Buried Treasure

There’s anywhere from 20 to 40 video games released on Steam every day. That’s too many video games. John Walker, veteran games critic and founder of Rock Paper Shotgun is trying to find the really good indie games out that pile of what has to be a lot of average stuff.

Buried Treasure is a Patreon backed site highlighting the really good games that don’t get coverage from mainstream press. It’s a worthy endeavour. Hopefully some of these titles will get the boost they probably deserve.

Classic game postmortems

The GDC YouTube channel is chock full of talks about game development. Everything from math, to animation, to writing, to production tips.

My favourite playlist covers postmortems – a look back on the development ups and downs for making games. The postmortems for classic games are the best. are the really the best. Here are a few for your weekend viewing pleasure.

Sid Meier and Bruce Shelley talk about Civilization
John Romero and Tom Hall talk about Doom
David Brevick on Diablo
Peter Molyneux talks about Populous

I relate to Jorj

I don’t have anything to say about the fun mechanics and gorgeous art if Grindstone that you won’t learn from Polygon or Destructoid’s reviews. What I will say is that after 85 out of 150 levels I think that me and Jorj share something similar to our approach to work: We like good tools. We love that feeling of really getting a lot of stuff done. And, at the end of the day, we like a break, and maybe a drink to recharge.

Progress on a new video game

In the spirit of showing my work, here’s a peek at a game I’ve been working on:  codename SPADE. 

A character moving through levels

SPADE started out as a cut down clone of Shamus, an annoyingly hard yet oddly addicting game I played for hours and hours on my family XT clone in the late 80s. Despite all those hours I never got close to clocking the game. I want SPADE to be a game I can actually beat.

I’ve been making the game in pico-8, the same tool I used to make yet another version of robotfindskitten last year. 

I started out building the maps manually using pico-8’s sprite and map editor. It looked kinda like this. Pretty fussy and complicated to write code around.

Pixel art is not my forte

For some reason I decided it would be easier and more fun to do procedural generation of the maps. Darius Kazemi’s articles on how Spelunky’s levels are generated provided the recipe. I expected it would take me a few hours to implement. 

It took a lot longer. Like ages. Like a “how the fuck did I ever consider myself a programmer” amount of time. I got really good at logging and debugging.

DebugView.exe is an app for looking at print statements

I’m now at the point where I have any number of levels and a character that can move through them.

I have a TODO list and whenever the mood takes me and I have some quiet time I try and knock something off the list. Adding robots is next.

I’m not sure when the game will be playable. Working on it is a relaxation thing more than anything else. It’s been quite satisfying to do little bits at a time. I’m collecting screenshots of the game, photos of notes, that kind of thing. That archive has already brought me joy.

 I know I won’t be putting SPADE on itch.io like I did for robotfindskitten. I think it’ll just be for me. I hope I can beat it.

robotfindskitten for Pico-8

In 2014 I was faffing around with PutHTML along with a few people I’d met on IRC. After a couple throwaway experiments I decided to make a version of robotfindskitten, the Zen simulation originally written by the internet’s Leonard Richardson. It was very bad JavaScript code but it worked.

In 2018 I discovered Pico-8 and decided to replicate the experiment. 30-odd days ago I uploaded a working version of robotfindskitten to itch.io. It is very bad Lua code but it works. As of writing, dozens of people have tried it. Dozens!

You can play the game online at itch.io or download versions that will run on Windows, Linux, and macOS. And, you can get a “cart” that will run in the Pico-8 virtual console.

I really enjoyed making the game. I wrote the code, created the sounds, and named almost all of the non-kitten items. Like I said, it wasn’t good Lua code but it was very satisfying to build it from nothing and get it onto something like itch. I’ve started the next game which I think will be similar to the surfing and BMX mini-games from the 80’s California Games.