Xerra's Blog

Drunken coder ramblings

How my games have done in Syntax Bomb competitions – Part Three — 02 January 2024 —

In my previous post about Syntax Bomb game coding competitions (Part Two) I left off just after mid 2020, where I had finished Validius. The next competition came around October of that year, and had the theme “Go Nuts!”

I submitted Tommy Gunn for that competition, and, as I already wrote a development post about that game, I’ll move forward into 2021, which actually turned out to be a very poor year for productivity, on my part.

Post Covid, around Easter 2021, I moved to Devon from the hell of outer London, as I was now working from home pretty much all the time, and felt the odd commute day would be manageable enough to not change jobs. I still had more time to work on my games than I’d been used to, prior to the pandemic, so I was hoping to get back to possibly making at least three games this year. The first competition was announced in the April of 2021, and the theme would be “Virus”

Obviously, you weren’t actually supposed to write a virus itself, but rather a game themed about a virus outbreak of some kind that you had to deal with. An interesting idea and I had come up with a game plan pretty quickly of what I planned to do.

Again, I looked back at the Vic 20 for some inspiration, and remembered that Jetpac was a fun game that took up a lot of my time when I first got a 16k expansion for my computer, so I could actually load it. As usual, I tend to think of the kind of game I want to make and then try to fit the theme around that, so I came up with the idea of keeping the same player bouncing around platforms, picking up fuel and ship parts, and blast nasty virus types instead of just your regular aliens.

I had some assets from a few years previous of different germ types and planned to use all of them other progressive levels and have different styles of planet backdrops to play over, possibly using our solar system as the influence, like I did with Creepy Crawlies. I didn’t go the route of engaging an artist as I was just hoping to google and find some free, usable stuff instead for this. I never got beyond the first two test backgrounds anyway with the game itself as it became clear, after a few weeks work, that the game wasn’t working out.

I called the game Genome, and had Carl remix a great version of the old horror theme from the movie Phantasm. I didn’t mess around doing presentation stuff, and just jumped straight into coding the gameplay first and, if I’m realistic, that was mostly complete. I had jetman flying about pretty well, and that wonderful laser shooting effect that the game had, as well as implementing the ship building and fuel loading part that would break up the mindless shooting. However, once I put in the first aliens, and got the player shooting them (somewhat crudely) then I realised that Jetpac had been a great game that had enthralled the eighties kids back then, but there wasn’t enough of a game to stand up now.

By this time I was down to a week or so left so what I probably should have done is cracked on and finished putting the virus’ enemies in, and hopefully come up with an idea or two to make the game a bit more. I didn’t, though, and just pulled out of the competition instead. I believe that was the first one I hadn’t entered since I gave up working on RAM, due to time constraints.

Apart from a bit of intermittent work on improving my game framework ready for future projects, I didn’t actually work on another game until the next competition idea forum thread came up, and I suggested that it could be an interesting challenge for us to try making a one-button game. That idea was agreed upon, and became the Syntax Bomb coding competition 13 – “There can only be One”

By now it was November, and I hadn’t even completed a game in 2021, so I was determined to get at least one on the board before the years end, so I gave this one some thought and then probably jumped in too quickly on my first idea.

Tapper was originally an arcade game that came out on various other computers of the time later on. It’s basically a game where you have four bars to attend, and need to keep the customers on each bar happy, while they slowly walk up towards the end of the bar. This involves facing right to pour a beer and then facing left and moving up and down to select which bar you’re going to slide your drink along. When said drink is caught by a customer then they are pushed back a bit. If they get pushed off-screen then they will disappear. The idea being to serve all your customers within the time limit and not have any make it to the end of the bar. If they do then they’ll grab you and slide you along the bar and into the wall instead, losing you a life.

I prototyped this game with some really crummy assets and worked for too long trying to implement a decent way of controlling the action when the player is only allowed to use one button. It turned out really hard because I had to put a visual indicator on how long the button had been pressed, so the player had some idea that the action he was trying to accomplish would happen. I had to have a short press fill up the beer from a tap in one motion, and then turn back to the bar again. Another short press would send the beer down that table and, if you held the button down for a bit longer, then you would move down a bar so you could work on the customers there. It became clumsy having only one tap at the top bar, so I made it so you could refill at any of the bars to make it a bit easier.

I had Aaron testing all this as I developed the player control system, trying to get something that both of us would be happy with. After three weeks of tinkering with some other bits, such as the customer movement patterns, while Aaron tested the control system, he was absolutely convinced that I had picked badly and should rethink the game idea while i still had time.,

It took me another week before I had to reluctantly agree with him, so I had, by now, lost almost half of the development time for the competition, and was back to square one. One Button Barman, as i’d tentatively christened it, was history.

