' thegamedesigner' Todd's Blog
Just a quick post, as it is quite late (er.. early). Canzine was
great, and the indie games produced in Toronto continue to be awesome.
Check out Night of the
Cephalopods! Miguel Sternberg is a very cool local game designer.
I just got back from Austin GDC, which was very cool. Engine
of War won first place in the IndieGameShowcase, so I flew down
there and spent two days on the Expo floor next to the computer
that my game was being displayed on.
I got to show it off
to Raph Koster, which was cool. This guy is a game design genius,
and it is well worth reading his book, or going to one of his speeches.
I was at the RGN
booth, which is a very cool company. They are releasing (in
the next month or so) a website for indie game designers. You make
a game, and you set up an account with them. Then you can upload
the game, very easy, just like uploading a youtube video.
Then your game is placed
in the store, marketed, linked to other games, and set up for fans
to comment on. This is going to make game publishing very easy.
I know that I am going
to take a week off sometime, make a game just for fun, and upload
it. Because it is just that easy. Make, Upload, Done. I don't need
to set up a store for it on my own. I don't need to worry so much
about ads, marketing, etc. Now, I already have an online store,
a website, an ads accout, an online bank account, etc, but I wish
this had been around a year ago.
This is going to be a great help to all the new indies just making
their first game.
Another site that is
awesome is experimentalgameplay.com,
which I love posting on. You make a game in under seven days, and
then post it free online. Other designers give feedback and vote
With both of these sites,
why are you still reading this? Get going on a small
game, fun to make,
fun to play!
14 JULY 2008
I found a really good paper on generating procedural cities, or
rather Chris at Introversion found it and blogged about it. link.
I have also been reading about emergent gameplay & user created
content in a couple of books I have. This has resulted in new information
mixing with old ideas, and becoming my newest prototype project,
First, a disclaimer.
What follows is not a promise, or a finished game. It has no promised
date or timeline. It is a game idea, and might become a finished
prototype. No whining when the idea is dumped because
of some yet-unseen-flaw.
Electric Zen is based
on three main concepts. The circuit system, user created content,
and its art style, which is very Tron / Introversion.
Basicly, Electric Zen
can do things that no other game can do, because of these three
ideas working together.
I can only really do
full user created content because the art style is so simple. Because
I can do user created content, I can allow the players to make their
own circuit parts, and design objects in the world (doors, guns,
vehicles), each with their own circuits. This allows far more then
a normal editor, this allows for emergent gameplay. Also, because
the game is so based around user created content, I get to use the
sales model that Mount & Blade has been using, and release the
game very soon, at version 0.10 or something, and then work on it
The idea is pure single-player,
and that is because of both the lower amount of work on my end (due
to the small team size) and because it again makes user created
content easier for the player. It will be massively single player,
like Spore. Each time the game is updated on the site, more user
content can be included.
Like spore, the content
will be small in file size, but large in scope, because it is only
made out of text and numbers. Well, and a few small picture files,
but life is not perfect. :P
That spiky thing is a
vehicle, which the player is inside right now. The far-off green
vehicle is a helecopter/pod-racer sort of thing. And yes, that is
a WOW-esk quest marker.
Yes, those are asteroids.
I may also use a static-clouds
sky, or a black/gray background.
2 JULY 2008
I arrived in Halifax today, and met up with some old friends. Left
Halifax after a 48 hour D&D marathon. We took turns passing
the DM hat around, while others drew up more dungeons in the back.
Patrick is a good DM, and the encounter with the giant squid, in
the dark, gasping for breath, was awesome.
Good to try out being
a nerd again, after the last couple of years.
I went to the TOjam arcade party yesterday, and it was great. I
ended up in Chinatown at 2am, with Shawn and Jon, chatting game
design and making bad jokes. That place had great noodles. That
was also very cool because I had not really had a chance to chat
with Jon since GDC, and he is pure, crazy, game designer. If you
have not already, check out Everyday
At the party itself,
all the games made during TOjam were screened, using a combination
of projectors and laptops. This was fun, and really allowed me to
circle and play all the games I had missed last time.
I love going to parties
full of game designers. Nowhere else can you watch slightly-drunk
designers make new rules for a pool table, based on a TBS/RTS model.
I got in conversations about multi-threading and Romero, about sales
models and storytelling, Duke Nukem and Doritos, girls and computers.
I also got to meet Mare
Sheppard and Raigan Burns, makers of N+.
Learned a little about working with Microsoft on Xbox live from
them, and it sounds better then I would have thought. Very cool.
13 MAY 2008
I just got back from TOjam,
a wonderful Toronto-based game jam. There were almost 150 people
divided into small teams. The team I was on was 'The Scourge',
it included myself,
the artist Craig Adams
and our sound floater, Arthur
The game we made can
be found here,
it is a small horror zombie game designed with a interactive story
line, and level-designed to match the flow of the music. It's fun,
300 seconds long, and free, so there is little reason not to give
it a try.
