Shocktopus Version 0.6

Posted in: Electric Shocktopus | July 31, 2015 | No Comments

An update to The Electric Shocktopus is out today, bringing the beta up to version 0.6.  That’s, like, .1 closer to 1!  Whoa!


Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 10.27.42 PM

There’s a whole bunch of changes and (what I hope are improvements) that come along with the update.  You can read about *all* of them here.  A brief overview:

-Lots of bug fixes / memory leaks / lag fixes

-User-made levels can be shared and edited via text files

-Easily download Feel Bad Friday levels with a single click


So, yeah, overall it just run smoother, faster, and be able to do more.

That said – no Feel Bad Friday this week.  I’ve crunched a bit to get this update out, and also figured, hey: go get your Shocktopus fix this week by playing with the new update!

…and then let me know about bugs and problems that I can fix for the inevitable version 0.7.


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Ships Ahoy!

Posted in: General News | July 29, 2015 | No Comments

In addition to working on my own projects here at TestTubeGames, I also take on a fair amount of contract work from outside.  A game developer has to eat, after all!  I’ve been terribly fortunate in that many (all?) of the outside projects I’ve worked on have been (a) rad, and (b) educational.  So, it’s a pretty good deal.  One of those games you know about already: Bond Breaker.  It grew/is-continuing-to-grow out of a collaboration between researchers at CaSTL and me.

Well, I’m finishing up another project that I thought I’d share: Frigate! (Err, it doesn’t have an official name, but this is the one I’m gonna use.)

The game is for an exhibit at the USS Constitution Museum here in Boston.  If you’re not familiar with the USS Constitution, this ship was the pride-and-joy of the U.S.’s fledgling navy during the War of 1812.  It went by the name “Old Ironsides” because cannonballs would literally bounce off it, like it was made of metal.  Not a bad reputation for a warship to have.



The ship still exists today, and is harbored (or rather dry-docked) in Boston, with the USS Constitution Museum right next door.  The museum is filled with all sorts of artifacts that you’d expect, and teaches you what it’d be like to be a sailor back in that era.  And in addition to all those things, they now have a new game!



Photo by Eric Chadwick, the game’s artist


Look at that beautiful game!  And look at that beautiful hardware!  Wow!  I can’t take credit for that (the museum made the case, and Eric Chadwick did the awesome art), but I did code up the game you see running on those screens.  This is an engineering activity, where players get to ‘build’ ships to their own design (choosing length, width, and no. of guns), then sail them against each other in a ship-battle.  Who will win?  What ship-designs work best?  Once your ship gets destroyed, you get to redesign it and try again.

Along the way, you’ll learn how your choices affect a ship’s speed, turning radius, firepower, etc.  And, from what I’ve seen, you’ll have a whole lot of fun, too.

Three players can battle it out, each sailing their ships from their own station — and also competing against a dozen or so AI ships.

The game has been incredibly well-received.  We set it up for the first time on one of the busiest days of the year for the museum (July 3rd, no surprise there), and had a crowd of people waiting to play the game, even though it wasn’t even working.  And when we finally got it up and running, people played it *exactly* how we imagined.  Which isn’t supposed to happen with your first real playtest.  Without any prompting from us, players were changing the variables of their ships, trying to make the ‘best’ design.  They were noticing and discussing what effects those choices had.  They were trying again and again and again.  And they were having a lot of fun.  The game had a crowd around it all day.

As you can imagine, it was fun for me, too, to stand next to the beautiful exhibit and listen in on the players. That’s not something I really get to do with web games or mobile games.  When I released Agent Higgs, the game disappeared into the ether, to be played by distant people whose reactions I couldn’t gauge.  Sure, you playtest and get to watch people play *then*.  But you don’t get to see the reactions to the real game.  With Frigate!, I could listen to a constant stream of feedback from hundreds of people.

It was great.

I created the game with Kellian Adams of Green Door Labs, and Eric Chadwick making the art.  We’re still working on changing bits of the design here and there, but so far it has been a very successful launch.  If you find yourself in Boston, I encourage you to stop by the USS Constitution Museum and check out the game!


