Breaking the Horizon

A game’s Horizon is ‘where you think the game ends’, but it’s also ‘how far it seems like the game’s content will take you (and stay the same? i’m not good at defining this, apparently)’. The way I feel as I approach a so far enjoyable game’s Horizon is best described as: worried I’m going to be disappointed. This is why I love it when Horizons are broken.


Skyrim never breaks the horizon, or at least it has never done so for me: it’s never even come close. New magic spells and new magical equipment, the most likely HORIZON BREAKERS (aside from the story — more on that later), are very often boring as hell. In almost every case I’m presented with a few numbers that I can tell are going to go up as I improve. Numbers are kind of boring. There are then the cases where I do get a genuinely new piece of equipment: however, HORIZON BREAKS are at their best when they are dramatic, as with all things, no? Skyrim — along with many games! It’s not just Skyrim, I’m just picking on it! — is a dense, slow burn through content. LIST TIME:

  • Short-range flames to FIRE BOLT! — Disappointingly inefficient without spending a perk on apprentice magic (the possible mini-horizon break is muffled and left until later; it’s a horizon nudge at best, assuming the player wasn’t expecting a goddamn fireball spell eventually anyway), and too small a change: I already had archery, and probably even a fire arrow. So, you might say, what about new bows?
  • Bad bow to AWESOME BOW! — Numbers? Are you trying to buy me over with numbers, Skyrim? Holds true for all sorts of mundane weaponry and equipment. Slowly increasing numbers are boring because they don’t break horizons.
  • Dragons are awesome, though. (Or…) — The first dragon was not frightening, and I didn’t get to fight it. It might be the Dark Souls in me talking, but when I fought my first dragon for real, I was… disappointed. Then I fought another dragon, and then I fought a blood dragon — and by this point, dragons were just kind of things to fight. Right from the beginning of the game, the game said “Okay, cool, dragons are within the horizon. You’ll be fighting them.” And then I did. Even if the first had impressed me (it didn’t!), would the second or third be any different? In every situation, all of your enemies can be turned on the dragon anyway.
  • Magical Equipment. — Numbers numbers numbers numbers numbers. So afraid to run out of content early, it doles out tiny percentages where they don’t matter. I pick up some GLASS ARMOUR OF RESTORATION and it’s better than what I have by a bit, and it increases my “restoration skill” by 22%. Of course, before this I’d already learned “better armour” and “better restoration”, so this is just a… combination of the two.


Dry Voices is a game about DISCOVERY (anagram title!). I made it for Ludum Dare once. I decided that the player would keep discovering new and unexpected things and, now, I’ve finally coined the action I was attempting so long ago:

Breaking the Horizon

is when a player’s comprehension of a game is expanded so much that his or her previous understanding has been SHATTERED.

La-Mulana is a game all about breaking the horizon! Around every corner, there is something new and ridiculous: a new puzzle, a new item, a crazy new way to travel, a new thing like an area with an incredibly slippery floor (I have never experienced a more slippery floor in any game, ever) when every floor previous has provided 100% perfect control.

Regardless of the way you feel about horizon breaking, these are absolutely moments that players REMEMBER. There may be other moments, of course, but anyone who’s paying attention to what a game is as they’re playing it will remember these moments when suddenly you punch out the floor from beneath them.

It is possible to sully a game’s horizon by breaking it too much — to the point that the horizon becomes shattered and uncertain, or to the point that the player starts figuring out which horizons look particularly breakable.

BREAKING THE HORIZON is not the perfect solution to every problem, and it can’t be all you have going for a game. However, placed properly, one huge change that breaks a Horizon is far, far better and far, far memorable compared to several small changes that leave no room for doubt about the future of the game.

So fucking break it, game designers.

You Found The Grappling Hook!
More to be added, probably.

Also, this is seriously the messiest post I’ve ever made! “Sorry!” and/or “Deal with it!”


Approaching the Horizon

You know that moment in a game when you think that you can see the end? Your brain says “Hey! Look: that’s the end,” and if it’s a good game, you get a little disappointed. “No way it’ll end there,” you tell yourself. “I want more.”

Sometimes it’s just the end of a part of the game: “There’s the end of the dungeon,” or “There’s the end of that skill tree.”

It can be a little different: “Things will be like this until I see the end.” Imagine a horizon: you see desert stretching towards it, and believe (reasonably) that the desert will extend forever. Or, at least, until you die. I mean, you’re walking through a desert. “That dragon’s death is the end of the game.” “I will never explore that part of the city; I’m looking at a backdrop.”

All in all, this horizon is at the periphery of what might be progress. “Once I reach that point,” you think to yourself, “there’s no moving forward. I might backtrack; I might move to a new track and progress there; but that is the end of what I’m doing right now.”

