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January 28, 2018 - New Game! Introducing Timecat.

We are launching our new game today. Timecat is a game based on the Cursor*10 web game.

Unfortunately, our experience making Timecat didn't go as smoothly as Endless Dotman. Timecat is a pretty cool idea and we had a lot of fun with it at first, but it's a puzzle game that relies on kind of a gimmicky mechanic, and once you figure it out, it doesn't have a lot of replay value.

I was able to do most of the programming for Timecat in about a week last October. My initial idea was that the boys would do level design for it, but I got bogged down and never finished a level editor for them. Also, as I said, the game doesn't have much replayability. With Dotman, the boys were excited to keep playing over and over again, which made it fun to find bugs and suggest features. With Timecat, once you figure out the mechanic, it's kind of tedious to keep playing. (We might need a better marketing department.)

There were some fun times though. When I first made the level, I found it was possible to solve the game using only 8 lives, but I really wanted the player to use all nine. So I made a change and let the boys play. Within 15 minutes Zeke had reported that he could now solve the game in seven lives. Ugh, level design. So there's a challenge for you. It is possible to win the game in only 7 lives if you play it perfectly. Good luck!

Anyway, after realizing that Timecat wasn't going to be quite what we expected, we've been anxious to move on. I didn't want to just junk it, so I decided to put it up as is. We haven't polished it or replaced the placeholder art (Neko cat) we were using, but it is playable and winnable, so please enjoy and maybe email us at boxcarpuppy@gmail.com if you have comments.

October 3, 2017 - Our first patch!

We added a new logo to Endless Dotman. Also we changed the fruit art to our own art so we are no longer using emojipedia's art.

October 1, 2017 - Release Day!

We are pleased to announce the release of version 1 of Endless Dotman. Zeke, Jack, and I worked hard to hit this (completely arbitrary) October 1st deadline and we hope you enjoy the game.

One of the things I am trying to teach the boys about is customer service, so if you have questions, complaints, or find a bug in Endless Dotman, please let us know at boxcarpuppy@gmail.com.

You can see the release notes on the Endless Dotman page.

September 24, 2017 - Welcome to Boxcar Puppy. My name is Jon and I'm a video game engineer. This is my site for playing around with game ideas and for learning new things.

A few weeks ago, my friend Bryan told me about his idea to start a site to play around with Phaser.io, a really great HTML5 game library, and I loved the idea, so I stole it. (I also stole some of his html and css code, thanks Bryan!) I had an idea to do a version of Pacman where the world wasn't a single screen, but just went on endlessly as you explored it.

When it came time for me to register a site name, I asked my kids, Zeke (13) and Jack (10), what would be a good name. We threw around some ideas. Zeke is crazy about trains and Jack loves dogs, so we decided on Boxcar Puppy. I asked them if they wanted to help me make a game, and they said yes.

Jack wanted to know what his job would be and I told him, "you're going to be the producer."

"What's a producer?"

"You're the boss, man. You get to tell me what to work on." He liked the sound of that but was skeptical that I really meant it.

I told Jack what Raph Koster (GRATUITOUS NAME DROP!) told me when I worked with him at SOE. A producer basically makes lists, then they makes lists of lists. Then they make sure the lists get checked off.

So we started making a list. I had already done a small prototype of a little dude walking around a Pacman-like maze, one ghost, and dots. I showed it to Jack.

"What does this need to be a game?"

"Power mode where you can eat the ghosts. Keep score, end and beginning screen."

"Write it down."

At first, he tried to make a list with paper and pen, but I showed him how to make a TO-DO list in Google Sheets on his laptop. So we spent about half an hour thinking of different things our game would need, and he would add them to the spreadsheet. And we were having a blast. Here's a screenshot of the spreadsheet; all items entered by Jack.

The bugs tab came about because Zeke wanted to get involved too. So I told him to play the game and if he found a bug, enter it on the bugs tab. Our QA department was born.

It was when Jack said "Achievements" that I decided to introduce him to the concept of MVP, or minimum viable product. So we made a column called MVP and started deciding whether certain features were needed for MVP or not. He was doing actual work and still enjoying himself.

When we got to music, we had our first disagreement. "Is music really MVP?" I asked.

"Yes." Emphatic. Man, this kid really was turning into a producer.

I explained that music was hard because we can't just used someone else's music without paying for it. So Jack downloaded FL Studio 12 and composed our game theme. He tried to make it spooky.

So that's been the last couple weeks. I come home from work, and I work on our little game. Zeke tests out the latest stuff, and Jack checks stuff off the list, and adds new stuff as needed. You can play our game right now (still early Alpha), and see the release history. I've been trying to do things the "right way" with release numbers, release notes, gitflow, etc. We are making all the assets ourselves (as of now, there are still some placeholder images from Phaser in the game, but they will be replaced soon).

I've been trying to balance making sure the kids are still having fun (allowing Jack to be my boss helps) but also having them learn things about the game industry that most people don't know about. I even toyed with the idea of using JIRA for tasks/bugs but decided that was overkill. (And every producer I've ever worked with just fainted at the idea of me voluntarily using JIRA.)

Last week, I was deep into coding some new maze generation algorithm to make better mazes. Jack came in and asked what I was working on.

"Maze generation."

"That's not on the list!" Heh. Welcome to production, kid.