Monday, December 31, 2007

Farewell 2007... hello 2008

What can I say? 2007 was an awesome year, the highlight being the birth of my son Zac.
Being a dad is the best job in the world - especially with two great kids!

It's New Years Eve and I don't want to sit at the computer for too long, so HAVE A HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Holiday Clean Up

It all began when we bought some Christmas lights to put in the front yard... but the garden was overgrown with trees making it difficult to place the lights. So, the garden needed trimming.

In preparation Leigh ordered a super skip (a giant steel container to store rubbish). Of course, it needed filling - and it's the holidays - so what began as a simple garden clean up became Operation Landscaping.

So now we have a totally re-landscaped front yard, sans trees and with brand new wood chip mulch. It looks great, but now we're in the clean up mood and the attention has shifted to the garage where I have a lifetime of junk/toys/memorabilia stored.

I decided that it was about time to be ruthless and throw away/donate stuff that I haven't looked at for years. So I mercilessly culled out all of my Edge computer magazines and Wired magazines (I kept the first ten issues of each), I even threw out old magazines that had the slightest mention of games that I had worked on (I had a lot), and even bundled up a bunch of toys, comics and books for charity.

As you can tell I'm a bit of a hoarder and for some reason I tend to keep old toy and game boxes. Yes, that's right boxes. Empty boxes. It was time to let go and throw them out.

I finally threw out my Imperial Attack Base toy box that I had (for some strange reason) hoarded for the last 20 plus years. I'd most of the toy years ago so I threw the rest out too.

But don't worry - I've kept all of my toys that are still in blister packs including Star Wars action figures, original Ninja Turtle toys, The Simpsons figures, Star Trek figures and a whole bunch of other whacky toys I've picked up over the years.

I'm keeping these for the day when I can give them to my kids and watch them rip them open and play with them as they were meant to be played with!

But I did decide to keep one empty box... the original Japanese Playstation package. I really like the box design, it's so simple for a games machine that changed the world.

Original Japanese PSX Box (front)

Original Japanese PSX Box (back)

Well, it's time to clean up my home office, but before I go - if you haven't played Puzzle Quest yet then head over to Big Fish Games - they have a special offer on until the end of the month where it's 40% off all games. So you can pick up Puzzle Quest on PC for USD $12! What a bargain!!!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Merry Christmas!

I hope you all have a safe and happy holidays and that Santa brings you lots of wonderful video games to play!

I've had a great year making and playing games and look forward to doing more next year.


Friday, December 21, 2007

Brainiversity in iWin Top 10

This is the first time one of my casual games has made into a top ten, so I'm pretty chuffed. And right before Christmas too :-)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Brainiversity on iWin and PlayFirst

Just in time for Christmas PlayFirst and iWin have both released Brainiversity on their sites.

It's getting great reader reviews which is a real buzz. It's even earned a 5/5 on iWin. Excuse me for indulging myself, but here are a few of my favorite player quotes:
"WOW!!!!!!!!!!!! I just love this game."

This game is absolutely awsome. I swear I can feel my brain thinking"


That's what I love about making games in the internet era - you can get feedback from the people who matter most (the players) instantaneously.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Speed Racer

I've just watched the Speed Racer movie trailer a few times over... and I'm not sure what to think of it.

It kinda reminds me of the Dick Tracy movie (the garish colors) and the racing looks a lot like the Wipeout video game - but the characters and vehicles appear to be true to their source material.

I often wonder how these movies get made. I mean, Speed Racer was an okay cartoon show, but to sink so much money into remaking it for the big screen seems rather odd. Maybe the Wachowski brothers saw an opportunity to tell a story that needed to be told in this Tatsuo Yoshida animated series.

I guess I'll have to wait until May 2008 to find out.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Back from holiday

That's right, I've been on vacation for the last week. I spent my time swimming with the kids (we stayed across the road from the beach - it's summer time in Australia and the weather is beeeeeautiful!), reading and playing Super Mario Galaxy.

I had an awesome time and am ready to get back to work.

I have some Brainiversity news - a Spanish version is currently in the works which will be followed by German and probably French - we'll see how the Spanish one goes first.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

More Super Mario Galaxy and Smarty Pants

I'm on holiday at the moment so I've had more time to get stuck into Super Mario Galaxy.

I'm still enjoying it immensely - Nintendo has definitely captured the feel of Mario 64.

The 2nd player mode is cool, I've had my 3 year old join in for a couple of minutes at a time. She almost has the hang of pointing the remote to pick up stuff - but it doesn't quite engage her yet. However she keeps coming back to try, so I'm hoping she'll get the hang of it.

I've waited a long time to be able to play games with my kids, and what a great time to be playing!

Another game I'm playing is Smarty Pants, which is a quiz game like Buzz, but for the Wii. Unfortunately for the developers, they've assumed that the PAL territory consists solely of London. Which means that what should be a fun game grinds to a halt when you get the Sport or UK category - and have to answer a question about British soccer players or London suburbs.

I went to the options hoping you could turn off these categories, but it's not possible. That would have been a smart move seeing that they didn't localize it for Australia. Maybe they'll do this for Smarty Pants 2 - or pay a bit extra and localize it for the Aussies.

The game uses your Mii in it's user profile but oddly enough won't let you use your profile when you play in solo mode - you have to use a guest profile.

I actually bought Smarty Pants because I played it on Facebook - which has you answer ten questions then send these on to friends to try and beat your score. It then shows you how everyone rated. The Facebook version is lots of fun and quite addictive. But unfortunately this feature isn't included in the actual retail version of the game... maybe Smarty Pants 2 will fix this too.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Amazon Queen on the iPhone

I was reading Ron Gilbert's latest amusing blog entry on Grumpy Gamer where he talks about his "one wish".

Without ruining it for you he eventually drops the bombshell that Monkey Island is now playable on the iPhone thanks to the nice people at ScummVM.

Then it hit me... if Monkey Island works on the iPhone with ScummVM, then Flight of the Amazon Queen would too! And guess what? It does!

I was getting an iPhone when they become available in Australia next year anyway, but now being able to play my old adventure game on it makes it even cooler. Oh, and I'll be able to play Monkey Island too.

Monday, November 26, 2007

What They Play

What They Play is a useful new site for parents to help them make educated decisions about what games to buy for their children.

Unlike popular sites like IGN, 1Up and Gaming Age, What They Play goes out of their way to talk about games like Dora the Explorer and High School Musical. If you have kids and you're a gamer you'll realize how cool this is - trying to find balanced information on games for 3 year olds is almost impossible.

But it also covers games for older kids too, drawing attention to stuff that mainstream press reviews wouldn't - for example their coverage of Assassin's Creed warns:
"Potentially objectionable language is far from gratuitous, though it is strong. There are a few f-bombs dropped, and players will hear “b*****d” and expressions such as “d**n you all to h***.”"

Founded by industry vets Ira Becker and John Davison (who used to be the editorial director of the 1Up network) the site has the credibility of real game journalists with experience in the more serious console gaming field. In fact John is still involved in the 1Up Yours podcast so he has his finger on the pulse of hardcore gamers.

