Jeremy Penner × Mattie Brice: A Conversation About Glorious Trainwrecks.

This is a transcription of the conversation between Mattie Brice and Jeremy Penner, which occured in , as part of the Glorious Trainwrecks × Babycastles exhibition.

It was transcribed by Setsuna Meiō (see: post 101661215022150980), and HTMLed and appendixed by Rylie.

A video recording of the talk, on which this transcription is based, is available on Youtube.

NB: All links will open in a new browser tab or window, as you've configured.

Blake Andrews (host): Oh, hey, how's it going? Thanks for coming out, everybody. If people don't know, this is Jeremy Penner, AKA SpindleyQ, and he's going to be interviewed—it's going to be more of a conversation between Jeremy and Mattie Brice, so yeah, come on up to the stage.

Mattie Brice: To Jeremy Well, hello, nice to meet you. I'm Mattie.

Jeremy Penner: To Mattie I'm Jeremy.

MB: So, hi, everyone. I'm Mattie Brice. I'm guessing you all have already been introduced, so I'll just quickly introduce myself. I feel like the reason I was asked to do this was because I am also interested in DIY videogames, and I feel like that is an interesting touchstone to return to, maybe given the length of time that happened between when I started making DIY videogames and when you started making DIY videogames—and maybe the importance of all the really crappy videogames that we made, which are, for some reason, cultural touchstones. So it's interesting to think about that legacy. I was actually kind of curious—when you were just speaking about feeling more inspired by the bad games, and how much we've spent most of our time playing bad videogames—more than we've been playing good videogames. And I was kind of curious as to why you think that is, or what leaves creative impressions on you.

JP: I think there's a few things. One thing is just that it's more accessible. Like, a bad game is easier to imagine myself having made, or being able to make something like it with whatever tools I have, whatever my level of experience is. I think that's really important. I think one of the things with Glorious Trainwrecks that happened, is make bad games. Literally, make bad games. Do not try to make a good game. Make bad games. People felt free to make whatever they felt like making. There's a huge range of expression from the community with what people have made inspired by that, when there's not this pressure of, If I don't live up to this thing, then it's not worth doing.

A bad game also often just takes more risks, and so there's more ideas you just don't see normally, because they put them in this thing, and it didn't work the way they wanted, or the way they expected. But it's still there: you can still play it, and you might see a kernel of an idea in there, or you might just have never played something like that before. Most of the games that you might encounter if you're not digging, it's gonna have all the rough edges sanded off.

MB: I was definitely connecting to you—I also have a really bad perfectionist side of myself, and I think game design is the worst professions to go into if you have one of those sides. But then people are also very surprised whenever they ask me—especially people who are not familiar with games—How long does it take to make one of your games? I'm like, I've never spent more than a week on a game. And that really upsets a lot of people. What do you mean? You don't labor months over your work? It just pops out of my head in a week, and then I'm done. I think there's something about what you were saying of the risk—there's almost this point in time in the game development process where you kill your creativity in order to make something good. Can you speak a little bit more to that tension?

JP: Yeah, sure. One of the things that we did early on in Glorious Trainwrecks was the Klik of the Month Klub, which is this two-hour game jam. With a game jam, normally, you hunker down and make something. It can get into glorification of crunch and all this sort of stuff. But the idea was, we had such a small time limit that you could find , hopefully—maybe not everybody can—but if you can find , and you can have a tool—early on it was Klik & Play, but there are other things that people are maybe more comfortable with now. But if you have the tools and carved out a little space, at the end of those , you could be done, and you can have something. You've created have this thing that didn't exist before. And that could show you something, or it can be, Oh, I did this thing and it's not what I wanted. You really don't know at the start what's necessarily going to come out the other end.

The idea was to take something really constrained and small, and you can't be a perfectionist in . The whole goal of the site, once we started honing in on Klik of the Month Klub, was just trying to get out of your own way and remove any roadblocks to making something. Because if making a game seems like this really big thing that you're going to have to take all this time to polish, and it's going to be a big production, then you probably just won't start. But if it's like, Okay, I'm gonna sit down for and then whatever I have at the end is gonna be uploaded to the website and people are gonna play it, and there'll be some back and forth… That worked really well for a really long time, just helping people get out of their way.

And another thing about Klik of the Month that kind of emerged was the idea of, if the two-hour time limit is too tight, or if there's a theme that you don't like, the whole point was removing those roadblocks. There's a motto in Glorious Trainwrecks, which is Cheating is encouraged. Any rule that's in your way, that's not a good rule if it doesn't work for you. If people didn't have that particular roadblock of perfectionism, maybe they have something else; hopefully we can find some way to support them as well.

MB: I have some divergent thoughts. I think when people think about games, and especially people who have been playing games for most of their lives, they can't separate industry from games. There's this sort of attachment towards, If I make a game, it must be some sort of industrial game. I used RPG Maker for my first game, and I felt like no one questioned why I used RPG Maker, and that was definitely because I was trying to make my own Final Fantasy clone. A million times. And that obviously didn't work, because my perfectionism got in my own way, and then I made something completely not Final Fantasy with it. I feel like I see that journey with a lot of people who start trying to work on their big thing, and then eventually just toss something out, and that seems to get much more of an authentic response from other people. So I find that interesting, with this anti-polish. Is there still this fetishization of polish, given a little more acceptance of DIY game-making?

