Just Cause 3 — Firestarter Trailer and Official Screenshots

Hey everyone.  Just want to set this here:

The new trailer for Just Cause 3 has dropped.  The song is a beautiful cover of Prodigy’s “Firestarter”, performed by Torre Florim. (iTunes)

And some screenshots (courtesy of IGN):

You can follow JC3 at JustCause.com.

Merry Pixmas!

It’s time for some cozy Christmassy chip and pixels goodness!  This is your guide to the perfect retro Christmas.

8-bit Christmas cover artFirst, you’ll want to get your mittens on Rush Coil’s 8-Bit Christmas, which you can play from bandcamp (or download for a steal at $4).  This is a collection of 12 classic holiday songs, many taking cues from 8- and 16-bit classics to the point where you’ll think you heard this in your youth.

Next, for ambiance, you’ll need to pick up an awesome application called Pixel Fireplace.  Created by the friendly and creative duo known as Hex-Ray Studios, Pixel Fireplace allows you to type in commands and watch a deliciously retro fireplace come to life with your suggestions (change the color or toast a marshmallow, and more!).  There’s a free lite version, but the $3 full version allows you to do a lot more.  It’s fun to hook this up to a big screen TV and just leave a keyboard in front of it.  Check it out:

To round out the presentation, you’ll need to swing by ThinkGeek and pick up an 8-bit LED wreath.  It’s pixelated, does blinky things, and features references to retro consoles and games like Tetris, Super Mario, The Legend of Zelda, and Dragon Quest.  And they’re currently on sale for 40% off!

Merry Pixmas!

Avalanche Studios!


My silence for the past few months was due to an intense job hunt, which has finally come to an awesome end.

After ten years, I’ve left Wegmans Food Markets, #1 grocery store in the country (Consumer Reports) and one of the Best Places to Work in America (Fortune), to begin a career in the video games industry.  Wegmans was great to me for the last decade, providing ample career advancement opportunities, helping me through college, and nurturing my passions for great products, fun work environments, and delicious food.

At the end of October, I packed up and moved from the Finger Lakes to New York City to start my new job as a Production Assistant with Avalanche Studios.  I can’t talk about the project I’m working on just yet, but I’m really excited about it, and excited to get into work every day and help a really cool team push that awesome thing forward.  Special thanks go out to the career development people at Full Sail University for helping me get started on the path to my dream job.

My website is a little outdated at this point, and I’ll likely get around to patching it up with things like an updated resume and portfolio, new design and so forth at some point, but for right now I’ve got too much awesomeness going on in the Big Apple to focus on it.

If you’d like a more “live” experience of what I’m up to, you can follow me on Twitter.  I’m @benjapenguin.  In the meantime, have an excellent holiday!

Safe Sex Revolution: The Games for Change Design Challenge


This year, the Games for Change Festival (partnered with Sex, Etc., an educational nonprofit) had its first open design competition. The goal was for designers to create a compelling game that would teach about safe(r) sex topics to a multicultural, multi-sexual (?) audience of teens. I have always been interested in human sexuality, and thought that this would be a great time to combine that interest with my passion for game-making. My project was sadly not selected as a finalist, but I wanted to share it with the world anyway, so here it is: Safe Sex Revolution.

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On Puzzle Design

I learned a lot about puzzle design working on Helios.  When Team Chobits made the risky move from action-adventure game to puzzle-platformer, I was a little worried due to my lack of experience with puzzle creation.  Most of my experience at Full Sail up to that point had involved encounter-based level design, which is a much different experience.

But in the thick of it, designing my own puzzles and critiquing those created by the team, I learned a great deal.  So here are my thoughts on what you need to create a good puzzle, and a couple optional ingredients for taking them a little further.

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Pxlbyte LogoI’ve started writing for a little gaming news and culture site called Pxlbyte.  It’s a really cool site that collects gaming culture, something I’ve always been passionate about.  Putting my name forward when they called for writers was a no-brainer.  Pxlbyte publishes gaming news, reviews of Indie and iOS games, gaming-related crafts and art, and even a fashion section for articles about cosplay and game-related clothing and jewelry.  There’s also a shop that sells an eclectic assortment of gaming merchandise.  It’s pretty much a dream website for me, so I’m excited to be contributing.

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If you want to see the stuff I’ve contributed specifically you can click here.

Pxlbyte Author Page


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SNOWBLOCK is a retro-styled game about making a tiny, one-pound snowball into a gigantic ten-pound snowball.  I just released version 1.0 in the wild at SNOWBLOCKgame.weebly.com!

Following some advice, I wanted to get my hands dirty with Unity4 and teach myself C#.  I found a series of great tutorials made by Jasper Flick of catlikecoding.com, and once I had completed his tutorial, I set to work creating my own game based on the lessons he had taught by significantly altering the game’s design and writing a lot of my own code.

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The end result is a challenging but fun little runner game where the goal is to make your snowball super-big.  It’s unsurprisingly retro-themed, with pixel art, low-poly shapes, lo-fi sounds and a chiptune soundtrack (compliments of my old friend the Free Music Archive and a chip artist who goes by Origami Repetika) I had a lot of fun working on this project in my spare time.

This is also a good example of how, in this day and age, someone with no real help and no real money can make a cool game (cooler than this, for sure) for completely free.  I used Unity, Gimp, Weebly, cfxr, the Free Music Archive, and a free tutorial to concoct this game.  No software licenses, no hired artists, and this could have been done with no formal education, too, though I had that going on well before.

Anyway, check out SNOWBLOCK and give it a play.  I’m still collecting feedback, too, so let me know what you think.

No Better Time To Learn to Code

“I think everyone should learn how to program a computer, because it teaches you how to think. I view computer science as a liberal art, something everyone should learn to do.”

-Steve Jobs

Over the past few days, I’ve seen a ton of awesome resources for learning to code pop up online, and I wanted to share them with you, one of my, like, 23 views a day.  First, though, check out this video to see how essential of a skill that coding is becoming, and learn a bit about the mission of Code.Org:

I entered the Game Design course at Full Sail because I wanted to make games but didn’t Continue reading

First Impressions: Hexels

Hexels is a cool little art tool developed by the guys over at Hex-Ray Studios, makers of my beloved sleep aid and geek toy, Pixel Fireplace.  I just downloaded the free version for a trial and gave it a shot.  After a few minutes of playing, I kind of had a little old-school JRPG world map thing going on:


In addition to giving you tons of colors and a hex-based grid to play with, Hexels also has a cool “glow” feature, which allows you to apply a nice glow effect to the entire image, sliding it to be either blindingly radiant or nonexistent.

Nice, pretty, clean-and-easy UI, too.

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The pro version, which I’ll likely buy because I’m like that (and also omigodthisisocool!), has a ton of other cool features.  You can use other shapes besides hexels (including pixels or trixels) and you can create cool new kinds of glow effects and export to a variety of formats I’ve never even heard of before.

Also, their file type is the .hxl, which — come on, that’s cute.

I’ll probably post a more detailed geek-out once I’ve spent some more time with Hexels, but in the meantime, if you’re into pixel art and such like, you should definitely check out this sick little tool.

Personally, I’m excited to see what kind of cool-looking game I could make using these sorts of images!