Intense gladiatorial combat for one device and two competitors, Battle Blips is a sleek, modern experience that’s rich in old-school awesome. Defeat your friends and rivals -- do you have what it takes to Battle Blip?!

The Summoners Speech #1

It's hard being an Archmage. There are so many things that take up my time each day; work-life, gym-life, family-life, and everything... else-life. When I finally have a moment to put on my robe and get to my work I find my self exhausted. But my role, my abilities are to motivate others and if I can't motivate myself to keep going, what am I to say to the mages? Each day I work a bit harder, I add an additional task, I push a little harder all in knowing this will pay out in the end. Yes it is crazy that I keep adding more onto my plate, but in time it gets easier and my daily life becomes more.. more normal. I push myself to keep going, I stand my ground to not fall, and when I do... I get back up and again and learn from my mistakes.

So to all of you out there who want more than the norm that life has given you, I say this. Stay diligent each day towards your efforts to being a success. When you get overwhelmed from the stress of each of your lives, you must persevere. Finally when something does bring you down you must be resilient and get back up.  
If this were Westeros and I had a motto it would be:

  • Diligence
  • Perseverance
  • Resilience

The crest... well I am not sure yet, some creature or thing that makes sense with those words. Perhaps a Phoenix?

New Habit Monday: The 20 Min Approach w/ 342 Remaining

That's right, a countdown of 342 Days til GDC'17 has started.

And I, now back to the grind at work am trying a new approach to life. Currently I find myself, like most of us who just got back from GDC'16, full of energy, motivation, and boundless passion towards wanting to create fun. Whether it be Art, Sound, Design, Coding, or Producing we have come back from GDC ready to start on the right foot to make this year count. As a friend just said to me "it's weird that GDC feels like the actual start of the year in a way" and it does. Right you are Justin, today is the start of the year for many of us. So with an overwhelming sensation to make this year count I found myself not being able to sleep last night, wondering over and over "how will I make this year count? how will I ensure I am ready for next year?" There were so many options roaming around in my mind. I could: Draw everyday, Code everyday, Read everyday, Run everyday, Prototype everyday, Eat healthier everyday, etc; which is all very intense to then ask yourself "well, which of these do I do first?" From my past I know first hand that trying to set too many goals all at once is a recipe for failure. Then it hit me, the common denominator in my "Do X Everyday" and it wasn't goal but the duration. What should I be doing "everyday" to ensure this year counts? The answer? To begin timeboxing new goals into 20 min increments. At that is exactly what I did this morning. I got up and early and only snoozed for only 20 mins extra. I then decided to get my butt in gear and go down to the small basement gym in my high rise and then did a short workout for 20 mins which included quick bodyweight exercises, running, and stretching. After showering, I limited myself on social media for only ... yup that's right, only 20 mins while I relaxed and sipped my coffee to the morning sun next to my cats. Now, on my lunch break I am attempting to write this quick blog in under 15 mins so I can then edit it with the remaining 5 to thus complete another 20 min goal. With each Monday going forward I will challenge myself to start a micro habit and always try to stay inside this 20 minute window. So with little time remaining the only thing I haven't talked about is why I came to this specific increment of time. My only logic is that setting myself to 20 minutes means that in an hour I can accomplish about 3 habits each day. Most shows on Netflix are at about 22 minutes and I know I can binge on those easy (especially when Netflix starts the next episode after the intro and asks you to watch another one just as the credits start), so why not timebox myself to that amount for the things I want to accomplish?

NOTE! This 20 minute technique is super simliar to The Pomodoro Technique where you work super focused for 25 minutes then take a 5 minute break, and trust me I do it at work and it does wonders for my productivity. Try out today and test it for yourself at work. I guarantee you will be looking at the countdown clock trying to do as much as you can before you take your 5 minute break. I can hear you asking me this now "but Tavi, Pomodoro time is 25 minutes long and yours is 20, why not just do Pomodoro time all day?" Well, that’s because I have so many things I want to do each day so to make it all work I shortened the timeframe. All of these things I want to do is not "work" but something I want to improve myself after working out or being creative for 20 minutes, I don't need break afterwards, I want to instead start another habit.

So wish me luck as I attempt to make this year count and knockout goal after goal with my slight change to a proven productive method. And cut me some slack for typos and grammar, I am rusty when it comes to writing, so eventually a new mirco habit of blog everyday will come around and I will gain more and more experience points in it and because a better blogger.


Ps. here is a photo of my 4 cats.. because CATS!

the cats have assembled




Latest news



A task fit for the logical, the meticulous, and the brilliant. A role in which the magnificent prove their worth without notice. We’re stuck with these guys, though.

Powers: Technical Debt Shield and Terminal Backslash.

Skills: Can Speed climb to the peak of the Balmer Curve. Pondering hilarious t-shirts. Avoiding stepping on sharp objects in dark rooms.

Likes: Treadmilling on the beach. Banana Boats. Geraldo.

Docent Battle


Tiny Dev Blog: Making Mercury

Getting in the habit of doing a dev blog after any amount of dev work.

Last night I added a very basic planet Mercury to a space game I've been working on. Got up to a skinned sphere that moves from it's start point to a fixed location (so exciting!)

