Category: Game Development

It’s been a while since the last update. I spent the months working on interesting prototypes and experimental installations, but now I finally have time again to come back to Catcher!

Since the last time, I picked up generative art to make interesting backgrounds. After a lot of experiments, I finally settled for a background that looks similar to the old one, but more interesting and with more dashes of color – and because it’s procedural, it will always look different.

I also visited the AMAZE Indie Festival in Berlin and got lots of great feedback that I used to improve this build.

Here is the changelist:

  • New procedural background
  • Made level transitions more fluid
  • Tweaked movement and net opening/closing
  • Replaced A-F rating with stars
  • Added a score malus for death
  • Added a particle mouse cursor ingame
  • Capped player ships at screen border
  • Improved “Sector Clear” screen
  • Improved rocket visibility
  • Improved level progression
  • Improved tutorial
  • Improved feedback
  • Fixed several bugs, including net collision problems with fast-moving enemies

You can download the current versions here – and if you do, please give leave me some feedback!


A few examples of the new background:

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Another thing that changed is that enemies now have appearing animations! Instead of just suddenly being there, they are generated out of particles using Particle Playground:

2015 09 13 appear01

2015 09 13 appear02

2015 09 13 appear03

2015 09 13 appear04

Next up:

  • Prototyping and testing of two new game modes
  • Experiments with limited net count
  • Improved sound effects
  • Rework the whole ingame and menu UI

I’m currently taking part in Critical Hit 2015 in Montreal, an incubator for experimental wearable games. This week, we started our first prototype! The God of Randomness teamed me up with Owen Bell, Milin Li and Mónica Rikic – so 3 of our 4 members are programmers, but luckily my team members are also great at wiring, sewing and making. The theme for the first game was “mini & forbidden”.

The Concept

Our first thematic impulses were to make something with either witchcraft/voodoo or bacteria. This quickly lead to the idea that somebody is ill and must be cured by one or multiple people, possibly using magic. From there we got to our current idea: Two people are ill – their heart rate, body temperature and digestion are either two high or too low – and both try to get healthy before the other one does. To do that, they eat fruits. Each fruit raises or lowers one or two of the aforementioned properties. (To keep it replayable, those effects are randomly decided at the start of each round.) It’s a logic puzzle: The players have to find out what each fruit does by eating them, then look at their current status and figure out which fruits to eat to get healthy. In the end version of the game, there should be neither screen nor keyboard: The players actually eat real fruit with specially made forks that can sense fruit types and wear aprons with LEDs showing their status.

After we got that game idea, we found Pixelate, a “Guitar-Hero-style eating game which detects food you are eating”. We did our own Arduino sketches and fruit resistance experiments, but were heavily inspired by the fork they used.

But enough text – have a few pictures of us working on it over the week!

Working on the Game

Owen testing fruit resistence (photo by Mónica)

Owen testing fruit resistance (photo by Mónica)


An early fork prototype...

An early fork prototype… (photo by Mónica)


...and an early digital prototype to test the game mechanics  (photo by Mónica)

…and an early digital prototype to test the game mechanics (photo by Mónica)


Science! (photo by Mónica)

Owen used Science! It’s very effective. (photo by Mónica)


Working on the real fork (photo by Milin)

Working on the real fork (photo by Milin)


I have NO idea how they broke, I swear! (photo by Milin)

I have NO idea how they broke, I swear! (photo by Milin)


The MakerBot Replicator 2X printing our fork case (photo by Milin)

The MakerBot Replicator 2X printing our fork case (photo by Milin)


The finished fork prototype! (photo by Milin)

The finished fork prototype! (photo by Milin)


More Science! (photo by Mónica)

More Science! (photo by Mónica)


Fruits and vegetables after a day of electrical resistence testing (photo by Mónica)

I wish I could say that no fruits/vegetables were hurt during the electrical resistence testing, but, well… (photo by Mónica)


The glowiest of all aprons ♡ (photo by Milin)

The glowiest of all aprons ♡ (photo by Milin)