JP: I think there's definitely more now than when I started. When I started, you didn't have things like

MB: True.

JP: And there was a lot of fetishization of polish. Game development culture has been able to broaden that a little bit, and say, You don't need to do that. I think it's definitely still a trap that is very easy to fall into if you're not paying attention. You really need to give yourself permission. And I think the distinction between industry and not-industry is so important. One of my huge pet peeves is that talking about videogame history inevitably means talking about videogame industry history. It's always companies and console wars and John Carmack bought three Lamborghinis. That should be a story about shareware! It just feeds into this narrative, and it's like, there's so, so, so much that is outside of that history.

There's a page on the Glorious Trainwrecks wiki, which is other examples of what we were going for, that links to all kinds of random stuff that was around. People have never stopped making DIY stuff. That has always happened; it's just that we haven't always necessarily had a space or a way to get other people to play them. Early on, I remember, there's a link to something called the John Lovitz Trilogy—I think it's Games Factory—and it's literally a scan of John Lovitz's head on a cartoon body, and there's a bunch of these platforming levels and an increasingly ridiculous storyline. The only place [where] that exists on the Internet now is on Glorious Trainwrecks. I uploaded my copy. It has my saved games in it. But that just disappeared. There's a huge amount of that stuff out there that is very ephemeral. If it wasn't written down on Glorious Trainwrecks, written down somewhere, it's like it didn't happen anywhere else. But it's always been there.

MB: What was the exact year that Klik & Play came out?

JP: That's a good question.

MB: Or when it came into the community.

JP: , it says.

MB: Wow. What's so interesting to me is that Klik & Play exists—as in, a game was just made by an individual in front of everyone. And then we don't see the sort of resurgence of this until , with other tools. And it just makes you wonder. I would even say, even now, it's, Might as well go to Unity. It's this weird jump where someone asks me, Why don't you just use Unity? I'm like, Huh? That's not a logical jump.

JP: The word just is doing a lot of heavy lifting.

MB: I'm really curious about your perspective, because I have not been involved with digital game-making for so long, comparatively. What do you find are these forces that are subduing shareware and things like Klik & Play? I know there is probably disgruntled people, like when Twine came out and everyone was like, Everyone can make a game, finally! And they're like, We've been making games all the— But it's true. There's this forced detachment from history that we have. So what forces do you see at play there?

JP: One thing, obviously, is I'm running Klik & Play in a Windows XP virtual machine, because there's almost no other way to do it. When I started Glorious Trainwrecks, it was not entirely as awkward to use Klik & Play as it is now, for lots of various boring technical reasons. There's this obsolescence that happens, and games in general love to bury their past.

MB: Literally.

JP: Klik & Play was the first iteration of this, and the company that made Klik & Play is still around, Clickteam. What happened is this journey that makes me really sad. You start with Klik & Play, which was very much meant to be very accessible, very playful, where anyone could approach it and have a good time, no matter what they're doing with it—even if they're just playing a game. If they don't like creating a game, there's other things for them to do. And they made a lot of different releases. It went, Klik & Play, and then Games Factory, and Games Factory 2, and Multimedia Fusion, and Clickteam Fusion, and whatever else. Every release just kind of shaves off more and more of the joy. It's less and less these inspiring, weird things built in, and it's more like the feedback that they're getting is, This is a toy. I want to make real games. And they just shifted towards catering to this audience over time.

You can get into Klik & Play and enjoy it, and then you'll run up against its limitations, for sure. And that can be frustrating. You're like, I want to do this, and Klik & Play won't let you do that. You can be inspired to reach outside that zone. But in that progression, the initial spark was lost. Kids sitting down with Clickteam Fusion today are not having anything resembling the same experience as a kid in sitting down with Klik & Play. The accessibility is not there. Okay, you just built this toy; your audience who bought this thing is now demanding it not be a toy anymore; and you're leaving people behind. I had something else I wanted to say about that, but I lost it.

MB: It'll reappear. I think that is fascinating. We are in a time in which game design is professionalizing in another way. Now people can have a game design degree. We live in that world now. It's this really interesting way of standardization, of like, What does it mean to be putting forth the right amount of effort towards this game? Fucking around with a tool seems like not a worthy part of your time, and especially spending time with tools. What's interesting about Klik & Play is, I just saw so many features, where I'm like, How is that not in other stuff? It's mind-blowing. Like that one where it's like, Hey, this thing's about to do a strange thing. Do you want to do something about that? I'm like, Oh my God. That was amazing. I wish I had that.

JP: Literally, the next version, Games Factory—Click and Create—the next version of Klik & Play dropped that.

MB: That was the best thing!

JP: Exactly. I met one of the creators of Klik & Play at GDC in and I thanked him. It was a really amazing experience. But yeah, that's one of the things that is in nothing else, and once you see it, it's like, I want that!