Beautiful skin made in GIMP by yours truly:

And here it is on a sphere:

And it wouldn't be a dev blog without a code snippet. This one moves the planet to a pre-set spot, so that it moves into the play area after it spawns.

Vector3 toDest = destination - transform.position;
toDest = Vector3.Normalize(toDest) * Time.deltaTime * speed;

With that checking for position.Equals(destination) I was expecting more of a wobble around the destination, but it ended up really smooth.


Behold the mages of Electrophage! Rather than your traditional team of designers, developers, and artists; we here at Electrophage have adopted new titles to go with our creative powers.



One of history’s most noble and ancient professions, now reduced to the merits of Snapchat. These mages create the aesthetic world around us, and what a one-dimensional world it has become.

Powers: Blank Canvas Flash and Pencil Stab.

Skills: Finding cuss words in Boggle and <redacted>.

Likes: Counterfeiting archaic currency.

Introducing: Firetruck Infinite

Firetruck Infinite is a panicked traffic management game with an endless fleet of firetrucks for putting out fires.

We've been working on this game for about 8 months and this blog represents the first of the weeky builds to get posted publicly. There will be updates on a weekly basis, typically Sunday nights.

The game so far features a city being plagued by an arsonist turning to a new dispatcher(you), and a fleet of inifite firetrucks to save them. Gameplay consists of tapping on locations on the map to dispatch a new firetruck to that location. Fires will spread through the city as the level progresses and it is up to you to manage your fleet well and avoid traffic jams. You can select individual trucks to give them a new location.


Play in browser


Tiny Dev Blog: Spawning Mercury

Now that there's a Mercury made I'm ready to do something with it. Added a planet to the end of each level, with a delay between the last wave spawning and the planet. For now it's a solid object for the player and everything else passes through it. For now it's something. Also learned that I really messed up on the UI, it always looked fine working on my laptop.


Bonus lesson: if you don't have Blender installed Unity complains about .blend meshes.


Tavi and I were at GDC two weeks ago and we had a blast. We attended as CA's, which we both plan on doing for the forseeable future. Meeting lots of great people and hearing good advice always gets us really motivated. 

Inspiration always strikes during GDC, with so much exposure to new and different ideas. This year simply mishearing the name of another game inspired us to make a rediculous new game, which we'll blog about another time. We're really excited about it and can't wait to get a prototype together.



A conjurer’s work is only part of the picture. Illusionists bend beams of reality to fit within the scope of a conjured work. They also prefer to sleep on a bed of packing peanuts.

Powers: Reality Hip Check and Putting the Phage on the page.

Skills: Pixelating the beauty of nature, providing electroshock therapy to the sane, hunting wabbits.

Likes: Lucid dreaming as a platypus, splitting hares, reality tv shows about certified public accountants.



Clash Royale: Addicting AND Maddening

Since my phone is ancient and useless I have started loving a new large black vibrating device, which of course is my tablet. I am first off ashamed to call myself a mobile developer but not even play the latest games (mainly because of that stupid phone). So catching up to what's "hip" in the mobile market, I decided to download and play Supercell's new game "Clash Royale" which is another game that seems to be addicting, popular, and has a screaming white guy as the icon. I'll say this, Supercell knows what they are doing, because 5 minutes into the training I am having a blast just playing against the computer.

The nutshell of gameplay is that I have 3 towers I am trying to protect while also trying to destroy the other player's 3 towers by placing troop cards onto the battlefield. As my "Elixir" bar fills up, I simply drag a troop card down to an area on the battlefield and it spawns and begins trying to destroy whatever it is programmed to. What's even better is that the game encourages me to join a clan and trade troop cards with each other and after doing it for the first time I get an achievement of a few precious precious game gems which is the currency that I need for EVERYTHING.

Now since I am playing this for 50% entertainment and 50% research I decided to not spend my own money and try to play it completely freemium. I will admit that I am new to this world having human money that turns into game currency A, which turns into currency B, which is used to buy in game items so I can do more.. but my main grievance is was in how I felt misled into spending my game currency A when I didn't need to. And in Clash Royale’s terms that currency is “gems”.  Below is the Battle Select screen where I can decide if I want to play another game as well as decide to open up my delicious booty.. I mean treasure chests. Now the key point here is that I only get a max of 4 chests to hold on to at all times and I want those chests to be opened ASAP. More opened chests means more new cards (unless of course I just want to spend all of my human money).

When the game first gave me my first chest (cuz ya know, I rocked so hard at that first training level that I deserved only the best first treasure chest in the game), it stated the the chest was locked, so like any proud winner desiring the spoils of battle, I wanted to unlock it. It is this moment in time that annoyed me so much because the chest was Locked for "15 secs" and not knowing what that meant, I clicked it. Suddenly I see a 15 second countdown and the words "Open Now" for 5 gems. Well of course I am going to open it now! I don't want to miss my first chance at that sweet sweet loot!! So I did this over and over for the first 5+ chests or so and spent about 25+ gems of my starting pool of 100. Little did I know that what this really meant was "the chest will open up in 15 secs OR I can pay gems to open it now." BAAAA!!! So many gems lost! WHY? WHY DID I DO THIS? WHY COULDN’T IT HAVE READ “This Chest will open in X or If you need to open it now, Pay X” ???!??!?!  …………… well I am going to answer my own question and say that would be much too much copy on the screen. But still, I LOST FAKE MONEY!!!


