I’ve only recently got around to reading A Brief History of Time, and it is quite possibly the most interesting and awe-inspiring book I’ve read to date. Stephen Hawking was not only a fantastic scientist, with a thirst for knowledge that will trickle down through the ages, but also a kind-hearted political activist and generally brilliant human being. Rest in Peace, Stephen Hawking.
This year has been absolutely manic. As a sort of New Year’s Resolution in January I challenged myself to create at least one game per month for Chequered Ink. I achieved this and more by creating 12 games of my own for CI, helping NAL a little with a 13th, and even creating my own personal entry for a GMC Jam. On top of all the frantic game development I also designed 34 fonts, created a few design assets and had time to squeeze in a couple of holidays.
The last 12 months have flown by and I’ve learned a thing or two. First and foremost – I will never again challenge myself to create one game per month. I’m proud of every single game we’ve released this year over at Chequered Ink but the reality is more than half of them were cobbled together quickly to meet my self-imposed deadlines and have performed poorly in terms of revenue and attention – understandable when you take a look at something like “spellacle“. Secondly, fonts can be fun and they’re a great little earner. I mostly used to leave that side of the business up to NAL, and he still makes the vast majority of our fonts, but I’ve caught the fontographer’s itch and I have only NAL to thank for that!
Next year my plan is to spend a lot more time making fonts in the foreground while working on bigger, better game projects in the background. The first of those will be GameDevDan vs Life, which has added significantly to my gamedev workload this year above and beyond my target of one game per month. Hopefully it will be fit for release in Q1 of 2018 and I can move onto something new, big and exciting!
Thank you to everyone who has supported me and NAL at Chequered Ink throughout the course of this year. I hope you’ll enjoy all the things we bring you in 2018. For now, here’s an itemised list of this year’s achievements:
Chequered Ink’s Games Showreel 2017
Games By Me
Released: January 30th Platforms: Android, iOS, Windows, HTML5 Originally NAL’s idea, Districts showcases the dirty practice of gerrymandering in politics. I’m always happy to combine several of my hobbies into one and this was a fantastic opporunity to bring gaming and politics together. More than that, Districts functions perfectly well as a standalone puzzle game for people with no interest in politics whatsoever. It’s a win-win! We even got a little pat on the back from the Electoral Reform Society and Make Votes Matter for our trouble.
Released: February 20th Platforms: Android, Windows Around the start of February I got this idea in my head that it would be fun to create a whole game using only hand-drawn graphics. I traced most of the graphics a few times over – with intentional inaccuracies – to achieve the wobbly/scribbly effect. I like how it turned out, even though it’s not particularly popular.
Released: March 7th Platforms: Windows This game was created for #ResistJam, the game jam about resisting the rise of authoritarianism around the world in 2016-2017. The game comes off a little more passive-aggressive than I had intended. I didn’t want to shoulder the blame onto people actively opposing authoritarianism – I am one of them – but I think the central message is still a strong one. The people voting for these abrupt and dangerous changes aren’t all bad. In many cases they’re just people who’ve been left behind by the system we all live in. That’s why the game focuses on doing good deeds in your community.
Released: April 7th Platforms: Android, iOS I get a little bit sad when I reflect on this one. SPF is, without doubt, my proudest game dev achievement this year. It took the longest to make, features lovingly crafted graphics and is the first (and still only) Chequered Ink game to feature its own unique soundtrack (as opposed to creative commons music). It also makes use of achievements and leaderboards on Google Play, and the gameplay is, as far as I know, utterly unique: a match-three game with the controls of 2048. Despite all that, it’s been a total flop. In a crowded marketplace it’s just not quite “AAA” enough, not “polished” enough to break through the crowd. It’s sad, but there’ll always be a special place in my heart for it.
Released: May 23rd Platforms: Windows Originally created back in 2013 for the YoYo Games Win Big Competition, I dragged this one up from the depths for a quick revamp and re-released it with Chequered Ink as the publisher.
This version features gamepad controls and attempts to move the WillO series away from the “mouse avoider” genre and closer to “puzzle game”.
Released: May 29th Platforms: Windows Created for the new GMC Jam #4, where the theme was “Voyage”. I made it from start to finish only a few hours before the deadline and it came 21st out of 43 entries. The goal is to float your balloon across the ocean to a little island using a giant fan and giant wind-reflector things.
Released: June 30th Platforms: Android, Windows, HTML5 The “Trove” series of games over at Chequered Ink have always been a way for me to create games that are simple to understand, fun to play, and allow me to exercise my gamedev muscles without too much real thought. This game is no different. It’s a simple game of “higher or lower” with a pack of playing cards, but set in a retro treasure trove. What’s not to like? Fun fact:
For the part in the trailer where the deck is cleared I had to cheat and have the game write the order of the cards to an external log so I could “guess” them correctly – otherwise guessing 52 cards right in a row would be nigh-on impossible!
Released: July 27th Platforms: Windows In a change of pace from pretty much everything else I’ve released this year, Flore Ibrida sees the player taking control of a peaceful little garden. You can randomize, plant, breed and mutate flowers to attract different insects to your little piece of planet Earth. I’d always wanted to make a game where there was a shifting “genome” which determined the looks and behaviour of some kind of animal or plant. This isn’t a full realisation of that dream, but it’s a good start and a nice little time-waster.
Released: August 25th Platforms: Windows I don’t have much to say about this game other than: I was running out of time to meet my August deadline and needed to make something very quick and painless. The end result is… different, but not particularly fun. Chalk this one up as an artistic experiment.
Released: September 20th Platforms: HTML5 I found this game when I was browsing around for old project files to use in GameDevDan VS Life. It’s an updated version of Store Room which I was planning to release at some point but never got around to it (I can’t even remember why). Basically, you just dodge the falling boxes. Given that it was never actually released and was quite similar to the original (which is already in GDDvsLife) I decided to release it separately as a Chequered Ink title.
