Saturday 13 May 2023

Zaga-33 reborn

(This is the same as I just posted on Patreon but I'll put it here too.)

This took way longer than I expected!

In early March I decided to just spend a week rewriting an old game in Godot to help learn the engine while at the same time making it work on iOS again since I hadn't kept up with updates, and finally releasing on Android. Of course that week I got a bad case of covid. I still got the game largely working that week, but then needed a lot of recovery. I'm feeling great now though: not gonna have any bad long-term effects because I really did take the rest I needed at the time.

And then yeah just the details of getting it working on everything dragged on. It's not what I'm best at. There's still issues with the "google play store" - they cancelled me because I didn't update Glitch Tank often enough and now won't verify me because I live in a different country. Hopefully that gets sorted eventually, but thankfully you at least can distribute software on Android without official approval, so I've released it already on

So! Here it is on android platform, eleven years late. And here it is back on iOS, four years after being taken down for not being updated sufficiently frequently.

Incidentally I did add a new mode! I thought about making it secret but that doesn't really make sense after such time, so all you have to do is complete the game once and then tap the moon. link for android, windows, macos
appstore link for ios

Monday 12 September 2022

patreon / videos

I started this blog 13 years ago (not quite to the day) with an exercise of writing a post about each power in the game I was working on at the time. I got about half-way through the exercise and it served its purpose of opening the channel for me, getting me habituated to writing here. I've written a bunch of different things here: little diary entries, reviews of games I like, game design theory, assorted nonsense don't even know what. Most consistently I've posted when I release games, usually with some analysis of the development process.

There's a part of me here, a voice I'm comfortable speaking in at certain times about certain things. For a few years there I was coming to that voice quite often, this was a fruitful channel for the ideas I was thinking through at the time. Other ideas haven't fit as much. Maybe because I assume a certain audience; I restrict myself based on what I expect people who might read this to be interested in. Maybe because I developed the habit of writing here at a certain time when I had particular interests. Writing right now feels a little like channeling my past self rather than being the same person currently I am day to day.

Similarly my twitter was somewhere I posted a lot for a while, dropped off for a bunch of reasons, but still sometimes I have a thought that feels like a tweet to me so maybe I post it. When I look at what I've posted there recently I see "feels like a tweet" means a limited style and set of topics. I'm filtering through the lens of who I was 8-10 years ago when that was more part of my life. Not intentionally it just happens. Cognitive archaeology. We're built of accumulated layers of self and the older ones are still there but less active and less important to where we are now. I wasn't filtering myself then, and perhaps if I'd consistently kept posting there unrestrictedly it would be full of thoughts about massage, foraging, homebrew, childbirth. Topics that until one sentence ago you had no idea I'd taken an interest in.

So how do I communicate now? My voice of the moment, to speak my present thoughts, unfiltered by assumptions of past selves. I saw some tweets from @visakanv about how he was finding it good to just video himself talking and it unexpectedly resonated. People had suggested videos to me before and I'd never felt any impulse to do it but this time I just thought: okay. (I haven't watched any of his videos yet so I don't know if the direction I've taken has any relation to what he was actually talking about but it's not important.) Video has all the complexities of voice and body language, deep subconscious embodied communication, so much less controlled than text where you can write and rewrite until it's exact. So I've started making videos where I talk spontaneously to simply see where it goes. I'll do it as an exercise until it feels comfortable. I intend to talk about various topics not exclusively games, to aim for this sense of not feeling restricted by my idea of who I'm talking to. Maybe I'll try that here too.

I've done a few talks here and there, conferences and stuff, and I have varying satisfaction with them. Public speaking: it's a skill worth getting better at. The talk that felt best to me wasn't recorded and was about a game I didn't actually release yet (Smesport); I just spoke passionately from right in the middle of thinking about it rather than trying to distill lessons afterward for an audience. I want more like that. People have told me through the years that I should promote my games better, talk them up. I've always been reluctant to, preferring to let the work speak for itself. Well, sometimes it can, but it really deserves the best I can give it. The specific ways that people suggest talking about them don't gel with me, but that doesn't mean they're not right at the root, I just have to develop a way that's authentic to me.

I haven't released a game for a long time, I've been sick for a long time, I was about to have another child, and I was really worrying what to do about money. So I've started a patreon. If you want to and can afford to donate money to support me keeping going I really appreciate it. It's been really nice to feel that people value what I've done. I wish I had a new game to sell but I don't; when I do I'll show you but it's really slow right now. I wish some of the games I already made had sold more. Anyway I'm promising to make a video at least every two weeks. There might be other things too, maybe I'll write more or post some drawings or something.

(About my illness: when I posted here previously I'd had some improvement and was feeling cautiously optimistic that it would continue. It's similar now, maybe a little better overall but it fluctuates and some days are still pretty hard. When I do too much one day I take several days to recover, so I have to keep being careful. But I'm way way better than I was through 2020.)

