Pirate Kart Post-Mortem [Part 1 of 3]

As I’ve mentioned a few times, I contributed 25 out of over 1,000 games to the recent Pirate Kart. These were written over the course of two weeks, about half of which were over Pirate Kart weekend. I’ll be writing some brief reflections on each of these in my next few posts, in the order in which I made them.

(Click on the images to go to the game pages at Glorious Trainwrecks and to download and play!)

1. Wizard Forest

People who pledged $60 or more to the GDC Pirate Kart fund (which allowed the collection to be demonstrated on the floor at GDC Play) were given the reward of a game made by a member of the Glorious Trainwrecks community to be included in the Kart.  For my first game in the Kart, which I attempted a few days before the start of Pirate Kart weekend when I finished my homework early one night, I wanted to attempt one of these, and this description stood out to me:

A game about betraying wizards after becoming their friend. (Note: This should make the player EXPERIENCE EMOTIONS)

Lately, I haven’t been terribly interested in experimenting with narrative and emotions in my game projects, but jamming out games in under 4 hours is about experimentation if nothing else.  Naturally, the execution was going to be somewhat sarcastic, but once I figured out the tone I wanted to take, implementing it almost entirely through the game’s system with no dialogue and no real cut-scenes was an entertaining challenge.

I wasn’t the only one who attempted this game concept.  Alan Hazelden and Terry Cavanagh also made a game called The Lonely Wizard that made the player experience a much more frenzied, wider range of EMOTIONS, which was submitted something like minutes before mine.  It’s probably more fun.

2. Grizzly Golf

Before I started working on Kart games, I solicited a bunch of my friends for ideas via email.  My good friend Eli Z. McCormick suggested “Grizzly Golf” and nothing else.  I contemplated the idea for a bit, wondering exactly where grizzlies might intersect with golf.  Do they play golf?  Do they just swat a ball around?  Do they eat your ball? Soon I’d arrived at a miniature golf with giant grizzly enemies who maul you.  There’s still a weird bug in the ball’s behavior, but I’m pretty happy with how the ball moves and slows down.  I kind of feel like maybe I should’ve opted for keyboard control of the ball trajectory, but using the mouse was pretty easy to program.

I meant to do a spin-off/sequel with eight different levels and grizzlies replaced with pandas called “Panda Golf” but that never ended up happening.  I also began toying with a stick-less pool game where you played the cue ball based on the behaviors I programmed into the golf ball here, but that began to get a bit too daunting for my then-mood.

3. Watch Ducks II

When Pirate Kart II happened in February 2010, I’d intended to make a bunch of Watch Ducks “sequels” with pallette swaps, alternate scoring methods, and minor changes in controls.  I only ever ended up producing Watch Ducks itself, which seemed pretty well-received.  So what better time to crank out a bunch of those sequels than Pirate Kart V?  On my initial list of intended games (about a third of which actually represent what ended up getting made, the other two-thirds being improvised on the spot), there were about 5 Watch Ducks sequels/remakes.  I ended up making 3.  When I initially made Watch Ducks, I was much more inexperienced with Game Maker, and editing that two-year-old code was a surprisingly time-consuming affair, because I’d done things in ways that now seem so tremendously illogical.  I added a sleeping mechanic that a friend suggested way back when I first put out  Watch Ducks as well as a new silver duck multiplier and a fourth duck.  It enabled me to list all the new features in classic back-of-the-box bullet-point format.

  • Four all-new ducks (a significant improvement over WD1’s three ducks)!
  • Recolored and remastered background environment!
  • Challenging new sleep system. Watch your character to make sure he doesn’t go to sleep and miss ducks!
  • Altered system for gold duck appearance and bonuses!
  • New silver duck multiplier bonus!

4. ChickenFall

I can’t resist silly titles with the word “Chicken” in them.  My high school notebooks were full of them, especially fantasy games like “Chickenmancer.”  ChickenFall sounds far too dramatic for a word that has “Chicken” in it.  I’ve been working on a game about falling through a single vertical level for a few months now (called “Fall Free”), but that’s all about falling quickly and breaking obstacles.  A chicken should kind of fall slowly, gracelessly, and flap its wings furiously to slow itself up ever so slightly, ever so briefly, kind of futilely.  The game features my own voice acting as the horrible chicken.  Not gonna lie.  This is one of my favorite games I made for the Kart.

5. Blondie: Dagwood’s Spin-Off

How many “Blondie” fangames are there?  I don’t know of any others beside this one.  This is based on another suggestion by Eli Z. McCormick, this one a little more elaborate: “A Blondie game where Dagwood has to spin on his head to defeat Mr. Dithers.”  Apparently, at least recently, Dagwood Bumstead has been taking to spinning on his head to express his frustration and inability to deal with stressful situations.  So I did just that.

6. Koi Puncher

This one grew out of some suggestions from some friends.  Jared Allred suggested “Koi Hunter” and then in response Jane Allred suggested “Koi Puncher.  The image of some metal badass monster hunter type sitting in a pool punching some peaceful fish was extraordinarily appealing.  The fish will die after 3 hits.

Paul Allred had suggested “Koi Breeder” as an alternate/supplementary idea.  I ended up putting in a spawning system that happens when male and female fish of the same color (yes, they have hidden genders) touch each other.  It took me forever to finally make it work without creating an instant explosion of fish.  This can actually still get out of hand within a few minutes, which a friend pointed out after I released it.  I was going to fix it, but I thought, “nah.”

The player chooses to end the game when they like because as the game is called Koi Puncher, I didn’t want to give the player any objectives but to just punch koi to their heart’s content.

I’ve actually written up a really complex system of genetic inheritance for “Koi Breeder” which I had hoped to make for the Kart, but I never got around to it.  I still want to, and may do just that for another event/fun little side project one of these days.

7. Demon Forest II

This one’s another quickie sequel, after my recent Klik of the Month entry, Demon Forest.  Noyb left me a comment on that game that hitting a specific portal was perhaps too frustrating, and indeed, it was a vestigial element from when the game was going to be something a bit different.  So instead of making that first game better, I decided to throw together a second game that would contain that improvement, as well as some corrections to the sword’s behavior.  And while we’re at it, why not make the sword ON FIRE? I threw in a couple of other demons as well, one which is just a larger palette swap and another that spits projectiles at the player.  Between the two games, I think this is decidedly the better.

8. Catch the Bus

A game idea that came to me, surprisingly, while waiting for a bus one morning.  It struck me that in life I can sit around and wait for a bus at a stop, but in a game, I’d feel compelled to explore, so putting in a small, deadly platformer level away from the bus stop might be a compelling enough distraction to make the player fail to achieve the game’s goal.

Originally, I was going to make the player wait for at least a minute for the scheduled arrival time and have the bus randomly be a little early or as much as a minute late.  Then I realized that no one playing the Pirate Kart would have the patience to put up with my bullshit that long.  Time feels a lot different in a game than in real life.

9. Koi Puncher: Championship Edition

Koi Puncher is kind of a pointless, challenge-less score attack experience.  But that makes it pretty easy to turn competitive if a second player and a time limit are introduced!  This is the exact same game with a timer and a second player.  I don’t know whether it’s actually been played competitively yet, but I’m hoping  within a few weeks–now that the Kart has been officially released–to see a few streams on Twitch.TV, displacing MvC3 or whatever the kids are into these days.

That’s all for this installment!  Next time, we’ll wrap up the Pirate Kart Weekend games with Owl Forest, Fuck the Sun I and IItwo Watch Ducks games, ChickenFall: ChickenCatch, a virtual pet, and my favorite of my games for the Kart, Ghost Witch.