Tag: Global Game Jam

Robo Radio: a Global Game Jam 2018 game

This weekend, I participated in Global Game Jam 2018. The theme was Transmission. I worked with my Cleveland Game Developers pals Bobby Lauer and Ian Faleer on this little game:

Robo Radio title screen

Robo Radio is a game for two players. Requires 2 gamepad controllers (XBox 360 controllers tested).

Controlling radio-controlled robots, you battle your opponent with lasers and bombs. The controls are deliberately laggy, as the instructions to your robot have to be transmitted from your radio tower to your robot, and this takes some time. Also be aware that your radio tower’s signals can control the opponent’s robot if they get between your robot and your transmitter.

First player to die 3 times loses.

Robo Radio gameplay

Programmed in GameMaker Studio 1.4, built for Windows.

Global Game Jam 2016: Pug Pug’s Bathtime Ritual

Global Game Jam 2016 has concluded. I completed my project this year, and I’m pretty pleased with it.


The theme for Global Game this year was “ritual”. I didn’t have an immediate idea what to do for my game, but after about 20 minutes I decided to do a game about a Pug’s bath time, which I called Pug-pug’s Bathtime Ritual. It is pretty common knowledge that I like pugs, which made this project especially fun.

Taking inspiration from this video:

I decided to make a simple minigame about knocking down bottles. I had some ideas for other minigames that I could link together, but there wasn’t time to do more than one. I worked at a relaxed pace, didn’t stress or overwork myself over the weekend, and completed the project about an hour before the 3pm submission deadline. It’s not terribly challenging, but it’s cute.

There’s a playable HTML5 build and a Windows build, along with full source, as well.


What I love and hate about game jams

This weekend was the weekend of Global Game Jam 2015. All over the planet, more than 10,000 participants got to try their hand at making a game in 48 hours, on the theme “What do we do now?”

I thought about the theme, and tried to imagine a situation that would lead someone to say, “What do we do now?” and the first think that came to mind was being stranded. Quickly, I envisioned a space ship that encounters a systems failure while in transit, and becomes disabled in deep space, with the crew left to figure out what to do to get things back working again. (more…)

Global Game Jam 2015 Warmup

On 1/23/2015, Global Game Jam weekend will be kicking off. I will be working at the Cleveland Game Developers site at the LaunchHouse in Shaker, OH.

This Saturday, 1/17, I will be leading a Pre-Jam Warmup session to give our participants opportunity to limber up their creative and technical skills. It’s a good idea, and fun. The goal is to build confidence and ensure readiness for the big Jam coming up the next week.

If you want to do your own version of this wherever you are, here’s what we’ll be doing for our warmup sprints:



  1. Launch your tools and make sure they still work.
  2. Check for updates, download and install any (if you wish).
  3. Test to your satisfaction that your stuff is working (write a “hello world” and prove it’s all working properly.)
  4. Create/Verify you can log into your GGJ account, any other accounts you may wish to use during GGJ15 (Trello, GitHub, DropBox, itch.io, newgrounds, kongregate, etc.) If you’re new to any of these, you’ll want to take time during the week leading up to the Jam to familiarize yourself with them.
  5. Create a checklist of things to bring to the Jam, and get everything together ahead of time
    1. Computer
    2. Verify you can connect to wifi at your jam site
    3. Create/verify you can log into any web accounts you plan to use during the Jam
      1. globalgamejam.org – be sure to join to your local site
      2. dropbox.com
      3. trello.com
      4. github
      5. itch.io
      6. kongregate
      7. newgrounds
      8. Make sure your team members can access any shared resources or services too!
    4. Power cables, extension cords, surge bars
    5. Peripherals
      1. headphones
      2. gamepad controller
      3. mouse
      4. 2nd monitor
      5. image scanner
      6. musical devices
      7. ???
    6. Human comfort
      1. Food/drink
      2. Pillow/sleeping bag/blanket
      3. ???

We’ll run this one up to an hour, but as soon as everyone’s done, we’ll proceed to the next sprint. If you’re downloading something huge and it’ll take longer than an hour, try to complete this before 1/23/15.

01: Development exercise: Asteroids

Asteroids is a simple action game. If you’ve never heard of Asteroids, google it and watch a youtube video or two, and you’ll get the idea in a few seconds. You’ll understand it faster than I can explain it in words.