The latest digital prototype for playtesting

The latest digital prototype for playtesting

The Playtesting Session

On Friday, all the games made this week were put through their paces to find out what works and what should be improved next week. We didn’t have our physical parts ready yet, so the digital prototype I made had to substitute for the full experience. I occasionally tested with people over the week, but never with two people who hadn’t played before – and (in retrospect unsurprisingly) it didn’t go very well: Most people didn’t figure out how the fruits worked. Other complaints were that the feedback is too subtle and/or lacking, that the two players barely interact and that the competition doesn’t put enough pressure on the player. Another thing that didn’t work out well was using fruits: Some people thought those fruits have effects like their real counterparts, while the effects are actually randomized each round.

I talked a lot at the end with Tom Fennewald, who participated in the playtesting sessions. Among other things, he suggested that the basic mechanic of the game is fine and what is really missing is adjustable transparency as difficulty: Show what the fruits actually do to start it out like a tutorial, then slowly make it harder by hiding effects.

We will try this and other ideas that we had next week. I’m looking forward to see where this is going!

Oh, and I definitely learned one thing: I should test things more and earlier.

After a master’s thesis and a few months of freelance work I’ve once again time to work on Catcher!

The new release features:

The self-made score server was needed after Scoreoid, the service I previously used, decided to silently cease service and take all of my player’s scores with them. At first I thought it was just a short outage, but after a few months of not even being able to access the backend site it seems they just died silently. Time to depend more on the things I make myself, I guess.

Here are a few screenshots from the new build:

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It feels so good to be back. Expect more updates in the coming months!


A few weeks ago, I finished my studies at the HTW Berlin in International Media and Computing with the defense following my master’s thesis. I thought that its content might be interesting to others on the internet too, but I understand that not everyone wants to read 100+ pages. For that reason, I am now writing this “too long; didn’t read” summary. It is also a lot more informally written. If you like what you read, you are quite welcome to read the longer version too! Here are the links:

Master’s Thesis

Source Code (open source, MIT license), Screenshots, Photos, Videos etc.

You can also read this summary as a PDF, but you would miss out on the videos.


I love board games just as much as I love digital games. With smartphones and tablets, digital board games are getting bigger and bigger. But those are mostly touch-based – and at the HTW I had the chance to make games with a MultiTaction Cell multitouch table which can recognize objects placed on top of it too. So now, in my thesis, I wanted to find out if I can create digital-physical tabletop hybrid games that provide better gameplay than a touch-only version could.

I didn’t want to do something like chess which could be played with physical tokens, as a touch-based digital game or as a hybrid game without changing gameplay at all. I set out to focus on game prototypes where neither the digital and physical elements could be removed without changing the gameplay – a “true hybrid”, only possible in combination. Core physical elements should be interactions with advantages in the physical world, for example using the sense of touch to quickly and intuitively manipulate objects without directly looking at them, real-world physical interactions between pieces or using other properties of physical artifacts – e.g. objects can look different depending on the viewing angle. Likewise, the digital aspect is not just used for the sake of technology, but to add gameplay elements that are only possible by using technology.

I quickly figured out that it is easy to make the digital side matter, but almost everything physical that the multi-touch table can still recognize can also be closely simulated digitally. This shifted the focus a bit: Instead of still trying to make “true hybrids”, I wanted to make tabletop game prototypes that I believe are improved by the physical/digital combination. Every prototype would get a hybrid and a touch-based-only version, and then I can compare those in user tests.

Physical/Digital Advantages

Before I started with the design of the prototypes, I analyzed board games and digital games to find out which advantages they have over the other side. Note that a lot of those have exceptions, e.g. digital games are more likely to have a tutorial, but there are also board games with tutorials – and flicking might have advantages in the physical world, but digital games have similar mechanics. Mechanics and properties that are listed here are not exclusive to either side; I just believe that one side does it easier or might do it better in some way.

My thesis also has a short chapter on pervasive games, but since the focus is on making a tabletop hybrid game, I’ll leave this out here.

