Tag Archives: games

HalmaStar Screenshots #0004

All of a sudden I will tell you about the latest updates of HalmaStar game website.

In the last half of a year I worked at the game about 10 days all in all. During that time I added user profiles, information about logged-in users, interplanetary ticket system, and some more. Also the style was tweaked. Unfortunately not everything has been tested.

The avatars of the game are aliens called insighters. As that is related to sights, I copied the idea of faces with four eyes from the internets.

I still have these tasks on my TODO list:

  • Counting time for one move. After half minute of inactivity, the time goes down.
  • Animation for increasing and decreasing of points.
  • Player statistics when the cursor is moved above the player name.
  • Robot opponent (at the moment it’s only possible to play against live opponents).
  • Target positions marked with different colour.
  • Facebook Connect for login.
  • Viral video or video about the prehistory of the game.

If you have any ideas or critics, I accepts all that here in the comments, in the feedback section of the website, or at a cup of tea.

Open Gaming Avatar Service Required

When developing social online games with avatars, you usually need sprites for character animation. I decided that it would be really cool to have an open service which would allow users from around the world to customize an avatar and use it in different games of different game developers.

The system would be something like OpenId and gravatar combined, but providing sprites of user movements of different sizes from different perspectives.

Players could create their avatars choosing gender, hair, facial features, skin tones, and probably some default clothing. Then they could use that avatar in different social games and probably in forums and blog comments.

The system would generate sprites for default user movements like standing still, talking, going, and running from 8 sides (avatar pointing to North, North-East, East, South-East, South, South-West, West, North-West) and different perspectives like side, isometric (30°, 45°, 60°), and top. There would be APIs to get sprites of defined size in PNG, GIF, or SVG format, then those could be overlayed with different clothing for individual games. Also there would be an API to get the avatar features in JSON format for individual avatars or additional animations. If the customization happens in 3D, then the model of the avatar with it’s textures could be retrieved by a separate API call (that’s useful for custom animations or 3D games).

If the system is centralized under one website like gravatar, the avatar information could be identified by player’s email address. Otherwise, it can be identified by web address like in OpenId.

I know, it’s not trivial to implement this and there are many gotchas with that, for example, the drawing-style should be attractive and animations should be lively; avatars could probably be animals, aliens or other creatures. But still, if you like the idea of such a system, if you know anything about similar systems, or if you would like to develop that or team up for its development, please write a comment. Let’s wave the need of it! Let’s create a movement of open-source game development! :cool:

Social Game Development

I did a tiny little research on nowadays game development using Javascript(1) and decided that when HalmaStar becomes beta, the game I will create next will be multiplayer tile-based action-puzzle-solving scroller with most of the levels developed by players themselves.

The game will consist of multiple objects of different types where each of them interacts with each other in a specific way. For example, there will be avatars of different players, solid blocks, collectibles, different types of dangerous objects, etc.

Some games to take inspiration from are Electric Box, Bomber Man, Load Runner, and especially Supaplex.

The main features:

  • Level-based
  • Level editing, drafts, publishing
  • Voting for the best levels
  • Attribution and Flattr button of a level-creator at each level
  • Leaderboards: best players, best contributors
  • Some levels are for single mode, can be played offline
  • Some levels need collaboration to be solved
  • Some levels are competitive and only one player of a group might finish them in one go
  • Playable on mobile phones or other handheld devices
  • Facebook app
  • Django, Javascript, Ajax used
  • Funny attractive minimalistic animation
  • Developed no later than till July 2011 (having in mind that I will be doing that during my free time).

Maybe that will be the reincarnation of a game I started developing many years ago. I remember I couldn’t finish it then, because of some technical limitations of BASIC programming language or probably my incompetence in managing computer memory. Now as tools, technologies, and computers improved, and I have more than 8 years of experience in programming, I shouldn’t face any similar issues.

(1) I took the first glance at the possibilities of Javascript game engines: Akihabara, gameQuery, gamejs, and Javascript 2D game engine. I should review them in detail, analyze, and compare later. But that’s a theme for another post.

HalmaStar Screenshots #0003

Have I already mentioned that all wishes become true? Just a day after my decision to decrease the number of my working hours, I talked to my bosses and here I am working just three work days per week developing web, whereas I can spend the rest two for my own game development(1) and education.

I started achieving progress in larger steps. I have already made a playable version which is being tested at the moment and looks like this:

HalmaStar Screenshot #3

There is still a lot to do till publishing, e.g. player joining and profile management, a list of people online, player avatars, help for newbies, etc. But it feels very good, because of obvious progress, especially after positive feedback from friends.

