One Man, One Mission: Play Spelunky at Work

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Posted by patrickklepek (4540 posts) -

Darius Kazemi had a serious problem, and pondered a solution. He couldn’t play Spelunky at work.

The roguelike (or rogue-inspired, if you’re particular about your rogue-ing) recently launched in revamped form on Xbox Live Arcade, but Spelunky has been available as a free download for PC players since late December 2008. At work, however, Kazemi is assigned to a Linux-based machine, which is devoid of Spelunking.

“This was like my birthday present to myself,” said Kazemi to me yesterday. “My birthday was this past weekend, and I use Linux at work, so I can’t play Spelunky at work. I want to play Spelunky at work--I’m too productive!--and now I can! Good for me, bad for my employers. [laughs]”

The result is a functional version of Spelunky running in HTML5, meaning the game is platform agnostic. Sure, the version that’s up-and-running doesn’t feature any sound, runs into serious frame rate issues when a boulder appears, and always spawns players on the left-hand side, but it works. Hell, it’ll even play the opening animation on an iPhone and iPad, though the concept of playing the twitch-based Spelunky with touch controls sounds awful.

Kazemi has logged hundreds of hours into Spelunky, and thanks to some ingenuity, was modding before Yu released the source code.

Kazemi, better known as Tiny Subversions on his blog and Twitter, is the director of community development at open web technology company Bocoup. He’s also a hardcore Spelunky player, having downloaded the original version of the game the same week it was uploaded to the TIGSource forums by creator Derek Yu. Kazemi figures he’s racked up 7,000 games since, and it's still going.

“I did one of those blog posts a year or two ago where it was like ‘Oh, name the most important games to you”’and almost all the most important games to me were ones I played in middle school and high school,” he said. “And then there’s a big gap, and, then, there’s Deus Ex, and there’s another big gap, and, then, there’s Spelunky. It’s one of those games that stays with me that I’m probably going to be playing for my whole life at this point.”

We have a friend of Kazemi’s to thank for suggesting the idea of an HTML5 version of Spelunky. Three hours later, Kazemi had something up and running, and he shared it with the world on Saturday. Being Saturday, however, no one noticed. He mentioned it again on Monday, and it took off. Even Minecraft creator Markus “Notch” Perrson said something about it, albeit to tell Kazemi the boulder didn’t work.

You, like me, might be surprised at hearing it took Kazemi only three hours to port Spelunky. Turns out Spelunky was created using the popular development software GameMaker. Nearly a year ago, GameMaker creator YoYo Games introduced the ability to spit out HTML5 versions of games made within the GameMaker software. This meant Spelunky was a candidate for becoming a web game.

The conversion wasn’t without its troubles, though. (A more technical breakdown is available here).

The audio was built using old, then-better Windows libraries, which obviously wouldn’t work in a browser game. Kazemi said he’s working on a solution, but for the moment, the HTML5 version of Spelunky is a silent affair. Chances are screaming players will make plenty of noise to make up for it.

Especially for a game built a few years ago, the code will go down some weird paths in conversion.

“When you’re doing a machine conversion of one programming language to another,” he said, “there’s always going to be--it’s basically the equivalent of homonyms in the English language, where there will be a word that can be interpreted in two different ways, and the compiler picks the wrong interpretation and it messes up your code.”

Here's Spelunky running in my own web browser, alongside endless sets of wedding documents.

Kazemi is using an older version of GameMaker, though, which YoYo Games publicly, jokingly chided him for, as the developers are pretty sure some of the issues Spelunky’s conversion ran into have since been fixed. He’s going to upgrade his copy of GameMaker and see what happens. He’s hoping these updates might fix the game’s infamous Dark Levels, which aren’t working in the current HTML5 version. If not, he’s ready to hack it together himself.

Some of the issues were made solveable because Kazemi is deeply familiar with the Spelunky source code. In one case, a nasty glitch related to the level generation algorithm (Spelunky is not completely random) was fixed by forcing player to spawn on the left, rather than randomizing left or right.