I wasn’t ready to give up on yet another competition at this stage, though, so I still had a bit of digging around looking at other one button games to see if I could get some inspiration.

I then went back to the very basic ideas of the early consoles and remembered a game I’d played on an old pre-Atari console that I’d been given around 1981, after it had been up in someones loft for a long time. This was a game that involved pressing fire to accelerate your motorbike to move across the screen and – because it was a one screen game, as i don’t think these consoles could do anything technical like scroll – it would then reappear a bit lower down the screen at the left side again so you could accelerate a bit further. The third section of the screen had the jump you had to clear, like in the days of Evil Kenievel (spelling), over multiple buses, and land on the ramp the other side. I’m pretty sure these games just randomised if you made the jump or not, as it was always 50/50 if max speed made any difference or not.

This game just required one button to accelerate the bike, or letting go of the button to brake, or slow down. However, i didn’t want to remake that game – just use the three sections of the screen in a similar way, as it would mean you could negate a level without using any scrolling. I deliberately went with this idea as i thought it would be a good idea to compliment how tricky using one button to control a game was going to end up, because at least a player could work out how to play the level if I let them see it all before they pressed fire to start moving. Having three play sections meant possibly being able to implement some interesting hazards and small graphics meant the levels could be bigger as a result.

I was leaning towards the platform game again, by this time, and had just dug up a lot of free hell backdrop images that I could lay out randomly behind each tile based level. At this time Aaron was working on a platform game himself that would have the player constantly moving but would have areas where his player could move back and forth without encountering a hazard. This allowed the player could work out their next moves, and the only thing the one button needed to do was control the height of the jump you needed to do. I wanted to do this as well as nobody likes a game that’s too hard.

As usual the player control system was the first thing to start laying down and I think I actually got this working pretty well because I’d given a lot more thought to the game than I really had time to do, and it was working. I got a level system in place and some test levels to put the elements in and make sure they worked ok, like the traps and trampolines. I even got some of the background stuff in place so the game was mostly in place apart from just not having the levels and enough traps/boosters and other random things to make it interesting, and give the player the odd surprise. I was aiming for 20 levels and only had 5 of them set up, and they were just full of testing stuff. I’d yet to actually get even one proper actual game level in place when I got the dreaded less than a week to go.

I’d like to think that, if I’d abandoned my tapper idea earlier on, like probably after a week, then I’d have got Pixel Hell over the line. It was going well until I had to admit defeat on the deadline. I know I had other stuff going on at the same time which was also slowing me down, but it’s always frustrating when you don’t finish something you’re working on. I’ve always said that I like the deadline that game competitions and jams give me, as it focuses me to get on with it and finish what I started, but it doesn’t always work out. Maybe I’ll go back to it one day and actually finish the game but it’s more likely I wont.

On a side-note, there were Eleven entries for this competition and Aaron’s game “Dexter” won it. Well deserved too, as it ended up easily the best entry of the competition by far.

So, in the end, 2021 ended up a complete washout for making games, for me. I had a couple of projects that I could have gone and finished to just at least get one done for the year, but i didn’t. There wouldn’t be another game competition until May 2022, either. More on that in part four.

Syntax Bomb competition 11 – Go Nuts —

One of my more recent games – and I say that casually, as it was actually released in 2020 – was for the 11th Syntax Bomb competition, and had a theme which was simply “Go Nuts!”

With a lack of ideas for a theme at the time, it was thrown in the air that we could all just make whatever game we wanted in 9 weeks. As I’d never done a platform game since my Vic 20 days, I thought the time had come. I had seen some interesting sprites that were freely useable and could be used together to form the parts of a large soldier strutting on the spot, or walking, which was what gave me the idea to have a military theme. I knocked up a simple title sequence to do this by using a gamestate that had several different poses he’d do, such as crouching to shoot, marching left and right etc.

With this in place I had the name Tommy Gunn in mind for the game, realising much later that this unfortunately had been used before.

Yeah, I knew I’d heard it somewhere. Regardless, this game has nothing to do with boxers, action figures (although that’s pretty close), and, erm, any kind of actor demonstrating the kind of talents most of us mere mortals can’t actually do. I’d got the name in place, and started using it in forum posts by then, so it stayed, regardless.

At this point I’d started showing off what I’d done thus far with some general approval, and more or less committed myself to going this route. I’d had a couple of weeks tinkering with ideas by then, and even laid out a very simple platform system for a mock early level to try out some player control code. It was after some of this had been shown (some video’s I think are still up on my youtube page) that I had another Syntax bomb user post some nice small soldier sprite animations that he’d developed, but never used, a few years earlier. These were really cool and he was more than happy to let me use them as well as offer to help out with all the artwork assets I’d need for the game idea I’d been mumbling about already.

