Home Stretch

Posted in: Electric Shocktopus, Wednesday Update | January 31, 2014 | No Comments

Shocktopus is (nearly) there.  I just uploaded version 0.95, which I’m hoping is just about the last pre-release version of the game.  (And I don’t have much wiggle room, either, because once we pass 1, it is live!)

In fact, you can go check out the updated page for The Electric Shocktopus – with a new trailer and new screenshots.


This game has it *all*

This game has it *all*


Pretty pictures…

But what are the big changes to the game lately?  Well, the size of the game had ballooned up to around 9 MB, and I trimmed it back down to 7 MB.  Or roughly the size of a couple high quality photos.

Below 7MB! ZOMG!

Okay, it might not sound too exciting.  As you come closer to the end of any large project like this, you start working on smaller and smaller improvements.  Fixing bugs that pop up rarely, tweaking the icon just a little bit, or shrinking the file size of the game as small as possible.  Nothing huge and flashy.  Important, yes.  Necessary, yes.  And certainly time consuming.

But not exactly headline material.

Which is why, this past week, I’ve had a lot of fun adding Easter Eggs to the game.

Whoa, Easter Eggs!

Not literally Easter Eggs (well, maybe) — this just means little hidden secrets in the game.  I’ve never really taken the time to do this before in any games, but The Electric Shocktopus deserves the best.  So I got to take a break from working on little details in the game, and make something *big*.  Now, I can’t talk much about them, obviously, but let’s just say there’s a familiar face in the game.

Okay, buddy, fine, but when’s it coming out?

Great question!  And one that I’ll have a better idea of soon.  Since, with the game nearly done, it’s time to hunt for sponsors.  So I’m dusting off my cold-call-email skills, and seeing who will be it’s sponsor.  Only time will tell …and then I’ll tell all of you.  You’ll all be the first to know (after ‘time’).  I will say, I’ve already heard back from an interested party at M. Yeti enterprises.  The voice mail was just angry grunts though.  And then he emailed me a picture of Shocktopus with x’s over the eyes.  He seems reputable.


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Stellar Shocktopus Soundtrack!

Posted in: Electric Shocktopus, Wednesday Update | January 23, 2014 | 3 Comments

“Shocktopus Soundtrack sounds simply sublime,” says Steve… simultaneously seeking ‘s’ synonyms so such silly sentences shan’t stop.  Science!

Well, that was weird.

In all my haste to finish up The Electric Shocktopus (and update the Gravity Simulator… and research molecular bonds for a future game…), I’ve been neglecting the blog! For that, I apologize. So let’s get back into the swing of things with a fun update.

Brian Allen Holmes, the composer who made the rad music for the game, has posted the Soundtrack!  So now you can take the rock-meets-beach-meets-epic music on the road!  Go to his site and take a listen.  And if you want, you can buy the soundtrack and download it.  Just think of how much inspiration it’ll add to your jogging playlist.  (Neither Brian nor I are liable if in your haste you fall into spikes, though)


Also comes on cassette tape, if you'd rather.

Also comes on cassette tape, if you’d rather.


I love the titles of the tracks, which include the ol’ standby “There’s Sand in my Tentacles.”  (I’d love to hear Sinatra cover *that* song)

As a special offer, ’cause it’s fun, I’ve got a download code that I can offer up.  The first person to write a comment to this blog post will be the proud owner of the Shocktopus Soundtrack.


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Pre-order your Shocktopus T-Shirts

Posted in: Electric Shocktopus, Wednesday Update | November 7, 2013 | No Comments

At Boston FIG — one piece of Shocktopus swag stood out above all others.  People asked “hey, can I get one?”  They took pictures.  It drew them into the game.

I’m talking of course about the crocheted Shocktopus.  And no, you can’t get one.  (My Mom made it, and it’s all mine!)  BUT — I am printing off some more Shocktopus T-Shirts.  Nice, soft black T-Shirts with your favorite charged Cephalopod plastered right on front.


Man, I love that band!

Man, I love that band!


This shirt is an international sensation.  Literally.  I’ve had strangers chuckle at it, a family in Germany stop me on the street about it, and have even been invited backstage at a Led Zeppelin concert because of it.  (Erm, not that last one.)  And now is your chance to get your very own piece of history.

