I am John Cooney. I am a game developer, photographer, and cat wrangler

Latest News

New Projects, New Stuffs

Hey everyone!

Not dead, as some would suspect.  Just really, really busy with so many various projects (3 games, 2 side projects, and a lot of upcoming news)

I released Curl Up and Fly on Kongregate!  Check it out.  Jimp helped out on the art!

I’m currently working on an iOS/Android/Flash game for Kongregate.  More details will be released soon as I get closer to having some progress done.  There will be a beta!  There will be sheep!

I started an ask.fm account to help get questions asked/answered sooner, you can ask directly in the sidebar or you can go here to ask me questions about anything.  I get emails, twitter messages, facebook, everywhere… its easier to have a central system of questions.

curl

 

Also hi!

Idleplex, Coopers Little Adventure Releases

It’s been a couple weeks since the last formal release of Sandbox Hero, but for good reason.  As a small break I decided to produce a couple games and to shake out some of the cobwebs of working on a single project so long.

Idleplex

The first game I released is called Idleplex.  Its my attempt at making a small idle game, in the vein of the Cookie Clickers and Candy Box games.

Getting further in the game accumulates more boards, and more management of upgrades

Getting further in the game accumulates more boards, and more management of upgrades

I approached this game wanting to return to simple game mechanics.  In fact, I considered how simple game mechanics could go, with simple shapes and single-button mechanics controlling everything.  After defining these simple mechanics, I wanted to let the games play themselves, and let the players focus on cultivating a mosaic of these moving pieces.

The final outcome is a large grid of minigames that take over the screen and beg for you to update them over and over and over again.

I hope you enjoy it.

Cooper’s Little Adventure

The second game I released is called Cooper’s Little Adventure.

The day I finished Idleplex I went home and decided to make a game a small game.  I came up with the idea of making very small upgrade game about collecting coins, and when I say small… literally small.  I wanted to challenge myself and try to make the smallest game I could.  I also challenged myself to make a game with UI and upgrades, and make it function as a start to finish game with a story.  The project ended up being 100 pixels by 100 pixels.  Most of my games are about 800 pixels by 500 pixels, so this game is about 2% the usual size.

Cooper's Little Adventure starts out in a cardboard box, as many adventures do

Cooper’s Little Adventure starts out in a cardboard box, as many adventures do

There’s not a lot to say about Cooper’s Little Adventure, just that I really like tiny projects because they really help challenge and inspire other projects.  This was a 3-4 hour project, nothing too serious, just a game developer having fun on a Thursday night.

Thanks to Cooper for letting me use his likeness in this game.

——

So now back to Sandbox Hero, and who knows what other little projects will poke in!

Sandbox Hero, Kongpanions, and Other Updates

If one thing is certain, I am terrible at updating my website.  I received no less then a dozen emails asking me if I was alive (yes I am).  So if you came back daily for six months looking for an update, sorry :(.

There’s several things I’m doing, have done, and in the process of thinking of doing.  But the biggest one is Sandbox Hero.

Sandbox Hero

About two weeks ago, Sandbox Hero came out of private beta and into public beta.  I can’t be more proud of what has been accomplished so far in this game.

Sandbox Hero is a game about creation, exploration, play, and community.  In the vein of other level creation games such as Little Big Planet, Minecraft and Everybody Edits, Sandbox is all about player-creation.  Players make their own maps from start to finish (literally), placing obstacles, enemies, and pathways to the exit.  In addition to building maps, a large component of the game is playing other people’s maps, where you earn XP and coins to level up your player.  It is both RPG and creation toolkit, and soon, some multiplayer components.  It is the most ambitious project I have pursued to date.

I wanted to talk a bit about the last few months of production and the way this game came to fruition.

Mom's Looking for You, a map I created in Sandbox Hero

Mom’s Looking for You, a map I created in Sandbox Hero

When I first approached this game I was thinking of something very simple… much smaller than what was eventually created. I wanted to make a game based around a level editor and sharing system.  I love platforming games, and I love level editors, so why not create a level editing platformer system for the players?  The goal was to provide maybe, 8 to 10 tiles and let people do very simple levels with them.  In fact I created the editor screen seen below as a mockup of what the final product could possibly look like:

The first iteration of the editor, with very simple blocks and a much smaller scope

The first iteration of the editor, with very simple blocks and a much smaller scope

The game was going to take place completely in this editor space.  There would be no hub for equipment, levels, etc.  Load and save would all take place through this window and it would be purely an editor.

