Broforce: Road to Freedom

Documentary, super friendship arcade, Video

Oh hai old blog.
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I’ve been straight up terrible at this. NMJM was meant to be my platform for sharing the exciting game-related adventures I’ve been having. Instead, I’ve posted next to nothing, despite adventures over the past months having been been plentiful and incredibly awesome.

There’ve been no less than 3 Super Friendship Arcades thrown and a score of jams jammed. Several weird little games have been started. Snow Cones has been (kinda) completed and has been shown off at events in Cape Town, Johannesburg and London. There’s been some exciting bits of progress on Mecha Mews, our kitten/ mech, music fighting game. At A MAZE Johannesburg I presented “The Shape of Punk to Come”, my long planned talk on the future of alternative games.

I hate that I’ve done such a shitty job of documenting or sharing any of these adventures. I guess the plus side is I’ve been living them, but what good does that do you, Dear Reader?

As I type this, more adventures are being lived this very moment. Over the past weeks I’ve been busy on artwork for a project with my friends at Clockwork Acorn. It’s an incredibly exciting game to be a part of, and well deserving of posts of it’s own. Look out for those in the future.
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Alongside that, I’ve been spending most of my waking hours at the Free Lives House, where I’ve been “documenting” my friends as they finish off their game Broforce. 3 years in the making, the action platformer will be officially released an hour from my writing of these words. I’m so greatful to have been asked to document these last days of the game’s development. Seeing a project like this (the result of so very many hours of incredible creative energy and collective passion) coming to fruition, has been amazing. What’s more, every day I’m getting to hang out with some of my dearest friends, and I get to call it work.
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The actual work itself has been a total joy as well. What I’m getting to do with these Broforce webisodes is a something I’ve wanted to do for years, and dabbled in a little here and there, but actually getting to make something that references shitty magazine programs and bad South African TV is just a dream come true. Somehow, thankfully, the Free Lives gang seem to approve of the absurd twist I’ve put on these documents of the last days of their game. As has been the story of most of my game-dev-related adventures, I see this as a sign I’ve finally found my tribe.
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There are another 3 episodes of Road to Freedom in the works. With the game not going live in 52 minutes, you can be sure there’ll be more hi-jinx ahead. For now, here are the first 5 episodes of the long Road to Freedom.

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UPDATE! BROFORCE IS LIVE!

SFA Beta Lineup and promo video!

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Last week a did a post lamenting my life becoming a case of way to much work and way too little play. I’m very happy to report the tides have changed since then; work has calmed down quite a bit and I’ve had some really good time to work on Saturday’s Super Friendship Arcade, and a trio of games for the night.

I’ll post more on the games soon, but for now, I thought I’d share my two latest creations for the event. First, we’ve got the lineup poster for the night:
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We’re really excited about this collection of games we’ll be showing off. It’s especially great being able to count so many “SA”s next to titles. The night is going to be a great representation of the combined efforts of developers from across SA and I look forward to there only being more local games ansd hardware to show off at future parties.

Then there’s this little sucker. I’ll let him speak for himself:


As I type this, I’m on the tail end of having worked through the night to get this video finished. Under any other circumstances I’d be feeling a little sorry for myself. However, having pulled an all-nighter for something as great as an SFA promo, I can only be filled with joy.

Super friendship Arcade Beta is going down on Saturday night at Manila Bar. If you’re able to make it through, this night might just change your life.

And on and on and on…

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I have a lot of actual, exciting, game-related news to share, but first, here’s a small explanation as to why recently there’s been so little (read: zero) recent posts on exciting, game-related news. I’ve been busy. Very, very busy.

In the space of the last three weeks, from start to finish, Cool Your Jets made:

A 1 minute trailer for a South African game studio.

A 3 minute animation about recycling in Finland.
A 3 minute, pitch video for film-makers in The US.

