I’ve made Tickle Dice free on itchi.io. It was the first game I properly completed by myself, the first game I ever sold copies of, and I’m still very proud of it today.
Below the break are some of my thoughts on making it.I didn’t follow any of the advice I’d read. I started something too big, with no proper scope planning, and it spiralled out of control. But man did I learn a lot.
It started when I got excited about the idea of using 52 cards as resources for something. The idea was that instead of collecting XP or weapons or armour with different stats, you’d collect and arrange cards a certain way, and that would affect the other, main game. The mechanics of which I hadn’t thought of yet. But I was excited about cards, so I got busy working on arrays and values for suits and stuff like that. Exciting times. Then came drag and drop, and working out how to calculate values in the grid, and sorting out poker hands and trumps and I still hadn’t worked out what the hell it was all for. Some sort of rogue like top down shooter I was thinking. Hearts could be HP, clubs melee, diamonds loot and spades defence. Dragons. With clubs for spiky tails, a varying number of hearts, spade shaped spines across their back for defence and hoarding diamonds.
But I had no art. And I could not come up with a way to procedurally change the visual representation of the number of each suit on a dragon. And then animate it to move it. And then do something about enemies. With AI. Way too big a scope.
I also had not done any research at all and had no idea that poker squares was a thing. Or that I’d just invented this thing that already existed, albeit with the further complication of trump suits.
So I finally took some decent advice and cut back scope. I looked at the art assets that I had from open clipart and other free sources, and I decided on doubling down on the gambling theme and made it a poker yahtzee crossover. Catchy.
Bit by bit, 2 steps forwards, 1 step back I made a game, that held together, had a tutorial added in at the end (Never do this. Always allow for it from the beginning, or just write some instructions) and was something that others had played and enjoyed. So of course, I just stuck it up on the web, spent way too long setting up my own paypal payment system and failed miserably at promoting it. It got reviewed exactly once: a glowing 94% from Bytten, which put it on par with Din’s Curse and above Eufloria. Which is ridiculous. And it sold 2 copies ever to people I didn’t know.
I played it again last week before changing it to free on itch.io, to make sure that it still worked. And you know what? It’s bloody brilliant. The tutorial is solid, the writing pretty funny, and the deeper strategy in a relatively simple set of mechanics still holds up. There’s a lot of game in there. I wish more people had played it.
I tried to port it to Android once, but the ancient version of GameMaker I used didn’t allow for an easy transition to the newer version which has Android exporting. And the screen layout design and interface would need a complete overhaul. Be easier to start from scratch. And knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t make this game. But I’m glad I did.