Category: Game Development

This Ludum Dare I made SnakeFormer, a short puzzle game combining Snake with pseudo-physics platformer mechanics.

Turns out that lava is pretty hot.

If you’d like to, you can play it here.

Like just about every game, some lessons were learnt, and I thought I’d write a small piece about them. It’s 12 hours before the judging ends, and nobody has time to read through a novel, so I’ll keep this short!

 


 

Game & Level Design

If a level has the right difficulty for you, it’ll be too hard for everybody else.
I swear I’ll remember this lesson one day, haha. That doesn’t necessarily mean “make it easier”, because in a level-based game, there is another approach:

When in doubt, make more levels.
Easier levels, preferably. I should’ve spent a lot less time on the menu and instead made more transition levels. Which brings me to:

Don’t introduce more than one mechanic per level.
Level 2 introduces: Lava, falling stones AND growing the snake. That’s, uh, a bit too much.

Even if you think the goal is clear, it might be not.
So – better make it clearer. The goal in my game is to exit the screen to the right, like in most platformers. Some people thought that they had to eat the whole level though, which is a more Snake-like goal.

Put instructions in the first level.
Some players don’t read the instructions before starting the game – but once they are confused inside the game, make it as easy as possible to re-read them.

Art, Sound & Music

Glow is freakin’ cool.
Seriously.

Homemade sound effects can be quite entertaining.
Any game needs sound effects, and since I’m no good at making them digitally, I tried to use my mouth for most. Turns out that’s a lot of fun to listen to, and I actually had a few people praise my sound design, especially the eating- and the end-of-level-sounds.

Abundant Music (music generator) + GXSCC (a MIDI chiptunes-like renderer) are the best team.
I’m no musician, so I had to use generated stuff. Those two are PERFECT. It still took very long to find songs that sound well together, but that definitly was time well spent.

Cheery music for hard and punishing gameplay.
Gnhihihihi. So much fun while watching streamers.

Process

Trust in the process and stay open for new ideas.
The concept I started out was a lot more boring, but but sometime after implementing the stones I asked myself “Okay, so those stones fall – what if gravity affects the snake too?” – and then SnakeFormer was born. So even if your initial idea isn’t perfect, go for it anyway instead of giving up, it might evolve into something great later on!

If your idea comes late, don’t worry! There’s still time!
I don’t think i started any development 12 hours after the start of the compo – 8 hours sleep, 4 hours pondering. I think it paid off!

ToDo lists are great to maintain focus.
Always use a ToDo list so you won’t lose track of your next tasks. Workyflowy works best for me.

 


 

Thanks a lot for reading! I hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Maybe I made you a bit curious about my game too? If you want to, you can play SnakeFormer here – and I don’t think I have to mention how much I like comments and ratings, do I?

I’m done here.

 

Woah! Look at all those games!

Hey folks! So, this time I’ve only rated 82 games. Shame on my, I know – I’m busy with my Master’s Thesis, but apart from that, I really have no excuses. I didn’t think I’d actually get around to do a Best Of list this time, but since those games are just so incredibly great I’ve done one anyway now!

So here’s a list of the best and/or most interesting games I’ve played – and so should you, in my opinion! But hey, I know it’s only three days left, so just pick the cherries. (Hint: They are all cherries.)

Excellence in EVERYTHING

Dig Hard by petey123567
Have you ever wanted to save the PRESIDENT from EARTH’S EVIL CORE and the UNDERGROUND DINOSAURS wielding BADASS WEAPONS? Sure you have! And even if not, this game will teach you why you SHOULD want that. It’s just so much fun even if when you inevitably die in mere seconds – and it feels more juicy than any fruit you’ll ever come across!

Planet Corp. by Maschinen-Mensch
Planet Corp is pretty short compared to the other games in this category, but what it does, it does really well. You are drilling different planets in our solar system for resources in a totally safe way (that involves throwing freakin’ drilling bombs down on them). But hey, the TV says it’s fine! Which it will in fact do ingame. The cutscenes are hilarious.

The Valley Rule by Raiyumi
I sincerely believe that the two creators of this game didn’t get ANY sleep, because there is no way they could’ve finished The Valley Rule otherwise. This game isn’t just the very definition of polish, it’s also incredibly big and a lot of fun! What this game lacks in innovation, it makes up in sheer production values. (And I still want the OST for it. Please.)