There was also the juggling of the beginnings and endings of various other projects over this stretch. And sandwiched between all that, I squeezed in a poster design for the next Superfriendship Arcade, a poster for the UK tour of SA band Al Bairre, the finishing of a logo design for a friend and the co-creation of a little icecream cone dating-sim. Through all this, I’ve also been chipping away at a certain psychedelic, space-horror comic-book, which, as things have played out, might have been the most challenging project I’ve ever taken on.

I’m busy.

The past three weeks have been especially extreme, but mostly it’s just in keeping with the way this year has been heading. Day after day, week after week, it just feels like there’s more and more that I have to do. Finding the time to do what I want to do becomes an ever-growing challenge. And so, it’s now May. Four months into the year, I’ve barely posted any magic up here and the sum total of my game-making endeavors for 2015 are a half-baked dating-sim and a not even half half-baked platformer about dancing bears.

I don’t want to dwell on this for to long, but this blog is after all here to document the story of me making games. Right now this is the story: Ben has no time to make games and is barely keeping his head above water. I’m grateful as hell for all the work, and I do love my day job. But at the same time, it breaks my heart that I’m left with so little time to do the best thing I can imagine using my hands and brains for; making games.

This post isn’t me complaining, or acting defeated. The bottom line is only this; it’s tough trying to follow your dreams. Regardless of what kind of dreams these are, most anyone that does follow their’s will tell you the same. Right now, the only way I can make little bits of time for games is at the expense of sleep, or hanging out with Anja and that really sucks. So it goes.

I hope that not to long from now this story will be different. It’d be amazing if I just got to dedicate one solid day a week to making things for people to play. I hope that’s what my story will be in the not too distant future. For now, I’ll keep fighting to find the time, loosing out on sleep, scribbling messy sprite sheets and pushing on and on and on…

Cadence Kickstarter is live!

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I’ve been a pretty crappy blogger over the past month. My last proper post was on the January MGSA meetup. February’s meetup is tomorrow already; I’m looking at a solid month with only a single real blog post written over it.  Why did this happen? I blame Cadence.

This isn’t entirely true; it’s been a crazy busy time for Cool Your Jet’s, with a bunch of cool projects on the go. But that said, nothing has been as demanding or time intensive as Cadence. If this is the first you’re hearing of it, Cadence is an upcoming musical puzzle game from Cape Town studio, Made With Monster Love. The first time I saw this game, I freaked right out. Cadence combines so many of my loves in one, truly unique package. I was swept away by the game’s look and feel, a  gorgeous, meditative  creation, really the kind of game I dream of finding. Then there was the fact that Cadence revolved around creating and shaping music; allowing players to lay down and control music in a 3D environment, like nothing before it. And it was puzzle game! And it’s actually also a synthesizer! And it came from South Africa! There’s so much to like here, I could really go on and on, but in short, the impact of Cadence just blew me away.

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Understandably, I was over the moon when Cool Your Jets were commissioned by Made With Monster Love to assist with Cadence. We were asked to help make a video for the a Kickstarter campaign, to see the game expanded on and released. After a good year and a half of independent development, Cadence is looking phenomenal. But with ambitions as grand as creating something that reinvents how people engage with music, the team are raising funds and establishing a community to take things to the next level. Matt, Jason and I were understandably really stoked to help them make this a reality.

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The process of crafting a short video to try to concisely sum up something as expansive as Cadence was one of the most tough challenges we’ve taken on since forming Cool Your Jets. It’s been a grueling couple of weeks getting here, but right now, typing this at 5:40 AM, waiting for our baby to upload the Kickstarter page that goes live in a matter of hours, I’m feeling pretty on top of The World. I’m really proud of what we’ve put together, but past that, just absurdly excited to be able to help bring this brilliant game to light.

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So, without any further ado, let me direct you to The Cadence Kickstarter! If you’re able to, please consider helping this incredibly special creation blossom into the wonder I know it will be. Tell your friends, spread the love and join us in bringing The World one of the most exciting games South Africa has ever produced!

