It’s all about the games
I am a 19-year-old guy from England who plays a lot of video games. All the time I’ve spent playing games, I’ve dreamt up countless ideas of my own. With a couple years experience under my belt using the Unity game engine, I’m now able to take those ideas and splosh them onto the screen in a flurry of awesomeness.
A short history of the games I love
All this love for video games is rooted way back in my past to the Playstation 1. That little grey box gave us blockbuster hits such as Spyro and Crash Bandicoot, which revolutionised platform games, and Metal Gear Solid, which breathed new life into the stealth genre while redefining what it meant for a game to tell a story. Then came the PS2, which brought with it many leaps forward in gaming – Metal Gear Solid 2 was a postmodern masterpiece, Ratchet and Clank left off where past 3D platformers had finished, and I can’t tell you how many of my free hours were sunk into Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Then you have Tony Hawk’s Underground and the Lego Star Wars series, not to mention MGS3, which is probably my favourite game of all time. Oh how much I enjoyed Ladder Simulator 2004.
Around the same time, I was getting into handheld gaming in the form of a Gameboy Advance. I wasn’t fortunate to have had an original Gameboy prior to this, but it certainly saw its fair share of use – with fantastic games such as Yoshi’s Island and Donkey Kong Country (both originally on the SNES, but I didn’t have one of those), Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga and of course Pokémon Ruby, who wouldn’t play on that thing every day? Thankfully, backwards compatibility also afforded me the opportunity to play older games in the Pokémon series and helped cement my love (well, addiction) for the whole series. This continued into the Nintendo DS era, which introduced me to the New Super Mario Bros. series, two new fantastic Pokémon generations (contrary to everyone ever, Black and White is still my favourite entry into the series), Dragon Quest IX, the time drain that is Animal Crossing: Wild World, as well as a slew of others.
The DS era eventually passed, and then Nintendo informed us there’s actually a third dimension, and we didn’t need special glasses to experience it. Initially the Nintendo 3DS had a pretty poor selection of games, but now it’s really taken off – we’ve had Super Mario 3D Land, Mario Kart 7, Animal Crossing: New Leaf, Super Smash Bros. for 3DS, New Super Mario Bros. 2, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D, Majora’s Mask 3D and A Link Between Worlds, and last but not least, Pokémon X and Y and Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire. They’re all first-party Nintendo titles; that speaks volumes about Nintendo’s supremacy when it comes to handhelds. This is the smorgasbord of excellence which helped cement my faith in Nintendo as the best thing in gaming since virtual sliced bread.
On the PC (master race) side of things, I’ve never had the privilege to enjoy the most demanding of games, but I’ve made the most of my coal-powered laptop as much as I can. Of course, everyone experienced the Minecraft boom and I was a right Tekkit nerd. It was here on this hunk of junk that I experienced Half-Life and its sequel episodes, plus both Portal games; I haven’t since experienced anything close to the utter perfection bundled in Portal 2. I cannot state how highly I rate both series and I hope our Lord Gaben one day betroths upon us the wonders of a third instalment in both series, even if I’m collecting my pension by then. More recently, I played through the insanely well-written humour of Borderlands 2 (Handsome Jack competes with GLaDOS for best videogame villain) and the sheer co-op fun that comes with Terraria.
My first home console since the PS2, and in my opinion the only console actually worth owning this generation, is the Wii U. It may be underselling, and Nintendo might not know how to market the damn thing (the name, man, the name), but it’s still the best double hunk of black plastic with a screen money can buy right now. Bring me one person that doesn’t love crowding around the TV with their friends to play Super Smash Bros. for Wii U or Mario Kart 8, something no other console quite does the same, and I’ll show them a shotgun to the face because they are wrong. Add the surprise system-seller Splatoon to the equation, a game about hipster squid teenagers who shoot ink at each other, and the low price of the system compared to those two wannabe PCs that dare call themselves consoles, and there’s no reason you shouldn’t own one.
