Matt Slaybaugh

Skeptic Tank Games

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Zebulon

(latest revision: 2010/12/20)

This was entered into the 9th Casual Gameplay Design Competition where it lost the 3rd-place slot by something like 1/100 of a point.

The engine is the ChoiceScript engine, which is essentially a set of JavaScript libraries and is intended for the creation of interactive naratives, somewaht similar to the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure stories from the 1980s.

There are no graphics, but there is no typing either, as there was in Zork and those other classic Infocom games. Instead, every few paragraphs the reader is presented with a multiple choice about how the plot should unfold. It's a fascinating and unique genre.

The prior examples of ChoiceScript games I had seen were quite dramatic, so I wanted to do something more whimsical. With the 1980s on the brain I decided that "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" would be an appropriate starting point and I tried to channel the spirit of Douglas Adams as I wrote the game.

I'm in discussion with the guys who wrote ChoiceScript about porting the game to a mobile app, but that is still in the works.

In the Footsteps of Simeon Meade | Escape from Kilmainham Gaol
Part II: The Evidence Room

(latest revision: 2009/06/09)

Part 2 of the Simeon Meade series.

This game has gotten better reviews, but much less play than the previous one.

It is longer and easier than the first. Most said the first was too hard, and many are saying this is too easy, although that could just be bragging.

Theories:
- Only those who liked the first one (less than 50% on average) played the second
- Exposure matters and so far this has been a much more controlled release
- Having the walkthrough available right away may have backfired since some players seem to play solely in order to provide hints to others.

Gompers
4K Contest Entry

(latest revision: 2009/03/17)

GamePoetry.com had a 4K contest where all games entered had to be under 4 kilobytes (4,096 bytes). This is similar in style to the old Atari 2600 games, and it sounded like a fun idea.

Here is my entry: Gompers

The mechanic is similar to the Gladiator game I made a few years ago.

Gameplay:

  • You play a golden mermaid who is fighting off incoming cruise ships
  • The character follows the cursor, the ships follow your character
  • Clicking the mouse launches a harpoon. If the harpoon hits a ship while in flight, it damages the ship
  • You have a finite number of harpoons. You have to retrieve your spent harpoons in order to use them again
  • If you collide with a ship, the ship capsizes, and you lose 10% of your life
  • Obstacles slow you down, and slow down the ships. Obstacles include: capsized ships and your seaweed net in the center of the screen
  • Each level spawns ships, the number of which is equal to the level number (3 ships in level 3)
  • Each level the ships get a little bigger, a little faster, and a little stronger (can handle more harpoon strikes)
  • Each level you get one additional harpoon. If your health is below 100%, you get a 10% boost in health each level.
  • The first few levels are intended to get the player familiar with the mechanics, later on the strategy involves trapping the oncoming ships amongst the seaweed and capsized ships
Candy Hop
Valentine's Day Action Puzzler

(latest revision: 2009/02/10)

Candy Hop is my new game.

The theme is you are in a candy store, trying to fill your box of candy by bouncing each piece in, collecting chocolate hearts along the way. There are two modes: Action, which has a timed release of candy and encourages the player to react to the falling candy, similar to the classic Breakout; and Puzzle, which has no timer and is more similar to those games where you have to create a wacky device (eg. Color Infection). There is a high scores table on Kongregate. It's satisfying to see the high scores, since it means people are playing it all the way through, not giving up after a few levels.

The game idea is from Jig Easy, Sam, a contest entry for the JayIsGames 4th Casual Game Design Competition that I worked on with Joe Versoza, which itself was first inspired by a "toy" I submitted to Carnegie Mellon's Experimental Gameplay Project called Bagatelle.

The idea was to have a modifiable pinball machine, the key component being bumpers that accelerated the ball, as opposed to simple pegs as you would find in a pachinko game.

The Valentine's Day theme was a bit forced, but gave some guidance in terms of design choices. If this does well I may create sequels for other holidays (shamrocks for St. Patrick's Day, eggs for Easter, etc.), but the ultimate implementation of the idea will probably be a kind of virtual foosball I have envisioned.

The initial title of the game was "Be My Rubber Valentine", which I thought would catch people's attention - but it turned out to be an inappropriate choice, simply because it would be more likely to turn off the potential audience who would probably enjoy the game.

In the Footsteps of Simeon Meade | Escape from Kilmainham Gaol
Part I: The Cell

(latest revision: 2009/01/31)

"In the Spring of 1926 you are trapped in Ireland's Kilmainham Gaol, taking the fall for Simeon Meade's plot to sell surplus American ordnance to the new German government. But Simeon is grateful, and is helping you escape..."

