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

New Release: Mobile B-Out

Posted by: Sam Horton on Mar 31, 2008 at 1:06 PM

Several months ago I took it upon myself to learn how to develop Flash games for cell phones using Adobe's Flash Lite. Flash Lite is basically a stripped down version of Flash that most modern phones come pre-installed with. The only alternative for developing games was Java, and I wasn't too excited about going there.

Releasing a Mobile Game
Today I decided to go ahead and release my first mobile game: B-Out. It's a simple game similar to Breakout or Arkanoid, and serves as a great time waster when you are bored out of your mind, or just need something to occupy your attention for a few minutes at a time. I also decided to charge one dollar and thirty five cents for this jewel of a game!

What What?
But Flash games are free!

True, but Flash games are free largely because there are several ways to make money from them without charging the player. Mobile games, on the other hand, do not currently enjoy this luxury. Since the market for mobile advertising is still in in its infancy, we have to look for other methods to earn a living from our efforts. This is why I decided to use the magical price of $1.35, which buys you the game and free updates to it for life! You can also install the game on any supported phone, free of charge, no strings attached. Why $1.35? Because after Paypal takes their cut, I will have exactly one dollar remaining and I think that is an excellent deal considering what a dollar is worth these days.

Since most people would be hesitant about buying something without first checking it out, I made this game-play video so you can get an idea of how everything works.

watch it on youtube.

Earning a Decent Living
As an independent Flash game developer, I am always interested in alternative ways to turn a profit from my games. The future of Flash game development seems to be heading towards micro transactions and subscription fees. While it might seem like a bad thing from the player's point of view—to actually have to pay for what was once free—it's actually a great concept that if implemented properly will allow developers to make complex games with better features. Anything that helps kick us out of the whole "play it for 30 seconds and throw it away" mentality that Flash games suffer from is a giant leap forward in my book. In the long run, I think we will be seeing some very advanced flash games that just would not be possible without some plan for funding them.

Plans for the Future
If this idea even remotely pans out, I will devote quite a bit more time and effort into making better mobile games. I would love to see this industry take off and become both accessible and profitable *crosses fingers* If I could survive comfortably and make games for free I would, but as it stands, the rent is always due and the bills don't pay themselves.

If you are interested in finding out more about Mobile B-Out or upgrading the Flash Lite player for your phone, then head back to the B-Out page at

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By: Sam Horton | Mar 31, 2008 at 1:06 PM | | Leave a comment