developer's website and noticed there was a windows version available for download.

The version plays very similar, although I found the arrow keys to be a simpler control method.  

Our robot is designed to continue on his path until he reaches a junction or receives input from the user. Input being a direction of movement along the construction grid. What I liked about the game was sending the directional input before the junction, and then releasing the button to watch as the robot processed my command and turned at the appropriate time. I made it to level four on the windows version of the game, and noticed the speed had increased significantly, kickin' it up a notch

How much would you expect to pay for this casual mix of hardcore gameplay? If you said 80 MS Points you are correct. If you're addicted you will probably buy this game, if you're like me you will create a website devoted to XBOX Indie Games in order to obtain copies of the games released there. Either way, as long as everyone plays.


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Epic Dungeon

The best roguelike on the indiechannel so far.

I'm a gambler and my favorite stat is luck. It's all about the gold and I was stockpiling it. But my supply of health potions was dwindling. Fortunately I found a store around Depth 3 but the trader's prices were steep. I left everything behind for a few precious potions. What use is gold if you're dead?

At around Depth 6 I picked up this odd looking quarterstaff. It would certainly be better than the simple dagger I was using to fend off those pesky spiders and bats. If nothing else the weapon had some reach.

Once I touched the weapon though a strange weakness passed over my body and I could barely lift the staff off the floor. I tried dropping the cursed thing but my hand refused to obey my mind's command. This didn't bode well. I spent some time on Depth 7, circling the corridors, practicing with my feeble weapon in the hopes I would gain some semblance of skill with it.

It was to prove futile, as a pack of wild dogs finally got the best of me on Depth 10.

Epic Dungeon is the first game to be released as part of the Xbox Indie Games Winter Uprising. A response to treatment the Xbox Indie Channel has received from gamers, developers, and Microsoft themselves. What will this uprising lead to?

But more importantly how does Epic Dungeon play?

Quite good actually. Even though a few seconds into the game, I was about to fly into a rage concerning the lack of diagonal movement. My thumbs felt constrained, attempting to translate my mind into a mode of action that the game did not allow. After a few minutes however my thumbs were properly trained and I understood the game's need for a strict four way movement pattern. (Apparently you can move diagonally, maybe I wasn't pushing hard enough.)

The game is simple to pick up and play. At least for someone familiar with the Roguelike ;) My practice of skipping the instructions screen before the first play did not prove detrimental to my experience of the game. At intervals throughout the game, friendly little popups appeared at the top of my screen telling me what all the buttons on the controller do. After my first playthrough I did check out the help system and found it to be simple but informative, very nice.

Throughout the dungeon you might meet fellow crawlers and perhaps even some locals. They are represented symbolically by a question mark on the map, the standard quest depictor. Press the button and,

Short textual quests, with the possibility of a reward if you answer correctly? But what is correctly? I chose the way of the gambler and it worked out most of the time. These mini quests are a nice break from the action of the dungeon crawl which can get a little frenetic at times, especially when you are surrounded by multiple monsters and the screen starts flashing red, urging you to drink a health potion.

After a few short playthroughs as a gambler I decided to switch to the Shaman. Epic Dungeons Wizard archetype (and the type I usually play). The Shaman has a freezing AOE attack that allowed me to make it out of Depth 50. This was only my third playthrough of the game and it took me about an hour and a half. So I've beaten the game, not something I expect to do with a roguelike on the first day of playing. But Epic Dungeon isn't your typical roguelike.

For one thing it's not quite turnbased, the dungeon's monsters move on their own terms and if you need a few moments to think about your situation you will need to pause the game. Or just open up your inventory and use a teleport scroll to port to the nearest shop, and load up on health potions.

Combat in the game is pretty standard, simply walk in the direction that you wish to attack and if there's an enemy in your way you will swing your weapon. Besides the standard attack, there are four unique special attacks. Each one mapped to a button. As you level you can increase the number of times you can use these attacks in sequence, up to a maximum of ten. I've only used two special attacks in a playthrough, managing to chain all four together would probably be pretty difficult but I'm sure it can be done.

You probably already know that the game's art direction is influenced by the 8-bit. This style influences the modern gamer greatly, its visuals and sounds having been deeply imprinted into our minds at an early age, and connotated by many emotive aspects.  It's obvious that Mark, the sole developer behind the game had fun with the art. There are a lot of nice details here, animated traps, and scroll effects among other things. I really enjoyed the detail put into weapon and armor types.