Physical Advantages – with a focus on board games

Physical Interaction

The physical world provides tactile feedback and often allows for more fine-grained movement.

  • Finger Flicking: Done in games like Carrom and Crokinole, sometimes also thematic games like the dungeon-crawler Catacombs. Can be simulated with quick swish-motions on touch screens or pull-back mechanics in the digital world.
  • Gravity: Games like Bausack or Jenga are built around building, balancing or removing building blocks in 3d space. It is hard to simulate the small movements and the tactile feedback in a digital game, although many 2d physics games exist.
  • Tools: Games like Operation or Gone Fishin’ are based around tools used to interact with the game to give it a certain feeling or mechanics. These are much easier and often cheaper to produce for a physical game; the digital equivalent would be custom controllers.
Hidden State in a Shared Space

Tabletop games use independently movable physical parts which allows players to look at information (for example the underside of a card or token) without the other player seeing the same information. This is not possible on a single shared digital screen on multi-touch table or tablet. Digitally, this can be solved by using multiple screens or having a player look away, so either the space is not shared anymore or the flow is often broken.

Player Interaction

Interacting and communicating with other people is much easier when the partner is in the same room, instead of through text and speech or even through a webcam.

  • Communication and Party Games: Games like Taboo, Pictionary, Charades and Freeze are heavily reliant on communication – be it speaking, drawing, gesturing or full-blown acting. Speaking and drawing can be replicated in digital games as well and might just be more enjoyable in a setting with everybody in the same room; when more body language and atmosphere is involved though, making a digital equivalent might be harder or even impossible.
  • Reading People’s Faces: Games like Junta or those in the Werewolf/Mafia family are heavily based on observation, negotiation and/or calling people’s bluffs – “reading” people. This can be done digitally and online too, but it is a totally different experience.

Board games are fully executed by human players. This allows for a certain kind of flexibility.

  • House Rules: Rules could be improved? Easily changed.
  • Games about Making Rules: Games like Hex Hex or 1000 blank white cards take it one step further by allowing the players to make up new rules or even design all game components and interactions.
Other Advantages
  • Components: Physical components are often cheap and dependable. Digital devices on the other hand need to be bought, and assuming that players have smartphones doesn’t hold true everywhere.
  • Available Space: Big touch screen are often very expensive, while producing a table-sized board game might not be exactly cheap, but still much cheaper.

Digital Advantages


In the board game world, learning a new game usually means reading a rulebook – or being taught by somebody who already knows the game. In the digital world, the learning companion can be the game itself. Digital games can enforce rules, teach when appropriate and react to players faults more easily. (Although Legends of Andor does a pretty good job at having a board game tutorial – inspired by digital games, no less.)


In digital games, the experience is fully controlled by a processor: Input is taken and used as seen fit instead of direct interaction with the game pieces like in board games.

