08 Aug

Soft launching a mobile game

What is the game, you may ask? Well, I conceived of the idea during the time Flappy Bird came out. I saw clone after clone being made and asked one simple question - why is nobody making a 3D version of the game? Of course, there were a couple of 3D versions, but they weren’t polished to the extent that the 2D clones were. They were taking the game as is and just changing the perspective. I wanted to try something different, and Super Boost Monkey was born.

Apologies for the video quality. I’m still trying to get my head around YouTube, but you get the idea - we think we’ve captured the fun of Flappy Bird and contextualized it in a way that makes it feel like something fun

I’m planning to do a full write up of the development process of the game. It’s been truly enlightening for me, despite having 14 years of experience in AAA video games before. It’s only when you make a game from scratch that you really understand what goes into making a game. Even being on a huge team shields you from so much of the magic!

It’s hard to describe the emotions that come with releasing a game of your own. There’s all the pressure of being under the scrutiny of the public eye and the never-ending question of “will we actually make any money?” Justification for the year and a half spent on this can come in many forms and at this point, I’ll be happy if we get a few thousand people who love the game. But some money would be nice.

The scary part comes now with having to promote it. It’s hard to do when you’re already so busy with many other things, but a soft launch cushions things a little. We’ve already identified some small improvements that we can make to make players happy.

Anyway, keep an eye on the game. Big things are coming, that make version 1 look like we’re just monkeying around…

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18 Jul

A game of my own

With development on DAME stopped I’ve been spending the past couple of years playing around with prototypes and making a game of my own. And, surprise, it’s not in 2D!

In fact, it’s a full blown 3D mobile game made using Unity3d called Super Boost Monkey.

I’ve been working on it with a few friends and the end result is pretty polished. We’re about to launch it in the Canadian app store so now is a good time to talk about it.

I’ll be posting a few things about it in the next few weeks, but to start with here’s a screenshot to tease you all and you can follow Super Boost Monkey on twitter here


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08 Jan

Nostalgia 64 Part 3 - Hand holding

My first handheld console wasn’t a Gameboy. In fact, I didn’t own a game boy until I was in my mid twenties, and by then the fad was long gone. No, it was actually a Game Gear. And more to the point, it was also the first video game console I owned.

And the reason for getting one is clear from the previous part in this series. I was in love with the SEGA games at the time and this was basically a portable Master System. More to the point, compared to the black and white ( or dark olive green and light olive green ) Gameboy , there was no contest. I did have a choice, though. Either get a Game Gear or a Mega Drive. The Mega Drive, or Genesis for those not in England, was tempting but I couldn’t resist the allure of having something I could take with me to school. A Game Gear it was.

The Game Gear was a nice little handheld. It had the controls of the new Mega Drive, and also was a lot more rounded and well presented than the Master System was.

I can’t remember which games I actually owned other than Mickey Mouse’s Castle of Illusion. It wasn’t as pretty looking as the Mega Drive version, but it still did a good job. It was colourful and fun, and when I look at it now it just makes me think how even up to the 90s Mickey Mouse was still a popular figure - and he would last for a few more platform games too. I think there’s something endearing about a character who is as expressive as Mickey. I also never realized it but my two favourite platform characters’ names both had the initials MM - Mickey Mouse and Mario Mario. I’m a little tempted to play the remake of Castle Of Illusion now.

Another game I remember playing was Shinobi. Now this gets a bit confusing, because I remember playing Shinobi games later on other SEGA machines and none of them were at all like the one I played on the Game Gear. I seem to recall discovering that the Game Gear version was unique, and for some people it was the better version. I remember there being an epic battle against a helicopter, and being able to play as different coloured ninjas.

Sonic was a perfect game to play on the handheld. It played smoothly and seemed more fun in its own self contained device. There’s something more connective about playing that way, with the buttons either side of the screen. It feels more like you are the character you’re controlling. I’m curious to see if there are any games on the Wii U that will make me feel the same way, assuming any utilise the tablet in a similar way.

There was on huge problem with the Game Gear, though. The battery. It didn’t last long at all. I think it might have survived about a couple of hours if I was lucky. Plus, unlike modern devices, you couldn’t know exactly when it was going to die - only that it was close. So there I’d be, about to get to the end of a level and then pfffz - game over! I ended up having to buy a powe...

