Category Archives: mine

dungeon janitor’s apprentice

dungeon janitor's apprentice

a while ago i was jamming out a bunch of tabletop games really quickly. one of them was “dungeon janitor’s apprentice.” the name came from a zzt game – it’s one of the ranks you earn in proving grounds, one of the super zzt titles. it’s a really funny phrase because of the dynamic it implies, and the rest of the game came pretty naturally just from that.

well, i liked the symmetry of the game a lot, and it became clear soon that i wanted to develop it into a sorry not sorry title. in making the finished rules, i tried the cheapass games route of only using public domain art. the cover illustration is from the british library’s flickr account, and the maps, scrolls and pennants are from the scarlet heroes art pack. i’m pretty happy with how it turned out.

this version of the game is more competitive than the original prototype: there are rules for scoring and for winning. (you’re free to disregard them, of course, and just play the game until you get bored.) a big thanks to max and patrick for playtesting the game and helping me clarify what counts as call-outable or not.

dungeon janitor’s apprentice is pay what you want on itch.io.

this post was reposted from my patreon. a couple other things from my patreon lately: bad plumbing, a super mario maker level, and the undertaking, a puzzlescript experiment with form and architecture.

sorry not sorry games

sorry not sorry games

my new site, sorrynotsorry.biz, is now online! i’ve been wanting a place and identity for my non-digital games, and that’s what this is. my digital games work, it’s becoming clear, is still grappling with the legacy of “empathy games” and it’s nice to have something apart from that. (digital games work will continue to get published under the “auntie pixelante” label.)

be witching 3.0 is out, as is an updated version of a wish for something better. everything on the website is currently pay-what-you-want; probably most things i release there will be. i have two more projects currently in development for it – for early peeks at them, become a patreon patron!

the sorry not sorry logo is by the inimitable solomon fletcher. check out the new site at sorrynotsorry.biz.

ohmygod are you alright?

let's go!

on june 24th, the day after returning from new york – the site of my road to empathy show with babycastles – i was struck by a car while crossing a crosswalk in downtown oakland, breaking my arm.

ohmygod are you alright? is a game about the experience and the aftermath. it’s a game about survival, what it means, and how it traps you. it’s my most blatantly autobiographical game since dys4ia – another episode from my life marked by struggle with a medical system and uncomfortable changes to my body.

many thanks to adam hartling, jodediah holems, kirk israel, jenn kaplan, dee pozo and jeanne thornton for providing feedback on the game. thanks to the always amazing girls rituals for the use of her song in my trailer – her new album reddishness just dropped and is maybe her best yet, check it out. and thanks to terry cavanagh for creating bosca ceoil, a free music-making tool which i used to create the melodies and background music in the game.

patreon patrons got daily updates and looks at the game as i worked on it, and also got to play a near-finished version of it almost a week early. check out all these updates – the ones marked “for patrons only” are just that, work-in-progress previews and sneak peeks just for people who support me for at least one dollar a month. pledge and you can see them too!

get ohmygod are you alright? on itch.io.

this post was mirrored from a patreon post.

a wish for something better

a wish for something better

a wish for something better is a little single-player self-care ritual. you play it with index cards and a pen. it came from therapy, i guess, and the places i invent when i’m depressed and need to imagine somewhere to escape to: a lighthouse on a far-off shore, protected by the crashing waves, or a houseboat drifting on a quiet sea. i lit a candle one overcast morning and played it on my common room table. and i did feel a bit better afterwards.

i came up with a draft of the rules before travelling to new york for my show, intending to have more playtesting happen when i got back. but then i was hit by a car. my arm was broken in the accident and will take at least six weeks to recover. i can type, but i’m not sure how much work i’ll be able to do, and therefore how much income i’ll have coming in. so i put the rules in their current state in a simple pdf and put it up as a pay-what-you-want on itch.io. any money you can give is appreciated! the rest of my games are also on sale at half off!

a wish for something better was inspired by some of avery alder’s games, my therapist, and my irrational romantic longing for a lighthouse.

this post was mirrored from my patreon blog.

emotica

emotica online

emotica is out today. i will try and keep this post short, because i was hit by a car yesterday.

i was on my way to the pub. i go to the pub every wednesday. i could have taken the bus, but i decided to walk, because  it was nice out, because i would have walked past the lake. i made it one block.