Kazemi became versed with Spelunky’s code by becoming part of the “very active but very obscure” mod community for the original game. In addition to developing and abandoning a Twitter mod that proved “very spammy,” (the results of which are still featured on the account @darius_spelunks) he wrote a series of forum posts that explained his examination of the game’s detailed level generation.

“It was mostly for the modders on the Spelunky forum who wanted to make harder levels for Spelunky,” he said.

Wait, harder Spelunky levels?

“Yeah, yeah,” he laughed. “The nice part about Spelunky is that it’s really hard, but it’s also really fair, you know? A lot of these forum mods make it feel a lot more like I Wanna Be the Guy, where you’re just walking--and then you die!”

Spelunky on XBLA uses the original template, but with new mechanics, visuals, and much more.

Over the next month, Kazemi hopes to fix the obvious problems, eventually turning on the features players expect from Spelunky. From there, he may resurrect that Twitter mod, and wants to include a level modifier that allows players to better understand how Spelunky builds its levels. He described Spelunky’s worlds as 50% hand-made pieces, 50% randomization, and wants a tool that can control those elements. If you wanted to generate a stage without any randomization-- devoid of monsters, traps, or treasures--that would, in theory, be possible with Kazemi’s proposed tool.

Though GameMaker helped make Spelunky running in HTML5 a reality, without Kazemi’s unique set of skills, it’s harder to imagine it would have happened.

“Originally people were like ‘Oh, you’re so good at this!’” he said. “Well, no, it was just three hours of fiddling around. But, actually, [it’s] that I know Game Maker really well, I know HTML5 really well, and I know [the] Spelunky source code really well. The fact that I happen to know all those three things meant it was relatively easy to do, but there’s probably not a lot of people who are good at all those things. I’ll take some credit for it, I guess. [laughs]”

Between the successful version for Xbox 360 and the platform-agnostic original on the web, Kazemi is just happy to have more people playing Spleunky. And, yes, Derek Yu has seen Kazemi’s work--the official account mentioned it.

“For a long time, Spelunky was just this sleeper thing, and now there’s articles about Spelunky all over the place,” he said. “It’s really nice to see people talking about it.”

Staff
#1 Posted by patrickklepek (4540 posts) -

Darius Kazemi had a serious problem, and pondered a solution. He couldn’t play Spelunky at work.

The roguelike (or rogue-inspired, if you’re particular about your rogue-ing) recently launched in revamped form on Xbox Live Arcade, but Spelunky has been available as a free download for PC players since late December 2008. At work, however, Kazemi is assigned to a Linux-based machine, which is devoid of Spelunking.

“This was like my birthday present to myself,” said Kazemi to me yesterday. “My birthday was this past weekend, and I use Linux at work, so I can’t play Spelunky at work. I want to play Spelunky at work--I’m too productive!--and now I can! Good for me, bad for my employers. [laughs]”

The result is a functional version of Spelunky running in HTML5, meaning the game is platform agnostic. Sure, the version that’s up-and-running doesn’t feature any sound, runs into serious frame rate issues when a boulder appears, and always spawns players on the left-hand side, but it works. Hell, it’ll even play the opening animation on an iPhone and iPad, though the concept of playing the twitch-based Spelunky with touch controls sounds awful.

Kazemi has logged hundreds of hours into Spelunky, and thanks to some ingenuity, was modding before Yu released the source code.

Kazemi, better known as Tiny Subversions on his blog and Twitter, is the director of community development at open web technology company Bocoup. He’s also a hardcore Spelunky player, having downloaded the original version of the game the same week it was uploaded to the TIGSource forums by creator Derek Yu. Kazemi figures he’s racked up 7,000 games since, and it's still going.

“I did one of those blog posts a year or two ago where it was like ‘Oh, name the most important games to you”’and almost all the most important games to me were ones I played in middle school and high school,” he said. “And then there’s a big gap, and, then, there’s Deus Ex, and there’s another big gap, and, then, there’s Spelunky. It’s one of those games that stays with me that I’m probably going to be playing for my whole life at this point.”

