Thursday, September 5, 2013

Ten Seconds Alive - A "Failed" Ludum Dare Postmortem

Note: "Failed" is in quotes because, while the game wasn't completed in time for Ludum Dare, it was far from a failure.

Ten Seconds Alive was my attempt at something very different in this Ludum Dare challenge. Typically I go for something that I already had an idea for long ago, and simply wanted to give it a quick little feasibility play test, or else I simply put a little twist on another game *AHEM*CLONE *AHEM*.

The space around your hiding spot. You come out of the hatch and have a few items to collect right away to help your next attempts - the rectangle is a battery and makes your lantern last longer; the glass bottle is for glass that helps the light expand further, and the crystal ball lets you see any single map square you want in your hiding spot. The lightpost is functional from the start, so you don't have to use your lantern in this spot, and the timer doesn't run.

For those of you who don't know, my games are always kid safe. By that I mean they don't have violence, they are easy to pick up and play, they're fun but funny as well and lean toward the cute side of graphics. Ten Seconds Alive is the exact opposite of all of that: you take on the role of a survivor after mysterious creatures attack town. Hiding in an underground bunker, you must choose which fellow survivor to send out to die. You have 10 seconds of light in your lantern, and your goal is to go around fixing lamp posts, recharging power stations and hunting down supplies (like batteries to give you extra light time, glass to make your light circle bigger, etc.) so that the next survivor will have a better chance. Once you find the bigger, lit-up civilization, all of the remaining survivors make it to safety and you win (for now!)

The goal of the game was to truly make you feel stressed over making each survivor count, so that you'd lose as few as possible. Selecting which survivor to die next was meant to be a challenge too - each has their own back story, and most have a strength and/or a weakness. For example, some can move faster, some can ransack houses more quickly, others don't map out newly found screens for your map.

Oh, and hey, you can play the game right here!

What Went Right

1. Planning Ahead

When the final round of voting was started, I'd come up with the idea. I've always loved games where you play the same thing over and over, gaining money to upgrade yourself to get further, and I wanted a unique, dark twist on it... A real reason to want to succeed as quickly as possible. I usually come up with an idea for a theme, but then that theme isn't selected; this time, however, the game fit into 25% of the possible themes, most of which were the top-voted ones from rounds before. There was very  little chance that it wouldn't be selected. And, despite having the general idea, I vowed to not write a single detail down until the challenge began so that I wasn't technically cheating.

2. Preparation

Yes, this is the second "what went right" that doesn't even have to do with the development itself. I spent Friday night after the theme was announced writing out everything about the game: steps for development, things that would need to be done, screen layouts, pseudocoding, you name it! I ended up changing the steps for coding later, sure, but it was awesome to have a good idea of exactly what needed to be done. It's always nice to be able to say "15 steps til it's a game!" "3 steps down, 12 steps til it's a game!"

3. A Unique Idea

To me, the best Ludum Dare games are always the really unique ones... The ones where I'd say "hey, this was an awesome idea, I wish I would have thought of it!" And that's exactly what Ten Seconds Alive was. It was something I never would have done otherwise; heck, it's so far away from a game I ever would have done that I couldn't have even put it on my website because it isn't kid safe! Even though I didn't finish it, I was able to "create" it in a short period of time, so that it didn't take away from my real development time on other, bigger (hopefully profitable) projects.

4. It's Done (Enough)

As I said before, for most game jams, I typically make a short, playable trial of a much bigger idea I've had to see if it could be any fun. The problem with this is that, even if I "finish" in time, the game is incomplete and gets tossed onto the pile of partially finished games that I'll have to complete sometime. With Ten Seconds Alone, even though the game wasn't finished and isn't even fully playable, it reached a stage that's "done enough" to me. I got all of the experience out of it that I could possibly want.

5. Aimed Low Enough for Success

One of the biggest challenges for Ludum Dare, or any game jam, is to come up with an idea quickly that not only fits the theme, but is also doable within such a short time period while still being a challenge and a learning experience. I strongly believe that if I hadn't felt sick, I could have finished the game in time. It certainly wouldn't have looked great, and probably wouldn't have had SFX or music, but it would have been done!

What Went Wrong

1. Sickness

A large part of Sunday, and a decent part of Monday, were taken by sickness. My nausea prevented me from being able to work during those times, and that prevented me from completely finishing in time. Shortly after, unrelated to the jam itself, I ended up with a really bad fever, and I'm just now over it *fingers crossed* as I write this!

2. Atmospheric Games Are Demanding!

To make a game truly atmospheric and dark, it needs to have some good sound effects and art! You can't simply get away with a static single unanimated stick figure for nearly 40 different characters. One of the main goals of the game was to cause emotion, and with my lack of artistic ability, I was unable to accomplish that.

3. The Map Took WAY Too Long

One of the main pieces to the game is the map itself. The player has to be able to reach and obtain new goods, light up paths and keep moving onward. I felt that it would take too long to randomly generate a map, so I wrote one out by hand. It took me a couple hours to sketch it all out - I had to fill in a 15x15 grid with just the right number of each item - and then hours more to code it all into the game. All in all, I think the map alone took about 5 hours of work, and that's not even including writing the code to actually bring up the proper map screens or place the items. That's not really a bad amount of time on a normal project, but when you only have 48 non-sleep hours max, it hurts.

4. Backstory and Characters are Time Consuming!

It's been a long time since I wrote anything fiction other than a few paragraphs here and there for games, and honestly it's one of the things I miss the most... I was into writing and poetry long before actually developing games, and now I was excited to do it again. Maybe too excited... I dove into the story and backstories pretty deep with Ten Seconds Alive. There were 37 survivors that made it into the game, and each survivor is connected to others that become depressed if they die. An example:
CreateSurvivor(30, "Becky Wheeler", 31, "Artist at Dark Blade Games", "Dating Ryan Morrison", 1, null, "Becky is a master of both art and leading others, and she was the one to save the others when the monsters attacked.", 31, 32, 33);
Which coverts in-game to this:

Of course, the game still needed to be proofread, but each survivor has their own page pre-game with (maybe) a strength [Tech Savvy means she can fix light posts], a weakness, a name and age, relationship status, a brief history/likes/etc notes, and up to three people they'll depress when they die [depression causes them to move more slowly]. All of this led to a lot of information being created, and in all reality it was probably much more than necessary, especially in such a short amount of time. It was necessary to go for that "feel guilty about sending them to their death", but took a long time to come up with.