  • Setup Time: Even after learning the rules, physical games still have to be prepared manually. The worst you will usually get from a digital game is a bit of loading time.
  • Automatic Data Processing: Menial counting tasks and figuring out action results can be taken care of swiftly and automatically.
  • Information Display: The game can show predictions and context-sensitive information when needed.
  • Distance Calculation: Instead of moving in a visible grid or graph, movement can instead be by distance – and still does not need external tools like a ruler.
  • Real Time Play: Automatic data processing also allows real-time play since it can instantly compute outcomes and it can limit players action, for example via a cooldown delay or resource usage.
  • No Room for Player Errors: The game executes all the rules itself. If players haven’t understood a rule, it will still happen like it was originally intended.
  • Cheating Inhibition: While technical cheats are possible, those are far less casual than looking at enemy cards in a board game or switching pieces while an enemy has left the room briefly.
  • Impartial Judgment: Knowing everything that happens perfectly at any time and favoring nobody, digital games can easily judge results.
  • Artificial Intelligence: Processing power enables stronger and more interesting non-human enemies than board games.
  • Hidden State Processing: Hidden state can be automatically worked with in a truly hidden way. Considering a shared screen space, a game could still process what a hidden card does, for example mining one gold nugget per turn which the player could already use without revealing its source.
  • Hidden Actions/Communication: When a player has their own device available, they can take hidden actions with the game verifying that this action is actually possible – thereby allowing hidden actions without fear that another player cheats. In the same vein, this could allow communication between players without a third party knowing that this takes place at all, for example to form secret alliances and plan combined actions.
  • Sensors and Input Devices: Digital processing allows games to use sensors and interesting/complex input devices and integrate them into the gameplay.
  • Storage Capacity: So many games on such a small disk.
  • Procedural Generation: Levels and playing fields can be created by algorithms on demand – with agency and configurable.
  • Animation: Board games mostly have static visual elements that are moved around. Digital games can change or animate those elements according to actions and game state.
  • Sound Feedback: Obviously, the real world has sound feedback too, for example when placing a token – but here, digital games can play sound specific to what a token or action symbolizes, for example a cat token that meows when it gets a fish token.
  • Atmosphere: Changing visuals and added music can greatly increase the atmosphere for a game.
  • Location: Tablets have much smaller screens than a board game would need. Suddenly, a big board game might be playable in a coffee shop.
  • Availability: No need to wait for a physical order to arrive – digital games can mostly just bought online and downloaded instantly.
  • Updatability: Game content and rules can be updated later via online updates.
  • Persistence: When a game takes too long to finish, it can be saved and later restored. Unlike most board games, that makes it very easy to move between playing locations too.
Online Play

Digital gaming devices are often connected to the internet which enables playing with people who are not sharing the same room. This enables playing with friends who cannot meet personally at the moment, but it also allows strangers to play together.

Real-time online play is obviously used in real-time games, but also turn-based games often need everyone connected at the same time. On the other hand, the persistence of a server also allows asynchronous online play – players are not necessarily online at the same time, make a move, log out again and are notified once the other player made their move too.

The Prototypes

To find out whether having a physical/digital hybrid improves on gameplay, I made three game prototypes, each with a hybrid variant and a touch-only variant.

Finger-Flicking Game

finger-flicking_game1     finger-flicking_game2

The first prototype is a two-player versus flicking game with real-time scoring. Players flick discs into scoring areas, adding a new disk every few seconds. Sometimes it might be more advantageous to wait until the enemy goes first and then hit the enemy disk so it leaves the area it is in – and sometimes it might be better to quickly score in an easily accessible scoring area. The game ends after a fixed amount of time and the player with the higher score wins.

Physical Part

The game uses physical tokens the player’s can flick, which I believed to me more engaging than a purely touch-based version because it adds tactile sensations and real-life interactions. I also thought the players might easier learn how much force they need to flick properly because they know naïve physics and get haptic feedback.

Digital Part

The main digital parts are a) the real-time scoring and b) the timer which allows the placement of new tokens. The game also uses visual feedback: The background is tinted in the currently winning player’s color and tokens which are scoring higher amounts emit bigger visual “waves”.

Spaceship Game

spaceship_game1     spaceship_game2

In the Spaceship Game, two players cooperatively manipulate a spaceship with attached satellites in real-time. The satellites have different turrets, shields or supporting structures. The goal is to survive as many waves of enemies as possible.

Physical Part

The physical spaceship is a direct representation of the digital spaceship. Players get instant tactile feedback on their actions, and resistance and the feeling of tugging might make it easier to cooperate. Turning and moving should also be easier when working with a wheel instead of a touch screen.

Digital Part

The game simulates enemies coming at the player in real-time while also operating weapons, moving projectiles, resolving collisions and keeping track of hit points. This cannot be reasonably done in a non-digital tabletop version while keeping the real-time element.