MB: What was sad to me is how that story you told, of going from Klik & Play to whatever now it may be—we can draw this line to Unity—is this killing of idiosyncrasy in tools. And I feel like what has been really upsetting to me, as a person who doesn't make tools, is not a programmer, is how much people have been ripping personality from tools themselves—I can't have a conversation. I have an arts background—let me mess around with this very particular kind of pen, or let me mess around with this very particular kind of material, and find its affordances. And so with Klik & Play, you're kind of trying to understand the tool itself and its weird logics, where I feel now, tools in their own way are kind of being disciplined into being soulless themselves. I'm curious if you have other features or other tools that had strange idiosyncrasies.

JP: I can definitely tell a story of once Klik & Play stopped being viable, and I started looking at other tools—if you look at the history of games that I posted to Glorious Trainwrecks, you'll find the first forays into other tools. Those games are not interesting, because it was like, Oh, I moved to GameMaker and I don't know how to have the same sort of conversation. I think having a conversation with a tool is something that I experienced very strongly with something like Klik & Play. I can think of Kid Pix, WarioWare D.I.Y.—I think there are a few WarioWare D.I.Y. jams on Glorious Trainwrecks. Level editors for things can be like that. We have Knytt Stories here [in the exhibition], where lots of people would want to make stuff that's informed by that. There can't be enough tools that have personality, in my opinion. You just see so much—when something gets traction, you see that so much comes out of that, so much of value. When you're able to put something like that in somebody's hands and they can have a conversation with it, put their own personality into it and have that whole process. You see it with Twine, too. I gave Twine to my ten-year-old and he just ran with it.

MB: I think what you're speaking to is maybe there's a part of this conversation about DIY that's been missing this entire time, which is that we also need DIY toolmakers.

JP: Yes.

MB: We need people who make the tools. I'm totally that person who is like, I just need other tools. Give me a weirdo tool and I will make a game—I just can't make the tool itself. I think I got inspiration when How to Become a Great Artist in [Just] 10 Seconds came out.


MB: I know that making a toolset is an intense endeavor, but there seems to be this blockage of creativity when tools stop being made. Since I don't have the skills, I have no idea how to bridge that gap. What is the call to action for people who can make tools, to start making more idiosyncratic, more purposefully strange tools that should be accessible, but not necessarily polished?

JP: It's really interesting. I definitely know of a few people who are working on independent game tools and stuff. Their names offhand are escaping me [See: Appendix Ⅰ], but there's Kooltool, with a K, Candle's been working on that for a really long time. Doodle Studio 95 came out recently. I haven't actually used that, but it definitely looks like I can just draw stuff and make it come alive. Kind of makes things more accessible. But yeah, I absolutely would really love to see more people building tools and putting them out there, and putting personality into them. I think it's even easier to be a perfectionist about making tools. I have my own project that I've been working on off and on forever as well, and it's never seen the light of day.

MB: Is there a game jam version for making tools? Is that a thing? Like hackathons? That's what we call those, right?

JP: Yeah, it's tricky. It's finding that interesting small scope and building up. Bitsy is really good. The Bitsy community right now is amazing. And there's a lot of activity around kind of expanding that out as well, and building new features into it. Because it's also very malleable, in kind of a similar way that Twine was, where you can add extensions to it and stuff like that, and there's a lot of interesting work happening around Bitsy. That's an example of Someone built this little tool and then people started using it, and then there's this wonderful virtuous cycle.

I did have one tool project that almost kind of made it, which is called MarMOTS, which there are some artifacts of online, but I don't think I can actually turn it on right now. MarMOTS stands for the Marvelous Multiplayer Online Telnet Server. Again, being inspired by this old DAW stuff, and ZZT, which was this very limited palette of blocks and ANSI graphics. The idea I had was, what if I took that palette of things and made that multiplayer somehow? People can edit worlds together in this weird way. And what I ended up building was a tool—I'm just going to pick at random here—where it was basically an ANSI art creation tool that people go connect to at the same time and do stuff together in.

One of the other things that I found with Glorious Trainwrecks was that the tools that are out there are really kind of isolating. It's really difficult to be able to collaborate with these accessible tools, with most of them. One of my big goals was, I wanted to have some way of not only being able to have a tool where I can make something idiosyncratic in a short period of time, but to also bring in friends into that experience and riff off each other. The tools do not support that. So, basically, I made this thing where you could log in using Telnet—which is this very ancient protocol that has no security or anything like that—and all the code just kind of ran on the server, so there were a lot of engineering problems that I could just pretend weren't problems. And people would just come and make art on this thing, and it was kind of really great.

MB: That's nice. I like the question marks on this.

JP: Yeah, I don't think it's running, or I wouldn't bring it up…

MB: Whoa. That's cool.

JP: I ended up hooking in a little chat system, so if people were working together, you could also not only see their cursor move around as they added stuff, but you could talk to them, and it could notify you when people were active. The gap I was never able to bridge was, I ended up building this tool for making ANSI art and I never got over the hump of Okay, now I'm gonna add some kind of interactivity to it, and some way of editing that. Someday, I would still like to be able to do that. That's one thing I would also like to see. The idiosyncrasies really worked out well. When I was building MarMOTS, there was this wonderful virtuous cycle where I put out the dumbest thing, the simplest thing, and then people started using it, and that helped me get over the hump of adding stuff to it and adding more features, and supporting people in what they were building.