I just wish the game lasted longer, maybe for Epic Dungeon 2?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Sketchy Tower Defense

Normally I don't review games based on my impressions with the trial but I haven't made contact with the developer of Sketchy Tower Defense, Pixel Troll Games And as such I have no review token to redeem :(

But I have loaded the game multiple times and played through the first level to extreme satisfaction. The game is currently high on the top downloads list on the XBOX and if the rest of the game is as good as the trial, I think it could climb even further up the list.

Above is an image from Homestead, the first level of the game. I've made it to Wave 27 so far and will try later to beat this mark. The game is obviously named for its visual style, there is something pleasing about the handdrawn aesthetic isn't there?

The appearance of paper on an electronic medium makes any game that uses this aesthetic stand out instantly and draw the user in. There are quite a few sketched games currently available on the XBOX Indie Channel, and even another handdrawn? tower defense game. Sketchy Tower Defense is definitely my favorite thus far.

Sketchy Tower Defense allows me to play not against the game but against myself, even now I am considering strategies to allow me to progress past Wave 27 on the first level.  It's possible that there is an end to each level that I have yet to reach. This would slightly disappoint me. But given the nature of Tower Defense, limited enemy types, limited weapons. At some point the game would just have to increase enemy speed and toughness ad infinitum until the tower is inevitably destroyed. But this is what leaderboards are for, if you're into that sort of thing and I think we might be.

The limitations listed above are not set in stone however, allowing the user to draw their own enemies and weapons would infinitely expand this game. Allowing the user to share their enemies, weapons, and levels would be nice :)

Indeed there is a game on the XBOX Marketplace that allows for a bit of this sketchy goodness,

Below is an image from Border Wars which allows for user drawn content,

But if handdrawn games are really your thing, perhaps you need to stray a bit from the XBOX and venture into enemy territory, namely the iPhone and SketchNation,

The developers of Sketch Nation are working on allowing users to sell their games created with Sketch Nation as individual games through the Appstore. An impressive feat to accomplish. And one that the gatekeepers of our indie channel could definitely learn from.

Back to the topic at hand,

The game features single player, co-op, and a pvp style. In Co-op each player controls a sketcher and can build whatever they like, provided they have the coin to do so. Coins collected by one sketcher are equally distributed between each sketcher. In the PVP style the game board is divided into two sections, one for each sketcher and the game is played through normally. Last sketcher standing style. Perhaps in an update the PixelTroll could include a Ramparts style PVP game.

I have a few minor quibbles with the game of course. There are no explanations for what the various weapons you buy actually do. Did PixelTroll expect us to use trial and error to discover the game's meaning? I'm still not sure what Air does even after using it, and finding out that the pit traps are one time use was a bit disappointing but I'm sure over time I will figure out the best strategies for all the different objects we can place.

The future definitely looks good for Sketchy Tower Defense and the hand drawn genre.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010


In case you've been asleep for the past 50 years, the image above is from Tennis for Two. An early variant of what would later come to be known as Pong. Below is a screen from BlurBalls, Pong circa late 2010 developed by BlazingForge Games and now available for download from the Xbox 360 Marketplace.

There have been a number of Pong variants released to the Indie Channel, most of them first attempts by new and usually solitary gamemakers. BlurBalls is a bit different. According to the developer's website 
Blazing Forge Games, seven people had a hand in the game's creation which is definitely a deviation from the norm.

Getting more people involved in a project is definitely a good thing, indeed it is the only thing,

 "The salvation of mankind lies only in making everything the concern of all."

But I digress, did this localization of multiple minds/bodies produce a new and interesting gaming experience? This is what we are after are we not?

BlurBalls is definitely aesthetically pleasing, the visual and auditory components of the game are solid. The bright style of the game reminds me of Geometry Wars, perhaps the devs were trying to capture some of that retro evolved magic that made Geometry Wars so succesful.

In the screenshot above and below you can see the game supports multiple balls on screen at once and multiple paddles, up to 24 paddles actually. Most of those would be controlled by the game's AI as the game only supports up to 4 players each needing a separate controller. Setting up 20 additional AI paddles is a bit time consuming, the game forces you to manually select each AI paddle position and type of which there are many.  