Am I mad? Nah.

Have I spent any money? Nope.

Is this game super addicting with ninja fast matchmaking, high polish, and great fun thus I am still playing it? no.. YES!

*Sigh* … I have become a monster perhaps my ancient phone was wise and became a piece of crap to protect me... then again my lovely tablet is now always here by my side ensuring that the dopamine is always flowing.





Had these mages not come to be, the dead and inanimate would remain so. Necromancers allow the the works of Conjurers and Illusionists to dance like the limbs of the marionette.

Powers: Phantom Limb, Paralysis Beam, and Flesh Puppeteering.

Skills: Stonewalling the limbic system, Inciting fear in the already afraid, and restocking mini fridge after mini fridge.

Likes: Slowing decay in musculoskeletal systems, re engraving grave stones, hunting the damned, and cotton candy.

Firetruck Infinite Weekly build for March 15th, 2015

This week's build doesn't add much more to the game functionally, but there are new screens added to the flow of the game.

There is now an Android alpha testing Google+ group that will have access to the weekly build's Android version.

I also added Google sign in for leaderboards and achievements, but those haven't been added to the game yet.

Play in browser


Ludum Dare 35 and Circumstances Beyond My Control


Got me and Karl's Ludum Dare 35 entry submitted almost a week ago now.

For the theme 'shapeshift' we went with our idea of a reverse werewolf, cursed to change from a regular wolf to a helpless naked human during the full moon and be hunted by the wolves. The ultimate goal of the game is to kill the gypsy queen to free yourself from the curse.

We changed the idea for the plot a lot as we went, finally settling on this one early last Sunday. Until then we had considered setting it up in a zoo instead of the woods. There would have been an inventory and some sort of goal acheivable by going around the zoo and trading items for tips. Once we realized that was too much to try to put in we scaled down the scope to what we have now.

Karl made some assets that didn't end up in the final submission because I didn't have the development time Monday after work that I had planned on having, thanks a mechanical problem with a bridge on my way home. I felt so impotent seeing the time tick away while traffic failed to move, my 1 hour commute taking just over 2 hours. Luckily I still had time to actually upload a build and submit it during the submission grace period.

Today I took the assets from Karl that didn't make it into the submission and put them into the game so we can at least show what should have been. Play that new complete build here.

Here's some of the initial art, as well as zoo art, that didn't make the final version:

Reverse werewolf #1, too happy

Reverse werewolf #1, too happyPompous Lion

Pompous Lion



Helpful Giraffe

Helpful Giraffe

His flashlight doesn't even work, budget cuts are rough.

His flashlight doesn't even work, budget cuts are rough.



Let 'er rip in this nut-smashing, action-packed puzzler. Smash your way through level after level of tantalizing nut-on-nut-on-squirrel action as you rise through the ranks to become: the Hero of Squirrelania!


• 8 nutty levels with 3 unique but integrated game styles

• Maybe an hour of fast-paced mobile gameplay

• 32 epic lines of dialog

• 6 or 7 different nut types with a plethora of emergent and unpredictable behaviors



The contemporary bards, Shaman bring depth to experience through melody. A world without music is a cold world indeed, and it is these mages who protect us from a frigid, soundless experience.

Powers: Percussive Blast, Tonal Strike, and Deafening Wave.

Skills: Softening hearts and hardening resolve, telling tales without words, and creating an atmosphere through oratory means.

Likes: The ringing of steel as it clashes together.

Firetruck Infinite Weekly Build For March 22nd, 2015

This week's build has buildings instead of square buttons on the menu.

Also a bug has been fixed where the level wasn't ending as soon as it was lost. This left the thermometer full while the game continued.

And the main menu has a version number on it. This week's version number is 0.15322.

Play in browser


From The Sun

Andy's work in progress solo project. Top-down arcade shooter with a rainbow of color changing particles of light.



Intense gladiatorial combat for one device and two competitors, Battle Blips is a sleek, modern experience that’s rich in old-school awesome. Defeat your friends and rivals -- do you have what it takes to Battle Blip?!

Test Fish


Mystics create depth by beating a nonstandard timing on our eardrums. They are the impact from foot to face, and the ping of so many useless notifications.

Powers: Deafening Blast, Deep Beep, Sound Blade Slash, and Tonal Dissonance Eruption.

Skills: Threading the needle between the physical, the visual, and the decibel, hearing repetitive sounds for the first time over and over again, pouring crazy glue into paper cuts, ignoring ‘for external use only’ warnings.

Likes: When two wine glasses clink together, washboards, avoiding the Westerns section at the blockbuster that closed down years ago.

Ludum Dare 32 ready for first demo

Here's a first look build of the game Karl and I are making for the Ludum Dare Jam. Our 'unconventional weapon' is getting songs stuck in other people's heads. You're walking around listening to music and whistling. When you stay close to other people for a little while they get the song stuck in their head and turn red. Then they chase you because they're mad that you got the song in their heads.