MB: This reminds me of Emotica, that Anna Anthropy just put out. Thinking about what are these creative play spaces that are being created: I was just at another thing where we were discussing the differences between public art and private, and how much these tools act as a private communication between people. When I made my first game, it was a private communication with another person that I decided to post on the Internet. I wonder about that relationship—obviously, it's great to have communities. We have communities, and we're supportive, and there is this motivating factor when you're going to make something and post something on the Internet for your Internet friends to like. I think it's interesting to see these, especially when so many of these weirdo game-making tools—I feel like there was a bunch that was in the '90s—I don't think it was called Storybook—but there was a story one that I vaguely remember in the back of my head…yes, it was that one, Storybook Weaver. It was weird. No one is making Storybook Weaver. Now that we're in this second decade of the 21st century—now that you don't have to make games for commercial reasons—there is this interesting function for things like this, for things that are quick: I just need to tell you something, or I just need you to do a very quick thing. Have any games that have been submitted seemed that they served another purpose outside of I just made a thing? Maybe there was like, I made this for communicating a particular thing to a friend or I used this as an expression in a particular way?

JP: Yeah, for sure. People make games for people's birthdays on Glorious Trainwrecks.

MB: That's cute!

JP: Yeah, it's so nice. You get a little game or whatever. I've done [that] for anniversaries, or , Here's a little thing that I made! When you're able to do something quickly, and keep that scope very small, then you can say a lot more things and do it for a lot more reasons.

Audience member: There's Secret Santa.

JP: Yeah, the Secret Santa, of course. Every for a few years now, Glorious Trainwrecks has an event where people who want to participate will post into a forum thread that's basically I would like to participate in this, here are some things that I like in a game. And then the list of people who posted gets randomized, and each person gets assigned a secret person they're making a game for. Most of the time, the person who signed up does make a good game. Sometimes it gets away from people. It's a really nice thing, and it's been going on for a few years now and it's really neat to see what people come up with for people. They get posted for everybody to enjoy.

MB: So you know how people will think about, Okay, what am I going to get this person for ? They really like bath salts, I don't know, something, whatever. What is a game version of that? Do you all of a sudden have a game interaction? Like when someone is thinking, How am I gonna make a game for Mattie?, is there always some sort of theme that's always involved? There's Hallmark cards—you can think of exactly the words you put in a birthday card; are there genre rules for birthday games?

JP: It's really varied. I participated a couple of times, and the things that I made both of those times were extremely different. One ended up being this weird, existential horror game. I think his wish list was, I like surprises.

MB: Oh, so they have their wish lists.

JP: People post their wish list of Here's the kind of stuff that I like or I would like a game that has this in it. You can check things off the list. He had just said, I like surprises, and so I looked through his work and I sketched some things out, and what I came up with was kind of deeply weird. But it was very surprising.

MB: Surprise! You're depressed! I'm gonna keep asking questions, but if you all are starting to bubble up with questions, feel free to raise your hand and I will incorporate you into this interview process.

I feel like there should be this maximalist approach, like, Let's just do everything with games. Sure, we've done that with The Quantified Self, and that's really sketchy right now; like, let's get rid of birthday cards and just have birthday games. If you were God's hand and you were going to shift this new wave of very strange uses for these sort of DIY games, what would it be?

JP: The thing that I'm always striving towards is hanging out with friends. When I was a kid and had QBasic—and that was the tool that was most accessible to me, I could write little basic text games—I would have friends over and we would make games together. That was this really nice thing that I've always wanted to have in my life that's really difficult to have, where we're just sitting around and bouncing ideas off each other and just making this thing. And you're kind of doing it as this playful thing. I think being able to make a game as a playful thing that is enjoyable on its own, is really wonderful when it works out that way. I would love to see tools and everything to support that.

MB: I feel like in a way, we've had tools that seemed to be games themselves. How do we start positioning these tool games, I guess, as together with friends? These tools were made in a time where your computer was here, and other people are not necessarily coming to join you on the computer, necessarily. But now that we have such open, flat, accessible ways where multiple people can kind of compute at the same time, like, Hey everyone, we're having a party! And there's this game way where you're making and modding it as you go along.

JP: I'd love to see a Snapchat for games.

MB: Yeah, that's a game jam.

JP: In the same way you would play with the filter, you make something, a little interactive thing, in three minutes and send it to your friends and then they open it up. I feel like there's so much possibility out there. I'd just love to see all of it.

MB: Whenever I talk about games in these other art spaces that are not game spaces—and now the reaction is, Everyone plays games, that's so amazing! And I'm like, Yeah, I guess that's technically true. Right now, maybe, when you peek over someone's shoulder and you're seeing what game they are playing on their phone, it's a derivative of some…whatever. I think it would be interesting if they were making the derivatives. I feel like there might be a game-making tool for a phone. Does anybody know? Are there game-making tools on the phone? You use the phone itself?

Audience member: I can't remember the name of it right now, but there's one that sort of has a 3D interface that looks like Minecraft. But you can apply logic to the different blocks and create moving objects. Does anybody know what I'm talking about? It's not Roblox. I wish I could remember the name. It's pretty cool.

Audience member: All of Increpare's game-making tools run in HTML5. Plingpling and Flickgame. You can just open up Safari and then start drawing your levels of stuff.