What I’m up to nowadays
I’m studying Computer Science at Warwick University right now, and am part of the Game Design Society here (I’m never seen without my trademark WGD hoodie). It’s a blast making games with these guys, from two-week competitions hosted by the society themselves, to intense 48-hour competitions such as Ludum Dare, it’s been the best first year for anyone wanting to make games, and I’ve had more success with game-making during this time than at any other time in my life. In my second year, that trend is almost certain to continue.
About muh games
Since the moment I started making games, I knew it was my thing. I knew it was what I want to do. I’ve not stopped making games since, and unless something very, very drastic changed, I’m not gonna stop soon.
My first project was an ill-fated Java game with no name. It failed quite spectacularly because I didn’t finish it in the slightest. I never tried spreading it around, and really, it wasn’t a game. It was a very interesting project to play around with and generally learn some coding practices, but I’d basically mirrored the YouTube tutorial I was working from. It’s still an interesting tutorial series that sorta, well, ended, but you can have a gander here. That guy has recently started a new series using a language called Dart, so it may be worth checking those videos out. This game is also where this blog started out!
Then I stumbled upon Unity game engine, which you may have heard of. It’s widely used by indie developers, but is also powerful enough for even the largest of projects. I wrote about my first project with Unity for a while, an open-world, 3D platform game, but ultimately it was just a mess of random features and never had much hope of taking off. It was going to be based largely on the original (i.e, good) Crash Bandicoot and Spyro games, but I never made a solid plan of what features I wanted to implement and how I’d implement them. Then I had a go at a tower defense game that barely got off the ground, even less so than the platformer. The problem with both was that of scope. I was clearly aiming too high with both, and while they were both very helpful with learning the programming and workflow concepts behind coherent game design, they were both scrapped due to their wildly complex and incomplete nature.
After being set back so many times, I had another go. I aimed fairly low. I added floor. I added spikes. It was a project. Project Spikes was born. That’s literally where the name comes from, because I’m so imaginative with naming stuff. It blended physics platforming, through my own imagining of the Half-Life Gravity Gun, with puzzle elements. It also had lasers and jump-switching platforms, amongst other features. It was fairly successful in development, but it fell through in the midst of my A levels and has since been left behind in my backlog of games. That’s not to say I’ll never work on it again, but for now it’s just an idea from the past. If you want to cringe at my past game design skills, here it is.
[Four By Eight]
After Project Spikes came a short-lived idea of mine, Four By Eight. The idea was conceived after I thought about the smallest resolution you can make a game in, and I came to the conclusion you could probably do it in a 4×4 pixel space. That grew into a rhythm game in which you controlled one ‘pixel’ in a world that’s just 4×8 ‘pixels’ wide (I found 4×4 pixels a bit too difficult for a main mode, so I added that as another difficulty option). I never got round to making any music for it and, like all the games above, it’s incomplete and in limbo, but one day I may come back to it. I largely got sidetracked from this by the fact I was starting uni, and that very much took priority.
Joining WGD – The Great Game Explosion of 2014/15™
Right at the start of uni came The Great Game Explosion of 2014/15™. Once I joined Warwick Game Design Society, I immediately joined in with their two-week competitions in which a theme is set and games must be developed within that time frame to the theme. I’ll list them off here, together with the theme. Note that I took part in several global 48-hour competitions as part of the society that are also listed here.
Strobe Simulator 2014 gives you a laser that reflects off walls and the aim is to shoot small black balls that fly your way and blast them into the walls to blow them up. Doing so has a chance of lighting up that section of the room with a strobe light. The strobe effect was terrible and the game was a bit broken, but I developed it with my flatmate Tom Dove and it was great fun throwing together the game mechanics. I stole the laser and reflection code from my own Project Spikes, and Tom did a great job on the texture for the walls.