i saw the car before it hit me. i knew it was going to hit me, there was no chance to get out of its way. i wasn’t afraid. at that point, it couldn’t be helped. the car hit me. i wasn’t afraid. it was just a thing that was happening. i felt a tire pass over my foot. i fell to the pavement. my sandal flew off.

two girls in school uniforms asked if i was okay. i tried to tell them that i felt fine, as i put my sandal back on, but i don’t think it came out in one piece. i adjusted my skirt.

the driver asked if she should call 911 or drive me to the hospital. i picked option two. she didn’t know where it was, i had to direct her. i tried to call my partner, accidentally dialed my parents. oh god. i wasn’t ready to talk to my mom yet. my wrist hurt, and my side where i had fallen, and my feet. my feet had skid marks on them.

i directed her to highland hospital. i chose highland because i have no medical insurance. there’s a movie about highland hospital: it’s called “the waiting room.” i was out in about three hours, which is some kind of record. my partner brought me books, because they thought i’d be in there for ages.

my arm is broken. it’s in a sling. i showed up to the pub that way, while waiting for my prescription to be filled. i know the owner. “i got hit by a car on the way here,” i told him, “and i came anyway. i figure that’s worth a free drink.” he paid for my drink. i’ll probably give him a yelp review.

it will take my arm six weeks to heal. it’s a radial fracture. no bones were displaced. her insurance is going to pay my medical bills – hopefully. she seemed very embarrassed at having smashed into me with a car. it was a little awkward. she had never hit anyone with a car before. i had never been hit with a car before.

emotica is out. i worked on it for a very long time with leon and liz. enjoy it.

(this post was mirrored from my patreon blog.)

babycastles presents anna anthropy presents the road to empathy

oh god

so this past saturday i put on a show with babycastles, a new york diy arcade group i’ve collaborated with before. i’d like to shout out to everyone at babycastles who helped my show happen. this is gonna be a long list so bear with me.

thanks to: sonya, who did installation and painted the footstep path leading around the gallery; robin, who installed the games and ran the projector and television array; jen who managed the item shop in a cool reflective fox mask; and krissy, sam and frank who were working the venue. also the musical acts: kate mohanty, eartheater and dark sister. without you my show wouldn’t have been a music show. i want to thank anton for designing the tiny usb boots we sold at the show, jeanne for printing and producing and shipping them, and miracle for making sure they got to babycastles. thanks to adam, leon and liz for being magnificent collaborators and putting up with my ridiculous demands. most of all i want to thank joe for coordinating all of this, helping make my staggering vision into a terrifying reality, and being the best host i could have asked for. all of y’all really came through for me.

as for the show itself: it was real cool. my mom was there. there’s a recorded livestream of the entire thing; it’s kind of dark, but you can hear my poetry reading at the 1:09 mark, and then the musical acts afterward.

the centerpiece of the show was an installation called “empathy game,” an old beaten-up pair of my boots with a pedometer attached, and a five-foot podium to hold them. visitors earned a single point for every literal mile they walked in my shoes. as i expected, most visitors tried them on, walked around the space once and put them back. two people made a dedicated effort to earn a point. those are the ones who truly learned to experience empathy.

i don’t want to get super artist statement, because i did some interviews about the exhibit that should be out soon, but the installation is a reaction to the conversation around “empathy games” and especially how privileged folks will use them as a kind of shortcut to allyship, using a game like dys4ia as a substitute for truly educating themselves on issues surrounding trans women’s lives and how to support them. you can walk literal miles in my shoes and still not have learned anything about my experience or how to be a real ally to myself and other trans ladies.

empathy game’s companion piece, “walking simulator,” was a text-only stream of consciousness projected on the wall and also on a cluster of TVs (see above). walking simulator wove together fragments of internal monologue from my daily life: anxieties about my lack of control (over my appearance, the bus schedule, the world), rambles about femme villainy, lyrics from cyndi lauper’s time after time, and stories about weird things that have happened to me on public transit. essentially, a psychic projection of what’s going on in your head as you’re wearing my boots.

i also used the show to foreground some of the less goal-oriented, more exploration-and-play-oriented digital work i’ve been doing. there was a special endless mode of gay cats go to the weird weird woods and the debut of emotica, an editable emoji game world, featuring a special recreation of the gallery itself that i built just for that night. emotica will be out this week (i hope), along with the babycastles world and a snapshot of that world that i saved at the very end of opening night, featuring everyone’s contributions and changes.