MB: I like the idea of I'm gonna go on the train on my commute, I'm just gonna make this game and then send it the moment I get internet again. Especially when we consider that, in game design, often why we make decisions, is because there is some kind of intent. You're making a journey into the game, in some way, and figuring out, what is that journey into the game in such a short amount of time, that anyone could use that?

JP: The difference between the game you might send to a friend and the difference between a game that they're gonna sit and poke at on their phone is like…that game on your phone is designed to suck all your attention for as long as it will matter. With Glorious Trainwrecks, people making personal stuff, I can sit down and I can play this and I can get what needs to be out of it in five minutes. There's this fundamentally different way of interacting with stuff that is also more personal. When you play a personal game that someone made, and it's just a little thing, it's communicating something very different than something else you might be doing on the train. It fills a different need. I'd love to see and do much more of that on my phone, than play these puzzle games and lose myself in them.

MB: Some people might know the game Mini Metro. I play that on the subway because I should play a subway game while I'm on the subway, it drives me insane. I can't find that right game that I can get into, enjoy, and reflect, in some weird way, during a train ride. Some people can pull off watching episodes on their phone. I don't know what it is, I can't do that. There's too much concentration going on. If I was to do the Snapchat of games, would it be like, Swipe down for bullet hell and then Swipe right for romance? What do you imagine would be the filters of the Snapchat of games?

JP: I think definitely something like Flickgame. Kind of an obvious thing. Poke here, and you get this picture. You can take a few different selfies and then put some buttons up. Little choose-your-own-adventure type thing. Snapchat already has little games that you put yourself in. We need to have stuff like that, too. It kind of doesn't work two ways, though, where you can move your head and play the game and send someone the recording of you playing the game. It would be nice to be able personalize something and then send it to someone, and then they can play your thing.

MB: Can you turn Stories into choose your own adventure? That would be kind of interesting, like Instagram Stories. Did I see—I thought I saw—yes.

Audience member: I have two quick questions. Do you find it against your personality, doing commercialistic games? Have you tried? And then also: are you interested in non-digital, non-commercialistic kinds of games?

JP: So, I don't work in the games industry. I feel I dodged a bullet, mostly 'cause I heard horror stories about the labor, and I was just like, Well, I can enjoy myself writing programs that aren't games, and being paid to do that—that would be okay. There have been periods of time when commercial games are interesting; there was a period in my life where I was pretty much almost done with videogames. And then the Dreamcast came out, and there was all kinds of bizarre stuff for the Dreamcast. Like, Oh, videogames are interesting! I burned out on graphic adventures for PC, and [they] kind of went up their own butt for a while. There's definitely been some interesting ideas out there, commercially, at different periods of time. These days, if I walk into a GameStop, it's like, I care about none of this.

In terms of non-digital stuff, I'm totally for non-digital stuff. I think there's lots of possibility in that space as well. I have a couple of non-digital games that I designed for Glorious Trainwrecks. I think at one point my laptop was broken or something, and I designed a card game—a solitaire Rogue-like with playing cards that sort of worked. I was like, Okay, that was sort of fun. Non-digital games are interesting. It's a lot easier to cheat when you're making a non-digital game. It's a lot easier to just take whatever you have at hand, and not be constrained by whatever tool, because you can just write a rule on a piece of paper and then you follow the rule. Or you draw something, and then that's the thing; or you make a card, or whatever. It's not something I do a lot of, but it's super valuable, and if there's a Glorious Trainwrecks of non-digital games, I'd love to see it.

MB: A very under-used tool, I find, is the Makey Makey. Digital plus non-digital, for people who don't want to fully divorce themselves from digital. If you don't know the Makey Makey, essentially it can just make a controller button out of anything that can conduct electricity, including human bodies. I did my own work with that. I think that's an interesting extension of this. The best games to use for the Makey Makey are the ones that things like Glorious Trainwrecks and Klik & Play and things would do, things that are kind of simple but obviously absurd. Usually the Makey Makey is making you use, like, bananas! Or people's bodies! You're too busy figuring out How do I touch you? How do I do all this other stuff? that trying to do something complex on the screen is not necessary. When you think about a non-digital extension of these games, it might just be, maybe these games don't necessarily always have to belong on a PC setup. There might be all these other hardware alliances to be made.

JP: I'm trying to think if anyone's done anything with Makey Makey or anything like that on Glorious Trainwrecks.

MB: Using the Makey Makey is cheap.

JP: Yeah, it's fun.

MB: It's cheap. Other questions?

Audience member: I was just wondering, I know you're not as active in the current Glorious Trainwrecks, but do you have, from early on, a couple of favorites that you might want to show us that were posted on the website?

JP: Sure. navigating the Glorious Trainwrecks website View my favorites. Pretend You're Platforming's really good.

MB: Pretend You're Platforming?

JP: Pretend You're Platforming's so good. This is made by very longtime community member Danni.

playing Pretend You're Platforming

So, you use the arrow keys. Nobody jumps in midair! I gotta jump. I gotta fall. Oh no. Nobody magically floats in place midair! Did I jump too high? Nobody jumps that high! Tricky. Here we go. I'm on the platform. Now what? I guess I can fall down here.