Play in browser


From The Sun Postmortem

In the over a year since the last blog post I've done very little development on From The Sun and a few months ago decided to stop work on it all together. As I built on the initial concept of playing as a particle of light that changes color and energy levels by absorbing other light or running into obstacles I realized that I didn't have a full plan for what the final game would look like. As an experiment and learning experience I consider it a success, but I don't see a larger appeal with it in its current encarnation so I'm taking what I've learned and am moving on to a new project. More about that to come.

Taking on a solo project and exploring more of the aspects besides programming was really good for me. I gained a renewed appreciation for all that goes into a game. Chiefly among the aspects of game development that I had underestimated are design and production. I did no real design work going into development for this game. It started out as a little experiment with no player interaction where colored balls spawned on a screen, redder colors on top falling down and bluer colors on the bottom floating up. When balls collided the bluer one would become one step bluer and the redder ball would be destroyed. I then iterated on that design a few times until I reached the mechanics in the current build. That was my design process.

Once I was fairly happy with the game mechanics I started building out actual levels and a structure for the game. In that process is where I learned the value of planning the production beforehand in order to be able to plan a timeline for the game. I didn't have a timeline at any point in the development process. My documentation consisted of a trello board that I threw tasks in to as I thought of them and some pages in a notebook with ideas for what levels should be like. As a result of that a lot of little things in this game are completey flat and bland: menus, interface, sound effects, etc. I'd realize that one of those aspects needs attention, spend a little time on it, and then get distracted by the next thing that needed attention.

Two things that I ended up being pretty proud of making as part of this project are the level editor tool for building waves of debris and a crystal 3d model that I don't actually remember if made it into the game.

The level editor tool makes use of lessons from CatLikeCoding's Splines tutorial to spawn debris along smooth curves in addition to manually placing prefabs. In the screenshot below two such curves are visible. Not shown are the widgets that appear when they are selected for editing. This is a view of the first few waves in the Venus level (if you want to see it in action you'll have to give the game a play.) Also visible in this screen shot is how a wave with a bezier curve only allows for one curve so the parrallel curves are actually two waves with very close together timing.

Level editor showing bezier curves and prefabs at the start of the Venus level

The crystal model is for a type of debris that wasn't as useful as I had hoped. I wanted to have them fill the role of providing a reason players to try and be a specific color rather than going for the highest power level, but in play test it was confusing whether you could pass through them if you matched their color or if they turned you to their color. I had thought the former made sense but many players expected the latter.

Spinning green crystal

Ultimately the usefulness of the crystals hinged on a ditched mechanic where redder colors would still fall from the top and decrease the player's power level. The design iteration process led me to get rid of any reason to change to redder colors and the design took on a model where the player could take more hits and deal more damage by being high powered and there was no reason to go lower. This is the change in design that made the most sense and also removed much of the original inspiration.

The final version of From The Sun is playable here on It includes Mercury, Venus, and Earth as levels, they end up getting pretty difficult.


Game stuff to look out for

We've got two things we're working on that we expect to be released by the end of April. We're wrapping up a significant update to Cosmonuts. Then there's a new game prototpye for Android that we'll be publishing.

The update to Comonuts will include new nut types, new art, and a selection of levels for your nut gathering pleasure.

The new game prototype is a two player head to head game that plays on one device. The prototype will be released with very basic art, circles and lines. It is also being released as a two player only game, although planned future versions will have single player modes. We're putting this prototype out to get feedback from players and have plans already to make a more complete version.

Energy Gauntlets

We set out to create something great for the world! Who wouldn’t want to possess the awesome powers of the Energy Gauntlets? You could… well… we’re not sure what you could do with them, but we’re sure it would be Amazing! We just need a couple more tweaks to perfect them. Are you ready, Test Subject?

*Note: this game was done in only 48 hours, excuse the bugs while you try very hard to win. If you are ready for the challenge, head on over to Kongregate and try it.

The Enchanter

A sword is only as good as a swordsman, and an idea is only as good as its delivery. The Enchanter speaks to the heart within you, and shows you truth in intrigue. This mage presents the path to understanding.

Powers: Inbound Circle Kick and Social Data Wave

Skills: Moving the minds of the masses, insightful rhetoric in 140 characters, and bringing meaning to the useless lives of the masses one game at a time.

Likes: High resolution screens, cracked sidewalks, oven roasted brussel sprouts, and Japanese bootleg DVD covers

2 Levels of Glorious Whistling for Ludum Dare 32

Karl and I have gotten a lot more cool stuff into the game since last night.  Karl drew up some sweet animations and environmental hazards. I added progress bars for getting the song stuck in other people's heads and got together a 2 level flow.


Play in browser



Docent Battle - Prologue

If my memory serves me correctly, there are two docents here at Electrophage. From far across the America frontier, Nate, with his powers of ink and quil can be found writing away day and night on subjects no one fully knows. However much closer to home, right here in the heart of Chicago, Armstrong, with his powers of pen is always full of opinions that should be heard.