You don’t turn down an offer like that – especially with my poor artwork ability. So, I didn’t. It turned out to be a great idea, even though it meant axing all the assets i’d foraged up and attempted to draw thus far. It wasn’t much of a loss, I assure you. Although I did kind of lament the loss of my big soldier strutting his stuff on the title screen because that didn’t fit and had to go too.

Fortunately, the platform system I’d already put in place – as crude as it was (is) was just a case of swapping sprites to use the revised ones that Blinkok supplied. Once a suitable background was in place for a desert setting, I didn’t bother using a tile system, and just laid on each section as an object because it’s ridiculous how effortless it is to do stuff like this in modern game making systems without even challenging the lowest spec computers.

The first level was something like four screens across by four screens up, as I recall. This was because I had already decided that I wanted a scrolling scene for all the levels, as this encourages exploration to see where everything on the level is, and the object of the game was to find missing scientists and escape the level on a waiting helicopter. I created a very rough story around the theme of how I hoped to get the game to turn out and it was about six weeks in by the time I had the first level in place pretty much as I wanted it. Fortunately Blinkok had been busy in the background and most of his graphics for the rest of the game were already created. He also turned out to be a wave of great ideas and had put forward many suggestions to me that I just had to use, and, unfortunately, a lot that I suspected I wouldn’t have the time to implement. My list of stuff to add, and stuff maybe to add, was massive by this time. And there was something like three weeks left to work, with only one level in place, and none of the presentation stuff that I had the art for already.

So, once the first level was in place, I really got cracking. Fortunately I’d got Aaron as well as Blinkok to help with the testing side, and I quickly laid out another two levels that would be the Syntax Bomb base, with the arch nemesis Qube himself, and also a jungle themed one, with water pits and spike traps, that ended up becoming the second level.

I was originally intending to just stick with the three levels due to the time restriction , but Blinkok came up with a fantastic set of images that could be used for a train station level that he showed me. I was desperate to use this in the game, so had to modify the story slightly, and also the theme of this additional level, as it couldn’t really be approached as a platform game level. I asked him to rename the station signs to Harrow on the Hill, as that’s where I went to school, and then set down all the elements for a level that would only scroll right and left, rather than requiring the player to reach the top/right of the screen. So, in effect, it was almost another game, as it became a run/gun level (although you did control the speed of movement), where you jumped gaps in the platform, avoided mines, watched out for the ships that flew across the sky above you, firing deadly lasers.

There was also the random train in the background zooming both ways. This was just background animation but probably scared many people the first couple of times they saw it. It took another week of time I didn’t have to get this section added into the game, but I think it added a lot to the same kind of thing the other three levels had.

By this time I had my friend Carl doing some music for the game based on the Blue Thunder theme (helicopter reference) and also had a chap from the gamemaker forums volunteering to do some sound effects for games that I hastily added to the people helping me with the game, as it was becoming a project in itself. They all had a bit of input into how the game worked as testers, too, so a much bigger part of the whole development process was managing all of this, and the many tasks to tick off, as well as coding.

As well as some wonderful logo animation to run between the levels, Blinkok also came up with some comic strip panels that he wanted me to use for a game loading intro, and start of each level, as well as the completion/game over sequences. Again time had become really tight, but I got them in each screen as separate panels so it became kind of an interactive comic between levels. This also worked out extremely well, and gave the game that extra bit of polish to boot.

I eventually got the game completed and submitted with a day to spare (much to my amazement) and, at the time, it was, by far, the most ambitious game I’d ever written. At the end of the competition it won third place as it was pretty flawed as a game, in retrospect. The artwork, presentation, music and attention to detail were all elements I’m very proud of, however. Little tricks like changing the volume of the helicopter blades as you got nearer to it, and things like that were little tricks that really helped me get better at doing more of the stuff that usually doesn’t get noticed, apart from by other game developers, but are essential to make the game feel like it’s something that’s been worked on passionately.

In retrospect, playing the game itself ended up being far too easy, mostly. I even had one player who advised me that he’d managed to play through and complete the game without even firing a shot through all four levels. This was helped by the fact that I’d not been able to put in an end-game boss fight against the evil Qube, so just had a find the key to unlock the door and arrest him in the end. If only……

Other flaws with the game were elements I half built into the game but didn’t develop further due to time constraints. I had moving tanks that you couldn’t destroy, and were just background animations in the end. While I did have the crates for extra score and health, i had to scrap using the grenades that were planned to destroy the tanks, because of the same reason. I also had pits of quicksand, water traps, electric rails that were put in, but the collision detection was rather suspect with my player code, so it was actually quite hard to fall into one, instead of being very hard to avoid.

