Signs of Life Intro/Roadmap

(x-posted from the itch.io Community)

Signs of Life is a puzzle game where you’re given a math equation where all the numbers are known – but the signs are missing, and you need to fill them in!

Or, I should say all the ​digits​ are known – you can leave a space unfilled and let the digits be one big number.

You can play version 1.4.1 right now on pikadudeno1.com​. v1.5 will be released both there and itch.io soon, and the game will be considered 100% complete when v2.0 is released later this year.​

Right now, I’m working on improving the account system (which is optional to use, but you can carry your game data across devices if you do) so that you can log in from in-game and use your itch.io account. Once that’s done, I’ll put the finishing touches on v1.5, including mobile support.

v2 is an ambitious project where I plan to include:

  • Many more puzzles, most of which will require payment, but I’ll leave at least 33 free
  • Puzzles with 7 or more digits
  • Sounds and music
  • A redesigned interface that’ll be much more lively and have a variety of puzzle backgrounds
  • Gamepad support & improved keyboard support, including the ability to enter specific signs with their given keys/buttons
  • Offline support, whether or not you use the itch.io app
  • An easy way to compare scores with friends, including fair comparisons with friends who have bought more/fewer puzzles

I hope you’ll enjoy Signs of Life, now and in the future!

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2018 Web Wonders Goals

I’ve posted about specific improvements I want to make to my Web apps before, but I have some overall goals for all my Web Wonders that I’d like to write down now and get down throughout 2018.

  • Release a new game! This will be partially or entirely a paid game, as per my previous post on monetization.
  • Every app should be mobile-friendly, so that users can enjoy them no matter how they browse. (Depending on which idea for my new game I work on, it may require the controller fidelity of a keyboard or gamepad, so for now it is exempt.)
  • Every app should be a Progressive Web App, working even without an Internet connection. (This doesn’t make sense for Cookie Hunt, so it is exempt.)
  • My apps will have FAIRIES, and fairies will be a part of my signature style. Because fairies are cute and lovable and endearing❤️ (Non-game apps other than Logo Creator will be exempt.)

Here’s all the above in table form, because I’m nerdy like that. Items marked with ◐ are planned for completion by the end of June.

Released Mobile
friendly
Progressive
Web App
Fairies❤️
Signs of Life ✔️
Wackyland ✔️ ✔️
Zapster Solitaire ✔️ ✔️
Wacky Bingo ✔️
Cookie Hunt ✔️ N/A
Logo Creator ✔️
Magic Puddle ✔️ N/A
Reverse Metronome ✔️ N/A
[New game!] N/A

Reflections on Zapster Solitaire’s Game Design

With the release of Zapster Solitaire last week (and the bugfix release today), a game I first dreamt up somewhere around age 10 is finally available for the public to enjoy. While it had potential that I think is now being realized, it’s a relic from when I was much less experienced in game design, so it took some tweaking to get there. Modern-me did a lot of playtesting and made some adjustments:

  • The first thing I did was remove cards of rank 10. This nerfed queens a bit and makes it easier to make matches, and also ensured I could fit the draw pile, current draw, trash, and the maximum number of cells into a 4×3 grid.
  • Next came increasing the number of starting cells from 5 to 6. This made the early game less frustrating.
  • Extensive playtesting in Quick mode made me feel overpowered having 3 zaps. 1 zap felt too weak, so I adjusted it to 2.
  • After the above change, further playtesting in Marathon mode made me realize that kid-me had a point when it came to 2-deck play, so I implemented allowing the starting zaps to vary between modes, and brought Marathon back up to 3 zaps.

While I’m largely proud of what the game evolved into, the combination of the first 2 changes above resulted in a new flaw: If you fill all your cells without getting any matches at the start of the game, intuition tells you the next card has a 50% chance of matching. In fact, due to each of your cards having 1 less match in the deck, it’s only 43% in Quick and 47% in Marathon. I’ve been thinking of how I might eliminate that tempting false coin flip – perhaps I’ll increase the starting cells to 7, or remove Aces. I’ll have to do more playtesting and see what works…

A feature I have planned for version 2.0 will let you try out your own adjustments to the game and share them across the Internet, as I have. I look forward to seeing how players change the game further.