It doesn't appear as though the game allows a single controller to control two paddles either. Given the dual nature of the thumbsticks this could definitely be implemented. Although in most dual control games I find myself having trouble splitting my mind to accomodate the style. But I think Blurballs could do with a foosball/table soccer kind of setup. There's a table soccer game on the marketplace that uses this style but again, my thumbs have trouble separating themselves into two unique individuals.

In classic Pong, I enjoy visualizing the angle of return, the vector that the ball will take as it bounces off of my paddle and heads back to my opponents side of the court. This is the sole strategy of Pong. BlurBalls destroys this singular version of the game instead forcing you into a stream of instant decisions and a lock of vision to your home court.

When I first tried the game,  I thought that those swaths the balls cut through the court were actually having an impact on the mechanics of the game, or that the walls of the court were transmutable, able to be demolished after obtaining a powerup. Alas, there does not seem to be any powerups in the game and most everything you see in the screens above is simply eyecandy to use the local vernacular.

The game can get quite chaotic and on the larger screens with multiple AI Paddles, you might find yourself not really in the action at all, instead you simply watch the AI play out this futuristic ball game. But I think on a simple court with 4 controllers and 3 friends, you could set up a nice game of doubles.


Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Once and Future Gamer

Well, it has been quite a bit of time since my last posting. This is not to say that I have not been religiously checking the indie games tab on the marketplace, but that perhaps the games released there are not up to my extremely critical standards.

XBLIG are still my games of choice, despite being banned from the club that produces them, and despite the service's catering to the demographic that enjoys senseless violence, gratuitous sex, and mindless button mashing. Why bother taking the time to try every game that appears you might ask? Because you never know.

You never know if that simple 2D shooter produced by one person in two weeks will keep you entertained for months, or if the endless variations of dating simulators will somehow breed a previously unknown genre of game.

Boxart, screenshots, and horrible reviews might dissuade some gamers but there are many of us out there who are willing to try any game in any genre on the slight possibility that it might offer something new to the gamer who now has thirty plus years of gaming experience.

I wouldn't call myself a modern gamer. Most new titles seem derivative and shallow. The indie channel takes us back to the beginning, when games were programmed by one person or a few people in their spare time, with monetary gains only given as an afterthought.

"Fool" you say, "Money has been at the core of all human progress since the beginning."

Perhaps it has, I suppose I could call myself a postmodern gamer. And throw all conceptions away, beginning anew.

Why is there so much shovelware? Is this a rhetorical question?

It is difficult to make a decent game, and it is rare indeed when a gamemaker creates something decent on their first try. But our indie channel is filled with these first attempts from fledgling gamemakers. We were expecting mountains of shovelware from the beginning.

Previously, these early efforts of the makers would never have seen the light of day, banished to a lone computer or some obscure site on the outskirts of the internet. With the games hidden in this way, the makers might never receive feedback on their creations, which is so crucial to all the makers future efforts.

So how do we allow fledgling makers to showcase their initial creations and generate the crucial feedback, and at the same time maintain a decent gaming standard on the indie channel marketplace?

We could create a separate space on the dashboard for beta versions of indie games. A sort of underground, only visible to those who have signed up to use it. In this space early versions of the makers games could be freely sent to other makers and testers, generating the feedback. And when the game is deemed decent enough, sent to the marketplace. This might sound like the CreatorsClub/AppHub to you but there is one major difference.

The determining factor that takes a game from the underground and sends it to the marketplace is that of quality.

"Ludicrous! No game would ever make it past a quality standard, that is too subjective of a metric."

This quality control could be tested by allowing peer reviewers to psuedo review games based on quality. By adding a poll to a games AppHub page, with a simple yes or no box for quality, we might begin to determine if a quality control makes any sense. And if we should consider actually implementing a quality control standard.

It is virtually guaranteed that a quality control would stop the shovelware moments after the control was implemented. But might we also lose out on those games that at first glance appear to be shovelware, and only shine after being experienced? Well, this is the reason for the creation of the underground space, so that many can use the makers creation and determine if they shine enough for public consumption.

