Ludum Dare 24: One of the best birthdays
(31 Aug 2012 at 12:44)
Last weekend was Ludum Dare time again, my eighth-ish time participating in this 48-hour video game making competition. The theme was "evolution", a classic which has made the final round of theme voting like 10 times without winning. This particular competition I ran into some problems, but the game is charming in its way:
At first I was trying to come up with experimental gameplay, since I got a big kick out of doing that in some previous contests. But I couldn't get excited about anything (of course 2/3 of the way through I had an idea I really liked, but it was too late :)) so I decided I'd just make a game in a style I really like and spend loads of time cranking out content. The game is a large-map dangerless exploration platformer. I initially attempted to make the map 16,000x16,0000 pixels (256 megapixels!) but found out hours into working that some tools I expected to be robust (Imagemagick, for example) did really weird bugs on such-size images, and it also turned out that libpng was like the one thing I had not installed in preparation. Wha-wha, I know, cool story bro. So there are some epic hacks going on behind the scenes to make this work, and some of the game world is conspicuously barren, and I didn't finish the in-world music so the game is silent except for the characteristic title theme song. But the game can be completed and I think it's pretty fun and it was a weekend well spent! Play it!
Needless advancements in shoe tying
(29 Jul 2012 at 15:39)
Well, just one advancement, which is this:
It may not surprise you to know that I have spent way more than an average amount time thinking about how best to tie shoes (knots were a specialty of mine in Boy Scouts and during my grad school megaprocrastination phase I even staged a bunch of photographs of them for Wikipedia), but it may surprise you that when this vision first struck me I was at first unsure that it was even possible. (Somewhere, someone with basic geometric sense chuckles, the kind of dismissive reflex laugh that is transformed into an awkward fake cough when he realizes from my expression oh, you weren't joking.) Of course pretty much any knot shape you can imagine is possible with both ends free. This one isn't even that mechanically difficult to carry out, though if you are like me then the shoe knots are stored 100% in muscle memory, not like even accessible to your conscious mind, like when you can't remember the particulars of your password's capitalization or the fingering of the Csus4 chord without actually doing it, maybe on an invisible keyboard or guitar. So far, the double-knot version eludes my attempts at dexterity. But I don't like to give up!
I was just about to go out running to work on my Pac Tom project which has not been getting much attention this year for a variety of reasons. Right as I'm about to leave the house with everything ready (as much as a like running for its simplicity, there's the preparatory food and liquids and coffee and ibuprofen, sunscreen which by the way is a real walnut with a beard and general body hair, plus I have this super old Baby Magic brand old dried sunscreen that I found on Ryan's porch and appears to contain an infinite amount of superdense titanium white oil paint, which is the suncreen that I have been using for years because it's not like I'm going to throw this perfectly good old dried immiscible paste out, even though Ryan tells me that it probably contains poison because it dates from pre-FDA era wild West style chemistry times, and then the shoe tying which becomes a thought excursion, and since I just got a new computer I need to install all the mapping stuff on it and transfer it over from the old one, etc.) I realize that my GPS watch, basically the only piece of non-negotiable equipment other than the left and right feet, is out of batteries because of the ill-designed chargey clasp whose design hostility defies explanation other than schadenfreude. That's what's charging now and the reason I'm taking the time to go on and on, instead of actually doing the running, which I'd prefer to do, not just because I feel suddenly stricken with exaggeration logorrhea, though I guess obviously that does happen. We're at 53%. I'm talking about the Garmin Forerunner 310XT here, in case someone on the design team some day scours the internet to find some schadenfodder. The chargey clasp thing is a springy clamp, that you clamp around one side of the watch like a snake face. Its lower teeth are spring-loaded pins that carry the electricity juice into two little charge dots on the underside of the watch. Boy does this not work well! And I'm not talking about like works-at-first NES-cartridge contact malfunction, or even like BART ticket machine designed-by-an-alien-race stuff, more like a carnival game that is designed to trick you to keep putting quarters in. The standard way for this to go wrong is that you put the snake face on, and the teeth go into the little holes on the bottom, but the pins aren't actually contacting the charging nipples because inside the holes there are both metal contact nipples (useful) and waterproof insulating plastic areolae (useless). What is this bullshit?
So obviously if either charging tooth is on areola, then it doesn't charge. Even worse, since these are recessed holes and on the side of the watch exposed to skin and trapped corrosive salty sweat and Baby Magic, what little contact area there is tends to get covered up by trapped dried particles or invisible dielectric or electrochemical deposition since these are after all battery contacts. So you learn pretty quickly that when you get the snake face on, you have to jiggle it around to get actual charge contact (you obviously can't actually see in there as you're doing it so it's a bit more like the telemetric feel of lockpicking). You can see on the screen whether it's charging, thank goodness. But this arrangement is pretty unstable, so when you put it down on your computer or whatever, you have to be pretty careful to place it in such a way that the mere act of placing, or any further vibration, like from any dubstep within a few blocks radius, during the time from now until you decide to go on a run, doesn't dislodge the teeth. Which is what happened today. Now here is the most devious betrayal. If the watch becomes dislodged while charging, it reverts to the previous state (on or off). If the watch was turned on when you plugged it in, it turns back on, and then searches really hard for GPS signal, certainly discharging itself in a matter of hours. Awesome! ALSO, you can't tell if the watch is "on" or "off" while it's charging. So you have to remember when you come home from your run to wait for your data to transfer wirelessly to the computer, then turn it off, then plug it in for charging. ALSO, when the snake face is on, it conveniently covers up the power button so that you can't turn it off anyway. I can't quite tell if this is a strange coincidence or a hardware "workaround" to some issue where using the power button while charging would cause it to self-destruct. (Did you ever think it was annoying how you have to take the battery out of your cell phone to change your SIM or memory card and thought that was pretty dumb? This is more likely just a clever way to prevent you from removing or inserting the card while the phone is on, because it can't handle that. Now that's a smartphone!)
Now we're at 75% which should be enough for a North Side jaunt. Next time I will show you some new maps! :)
I have an impacted colon-load of more music turds, including a bunch of the two-track short form old-days style stuff, but I decided to keep this one self-similar. So if you are feeling like this one is off the rails, then well first of all just like chill out, man, cuz like artistic freedom creative license commons GPL squaretooth, but also second, well I already told you about the saved-up old-style. Anyway get zip.
Ludum Dare 23 was a few weeks ago. My game got some great feedback but might have been my worst showing in the rankings, probably partly because the field was huge (1400 games!) and partly because the game is totally not going to work for casual impatient audiences. I am proud of it though. I love playing these weird and sometimes amazing games. I rated over 100; some of my favorites:
Recluse was a little platformer with nice double entendres and a jaw-dropping twist. Highly recommended downloading.
Pocket Planet is a single-screen exploration platformer and damn fine.
Sup guys. I made this game in 48 hours for Ludum Dare #23, whose theme was "Tiny World". It is an experimental homage to an old game called ZZT, with some twists like that everyone can edit the game world, making it a Moderately Multiplayer On-Line Rule Playing Game. Other features:
Very expensive simulated color-ASCII graphics
Content & technology double-whammy
Four new music tracks, including shamelessly self-referential theme song