Steven Fletcher

Indie Game Programmer Extraordinaire

Herein, I describe my programming "achievements".

College: 1998 - 2002

I learned relatively little in college, partly due to attempting a degree program that was clearly too advanced for me and partly due to what I call failing at life. Even so, I did manage to teach myself how to program low quality video games while I wasn't in class. This was impossible prior to taking 15-211 (an introductory algorithms class of some kind), which taught the basics of the Java programming language in the first week or so of class. The other useful class I took was 15-381 (an artificial intelligence class), in which I learned about A* path finding. While these aren't the only things I learned in college, they are the primary things I learned that I actually use.

While in college, the main projects I worked on were the following:

Ecoheroes & Mythale RPG: 2002-2004

I started programming a 2d arcade game called Ecoheroes. It was loosely inspired by the simulation part of a game called Actraiser, but it failed to capture Actraiser's special charm.

I worked on Ecoheroes as time permitted up through the summer of 2003. At that point, I still needed artwork and music. I managed to convince people to do art and music for the game, though I couldn't get as much art as I wanted. I actually paid them for this - not much, but it was still more than the total sales of the game.

In November 2003, I started distributing the game. I only sold 3 copies.

The main problems with Ecoheroes were the following:

In December 2003, I started programming a 2d RPG called Mythale RPG. This time, I used better coding practices from day 1, though there was still room for improvement. In a few short months, Mythale RPG's code was more or less complete, but the game wasn't really how I intended it to be. There were a number of features that I added but never improved upon. The character advancement system was supposed to be the coolest feature, but it was more tedious than anything. I only created a 4-area town, a forest, and a mine. There was essentially no art or music for the game.

Even so, Mythale RPG was far superior to Lunatic Ambition. It had the features an RPG is supposed to have; it just wasn't particularly fun.

Sometime in early 2004, I tried to improve Ecoheroes in the hopes of making it into a game that people would actually buy. If anything, I made it significantly worse. And then Java 1.4.1_02 was released. Both games started crashing under the new version of Java. The sensible thing to do would be to embed the older JRE with Ecoheroes, but I gave up on both games.

Bot Asylum: 2004

In the summer of 2004, I started programming Bot Asylum over from scratch. It was never a serious project, just something I wanted to do. The program was better than before, but I did even less scripting. Since Bot Asylum was based on using finite state machines to use prescripted responses, it was doomed from the beginning. (I was aware that this approach was doomed, but I wanted to experiment with it all the same.)

I worked on it sporadically for about 6 months before abandoning it altogether.

Rabbits: 2005-2006

Early in 2005, I started writing a tutorial about programming games in Java. The general idea was that I would program a number of simple games and explain how to program those games in the tutorial. Unmix was the only full game I actually completed for the tutorial. It was a much improved version of Dr. Mixer's Laboratory. I gave it away for free.

After a few months, I decided that I would rather program some more games before finishing the tutorial, so I discontinued the tutorial to work on an RPG. I called it "Rabbits" and made a game like the "Rabbit Warriors" scenario that I had started as a test scenario for Lunatic Ambition. Aside from my pathfinding code from Mythale RPG, I didn't reuse any code from either of the 2 previous RPGs I programmed (though didn't complete).

In July 2006, I finished Rabbits (although I didn't acquire music for it until a bit later). I had originally planned to include another town, but dropped it from the game to work on another project.

For nostalgia's sake, I've made the Rabbits demo available right here:

Rabbits 0.66 (demo)

This is a simple (and free) RPG that I created as a sort of a prototype. Rabbits only has limited art and music resources. Read the storyline if you like. Or download the final demo.

Although Rabbits includes a map editor, it's undocumented and also buggy. You can fool around with the map editor if you like, but the dialog for opening and saving files is broken. The game may experience some minor problems with newer versions of Windows, and this will never be fixed.

Nanotron: 2006-2007

The project that prompted me to stop working on Rabbits was a breakout clone called Nanotron. Eduardo Ramirez is the one who started the project. Its main difference from other breakout games is that the germs you have to hit with the ball move back and forth like in Space Invaders.

In November 2006, we made Nanotron available for testing. The general consensus was that it didn't have enough features, so we started revising the game.

While working on Nanotron, I started programming something called Vulcan Compiler at the same time. It was intended to create PHP text adventure games from a simple scripting language. However, the guy who was going to generate content for it actually wanted to work on something else entirely. I abandoned Vulcan Compiler and concentrated on Nanotron. I mention this project only because I would like to work on it again someday.

