37,000 feet over the Atlantic is no excuse to miss Ludum Dare.

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I didn’t think I’d be able to participate at all this Ludum Dare, as a result of being out of the country for business-related activities. However, I really didn’t want to break my 6-LD streak, so I decided to take my own advice: Just participate in any way you can, even if it’s just with an extremely simple game.

So when I found myself on a trans-Atlantic flight with no mouse, no Internet access, but with a small amount of free time, I decided to do the best that I could.  What resulted is a infinite-frogger-style game with a very weak hacking theme. What I really wanted to do a riff on the Hollywood-style hacking visuals that you see in movies and tv shows.  To do it right, I would have really needed some nice custom shaders, and that’s not something I can produce without more time AND access to copious documentation.

Still, in the end I produced an actual game. It has loss conditions (get “traced” by running out of time, smash into a firewall) and a goal (accumulate as many points as possible before you inevitably collide into the ever-speedier firewalls, or run out of time of course).  My interpretation of the “10 seconds” theme is very obvious, but enabled me to focus on a very simple arcady game that would be doable in just a few hours.

I started the game when I was still in Germany, finished it up somewhere over the Atlantic, and uploaded it using the Toronto Pearson International Airport’s free wifi.

[Click to play Time Hack!]

 

What’s Wrong with Europa Universalis IV

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Virtually nothing, really. It’s a masterful game already at release, and Paradox have proven themselves to be god-kings at supporting their games post-release with extensive patches and expansions/DLC to improve balance and add features.

But it doesn’t mean that there aren’t a few minor niggles to complain about anyway.

INTERFACE INDIGNATION

  • The treasury indicator in the toolbar at the top of the screen should be clickable, and open your economy panel.
  • Unit movement animation (from province-to-province) still occurs when the game is paused — especially if you’re panning around — which is really confusing. I believe that when the game is paused, units should instantly complete their movement animation.
  • When viewing an army, the tooltip noting the max percentage of cavalry allowed is unclear, making it sound like your Cavalry total should not exceed 50% of your Infantry (e.g. 10k inf and 5k cav), when it’s actually 50% of your total army excluding Artillery (e.g. 10k inf and 10k cav is fine).
  • There should be an alert banner prompting you to spend papal influence, rather than forcing you to check the curia page every few months. I feel that the banner should appear if you have the ability to spend papal influence on a cardinal you do not currently have the most votes with and/or if you are at your cap of banked influence even if you are in the #1 position on all available cardinals.
  • There should be an alert banner prompting you to implement imperial reforms when you have sufficient support.
  • There should be an icon in the outliner to flag armies that are currently sieging (or ships that are blockading). I want to be able to quickly identify truly “idle” armies during a war.

BALANCE BITCHING

  • Attacking Mali every few years to steal thousands of ducats at a time with virtually no diplomatic or military risk feels like a joke. They either need better gold sinks, a nerfed economy, or there should be more substantial diplomatic costs or relationship hits to demanding large sums of gold in peace deals. Maybe the war score and/or diplomatic power cost of gold demands should go up exponentially?
  • I feel that there should be a way to assign a leader to an army while in foreign territory. It’s strange that combining two armies will cause one leader to “teleport” home and be unavailable for re-assignment should the stack split again.  Maybe there should be a token cost in Military Power to change leaders in foreign territory.
  • Given the critical importance of monarch points, I feel that there’s too much luck involved with ruler traits since you have virtually no control over what you get. There’s a certain historical correctness to it, but I think it overplays the influence of the one specific monarch, virtually unmitigated by his/her court.  The difference between a 0-0-0 monarch and a 5-5-5 one is earth-shattering (especially if your monarch refuses to die!)  One way that could feel fun to players might be if rulers with less that “X” total monarch power might have a chance to trigger an event each year to represent the ruler becoming more experienced (granting +1 to a stat). That would mitigate the problem of having a 0-0-0 king rule for 50+ years and put you unrecoverably behind. It would also *feel* good.