If you have kids that you'll be buying Christmas presents for this year then I thoroughly recommend that you check out the site:

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Super Mario Galaxy

Without trying to sound too much like a Nintendo fanboy I have to say I've been having a blast playing Super Mario Galaxy on Wii. It's lots of fun and is getting rave reviews from everyone on the planet.

Now, the game is awesome, but I would love to see what the reviews would have been like if Mario was retextured as Manny the Carpenter and was released by THQ as Super Manny's Adventures.

Would the reviewers mark it down for having text only on the screen and no VO? Would they pick on the bizarre storyline that mixes witches and UFOs and mushrooms into one big mix? Would it get 98% or higher?

I guess we'll never know. But I suspect smaller devs would never be given the same sort of breaks in these areas that Nintendo gets.

What do you think?

Friday, November 16, 2007


I've been running the closed beta for the new Brainiversity product for the last few months and will be opening it up to the public soon. I've been slowly adding features and fixing bugs - and the public beta should accelerate this process.

It's been a great learning process for me - I've gotten my hands dirty with Flash, HTML, PHP and MySQL. I've been having a lot of fun with it - and I'm very impressed with PHP - it's so cool to be able to come up with an idea and have it up and working within minutes. Anyway, keep checking this blog - I'll make the announcement here when it's available.

In other news I finally got Zelda on DS but have elected to hold off opening it until Christmas. I know, it sounds like madness - but I have a lot of other cool games to play through first...

Monday, November 12, 2007

Sam and Max for FREE!

That's right, Telltale Games is offering one of the episodes of the new episodic adventure game series Sam and Max for free!

So, if you haven't got it yet, then click on this link and start downloading the game right now!

Thursday, November 08, 2007


Well, I'm back from New Zealand having attending the AnimfxNZ symposium.

Unfortunately I had to leave early due to other commitments, so I only got to attend one and a half days of the conference - but the one and half days I did see were great!

The conference had an awesome line up of speakers including Tim Johnson (director of Over the Hedge), Dan Curry (vfx producer on Star Trek), Warren Franklin (head of Rainmaker and working on putting Reboot back on the screens!), Rita Street (president of Radar Cartoons), Jason Manley (from Massive Black) and many, many others. Pinky Agnew was the MC and she did an awesome job making everyone laugh and feel welcome. Overall, it was a sterling event!

I gave a talk and a workshop which I hope people got something useful from. Wellington was a nice city and I was lucky enough to be there on Guy Fawkes Night - which meant lots of fireworks. Definitely a place to go back and visit with the family.

Friday, November 02, 2007


OpenSocial from Google is a new common API for building social applications across many websites. It's Google's answer to Facebook apps, and given the amount of money that Google is losing in advertising to Facebook's closed off social network it's no surprise they're striking out hard.

Google has managed to snare some pretty big partners including LinkedIn, MySpace, Ning, hi5 and Friendster. MySpace has actually dumped their own app initiative and adopted OpenSocial.

The cool thing is creating a social app is similar to creating a Google Gadget - which means Flash can be embedded. So, what does this mean for game developers? Well, hopefully it will make it easier for entrepreneurial dev teams to do some interesting stuff with social networks and easily deploy their work to a lot of places.

In other news, Halloween was awesome. I chaperoned Ella, Zac and our neighbor Regan, around the neighborhood early in the afternoon as they "trick or treated" to their hearts content. Ella went as a princess, Zac as a surfer and Regan as Superman. Together they scored lots of candy loot. Then we returned home and gave out heaps of candy to the onslaught of older kids. All up we had around 25 to 30 kids trick or treating. Not bad for an Australian neighborhood where Halloween is still a new idea.

This Sunday I'm off to New Zealand to attend the AnimfxNZ symposium. I'll be giving a talk on localizing games (put together with Gary Ireland, the Japanese language producer on Destroy All Humans! 2) as well as giving a workshop. Should be lots of fun.

Sidhe Interactive are hosting a Guy Fawkes Party on Monday night which I'm looking forward to attending. They have some great people speaking at the conference, including people from Dreamworks and Weta.

I'll post more when I return.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Happy Halloween!

It's October 31 - and that means it's trick or treat time.

This afternoon I'll be escorting Ella and Zac around the neighbourhood as they go trick or treating in search of candy.

Ella will dressed in her traditional Halloween costume of a pink fairy. A very cute pink fairy. And Zac will be dressed as a baby boy. A very cute baby boy. And me, I'll be dressed as a game developer (jeans, t-shirt and sneakers). Not a very cute game developer.

And because it's Halloween you should check out some of my spooky Halloween themed games!

Halloween Spirit Board is a little piece of software I wrote a while back that allows you to talk with those that have "crossed over into the afterlife". (NOTE: This is marketing talk, actual product does not connect with the afterlife and is a simulation).

Halloween Harry/Alien Carnage is a cool action platformer full of zombies, monsters and all sorts of Halloween trickery. And it is 100% free!!!!! How good is that?

Have an enjoyable day and happy trick or treating.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

48 Hour Games Rock!

Well the 48 hours are up and the teams have produced some pretty stellar results.

I was on the judging panel with Gaute Rasmussen and Lubi Thomas and we were blown away by the quality of work these guys made in the last 48 hours.

Check out the blog here, where hopefully they'll add some more info about each game.

So congrats to:
* Team Equidna and Ben, Abbey, Michael and Kyall on their "Clunk" platformer game.
* Lurker's Craft and Adam, Kim, Paul, Phil and Scott on their space game.
* Black Van and Nick, Scott, Matthew, Yahtze and Andrew on their "Boltor saviour of the World" game.
* Sif90 and Mike, Matt, Michael, Like and Tom on their "Sticky Geckos" puzzle game.

A highlight of the night was hearing legendary Yahtzee read the prologue to "Boltor" in his inimitable Zero Punctuation style.

Apologies if I missed anyone or got your name wrong - let me know.

Friday, October 26, 2007

48 Hour Game Challenge

Next Level Brisbane Festival is 3 day event focusing on creative pursuits.

As part of the festival there's a 48 hour game challenge running in conjunction with the Brisbane branch of the IGDA. A number of developers are camping out at the QUT campus for 2 days making some cool games that will be judged this Sunday.

You can track their progress at the 48 hour game challenge blog here and even send them a few words of encouragement.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

MySpace Games

MySpace and Oberon Media are teaming up to bring games to MySpace's social networking site. Should be very interesting to see how other players react to the news. You can find out more in this gamasutra Q&A.

In other news, I made it on a "Who's Who in Australian Gaming" list compiled by gameplayer, which is nice. Not sure about being a child prodigy though... I'm all grown up now :-)

And finally, if anyone is a big fan of Brainiversity (and loves to do the activities every day) and would like to be in on the beta for a new version, drop me a line at with your name, details and why you'd like to sign up.


Friday, October 19, 2007

The Portal Song

Warning: If you haven't played and finished Portal, part of the Orange Box, then you shouldn't read this blog entry!

Okay, you're still reading, so let the spoilers flow.

At the end of Portal there's a very cool song called "Still Alive" that plays over the end credits. Jonathon Coulton is the musician behind the song and he talks about writing and recording the song on his blog here.

It's a beautiful, ironic, bittersweet song and you can listen to it while watching the end credits here.

We need more developers to use great music like this in games. Let's hope Brutal Legend delivers.

