Category Archives: Games

anything related to games and gaming


Interlocked is a puzzle game about removing interlocking puzzle pieces from an already built object.  The minute I ran across it over at GameSetWatch I had a sneaky suspicion I would like it because the game actually reminded me of a real wood block puzzle my mother showed to me when I was a child.  It was a perfectly round sphere made of wood puzzle pieces that were interlocking.  Your task was to put it together.  The key to putting it together was figuratively the same thing, two of the pieces formed a key that was inserted last.  This was also the “key” to taking it apart.  I think this is what it looked like…

In this digital version of the same puzzle, the task (or puzzle game element) is to take them apart.  Sometimes it’s fun, sometimes it’s frustrating as hell.  The control scheme is similar to that of a 3D editor for geometry, as you use the mouse to just look at the object by clicking and dragging around.  The way in which you interact with the object is by holding down the space bar, placing your cursor over the shape in question and clicking the mouse button again.  A little 3D widget appears and allows you to pick an axis to “constrain” or pull on.  The controls are as elegant as they could be for such a rudimentary and simple game, so I don’t have an issue with the interface design.  It’s actually quite slick.  I think the real problem revolves around the lack of a good tactile feedback system.

The Mouse and keyboard leave a bit of a bitter taste in your mouth about 4 or 5 puzzles in because you have no good way of feeling the loose ends of the puzzle (read: the player doesn’t understand why their tactic isn’t working and cannot “feel” their way through the solution).  I’ve seen many a haptic feedback system and all kinds of systems that incorporate gloves so those would be a good match for this.  Combine this with some Nintendo 3DS action and you have yourself a dandy little puzzle game!

So you want to be a Game Designer…

Just recently, a person I know expressed interest in being a game designer. They were curious about the steps I had taken and the things they could potentially do themselves to see if they would find the profession suitable to their liking. I immediately set to work on a very “condensed” list of steps this person (or any person) could potentially take to see if they enjoyed the game design process and to learn a little bit more about games and gaming in general. This list is not exhaustive, and is certainly not the only route one could take. Mind you, it’s been 5+ years plus for me in the trenches, not just learning but working professionally in the biz. Add another 1.5 to 3 years of school to that and you’ve got the equivalent of my experience. So be forewarned, the next paragraph or so is meant to be that amount time condensed into little more than a 30 minute conversation.

Steps to take to really get into game design (or to just pass the time ).

1. Read this book. No really, it’s worth everyone’s time, even those people who aren’t game designers or maybe even artists/engineers. For designers and working game development professionals, this is a must.
Game Design Workshop by Tracy Fullerton and Chris Swain – I think there is a newer version in print but both will work. There are lots more books on game design, I personally find this one to be a good starting point. I highly recommend picking up many more!

2. Now PLAY some games too, even ones you don’t like. Play all kinds of games, not just computer/video ones. Play board games, card games, yard games, social games, games that are ugly, games that are pretty, games you wouldn’t normally play. Helps for inspiration and being a better designer! Apply what you learned in the book. Pick out the formal elements, identify the players resources, etc.

3. Design a board game! This is harder than it sounds! Go through the book above and do some of the exercise’s; that will help with this. Get paper, pencils, cardboard, dice, anything you can find to accomplish this. Doesn’t have to be pretty, just has to work!

4. Play test your game! Get more than just a few people together to play your game you just made. Have written instructions for them, and try to take at least one opportunity to play with them and one opportunity to just observe. The most important element to successfully designing/making a game is observing the many different experiences that others have with your creation. After completing this, go back and make changes to your game and repeat the process.

5. If you’ve made it this far, it’s time to start using the computer! (no joke, the paper stuff comes first because its fast and easy to redo/tear apart. In theory you should design EVERYTHING on paper first, then make it on the computer). Grab the following program and start playing with making 2D sprite based games! Just about any computer should be able to run this. Do the tutorials first!

a. Game Maker 8
b. A good example using the above software is Hero Core

6. Game making is hard! Remember to keep things simple. Getting too detailed or focusing too much on one thing will hold you back. Try to make things quick and dirty so you can change them, update them later. Finding the “fun” is all about iteration and play testing with people other than yourself. But you should know that by now if you read the book above!

