Category Archives: Blog

A Year of Games and Fonts

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

Districts

Districts

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.

Chequered Ink Page

DoodlesInSpace

Doodles In Space

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.

Chequered Ink Page

BeTheChange

Be The Change

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.

Chequered Ink Page

SuperPlushFestival

Super Plush Festival

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.

Chequered Ink Page

WillO Revisited

WillO Revisited

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”.

Chequered Ink Page

Ballooning Over The Ocean

Ballooning Over The Ocean

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.

Free Download

Guessy Trove

Guessy Trove

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!

Chequered Ink Page

Flore Ibrida

Flore Ibrida

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.

Chequered Ink Page

Spellacle

Spellacle

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.

Chequered Ink Page

Store Room Inc.

Store Room Inc.

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.

Chequered Ink Page

TMOBH

The Mystery of Bockston House

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?”

Chequered Ink Page

Maddening Euphoria

Maddening Euphoria

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.

Chequered Ink Page

Eggsmas Jump

Eggsmas Jump

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.

Chequered Ink Page

Thysanura

Thysanura

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!

Chequered Ink Page

Fonts By Me

This list is identical to the 2017 section of my Fonts By Me page, but I thought I’d repost it here as part of my 2017 debrief.

Diary of an 8-bit mage

Typist's Pseudonym

Nuernberg Messe

Not The Middle East

Not The Far East

Hannover Messe

CQ Full Stretch

Ode to Idle Gaming

Messe Muenchen

Saint Knick Knack

Xmas Sweater Stitch

Inky Thin Pixels

Swore Games

Weymouth Ribbon

Spoopy Ghost Pixels

Racetrack Stencil

Messe Duesseldorf

Leipziger Messe

Filthy Bassline

Edgy Marker

Stuttgart Messe

Frankfurt Messe

Der neue Spargel

Somerset Barnyard

Blackletter Buffoonery

Some Kinda Madness

Old School Adventures

Köln Messe-Deutz

Crudely Calculated

Modest Felt

Chunky Felt

Bristol and Bath

Thickedy Grunge

Thickedy Quick

Sketchit Means Sketchit

Chubby Thumbs

Thinly Handled

GE2017 First Reactions

GE2017Ok, so my first reaction was raucous laughter but that’s not actually helpful. I was honestly expecting to wake up to a Conservative landslide so you can forgive me for indulging in a good chuckle. Here’s a quick first assessment of the things we now know about this election:

  • Theresa May called this vanity election purely for her own selfish gains and has wasted our time and money and actually destabilised this country’s position in Brexit negotiations. Her own supporters should be fuming.
  • Never take the public for granted. The 20-point lead the Conservatives enjoyed in the polls has been squandered to a lead of just 2 points since the election was called. You cannot run a campaign based entirely on unfounded smears and expect the public to back you, we’re fed up with it.
  • This election was all about May vs. Corbyn and the minority parties (Greens & UKIP) have been crushed as a result. The Greens deserved to make gains, at least in Bristol West, where they threw the kitchen sink at it. But many green-leaning people (myself included) wanted to throw their weight behind Labour to stop a Tory landslide. We’ll survive, UKIP won’t.
  • The SNP were always going to get fewer seats than last time (56/59 is unsustainable) but they took a massive unexpected blow in this election losing 21 seats. However, 35 out of 59 is still a landslide by most standards and in many of the seats snatched by the Tories the combined left-wing vote would have defeated them. The Conservatives can absolutely not take Scotland for granted.
  • The polls have been all over the place in this election, but Survation called it with three separate polls predicting a ~1 point lead in the last week. Well done you guys. If we can ever trust polls again, the pollsters are going to have to start reading the mood of the nation properly instead of lumping people into lazy, ill-defined groups.
  • Labour absolutely must back proportional representation. They got 40% of the vote, and 40% of the seats, which is quite amazing for FPTP voting. However the Conservatives, have 48% of the seats on 42% of the vote. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but the likely outcome is now a CON-DUP coalition, which would have been numerically impossible if the seats were fairly distributed.

    At the time of writing the total seats are as follows:
    CON 315, LAB 261, SNP 35, LD 12, DUP 10, SF 7, PC 4, GRN 1

    when under Party-list PR or AMS the results could be:
    CON 276 (-39), LAB 261 (-), SNP 20 (-15), LD 47 (+35), DUP 6 (-4), SF 5 (-2), PC 3 (-1), GRN 10 (+9), UKIP 12 (+12), SDLP 2 (+2), UUP 2 (+2), OTH 6 (+6).