5. Didn't Get Enough Done to Make it Work

It has to be said - one of the failings of the game was simply that not enough of it was completed to even make it fully playable. Players cannot fix lamp posts or enter power plants to fix them, and these incomplete parts make it impossible to get far in the game. In the near future, I'll have to complete those couple things, so that people can at least get a sense of what I was going for :)

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Putting a Positive Face Forward

Between Phil Fish quitting Fez 2 (and possibly game development forever!) and the absolutely insane things being said to a developer for simply tweaking the way a gun works in a video game, there's been a lot of focus on what horrible, negative things are being said to people. What isn't being focused on, however, is how nearly every one of us does it (albeit to a much lesser extent).

I will be the first to admit that I'm pretty quick to post some negative things. I may mock a commercial or what someone says in a reality TV show, but until I really gave it some thought I put myself miles above the people who threaten lives. It's easy to forget, after all, that the people that make those commercials are real people too. I sit and talk about how scary it is to pull up the comments section of a game I've posted, yet won't hesitate to attack something done by a bigger company for the same reasons others will gladly insult game developers.

My goal is to become a positive presence, particularly online. I'm not saying I'll never complain about a bug or being sleepy in the morning, and I'll certainly offer constructive criticism or point out things that are wrong and go against what I believe in, but I will avoid picking on anyone else for any reason. After all, "ha ha, that commercial is so stupid" does no good; "I can't believe that commercial tried to sell a car by showing someone failing to kill himself in his car" isn't mean, just sharing something that's important to me. You know, like those kitty pictures or the Michael Scott quotes.

And here's the hard part of the post, folks: the part where I dare you to do the same! Come on, people, let's all use our powers for good!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Get a Free Preorder of Escape From the Afterlife & Enter To Win Free Games for a Year!

To celebrate National Haiku Day, I'm giving away a million preorders of Escape from the Afterlife! I'm pretty sure that's plenty, but if somehow over a million people enter, I promise to add some more ;)

EVERYONE  who enters and does the two required things - posts a haiku in the comments in the bottom and likes The Critterverse on Facebook - will get the preorder of Escape from the Afterlife. One lucky person will also be chosen to get every single game we make for an entire year - a $15 value!

A preorder of any of our games includes not only receiving the game once it's done, but also every single solid version of the game as it's made until it's complete and typically costs $1! You'll also get a download of the game in its current state emailed to you after the giveaway ends. The one year subscription is similar, but for every single game we develop throughout the year. We're doing the One Game a Month challenge, so that means at least 12 small games a year, plus several big ones!

Entries will be accepted between Wednesday, April 17th - Sunday, April 21st.

Have fun! :D

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, April 8, 2013

Wait, What? Games CAN Cause Violence Maybe?

First off, let me just start off by saying that this contains NO statistics, NO proof, NO stories of anyone who played Halo and killed a whole bunch of aliens because the game made them... There are plenty of other awesome articles out there written by far better writers that make some excellent points, as well as horrible articles that somehow attempt to explain that anyone who has a video game in their home and committed any sort of crime had video games to blame.

I'm an indie game developer, and like many indie developers, I very rarely have the time or money to actually play games... I'm also much more of a casual gamer, sticking with the Marios, Zeldas and Peggles of the world more often than not. As such, whenever anyone made an argument that kids can become violent from video games, I laughed it off and argued against it. Seriously, isn't it silly? If I play Tetris, will I want to stack blocks? If I play Mario, will I really want to jump on people's heads?

Then we got a few free rental codes for Redbox, which just happened to have the new Tomb Raider. Angel (my fiancee) and I both really wanted to play it, so we got it and LOVED it! It's a spectacular game and I'd suggest anyone mature enough to play it! We played it a second time through and did everything we could.

My point is this, though: You know how once a great movie is over, you feel like a part of the world, or maybe you see things a new way because of the story? It sucks you in and it takes a while, even after it's over, to leave its world. The same is true of games, particularly these "newer games." Lara in Tomb Raider is great at climbing, so when we went outside, I'd imagine climbing rooftops, scaling walls, etc. I wanted to work out and become more fit so that I would have hopes of surviving a crazy adventure like that. But at the same time, because the game allows you to hunt animals for rewards and get extra points for "headshotting" enemies (shooting them in the head for instant-kill), I would see an animal in the real world and my brain would immediately think "I can just imagine shooting that with a bow and arrow!" (Lara's main weapon on the game).

Wait, what? When did that happen? When did successfully shooting enemies in the head turn it into a game in real life of imagining getting someone from far away? Granted, I'm 30 years old and mature enough to not act on this at all. The only thing I've ever "shot" at anything is a camera, and while I think it'd be awesome to learn to shoot a bow or throw axes, I'd certainly never do it in any sort of dangerous way.

So, can video games cause violence? I don't doubt it... This was one single game, and it's nowhere near the most violent at all! The game is rated M (Mature; basically the equivalent of an R rating for video games), and if you have children and didn't already know it, it's VERY important to follow the ratings for video games. If your child is 8, 10, 12, 15, and they play video games, don't just get them whatever is popular, please. Just keep in mind that playing a violent game is like taking part in a violent movie for days instead of just a couple hours.

And, above this, to all of you game developers out there: I appreciate the awesome scenes in the games where you press a couple buttons to jump off of a rooftop and assassinate someone, then flip someone around and use them as a human shield before running up to the shooters and plunge a bayonet into their chest, flip around and knock the other down before finishing them off too. It's really empowering to be able to do all of that! But can you hold back on the blood? Keep away from the extra gory deaths? There are games that I simply refuse to play, even though the story looks awesome, the game looks gorgeous and the play itself looks so fun, just because I'm far too empathetic to kill people in horrible ways, watch blood splatter all over and such.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Experimenting with Promotion using Buffer (

We went grocery shopping today and I joked that since I'd be gone anyway, I should create some bot to spam The Critterverse stuff on Twitter until I got back, and wondered how many Twitter followers I'd lose for it. Like most of my experiments, the joke had to turn into reality!

Using Buffer, I set 9 tweets to post between 2 and 7 every 40 minutes (except for the last two, which were a half an hour apart). Each tweet promoted something that could potentially earn revenue, and it took about 5-10 mins to set them up before we left. This was about 1:15pm, and I had 1,843 followers. Note: I DID tweet quite a bit from my phone while gone, so it's not like my ONLY tweets were the promotional ones.

As of 8pm (an hour after the final tweet), here are the results:

Followers: 1,850 (+7) (I may have lost some, but gained others, but either way I still have roughly the same number!)