MB: Oh, wow. That was realistic.

JP: Too high.

MB: I love the judge. …How is that realistic?

Stops playing the game

JP: That one's a really good one. Lots of good stuff. What else we got here? Oh, okay, I gotta show you one of my favorite joke games. How Do You Kill a Circus? I love this game. I love it so much. How Do You Kill a Circus?, second greatest Trainwrecks version of a lame joke ever. This is on the Internet Archive, you can play it in your browser. I thought it was important to preserve.

playing How Do You Kill A Circus?

Alright, how do you kill a circus? Click to shoot. Wrong! Wrong! Go for the juggler!

Stops playing the game

MB: Oh, that's awful.

JP: That's the game. This is now on the Internet archive. This will outlast me. Future generations will be able to go back and play How Do You Kill a Circus? I could go on forever. There's obviously ten years of history here.

MB: Other inquiries?

JP: Any questions?

Audience member: If I remember correctly, at least until the mid-2000s, Clickteam was still hosting a free download of Klik & Play on their website.

JP: Yes.

A: It was buried, but it was there. Do you know if it's still there? Because I haven't looked.

JP: I'll expand on this a little bit. When Glorious Trainwrecks started, Clickteam had obviously moved on and made later and later versions. There was Multimedia Fusion out there by that point. But they had this version of Klik & Play that was for free. You could just go on their website and download it—Klik & Play for Schools. That was why we used Klik & Play. Because not only was it this wonderful tool, you could just get it.


MB: I was involved with DIY game-making starting around 2012, and I feel like, at least now, whenever somebody asks me what game I've made—Oh I used to make autobiographical games, well, everyone does that, that's a thing now that everyone does—but now I'm curious as to where do we see its legacy still living, or anticipating? Where these things sort of pop up, it's this need to restore people's creativity in some way. Like a bunch of people who are kind of like, I am not allowed to make games for a particular reason, like, I'm not industry, or I'm not a programmer, or I'm not a man, or I'm not whatever. And eventually, each of these gates have come down. You have indie. How many developers would you say were self-identifying as indie when you were going through the early days of Glorious Trainwrecks, or even now?

JP: For a time, there was this was really weird mix of people who were indie, and this was their job. They were heavily invested in putting out games, but they would also participate in these ridiculous game jams with people who had no experience making games, and would help out or be kind of this positive force—I played this and I really enjoyed it, this aspect of it, and kind of contribute to that. Having that space where a very varied level of experience can still come together and enjoy the process of making games was really cool. I don't know how much that's happening these days, but the community continues to go in very interesting directions, making very interesting stuff. It's still a very open place. I can post my dumb joke games and people can post their autobiographical games, and that's very acceptable, which is super important.

MB: Out of curiosity, how many people have either made something with Klik & Play or posted to Glorious Trainwrecks, or made a game using a DIY tool that didn't require programming? Like GameMaker or Twine, things like that? Okay. That's really interesting. At some point in time, even if you've grabbed a group of people who were in game dev but were non-programmers, you wouldn't get that same response of, Yeah, I do make strange joke games or I make games about my inner demons, casually.


JP: —think that they don't have anything to say in that medium. There's a vast, vast world and I think it's expanding that in kind of any direction is important. You have no idea what the effects of it will be.

MB: We have a couple more minutes for any last-minute questions that people might have been hiding in their souls.

Audience member: How do you overcome perfectionism?

MB: Oh, you gotta go first.

JP: Yeah, you tell me! I did this for ten years and I still have problems with it. Again, limiting scope and giving yourself permission to have something that's small, and being willing to call it done when it's small and still broken. Any way you can find to give yourself that permission and to convince yourself to make a small thing and not get carried away with ever-grander visions. The only thing that's worked for me so far is just limiting the time.

MB: I was just about to say, yeah.

JP: You know, make a game in a week, or a weekend, or in a couple of hours. Have a process where you're like, Okay, at the end of this, I'm gonna be done, and it will be what it will be. If at the end of the week you really want to work on it more, then that's okay. There's no rule that says you can't. Being able to narrow that scope and give yourself a time limit is the only way to not get discouraged and just give up, and not have this thing sitting on your hard drive that's half-done, that nobody's ever seen. I have my share of those things. I'm not gonna pretend that I don't.

MB: I think the only thing that stops the creative process is a deadline, to be quite honest. It's the truth. It will go on forever until someone says, You have to, or you don't eat. Or, You have to, or you don't…whatever. Any other questions?

Audience member: Just on the subject of when you were talking about polish…we were looking at the platformer, and most of it seemed very loosey-goosey. But then when it hit the judge scene, that's pretty tight. Something I'm wondering is, have you seen people subvert the Glorious Trainwrecks ethos by perversely polishing one very particular bit, where that is a semiotic that jumps out at you?

JP: I feel so called out right now. I'm trying to think of anything on Glorious Trainwrecks in particular where people have perversely polished a thing. One thing that comes to mind is KnP Tetris. I can show you an example as polish as kind of a joke. Let's do this. Yeah, this is good. So, KnP Tetris was a very early game by developer qrleon. He's on Twitter now as rabbit_boots. Where can I find this? This is Breathtaking Triumphs page

Audience member: I think it's also on the cabinets.