Monday, October 15, 2007

E.T. - The Extra-Terrestrial

I watched E.T. with my 3 year old this weekend and she loved it. Actually, we watched it a few times - I even dragged out my old E.T. stuffed toy to sit on the couch with us.

Afterwards, I was thinking "wouldn't it be cool if there was an E.T. game"... a decent one (not the Atari one!). And what do you know, today I discover that there's a mobile phone version that's just been released.

Surely a DS version is not far off?

Thanks to Wired Game|Life for the tip off.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Brütal Legend

Tim Schafer and the Double Fine team's new game, Brutal Legend (click here for Wikipedia spoilers), has the cover of the latest Game Informer. What's cool is that it stars one of my favorite rock and rollers Jack Black (from Tenacious D) as a roadie on a road trip from hell, as well as Lemmy from Motorhead.

Given Tim's warped sense of humor and Jack Black's awesome voice this is one game I'm getting excited about. If he can capture the coolness of Full Throttle, mix it with the fun of Monkey Island and throw in the humor of Psychonauts we just might have a hit!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Beam me up, Scotty!

I thought this was a cool bit of casting:

Simon Pegg, star of the TV series Spaced, and co-writer and star of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz has signed on as Scotty in the new J.J. Abrams Star Trek movie.

I've been a big fan of Pegg's since his early British TV comedy days, especially Big Train and Spaced - so this should make for a very interesting Trek indeed!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007


Brainiversity has just hit the Trygames network - meaning even more people will be playing the game. I have some cool stuff in the works for the series, so the more people aware of the brand, the better!

Trygames has an affiliate program so if you're interested in selling Brainiversity from your site it's pretty easy. Check out their affiliate program here. In the day or so it's been up on Trygames I've already seen some affiliate sales - so it's a great way to make a bit of extra cash.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Brainiversity Update # 2

Brainiversity is doing really well from my site at - I've got a 12.7% conversion rate which is great. Most of the people are stumbling on to the site without me having done any real work.

Don't worry, I have a marketing plan in place and will be kicking it into gear soon - so hopefully the high conversion rate will stick when way more people come by. I'm just working on a few other little details to make sure the site offers something more to keep people coming back.

Hopefully I will have something to show soon.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Textfyre - Text Adventures Strike Back

This was covered on the web a few weeks ago but I thought it was worth pointing out for those who may have missed it...

Textfyre is an interactive fiction developer who plans on putting text adventures back in the gaming public eye. Gamasutra ran an interview with founder, David Cornelson last month in which he outlines Textfyre's plans. He plans to initially sell the new titles online, with a view to eventually selling them as boxed packages in Borders and Barnes and Noble. Not a bad idea.

I can see his logic in thinking there may be a market for text adventures, given the popularity of Young Reader fiction book titles. I used to love text adventures as a kid and found it really easy to lose myself in their worlds. I wonder if this still applies to kids today? Well, I hope he does well with his venture - I tip my hat to him for trying something different in today's market.

If you'd like to read more, Grand Text Auto has some other information here.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Big Brain Academy Board Game

I thought this was rather interesting... the Nintendo DS game, Big Brain Academy, has been made into a board game by University Games. It even keeps the gimmick of weighing your brain from the DS game - you earn chips for answering questions and weigh them at the end of the game on the "weigh-o-meter" to see who has the biggest brain.

Speaking of video games making the leap to board/card games, the new Halo ActionClix is out now. So when you've finished the fight on the 360 you can get further doses of Halo action sitting around a table with some buddies, a bowl of snacks and some Halo soft drink.

Of course Big Brain Academy and Halo aren't the only video games to be made into board games - there are plenty of others including Sid Meier's Civilization, Tomb Raider and my favorite - Doom: The Board Game.

I wonder if anyone is up for turning Brainiversity into a board game?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


fl0wer is the next game from thatgamecompany, the developers behind the entrancing fl0w. I'm not quite sure what the game is all about but you can check out the trailer here.

If it's anything like fl0w it will no doubt be a very beautiful, hypnotic experience. It's good to see some interesting stuff in development on the major consoles. The download services that Xbox Live and PSN offer really opens the door for creative projects with smaller budgets.

thatgamecompany aren't the only ones producing some interesting results. Echochrome is another game that is pushing boundaries. It's best described as an M.C. Escher puzzle game that you really have to see to appreciate - check out this youtube clip of the game.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Weekend DS Action

I picked up two DS games this week - Mario and Luigi: Partners in Time and Elite Beat Agents.

They're both older games that I somehow managed to miss first time around. But I wanted to play them before the new Zelda hits the DS - a game that I am really looking forward to. No doubt my DS time will be totally consumed by it when it launches in around 3 weeks time!

In other news, the whole family is off to Australia Zoo this weekend - Ella is excited about seeing the crocodiles and elephants. Should be a fun day!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Making Games On A Budget - Part 4

This is the fourth and final part of the Making Games On A Budget article that I wrote for PC Powerplay, an Australian gaming magazine. I hope you got something out of them!

Selling Your Game
So, you made a game. You’ve tested it. People like it. Now what?
It’s time to sell it to the world!

There are a number of services that will provide digital rights management (DRM) solutions and handle payment transactions for you. Most have no initial set up costs but will charge you a fee for every unit you sell. Trymedia, RegNow and Plimus are just a few options.

You can also elect to sell your game via affiliates. These range from big portals to fan web sites and every game you sell you will have to split the profit with the DRM provider and the affiliate - but the upside is you get immense exposure.

I chose Trymedia’s ActiveMARK technology for Word Shake and Brainiversity due to its simplicity. Once you sign up it’s a simple process to start selling online. You upload your exe file to their site for DRM wrapping, create an installer, test it, set your pricing, then upload the installer for verification. Within minutes they will send you a link that you can start selling your game from.

Okay, so if you've read parts 1,2 and 3 then you should have the tools to make a game, test it and start selling online. Except it doesn’t end there. Having your game online doesn’t guarantee that people will know it exists or that they will buy it. To let people know about your game you’ll need to market it.

Marketing games is a whole other topic, but there are some resources that you can look up online that will help point you in the right direction. Resources such as and Video Game Marketing, a site run by Joseph Liebermanm author of the Game Marketing book. Even if you don’t use their services you may be able to get some useful marketing tips from their sites.

So, what are you waiting for? Go and make a game!

Brainiversity Statistics
Genre: Brain Training
Number of Mini-Games: 16
Beta Testers: 100+
Development Time: 6 months
SDK: PopCap Framework
Distributed By: Oberon Media

Here are the links again in one convenient location!

Indie Game Forums/News

Indie Gamer Forums –

Development Environment
Visual C++ 2005 Express Edition -

Game Engines/3D Engines
PopCap Framework -
Play Ground SDK -
Irrlicht engine -
Ogre3D -
Blitz3D (USD $100) / Blitz Max (USD $80) -
Torque Engine (USD $150) -
DarkBASIC (USD $39.99) -
Protean IDE -

Graphics Tools
ArtRage 2 (FREE / USD $19.95) -
Pro Motion (USD $29.95) -
GIF Movie Gear (USD $29.95 ) -

Sound Tools
Audacity -

Music Resource
Game Audio Australia –

Other Resources
ActiveMARK DRM technology -
RegNow DRM technology -
Plimus -
Survey Monkey -
Game Release Press Release Service -
Video Game Marketing -

Brainiversity game -
Word Shake game -

Copyright (c) 2007 John Passfield

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Making Games On A Budget - Part 3

This is part three of an article I wrote for PC Powerplay, an Australian gaming magazine. This time I discuss how to produce graphics, sound and beta testing on a budget. The next and final installment is due soon. Enjoy!