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04 Jan

Nostalgia 64 - Part 2 : Mastering the System

The 8 bit home computers weren’t the only 8 bit machines available at the time, though, and while I never owned one of the big two involved in that other Great Format War of the 1980s, I often look back at the SEGA Master System and the Nintendo Entertainment System with fond memories.

Time has been much kinder to the NES than the Master System, but I actually think I spent more time on SEGA’s machine than Nintendo’s, at the time at least.

I could go on for hours boring you about these old games, so I will. But I’ll try to keep it quiet.

The first difference between the two machines was the box art. SEGA’s box art was horrendous.

I mean, just look at it. Putting everything on a graph paper background makes me think of a mathematics lesson, which is not what a child needs to reminded of. But at least they underlined the words “Master System”, because otherwise we wouldn’t have known for sure. 

And that was one of the better looking examples of box art. Here’s another, just for comparison, that was drawn by a 5 year old.


And yet, this ugly box art did achieve one thing. It did make it easy to spot the boxes out from the growing crowd of video games. When most people who ran electronics stores didn’t know the difference between the SEGAs, Nintendos and Commodores it helped to stand out. However, it didn’t help the games stand out from each other when lined up side by side.

NES box art in contrast was, well, just normal. In fairness, later Master System games did move away from the graph paper art.

Then there was the controller. Everyone knows the iconic NES controller, and for good reason. The Master System’s gamepad had no sense of style at all (they’d correct that with the Mega Drive/Genesis)

At the time, since I didn’t own any of these machines and as far as I recall neither did any of my friends, I only got to play the games in the electronics store. Games were still a specialty thing, and most shops were more interested in selling big TVs, which at the time were as deep as they were wide, so took up a lot of store space. Still, some stores realized you could sell two things at once if you put the game on the TV.

The store I remember going to most was at a retail park just out of town. There was the big supermarket and then in another building was the electronics store. My mum would go shopping in the supermarket and I’d go to the store and just play games for an hour. I have this memory of the manager not minding that I was playing the games for ages and telling my mum that it helped show off the games.

Since I had no control over what games to try out, I just played whatever was on the machine at the time.

I played a lot of Sonic the Hedgehog on Master System, which at the time was a huge technical accomplishment. The fact that it could update the s...

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03 Jan

Nostalgia 64 - Part 1 b : Code was like Lego to me.

I was going to go straight into Part 2, but I thought there were a few things left unsaid about the Sinclair Spectrum, and also the C64. Namely, the fact that they came with a built in programming language. So I thought I’d digress and write a small piece about that.

Now, most people have never programmed in their life. You look at all this software and websites and games and it just looks so daunting. Plus, why would anyone want to program anyway?

When I got my first computer, programming wasn’t the first thing on my mind. Like modern children, I just wanted to play the games. However, almost every child who had one of those home computers experimented with a little code. Children love to explore the limits of interactions. Usually, that’s with toys, and my childhood was the same, but with programming it was no different. I would arrange my lines of if and print and input in so many ways and never make that much, but then I never exactly made the Statue of Liberty in Lego either.

After those 8 bit years, home computers stopped being bundled with programming languages. Or at least, they weren’t so in your face as they were back then. I think the last time I saw a programming language in a computer was on the Playstation 2. There was a C64 emulator, but it was sort of hidden away so you had to find it. Still, the thought was nice.

These days you have things like the Raspberry Pi, and lots of tools online aimed at kids that sort of do visual programming, but there’s something missing. Again, they’re great at what they do, but you have to hunt them down. It’s not the same as turning on your computer screen and being presented with a little prompt and deciding to write a small program instead of just typing Run.

I actually think Minecraft has done more for introducing children to programming than anything else in the last two decades. It opened up their possibilities and scripting is only a small step away. Just seeing my nephews try and create things with that is fascinating.

I just think that if programming was as in your face on every console the way it was on those old home computers we might all open our minds creatively a bit more.

Anyway, to end my rant, if I were to wish for one impossible thing, it would be that all the big console manufacturers would include a programming language tool, even if it’s silly old BASIC, built in, easily accessible and visible, right from the start. When you’re done playing the latest games, and you are looking for something new, maybe you would click that big button on your start screen and maybe you would discover how much fun programming can be. And maybe you just might make something wonderful from it.


Just look at it… It’s begging you to type something. Anyt...

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