 

 

Paradox Declares War on Gamescom

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NEW YORK — August 8, 2013 — Paradox Interactive, a publisher of games and provoker of mythical and historical conflicts, today invited attendees of Gamescom to join them for various exercises in the art of digital war. Paradox will be showing off its upcoming titles, Magicka: Wizard Wars and War of the Vikings, the latter of which will be available for hands-on demonstrations for the first time. Europa Universalis IV will also be shown in a multiplayer game live stream, featuring guest commentator and YouTube personality Quill18.

In Magicka: Wizard Wars, two teams of four wizards each will do unspeakable things to one another in baffling PvP combat, utilizing the celebrated dynamic real-time spellcasting system of Magicka. In true Magicka fashion, friendly fire is in full effect, and hundreds of spell combinations are possible, with victory going to the wizards who can think and act the fastest – and stay out of the way of the explosive lightning bolts.

War of the Vikings, recently announced by Paradox and Fatshark, is an all-new multiplayer game built upon the technology that drives Paradox’s medieval squad combat title War of the Roses. The game features intense close-quarters combat, authentically inspired settings and weaponry, rich customization options, and large-scale 64-player battles, and will be available to try for the first time at Gamescom.

Demos will be shown at the Hyatt Regency Cologne and private appointment slots are still available and will be granted, regardless of robe or beard length, by contacting pr@paradoxplaza.com.

Paradox Interactive is partnering up with ESL to showcase Magicka: Wizard Wars and War of the Vikings to the Gamescom masses from August 21-25. Multiplayer battles from both games will be played and streamed live from the show floor, to be a part of the action head over to Hall 8 and visit the ESL booth for more details on play times.

“Having fan favorites at ESL is always a must, and Magicka Wizard Wars and War of Vikings are just that, two titles that the hundreds of thousands of visitors and millions watching online are eager to see more about,” said Sean Charles, VP Marketing and Publisher Relations at Turtle Entertainment GmbH.

On Thursday, August 22, Paradox Interactive and Paradox Development Studio will broadcast a multiplayer match of Europa Universalis IV, pitting Studio Head Johan Andersson and his dev team against each other in an all out battle for historical supremacy. YouTube personality Quill18 will be in attendance to guest commentate this special match, watch the mayhem unfold at 8:00pm CET / 11am PDT by visiting the official Paradox Interactive TwitchTV channel at twitch.tv/paradoxinteractive.

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Ludum Dare 26 Results!

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Ludum Dare 26 (Theme: Minimalism) – Shoot. (AAA_FPS_GOTY)

 

At the last minute, I changed the title of the game to “Shoot.”, as a nod to minimalism, but I really wish that I’d kept my working title of “AAA_FPS_GOTY”. Nonetheless, that’s pretty much the only regret I had with this game.

For every Ludum Dare, I always have the following schedule:

Friday Night: Come up with idea, implement rough proof of concept.

Saturday: Implement all core features.

Sunday: Polish, balance, textures, sounds, main menu, debugging.

I’ve also always said that if I don’t feel good after Friday, I can restart with a completely new idea on Saturday morning — but after that I have to be “locked in”.  I’ve never had to change my idea in the past, but this time I actually did it twice. I went to bed on Friday night so unhappy, that I ended up getting up at 1am and working on a completely new game for two hours. Then, by the time I got up on Saturday “proper”, I’d decided that I didn’t like that either and starting over again!

As a result, I only had about 25 hours (minus breaks + sleeping!) to make the game that I’d ultimately end up submitting. On top of that, I wanted to do the UNTHINKABLE for such a short competition: I wanted to make a multiplayer game.

Multiplayer is exponentially harder to implement and is a nightmare to debug.  I’m truly convinced that this was a crazy thing to try. However, I really wanted to make a multiplayer game because I love streaming the entire Ludum Dare process and I wanted to allow my viewers to play with each other (and me).

In the end, despite the craziness, I ended up with a game that I am extremely happy with — and the judging was incredibly positive as well. Out of 2346 entries, I scored:

 

Humor: Top 1.4% (Mostly due to the audio, I assume.)
Fun: Top 2% (The only rating I truly care about!)
Overall: Top 3% (My best overall showing to date!)
Audio: Top 5% (And that’s with no music!)

Shoot (AAA_FPS_GOTY) entry on the Ludum Dare website.

Play the game here.