Duel Game

duel_game1     duel_game2

The Duel Game is a turn-based two player versus game. Both players have five units with different roles: Berserker (does most damage), Guard (has most health, strong counterattack), Marksman (ranged attack), Ninja (can try to jump out of attacks and switch with a unit once per game) and Spy (can get direct information about enemy tokens). Their positions are secret and players also secretly assign power levels from 1 to 5 to them. In the following fight, players move and attack with the units, using their respective strengths and abilities, trying to find out what the enemy units are and to take them down. Once a player has lost all their units, the other player wins.

Physical Part

The tokens with the cardboard screens allow two players to play on the same screen space without any indirection and still have hidden information.

Digital Part

The game contains several parts would be very hard to remake in a purely physical tabletop version.

Firstly, the rule set of interactions and reactions is a bit complicated. Having this done automatically is quite helpful.

More importantly, the game contains several parts where you would need an external judge:

  • Fights are done in a doubly blind way: The attacking player knows a range of damage they can deal (for example 1-6), but they don’t know how much damage they did in this attack. On the other hand, the attacked player only knows that how much damage they took (for example 3), but not how much the opponent could have done.
  • The Spy can see information about enemy pieces without the enemy even knowing that they have been spied upon.
  • The Ninja can switch once with a friendly unit without informing the enemy player.

Test Results

Approach and Caveats

First off, this thesis did not have any budget or people to organize the search and testing, so it had only 12 probands in total. Additionally all the probands knew the author, with some even knowing the title of the thesis and a bit more information about it. I am fully aware that makes the results not very representative and less trustworthy, hence this caveat. The following is written in the hope that you still find it useful, if only for pointing in a general direction.

Each test session consisted of two players playing against each other. Many people played multiple games. A typical evaluation session looked like this:

  1. The author of the thesis explains the game (5-10 minutes, depending on complexity)
  2. The participants play a version of the game (5-20 minutes)
  3. The participants separately fill out an AttrakDiff form for this version (5 minutes)
  4. The participants play the other version of the game (5-20 minutes)
  5. The participants separately fill out an AttrakDiff form for this version (5 minutes)
  6. The participants separately answer the comparison questionnaire (5 minutes)

The AttrakDiff A/B test resulted in barely any difference between the two versions of each prototype, so I won’t mention it here.

In the comparison questionnaire, players rated 7 questions from 0 to 6, with “0” being “Hybrid” and “6” being “Touch-only”. The italic text explains the motivation of certain questions and was not part of the questionnaire sheet.

  1. “Which version was easier to use?”
  2. “In which version did you feel more in control?” (In games, less control does not always less ease of use. The Finger-Flicking Game might be easier to target in the touch-only version, which might make feel people more in control there, but the hybrid version might be easier to use due to less indirection.)
  3. “Which version was more fun?”
  4. “Which version was more interesting?” (This question tries to find out whether the hybrid version provides novelty value beyond pure gameplay.)
  5. “Which version felt better?” (This question tries to capture whether the sensations provided by the tactile feedback add to the experience. It is deliberately vague to refrain from influencing people towards the hybrid version.)
  6. “In which version did you feel closer to the other player?” (This tries to contribute to two questions: Do digital games feel more like playing “with the screen” instead of “with another player”? Does playing together on one screen in the hybrid version of the Duel Game make a noticeable difference?)
  7. “If you had to play again, which version would you choose?”

Finger-Flicking Game


In the hybrid version of the Finger-Flicking Game, the physical tokens are easier to handle as people can quickly figure out how they behave physically. The tactile feedback and the physical interactions between tokens feel gratifying and make the game interesting, but also a bit unpredictable. Only a limited amount of tokens needs to be introduced and recognized by the table at any time, so the friction between physical and digital world is kept to a minimum.

The moves in the digital version are a bit more predictable. Flicking by swiping is easy to figure out and easy to execute, but it takes more tries to learn how far a swipe will take the token. Moving a token by tapping it first is a bit harder to learn because it is not intuitive.

Depending on the players’ preference, they might prefer the tactile feedback and unpredictability of the hybrid version or the predictability of the digital version. The hypothesis was that the games will be fairly evenly rated with a preference for the hybrid version.



