Meet Space Ram!

spaceramoptimizedAfter mucking around with games for the better part of 10 years, I finally participated in a Ludum Dare (33)!

For those of you who don’t know, Ludum Dare is a global game jam: a hackathon in which one creates a game around a surprise theme over the course of a weekend. It’s global in the sense that anyone can submit entries remotely or host their own jam as part of the weekend.

I thought doing LD33 would be a good opportunity to get more comfortable with Unity, and indeed, I learned a lot (occasionally the hard way). The result, our glorious entry, Space Ram, (although I will never cease to mention that I voted for the alternate title, “Ramsey the Rokgobbla“) is a time-attack game where you play a galactic devourer of worlds: the only problem is, you’re a veritable space guppy—hardly large enough to devour an asteroid!

Our take on the theme, “You are the monster”, sees Space Ram gobbling up small moons until finally he is large enough to swallow gas giants whole! Also of note is the ‘ram’ attack, shattering planets into conveniently smaller fragments to eat. Beware the humans, who have sent fighters and battleships to hunt you down before you become too powerful to stop, which, if all goes according to plan, will be shortly.

Featuring a dynamically generated universe each game and given five minutes to grow as large as you can, Space Ram plays like a single, randomly generated Katamari Damacy level meets Osmos, the pioneering iOS physics/scale game (for lack of a better description). It’s fun to grow and to dwarf objects that once took up your entire screen.

Although we weren’t able to get every feature we wanted before the conclusion of the jam, we worked on Space Ram a little the following week to get the game more playable. I’m proud that we were able to get a dynamically spawning universe on this scale that mostly works, pretty cool AI for the human battleships and fighters, and even had time for some cool little features, such as a minimap —

The graphics are awesome, courtesy of my coworkers, pals, and jam co-participants, who were great sports about trying out a game jam for the first time: Kevin Davis and Matt Fry!

If you’d like to download Space Ram, check out the following directory and click on the latest zip file for your platform. Game is best played with an Xbox 360 controller on Mac OSX. Unfortunately, the key mappings may be off for Windows/Linux, so you’ll have to use the keyboard in that case :)

Download Space Ram

We’re in talks to maybe brush up the game into a really polished, single-level, dynamically generated Katamari-type of experience, so stay tuned!

PB88 returns to Maker Faire!

uptimePOWERBOAT ITALIA ’88 is currently en route to World Maker Faire ’15 in NYC along with the rest of Death by Audio Arcade.

Upon disconnecting the machine, I just had to note that the arcade cabinet has been running without restarting, crashing, or otherwise acting crappy for nearly 3 months straight! Surprisingly, getting an interactive installation running Windows or OSX to stay stable (and usable) for a long time while unattended is not as easy as it sounds! I’m sure that the machine could have stayed on for much longer, too, had we not had to move it. All hail the uptime!

If you’re coming out to Maker Faire in NYC, be sure to check us out! Some new cabinets featuring most excellent indie games have joined our mighty ranks, including Nothing Good Can Come Of This and Slam City Oracles!

POWERBOAT ITALIA ’88 comes to iPad and Android Tablets!

pb88tabletsThe saga of POWERBOAT ITALIA ’88 continues with today’s debut of brand-spankin’-new iPad and Android versions! While I originally had no plans to bring POWERBOAT ITALIA ’88 to any additional platforms, feedback from players led me to decide to make the game available for home use! As always, POWERBOAT ITALIA ’88 is best played with 2-4 friends!

While these versions are not arcade-perfect, I do believe they capture the manic intensity of the original—hopefully your tablet can stand up to the action!

These projects also represent my first dalliance with ads; while I remain annoyed at the way ads are usually slathered all over most ad-supported mobile games, I tried to implement them in as unobtrusive a way as possible (one ad will play after every 3 races) as I do believe that game developers should be compensated for their work but I also don’t want to ask people to pay upfront for what is a multiplayer-only experience. For your convenience, there is also a $0.99 version that removes ads.

Check out the Android versions here. Check out the iPad versions here.

If you have feedback, comments, bugs, suggestions, praise, or any permutation or combination of the aforementioned (especially interested to hear from Android peeps, as I wasn’t able to test with that many different devices), feel free to leave a comment here or to reach out to me via email or facebook!