JP: KnP Tetris. The newer version is probably on the cabinets. Yeah, it's probably Danni's version, which is great, and you should play it. But I'll show you the original Klik & Play Tetris.

playing KNP Tetris

Here we go. So here's a block, and then I'll use the arrows to place this block. Trying a line here…put this in here…

Audience member: Is that Afternoon Delight?

JP: Yes. Can I rotate that in there? Yeah, sure. And then space battle! And then as your blocks get hit, they get taken away from your ship, and then…I scored 502 points.

MB: Nice.

Stops playing the game

JP: So that is the original Klik & Play Tetris. Someone else in the community made a remake, KnP Tetris: The Grand Master. Is this gonna boot up, or we gonna have to just tell you to play it on the arcade cabinets? I don't think the virtual machine's gonna agree with me. That's too bad. But you can see on the screenshot here where it's this incredibly high-resolution space background. That's something that definitely comes to mind.

MB: Well, that's a wrap. Thank you so much for being with us. Everyone go and try out that KnP game on the cabinet and we can talk some more.

BA: Thanks for coming, everybody. Give another round of applause for our guest. And if you didn't know, this is also part of a show that's Glorious Trainwrecks × Babycastles's show. There's a bunch of Glorious Trainwrecks games on all the cabinets. If you want a beverage, you can go to the donation center in the back. Thanks for coming. And one other thing: we were talking about Klik of the Month Klub, and next week will be a Klik of the Month Klub hosted here at Babycastles, so if you want to make a Klik & Play game or an RPG Maker game, you can come and hang out and make a game. Thanks for coming. Bye.

JP: There's also an event going on right now, so anyone who wants to make a game, there's an introduce yourself, make an autobiographical game to say hi to the community. So there's an event for that.

CUT A little bit before the talk…

JP: So in Klik & Play games, you see things just kind of randomly bouncing around because it's literally that easy to do. Let's put some wizards in here. Where are the wizards? There's also a library of backdrops, too. I'm gonna use my favorite Klik & Play backdrop, which is Merry Chistmas. Some of them are for cards—there's a Happy New Year backdrop, and Congratulations, Happy Birthday. You can make a videogame gift for somebody. It's not constrained to what you would ordinarily think of a videogame, as well. Like, you have a sink. It's just kind of built in. A really nice chair. When's the last time you played a game with a gramophone? It's been too long!

Alright, so, wizards. Where's Merlin? Characters, that's where he is. Here's Merlin. He's casting very quickly. I'm gonna move this out of the way. I'm gonna make Merlin have the racecar movement, 'cause I think Merlin should be a racecar. I need to do one more thing to make it clear what's happening with the racecar movement. So if you go into Animations, it has a bunch of built-in animations, usually with the clip art built in stuff. There's one that just plays all the time, which is fine. You can specify the graphics—it's just facing left, you can, say, flip it horizontally, or copy it to play right, so you can have a wizard moving left, or a wizard moving right. And of course what I like to do is set 32 directions. And then there's a little button here saying, Create other directions by rotating this one. So this will just generate a million different rotating wizards, and it's my favorite button in Klik & Play, I think. You can preview the animation.

Now we just kind of test out the game. Here we are. I use the left and right arrows keys, turn him, and then the forward and back changes the acceleration. And so he just controls incredibly awkwardly and jitters around everywhere and this is great. I love this.

Another really amazing idea that Klik & Play does, and none of the successors to Klik & Play do: successors to K&P have this thing called the Event Editor. If you've never thought about this kind of stuff before, it might be a little intimidating. Klik & Play also has this thing called the Step Through Editor. And literally what this does is, you plunk stuff down, you go in the Step Through Editor, and then when something happens, it says, Something happened. What do you want to do when this thing happens? So it's like, oh, the invisible man is leaving a play area on the bottom. Well, kind of by default, it'll bounce, and then maybe we can play a sound. Let's look at the built-in Klik & Play sounds, which there is lots. Here's a sample. There's a bunch of categories: Alarms, Animals, Effects, Elements, Impacts, Machines, Movement, Natural, People, Toyland, Voices…the very classic…my favorite sound in all of &P. People say it's overdone, but I don't care. Every time it bounces off the bottom wall, it'll say Yeargh. Okay, cool. And then you continue.

And then something else happens. It's gonna lean on the left, do you want to do something different for that? Yeah, of course I do. I want a burp. It's going to bounce off the top, what do I do then? I don't know, maybe Alien.wav. Bird Coo? Sure. Bird Coo. The invisible man has collided with the wizard. What should we do now? So there's a few things. You can play a sample, change score—this is a simplified version. Klik & Play can do more things than this, but again, because they're trying to keep it not intimidating, there's a smaller section of stuff. One of the things we can do is we can create Move Object. Whenever the invisible man collides with Merlin, we'll create another wizard. You can say, Okay, relative to some other objects, I'm going to make it just behind him. Something like that. You should obviously play some kind of magic sound for that. Flipper.wav? Yeah, sure.