The spike in the nuts animation was probably not seen by most people, but the electric shock when you hit the train station rails was rather cool to make up for it.

Tommy Gunn, like a lot of my games, is one I always tell myself that one day I’ll go back to and either sequel, or remake it with more time on my hands. I rarely ever do this, though, because it’s mostly the deadlines that get me to actually finish most of my games, so, never say never, but, probably never.

Happy new year for 2024, everyone.

This year I will make more games, I’m sure.

Gridrunner released —

[EDIT] Gridrunner won 2nd place in the Syntax Bomb “Best of the 80’s” game coding competition.

I’ve just released my latest game on Itch, which has been written for the Syntax Bomb game competition, Retro 80’s.


I chose to do a remake of Gridrunner & Matrix, of which I have fond memories from my introduction to gaming via a Commodore Vic 20 back in 1983.

I will do a game development post on creating the game at a later date.

Website tidy up —

Finally did some tidying up on the old site since it was resurrected from the hosting providers screw up.

Link straight to my games is safe now. I noticed that the old link was pointing to a non-secure version previously.

Got rid of some redundant widgets and tidied/moved others up.

My most recent game is now shown in the image link.

Updated the blogs widget. Some of these have been inactive a while but I like to check in on them sometimes, just in case they do get a new post.

It’s all ongoing with this stuff as I work out how to do more than just the basic editing on WordPress.

How my games have done in Syntax Bomb competitions – Part Two —

Edit: I had to change the date of this post so it appeared at the top.

Another post that’s a bit overdue now. I started drafting this back in March, 2021 and it got left half finished in the life-swirl of moving house, changing jobs, moving house again, and general slackness on my part. So today I finally got around to picking it up again.

I left off part one having gone up to my third game, Bah, Humbug!, which in retrospect actually stood the test of time a lot better than I thought it would. I even did a kind of mini re-release of it for Xmas 2020 (2 years later) by faking a discount to free of charge on itch.io because I just wanted to get more people to see it. Shit loads did, which surprised me, as it seems people would rather download and play a game that’s been temporarily discounted to free of charge, if they think it used to be a chargeable product. From having around 80 views in total, it went up to almost four figures just for the week it showed discounted to free. Possibly Itch showcased it because it was Xmas themed.

So, from the financial success of Bah, Humbug!, I moved onto the next competition when it was announced, which was number 8. This time round the theme was to make a game that looked like it was being played on an 8 bit computer. Same palette and no effects that looked like they wouldn’t be possible on the real machine. Naturally I chose the C64, as I needed to be able to use sprites for everything, and you could get away with quite a few moving objects on the C64 with interrupts trickery.

This competition was probably the most memorable of them all so far, as it still has the record for the most entries, and the quality of most of the entries was absolutely amazing. At the time I thought my game, Damnation Alley, was ok, but it hasn’t stood the test of time anywhere near as well as some of the other games. In the end it came in 6th place. Not actually that bad considering the number of entries.

A Damnation Alley post-mortem is something I’ve yet to do, as I was a bit slack on the blog entries at that time, but I’ll do it at some point because my comment about the test of time in the last paragraph was written last year and I think now that it’s a bit harsh. Suffice to say that I loved playing Spy Hunter as a kid and that was the game i was going to try and emulate. I succeeded in some areas, and failed pretty badly in others, but the game does have a lot of redeeming qualities on reflection, such as the Invadeaload addition, for example. More on all that in a separate post.

I was keen to try and do a much better game with the next effort for the Syntax Bomb competition 9, where the theme was Mix it up. This would be my second game in 2019. You had to choose two categories, one from each list of ideas generated randomly. I chose the easy option and went for the two subjects that would most appeal to me, which were Retro and Shooter. Endless, tactical, RPG and some of the other options didn’t really appeal for creating a short game, and there were only 8 weeks to get it done.

What I came up with after a fair bit of thinking was Centipede. I very nearly ran with some kind of remake of radar rat race, which was an early cartridge game for the Vic 20, but in the end decided to leave that for another day. I loved Centipede in the arcade, and Millipede, which came out a bit later. There were several versions of this game for both C64 and Vic 20 that I played but obviously none ever came close to the belting Jeff Minter classics, Gridrunner and Matrix. Matrix was also known as Attack of the Mutant Camels at some point, just to add to the confusion.