Homemade Hacked Atari 2600/7800 Joystick

IMG_20150412_182418Continuing my fascination with building small boxes with large buttons, I have recently completed this primitive (but effective) hacked Atari 2600 joystick! (It’s still without a clever name, so I’m open to suggestions.)

Frustrated with the terrible stiffness of Atari 2600 and Atari 7800 joysticks but still really wanting to play the Atari 7800 versions of Ms. Pac Man and Dig Dug (really, what else is an Atari 7800 good for?), I cracked open a joystick and soldered the button and joystick contacts to the end of a Happ pushbutton and a Seimitsu joystick — and voila! Instant arcade action. The box itself also was fun to make – I used an online box generator from MakerCase and then laser cut the sides of the box from some 1/8″ thick art store wood planks. I was impressed with the snug fit of the laser cut parts and the sturdiness of the wood glue used to keep it altogether. Some black spray paint finished the job (and had the added bonus of hiding my overzealousness with the glue).

Raspberry Pi-powered Slack-enabled summon button!

2013 may have been the year of the undocumented project, and I’mma get to those eventually, but 2014 had some fun moments that warrant note, too.

boozebox1Enter the BoozeBox! This little box with a big, flashing, red button was meant to resemble a military missile launcher. Inside is a Raspberry Pi that integrates with my company’s Slack (for those of you that don’t know, Slack is only the best chat program of all time) installation via a Slack webhooks integration. With an extremely simple Python script, a smash of the button sends warning via BoozeBot, my custom chatbot, to all inhabitants of the office that drinks and snacks have indeed arrived (something of a late-afternoon, early-evening tradition at our office) and are ready for consumption in the kitchen.

The green and red status lights are indicators of network connectivity and a successful transmission, respectfully. Messages sent via BoozeBot are chosen randomly or by the day of the week (right now, Friday is the only day with unique messages). In the future, I’d like to add a toggle switch so a user can indicate whether or not the bot should report the presence of snacks, booze, or both.


Favorite Indie Games from MAGFest

This year’s MAGFest featured a truly impressive collection of classic arcades, console games and vintage home computers; the indie game selection, while smaller by comparison, was equally as impressive. Although not all the games are new and although I didn’t get to play all of them, below are a few games that stuck out to me at the show:

earthnightEarthNight by Cleaversoft is a beautiful, hand-painted runner that seamlessly blended between what appeared to be skydiving scenes and side-scrolling areas where the player runs along the undulating back of a dragon. I didn’t get a chance to play but the game but was impressed at how smooth the visuals looked and how weird the premise was (the main character appeared to be a bald, bearded man, although the website indicate that there are in fact two characters to choose between).

trace-vector-screenshot-19Trace Vector by Vexel Games is a super simple vector-style action-puzzle game with a bumpin’ soundtrack from Flexstyle that really keeps the energy level up. In each level, the player chooses whether to go up or down at successive forks in the road and he/she must choose quickly! Some paths contain valuable fuel cells, others warps, and still others devastating dead ends. In the case of the latter, the player is armed both with an abort button which warps the player back to the beginning of the level at the expense of some fuel while the focus button slows the action temporarily to allow for wiser choices. It seems simple, but the complex level design and fast pace make for a experience that ramps up in difficulty nicely and had me repeatedly begging waiting players for another chance to conquer a particularly difficult level; and from what I could see, there looked to be many more available. While it would have been amazing to see the game on a true vector monitor a la VEC-9, the presentation was crisp. The game was also housed in a nicely built DIY cabinet, which is always of interest to me, for obvious reasons. Available on Steam.

Star Versus by Studio Dustmop is a homebrew NES game – a 1v1 versus space SHMUP. Wow, I can’t wait for this one. The play has a balanced ‘rock-paper-sicsors’ gameplay mechanic that rewards a player for adapting to an opponent’s strategy through the use of different weapons. The most memorable for me was a giant sword that emerged from a player’s ship and batted back the other player’s projectiles. Also of note is ‘Boss mode’ in which one player plays as a giant, classic SHMUP boss that takes up half of the screen. Under development is a one player mode.