We have a friend of Kazemi’s to thank for suggesting the idea of an HTML5 version of Spelunky. Three hours later, Kazemi had something up and running, and he shared it with the world on Saturday. Being Saturday, however, no one noticed. He mentioned it again on Monday, and it took off. Even Minecraft creator Markus “Notch” Perrson said something about it, albeit to tell Kazemi the boulder didn’t work.

You, like me, might be surprised at hearing it took Kazemi only three hours to port Spelunky. Turns out Spelunky was created using the popular development software GameMaker. Nearly a year ago, GameMaker creator YoYo Games introduced the ability to spit out HTML5 versions of games made within the GameMaker software. This meant Spelunky was a candidate for becoming a web game.

The conversion wasn’t without its troubles, though. (A more technical breakdown is available here).

The audio was built using old, then-better Windows libraries, which obviously wouldn’t work in a browser game. Kazemi said he’s working on a solution, but for the moment, the HTML5 version of Spelunky is a silent affair. Chances are screaming players will make plenty of noise to make up for it.

Especially for a game built a few years ago, the code will go down some weird paths in conversion.

“When you’re doing a machine conversion of one programming language to another,” he said, “there’s always going to be--it’s basically the equivalent of homonyms in the English language, where there will be a word that can be interpreted in two different ways, and the compiler picks the wrong interpretation and it messes up your code.”

Here's Spelunky running in my own web browser, alongside endless sets of wedding documents.

Kazemi is using an older version of GameMaker, though, which YoYo Games publicly, jokingly chided him for, as the developers are pretty sure some of the issues Spelunky’s conversion ran into have since been fixed. He’s going to upgrade his copy of GameMaker and see what happens. He’s hoping these updates might fix the game’s infamous Dark Levels, which aren’t working in the current HTML5 version. If not, he’s ready to hack it together himself.

Some of the issues were made solveable because Kazemi is deeply familiar with the Spelunky source code. In one case, a nasty glitch related to the level generation algorithm (Spelunky is not completely random) was fixed by forcing player to spawn on the left, rather than randomizing left or right.

Kazemi became versed with Spelunky’s code by becoming part of the “very active but very obscure” mod community for the original game. In addition to developing and abandoning a Twitter mod that proved “very spammy,” (the results of which are still featured on the account @darius_spelunks) he wrote a series of forum posts that explained his examination of the game’s detailed level generation.

“It was mostly for the modders on the Spelunky forum who wanted to make harder levels for Spelunky,” he said.

Wait, harder Spelunky levels?

“Yeah, yeah,” he laughed. “The nice part about Spelunky is that it’s really hard, but it’s also really fair, you know? A lot of these forum mods make it feel a lot more like I Wanna Be the Guy, where you’re just walking--and then you die!”

Spelunky on XBLA uses the original template, but with new mechanics, visuals, and much more.

Over the next month, Kazemi hopes to fix the obvious problems, eventually turning on the features players expect from Spelunky. From there, he may resurrect that Twitter mod, and wants to include a level modifier that allows players to better understand how Spelunky builds its levels. He described Spelunky’s worlds as 50% hand-made pieces, 50% randomization, and wants a tool that can control those elements. If you wanted to generate a stage without any randomization-- devoid of monsters, traps, or treasures--that would, in theory, be possible with Kazemi’s proposed tool.

Though GameMaker helped make Spelunky running in HTML5 a reality, without Kazemi’s unique set of skills, it’s harder to imagine it would have happened.