    It doesn’t take a maths whiz to figure out that under PR we’d be seeing either a minority-right wing or minority-left wing government with confidence and supply from the Liberal Democrats.

    To anyone who hates the idea of disorder that may sound like a nightmare, but it’s better for democracy if parties have to reach a compromise to push their agenda through parliament. One of the reasons we British are so fed up with politics is that we have yo-yo governments who lurch from left to right forcing a hardened agenda on a population that doesn’t fully support it.

  • Even with a possible right-wing, hard Brexit coalition of the Conservatives and the DUP, Theresa May is now extremely unlikely to be able to force through her most unpopular and damaging policies. Unless there is an election re-run, you can hopefully kiss goodbye to a free vote on the return of fox hunting, draconian internet regulation and repeal of our fundamental human rights.
  • In Kingswood, our hard work paid off a little but not enough (I was backing Labour rather than the Greens this time around). Sadly Mhairi Threlfall couldn’t take away Chris Skidmore’s seat, but we did boost Labour’s vote share and I’d like to think we helped the Labour surge at a national level.
  • Finally, I know Labour hasn’t exactly won this election, but it feels like a victory for the left after two years of non-stop smears from the press. Some of the coverage of Labour and Jeremy Corbyn has bordered on incitement to hatred and I take great pleasure in seeing the stranglehold of the tabloids slowly weakening. Also, huge belly-laughs to all those right-wing blowhards swaggering about saying “Labour and the left are finished forever”. Mate, we’ve only just started.

Full results / election coverage on the BBC.

It’s time for change, vote for a compassionate UK

Five PartiesGoing into this snap election we have seven years of proof that Conservative Party policy has made Britain a worse place to live. We have all the facts and all the figures we need to know that spending cuts aren’t working. We need to invest in Britain.

Since 2010, homelessness is up, child poverty is up, foodbank use has gone through the roof. Disabled people, young people, poor people have all been hit hard by massive cuts to their benefits. Real-terms wages in the UK are lagging behind most other developed economies. Front-line police numbers have been cut by around 20,000 – so have armed forces personnel. The NHS is in crisis and fire departments are struggling. Libraries, youth clubs and sure start centers are having to close down because councils can’t afford to keep them open. All this and the national debt is twice as high as it was seven years ago, standing at £1.8 trillion.

By almost any standard you might choose to measure the success of a country, we are failing. Britain is a proud, tolerant and compassionate country. We help those who are down on their luck and we expect them to help us back. We’re facing a choice on June 8th between a Conservative government who have failed, on their own terms, to pay down this country’s debt without harming the British people, and a Labour party who, although they may be unpopular, are committed to delivering a fairer society for everyone.

Don’t get drawn into the politics of personality on June 8th, vote for a fair and compassionate United Kingdom. It’s time for change.

Don’t slide to the right, cha cha real smooth

Warning: article has nothing to do with novelty hip-hop from the late 90s.

The number of think-pieces floating around saying that Labour (and other liberal or left-leaning parties) should get tough on immigration is getting a bit silly. They all seem to be missing something important.

Despite their intricate policy differences, Labour, the Lib Dems, the Greens, Plaid Cymru and the SNP all share a common attachment to liberal values. They don’t see immigration as the main threat to British society, which it isn’t, and they don’t want to abandon their principles in pursuit of socially conservative voters, which is commendable.

The latest polls suggest that these 5 parties combined are sitting on about 45% of the popular vote. Now I’m not daft, I know that’s not a “winning” score, but it’s a massive chunk of the population who clearly have liberal values. To abandon this solid voter-base in the hopes of scooping up a few floating voters would show incredible strategic ineptitude.

Trying to out-UKIP UKIP or out-Tory the Tories is never going to work. Why would significant numbers of UKIP and Tory voters defect to UKIP-lite or Tory-lite when they can have the real deal? And, in the process, you stand to lose liberal voters for whom anti-immigration rhetoric is a red-line issue.

There is a decent chunk of the population who have no fixed ideology and can be persuaded to vote for pretty much any party as long as they are offered genuine solutions to their problems. There is still a massive chunk of the population who do not vote at all. If there is a path to electoral victory, to turning 45% in the opinion polls into more than 50% in a general election, it surely lies with the non-voters and the great undecided. We need to find messages, and maybe even activities, that engage and inspire those voters – and keep our principles in tact at the same time.

So please, if you’re a journalist with an article in your drafts titled “the left must get tough on immigration”, have a good think about the consequences and maybe just move it quietly to the recycle bin.