Clicks: 32 (out of 77 for the day on The Critterverse thus far!)

Retweets/Favorites: 12/1

Total "Potential": 25.4k (The maximum number of people who could have seen the tweet)

Total Income: $0 (Yeah, I didn't sell anything, but hey, getting retweets and website clicks is really awesome too!)

Buffer statistics on one of the links. You can click on the "Retweets" or "Favorites" to see who did it, too!

For those who aren't familiar with Buffer, IT'S FREE and it basically allows you to set up times to tweet or post on Facebook, and you can set up as many as you want per day. In fact, you can even sync it with Tweriod to let you know what times of day are best for buffering your tweets! You can use it with Facebook and other programs too, but unless you upgrade (I haven't), you can only use it with two profiles - so your Facebook and Twitter, or your Facebook and your Facebook page, or however you want to do it. You can buffer to all of them at once or just one, and you can have it buffer one more than the other (for example, tweeting 10 times a day isn't a big deal, but putting 10 Facebook posts on your game page isn't a great idea).

I'm going to start setting it up every morning now, spreading the tweets out much more of course, and then tweeting like regular... An extra 5-10 mins each morning to get clicks and maybe even revenue is VERY worth it!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Garage Zombie* High Score Contest!

Garage Zombie* beat out 34 other games for Overall and Graphics!
To celebrate Garage Zombie* winning first place in mini-LD 40 for both Overall and Graphics (thanks to Ariel - an amazing artist!), I went back and added a Mochi High Score board to the game and am kicking it off with a contest!

Whoever has the highest score at the end of the contest (11:59pm Eastern time on March 31st) will win 20+ Critterverse games AND every game we make from April 1st, 2013 to April 1st, 2014! This is a purchasable prize that's set at $20 on the website, so it has a $20 value!

As this is entirely download-based, the competition is open to anyone from anywhere in the world, and you're welcome to play it as many times as you'd like (the game is very largely based on luck, so it will most likely take numerous tries to get 1st place and keep it!)

The ONLY RULE is that you MUST use one of the following as your name on the high score board, so that I know who to contact once it's over:

  • Your Twitter Handle (@Whatever)
  • Your Facebook Name ( without the part
  • Your email address (

If you don't, I'll have no way of knowing who won!

And one last thing: if you enjoy the game, please consider preordering it! It's only $1 and you'll get every version of the game as it's made through development, so you can even test it and leave feedback! If you preorder the game and win the contest, I will give you your $1 back! And you get an immediate download of the game if you preorder - one with ads and high score board and one without ads or the high score board (the two are tied together, so I can't make a version with the score board but without ads).

Oh, and if you want to give the game a shot, CLICK HERE TO PLAY GARAGE ZOMBIE*!

Good luck! :) 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Adventures of Rubberkid Brings Out Some Amazing Stories

The Certificate Pledge, made by Ariel Marsh
Ever since I started publicizing The Adventures of Rubberkid, I've found that a LOT of people who learn about it instantly connect to the game. I set out to make the game for kids, but I've heard stories of adults tearing up a bit over it, connecting very strongly to one of the bullied kids or another, or just talking about how much they were bullied, or their kids, or anyone they know. Bullying has even been in the media a lot lately, and I think it's great that it finally seems like people are showing their support against bullying these days.

Anyway, the reason I wanted to write this post was because of something that happened today. When I started my Kickstarter, I did the math on every single level for everything that the rewards earned EXCEPT  the certificate pledges. I don't know why I forgot, but I did... And apparently, five color copies comes to anywhere between $2.50-$5 around here! I checked online at a half a dozen places and they all were 49 cents or more... Except for one UPS store that only charged the 25 cents we were aiming for (another UPS store in the area charged double, so it varies from store to store even!)

We went to pick them up today and the lady there said that she thought they were really neat, and asked what they were for. I told her a little about The Adventures of Rubberkid and how it fights bullying and so on, and she said that she thought it was great! She had done some school work (thesis? studies? I don't remember honestly) and so she was intrigued by it.

As we were getting ready to leave, another guy in the store who was making copies (not sure if he worked there and knew about them or just overheard us) turned and said that he thought what we were doing was great, and that he lost his son two years ago to bullying. Angel said she was sorry to hear it, and he said that he was in Heaven now, and bless us for bringing light to such a horrible problem.

It's times like these when I realize that I'm on the right track and doing the right thing. Every time someone tells me their story or shows any kind of appreciation, I feel that much more successful. Thanks so much everyone!

Friday, March 1, 2013

MARCH to Victory! ... Or Off a Cliff...

Like Mario reaching Bowser's castle, or Link drawing his sword on Ganon(dorf), or Mega Man walking that tiny hallway and getting ready to face off against a boss, March stands against me now.

Also much like the ghost in Escape from the Afterlife, not knowing if the next square could be its downfall or salvation.

February came and went, surpassing or at least meeting nearly every one of my goals (except for money), and overall I'm about even for Jan and Feb monetarily thanks to The Adventures of Rubberkid Kickstarter funds hitting January and selling a few copies of When Asteroids Attack. 

What this means is that The Adventures of Rubberkid bought me enough time to finish the game and line up a surprisingly awesome March. It's going to be one crazy month, though:

  • March 1-8: The Adventures of Rubberkid
  • March 9-17: Escape from the Afterlife (the same dates as 7DRL - Seven Day Roguelike - but won't technically be part of it since the game has already been started)
  • March 18-21: Hangman
  • March 22-24: (#1GAMCRUNCH? Ludum Dare? Some sort of jam?)

Luckily, we're going to have some major fun at the end of the month with some of Angel's winnings, so that will give me something to look forward to throughout all of the upcoming challenges.

Now, the challenge: While I'm going to *fingers crossed* HOPEFULLY have three full, new games done this month (and a jam game!), they have to make money! It does me no good against the evils of the MarchMonster to make unsuccessful games.

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Garage Zombie* (Game Jam Version) Postmortem

Garage Zombie* (including the asterisk where it's possible to use one in game titles) is the first game jam title I ever made with someone aside from Angel who helps with design and massively supports me throughout the experiences. Ariel Marsh did every bit of the art herself, all I had to do was line things up and place them! It was also the first game that I've made that had a person instead of a critter!

And, since I'm setting this up like a standard postmortem, let's kick it off!