Mar 2017 Near-term Website Roadmap

The last time I wrote one of these, it became a handy checklist of things to work on, but got increasingly divorced from reality as my short-term priorities changed. Nonetheless, it’s useful for setting goals and focusing on them, so I’ll give this at least one more go.

Overdue Deliveries (scheduled for this month)

  • New game: Zapster Solitaire v0.8, an original Solitaire game. It’ll use your Superspark Account if you have one.
  • Magic Puddle v3.1: A better mobile experience, plus “Learn more” will be replaced with a much more concise menu.
  • New page: Gaming Profiles, showing where I can be found on Steam and other gaming websites.

Fairies Take Flight (scheduled for April or May)

  • Wacky Bingo v5: pikadudeno1.com’s first Progressive Web App! It’ll finally be a proper Bingo game with square boards, featuring a cute fairy as the hostess.
  • Cookie Hunt v4.1: Mobile-friendly, with a serious-mannered (but still cute) fairy replacing Generic Invisible Text-Spewer as the head honcho. Some text will be rewritten to create a consistent character.
  • The aforementioned fairies will also appear in the pikadudeno1.com site UI to promote these updates, and will occasionally be replaced with other new fairies to promote other new content.

Superspark Groundwork (scheduled for June or July)

  • At least one app will become a Progressive Web App that connects to your Superspark Account. Your account data will be available even when offline.
  • At least one app that either already has or will gain Superspark connectivity will allow logging in or changing users from within the app.
  • Candidates for the above include Signs of Life, Wackyland, Zapster Solitaire, Magic Puddle, and Reverse Metronome.

The road to profitability

One of my goals with pikadudeno1.com is to make it a primary source of my income. Payment-optional methods of making money like asking for donations haven’t worked, and I don’t expect them to (although Patreon has worked out for some people, and I may yet give that a try). The main plan is to charge for access to new content, and convince people that it’s worth it.

Before I try any of that, though, I want to make my website something I can proudly show off, so I can start sharing it with wider audiences and get some of my future customers hooked. Most of the pieces for that are in place by now, but I still need to release non-OpenID login options and Zapster Solitaire. Though Zapster Solitaire isn’t my most interesting game, it is far and away my most polished, so will be good for setting the tone on what my players can expect when I start charging money.

Once that’s done, I plan on writing the code to enable players to buy things. To test this code, Magic Puddle v4.0 will feature a name-your-own-price In-App Purchase. After that, I’ll make Signs of Life v2.0, adding puzzle packs that require set-price IAPs to play. I’m aware IAPs have a bad reputation with many players based on how mobile game developers have abused them, but I have ideas on how to communicate to players that my IAPs aren’t those IAPs, inspired by this article by Thomas Baekdal.

Eventually, I want to make new games that require upfront payment, as players already expect to do for high-quality indie games found on Steam and such. People will find it strange at first to have to pay for a browser game, but I have a few ideas on how they might be warmed up to the idea, and of course actually releasing on Steam is a possibility thanks to Web app wrappers like Electron. For now, I’ll keep the games in question a surprise~

Nov 2016 Near-term Website Roadmap

Well, between the daydreaming of all the cool new things I should be able to finish soon, and the Content Update not coming out on time, I think a revised roadmap is in order.

Content Update (coming by November 17)

  • New game: Zapster Solitaire, version 0.8
  • New page: Gaming Profiles
  • NEW: Updates Showcase, an upgrade of NewsWave with a better user experience

Superspark Update (coming by November 23)

  • A bit of rebranding: Instead of a type of game, “Superspark” will refer to the account system. Web Wonders organization will simply be “games” and “non-games”. Future updates will add Superspark features to non-games.
  • As the Persona service will be shutting down, e-mail sign-ins must be changed to become a bit more of a hassle, but other sign-in options will be provided.
  • NEW: Logo Creator v1.1, mobile-friendly and offline-enabled

Fairies Update (coming December or January)

  • Logo Creator v2; changes will include a new fairy icon
  • Wackyland v2; changes will include a new Wacky Theater cartoon with stick figure fairies
  • NEW: Wacky Bingo v4, mobile-friendly and involving fairies somehow
  • Fairies
  • Fairies!
  • FAIRIES 😀

Ungrouped Updates (coming whenever)

  • NEW: Cookie Hunt v5.1, mobile-friendly
  • Revised sharing options; Reddit will be included
  • New Subscribe page, making it easier to follow my creative doings

A few notes on the personal reasons I chose those November dates: November 17 is the day before a local anime/cartoons convention that I want to enjoy guilt-free. November 23 is the day before a big road trip where Internet access will be spotty, so having something of mine work offline, even if it’s just that silly little Logo Creator, will be fun.

