Tag: Cleveland Game Developers

Ingenuity Fest

This weekend is Ingenuity Fest in downtown Cleveland, held this year at North Coast Harbor. Cleveland Game Developers has a space, and we’re hanging out, demoing games and promoting our projects and talking about our craft. A number of our members brought tech demos and projects to show off.

One of the most fun games I’ve seen in some time, BaraBariBall, is on display here in our space. It is not, unfortunately, one of our creations, but it is a lot of fun. It’s a bit like Super Smash Bros., but simplified and with a graphical style reminiscent of the Atari 2600. I really like the graphical style. The animation is particularly well done. And the controls are superb. I never could get into Smash Bros. due to its overly complex controls. Any time I played it, all I could do is mash buttons and hope for the best. With BaraBariBall, the controls are greatly simplified, and this makes the game much more fun. It’s now more of a contest of reflexes and tactics, and less about memorizing and mastering strange controller contortions that unlock special moves.

I can’t wait for this to come out so I can buy it.

We also have JS Joust set up. Again, this isn’t something one of our group created, but it’s fun. It uses the PS3 ice cream cone controller and a Mac OS X computer.

Cleveland Game Developers Matt Perrin, Brian Gessler, and Jarryd Huntley have all brought in projects that they’re working on.

Matt Perrin whipped up an interesting project just for Ingenuity, which he calls Monster Sumo. You draw your own graphics on a sheet of paper, then take a photo with a camera phone and upload your monster to a server. Then you can do battle with another monster created by your opponent. I suggested that this would be a lot of fun to play with a Kinect interface, but for now it’s just controlled with a more traditional input device — I’m not sure if it’s keyboard, or gamepad, or possibly either.

Brian Gessler brought a prototype game that uses Kinect. He described it as kindof a reverse Breakout, where you’re trying to push the wall up and the computer is trying to break holes in it. It looked interesting but unfortunately the laptop he was running it on was having trouble playing it at full speed. Brian promised to do some performance optimization before bringing it back tomorrow.

Jarryd Huntley had a game rigged up to play on an Oscilloscope, in homage to Willie Higinbotham’s original ur-pong, Tennis for Two. Unfortunately, his oscilloscope died just before the festival, and he is trying to source a spare on short notice so he can demo the game.

LD48 24: Evolution. Karyote alpha

It’s not much at all yet, but I have an alpha build of my entry for Ludum Dare 24: Evolution up and running in HTML5.


It’s not really playable yet, at the moment I’m just working out some motion and object prototypes. Graphics are all placeholders. You’re always in the center. Move with the arrow keys. Left/Right turns, Up moves forward.

Somehow, I’m doing another game with a microorganism theme. LD#23 was Bactarium, LD#24 will be called Karyote. You control a single celled organism that mutates as you play.

I still need to figure out what exactly you’re doing in the game, but I have some ideas that I haven’t implemented yet, so I’m a little further along than it looks as far as the concept goes. I’m designing as I go, mainly this is design by fiddling around. That’s a dangerous way to go on any project, but when I don’t have much of an idea to begin with, I find it’s one of the most reliable ways of getting me going. Hopefully I’ve learned enough lessons from previous projects to avoid messing up the code architecture, so debugging and feature changes don’t turn into a nightmare toward deadline.

Ludum Dare 24 This Weekend

It wasn’t that long ago (late April, in fact) that I participated in my first Ludum Dare. I really enjoyed that experience, and am really looking forward to Ludum Dare 24 this weekend. I’ll be hanging out this weekend at our Cleveland Game Developers LD48 site, generously hosted at the Shaker Launch House space.

I plan to work solo, and entering my game into the compo, again, but one of these times I’d really like to get into a team and work on something as a group. For the weekend, I’ll be blogging on my page on the LD site, so be sure to check there and see how I’m doing.

I’m trying to think about my goals for the last LD48, and how I’ve grown since then and what my new goals should be.

LD 23 goals:

  1. Finish a solo project in 48 hours. Achievement unlocked!

LD 24 goals:

  1. Blog my progress as I go, self-documenting the development process. Last time I blogged a little bit, this time I want to take that further.
  2. Post playable builds as I go, not just at the very end. Last time I saw other people doing this, and I felt envious as they got feedback from people playing sneak-preview releases of their projects. I was super impressed that they managed to release something playable so quickly, but I have some ideas about how to accomplish that.
  3. Produce builds for Windows, OSX, and HTML5 to reach a wider audience. Last time, I was still using Game Maker 8.1 Professional for my project, which limited me to Windows. This time I’ll be using GM:Studio. This will be my first project targeting multiple platforms, so kindof a new thing.
  4. Use fellow CleGameDevs people for feedback and encouragement. We used IRC for this, and had our first night at a common space, which was good. I just want to do this more.
  5. Play and rate more entries. Last time I did play a lot of games during the rating period, and played even more after the rankings were posted.