 

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Shoot (AAA_FPS_GOTY)

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Shoot (AAA_FPS_GOTY)

Things that I did this Ludum Dare that pretty much go against every recommendation:

  • Throw away everything and start over from scratch after 13 hours into the competition with a completely different game.
  • Make a 16-player multiplayer game. With automatic matchmaking.
  • AI bots too, to fill any empty slots automatically. Make sure they have the ability to navigate a 3d space in real time, looking for powerups if there’s nothing to kill.
  • Livestream the whole thing to almost 8,000 unique viewers and try to keep everyone entertained while coding.
  • Include nearly 50 different death sounds, because it’s not like we’re on a tight deadline or anything.

Despite all these ridiculous challenges, I’ve completed what is by far my most fun Ludum Dare entry ever! At peak load, there were nearly 200 players connected simultaneously to the multiplayer servers. The only unfortunate thing is that now that the stream is over, there are sometimes no human opponents available — and they really make the game a lot more enjoyable.

If you’re going to test Shoot (AAA_FPS_GOTY), see if you can get a friend or two to connect at the same time. It’s way more fun than just fragging bots. :)

 

This visual  makes death sting a little less.

Everything you see in Shoot (AAA_FPS_GOTY) can be made using entirely free tools.

I used the trial copy of Unity 3d Pro that was offered for Ludum Dare, but the free version would have been perfectly sufficient. The only “pro” feature I used was the shadow on the character — but a blob projector would have been just as good here. I also made use of the A* Pathfinding Project Free library as well as Photon Unity Networking.  A free Photon Cloud server is used for matchmaking.

I used Blender for modelling — including making an animated character for the first time for use in an actual game. That was fun. The textures were drawn in Photoshop, but could have been made in Paint. I also used Substance Designer (trial) to get the ambient occlusion texture for the character as a learning experience, but I could have done the same thing just as easily (better?) in Blender itself.

The face of a killer.

 

Anyway, I hope you can take the time to try Shoot (AAA_FPS_GOTY) and pwn some noobs.

 

 

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Ludum Dare 26: Final Round!

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Here’s the final list of themes, from which a single one will be selected.  (This post will be updated over the next two days as I come up with more ideas.)

 

MY CRITERIA:

- The game must be easy to understand. The judges play dozens or hundreds of games. You can’t expect people to spend a lot of time learning complex rules. Also, complex games are harder and slower to make.

- Ideally, the game should also suck you in instantly. Get to the action right away.

- I really want to make a multiplayer game.

- My primary concern is making a game that is FUN. Even if I lose points for innovation, theme, or mood.

- I will consider any score above 50% to be a win, though my real goal is to get in the top 25% in “fun”.

 

Afterlife: It makes me think that we’ll be playing a lot of generic games that happen to be placed in heaven or hell or something. That being said, there are interesting opportunities to draw from a variety of more interesting literally sources and to mine from a large variety of religions and mythoses. Mythosii? Mythosaurus Rex?  Anyway, there’s also the mechanic angle — where the game changes after you die or somehow requires death to progress.  Note that this is different from a game that revolves around things killing themselves to accomplish goals (i.e. Baneling swarms or something).  I’m still having trouble coming up with a specific (and hopefully multiplayer-friendly game).

After the End of the World: What happens after Mario reaches the castle at the end of Level 1-1? Of course, there’s also the obvious post-apocalyptic connotations.  That being said, I think I’d personally lean towards “Humans have left Earth” (Wall-E style? Nuclear War? Dying of the sun?).  Turn it into a Homeworld/Battlestar Galactica kind of thing.  Players pilot fighters to defend the mothership? Or maybe

Against the Rules: So broad and yet so specific. Maybe it’s just a lack of creativity on my part. I guess what starts to come to mind are all the “do not” signs you see in life.  “Wrong Way”. “No Skateboarding”. “No Smoking”. “Employees Only”. A graffiti game? A game about removing tags from mattresses? Actually, the graffiti game might really be fun as a multiplayer game.  Everyone is trying to “tag” as much stuff as possible within a time limit.  Maybe you can’t “tag” something that’s still wet (forcing people to spread out), but after a certain amount of time you can start to overwrite other people’s tags. Okay, I’m starting to like this now.  It could also be about breaking the laws of physics in some ways.