I call this thing is called the Horizon, and not the Wall or something similarly terminal, because sometimes it isn’t an ending. It can be more.

New blog post incoming.

Fortress Watch: a ‘social’ mmorpgish game thing?

DISCLAIMER THIS IS A 3 AM IDEA that i just didn’t want to forget.


Someone starts the game of Fortress Watch and it begins everywhere all at once for everyone.

When you pop into the game, you are on a fortress and you can peer into the distance.

Every so often, a bunch of enemies can be spotted (on the horizon, the edge of the screen, whatever). If you spot them far enough away, you have plenty of time to see them coming.

You can run out and fight enemies, but if your fighting avatar is killed you can’t respawn as a combatant for 24 hours (maybe you can’t even be a lookout). If you want to get more complicated, your wounds might take even longer to heal up to full fighting capacity.

Waves increase over months, and there is a global high score: how long did the largest global, worldwide, fortress stay alive?


The initial idea was: you run the game and it tells you how many people are fortress watching. If you’re the last one and you try to quit it begs: NO, PLEASE! THE FORTRESS NEEDS YOUR WATCHFUL EYES! If you quit anyway, the fortress falls. All your fault. Same thing: global highscore. How long can a fortress stay alive?

Probably best to keep everything simple. Maybe I’ll make this simple version one day soon. Seems like easy practice to wrap my head around internetstuff all over again.

Medium as Style

Hello people who make things:

I recently went to a food place where there was a painting of bamboo. The bamboo was fine, but what really struck me were the leaves: while clearly a leaf, each one was also clearly a single brush-stroke. You could say I was seeing stylized leaf, but I like to look at it a different way: It was a painting. The leaf was, in fact, a stylized brushstroke.

Of course, while I say that was illuminating, refreshing, and fascinating, I’m not attempting to devalue other paintings that take a more realistic style whereby the image is the focus rather than a harmonized element.

Well, maybe a little.

‘Retro’ and for example ‘8-bit’ games are attempting to emulate the ‘Medium as Style’ perpetrated by games of ye olde times where the only way to make something look great was to make it work with the technology available. Hats and moustaches easier than head-hair and noses. We all know the Mario story there, right?

Various explosions of technology–and the resulting obsession with it–in so many areas has done a number on the way a lot of games develop. Here I’ll retread well-tread ground:

Games controlled by motion are, well, not great. Kinect suffers lag (I wonder if there’s anyone who hasn’t felt that lag?) and in general they’re only great for broad motions. The quality of control has to strike a balance: Too precise, and the lag becomes painfully clear. Too loose, and the motion controls become… a useless gimmick.

Some games look great; that’s fine. A lot of games that are beautiful seem reliant on their beautiful, tech demo-esque foundation. With all our dynamic lighting and HDR and who gives a shit, I think a lot of people have forgotten just how much control we have over the way our games look. I feel like we–game makers and game enthusiasts et cetera–are suffering for it.

Have I made a blog post exactly like this before? ‘Embrace your medium’ or something along those lines? Probably. Oh well.

Keep on makin’ and playin’ and… I dunno, other stuff.

Game of Hands: Conspirator (punching V2)


If you play (or discard) the Queen of Spades, if you still have more cards than any other player after playing it, you win the game.
Otherwise, you lose and conversely everyone else wins the game.

At the beginning or end of your turn, you may accuse another player of holding the Queen of Spades. You may do this only if you have more cards in your hand than that player. If everyone (except the accused player) agrees to this accusation, the accused player reveals his/her hand to all players and the game ends instantly.
If an accused player has the Queen of Spades, he/she loses and everyone else wins the game.
If an accused player does not have the Queen of Spades, at that point the true holder must reveal it from his/her hand. At this point, the holder wins the game.


1. You are not allowed to reveal any cards to any other players unless the rules explicitly allow it. Making claims, wild or factual, is fine.

2. This game is played with a deck of cards that contains: all 13 hearts, all 13 diamonds, all 13 clubs, and 1 Queen of Spades (or other unique card of your choice). The ‘values’ of each card is as follows: 2=2, 3=3, .., 10=10, J=11, Q=12, K=13, A=14, ‘Queen of Spades’=15.

3. You should try to play with 4 or 5 players (or 8) so that the 40-card deck divides evenly. Deal the cards out so that they are distributed amongst all players as evenly as possible.

4. Choose someone to go first by whatever method you deem reasonable. You can use the extracted cards for this purpose, if you find that convenient.

5. The first person takes their turn, and play continues clockwise. Nothing interrupts this cycle, so keep it in mind.

6. Anyone can request a hand count at any time. Every player reports the number of cards in his or her hand.

7. When you’re out of cards, you’re out of the game.


1. See VICTORY CONDITIONS: You may accuse a player at the beginning or end of your turn; if everyone else agrees, the game ends and a victory is handed out. Otherwise, the game continues unaffected.