Okay, we’ve got our programming sorted out. Now how do we create graphics on a budget? Luckily there are some inexpensive options available.

Photoshop is a great art package, but is probably a bit too expensive for the average hobbyist. For Brainiversity I also used ArtRage 2, which for my below average art skills provided a better result with freehand drawing than Photoshop. The limited edition of ArtRage 2 is free but for USD $19.95 you can get the full edition which lets you use layers.

For more pixel perfect art I used a package called Pro Motion. It’s USD $29.95 for the lite version and is great for creating traditional 2D sprite graphics and animation.

I also used GIF Movie Gear to create my desktop icons. You can use the free trial version to create a set of icons, but if you plan to make a few games I’d recommend buying it. It costs USD $29.95 from gamani productions.

When it comes to audio I only use Audacity. It’s free and allows you to sample sounds using a microphone then do cool effects and save them out in different sound formats. It also supports the royalty free ogg vorbis format that the PopCap Framework uses.

Music is the one place that I spent real money. I wanted the best, so I chose Mick Gordon from Game Audio Australia. However, if you still want to keep the budget low, then there are plenty of good budget musicians to be found on the Indie Gamer Forums.

Beta Testing
You should constantly test your game with friends and family as you develop it. Even if it’s not the sort of game they usually play you can still pick up critical issues such as a confusing interface, poorly written instructions or even bugs that you miss when you play.

I also recommend holding a public beta for your game as you approach completion. To capture user feedback I used Survey Monkey, on online survey system, to collate player’s thoughts as soon as they exited the game. The service is free, but capped to 100 users. You can increase your survey group size for a nominal fee.

For Brainiversity I used the survey to ask some key questions about the game and used the feedback to change some things before release. For example I discovered that people weren’t aware of the game’s charting function, so I made the hint system tell the player about it at the start of the game.

Next... Selling your game

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Making Games On A Budget - Part 2

This is the second part of an article I wrote for PC Powerplay, an Australian gaming magazine. More to come in the next few days. Enjoy!

How To Find Time
Before I start talking about the development environment and tools, there’s another really important aspect of game development to think about. This is finding time to actually make a game.

Chances are indie development is not your full time job, so the key here is to find small slices of time and use that time well. It might mean giving up an hour of TV a night or spending less time in World of Warcraft. Now an hour a day may not seem like a lot of time, but over a week it almost adds up to a full working day. Use the time wisely. Resist the urge to surf the web and get stuck into work as soon as you sit at your PC. If you’ve kept your game small enough you’ll be surprised at how quickly it will start to come together. For a cool tip on how to be more productive check out this article from Life Hacker about Jerry Seinfelds' productivity secret.

Now that you’ve got an idea for your game it’s time to start making it. I love puzzle games and brainteasers, so as a follow up to Word Shake I decided to do a brain training style of game with 16 unique mini-games. Because this was my second game I felt okay with the increased game scope - I already had an existing game engine and was comfortable with my tools and programming environment. Again, I want to re-iterate that for your first game, start small.

There are so many game-programming options available that I only have the space to talk about a few of my favorites. I recommend trawling through the Indie Gamer Forums to find out more. This is a great place to find programmers, musicians and artists who want to make indie games as well as catch up on the latest news.

For Brainiversity I used Visual C++ 2005 Express Edition as my development environment. It’s available from Microsoft and is 100% free.

If you don’t want to learn C you could try BlitzBasic, BlitzMax or DarkBASIC. They’re not free, but are reasonably priced and offer enough power to get you building a game fast. They also come with lots of example game source code to get you started. If you use Blitz Basic then I recommend downloading the Protean IDE. It gives you a cleaner interface to the fairly basic Blitz environment. Be warned that Protean is now a discontinued product, but is free. If you want to focus on 2D games then BlitzMax might be right for you – it has the ability to create Linux, Windows and Mac OS X executables. Blitz3D costs USD $100, BlitzMax costs USD $80 and DarkBASIC is USD $39.99.

If you decide to use Visual C++ 2005 you’ll need a game engine to get started. The good news is that there are a lot of excellent free engines to use. Each of these frameworks gives you an easy way to load and render your graphics, handle sound and a whole lot of other stuff – letting you focus on making gameplay.

I chose the PopCap Framework for Brainiversity. It’s free and has been used in many games like Bejeweled and Bookworm that have been downloaded a lot (over 200,000,000 times according to the PopCap website!) so it’s pretty robust.

Other free game engines include the Play Ground SDK from Play First, the Irrlicht engine and Ogre3D.

Garage Games has their Torque Engine but it costs USD $150. Garage Games also has a suite of other inexpensive game development products and is worth considering if you want to transition to Xbox360 development.

Next... Graphics and Sound

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Making Games On A Budget - Part 1

This is an article I wrote a few months ago for PC Powerplay, an Australian computer game magazine. I'm going to reprint it here in parts over the next few days. Enjoy!

Making Games on a Budget

We’ve all heard the stories. The days of the bedroom programmer are long gone. Now it takes a hundred or more people and tens of millions of dollars to make a game.

Well, I’m here to tell you that it ain’t true. All you need is a computer and some talent and you can make a game. Heck, you may be even able to make a buck or two while you’re at it.

Using my latest casual game, Brainiversity, I’m going to show you how you can use free tools and a little elbow grease to make games. I’ll be focusing on the tools I use to handle programming, graphics and sound as well as the digital rights management software I use to sell games online.

Getting Started
Everything I’m going to talk about is free, or close to it - but there is something you’ll need to bring to the table. That’s some ability in either the programming or graphics department. If you don’t have both skills then grab a mate or two who can draw or program and get them involved.

If you can’t draw or program and would like to learn you’ll find that there are plenty of books dedicated to beginner game creators – I recommend checking out and doing a search on “game development”.

Pick a Game
Okay, I’m not going to tell you what game to make, but I will suggest one thing. If this is your first game then pick something small and doable. You don’t have to invent a brand new game genre or make an epic RPG straight up. You can do that for your next game. This first game will be where you learn the ropes. In fact there’s no shame in doing a clone of another successful game. This way you can be assured that at least the gameplay will be fun leaving you to worry about the graphics and programming.

The first casual game I made was Word Shake, a simple 2D word game with a small set of graphics and a very basic game play mechanic. This allowed me to focus on learning how to program with a new game engine framework and learn my way around new software packages.

Next... How To Find Time

Friday, September 07, 2007

Brainiversity Out In The Wild!

Hurrah! Brainiversity has just started to hit the major portals on the web.

So far I've found it on Pogo and Comcast - and there are more to come. If you haven't played it yet, all I can say is "What are you waiting for?" - download it now!

In the meantime, another brain training game was released this week and while it rated well on Gamezebo, Brainiversity scored higher :-)

More news as it comes to hand.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Brainiversity Release Update

Brainiversity will be released on the wider Oberon Media network this Thursday, the 6th of September. So you'll see a lot more of Brainiversity on a number of different portals.

