Game Design
stories, tips, follies,
...and making some $$$ along the way!

Zodiac Reactor Released on Kongregate

Posted by: Sam Horton on Jun 4, 2009 at 2:45 PM

Just finished things up today with the new game: Zodiac Reactor! You can give it a shot over at Kongregate!

For the sponsorship deal, I decided to try out Flash Game License, to see if they are as great as I've been hearing. I have to say, their service is worth every penny! The game was on their site for about a week, and not only did I get some great feedback for improvements, but several sponsors that I've personally had trouble contacting in the past were able to take a look at it.

Check the game out over at Kong, and be sure to vote for it if you get a chance!

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By: Sam Horton | Jun 4, 2009 at 2:45 PM | | Leave a comment

About to release a new game - Zodiac Reactor

Posted by: Sam Horton on May 19, 2009 at 10:11 PM

This game was supposed to be next in line after Oroboros back in 2007, but as often happens, life takes us on a different route. I wound up putting Zodiac Reactor on the back burner to make room for several other projects.

Last week I decided that it was just too close to being finished for it to sit there collecting dust, so I've been working non-stop in an effort to wrap things up. It's pretty much finished, but I need to hunt for bugs a bit more before releasing it.

Creating Stars Would be Fun
Zodiac Reactor is basically a skill game where you try to collect elemental particles to fuel this star generator that is floating somewhere out in space. When you collect enough of each element, the reactor spits out a star and the universe is happy!

The arrow keys are the main controls you use to play, and each one corresponds to a particular element. Your job is to sync the reactor up with the same colored element at precisely the right time. If you miss, things will get hot and eventually you'll break it. The gameplay gets really fast-paced along the way, and will wind up giving your brain a decent workout. To keep things interesting, I included a mode called terminal velocity that maxes out all stats...It's crazy fast!

Concept and Artwork
I used a mix of Lightwave 3D and Flash to create all the art for this game. I'm pretty useless when it comes to pen and paper drawing, so working in 3D is fantastic. All the lighting and shading can be easily tweaked, and the possibilities are just endless if you have the patience. For this game I wanted a sleek and futuristic look with a lot of glowing sh!t...particle fx, magic runes that light up, etc.

What's your Sign?
Incorporating the Zodiac signs into a game about stars seemed to be a good fit. I decided to arrange each one based on the element it represents, and then make a belt of interlocking tiles that light up as you progress through the game. When all of the tiles are lit up, you win—At least in normal mode. There are a few survival game-modes as well, which is where things really get interesting in my opinion.

Music and Sound FX
In another life, I used to play the guitar, and for some reason, on this game I felt the urge to bust it out of its case and whip up a track. It's a pretty light-hearted song, with just enough synth to cover up my woeful strumming. I also made an ambient loop for the intro screen, which is nice and calm. For years I've been using FL Studio to make loops and sound effects, and highly recommend it if you're interested in getting a great piece of audio software without killing your wallet.

High Scores
Back when I released Oroboros, I built a custom high scores page that wound up being the second most visited page on my site, so I decided to make an even nicer leaderboard page for Zodiac Reactor! It has a comment system that you can post to directly from the game, and a bunch of other cool features. Hopefully it won't crush my server, but that's a problem I'm definitely willing to deal with!

I'm still thinking about how I want to go about releasing this game. I think it's my best one yet, so I'd rather not be too hasty. If any portal owners are reading this, I'm probably going to offer non-exclusive deals, but I'm open to any ideas as long as they are reasonable. If you want to get in touch, you can send me a message here.

Thanks for reading this long winded post. Be sure to keep an eye on the site over the next few days. Zodiac Reactor will be ready for beta testing soon!

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By: Sam Horton | May 19, 2009 at 10:11 PM | | Leave a comment

Big Fish Games - Drastically Reduces Prices

Posted by: Sam Horton on May 15, 2009 at 9:05 PM


Big Fish Games just announced today that they are dropping their prices from $19.99 to just $6.99 for every game on their entire site!