Anyway, as usual, because I had played and loved games like these as a kid, I wanted to try and do something similar myself. This is another game i completed that only warranted a quick released post on the blog when I finished, so I’ll do a retrospective at some point later on. Suffice to say that I really enjoyed making and still playing this one but my major failing was probably in the artwork inconsistency and a couple of flawed elements in the gameplay itself. It didn’t make the top three but, again, it probably didn’t deserve to, with some of the better games that did. This game is high on the list of the ideas that I would like to develop into some kind of sequel one day.

The next competition was for the “Reboot” concept where we reimagined a game that had been created for a previous competition. I created Validius for this one, and wrote about that in the previous post. That game turned out much better than expected as I managed to win the competition for a second time.

My first game in 2020 was Tommy Gunn and this was for the “Go Nuts!” competition where the theme was exactly that. You could make whatever game you fancied doing. Again, I need a separate post for this one, as it deserves a bit more than a couple of paragraphs on this post.

The main difference between this game and all my earlier efforts was running it as a project with multiple contributors, rather than just me doing the coding and almost everything else, then throwing in some assets at the end like music. I had a fellow Syntax Bomb member, Tony Blinco, do all the fantastic artwork for me, and recruited a mate, Carl Kingsman, to create the title screen music and jingles. I also had a guy contact me who really wanted to do sound effects for games and asked if he could contribute, which i was very happy to agree. After getting the usual technical assistance from Aaron, and testing duties by our partners and some friends, I found i had enough people who deserved a credit to fill out all the spots in the high score table.

Tommy Gunn did well in the competition by making third place. I was really pushed for time to get it over the line, however, and I really had to cut out a lot of ideas for the game to get it over the line. Blinko also had many suggestions that i wanted to put in that didn’t make the cut. I think I should have put more hours into my side in all honesty. The game ended up being far too easy as a result and that did affect how well the game came across, I believe.

That was the only competition game I actually released in 2020, it turned out, but I did also finally finished my version of Boulderdash, after starting it in 2017 as one of my first projects using GameMaker. That meant I had technically released two games in 2020, which wasn’t as productive as the two previous years, but a definite improvement on 2021, where i finished none of the three i started. More on that in another post.

As I’m writing this in June, 2022, I have put out another competition game this year, and did manage to get a placing again, but there were only four entries, unfortunately, so it’s not the achievement I’d like it to be. Faces of Qube I will talk about in a later post, but again I didn’t get the time to do quite what I wanted to do so hopefully for the next half of this year I’ll get a chance to put 2020’s failure behind me and maybe either get at least one more done, or possibly pick up and finish something else that I never got round to completing in previous years.

Syntax Bomb competition 10 – Reboot —

I’m going back a couple of years here, right back to pretty much where we were in the height of the Covid lockdown, as I recall. At the time I started work on Validius, it was around 4 weeks into the Reboot competition and I’d been toying with an idea about creating a simulated cluedo-style game using the old Bah,Humbug! framework with a theme of murder in an office. It was quite an ambitious game idea, and i’m still not done with it yet, but i’ll talk more about that another day.

So, Covid was in full-force at the time, and i had been working from home for a couple of months, so realistically had more time available to do something good for that competition, as travel to work and a lot of other distractions were not a problem. However, tinkering with that concept had taken me half the time we had until deadline day, so I knew i still needed to do something that was achievable pretty quickly.

The reboot theme of the competition meant you had to pick a game from previous competitions and then reboot it. Any game that had previously been entered was fair game, and you could even use one of your own. I had been tinkering with the un-named game (I had a name in mind but will probably reuse it if i ever resurrect it, so i’ll keep it under my hat for now) based on one of my own games but decided to drop that idea completely and just went for rebooting on the theme of the first ever competition, which was Asteroids.

This possibly seems a bit of a cop out but it actually ended up being a fair bit of work because i upped up the presentation side of the game a fair bit this time, and made the game a lot more than just asteroids itself. As anyone interested enough to read this post will know, the game did end up winning the competition in the end, which shocked even me, as there were some really good entries submitted by deadline day.

Here’s the competition results page on the Syntax Bomb forums:

Winners of our 10th game comp – REBOOT – Mar 10th to May 10th 2020 (syntaxbomb.com)

When i look back at it now – and i reread all the message board threads on the competition and feedback for the game again before starting this post – I think i can see why it did better than some of my previous games. Asteroids had a very good control system which, once mastered, gave you a significant advantage in playing the game well, and actually practising getting good at that was part of the addictive nature of the game itself. On reflection, i did a pretty poor job in giving it decent keyboard controls, even though i did have two different ways to play it like that. What I did get right this time was implementing gamepad controls for the first time in any game i’d written.