So in typical Michael fashion I'm trying to kill multiple birds with fewer than the usual number of stones. A creative outlet, a source of income, a self-improvement practice, a quiet forest time. Here are the videos: michael in the forest. They're not much but there will be more. From my experience with games I know well that it's very effective to first just make things. I'm not trying to make the best video or the best talk, I'm just doing it and then doing it again and eventually some of them will be quite good.

Monday 7 February 2022


I haven't posted here for a long time.

In 2020 I got sick. I noticed in May that I'd been very tired for a while and it was getting worse rather than better, and by June I had severe fatigue, needing naps every afternoon - sometimes just falling asleep in the middle of the floor, muscle pain, mind unclear, difficulty concentrating. I think it was most likely the Long Covid; I had a friend in my house in March who was sick with an unidentified disease that could plausibly have been COVID-19 (though at the time we believed it wasn't based on the information currently available), and after that we had mild cold symptoms - of course this was before testing was widely available.

The doctor wasn't much help. He ordered a bunch of tests and told me I did amazing on all of them. Blood, ECG, chest X-ray, apparently everything showed that I was in very good shape. Which is like, kind of nice; as someone who used to just do computer and books all the time I've worked hard on turning that around and getting fit and it's nice to have that measured. But it didn't do anything to solve the problem.

My symptoms fluctuated over time and I more or less learnt to live with them. Learnt not to suddenly try to catch up on everything when I had a good day, because then I'd just collapse again the next day. The one thing that did help, weirdly, was the COVID-19 vaccine. I say weirdly because it's not what it was designed for, but there's anecodotal evidence of other people experiencing this, I don't claim to know what's up. Even if it's just the good old placebo effect I'll take it.

Whatever the reason, I've been feeling a lot better for a few months now. I'm getting my strength back: I can lift things again now that I could lift three years ago but I couldn't lift last year. I don't want a relapse so I'm still being careful and trying not to overdo it. I'm tentatively working again. I still find it hard to make games without the long focused periods of time I used to have pre-parenting, but I feel there's no rush. I guess one lesson I've taken from this enforced break is to stress less about trying to keep up with the indie games scene and trying to make the right thing to make money out of it, or to live up to some fake expectation of being a "genius" game designer. I'll just make something I want to make, when I can manage to. Meanwhile I've been also learning new things and looking into work I can hopefully do in a flexible way around potential fatigue spikes and also still making some games and stuff. I reckon it's good for me as an artist to not just do games games games all the time anyway.

Even though I haven't been releasing new games, people still buy the ones I've made before. It's consistently been a few hundred euros every month which, while it doesn't cover the rent it's not bad for not being able to work at all. It's unfortunate that a couple of the older ones have dropped off from my not having managed to keep up with system updates, and it feels bad how that kind of ties me down - if I just went to work on something completely different for ten years everything I've done would be lost. Or if I got permanently sick. So ephemeral. But anyway, thank you everyone who's bought my games and kept supporting me in these times.

Sunday 10 May 2020

definite plan

Imbroglio: Mizzenmast is now unambiguously released and working. This was a stressful few days. Yesterday I completely crashed and spent the day in bed with sore throat, I guess my body recognised that it was time to take a break. Need to be more careful about keeping the immune system up. Difficult balance to get priorities right, some amount of productive creative work is good to have in there for overall well-being but I can overdo it.

I started making Imbroglio in late 2014, maybe earlier depending how much you count different prototypes that led in its direction, released in 2016 but kept working on it as a minor side project with expansions in 2016, 2018, 2020, so it's been a long ride to being complete. Feels good, I took the time and accomplished my vision for the game, especially with Draft Mode it really gets the chaotic combo-building feeling I was looking for. For personal satisfaction I'm glad I saw it through rather than just releasing an initial version and moving on. Probably I would have more money if I'd put that work towards more new games instead, but it's never clear.

But it's not quite done yet since it's still only on iOS! Of course I've always planned to release it on PC but I decided a while back to simplify things for myself by delaying that until I'd finished expanding it. Making the choices that simplify things is a critical part of managing to work as an independent artist. I also intended to release it on Android, I even developed it in a cross-platform framework to simplify that, but then when I tried it didn't work and didn't seem worth the effort for 31 sales. Maybe I'll try again sometime. No promises.

I wrote last year that for the moment with a wild baby I was finding it worked better to be building on old things rather than trying to muster the attention to make something new. Well I'd hoped that would have shifted by now but then this whole pandemic went down so we've all had a lot on our shoulders. It's hard to plan a new project that might take years at a time where the future is so blatantly uncertain. So I'll keep fixing up old things.