Your job is to see how much of it you can build in an hour. You can make your own interpretation of the game, or try to slavishly re-create the original in every detail, it’s up to you. Work independently or as a team (if you have a team). We’re all in this together, so if you run into trouble, ask the room and someone will chime in with advice.

If you finish early, polish for the remainder of the hour, innovate a new feature, or whatever.

At the end of the hour, we’ll take a little time to show off our work and talk about what went well/what could have gone better.

02: Development exercise: Simple 2D platform engine

Take 1 hr to Work up a simple, 2D platform engine from scratch.

You don’t have to spend any time on animating sprites unless that’s something you *want* to focus on as a graphics contributor; square and rectangle programmer art representing the hitbox of your game objects are perfectly fine.

You decide how you want it to work in detail, and implement it however you like. The goal shouldn’t be to try to complete all of these features in an hour, but to choose a few of them and make a solid, well-crafted engine out of them — quickly.

You can design your own requirements, or use the following checklist of features and pick which ones you wish to support in your engine:

  1. solid platform
  2. jump-through platform
  3. destructible platform
  4. movable platform (player can pick up or push)
  5. gravity
  6. walking
  7. running
  8. shooting
  9. jumping
  10. wall walking
  11. ceiling walking
  12. double jump
  13. wall jump
  14. player health/death
  15. static enemy (spikes)
  16. moving enemy
  17. scrolling/camera
  18. moving platforms : any or all of horizontal, vertical, swinging, circle
  19. ladders
  20. pickup item (coin, power-up, etc.)
  21. door (how the door works is completely up to you.)

After an hour of development, we’ll spend an hour on demo and code review so we can learn from each other’s work. The code review is not meant to be exhaustive, but to show off highlights in technique if you found a cool way to do something, or to ask for ideas for how to do something better that you struggled with.

03 – Free for all

If we still have energy and want to keep going, we can come up with more ideas for sprints and ad lib it as we go. Maybe a graphics-oriented sprint, or sound effects engineering session, or a concept/design session where you have to brainstorm a pitch to a randomly chosen theme. We can quickly discuss and vote on it as a group.

XX – Wrap-up:

By now, even those of use who have never met or attended the meetup before will know each other a little bit, and will have worked together. Now’s a good time to talk to each other and find out if you have the right mix of talent and interest to maybe team up next week. This can go on as long as it needs to.

Global Game Jam 2014 postmortem

The Global Game Jam 2014 site doesn’t seem to have a blog capability this year, or if it does I’m stupid and can’t find where I can blog about my progress. So I wrote this entry as the weekend unfolded.

The theme this year was: “We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are.”

Interesting theme! I like it. A good idea came to mind almost immediately. I thought about a world that changes as the player changes. By picking up items, the player’s attributes change, and as the player’s attributes change, the world’s attributes change as well.

Then the idea came to me to have the player change by looking into mirrors that reflect a distorted view of the player. The more the player looks at the distorted reflection, the more they come to look like the reflection, giving them new powers… but, the world changes to match.


Global Game Jam 2014

This weekend is Global Game Jam 2014 weekend. I’ll be participating at the Cleveland Game Developers site.

I’m a bit anxious about this one. 2013 was a pretty poor year for me in terms of weekend jams. I got sick for GGJ2013, had computer problems that knocked me out of CGD Summer Jam, and out of the 3 Ludum Dare compos that I tried to participate in, I only managed to complete a game for one of them. Adding to my anxiety is the fact that I have no plans apart from showing up. I’m hoping that I will find a team to work with, but whether that happens or end up going solo, I think my approach will be to focus on something small and simple, rather than go for something experimental.

I’m hoping to turn things around for 2014, so I really want to make a decent game for GGJ this time. I hope that the theme inspires me and that I don’t struggle too much with it. I’ll be spending the rest of this week doing coding exercises to get my mind ready.

GAME.Minder Expo 2013

Last Saturday, I attended and spoke at GAME.Minder Expo, held at Shaker LaunchHouse. after taking ill in January and missing the 2013 Global Game Jam, this was a great day to jump back into the Game Dev scene.

