2013 : So long and thanks for all the games

Well, that about wraps it up for 2013. It’s been a bit of a busy one, so this might take a while…

Previously on “what’s Beerman been up to this year” : 2012 , 2011 , 2010

Work-wise, things have been a tad more stable. I’m considerably happier with the less corporate-bullshitty/cult-of-personality environment of the new gig, despite occasional forays into the Hell that is Sharepoint. My God, someone needs hurting for that thing…
Not that you guys care - if anyone’s genuinely coming here to read about the ins and outs of my day job I’m frankly a bit worried about them. So, on to the games!

So, as you may have noticed (I mentioned it once or twice, I’m sure), back at the end of 2012 I managed to talk myself into signing up for @McFunkyPantsOne Game a Month initiative. And damn, it’s been quite a ride.

January : ChaosBall

Kicking off the year in style, ChaosBall was an exercise in taking entirely simple game design in the form of a Breakout clone, and then spending most of the time budget on polish and making things pretty. While I didn’t quite go full Fearon with the visuals, it still looks pretty damn good.

I’m particularly pleased with the sound - the overdriven 909 kick drum I used for the bounces gives it a really nice “frenzied gabber choonz” vibe when things get moving.

February : Juno Hunter

This one’s still one of my favourites. Initially planned as a sort of hybrid of Juno First* and Spy Hunter, between a week in Texas visiting Mrs. Beerman’s family, a second week recovering from the coma induced by a week of Texan cuisine, and my brilliantly timed purchase of Skyrim, there was a certain amount of scope-trimming involved.

In the end though, thanks to a sudden burst of inspiration at the last minute it turned into a fun a challenging little game that’s just ripe for a revisit in 2014.

*Which I really do need to get around to remaking properly one of these days…

March : Rogueotron

This one kind of came out of nowhere. I’d been planing on a F2P remix of Lagertron as an excuse to have a play with the Android IAP stuff when the March theme of “Rogue” was announced. I’m not big on roguelikes as a rule - there’s a bit of a wilfully obscurist vibe to the genre that tends to put me off - but if there’s three things I do like it’s procedural generation, Robotron*, and terrible puns.

So after a quick google to check that nobody had beaten me to it, Rogueotron was born. And it was good.

I’m still not 100% sold on the touchscreen controls, but other than that it seems like there’s so much more I could do with the basic concept. Definitely one to revisit in 2014.

*Someone once described the history of Philosophy as “footnotes to Plato“. I tend to think similarly of videogames as “footnotes to Robotron.” If there’s been a more pseudish statement made on gaming, I’d love to hear it ;)

April: GunBoat

This was the first of my “Ludum Dare saves the day” games. I’d been working on an Outrun style psuedo 3d racing game but with the month running out all I had was a bug-ridden mess. So LD26’s theme of “minimalism” was an absolute gift.

I had an idea already floating around (in an “I need to make this thing to get it out of my head” kind of way) that fit the theme perfectly, and after a couple of days of frenzied hacking I had a game for the month.

Dunno if there’s anything in there that warrants an extension at some point, but I did end up building a GUI system that got pretty heavy reuse the rest of the year, and I really like how the general aesthetic of this one came together.

May : Beercave Racer

Oh dear. If there’s one game this year I’d consider a failure, it’s this one. Which could be considered odd, given that it’s had 10 times more many downloads on the Play store than any of my other games. To be fair, the entire reason I decided to make this one was as a coding exercise to see if I could get the renderer to work, which I did a fairly decent job at.

The actual game I built on top of it though wasn’t so great. Terrible controls, a poorly tuned road generator, and not nearly enough visual assets leave this one as somewhat of a failed experiment. Not sure racing games are really my medium…

June : LawBringer

I had a plan for June’s game. It was simple, easy to implement, and I couldn’t bring myself to care about it for any length of time. Fortunately, after sitting down and forcing myself to code the basics, it occurred to me that I could “pivot” as the cool kids on HackerNews call it, add a bunch of lasers and explosions, and make something I actually liked.

