I started a sequel to Crystal Towers in 2007, not really intending it to grow as big as it eventually did. The simple platform game mechanics of the original were transposed into a hub-based world, with multiple routes and bosses, Zelda-style ability gathering and even a synthesis side quest being added along the way.
It took four years to finish, which it shouldn't really have done if I'd planned it a bit better - nevertheless, thanks in no small part to the efforts and enthusiasm of the multiple friends I got to go playtest it, it was finally released in June 2011, to my lasting relief.
It's easily my biggest game ever, with the full edition taking people about 40 hours to play through to 100%. Both that and a cut-down free edition are available on the game's site.
Hatoful Boyfriend is a game that really defies description - certainly if you want to avoid sounding completely insane in the process. On the surface it's a visual novel about going to a school full of pigeons, but it manages to raise the bar on lunacy from there multiple times before you reach the end.
I'm now part of a group of friends who have been doing a voiceover playthrough for it, and this miniature tribute game was born from a script written by Xaq. Writing a Shadowgate-alike was an interesting challenge, written about at great length here.
Shortly after replaying Terry Cavanagh's VVVVVV one evening, I put together a prototype of a gravity-switching platform game - one where you had four possible directions for gravity instead of just two. It took me a while to decide where I was going with it, but after some encouragement to put it on the iPhone and use its gravity detection properties, it gradually turned into a complete game.
To separate it from its inspiration, I wanted it to be more of a puzzle game than a platformer, with the challenge being based around getting quickly and efficiently through the levels, just by relying on one ability that you're forced to use in more and more ways over the course of the game. Your only form of control in this game is changing the direction of gravity, and you have to use this well to guide the perpetually running stickman through the increasingly dangerous graph-paper levels.
The full game ($0.99 on the App Store) has seventy levels, and there's also a free version with fifteen further unique ones. On top of that, the free edition also has a Flash version which you can play on the game's site.
The second Professor Layton game finishes off with a collection of absolutely sadistic puzzles, one of which involves sliding awkwardly-shaped pieces around a board to reach a goal square. Being the sort of person that I am, after I gave up on solving it myself, I wrote a solver to do it for me instead of looking up the solution on Google.
It was a few months later before I realized that in that solver, I had the perfect tool to create my own horrifically frustrating sliding puzzles - with no regard for difficulty curve, I threw them into the game as long as a computer could prove that they were physically possible. I wish you a happy time tearing your hair out.
After a Commodore 64 book that I'd recently re-bought got me into something of an 80s mood, I battered this Flash puzzle/observation thing out in MMF after taking the concept from a game that I was doing for another site. I wanted it to be a bit... crazier and take itself less seriously than some of my other games, striving for a mood that was something like the random shareware games that I was fed on while growing up.
The aim is simple, as described in the story - deactivate the bombs by finding the buttons that don't have duplicates anywhere else - but the field you have to search through gets gradually larger throughout the game. Hopefully it's the kind of thing that you can use to distract yourself for lunch, then to forget that lunchtime ended an hour ago. What I'm interested in is whether this sort of anti-pairs game is something that anybody's done before - it's such a simple idea that I feel that they must have, but I can't name anything myself (though perhaps you could argue that it's just a variant on the hidden-object click-em-up genre).
I'm also aware that this game's title starts with "Special Agent", further cementing the theory that I only have three game titles that I'm going to be using for the rest of time.
This was a quick game that I put together during the testing of the MMF2 Flash runtime, to try out various maths, collision, control and online aspects.
Hold the mouse button anywhere on the screen to thrust in the direction of the cursor - the amount you move is dependent on the distance from the cursor to the ship as well as the angle. I've tried to coach other testers into going slowly at first and building up to higher speeds later on, but as it turns out I'm apparently the only person on earth who's able to control it, here's some video evidence that it's possible to move around smoothly.
Jason Jupiter was one of the first games that I can remember playing - it came from the coverdisk of a 1989 issue of PC Plus, the IT magazine that my dad used to buy. It's been on the family Amstrad (now under the desk in my former bedroom at my parents' house, still working without a replacement part since the mid-80s) ever since.
After a while away from game making, I remembered about the game, realized it was nowhere to be found on the Internet, and tried out MMF's Java export to make it an online applet (imitating the original game's ASCII characters graphically). You can also download the original game from the applet page - it will run under DOSBox.
From the original README file:
Jason Jupiter has been called in on the deadly mission of decontaminating the planet Shufti-Arquar III by the Galactic Federation. The fragments of radioactove borxidium naturally form the shape of a golden heart when open to the air.
Unfortunately Jason couldn't get to the planet quick enough to stop some of the creatures on Shufti-Arquar III becoming terribly mutated and ferocious. The main offender is called the Glutanous-Green-Groted-Gronge. This wasn't the most friendly creature in the first place, but now its too ferocious to describe. (By the way don't let its name deceive you, it's Purple). Another mutation that will cause Jason a problem is a plant called the Horrible-Herbaceous-Headeating-Honkhider. One touch from this and it gets the taste of your flesh.