one note: if you bought one of the usb boot sculptures, due to a goof up on my part, your copy of emotica is missing sounds. when emotica goes live you’ll be able to download the sound libraries and install them in your copy of emotica.

thanks to everyone who came out to my show! the road to empathy is a long one, and the exhibit will be on display at babycastles until july 16. check it out if you’re in town during co-working hours, 10am to 6pm monday through friday! GUARANTEED TO DEVELOP EMPATHETIC CAPACITY!!*

*NO

(this post mirrored from my patreon.)

be witching

be witching

be witching, my tabletop game about witch fashion balls, is available now in print-and-play format. players draw outfits, provide commentary on each other’s outfits (opportunity to channel your favorite obnoxious reality TV judge), and then there’s a pageant-style interview round where the players decide who is most worthy of being crowned witchqueen of the ball.

i really like that final interview round, because it stages a showdown between two players without any of the others being eliminated. instead those players are judges, coming up with questions for the finalists and deliberating over their answers.

this game went through many transformations. the first conception of it was as a digital game, inspired by online dollmakers. i might return to that concept someday – i wanted to have something done in time for indiecade, though, and i hate programming. so it became a game with real paperdolls. players would fish for clothes from a communal pile galaxy trucker-style, and each would have its own magical powers and stats. i was still trying to come up with something that could be a print-and-play game, and my solution for doll clothes that could survive the kind of handling that happens in a free-for-all grabby game was laminate. the laminate made the paperdolls even more unwieldy and fiddly though. and i never really liked the galaxy trucker format for this game in the first place.

i really liked coloring the paper dolls though, so i decided to make the game be about actually drawing and designing the outfits instead. the magical clothing became magical accessories that gave you advantages in a simultaneous bidding game that decided the outcome. ultimately the bidding game had really nothing to do with the drawing and designing though – but in playtesting we found that we all really liked the part where we had to make cases for why our outfits most deserved the magic accessories / fit the theme of the ball. so i decided to expand this part and make it a more central part of the game. (the bidding system got ditched entirely, but it featured a few ideas that might make it to their own game.)

the finished game is be witching (whose final name came to me in a dream). i mean, i say finished, but in reality it’s finished-in-time-for-indiecade (the deadline is the end of the month). there’s more i want to do with it – most importantly, i want to hire artists to create more drawing templates to provide for a wider variety of body types to choose from. i want a boy witch body. i want more transfeminine bodies. we’ll see how the game sells. it’s $2 on itch.io – if you pay at least $4 you receive “the kickstarter rewards pack” (there is no actual kickstarter), a set of ten extra cards to mix in. they add words like “boho-chic” to the game’s style vocabulary.

you can purchase be witching here. you’ll need a printer to, like, print everything. or you could just write everything on a pile of index cards.

my patreon patrons, as always, got regular updates on all the different incarnations of the game, on the results of playtesting sessions, and lots of sketches for art that may or may not have made it into the finished game. also, a huge thanks to my playtesters – becca, kenzie, kyra, lisa, rabbit and xandir – who helped make the game what it is today.

aunt flora’s mansion

aunt flora's mansion

aunt flora’s mansion is my second puzzlescript game! my first was a remake of doug beeferman’s 1991 puzzle game, cyberbox. flora’s mansion is a riff off of that game: i made it using all of the pieces from my cyberbox port. there are some neat machines you can build out of cyberbox’s pushers, sliders and teleporters: gates with switches, turnstile-like bottlenecks. it seemed perfect for building some sort of intricate, interlocking, interestingly-connected structure, so that’s what i tried to do with flora’s mansion.

using puzzlescript’s “flickscreen” mode (think of the first legend of zelda: walk off one screen, and the camera “flicks” over to the next), i built a puzzle game that comprises one large, continous area, with puzzles as bottlenecks. (sort of like beeferman’s own cyberbox sequel.) the biggest thrill for me in games as a kid was spaces that existed in parallel, where i could look from one area into another one that i didn’t have immediate access to: the feeling of sneaking around secret passages behind the walls, observing but unobserved. i tried to fit lots of spaces like that into flora’s mansion.

puzzlescript isn’t really built super well to accomodate flickscreen stuff. the whole game is essentially one large room, so there’s no way to reset an individual screen without resetting the whole thing. in fact, originally puzzlescript only saved the number of the room the player was up to and not the state of that room, so trying to “continue” the game just reset the game. stephen fixed the bug yesterday, so the player is no longer required to finish the entire game in a single sitting.

