Postmortem: Puzzle Game in 48 Hours


I recently participated in the 20th Ludum Dare, a competition to make a brand new game from scratch in 48 hours, going solo!

The theme for the competition was from Zelda and internet Kitten meme fame: "It's dangerous to go alone! Take this." I made an old school, top-down puzzle game for this theme. After the 48 hour competition ended, I polished my game a bit and also re-submitted to the 72 hour Jam.

You should play both versions of my game!

I've also written a postmortem for the Ludum Dare site, that I invite you to read.

Screenshot of intro.

HTML5 Game: Commander Clone Training Mission


I've finished a level of my Run N' Gun video game that I have been working on for the Experimental Gameplay Project theme: "Cheap Clone." I have been evaluating the Akihabara HTML5 game engine in the process of making this level.

I present to you "Commander Clone 0.2 - Training Mission" — you should play it right now!

Eyeshot Blinking. Commander Clone shooting.

If you don't like something about it, please tell me! If you really love something about it, please invite your friends to play.

There are still some bugs, and this training mission level doesn't have a ton of content... but it has been fun to draw the sprites and modify Akihabara. I also like to think the level has a certain charms. ;)

Sauce Project: "What Ya Doin?" App


My Watermelon Sauce partner Paul and I were talking about journaling while working on projects. We prototyped and then built a Mac app that we think makes it easier to write little notes to yourself about what you are doing during coding sessions.

It can be really nice to keep a programming log. Especially at the task level. I like to have notes about how long things take and what bugs/challenges I encounter along the way. In fact, that's part of the reason why I created ShortJournal (although I've come to use SJ much more as a bucket for code snippets, ideas, and bookmarks).

I think the biggest hurdle I trip on when I get lazy about detailed journaling while coding is the distraction factor. I don't want to have to switch windows to do it, or even worse, take my hands off the keyboard and mouse to pick up pen and paper. I was chatting with Paul about this problem and about how it might be kind of nice to have something pop up every 30 minutes and ask me what I'm doing, and then just log it with a timestamp to a file. Super simple. He was instantly interested.

First, the Prototype

Within about 15 minutes I'd figured out how to make a prototype in Apple's Automator tool. It was simple enough to pop up a single line text input prompt with the question "Whatchya dooooin?" and then log the answer to a time stamped file. I saved the workflow as an App, and hooked it up to a crontab, and started using it. I really liked it, and Paul liked the prototype, too.

You can download the Mac App and the Automator Workflow here:

The Automator workflow writes the log to ~/doin.log in your home folder. Here's instructions to get it running every 30 minutes via a crontab:

# Run the following command in Terminal

crontab -e

# Add the following line to the file you will be editing

*/30 * * * * open ~/Documents/

# Note:
# ~/Documents/ is the path to your Automator app
# */30 means every 30 minutes... you could tweak that

# Save and quit the editor, and that's it!

Then, the Open Source Native App Version on GitHub

Like I said, Paul liked the idea. He suggested it become an open source Watermelon Sauce project, and that sounded like a great idea. Within just three hours of work he'd built the Native Mac App in Xcode and put WhatYaDoin on GitHub. Check it out! It currently lives in the toolbar and handles popping up every 30 minutes itself.

We've both been using it today, and it is very interesting! Next big question is going to be what to do with all the little journal snippets! I think it could be very useful for blogging or doing estimates.

Video: Why Mario Has a Wide Stance


So I've been hacking on the Akihabara HTML5 video game engine. I'm trying it out while I put together a platformer. I think I've come to an answer for the question, "Why does Mario have a wide stance?" Being from Minneapolis, MN I've heard my fair share of wide stance jokes (thanks Larry Craig) … in this video I talk about video game sprites with wide stances and why that is important for platformers. I also discuss how I applied this new knowledge to some code improvements in Akihabara.

I'm sorry to have recorded you such a long video, I didn't have time to record a shorter one. ;)

</2010> Much Belated Yearly Recap


The year 2010 was crazy and busy, but 2011 has started out even crazier and busier! Already in 2011 I've been to Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), been out of town for a project at work several times, and also I submitted my video game Re-Infiltration at Dusk to the Mozilla Labs Game On competition, making it to the finalists list.

But better late than never, I'd like to do a review of 2010 while it is still somewhat fresh in memory. This timeline is mostly for my benefit so that when I look back at 2010 it seems like an actual year of my life went by. I find it comforting to feel like last January was in fact 12 months ago, and didn't just happen last week.

I got pretty bad about posting to my blog in 2010 because of the chaos. A lot of my projects ended up going direct to @zacharyjohnson on Twitter. So there could be some things below that may be new to you:






  • Blocks Box, a simple physics toy for kids aged 2 to 102, approved in iPad app store

  • Took a very lovely trip to San Francisco to see good friends





  • Worked on a film for the Body Computing conference at USC, covered by Fast Company


  • Developed full-on Minecraft addiction

  • Visited Sleepy Hollow, NY for my friends' wedding (yes, that Sleepy Hollow)



I'd say 2010 was a really great year for me, but even more so it was a fantastic year for the web. I made the resolution at the beginning of 2010 to spend more time on interactive development and games. I think I definitely accomplished this, thanks in no small part to the fact that all the major browser players now have a very, very fast canvas implementation.

I also resolved to dig into the mobile web, and I had a ton of fun playing with the continuous stream of new functionality appearing in Mobile Safari on iOS. But Android has a Webkit-based browser, too. The new job I started in March in particular gave me many opportunities to explore and exploit the multitouch web environment on Android and iOS. I'm truly excited for what 2011 will bring to the mobile web space, and I also look forward to the role that Mobile Safari will play in my upcoming iOS app development. It's an amazingly rapid and versatile tool.

I think I met more people and had more opportunities to collaborate in 2010 than I have in a really long time. Maybe ever. I found that to be tremendously valuable and rewarding. I look forward to continuing that trend in 2011. You all do some really amazing things, and the web community now surprises and thrills me at a daily pace. Have a great 2011! It's going to be elevenz.