This translates into getting all the hearts on the screen and then touching the E. Use O and P to move left and right, and hold down Q and a direction to jump.
Special Agent is a retro-styled platform game developed in about six months during 2006. It was inspired by Apogee Software's classic Secret Agent, and continues the platform/puzzle elements of the original, adding more varied missions and a set of online high scores so that you can compete with other players (over 10,000 game results have been uploaded!) It was the first time that I worked with someone else on a game - most of the graphics were drawn by J Freude.
Special Agent Robert has been sent to Mullet Island, somewhere in an undisclosed remote location, where the Society for the Development of Diabolical Schemes (SDDS) are setting up a base. Sabotaging their buildings will stop their efforts to introduce AOL-speak to the Oxford English Dictionary, manufacture Prawn Cocktail crisps, or give Jeremy Beadle another TV programme, among other world-threatening plans. There are fourteen standard levels and two secret ones, each with a variety of game modes.
I wrote Castle of ZZT in 2006 just after moving to America, on an ancient and senile laptop while waiting for a new computer to be delivered. ZZT was just about the only thing that it could reliably run, so I spent most of my waking hours hammering it out from rough ideas that I'd drawn on a sheet of paper (still the greatest amount of design documentation I've ever done for a ZZT game) and it was completed in what I would guess was about two weeks.
It's the biggest ZZT game that I've ever made, with a total of 68 boards compared to the other two classic-styled ZZT games that I made earlier, it shows just how much you can put your mind to something due to the power of boredom.
You'll need the ZZT executable to run the game - see Z2, the premier site for ZZT (and an unmatched hive of lunacy) to get it.
Treasure Tower started off an an experiment just after I'd completed the first Crystal Towers, seeing if I could make a platform game that was strung together from a randomly-picked batch of levels - this post was made during the initial stages of the game's development. Eventually it grew into a full game with about ten different game modes in two hundred challenge rooms - the main enemy of the game is time, which has to be kept replenished by finding food scattered around the rooms of the tower.
The game took a lot of inspiration from Knightmare - at first the timer was going to be the iconic skull life force sequence, but it ended up taking too long to load a video and wind to a position in it. The clock was thought up as a replacement, and I really like how it turned out.
This seems to have been my most popular game so far - perhaps because it's quicker to play and less involved than some of the other main projects. Perhaps it's more an infamy gained through its frantically irritating nature and my decision to score the game entirely with Scott Joplin ragtime pieces (which some people enjoyed but probably led to a greater number of keyboards through monitors than was strictly necessary).
I wrote this Java application for my final project at the University of St Andrews, where I graduated in 2006 - there's always something of an unspoken competition among the year to come up with the silliest legitimate acronym. This one's own abbrevation stands for Solitaire Specification, Simulation and Solution System - the aim of the project was to create something that could solve games of various Solitaire variants as fed to it through an XML specification markup.
And it sort of worked. It's not the best Solitaire solver in the world or anything, using quite an inefficient general method a lot of the time. The source is included in the ZIP so that you can look at how it does everything - it's looking slightly dodgy these days but it allowed me to graduate!
You'll need Java to run it (I'd specify JSE 1.4.2 or greater, but who doesn't have that now?) - just start it up with "run.bat" and it'll sort itself out. Also included are the acres of reports and user guides that I included with my submission, which should help you make some sense of it.
When you're writing a game on your own it's easy to get too ambitious for your own good - you can have a vision for a massive complete game but quickly fall short or give up entirely as you lose interest in it. I'd always wanted to make a platform game of decent length along the lines of the original Sonic or something, but never had the staying power to complete one - Crystal Towers was a big step in size of project for me.
The game stars Bernard, the night watch man at the Column Temple who wakes up from his usual nap to find that the Life Crystals he's been guarding have been stolen. The journey to retrieve them goes across a branching path through ten worlds of two levels each, and there's a choice of four difficulty levels (which people have since told me would better be called "Hard" and going up to "Impossible").
This game took a year to complete and was the first one that I made mostly in Multimedia Fusion, as opposed to just using it to compile Games Factory games. Bernard's sprite and some other backgrounds were drawn by my brother, and I did the rest of the graphics and music. It was also the first time that I'd attempted a custom movement, which looks fairly buggy looking back on it, but it did its job.
I think that one of the pieces of feedback I loved the most came from this game - someone emailed me to say how much his daughter loved the sound effect when you fall off the bottom of the screen, and wanted him to play "the little blue guy game" whenever he was on the computer!
This was the last game that I made with The Games Factory, which was the precursor to MMF. It does pretty much what you'd expect of it - it's a Breakout game with added flying saucer enemies that float down from the top of the screen to harrass you.
The game itself is fairly standard, but the most noted feature of it was probably the way that levels were stored in an external text file (which looks rather cumbersome these days) and read into the game, rather than all being stuffed into one EXE like most Games Factory games. So that means new levels can be created in a text editor, should you want to try.