saving’s still not ideal: it’s possible to save in an unwinnable position and not get out of it. without a way to reset individual screens or allow multiple save states, i’ve done the best i can to make getting stuck as hard as possible. in an earlier version of the game, saving happened automatically upon entering a new room (when the name of the room pops up – “MAIN HALL,” “KITCHEN” – that’s when it would save). that made the problem way worse, because you could go exploring an accidentally trigger a save.

currently, to save, you step onto a heart (they’re all over the mansion) and press X or the spacebar. it’ll ding. that’s a save – if you press R (for “reset”) at any time, you’ll jump back to the last time you saved. as long as you don’t save in the middle of a puzzle, you shouldn’t get stuck.

click here to play aunt flora’s mansion! thanks to alan hazelden, stephen lavelle, jonah ostroff and jamie perconti for technical assistance, and jen ada, john h., chris harris, and kelsey higham for playtesting and feedback. and thanks as always to my patreon patrons for supporting the development of this game. they got lots of maps and updates on the game’s progress during development and also got to play it during the month that i was unable to release it because of the saving bug. so if getting to see my projects early is a thing that appeals to you, consider supporting me on patreon!

also, if you click the “hack” link on the bottom of the page, you can check out the source code.

anna’s b-day bundle!

by dominik johann

IT’S MY BIRTHDAY THIS WEEK! specifically on the 28th. i’m turning from a 31-year-old crone into a 32-year-old crone. in honor of that transition, i’m having a week-long sale of some of my games! LESBIAN SPIDER-QUEENS OF MARS, DYS4IA, TWINE AND PUNISHMENT and STAR WENCH are all three dollars each (normally they’re $5!), or grab them all for $10! that’s four games for the price of two! the deal is over once my birthday’s passed, so grab em while you can.

illustration by dominik johann!

cyberbox

cyberbox

when stephen lavelle first implemented realtime games in puzzlescript, i thought it might be neat to implement some basic ZZT stuff in it. (stephen asked me about how timing worked in zzt; i don’t know if he ended up basing any of his puzzlescript features on it.) eventually a simpler idea came through: porting doug beeferman’s dos puzzle game, CYBERBOX.

cyberbox came out in 1991, probably before zzt did. it has a lot of the basic puzzle elements that ended up in zzt: sliders that can only be pushed up and down or left and right, one-way teleporters, “pushers” that continually push other boxes when they’re able, usually used as gates or to set up chain reactions. it’s hard to know whether tim sweeney lifted these ideas from cyberbox or just came up with them simultaneously. he would had to have been pretty far along in constructing the shareware zzt series at that point.

i like cyberbox because it’s clever, tricky, and often good at misdirection. it also, unfortunately, has a life-keeping system: as in, every time you’re forced to restart a puzzle, you lose a life. you get four, and when they’re all out, you have to start the game over from the beginning. that seems like a really needless punishment for this sort of brain game: you need to experiment and to fuck up in order to solve the puzzles! so bringing it to puzzlescript – with its standard-issue “undo” and “retry” features – seemed like a good way to update the game. plus: it’s really easy to mod in new levels. (just click on “hack” on the game page!)

it seemed like an easy first project: if i ported an existing game, i would have a clear image of what the final game should look like. something to work towards. unfortunately, recreating some of the elements of the game turned out to be way more complicated than i expected. (puzzlescript kind of bunks up if you have multiple things pushing objects in different directions at the same time, like the pusher boxes in this game.) it ended up being kind of a frustrating project, involving repeated cries for help on the puzzlescript forums. alan hazelden, jonah ostroff and jamie perconti all helped rewrite my code to get around these weird bugs.

the sixteen puzzles in CYBERBOX are from beeferman’s original game. (the frame story and the graphics are mine, though.) at some point i’d like to design a bunch of original puzzles of my own, but i think i need a break from puzzlescript for a bit. there’s also a really neat dos remake of cyberbox called the continuing adventures of cyberbox which includes a bunch of new features and puzzles and happily nixes the four lives limit, but also drops one of the original game’s puzzles. it’d be cool if having a convenient, editable version of the game encouraged other people to build their own puzzles, too.

click to play CYBERBOX, or click on “hack” to edit it!