On a more down-to-earth note — I’m going to be printing up a couple dozen of these shirts.  Some for family (shh, don’t tell them), and some for anyone who’d like one.  Before I go an print the shirts, it’d be helpful to know what sizes we’d need.  So if you’d like one, shoot me an email with the size you’d like to ‘pre-order’ it (standard unisex t-shirt sizes apply).  Just to make sure I don’t print two dozen larges when everyone wants smalls.  Once they’re printed, they’ll be available online.

I’m still working out the details with the printer to get a handle on what they’ll cost — but I’ll be keeping them pretty cheap.  Between 16 and 18 bucks.  They are comfy, stylish, appropriately nerdy, and make great gifts for the holidays!


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Posted in: Electric Shocktopus, Wednesday Update | October 3, 2013 | 2 Comments

Looking back at my blog posts, I see it’s been a while since I devoted a post to Shocktopus developments.  What with festivals, slide rules, and velocity raptor levels, there’s been a lot going on!  Let’s take a look at where things are in the game…

Where it’s at:

The game is hovering somewhere around ‘Beta’ at this point, whatever that means.  There are going to be 45 levels in the game — and for the Boston FIG festival, I was showing off the first 30. I’ve been rearranging the game and adding levels these past few weeks, and now we’re just about at 45.  In fact, yesterday I was working on the final level, which is a boss battle.  I realized that with this high-octane game needed to end with a bang and not a fizzle.  So it’ll be you against the Magnetic Yeti to end the game.

I’m also nearly done adding in the ‘extras’ to the game, like instructions screens, pop-up hints, the about page, etc.

So at this point, it’s really coming down to polishing.  Making sure there aren’t any bugs, the game flows smoothly, and things look great.


Speaking of how things look, it’s been a while since I released any screenshots of the game.  Here’s a few to tease your palate:


Aaah, a lightning bolt!

Aaah, a lightning bolt!


Level 2: Van der Waal Jumping

Level 2: Van der Waal Jumping


What a romantic setting.  The sun setting over the water, stars all around, and missiles aiming right for you.

What a romantic setting. The sun setting over the water, stars all around, and missiles aiming right for you.


So when will it be done?

I ask myself that question every day!  My plan is to have the game finalized by the end of the month… and after that find a sponsor for it.  So, I’m afraid there’s no official release date yet, but it’s coming along.



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Unity Experiments

Posted in: Slide Rule, Wednesday Update | September 26, 2013 | No Comments

I’ve been testing out the waters with Unity lately, figuring out whether it’s something I’d like to use for future projects.

Long story short, Unity is a way to make games that you can play on the web, download as apps on iOS or Android, play right on your PC or Mac, the whole nine yards.  Could be a great help in future games — and in updates to older games.  I’m excited to use it to build the next generation Gravity Simulator, for instance.

This past week, I got my feet a bit wetter with the programming language and all around *how* to build something in Unity.  The mission?  Rebuild the Slide Rule.  It was one of my first apps, and really just a way for me to explore how to build an app.  After all, it doesn’t come much simpler than an interface with two moving pieces.  (Disclaimer: it’s become much more than that… and it is more complex than I remembered!)

So I threw together the slide rule app, building it from the ground up in Unity.  I built it to run on my iPhone, which it did, fine.  (Not all the features mind you, pretty bare bones)  And then — here’s the cool part — I changed the settings slightly, and now it works on the web!  You can check out the (still rough) result here.

So go play around with TTG’s new internet slide rule!

You’ll need to download the Unity Player if you haven’t already, which you should be automatically prompted to do.  It’s just like the Flash Player you need to use any of my flash games… only different.  A quick one-time download, then you’ll never need to do it again.  Not too tough, right?

The verdict on Unity?  It has a learning curve, like anything else.  But, overall, it seems robust and easy to build in.  And sending a game to multiple platforms is amazing.  Who knows, maybe the slide rule will pop up on Android devices soon.

My next Unity project?  Improving the Gravity Sim.  I’m really excited to see that one on *all* my devices.

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Boston FIG Recap

Posted in: Electric Shocktopus, Gravity Simulator, Wednesday Update | September 18, 2013 | No Comments

So… FIG happened.  And it was crazy.  It took a few days, but I’m finally coming out of my post-FIG coma.  Long story short, it was a great day.