It's the first of a 3-part sequel to my Obion series. This time, instead of chasing the members of the Talos organization, you are a young recruit, working for Meade and Talos. You are enamored by the cult of his personality and don't yet have much idea what he and his cronies actually do. (yet)

It's pretty hard, and pretty short. What I learned from the last go-around was that the graphics matter and people are tired of the same old things they've seen before, unless you have a really fresh take on it. So I made sure that the puzzles were unique (except for one) and focused on the atmosphere.

Here is a Hints/Walkthrough Guide for anyone who needs/wants it.

Light the Kinara

(latest revision: 2008/12/18)

A simple puzzle game. Drag and drop pieces of wick to connect the flame at the bottom of the kinara (candle-holder) to the tops of the seven candles. You cannot drop wicks on the nine kinte circles. You win when all seven candles are lit.

Notes:
The wick pieces turn from white to yellow when they are "live"
You must connect pieces so that they maintain a smooth curve between the connected pieces.

This puzzle appeared in an earlier game of mine. I intend to improve the recursion (when checking to see which wicks are "live") and add additional levels at some point.

Grady's Adventure

(latest revision: 2008/03/17)

In this adventure/puzzle, guide Grady the robot to build a robot by finding the three components and returning them to the frame. You need upgrades to move (wheel, wing, fin, etc.) but can only hold three at a time, so you need to think about which you hold at any time.

The game was inspired by Warren Robinett's "Adventure" that he wrote for Atari in 1978, specifically by the bat.

Jig Easy, Sam

(latest revision: 2007/10/1)

This was an entry for JayIsGames Casual Game Design Competition #4.

It's an odd game that is essentially a prototype for something more complete. The initial idea was to have a "Tower Defence" kind of game where the 'enemies' were bouncing balls rather than marching monsters. About an hour before the game was to be submitted I realized it was just too hard, so I added the final element: clocks, which have teh result of now making the game too easy.

In developing games, the coding can be a challenge, and the graphics can be a challenge, but the biggest one to me is the balance of easy/difficult and frustrating/boring. I think this is a fun game for about 10 minutes. It is a "casual game", after all.

Parley

(latest revision: 1.3 2007/8/17)

This was an entry for JayIsGames Casual Game Design Competition #3 I created with Joe Versoza.

It's a card game with a unique deck, containing up to 5 suits and up to 5 ranks. Unlike in a standard deck of cards, the suits are hierarchical, and also use a bit of rock-paper-scissor logic to determine what card beats another. Also, the ranks are hierarchical, as they are for regular cards, except in Parley the 'Spy' card (2-to-lowest rank) can beat the 'Queen' card (highest rank). Although it may sound complicated, it's pretty easy to pick up the rules after playing a round or two.

The new revision fixes problems with the AI bing too difficult.

Frog and Vine
Frog and Vine (latest revision: 2007/4/9)

Jay, of JayIsGames had a game design competition and I entered with this one.

It has 4 puzzles, three of which are original. Looking back, it's more of a prototype than a finished game. The tree puzzle in particular has potential to be developed into something interesting.

Go Rabbit, Go!
Go Rabbit, Go! (beta latest revision: 2007/3/2)
This game was developed over a few days as an entry in the DonationCoder.com Accessibility Game Design Competition. The parameters were to simply make a 'switch game' (or alternately a game relying only on audio). A switch game is a game with the simplest interface, a button that is either pressed or not - the space bar, mouse button, or other controller. The idea is that people with limited mobility may not be able to use conventional game controllers.

Additionally, I consulted with representatives of the Univeristy of Delaware Center for Disability Studies in coming up with a game that could be played by people with a wide variety of abilities or disabilities. In addition to the switch interface, some of the considerations were:
  • LANGUAGE - If someone is unable to read English, whether they are do not speak English, are illiterate, or have impaired vision, the person should be able to figure out the rules quickly without having to read the instructions.
  • DESIGN - The design is very simple so that people with impaired vision will still be able to distinguish all the elements from each other, which all differ in size, color, and texture.
  • EASE OF GAMEPLAY - Most people (with or without disabilities) do not have the skills to play traditional action games. This game begins quite slowly and while quick reflexes will help they are not required.
  • MINIMIZED FRUSTRATION - It can be easy for a person with a disability to get frustrated with a task that seems simple to others. "Go Rabbit, Go!" does not have limited 'lives' or any way to 'die'. Penalties for mistakes are mild and do not force the player to start again.

Production Notes

Escape to Obion
Because of the surprising popularity of the Obion games, our bandwidth charges have tripled, and we will have to limit production of new games.

To help with our hosting costs, we are inviting you to make a PayPal donation. Even $1 will help.