Alternative Physics: The “Dreams” calvin-ball idea certainly fits here!  I don’t know what the single-player version would look like though. AI bots are hard enough in CONVENTIONAL physics.  Maybe the physics change on their own, and you’re trying to “score” as many points as possible in the amount of available time?  There can still be the option of changing things yourself to try to make things easier for you and improve your time — and in multiplayer, it’s a combination of easy for you and hard for the other players.  Maybe your in a “cube” room — you start on one side and have to go to the other. There are obstacles in the way that you can shove away. The catch is that the bottom/left/right/top of the room each has its own gravity — and every time you score you get moved to a different floor.  So when you change the world, you are potentially screwing other player or just yourself on future rounds.  A different, but related idea: “The Enemy Gate is Down”.

Ancient Ruins: Maybe an exploration game. Find artifacts. Could be done a puzzle game — some variant of Sokoban or Soduku.  Maybe you’re constructing Stone Henge.  Who doesn’t like a good henge?  Or maybe even building the Valley of the Kings in Egypt.  Kind of a “prequel” to them becoming ruins.  An E Truly Hollywood story.  Maybe the ruins are of an alien civilization on a distant planet?  The players are a team of archeologists…and then they accidentally awake some ancient monsters or a robot self-defense system.  You have no real weapons. You have to get back to your ship somehow (or maybe defend the ship while it powers up?)

Beneath the Surface: Could be subterranean, submarine, or subcutaneous.  It could also be about hidden thoughts and emotions, but I don’t think that’s the kind of game I want to make. Some kind of mining game? Fish Tank Commander 3d? Are the players part of the human immune system, fighting against viruses?

Colony: A solid contender in recent LD votes, and certainly something that would align itself with what I — and my viewers — enjoy.  A co-operative survival game. Maybe in space. Maybe on a deserted island.  Maybe in the “new world”.  Heck, maybe you’re a colony of fungus.  Or Ants.  It’s Dwarf Fortress, except YOU are the dwarves. Hard to make in 48 hours? Fuck yes. Epic as hell? Indeed.

Creation and Destruction: The first types of game that come to mind to mind and minecraft/terraria-esque games, where maybe you are smashing rocks or tearing apart old structures to build new ones.  Maybe you have two vehicles — one’s a wrecking ball and one’s a crane or something. Single player, you hope back and forth between the two — but in multiplayer you can be paired up with someone (or many someones) and work together to do…something.  Are you building skyscrapers out of a husk of an abandoned city, like Wall-e?  Maybe it’s a survival type of game, where you are running to escape monsters — they can outrun you, but you have the ability to put up walls that they take a while to break through. A never ending sequences of run, create, and then more running while the destruction happens.

Death is Good: .  You could use the ideas discussed in Parallel Worlds, where when you die you play on as a ghost.  It could be a game about dogpiling a fortress wall and building a ramp out of bodies.  Or maybe you’re playing as “banelings”, exploding on death. You could also play as Death (the Grim Reaper).

Dig Deeper: Unless you really go for a figurative interpretation, you’re going to get a lot of games that are pretty literally about digging. Those sorts of games aren’t necessarily bad — just lacking in variety. Dwarf Fortress, Minecraft, Terraria, and Dig Dug are all sources of possible inspiration.

Every Death Is Meaningful: .  You could use the ideas discussed in Parallel Worlds, where when you die you play on as a ghost.  It could be a game about dogpiling a fortress wall and building a ramp out of bodies.  Or maybe you’re playing as “banelings”, exploding on death. You could also play as Death (the Grim Reaper)

Exploration: Roguelike / action-RPG? I mean, if I wasn’t trying to do a multiplayer game, I’d just try to design some interesting looking area and hide a bunch of stuff all over.  I suppose that the “eXplore” phase of a 4x space strategy game might be something interesting to play with. And of course, we could probably do a pretty decent space sim based on this theme.

Islands: Has strong literal and figurative parallels to Parallel Worlds. These could be actual islands, or they could be little asteroids or pocket dimensions in space.  It could be about traveling from island to island.