7. At this point you can either stick with Game Maker or move onto something a bit more flexible/detailed. I recommend using Flash and getting to know the underlying code called Action Script

8. ARTISTS NOTE: Adobe Photoshop is one of the most powerful programs on the planet. It’s also handy for designers. If you want to start texturing things or just monkeying with your 2D sprites I would recommend getting a copy and playing with it. The free programs that are similar are listed below.

9. Time to dig into the 3D!!! Industry standard is Maya by Autodesk. They have updated their software to be a limited 30 day trial…which sucks…so I recommend getting an older (non time) based PLE edition so you can really learn your stuff. The older one is just as good/same as the new one. This is great because any level designer needs to know this program. This software lets you build objects and environments in 3D. There are tons of tutorials online.

10. Congrats, you’ve graduated from the minors and are now playing with the big boys! Time to start working with some more complicated “all in one” game making software that is currently tearing up the charts and making hit games. These should be free.

From here on out it just gets more specific – If you want to do more code related work, get your hands on the C++ stuff that Microsoft has to offer. There are several free versions that you can cut your chops on if you need/want to do that kind of thing. If you want to be more artistic, then learn things about bump mapping and play with programs like Z brush or Mudbox. I don’t have the time but it would be nice to know what all those artists are talking about in the cubicle next to me.

I will stand by this list however. There are a few key things in here that most professionals often forget to do or have not done in their careers. It’s a shame but it happens.

A couple more notes:

Don’t stop reading! This shouldn’t be the only book you read on game design. There are plenty of other books to read. If and when you get into the biz, continue to read! There will always be new and crazy methodologies for learning things about the game business. A good website for this is

There are many different types of designers in a large company. Sometimes there are system designers, level designers and even combat designers. This highly depends on the company and the number of people working on a game. Level Design is my favorite because it requires you to be a attentive and knowledgeable about all aspects of the development process (code, art, etc). 😉

Indie Games that say something…

2 awesome gamesThere are quite a few good games being created out there in the Indie scene that are free to play and have some great moments/elements to them.  More and more I am starting to see a trend, a trend in the direction that these games actually speak very deeply to the player, having more to say than just “save the princess” or “destroy anything in site”.  I happened to run into one such title a few days ago and really needed to share with you all the complexities of it.  Not only does it say a whole lot, but it encompasses a standard game play methodology that speaks as loudly as the actual theme of the story.  It’s called, “Every day the same dream” and it requires you to only progress through a series of choices that speak volumes about life and your path through it.  I can’t help but wonder how this game came about; what the author was thinking and why they chose what they chose.  The game is rather simple, has a nice visual style and implores the use of only the arrow keys and the space bar.  What you find out as you play is that routine and monotony are the enemy, and that your only salvation is to search, look and try different things in order to break free and understand.  This simple connection between adventure game mechanics and the idea that life is only interesting and meaningful when you take the less traveled road is up for some debate but I found the point to be immensely, if not overwhelmingly, powerful as it relates to me and my own life.

Sit down, relax and let yourself go with this one.  It’s well worth it in the end.  Hats off to the music and the graphical style.

I would have to say that I was reminded heavily of Daniel Benmergui’s work, especially his “Today I Die” game.  His work is a bit more poetical…a bit more out of the box and requires a deeper reason to stay connected to the work for longer amounts of time.  However, there is still a wonderful journey there, even if you can’t figure out what to do in the meantime.

There are some powerful things going on here, and I can only hope the Indie scene continues on that trend.  And I hope the mainstream picks up on it, implements it, and moves it forward so that games as a commercial endeavor can also become ones that actually say something meaningful; thus changing the way pop culture looks at interactive media.

Flash and Xbox 360 controller input

I found this noteworthy during work this week so I thought I might pass along the information.  Working in games and rapidly prototyping them on a PC using Flash has always brought up the difficulty of user input, which is mostly left to the keyboard and mouse.  As a game designer, it’s really necessary sometimes to use a joystick for input when testing certain types of games.