It was a relatively small event, but still probably the biggest local game dev event that I’ve been involved with to date. Organized by Handelabra to promote their studio’s mobile gaming efforts and the GAME.Minder podcast, and local area game developers in Ohio. Turnout was almost 40% higher than expected, with the official attendee count at 136. The Keynote talk was presented by Ian Schreiber, a co-founder of the Global Game Jam.

A bunch of us CGD people had dinner with Ian and his wife, and he said that we are getting big. It has been wonderful to see the local independent game developers organizing and building up our community and create a scene, and to be a part of making that happen.

Members of the Cleveland Game Developers meetup were well represented. I gave a brief talk on GameMaker, Jarryd Huntley talked about Construct2, while Brian Gessler and Justin Demetroff delivered a talk on Unity3D. Ian Faleer and Stephanie Frankiewicz gave a talk on the Art of the Game. And the folks from HashTag Nerd had a booth set up. There were a few other presenters as well. Videos are still being uploaded, but a number of them are already available on GAME.Minder’s Youtube channel.

The evening event was a screening of the Kickstarter-funded documentary Minecraft: The Story of Mojang. The movie was excellent and inspiring.

Game Jam 101 Lightning Talks

This Saturday, I’ll be at a Cleveland Game Devs meetup, where we will be giving lightning talks in preparation for the upcoming Global Game Jam happening later this month. I’ll be giving two talks, one on setting goals, and one on keeping the momentum. Following are my notes for the talks.

Game Jammer Goals

How to decide what to shoot for in your next weekend sprint.

A weekend is not a lot of time to make a game! To get the most out of your weekend, you need preparation and mental discipline. Having goals will help you focus and get the most out of your jam weekend.

So what should your goals be?

Have you made a game before, ever?


Your goal should be to make a game! Easy as that.

Really, though, it is best if you have at least some game making experience before you try to fly solo. Do look for a team to join, and see what you can offer them. Focus on delivering a skill from your repertoire of strengths, and integrating well with the team. If you can get anything back from the team, hopefully it will be insights into skill areas where you are lacking, techniques that you can apply in those areas, or exposure to new tools that you can start to learn.

Yes… but never in such a short time!

If you have never made a game in a weekend before, likewise your goal can be to complete a game. It can be done, as proven by thousands of people. Before jams became popular, most people thought it took months or years to complete a game project. We know now that this simply isn’t so, and the amount of work that can be accomplished in a weekend can be incredible. Still, like running a marathon, it’s hard to believe until you’ve done it yourself.

It feels really good to have this accomplishment under your belt, so if you haven’t completed a Game Jam, this should be the only goal for you.

Even if you don’t make it this time, but still want to keep trying, then focus on learning what you can from the experience. If you weren’t able to complete the game you wanted to make, why was that? Did you lose track of time? Did you plan for more than you could possibly deliver? Did you struggle to implement something that you felt you could do, due to inexperience or pressure? If you couldn’t figure something out in the weekend, don’t give up – keep working on it after the jam until you figure it out. That way, at the next jam, you won’t be stopped by that failure again.

Don’t be afraid to fail, but try to fail early, and always fail at something new.

Yes! I’m a Jam veteran!

Then you can make a few more choices… completing the game may not necessarily be the most important thing once you’ve proven that you can do it. Be willing to take greater risks.

Once you’ve proven to yourself that you can do it, if you enjoyed the experience enough to want to repeat it, you should keep going on to bigger and better things. Participate in as many Jams as you can find time for, and make it a goal to do more with each new game, always improving on your last effort.

Where should you focus your goals?

This is a personal choice, and it depends a lot on where you’re at, where you want to go, and what your strengths and weaknesses are. Here’s a few areas to consider.

Learning/Experimentation. It’s only a weekend. If you fail, it’s no big deal. You only lose a tiny amount of time, and you can learn so much. So take risks. Try something you haven’t done before. Make your focus learning and experimentation.

Be willing to accept a failed concept, incomplete game, or failure to complete a submission. Ideally, you still want to make a game so you can show off what you learned and receive feedback on it, but it’s less important to have a good game than it is to learn from the experiment. If you want to have the best chance of having a finished game by deadline, limit your experimentation to one thing only. For everything else, stick with what you know.

I don’t recommend picking up a new tool to experiment with. Rather, do something different using a tool you know well. To complete a game in a weekend, you just don’t have time to learn a brand new tool that you’ve never used before. Using new (to you) tools won’t get much you recognition, but new game design concepts often do, even if they are not successes.