As I developed the engine more, I realized the scope could take this game well beyond what was created.  What other features could this game have?  How could I build this game looking forward, so I could add even more features in the future?  I spent a lot of time on these questions, trying to balance what this game should have or not have all at once while managing time and priority for features.  I could go as far as full-multiplayer with real-time everything, or pull back to just simple level code sharing.  In the end, I decided to find the middle ground at asynchronous multiplayer and to scale up from there.  But even that was not a simple path.  The beginning of this game raised many questions I didn’t anticipate for the end-game.

There was five major problems and solutions I had to attack:

1)  Building Content Intuitively

Many players have never made a level before.  Some players use level editors all the time.  I wanted to make a system that worked easily for all experience levels.  I spent a lot of time fielding feedback and information on what sort of editing tools players wanted and implementing changes with each version, as players tested new builds.  More time has been spent on the editor than anywhere else.

A look at the final editor, which is still in-progress even in public beta

A look at the final editor, which is still in-progress even in public beta

The editor features are very simple if you want them simple, but if you want to dive deep into your creations, the editor is built to be as intuitive as possible.  You start with the tools in the toolbar on the far left and pass across the screen to the right, eventually ending in the Publish screen.  Everything is meant to be explored left to right.

When building the editor I wanted to make sure that adding new content would be easily done.  I went with a top-bar tabbed approach so that new content could be expanded easily.  I built a window system to make new editor windows very easy to build.  Everything was built for expansion.

2)  Sharing and Discovery

Sharing is the most difficult part of this game.  I needed a way to facilitate transfer of maps between players in a way that was easy and quick.  There were a few ways to do this:

Human-to-human Level Sharing:  Copy-and-paste level codes are simple and easy to implement, but they are not great to sort or manage.  The game started out with these but quickly moved on.

Kongregate Level Share:  Kongregate has their own level share system, which is a very simple and prebuilt system that makes it easy to add level sharing to any game.  It works great, but I realized quickly that I need to sort levels in very different ways than what was being offered by this level share.  So I realized I had to keep moving on.

Player.IO:  Bingo.  This was it.  Player.IO is a service that provides multiplayer/database services for online games.  I needed a database that players can search and filter through to find content, but not have to worry about scaling or crazy management tools.  This is harder, but easier on the players to find great stuff.  I had to learn how to program in C# to write server code and it added several weeks to my production time, but it was well worth it.  Now players could sort and filter maps by type of map, last published, etc.

After realizing that I now had access to a multiplayer database, I started debating multiplayer.  After working on Exit Path and other synchronous multiplayer games, I realized that this was a stretch.  This game already had a lot of sharing features and some planned asynchronous multiplayer features, so I decided to hold off until later pending success of the game.  Going forward it could be possible but I don’t want to say yes or no until I roll out more features.

As the game went through beta I learned a lot about what players wanted.  They wanted  more sorting methods and categories so they could find levels they liked.  Some players like playing automatic levels (rollercoasters) and others wanted levels about exploration and story telling, which are completely opposite ends of the spectrum in level design.  I built categories and special lists specifically to their needs and continue to do so.

An image of the area where users share their content.  This screen has changed more than a dozen times to reach this state.  Its very colorful and simple to use compared to the older systems.  Still in progress, even now

An image of the area where users share their content. This screen has changed more than a dozen times to reach this state. Its very colorful and simple to use compared to the older systems. Still in progress, even now

3)  Performance

I made a few maps but realized that people might be making ridiculously big maps.  Instead of limiting size, I decided to start optimizing the hell out of the game so that limits could be minimal.  I made my own compression algorithm for making maps tiny, and used some other compression algorithms to further compress maps.  I spent a few weeks getting maps down to about 15% of their uncompressed size.  Load times stay relatively quick for their thousands of tiles.