(1) Actually, I have a four-day weekend, where I code or party at nights and sleep at days.. occasionally. :cool:

Sunday Celebration: Village Business

They say: “Grow delicious fruits and vegetables and raise adorable animals on your very own farm!”. But this is what you get: “Buy many images for money, lay them in your square field, return back in many hours, sell the images and you’ll get even more money. Buy many images for money, lay them in your square field…” That’s one of many facebook-based cloned games by Zynga company with rural decorations this time and it’s called FarmVille.


Game developers usually get surprised how such a primitive grinding game has more players than twitter has tweeple. Farm village engages the rational ones by simple strategies what images to choose to get maximal profit in minimal time. It engages the irrational ones by attractive childish graphics and animation and the ability to arrange their farms as cozy, interesting, or esthetical as possible. Some players exploit the unexpected possibilities of the game while creating their farm art. Some people get caught by marketing tricks like facebook statuses about the game, various actions and invitations, ads in other games by Zynga, podcasts, twitter statuses, adaption to actual holidays (Halloween, Christmas, Easter), etc.

FarmVille is a community-based game. Recently Tony Ventrice defined the following purposes of such games in Gamasutra:

  • Create permanent community (offer collaboration)
  • Create the feeling of continuous discoveries (prompt player progress and self-expression)
  • Spread the game virally (prompt players to invite friends)

There isn’t much community-forming in the game. You are just offered to invite neighbors whose farms you’ll be able to fertilize so that they get richer crop. Also you can give your neighbors animals, trees, and different decorations from a reserve of gifts, where the amount of gift choices grow up with the increasing level of your village business experience. What I don’t like is that you can give others different presents that you don’t really have and can’t take yourself (as well as you can’t fertilize your own fields). The game is symbolized a lot already, but giving presents from some strange reserve makes it even more unrealistic. On another hand, this ensures that players won’t sell virtual goods to each other what usually happens in multi-player gaming.

The avatar of the game makes no sense. It just slows all the activities down, because if you want to plough and sow a field, the avatar has to go to it first. I found out that if you frame your avatar with a fence, the fields are ploughed and sowed immediately. So you have to limit yourself for productivity (like in real life). If you visit your neighbors, you will never find them at home. You’ll find there only abandoned farm full of crows and weeds, which you can clear and get virtual money for that.

The business model behind FarmVille is this: the game is free for most of the players, but a few percent of biggest fans buy virtual money for real money at their free will, to be able to develop their village business in larger scope.

There is almost no interaction among different objects in the game except the area they take (animals can’t go over the area which is laid with an image, e.g. a field, a tree, or a fence). When you achieve quite high level or buy virtual money, you can get tractors or harvesters which make the work much faster as you don’t have to click on each field, but that works only while you have fuel. The game would be much more interesting, if rabbits would nibble the uncovered trees, unframed cows and horses would trample down or eat the crop, animals would need food, the manure of animals could be used to fertilize the fields, etc.

Frame yourself for productivity

Having in mind that FarmVille is still in beta, there is a hope that it will be more interesting in the future. If you have several months, you can try farming as is now. But if you have no time and still want to have fun, play the platform game this weekend (surprise surprise! :D ).

HalmaStar Screenshots #0002

Lately, my webserver provider sent me a message that the order for a year is about to end and that I have to pay for the next year. The Chinese Checkers website on that webserver has been holding just the logo for the whole year. The company of another webserver where I keep this blog, sent me a coupon of 75 € for advertising at Google Adwords. I have an ad, but still no project to advertise. I won’t promote my personal blog, will I!? So I have lots of encouragement and motivators, just the time is what I am lack of…

Anyway my creative work doesn’t stand still. I learned the basics of Gimp. Whenever I find some free hours among the sessions my work and spare time, I sit down and glue the graphical design together.

Page design

I changed the typeface of the logo. It’s much more lively and playful now. The Asian motives of the letters fit with the Manga-styled face of the star better that the old bitten typeface.

The website design will be of a space theme. At the moment there are just stars pasted all around. But probably later I will also add satellites, rockets, and even some absurd objects, let’s say, a wooden chair flying in the space. I am still thinking how to layout the textual elements like chats, titles, descriptions, collected points, etc. so that they fit in the main design. It’s also not clear how to layout the blog and forum as I don’t have experience in creating webdesign, but still I want something unique.

Berlin planet

All the planets will be different. At the moment I am only drawing the planets of Berlin and Vilnius. WTF? Since when Vilnius has been a planet!? As I’ve written in the first part, planets will uncover the identity of different capitals of Europe. That’s why I was asking for public opinion what things symbolize Vilnius for Lithuanians.