Lavender Town was mine and Tom’s imagining of the Lavender Town Buryman creepypasta. I won’t ruin the story in case you want to play it, but we basically drew out the sprites by hand and applied as many effects as we could to make it feel as spooky as possible. Wait until you get higher up the tower and prepare for your nightmares.
Fractal Mountain Generator is mostly a tech demo of a pseudo-randomly generated terrain. I returned to working with Tom for this one, although as a mathematician, he did most of the work! It wasn’t much of a game, but we did get a lot of the foundation for a fast pseudorandom terrain generator nailed.
Sam’s Micro Adventure was my first solo game after joining the society. The aesthetic I was going for was a simple, somewhat minimalist world like Thomas Was Alone; you should see quite a lot of parallels between the two games. It was a fun little game, and I won that fortnight’s competition so everyone else must have thought so!
[Ludum Dare 31 – Entire Game on One Screen]
This isn’t a society event, but we did hold a meetup event as part of a society for it. Forever Falling was my first attempt at a 48-hour competition of this kind, but it was very successful for me – I came 266th overall, which was leaps and bounds ahead of where I thought I’d come. It was largely based on Sam’s Micro Adventure, but I concentrated on making the transitions between stages as satisfying as possible and changed some of the mechanics – pressing space flipped gravity, for example. Needless to say, it was frustrating that dying sent you back to the first level, which was the main complaint.
As a huge improvement on Fractal Mountain Generator, Tom and I made Pew Pew Generation. This featured infinitely-generating terrain, and had much more variety in the shapes of hills, mountains and ridges. While Tom worked mainly on the terrain generation, which turned out fantastically, I worked on the weird FPS elements that were put in the game to make it into a game. It was functional, and despite using primitive capsule colliders and simple mouse clicks, it was actually fun to play with a room full of people.
[Global Game Jam 2015 – What Do We Do Now?]
This was another 48-hour thing, but this one’s a jam and games aren’t rated by other entrants, so it’s a bit more casual than Ludum Dare. Since it encouraged working in teams, Tom and I worked together and made 9 To 5, a game based on making decisions. It featured one level where you had to find Daft Punk’s record and either give it to him or throw it in the bin, and another where you could return a missing cat or throw it in a fire. That’s all you need to know.
[Ludum Dare 32 – An Unconventional Weapon]
This one was great fun. Again, while crammed in a room with other participants from WGD, I put together I Will Be Happy, perhaps the worst named game in existence, but it fills the desperate need for a game where you shoot people with hugs. I even had a character selection screen for it where you could choose the skin and t-shirt colour of the player, and all enemies randomised those colours. I created five guns, which all fired bullets differently and were all made of different kinds of love. Awwwww. It had one annoying feature – my high-pitched voice acting – and lacked background music, like my other Ludum Dare entry. I did even better this time around – 121st overall, 60th in humour and an amazing 16th in fun!
<If you’re still reading up to this point, then thanks! But the rest of the page is still somewhat under construction, so go and put on the kettle and have a cup of Earl Grey while I get this fixed. You may need several teas before I’m done. So many, that you will develop an addiction to tea. Get yourself to a clinic somewhere, you tea junkie.>
[Ludum Dare 33 – You Are the Monster]
[Non-WGD, Purge The City]
Second Year of WGD
[Retro] (Radicool Trip)
[Broken] (Radicool Trip 2)
[Translate 48hr] (Transcribe)
[Ludum Dare 34 – Growing/Two-button Control] (Slower Than Sound)
[Global Game Jam 2016 – Ritual] (Ritual Quest)
[‘Fuck This’ 48hr] (Tappy Dev)
[Ludum Dare 35 – Shapeshift] (Shifting Dungeons)
What I’m gonna be doing in the future
The tl;dr is that if I’m not making games by the time I leave uni, I’ve gone catastrophically wrong somewhere. It’s what I love doing, and it’s the only thing I can imagine myself doing in the future. All being well, in 5 or so years I’ll be sitting in my own little indie game studio, working on whatever games I can think of to make people happy.