Woo hoo!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Add It Up Online Now With Charting!

It's still in Beta, but the Add It Up activity from Brainiversity is now online to play and includes charting functionality.

What this means is that you can play the game every day and chart your progress as you get better (or worse) with your math skills. Check it out here.

As I said it's still in Beta and may have bugs. Please let me know if you find any!

Oh, and if you like the online version then you should download the Deluxe version - it features a lot more nifty features like full screen graphics, animation, more user profiles, the ability to compare charts, Daily Exam mode, etc. and 15 more activities.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet

How cool is this?

Comic creator Michel Gagné working on a cool game based on his beautiful artwork - called Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet. It appears to be a quirky side scroller with lots of UFO action. Nice.

His web site says that he's currently seeking a publisher... surely it's the sort of game that Microsoft or Sony would snap up for XboxLive Arcade or Playstation Network?

I got a few copies of his Zed comic signed at comic con a few years back, as well as a copy of his animated short, Prelude to Eden, on DVD. His stuff is really beautiful and the animation and visual style of the game looks great!

Watch the game in action here.

Big thanks to local comic luminary Frank L. Weber for pointing this out to me.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Add It Up Flash Game Live (BETA)

Well, the first of the 16 activities from Brainiversity is now playable online at Casual Games Arcade. I literally finished the code about 10 minutes ago, so it hasn't had the most thorough of testing - but that's where you come in! If you get a chance, please give it a go - and let me know if it doesn't work in your browser.

It works on the Wii except for a minor graphics glitch which I'll iron out later. But for the most part I can actually play a portion of Brainiversity on my Wii - I must say it feels weird playing my own game with a Wii Remote.

The online version doesn't have all the features of the downloadable version like charting, stamps and the Daily Exam mode - but online daily charting is something I'm thinking about adding. It would also be cool to be able to see the daily charts of other players too. If it's not too difficult I'll have a crack at adding that in soon.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Flash Game Coming

Okay, I'm new at this Flash thing... so this weekend I'll be putting my first flash game, the "Add It Up" activity, up on my site for a beta trial. If anyone out there would like to give it a go, do so, and let me know if it works in your browser.

"Add It Up" Flash Version

I'll put the link to the web version up this weekend, so check back then!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Brainiversity in PC World Canada magazine

PC World Canada magazine has an article on brain training games called "Healthy Games: The new face of video games".

They mention Brainiversity as an example of a PC downloadable brain training title along with the new Ubisoft Life Coach series for DS.

Not bad - and the game hasn't even rolled out to the major portals yet.

Friday, August 17, 2007

HP Laptop

I bought a new laptop this week - it's a HP Pavilion dv6000 and it's sexy. It's piano black and silver with a faint smattering of grey curved lines over the casing - the overall effect is really nice.

It's got all the usual stuff you'd expect from a laptop - DVD burner, built in web cam, etc. plus a few other neat things like Altec Lansing speakers, wide screen super bright LCD screen and light scribe direct disc labeling (you flip your DVD and it burns a label onto the disc - which is very cool).

I've just installed Visual C++ 2005 Express Edition and am now installing Microsoft Platform SDK for Windows Server 2003 R2 - which the PopCap Framework requires. It's late and I'm tired, but I want to get this done before I hit the sack.

While waiting for the installs to finish I've been working on the first Brainiversity Flash game which is the Add It Up activity. Expect to see this online sometime soon!

Monday, August 13, 2007

V1.02 live!

I just finished uploading version 1.02 of Brainiversity to As I mentioned yesterday this version has a few minor tweaks, but nothing too major.

Now that that's done it's time to get back to the Flash version!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Brainiversity 1.02

I've been making a few updates to Brainiversity ready for the release of version 1.02.

It's mostly minor stuff like changing the date format to be MM/DD/YYYY, fixing up some spelling to match the US spelling standard, and doing some internal changes so the dialog box system works better. You probably wouldn't notice the changes.

That's what I like about online distribution - you have the ability to take feedback from end users and implement them in a timely manner. If anyone has the original game they simply have to download and re-install - and voila! they have a new version with the changes in place.

I've also been moving forward with my Flash development and have some cool ideas for my new improved site. As I mentioned I'll be wrapping all of my web sites together under one banner in the hope to make it easier for people to find all my games and stuff.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

One Step Closer to an iMac

When I upgraded my PC just before Christmas I was seriously considering getting an iMac.

I love Apple's design and how they integrate a lot of cool software into their systems... but as I spend most of my time coding for PC I decided to go for a Windows machine. I did some research into Bootcamp and it seemed like a lot of effort at that stage to make it work (I think it was still in Beta).

But now the new iMacs are out and they look damn sexy (and I believe Bootcamp is out of Beta) so I'll definitely be making the switch when I upgrade again. Of course by then the iMac will be even thinner and have way more cool stuff.

In other news, my boxed copy of Flash CS3 Professional arrived yesterday - and just in time as the free demo version was about to expire. Working through my tutorials I've so far managed to write a simple breakout game and a small space invader clone. It takes a bit to get your head around the concept of movies and timelines, but it's quite powerful and easy to use.

I just wish ActionScript had a better error checking system - it's painful to have a variable called enemyTimer in your code only to mistype it as enemytimer and not have the compiler pick it up. The game will run but won't work as you expect. So you have to be very, very careful. If anyone knows of a way to get around this please let me know!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

High Score

Right now I'm learning how to make games in Flash. And I'm loving it.

Playing a game in a browser is a bit like magic to me - I was never really quite sure how it was all done. But now I know! I'm quite excited about building a game that people will be able to play online... as soon as I get a game up and running I'll launch it on Casual Games Arcade.

While I've been delving into Flash I decided to try and understand that other black art - PHP. I want to add an online high score table to my games - doing online stuff is something that I really do view as magic and PHP seems to be the answer. Thanks to the interweb I've managed to find the necessary information and have gotten a test program up and running.

So now I'm doubly excited!

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Gamezebo review of Brainiversity

Gamezebo has just reviewed Brainiversity and they liked it. My favorite quote is "Hey! This game is making me smarter already!"

Click here to read the rest of the review.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Flash - a-ah - saviour of the universe

Right now I'm getting my head around programming (or should I say "building") with Flash. It's quite different to writing games in C - I think the biggest hurdle is getting used to the idea of movie clips and converting graphics and stuff to symbols.

Anyway, I'm sure it will all be second nature within a week or two. First up I will be converting a Brainiversity activity over to a web playable game. This will coincide with some changes to my site - I want to make it a little more central for all the stuff I have floating out there on the web.

At the moment I have a number of different web sites and not much cohesion between them. So I will be making an "all things John" portal. That's a little while off yet, first things first is getting my Flash game up and running!

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Paper Mario

The Wii shop is a great place to find a lot of gaming gems that I missed the first time around.

I picked up the N64 version of Paper Mario for 1000 points last week and have been having a blast playing it! It's such a cool game and looks great given its age.

I was originally going to buy Resident Evil 4 on the Wii (I missed playing it the first time around too) but I figured Paper Mario was a better choice as I can play this with my daughter. And I'm glad to say I made the right choice as she loves to join in and play "Mario Stars" as she calls it.