Oh, now two wizards have collided. What should we do when two wizards collide? One of the things Merlin can do is we can bounce him, we can destroy him, we can have him shoot something, like…we can say, shoot him in a random direction. Pick what direction you want to shoot him in, like a hundred feet. Sure. Yeah. Well, that won't do. Yeah, stop Merlin, that's fine. I don't think it's gonna stop him. Merlin enters the play area on the top, do you want to do something about that? No, I'll just keep going. Of course, these all get controlled with the racecar controller, so you control them all at once. The invisible man bouncing off the wall on the right, that should be…as soon as that happens, it's just wizard pandemonium forever now. Oh, I pressed the fire button. What should that do?

Q: Destroy all wizards.

JP: Destroy all wizards, destroy Merlin. Last wizard has been destroyed. Well, then, we need to create a new wizard. Let's put it in the middle of the screen. You can't be without wizards. You can have a wizard kill switch, but you can't kill wizards forever.


JP: The sound effect with the high-tech backdrop, I think that goes together well. Anyone want to try? I do not know what's going to happen, exactly. I have some sort of intuition for how the wizards are going to be getting when I move the arrow keys. Still kind of surprising. Alright, that's too many wizards. Okay, stop. Save that, that's important. Why did it say Game1? Wizards. Wizards! There we go. So yeah, that's Klik & Play. So yeah, hi, everybody, I was just showing weird stuff on the screen, because I was here. There's enough people sitting here and watching me talk, I can introduce myself and talk a little bit about what I'm doing here. My name's Jeremy Penner and I started Glorious Trainwrecks, which is over a ten years long running community. Initially, the idea was to intentionally make throwaway, garbage games. I just hate not having anything there, 'cause of Windows XP. I should find the game that inspired me to make Glorious Trainwrecks. It's not the game that inspired me to make Glorious Trainwrecks, but it is a game. I don't know if it's on the archive.

Anyway, I'm rambling. The idea behind Glorious Trainwrecks was, it was , and I'm playing these old DOS freeware shareware games. There was a game I think of in particular a lot. It's a game called The Last Eichhof. I should bring up a screenshot, at least. It's on MobyGames. The Last Eichhof is a game that was made by a demo group called Alpha Helix. I think they're Finnish, I wanna say? Basically, In this game, you are this brown beer bottle here. You shoot bottle caps at other beer bottles.


JP: A four-megabyte zip file called, and that was all I knew about it. It was big and it sounded…amusing. And so I downloaded it. I just played it. And it's this goofy thing. It plays these goofy sound effects, and the four megabytes is just sound effects. It's this music, which is sampled. I feel like the people who made this had fun while they were making it, like it's this in-joke for their friends, or whatever. It's just this really goofy thing and I loved it and when I started Glorious Trainwrecks ten years ago or so, I wasn't seeing a lot of goofy stuff like this being made. I thought there was kind of an indie game movement going on, where people were making games, but there was kind of a lot of emphasis on craftsmanship, or making something good. At the time that I started the site, I had just moved out of the country—I'm from Canada—I was living in the Seattle area for a while. It was kind of a first big move away from home, and so I was kind of isolated, and I was working in this research software development job, and the last thing in the world that I needed on my plate was another outlet for perfectionism. I loved these weird games, and wanted to make more weird games. I didn't want to care if they were fun or tuned or whatever—I just wanted to have a good time making them.

I remember it being and I was IMing with my friend Six, who's here, and I was just like, Fuck it, I'm gonna start a website. I'm gonna register and it's just gonna be about these ridiculous games. Because there's a bunch of stuff like this if you look, there's all these freeware shareware games. And the other thing I like about this game is it's obviously made by maybe a couple of people—like a programmer and an artist, it's just a couple of friends goofing around. I wanted to goof around, and I didn't have a lot of space on the Internet where I could goof around and just make whatever dumb thing occurred to me, and have it be okay that it was a dumb thing, and that it wasn't good. It was enough that it makes you smile when you're playing it and when you're making it. This game isn't a particularly good shoot-'em-up, but it made me smile when I played it, enough that I actually spent a long time playing it and got fairly good at it—to the point where I have this longplay up on YouTube.

This is the other thing that inspired Glorious Trainwrecks: there's a lot of shareware freeware games that will just steal stuff. That's the riff from Pink Floyd's Money. They just took it. There's an entire AC/DC song for the high score screen in this game. They just took it and put it in their game, because they had it. Well, why not? It's free. Glorious Trainwrecks had these things, Klik of the Month Klub, which was a game jam—I'm gonna skip ahead a little bit ahead to the last level, 'cause I love the last level of this game so much. Oh no, this isn't the morning after, is it. This is the second-last level. Missed the Santa Claus, sorry. Forgot what I was saying. Yeah, this is the morning after. You played all these drinking-themed levels, and of course, the last level is kind of really brutal. Everything that shoots at you homes directly in. It's an open-source game, if anyone wants to make a source part so it can run on modern systems. This is the majority of the run is the last level, because it's hard. I don't know if anyone remembers the After Dark screensaver with the flying toasters…so yeah. When I was a kid, growing up, playing games on my computer, this was every bit as important to me as something like these cultural touchstones like Mario, or Doom, Wolfenstein, or whatever—games that are good. I've spent at least as much time playing games that were not good, and they inspire me more than games that are good. That's really all I have to say about that.