Behind Mirror by SaintHeiser
So, your friend just got his reflection stolen, and you want to catch the thief who is underwater. You can’t though, because your reflection is blocking you! So now your goal is to become a vampire, because well, vampires don’t have reflections, right? Combine this premise with lovely vector-art-pixel-graphics (is that a thing now?), cool music and the hardest jumps in this LD edition and you get Behind Mirror.

Rosa Neurosa by Wertle
In the words of the game’s creators, Rosa Neurosa is a “digging/mad libs/improv game.” I can’t find words for how awesome it is that they actually managed to pull of a digital single player improv game that is fun and works well, haha. Awesome graphics, great music and the option to actually share the story that you write seals the deal for me. (Try it! Post your endings here, please!)

Excellence in humor

NOPE by shadow64
I- I really, don’t know what to say about this game without spoiling anything. It’s Monty Python-esque. It’s short. It’s extremely funny. I promise you’ll like it!

Inside Look Activity Book by rylgh
The same thing applies to the Inside Look Activity Book, actually! The humor might be a biiiit more twisted and dark, but hey, it’s a book for children, right? What could possibly go wrong?

Excellence in storytelling/atmosphere

The Stanley Enigma by nddrylliog
Ah, the Stanley Enigma. You had a pretty bad dream about your friend Stanley dying, but dreams don’t come true, right? And I mean, who’d hurt Stanley anyway? Hum. Who indeed. You better check. Maybe you’ll find out in the ever branching storylines of The Stanley Enigma, a brilliant dialogue game with (as one commenter rightly remarks) Kentucky Road Zero vibes and over 1000 lines of text.

The Westport Independent by Double Zero One Zero
This game has a “Papers, Please?” vibe to me, and that’s definitely a good thing. Less good is that you’re running a newspaper which is due to be closed by an censoring antagonistic government. You’ve still got a few weeks left though – so what exactly will you print?

In Hiding by Sheepolution
Sssh. Everything will be alright. If you don’t get found, that is. Slightly scary, pretty atmospheric and the coolest effect for ingame soundeffects that I’ve ever seen.

Seven Souls by BrothersT
This is one of those games that I really want to be finished. Seven Souls is a storytelling game where you play a very nice creature which only wants to play with those other characters. Preferably in the water. No ulterior motives, I promise! A clean art style and great writing make this top list material, even if unfinished. (Also I love the accent of the creature.)

Excellence in audio

Orlok’s Ordeal by Davelope
The gameplay is fun on its own, but DAMN! This opening! Awesome voice acting combined with expressive story book pictures and dramatic music, this is just perfect. (Oh, and I love those paintings ingame. And the ending, haha.)

Ripple Runner by DDRKirby(ISQ)
A one (sorry, two. Eh, I mean three?) button runner with an innovative mechanic, game boy aesthetics and the BEST SOUNDTRACK. And the game is synchronized to it! This is just an absolutely joy to play. (And in fact, I’m listening to the soundtrack while I’m writing this list.)

Space to go by geekdrums
“Space to go” is probably the only LD game that has the complete tutorial/instructions in its title. It is storytelling synchronized to music and I can’t even describe why, but – synchronizing the words to sounds gives this whole thing an unexpectedly awesome and quite humorous feeling. It’s pretty short too, so there’s really no reason why you shouldn’t give it a try!

Excellence in being really, really different

Underworld Evolution by StudioWolfox
Underworld Evolution calls itself an “epic RTSE (Real Time Strategic Evolution) game” and it really delivers on this promise. You’re taking control of a bunch of pretty incompetent minions which you’ll slowly but surely improve – generation by generation! (Hum, maybe you shouldn’t actually play it, it’s super addictive! Don’t tell anybody, but I’ve spent over an hour on it and only stopped because I wanted to rate more games…)

Mini Metro Subway Tycoon by ripatti
A subway simulator in retro Sim City style – pretty cool. It’s a bit hard at first (I recommend watching the How To Play video), but soon you’ll be building subways like it’s nobody’s business!

You Don’t Want That by Dark Arts and Sciences
A creepypasta Ludum Dare game about making a Ludum Dare game? Sold! This is the most obscure LD game I’ve ever come across and it’s also pretty hard, but I definitely felt entertained. And I just love the idea. Don’t skip this game. It might get angry. And, uh, you don’t want that.