Code: Charlie Jackson (me!)
Art: Ariel Marsh
Design: Charlie Jackson, Ariel Marsh and Angelique Drummond

Developed: February 22nd-24th, 2013 for #1GAMCRUNCH (Hidden Surprises) and Mini-LD 40 (The Real World)

What Went Right

1. The Game's Art 
Somehow, the art for the main character made it really easy to add some personality to her  through the tutorial...

Normally for a game jam I make the basic art, get to work making the game, fix up the art and finally balance it as much as I can (which is usually very little by then.). This time, however, I collaborated with Ariel Marsh for development. She's a fantastic artist who I've worked with in the past on games, and as always she came through even better than expected!

The art in the game is not only of a great quality, it's bright and fits the game perfectly. With a garage sale, the items for sale are the star of the show, and they really are in this game as well. The main character worked out awesomely as well, it was just by chance that it ended up a she, but I love that it was (not because the game is about shopping, but because there really aren't enough female lead characters in games if you ask me!).
Some deals are likely to lose money, but you KNOW you want this thing!
2. An Awesome Title That Draws Attention
This is one of the main issues I face when coming up with a game name - making it both make sense AND draw eyes to the game. Early in development, Ariel Googled terms for people who do garage sales and found "Garage Zombie"! She joked that it should have an asterisk then say "*May or may not contain real zombies". This made it word-for-word into the game and gave the game a great base for humor from the start.
See? It even says it on the main menu!

And I KNOW the title works because I've already had numerous people jump on the game based on simply saying the name of it!

3. Working with Others Adds (Good) Pressure
Before it even began, I was really paranoid that Ariel would finish far before me, or that I wouldn't finish at all and she would. The nervousness of failure is always there with a game jam, but when working with someone else there's someone to let down if it happens. This was also Ariel's first game jam and I wanted to make sure she had something awesome to show for it.

Ariel had suggested getting on Skype (messaging) when it started so we could discuss ideas and then we simply left it on to chat the entire time, including sending each other work as we finished something up ("Check this out!", "How's this?"). Having someone you're working with frequently updated this way is not only fun, it adds to one's productivity: you want to have something awesome to show off!
Both of us having Flash made it super easy for me to set up art requests!

4. The Game Felt "Alive"!
One of my biggest issues as a game developer is that I get it functional and then I call it done. I've only made one "big" game, so while I've got about 25 done/partially done titles, they rarely contain all the things that a game should: sound and graphical effects especially. This time around, one of the first suggestions was having "special" items around the room that sparkle to show they're extra valuable or great money makers. It didn't make it in, but it really got me thinking about how to make it feel more alive, more fun.

She made an awesome main menu where you can interact with the boxes (they open when you mouse over them) and when items are purchased, they move toward the top where it shows how many items you've purchased (whereas 99% of the time previously, I'd just have made them disappear).

Box opens, box closes, box opens, box closes... WHEEEEE!!!!
Ariel even animated the girl with walk animations! It was her first time animating a character like that, and mine to that extent (even just the four frames in each direction!). It took some time to do, especially making her move around fluidly against the tables and such, but was very well worth it.

5. Sometimes Less is More...
When I started coding the game, the player lost $10 per day and the game's goal was to make some arbitrary amount. There was also a lose state if you you ran out of money. This was just a LOT of extra rules and effort in the long run, though, and deciding to make the game simpler (just gain as much as you can in five days) makes the game much more simple, easy to get into and replayable (trying to earn more each time)

I'll admit that I made the "game over" popup quickly :P
Also, the game originally allowed for two minutes per round, and I was considering adding to it even... But after trying different lengths of time, we went with 1:30. It makes the game much more hectic, non-stop and fun!

5b. ... Sometimes More is More!
On the flip side, I originally wanted the player to begin with $50 or $100, then as they played they'd earn enough to buy the more expensive things... I ended up going with $200 because it allowed for a good 10-20 purchases right from the beginning if the player shops carefully so that one can just dive right in right away.

6. Kept Track of Notes for the Future
I'm awful with thinking of the future when it comes to development... If I go back to a game, I have to search all over to find all the ideas I had for it, people's comments about it and so on. This time around, I have a text file with every idea for the game that didn't make it in, as well as an Evernote journal page for people's comments. I may have listed this last, but it's vital for any kind of future for a title if you want to stay sane, trust me.

What Went Wrong

I swear I almost fainted at this point. First thought? "Screw this, whatever!"

With about two hours left the game was shared a bit for bug testing. When a few were pointed out and I went to fix them, I clicked on the section of my code with all of the functions and it was blank. I thought maybe Flash had messed up, so I closed it and reopened it, but it was GONE!!!! Luckily, I had done very little work since I'd sent the file to Ariel to show her the latest version, so she was able to send it back to me. I was VERY close to having 800 lines of code gone forever, though, and it was only the first or second time in years that I didn't save the game under multiple names as I went "just in case."

My strategy, by the way, is to save with a new name every time the game is fully functional and changed. For example:

  • Garage Zombie
  • Garage Zombie Movement Fixed
  • Garage Zombie Added More Items

This assures that if something goes wrong, the file spontaneously explodes, or you COMPLETELY screw things up when trying to change something, you'll have a version to go back to :) It's not a new idea, and I certainly didn't invent it, but it's so insanely important that I just had to go in depth!

2. The Game Wasn't as Alive as it Could Have Been...
While the game does have quite a bit of life to it, the #1 complaint is that it has no sound whatsoever. Angel and I got to talking about it after the jam ended, and she came up with the genius idea to have the main character whistle as the music and make small little comments on items when they're viewed, as well as a little noise when purchased or not. I really think that would have given the game, and the character, a lot more life in a unique, fun way.

The game also could have used a way to mix it up - different locations, goals and a story primarily. All of these things would have kept the game more interesting while giving it some more life at the same time.

3. Other Missing Features
There were a LOT of features that the game didn't have in addition to sound, story, goals and additional locales. I won't go into them all here, partially to keep the surprise alive when the game is finished, but it's easy to see how they would have kept the game more entertaining and added a lot more play time to for the average player!

4. It Requires Mouse AND Keyboard
As a person who plays a lot of Flash games, I've gotten used to using the WASD keys with my left hand and the mouse with my right, so I didn't even consider that there are a LOT of people out there who don't! Angel pointed this one out to me when she first played it, telling me that she was having to get used to moving around with the arrow keys and then moving her hand over to the mouse to either buy or not buy an item, then go back to move again. It not only gets annoying I'm sure, it's also tiring and time consuming in a game where you don't have much time to decide or look around.