Also, I am not kidding at all when I say the best way to play it
is in a dark room. We have made several people physically jump this
way. Oh, and if
you suffer from heart problems, warning: Play at own risk.
However, this blog post
is not really about the game jam, it is about what I learned while
at the game jam. Basically, I learned two main things, One: That
there are lots of indie game designers, of the same type (more or
less) as myself, and Two: That there are game designers that are
better then me.
Now, of course I knew
both these facts before I went to TOjam, but I have been spending
most of my time for the last eight months in my small white room,
my apartment, making Engine of War. I had forgotten about other
people except as those who sold me stuff in stores, and those who
I saw in the distance as I walked around the city. I have become
some sort of crazy game design hermit.
The circuit concept in Engine of War was first dreamed up around
a year ago, while recovering from a really bad cold. I stayed at
home for a week, watching star trek and brainstorming game ideas.
I ended up banging out a rapid prototype for a game called 'Trek',
which mixed three concepts, one of which was the circuit system.
The circuit system was
based on circuit panels scattered through a large spaceship, which
were then interconnected. The idea being you could upgrade, repair,
booby trap or loot a spaceship using the circuits. The hand-held
weapons could be modded using the circuit system (phasers are electric
after all), and locked doors could be hacked by opening up the circuit
panel and fiddling around until the door opened.
However, 'Trek' was huge,
and I knew it when I designed it. It was a wierd little FPS, but
it required a much larger team then I could field. When I finished
the prototype & full game doc, I filed it away and began work
on a smaller concept to show off the circuit system. I worked my
way through 'Mech' (A third person non-linear RPG) to 'Micro-Mech',
which took 'Mech' to a even smaller level. 'Micro-Mech' was just
a work name, and I released the beta of it under the name 'Mech
Builder', which was then switched to Engine of War for marketing
However, this is all
a good thing. Engine of War was a big project for a two-man team,
and through all this, the circuit system was re-written and re-tested.
Can you belive that I used to have players using a chart to figure
out the proper resistor? Ha.
And even the system in Engine of War is old now, I designed a version
for 'Racing Gears', which is a mass-appeal style that is designed
with kids/casual gamers in mind. It has as many possibilities as
the old system, but is far easier to use.
30 MAR 2008
'Engine of War' work is going full tilt, and it looks like the release
date should be mid-to late-April.
For those of you who
played Mech Builder, Engine of War is not a sequel, but a replacement.
When I sat down a few weeks ago to plan my next project, I ended
up thinking that I would do some big thing with Mech Builder. I
had all sorts of cool things on the table, including multiplayer
Mech Builder, and turning Mech Builder into a isometric non-linear
The thing is, whatever
Mech Builder project I did, it was going to be the last for quite
a while, as I had quit my job about a month ago, and I needed to
start looking towards earning some rent money.
However, after some brainstorming,
I thought that I could turn what started as a project for my resume,
into a game that could be sold. I planned out a better tutorial,
some copy protection, a more reasonable amount of levels, and removed
the use of the word 'Mech' from the game (which is copyrighted).
Hence, Engine of War was born.
Engine of War, as I said
above, is not a sequel, but a replacement. It contains some of the
levels from Mech Builder, and adds a few new parts. Most of the
changes are towards making it more user friendly, such as clicking
and dragging parts of the menus, or having weapons just automatically
pick which arm to mount on. The game will have several difficulty
levels, and upgraded/cleaner/clearer systems all across the board.
However, in order to keep the many new levels fresh, several new
monsters have been added, including monster nests, death tanks,
tank trains and invisible monsters. These cause the existing parts
to be used in new ways.
The main bonus of this,
is that if it can earn even a small amount of money, then I can
delay job hunting for a while, and start making more parts, major
upgrades or start working on some really cool projects.
24 FEB 2008
I have just returned from GDC, which for those of you who do not
know, is a large Game Developers Conference, held in San Francisco.
I learned a huge amount, and was inspired by the crazy passion of
the indie game developers there.
2D boy's Kyle Gabler
was especially cool, and I even got to chat with him for a short
time. He left EA and started his own company, but instead of making
a few boring-but-safe games first, he has decided to go for the
gusto and make the crazy-awsome-hope-it-works game that he really
wants to make. You can check out his site here.
Be sure to watch the world of goo trailer!
Also, Jon Mak, creator
of Everyday shooter, who
was speaking at the Indie Summit. I got to chat with him a couple
of times, and unfortunately the last time I was high on adrenaline
and rather nervous, having just come from a very hard interview
with Valve, so I am sure he remembers me as 'that dork'. Anyway,
he gave me some great advice, which most indies have heard before
in one form or another, but it is always good to hear it again.
"Do what you love to do" - Jonathan Mak
I also got to hang out with the creator of 'Battleships
Forever', Sean "th15" Chan from Singapore and also Finnish art-game
designer, Pekko Koskinen of LudoCraft.
Over supper one night we chatted about the concept of fun and about
playing old games to new rules. It was great to chat with fellow
indie game designers.
To sum up, GDC was awsome.