The Finger-Flicking game had 8 testers. All average values tend slightly towards the hybrid variant in various degrees. Especially interesting was the wide range of answers – for example in the “Feeling of Control” category, 3 of the 8 players answered that the Hybrid version is clearly superior while 3 tended slightly and 2 strongly towards the touch-only version. Here it seems to come down to preference, which is in line with the hypothesis for this prototype.

It is worth noting that both of the versions proved to be imperfect. The physical tokens in the hybrid version could be weightier and slide better and especially two testers had recognition problems; meanwhile, the digital version has a lag (by recognition algorithm design) when flicking, with the token not moving until the flicking gesture ended. I believe that if the recognition was stable and the physical properties of the hybrid version were more optimized that the hybrid version would be more strongly preferred. It would have been interesting to do more iterations of each version to finally compare “idealized” versions where each is as good as possible.

Spaceship Game


In the Spaceship Game, the physical feedback provided by the components in the hybrid version is essential. The tangibility allows for faster targeting than in the digital version (albeit it sometimes lags slightly behind), and grabbing and turning a wheel is easier to execute than constantly rubbing two fingers over the glass to turn and move a token. The physical constraints help players feel the movement restrictions and coordinate activities – for example when a player tries to evade a bullet by tugging, the other player might loosen their touch to allow the movement to happen. Additionally, the Spaceship Game has only 5 physical tokens in total – the mother ship and 4 satellites. These tokens can be made unique/persistent which improves the chance to recover from recognition errors, and they only move slowly compared to the Finger-Flicking Game. This should help to reduce the friction between the physical and digital worlds.

The hypothesis here was that the hybrid version of the game will be strongly preferred.



The Spaceship Game also had 8 testers. Here, the tendency towards the hybrid version is even stronger, especially for in the “Ease of Use” category. It matches with the hypothesis, although not as strongly as expected.

Players said that the rotation in the digital version was very hard (a direct turning with touch points was used, as if one was touching points on physical objects – maybe a rotation speed multiplier would have been good here) and one tester remarked that the hybrid version had an unfair aesthetic advantage, with the simple graphics on the screen being the same, but the Lego model looking more interesting. One player said that the Lego model was obstructing his view and because of that he preferred the touch version, while others liked the look and feel of the model.

Duel Game


The hybrid version of the Duel Game is the prototype that suffers the most from wrongly recognized tokens, as it contains 10 tokens that have to be properly recognized at the correct positions before the game can even start. This often involves moving around multiple markers to trigger a refresh and having some markers in unstable conditions. Putting the physical role info cardboard stand-ups into the tokens makes the setup phase lengthier, and there is a certain chance that a wrongly detected marker shows a hidden token to the enemy. When that happens the game has to be restarted and the token role info cardboard stand-ups have to be taken out and reassigned again. After the preparation, the game progresses more smoothly, but one still sometimes has to adjust unrecognized markers and wait for markers lagging behind so that the level/health etc. information does not get exposed to the enemy.

In the digital version, players are more distanced as they are not playing directly on the same playing field, but ease of preparation and play might make this version much preferable. It was therefore the hypothesis that in this game, the digital version will be preferred.



The Duel Game had 6 testers. As expected, the touch-only version is preferred when it comes to ease of use and players feel slightly more in control. Despite players not showing strong tendencies about which version to play again, the goal of the hybrid version was reached: Players feel closer to each other because they play on the same field and see each other moving the tokens. One player in particular remarked that he felt that he was playing against the computer in the digital touch-only version, saying that his opponent is “right over there”, but he is still watching the screen instead of talking to him. In general, it seemed like more personal interactions were happening between the players in the hybrid version.


In general, the differences between the games are rather small, but they are not surprising. The hybrid version in the Spaceship Game provided a bigger improvement over the touch-only version than the Finger-Flicking Game, and the Duel game had more control problems in the hybrid version, but also brings the players closer together.

The differences between the hybrid versions and the touch-only versions are not very strong though, and individual testers preferred games on either side with just the average tending slightly towards the hybrid side.

