Category: Thoughts

Mar 12 2011

Comparing Fish Keeping Games

Tadgh Kelly over at Simple Lifeforms, recently wrote an article suggesting that games should not be judged as simulations. Specifically, he argues that details which go unnoticed by the player are wasted effort possibly being negative effort if it impacts game engine performance. On the other side of this, what happens when the player anticipates detail that’s not present?

And on that thought, it’s time to look at three ‘fish farming’ games, Fish Farm Unlimited (iOS, raiX UG, 2010), Fish Tycoon (iOS, Last Day of Work, 2009), and FishCo (Win/Mac, Fugazo, 2008).

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Mar 08 2011

Call me Turok.

(This and the look at fish games which is still just a collection of notes, and then I’ll get back to development stuff. I happened to pick this game up a couple weeks ago while the full version was free…)

It makes me a heretic of sorts, but I live in Alaska and don’t hunt.  Still, it’s clearly an activity which demands skill and knowledge, from which many people derive great enjoyment, obtain benefits such as meat and physical exercise, encourages wilderness conservation, etc.

Enjoyable activities which require skill and knowledge ought to translate well into good games. Tatem Games, the developers of Carnivore: Dinosaur Hunter (CDH from here on) appear to get this:

“Q: I want to stab dinos with knife and see a lot of blood!

A: Carnivores series are strategic hunting games, not regular shooters. We are not going to include more violent scenes, letting you drive pleasure from exploration and tactics that you use to hunt rather than from seeing poor creatures dying.”
(Carnivore: Dinosaur Hunter FAQ, copy paste)

CDH as a hunting simulation and as a game, gets a lot of things right, and at least one thing wrong. Let’s take a look at it.

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Feb 26 2011

“fish!” on

Previously I had mentioned I didn’t know how to take screenshots with my iPod. Now I do! :) If you hold down the on-off button, and briefly press the button with the square on it, the screen will flash. This saves the screen-shot to your camera roll.*

iTunes however, will not sync those screenshots to your computer (or at least my computer). In fact, it won’t even acknowledge they exist except to note that .1GB (or whatever) of the iPod’s memory is now being taken up by photos. So the next step in the workflow is to go to a local bar+grill to abuse their free wireless by emailing them to myself. A wireless router is now on my hardware priority list, at about the same level as a MIDI controller.

Here’s some first examples**:


















“Woot!” indeed. These are from a game called “fish!”, which bills itself as a virtual aquarium. And if you need a virtual aquarium with evil robot fish and exploding mines, this may be what you’re looking for. The game does have a reasonable fluid physics model- as you move the device around the water sloshes and loose objects get carried about by the water’s movement. However, the game feels like someone was experimenting with accelerometer controls and physics modeling rather than writing a game. I probably got my $.99 worth of entertainment out of it just from it’s sheer weirdness, but I wouldn’t recommend the game to anyone.

*- I got the instructions by Googling, but I can’t now find the page I read them on, else I’d link. Sorry!

**- Screenshots get saved as .png, which is fine, but I’ve resized them and converted to .jpg for layout and web-friendliness considerations.

Feb 23 2011

Flushing Sharks

I don’t run a wireless network in my apartment- my laptop has been all over Alaska, but here in Anchorage it lives in one spot on it’s table, next to my ancient (sans-wireless) 4 port router. In fact, I’ve never had any desire to use my laptop anywhere else in my home.

A couple months ago, I received an iPod touch as a gift. I really like the device- but I think in the first day I disabled its ‘Wi-fi’ and put it in ‘Airplane’ mode so that it would stop asking me if it could connect to the 1-bar of signal, unsecured wireless networks in my neighbors’ apartments.

This was fine up until recently. But:

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Feb 13 2011

Throwing Paper Airplanes

This piece has nothing to do with anything I’m working on. :)

I happened to get an iPod Touch for Christmas, and I seem to be using it more as a hand-held gaming device than as an mp3 player. Of course, I still play flash games as well! I’d like to compare and contrast Paper Glider (iOS, Neonplay,2010) to Flight (Flash, Armor Games/Krin,2010) and Paper Plane (Flash,Amnesia/advergame for Microsoft Flight Simulator X,2006).

