game design, games, Popojojo, writing

One Player Game Jam Roundup

so my one-player game jam finished yesterday, and overall i think it was a success. here’s my roundup of what i learned.

before i started i had a few specific goals in mind. i wanted to refine some of the movement mechanics, and specifically include double-jumping, floating, and sliding.

double-jumping was really easy, as i just looked up a tutorial and copied the blueprint directly.


floating has proved a little more difficult, partially because i wasn’t sure what to search for. (so far in my experience game design mostly seems to involve googling ‘unreal engine double jump blueprint’ etc.) the specific ability i want to include is what i’d call floating, but other people seem to refer to it as a ‘hover jump’ or some other such thing. the best example i can think of is the ‘flutter jump‘ in various Mario games.

this is what i’ve figured out so far but it’s not perfect for a number of reasons.


firstly, as of now the ability requires pressing its own key, rather than holding down the jump button. figuring out that functionality is gonna take more work because it will also require tweaking the double-jump due to how the second ‘jump’ works. so for the time being, i just settled on using a separate button because i’m more interested in fleshing things out quickly.

the real problem is that i need to work out how to limit the use of the ability so that the player can only float once per jump, because as-is you can float indefinitely as long as you press and release Q quickly enough. The GIFs below should illustrate what I mean.

floating the way i want it to work:


floating cheat:


there’s also a problem with how the movement change translates the character’s velocity/direction, because if the float button is pressed on the way up Popojojo will float upwards rather than begin floating once the maximum height of the jump has been reached. so, still a lot of work to do on the floating mechanic, but i’m at least glad that i’m beginning to understand how blueprints translate into practice.

i never even got around to try working on a sliding mechanic, but i did change the landscape from 2D sprites to a proper 3D landscape, which made everything more slippery anyways. it seems like the next step for this is going to be working with the friction setting and figuring out how to use crouching/pressing down as a slide button. right now when you press S Popojojo goes into a crouch but it’s just an animation and doesn’t actually change anything about the movement speed or friction.

i had some stretch goals for myself, including adding music and sound, a menu system, and a new landscape. i didn’t do anything related to making menus (i suspect that’s going to be a whole thing) but i did add some ambient music and sounds, though it’s not perfect. the music seems to stop when Popojojo goes underwater, which i’ll have to figure out.

here’s a little video that includes the ambient music, some bird sounds, and a jump sound.

maybe the thing i’m most excited about is that i learned how to make a river! i’ve consciously tried to pace how many different parts of the engine i learn so i don’t get overwhelmed or burnt out, which means that until now i’ve avoided physics and post processing volumes because when i knew nothing about them they seemed really complicated. turns out they’re not!

i added water to the world using this tutorial, which uses the water material from this example project. there are a ton of details about how the material works that i just decided to skip by importing the complete material directly, so as of now the water itself looks a little wonky because the waves are moving way too fast.


i’m sure the underwater effect (that’s the post processing part) can use some work because i sort of just guessed at what visual changes might seem underwater-y, but that’s not a big deal. at the moment the thing i’m more interested in working out is exiting the water, because right now the player basically only has one jump available. like, when you float to the top, you can only jump out of the water as long as you haven’t already pressed the jump key, because the whole time you’re swimming the game treats it as if you’re still jumping/haven’t landed. so, that’s a thing i’ll have to figure out.

i probably won’t work much on Popojojo in the next couple of weeks because i need to get the first three books of Ages of Decay online, but this has been super fun and i’m excited for the next time i work on it because i’ll have much more specific goals in mind.

(also, i learned how to make gifs, which is its own neat fun thing)

drinking, wine, writing

Tesco Finest 2017 Las Hijuelas Carmenere

i’ve never had this grape before but overall it’s nice and i’m glad i found something like-but-not cabernet sauvignon.

plum nose, dry wood, ‘herbs’ like it says on the bottle. the tannins are a little strong, ie it’s dry, which i like, but it’s also a little too heavy for my tastes. (probably) very nice with steak and mushrooms but a little much to have on its own. that said for six quid it is complex and good, strong (13%) dinner wine so i’d definitely get it again. 4ish out of five?

games, Popojojo, writing

One Player Game Jam!

i haven’t seriously worked on my games in a little while because my day job has taken priority over the last few weeks so i decided to make up a challenge for myself. starting at 8:00 AM GMT tomorrow and ending Sunday morning, i’m gonna do a one-person, 72-hour game jam. i’ll be posting updates on twitter using the hashtag #oneplayergamejam, as well as some gameplay and design videos on youtube.