I only had a week left to actually build the damn thing so it’s not exactly epic in scope but there’s something there that’s just crying out for further development. It’s a better shooter than Droidy Shooty Thing ever managed to be and I burned most of a year on that thing…

July : Head Banger

Probably not the best game I made this year, but it might be the one I had the most fun with. As a raging headbanger, I couldn’t let the theme of Metal go by without taking a pop at it, and the early Llamasoft game “Headbangers Heaven” seemed like prime remake material.

The end result might not have been brilliant gameplay wise, but I was pretty happy with both the stark graphics I came up with (a real step up from my usual drawing attempts) and the four cheesy music tracks I made (fun fact - the “Death Metal” track is basically the Tetris theme played at ludicrous speed).

The best thing about it though, was easily the random band name generator that came out with gems like “Bob and the Wankers”, “SteelFuck” and “Witch at the Fight”. I could have happily sat and just hit refresh on that thing for hours if I didn’t have a game to finish.

August : Open The Box

Ludum Dare rescue number 2! Flush with a feeling of success for hitting the July Theme with Headbanger, August’s theme of “Philosophy” sparked an excellent, if massively overscoped idea in the form of an epic historical quest of intellectual content and gratuitous violence.

Unfortunately, everything I know about philosophy I learned from Monty Python and Robert Pirsig - as the month started to draw to an end I was planning to cut the scope massively but LD27’s theme of “10 seconds” again sparked an idea that I couldn’t let go of.

The Saturday was entirely sacrificed to beer and BBQ* but after rolling out of bed around lunchtime on Sunday I still had enough time to hack together “Open the Box”, which for 12 hours of coding wasn’t half bad.

*For the Brits in the audience, BBQ doesn’t mean just grilling a couple of Tesco Value burgers and sausages. I married a Texan. I mean slow-smoked pork ribs, or as my good mate and musical collaborator Governmentyard memorably described it “spit roasting an elephant and listening to Ozzy all afternoon”

September : Electric Sex Cannon

If there’s been a better videogame title this year I’ve not heard of it. Both the name and the idea of a shooty endless runner had been bouncing around the darker regions of my brainium for a while.

The keen-eyed might recognise the background as a desaturated clone of the sky from GunBoat, along with some slightly randomised parallax layers of futuristic buildings, and while the enemies were a bit limited in scope thanks to the deadline and my chronic laziness, it still manages to be fairly entertaining.

Alongside ESC’s development I also managed to take a couple of days out to patch up a competition-friendly build of Juno Hunter to take to the inaugural Retromission event down in Oxford, since I’d let myself get talked into running the homebrew games highscore competition.

October : Candy Castle Chaos

By this point, I was beginning to notice a common theme in what I was finding difficult ant time consuming : content. Fortunately, at the aforementioned Retromission event I’d been exposed to the perfect all-gameplay-no-content option in the form of a 2600 remake of Atari’s classic Warlords. After destroying all comers in the tournament I was feeling pretty confident that I could do something with it.

And so CCC was born (an earlier title was Kandy Kastle Khaos, which I abandoned for obvious reasons despite K being clearly a cooler letter than C…). Another good one, which really cemented how much fun I could have with the whole retro vector aesthetic - which leads us to…

November : WebRunner

I literally do not have the words to describe just how pleased I am with this one. This wasn’t a good #1gam game, this was just a good game. Obviously it didn’t hurt that I was following a template laid down by Theurer and extended so gloriously by Minter, but goddamn this one came together nicely.

There’s something just beautifully pure in the DNA of Tempest that it’s hard to fuck it up - unless you’re putting a prawn on some underpants of course…

December : Brown Christmas

I make no apologies for this one. Way back at the start of the year when I was brainstorming ideas, one of the first I came up with was “An evil Santa who shits in the naughty kids’ stockings.”

And you just can’t put an idea like that down, or at least I can’t. My inner twelve-year-old jumped all over that one and refused to let it go.

It’s not by any means the best platformer ever made, but I think it does a reasonable job of capturing that mid-80s Jet Set Willy-esque blend of brutally frustrating gameplay and pure British silliness.

So now what?

Well, first of all I’m taking at least a copule of weeks off. I am way behind on my media consumption this year - got at least 6 months of 2000AD to catch up on before I even start thinking about TV and movies and games and stuff.

Once I’ve had a thorough mental decompress, I plan to take a look back over some of the things I made this year and see about turning a few of them into bona fide commercial productions that people might actually pay real money for.