Short story long, here’s some highlights from the day:


There were over seven thousand attendees at the event, nearly three times more than last year.  There was a constant flow of people stopping by to watch other people play The Electric Shocktopus.  As for the players themselves… well… while my laptops were all being used, there was a bit less of a constant flow.  You see, my game was addictive.  The players did not want to relinquish their seats — they were determined to beat more levels/the next level/level 30.  Some were at my booth for a half hour.  Some for an hour.  And I was not about to stop them, It was fantastic seeing frustration turn into dedication.

Special Guests

One part of the day I didn’t expect were the special guests.  Unbeknownst to me, there were people at the event who already *knew* about TestTubeGames.  Some had come out specifically because a friend posted about Shocktopus on Facebook, and told them they had to come play it.  Others planned out coming to the day in advance.  I was blown away by this, and felt really honored that people cared enough about the games to do that.

Business Cards

I put out a couple hundred business cards.  I returned with five.  Whoa.  Good news: I can start designing TTG business card 2.0

Zappy Zappy

No good day is complete without a little chaos.  Or a lot of chaos.  The Electric Shocktopus *refused* to stay in my laptops — he insisted in coming out into the real world.  No, I’m not talking about the Shocktoplush (which was a big hit), but rather about my laptop’s power cord *exploding*.


The Magic Black Smoke came out

The Magic Black Smoke came out


Yikes!  There were some bad power issues in that room, what with all the devices plugged in.  So at some point, about halfway through the day, things on our end of the room started flickering.  And then I heard a nice, loud zapping sound and caught the whiff of fried electronics.  I feverishly unplugged everything, and thankfully, the power cord was the only casualty.

I wasn’t about to plug back into that power source (other people tried, and lost more equipment), so I ran of laptop batteries the rest of the day.  Not ideal — sadly I couldn’t show off the game on the huge monitor.  But it worked.

First Gravity Look

As a benefit to the loss of power, when one of my laptops ran out of juice, I got to try out the current prototype of the Gravity Simulator I had on my iPad.  Just as I hoped, the artistic spirals and loops drew people in — and they got a kick out of flinging planets to see what happens.  It was just the most basic of versions, too, so I’m excited for how people will react to the full thing.

All in all, a full, amazing, and exhausting day.  I learned a bunch by watching people play with The Electric Shocktopus, and hopefully players learned a thing or two, too!  And though I’m gonna need some time to decompress before it rolls around again, I’m already looking forward to Boston FIG 3.0


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Preparing for the Festival

Posted in: Electric Shocktopus, Wednesday Update | September 12, 2013 | 2 Comments

Just a quick post this week – for obvious reasons.  This Saturday (just a couple days away) is the Boston Festival of Indie Games, in which I’m taking part.  I’ll be there with the Electric Shocktopus – showing the latest build off to a few thousand people.

And before then I’ve got to:

  1. Make the game super-fun
  2. Get the game *working*
  3. Stock up on granola bars
  4. Make sure the game works
  5. Decorations!!
  6. Oh god, why isn’t the game working

Yes, the joy of trying to make massive changes on the eve of a big event (hey, I wonder if I can increase the resolution by 50%…) — all while still needing a game that doesn’t break.  Whew, it’s busy over here.

So here’s just a couple pictures of some of the awesome decorations:


A Shocktoplush!

A Shocktoplush!


That’s right — a plush Shocktopus and Yeti!  Custom made by my Mom (thanks, Mom!).  Swing by the booth to check them out and give ’em a squeeze.

And of course a shirt to help me show off the game.


Formal-ware for Saturday

Formal-ware for Saturday


Ah, Electric Shocktopus, awesome band name.  So there you have it — some decor for the big day.  Now it’s back to working on the *digital* version of the Shocktopus.


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The See-all Seal

Posted in: Velocity Raptor, Wednesday Update | September 4, 2013 | No Comments

Something a little fun and different this week — if you’ve been watching in the forums, you may have come across a set of levels that exfret made for Velocity Raptor.  It’s a prequel to the game — with a few dozen challenging levels, and a plot to go along with it, to boot!

Well, I figured I’d try my hand at the levels, recording them as I did.  Man vs. Machine.  Creator vs. Creations.  Raptor vs. Shocktopus.  Wait, not that last one.

I posted my attempt for the first handful of levels on YouTube — so you can watch what happens.  So far, I have to say, the levels are fun to play.  They’re also challenging in the extreme, so I encourage you to give them a try yourself.