Generic Adventure Game by Jezzamon
As the title of the game suggests, this one is just a generic adventure game. Yup. Definitely nothing interesting here under the generic surface. (It might be pretty funny though. And have a cool concept.)

Please Come Back by PapyGaragos
This game has the greatest play-controls-avatar relationship I’ve ever encountered with a mouse. If yours has a scrollwheel, try it – you won’t be disappointed. You might get exhausted though, and the distress is pretty real too after a while. The only thing that I don’t like about this game is that it’s based on a pretty similar game, but I still think you shouldn’t skip this experience – and it’s pretty cool that it still works with such a simple art style.

 
 
Did you like my recommendations? If so, maybe you could rate and comment on my game too. I’d be really happy about that! (Although I can understand if you’re exhausted after all those other games I just suggested, haha.)
 
SnakeFormer by TobiasW
A puzzle game combining Snake with pseudo-physics platformer mechanics. It only has four levels, but it’s not actually short – level 3 and 4 are probably the hardest puzzle levels in this LD. I’m terribly, terribly sorry. (If you beat them, please tell me!)

 

Introduction

I’ve been to the A MAZE./Berlin Indie Festival last week – and apart from meeting a lot of fellow game developers, playing awesome games and making weird cat glitch art at workshops, I’ve also been showcasing Catcher!

It’s been a rollercoaster of joy and frustration as I tend to be emotional when it comes to my creations, but I want to know what people really think – so often I just watched people play without telling them that I made the game. It’s incredibly humbling to see people pick up the game, try it for a short while and then walk away frustrated because they don’t get it. On the other hand, it feels so good to see people finishing sector after sector and still trying after dying countless times in the later levels!

I got lots of valuable feedback. The most important aspect to me are my observations regarding accessibility – it’s okay if people decide that the game is not for them, but it’s NOT okay if they just don’t understand how to play. Here are the main problems and how I intend to solve them:

Using the right mouse button to close the net

Some players didn’t get that they have to use the right mouse button to close the net.

While this was explained in the wordy tutorial text in the first screen, almost nobody read that. (The best way to hide secrets in your game might just be in long text passages.)

An image might help because it’s faster to understand and draws the eye more:

The new image explaining the controls.

The new image explaining the controls.

This will be shown until you have finished a level where you catch at least one enemy with the right mouse button. (You can also catch enemies by making looping motions – but this is a lot harder to pull off later and players should definitely know the right mouse button method.)

Damage feedback

Some players didn’t understand what to do at all, rammed their ships into enemies and didn’t understand that this hurts them.

While I could explain this via text, I think that’s mainly a feedback problem with three portions to it: What happened, where did it happen, and what was the result?

After my improvements, when you touch an enemy with your ships, the feedback looks like this:

  • What happened: “Ship Collision” is displayed. A damage sound effects plays. Bright damage particles spawn at the point where it happened.
  • Where did it happen: The ship that collided blinks red for a second.
  • What was the result: A newly introduced healthbar at the top gets smaller. (Health was always in the game, but previously only expressed in % in the upper left.)
The newly introduced healthbar, collision particles, feedback text and a red blinking ship.

The newly introduced healthbar, collision particles, feedback text and a red blinking ship.

The healthbar also refills visibly between levels, which will hopefully teach the players that their health is always full when a level starts. (One less thing I previously had to express through text, yay.)

Little movements

Many players had problems with little movements. In most games little movements will be tinier and more precise – in Catcher they just don’t work at all right now and result in big unwanted turns.

I haven’t tackled this yet, but I’ll probably change the controls so they react less to little movements. This shouldn’t change how the game is played too much because right now experienced players mainly make big movements anyway – because small movements are currently imprecise and useless.

Will this work? I don’t know – but in two weeks there’s a local playtesting event here in Berlin, and I’ll watch players there. Keeping my fingers crossed! And if not: Back to the drawing board with me.

Other improvements for the next release

Other things the next release (probably soon!) will have:

  • Particle effects for nearly every enemy now. The game looks SO MUCH more lively now.
  • Lots of little bug fixes.
  • Visually improved catcher ships! This one was due for a long time now. They’ll point to your mouse when being apart from each other, and dock when they get close.
The ships turn towards the mouse.

