So here I am again

I am notoriously terrible at keeping up on any kind of blog, even though I’m usually up to something. Before too long we’re going to be doing a group blog at work, and hopefully I’ll actually be able to stick to that under the ancient principle that it takes a measure of competition to get me off my ass.

Right now I’m working on a new game. I haven’t given up on the Christmas Hack, although at this point it looks like it’ll eventually be a Summer Hack or a Halloween Hack. It’s one of three ideas I’m really interested in right now.

The one I’m working on is much simpler: kind of an arcade game. I’m working on it in Ruby, using a simple game engine and the Chipmunk physics library. I’m doing everything I can to just focus on delivering a fun, enjoyable game.

The game is called Unfunky UFO.


This screenshot is of my latest build, with debug visuals (the red boxes, which indicate collision shapes) enabled. The name is derived from a Parliament song on the legendary Mothership Connection album.

In Unfunky UFO, you control a wayward spaceship visiting Earth. You are low on biofuels, and need to accumulate enough to break orbit and set off toward home. Luckily, the planet below has a lot of cheerful, smiling, ambulatory fuel pods for you to pick up and convert into alien biodiesel with your trusty tractor beam.

Your ship is always moving; you spend a little fuel to change direction. The tractor beam only switches on when you’re close enough to the ground. When little dudes are caught in it, they slowly float up to the UFO, flailing wildly all the while. Collecting a little dude gains you golden points (trademark Tracy Jordan) and also fuel, to keep you from crashing. The trick is to limit the number of moves you need to make to pick up the most squishy, delicious humans in a row.

Each level has a finite number of humans (and probably cows and cars and such), and it’s possible to accidentally kill them by letting the tractor beam break. You can also smash into the ground. Later levels will have more complicated terrain to avoid, and probably faster, more evasive critters.

I’m developing this as a keyboard-controlled PC game, but my idea is mostly for mobile phones. You swipe over the UFO, and it jots off in that direction. To be honest, I originally conceived it when discussing Flappy Bird with some coworkers. I was fascinated by how the limited, frustrating controls of such a half-assed game led to it being appealing to players. Unfunky UFO is my attempt to make a simple, appealing game based around predictable but difficult controls, except hopefully with some more depth to it. I don’t intend to follow after the model of that highly profitable game, though. My intent is to port it (by hand, using the native APIs) to both Android and iOS, and release it for free. That’s about as much as I could reasonably expect for a game with graphics I made myself! What I want is the joy of having made a game, and the education of making it.

I do have ideas for a follow-up, it is true… but let’s see about getting this done first!