With a bunch of cool games coming out in the next 6 months things are looking great for the Wii.

I'm really looking forward to Mario Galaxy - the idea of letting a second player use the controller to freeze enemies is great - this could be an awesome way to play games with my kids.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Making Games on the Cheap

I've written an article for PC Powerplay magazine detailing how you can make games on a shoestring budget. I use Brainiversity as an example of how you can use a number of inexpensive or free development tools to build your game.

The article is in Issue#42 of PC Powerplay magazine and should be available in all fine Australian newsagents from today!

Details on the latest issue can be found here at the PC Powerplay site.

I hope this inspires more people to make games. Often the hardest thing to getting started is knowing how to do it and what tools the "professionals" use. Once you know it can be done its a lot easier to do it yourself.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Back in Oz!

Woo hoo! I have returned from Seattle.

The trip was awesome and the people I met at Casual Connect were great. As I mentioned before the vibe at the show was very different to E3 and GDC, it was a smaller, more intimate event, super well organized, and the information was excellent.

But, it's great to be back with Leigh, Ella and Zac. I brought back lots of cool stuff for the family - however I had to wait a day to give it to them as my luggage decided to stay an extra night in Los Angeles! I was a little worried as I had packed my laptop and most of the cool stuff I got in my bags and had very little with me as carry on. But all worked out well in the end and Ella and Zac have their Bookworms and Chuzzles :-)

I've got a lot of stuff to do now that I'm home, mostly in regards to Brainiversity, which seems to be doing very well (touch wood!) - so that should keep me busy until the weekend. Then I will begin the Flash version of some of the activities - first up will probably be "Add It Up". So you can look forward to playing this cool game in your browser sometime soon.

In the meantime, if you haven't checked out Brainiversity, then download it from here.


Friday, July 20, 2007

The Show's Over Folks!

After days of going to bed very late and getting up very early I managed to sleep in this morning. Which was a good thing because by the time I visited the local Borders book store the throng of Harry Potter fans had been and gone!

And no, I didn't pick up the latest Harry Potter. I've got to read the last two books yet. I did manage to pick up a book on Flash (so expect a web version of Brainiversity) and the latest copy of Edge game magazine which I will read at my leisure while feasting on Seattle's finest pizza tonight. Ah, it's good to relax.

I've been constantly in touch with Leigh, Ella and Zac which has made the trip a lot easier - and I have plenty of show schwag for the kids including a stuffed Lex from PopCap's Book Worm, a chuzzle, a pink NeoPet dragon, a magnet man from Reflexive and a whole lot of other goodies.

In other news, Brainiversity is up on Oberon - so check it out here:

Well, I gotta go, I think the pizza has arrived!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Sleepless In Seattle

Today was the second day of the Casual Connect conference. Only one more day to go and it's all over for the year. So to celebrate the awesomeness that is Casual Connect I went out and partied!

First up was the very cool PopCap party at a swanky night club. I managed to get my photo taken in a pool of Chuzzles with fellow Aussie Darren Baker. I may post the photo sometime soon.

Then we headed over to the Seattle Museum for the Mumbo Jumbo party. Memphis Radio Kings were playing and they did a great rendition of Prince's Purple Rain. Charlie and Tim (lead singer and guitarist) mixed it with the crowd and were really nice guys - plus Tim knew who Rodney Rude was!

The conference itself has been a blast. I've learned heaps about the casual games industry with a lot of knowledge that can be applied to the casual and core gamer markets. And the vibe at the conference is really nice and quite different to GDC or E3 (the old one) - everyone is laid back and approachable, and there's a real sense of community amongst the developers.

I can only imagine that this is what GDC must have felt like all those years ago when it first began.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Off To Seattle

I'll be heading off to the USA tomorrow to attend the Casual Connect conference in Seattle. There are lots of really cool sessions and some great speakers - so I'm looking forward to learning heaps while I'm there.

I'm going to miss Leigh, Ella and Zac - but luckily I've got Skype so we'll be in touch a lot - and I'm only gone for a week.

I have my iPod loaded up with some cool music that I got for my birthday, including the new Prince album, Planet Earth and the new Crowded House album, Time on Earth. Hmmm, Earth seems to be a common theme...

I also got The Making of Star Wars - an awesome book that is sadly too big to take with me. I'll be reading it as soon as I get back!

I also got a lot of other cool stuff for my birthday - the trip to Seattle from my wife being the biggie - but I got some authentic Sake and serving cups, a bottle of butterscotch Schnaps, some scratchies, a Robot Chicken DVD, chocolate, a cool shirt, a gift voucher and some video games. But best of all I got to have an awesome night out with some close friends.

Well, I have to go pack. See you after Seattle!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Brainiversity Out Now!

I'm proud to announce that Brainiversity is complete and available for download right now!

For the uninitiated, Brainiversity is a brain training style of game. It has 16 unique brain activities covering Language, Math, Analysis and Memory, a Daily Exam mode and a Chart function to record your results every day - plus a host of other cool features.

You can find out more from the official Brainiversity web site.

In other news, I'll be attending the Casual Connect conference in Seattle next week. It's actually a birthday present from my wife, which would have to be one of the coolest presents ever. The show will make a welcome change to the yearly E3 pilgrimage I used to make!

Well, enough chit-chat, go and download Brainiversity right away!

Saturday, July 07, 2007

More Brain Age/Training

Today I picked up More Brain Training (as it's known here in Australia). As a fan of this genre I was curious to see what Nintendo had done to improve the formula over the last game.

I've only just started to play, so I can't really comment on the content - but one thing that did surprise me is that it's pretty much the same shell as the previous game - even down to the same visual look of the menus.

I wonder how much it cost Nintendo to produce?

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Ah, Club Nintendo, I Wish I Could Join You!

Because then I could get this super cool game (which Insert Credit has translated the name as Zekkyo Senshi Sakebrain):

Click on the above image to go to the Nintendo site and play the video - you'll see why its so cool!

Basically, it's a multi-player Power Ranger type game where you play with friends via WiFi - but it's voice activated.

That's right, you get to shout a command in order to transform into your character - then join your friends to defeat bad guys - all the while shouting "Punch!" and "Kick!" into the DS microphone.

At least, that's what I think it's all about. My Japanese isn't that hot.

It's available for just 500 points... but only if you live in Japan.

Here's hoping they release it for retail in the West. I know I'd buy it!


Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Brainiversity Reschedule

Brainiversity has been rescheduled for a July 8th launch - which is less than a week away. So keep your eyes peeled. I'll post links to the sites when they're available.

By the way, Gamasutra has published The History of Zork - a good read if you're a fan of interactive fiction. What I loved about the old Infocom adventure games was the huge variety of genres they covered including romance and pirates (Plundered Hearts), fantasy (Enchanter), detectives (Deadline), sci-fi (Planetfall), circuses (Ballyhoo) and comedy (Bureaucracy).

And they had the best packaging ever!

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Return of the Point and Click Adventure

I love that casual games is a space where older game genres can be reborn and updated for today's players.

The puzzle game genre which was left for dead in the stampede to 3D has more than made a home in the space with the likes of Bejeweled, Zuma and dozens of other games. The Eye Spy style of games that were a blip on the PC game landscape many years ago have made a resurgence with some cool new twists to the game play with the likes of the Mystery Case Files series.

