All posts by Josh Weinberg

Discworld I

Random Thoughts while playing

This game is a thorough pain in the ass. Puzzles hinge on finding tiny little visual attributes of characters and mousing over them. The sleazy guy in the Library has a banana behind his ear. Or a 6 pixel smudge which look like hair … whatever. Anyway you better click on that because it holds the secret to the whole first half of the game. Same thing with the lady getting her haircut… you better mouse over every fucking pixel in her body to realize that she has a hair curler in her hair. And if you didn’t notice well… just wander forever with no clue how to proceed. These are bad puzzles and there’s a lot of them.

Well after bashing my head into this one for a week I’m moving on. Tedious pixel-hunting, puzzles which require trying every inventory item with every on-screen item (stick the frog in the drunk’s mouth… OK), and honestly for all its reputation as being hilarious I’m just not sold on the humor. It did grow on me and I was enjoying the brief moments of progress where I was figuring things out using logic but overall… Jesus make it stop.

The Secret Of Monkey Island II

Random Thoughts While Playing

This game is bigger than the original. I like the “redone” look much better in this game than the first. Guybrush looks less creepy and the various other characters look a little better although still somewhat Disney-fied. I played the whole game in the new style.

The puzzle at the end of the first part with the monocle / Captain Dread was impossible for me to figure out and the internal hint system just kept telling me to go talk to Captain Dread. I had to look up the answer on the internet.

I am currently in the situation where I know some things I need to do but I don’t know what I’m supposed to do to get it done. I have a whole pile of shit in my inventory and I can travel to three islands but I’m basically stuck and I’m just wandering around trying shit at random.

I retrieved the book from the Governor’s bed but I just took it to the library and gave it to the librarian because I thought maybe she would say something and she just took it. Now I can’t get it back and I think it contained something important. I read it once but it wasn’t very clear what I was supposed to learn from it. Now I’m getting that ‘I wonder if the game has a bug feeling.’

I cut off the pirate’s peg leg and then didn’t realize that this meant the woodworker would go to help him. This was particularly unclear because you don’t see the woodworker walk over there even though he would have to pass right by you on his way. So I never got the hammer and nails without looking at hints.

Argh. Seriously for all the polish on this game there are some really frustrating hard edges. I’ve been doing shit just because I figured out I can but I have no reason why… For example I can get drinks at the bar and mix them to make different colors but I don’t know what that will be used for. I got near-grog by getting the envelope when I got Kate out of jail but I don’t know why. So I’m just wandering around trying them on everyone.

Fuck me. I knew after I got these ashes I probably needed to do some VooDoo shit so I went to the VooDoo lady and she just said the same old shit about the VooDoo doll. So I went to the library and checked the catalog for VooDoo spells and checked out a book on it and it said nothing interesting. I even took that book back to the VooDoo lady and she still said nothing about it – I couldn’t even give it to her. So I figured, nope, that’s not it. Well it turns out I didn’t go through all the jars in her front room one by one and find the resurrection potion. Which is fucking annoying because everything else in the game is like one big hit box but these jars are tiny little separate items – but all named “Jar” until you actually click to look at them. So just mousing over it looks like just one big item. Fuck that. So once I clicked on the right jar the lady calls me back and now she wants the book. Grrrr…

Had to use hints again to figure out the spitting contest. I had all the drinks with me and I had already tried mixing them but after doing a few and tasting them I figured they all just said the same thing and that I would find some kind of clue in the game telling me how to use them. No… no clues in the game… you just need to try to mix every combination and then taste the result. If I had randomly mixed yellow and blue I would have tasted the green and figured it out. What’s annoying again is that I had discovered all the pieces but without exhaustively trying all combinations I missed the solution. Instead I walked around all three islands trying to see if someone would say something about the three drink colors. The three pirates for example… no. The three pipes which feed the governor… no. The bartender makes no comment about it. Can’t hand them out at the party… all logical possibilities. Constantly getting the ‘That doesn’t seem to work there’ message.  Annoying.

Hint system seems slightly buggy. Keeps telling me to take out books I already solved puzzles with.

This ‘I can’t get there’ shit about the cottage on the little island is pissing me off. Captain Dread should drop me off there! Why can I just tell him to float his boat over to the beach?

OK the puzzle with the cottage was frustrating as shit because it’s a timed exercise where every failed attempt means a 30 second delay walking up the path, into the cottage and reading the same intro dialogue. That got old quick. Also the scroll wheel on my mouse stopped working every time at the crucial moment when I quickly had to try another thing to try from my inventory. WTF.

Pushing the right brick – again with the hit boxes and no indication that there are separate bricks vs one big clickable wall of bricks.

Woody got kidnapped. Let’s look for clues. Sorry, no clues exist. Just wander around every single location in the game until you stumble on a shipping crate in the swamp.

This game really goes off the rails at the end. How-the-fuck-are-we-going-to-end-this-fuckit-lets-make-it-all-a-big-joke ending. Big letdown. What about Elaine? Was that tied up and I just missed it? I don’t think it was ever tied up. Plus the last piece of the puzzle – giving Le Chuck the handkerchief for no reason… fucking stupid. At least have him sneezing or something to give some motivation for that action.

