A belated game-making roundup post

The main reason I haven’t been blogging much this year (other than needing a small but necessary break after I decided to stop posting daily) has been that all my creative energies have been going into my game-making. I’ve had a prolific start to the year and have lots of exciting plans for the rest of 2023 too. However, I’m largely taking a break from it during April, because in both 2021 and 2022 I burnt myself out in the first half of the year and I don’t want that to happen again. I’m proud of what I’ve done so far this year and have been involved in some great jams and comps.

Desert pixels
Evidence Sweet starts her tomb adventure.

The year kicked off with the SeedComp Planting Round, where participants submitted seeds for other people to turn into games in a later round. I submitted the Adventuron demo Frozen Lake, which was later used as one of the seeds in KADW’s Twine game Cozy Simulation 2999. It’s really interesting to see what other people do with your ideas!

Next up was PunyJam #3. I hadn’t made a PunyInform game since PunyJam #2 in November 2021 and was really keen to get back into it! I made Lucid Night for this jam, which was based on a collection of dreamlike ideas I’d had combined with the jam theme of starting the game in an airlock. I’m still very much a beginner with Inform 6, but I really want to keep improving my knowledge of it via PunyInform (and have since made another Puny game – see below!).

A couple of days after the PunyJam deadline was the deadline for the SeedComp Sprouting Round (that was a mad week!). This round was for games made with the seeds from the first round, and I had chosen Rovarsson’s In a Tomb with a Donkey as the basis for my game. I originally planned to change the seed name for the eventual resulting game, but came to fall in love with the original and so In a Tomb with a Donkey it was. This was my first full Adventuron game of the year, but I’m certain it won’t be the last…

Most recently (in the last week) I submitted another PunyInform game, Marie Waits, to Spring Thing. Spring Thing is one of the biggest IF competitions in the calendar and I had been meaning to enter for a few years, but it never quite worked out until now. Marie Waits is a sequence of scenes towards the end of the story started in Pre-Marie, which I submitted to IntroComp 2020. I’ve been working on the main game (Marie) on and off for nearly three years now – I’m really hoping to release it sooner rather than later, though it might not be 2023!

So much more to come this year and so much I’m excited for. I’ll try to be a bit more punctual about posting releases (and possibly even dev musings) on the blog!

A few days crunching

I’ve got a lot of game-making to finish off before game submission night on Thursday, but today was great and I got a lot done and I’m hopeful things will continue to go swimmingly over the next three days. I’ve been working on this game on and off since the end of February and I’m really excited to get it finished!

Still game-making

I feel like I’ve been game-making for months without much to show for it! I’ve got a couple of fairly big projects on the go, one for release at the end of this month, one at the end of June. The illustrations for the June game are already done, but I’d rather keep them to myself (and testers) until nearer release. The ones for the April game will be an ‘end of next week’ project if I stick to schedule… so far I’m keeping up, just about!

I’m not going to wish away the time till release as it’s such an enjoyable process and one of the best things I ever got into, but I am really excited about getting these projects finished and out into the world.

Finding all the wrong stuff

I’ve been bughunting most of today. Maybe that’s not the right word. I don’t want to find bugs in my games, but it’s sort of an inevitable part of the process!

After a few passes on my own I will be able to turn it over to my testers, which is always an exciting milestone. Hoping to be in that stage by this time tomorrow. We’re getting there.

It’s been a bit of a mad month making this game, but it’s been such a breath of fresh air after finishing the more unfamiliar coding work I was doing on the TechUP course. I have so much fun making these things.

Finishing a story

I wrote the ending of the story for my current game project today. There might be some more bits to add in over the next week, but for all intents and purposes the writing is done. Looking forward to changing focus and working on some simple illustrations and a bit of experimental music.

Then I can start testing it. That’s when all the real issues will start showing up!

Keeping things contained

One of my bad habits when creating games is allowing them to sprawl and sprawl as I develop ideas. This is why I have a ton of really huge unfinished games among my files, waiting patiently for me to get going with them again. The last few years have been a learning process in this regard, and I’m trying really hard with my current game not to let it grow outwith its originally planned boundaries.

Usually I use jam and competition deadlines to help with this. I plan to enter a few this spring if my games are ready, but I don’t want to put any pressure on myself as it’s been a busy few months and I’m meant to be taking a break right now. We’ll see how it goes.

Adventures in Coding: Knowing When It’s Time To Stop Tweaking

That is probably a slightly misleading headline. It’s never really time to stop tweaking in my world! If I didn’t have deadlines imposed by jam deadlines and the like, I would probably just keep making tweaks forever and never release anything as a result. This is also true for non-code-y writing, which is why I’ve always found it so difficult to bite the bullet and send out my novel pitches to agents. It always feels like things could be a tiny bit better with just one more pass.

However, even when no deadline is involved, I can still sort of tell when it’s time to stop, even if I’m slightly in denial about it. When I do yet another playtest and there’s just one or two tiny things, and I’m dithering on whether I should even change them, and I go back and forth on those tiny things for a few runthroughs without spotting anything else I want to change… at that point, I really do need to stop faffing and get the project out into the world.

This post is a result of prepping my post-comp update for The River of Blood this week. The EctoComp judging period comes to an end on Friday, and after that I’ll be free to update my game (you’re not allowed to do so for Petite Mort games while the competition is still on). Originally I was just going to fix the one bug somebody had pointed out, but then I started messing about with something else due to somebody else’s feedback, and then while testing that I found another bug, and it took me ages to pin it down… I’m done now, though, and I’m sitting on my hands with that for the rest of the week (unless anybody flags up anything else, which is unlikely at this late stage of the competition). I’m looking forward to posting that update.

It’s time to get back to playing other people’s games, which was the main aim of this week!

Morris on Borogove
In other game update news today, my most recent game, Morris, is now playable online on Borogove.

Game release day!

Late post tonight because I always make full use of the time allotted for game jams (although today that was a case of resisting making any last-minute panicky changes because the game was pretty much as ready as it could be last night!) My new game is out and you can play it here. It’s my first PunyInform/Inform 6 release (all my previous games have been made in Adventuron), and it was a very different system to get to grips with – I’ve still got a lot to learn! As such, my new game is fairly short and simple, but I’m very pleased with it.

After the release of two short games in quick succession, I am looking forward to getting back to working on my long-form stuff! I have games that have been works-in-progress for literally years and I would love to get them finished and released next year. I do love making a short game occasionally though, as it’s quite satisfying to get something made in a very short time period.

For the next week or so, though, I’m just going to be playing games made by other people!

Cover image
The Itch cover image for my game. One thing I’ve needed to get used to with Inform is the lack of graphics!

Adventures In Coding: Small Games Are Fun

I (of course) still have a lot of ridiculous sprawling text adventure works-in-progress going on, some of which will hopefully be out next year, but as the TechUp course is my main coding focus at the moment I am only allowing myself to work on small, short games that are in less danger of becoming giant ridiculous monstrosities. I really enjoyed making The River of Blood for EctoComp a few weeks ago – coding a game in less than four hours for the Petite Mort category was a new kind of challenge! – and I’ve now finished the initial draft of a short PunyInform game for another jam. It needs to be run past a few testers over the next few days, as I’m still very much a learner with PunyInform / Inform 6 and there will undoubtedly be lots of bugs, but I feel like I’ve at least got the bones of it ready.

I feel like I’m making good progress with TechUp too, and am excited about delving into this week’s module tomorrow.

Room description
Leaving the pub is not as straightforward as it might appear.

Of course, I’ll only feel like I’ve truly learnt Python when I can code a text adventure game with it!