Not too long ago, Microsoft has added support for plugging in an Xbox 360 controller into your windows enabled PC.  With a few mouse clicks, the drivers are automatically downloaded and installed.  Viola, a gamepad that works on your PC as well as your console.  But what about using it for Flash to control flash enabled games?  This has always been a problem and still continues to be a pain.  However, some smart joe has cooked up some code that allows you to use your 360 controller to it’s fullest potential in the Flash IDE.  Behold, I give you Simon Joslin’s 360 gamepad server!  This gem of software development allows for full control of all parts of the joystick in either the Flash IDE or in AS3.  He even included a sample .fla file in order to show you the commands to call in your flash scripts and to test that his work actually works!  It requires three simple things and a C# app that runs in the background.  Not too shabby.  Here’s to Simon for his work, and we are all anxiously awaiting support for using this gem while running standalone .swf’s!  That can’t come soon enough.

And if that doesn’t float your boat, there’s always the great fall back JoytoKey that I”ve been using for a long time now.  Program your flash app as usual with keystrokes from the keyboard…run this simple exe file called JoyToKey and map all those keys to the buttons and viola, you have your joystick working properly (for the most part) in flash!

Trials HD

Yes, if video games were to mimic the drug crack cocaine and it’s lethality/addiction, this game would be it. Yes, it’s an XBLA game, but sometimes big fun comes in small packages. And sometimes those packages grab a hold of your life and yank it around by it’s proverbial testicles.

For those of you who don’t know what this game is about, it’s a physics game involving a guy on a moto-cross style motorcycle. His job is to get from point A to point B, doing so in a straight line. There is no third dimension to the game play, it’s straight up 2D side scrolling goodness with a bunch of 3D elements surrounding it. Sounds simple, right? Let me throw this at you though, basically the motorbikes wheels and shocks are physics based (springs) and you get control of the gas, brake and weight of your racer (forward and backward weight of the dude). The game is a royal scream and it begs the attention of just about anyone who liked Excite Bike or stunt games with physics. Caution: this game goes from racer to puzzler VERY quickly, and there is no mercy or warning when it does so. Track racing nuts beware, this game is fun, but in a different kind of way than trying to lap your opponent. But for you time junkies, all the rewards are there for beating it under certain conditions, and of course their are leader boards to back up your claims.

The origins of this game are kind of tricky, as I’ve traced it back to as far as 2004 over at where it made it’s debut. Now it’s in it’s second iteration there and I’ve heard stories that it’s also on steam, but I haven’t checked that out yet. Thank god it made it’s way to a dynamite HD platform with proper controls.

I happen to have gotten my grubby mitts on an early developer version of the game before it’s release, and I must say it is an absolute gem of a title already. The game is tuned well and graphically spit shined for an arcade game. It’s major update is a nice 2.5 D look much like my other favorite XBLA title BC ReArmed. The game plays really smooth and the controls are finally given justice, two analogue triggers and an analogue joystick to round out the play experience. I don’t know what Matos was thinking when he reviewed it, but the controls on a PC keyboard have always sucked. Anything analogue is what you want for this game And that’s really all you need, as this game goes from fun to addictive in seconds flat.

Favorite parts of this game include the many explosive items in the tracks, the insane stunts, the full blow track editor, driving around on fire and well, just the whole darn thing! Don’t believe me? Just watch this trailer and tell me you don’t think this game is out of control fun. And here is a wmv if you want it TrialsHD-Trailer-720.wmv

UPDATE 8/17/09: It’s out! Go get it now! Very fun!

The Nethernet

Would like to give a shout out to Justin over at The Nethernet. He/they are doing a damn fine job of creating a game out of browsing the internet. I suggest that all MMO players get an account setup and give it a whirl. I’m curious to know your thoughts and such on the experience. Here are mine below.


Definitely leads you into some interesting places. Missions (the good ones) give you a variety of interesting sites to check out and allow you to browse through content at your leisure.

Are a constructive or destructive person? The game allows you to pick an alignment with your character and helps create a fun atmosphere for the rest of the players.

Missions are pretty straightforward and allow for some scavenger hunt and trivia type questions. Most of these are simple enough to keep you playing.

Handy browser tool bar for Firefox eases playing.


Not sure where the overall meta-game will lead me. I’m really not sure how much I care about it either yet.

Some of the missions involve a quiz or a scavenger hunt and that’s fine for a few things but gets old. I’d like to see what else could be done to make quests more interesting and hopefully not a “full blown academic test”. So far that hasn’t happened.

Well that’s about all I can write about for now, seeing as how I just got started. More as I delve deeper into the game.