“Originally people were like ‘Oh, you’re so good at this!’” he said. “Well, no, it was just three hours of fiddling around. But, actually, [it’s] that I know Game Maker really well, I know HTML5 really well, and I know [the] Spelunky source code really well. The fact that I happen to know all those three things meant it was relatively easy to do, but there’s probably not a lot of people who are good at all those things. I’ll take some credit for it, I guess. [laughs]”

Between the successful version for Xbox 360 and the platform-agnostic original on the web, Kazemi is just happy to have more people playing Spleunky. And, yes, Derek Yu has seen Kazemi’s work--the official account mentioned it.

“For a long time, Spelunky was just this sleeper thing, and now there’s articles about Spelunky all over the place,” he said. “It’s really nice to see people talking about it.”

Staff
#2 Posted by yoshisaur (2722 posts) -

That's pretty neat.

#3 Posted by ConstantineL (94 posts) -

hello there

#4 Posted by nERVEcenter (177 posts) -

Is it just me, or does OSX seem to be significantly cluttered and busy?

#5 Posted by Binman88 (3687 posts) -

@nERVEcenter said:

Is it just me, or does OSX seem to be significantly cluttered and busy?

Not just you.

#6 Posted by Stubee (378 posts) -

Im still more of a Binding of Isaac kinda guy....

#7 Posted by BeachThunder (11927 posts) -

Distillery, eh...

#8 Posted by Duxa (162 posts) -

Good for him!

#9 Edited by mnzy (2914 posts) -
@Stubee said:

Im still more of a Binding of Isaac kinda guy....

Me, too.  
The funny thing is that Ed McMillen himself is a huge Spelunky fan, I think he said it's one of his favourite games, and it inspired Isaac in many ways. And to me, he made the better game.
#10 Posted by granderojo (1788 posts) -

I just fucking ironed manned this shit and you're going to tell me now I can play it in a browser. FFFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUCCCCCCCCCCCKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK

#11 Posted by Slow_pC (245 posts) -

I checked it out while doing some other work... makes me want to load up the xbox and keep playing ...

#12 Posted by Fattony12000 (7404 posts) -

BESTIES!

#13 Posted by Stugoo (9 posts) -

Patrick, you appear to have LaunchPad in your dock.

#14 Posted by JoeyRavn (4973 posts) -

I wonder if they'll ever release the XBLA version on PC, preferably on Steam. I'd love to play the game with the enhanced visuals and all the new stuff of the remake.

#15 Posted by Sil3n7 (1189 posts) -

The most interesting part of this whole post is your desktop and chrome bookmarks.

#16 Posted by patrickklepek (4540 posts) -

@Stugoo said:

Patrick, you appear to have LaunchPad in your dock.

Crap! I don't know why. Leftover from Mountain Lion upgrade.

Staff
#17 Posted by pornstorestiffi (4914 posts) -

@Binman88 said:

@nERVEcenter said:

Is it just me, or does OSX seem to be significantly cluttered and busy?

Not just you.

Seconded.

#18 Posted by yeah_write (219 posts) -

@mnzy said:

@Stubee said:

Im still more of a Binding of Isaac kinda guy....

Me, too. The funny thing is that Ed McMillen himself is a huge Spelunky fan, I think he said it's one of his favourite games, and it inspired Isaac in many ways. And to me, he made the better game.

That makes three of us. I was just looking at my Steam list the other day and saw that I had 6 hours in the original Witcher but 14 in Binding of Isaac. Heh.

I still haven't given Spelunky a try, so I can't say for sure if I like Isaac better. I wish the pixel art visuals made it to the XBLA version of Spelunky. I actually prefer those.

#19 Posted by Space_Sandwich (108 posts) -

@patrickklepek: Speaking of Mountain Lion, any thoughts on its performance? I'm too worried to pick it up based off the bugginess of my Lion upgrade last summer...

#20 Posted by Flacracker (1675 posts) -

@patrickklepek said:

@Stugoo said:

Patrick, you appear to have LaunchPad in your dock.

Crap! I don't know why. Leftover from Mountain Lion upgrade.

Patrick, you appear to be using Mac OS rather than Windows.

#21 Posted by SurferZ (92 posts) -

Maybe in a few years we can get a browser version of the updated game.