Aerobat by Thew bills itself as an ‘absurdly high-speed arcade shump’ which sounds about right, except that I’d almost say that it undersells the unique game mechanic and beautifully implemented visuals. I really haven’t seen a self-styled SHMUP or a game that is played with a mouse that uses the same control mechanic that Aerobat does, and it works really well. The player holds the mouse button to gain speed along the planet’s surface. Once enough speed is gathered, the player lets go of the button and flicks the mouse upward to send the player’s ship cartwheeling upwards, automatically shooting enemies for as long as it is in the air. Just before the ship hits the ground, the player clicks and holds the button to save himself/herself from smashing into the surface. The catch is learning that while all this is happening, you still control the movement of your ship with your mouse movements and must be careful not to crash into enemies or into the bounds of the screen. It’s hard to describe, but it’s nice and challenging to get the hang of, and truly addicting once you do. The visuals really do create the impression of speeding along the dusty face of a planet, on a Chuck Yager-styled speed record run crossed with Luke Skywalker buzzing toward Mos Eisley in the landspeeder. Aerobat was a highlight.


Super Galaxy Squadron by Psyche Studios was a game I didn’t get to play, but couldn’t help but be drawn in by. Given my recent fascination with SHMUPS new and old, SGS struck me as a Dreamcast-era SHMUP turbocharged. The pixel art was so crisp and the game extremely fast-moving; I’m not sure if the gameplay presents anything substantially different from the legendary SHMUP formula, but I don’t care! Looking forward to trying this one.


Pixel Noir by SWDTech games looks like a super stylish point and click adventure with elements of RPG combat. I didn’t get to play for very long, but I liked the look and feel of it. It brought me back to the days of the LucasArts point-and-click adventure Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis or the mystery game Deja Vu, by Kemco.

Zarvot by SnowHydra Games is a 4-player top-down local multiplayer game where players play as cubes shooting missiles and an array of other weapons at each other. I’ve seen it a few times now, but still haven’t played it for any length of time, so I can’t comment on a lot of the game modes. Still, I really enjoy the chunky look and movement of the cubes and the fact that the players can destroy their environment in addition to each other.

2015 kicks off with a bang at MAGFest!

A line for PB88 at the Smithsonian!

On a personal level, 2014 was rad – joining forces with Death By Audio Arcade produced untold adventures, from appearing with POWERBOAT Italia ’88 at the lwlvl festival and Maker Faire NYC, culminating in a very unique event at the Smithsonian Art Museum in Washington D.C. (Oh, did I not blog about that, yet?*)


The excitement has spilled over into 2015, too — POWERBOAT Italia ’88, armed finally with a worthy website, just finished up a tour of duty at MAGFest 2015. It was an honor to be a part of the hugest arcade I have ever seen, a four-day, 24-hour deluge of everything from PC Engine classic SHMUPS, 8-Player Super Smash Bros. Wii U, classic 90s light gun games like Area 51 and Maximum Force, LAN parties, vintage computers such as Apple IIs, Commodore 64s and Atari 800s playing everything from Contra to Leisure Suit Larry and so much more. Also featured were a bevy of indie games (more coming on those in their own post, soon) that were truly stunning; as a developer, I was both intimidated and inspired by the level of polish and the number of innovative new gameplay mechanics, even in long-established so-called ‘retro’ genres.

As 2015 heats up, I’m excited to expand to platforms once though unimaginable for me, from the standard-bearers Windows, Linux, and OSX to experimental arenas such as VR with Google Cardboard and Oculus Rift. As I’ve said before, it’s a great time to be an indie game developer – the number of tools and platforms out there to explore is overwhelming.

* The event at the Smithsonian was awesome, representing first time PB88 got some play in the daylight (thanks to the massive heated courtyard) from a very diverse, and surprised (to see an arcade at the Smithsonian, no doubt) group of players and passers-by. At one point, there was even a queue to play! (pictured upper right) Next stop, WAKA WAKA!

Thoughts from PB88 at Maker Faire

mf-3And thus concludes an excellent weekend CHOCK full of indie game goodness. The traveling troupe of Death by Audio Arcade got to visit Maker Faire NYC while hundreds of men, women and children got to mash, bash, and play the hell out of Powerboat Italia ’88 and five other most excellent games. Appearing alongside the complete rest of the DBA Arcade cohort for the first time was truly awesome to see. As a bonus, I got to drop by Waka Waka to check out the NYU Game Center’s No Quarter gallery hours. A highlight for me was Dog Park by Kevin Cancienne, which gave me the feeling of being transported to a low-poly version of the dog park in Thompkins Sq. Park except with bright Katamari-like colors.