Honestly the puzzles for the most part were good but the few real stinkers and the problems with the interface kind of ruined it for me. The worst puzzles all seemed to have some real-time action element to them which was time-consuming to try again and again and was made cumbersome by the interface.

Adventure AKA Colossal Cave

Random thoughts while playing:

Holy shit this game gives not one fuck if you do stupid things which make the game un-winnable! Having just finished The Secret of Monkey Island this is a shock. Adventure will happily let you throw all your items in the river where they wash away forever.

The game map is confusing as hell. Go north, then go south. Guess what? You’re not where you started. Directions are really hard to figure. Unfortunately it turns out this is the main puzzle of the game – mapping.

Oh God these puzzles are arbitrary as fuck.  The dragon puzzle… the plover puzzle… the fucking endgame! Holy shit this game was not designed to be fair.

Pros:

Classic. First of its kind! It’s like going back in time! Lots of references in other games originated here. Exploring the cave was pretty fun.

Cons:

Too much emphasis on mapping. There is no story. Only some puzzles make sense, some are just completely arbitrary.

Some Funny Stuff:
> give food to dwarf
You fool, dwarves eat only coal! Now you've made him *really* mad!
> examine road
The road is dirt, not yellow brick.

 

 

The Secret of Monkey Island

First game in my Epic Procrastination Adventure Game Research Project was The Secret of Monkey Island. It’s got a big reputation as one of the best of the old-school 2D verb/noun graphical adventure games and I’d never played it. Other games in this genre are things like Kings Quest, Space Quest, Peasant’s Quest, etc.

Sound advice.

Sound advice.

First off I bought the “enhanced” or whatever they call it remix of the original. I thought all the new graphics and voice-over really didn’t add anything to the game and I disliked the new interface. Not to mention your love interest is actually attractive in the original and looks like a horrible Disney character in the remake. I loved the fact that the original game was still there and could be instantly switched to just by hitting F10 at any time. So props for that – I played most of the game in the old-school 8-bit graphics style.

This game is definitely fun. Here is just a brief run-down of what I thought in positive and negative.

Positives:

Awesome “feel”. The game had an engrossing style: The visuals (in the 8-bit version) and the dialogue bring you right into the world of Monkey Island.

Humor. The game has a strong voice and a distinct sense of humor. It plays off your expectations and consistently surprises and delights. Winning a “I defeated the Swordmaster” T-Shirt for example. This contrasts with a bloody corpse you’d find at the end of such a fight in other games.

Variation. The three parts of the game are very distinct and give you the feeling of actually being on a journey. The nighttime world of Melee Island is left behind for the bright daylight of the ship and Monkey Island. Likewise the underworld of the Ghost Ship is a sharp contrast to both.

Expanding World. Your access to hidden areas slowly and naturally expands in a gratifying way. I especially liked the fact that you could find oars for the rowboat and paddle around the perimeter of the Island.

Cannot Fail. I mean unless you quit – there is no way in this game to die or get stuck in a situation where you have to load a saved game or restart. This is really unusual in games of any kind but especially adventure games. I love it.

Negatives:

Some of the puzzles were arbitrary and confusing. Case in point is the catapult puzzle on Monkey Island. I swear I tried to pick up a rock from the Pile-O-Rocks and wasn’t able to. After that I never tried again and it took forever to figure out what to do.

Marketing

In preparation for the release of The Website is Down Video Game (dropping 7/23/2019!) I have instructed my worker-bee marketing minions to craft a sample advertising campaign. Did you know that bees vomit partially digested nectar back and forth between themselves until it dries and becomes honey? Revel in the metaphoric bliss!

Here we go:

ad1

Supposedly those boxes at the bottom will contain screenshots of the real game. This is what advertisers call a “mock-up”. I prefer to call it half-assed and incomplete and therefore will be canceling my check.

 

Rapid Prototyping with Inform

While we’re waiting for my Dogecoin fortune to make itself I’ll tell you a story. Sit up here on my knee. That’s not my knee! Nevermind what it was! Let’s just say I’m very excited to tell you about this cool tool called Inform and how you can use it for rapidly prototyping your game.

More code, sooner.

More code. Sooner.

But why should I Prototype? I want to start coding right away! Waaah!

If you’re a dolt who likes spending lots of time re-doing work then skip this post and start coding your game immediately without a second thought. (Or I should say: start coding your custom game engine and framework immediately because you’re probably into that as well). The rest of you smarties stay with me.

This tools works well for any game where the player needs to go places, get things and do things with them in order to solve puzzles. Sounds like every game I’ve ever heard of (not you Mario Kart). The benefits of working this all out ahead of time should be obvious but essentially you are generating a location list, an item list, an NPC list and you can also formalize the order in which things must be done by the player so you don’t trap them in impossible scenarios.

The tool is Inform 7. It is designed for text adventure games but you can use it for prototyping any type of game. I’ll give you a very simple example.