I found these gentleman, brought them together and challenged them to become something more. Why this challenge? Why such focus into subjects not yet written? Because all of the mages here at Electrophage like to practice each of our talents. From Code to Canvas, Art to Audio, and finally, now the written word. Our two in house Docents, keepers of words and way of writing, are now summoned to find a game that best defines the challenge that comes before them. They will play or replay this game and write about how that game answers the challenge. Then, they will play each other's game and blog about how it matches up to their original.



Trees, Penguins, and Aliens!

Three levels of getting songs stuck in people's heads. Karl and me's entry to the Ludum Dare 32 Jam. Can you beat all 3 levels?

Play in browser

Test Duck

And it begins

So here is where a blog post will go, and I'm about to slap down some awesome. 

Docent Battle #1 - Best Narrative (N)

If you’re reading this and you haven’t played it, stop. Go play Journey. Really. Journey is one of the most important games made in the last several years. People far and wide have sung its praises and I’m here to offer yet another verse, this time on the theme of narrative.

Dwarfing whatever competition is thrown its way, Journey is a triumph sporting nigh-unparalleled elegance, artistry and narrative power. For all of the cultural tendency to tout the value of branching story-lines, personal choice, and open worlds, Journey is a singularly compelling encounter with a straight-forward, not-quite-on-the-rails narrative.  The task set before me? To demonstrate the superlative efficacy of Journey as a compelling narrative experience within four discrete arenas:

  1. Explication and Evaluation: unpacking what unique elements of the narrative contribute to my assertion of the superiority of Journey

  2. Deep Story Enthusiasts: demonstrating to such a theoretical class of persons the alluring depths of the narrative

  3. Accessible Story Enthusiasts: demonstrating to the not-quite-opposite class of persons the elegant simplicity of the narrative experience

  4. Emotional Impact: discussing the single-crystalline emotional significance of this videogame experience and telling you why it matters.


To pun on the nature use of “compelling” -- there’s no alternative: Journey is a single track experience with no narrative decision making. Like many video games, the path through Journey is essentially a singular railroad, solving one gentle puzzle and then the next. Making the narrative, well, by definition compelling… But such a superficial, pun-driven approach fails to capture the fleeting essence of how “compelling” is different than “compulsion.” There’s no gun set against your head to play Journey, why travel down the first hill? What is the taste the pulls your deeper into thatgamecompany’s profound experience?

Before we can access the heart of their narrative design, it is first important to discuss Journey’s narrative form. Often when speaking of “narrative” we imply the verbal transmission of a sort of story (note that when I say “verbal” I mean the employ of syntax, vocabulary and word-objects; ASL is still “verbal” in this sense). Unlike many modern video game experiences, Journey is an entirely non-verbal experience. To belabor the point a bit, narrative is intrinsically pre-verbal: Douglas Harper describes the origin of the word “narrative” as literally "to make acquainted with," ultimately from *gno- “to know”. From its root, “narrative” carries the weight of revelatory process, and fundamentally some of the most profound ways to transmit acquaintance are non-verbal. Your friend is not at all familiar with oranges, and despite all your attempts at describing that citrus fruit (“I mean, it’s an spheroidal fruit with pigmentation between yellow and red… that tastes sweeter than a lemon…”) nothing makes your friend more acquainted, more knowledgeable about oranges than simply placing one in their hands. This kind of non-verbal acquaintance is an intrinsic part of human experience and integral part of our lives. Journey takes this interactive, non-verbal learning and elevates it to artform by simply not including verbal elements in the experience.

Looking at an on-rails narrative, as players, we’re generally used to being pushed or pulled along at the pace the game wishes to take us. The taste, the richness that draws you into Journey comes precisely from a relaxing of these compulsions -- while there are objectives present in the game, they wait patiently for you to fulfill them. To assuage the potential for the sort of plodding the descends on many puzzle games, Journey intersperses moments of wild, sliding abandon and soaring, succulent flight. For every tense, nigh-tedious moment of trudging through the seemingly-infinite world of pace-slowing sand, there a comparable moment of weightless release. The soft-objective structure means that in order for players to make any progress at all, enticements are placed and clever, beautiful and intuitive camera work is used to call attention to items of interest and sometimes obfuscate items of significance. These latter secret items are but one of the draws for repeating the game, others will be discussed later. Though you never have to go anywhere: the music, the beauty, the camera work, the textures -- every element of the game conspires to draw you deeper and deeper into the stunning world of Journey. With neither carrot nor stick -- tantalized by the very possibility, the very essence of the world -- you find yourself on a journey, for the sake of the journey  itself. The compelling nature of Journey comes precisely from its lack of compulsion.


Journey’s depth is, as many depths are, not readily apparent. It’s a little like stepping into a shallow pool only to realize just how far in over your head you are. Journey is a game that, even having played several times, there remain elements that continue to elude me. For example, there’s a rather pervasive set piece, that until my fourth playthrough had remained innocuous, and suddenly I realized what it was -- that I was standing in history, that everything was connected. I wonder if, even now, I fully understand all of the pieces.

