Toxin for iPhone and iPod Touch

October 13, 2012 0 Comments

Toxin Screenshot
Its time to introduce my forthcoming game, Toxin! It’s my first game since 2003, and has been in development for erm, *too long*. I can’t give a release date yet; every day I sit down and say, “this week I’m going to finish it”, but most of the code and artwork is complete. There are some cosmetic changes I want to make, so please bear in mind that these screenshots might not reflect the finished product.

Toxin is an abstract puzzle/shooter for the iPhone and iPod Touch, running on iOS3.0 and above. The basic gameplay is simple. You control a ship that rotates around the edge of an elliptical playfield, shooting inwards. If anything touches the edge you lose energy. Lose too much energy and you die.

Inside the ellipse are 99 levels of swarming biological foes, multiplying toxic cells, physics puzzles and colourful particle effects.

Microbes - Vision Software 1991

Toxin was inspired by a number of different games including Geometry Wars, Tempest, Space Invaders and Ebonstar, but the biggest influence was Microbes, released by Vision Software in 1991. I really enjoyed this back in the day, and like many innovative Amiga titles it seems to have disappeared from the consensual history of video games. You can play it with UAE, but I dont think the emulation is perfect.

I also tried to add some simple puzzle concepts to give the game more depth but without affecting the pace too much. The design process involved me sitting down with a coffee every night after work, staring at my sketchpad and thinking, “now what can I do inside an ellipse?”


Tempest - Atari 1981Vortex - 1988 Visionary Design
Ebonstar - 1988 MicroIllusionsE-Motion - US Gold 1990
Direct and indirect influences.Clockwise from left: Tempest, Vortex, E-motion, Ebonstar

Once this game is done, I am thinking about writing a Toxin “Remix” called Antigen. It will have the same ship-in-an-ellipse structure but the core game will be more puzzle based and slower paced as well as having different artwork. I think the idea of a game remix could work well at low pricepoints, a little like the way remix CDs used to accompany singles.

Soon I’ll write a little on how the artwork was done, and how it went through a long, painful process of development. I am also looking into producing a gameplay video, so stay tuned…

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New Website –

July 12, 2012 0 Comments

The website for my forthcoming iOS game, Toxin, has gone live today. Its just a teaser at the moment. I’ll add more details as the game gets closer to release. I’ll also start posting here a bit more often too:)

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Notes on a Language of Game Design #2

October 15, 2011 0 Comments

One of the things that got me thinking about the possibility of a language of game design is the feeling I often get while playing that content doesn’t matter. After I’ve been playing games for far too long, the lush scenery and the carefully rendered characters devolve into blurry signifiers, shapes that appear in configuration with other shapes, triggering wordless actions that have been scoured into my mind by hours of play. Thoughtlessly, I finish every sentence the computer starts, never letting it complete itself before I have acted and moved on.

Game content can be interpreted in any number of ways, but the game rules only allow the objects and characters to behave in a limited number of ways. Eventually, the feeling of possibility evoked by the content diminishes as the player learns the few terms by which he is allowed to use it. The characters, landscapes and even storylines become icons in a much simpler network of concepts.

The relative simplicity of this network of concepts is one of the things that convinces designers that there is such a thing as a language of game design.

I am beginning to wonder how much of this perception that there is a language of game design is down to the controller, rather than anything to do with the logical form of game entities. Imagine actually performing the action in a game rather than using a joypad.  Is there still a sense of musicality and rhythm? When imagining driving, then shooting, then playing tennis, is there the same sense of rhythmic sameness that arises during long playing sessions on different games?  The controller masks the complexity of relations between game objects and makes them feel the same.

A language of game design would be the same as the language that describes relations between entities in the real world.  Certain types of relations would be more playable than others, and this would narrow things down, but the essential form of game entities is the same as it is in reality.


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Toxin – Coming Soon

June 10, 2011 0 Comments

Toxin Title Screen

This is the titlescreen of Toxin, my first iPhone game. It was only supposed to be a warm-up; a short project to help me get back into the game after a few years developing web applications, but it has taken much longer than I anticipated.

I’m doing the whole thing myself, code, graphics and sound, largely because I don’t know anyone who could help me out, but also because I was a child in the 80’s, and despite all the developments in gaming that have happened since then, I still have the image of the lone game developer somewhere in the foundations of my mind. I grew up idolizing 8-bit legends like Tony Crowther and Andrew Braybrook, and learned to code in a world where games had authors associated with them. Things have changed, but I still carry all that with me; I just wouldn’t feel like a proper game developer if I didn’t do at least one game on my own.

Oh, and the title screen is animated. It uses a pretty cool effect that I will probably write about soon.

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