#22 Posted by mlarrabee (2951 posts) -

Man, I had no idea Spelunky was made using GameMaker!

I remember "wasting" so many hours "programming" little games and apps with that thing!

#23 Posted by Laxaloot (105 posts) -

@nERVEcenter: Just like Windows, it all depends on how you personally set it up. It can be clean and squeaky, or a multitasker's paradise like Patrick's screen up there.

#24 Posted by yoshimitz707 (2453 posts) -

@Flacracker said:

@patrickklepek said:

@Stugoo said:

Patrick, you appear to have LaunchPad in your dock.

Crap! I don't know why. Leftover from Mountain Lion upgrade.

Patrick, you appear to be using Mac OS rather than Windows.

What's wrong with that?

#25 Posted by ABK_92 (176 posts) -

@yoshimitz707 said:

@Flacracker said:

@patrickklepek said:

@Stugoo said:

Patrick, you appear to have LaunchPad in your dock.

Crap! I don't know why. Leftover from Mountain Lion upgrade.

Patrick, you appear to be using Mac OS rather than Windows.

What's wrong with that?

Everything.

#26 Posted by ravage484 (63 posts) -

Spelunky at work..hmm...I think that might make for a really loud cubicle.

#27 Posted by Benny (1953 posts) -

Wondering if that ASMR tab is to do with the tingling buzz feeling or something unrelated. I use asmr stuff to zone out all the time, it's like meditation.

#28 Posted by Sooty (8082 posts) -

Chrome not in full screen and a horrible skin, what are you doing man!

#29 Posted by blacklab (1552 posts) -

Awesome

#30 Posted by Zenogiasu (192 posts) -

July 31, 2012: The day absolutely no work was done.

THANKS A LOT PATRICK

#31 Posted by swiller (24 posts) -

@mnzy: Both excellent games. Got to go with the XBLA version of Spelunky as the best (even a cameo of Super Meat Boy I am told).

#32 Posted by ErikSchroder (207 posts) -

He looks like Warren Spector. :P

#33 Posted by ThePhantomStranger (359 posts) -

I remember looking at a comparison between normal game maker and the html5 export module and seeing how many things don't work...kudos to this guy for doing this.

#34 Posted by fisk0 (4101 posts) -

@Sooty said:

Chrome not in full screen and a horrible skin, what are you doing man!

THAT'S what you notice? Not that he only has 14 tabs open? How do people survive through the day with less than 50 browser tabs?

#35 Posted by buckybit (1455 posts) -

It runs well, but you cannot play it fullscreen and yes, the missing sound effects make a difference. I also like the ability to play the original with a gamepad on PC instead having to hack on a keyboard. I would have rather seen a NaCl version of this game.

But still, kudos, for doing it.

#36 Posted by smokyexe (258 posts) -

Awww he has Steam on his Mac, how cute.

#37 Edited by Brackynews (4083 posts) -

Also fuck you. :P

@smokyexe: Easiest way to manage accounts, community stuff, and preferable for making any kind of purchase in my experience.

#38 Posted by PillClinton (3291 posts) -

I like your Chrome there, Patrick. I also notice you use Google Reader, my personal favorite way to do news aggregation. So, props?

#39 Posted by dvorak (1496 posts) -

It's really never a good idea to post a desktop grab.

#40 Posted by Krabonq (87 posts) -

Nearly had to puke when I saw that browser screenshot.

Chrome and on a crapple. That's double-disgusting.

#41 Posted by jaffaz (138 posts) -

@Stubee: Karma for you, sir...oh wait

#42 Edited by swiller (24 posts) -

@ABK_92: @ABK_92 said:

@yoshimitz707 said:

@Flacracker said:

@patrickklepek said:

@Stugoo said:

Patrick, you appear to have LaunchPad in your dock.

Crap! I don't know why. Leftover from Mountain Lion upgrade.

Patrick, you appear to be using Mac OS rather than Windows.

What's wrong with that?