Secondly performance.  Displaying thousands of tiles is incredibly difficult in Flash, especially interactive or animated tiles.  I decided to try my hand at Starling, a framework built on-top of Flash that leverages the graphics card for processing.  This allowed me to render lots of content on-screen at great performance.

To maintain great animation for the player while maintaing performance I leveraged the Dragonbones framework.

To ensure that UI stayed sharp and flexible, I kept all my user-interface pieces in vector instead of bitmap.  This was difficult since Starling is based on bitmap graphics, so I had to build a special wrapper to allow for both traditional vector and speedy bitmap processing.

A map created by a player in Sandbox Hero, called Castle of Adventure, by Bud001

A map created by a player in Sandbox Hero, called Castle of Adventure, by Bud001

4)  RPG Mechanics

I spent a lot of time on level creation features,only to realize I was neglecting the actual play of maps.  The game is user created, meaning there wasn’t a lot of plot or storytelling to offer, so I wanted to offer more sense of progress for the game.  I added RPG mechanics which would allow for upgrading weapons and body pieces and allow players to grow in character while playing player’s maps.  This also allows for personal expression through dressing up characters.

I spent a lot of time working with my coworker Anthony to build the RPG system for this game.  He’s a bit of a data genius as well as very experienced in building extensive RPG systems.  It took a lot of wiggling of numbers, stats, and information to build the system that currently exists now (still continues to be wiggled).  The moment you add more jumping abilities or faster run speed it breaks many other features.  Making a flexible weapon/item pickup system was difficult due to all the possible parameters the player could have.  I narrowed it down to the following parameters:

Attack:  Amount of damage to enemies

HP:  Amount of damage a player can take

Dash:  Amount the player could dash

Jump height:  Height the player can jump

Jumps:  Total number of jumps the player gets

Run:  Speed the player could run

Each weapon and item changes these attributes.

An early realization is that some maps would be far easier to beat if a player was high level versus low level, and that some level designers wouldn’t want this to happen.  In an effort to allow for self-balancing, enemies scale in difficulty with the player, so the player has to continue to get better skill-wise and item-wise to continue to compete well on levels.  In addition, I offer a Pure mode to level creators so that they can set everyone back to level 1 temporarily if they want to.

5)  New Features and Tiles

Most of my games are built as to a very specific experience, meaning that I have no plans of updating them once they go wild.  In this game I knew I would want to keep working on it even after it launched.  I had to ensure that I built all the systems to allow for expansion.  New tiles are easily added through a built-in catalogue that I can add to very quickly New features , weapons, items, and enemies follow a similar system.  Backgrounds, midgrounds, and music also had to have special systems added to them for simplicity in creating new content for each.   The way levels are saved to the server account for

Being careful about being future-ready extended the production time but will speed up adding new content in the future.

Release and Future Of Sandbox Hero

The game went out of private beta a couple weeks ago and so far has been living up to my expectations, being warmly received.  Players have been incredibly supportive of the game, providing bug reports and feature requests far faster than I could ever keep up with.  The maps players are creating are phenomenal, and we are constantly surprised by the quality of content.  Quizzes, Rollercoasters, Stories, Deathtraps, and more can all be found from a single game.  I am extremely happy working on this project and seeing what the players will continue to create and share with the world.

The artwork by Jimp made this game really shine.  Jimp has worked for years with me on games and he did not spare a detail for this game.  I could not be happier working with him.

Sandbox Hero continues to be developed and will continue to be a work-in-progress.  I really enjoy this project and love the community that has started to form around it.  I will continue to work on it and give it the support and love I feel the players who help create it deserve.

Other Work

If you read my previous blogpost I was working on a button pushing game.  This game has  been cancelled due to proximity and style to the vein of Cookie Clicker, which released before it could ever see the light of day.  It was an unfortunate coincidence, but I’m going to use some of the material I was planning for the button pushing game in another project.

I’m currently working on a quick game which should this month.  Its a small single-player game with no name yet, but it should be enjoyed by those who liked my minigame compilations of years past.