Released: October 27th Platforms: Android, iOS This murder mystery game is based on the first ever game I created for Android. The original was created using tables, yes TABLES, in HTML5 and ported to Android using PhoneGap and Eclipse. It was awful, but somehow still managed to rack up 19,000 downloads. When it came to developing GameDevDan vs Life, I wanted this game to make an appearance. But there was no way I was going to use the original – even if I hadn’t lost the source files. So instead I set about developing a brand new version of the game and it turned out to be one of the best things I’ve created all year. So good, in fact, that I thought “why not release it on Android and iOS as a separate game?”
Released: November 5th Platforms: Windows 99.99% of the work here is NAL’s, but every game we make is a team effort in one way or another. There is no way I could have made the other 13 games in this list without NAL’s support,
and I expect him to take credit for that (even though he never has), so I like to think it works both ways ;). That said I did actually provide direct input on this game in terms of QA and a little work on the Steam side of things. Heck, just play it, it’s pretty darn cool.
Released: November 20th Platforms: Android, iOS Keep the eggs in the air by drawing trampolines underneath them – that’s the entire premise of this game. It didn’t have to be a Christmas game, in fact it’s probably more suited to Easter, but it’s the game I felt like making at the time. Chequered Ink has existed for 3 Christmases now, and each time we’ve poured our hearts into a Christmas-specific game. Eggsmas Jump is this year’s entry.
Released: December 10th Platforms: Windows Finally we come to my last game of the year. The last in a marathon slog through the good, the bad and the very ugly: a top-down shooter called Thysanura. The name comes from a deprecated scientific term for the family of insects which includes Silverfish and Firebrats (which the player character is based on). To be completely honest, this one was a calculated move I made with one thing on my mind: Chequered Ink’s yearly games showreel (seen above). Many of our games this year have been slow-paced puzzlers and I wanted to finish with a bit of a bang. So I developed this neat little shooter with lots of flashy effects and screen shakes. Enjoy!
Progress is trundling along on GDD vs Life. The game launcher itself is now virtually complete and most of the work I have left to do is outside the launcher. This is because the launcher reads in all the information it needs from text files and launches the EXEs of the other games from an accompanying “Games” folder. This means any patches for specific games can be dealt with separately so that updates don’t take a million years to upload / download.
Launching a game in GameDevDan vs Life
One of the last things I have to do in the launcher is update the credits, but I’ll be doing that as I go along. For the most part the games were created & developed entirely by myself, but some games use creative commons music or graphics, or were created in partnerships during jams and stuff, so there will be a comprehensive credits screen in the launcher itself to make sure people get the recognition they deserve:
Finally on Friday we got the project set up on Steam Direct and uploaded a test build to make sure it all works fine – and it does (after a couple of hiccups). Hopefully once I’ve done some of the heavy lifting work on the older games in the pack we’ll be able to put up some kind of nifty “coming soon” store page and a teaser trailer, but I’ll focus on getting the actual work done first!
June has been a busy, busy time for me with a bit of electioneering, a holiday and lots of Chequered Ink stuff. As such I’ve had little time to work on GameDevDan vs Life but I’m getting back into it!
Below is my to-do list / spreadsheet which, as you can see, has a lot of red marks on it meaning I have lots to do. Yeah, don’t worry if you don’t understand it, I barely understand myself.
The key thing to note is that 5 of the games are complete or at least test-ready (so I’m still working on 45 of them and the launcher). The games which are ready are some of the newest, WillO: Revisited, Chickens and Moles (2013), Dewey Feed Grogg, Super Honeybees Cluster on Hornet and Wish That I Could Be Human.
I hope to get a few more test-ready within the next week, but for now you can keep up with my progress on Twitter!
Yesterday I announced my brand new project and games compilation GameDevDan vs Life. The pack will feature 50 of my past games from my career in game development so far. As pointed out by high school friend and former “Wormintheworks” teammate Botothy, the screenshot I shared featured a game that won’t be in the pack (cos it’s his lol). In fact, the current version of the launcher reads from a list of games many of which I either don’t have access to anymore or published for other developers, so for clarity here is the actual list of games which I expect feature in the pack upon release:
Antibody Blast 2
Antibody Blast 3
Antibody Blast: Go
Ballooning Over The Ocean
Brash Kangaroo: Portals*
Chickens and Moles 2012
Chickens and Moles 2013
Cosmos Origins: Delegates In Peril
Dan’s Narcissistic Adventure in Jam Land
Dewey Feed Grogg
Guitar Master II
Guitar Master III
Gyro Boss vs Life**
I have never
Jam Battle Shooting Gallery****
Just Pop Bubbles
Last One Standing: Paper Pumpkin Apocalypse
Last One Standing: Tiny Panda Barrage
Louise Payne: Criminal Damage
Maggot In a Frying Pan*****
Pharmer Phil’s Phlock
Potato Patch Propaganda
Ring Of Fire
Santa’s Christmas Defence
Super Honeybees Cluster on Hornet
The Mystery Of Bockston House
Tiny Pirate Captain
Wish that I could be human
*Wasn’t called this originally, it’s a re-brand of a fan game.
**An exclusive version of Gyro Boss just for this pack.
***Seeking permission/deal from the story-writer, though the game itself was made by me.
****Originally “YoYo House Jam Battle Shooting Gallery”, to be changed for obvious reasons.
*****Seeking permission/deal from Dadiomouse, will re-brand if needed.
******Has already featured in NAL is Alive.
It’s gonna be a long old haul to get all of them working smoothly on new PCs but I’m looking forward to delivering the finished article! Follow me on Twitter for more updates.