Aaron had been tinkering for a while on some self contained framework code for game stuff that could be re-used across games. Stuff like starfield generators, file-i/o functions for save games and profiles and a few other bits. He’d also written a pretty solid gamepad control system which improved massively on the stuff built into gamemaker 2 and he wanted me to use it for my current game as a test run because he wasn’t working on a game of his own at the time.

I implemented the system into Validius pretty early on and also took the opportunity to use a new custom star field system that he had been working on as well. The results of that are used throughout the title screen and credits sequence to give an appearance of proper 3d starfield zooming and really helped give the game the visual look i wanted. Implementing the gamepad framework allowed me to set up Validius to use both Xbox and PS4 controllers, so I got one set up on my Mac for the first time and got the game working on twin-stick controls pretty easily.

Reading through the comments about the game , it’s pretty obvious that a lot of votes came my way just because of this so i’m going to always do this going forward. As i only ever played games on the computer with mouse or keyboard previously, and never used a gamepad outside of on the PlayStation, i’d just never thought it would be much of a game enhancer as other computer game players are just like me, right? Right? Yeah, lesson learned.

So, Validius took shape pretty rapidly, as i had a pretty good idea how i wanted it to play as soon as i started the project. Bonus weapons (Yes, i should have added more, but timeframes and all that), score bonus tokens, autofire, better enemy AI (which ended up coming out much better than i had dared hope) and crunchy sound effects that wouldn’t piss everyone off after a couple of minutes. I got in some nice, simple particle dust effects for asteroid/laser impacts and made it a little harder than most of the games i’ve ever written, too, because some people really do like that. Still kept the 3 levels option, though, because i’m not a complete bastard, yeah?

As a bonus i managed to find a couple of decent music tracks that were free to use and really suited the game, so, once again i’d managed to get a game out of the door without having to put my hand in my pocket for assets, especially artwork. My first three games all cost a few quid in graphics but i’ve made a few friends who help out with stuff since then to make things a lot cheaper. Remember, Bah, Humbug cost me around £150 in custom room artwork, although that was negated thanks to winning that competition and getting £250 for it.

On June 2nd, 2020 it was announced that Validius won the reboot competition and that victory felt even better than the first time I won a competition because this time there were a lot more than three entries.

Validius wins Syntax Bomb competition 10 —

You’d think I’d want to crow about this at the time but, for some reason, I seem to have forgotten to actually post this here. Anyway, for the 10th Syntax Bomb competition, Validius came top of the pack, which was a great achievement considering how good some of the other games were.

When designing and programming the game I was fortunate enough to not need too much graphical stuff compared to some games, so I just used freebie stuff and concentrated on pure gameplay mainly. It’s the first game I’ve put in gamepad controls – in fact the game is a pretty poor game trying to play on keyboard – and I pushed myself on the presentation side a bit more too.

The game was finished and submitted last May and has since been patched for some minor stuff since then so it’s well worth downloading now as I’m unlikely to update it any more.

You can find it and all the other games I waffle on about on my games page, linked on the right side of this post.