On Kongregate I helped create a metagame for the site called Kongpanions.  A play on the word Companions, they are small, often cute creatures you are rewarded for beating and completing challenges on the website, specially through the Badge system.  One step further, you can use the Kongpanions you have collected on the site in games such as Sandbox Hero!  Its a fun system and rewarding to both developers and players alike.

A screenshot of the Kongpanions page on Kongregate.com

A screenshot of the Kongpanions page on Kongregate.com

Otherwise, I have a HUGE surplus of game ideas and concepts ready to unfold.

And in my personal life I’m watching the olympics, riding my bike, rock climbing, and playing video games (specially Papers Please, Legend of Zelda: Link Between Worlds, and Pokemon X).

I’ll try not to write updates once every six months any longer (sorry again), there’s a lot of great stuff coming up and I can’t wait to share it.

About

My name is John Cooney.  I am 26 years old and live in San Francisco, CA.

I was raised in Northern California where I was a creative creature.  A box of Legos turned into an obsession with computer-assisted design, which turned into a fascination in art and design.  By high school I was publishing my first games to the Internet.  At the same time I found a love of mountain biking, so much so that I took the AOL Screenname, jmtb02 (John Mountain Bike 2002).  It became my mark.

I am a proud graduate of UC Davis, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Technocultural Studies.  In Davis I was inspired to pursue a career in traditional 2D animation but soon took to more interactive design, with game design continuing to take precedent.  By the end of college I owned my own business and was producing internet and game design under my company, JMTB02 Studios.  It paid for college and the bills.  My major client was Armor Games, a small game company seeking creative content for their site.  After college they offered me a job in Southern California where I could pursue seemingly open-ended game design, a dream job.

Orange County is certainly a different place but I have found home here.  I married my girlfriend of six years and merged our two cats, Muffin and Bagel, together under one roof.

I found a passion for cycling, running, and surf.  I rode my first century (100 mile) ride in 2011 and ran my first marathon in 2012.  I learned to surf and found myself at the beach at all hours, driving as fast as Southern California traffic allowed to get to the coast.

When there is actual downtime I enjoy rock climbing, video and tabletop gaming, and perhaps even a run.

In 2012 I switched gears, moving back to the San Francisco Bay Area.  I joined up with Kongregate, a great, supportive place for game developers, gamers, and everyone in-between.

Want to know about my game design?  Or perhaps about my photographyContact me?

Game Design

I love game design.  I have produced about 90 titles to this point, doing all my own game design, programming, artwork, and sound engineering (I do get help on some of these things on certain projects).  These game have totaled hundreds of millions of plays and are (mostly) free to play and easily accessible.  Most are available on this site.

I am intrigued by simple ideas.  In a time of complexity in gaming I like distilling simple ideas into fun experiences.  You’ll find most of my work to be short, 10 minute to 1 hour games.

I have been blessed with many honors and awards for my work:

•  Game Developer of the Year, 2011 – Écrans.fr

•  Best in Genre (several categories), 2008-2011 – Casual Gameplay (JayIsGames.com)

•  OMG LOL award – Achievement Unlocked -  E4 Games

•  70+ Game Award Honors – Newgrounds.com

•  Feature Article – Little Games are Big Business – OC Weekly

•  Book Feature – 250 Indie Games you Must Play – Mike Rose

My game development upbringing is an interesting one.  As a kid I was not allowed to play video games after being caught sneaking out of bed to play.  After age 10 I found myself banned from games but constantly trying to find outlets.  Time with friends, minutes after class, and cell phones became haven for short-term gameplay experiences.  In a way producing games was a way to play them.

By the end of high school I started publishing my work online to share.  By the time I reached college my work started reaching thousands of visits, and soon millions.  I built a strong relationship and support with Armor Games at this time, and soon after I was employed for 5+ years as Head of Game Development.

Currently I am a game developer at Kongregate.

From a few hours to several months in production, each of these games is made a whole lot of love and effort.  I hope you enjoy.