Possible Future Evaluations

There is another thing to take away from the tests: Which future evaluations could be made. More information on the following list can be found in the thesis.

  • Multiple iterations between evaluations to reach “ideal” hybrid/touch-only prototypes.
  • Long-term tests instead of short “first impression” tests.
  • Play tests in a non-laboratory setting, for example an installation.
  • Tests between hybrid and physical-only board game versions.
  • Tests with certain groups of people.


In the end, I couldn’t demonstrate a strong player preference for physical elements in tabletop hybrid games, despite trying to give these elements meaningful gameplay character. There is a slight average preference to the hybrid versions, but it seems to come down to individual player preference.

Considering that hybrid games are harder to produce and have high and costly hardware requirements, touch-only versions might be preferable in most contexts – except maybe certain cases like permanent installations or museums where you only have a one-time cost.

It was rather hard to find advantages for the physical side that a) work with a touch table, b) cannot be simulated by touch-only and c) improve gameplay. Digital advantages on the other side were very easy to find.

It might be more promising to look at hybrid games away from the 2D interface of a touch table – games that are played in 3 dimensions, be it a stacking/building game or pervasive games where people use their own body and their environment, but also smartphones and other sensors. In games like these, a purely digital version should be a wholly different experience – unlike the prototypes presented here, where a touch-only version was believed to be inferior, but still easily creatable and comparable.

I imagine a game where a good portion of the game takes place in the physical world, but that uses the touch table as an interface to another part of the game, could also be interesting to play. In such a game, for example, cards could be obtained in a fully physical card game and be placed on the touch table to trigger effects there. The ease of handling cards in the real world could be a good argument for the making the game a physical/digital hybrid (instead of fully digital) if the interface is done correctly.

Another approach could be to concentrate even more on the physical-tactile aspect, for example by making a game that does not use visual output at all, but takes physical input and creates auditory and possibly tactile (vibrations, movement) output. Here, the screen of the table would not be used, only its recognition capabilities.

Libraries/Assets Used

The prototypes/videos use assets by:

Libraries used:

…but first invite a friend or two. It’s dangerous to go alone!

The rating period is slowly but surely nearing its end, and I thought it cannot hurt to write a postmortem for the game I made three weeks ago. I wish I would’ve promoted the game more (it’s my first online multiplayer game after all!) and I wish I could’ve played more games, but my master’s thesis was jealous and demanded I spent more time with it. That being said, I have a free minute now, so here goes nothing!


Three weeks ago, when I was still young and inexperienced, I thought that “Connected Worlds” lends itself perfectly well to making an online multiplayer game. (Nevermind that I never did one before, haha.) That being said, there are some obvious design problems that I needed to solve – and that ultimately led to the current design:

  • LD rating is 3 weeks, and people likely won’t play all at once. To tackle that, the game should a) be able to be finished single-player too.
  • Even if people are online at the same time, they probably won’t arrive at the same time – and likely don’t want to wait either. For that reason, I made the game drop-in/drop-out: The first player to join starts a new session that ends when the last player leaves or the game is won/lost. Any player that arrives in the meantime just spawns next to the torch. (I briefly entertained the idea of one permanent session, but I wouldn’t want to do the level design for THAT, phew. Also I highly doubted that players would come back often enough for that to be interesting.)
  • Synchronisation is hard. So, uh, nothing twitchy. More slowly. With tiles to walk on.
  • Synchronisation might not work correctly. I have no idea what I’m doing after all. So, better do a co-op game and nobody gets pissed that the enemy had an advantage.

Okay, so a scalable drop-in/drop-out co-op online multiplayer game. This is basically what I spent my complete first day on, and I had no idea what I actually wanted to do gameplay-wise yet. I implemented a chat though: Just text that appears on top of player’s heads.