A big thanks to exfret for making the levels.  If this is something people enjoy — I’ll bring it back soon with Part 2… where I head into the Volcano!


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BostonFIG Returns!

Posted in: Electric Shocktopus, Wednesday Update | August 28, 2013 | No Comments

The big news this week is that the Electric Shocktopus and I will be at the Boston Festival of Indie Games.

You can read all about the festival here, here, or here, but the name sums it up pretty nicely.  The Boston area is a hotbed of indie game developers, all working on their own neat thing.  But, in spite of the monicker ‘indie’, we have a pretty strong community of game devs.  There are monthly meetups, collective workspaces, conferences, and so on.  And there’s also a festival for the public: Boston FIG.



This is the second year of the festival, and it’s looking like it’ll be even bigger and better than last time.  The core of the festival is a few huge rooms of game developers (like me) showing off their creations.  Last year thousands of members of the public came by to play games.  I was hunkered down in my booth (ahem, table) passing out iPhones as fast as I could so people could check out Agent Higgs.  There are mobile games, console games, browser games, tabletop games, you name it.  I hear this year there’ll even be live action games.  So yes, a lot of games.

Other notable pieces of the festival include a few keynote speeches, game-related films, a video game music concert (?), and an 8-hour long game jam.

And somewhere in the midst of all of this chaos will be little ol’ me.  Which means, decoration is key to the game.  Last year, I made posters and colorful particle blocks to draw people to my booth.


The Muon and Antimuon are dangerously close...

The Muon and Antimuon are dangerously close…


This year, I’m not sure yet.  Knit octopus hat?  Plush yeti?  Giant lightning bolts?  Homemade Van de Graaff generator?  Oooh, now it’s sounding interesting.

I have a couple weeks yet to figure it out, Boston FIG is happening on Saturday, September 14th.  Plenty of time to learn to knit.  The festival is entirely free, so if you’re in the area, come on by and check out my latest creation.


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Designing Levels

Posted in: Electric Shocktopus, Wednesday Update | August 22, 2013 | No Comments

I’ve been working a lot recently on a little piece of the Electric Shocktopus called ‘Level Design.’  And by little piece, I mean a tremendous one that makes or breaks games.

It’s Alive

In the case of the Electric Shocktopus, it is comically easy to just make levels.  The game already has a level editor, so I load up a blank level and use the mouse to add or remove tiles.  I get to play through the level constantly as I make it — making sure the ledges are at the right height, the jumps are jump-able, and the level is fun.  Simple.

Back when I was working on Agent Higgs, I took this to an extreme, and created *random* levels.  I just made a whole bunch of them, and trashed the boring ones — saving maybe one out of a hundred that was actually fun and challenging.  (Speaking of this, to give the same treatment to Velocity Raptor, check out this python code ARP created.)

And as easy as that, we’ve got a great level!  Right?

Testing the Level

Wrong!  Turns out, at least for me, designing levels is less of an art than a science.  I do my best to make a good level on my own (the art), but it all comes down to testing (the science).  Which is why I’ve had so many people play the Electric Shocktopus.  Playtesters, forum-goers, other developers, anyone.  I see what works — and more importantly what doesn’t — and tweak the levels accordingly.

It takes a *lot* of trials to figure this all out.  The game, mind you, is currently on version 0.87.

There was a great example of this process this past Monday.  I brought my game to a meetup of local developers so they could try it out.  Overall, they quite enjoyed the game.  Great to know, but the most useful piece was watching them play.

How’d it Go?

In general, I’m always surprised by how *hard* the game is.  With any of my games.  This is a common issue — because I’m exceptionally good at it.  (Not to brag)  I know the systems backwards and forwards.  I’ve played it more than anyone else.  And I know what the ‘trick’ is to each level — since I added the trick.  So when I watch other people play, I can get a much better sense for what the game is like for a ‘regular’ person.

The result?  They died a lot.  A lot.  One guy destroyed well over 300 Shocktopuses before beating a certain level.  It was like watching him play Super Meat Boy.  Players would get so frustrated, and yet they kept coming back for more.  They were driven to beat it, refusing to give up, demanding to get all three stars in a level.  It was amazing.

And while I stood there and laughed (because frustration is *very* fun to watch, especially when you’re the one causing it), I made mental notes about things I needed to change.  After all, I’ve gotta start working on version 0.88.


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