The ships turn towards the mouse.

The ships dock together.

The ships dock together.

Thanks for reading!

After posting all those status updates on TIGForums, I thought I had to start here (and at IndieDB) too. I hope you enjoyed it – it’s just about the first time I’m posting updates on a game that is not out yet, so it’s a bit unusual for my blog.

If you’d like to play the game, just click here
for a Unity webbuild and desktop downloads!

The October Berlin Mini Jam was crazy enough – we had a triple splitscreen with blinds made out of cardboard and and a MakeyMakey game using fruits and vegetables as controllers. (“And to shoot, you just touch the plum.”)

Fueled by this energy, I made this toy prototype for the theme “Lab Experiment”:

Remote Person Control

One person gets a computer and
a gamepad: The Controller.

One person gets a smartphone, earphones
and closes their eyes: The Robot.

The Controller can now steer the Robot
with transmitted voice commands:
“Left, left, stop, forward, forward…”

Like I say in the video, it’s not finished. It is just a toy right now – I ran out of time to make it a game. I’m thinking about adding commands like “Move your body” and “Move your right hand” so you can actually steer the Robot’s hands too – and then have a command like “grab” to pick up stuff, for example.

The prototype was already a fun experience even with just simple directional controls though. It feels really interesting to use a gamepad to control something in real life (and a human on top of it) instead of something on the screen!

Bugs, Bugs, Bugs

While working with Unity is normally a pleasure and developing Android has proven to be far more straightforward than other mobile platforms, this time I just got terribly unlucky. Here is how I spent my time:

Closing Words

And now, a screenshot from the video, so that Facebook etcetera knows which image to use:

Who knows where exactly I’ll take this? Certainly not me, although I have some ideas. Maybe the next jam will be the time to find out!

I’ve previously done two “Best of” lists of the games I enjoyed the most so far – you can find them here and here. I always planned to do this third part, but then life happened – and now at last, with one day of judging left, I present to you this final part!

So one last time, in no particular order, here are some more entries that I think nobody should miss out on:

 

pleading-rainPleading Rain by Brassawiking
You aren’t really sure what happened, but standing in the rain with a gun to your head and two people shouting at you, it’s quite clear that you probably fucked up. This is a dialogue game, fast-paced and intense: You try to figure out how to get out of this situation, and until you do, you’ll have to stall without spilling any unwanted proverbial beans. It has no less then 9 different endings and some of the best writing I’ve seen this LD. (Two tips: You can click on parts of the images when you “Think”, and sometimes you need to click on more than one part until a new dialogue option pops up.)

 

flooded-dungeons
Flooded Dungeons by ripatti
A super-polished dungeon crawler where your primary concern are not the many monsters or the riches, but the impending watery death flooding the higher levels. Fly, you fool! Oh, but maybe grab some of the riches while you’re at it. This game feels so finished, I stand by my suspicion that ripatti secretly made a time machine for this LD. Or cloned himself. (Then again, I guess this level of dedication would make up for the cheating.)

 

10013-milliseconds10013 milliseconds by mortus
This is a short adventure game with a Myst-like vibe: You are a technician, and not a happy one, because an explosion in the bunker you are in destroyed some pretty important equipment and locked down all the doors. Your only hope: A distress signal. The computer hasn’t got much power left though. Oh, how I love this game: The super clean graphics, the sound effects, the music. The mood they create together so dense, I feel like I can touch it. (And if you still aren’t sold: It also features a fox!)

 

ecostarEcoStar vs Aeronox – DreamTeam
EcoStar vs Aeronox is the best side-scrolling shooter I’ve seen at this LD. The seasons have been greatly sped up and invaders attack – luckily you’re up for the defence! The enemies are element-coded according to the seasons with strength and weaknesses, and you can get an element shield and charge an elemental attack additionally to your normal one. Great music, wonderful graphics and a lot of R-type-like fun!

 

antidoteAntidote by Antidote
You’ve come to get the golden idol, but you’ve been poisoned – quick, make your way out! And while you’re at it, grab a lot of riches to make it worth your while. Another super-polished game – this time in the jam section, being a perfect example of what you can achieve with a team of dedicated people. Everything fits together, and shooting, blasting and running through the dungeon while picking up shiny jewels feels great.