Minimalism: Carries the risk that people will make boring games and try to pass them off as “minimalist”.  On the other hand, this can really push people to do interesting and creative stuff.  The other problem is that super minimalist art actually needs a really good sense of colour and movement to pull-off…which is not something I have faith in my ability to pull off.  That being said…. I REALLY liked the level design and look of my FPS Tutorial level.  Simple, flat textures, but with carefully placed lighting.  Portal is technically a good example of a minimalist game, at least while you are still being tested: Tight, focused gameplay with an uncluttered visual style.  Maybe this could work.  Not sure what the “game” itself would be though…which is rather key.

No Enemies: The thing to remember is that this is a theme, not a rule. Just making a game that happens to be the sort of thing where there is no conflict (like SimCity), is not a particularly strong use of the theme IMHO. Additionally, the game could actually HAVE enemies — as long as there was an odd subversion in there somehow.  Maybe you have the ability to mind control people, therefore making them not be your enemy. That sort of thing. And then there’s the idea of still having some kind of conflict, but not against personified enemies. Like man vs the environment (castaways, lost in space, etc…)  It could be a kind of “social” game of deception, where all the characters are supposed to be working together (and not be enemies), but people are secretly competing and trying to get an advantage over one another.  We could call it “Frenemies“. You could play as vicious, gossiping high school girls out to ruin each other’s social lives via Facebook. :)  It could be a game about a huge interstellar war fought over huge distances — and when an invasion fleet finally reaches the enemy homeworld…they discover that they’re already dead, having accidentally killed themselves by mistakenly detonating a super-weapon.

No Weapons Allowed: Is, in many ways, what I consider to be a classic Ludum Dare style theme. I think that’s because it reminds of some of the older LD themes, such as “Enemies as Weapons”.  Now, it’s important to remember that this is not a rule of the competition. You could have a game in which you have TONS of weapons, but you’re trying to go into an area protected by metal detectors and x-ray machines. Although, as I type that, all the scenarios I’m imagining are kind of “terrosisty”…so best avoid that.  There’s also the idea that you aren’t allowed to use conventional weapons, but what about fists, or nerf bats, or paint guns, or maybe you’re fighting “grumpikins” by throwing “flowers” at theme.  You could make a classic Quake-style FPS game…but all in bright cheery pastel colours.  I like this theme because it should force creativity.  To me it’s not about making a game that just doesn’t have weapons — it’s about explicitly subverting genres that classically rely on weapons to function. What is a “weapon”? Paint guns feel too weapon-y, but what about snowballs?  Of course, this could be a game about rebuilding after a war so devastating that everyone is trying to come together to build a big peace monument. It could also be a game where you don’t have weapons and are mostly stealthing/running/parkouring away from people who do.

Parallel Worlds: Has many literal and figurative interpretations. It could be a game where you constantly have to switch “modes” to be able to complete it — and in a multiplayer setting people could co-operate by splitting up between the parallel worlds.  It could be about a bunch of castaways, each stuck on their own island…not far from each other, but separated by shark-infested waters. Maybe you can throw stuff to each other to build a signal fire.  We could take a more symbolic bend — imagine a game where everyone plays in a single vertical column, representing a single human life. You start at the bottom as a baby in a randomly assigned country/income/culture/class and try to make it through life. Everyone progresses forward at the same speed, but not everyone has the same opportunities — but you have the option of helping each-other out.  It’s kind of a Prisoner’s Dilemma game theory experiment.  We could also do a space sim, where the players share a starbase at a wormhole nexus, and they can pass through the wormholes to switch to parallel dimensions to look for resources.  It could also be a riff on the life/death thing — it starts off as a typical FPS/whatever, but when you die you switch to a “ghost” form where you interact with the world in a completely different way until you respawn.

Side Effects: We could recycle the “Alternative Physics”/ “Calvin “Ball” idea, where obstacles removed or physics modified in one round get in your way on subsequent rounds. I feel like there’s more room for interesting and original ideas here, but I haven’t figured it out.

You Are Your Enemy: Okay, first thing that comes to mind here is a game that switches back and forth between two modes.  For example, a tower defense game where you first place towers, the you have to spawn enemies in such a way as to overwhelm the towers, then you have to play as the towers in a way to defeat the wave that you just won with, and so on…  I’m not saying this idea is a winner (and it’s way too complicated) — it’s just the sort of thing that comes to mind.  We could go meta and make it a parable about people who pre-order games.