2. You play a card face-up. Reveal it to all players.

DIAMONDS -> Give the card to another player. That player chooses two or more cards from his or her hand whose total VALUE is at least the VALUE of the diamonds you played. If that player can’t or chooses not to match the value, they must resign their entire hand to you. The played diamond card cannot be given back to you in any situation. All cards that player gives you are face-down.

HEARTS -> Give the card to another player. That player chooses exactly one card from his or her hand whose VALUE is at least the VALUE of the heart you played. If the player can’t or chooses not to match the value, they must reveal their entire hand to you. You choose and take one card from it. Other players are not allowed to see the revealed hand, or the card you pick.

CLUBS -> Choose a player. That player discards a card, and you return the played club to your hand. Important: You do not lose or give away the attacking club. If the Queen of Spades is discarded, it is played instead. Cards are discarded face-up.

QUEEN OF SPADES -> See VICTORY CONDITIONS. If you have more cards in hand than any other player even after playing this card, you win the game. Otherwise you lose, and every other player wins.

3. Your turn is over. Carry on to the next player.


1. If a card is played on you in particular, you can discard a club whose VALUE is at least the VALUE of the played card. If you do the card is ‘cancelled’.

Cancelled DIAMONDS: You get the played diamond – the other player gets nothing.
Cancelled HEARTS: You get the played heart – the other player gets nothing.
Cancelled CLUBS: The played club is discarded (as is your countering club).

2. If a player tries to club counter a card you played, you can club counter their club counter. A club counter is always discarded and will never be recovered regardless of the outcome.

Game Of Hands: A Card Game about secrets and punching people (not really punching people)

DISCLAIMER: I have NEVER played this game. I’d like to try, though.


Take every SPADE card out of a deck of cards except the Queen of Spades.
You now have 40 cards: Deal them out among any number of players (more is better).

Play a single card.

2-10: Valued at 2-10.
JQK: Valued at 11, 12, 13.
Ace: Valued at 14.

DIAMONDS: Give someone this card. They have to match its value by giving you cards in return whose value totals its value.
HEARTS: Give someone this card. They have to show you their hand unless they give you a single card back of greater or equal value.
CLUBS: Play this card face-up. The player you attack must discard a card; if it’s the QUEEN OF SPADES, it’s played immediately. You keep this card after playing it.
QUEEN OF SPADES: The game is over. If you have the most cards in hand, you win the game. Otherwise, everyone else wins the game.

Countering with CLUBS.
Whenever anyone plays a HEARTS or DIAMONDS card against you, you may discard a CLUBS card (of any value). You get their card and the card’s effect is cancelled.
Whenever anyone plays a CLUBS card against you, you may discard a CLUBS card of greater value to destroy it. Normally playing a CLUBS card to attack returns the card to its player’s hand.
Whenever anyone discards a CLUBS card to counter one of your cards, you may discard a CLUBS card of greater value to… counter-counter. This chain can go on forever.

Whenever anyone plays the QUEEN OF SPADES, there's nothing you can do.


DISCLAIMER: I have NEVER played this game. I'd like to try, though.

The Joy of Creation

When making a game

is one ‘working on it’ or ‘playing with it’?

Remind yourself of what you’d like to be doing, and how you’d like to feel, once in a while. It’s good for you.


Hello. I am here to tell you a story. The other day, I was playing System Shock 2 (for maybe the third time – and I hope to play it many more), and I was running around with pockets chock-full of crap.

“I don’t really need this broken shotgun,” I told myself at last, finally having grown sick and tired of all the clutter. “I don’t really need this anti-toxin syringe, these speed-boosting syringes, or — seeing as I can’t use them — these grenades.” I didn’t have the requisite skills to use the grenade launcher, which I had ditched some distance back.

I carried on, a small pile of items left piled on the ground. This deck of the ship was infuriatingly labyrinthine despite the fact I had an easy-to-access map, but I didn’t worry about ever needing to find my stash again.

Warning: Spoilers incoming.

Continue reading



I made a game called…
Don't Lose Your Head

Don’t Lose Your Head

I made it in Game Maker after not making anything in it for a while, and it was a pretty refreshing experience. I threw it together in two days — and while it definitely made a lot of things easier, I’d still stick with my current setup for a whole host of reasons.

But it revived my trust in GM as a really nice starting point; then again, I also learned a bit of MMF2 a few days ago and that went really smoothly too!

Anyway. Without further ado, I present to you

THE SOURCE CODE (warning: there may be some minor differences :x)

Also it’s for game maker 8, so take that into account if you need to use some version-alteration utilities!

100th; Click On It

i miss my balloon