Why should I have to click you?! I don't have enough time for this!

It wouldn't be difficult at all to allow for pressing ESC to say "don't buy" and ENTER/SPACE to buy. The same is true of the main menu - it'd be super easy to allow the player to use the arrows and the SPACE/ENTER keys to select. This way, the mouse wouldn't be required at all!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Adventures of Rubberkid Backer Cards are Complete!

One of the levels from The Adventures of Rubberkid: help
the "too fat" and "too skinny" cheerleaders out as they cheer!
While the Kickstarter has ended, The Adventures of Rubberkid is still raising funds to help promote it to schools and libraries, as well as get it translated into additional languages. You can contribute with Paypal and still get all the awesome rewards for doing so here!

As for progress on the game, seven of the eight levels are now complete and the final one should be done tomorrow! You can always play the latest version of the game for free here :) Also, I'm starting to send out the backer rewards. Today, in fact, I finished the printable "Backer Cards".

Penny's Backer Card!
What are backer cards, you ask? There are 15 cards - one for each of the kids in the game, plus one for Rubberkid, one for Mrs. Bookworm and one for the bullies - each with a little info about each of them. There are also three "printing pages" with five of the cards each for easy printing and cutting out! They end up slightly bigger than playing cards and are colorful and fun, as well as excellent tools for bullying education!

Anyone who contributes at least $10 gets you a signed postcard, 5 signed certificate pledges (if you're in the continental US) AND all of the images! Plus, now that they're complete I'll make sure you get them the same day that you contribute!
Page three of the printing pages!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

In the First Half of February this Developer Gave to Me...

In my first tracking of self-awarded work points, I'm just under 70% of my full potential for getting work done. Not too shabby for a beginning, especially with still not feeling 100% well anyway :)

As for what's been accomplished, in under 9 full work days I got back into Rubberkid (which was a heck of a task on its own after almost four months!), made 2 1/2 levels of the game (leaving just half of one and the extra stuff) and have hit my goals with social network growth, newsletter subscriptions and so on.

The only area that (still) needs work is earning some income. I did make a sale this month, which is awesome!

And for the rest of the month, I've got rewards to send out for the Kickstarter pledgers, Rubberkid should be complete this month (but won't be released since I'll still be looking for sponsors) and there's the #1GAMCRUNCH next weekend (the 22nd-24th).

Still a lot of excitement coming up, and in all honesty, I'm probably the most excited of anyone about it! I'm really having some fun working on Rubberkid, and last month's #1GAMCRUNCH resulted in quite a game... This time around, Ariel Marsh will be helping out (she's the one who has done a LOT of art for The Critterverse).

And one last thing: The Adventures of Rubberkid has been updated on the web as well! All of the levels but one (Chris, the Critter Crusher) are playable now.

The cheerleader level - featuring Jane and Jenny - is now functional! They do a little cheer as the bullies hurl their insults.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Newgrounds Five: Dragon Platforming, Turn-Based Strategy with Cute Animals

*Note: The Newgrounds Five is a summary of all the awesome games I find playing five Newgrounds games most days. I don't play with the audio on, so you won't find any comments regarding it!*

Rated Everyone!
Genre: Platforming
Play Time: About 45-60 mins

I love when I can find a game in the "Under Judgement" that I want to rate well, it makes me feel good about myself! Dragoniada is a platforming game where you play as a dragon who fell from his/her mother's nest and has to climb back up. You jump, shoot fireballs and move; no power-ups, no leveling up, just simple fun that does what it does well!

The game sure starts out simple enough, but as you progress through levels they get much more challenging, but it never feels cheap (except those bats, although I think that's more because I'm not good at being patient with enemies!). There's also a boss to battle about half-way through, and although there are no power-ups, you definitely have to keep an eye out for green potions (extra lives) and blue potions (fireballs, 10 each) and, about half-way in, red potions (extra-powerful fireballs, 10 each as well).

Oh, and by the way... You'll be VERY happy to know that, if you happen to lose all of your lives, you'll restart the current level with 5 lives again. It's very smooth (trust me, I'd know!)

"Monster Tap Proto"
Rated Everyone!
Genre: Turn-Based Strategy
Play Time: 5-30 mins, depending on luck and how good you are ;)

From what I gather, this is a playable prototype for a bigger game called Somebody Help Me (in fact, if you check the game out, at the time of writing they're looking for possible beta testers for the future!)

There are no instructions whatsoever, but after a couple plays I've figured out the following:

  • All four of the animals on the screen at first are on the same team.
  • Enemies appear from the buildings around the outside.
  • If you hit an enemy and it doesn't die, it goes back a space (if it can). If you kill it, it turns into a tombstone that you can "attack" again to get EXP, which is very very vital for later enemies!
  • STAY TOGETHER!! You can heal each other, and even revive!
  • If you can kill an enemy and leave a tombstone in front of one of the areas the enemies come from, they'll be stuck!
The game really is a blast, and if you can last through enough rounds you get... "Bronze, Silver or Gold", but I have no idea what that is because around 40 or so all the enemies were defeated and nothing else appeared. A fun little prototype play experience, though!

Newgrounds Five: Bouncy Kitties, Fish and Evolution, Oh My!

To kick off my reviewing of indie games in addition to making them, I'm going to do something I plan to do a bunch of: The Newgrounds Five. If you play five games on Newgrounds, you get to deposit your experience and level up, which makes your votes worth more. When I play those five games (or more), I'll write a bit about the really fun, awesome ones!

Note that I DO NOT play with audio on for the most part, so I won't be discussing the sound. I also won't be reviewing any Mature/Adult games whatsoever.

Rated Everyone! :)

The concept of this game is simple enough: get the cat to the box of fish! There are fish that are optional on each level as well; they don't give you any special bonuses or anything, but they're a good challenge to get!

What makes the game unique is how you do it - your mouse becomes a bouncy pad that angles toward the kitty automatically! You have to aim it to make sure that the cat won't go off the screen, and of course the faster you move your mouse, the harder the cat will get hit.

It's a great concept with some fun art and 30 total levels! I played through the first 10 completely, and this is a shot of #11. :)

Evolvo Plus
Rated Everyone, but it has some blood in the form of red circles and stuff

Evolvo Plus is all about eating fish! Your goal is to move around with the arrow keys and eat the number of fish required to level up. After each level up you'll get bigger and able to eat more fish, and every so many levels up you can evolve and do fun stuff like go all the way to the surface, turn invisible temporarily, get a shield to stop a hit and even the ability to use your whole body to eat fish (MASSIVELY helpful when you become so huge that you take up the whole screen!).