the primary goal of this exercise is gonna be to build out Popojojo so i can demo some of the core movement mechanics, including double-jumping, floating, and sliding (a la the Rayman music levels, not as an attack move). the stretch goals beyond that include some sort of menu, a completely redone landscape (using an actual Unreal landscape rather than simple sprites) and some music and sound effects. they’re just some small steps and the game won’t be anywhere near completion at the end of it, but i think it should be fun, and should hopefully get the project up to where i want it to be.


reviews, weed, writing

Loveburgh CBD Citrus Vape

is great! i got it a little while ago and have been meaning to write about it but it sort of just slipped my mind.

as i’ve written previously, i love weed, and my favorite strain is Critical Kush precisely because of its high CBD content. i haven’t been able to smoke in a while but i wanted something that could at the very least approximate some of the pain-and-anxiety relief i get from weed, and vaping CBD has turned out to be just the thing.

the main thing almost everyone writing about CBD will tell you is that ‘it doesn’t get you high’, which, ok, yeah sure it doesn’t induce the same kind of ‘head high’ or lateral thinking that i get from THC, but getting almost instant pain relief and a marked reduction in my anxiety sure as fuck feels like a kind of high to me. as i’ve noted before, CBD on its own doesn’t replace weed, particularly as it relates to doing creative work (i like smoking while i write) but it does make me feel comfortable enough to work in the first place, and has done wonders for my extensive collection of repetitive strain injuries.

i got this bottle online from ScotHemp, but since then i’ve seen people selling Loveburgh stuff around town. this is only the second CBD vape juice that i’ve tried, but it’s extremely good and leagues better than the first one. the first one i ever tried was mango flavored and kind of cheap, with distinctly plastic-y undercurrents. almost immediately i could tell that the Loveburgh fluid was of a dramatically higher quality. it’s ‘citrus’ flavor, which in practice means a kind of woody lemon. it’s not overly sweet but the citrus scent is nice and crisp, and the vapor is wonderfully smooth. from start to finish it just tastes ‘natural’, in that you can only ever taste food flavors, with none of ‘chemical’ notes that i’ve gotten from a lot of different flavored vapes.

i’m still on my first bottle but i think next i’m going to try their Cedar Blend because i’m really curious what a more savory flavor might be like. i really can’t overstate how high quality this is. like, i prefer to use soap from Lush and i sort of feel like in terms of vape fluid Loveburgh is a comparable operation in terms of quality ingredients and execution.


[bottle pictured above with my Scottish nationalism Pusheen]

beer, drinking, reviews, writing

beer review! Loch Lomond Brewery Silkie Stout

the bottle includes the following tasting notes:

A rich chocolate stout with subtle hints of coffee and orange.

as well as a brief summary of what silkies/selkies are:

Silkies (or selkies) are mythological creatures found in Scottish folklore. Silkies are said to live as seals in the sea but shed their skin to become human on land to find a loved one. The word derives from earlier Scots selich meaning seal.


personally i think it’d be better if the bottle had an actual seal-person on it instead of your uncle’s new ‘friend’ he met at Sturgis.20180228_22363221445529591.jpg


chocolate-y with a really nice fresh nose, exhaling after a sip is actually very fresh and fruity. the bottle says orange but I dunno if I’d call it that, or at the very least it’s not ‘chocolate orange’. Like twizzlers almost? But also not cherry exactly. Just a very neat sweetness under your tongue. Lingering flavors of coffee and chocolate but with an emphasis on their berry qualities.

The texture is nice/fine for the flavors, not too heavy or thick and with a nice but not creamy head. Seriously this sweet flavor is so nice it’s killing me i don’t have a better vocabulary to describe it. all in all i really like this for a generally-drinking stout because it’s light enough to drink whenever (instead of like, after dinner or with dessert or something). 4/5

beer, candy, drinking, reviews, shitposts, writing

beer and candy review! Thornbridge Tart Bakewell Sour and Tesco Strawberry Flavour Lances

the beer:

golden honey color just hinting at red; you can definitely imagine pastry, especially with the nose and beginning, the sour really comes through after and is nice and fizzy.

