DOGFORCE: Seasons

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Have you played DOGFORCE yet? It’s a free game I made about being a dog and running around a park doing dog things. It’s cute and fun and you can wee on things. Chris Priestman included DOGFORCE in a cool writeup on games about animals. I enjoyed making it so much that I’ve decided to create a few updates for it – I’m going to package them all up into DOGFORCE: Seasons, a three-part series of updates that will be released as a paid-for game and updated seasonally between now and next Spring. I’m looking for a musician!

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Currently Running Processes

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Hello there! I’m currently working on a game called Currently Running Processes. It won’t be called that for much longer, but it’s based on a jam game of the same name that I made earlier this year for the Cyberpunk Jam. You can play the original game here.

Currently Running Processes (CRP) is a game about hacking things in slow-motion. You play a decker, a futuristic hacker who can hack into any network node in the city. Press a button to bring up your deck, and you can type the name of anything to hack into it. Shatter windows, steal data, tear through Corpsec and get out alive.

The original CRP was very much an endless runner – the pressure was constantly on to keep moving between buildings, taking what you could grab and then leaping to the next. I’m hoping this new version will have more opportunity to risk your life to steal bigger rewards, and maybe introduce some more puzzle-like elements into the mix, or at the very least give players the opportunity to think about decisions more often.

I’ll be posting more about the game once I’ve gotten further with reimplementing the original jam version. Keep an eye on this site and my Twitter for more details!

 

Project Update

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It’s been a while since I left any development updates on the blog, so I thought I’d write a quick post to go over what’s been happening on various projects, and where they all are. They’re all still ongoing, but I’m moving between them as I hit roadblocks or as one becomes more comfortable than the other. Here’s the skinny:  Continue reading

A Page From The Book

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Last time I talked about how I want to make a game (called The Book of Tales) which tells tiny, simple narratives that the player can help write. This time I’d like to actually go into how I see that happening – even if it might change a lot by the time the game is done. Lots of people were interested in the blog post I wrote, and I want to throw some words down here so I don’t lead people on for too long and then disappoint them. Hopefully you’ll still be interested after reading this post! If not – let me know why, and bear in mind that I’ll be changing this a whole lot while it develops.

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#cyberpunkjam

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I’m making a game for Devi Ever‘s #cyberpunkjam this week (and a bit of next). The game’s working title is Currently Running Processes. CRP is a 2D action game in which you hack your way across the rooftops of a cyberpunk city, evading corporation security and stealing data. Hack a guard’s gun to blow it up in his face and send him hurtling through a glass window, while you shut down the cameras in the next building to make your escape. I’ve had a great response from people on Twitter, and if I can actually find the time this week I’m really looking forward to working on it.

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New Games – [placeholder] and NetHook

In the last couple of months I’ve made two “complete” games, both in game jams. One is called [placeholder] and was made for Ludum Dare 26 which happened this April, with the theme of ‘Minimalism’. Like all good Ludum Dare themes I thought I would never possibly have an idea for it, then came up with one halfway through Day One and decided to go for it. I can’t put many hours into a Ludum Dare, the timeframe just doesn’t agree with me, so I tried something as condensed and small-scale as possible. The result was [placeholder] – an abstract puzzle game inside an abstract puzzle game.

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A Rogue Dream & The Web

My 7-Day Roguelike experiment, A Rogue Dream, is now on Github, such as it is. It’s not quite playable yet, but hopefully some of the ideas behind it might be of interest to developers. So the code’s online with a brief description of how it works, in case anyone wants to fiddle, and this post will give an overview of the premise and the most famous original bit of tech behind it – generating game content from the web.

The original idea for the game came from musing about a roguelike which changed its theme as you played it. Initially I didn’t think this would have a mechanical effect, I just thought it would be a fun exercise in procedural content generation, if you could suddenly convert a fantasy theme into a cowboy theme, and work out analogues for items, monsters, etc. I was going to set the game in a virtual reality world gone haywire. This would slot in nicely to my development of Spritely (coming soon!) which is a tool for generating sprites from the web.

As I thought about this idea more, though, I had other ideas. In particular, I remembered Tony Veal’s 2012 paper about making metaphors, which you can read online here (it’s quite fun). Tony noticed that if you put an unfinished question into Google, you can mine answers from autocomplete. If you were to ask, say, why do doctors

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You get observations about doctors – so you can infer that they wear something called scrubs and say stat and do something called prescribing steroids. I was absolutely bowled over by this cute trick when I first saw it, but until now I’d not thought about how games could use it. A Rogue Dream does just that. The player enters a noun at the start of the game, and we try and autogenerate abilities, items and enemies for that noun, which the player takes control of. All of the screenshots are showing automatically generated sprites and abilities/items.

I add in some filters which are hand-made (something I shy away from for the work on ANGELINA but that fits perfectly here). For instance, after searching for why do <noun>s… if we see the word ‘hate’ we take the remainder of the autocomplete to be the description of an enemy. So cats get the enemy water, and cows get the enemy red. We do similar things for items (weareat) and even goals (likeloveeat). Anything not fitting the filters (including negative filters that remove things like references to ‘you’) is considered to be an ability. Journalists get the ability Plagiarise. Men get the ability Cheat On Women.

Herein lies the problem – and the strength – of the technique. It’s highly unpredictable even with my basic filters on. You don’t get facts, you get observations, which includes racial stereotypes and common misconceptions. But that can also lend a lot of weight to the results. One roguelike player observed that the game’s concept is a little bit like playing the Internet in game form, which I like a lot.

I want to keep using techniques like this, perhaps finding more focused or reliable ways to do so. It’s such an elegant and cheap way of getting fresh, contemporary knowledge from the internet without using databases or libraries of knowledge. You solve the common sense knowledge problem like any human would – you Google for it.

In terms of lessons learned, I wouldn’t have dreamed of entering Ludum Dare to make a platformer without having made platformers before. For some reason I thought I could enter 7DRL without having made a roguelike before. I’m glad I did, because it was a last minute thing and I got a prototype running, but next year I need preparation beforehand. Looking forward to it.