And now the humble 2D point and click adventure is starting to come back. Azada from Big Fish Games and Dream Chronicles from KatGames are very reminiscent of Myst in their look and storyline, but are 2D point and click through and through. The player has to solve some brain bending puzzles on single screens or locations in order to progress in a linear fashion. As each section is solved more of the mystery is revealed.

These games are more analogous to Myst than Monkey Island but I don't think it will be long before we see non-linear character driven point and click games emerge.

Oddly enough I've recently been re-playing Flight of the Amazon Queen... hmmm.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

I like StumbleUpon!

A friend of mine did an "I like it" on my site using StumbleUpon and within a day my site traffic tripled. Pretty cool.

In the meantime I've been stumbling and have found some neat pages. Here are some of my faves so far:

I have no idea what this is about - but it appears to be an exhibition of painted Darth Vader masks.
Paper Toys - print out make your own paper model of Angkor Wat.
Bow Man - a flash game bow and arrow game.
Double Wires - another flash game that will have you making out like Spiderman!
Disorientation - a very interesting game. The name says it all.


Tuesday, June 26, 2007


A friend recently introduced me to a cool web app called StumbleUpon. It's a plug-in for your browser tool bar that lets you find new new and interesting web sites by clicking on a button.

At first its fairly random, but you can set your profile to favor the sort of things you like and it will start to filter the sites by your tastes. You can also click on a "I like it!" button to register if you did or didn't like the site - and this in turn affects if other people will be sent through to that site.

It's pretty cool - so far I've found a number of really interesting game sites that I wouldn't have discovered otherwise as well as a some intriguing flash games - the likes of which I will blog about later!

Oh, and if you came across this post via "StumbleOn" then please click on the "I like it!" button so other people can discover Game Musings :-)

Monday, June 25, 2007

Doctor Who

I've managed to watch a few episodes of the 3rd season of the new Doctor Who - and I have to say it's pretty darn good. I grew up with Doctor Who, so I have a soft spot for the show, but the new series has me hooked.

Like any show, there are a a few dud episodes, but all in all the quality of the writing has been great. Well, as great as you can expect from a show about a time traveling alien who uses a London Police Box as his time machine.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to watching some more episodes - apparently this new season only gets better and better! Now, where is the Doctor Who videogame?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Brainiversity Update

It's just a week until Brainiversity officially launches on the web.

It makes its debut on a number of portals on Friday, June 29th. I'll have all the details when it launches, in the meantime here's a new screen shot:

"Word Maker" activity

In family news Zac is settling in well at home. At the moment he sleeps, eats, and sleeps some more. When he is awake he is the most adorable little fellow you could imagine! Tomorrow he will be a week old.

Monday, June 18, 2007

How much can you get paid to develop a downloadable episode for Xbox Live Marketplace?

Oh, about $25 million per episode.

Well, only if you're Take Two and you're doing exclusive downloadable GTA IV content for the 360.

Wired has a report that says Microsoft paid Take Two $50 million for 2 exclusive downloadable episodes. They say this is basically 5 times the budget for Gears of War. Read all about it here.

In other news, Zac and Leigh will be home from the hospital tomorrow. There's gonna be a few sleepless nights coming up, but it's all totally worth it!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Baby updates

With Zac only days old I've been pretty much focused on the little guy and keeping Ella, his big sister entertained for the last 3 days. Ella has been great and is excited that she has a baby brother.

It took a little while for her to work out that Zac's daddy was her daddy, but she seems to have come to grips with that now.

In other news, Brainiversity has passed all tests and is scheduled to hit the web proper at the end of this month. Stay tuned for more news!

Friday, June 15, 2007

It's a boy!

I'm the proud dad of a little boy named Zac, born 16th June, 2007 [EDIT - I wrote 2005, but it was 2am in the morning...]

Woo hoo!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Sumea Interview

Sumea the very cool Aussie game developer news site, has just posted an interview with me about indie game development.

In it I talk about classic point and click adventure games, and how I hope that the Nintendo Wii and DS may be the platforms that help bring back the adventure game.

Speaking of which I saw that Telltale Games has secured $6 million in Series B funding to develop new titles and expand to additional hardware platforms. Here's hoping they port Sam and Max over to the Wii!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

I'm going on a Safari!

Right now I'm writing this blog entry using Safari on my Windows XP machine.  I downloaded the Beta version of the Mac browser as soon as it was available.  I'm going to give it a go for a week or two to see if it's better than Firefox.

I'm a huge fan of Firefox - the browser is so far ahead of what MS is doing with Internet Explorer.  So Safari will have to be pretty damn good for me to make the leap to it full time.

So far Safari is looking good especially for a Beta version. Obviously some things that will be fixed, or will improved in later versions.  Some of my favorite things include:

1) The Find on Page function (CTRL-F) is better than Firefox.  It displays the text you're finding in a cool orange and white box so it really pops from the screen.

2) When you click on a text entry box it highlights the box with a cool blue glow. Very nice.

3) When the page is loading the address bar becomes the loading bar. Simple and effective.

Anyway, if you're interested, download the Beta of Safari now from Apple.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Brainiversity Marketing

With the Brainiversity gold master done, I'm just waiting on my distributor to do their final round of testing - then the game should hit the web on some major portals.

Brainiversity Chart Mode

While I'm waiting I'm preparing the Brainiversity marketing plan so people who love games like Brainiversity will know it exists. Making a game is one thing, but getting people to know it's out and where to find it is another.

One thing I've learned about promoting your game is that it's usually as simple as contacting news sites with a press release and giving them a copy to check out. So many developers tend to forget to do this and wonder why their game isn't getting any press. If you don't tell people they won't know!

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Amazon Queen Ringtone

I found a midi file of the theme to Flight of the Amazon Queen the other week, so I made it into my phone ring tone. It replaces my previous ring tones which alternated between Monkey Island and Day of the Tentacle music.

If anyone out there is interested, you can download the midi file from here. You'll need to use whatever software that came with your phone to transfer the file onto your handset.

The music for Flight of the Amazon Queen was composed by Richard Joseph, a pioneer of games audio who sadly passed away this year. He did a lot of music for the Bitmap Brothers and Sensible Software, and did some of the earliest work on interactive music with the game Chaos Engine.

He'll be sadly missed, but I'm sure he would have appreciated that many of his fans still listen to his music today.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

The Real Toy Story

I've been reading The Real Toy Story by Eric Clark, a fascinating book about the toy industry. It looks at the history of the American toy industry, the role of inventors and how the business has changed over time.

One of the big changes that the American toy industry has experienced is that many of its companies have been gobbled up by two big players - Hasbro and Mattel. Companies like Playskool, Corgi Toys, Fisher-Price, Parker Brothers, Tonka, Kenner, Milton Bradley, Tiger Electronics and J.W. Spears are now just brand names or subsidiaries.

The other big change is that large retail chains like Wal-mart and Toys 'R Us have a lot of power in affecting what toys are available, even down to influencing the package design and price.

What surprised me was how difficult it is for a toy inventor to get their idea to market. As a game developer who can create a casual title and get it out to the masses, I was amazed that most inventors have to use an agent to even speak with Mattel or Hasbro - and that agents can take a cut of between 50% and 60% of the inventors earnings! And to top it off, a lot of companies are reducing their risk taking, preferring to badge old games with licensed IP (Simpsons Monopoly, anyone?), so the chances of getting something new out is pretty small.