 

 

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Ludum Dare #26: Round 4 Voting Results

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Screen Shot 2013-04-24 at 11.04.57 PM

(shorter write-ups this time)

Death Is Good and Every Death Is Meaningful aren’t literally the same, but there’s obviously a lot of room for crossover.  You could use the ideas discussed in Parallel Worlds, where when you die you play on as a ghost.  It could be a game about dogpiling a fortress wall and building a ramp out of bodies.  Or maybe you’re playing as “banelings”, exploding on death. You could also play as Death (the Grim Reaper).

 

You Are Your Enemy…hm. Okay, first thing that comes to mind here is a game that switches back and forth between two modes.  For example, a tower defense game where you first place towers, the you have to spawn enemies in such a way as to overwhelm the towers, then you have to play as the towers in a way to defeat the wave that you just won with, and so on…  I’m not saying this idea is a winner (and it’s way too complicated) — it’s just the sort of thing that comes to mind.  We could go meta and make it a parable about people who pre-order games.

 

Exploration…roguelike / action-RPG? I mean, if I wasn’t trying to do a multiplayer game, I’d just try to design some interesting looking area and hide a bunch of stuff all over.  I suppose that the “eXplore” phase of a 4x space strategy game might be something interesting to play with. And of course, we could probably do a pretty decent space sim based on this theme.

 

Dig Deeper is not ideal, IMHO. Unless you really go for a figurative interpretation, you’re going to get a lot of games that are pretty literally about digging. Those sorts of games aren’t necessarily bad — just lacking in variety. Dwarf Fortress, Minecraft, Terraria, and Dig Dug are all sources of possible inspiration.

 

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Ludum Dare #26: Round 3 Voting Results

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Screen Shot 2013-04-24 at 2.07.24 PM

Who could have guessed that game programmers would upvote a theme called Creation and Destruction? [sarcasm] Obviously, similar themes have made appearances many times in previous LD voting, although I don’t think that they have ever been picked in the end.  The first types of game that come to mind to mind and minecraft/terraria-esque games, where maybe you are smashing rocks or tearing apart old structures to build new ones.  Maybe you have two vehicles — one’s a wrecking ball and one’s a crane or something. Single player, you hope back and forth between the two — but in multiplayer you can be paired up with someone (or many someones) and work together to do…something.  Are you building skyscrapers out of a husk of an abandoned city, like Wall-e?  Maybe it’s a survival type of game, where you are running to escape monsters — they can outrun you, but you have the ability to put up walls that they take a while to break through. A never ending sequences of run, create, and then more running while the destruction happens.

No Enemies definitely sounds like a game competition type of theme. It’s specific in one way, but otherwise quite free to explore. It’s a hipsterish reversal of the norm. The thing to remember is that this is a theme, not a rule. Just making a game that happens to be the sort of thing where there is no conflict (like SimCity), is not a particularly strong use of the theme IMHO. Additionally, the game could actually HAVE enemies — as long as there was an odd subversion in there somehow.  Maybe you have the ability to mind control people, therefore making them not be your enemy. That sort of thing. And then there’s the idea of still having some kind of conflict, but not against personified enemies. Like man vs the environment (castaways, lost in space, etc…)  It could be a kind of “social” game of deception, where all the characters are supposed to be working together (and not be enemies), but people are secretly competing and trying to get an advantage over one another.  We could call it “Frenemies“. You could play as vicious, gossiping high school girls out to ruin each other’s social lives via Facebook. :)  It could be a game about a huge interstellar war fought over huge distances — and when an invasion fleet finally reaches the enemy homeworld…they discover that they’re already dead, having accidentally killed themselves by mistakenly detonating a super-weapon.