My favourite moment of 2014

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Heads up: this is a cop out post. Cool Your Jets has been keeping me crazy busy. This has left me with zero time to write about all the magic I’m dying to blog about. However, I realised that I’d already written a bunch of words about some of this magic. I’ll be recycling those words now.

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Last year, my friends from Another Day sent me a set of questions. They sent the same set to another 29 people across South Africa, and over the course of a few weeks, released all the replies as a series called “30 people on 2014”. Each participant looked back on the year, commenting on movies and songs that had stood out to them, what they looked forward to in the year to come and what their favourite moments of the year had been.

My reflections on the year were (predictably) way, way, way more lengthy than anyone else’s. When asked about my favourite moment of the year, I got especially carried away and had to try really hard to reduce my enthusiasm down to a few paragraphs worth. Here’s what I had to say on the subject:
Your Best Moment of 2014:

While this fact is largely secret to much of South Africa, our country is home to this pretty phenomenal community of independent game developers. I discovered this in the most fantastic way possible on the 21st of February. Heading through to The Pit for an event called “Super Friendship Arcade – The Prototype”, I was unknowingly setting off to have my universe turned inside out. In the aftermath, this night would land up shifting the trajectory of my 2014.

The arcade was focused on local multiplayer games, presented with an aggressively all-inclusive attitude. That night the SFA transformed The Pit from a cold, indoor skatepark into some kind of flashing, bleeping, high-fiving utopia. In my 30 years on this planet, I’d not seen anything like it. I danced around a skatebowl, jousting with strangers. I stood alongside four other people as we worked together on piloting a rocket around with our feet. I got my first taste of the SA indie-sensation known as Broforce. I had the time of my life.

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That night I got home and dropped by the event page and must have said something along the lines of “this was the best night ever” and one of the organisers was like “thanks man, this is our gang and we make awesome stuff and you should hang out with us and make awesome stuff.” And that was that. The last nudge I needed into diving headfirst into game development, an adventure that, in a matter of months, has been one of the greatest of my life. And one that’s only starting.

For me, it’s not every year that a night like that first Super Friendship Arcade comes along. I’d mark my first exposure to The Secret Party in early 2005 as the last time I had that feeling of “I can’t believe this is happening and I’m here in this moment and nothing is going to be the same after this”. The knock-on effect of that night was that I’d start DJing, creating visuals, designing posters and throwing parties before the year was up.

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Since that first SFA, I’ve worked with friends, completing five weird little games. Along with my new friends I combined this game world with the band scene I’ve been in for so many years. I’ve stood and watched as strangers have high-fived in reaction to something that’s come into this world from out of my head. It’s been righteous. It’s just the beginning and I owe it all to one Friday night in February 2014.

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– You can read my entire 2014 article over at Another Day.

Super Friends in Miao

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sfa-bannerThe Super Friendship Arcade doesn’t come together very often, but when it does, Cape Town becomes about 9000 times better. This night is about bringing friends and strangers together, presenting them with some of the most exciting games that South Africa and The World has to offer. It’s about experiencing games in a new light. It’s about making games accessible to a wider audience in an atmosphere that’s welcoming, creative and exciting. It’s about changing the way people see games and each other and it’s quite likely the most beautiful social event I’ve ever experienced.

I’m not exaggerating in the slightest when I say this; The Super Friendship Arcade changed my life.


I could spend ages writing about these nights. And I will. For now, I’ll simply add that these nights are pure magic, in it’s most pure, righteous form.

Thanks to my enthusiasm for the nights, my experience in putting events together and the runaway success of a certain musical puzzle game, I was recently pulled into the circle of friends behind these nights.

And so, we began making plans for the next party.

And so, we started making plans for the next jam.

And so, this past Saturday, I found myself in my favourite new spot in Cape Town, surrounded by some of my favourite humans.