I moved most of the content from the Cow God Games to the Orbital Cows Entertainment website during April. The new site essentially replaced both the Cow God Games and In-orbit Concepts websites, though both sites still existed for a while.

In May 2007, the Nanotron beta test took place. Nanotron was finally released in June 2007.

Lucky's Puzzle Carnival: 2007-2009

After Nanotron was released, we started work on a sellable version of Unmix. This new version of Unmix includes 3 games in one package, called Lucky's Puzzle Carnival. The other two games in the package are called Color Mix and Memory Search.

I spent most of December 2007 updating the website. The game list is now backed by an SQL database, and we started selling games as an affiliate with BMT Micro. There were some other updates as well, and fiddling around with the website is something I've been doing often ever since.

During December 2007 and January 2008, we had the bulk of sales for Nanotron. This is because Nanotron was mentioned in PC World's article about Nanotron and two other programs. This is the only semi-positive attention any of our games has ever gotten.

In April 2008, I eliminated the cowgodgames.com website entirely and moved the little remaining material to this site. Over the course of 2008, the Orbital Cows Entertainment website evolved a great deal.

Lucky's Puzzle Carnival's development dragged on and on. The strange thing is that the programming and art for actual games was done in a period of several months. I spent most of the year developing more reusable library code, and then I added a world tour feature right at the end of the development cycle. It took Eduardo a while to get the art for the world tour feature done. Had I added that feature at the beginning, the game would have been done much sooner.

In January 2009, I began development on a 2d platformer called Kiki's Candyland. It was Eduardo's idea.

In March 2009, Lucky's Puzzle Carnival was finally released. For more about the development cycle, read the Lucky's Puzzle Carnival Post-Mortem.

Project Changing Adventure: 2009-2010

Also in March 2009, we decided not to bother with Kiki's Candyland. Instead, we would work on a remake of Rabbits. The remake will be called Rabbit Bureau of Investigation, and it will include an expanded version of the plot that Rabbits would have had if I could have gotten art for it back then.

I was a little miffed about throwing away the work I had done on Kiki's Candyland, but I would rather work on RBI anyways.

In February 2010, we rearranged our business structure. The business is now called "Orbital Cows Software". Rather than being a partnership, it is a sole proprietorship where I send royalties to my previous partner. This requires much less paperwork at tax time.

In November 2010, I decided to abandon RBI and move straight to an angel-themed game. While I plan to eventually make a sellable angel-themed game, I will initially create a freeware Rogue-like. This decision was made largely to permit a greater reuse of resources and to avoid spending development time on features for RBI that will not be included in the angel-themed games.

Very little work was thrown away. I just renamed everything from "Rabbit Bureau of Investigation" to "Angelband". While this was a good thing, it stems from the fact that RBI was still at an early stage of development after all this time. My plot notes didn't carry over to Angelband, but that's no big loss. Then, I renamed "Angelband" to "UgaritRL" because the name "Angelband" was derived from "Angband" but the game isn't really an Angband variant.

If you want more information about UgaritRL, visit the UgaritRL page.

At this point, Eduardo and I were working on separate projects.

During this time frame, LPC and Nanotron were both updated several times. Each update included only small changes and bug fixes, but they were necessary. For a while, there was a bundle with both games as a low cost option, but I later lowered the prices of both games individually instead.

Calfstronaut and the Computer Bug Infection: 2011

Basically, Eduardo made Calfstronaut and the Computer Bug Infection by himself. I gave him some ideas, did alot of testing, and creating the setup file. But he did all the artwork and all the programming (using GameMaker or something).

It didn't take him that long to make it, in stark contrast to how long it takes me to do anything. I was slowly plodding forward with work on UgaritRL during this time, but I didn't do as much as one would expect. During this time period, I played alot of video games and made YouTube videos of myself playing many of them. I created videos for Nanotron and Lucky's Puzzle Carnival in the hopes of selling more games, but this failed.

None of the videos I made contained any commentary, so they weren't Let's Play videos. Let's Play videos are what's popular on YouTube these days, so I'll probably try to make some at some point.

UgaritRL: 2012-

Progress has continued at an erratic pace with long multi-month periods going by with me not doing much. I've had other issues to deal with, and it's hard to stay motivated to work on something I'm making for free. As of 2013/03/28, I removed the builds that were available for download. I had originally made a build available to show some people on a forum the status screen, but it's pointless to keep uploading builds that are essentially unplayable.

I'm going to have to pick up the pace alot if I'm not going to miss the 2023/08/11 tentative release date.

Copyright (C) 2006-2013 Steven Fletcher. All rights reserved.