Parallel Worlds has many literal and figurative interpretations. It could be a game where you constantly have to switch “modes” to be able to complete it — and in a multiplayer setting people could co-operate by splitting up between the parallel worlds.  It could be about a bunch of castaways, each stuck on their own island…not far from each other, but separated by shark-infested waters. Maybe you can throw stuff to each other to build a signal fire.  We could take a more symbolic bend — imagine a game where everyone plays in a single vertical column, representing a single human life. You start at the bottom as a baby in a randomly assigned country/income/culture/class and try to make it through life. Everyone progresses forward at the same speed, but not everyone has the same opportunities — but you have the option of helping each-other out.  It’s kind of a Prisoner’s Dilemma game theory experiment.  We could also do a space sim, where the players share a starbase at a wormhole nexus, and they can pass through the wormholes to switch to parallel dimensions to look for resources.  It could also be a riff on the life/death thing — it starts off as a typical FPS/whatever, but when you die you switch to a “ghost” form where you interact with the world in a completely different way until you respawn.

Islands has strong literal and figurative parallels to Parallel Worlds. These could be actual islands, or they could be little asteroids or pocket dimensions in space.  It could be about traveling from island to island.

Isolation could also be played with in similar ways to Parallel Worlds. Imagine a multiplayer game where players share the same space…but can’t actually see each other or interact directly.  You can move objects or write on blackboards or something, which affect everyone’s world.  Of course, it could also be a group of people isolated from the rest of the world (castaways or some such thing).

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Ludum Dare #26: Round 2 Voting Results

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Round 2 is done!

Screen Shot 2013-04-23 at 10.16.49 PM

 

Minimalism carries the risk that people will make boring games and try to pass them off as “minimalist”.  On the other hand, this can really push people to do interesting and creative stuff.  The other problem is that super minimalist art actually needs a really good sense of colour and movement to pull-off…which is not something I have faith in my ability to pull off.  That being said…. I REALLY liked the level design and look of my FPS Tutorial level.  Simple, flat textures, but with carefully placed lighting.  Portal is technically a good example of a minimalist game, at least while you are still being tested: Tight, focused gameplay with an uncluttered visual style.  Maybe this could work.  Not sure what the “game” itself would be though…which is rather key.

After the End of the World invites “meta” games. What happens after Mario reaches the castle at the end of Level 1-1? Of course, there’s also the obvious post-apocalyptic connotations.  That being said, I think I’d personally lean towards “Humans have left Earth” (Wall-E style? Nuclear War? Dying of the sun?).  Turn it into a Homeworld/Battlestar Galactica kind of thing.  Players pilot fighters to defend the mothership? Or maybe

Beneath the Surface could be subterranean, submarine, or subcutaneous.  It could also be about hidden thoughts and emotions, but I don’t think that’s the kind of game I want to make. Some kind of mining game? Fish Tank Commander 3d? Are the players part of the human immune system, fighting against viruses?

Side Effects. Huh.  We could recycle the “Alternative Physics”/ “Calvin “Ball” idea, where obstacles removed or physics modified in one round get in your way on subsequent rounds. I feel like there’s more room for interesting and original ideas here, but I haven’t figured it out.

One Shot. Sniper game? Death Star Trench Run?

Forgotten Places. I must be tired, because my creativity is waning more and more.  This really has a lot of potential for a moody, interesting theme, but I’m having difficulty nailing down specifics.

Survive.  I like the base-defense / starship-troopers kind of thing here, and it feel great as a multiplayer.  Setup barricades, turrets, etc… and defend for as long as you can against wave after wave of enemies.

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Ludum Dare #26: Round 1 Voting Results

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Note: This is only the FIRST ROUND of votes.  The top few themes from this will appear in the FINAL ROUND, which decides the actual theme (on Friday).

 

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Afterlife made an appearance in the previous few LD votes, and it always seemed a bit dull to me.  It makes me think that we’ll be playing a lot of generic games that happen to be placed in heaven or hell or something. That being said, there are interesting opportunities to draw from a variety of more interesting literally sources and to mine from a large variety of religions and mythoses. Mythosii? Mythosaurus Rex?  Anyway, there’s also the mechanic angle — where the game changes after you die or somehow requires death to progress.  Note that this is different from a game that revolves around things killing themselves to accomplish goals (i.e. Baneling swarms or something).  I’m still having trouble coming up with a specific (and hopefully multiplayer-friendly game).