For liveliness each player will be represented by an avatar of the same color which marbles he’s using in the Chinese Checkers. I wanted to have single-colored unisex-styled dress. I was thinking about some overalls or cloaks.. Fortunatelly, Viktorija was doing her diploma about cloths which were sexless enough, futuristic, and original. The best part here is that she agreed that those textile designs will be used in my game and sent me the photos and sketches.


I am moving forward in turtle steps. Maybe I’ll finish in, let’s say, 10 years. It would be better to do that sooner, because I decided to find a girlfriend when I finish this project… As I was jealous of the relations of two couples visiting me recently. :D

Inspirations for Level Designers: “Vilija”

After crossing the pedestrians’ bridge over the river Vilnele, I climb the snowy hillside up. Then I go by the wire fence until I reach an unraveled hole in it. I go through it, pass the opened drains, and step inside through squeaking door. I am starting a new column in my blog. It will be about astonishing places which waken imagination for the creators of adventure, action, and horror games. Scary abandoned unexpected spaces, strange details, and mystic lighting will show what labyrinth of rooms your game character could be running in, what textures to use for covering your models, and how to adjust the lights..

A huge spool of thread lightened by the sun in the evening

It’s evening. The beam of sunlight through a window drowns half of the visible territory. Somebody might hide not only in the dark, but also behind the beam of light. The mystery is created not by the darkness, but by the penetration of light in the darkness cautiously touching things scattered all over the place.

Pigeons perching on the frame of a window

Pigeons being the new settlers of the house are watching me through the open or “opened” windows. Take a look at the light projected through the windows on the wall.

Kubrick-style-like corridor

Suddenly, I discover a white Kubrick-styled marble corridor. Plaster ceiling is broken and fallen down on the ground. They create me associations with the “Spring” by M. K. Čiurlionis. When you go on the pieces of the plaster, they clatter like metal faces in the Jewish Museum in Berlin. This room contrasts sharply with the rest of the factory. Is it a corridor to the baths of the chiefs? The door is locked. I hear steps and barking dogs. Somebody is putting a key into the door from the other side… Let’s run!

Ramps for extreme adventures

Urban activities make the building reborn in a new form. I roll over the ramps prepared by BMX bikers. Hurry up!

Wide spaces divided rhythmically by pillars

There is a lot of wide space, monotony, and rhythm. No matter how fast you run, you seem to stand in the same location..

Molded ceiling

The molded ceiling can be used as an example of texture. Do you feel that smell?

Holes in the ceiling

Of course, there is much water inside, because the roof has holes in it. Are those chimneys or holes for ventilation? Should we try running away through them like people did in the labyrinth of “The Cube“? It’s quite high. We should probably find some shelves, put them on each other, and then help each other to reach the holes. Oh! I can’t squeeze through them. You go up and wait for me!

Icy ground

This office is all covered in ice. I slip and bruise my elbow.

A window

The communist-styled window of this office gives me a hope that I can still get out of here until it gets dark outside…


Ghosts appear on my way. If you want to catch a view by a photo camera in twilight without flash, you need to do a long delay. If something moves in the shot at that moment, it will become pale and blurry as a ghost in the final photo. Theoretically it would be possible to make a ghost-like view in 3D by adding transparency to a model and making copies of it while it’s moving, where each copy would disappear little by little increasing the transparency. I’ll try that at some point in the future, when I start learning 3D modeling and animation. I turn aside…

Mysteriously creepy hall

Oh no! Everything has just started. My heart is bumping.

Location: textiles factory “Vilija”, Vilnius, Lithuania.
Time: January, 2009.
While writing, I was listening to music tagged “creepy”.

Others also were there:

  • Wd40 – correctly photoshopped moods.
  • JOG – the diversity of stuff found there.

Sunday Celebration: the Last Descendant of Space Invaders

The main dish from the Sunday menu is a shmopBroken Garden“. The author K. Thor Jensen gonna create 12 games in a year. This one is the fourth.

Broken Garden

Airplanes of strange shapes (I’ll keep my associations to myself) are called by the names of mythological sinners. They are Adam (the first man created by God), Eve (the first woman created by God), Cain (The first son of Adam and Eve), Lilith (ex of Adam. I’m not sure what kind of creature she was), Judas (the apostle of Jesus), and Satan (angel-manipulator). You choose one and then shoot at all the armies of angels in order to come back to the Gardens of Eden.

Each airplane has one normal and one super gun. The game is divided by levels, where the opponents are shot, and their fragments are collected as experience points. The protagonist has a few lives. Each level ends with a boss, i.e. a large airplane called by the name of archangel Gabriel. After finishing the boss and completing the level, you can buy an additional live or enhance one of the following features for your experience points: the power or speed of your normal gun, or the power or charging speed of your supergun.

If you multiply all you choice options, you get a lot of variations how to complete the game. The choices encourage you to replay and try different combinations.