Still, if you really want to try a new tool, it can give you a taste of the tool, enough to give you a sense of whether it’s something you want to devote time to mastering.

Ideas for domains to experiment/learn with:

  1. Graphics
  2. Sound effects
  3. Music
  4. Controls
  5. Game mechanics
  6. Genre
  7. Setting
  8. Mood
  9. Story
  10. AI
  11. Level design
  12. Randomness
  13. Procedurally generated content
  14. Physics
  15. Particle systems
  16. Network
  17. Multiplayer

Each of the above is still quite broad – don’t be afraid to get much more specific when coming up with your ideas for experimentation. But do decide on the specifics late – once the theme is announced, and you are starting to come up with concepts for your game is a good time to narrow down the specifics of how you will experiment with in a domain.

Teaming. Step up and be a leader. Try to organize a team.

Or just be on a team. A team needs more than just leaders.

The thing a team needs most is do-ers, without ego, who can communicate. Never forget this.

Leadership does not mean making decisions for the group; it means helping the group to come to agreements about the decisions it makes together.

Community. When I say “community,” primarily I’m thinking of all the participants in the jam who are not part of your immediate team. This could be other groups at your location, or they could be other groups anywhere in the world.

The jam is when everyone comes together to make something and show off and share with each other. This is the best time to make new friends (or grow existing friendships), and get to know the community. Play and review games made by other groups – make note of who created them, and follow their projects. Make it a point to get to know the people and learn about them. Follow them on twitter, visit their web site, and learn about their other projects. Who knows, they may live nearby! Drop them a line and let them know you like their work.

The essence to community is giving. The community is indifferent to most of its members, but it recognizes their greatest contributions. To stand out, give the most. Exchange your knowledge and skill – be willing to sacrifice a little dev accomplishment for a little knowledge spreading. Make a game so you can get feedback from the other jammers. Give feed back on the creations of others. Write tutorials. Build and share your own tools.

Winning. If you’re a true pro, and your team is functioning like a well-oiled machine, this is what you should go for. Make the best game you possibly can in the time allotted. Go for it, try to win! Learn how the event is judged, and try to do well in those areas where you feel strongest. Focus on your strengths, or if you’re working with a team, let each team member focus on their strengths, once all areas of project have coverage. Your experimentation should be minimal – stick with what you know you can do well, and know will work. It’s all about coming up with a good design quickly and executing.

Take a balanced approach. Try to do a little bit of everything. After all, it’s pretty hard to complete a game without doing a little bit of everything. But still put an emphasis on one area or another.

For me, I try to take a balanced approach. I stick with what I know well for about 70-80% of the project, but try to make learning something new an important goal on top of simply finishing a game. I don’t care about “winning” the jam, but I want to do better than my last jam. I also try to be involved in the community in order to get inspiration from what other developers are doing, and to build reputation as a designer/programmer.

Be Flexible. The weekend will surprise you. Be adaptable to the surprises, because they offer you opportunities. The best things about a weekend jam are the things that you couldn’t have predicted beforehand. Don’t set out on a mission to complete a rigid list of goals, but have a number of potential goals in mind, and be willing to drop one in favor of another if the right opportunity comes along. If you try something and see quickly that it’s not going to work, or that you wouldn’t be able to finish it by deadline, it’s OK to drop the idea and go with something else.

Weekend goals vs. Long term goals

A very good use of your time in a game jam will be to incorporate your longer term goals when choosing your goals for the weekend. Successful people tend to set long term goals and work toward them by taking many small steps.

Use the SMART criteria:


  • Specific: Don’t be vague. Focus on a specific goal. If it is too general, you will rationalize and bargain with yourself that the goal has been met, rather than focus and work harder to achieve the goal. You can still be flexible with your goals while being specific, but if the situation dictates changing goals, try to change from a specific goal to another specific goal.I want to complete a game in the next 48 hours is pretty specific already. If you can, though, go further – I want to complete a game that incorporates teleportation. Or, Complete a game that uses the mouse for controls. Or, Complete a game that causes fear by imparting a sense of helplessness and sudden, surprise danger. You get the idea.
  • Measurable: If you can’t measure it, then you don’t know how well you did. Pick things that you can measure. This gives you something to aim for, and lets you re-calibrate as needed.Game design is hard to measure. How do you quantify fun? Still, there are things that are quantifiable. My goal is to rate 256 games for the compo. Or My goal is to place in the top 25% of entrants in the category of [x]. Or Create sprite animations for 8 different poses in the next 2 hours.But don’t try to make your goals based on arbitrary numbers. Try to pick numbers that are meaningful. It’s better to have a smaller number of well-done features than a larger number of weak features. What’s better, a game with 10 boring levels, or 1 really great one?Often, the easiest way to measure may be simple binary: either you achieved it or you didn’t.
  • Achievable: Don’t set yourself up for failure by picking something that you can’t hope to accomplish. You should have an idea of what you’re capabilities are. It’s fine to challenge yourself, but don’t set the goals unrealistically high. If you don’t have any clue at all how you’ll achieve a goal, step back and set a more realistic goal that you can achieve, which gets you closer to achieving the too-hard goal.
  • Relevant: Don’t pursue extraneous goals. Focus on what is most relevant to your larger goals.In a weekend jam, there’s just not a lot of time to waste. Focus on the essential features of the game you want to make. Don’t waste time on extraneous things.
  • Time-Based: Give yourself a reasonable window of time to achieve the goal. Assess yourself at that time and decide what to do next. But also check yourself before then to see if you’re on track.During a Jam, time is constrained as it is. You know you have 48 or 72 hours to build a game. I encourage you to subdivide this time and assess periodically where the project is at, and decide whether to drop or modify features in order to make the submission deadline.


Game Jamming 365

How to keep the momentum

  1. Be obsessive. Think about game development all the time. According to the Bureau of Unverifiable Statistics, men think about sex on average every six seconds. As a game developer, you should think about game development even more than this.
  2. Be persistent. Don’t give up. If you can’t figure something out, show off what you have been able to figure out and ask people for help.
  3. Set small goals. Pick small projects. Do things that are within your capability to complete quickly. Do simple, mini projects that aren’t full-blown games, but are good development exercises, or that can be useful reusable components in a game.
  4. Make time. At a minimum, set aside one night a week to be your time to devote solely to your projects. Arrange your calendar so that you can do this. Work over this minimum any time you can.
  5. Fill every possible moment. When you get into your project, you won’t want to stop. Find ways to put time in on your project. Carry a notebook around with you to draw and write up your ideas. Write yourself notes whenever you have a few seconds – at the bus stop, on the train, waiting for an appointment, in the elevator.
  6. Get back on track. Life will always intrude and take you out of “the Zone.” When that happens, figure out how to get back on track as quickly as possible. Deal with the distraction effectively and efficiently, and go back to development. If it’s a true life priority that’s calling you, then give it the attention it deserves, and resume your game projects when you can.
  7. See the Game in everyday life. Look around you, everywhere there are systems that could be seen as games. Teach yourself to recognize these patterns and then apply them in your projects. Art imitates life. Make up games about brushing your teeth, or walking your dog.
  8. Take a break. When you get exhausted, when you get stuck, when you’re not feeling it, when you’re wanting inspiration. Step back and give yourself time to recharge. Work on something else. Just relax. Meditate or exercise. Watch a movie. Hug someone you like.
  9. Play. Play games. Follow your favorite developers’ new releases. Return to your old favorites. Visit them with a fresh eye, think about what makes them successful.
  10. Release. Put your work out there for people to see. Give them easy ways to provide feedback to you. Use achievement statistics to collect data on how players play your game. Analyze the data to figure out how to make better games.

ASCIIboros – new attract mode screen

I want ASCIIboros to feel like an authentic old-school arcade game from what I consider to be the golden age, 1978-1984. I feel like this feels about like 1981 or so. Maybe 1983, since I don’t know too many games from 1981 that had scrolling playfields.

Crucial to the arcade game was its Attract Mode, the mode the machine would be in when not being played, designed to attract people’s attention and get them interested in playing, and develop an understanding of the game. Here’s a new screen I developed to help re-create this feeling:

This video just shows the new screen; the title screen and text screen with the “story” aren’t shown here. I haven’t uploaded this version of the game just yet, as the gameplay is identical to the release version that I submitted for Global Game Jam.