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Assembled to make things for the next SFA party, twenty or so friends made their ways in and out of Miao on Saturday. We drew and composed and coded and soldered. We made plans and drank beer and laughed at collections of people playing flutes along to pop songs. We listened to girls screaming and boys rapping and it was grand.

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Some very exciting projects were born at this jam. Richard unveiled Quadra-Butt; a 4 player, single-button, top down cabinet. I think it’s safe to say we’ll see some awesome games made for this thing.

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Raxter and Anja were the first to make this happen, teaming up on Gung Ho Hippos. This is basically a trippy, digital re-imagining of Hungry Hungry Hippos featuring awesome art, severed heads and so much screenshake.

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Richard and I also made some early steps in making a Quadra-Butt title. The plan is to make a cooperative first person runner in a fantasy world. We’re calling it “Run Stepdad! Run!”. It will be our first game to feature giant slugs.

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Adoné started what may have been the most exciting new project of the day; a home-made lazer-tag system!  She hasn’t given it a name yet. I’m calling it SFAzer-tag for now.

Rodain, Matt, Jason, Mona and I all started building foundations for Pug Stacking, a cooperative platform runner about the power of friendship and dog biscuits.

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Those are 4 big ones you can look forward to playing yourself at the next Super Friendship Arcade. We had a bunch more friends by working on interesting stuff or just hanging out. Morne was working on emulating a micro-console we’re trying to build. Peter was working on Cadence. Patrick was studying Unity. Ben was making magic blocks jump around a screen and shoot tiny blocks at each other.

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All in all, this made for a most excellent way to spend a Saturday with friends. Miao were incredibly gracious in opening up especially for us and their awesome establishment made for the coolest clubhouse we could have asked for. Now, I just can’t wait till the night comes where people get to play with all the fun stuff that was born at this jam!

Here we go magic.

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And it starts like…

It’s strange seeing the first words of this new blog manifesting in front of me. Twenty. Twenty Two. Twenty four.

I wrote thousands upon thousands of words on my old blog; So Many Animal Calls. This happened between sometime in 2007 and October last year. That blog was, primarily, about music (or rather, adventures around music). Bands from Pretoria and DJs from Joburg and so many of the best moments of my life. Somewhere on that ugly blogspot, between those thousands of words, there are stories and pictures and comics about making robot suits with my friends, animating visuals for shows, performing visuals with keytars, playing other people’s songs for packed dancefloors, playing short animations for half-full cinemas, drawing heaps of kittens, traveling South Africa with some dear friends and other bits of The World with others.
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This blog won’t be about any of those sorts of things. This blog is going to be about the one thing that, for years and years, I’ve found more exciting than anything else. This blog is going to be about games.

At the time of writing this, I’m a little over 31 years old. Ever since the first time I saw a Double Dragon arcade cabinet, I’ve dreamt of making my own games. I estimate that as at least 25 years worth of wishing. Now, in 2015, making games is no longer just a dream. At long last it’s becoming a reality.

I’ll surely ramble in detail about how this came to pass. For now, let me just say I’m so happy that the stars aligned. I was led to a tribe of incredible humans already making fantastic realities of their own dreams. They welcomed me into their chaotic, extended family. With a rotating cast of various family members, I worked on 10 game projects last year.  These times were some of the greatest creative experiences of my life. The best part is knowing there’s so very much more to come.
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I’m so looking forward to writing about the things I’m going to make. I am just as enthused to write about the amazing things other people are making around me. I’m surrounded by a small army, comprised of some of the most creative, friendly, motivated, kind and brilliant people that I have ever met. It’s not going to suddenly happen with one game, but together, collectively, I’ve no doubt this gang is going to change this world. Imagining our own little realities and bringing them to life. Game by game, transform this world into a better place than it was when we got here. Thread by thread, reweave the fabric of The Universe.

No magic; just magic.