In this way the games could be regulated while still maintaining a facade of independence and equality for the channel, anyone who wished could join the underground space, although space might be limited and granted on a temporary basis. This would require major changes to the Xbox Dashboard which is apparently extremely hard to do ;)

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Dungeon Smashers, a design document

A few days ago after playing a few hands of Magic, I loaded up Smash TV and decided to take some actual notes, in the past I have just been observing the gameplay, one mechanic at a time. I needed to know the types of enemies in each arena for each level. I'm starting with Level 1 just to keep things simple. Level 1 is my favorite level of Smash TV. What's interesting is that I like each subsequent level less and less. To be fair the game was designed to eat quarters lol. I can't imagine how many quarters the game required to get past level 3. Perhaps I will record the number of continues on my next few playthroughs.

Level 1 of Smash TV contains these enemy types, my corresponding enemy type is listed to the right.

Clubbers                          Orcs
Fast Clubbers                   Fast Orcs
Bombers                          Goblins
Tanks                               Wizards
Wall Shooters                   Dwarves
Moving Blobs                   Moving Clouds

There is also the boss who shall remain secret.

I drew the layout on a piece of paper, then started to layout my level in TorqueX. I had to try a few different methods for moving the camera and the player around the arenas. I'm also going to create an arena selector component which can be attached to any enemy and the component will tell them how to act depending on the arena they are in.

Every Arena is going to look a little different than the others of course, I just haven't thought about what kind of differences there will be. I'm still seeing if a pixel artist would like to help with the project. Maybe after Level 1 is released onto the web an artist will decide to join. The next step for me is to populate the arenas with their respective enemys, and then send this level to the game's audio designers and see what crazy things come back.

Friday, May 21, 2010


Travel back in time to the prohibition era and use old timey spreadsheets to manage your liquor empire.

Moonshine is an implementation of the turn based stock simulator, one of the oldest and possibly most satisfying types of games. Who doesn't like to accrue ridiculous amounts of virtual currency, all while reclining comfortably on your couch?

In Moonshine, currently available via the Xbox Live Indie Games Channel, the stocks are replaced with various forms of liquor, the manufacture of which was illegal back in the 1920's. The boxart above depicts a remote shack where a few enterprising individuals would come together and produce Moonshine, or the hard stuff.

Indeed, Moonshine starts you off in a simple shack, represented on the screen by a wrinkled page with scrawlings depicting the rise and fall of liqour prices,

If you buy a storehouse, you can afford decent paper

Buy low and sell high, the trader's mantra. I quite enjoy these types of games, even though in real life I tend to give everything away. Go figure.

Every day you can check the local paper for anything that might affect the day's liqour prices,
I pity the fool that plays this on a SDTV

Then you click over to your spreadsheet and buy and sell. Although I don't know why the developer felt an extra screen was needed to actually purchase the liqour, why not enable this from within the spreadsheet? After that there's another screen where you can upgrade your storage facilites, and a few other things. Then you end your day and do it again. Pretty basic stuff.

The news items are pretty interesting, a mix of the real and the surreal. The game features a collection of music that obviously took some thought to put together, and the game has quite possibly the greatest credits screen on the indie channel so far, but I feel as though there is something lacking here.

Perhaps it is the lack of variation at the game's core, On the first day buy Moonshine for 10, then wait 3 days, and sell. Look for a liqour that is low then buy and wait for it to rise. I bombed past the dev's high score table in Quickplay mode pretty quickly doing this.

Quickplay only lasts 30 days and I don't think it has the police raid option turned on. I'm going to try a longer game soon, you can set the game to last up to 365 days, and adjust the frequencies of  raids. Although in Moonshine, a raid is simply a loss of a portion of your liquor stores.

The game is currently on the top downloads list so there is some interest in the game, hopefully it is enough to spur the developer into working on Moonshine V2.0


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Sunday Drivers

Video kart racing has a long lineage with many pretenders to the Mario Kart Throne. I've been playing Mario Kart since version 1 and I really found its latest incarnation on the Wii with the motion sensitive controller to be quite relaxing. A lot of us video drivers are hoping that the Microsoft developed Xbox Avatar Kart Racer Joy Ride is going to be controllable via the much hyped Nataller. Just a few more months!!

While we wait for any Joyride related news, presumably we will get an announcement at this years E3 next month, We bide our time with a few decent Kart Racers Available and Soon To Be Available on the Xbox Indie Channel.

First up, and Available NOW!!

I've been playing RaceDrome for a few days now, it's currently high on the indie channel top downloads list and I've been able to quickly find some decent online matches. Did I mention that we love kart racing? RaceDrome isn't a kart racer in the classical sense though, there's no powerups or speed boosts :(

But, as it's the only Avatar Kart Racing Game currently available on the Xbox Indie Channel, and as Xbox Indie Games are the only games I play, (besides the occasional round of MTG or Smash TV) I must play this one. 