What's amazing about this game is the art and the amount of fish. It's a really simple game concept, one that's been made a lot, but it's really been expanded upon - there are 100 types of sea life and some are poisonous (they glow and have a little biohazard symbol on them) that make you go slow for a moment - plus other hazards like red tide, oil spills, hazardous waste spills and mines. There are also multiple difficulty levels for those who would rather relax, or who want a challenge. I started on regular and then tried again on the most difficult, and it seemed to make everything move much faster (as well as add new types of sea life!)

As your little fish gets bigger and bigger, it really morphs into an awesome beast (complete with a spiky tail!) and can take up the ENTIRE screen. A little bit after that, there's the "boss battle". Oh, and there are also cheats that can be used, Newgrounds achievements to get and the challenge to try to get all 100 kinds of fish.

Friday, February 1, 2013

February Goals

With January done, February gives me a clean slate, but with a whole bunch of awesomeness to work with.

Now, while I'm still only about half done with my Hangman game, the fact that it's taking so long makes me realize that I need to shift my focus. One of my worst habits in the past was finding a "more important" project in the middle of working on one, therefore never really finishing anything... Because of that, I always feel awful and resist as much as possible with shifting focus, and do it only when it's really important. I shifted to Hangman because I was still sick and needed a project I wouldn't ruin, and could easily work on... And now I need to shift back to Rubberkid because I ran a Kickstarter campaign (which was successful) and the estimated release was in February. I also need to get back to it because it's a much more important project, and it's quite close to done development-wise, really!

February Goals (Games to Develop)

  1. Finish Rubberkid and start seeking sponsors for the game.
  2. Complete the Hangman game as well, have it out seeking sponsors.
  3. Complete the #1GAMCRUNCH February challenge (22nd-24th) and have a game to show for that as well. Use it for the "one game a month"
February Goals (Other)
  1. When Rubberkid is done and seeking sponsors, send out the pledge rewards for the people that pledged on Kickstarter.
  2. Break even on the month (expenses/earnings)
  3. 300 Work Points (1 point is given per half hour of work... I am for 7.5 hours per day (15), times 20 days this month = 300)
  4. 1125 Critterverse Likes (+40)
  5. 950 followers on @TheCritterverse (+113)
  6. 850 followers on @CataclysmGames (+170)
  7. 185 Critterville Times Newsletter Subscribers (+13)
  8. 110 Minion Inquirer Newsletter Subscribers (+10)

January 2013 Recap

So, January is down, and there are still 11 more awesome months in the year. Jan 2013 was the first year I really tracked some very important things... So, how did it go?


I spent half of the month sick, and as I was getting better I got to working on a Hangman game, since I wasn't up to working on Rubberkid yet. I figured I could do the Hangman game quickly, but it ended up becoming a lot more than expected... 100 movies with over 1,000 total phrases, each with a hint and a fun fact, takes a LOT of time to do!!!

The 25th - 27th were the #1GAMCRUNCH, for which I made Escape from the Afterlife, which I was very proud of! It's another game that I want to do more work on, though, so we'll see how that goes when I do. :)

After that, I got back to working on Hangman, which still has an estimated week and a half to two and a half weeks of work left.

Goal Results

Weight Loss: Six pounds lost out of my goal of 12. Pretty good for not exercising yet and being sick most of the month, though!

Social Media (Twitter/FB): Did WAY better than I was aiming for with Twitter, but failed with Facebook. Facebook is WAY harder to get new fans with than Twitter is to get new followers...

Email Newsletter Subscribers: I managed to get my goal with the Minion Inquirer, didn't miss the Critterville Times (the main one) by much :)

Website Visitors: Not too good, but then, I wasn't doing much to drive visitors either (outside of making Escape from the Afterlife)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

2012 Critterverse Game Collection Giveaway!

Hey there everyone! To celebrate Escape from the Afterlife's completion in the #1GAMCRUNCH game jam, I'm giving away The 2012 Critterverse Game Collection - a download of 22 games!

To enter, simply complete any entries you'd like in the Rafflecopter - none are required, but the more you do, the better your odds!

The giveaway begins now and ends at midnight (Eastern) on Sunday, Feb 3rd. I'll email the winner on Monday the 4th to let them know they've won! Good luck!

NOTE: I said that the giveaway ended Sunday at midnight, but somehow the rafflecopter was set up incorrectly. Because of that, I've set it to the proper amount of time, and to make it up to those who thought it was ending Saturday night at midnight, I added a second giveaway pack so TWO people will win! I doubt it'll get a whole bunch of entries today (it's 1:30 am on Sunday now), but I didn't want to do wrong by anyone who was waiting, either :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Escape from the Afterlife: Game Jam Postmortem

Before I say anything, you really should try the game out! Even if you only play it for a couple minutes, it'll give you a great feel for the game and what happened with it. Play Escape from the Afterlife here!

This weekend (January 25-27) was the #1GAMCRUNCH - a 48 hour game development challenge. The theme was golden gun/1 hit point. I admit that Escape from the Afterlife really didn't fit the theme very well... I was actually joking in the #1GAM IRC channel about 1HP being a goal instead of a limitation, and then it becoming like golf - the lower the HP, the better... And THEN it became "A ghost would LOVE to have 1HP because it'd mean they're alive again, since a non-living thing should technically have 0 or negative HP, even if games don't play it that way!"

So that's how 1HP fits into the game. Since it takes a whole paragraph to explain that, I think it's safe to say it really doesn't fit the theme too well...

What Went Right

1. Testing from Fellow Developers on Twitter
I love having people test my games, but typically what I get is "it's great!" or "not bad", etc. I DO love to hear compliments, trust me, it's like fuel that keeps me going! But this time especially, the game is FIFTY floors! Seriously! When I hit the point that it would be fully playable, there were less than 6 hours left in the jam and I still had to add a few things before it ended, as well as add as much icing to the cake as I could after that! "It's fun" wouldn't cut it, nor would testing it all myself...

Several people jumped right on the game and played it for me, letting me know what they thought, giving some great feedback and ideas and compliments for the game, as well as letting me know specific stats about where they ended up ("I have $2,000, 15 of this item, 12 of that one, this max courage on this floor", for example). This made it SO much easier to try to balance things out than trying to do it myself!

In fact, I'm going to list them right here! A big, huge thanks to these people!!!

