Announcing my next game: Monster Commander

Monster Commander

A few weeks ago, I started serious work on my next game project. I’m planning for this to be my first commercial project, so it will be significantly better than anything I’ve released before.

Monster Commander will be a tactical RPG with an emphasis on smart decision-making over grinding and luck. Your army will consist of monsters recruited from the ranks of your enemies. Each monster will have very different abilities, and forming the right team will be crucial to achieving victory. I’ve wanted to make this game for years, and it is exhilarating to see it start to become reality.

I’ll be posting major announcements about the game on this site, but if you are interesting in more details about the development, you can follow my devlog.

I’ve also prepared an early demo, for those curious. It only supports hotseat multiplayer right now, but the gameplay is mostly intact. The Overseers are just placeholders, though – the real commanders will be able to draw energy from the battlefield to cast spells. The objective is to destroy the other player’s Overseer. Most everything is controlled by the mouse. You can also use the number keys to select actions, and the arrow keys or spacebar to select monsters.

Download It Here

Why I do this

I haven’t earned a cent from The Ultimate Celebration, but it’s all worthwhile when I hear that someone found every single friend. Doing so is very difficult and requires some considerable dedication. When I released the game, I wasn’t sure that anyone would accomplish this, but several have. This says to me that, at least to those people, the game is something special.

A number of people have written about the game by now, but it’s especially nice when they take the time to really understand the game. The best write-up I found is this one, from Jay is Games. Jeremy Hobbs understood exactly the feel I was trying to create through the game. This guest review on the TIGSource forums and the feedback I received from an IGF judge are also fantastic.

I also received nice posts from the Indie Games Blog, Indie Game Magazine, Get Indie Games (French), and Idealsoft (Italian). The game touched a lot of people, and I consider that success.

IGF Feedback

I just received the feedback for The Ultimate Celebration from the IGF judges, and I have to say, I’m pretty pleased.

Be warned, the feedback contains some SPOILERS, so you should probably play the game first before reading ahead. It will take just a few minutes.

First, here’s the feedback I received from the student competition:

I’m sure you realize this is a game that requires multiple playthroughs in order for it to “click”.  There may be something you can do – even if it’s as simple as a brief game-over screen with the friends you did or didn’t save in this playthrough versus the previous – to help convey that.

Overall, I thought it was nicely done.  I liked the contrast between my first playthrough (oh, this is easy!) to the frantic timing of any subsequent runs.

I’m not sure I completely understand the first comment, since the game already has a game over screen. I do like the idea of displaying a list of all the friends you found, though.

The contrast between the first and subsequent playthroughs is intentional, so it’s good to see that the game had the intended effect. The player is expected to go through a range of emotions during the first playthrough. The game starts out cheerful, gradually builds up a sense of dread, and culminates in a desperate struggle to survive.

The part of the feedback that disappoints me the most is where the judge refers to finding friends as “saving” them (the subsequent feedback makes this same mistake). One of the major themes of the game is the futility of fighting against the inevitable end. Finding your friends doesn’t save them from anything. In the end, they still die. But at least they had their friends with them during their final moments.

Here is an especially nice bit of feedback from the main competition:

Brilliant game, I really enjoyed it. I thought it was quite subversive, darkly humorous and playful. I’ve played through it twice, and intend to give it another few goes to see how much better I can do. To some degree I think it’s a shame that the (fail state) ending is something that never has quite the same impact after the first time, but I suppose that’s the nature of the beast.

I especially liked how initially I thought it was really easy because hitting enemies just knocks you back slightly instead of killing you/reducing health like what you might expect. That idea quickly gets turned on it’s head when you realize that getting knocked back a bit is a very real set back in a lot of scenarios.

It’s pretty damn hard. I play a lot of platformers, but my best score yet on this is finding 8 friends.

Bloody lovely music.

I’m disinclined to check out the video of the ending for if you save all your friends, because I want to try and get it myself eventually. I do suspect that most players won’t be able to achieve this, because I reckon it’s very hard to do so, but that’s ok, not every game has to have completion that is achievable by everyone.

Fantastic use of the short form. Well done!

This judge really understood the game. He or she was correct that few players are able to find all 20 friends. I know of only one other player who found all of them, though this has probably happened a few more times and I just haven’t heard about it.

The high difficulty is intentional, because The Ultimate Celebration is really two different games: the first emotional playthrough, and the subsequent speed-runs. For the first playthrough, the high difficulty is not a problem, since the intended message is even stronger if the player fails (it is virtually impossible to “win” the first time through). Subsequent playthroughs are there more for people who like to challenge themselves, which works best when the difficulty is high.

Interview with Quote Unquote

I was recently interviewed by Quote Unquote. I talk about what I enjoy about game development, how the Independent Games Festival can be improved, and reveal a few of my unfinished projects.

Read it here.

If you have time, you should also check out the interviewer’s YouTube channel, where he has videos about underrated or overlooked indie games.

More Games for Everyone

Small GamesOver the past couple of years, I’ve taken part in a number of game jams and contests. It’s one of the best ways to generate ideas and try out new game mechanics. Sometimes these short experimental games turn into a significant long-term project. The Ultimate Celebration started out as a project for the 2011 Global Game Jam. Of course, for every success that comes out of a game jam, there are a number of games that never really go anywhere.

And now, you can experience those games for yourself. They aren’t as polished as my other games, but there’s still quite a bit of fun to be had with them.

Enjoy!

On another note, I will be at the Game Developers Conference next week. This is the first year I’ve been able to go, so I’m looking forward to it quite a bit. I’ll be sure to make more posts about my experience there soon.

The Ultimate Celebration Release and Trailer

The Ultimate Celebration is now complete. I made a few final updates and released it earlier to night. Download it, play it, and share your thoughts in the comments.

To commemorate the game’s release, I made a trailer.

2012 Global Game Jam – Navigating Nirvana

The 2012 Global Game Jam is over, and I can finally sleep. Somehow, in all the chaos, my team was able to complete a game – Navigating Nirvana. The game is about a cosmic cycle of reincarnation, as were quite a few other games from the local Rochester Jam site. Not surprising, considering that the theme was the Ouroboros, a symbol of the cycle of life, death and rebirth.

In Navigating Nirvana, the shrines you visit during each life determine what you come back as in the next. If you visit few shrines, you come back as a lowly frog, but if you visit many, you can come back as a tiger or eagle. The more powerful forms are able to visit more shrines, and eventually, you can visit the final shrine, at the top of the temple, and achieve inner peace. For a game developed in 48 hours, you can have a lot of fun with it.

I won’t be sleeping this weekend…

Because the 2012 Global Game Jam is underway. I’ll be working on creating a game, from beginning to end, in only 48 hours. Thousands of other people from countries all over the world are doing the same. It’s always a ton of fun for crazy people like me, and everyone benefits from having hundred of new games to try out on Monday.

The Jam is especially significant for me, since it’s where I started work on The Ultimate Celebration last year. It won a contest sponsored by Gamesauce, so I decided to continue work on it, with the help of a talented musician. Today, I consider it to be one of the best games I’ve worked on. Hopefully, I’ll make something just as cool at this year’s Jam. Of course, it could also be a complete train wreck. Either way, I’ll post what I create on this blog.

Welcome to Digital Dessert

The site is still a bit empty, but I’ll be adding a whole lot more in the next few weeks. Here, you’ll be able to download all the games I’ve created. I’ll also try to regularly post information on my works-in-progress and my thoughts on game design in general. Stay tuned!