The game features a single player mode which I have yet to play, honestly I think the dev could have omitted this mode, Kart Racing is a social experience. Whether its splitscreen in the same room or via the network and up against the world. Luckily the game does have an online mode. Unfortunately collisions are turned off when you play online, I assume its due to network bandwidth issues.

But then again, for 80 points the game is quite fun. And should probably hold us over until we can play,

I like my karts to be cartoony

The screenshot above is from a work in progress game from Gustav Olsson

He's also got a video up, it's from a PC build of the game though and the Avatars aren't rendered. Still, the Game does look promising,

Racing Game Gameplay from Gustav Olsson on Vimeo.

This game is going to feature online multiplayer as well and looks very nice, including collisions. I don't know about powerups though, but maybe if we ask the devs real nicely they'll add them in. The future of kart racing on the indie channel is a short one though, once Joyride is released I can't imagine anyone will be playing either of these games.

There's also a neat looking Stunt Kart Racer which will probably be available on the Indie Channel shortly,

It doesn't look like this one has any racing modes though, just some fun Avatar Stunt Driving.

Have fun on the virtual tracks!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Dungeon Smashers

Here's the latest video of my work in progress. Dungeon Smashers,

I think the game is coming along nicely :) If you can't tell I'm basically cloning Smash TV. I plan to implement an upgrade system, whereby you use the gold you collect to purchase more health, faster guns, quicker shoes. Although I have been thinking that using the decapitated heads of the enemies for the upgrades might be a better way to go. I thought of this idea after a bugged out particle effect left a bunch of orc heads strewn across the room!

If you're a fan of Smash TV, who isnt? You know that my exploding goblins are similar to those enemies in Smash TV that walk around the edges of the screen and then explode! The goblins have a slightly modified version of the playerchase component which I have called the edgewalker component. An early version of this component had the goblins shooting off gobbo parts in a 360 degree arc, I did this to ensure enough gobbo parts flew across the screen before smashing into the walls.

This sometimes resulted in quite a few gobbo parts and sometimes very few. I loaded up Smash TV to better understand how the game's exploding enemies worked. I noticed that before the enemies exploded they turned to face the center of the arena, and then they exploded. Always shooting off five pieces of shrapnel. I copied this mechanic.

I'm also writing a tutorial series detailing the creation of Dungeon Smashers you can view the tutorials here,

I plan to release this game onto the Xbox Indie Channel, but that won't be for a year at least.

Saturday, May 1, 2010


Another relativistic space game? Or is this a simple asteroids clone? It is both, and it is neither, and yet I can't stop playing.

I've been trying just about every game to appear on the xbox indie channel as of late, much like the folks over at Xnplay. But where they deem every game worthy of at least an incomplete sentence, I can go months without sparing a word for anything. At any rate, Singularity has affected me enough to make a new post.

A simple splash screen tells us that we are trapped, along with our mothership, in orbit around a black hole. Then the game begins. Asteroids start flying in form the corners of the grid, shoot them! No wait, conserve your ammo and let them drop into the singularity. We should only destroy them if they are a menace. My mothership circles the other side of the blackness unprotected. One impact, then another, and finally she explodes. I take a look at my fuel gauge, pretty good for awhile. But what hope is there, in the emptiness of deep space. A warning klaxon breaks the silence, oxygen levels critical. I wait as long as I can, but the oxygen eventually runs out. A short burst of the thrusters and we drop into the depths.

Docking Maneuvers

Singularity boils down all the complexities of a physics based space maneuvering game into an easily playable experience. No complex HUD, no ridiculous tutorials, just play. And then die, but at least you get to post your time to a scoreboard to keep track of how long you lasted.

One thing I did find odd though, after docking with your mothership for refueling you are soon ejected back into space. I couldn't understand the reasoning behind this. The mothership doesn't have any cannons, so I guess that might be it. But seriously, why would you design a mothership with no offensive capabilities?

If you enjoy the calmness that only deep space can provide, occasionally punctuated by an exploding asteroid or two, then why not,

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Now with more loot!!

Just a quick update on my game's progress.

