Black ball up on Runaway Parade

Black ball is up!

Pretty exciting for me. This has been a lot of work for Quentin and I over the past year, if can believe it. Not that it’s really a year’s worth of work, but just that we had a lot of false starts (originally it was a game set in ancient greece about a character who could move objects with his mind).

There’s a lot that we didn’t do in the end, and a lot of things that I would like to take on in the future, if it get’s a good response.




Dog Eat Duck – 2nd version

Although it took quite a bit more effort, I’m glad to say that JC and I managed to update Dog Eat Duck with two major enhancements – animations and sound.

Both make a big difference, and made me realize once again how easy it is to overlook incredibly important stuff. Which is not to say that we hadn’t though that it would great to have the ducks move. But without them moving, a bunch of people though that they were just looking at screenshots!

The sound is also a big help. Although it took me longer than it should have, I finally did manage to get SoundManager2  up and running with a few small MP3s, and the result just makes me smile.


“Duck Eat Dog” – 1st version released

 Time: on and off over 4 weeks

Team: Me, Ben Wertheimer, Julia Himmelstein, Jean-Christophe Letraublon
Another project for  Runaway Parade. This time the theme was “decoy”, and Ben and I decided to make a Django web app to run it. I had never uesd Django before, and found it pretty cool- though finally I’m not sure if Tornado wouldn’t have been better…
Anyway, the theme got me thinking of the  classic icebreaker “2 truths and a lie.” What would happen if you made that into an online game? In a way, the lie is a decoy. But to make that fun, and not so much about learning about people, I thought it would be better if there were more lies than truths. So it because “3 lies and a truth”.
As I was talking this over with my sister Julia over vacation, she thought it would be fun if you “shot” the lies with a gun, like you were going hunting. She photoshopped up a little screen showing a few wooden panels and a gun at the bottom. The gun image was of a pistol, which didn’t look quite right for a hunting theme, so I did a little google search on hunt gun, and somewhere saw an image of the good old Nintendo zapper!
Before long, Julia and I just came up with a whole new design that plays with Duck Hunt. Of course, not only can you watch youtube videos of duck hunt (including funny ones where people go past level 99 and stuff gets crazy) but you can also load emulators to see how the old game use to work. And watching the old game gave us some good ideas that we could bring into ours.
One thing that seems to work well so far is to have people create their own levels. What’s tricky about accepting input, of course, is how to weed out the bad ones, and mostly how to deal with spam! I looked up the voting and ranking algorithms used by sites like Reddit and Digg, and have tried to use the Wilson score interval, as proposed by a few different sources. It has been hard to incorporate voting into the the game, though, without breaking the flow of play. We’ll have to see how that works out.
Another fun thing has been to work with lots of different people on these game projects. Ben and I had done SporksUp together, but this was the first time that he was programming- and he’s a quick learner! Also, JC and I had wanted to do a game before but it didn’t take off, so this is our first real project together too, and he really knows his photoshop! Same goes for Julia, actually, despite the fact that I make her discuss game ideas a lot with me, and she’s always very helpful.
Of course, we have a bunch of new ideas, which we really didn’t have time to put into the current version. That is, to have more animations and sound (of the bird, the dog, and so forth) but also include a timer. When the timer goes off you lose…
JC is helping me tons with this new version, and I’m hoping that we can get it out before we show up on Runaway Parade and people start playing.


“Mixed Beats“ Postmortem

Time: on and off over 6 weeks- probably about 15-25 hrs total

Team: Me, Quentin Jouret, Philippe Birgy, Pwikmasta


Well, time is definitely up for my contribution to Runaway Parade. On the theme of “Three’s a Crowd”, Quentin and I had brainstormed a bit and came up with idea of having simple machines that make repetitive sounds. The idea being to synchronize them to make looping music. Think Stomp, if you could click on people to start and stop them.

Well, time is definitely up for my contribution to Runaway Parade. On the theme of “Three’s a Crowd”, Quentin and I had brainstormed a bit and came up with idea of having simple machines that make repetitive sounds. The idea being to synchronize them to make looping music. Think Stomp, if you could click on people to start and stop them.

This reminded me of my few (and always poor) attempts at mixing records, where the challenge is matching tempos as well as times. I thought that by fixing the tempo, mixing would be a lot easier. I also imagined that by quantizing it (like in Ableton Live) so that the player could only start a machine “on the beat” rather than slightly before or after, it would make something easy to play with.

What’s the link to “Three’s a Crowd”? Something about trying to make several people play/work/live together nicely…

1st Try

By the 1st attempt, it became clear that we were no longer trying to have little machines, because making them and finding appropriate sounds could take a long time. Instead, we went for imitation drum machines, with little markers that move down the screen to show where the beat should be (à la Guitar Hero) . Except that you need a second set of markers to show where your own beat is playing.

Quentin did the graphics, which have a nice hand-drawn feel that I love. We opted for a single play/pause button, and a little light that showed when the beat was matched correctly. When you got all three beats correct, the level was over. We made a menu and credits screen, and a volume slider, and we were on our way.

Meanwhile, Philippe was nice enough to do the music on very short notice. He split up the rhythms into 4 sections, each in their own mp3.


When I finally got the 2nd attempt working and had ironed out most of the bugs, I had the feeling that it wasn’t perfect. But when I watched other people trying to play it I realized that it was really far off! First of all, its not obvious to people how to use it. Second, it’s hard to line up the beats using just the audio, and yet lining up the beats is ridiculously easy just by clicking the play/pause button a lot until things line up. Finally, the music is fun but not challenging in terms of the game, mostly because I had trouble finding time to meet with Philippe or Guillaume to show them exactly what I wanted.

Had I more time, I would take this thing apart and do it again, having the player just do one instrument at a time. This would be simplify the controls (only one instrument at once) as well as make it easy to coach the player (“too early”, “too late”, etc.). The sound would always start playing at the same point, and it would stop automatically after playing once if the beat is incorrect. You might also need a button to hear what the sound is supposed to sound like. Finally, it would be a nice touch to have sounds when the beat is correct or not.