99 Crazy ways to order a pizza —

  1. If using a touch-tone, press random numbers while ordering. Ask the person taking the order to stop doing that.
  2. Make up a charge-card name. Ask if they accept it.
  3. Use CB lingo where applicable.
  4. Order a Big Mac Extra Value Meal.
  5. Terminate the call with, “Remember, we never had this conversation.”
  6. Tell the order taker a rival pizza place is on the other line and you’re going with the lowest bidder.
  7. Give them your address, exclaim “Oh, just surprise me!” and hang up.
  8. Answer their questions with questions.
  9. In your breathiest voice, tell them to cut the crap about nutrition and ask if they have something outlandishly sinful.
  10. Use these bonus words in the conversation: ROBUST FREE-SPIRITED COST-EFFICIENT UKRAINIAN PUCE.
  11. Tell them to put the crust on top this time.
  12. Sing the order to the tune of your favorite song from Metallica’s “Master of Puppets” CD.
  13. Do not name the toppings you want. Rather, spell them out.
  14. Put an extra edge in your voice when you say “crazy bread.”
  15. Stutter on the letter “p.”
  16. Ask for a deal available somewhere else. (e.g. If phoning Domino’s, ask for a Cheeser! Cheeser!)
  17. Ask what the order taker is wearing.
  18. Crack your knuckles into the receiver.
  19. Say hello, act stunned for five seconds, then behave as if they called you.
  20. Rattle off your order with a determined air. If they ask if you would like drinks with that, panic and become disoriented.
  21. Tell the order taker you’re depressed. Get him/her to cheer you up.
  22. Make a list of exotic cuisines. Order them as toppings.
  23. Change your accent every three seconds.
  24. Order 52 pepperoni slices prepared in a fractal pattern as follows from an equation you are about to dictate. Ask if they need paper.
  25. Act like you know the order taker from somewhere. Say “Bed-Wetters’ Camp, right?”
  26. Start your order with “I’d like. . . “. A little later, slap yourself and say “No, I don’t.”
  27. If they repeat the order to make sure they have it right, say “OK. That’ll be $10.99; please pull up to the first window.”
  28. Rent a pizza.
  29. Order while using an electric knife sharpener.
  30. Ask if you get to keep the pizza box. When they say yes, heave a sigh of relief.
  31. Put the accent on the last syllable of “pepperoni.” Use the long “i” sound.
  32. Have your pizza “shaken, not stirred.”
  33. Say “Are you sure this is (Pizza Place)? When they say yes, say “Well, so is this! You’ve got some explaining to do!” When they finally offer proof that it is, in fact (Pizza Place), start to cry and ask, “Do you know what it’s like to be lied to?”
  34. Move the mouthpiece farther and farther from your lips as you speak. When the call ends, jerk the mouthpiece back into place and scream goodbye at the top of your lungs.
  35. Tell them to double-check to make sure your pizza is, in fact, dead.
  36. Imitate the order taker’s voice.
  37. Eliminate verbs from your speech.
  38. When they say “What would you like?” say, “Huh? Oh, you mean now.”
  39. Play a guitar in the background.
  40. Say it’s your anniversary and you’d appreciate if the deliverer hid behind some furniture waiting for your spouse to arrive so you can surprise him/her.
  41. Amuse the order taker with little-known facts about country music.
  42. Ask to see a menu.
  43. Quote Carl Sandberg.
  44. Say you’ll be able to pay for this when the movie people call back.
  45. Ask if they have any idea what is at stake with this pizza.
  46. Ask what topping goes best with well-aged Chardonnay.
  47. Belch directly into the mouthpiece; then tell your dog it should be ashamed.
  48. Order a slice, not a whole pizza.
  49. Shout “I’m through with men/women! Send me a dozen of your best, Gaston!”
  50. Doze off in the middle of the order, catch yourself, and say “Where was I? Who are you?”
  51. Psychoanalyze the order taker.
  52. Ask what their phone number is. Hang up, call them, and ask again.
  53. Order two toppings, then say, “No, they’ll start fighting.”
  54. Learn to properly pronounce the ingredients of a Twinkie. Ask that these be included in the pizza.
  55. Call to complain about service. Later, call to say you were drunk and didn’t mean it.
  56. Tell the order taker to tell the manager to tell his supervisor he’s fired.
  57. Report a petty theft to the order taker.
  58. Use expletives like “Great Caesar’s Ghost” and “Jesus Joseph and Mary in Tinsel Town.”
  59. Ask for the guy who took your order last time.
  60. If he/she suggests anything, adamantly declare, “I shall not be swayed by your sweet words.”
  61. Wonder aloud if you should trim those nose hairs.
  62. Try to talk while drinking something.
  63. Start the conversation with “My Call to (Pizza Place), Take 1, and. . action!”
  64. Ask if the pizza is organically grown.
  65. Ask about pizza maintenance and repair.
  66. Be vague in your order.
  67. When they repeat your order, say “Again, with a little more OOMPH this time.”
  68. If using a touch-tone press 9-1-1 every 5 seconds throughout the order.
  69. After ordering, say “I wonder what THIS button on the phone does.” Simulate a cutoff.
  70. Start the conversation by reciting today’s date and saying, “This may be my last entry.”
  71. State your order and say that’s as far as this relationship is going to get.
  72. Ask if they’re familiar with the term “spanking a pizza.” Make up a description to go with the term. Ask that this be done to your pizza.
  73. Say “Kssssssssssssssht” rather loudly into the phone. Ask if they felt that.
  74. Detect the order taker’s psychic aura. Use it to your advantage.
  75. When listing toppings you want on your pizza, include another pizza.
  76. Learn to play a blues riff on the harmonica. Stop talking at regular intervals to play it.
  77. Ask if they would like to sample your pizza. Suggest an even trade.
  78. Perfect a celebrity’s voice. Stress that you won’t take any crap from some two-bit can’t-hack-it pimple-faced gofer.
  79. Put them on hold.
  80. Teach the order taker a scret code. Use the code on all subsequent orders.
  81. Mumble, “There’s a bomb under your seat.” When asked to repeat that, say “I said ‘sauce smothered with meat’.”
  82. Make the first topping you order mushrooms. Make the last thing you say “No mushrooms, please.” Hang up before they have a chance to respond.
  83. When the order is repeated, change it slightly. When it is repeated again, change it again. On the third time, say “You just don’t get it, do you?”
  84. When you’ge given the price, say “Ooooooo, that sounds complicated. I hate math.”
  85. Haggle.
  86. Order a one-inch pizza.
  87. Order term life insurance.
  88. When they say “Will that be all?”, snicker and say “We’ll find out, won’t we?”
  89. Order with a Speak-n-Spell where applicable.
  90. Ask how many dolphins were killed to make that pizza.
  91. While on the phone, fake entering puberty. Fluctuate pitch often; act embarrassed.
  92. Engage in some serious swapping.
  93. Dance all around the word “pizza.” Avoid saying it at all costs. If he/she says it, say “Please don’t mention that word.”
  94. Have a movie with a good car chase scene playing loudly in the background. Yell “OW!” when a bullet is fired.
  95. If he/she suggests a side order, ask why he/she is punishing you.
  96. Ask if the pizza has had its shots.
  97. Order a steamed pizza.
  98. Get taker’s name. Later, call exactly on the hour to say, “This is your (time of day) wake-up call, So-and-so” ; Hang up.
  99. Offer to pay for the pizza with a public flogging. 