@Playvue (who also hosted the jam!)

2. Coding, WHEW!
Coding a new game ALWAYS scares me because there's a very long point where you can't run the game at all to start testing. Once a foundation is set, you can easily change things and test it, or add a new feature and test it, but at the beginning you're stuck waiting until enough foundation is complete to do so. I end up coding hundreds of lines of code, making all sorts of functions that work from different places, linking together, responding to one another, etc... And then when it's time to hit "Test Movie" (I use Flash)... Either it's crash and burn time, or it's "WHEW!" time...

In this case, I didn't even hit that stage until almost 24 hours into the jam (a 48 hour jam!!!!). I had about 500 lines of code total... And... It didn't work. Anyone who's a coder will know that's not a surprise at all, but it's still always sad. Luckily, it took less than an hour or so of fiddling around to make it work! Once that happened, most everything else added in quite easily code-wise, which is very unlike a jam for me!

Oh, and: I'd never made any sort of RPG before!

3. Graphics Weren't Too Shabby!
So, I spent the first... 4-5 hours coming up with an idea and making the menus... Normally I throw together a cheap, quick menu and call it done, but this time I wanted to make it something special. I had a game idea within an hour, and pretty much all of the details (and blog posts) within another hour or two... But it wasn't for another 2 hours or so that I managed to finish the menus! Why?

I later added a mute button to the bottom-right, once I realized I actually had time to add some sound!
That's why! It's easily one of the best menus I've ever made, and to have made it in such a short amount of time was pretty sweet to me! I'm not much of an artist, and I'd already made that ghost before, but the flashlight and making the menu interactive like this was very new. Yes, I realize the actual flashlight isn't great, but that beam of light was a "WHOA!" moment for me... Those of you who are artists are probably reading this and thinking "Pffft, whatever", but that was AMAZING to me!!!

Also, here's a lesson I keep learning over and over, and contradicts most everything anyone will ever tell you about making games... GETTING GOOD GRAPHICS INTO THE GAME EARLY IS VITAL!!!! SERIOUSLY!!! I started off with bad art and felt like my game was awful... But once I added more, spiffied things up a bit... It suddenly felt like a GAME! I was proud to be its creator! It inspired me to keep going and really energized me!

4. Random Level Layout
Note: Shop button was removed from final version, max courage was added and graphics were changed a bit in the final version. Each square is randomly selected as a type by percentage, and then the specific type of that type is selected by percentage as well! For example: On level 6, there's a 4% chance of finding an item; if it's an item, there's then a 70% chance that item will be a level 1 healing item, a 30% chance it's a level 2 healing item.

When I came up with the game idea, I KNEW I'd have to go the route of random levels... Heck, I wanted FIFTY LEVELS and all... And while I'd never done any sort of random levels before, and knew it'd take a LOT of crazy number jumbling to try to make it work right, Evolutionator (my August 2012 Ludum Dare game) taught me that personally coding each area in 48 hours AFTER MAKING THE ENGINE TOO is just absurd. I had about an hour to test that game out, and while it wasn't bad, it was very easy to make that game far too simple or far too difficult without the right upgrades.

While the game still needs tweaking for sure, I'm very happy to have 50 levels that work out pretty well and takes about an hour or two to fully play (and is easy to get sucked into) from about 35-ish hours of work!! Especially as opposed to Evolutionator, that ended up as maybe 10 minutes of play...

5. I Finished the Game! There's Even Music!!!
Out of about 25 games that I've made, no more than 5 have any sort of sound in them, and I've never, ever gotten music into a jam game before! I managed to get a LOT of what I wanted into the game, and it ended up being really fun to me (I'm always surprised when a game I make is actually fun to me!)

Plus, when it comes to game jams/compos/etc, just finishing ANYTHING is an achievement!!!

What Went Wrong

1. I Bit Off Too Much, Sorta...
Story is one of the main elements I wanted to integrate a lot more of, but all that I had time for was a little bit in the tutorial before the game.

Every time I do a game jam, there are three primary thoughts that cross my mind: come up with something unique, come up with something I can actually accomplish and COME UP WITH SOMETHING THAT WON'T END UP AS ANOTHER FUTURE PROJECT!!!

While the game was certainly finished - it has a sweet menu, a beginning, a long middle and an end - there are a few things I didn't get to integrate. For example, I came up with a list of artifacts to find (items that would only be found once in the game, then would give bonuses or change the game a bit). I actually listed all of them in another blog post, so I won't detail it all again here. There are also no sound effects, which would have gone nicely with the simple background music I managed to find.

But most importantly of all, I really wanted to get more story into the game. Who, or what, was this ghost before death? Why is leaving the afterlife so important suddenly (it's not a bad place, after all...)? If you beat the game, you'll get a few more hints, but they end up leading to more questions than answers! I really want to place collectible items throughout the game that somehow help bring memories about, so that the player (and the ghost!) can learn the truth.

It all boils down to this, though: Now there's another game that I REALLY want to continue and add more to!

2. Randomly-Generated Balancing
Balancing random levels is crazy! I'm sure that most games that do random generation use a much more wild formula, but in this one it seriously all comes down to "pick a number 1-100". Enemy stats, purchase prices, treasure finds, flashlight powers, etc all really make a HUGE difference when edited, it's amazing how vital numbers are in an RPG! This was the closest I ever came to making one, and now I know that...

3. Too Much Caffeine/Not Enough Sleep?
I have NO idea why I ended up shaky, with burning eyes and completely exhausted by 2pm today, but I sure did! I slept a good 6 hours last night and 8 the night before... I didn't go too overboard with caffeine, although I did drink a bit extra yesterday... Maybe it's just mental exhaustion, I have no idea... But I'm VERY happy that things were so close to done coming into this final day, I was working at about 20-50% strength all day...

4. No SFX
A game based in any kind of darkness/horror, even a very light amount like I was aiming for, needs music. I know that now... The second I started considering adding music in the last two hours, and especially once I heard it in the game, I realized just how vital it is. Unfortunately, just as I was getting excited about what kinds of sounds to use, I realized there was no way I'd find and code in SFX with 45 minutes left...

5. Off-Theme
If this were a Ludum Dare, or any other judged competition, instead of just a jam, this would have been a bigger deal... Like I said, the game really doesn't conform to the themes without a bit of explaining, and even then it's a bit of a cop-out, but once I got into joking about the concept I realized just how badly I wanted to make this game, so I did!