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FBF: Through the Spikes and Charges

Posted in: Electric Shocktopus | July 24, 2015 | No Comments

I’m getting near to releasing the next update to The Electric Shocktopus (version 0.6).  You can follow along here to see the latest bug-fixes as I finish them.  I was hoping to release it today, but I’ve run into an electrical conundrum, which will take some thinking to get around… and will be well-deserving of its own blog post.

But of course, what we’re here for is a Feel Bad Friday!

This week I take on Through the Spikes and Charges by A Random Player.  (Who is, for all of you following along at home, *prolific* when it comes to making levels.)

Random made this level a few months back, which actually means it is pretty straightforward (by Random’s standards).  No puzzles-within-puzzles or turing-machines here.  Just some good ol’ fashioned electrostatics.  Check it out!



Thank you, Random, for sharing this level with us!  (Spoiler alert — I didn’t die over 100 times… so I’m keeping my blood pressure nice and low this week.  Much appreciated!)  If you want to check out the level yourself, you can go grab the code here.



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FBF: Letter Writer

Posted in: Electric Shocktopus | July 16, 2015 | No Comments

I’ve been back at work on the next update to The Electric Shocktopus — spurred on in no small part by my failure during last week’s Feel Bad Friday.  Fixes all around, from lag to bugs to easier controls.  (Hopefully some fixes to the controls that will make it *easier* to beat some of these FBF levels!)

In this week’s video, I show off one of the new additions to the game: a file-system for the saved games.  Up to now, you’ve had to share and load individual codes into the game – but an easier way to share a whole bunch of user-made levels, say, would be to share a whole folder of text files.  And I’m adding just that to the game – so take a look in the video for a tour of that feature.

I also take on a level by A Random Player, who makes a level that surprised the heck out of me.  Called ‘Letter Writer’, it took until *after* I had filmed the whole FBF to understand the meaning of that title.  So make sure you watch to the end of the video to catch my epilogue, where I dissect the true core of the Letter-Writing mechanic.



You can check out the level in Random’s original post here.  Or just enjoy watching everything unfold in the video.  A big thanks to Random for another crazy-creative level.

I’ll also note that NealCruco made a modification to last week’s FBF level (B4C5), which makes it harder to exploit the level. So take a peek at the new version, and with any luck I’ll finally be able to beat the level.  Now that it’s harder.  Hey, hope springs eternal, right?


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Posted in: Electric Shocktopus | July 10, 2015 | No Comments

With a blog post title that looks entirely cryptic, this week I tackle a level by NealCruco: B4C5.  (You mean C4? Yuk yuk.)

The name, I’ll remind my intrepid blog-readers, is a hexadecimal representation of the randomly generated title of the level.  (Got that?)  It’s a fun little naming system that’s become one of those reassuring things in my life… like the sun rising in the East.

…and the first bit o’ jargon up there stands for Feel Bad Friday, of course, where I weekly make an attempt to finish a user-generated level.  (And I do mean weakly.  Hey, o!)

I’ll plop the video down right here for you all:



Wow, that’s a whole lot to parse! (This coming from the guy who wrote the level parser.)  According to NealCruco, this level started out as a bit of a playground before being converted into an actual level.  I can understand that — since it has some really nice symmetry — with horizontal and diagonal currents making 8 zones of magnetic fields.  I imagine this type of set-up must have a real world application.  Probably?  But who cares!  I’m going to cast myself into those spikes a few dozen times (or more!).

I’m a big fan of symmetry, NC, so well done with this level.  It’s neat how you were able to get the 8 little vignettes to interact with one another — and do so in interesting, non/trivial ways.  This must have taken a whole lot of work, so thank you for sharing it with us!


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FBF: Not a QR Code

Posted in: Electric Shocktopus | July 5, 2015 | No Comments

Another Feel Bad Friday this week.  That turned into a Feel Bad Saturday (because I was installing a neat exhibit on Friday… more info on that to follow).  And then, because the level was *just that hard* it turned into a Feel Bad Sunday.  Ah, well.

The infamous level is Not a QR Code by A Random Player.  I’ll drop the video here, without too much commentary.  I’ll just say, there’s a lot of tough tricks to this level… and one of them is an intricate puzzle that could very well be its own game.  (And it was that very puzzle that made the level span two days for me.)



Thank you A Random Player, and bravo on basically making a brand new game-within-a-game.  If you want to play the level yourself (a glutton for punishment, are you?), you can see Random’s original post here.



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