Incorporating music into my game will probably remain a future goal, for now. I’ve experimented a little with FamiTracker, and may attempt to produce a little music for my game, but I still think becoming a chiptune artist is a far-away goal. I think music is a really important element of videogame design, but it’s probably better to have no music at all, rather than bad music. There are certain game themes which lend themselves to silence, so I can possibly use that, or I can make a game that has an overwhelming amount of sound effects in it, like my last LD48 entry. Or maybe I’ll get lucky and one of our musically talented CleGameDevs people will throw me some resources, and I’ll make it a Jam entry instead of a Compo entry.

Tonight and tomorrow I plan to go over my preparation checklist and make sure I am ready. Gotta make sure all my software is up to date and working properly.

ASCIIboros submission for Global Game Jam 2012

The “theme” for Global Game Jam this year was the Ouroboros, the mythical snake that eats its own tail in an infinite, recursive cycle of death and rebirth.

Ouroboros, the snake that eats its own tail

What a freakin’ cool theme that is. Seriously.

I ended up working solo on an idea that I had. My first thought was to make a platformer where you loop through a single level infinitely as you are chased by the “snake head” that eats the level behind you. Each time through the level, things you do in the last pass through cause some change so that the level, while still recognizable as itself, has gotten more difficult. Next, I thought that rather than make the level more difficult, it could be a puzzle that you’re stuck in until you do the right thing to escape, much like the later castle levels in the original Super Mario Bros.

I had never made a platformer before, but had enough experience in Game Maker that I felt confident I could pull something off. To facilitate rapid solo development, I embraced lo-fi graphics. They’re cheaper and easier to make, and without a team behind me I wouldn’t have much time to do more. My friend Steve Felix from the Cleveland Game Developers meetup stepped in and helped me by producing the run and jump animations, based on my original stick figure. Everything else in the game is all me.

The lo-fi look is a nice homage to the 8-bit era, and lends itself to thinking about low-level computing. You feel closer to the metal when you have fewer bits to make reality out of. This led me to my idea for the core mechanic of the game.

Binary and Source Download Here

Global Game Jam ASCIIboros project page


Notacon 9: A Game, Any Game

Notacon is an annual technology conference held in Cleveland, Ohio that I have been going to for the last few years. This year’s conference, Notacon 9 runs from April 12-15, 2012.

I spoke last year at Notacon 8, and enjoyed it so much that this year I’m putting together another presentation, a crash course in Game Maker, AND organizing an event for the weekend, called A Game, Any Game. A Game, Any Game will be a 72 hour sprint to develop a working video game.

I took a little inspiration from Ludum Dare and Global Game Jam, and a little from the fact that too many of the people I’ve met through the Cleveland Game Developers meetup still have not built a finished game. I want to give everyone who participates the opportunity to get past that milestone in a weekend, and feel that sense of accomplishment that makes you feel so good.

As its name implies, A Game, Any Game is intended to be very open-ended. We’re aiming to provide a venue and encouragement, and just enough structure to give participants the traction they need to create a game in under 72-hours. It is not a competition; the idea is simply to make a game, any game, and get it completed in the 72 hours we have during the conference. Participants are encouraged to use any and all tools that they have at their disposal to make their game, and if they have never done anything like it before, they’re invited to attend my talk, Game Maker Crash Course. People can choose to work on whatever ideas they feel like working on, but if they need some help brainstorming, I’m going to come up with something to help seed the clouds.

For me, it’s going to be really interesting to see how many participants we can attract, and how many finished games we can produce. This is the first time in a long time that I’ve tried to organize something like this, and I think the key to it being successful will be promoting the event effectively to get people interested in doing it, and then making their experience great.

I think I have more ideas on how to make the experience (hopefully) great than I do on how to promote. Aside from blogging about it here, tweeting my fingers off, and telling everyone I know, what else can I do? I’m asking anyone who’s reading this to spread the word. Tell anyone you know who might be interested about Notacon and the A Game, Any Game event. If you use Twitter, the hash tag #n9agame will be used for any business related to A Game, Any Game. You can follow my tweets as well @csanyk.

Hi Dan

I went to the Cleveland Videogame Developers meetup tonight. It ended up being a special meeting for me, because I got to meet Dan, who was one of the founders of the meetup, but hadn’t been to a meeting in about three years.

In talking to him, I learned that he also was instrumental in helping Mike Substelny set up Lorain County Community College’s Computer Game and Simulation Design department. It was in Mike Substelny’s class that I got my start with Game Maker, a year ago. Since then, I have started out my first game project, been invited to contribute technical review on an upcoming book on Game Maker, spoken about my experiences at the Notacon conference, and in doing so I’ve realized a 30-year childhood dream and become the person I’ve always wanted to be.