the candy:
20180220_174308575823263.jpgwtf is this name? they don’t have gummy worms here, first of all, just gummy snakes, and then Tesco sort of uses a snake in all its tubular gummy things, like laces and ‘straws’ which are gross because they have the fake milk flavor.

the strawberry flavor comes through but it’s diminshed by the slightly plastic taste, which is what makes the strawberry laces good/gives them the right snap but here it’s a little disappointing; definitely not sour compared to the sour beer but the sugar/acid layer is satisfying — taking a moment to mourn real sour skittles that had all the sour dust and not these smooth-shelled impostors —

the biggest disapointment, obviously, is that the ‘lances’ aren’t hollow like the gross strawberry-n-milk straws so i couldn’t actually drink the beer through the candy. nevertheless, the combo works because the candy brings out the more vegetal/wheat/yeast notes of the beer while the sour fizz of the beer cleans the chewey plasticine from your mouth. good combo would recommend but maybe different brand o’ sour candy

candy, shitposts, writing

candy review! Marks and Spencer Fizzy Pop Sweets

these are wonderful! i already love soda candy, obvi, but these are extra nice because the sour powder is designed so there’s an actually fizzy sensation in addition to the usual ‘sour’ coating on candy of this sort.


the ingredients include citric acid and sodium bicarbonate so it seems like maybe they only react once you eat them and make the fizz. it’s a small thing but i think a lot of soda gummies don’t bother with this so it’s nice that these do. truly the m&s difference.

bottlecaps appreciation interlude: my favorite part of trick or treating was getting bottlecaps and/or trading my chocolates and whatnot for other peoples’ bottlecaps, because those are one of my fav candies, alongside big sweet tarts, gummy soda bottles, OG sour skittles, nerds, and pop rocks. interlude over

also the flavor combinations are magical, because the assortment means you can make all sorts of extra bonus flavors, like cherry ginger lemonade or cherry cola and whatnot. truly a marvel of contemporary civilization.

games, writing

VR appreciation post

i just got an Oculus Rift and gosh is it neat. here are some early thoughts on it.

i’m typing this right now on the Oculus Desktop that’s part of the Rift Core 2.0 beta, which definitely takes some getting used to but isn’t dramatically slower than a regular keyboard, and is actually faster than the touch keyboard on my surface. more typos than a regular keyboard but part of that is just down to experience. i have the virtual keyboard up in the air so it’s definitely a workout keeping my arms up but i like it. i’ve always wanted to type like i was boxing.

here’s a look at that paragraph before i fixed any of the typos. i should note that this was done with actually typing with my virtual hands; you can also use the controllers, which are much more accurate but feel less like johnny mnemonic.


i also got the Virtual Desktop app from the Oculus store, and while the customization and background is more fun the keyboard on the Oculus Desktop works much better. Neither app is perfect but they’re both a lot of fun and i’m excited to see how the experience develops with each update.

there’s a reason i’m mostly talking about the joys of typing in VR and that’s because one of primary reasons i wanted a VR rig was for ‘productivity’, which is to say, writing and (to a slightly lesser extent) game design. i’m currently finishing up a phd in english literature, an experience that has ruined my back, shoulders, arms, and wrists through repetitive strain injuries. a standing desk has helped somewhat but what’s really wonderful about the ability to type in VR is the range of motion i can get from it, and because my injuries made it difficult to type for any extended period of time anyways, so far writing in VR hasn’t actually been much slower overall.

i’ve yet to try any art or game design programs yet but i’m excited to start working in Unreal. i just got a whole new machine so i’ve had to reinstall everything but once i get back to work on my games i’ll definitely write up some thoughts on what it’s like.

games, writing

Commander Keen appreciation post

Commander Keen was (maybe) the first videogame i ever played. i can’t remember whether it was that or something on the Sega Master System. if it was the latter, it would have been the Sega Card version of Galaga or Rambo: First Blood Part II. either way, the one that made the biggest impression on me was Commander Keen and specifically the freeware first chapter of Commander Keen in Invasion of the Vorticons.

there was a lot about that game that appealed to tiny me. first was the conceptual association i made between Commander Keen and Spaceman Spiff (aka Calvin) from Calvin and Hobbes, which was my favorite comic growing up. i knew they weren’t part of the same official universe or whatever but i did feel like they were a ‘type’ i could identify with.

overall the game was too difficult for me and i could never actually beat any of the Vorticons that appeared at the end of levels, so at the time i always had to have my brother or dad take over for me once i got to the end. i never finished the freeware version, but i did see the ending once my brother beat it.