The tense-release structure that pervades the playable space is reflected in the presence of a series of cutscenes that divide each level. Mysterious mediations where a white-robed figure reveals to you both the past and what is to come in the styling of an animated mosaic. The story so-told is rather simplistic, if perhaps a bit moralizing. A story of a grandiose people and their magic fabric, eventual greed, ambition and fall. The depth, rather than emerging from the events of the narrative, emerges from the elegant portrayal of that narrative into the play areas, the aforementioned set-piece to name one. Journey is a play within a play, both topological and temporal. The cutscenes serve as guides into the elegance of the history upon which narrative of Journey is built, showing you more and more truths, sliding ideas into place.

A kind of hermeneutic unlocking is present throughout Journey, to this end there are hidden unlockable (achievable-related) mosaics throughout the play areas. Each of these reveals portions of the narrative tantalizingly absent from the mandatory cutscenes. Again, set-piece related, there’s a mosaic that transforms the opening play-area from a cute, quaint space into an overtly sad one. In the same move, it integrates this mysterious set-piece into the larger, beautiful overarching story.

In short, it’s a simple story (as I’ll say even more about below), but it’s beautifully told, with an aching sense of mystery and pervasive realization. To return to the very nature of narrative, in each playthrough one comes to know Journey and it’s world more and more, to get acquainted on a deeper, richer level with both the overt narrative, and the play-area  functional narrative.


Journey’s story is one of the most accessible; it’s been told in thousands of different ways and iconically introduced into American pop-culture by Star Wars. thatgamecompany embraced the Campbellian monomyth as the framework of their story, it’s their retelling of the hero’s journey. From the call to adventure, to the belly of the whale, to the freedom to live. Rather than follow Campbell’s 17 phases, Journey even cleans up that narrative a bit -- reducing it to broad emotional strokes and a more straightforward flow. Meaning that for all of its depth, the narrative is light, fun. It doesn’t take really any effort to understand the story -- it’s all laid out before you.

And even if you’re somehow opposed to narrative, Journey will simply coax you along and sweep you into its beautiful play-experience, which, as it’s structured on the monomyth is immanently relatable and engaging. And its brevity and simplicity (and its emotionality as I’ll describe below) allow Journey to enter a space of ritual, of performing tasks again for the joy of performing them again, of playing for the sake of how it finds you feeling.


Jenova Chen and thatgamecompany have really done all the work of encapsulating their game in a single emotional experience: “small.” Part of the brilliance of Journey is its express desire to convey a particular emotion, its fundamental willingness to clean out clutter. Everything in Journey is tooled to the experience of “smallness.” And though thatgamecompany uses such a word, I would instead say the “sublime” in the Kantian sense: looking at a sunrise and feeling the intensity of the world, the mystery the magic, the fullness of what is beyond the sunrise. The feeling not just of beauty, but the distance of beauty, the power of nature and its indication of the numinous, the inexpressible. Journey is a game much like watching a sunset or standing in the rain, beauty is all around you. Through clever camera work, dynamic sound effects, and an elegant use of few mechanics Journey strums the sublime emotional chord for two straight hours.

In an off-handed remark during his session on paper-prototyping narrative at GDC ‘14,  Jamie Antonissementioned that the real hero of a game is properly the player. With this impressionistic reduction of the monomyth, Journey collapses the role of the hero and their avatar. The player, though their avatar, is diving into this deeply experiential world, their experience elegant entwined with their avatar. There’s no emotional disparity -- your characters actions, reactions, all of these are sung out directly onto the player proper. It’s not your avatar’s journey, it’s yours.

Using LibGDX TextureRegion

After running into issues correctly loading managed Textures in my current LibGDX project when the Android app is backgrounded and foregrounded I refactored the project to use the TextureAtlas class and TextureRegions loaded from it. The transition was surprisingly smooth: the same amount of control with drawing is available on a TextureRegion as on a Sprite. Rotation around an origin and color tinting being my primary concerns. The main difference I found between the two approaches is that drawing happens through the SpriteBatch with a passed in TextureRegion rather than drawing through the Sprite with the SpriteBatch provied as a parameter. All of the transformations that I had been applying to the Sprite are now applied through the SpriteBatch draw method instead.

As an example of this different approach here is the code for my HealthBar class's render() function before and after the refactor. 


       public void render(SpriteBatch spriteBatch){

                backgroundSprite.setBounds(viewBounds.x, viewBounds.y, viewBounds.width, viewBounds.height);

                backgroundSprite.setOrigin(viewBounds.width/2f, viewBounds.height/2f);



                barSprite.setBounds(currentHealthBounds.x, currentHealthBounds.y, currentHealthBounds.width, currentHealthBounds.height);

                barSprite.setRegionWidth((int)(barTexture.getWidth() * (currentHealth/maxHealth)));

                barSprite.setOrigin(viewBounds.width/2f-viewPadding, viewBounds.height/2f-viewPadding);





        public void render(SpriteBatch spriteBatch){                float x = viewBounds.x;                float y = viewBounds.y;                float width = viewBounds.width;                float height = viewBounds.height;                float originX = viewBounds.width/2f;                float originY = viewBounds.height/2f;                                spriteBatch.draw(backgroundRegion, x, y, originX, originY, width, height, 1, 1, rotation);
                x = currentHealthBounds.x;                y = currentHealthBounds.y;                width = currentHealthBounds.width;                height = currentHealthBounds.height;                barRegion.setRegionWidth((int)(barRegion.getTexture().getWidth() * (currentHealth/maxHealth)));                originX = viewBounds.width/2f-viewPadding;                originY = viewBounds.height/2f-viewPadding;
                spriteBatch.draw(barRegion, x, y, originX, originY, width, height, 1, 1, rotation);        }


Here it is: Karl and me's submission to Ludum Dare 32!