 

tai10 Second Tai by Teejay5
A short game about oversleeping, flying with jetpacks and fighting sharks (oops, spoilers). While it’s really rather on the short side and it’s missing music, for me it was pretty hilarious. There should be more ridiculous physics-based games. And I can’t get over the faces Tai makes! They are just so well done, haha.

 

clocked-inClocked In by rylgh
An avoider-type game with some pretty neat design choices. It just feels extremely smooth, everything about it – even when you lose a heart, it just feels like is factored into the normal flow of play. It also features a flawless and clean visual presentation, a nice minimalistic soundtrack and great level design.

 

Did you like my recommendations? If so, maybe you could rate and comment on my game too. I’d be really happy about that!
 
Lost-in-the-DarknessLost in the Darkness by TobiasW
Your three friends are scattered in this nightmarish world, turned into creatures of darkness – and you’re their only hope. Follow the music and save them! It won’t be easy though: The world is in constant change. Be ready. And don’t stay in the darkness for too long…

 

Like I wrote in my previous post, I’ve rated 100 games now. There were a lot awesome games in there – and a few that I think nobody should miss out on.

So again, in no particular order, here are some more entries that I think everyone should’ve played:

 

probe-teamPROBE TEAM by Andrew Shouldice
If you play only one game from my list, take this one. You are playing a swarm of drones, one by one, tasked with exploring and repairing. Even if your current drone fails, you’ll likely have explored the perimeter. And that’s where the game really shines: Exploration. You want to know what’s around the next corner, what the probes discover next! Together with the shiny visuals, the soundscape and the small bits of plots, this game manages to create an incredible atmosphere. It’s my favourite from the whole LD27 so far and I wouldn’t be surprised if it wins!

 

royal-defenestratorRoyal Defenestrator by BasmanovDaniil
You are the Royal Defenestrator, tasked with… I am not sure what you are actually tasked with. But it seems that the queen isn’t very happy, and if she isn’t happy with something, there’s really only one choice what to do with it! There also only one word to describe this game: “hilarious”. Combine a few pretty fine jokes, a lot of emergent humor, a simple clean style and perfectly fitting music and you get this game!

 

the-only-oneThe only one by JaJ
Ah, The only one. I don’t want to spoil anything, I think you’ve got to play this one for yourself. The writing is excellent and compelling. I felt sad and touched after I played it, and it’s been a while since a game did that to me, especially one so short and created in only 48 hours! The 2 color look works well (which is pretty hard to pull off in my opinion), and even if that’s not your thing: This game is really worth playing.

 

the-duellistsThe Duellists by jay griffin
This game in one word: “Polish”. Oh, and also “gorgous pixel art”, although I suppose that’s three words. Contrary to “Way of the Gun” from my Best Of (Part 1), the core gameplay here is actually about duelling. The mechanic is simple and fun and everything works smoothly. I just wish he would’ve added music – but then again, he already announced a post-compo version.

 

detective-awesomepantsDetective Awesomepants by xel
I’ll let xel do this one himself: “Experience the epic adventure of Detective Awesomepants as he tackles difficult cases assigned to him by the world police! Travel to exotic locations. Meet unique characters. Put bad guys in jail! All in a days work for the greatest detective around.”
So – it’s basically murder mystery in 10 seconds with super quirky characters. Short, sweet, extremely fun!

 

legend-of-epikourosLegend of Epikouros by Erhune
It seldom happens, but sometimes there’s a game that’s not that much fun to play, but I’m super excited about nonetheless. This is one of those. The concept is as simple as it is brilliant: It’s an adventure RPG with a long play time – but each player session only lasts 10 seconds. When you start, a lot will have already happened to our hero Epikourous, dictated by other players, and you’ll watch his story until it’s finally your turn to play him. What will you do with your 10 seconds? I really hope this one gets a post-compo version!

 

Did you like my recommendations? If so, maybe you could rate and comment on my game too. I’d be really happy about that!

Lost-in-the-DarknessLost in the Darkness by TobiasW
Your three friends are scattered in this nightmarish world, turned into creatures of darkness – and you’re their only hope. Follow the music and save them! It won’t be easy though: The world is in constant change. Be ready. And don’t stay in the darkness for too long…

 

Ludum Dare was going on last weekend! It’s a huge internet game jam where you develop a game in either 48h all alone (Compo) or 72h with a team (Jam). I’m participating in the Compo – you can see my entry Lost in the Darkness here!