Episode 5: The Chemisphere (beta latest revision: 2006/3/2)
length: long
difficulty: hard

This game is more linear than the others, which is necessary because we've added level codes for the 4 levels in the game. The levels represent junctures in the game that tell you that you've solved everything necessary to get to that point. The puzzles get increasingly complicated in the game, but should not require taking notes in the way that #3 required. Still, you will need to jot down a few things. There is one musical puzzle in the game, so you will need to be able to hear sound to get to the end.

edit 2006/3/2: Added better feedback on last two 'locks' that open 'level 4', brightened colors on the electronic symbol tiles to make them more distinguishable from one another.

edit 2006/3/1: It had been possible to bypass the final puzzle simply by clicking one button - oops. But that's fixed now.

Episode 4: Closer to Zero (latest revision: 2006/2/10)
length: medium long
difficulty: very hard

Week 4, Game 4. Many found #3 too hard, and while we could edit that game, it makes more sense to move forward - though I may add more clues to #3 at a later date for future players. In this one the standalone puzzles are straightforward, but you still will need to take some notes in order to get to the end. We also advance the story more through found pages from a diary of one of the main villain's primary henchmen. I had become fascinated with Turing's cracking of the Nazi's Enigma machine, and tried to replicate one for this game. It came off rather well, and it will be a pity if we can't use it again in a future episode.

edit 2006/2/10: added some additional hints in game

Episode 3: The Alchemist's Notebook (latest revision: 2006/2/14)
length: medium long
difficulty: very hard

Not sure how long we can keep up a weekly publishing schedule before running out of ideas, but #3 is done. This one is quite a bit trickier than the other two. It's less about stand-alone puzzles in the game (although the initial map puzzle, a "Bishop's Square" - like a Rubik's Cube jigsaw - can be a bit of a stumper) and more about comprehending subtle hints and gathering all the information necessary to get to the end. You'll probably need pencil and paper to keep track of everything.

edit 2006/2/14: added some additional hints in game

edit 2006/2/25: fixed error: in the Sun book, the symbol for 'E' was represented by Venus, instead of Saturn

Episode 2: The Hidden Map (latest revision: 2006/1/27)
length: long
difficulty: hard

One week later, here is the sequel to 'Obion', with about 5 times the number of puzzles and interactivity. As in the first one, one of the guiding principles was to have the puzzles be unique and challenging, but also to have them be solvable through 'brute-force' clicking around just in case they're too tough for any particular player.

Episode 1: Fire and Ice (latest revision: 2006/2/11)

The first point-and-click adventure we've done, which is a surprise now since it's so much easier to code than other sorts of games.
length: short
difficulty: medium
The challenge for the designer in this genre is in creating puzzles that are tough but not impossible. I think casual games players are a little more likely to get exasperated than they would be with a console or PC game.

edit 2006/2/11: added some additional hints in game
OutFoxxed!
OutFoxxed! (latest revision: 2004/12/18)

Designed and developed by Matt Slaybaugh, Joe Versoza, Isabel Staicut, and Dave Maccarella

OutFoxxed! is a two-player game using Flash Communications Server that combines elements of Rock-Paper-Scissors with traditional board games such as Checkers and Go
Gladiator
Gladiator (latest revision: 2004/05/10)

Designed and developed by Matt Slaybaugh, Wontae Kim, and Joey Silayan

Gladiator is a one-player game with a core mechanic of having to collect spent arrows before being able to fire again.
Gladiator Concept Realizations
WolfHunter
This first version is weak in gameplay, primarily because the AI is too rigid and the number of user-choices on any turn is too limited. It's also almost impossible to win.

WolfHunter II: Catalaunian Fields
This second version has a much larger board, which opens up the number of choices too much, resulting in a lot of meaningless clicking. This version is too easy.

WolfHunter III: Wittgenstein's Revenge
This penultimate version has an appropriate board-size and more challenging play. An uncaught bug/feature allows multiple wolves in any given space, making it difficult to win.
IceBreaker Concept Realizations
IceBreaker never made it past the concept-realization phase, but it has potential to be a decent game.

Icebreaker
This first version explores the idea of using a Sokoban-style game mechanic against a static, firing enemy AI. It's tricky to win, but possible, mostly an element of timing rather than strategy.

Icebreaker II
This second version has a mobile enemy AI and more stratgic options

Icebreaker III
The final study of the block-pushing mechanic against an enemy AI offers the most strategy, but suffers in the same way as the second in that choices are limited.
Exercises
Ant Farm
I later learned of a number of similar games, but this was my first effort at employing multiple 'cellular automata'-style agents.

Ant Farm
The same game with an auto-generated music feature that is somewhat interesting.

Defender
An experiment in porting the classic Atari game Defender in a slightly different context.