the sound design of Commander Keen always stuck out to me as a kid, as the sounds for the pogo stick, ray gun, and teddy bear/free life were so memorable. i also loved the Yorps, aliens that would sort of just bump into you and cry when you jumped on their heads. like Whispy Woods in Kirby’s Dream World, the Yorps forced me to confront my own bloodlust, as they look so tragic if you go past bopping their heads and just shoot them in the face.

it wasn’t until years later that i actually got to play the full game, along with Commander Keen in Goodbye Galaxy. before the days of DRM my friend and i would trade games and that was how i ended up with all three chapters of Invasion of the Vorticons and both chapters of Goodbye Galaxy (that’s also how i first played Rayman, one of my favorite games in terms ambience, music, and art design).

while i already loved Commander Keen, my mind was completely blown by the full game and sequels. in the final chapter of Invasion of Vorticons Keen travels to the Vorticon homeworld, where, in addition to seeing funny domestic scenes of Vorticons at home, there was an entire Vorticon alphabet you could decipher, which meant you could go back to the first chapter and read different signs and stuff.

the sequels impressed me more for the depth of the story and the variety of characters and art, though it was also a very big deal that you could hang from ledges, which felt extremely cutting edge the first time i played it. i also fondly remember the day i finally figured out the inch-worm puzzle that takes you to the secret level.

drinking, spirits, wine, writing

wine: it’s great!

i have no willpower to write vaguely intellectual things about videogames, which was the original plan, so instead imma write about wine, which is fun and great.

wine! i started drinking wine in my teens i guess because my family likes wine and i’m semi-related to somebody with a vineyard, but i didn’t really have the palate for any sort of alcohol until my early twenties (i didn’t ~enjoy~ beer until i was like, 25). the first wines i bought on my own were Charles Shaw cabernet sauvingon, which used to be ‘two buck chuck’ in california but has subsequently seen some price rises, and jugs of Carlo Rossi, which has some of the best commercials around.

that said, i first learned about wine thanks to The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes radio show that i listened to cassette tapes of when i was a kid. the show was sponsored by Petri Wine, with the Petri Wine guy visiting Dr. Watson to hear a story as the framing device for each episode. the best ones start with the Petri rep trying to talk to Dr. Watson about wine, which Watson really does not give a shit about. it’s wonderful, and the theme song is neat.

right at this very moment i’m drinking Camino del Ángel Merlot from Sainsbury’s, which had a letter ‘A’ ranking out of ABCDEF, with A being ‘light’ and ‘F’ being, uh, ‘full’, or something? i don’t really remember. anyways, it’s good and i like the scent. i used to be a bartender and had to describe wines with the usual wine-drinker vocabulary so i’m trying to avoid it here because eh, who needs wine recommendations from me. 

it took me a while to figure out what kind of wine i liked but i’ve at least gotten to the point where i know what i prefer (i say prefer because there’s really no kind of wine i dislike). for red my favorite flavors are dirt and mold without a lot of spice, for white i like rocks (or ~mineral~), and my favorite kind of wine is Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence rosé, and not just because it comes in a neat bottle and has a lovely pink color. Provençal rosé would 100% be one of my desert island drinks, even though if i was actually on a desert island i’d definitely die from dehydration after like two days. it’s light and dry but still refreshing while leaving your mouth feeling clean and nice.

i also particularly enjoy dessert/sweet/fortified/after-dinner wines like port and muscat, but i’ve actually started moving away from them since i’ve moved to Scotland. i figured i should take the opportunity to drink/learn about scotch, which as of now i can only really enjoy after a long dinner because i still don’t love smoky drinks. scotch is a weird one because i love the dirt flavor you get from peaty scotch but generally the more peat there is the more smoke there is, so i’ve yet to find a particular scotch that would be my go-to brand/label/flavor profile. in terms of an after-dinner spirit my favorite will probably always be armagnac, so if that’s an option i tend to go for that over wine or scotch anyways. it’s totally evil and fucked up but there’s definitely a part of me that loves armagnac enough that i’d eat an ortolan if the opportunity presented itself.

anyways, writing this was fun so maybe once i feel like scanning things again i’ll post some of my custom recipes from my bartending days, including the spec recipes i half-blood-princed to make way better than the ones written by our ‘chief mixologist’ (lol)