I know a lot of games publishers are risk averse, but at least the barriers to entry are so much smaller - especially in the casual games market. There's something very cool about being able to make a small game like Desktop Tower Defense and have millions of people play it - and actually earn a decent chunk of change at the same time!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

More Freeware!

Halloween Harry/Alien Carnage has only recently been released as freeware - and just when you thought it couldn't get any better I'm proud to announce that the Hebrew version of Flight of the Amazon Queen is now available for your downloading pleasure.

So, if you speak Hebrew and love graphic adventures, grab the game here!

You will need ScummVM to play the game, so if you don't have it yet, grab ScummVM here.

Instructions on how to get ScummVM working is available on the official ScummVM site at

A big thanks to Ori Avtalion for hassling me to give permission for the release. His persistence paid off. Coming up soon is a Greek version of the game, which is quite cool as there never was an official Greek release. I'll post a link when it's done.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

A Different Casual Game Approach

I came across this article at GigaOM about Paul Preese's Desktop Tower Defense (DDT).

DDT is a free flash game where you have to defend your desktop from invaders by placing strategically placing defenses and building a maze to channel the enemy.

Since it's launch sometime before March 07, Paul's site has grown so quickly that he now gets around 20 million pageviews a month. What's interesting is that while his game is free to play Paul earns revenue through advertising and asking for donations. He says he averages high four figures monthly from the game.

Check out the full article here at GigaOM!

Friday, June 01, 2007

Naughty Doggies Do Well (again!)

Congratulations are in order for Jason Rubin and Andy Gavin. These are the guys who started Naughty Dog, the company behind Crash Bandicoot and Jak & Daxter, before selling it to Sony.

They've created a new company called Flektor and have managed to sell it to Fox for what some estimate to be around $20 million. Flektor was only founded in 2006 and provides a way to edit media for posting on the web. Not bad for a years work.

Will this impact on their plans for Iron and the Maiden? Who knows, but I guess $20 million will go some way toward developing the property :-) I'm keen to see what the guys will do with games now that they're financially independent.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

More Harry Stuff

The Alien Carnage/Halloween Harry freeware release has been getting some buzz on the internet. It looks like a lot of people were fans of the original game when it was released back in 1993. Hopefully they're wearing rose colored glasses when they re-play the game :-)

I spoke about some of the potential Harry sequels a few days ago and since then I found this screen shot from the proposed Zombie Wars sequel (which would have technically been the 4th Harry game - after the Microbee version, Alien Carnage and Zombie Wars).

Basically this was a hires (SVGA) upgrade to the Harry series, but by this time 3D was taking a hold and that's when we diverged into the world of 3D games development. Sadly the project was shelved and Harry was put on ice.

As for the 3D projects - now that's a whole blog entry in of itself!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Two Exciting Product Launches

Brainiversity is almost here. There were a few minor wording errors that needed fixing, but apart from that it's done.

Which is a good thing as my wife and I are expecting our new baby next week! It's incredibly exciting and our little girl Ella can't wait to be a big sister. She even helped set up the baby crib on the weekend, letting her dolly have a sleep in it to make sure it worked.

I know this sounds trite, but being a father is one of the best jobs in the world.

So stay tuned to find out which arrives first - Brainiversity or Baby?

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Halloween Harry/Alien Carnage - what might have been!

I've had a great response from fans of Halloween Harry/Alien Carnage over its re-release as freeware.

So, while people are excited about Harry I thought I'd talk a bit about some other Harry games that never made it to market.

Of course there was a direct sequel called Zombie Wars released in 1996, but before that we kicked around a number of other ideas for games to put Harry in. Often times we mocked up prototypes to test out ideas - from Sidewinder Sally (a Harry spin off) to Halloween Harry: Undead (a 3D multi-player game) to the potentially very cool Lunch Break Commandos.

Lunch Break Commandos
Now, I forget if this was inspired by the LucasArts Indiana Jones Desktop adventures, or whether it was inspired by the same thing that inspired LucasArts - but the game was designed as a "casual" game you could play during your lunch break. Either way, I think it would have been a fun little game as this Windows 95 screen shot shows:

Here's an extract from the design doc dated June 1995:

Game Overview
Lunch Break Commandos is a top down view action/adventure game similar to Zelda.

You take control of a hard as nails mercenary, either Agent Halloween Harry or the equally lethal Agent Diane, Beagle or Doc as you embark on a number of small but challenging missions that can be completed within half an hour to 45 minutes.

Having been assigned by the United Planetary Alliance (UPA) to patrol a number of small planets on the outer rim, it is your job to keep intergalactic peace. Your tasks range from protecting villagers from the evil non-humanoid aliens (NHA) to rescuing downed UPA pilots from behind enemy lines.

There are twenty missions to choose from covering a number of different scenarios on four different worlds. Players can explore and blast their way through each level as they try to achieve their objectives.

New missions with different graphics can be loaded by a special Load Missions facility on the Options screen from separately sold mission disks.

I designed a system to allow the creation of a variety of missions, including the ability to load new tilesets and item types. This was going to used to create new IP and adapt existing IP, such as the Amazon Queen characters.

Again, here's some example game scenarios from the design doc:

Game Examples
The first two examples use the hero morph feature differently but to the same affect.

1) Player has to rescue a downed pilot from across enemy lines. Arriving at the POW camp he comes across a barbed wire fence that blocks further progress. An enemy squadron is based on your side of the fence. There are ten of them and they have a tank. Attack the squadron, avoiding the tank’s shells. After wiping out the squadron hop in the tank and drive over the barbed wire. Get out of the tank and blow the door off the munitions building. Stock up on some grenades and make your way into the camp building, etc.

2) Player has to destroy the evil dragon Grizzlebludde. The only way to it’s Castle lair is via the lake that surrounds it. Unable to swim across without drowning, the player must visit the local Wizard. He will give you a Duck Transformation potion if you deliver a Scroll to the village elves. After delivering the Scroll you get the Duck Potion. Drink it and turn into a duck. Paddle across the lake. On the shore of the Castle grounds drink the potion to turn back into a human, etc.

3) It’s the wild west and legend has it that Old Man Slade stashed a fortune in gold somewhere near Tumbleweed Gulch before he died. With Old Man Slades treasure map, you must brave wild animals, fight off bandits and help a tribe of Indians before entering the dangerous Dead Man Mines to claim the gold. However, you’re not the first... the evil Wooden Teeth Pete and his men are one step ahead of you! Armed with dynamite and the only map of the mines, you must outwit Pete and his men and return with the treasure. Alive.

4) It’s Ancient Greece and the life of your loved one is at stake. As a noble warrior you must brave the fearsome Minotaurs Maze to rescue your girlfriend/boyfriend. But this time things are in your favour. Armed with your trusty M-16 and a heavy duty grenade launcher you’re ready to kick the Minotaurs sorry ass.

As you can tell the game was far from serious. It would have been interesting to see if the idea would have worked back in the mid nineties, but given the warm reception that LucasArts got with their Desktop Adventures I'm guessing it would have struggled to sell.