How my games have done in Syntax Bomb competitions – Part One —

I can’t believe I’ve not actually published about this before but I’ve properly released seven games on Itch in just over two years and six of them were for Syntax Bomb competitions. Nowhere have I actually mentioned much about how they have done in these competitions so I really should rectify that now.

Firstly, in April of 2018, I entered the fourth competition on the site with my game Envahi. A remake of one of my favourite Vic 20 games, this competition was the imputes to actually write it because I’d been planning it for years. I hadn’t entered the previous three competitions as I was new to the forums back then and missed them. The game did pretty well for a first entry and came in at third place – mainly because the host doesn’t count his own games in the judging as that would have put me down into fourth and out of the prize fund. For getting on the podium I got a prize of £100. When I factored in the development time, including numerous blog entries on here, I worked out my rate was roughly £1 an hour working on it. More than I usually get for writing games 🙂

Around 2 months later the fifth competition began and I had 8 weeks to come up with my next game for it. I came up with an idea for a top trumps style game involving retro computers and even got some nice artwork done for it. Around 6 weeks in I realised it wasn’t coming together very well and I pulled out of entering. I’d put a lot of work into the game by that time and I would say I was around 70% done but the game just didn’t feel right when playing and I was also having some technical issues which didn’t help. I was still pretty inexperienced with the dev system, even though I’d worked on a few games, so I just put it down to experience. Luckily, since then, I’ve managed to make every deadline since. While developing RAM – as I called it – I also wrote a short story of 8 chapters which I planned to have unlock as the story mode of the game progressed. If I haven’t published it on the blog yet then I will do so later somewhere, as it’s not a bad little effort and I can’t really do much else with it since I canned the game.

I was a bit more focussed when the next competition came around and as the topic was a maze game, I decided to proceed with another remake of a game I’d planned to recreate for years. Rockman was one of my favourites on the Vic 20 as well, so I went all out to try and get this done in six weeks and it worked out pretty well. I’ve blogged a fair bit about the process for this at the time and I’m especially proud of uploading the final build and forum post at 8 minutes before the deadline. The closest I’ve ever been. The game itself was pretty well received and I’m still rather proud about how polished it is even now, for a six week game. Obviously there’s a few quirks and bugs that could do with fixing or improving but it’s stood the test of time pretty well and even had a few payments on the site from people who donated after they downloaded it. As for the competition, it went up against some amazing competition so only got joint fourth place. I can’t moan about this because that competition in particular was very popular with entries.

At this point we had got to mid-November and discussion was going on about having a Xmas themed game. I’d bandied the idea around possibly having an adventure game theme and this was picked up. I had seven weeks to work on this one and I got some help from a friend to come up with 20 locations set around a house and a Xmas-themed plot where you are a school boy out exploring the house looking for codes to open the safe and find your xmas presents. I expanded on this to come up with some optional extra side quests and then got my nose stuck into writing a basic framework for creating adventure games before getting the core game in place as a text adventure. After this I commissioned an artist to draw all 20 locations for me, with a heavy xmas theme, and also got some gui help from another syntax bomb user so the game could have a more modern feel with icons for moving around etc. Bah, Humbug! did win this competition but my glorious victory was somewhat subdued because there were only 3 entries submitted. Still, the prize was £250 which covered my expenses for the artwork and development costs around the same as Envahi of roughly £1 an hour 🙂

I will continue this in the next post.