Here are all the games I have made, in order of most recently made:

Give Up

Give Up

This game is too hard. You should just give up now.
Run Right

Run Right

Asteroids are coming! Run Right and shoot a few people on the way!
Epic Combo Redux

Epic Combo Redux

A redo of the class Epic Combo game!
This is the Only Level 3

This is the Only Level 3

The third and latest installment in the This is the Only Level series!
Chuck the Sheep

Chuck the Sheep

Upgrade, craft, and rebuild your ship and try to reach the meadows
Coinbox Hero

Coinbox Hero

Billions of coins to earn, but just one coinbox to destroy!
Exit Path 2

Exit Path 2

Its time to run again. This time, you have a job.
Soviet Rocket Giraffe Go Go Go!

Soviet Rocket Giraffe Go Go Go!

Grind, jump, and fly through a snowy Soviet landscape!
Elephant Rave sLoWdOwN Remix

Elephant Rave sLoWdOwN Remix

An April Fools joke, running Elephant Rave at super slo-mo
Achievement Unlocked 2

Achievement Unlocked 2

Time to find more achievements, this time... 250!
AngleBeat

AngleBeat

Mind and bend beats to their final destinations!
Treadmillasaurus Rex

Treadmillasaurus Rex

Run on a treadmill with a t-rex and a magic spinning wheel
Flock Together

Flock Together

Use your avian friends to seek your lost balloon
Elephant Rave HD

Elephant Rave HD

Elephant Rave, only HD'r!
This is the Only Level Too

This is the Only Level Too

The second installment in the This is the Only Level series!
Timemu

Timemu

Bend time and emus while collecting eggs and reaching the exit!
Exit Path

Exit Path

Run to freedom in a run-and-jump survival game
Balloon in Wasteland

Balloon in Wasteland

Defend your balloon from the onslaught of baddies in this defender!
Obey! The Game

Obey! The Game

Obey obey obey... unless it says to disobey!
I Hate Traffic

I Hate Traffic

Traffic is horrible... time to smash it up!
Redeye 1031

Redeye 1031

A crashing plane, a gas mask, and a zombie outbreak... game on.
Frontier

Frontier

Travel from city to city in this roaming RPG/Trading game
This Is the Only Level

This Is the Only Level

There is only one level.... maybe.
Epic Combo

Epic Combo

Time to hit a turtle with a hammer to cause chain reactions!
nanoTank

nanoTank

A physics-based puzzle-action game. Collect stars... get to the exit!
Giraffe Attack

Giraffe Attack

Rocket to the sky to fight... a space walrus?
Warp Shot

Warp Shot

Shoot an energy ball through hoops and teleport around the level!
The Next Floor

The Next Floor

Defend each floor with a variety of guns and weapons!
Hedgehog Launch 2

Hedgehog Launch 2

Launch your hedgehog to space... and through the core of the Earth!
Rabbit Wants Cake

Rabbit Wants Cake

Rabbits really love cake, program this one to reach the end.
Llama Adventure

Llama Adventure

A text-based adventure about a llama, and an adventure
I Love Traffic

I Love Traffic

Traffic needs to flow, and you need to help move it!
Fox Fyre

Fox Fyre

Bunker warfare meets space particle physics... fight on an elastic terrain!
Super Mafia Land

Super Mafia Land

A tribute to my favorite game of all time, SMB2!
Run Elephant Run

Run Elephant Run

Elephant has had enough of the limelight, its time to go home.
Light Cut

Light Cut

An April Fools prank, a riff on the traditional Dark Cut games
Achievement Unlocked

Achievement Unlocked

Time to get some achievements!
Dark Cut 3

Dark Cut 3

Time travel and surgery go hand-in-hand!
Pocket Change

Pocket Change

Add up coins to make full cash amounts in a limited amount of time!
Maverick

Maverick

8-bit shooter with a Yosemite Sam feel!
Sixty

Sixty

Sixty seconds to shoot as many geos as you can... watch the artwork explode!
Ball Revamped 5

Ball Revamped 5

The fifth and latest game in the series, with traditional gameplay and evolving powerups
Ball Revamped 4

Ball Revamped 4

The sequel that extended traditional gameplay and added an additional boss battle!
Ball Revamped 3: Gemini

Ball Revamped 3: Gemini

A shake-up in the traditional Ball Revamped formula, part 2
Ball Revamped 3: Andromeda

Ball Revamped 3: Andromeda

A shake-up in the traditional Ball Revamped formula, part 1
Scribble States

Scribble States

Draw a state using dot-to-dot then assign the name! Edutainment!
Scribble 2

Scribble 2

Dot to Dot across an entire canvas of different drawings
Scribble

Scribble

Dot to dot like a pro.
Water Dash!