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Jan 17 2011

8bitRocket’s 16K Retro-Remake Contest Results Announced

Go read the official announcement here.

I’m really happy with how BattleWire16K did- but to find out for yourself, for now you have to click through. :)

Jan 01 2011

PuzzleRunners Early Analytics

The sample size is way too small to draw any conclusions, but here’s which characters players selected in Puzzle Runners during the first couple days after release:

Puzzle Runners Character Selection Rates 12/28-12/31

I just thought this was interesting in light of the Mass Effect 2 statistics released last November. Obviously though, the games are not comparable… I actually have in my working notes, ‘randomize character selector order’ but I never implemented it. (I suspect there is a bias toward items appearing early in a list (on the left side), in addition to a bias towards male characters.)

Other items of interest, 30% of players starting a game of PuzzleRunners play for more than 5 minutes (15% more than 10 minutes). 21% play until the puzzle gets completed, 3% use the quit option to return to the menu, the remainder presumably navigate away from the game before it ends. Both the length of play, and the number of players playing to completion are higher than I expected.

(Data collected with the Mochi Analytics API)

Dec 17 2010

Update 12/17

I submitted BattleWire16K to 8bitRocket for the 16kb contest yesterday… you’ll be able to play it on Monday when all the entries are available!

In the meantime, here’s a screenshot:

I also built a version which incorporates Mochi Leaderboards for distribution into the Flash gaming channels. I’ll put that into distribution also on Monday. I’ve also written up most of my design notes… the text file is already larger than the game! That doesn’t mean there’s a lot of good information, it just means I need to do a lot of revision before I post. 😉

The theme for LD19 was announced 4 hours ago (Discovery). For some reason I can’t seem to come up with anything that wouldn’t be too complex to complete in the 44 remaining hours. If I think of something, I’ll work on an entry… but it’s not really looking too likely.

Aug 16 2010

MochiMedia is now offering free translation to Chinese

So… this could really be worth looking into, if you have a game comming out soon.

Nothing else to add really. Just thought it was worth pointng at.

Jun 09 2010

Impossible Bugs

So, I’m still hard at work on Puzzle Runners. Remember when I said that I had written the single player version in a way that lent itself easily to being converted over to multiplayer?

Yeah, I’m not as smart as I thought. :( It took 17.5 hours spread over many days to get the setup and sync working.* Or at least working well enough that I could move onto the ingame message handling, I still need to go back to the setup code and handle some loose ends.

So… the whole game is setup using a “bounce” server which just bounces all the messages it receives to all the connected clients. The first client to connect becomes the ‘Master’ which is responsible for setting up the game and owns the AIs. And now I’ve got an error state where if only the Master is connected, the AIs behave correctly, but if there are two or more clients the AIs just stand in place.

This is my code which dispatches messages to the server:

Here’s the crazy part… that “trace” statement marked with the red arrow? All it does is print the message being sent to the server to the debugging console (or copies it to a log file). I added it because I wanted to make sure the AI messages were being sent (they were). If the trace statement is present, the AIs move correctly. If the trace statement is commented out**, the AIs don’t move. Human players however, move correctly regardless of the presence of the trace, so I know the dispatch function is working.

Ultimately of course, the lack of a trace can not be the reason why the AIs are turning themselves off… I’m guessing the trace is affecting the timing in which the messages are being received and that’s causing something I didn’t intend (I designed the message handler to work regardless of the order in which messages are received, and independently of the refresh timer… but I’ve made bigger mistakes before! :)).

Anybody reading this got a good story of a bug where the symptom and the root cause didn’t appear connected?


* – That’s not a complaint… I haven’t worked with multiplayer games before, so I’m turning up issues I’ve never considered before. (ie: How should the game react when a client disconnects before setup is complete? What should happen if a player attempts to join a table that’s already full? etc) So to the extent that I am a programmer, this is interesting stuff… it just taking longer than I had budgeted.

**- For the non-programmers, commenting out a statement makes the computer ignore it when it’s executing the program. The words following // are comments.