Orbitorus” is a game that I created in my spare time over the last few days for Global Game Jam 2012. Play it here and let me know what you think! 😉

The theme for this year’s game jam was this image (of the Ouroboros):

I was working alone (again :/) since I wasn’t able to attend for any real length of time (but I could work at home on my laptop).


My initial game idea was a sort of “serpent rocket” game in which the player had to launch a rocket in such a way that it would eventually hit it’s own tail (launch point). While interesting, the feat of aligning the rocket’s path turned out to be horrendously difficult for a player (me) to achieve.

Design Iteration

The game design then proceeded in more of an abstract direction. The serpent “tail” was visually distracting, so I just left it out (changing the serpent to an “Orbitorus”). I still wanted to communicate the feeling of return, but didn’t want to burden the player with the onerous task of a perfectly aligned return flight. So I changed the goal to activation of nodes (attractors) and made the return automatic after the goal was complete.

These changes made the game feel much better, but it had little replay value. Inspired by cyclical level sets (prevalent in early 80s games such as Gorf), I figured that I could further reinforce the feeling of “infinity” by creating a looping set of levels which would be classically easy (ish) to complete, but difficult to master. A simple way to encourage this was to record the player’s score when they first complete the level, and to later require them to beat that score the next time they encountered that level.

The beat-your-last-score mechanic worked surprisingly well. It introduced a fair amount of replay value because it created another consideration and challenge. Players realise that they should progress incrementally (beating the existing high score by as little as possible) in order to progress further and further into the game. Over time, I found that I could not only pass every level, but also pass them in different ways with a relatively controlled path and score.

Player Experience

The theme of incremental progress resonates strongly with me. It seems that people often want to wildly proceed in large bounds, but often burn themselves out and fail to achieve their larger goals. So I’m happy to have created a game that encourages and rewards measured actions, practice, experience, and thoughtfulness.

When I started playing the game, I didn’t think that I would make it past level 11. However, my current high-score is level 39 and I’m already thinking of strategies to get even further:

Final Thoughts

Overall, I’m very happy with this game. Unlike my previous Global Game Jam games, I focused more on gameplay (rather than story or message) and I feel that Orbitorus is much more enjoyable as a result (which isn’t always the end goal, but was important to me on this occasion). Moreover, the game conveys a stronger message as a result of greater gameplay depth. So I feel that it’s a success in that regard as well.

My cat ran through a window

Our cat Pete is rather curious:

He decided to investigate this plastic bag:

The plastic bag got caught on his collar, and he ran wildly through the house trying to get away from it. This freaked out our other cat, Bruce, who proceeded to bolt as fast as he could to his safe place – the lower window pane in our bedroom:

Amazingly, Bruce went right through the glass. (We later taped some cardboard to the inside of the window frame to close up the gap). We found him a while later and rushed him to the Veterinary Hospital Emergency at Murdoch University, where he had to get a number of stitches on lacerations to his leg and face.

Fortunately, Bruce managed to get away without more serious injuries (the glass was very sharp and we were rather worried). Unfortunately, he can’t go outside for a few days until his wounds have healed. Poor Bruce. 🙁

Meme proposal

I came across this marriage proposal video in which Timothy Tiah utilises popular memes to propose to his girlfriend (who is now his fiance; congratuations Tim!):

Meme Proposal | Tim * Audrey from Crazy Monkey Studio on Vimeo.

I quite enjoyed the video (despite reddit’s mixed feelings) because (aside from being sweet) I feel that it demonstrates the participatory and universal nature of Internet culture.

Popular memes reflect shared human experience (that’s why they become popular!), and provide a platform to communicate personal feelings and experiences within that context.

Good memes cross traditional cultural boundaries and are widely adapted and shared because people “get them” immediately and personally. They speak more to the modern human condition than high art or other culturally elitist works, and that’s why I like them… and this video.

Random photos from 2011

Just a few random photos from 2011 that I hadn’t yet posted to this blog.


How I spent my time in 2011

Last week I audited how I spent my active hours (approx. 9am-7pm) in 2011.

I experienced some fairly major life changes throughout the year, and the report I put together is definitely more characteristic of the last 6 months (when I had settled into a routine) rather than the entire year.

Here’s a diagram illustrating my activities:

And here are some of my observations and thoughts:

  1. Only 23% of my time is directly generating income. Hopefully this will change next year as ventures come to fruition.
  2. Half my normal work time is non-billable.I spend as much time on tasks such as administration as I do on contract work.
  3. My weekends and holidays are not my own! That 25% Personal time should be closer to 30%. (To be fair, this is probably my own fault.)
  4. I spend a lot of time on Let’s Make Games Inc. An unsustainable amount really, but we’re becoming much more efficient.

No real surprises I suppose. The audit was a lot more detailed (down to individual projects), but this high-level review is probably the most important.

Overall, I’m rather happy with how I spent my time. I feel like 2011 was about laying a lot of foundations to be built upon in future. Many of those foundations are relationships, and I’ll be depending on a lot of people to help take Let’s Make Games, Hungry Sky, and various ventures forward together with me.

It’s very fulfilling to be working with people I believe in, in pursuit of projects I’m passionate about, and I’m glad that I put in the time to get things started.

My goals for this year are to:

  1. Increase Personal time to around 34%. This should come naturally with the imminent arrival of my first child. 🙂
  2. Reduce Let’s Make Games Inc. time to around 13%. We’re not setting up anymore, so this should be possible!
  3. Reduce non-billable hours to around 15%. That’ll make it around 35% of my normal work time, rather than 50%.
  4. Start making money from some of these ventures. This isn’t directly time related, but it will help with time justification!

So that was 2011 in pie chart and bullet point form. I’ll be posting some photos from the year as well… which may be more interesting for most people. 😉