The crowd at Maker Faire differed mightily from those at past DBA events, providing an interesting user testing session – overall my takeaway is that while children are much more violent with the cabinet and much less patient with UI that is confusing, at least they don’t spill beers all over the place. Although that might be a different story if cans of Coca Cola had been on tap for patrons inside the Hall of Science.

mf-2This weekend provided the realization that PB88 is certainly quite tall compared to more well-proportioned cabinets like Crystal Brawl and could use a stool to accompany it in venues where children will be present. I was also inspired to push a small change to the game in between the two days of the event to transform the 1-player mode (often selected accidentally by a curious passerby who would then be rewarded with a long, boring race against no one) to a short training mode. Next up is allowing a more thoughtful approach to selecting the number of players; forcing players to slide over to occupy the correct joystick is an annoying user experience that needs to be corrected. Upon the completion of that task (more complicated than it would appear, thanks to the tangled mess of code that tends to emerge from game jams), I can begin thinking about creating an OUYA, Amazon Fire, or iPad/tablet version of PB88.

Long overdue on this blog is the tantalizing history of Powerboat Italia ’88… from the technical details of the cabinet build to the game’s unlikely origin as a game jam product titled “Elektrokardio Mann”— all will be yours for the reading (relatively) soon.


Powerboat Italia ’88 at lwlvl

pb1lwlvl-5As I begin to recount the ‘year of undocumented projects’, what better place to start than with POWERBOAT ITALIA ’88, the button-mashing 4-player arcade extravaganza manifest in DIY arcade cabinet form with help from Mark Kleback as part of Death by Audio Arcade. Although the gameplay of Powerboat is simple, winning consistently is not without nuance and strategy; a defensive player can conserve wrist strength by coasting a bit while in the lead and focusing on blocking other players, for instance.

There’s something immensely satisfying about seeing strangers play your game in person, together—something only the arcade cabinet form can really provide. It’s a concentrated shot of free user testing and a chance to see how the game can facilitate social interactions. It’s also nice to hear people explain the game to each other, freeing me of that awkward burden. I got the chance for all the aforementioned and more as the Death by Audio Arcade appeared at the lwlvl festival (prounounced ‘low level’) in Brooklyn this month. It was also awesome to see 7 indie arcade cabinets together—their powers combined! If a series of best practices could be developed to keep the rag tag bunch running consistently, it would be great to see more full-time indie arcades sprout up. I’ll have to get that coin door installed.

pbOne of these days I’ll get around to chronicling the actual build (it’s amazing how hardy some plywood, acrylic, and surplus arcade parts can be!) as well as trying to port the game to a place where more can play it. (But where?? iPad/tablet? Amazon Fire TV? Steam?) For now, if you’re in the New York area, keep on the lookout for Death by Audio Arcade events!

Welcome Back!

Welcome, dear reader, to what may very well be the 4th iteration of this blog! If there are any of you out there still reading, (I’m looking at you, Eric Case), I pledge many more updates in an attempt to divest myself (and, hopefully by extension, you, too) from the conformist timesuck that is Facebook and its social media brethren.

The journey of my nearly 10 year old SQL database is a winding one: from the early days of Zhukov Video, through a temporary stay on ITP’s servers, to finally resting at and now, I’m hoping to better unify this blog with my other web stylings. In the past this blog has served a smattering of purposes ranging from personal musings and amateur film theory to technical how-tos to Robysoft announcements to writing assignments from my time at Tisch: ITP. In the future, I hope to increase the frequency and diversity of what’s posted here.

This also marks the first time I’ve styled a WordPress theme from scratch. While there may be the rough edge here and there that I haven’t gotten to, I’m hoping the minimal layout will allow for distraction-free reading and writing for those of you not using RSS readers (if those are even still a thing now that Google Reader has been so cruelly taken from us… but I digress).

But onto the future! And also the past, as I’ll occasionally be attempting to recap the numerous orphaned projects and forgotten adventures that were scantly documented during the past year of bloggy limbo. Until then –