Water Dash!

[flash http://jmtb02.com/flash/waterdash.swf w=550 h=400]
Four Second Firestorm

Four Second Firestorm

The latest and greatest in the Four Second series of microgames!
Four Second Frenzy

Four Second Frenzy

The second installment in the Four Second series of microgaming!
Four Second Fury

Four Second Fury

The beginning of the Four Second series of microgames!
5 'Til

5 'Til

You only have 5 minutes to diffuse the bomb!
Grid16

Grid16

16 games to play... all at once
Elements

Elements

Turn the world around the ball to navigate it down 20 levels
Ocean Explorer

Ocean Explorer

Take the best pics you possibly can in this underwater dive photography game!
Tage Rampage

Tage Rampage

Travel through five worlds in this pint-sized sidescrolling fighter!
Mr Walters Grand Excursion

Mr Walters Grand Excursion

A rope-swinging, rabbit-y adventure to the castle!
Dark Cut 2

Dark Cut 2

Old-timey surgery on the battlefield of America
Dark Cut

Dark Cut

Time for medieval surgery, now!
Knights of Rock

Knights of Rock

Rock out to this music beat-matching game
Parachute Retrospect

Parachute Retrospect

A redux of the classic Parachute Retro game made years previous
TBA 2

TBA 2

Travel through different worlds to find the exit in this reflex-action game!
Parachute Retro

Parachute Retro

Drop scientists into moving trailers below
Spin Doctor

Spin Doctor

Get those discs spinning to destroy matching colors!
Squeezed!

Squeezed!

Survive as long as you can with your mouse-moving star!
Luminara

Luminara

A particle-based twin-stick shooter!
TBA

TBA

Shoot from cannon to goal as fast as you can!
Ellipsis

Ellipsis

Click and kill geometry to survive in this high-particle experience
Argent Burst

Argent Burst

Destroy all the missiles in this vector-heavy defense shooter
TwoThree

TwoThree

Shoot two's and three's to survive the onslaught of... math!
Compulse

Compulse

Guide a ball through force tiles to each exit
Spectrum Genesis

Spectrum Genesis

Jump from dot-to-dot to reach the goal on each level
Elephant Rave

Elephant Rave

Rave ruined
Hedgehog Launch

Hedgehog Launch

Minovia Cay needs your help! Time to launch to space!
Ball Revamped 2

Ball Revamped 2

The Ball Revamped game that started it all!
Ball Revamped

Ball Revamped

The original Ball Revamped game, the first fully published release!

Want to see some really, really old stuff?  Check out the Archives.

Photography

When I’m not making games I usually have a camera in my hands.  Photography is my creative life outside of game design.

In 2006 I purchased my first camera.  I immediately ran outside and started taking pictures of flowers and animals, not really sure what to do with it.  Today I have a bit more focus but in many ways I keep the same philosophy in photography, adventuring outdoors with an open mind and just some ideas of what I plan to shoot while out there.  And no matter what is out there, whether it is snow, rain, or extreme heat, I love carrying a camera and using it.

I have a strong affinity for nature, conservation, and natural beauty.  While I produce most of my work in Southern California I also find time on weekends and off-time from work to travel to more remote destinations.  A lot of my work comes from Northern and Southern California, Nevada, and Utah.  I shoot with a Canon 7D and a Yashicamat 124G.

Here is a sample of my work.  If you would like to see more you can visit my photography portfolio.

Contact

Hello!  Thanks for trying to contacting me.  For strange random phone call reasons I have removed my telephone number.  If you need to contact me by phone please send me an email.

I typically respond in 48 hours.

 

Email

jmtb02 [at] gmail.com

AIM

jmtb02

Skype

jmtb02

 

Please do not contact me if you are a solicitor, robot, or evil person.

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