It’d be easy to say I did that all by myself, but really, if it weren’t for Dan, everything else I’ve done wouldn’t have amounted to anything. For everything else I did, and as much as I’ve always wanted to make videogames, it didn’t finally come together until I took that class last year. So, however indirectly, Dan’s partly responsible for me getting my legs under me and able to move forward.

After telling him about the things I’ve been up to, Dan told me that it sounded like we had a lot in common. We both aspired from a very early age to design and make video games, we both had taken a long path in life to becoming programmers, and we both have yet to complete and release our first game. That last part threw me for a loop, but it’s true. When I asked him what games he’s made, he said he had a couple of projects that he was working on, but hadn’t released anything yet. [It seems like everyone in Cleveland Game Devs says that! :( ] I just hope that I’m enough like him that some day I run into someone who, although I had no idea, I had some small yet significant part in their life turning out the way they’d hoped it would when they were six.

New Card Game: War: Battle Lines

Today I attended a Cleveland Game Developers Meetup where we did a workshop on rapid prototyping and playtesting. It was very successful and fun.

We workshopped the card game War. Standard War normally is not a terribly interesting card game, with rules that are deterministic, and therefore involve no skill or strategy, but it turned out to be a good starting point for the workshop. We broke up into two groups, each led by one of the organizers, and brainstormed ways to improve the basic game, then ran the game through several rounds of playtesting, tweaking rules and refining. In little under an hour, what we came up with was actually fun enough to share with the world.

There were five of us in our group: facilitator Sam Marcus, me, Steve, Nadja, and Melissa. Sam set up the exercise and we worked together to come up with the rules. Sam and I seemed to come up with most of the ideas, but everyone contributed to running playtest iterations and helped to make the game.

Here’s what we came up with:

War: Battle Lines

For two players.

War: Battle Lines starts from the concept of the card game War and makes it more interesting by introducing elements of choice and strategy.

Initial setup:

Deal the entire deck between the two players.

Variant: Symmetric Start. Rather than dealing out the cards randomly, player one gets all the red suits while player two gets all the black suits.


To start a hand, each player deals themselves the first four cards from the top of the deck, called Skirmishers, and lays them out on the table in front of them in a horizontal line, like they were dealing Three Card Monte. Two of the cards must be face up, while other two must be face down. Each player may look at their own down cards prior to the round starting, or at any time throughout play, but may only see the other player’s down cards once they become involved in a skirmish.

A fifth card, called The Initiative, is played face up. The two Initiative cards are contested, and the player winning the Initiative round gets to make the first play.

The player who wins Initiative picks any one of their cards and may choose to “attack” any of the other player’s cards. The cards involved in the skirmish are compared face up, and the higher of the two cards is the winner of the skirmish. The winner of the skirmish adds both cards to their victory pile.

If the result of a skirmish is a tie, a “battle” breaks out. Both players immediately “call up reinforcements” from their deck of un-dealt cards, and these cards are compared to each other to determine who wins. The winner of the battle takes all the cards and adds them to their victory pile.

Players alternate turns until all four skirmishes have been resolved to complete the hand.

The game continues, with additional hands of four cards plus one initiative card dealt, and the process is repeated until the deck is exhausted.

Once the deck has been exhausted, the game is over. The winner is the player who has the larger victory pile.

In a 52-card deck, each player will have 26 cards to start out, and therefore would play through 5 rounds with their four skirmishers plus initiative card, leaving one lone card at the end of the game. In the event that a Skirmish turns into a Battle at some point during the War, there may be other endgames possible, with 1-4 cards left over at the end.

How we handle the last card at the end of the game is open for variation. In the “standard” game the last card is simply played at the end as a normal skirmish or initiative round. If there are 2-4 cards left over, they may be played out as a regular five card hand, merely short-handed. This is an area of the game that merits further play-testing and experimentation.