Everything.

Nothing! Another Windows user puting down Apple, without having any real experience with it. So jealous of Windows best R&D house, which has always been an inferior copy job to me. Took a decade to get a half way decent copy on the desktop. The tablet? Well, a decade and counting. Thank god the iPad came around to give the tech sector some direction. Almost there!

#43 Posted by Goldanas (546 posts) -

@Brackynews: I find the Android app works well for general purchases and doing that kind of management.

I mean, if you're using it on a Mac, I don't know how that makes it better than a PC when it works exactly the same as it does on a PC, except you can't play all the games. I can also just use a Windows PC if we're going that route.

If your argument is portability, I'd say the iOS or Android app are your best bet. They have all the functionality of the big boy versions in regards to management, but they'll fit in your pockets.

#44 Posted by Goldanas (546 posts) -

@swiller said:

@ABK_92: @ABK_92 said:

@yoshimitz707 said:

@Flacracker said:

@patrickklepek said:

@Stugoo said:

Patrick, you appear to have LaunchPad in your dock.

Crap! I don't know why. Leftover from Mountain Lion upgrade.

Patrick, you appear to be using Mac OS rather than Windows.

What's wrong with that?

Everything.

Nothing! Another Windows user puting down Apple, without having any real experience with it. So jealous of Windows best R&D house, which has always been an inferior copy job to me. Took a decade to get a half way decent copy on the desktop. The tablet? Well, a decade and counting. Thank god the iPad came around to give the tech sector some direction. Almost there!

Oh God, people, let's not go down this dark road.

Take it to Jamie and Adam's Tested if you gotta'.

#45 Posted by PillClinton (3291 posts) -

@dvorak said:

It's really never a good idea to post a desktop grab.

Only 'cause people will find literally anything to nitpick. We should all be able to share our screenshots with pride.

#46 Edited by Dan_CiTi (3303 posts) -

@Krabonq said:

Nearly had to puke when I saw that browser screenshot.

Chrome and on a crapple. That's double-disgusting.

Have you ever seen a single video of Giant Bomb at work? All of them, including Dave and Alexis have been using Mac for many years. And they all got free Macbook Airs for work, so that is the only computer Patrick has since he's paying for his wedding at the moment which makes buying a full-fledged gaming PC not viable. And who cares what fucking browser he uses, it's Chrome not IE.

@fisk0 said:

@Sooty said:

Chrome not in full screen and a horrible skin, what are you doing man!

THAT'S what you notice? Not that he only has 14 tabs open? How do people survive through the day with less than 50 browser tabs?

While that skin is pig disgusting (most are bad though, besides the anime ones, but those have fucking anime characters all over them), I'm sure his simple 13 inch macbook air would crumble with 50 tabs of significant things.

#47 Posted by AlexW00d (6274 posts) -

God that's one ugly desktop screenshot. Bookmarks with titles? Blue thing? Shame on you.

#48 Posted by NotPanicked (2 posts) -

Besties is an awesome podcast.

#49 Posted by FreedomTown (273 posts) -

Had to throw "Roguelike" into that didn't ya Patrick

#50 Posted by Flacracker (1675 posts) -

@swiller said:

@ABK_92: @ABK_92 said:

@yoshimitz707 said:

@Flacracker said:

@patrickklepek said:

@Stugoo said:

Patrick, you appear to have LaunchPad in your dock.

Crap! I don't know why. Leftover from Mountain Lion upgrade.

Patrick, you appear to be using Mac OS rather than Windows.

What's wrong with that?

Everything.

Nothing! Another Windows user puting down Apple, without having any real experience with it. So jealous of Windows best R&D house, which has always been an inferior copy job to me. Took a decade to get a half way decent copy on the desktop. The tablet? Well, a decade and counting. Thank god the iPad came around to give the tech sector some direction. Almost there!

I actually have too much experience with OSX. I hate almost everything about it. And by almost I mean that Garage Band is fucking awesome.

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