Definitely worth checking out if you want some quality games on the cheap!

My all-time favorite game at Big Fish, hands down, is StarDrone. It's got to be the most unique take on pinball ever invented, and I can't think of one reason not to buy it if it only costs $6.99!

Support this game!


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By: Sam Horton | May 15, 2009 at 9:05 PM | | Leave a comment

Some of my Favorite Free Games

Posted by: Sam Horton on Mar 24, 2009 at 6:07 PM

I was thinking about how much fun I've had over the past few years making games and participating in the Flash Game Community, and decided to write a few blurbs about the games that have inspired me during that time.

Considering the times, I figured it would would be appropriate to write something for the budget minded among us. So If you are looking for some of the better (in my opinion) free games from the past few years, definitely give the article a read and let me know what you think!

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By: Sam Horton | Mar 24, 2009 at 6:07 PM | | Leave a comment

Been out of the game game for a while

Posted by: Sam Horton on Feb 12, 2009 at 7:54 PM

About a year ago I had the unfortunate experience of high voltage electricity flowing into my PC. You see, we have lots of lightning here in Florida, and within a time frame of 2 days I was struck as many times. The sad part of the story is that after my PC got fried the first time, my friend Chuck gave me enough spare parts to build a new one. Just as I got everything working again, the damnable lightning struck back--frying yet another PC.

The long and short of it is that I have been using a 6 year old Frankenstein PC for the last year, and have not been able to run anything even remotely recent game-wise. I finally decided enough was enough and shelled out the cash for a new system. The thing I really like about PC's is that you can always upgrade for under $500 and get something that will last for a few years easy! I wound up getting an Intel Core2 Duo 3 GHz, an awesome Gigabyte motherboard, an Nvidia 9800GT, 4Gigs of ram, and a new hard drive for about $480! Since I use this PC as my primary workstation I also get to write it off on the taxes (which is why I ultimately decided to get it over a PS3 :).

Once You Know, You Newegg

Every time I wind up getting a new PC, I always go to Newegg. In fact, I don't even pay attention to what is going on in the tech world until it's time to upgrade, and a few minutes of comparison shopping on their site is enough to get back up to speed and make an informed decision. For what it's worth, they most certainly get my stamp of approval. Just check out the latest box-o-parts, and witness the awesomeness!

PC Gutz

Flash Gaming
Now I've been making Flash games for a while, and you really have to design for the LCD because the average system spec in the Flash arena is quite a bit lower than what the hardcore gaming market enjoys. As a result, most of my big ideas wind up having to get chopped down until they barely resemble the original vision. This is usually fine for Flash games since they should focus on a single, refined gameplay mechanic. In the last few weeks however, I've had a chance to step back into the graphically luscious world of modern gaming, and play many of the titles that I've had on hold up until now. All I can say is wow! Things sure have changed since I left off. If only there was a way to mix the simplicity of Flash with the power of modern hardware!

Modern Gaming
My video card came with a free copy of Call of Duty 4 Modern Warfare, which was probably the most fun I've had playing a shooter since I can't remember when!

Next I tried Bio Shock, and despite my love for Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, I found the game to be tedious, and unsatisfying. Mostly due to the hacked bits of storyline interspersed throughout the game, but also from the endless crate/box/ashtray/safe/cabinet searching. Seriously, tedious.

The other day I found a copy of the collector's edition of Crysis for $19 at GameStop, and I think it might be my new favorite game! I absolutely love when a regular story transforms into the ridiculously far-fetched, and pulls it off! This is something that most movies seem to fail at or avoid altogether, because of the scope/time involved in telling such a story. Games now days are really the middle ground between books and movies as far as story telling is concerned, and it seems like they have finally matured enough to occupy a serious place among the arts.

Fallout 3 is next on the list!

By: Sam Horton | Feb 12, 2009 at 7:54 PM | | Leave a comment