Near-term Website Roadmap

I don’t talk enough on my blog, especially about my website, so here’s a list of updates coming to pikadudeno1.com in the near future.

Content Update (coming this month or next month)

  • New game: Zapster Solitaire, version 0.8
  • New page: Gaming Profiles

Performance Update (coming this month)

  • The database that keeps Superspark Game save data will be moved to the same hosting service as the website
  • Site access via HTTPS and HTTP/2 will be enabled
  • All HTML/JS/CSS will be compressed (gzipped)

Superspark Update (coming October or November)

  • A bit of rebranding: Instead of a type of game, “Superspark” will refer to the account system. Web Wonders organization will simply be “games” and “non-games”. Future updates will add Superspark features to non-games.
  • As the Persona service will be shutting down, e-mail sign-ins must be changed to become a bit more of a hassle, but other sign-in options will be provided.

Fairies Update (planned for December, may be pushed back)

  • Logo Creator v2; changes will include a new fairy icon
  • Wackyland v2; changes will include a new Wacky Theater cartoon with stick figure fairies
  • Fairies
  • Fairies!
  • FAIRIES 😀

Ungrouped Updates (coming whenever)

  • Revised sharing options; Reddit will be included
  • New Subscribe page, making it easier to follow my creative doings

That silly 404 page

Every website’s gotta have an HTTP 404 File Not Found page that says nothing is there, ask the link owner to fix the link, here’s how to find what you’re looking for, yada yada… why not have a little fun with it? If you get a 404 error on pikadudeno1.com, the site takes the number of letters in the requested URL modulo 6, and uses the result to choose one of 6 stupid jokes to show on the error page!

Were I to share a bunch of links to nonexistent pages, I’d end up with search engine robots trying to follow them all and getting a whole lotta nothing… which is why I’m using the Robots Exclusion Standard to stop them from visiting any URL that starts with “http://pikadudeno1.com/nothingness/”. And since the number of letters in the “nothingness/” prefix is a multiple of 6, it doesn’t change which message is chosen!

So, without further ado, here are all the silly messages that can appear:

http://pikadudeno1.com/nothingness/a
http://pikadudeno1.com/nothingness/bb
http://pikadudeno1.com/nothingness/ccc
http://pikadudeno1.com/nothingness/dddd
http://pikadudeno1.com/nothingness/eeeee
http://pikadudeno1.com/nothingness/ffffff

With a little cleverness, you can make URLs that appear related to the message that appears:

http://pikadudeno1.com/nothingness/LooksLikeAlderannsAGoner
http://pikadudeno1.com/nothingness/GrammarNaziHell

Whatever humor you may find in this feature, you’re certainly not finding a file.

It’s been a quiet year for my creative works.

Too quiet.

LET'S MAKE SOME NOISE, AND SOMEHOW RESIST DOING SO BY INCREASING THE FONT SIZE!!!!

Every month for the rest of the year, college workload permitting, I shall release one creative work from the following list. Items marked with an asterisk are closest to completion, and yes, "every month" includes this one.

  • * Zapster Solitaire 0.8: A card game based on the standard 52-card deck. It's mostly luck-based, but there is a limited-use mechanic to keep you interested.
  • * Random Bookmark: A Firefox extension to pick a bookmark at random from a chosen folder and open it.
  • Yin-Yang It (this name may change): An arcade game that has you controlling the two dots of the Yin-Yang symbol simultaneously.
  • Wackyland v2: A truly mobile-friendly Wacky Theater with a new cartoon, plus the new location Wacky Labs, where humor is not just art, but SCIENCE!
  • Zapster Solitaire 1.0: Zapster Solitaire 0.8 + audio + original artwork for Jacks, Queens, and Kings.
  • Signs of Life v2: Many new puzzles (most of which will require payment), an easy way to compare scores with friends, and vastly-improved presentation will make Signs of Life a much more impressive game.

September 1 update: Wow, that plan worked out fantabulously, didn’t it, Internet? Eh, I’m still going to have five of the above out by the end of the year, just on a slightly denser release schedule.