After the compo/jam, people who participated can rate each others games. I’ve rated 100 games now – I wish I could rate more, but I seem to have the tendency to write detailed feedback. It takes up so much time! While doing that, I found some gems that I think nobody should miss. There are a lot of those, so I’ll split it in multiple parts. In no particular order:

 

10 Seconds Before the World Ends by Lustdante
You’re a scientist trying to save the world which ends in (you probably guessed it!) 10 seconds. Luckily you have a suit that doesn’t only stop time, but allows you to move around in the meantime! Use debris as platforms, promenade under deadly obstacles and activate time again in the right moments to let it create a passage for you. Everything about this game is awesome, and it feels strangely great walking in a frozen world.

 

Low-BatteryLow Battery by RHY3756547
Hunting for treasure as a robot felt never more franti- WHAT THE HECK JUST HAPPENED. This game is hard as hell, but even while losing I had a lot of fun. Shiny graphics, totally over the top effects and a kick-ass soundtrack completes the set.

 

Rebound-ReconRebound Recon by TheHermit
Your drone stole the industry secrets you were looking for – now you just need to get away! There’ll be no room for mistakes: And that’s where your drones advanced predictive software comes into play. It allows you to plan your route before the drone executes it. This is the best puzzle game I’ve played this Ludum Dare! The controls feel a little sluggish until you get used to them – I recommend you deal with this, the game is definitely worth it.

 

Way of the Gun by vrld
Way of the Gun is a… dialogue/bantering game? Wait, what? I won’t tell you why, the intro can do that much better – what I can tell you though is that this game features pleasing graphics, great music, an interesting mood, superb dialogue, a lot of quirky humor and some funny surprises.

 

Clockwork-CatClockwork Cat by patrickgb
A cute cat with a big wrench and an even bigger clock – what more could you need to make a great game? Maybe an extremely smooth flow? Soothing music? Small clever puzzles? Well, if you agree, you’re in luck – this game features all of that. Its only downside is it’s shortness, but that’s hardly a reason to pass it up!

 

Insert-picture-hereCrappydoodle by superjoebob
No picture for this one? Yep – I really have no idea how to depict it pleasingly in 120×85 pixels. Which is a bit ironic, because Crappydoodle is a game about pictures. It’s basically Pictionary on speed with random strangers – what’s not to like? Don’t try it though, because it’s addicting. No really, please don’t click the link.

 

Did you like my recommendations? If so, maybe you could play (and if you participated, rate and comment there – and if not just write a comment here!) my game too. I’d be really happy about that!
 

Lost-in-the-DarknessLost in the Darkness by TobiasW
Your three friends are scattered in this nightmarish world, turned into creatures of darkness – and you’re their only hope. Follow the music, resist the darkness and save them!

For the Human-Computer Interaction course at my university we had to do a 3d interface prototype. My team decided to make a game with the Leap Motion. And thus, Zombie Planet was born in about 3 weeks: A game that you control directly with your fingers. Defend your world from invading zombies and save your people!

Visit this post for the download, screenshots and credits:

Zombie Planet, A Game Prototype For The Leap Motion

I just added a download for the source code and project to my Wizard Defense game.

The source code is released under the terms of the GPL v3.

The assets (meshes, textures etc) are not released under any particular license. Unless mentioned otherwise on their respective source websites stated in the credits, you are not allowed to use them.

If you’d like to use them anyway, feel free to contact me!

Disclaimer: The project was for a university course. Due to time constraints and that not being a requirement, the code is not well documented nor does the documentation fit the C# standards.

Hey there!

If you’re reading this, chances are that you are developing games yourself. If that’s the case, you might want to take a look (and join!) #onegameamonth. It’s a very interesting challenge/experiment which kind of gamifies the rapid game creation process. Don’t worry, you can still post a game for January and February, and if you participated in a jam (such as the Global Game Jam), you probably have some already!

For me it probably won’t be too hard (after all I’m organizing a monthly jam in addition to all of my usual projects), but there are some interesting achievements that I might aim for – finally selling a game, for example. I’ve planned this for some time now, but interestingly this “achievement” thing actually adds a little urgency to it.

Anyway, #onegameamonth looks exciting. Check it out and join me!