As you can see I've added some loot and powerups!! I know how much we all love the shinys! In the future I will implement a way to actually spend these coins.

I am still in the very early stages of my game, just creating the basic objects. I'm basing my game heavily on Smash T.V. I routinely load that game up and study its mechanics lol! Did you know that a lot of the enemies in that game head towards the center of the screen upon entering the game and then switch to a playerchase method? Well now you do. I assume the Smash devs did this to stop the enemies from walking through the edge walls to get to the player. This can occur frequently if the quickest vector from the enemy to the player goes through the screen edge. I'm working on a system to fix this problem but it's not shown in the video.

I've increased the size of my characters by a few pixels and I think it makes a big difference in the gameplay. I am very conscious of character size in relation to the game world and its effect on immersion. All sizes are still subject to change.


Wednesday, March 31, 2010

War Of Words

"Is this made by the same guys that did that other one"

I knew which game she was referring to, "Puzzle Quest, no it's not. It does borrow a lot from it though."

"Borrowed? it's exactly the same game just with words, more like stealing." She laughed.

And I started thinking about the line that we drew when deciding how tangible something must be to have copyright protection. Ideas cannot be copyrighted, but why is that? Game mechanics and the code that was used to create the mechanics can be protected, but not the gameplay that results?

She asked for the controller, which only happened occasionally. The quest description popped up and I got halfway through the first sentence, then it disappeared.

"Where you reading that?"

"Yeah but I can read it later." I was assuming I would be able to.

Soon after the game started I told her the right trigger moves the letters up. And then I told her about the right thumbstick and the spells, press Y to cast. I didn't feel any need to go into of the details. The low level spells aren't anything special anyway.

She made a couple good words but was slaughtered, "I killed it" She said and dropped the controller to the floor.

Both players are presented with the same letter sequence.

The battles can be a bit difficult, For a few games I tried to copy what the AI was doing. The AI is a fast speller with a preternatural understanding of the grid, I was able to store a few of its words into my memory and with practice I could probably beat the AI at its own game, or at least tie.

The only way to win is not to play.

But if you're not lost in your own world, playing a game only you can understand, then you won't be noticing the other side that much, except when the AI is destroying you, then you will become paralyzed.

If you happen to be stuck on a particular quest, take heart in the fact that solving tavern puzzles and searching for treasure both offer XP. The former entails an anagram variant and the latter is always a riddle. I've solved them all so far but one, and I find myself wandering around the countryside thinking about the engima. Maybe the dragon knows the answer.

After you gain a few levels, try the quest again. A few levels difference between you and your opponent will slow the game down a lot, and allow you to focus on big words or casting spells. Darthuvius is level 28 at the moment and I have encountered a level 32 ghost in a haunted tower. After solving all the riddles and the easier tavern puzzles, I am forced to try the instant battle mode from the main menu for XP. These non-campaign battles will allow you to level, so you could theoretically play only these and then stomp through the entire game if you wish since the quest enemies in the game don't scale.

Word games need to strike a balance between relaxation and stress. I would side with the relaxists of course. If any game features an endless or timeless mode, that is always the first one I accept. Time limits and the FireLine in War Of Words usually just annoy me. If your letters touch the flames they explode causing serious harm and destruction of many letters, which you may have been just about to use. There's a spell which calls forth a giant boulder to halt the upward progress of your letters, so maybe there's a spell to remove these timelimits altogether. Probably a pretty high level spell I imagine.

Every advance in level comes with the learning of a new spell, their effects can be damaging, transfiguring, thieving, and lifesaving when used at the right time. You might find certain powerful combos as well.

The game has its faults of course, as every game does. On the overhead map, you would think that pulling the thumbstick down would point your character to the town that is on the southerly road. Your direction recognition needs to be a bit more precise to get around Lexica. Maybe even floating point precise. But with a little button mashing you can get around the map.


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The word is a virus

I like word games. Do you? Let us begin with the simple things, not one, not two, but THREE hangman simulations are currently available for your wordplay needs.




I enjoyed Hang 'Em High the most, if only for the poorly animated crackshot sequence at the end. The developers of Hang 'Em High and Simply Hangman have each released another game besides hangman. While Hangman Deluxe seems to be that developers only release. This presents us with a problem.