Our unconventional weapon is getting a song stuck in someone's head.

The game is about someone wandering around listening to their music and whistling along. As they whistle they get the song stuck in the head's of people near them. When someone else gets your song stuck in their head it enrages them, turning them red, and they chase you down to hit you. The game is played using w,a,s,d or arrow keys. There are 3 levels and each has its own goals:


The Park: Get your song stuck in 20 people's heads


The Antartic: Get your song stuck in the 5 heads each of the 4 colors of people


Alien World: Get your song stuck in 10 astronauts heads.

Play in browser



Tavi, The Archmage of Summoning: Using his powers of stealing ones' soul, he infects his followers, uniting them as one and is constantly on the prowl for more.

Andy, The Archmage of Sorcilation: The strength of his inteligence, coding skills, and leadership is best described as a giant club. Hard, Fast, and Blunt.

Kal, The Hierophant of Venture: Knowing the secret to step 2 of the great 3 steps to profit, he always fights for what really matters, as seen in chart.

Docent Battle #1 - Best Narrative (A)

Compelling narrative in video games is still a relatively new concept if you think about it. I look back to my gateway to the medium, which like for many young gamers, was Super Mario Bros. on the Nintendo Entertainment System. It’s hard to say exactly what the original intended narrative of that game was, if one even existed. The first bits of dialogue (and more or less the only dialogue before the game’s closing moments) don’t occur until you’ve completed World 1-3, and even then it consists of a mushroom capped person telling you your princess is in another castle. If you had no preconceived knowledge of the Mario Universe before that moment in the game, this would actually be your first clue that your goal is to rescue anyone at all, and it still doesn’t explain who the chump with the shroom hat is. I guess the 8-bit era was the genesis of things like gameplay and level design, and though plots did occasionally lend themselves as devices by which we enjoyed games, they were stifled by the capabilities of the systems on which we played them. It’s safe to say we’ve come a very long way, and as I recently had the opportunity to play through Naughty Dog’s foray into the zombie apocalypse, The Last of Us, that became as present as day.

Story is integral to The Last of Us. In fact, after playing it I would be inclined to argue that this game’s original concept was as a vehicle for the tale it told. Naughty Dog, as a studio, has actually started garnering a reputation for their cinematic approach to game design. While that might not be as present in their earlier works, like Crash Bandicoot and Jak and Daxter, the Uncharted series was noticeability characteristic of filmlike qualities. Those games were a giant-sized step into changing the way stories were told through games, but after playing The Last of Us, it’s clear that Uncharted was simply the studio developing its chops.

The Last of Us is a deeply moving, devastatingly tragic story. It centers around a man named Joel, and his personal experience as a fungal infection begins spreading through the country (and probably the world), turning people into mindless zombies. The longer a person is infected, the more extreme their fungal mutation becomes. It’s quite a mess, but the game is more focused on Joel and the people he meets. It turns out, as you might imagine, that Joel is to play a pivotal role in the larger scale.

The game opens with a bit of cinematics. I know what you’re thinking, cutscenes are nothing new, and they sometimes do more to take the player out of the game than to pull them further into it. While there is a fair amount of cutscenes in The Last of Us, they’re normally very short, and most of the game’s cinematic elements occur during play. The player not only has to realize their environment is being changed, but they have to react to it. It makes me wonder if, because of their interactive nature, video games are a more effective medium for storytelling. It’s easy to question whether or not Michael was right to kill Fredo in the Godfather, you aren’t Michael so you can judge him impartially, but in video games you become your character. When Joel was faced with decisions, even though I personally didn’t have a say over his choice, I was more invested in them. The Last of Us did a remarkable job of making me understand why Joel did the things he did, and agree with them even when there was a question of morality involved. You understand what is important to Joel as a character, and because you’ve been experiencing everything with him, these things are important to you as well.

The opening cutscene is also a very important plot element, that without going into specifics and spoilers, carries weight through our entire understanding of Joel’s character. The events of this opening segment, which coincide with the initial outbreak of the infection, completely define him later in life.

Once you’re placed inside the world, and the infestation is in full swing, you find out that Joel has adapted to the new world, and is working as a smuggler. You end up being paired with a young girl named Ellie, and your task is to smuggle her across the post-apocalyptic landscape (there’s something very, very important about her.) As you can imagine, Joel takes on this task quite begrudgingly, but the further the two travel together, the more their relationship develops. They become a team, and they become two people who care about each other. This doesn’t happen overnight, however. The game’s narrative provides you with experiences that shape the relationship’s development in a very believable way. It’s hard not to feel the same emotions as Joel throughout the process. It’s one of the most solidly built relationships in game history.