Imbroglio: ports
Cinco Paus: update/mini-expansion
(redacted): finish up and release
868-HACK: fix the few bugs that have come in over years
Zaga-33: get it working again on iOS haha
Smesport: it's not the time to release it now but I can fix the bug that was holding it up
Quinzena: it's still not a baby phase where I can work with it but this will come

If I can't work on anything new maybe I can at least get a clean slate and not have random crap I mean to get around to someday hanging over me since years. Or maybe inspiration will strike and I just make something new anyway, it tends to have a way of doing that when I make other plans.

Tuesday 5 May 2020

imbroglio - expansion & crash

The update to Imbroglio with new expansion went live. It's crashing the game on launch. This didn't come up at all during testing, sometimes things work differently with Game Center (the API for high scores on iOS) when applications are released, it's annoying but I'm working on it and will figure it out. Sorry everyone!

For now you can just not download the update, but if want to play on an updated copy you can by disabling Game Center (Settings, scroll down to Game Center, slide the green bar in top right to off) and the game doesn't crash, but can't access leaderboards. (If you're running an old version of iOS you might not be able to access IAPs without Game Center active, but on current ones you can.)

Okay thanks for your patience and keep looking after yourselves!

Saturday 2 May 2020

preview for Imbroglio: Mizzenmast

Imbroglio: Mizzenmast, the third expansion for Imbroglio, has been submitted to the appstore and will be released in a few days. It takes the epic adventure to the high seas! But still in a tiny dungeon. Just with sea-ey things. Don't worry games don't have to make sense. Sea-dungeon. Something.

It's a jumbo sized expansion. I was originally planning four expansions each with two heroes for a final 4x4 character-select grid. In the end I didn't feel I had enough good weapon cards for two more sets; it's better to keep a higher density of interesting stuff. So there's 16 new weapons, same as the other two expansions, but all 4 new heroes because they're all good. It's mostly a jumble of effects that interact in novel ways with what's already in there, not really a common theme apart from mostly being things you might find on a pirate ship. And then there's Draft Mode, which is a new way to play the game with a more "roguelike" scoring system that encourages playing out every game (instead of restarting 10x to try for the perfect opening) and using a variety of weapons.

So now of course it's time for EXCLUSIVE PREVIEW CONTENT:

You might never have thought about it, but weirdly all the other heroes have the ability to see through walls. Or at least, when controlled by the player they act as though they had this ability. I guess maybe the walls are just chest-height? Anyway, for maximum realism meet: Cruel Pirate Rodney, a powerful villain with the ability to throw his weapons about. To play him evokes something of the classical dungeon crawl feeling, exploring a dark place not knowing where you will find monsters or treasure, honestly it surprises me that even this works on a 4x4 grid.

The Lightkeeper's Candle gives something different to everyone who holds it. Harry restores an extra hit point, Susannah and Masina do double damage, etc. And then it gives a couple of extra runes to help to use that ability, but also to help survive the first few turns of the game before you've built anything else up - especially important in Draft where restarting isn't free.

Saturday 28 December 2019

small progress update

The Imbroglio expansion is coming together well, it's become my main work focus for now.
Draft mode (maybe I need a cooler name for it) is working great, it's more "roguelike" than the other modes in that you're trying to make the best of what you find rather than execute a perfectly planned combo. Using similar ideas to what I've been developing in 868-HACK, Cinco Paus, P1 SELECT to make every game count, moving away from this way of playing by restarting a dozen times to try to get a good start. It's fun, I'm just enjoying playing it for fun again which is quite neat after what, five years? I hope others will find it to be a big enough new thing.
One of the new heroes is an absolute mess to program, requires a whole bunch of special cases, but in a way there's something nice about having built up all this complexity and then just being free to trample all over it because it's not important anymore to keep it organised. Anyway you'll see.
New weapons are coming together well. Thought about doing a "new mechanic" like charging to theme several weapons around but it's turned out more individual weird things. There's a lot can be done just by recombining what's already there, the basic framework of event triggers "when X occurs, do Y" is so flexible, most combinations aren't interesting or fun to play with but it's easy to try out lots of them. But some ideas still require quite a bit of code and I'm finding it harder to throw them away when I've spent more time on them, something can be clever and take work but not actually be good. Limiting myself to 16 weapons in the set is good practice for throwing away the ideas that aren't good.
I'm also revising some previous weapons that were less useful, I had hoped to "fix" them by adding things that combined well with them, but that hasn't happened so here we go. Not sure exactly how far I want to go with this, it's good to apply what I've learnt from having more time and having it out there but also maybe some things are just part of the game's texture now and should just be left to be.

Cinco Paus update comes slower. Playing with new artifacts I decided most of them weren't good, I think I have two good ones, that's probably a nice number to not overcomplexify anyway (of course I was aiming for five for numerological reasons). Trying also some weirder ideas, probably won't stick but you never know.

Quinzena, I haven't found a good version of the new idea I was trying out so maybe I drop it. Working on testing some changes to the deck but baby has become very mobile and is no longer content to quietly watch, gone are the days of playtesting while breastfeeding, so it will take time.