One of the reasons I enjoy the Indie Channel is because of the fact that a good portion of my dollars are funneled into the pockets of the developers. If a developer doesn't sell enough copies to meet the $150 dollar payout minimum, they might never see a check and MS pockets what the gamer was intending to go to the developer. I believe the Indie Channel audience is large enough that most new games released will see a check or two, but we are now over a year into this thing and I am beginning to wonder about the back catalog. And whether or not a significant portion of the eight hundred and thirty six games currently on the service will be generating any monies for their developers after another year, especially when there is sure to be another eight hundred newer games available.

If you are thinking about purchasing a hangman game, you are aren't you? Then I would suggest Hang 'Em High. The developer just released a new game a few days ago. Payout limits are per developer so Hang 'Em High is the best bet that your 80 points will be sent to the developer and not MS.

It's Anagram time!!




What do you know! Three Anagram Games as well :) They all have their faults but I think Words In A Word is the most polished and fun, not to mention actually playable. I reviewed this game awhile back. 

Interestingly, Puzzle was created by the same developer as Simply Hangman. I wonder if there is a secret wordgame project in the works? At any rate, the developers of Words In A Word have four games up on the indie channel so again, if you are looking for an anagram game your best bet is this one.

An Oldie But Goodie!


Word Soup was actually a launch title for the channel, and the novelty factor probably helped the game generate some downloads and sales. I enjoy playing the untimed mode, I play word games to relax most of all. What's interesting about this game is that it began its life as an electronic pub game over in Europe. Arkanoid I can understand but a randomized word search? Maybe the game was a test to see how drunk you were, if you could actually play the game that would mean you need to drink some more.

This is the only game the developer has submitted to the indie channel. I checked out their website and sent them an email but haven't heard back from them. I bought this game on day one, I am sure a lot of people did. The audience for the channel has surely grown and you are all word game fans right? and taking the time to look through the entire catalog? Even so I wonder how many sales Word Soup will get this year, it will be interesting to find out, if we ever can.

I forget what to call this one

But I did review it a bit ago. Actually, I think I peer reviewed this game. If I recall correctly one of the only reviewers to actually give the online portion a test. C'est la vie.



The simplest, but also one of my favorite types of word games. Having said that I had some problems with this game. There is just something about small letters on a big screen that just doesn't seem to work. You should download it and then select the 20x20 grid just for a laugh. Do you see that multicolored thing in the lower right corner? It's supposed to control the media player but guess what? That's right, it doesn't.


I appreciate new entrants into the wordgame genre but I thought this game needed some work when it was in playtest and I still think it needs more work today. The dev has posted a flash version of the game here to try, Flash Puzzwords.

Which Brings us to the Genesis of this posting.

War Of Words

War Of Words appears to be a randomized free form anagrammer with some RPG elements borrowed heavily from Puzzle Quest. I am really excited about this one but I am a bit worried about the gameplay, namely if the constant stream of randomized letters is going to allow me to make words in any sort of satisfying fashion. The game is currently in peer review and will hopefully be available on the Xbox Indie Channel shortly. Unless someone uncovers a code 4 crash or something which happens about 100% of the time I think. Go check out the developers page, War of Words Blog.


Saturday, February 27, 2010

Please sir, may I have a license?

Well I have been using the TorqueX engine for the past 30 days. Although for the past few days I was a bit busy and didn't have much time for game development. At the moment all you can do in my game is run around and shoot holes through some wizards. The wizards are from Microsoft's RPG Sample kit, but I created the implosion animation myself!! I'm very happy with how it looks and I plan to spend a lot of time working on death animations.

That's the draw of TorqueX, at least for me. I can spend as much time as I want creating my exquisite implosions and explosions and not have to worry about how to get them into the game, all most things require are a simple drag and drop.

In the video above I'm making use of a component from Henry Schillings' GameKit. There is a blank object just offscreen that I attached the Spawning component too and then I told the object to spawn some wizards. What Fun! I'm still going back and forth about what kind of game I'm going to make, a gauntlet clone perhaps? Or an RPG? Or something completely different? Most people will tell you to write out a design document before you start creating your game, and one day I will probably do so. But for now I like to think of the TorqueX Builder as my easily mutable design document.

And I'm barely scratching the surface of TorqueX, take a look at this lighting demo included with TorqueX

I am not really sure how to use this lighting stuff in my game but I definitely want to figure it out. It looks pretty neat. And from the limited code used to get the lighting to work I don't think it will be that complicated.