  1. Deuces over Aces. We felt this made the game more interesting as it gave the 2s some value, and made the Ace less of a super-weapon. 2s still lose to everything else, and Aces still beat everything else.
  2. Low card wins Initiative. We experimented with this rule to see if it made the game more interesting by providing some advantage to holding low cards. It was inconclusive whether it made a meaningful difference to the game. I kindof liked the idea, but since the player has no control over what card they are playing for the Initiative, it seems not to make much difference. It might make some difference in a game where the deck is recycled rather than played through once.
  3. What’s up? Initially I had suggested that the players could determine how many, or whether to play any, of their battle line cards face up. My thinking was that this might lend some element of strategy to the play, and that players might want to show strength or hide it, or show weakness or hide it. We ended up opting for a more simplified mechanic of “even cards down, odd cards up” in the battle line. But I think there is still some potential for this to be tweaked into an interesting mechanic. Further study is warranted.
  4. Recycle the deck. In this longer-playing variant, rather than play through the deck one time, the players would recycle their victory pile back into play. Play would continue indefinitely until some victory condition is reached. The obvious victory condition would be one player holding all 52 cards. But that would take a long time to play out. There could be other victory conditions for this variant, such as holding all cards of a certain rank, such as Kings.
  5. Ace in the Hole. In this variant, each player retains one of their Aces as the last card in their deck. They may opt to play the ace at any time in the game to “turn the tide” of a Skirmish or Battle that they otherwise would have lost. If the other player still has their Ace in the Hole, they may counter and play it, creating a “tie the tide” situation which then results in the usual Battle resolution. In practice, this seemed to offer no additional depth to the game’s strategy.
  6. Jacks are Spies. We talked about, but did not play-test, giving a certain card rank the ability to “spy” by looking at an opposing player’s down-card without engaging it in a skirmish. How this would be worked out in practice remains to be workshopped.
  7. Flanking. To make play with low value cards more interesting, we talked about but did not play test giving players the option to combine two low-value cards in an attack against one of their opponent’s cards. The exact conditions to allow this and how to resolve outcomes were not determined. Further study is warranted.


A few interesting/notable strategies were observed during playtesting:

  1. If you have a low-value card and have initiative, it may be worth attacking a high value card of your opponent, to “waste” their high value card by sacrificing the low value card. This is especially true if your low-value card is showing, since your opponent knows it is a sure victory and will likely send one of their low-value cards against it to defeat it.

The Takeaway:

Here’s some of the things I got out of this exercise:

  1. There’s still a lot of life left in a deck of cards. It surprised me that playing cards are so adaptable that we can come up with novel and interesting game ideas without a huge amount of effort. Perhaps this shouldn’t surprise me so much, a deck of cards is simply a mathematical system, which can be manipulated in so many interesting ways. Still, if you think that the only games there are to play with a deck of cards have all been discovered already, think again.
  2. War isn’t such a bad game. It might not have a great deal of depth to it like Poker, Spades, or Gin. But with just a few minor tweaks we turned War into a game that was pretty fun to play. If it’s not that far off from being strategically interesting, it’s doing something right. War is also a great game for teaching very young card players how to play games with cards, and the value of this is not to be under-estimated; it’s OK for introductory games to be trivial or even deterministic.
  3. Rapid prototyping and workshopping is a lot of fun. The best thing to do is to play ideas out and see how they work, not to argue merits for doing something one way vs. another. Our group didn’t argue at all, we just threw out ideas and tried them out and then it was pretty evident to all whether they worked or not. We kept what worked, and kept tossing out ideas until we felt satisfied that the game was fun. Working with the group this way made things very fun and we progressed very quickly. I’ve been in groups where endlessly arguing just results in ego clashes and slows things down and makes the whole project not just lose its fun, but often lose its chances of being successful.
  4. Sam Marcus is a sharp, likable guy who’s good at talking and listening, has good ideas and a good sense of judgment, and is therefor extremely easy to work with. I really hope I get to work with him again on future projects.
  5. I’m particularly strong when it comes to game mechanics. I have an intuitive grasp of what will work and what won’t, and how a rule modification will affect the overall system. While it always is necessary to test ideas out, most of my ideas turned out to test well, and worked much as I expected they would.

Rosebud Games

Last night I hung out with the Cleveland Game Developers meetup group and had a good time just sitting around talking about what we want to get out of the group.

I love hanging out with people who have interests that I share, and who can talk about them at length. I really get a lot more creative ideas when I’m in an environment where I’m being stimulated by exposure to the ideas of others.

I had two really great ideas last night.

First, we were talking about the sort of games we want to make. I was 6 years old when we got an Atari 2600 for Christmas. It wasn’t long before I was “designing” my own game ideas. I’d take a big piece of paper and draw my concept for the game, and then I’d have my mom write down a description that I would dictate to her. So, ever since then, really, I’ve dreamed about being a videogame developer. There’s a box in a my parents attic somewhere that still has these papers.

So, for me, I think it would be very cool to dig those out and look at them and see if I can turn them into games. I coined a term, “Rosebud Games” to describe the concept. The term, of course, comes from Citizen Kane, and really, it’s the same concept: the thing I loved most as a child is what I want now as an adult more than anything. I think as far as motivating factors go, this has a lot of legs. Most of the ideas I had back the were very simple and shouldn’t be too hard to do as beginner/learner projects.

My other great idea was for a taxonomy project to classify videogames. I have a very clear idea of what I want this to be like, and it is going to be beyond awesome when you see everything that I plan to do with it. I don’t want to give away too much on it until I have something ready to show the world, but I think that this may end up being my big project for the summer.