That isn’t the only element that The Last of Us does extremely well. The game shows the progression of time in a very simple, but very effective way. Rather than being separated into numeric chapters, levels, or simply giving you the date, the game separates its sections by season. Summer, Fall, Winter, and Spring. After the initial outbreak, where the game actually jumps years ahead, there is very little time elapsed between these sections. Just enough to get the characters to their next stage.

The Last of Us also approaches its story in a way that very few, if any, video games have done. it effectively causes us to question right and wrong, and whether or not those concepts are even relevant anymore. It’s a post-apocalyptic landscape. The weight of the decisions Joel has to make carry remarkably heavy consequences. You are presented with the distinct possibility that humanity’s future rests on whether or not you are successful. That being said, you have some morally questionable roadblocks, and as Joel mulls them over, it’s nearly impossible to be sure of what’s right. It isn’t cut and dry, it’s a very blurred line. Sometimes in order to do something good, you also have to do something completely horrible.

I understand that story is not important to everyone, and even the best plots are irrelevant if the gameplay isn’t smooth, fun, and well thought out. Lucky for those types, though the plot is engrossing, well written, and thought provoking, The Last of Us is simply a fun game to play. The plot and cutscenes don’t distract from the play at all. It makes use of game mechanics like weapon upgrades, environment searches, and incredibly satisfying combat. Even if the story had been watered down a considerable amount, I would still call the Last of Us a game worth playing. It’s the mix of playability and worthwhile storytelling that make this game exceptional.

This game has to be played. The ending was perhaps its strongest moment. I won’t ruin it for those of you who haven’t played the game, but as the credits began to roll I set my controller down, and sat silently reflecting. It stays with you.

Simply put, The Last of Us is a new level of storytelling in interactive media. It will change the way developers approach game writing, and it will change the way gamers consider plot elements within games. If that argument doesn’t convince you, Sony has just announced that they will be making a film based on The Last of Us, so there must be some substance in there, right?


It's All Mental

This past weekend I flew to Seattle and meet up with an old college buddy and run a ToughMudder(TM) with him. It was my sixth course, his second.

TMs are 10 mile + obstacle courses. Obstacles such as climbing over 10ft tall walls, mud, jumping off of 12ft drops into water, more mud, barbed wire, fire, still more mud, and grand the finale of running through a short gauntlet of live electrical wires.

When you describe a TM to anyone who hasn’t heard of it, the response is usually: “Why the hell would you do that?” Honestly I didn’t know.

With each finish, you earn a coveted headband and a refreshing, cold beer. When the adrenaline wears off, reality kicks in, and you notice the array of bruises, scrapes, and cuts all over your body, that beer becomes heavenly.

I’ve been obsessed with TM since I ran my first in 2011. Tickets and travelling to each event ain’t cheap. So after 6 of these, today of all days I finally answered the question. Why the hell do I do it?

To finish something.

I keep coming back to the mud to start something and finish it. I don’t care about the headbands anymore. I just want to commit and complete something.

So, why is it so hard to finish developing my games? There is no barbed wire, no voltage, no danger.

It’s all mental.

I’ve said that exact phrase so many times about surviving a TM.

“OMG, 10 miles of running and all those obstacles. Isn’t that intimidating?”

“Nah, it’s all mental, I’ll be fine.”

“Aren’t you scared of getting hurt?”

“No. I’m not going to miss out on something awesome just because there’s a chance of something bad happening to me. That’s just stupid.”

By that same logic, when I look at how I approach game development -- I am stupid.

On the last mile of the course, I told my running mates, “I don’t know if I’ve gotten better at doing these or if these courses have just gotten easier.”

My buddy, who detests all the running in TM, said the same thing to me about developing games: “I just decided to start making and completing a game a week. That was it. I started on Monday and committed to finishing it by Sunday. I didn’t have to make a perfect game, I just need to finish something."

The envy I had upon hearing that...

But then, slowly it dawned on me, why I don’t train so hard for TM any more: I’m no longer afraid of failing.

I will be never be the fastest or strongest TMer, but I will be a finisher -- because I love it. My friend has the same mentality when he starts developing a game. He doesn’t care whether or not it’ll be as popular as Minecraft. He does it because he loves it. He has overcome the fear of failure.

Now it’s up to me to look at game development like I look at TM. It’s all mental.

From the moment I cross the starting line, I must stick to my commitment to finishing. If something is too tough or if I’m starting to burn out, I must remember that have a surplus of friends, resources, and tools to help me get through to the finish line. I can finish making a game because I love making them. I can overcome the fear of failure because it’s all just mental.




From an archaic world where people use the written word to communicate, these mages are ceaseless in their quest for expression and understanding. They also spend a lot of time on the internet arguing about the videogame industry.

Powers: Oxford Comma Ray, Spinal Linebreak, Redundant Punctuation Punch, and Syntax Strike.

Skills: Turbo typing, scotch draining, the ability to ignore perfectly rational foresight

Likes: Lasers. Laser Pointers. Laser from American Gladitors.


Hello World!