After a good night’s sleep, I arrived at the idea spawning from the Olympic torch relay: A flame had to be transported from A to B – in this case between two kingdoms. Slowly everything clicked together: It was dark, hence the flame is important. If you drop it, it’s not protected anymore and slowly dies down, and you have to drop it sometimes because it’s heavy as hell. And there are multiple obstacles that you have to dig through or build across. You can do it alone if you react fast, but it’s stressful always to drop the flame, dig/build a little, pick it up again, transport it, drop it etc. – it’s much better with friends helping you! So yeah, here we go – a game that you can play alone or with “any” number of friends.


The game is made in Unity and with the SDK from (and hosted by) Yahoo Game Networks. Free hosting for up to 5000 daily users? Yes please.

There is a server, but it doesn’t do much – it mainly keeps track of the users, items on the floor and already dug-out rocks so that it can inform new players. It also distributes events. The only thing that it is really authoritative about is when an item is spawned, picked up or dropped to avoid item duplication.

On the client side, you are the only player that moves directly – and you send messages to the server how you move. Because movement is between tiles, those messages are few, and they will arrive in roughly the same interval in which they are send, so on the other screens you move the same way, just with a delay. Each player object has an event queue – move, dig, build bridge etc – that will be executed in that order with the appropriate delays, so it’s no problem if messages arrive to quickly either.

Making the server mostly non-authoritative and using that message queue system is what helped me be able to finish the game in such a short time, I think.

What didn’t go so well?

  • No sound effects. I wish I had some, but I finished the level itself in last second, and well – that was a bit more important, I guess.
  • Nobody invites their friends to play. I wish I knew why. It’s super easy – just share a link – but many people commented that they had to play alone. I suppose they do have friends, right? Maybe even game developer friends?

Apart from that, I’m actually largely content! Sure, there’s not that much gameplay, but it’s fun – and sure, the graphics could be better, but hey! 48 hours and first time online multiplayer! I’m certainly not complaining. Which leads me to…

What went well?

  • Online Multiplayer in 48 hours, that’s what!
  • The whole thing is surprisingly stable, if sometimes a little laggy. I would’ve expected to have more problems with an online multiplayer game.
  • Development wasn’t as hard as expected. I was always a bit wary of networked multiplayer in any form, but it turns out that it wasn’t that bad to always have a server and often two windows running. Might be because it was only 48 hours and a small-scoped project with no necessary security though.
  • The Drop-in/Drop-out is cool. And it also has the side effect of allowing people to spectate games. Apropos drop-in/drop-out…
  • The game is a lot of fun with streamers! Allowing for a variable number of players that can join anytime, and streamers having an audience already made for great fun a lot of time.
  • The chat is refreshingly different. Having text appear on top of the heads is cool, but seeing it being typed live is surprisingly even more fun!


  • Trust in the process. Seriously, don’t worry if your design is not complete yet. I didn’t have any core gameplay ideas until 12 hours before the end and I still finished with something. Just work towards that goal until then.
  • Keep a ToDo list. Workflowy is superb for that. Helps me stay on course and motivated.
  • Keep your design simple and modular. Especially if you do something big technology-wise that you haven’t attempted before. If you finish early, you can still add more features! I would’ve loved to have enemies and defending each other, or wind zones where you have to keep the flame safe, and… but time ran out, and the current state is very playable.
  • Test early. I started testing long before I had actual gameplay. I guess networked games are special in that regard though.

In Conclusion…

…I’m quite happy with the result, and I’m seriously considering doing a game with online components for next LD too. So much inspiring online stuff this LD, damn! And maybe I’ll even get a chance to gather more networked multiplayer experience by then, but knowing me, I won’t and I’ll just dive right in. Wouldn’t have it any other way, really.

Do you have any questions? Feel free to ask them in the comments or on Twitter!

And maybe you have a free minute or two and want to try my game? (And maybe ask a friend to join you! Friends are pretty cool.)

Thanks for reading! I'm done here, goodbye.

Thanks for reading! I’m done here, goodbye.

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.

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.


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!)



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!

(You might also be interested in the second prototype version of this: Robots Love To Do People Things.)

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 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…