"Prototype" by Josh

The Lookout Point is a room. An old man is here.

The Outskirts is south from the Lookout Point. A campaign poster is here.

The Village is east from the Outskirts. 

The Scumm Bar is inside from The Village.

That text is actually the source code to a simple Inform game. All Inform input is written in a language which closely resembles English. This code describes four locations and two other items: an old man and a campaign poster. Lets see what we can get from Inform after running it.

informMap-simple

Here you see Inform has created a map for us and a list of locations, each with a list of starting contents. This is called the index and it took us all of like, what, 6 seconds? Nice.

Let’s flesh it out a bit. You can add descriptive text to everything and that too will show up in your index. Here are some additional details:

...
The Lookout Point is a room. "High atop Melee Island, this rocky overlook pokes into the clouds."

An old man is here. "A weathered old man." The description is "An old grey-beard in a weathered raincoat gazes out at the sea."
...

If we look at the index now we can see these additional details. If you were to pass this on to your artist or level designer they would still have lots of questions for you but this isn’t intended to be a repository for art or detailed screenshots. Just a very simple 1000 foot view of your game and how the pieces fit together.

 

 

Excuses

My game did not release on time! Who is to blame? Who do I have to fire to get this project back on track? Let’s review the org chart…

orgChartCloseup

Well it’s pretty fucking obvious whose fault this is. That guy. The road-blocker. The I’ll-get-back-to-you-and-never-does guy. The last in-first-to-leave guy. The guy with all the excuses. Well I’m not running a charity so he’s out. Hated that guy. Always hated that guy. Josh Fucking Weinberg.

Bottle RocketFuck you guys. 

Let’s be serious for a minute (ha!). I do have excuses. I’m not in a situation where I can drop everything that’s going on in my life to focus solely on indie game development. I have a job I don’t hate, a family I don’t hate, a mortgage (yes, I do hate the mortgage but I don’t hate sleeping indoors), a social life and other commitments which I won’t just drop. I would call all of these things Valid Excuses. If I ignore one or two of them to work on my game I’ll make more progress in the short term but in the long-term the whole project will become unsustainable.

For example, I, right now, have a big pile of unfinished projects cluttering up my computer, desk and my brain because I burnt out on them after ignoring a lot of other interests and responsibilities. Everything from screenplays to art projects to videos and video games. Sadly, none of them actually exist in final form because I couldn’t sustain my involvement without wrecking the rest of my life. That’s my M.O. I go in hot and burn out.

Look at all this awesome shit I've made. There's nothing here.

Look at all this awesome shit I made.

So I need another approach besides slamming my foot down on the accelerator and praying I hit the jump ramp before my gas runs out. I need to make consistent incremental progress on a long-term project in a sustainable way which will eventually result in a finished product. It may take five years but that’s sooner than never. It’s like Calculus: An infinitely small quantity is still larger than zero. In this case my infinitely small quantity is how much work I can put in on my awesome huge epic game in a day.

leibniz

My plan is basically this.

In other news, I’m rich! Soon I’ll be quitting my job to focus on game development full time! How did I come into all this ca$h you may ask? Just L@@K:

dogeroom

Only about 75° in here! (Celcius)

It might look like the training room at my office. It might actually be that training room. But this room leads a double life… I’ve got these under-utilized PCs mining Dogecoins 24-7. I’m pretty sure my boss won’t mind! As soon as a Dogecoin is worth more than 0.000000049 Litecoins and a Litecoin is worth more than 0.00231 Bitcoins and a Bitcoin is worth more than 8392 dollars… well… warm up your joysticks because The Website is Down  Video Game will be ripping off the jump ramp and into your hot little hands immediately just right after that.

Page One

Welcome to the The Website is Down Dev Blog! I am Josh Weinberg, the creator of The Website is Down Webseries. I’m currently working on an adventure game called… The Website is Down Adventure Game – In which you, humble idiot, play Web Dude: genius and all-around misanthrope.

Unfortunately there are many things are conspiring against me in this effort. Primarily, I have:

  • No time
  • No money

See Diagram.

Well how screwed am I really, though? Let’s check the Internet. Ah, here’s an illuminating answer to the first question:

howManyManHoursDoesItTakeToMakeAGame

I didn’t make this up.

“some games take a long time 2 make and some dont”

-Giraffe
Tom’s Hardware Forum

Bam! Problem solved. This game will definitely be one of those that doesn’t take a long time 2 make.

As for the second question, unfortunately, Giraffe is not very helpful: “idk wat the biggest budget is“. Well shit, Giraffe, get it together. I’m not looking for an upper bound anyway… I want someone to tell me it’s going to be quick and painless. I guess I’ll have to step up and present some original research here:

“some games r expensive and sum are cheap”

-Josh Weinberg
The Website is Down Dev Blog

Just depends on how many graphics and buttons you need! Luckily I don’t need any of either. Bam!

So there you have it. According to the Internet I’m not fucked at all. Full steam ahead.

Next week’s blog: Recap: How I Made An Award Winning Game in a Week.