No Weapons Allowed is, in many ways, what I consider to be a classic Ludum Dare style theme. I think that’s because it reminds of some of the older LD themes, such as “Enemies as Weapons”.  Now, it’s important to remember that this is not a rule of the competition. You could have a game in which you have TONS of weapons, but you’re trying to go into an area protected by metal detectors and x-ray machines. Although, as I type that, all the scenarios I’m imagining are kind of “terrosisty”…so best avoid that.  There’s also the idea that you aren’t allowed to use conventional weapons, but what about fists, or nerf bats, or paint guns, or maybe you’re fighting “grumpikins” by throwing “flowers” at theme.  You could make a classic Quake-style FPS game…but all in bright cheery pastel colours.  I like this theme because it should force creativity.  To me it’s not about making a game that just doesn’t have weapons — it’s about explicitly subverting genres that classically rely on weapons to function. What is a “weapon”? Paint guns feel too weapon-y, but what about snowballs?  Of course, this could be a game about rebuilding after a war so devastating that everyone is trying to come together to build a big peace monument. It could also be a game where you don’t have weapons and are mostly stealthing/running/parkouring away from people who do.

Against the Rules is kind of “meh” to me. So broad and yet so specific. Maybe it’s just a lack of creativity on my part. I guess what starts to come to mind are all the “do not” signs you see in life.  “Wrong Way”. “No Skateboarding”. “No Smoking”. “Employees Only”. A graffiti game? A game about removing tags from mattresses? Actually, the graffiti game might really be fun as a multiplayer game.  Everyone is trying to “tag” as much stuff as possible within a time limit.  Maybe you can’t “tag” something that’s still wet (forcing people to spread out), but after a certain amount of time you can start to overwrite other people’s tags. Okay, I’m starting to like this now.

Dreams. Wow. And I was complaining about other themes being too open-ended? Okay, what comes to mind is the idea that dreams can shift so rapidly on you. One minute you’re running through the jungle and the next you’re walking down and aisle in Walmart. Okay…the art for that would be impossible for me to produce in the allowed time (or ever).  Maybe it’s more that your abilities shift?  One minute you can fly, then you can’t, but you can breath fire, then you can’t and all of a sudden you can’t open a door even though it wasn’t locked a minute ago.  Or, with the door thing in mind, it could just be a totally surreal adventure game where the way to unlock the door is to put the teddy bear in the coffee can.  Well, no, that sounds pretty dumb.  Maybe it’s more of a building game, where you can create physics-defying landscapes?  Gravity could be totally subjective — walk along vertical surfaces — and some areas you just “float” in.   Calvin-ball? You can do something that changes the physics on the fly, to screw over the other team.

Colony. A solid contender in recent LD votes, and certainly something that would align itself with what I — and my viewers — enjoy.  A co-operative survival game. Maybe in space. Maybe on a deserted island.  Maybe in the “new world”.  Heck, maybe you’re a colony of fungus.  Or Ants.  It’s Dwarf Fortress, except YOU are the dwarves. Hard to make in 48 hours? Fuck yes. Epic as hell? Indeed.

Ancient Ruins.  Maybe an exploration game. Find artifacts. Could be done a puzzle game — some variant of Sokoban or Soduku.  Maybe you’re constructing Stone Henge.  Who doesn’t like a good henge?  Or maybe even building the Valley of the Kings in Egypt.  Kind of a “prequel” to them becoming ruins.  An E Truly Hollywood story.

Alternative Physics.  The “Dreams” calvin-ball idea certainly fits here!  I don’t know what the single-player version would look like though. AI bots are hard enough in CONVENTIONAL physics.  Maybe the physics change on their own, and you’re trying to “score” as many points as possible in the amount of available time?  There can still be the option of changing things yourself to try to make things easier for you and improve your time — and in multiplayer, it’s a combination of easy for you and hard for the other players.  Maybe your in a “cube” room — you start on one side and have to go to the other. There are obstacles in the way that you can shove away. The catch is that the bottom/left/right/top of the room each has its own gravity — and every time you score you get moved to a different floor.  So when you change the world, you are potentially screwing other player or just yourself on future rounds.  A different, but related idea: “The Enemy Gate is Down”.

Anyway, that’s the last of the positive-voted ideas.  It’s possible that Journey or Chaos or something will still show up in the final round, but in theory the above themes have the best chance to win out of this lot, so they’re the ones to start thinking about.

Round 2 voting should be finishing up soon!

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