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!)

 

A few weeks ago I visited the A MAZE./Berlin Festival. Apart from showing Catcher and talking to lots of other indie devs, I also visited the #weirdkids workshop on digital improvisation and made a weird glitch art thing with the base projects they gave us. Proudly presenting:

press c to cat

press c to cat screenshot

press c to cat
press d to dance
press f to frenzy!

(If you have epilepsy, don’t click on the following links!)

Start it right in your browser!

Download for
Windows / Linux / OS/X

press e to exhibit

When Fernando and Christoffer told me to give them a build after the workshop, I thought it would be shown in a presentation for a few seconds. Instead, I later found out that it was shown in the cellar exhibition. So cool!

press c to cat at the cellar exhibition!

press c to cat at the cellar exhibition!

A cute little explaination sign

A cute little explaination sign

press c to cat wasn’t made for long exhibitions at all though – the cats spawned automatically, but never despawned! So soon, it looked like this, with no cats recognizable anymore, haha.

Despawn? Ha! Nope.

Despawn? Ha! Nope.

press r to react

When I entered the exhibition space, there were lots of people sitting in a circle in front of the exhibits – and it turns out they all had wondered about this strange cat game that seemingly contained no cats, only glitchy geometry. I restarted it – and finally they saw the cat and went “Ooooh”, haha. It was awesome!

After the festival, I got some reviews on Twitter too:

Casual catting was epic!!- Ida Marie Toft

great stuff. i couldn’t stop catting…- Sabine Harrer

hold f for fanfiction!

Also, lying next to the monitor, I found the BEST THING EVER – a short fanfiction!

Fanfiction!

Fanfiction!

Responsible for this lovely work of poetry are Titouan Millet, Max Cahill and Michal Marcinkowski. The first piece of fanfiction I ever received! Thanks a lot, guys!

hold c to credit

  • Idea and messing with stuff: Tobias Wehrum
  • Music: Moritz Ufer
  • Aaaall of the other assets (and a lot of the code) is from the weirdkids workshop!

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!

Last month, a friend asked me to help out a group of his students at the School for Games who were missing a programmer for their student project. Charming art and not that much work for me, who could say no? And now, a month later, I proudly present to you…

Logo

Teens are attacking the old man’s home,
but a hero knows how to defend himself
even if he is already in pension!

Shoot lawn gnomes, flowerpots and wheelchairs
out of your trusty cannon and show those
whippersnappers how to respect one’s elders!

Play it right here in your browser!

Later on, there’ll be versions for Android/iPhone.

Credits

Team:

  • Cihan Ceyhan: Lead, Game Designer, Web Designer
  • Philipp Kapp: Game Designer
  • Sibylle Hell: Art Director, Animator
  • Dennis Dabergotz: Game Artist, Animator
  • Tobias Wehrum: Programmer

With assets by:

Special thanks to:

  • Norbert Haacks and the S4G team

A week ago, we had our February Mini Game Jam. One of the themes was “local multiplayer”, which perfectly fit the idea that I already had before arriving at the jam: Cutting up some anaglyph glasses to make red/red and cyan/cyan glasses and then make a multiplayer game where each player can only see half of the content.

Shoot all monsters of your color. Don’t let them touch you.
Your friend does the same.

Easy enough so far? Good.
Because you’ll also wear glasses in your color,
which means you can’t see your enemies at all!

A cooperative game about focus, teamwork, communication and fast reflexes –
for two players with red/red and cyan/cyan glasses and XBox360 controllers.

Play in your browser with the Unity Webplayer!
Download it for Windows!

Also, have some videos about how it works:

So – how does it work?

…surprisingly well! No really. But if you really don’t want to watch the first video, here’s how:

The yellow player fights the yellow monsters – he can’t interact with blue at all.

He wears red/red glasses though, and can’t see yellow at all…

…but if the blue player points his beam at one of the yellow monsters, the beam is BEHIND the monster, so it looks like this:

And now the yellow players knows where the monster is and can shoot it! All that remains now is good communication between the players and fast reflexes.

If you want to see it in action, you can watch this video.

The red/red and cyan/cyan glasses worked surprisingly well in extinguishing every single trace of yellow and cyan respectively, even in a projected image! (And in case you’re wondering, red images didn’t work, there were still faint ghost images.)

I really like how the game plays out. It’s interesting to see how people grow increasingly accustomed to playing it. Most start not talking at all and die a lot. Others focus solely on identifying the monsters for their partner and then die because they didn’t shoot their own enemies. Then, slowly, they start talking to each other: “There’s a monster here!”, “One there.”, “Move left! Left! Okay, you got it.” And later on some well-rehearsed teams start playing silently again for the most part, quickly finding the enemies their partner is pointing at.

I might visit the colored glasses mechanics again at a later jam.

Credits

For every month of 2013, I’ve released (at least!) one game – except December. Luckily, there’s still a few minutes left, so I present to you my digital web/desktop/Android adaptation of a board game we once made at my university!

Aubjects

Your job is to locate six mysterious Aubjects on a foreign planet – via triangulation.
To make it more exciting, you decided to have a contest!

Enclose exactly one Aubject to score.
For every additional enemy probe you get one bonus point.

Become the Master Triangulator in:
Aubjects, a game of skill for two players.

Play it right in your browser!

Download it for:
Windows
Android

Credits:

This game is based on a board game made at the HTW Berlin, designed by:

  • Tobias Müller
  • Anthea Neums
  • Nathanael Siering
  • Tobias Wehrum
  • Florian Wokurka

Another month, another jam, another crazy physics game. In the beginning, this one was inspired by the awesome Drei, but it quickly steered away from that and became something… uh, else. I dunno.

Balls & Balloons

You control two balloons attached to a paddle.

Use it to get balls in your colored bottle!

Or you could just remove the ones your enemy has…

(You’ll need two XBox360 controllers.)

Play in your browser!

Download for Windows!

Credits:

  • Programming: Tobias Wehrum
  • Music: Kevin MacLeod
  • Font: Ben McGehee

webcat

For a university course, I was tasked to make a thing with JavaScript/Crafty. Since I am not particularly fond of HTML5, I wanted to do something playful that I couldn’t do with any other technology. Welcome with me: webcat.

webcat


webcat

1) Take this link up there and drag it to the bookmark bar or favourites.

2) Go to some other page (Wikipedia works well, for example).

3) Click on the bookmark/favourite “webcat” link!

There isn’t anything to do but running around and double-jumping, but hey, now you can add a cat to any webpage you want!

Credits:

Last jam, I started something I called “Remote Person Control“. This jam, I refined what I had back then:

  • The Player holds a tablet with a soundboard, showing buttons like “Left”, “Right” or “Grab”.
  • The Robot is blindfolded and has a smart phone with headphones – and when the player presses a button, the robot hears what he pressed.

It’s still no game, but a VERY fun toy! I recorded three videos to show what the current prototype can do:

For those interested, here is the complete soundboard:

And here are the voice samples for you to listen to! I love the last one.

Inspiration

While I like to think that I came up with the idea myself, I obviously had inspirations. Here are those I can remember:

  • Signal Delay by ChrisGaudino: A Ludum Dare prototype about remotely controlling a mars rover.
  • Octodad by Young Horses, Inc: Octodad – Loving Father. Caring Husband. Secret Octopus. A game where you pretend to be a human by doing mundane tasks, but being an octopus with an incredible awkward control scheme makes this quite hard and incredibly funny.

Credits

Thanks a lot to our artist and the robots in the videos! Our sandwich-making robot is Adam “PunyOne” Streck. If he isn’t making sandwiches, he’s making games – you can find some of them at http://justaconcept.org!