The gameplay is almost the same as in the shmupXevious” which is of my age. But it doesn’t directly propagate wars among people. In worst case, you could see through the symbols inducing to fight for your rights, no matter what powers try to weaken you. The fiction is original, unexpected, and even shamelessly sacrilegious from the perspective of some religions.. I’m interested how it will end up so I’ll try to reach that Garden.

Sunday Celebration: Charge Yourself!

Games can be divided by verisimilitude into these categories (1):

Level 3 solved

Electric Box uses animated icons to illustrate the law of conservation of energy which states that any form of energy can be transformed into another form. You can transform electricity to light, steam, wind, laser, or stream of water, and then transform that to back to electricity. The gameplay is like in the TIM – you have to lay out the things from inventor to a gridded field so that the energy from the source of electricity reaches the target.

The main strategy for playing could be finding pairs of things which use the same material for the energy transformations to electricity (for example, a lamp uses electricity when shining and then solar energy generator creates the electricity) and laying them at electricity cables supporting correct directions (for example, water drops down, steam goes up. wind blows horizontally, and light spread in four directions).

Animation and several moving objects like a conveyer, a magnet, and fan make this puzzle game look dynamic. Nevertheless, it would be absolutely possible to play this game on a gridded cardboard using cards with symbols. Probably, the prototype was created like that.

I completed almost all game, but got stuck in the last level and, in addition, I found a bug there where a convey carrying objects goes through some other objects in a strange specific case.

Bug in level 15

The creators foresaw that 15 prepared levels will be too few and made it possible for players to create levels themselves. You can try some custom levels of other players or my own masterpiece (copy the code and paste into the input field which will apear when you click on the link “Enter Code”):

Creating custom levels

Once I told to myself that if I have a house somewhen in the future, it will certainly use renewable energy from the sun, wind, stream or surf of water. Electric Box reminds me that dream.

(1) According to the book “Half-real” by Jesper Juul.

Sunday Celebration: You Can Help!

“So you are going to write about games again?”
“I like reading about real things much more.”
“I’ll write about real games!

free rice logo

Today I’ll be serious. First of all, if you haven’t done that yet, you should definitely watch Zeitgeist: Addendum and Home to understand, what happens in the world while you are experiencing personal crises. Even if we considered the both movies to be propaganda, there is a big probability that they contain a lot of truth. As I’ve written before (post in Lithuanian), you can slow down the global warming by changing your consuming habits. And now I’ll show you how to feed a hungry person in a distant country!

Around 25 thousand people die because of hunger in the world every day. Usually they are kids. And all that happen not because of lazyness, but because of bad nature conditions, lack of education and schools, and wars. Two years ago John Breen developed a noncommercial online game FreeRice and donated it to the United Nations’ World Food Programme. By playing FreeRice online, you can do both: help the hungry ones and improve your knowledge for free.

Free Rice

This is what Buržujus wrote about the game:

At first, it looked like nonsense, but the brand names like Apple, Fujitsu, Radison, Toshiba, etc. sound seriously. The small game is all about checking your knowledge of English vocabulary and collecting 10 grains of rice with each right answer. The supporters turn your collected amount of rice into real rice and send them to the hungry ones in the whole world. It doesn’t seem that much. What are these 100 grains of rice? But they might be the only food for some families for the whole day.

According to Wikipedia, packages of food have been sent to Bangladesh, Cambodia, Bhutan, Uganda, and Nepal by now. Thanks to the game, about 7000 people are fed every day.

The game looks like a quiz and it is not only related to extending your English vocabulary, but also to other educational areas like math, geography, arts, or chemistry..

Basic Math

English Grammar

Identify Countries
World Capitals

Famous Paintings

UPDATED. It’s interesting that the system of the game recognizes and adapts to the level of your knowledge. So you don’t get too easy questions. When you give a false answer, the correct choice is shown. After a while the same question is repeated. This way your memory is exercised and a new fact is taught. In my opinion, the system doesn’t work well for the arithmetical tasks. I think that not only the answer, but also the process of solving should be shown. Also the system works not that well when you know neither the questioned word, nor the matching synonym. The definitions of the words could be given in the answers.

Although the gameplay is simple, but the fictional world extends it and makes it meaningful. FreeRice wouldn’t have such an effect if you wouldn’t feel helpful and wouldn’t learn new things that might be useful in the future. What we imagine behind the game is what makes us interested and motivated. This is like in the photography of Vita Žėkaitė:

Concern is shown not only for the things that you can find in the shot, but also for the things which are behind the scenes, but which are directly related to the fixed view.

That’s it. I’ve played it for a while. At least 40 people will get food. You can help them too!