Friday, January 25, 2013

1 Hitpoint Game: More Details!

8x8 play space. The bottom squiggles show the latest things that have happened ("Picked up 10 coins; defeated a skeleton and lost 40 courage; found the seal!). Right side displays HP (ALWAYS -1), Courage/Max Courage, XP (leveling up adds to your max courage, and XP comes from beating enemies) and Money. The squiggled-out section will be there after all - they're your usable items, click to use them. Equip won't be there, you'll automatically equip the most powerful flashlight), Shop allows you to open the shop screen and buy new goodies any time!

Okay, so to keep true to not liking the idea of people actually getting hurt, battle works like this: enemies are scared of light, since they've lived in the dark for so long. You, as the ghost, are easily scared (people live in harmony in this crazy realm, after all, and so you aren't a fan of being scared).

Enemies have HP and Frightfulness, the player has Courage and Light (from their flashlight and any possible artifacts they might have).

Let's say that enemy skeleton has 200 HP and 10 Frightfulness, and the player has an Everlasting Glowstick (50 light). The amount the player gets scared is simple --> (Enemy HP/Player Light) [rounded up] * Enemy Frightfulness. In this case, the player would lose 40 courage.

This is NOT turn based, it happens in a snap whenever the enemy is found.

And HERE is a list of all the goodies in the game!

(Start With) Everlasting Glowstick --> 50 light
(Buy Only) Mini Flashlight --> 100 light
(Buy Only) Standard Flashlight --> 150 light
(Buy Only) LED Flashlight --> 200 light
(Buy Only) Lantern --> 250 light
(Find Only) Portable Sun --> 350 light

(Find Only) Light Bomb: Clears a 4x4 area, scaring off all enemies in that space
(Find/Buy) Confidence from Concentrate: Grants up to 100 courage
(Find/Buy) Serenity Now, In a Can: Grants up to 250 courage
(Find/Buy) Insta-Courage: Grants up to 500 courage

(Find Only) Disco Ball: Colored lights clear 8 random squares at the start of each floor
(Find Only) Bravery Badge: +15% courage
(Find Only) Metal Detector: All money is displayed immediately on each floor
(Find Only) Attachable Laser Pointer: +75 light
(Find Only) Headlamp: +175 light
(Find Only) Attachable Magnifying Lens: Adds 50% of the flashlight's light score
(Find Only) Seal Seeker, Alpha Version: Picks four locations that MIGHT be the seal. puts question marks on the squares
(Buy Only) Seal Seeker, Newest Version: Reduces the possible locations to two, MUST HAVE Seal Seeker, Alpha Version first

Enemies still need to be added, and I'm sure some of that will change, but there it is!

#1GAMCRUNCH - The REAL Theme & My Concept

So apparently "Loose" wasn't the theme, the lead was simply saying that the theme was being let loose and being posted. I didn't get to it til after 6 (over an hour after the competition began), but I've got my idea down now (about 35 mins later)

Theme: "1 Hit Point"

The competition actually has two themes "1 Hit Point" and "Golden Gun". Technically the two are very similar; the golden gun is infamous from James Bond, and in Goldeneye, the Golden Gun would kill any (bosses even? Dunno) with one hit, thus technically acting as if they had 1 Hit Point.

I am skipping the gun because I don't really like the idea of shooting one another, particularly with the violence in video games issue heating up so badly!

You play as a ghost, making your way back to the realm of the living. Between you and the exit, though, are 50 floors of terror. You must make your way through each, finding treasure, collecting money and treasure, finding bonuses and the seal on each floor that will allow you to ascend one floor higher.

Why 1 Hit Point? Because, as a dead being, a ghost has negative hit points, and is "passed out" at zero. If you can get through all 50 floors, you'll become a living being once more, with 1 Hit Point (barely alive, but ALIVE!).

Game Play

Each floor is an 8x8 grid , with every square shrouded in shadow except for the one you start in. As you take a step, you find out what's in the new space... If it's a treasure, money or a story page (note: story pages probably won't make their way into the game in 48 hours), you simply collect it. Seals allow you to travel to the next floor, bonuses let you play a little bonus game of some sort, and enemies begin a battle.

Bonuses: Bonuses are little bonus games (note: maybe just one in such a short amount of time). You get extra treasure or money from them!

Treasures: Equipment can be bought at stores at any moment in the game (ghosts can travel anywhere, since they're ghosts and all, it's just the seals that keep them away from living again), but they can also be found! Equipment includes sheets (armor), weapons and artifacts that do special things (reveal x random squares, automatically jump to the next floor, etc)

Story Pages: Who, or what, are you? Why do you want to go back to the land of the living so badly? How did you die? What is this place? You'll find out!

Battle: Ghosts are fine and dandy, happy with one another, as long as they don't try to escape... But these 50 floors are guarded by all sorts of enemies. They'll be as much of a surprise to you as they are to me at this stage, but they'll be there! I'm not quite sure how battles will be handled yet, it's the one thing I haven't really figured out... But it's not even an hour in for me yet, I'll come up with something :)

#1GAMCRUNCH Theme is "Loose"

So, every time I do a game jam that involves a theme that isn't given til the last minute, there's always this shred of confidence that the theme will be something awesome that will speak to me and give me a super genius idea. The second I see the theme, that hope is typically crushed, and replaced by "Well, I can always do 'whatever'..."

Loose? Really? Gangstas with loose pants? A puzzle game where you knock down loose objects on threads? defines "loose" as...

free or released from fastening or attachment: a loose end.
free from anything that binds or restrains; unfettered: loose cats prowling around in alleyways at night.
uncombined, as a chemical element.
not bound together: to wear one's hair loose.
not put up in a package or other container: loose mushrooms.

But then it also defines it as...

verb (used with object)
to let loose; free from bonds or restraint.
to release, as from constraint, obligation, or penalty.
Chiefly Nautical to set free from fastening or attachment: to loose a boat from its moorings.
to unfasten, undo, or untie, as a bond, fetter, or knot.
to shoot; discharge; let fly: to loose missiles at the invaders.

So maybe that's where it'll work... Loosen ships to let them shoot enemies? Or, more likely, to fire arrows or missiles or throwing stars or who knows what?

And THEN there's even...

verb (used without object)
to let go a hold.
to hoist anchor; get under way.
to shoot or let fly an arrow, bullet, etc. (often followed by off  ): to loose off at a flock of ducks.

To be even more specific about shooting! And also about hoisting anchor!

So now I'm brainstorming ideas about shooting something at something. 24 minutes down, here goes nothin'!