But alas, my trial for the TorqueX Builder has run out! So for the moment I must put development of my game on hiatus. I have read on the forums of a few people creating their game with TorqueX but doing it entirely in code without the use of the builder. This is certainly an option but that sort of defeats the purpose of the drag and drop builder. And I have been enjoying the builder immensely. I might have to make some important decisions soon!!


Friday, February 26, 2010

Avatar Showdown


I've been a bit of an agnostic when it comes to the Avatar Marketplace. I haven't partaken of the real money for fake clothes debate, which usually boils down to someone being an idiot in every discussion anyway. I am a huge fan of funny hats though and when I saw this gem I just had to have it.

Yeah, that's me!

You might notice I bought some sweet goggles and a tshirt as well. I purchased these items before the release of Avatar Showdown but they have definitely come in handy for the game. 


My hat and goggles combo evokes a sense of silliness in my competitor which in turn leads to a lowering of my foes defenses. Their demise quickly follows. And by quick I mean between 3-7 seconds, which is your window of random opportunity for mashing a button and bringing the pain. May those with the quickest fingers and the fastest connection reign supreme!

I asked some of the devs at Jforce Games, the team behind showdown for more features, for some reason I always want more features, and here is a response, "The goal of Showdown was to have a quick dev time, very simple game that would raise awareness and money for Unstoppable. So right now we don't have any plans to add to it apart from fixing the online mode."

Well, I am definitely more aware of Unstoppable now and with over 1400 sales in two days, I think Jforce games is well on their way to the raising money portion of their goal as well.

So what are you waiting for?

By the way, I've got three tokens for this game to give away, so if you would like one, just send me a link to your avatar in the comments or by email ( You can look at your avatar here, scroll down to the view images portion on the bottom right. Modifications to the image are fine!

The three funniest avatars get the tokens! 

We have our first entry!! YAY! A happy droog from A Clockwork Orange. Pretty neat, do you have a funnier Avatar? Another Entry!! Sort of an older, happier mario lol. I suppose this contest will end in a few days perhaps Tuesday March 2.
                                              hodsey2008                              cagix

Contest is over, congrats to the winners!!


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The greatest games are the ones you make yourself

I am currently on day 13 of my 30 day free trial of the Torque X game engine from GarageGames. One reason for writing about my game development process is to hopefully exchange my words for an engine license code ;) Below is a short video showing where I'm at with my game.

Balls of Fire!

Making the Game

I have a fairly good idea of where I want to go with this game and I hope I make it there!

If you are thinking about getting into game development and distributing your game on the Xbox Indie Channel, TorqueX is definitely the way to go. GarageGames has a list of games created with TorqueX here, List of TorqueX Games A few of those have been released to the Xbox Marketplace.

Most of those games seem pretty simple, but most of them were probably created by developers new to game development, which is what I think the indie games channel on the Xbox is all about.

I mentioned in my previous post about some code from John Kalanakis's website He has some code there with around ten or so sample games, each making use of a different feature of the TorqueX Engine, and with easily reuseable components.

Some of the components I'm using

Those do what you probably think they do and I was able to drop them into my game with no modifications in most cases. I don't even have the book from which those samples came from and I am still able to use them. To use components all you do is add them to your characters or game objects in the builder and then set the options. The AiPlayerChase has a target,speed, and chase or avoid option. It's that simple lol. And so much fun. I'm already spending lots of time playing my simple game and it's not really a game yet.

Here is the meat of AiPlayerChase to demonstrate how simple things can be.

private void _UpdateChase(float elapsed)
            // determine angle to point our ship to the player
            float angle = T2DVectorUtil.AngleFromTarget(_sceneObject.Position,


            // set the ship on its way towards the player
            _sceneObject.Physics.Velocity =
                 _TargetObject.Position, _speed);


sceneObject is the AI and TargetObject is whatever you would like the AI to chase. This component is attached to every Wizard in the first video above, the Large Warrior is using AiPathFollowing which is pretty simple as well.

There is a learning curve to the TorqueBuilder and it will definitely help to have some background knowledge of C#, but you don't need much knowledge to start making games. I tend to learn the most when I don't know how to do something, if that makes any sense lol.

I'm also thinking about buying this Character Pack from the Torque Website, it's only 30 bucks which works out to 2 bucks per character so that's a pretty good deal.

I think these guys will be fun to shoot at :)