Hi, I'm Henry. In 2012 I quit my job as a programmer at BioWare to spend a year making my own indie games. This blog is about what happened next...

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Chaos & Discord

πŸ‘‰ [NOTE: Due to technical difficulties, this post is going up late so the playtest mentioned below has already happeneded, sorry!]

Just a few quick notes. First, an invitation to unbridled chaos:

Help me test a 100+ player co-op game!

One of my side-projects right now is a large audience-participation game that I'm building for a science comedian/educator to perform at school shows. It's supposed to be played in-person but since that's not possible right now I'd like to do some tests online.

I would love it if you could help me by joining a large Zoom meeting this Sunday Sep 12th at 3pm EDT/12pm PDT/8pm GMT

Zoom link: No longer active, sorry :(

It's a VERY simple game, so don't be shy. You only press one or two buttons.

All you need is a phone or tablet (join the meeting on your computer so you can play on your phone). The game itself will only take about 5 mins but with setup and explanation and experiments it will probably be more like 30 mins.

Large Hadron Party

Spaceteam Discord

Several folks have asked about making an official Spaceteam Discord server for the community, which is a great idea (especially since the forums have been dead for a long time now) but I just haven't had time for it. So I'm joining forces with the Spaceteam VR team, who already have a Discord server. They are happy to have Spaceteam mobile players join their community, and I'm guessing these two groups probably have a lot in common :)

Discord Logo

Here's an invite link: https://discord.gg/p7befeZ9

All Spaceteam Admiral's Club Patreon backers will get a special badge on the server with their rank!

Spaceteam: The Second Dimension

Spaceteam: The Second Dimension The Spaceteam VR team is also working on a 2D flat screen non-VR version of their game that you can play on your computer. It will be available on Steam and other PC platforms in the near future, but if you want to get a sneak peek you can sign up for the beta-test here:

Spaceteam: The Second Dimension - Beta test

Space out!

~ Henry

I'm Still Here!

I'm Still Here!

My silence on this blog has been unprecedented, but that seems to be true of so many things in the world right now so I hope you'll forgive me. Thankfully my family and I are all safe and healthy. I certainly have less time to work now than I did before the pandemic, but mostly I've been quiet because I'm working on a contract project that I still can't talk about yet!

Blabyrinth is still on hold, because "Project M" (not its real name) is taking all of my time. I had once hoped to split my time half-and-half but that turned out to be wishful thinking. But don't dismay, the wait won't be for nothing: when this project is finished it will be another local-multiplayer game to keep you distracted, and shouting at each other!

I can't share too many details but I'll give you some teasers.

Project M

Project M is a cooperative local-multiplayer party game like Spaceteam. In fact, I was approached to develop it because the people I'm working with liked Spaceteam. It's not Spaceteam 2... but you are a team... and you are in space (sometimes) πŸš€

The core of the game consists of mini-games, some individual and some cooperative. I've been doing some research by playing games like Mario Party and Mucho Party (my 3-year-old loves playing this with us and it lets you adjust the difficulty per-player which means she actually has a chance!)

With the cooperative mini-games I'm getting the opportunity to experiment with different co-op mechanics: sharing information, doing things in a certain order, doing things at the same time.

The individual mini-games test different faculties like dexterity, memory, reflexes, etc. and they can be assigned to different players depending on their strengths. I wanted this task allocation to feel a bit like The Crystal Maze (one of my favourite TV shows as a kid).

Here's a sneak peek at some out-of-context artwork from the game so far:

Networking changes

Because of the pandemic we've been prioritizing remote play instead of local play, but the final game will have both. I'm currently using Photon as the back-end technology for remote play and it's working well. You still need to communicate with the other players so we've been playing together over Zoom in our tests, but I'm also planning to include more integrated video/voice chat via Bunch.

Spaceteam still uses GameSparks Real-Time Multiplayer for remote play but they no longer offer the service I was using (I was grandfathered into their old "Indie" plan) so I really need to give it some love and convert it over to Photon.

For local networking I'm still planning to use Hype but the pandemic delayed my integration and it's now a lower priority (at least until we can play together in person again).

Monetization 😱

Since I'm building this game on contract with another company we're interested in actually making money with this game, which is something I don't have much experience with ;) Spaceteam was never designed to make money. Even though the game and its various spin-off projects have helped me stay indie for almost 10 years now (!), the in-app purchases from the mobile app only make about $15,000 (Canadian) per year. Which I still find pretty amazing but it's not quite enough to support a family. If you're interested, the rest of my income is made up of board game royalties, Patreon support, occasional contract work, andβ€”sometimesβ€”withdrawing money from my retirement savings at a penalty... (yes I know I'm lucky to have retirement savings at all, I was able to save some money while working at Bioware for 7 years)

So anyway for Project M we're consulting with some monetization experts, who are helping us modify the game design and will help us with "Live Ops" (which means keeping the game alive and kicking after launch, with special events, new content, etc).

I'm pretty confident that the base game will still be free, but we'll spend more attention on things we can offer to improve the experience while still respecting the player. I'm very wary of scaring people away with traditional F2P tactics which are often exploitative and insulting to the player.

Also... I'll be sure to include some special rewards for Admiral's Club members :) πŸŽ–

Incidentally, Sara and I have both been enjoying the game Hades a lot recently, and I found it interesting that they use a bunch of techniques that seem to come from Free-to-Play design and yet it's a standard premium game with no in-app purchases at all.

Useful tools I've discovered

  • Stateless: An easy way to write hierarchical state machines in C#
  • SRDebugger - I used to use the excellent LunarConsole for on-device logging and debugging, but I'm finding this tool even more useful!
  • JSON.Net: Handy JSON parsing library. Better than Unity's built-in JSON support.
  • Localazy: Nice (and inexpensive) crowd-sourced localization platform. I'm finally upgrading my Spaceteam localization process which until now has been 20+ languages in a big Google Sheet!

Game Giveaway!

Here are some more Steam game keys, if you want one just post a comment or email me at henry@sleepingbeastgames.com

  • 🎁 Baba Is You
  • 🎁 Hyper Light Drifter
  • 🎁 BioShock Remastered
  • 🎁 Spelunky
  • 🎁 Kerbal Space Program
  • 🎁 Jackbox Party Pack 4
  • 🎁 FTL
  • 🎁 System Shock: Enhanced Edition
  • 🎁 System Shock 2
  • 🎁 Broken Age
  • 🎁 Elite Dangerous
  • 🎁 MirrorMoon EP
  • 🎁 Neo Cab
  • 🎁 Regular Human Basketball
  • 🎁 FRAMED Collection

Project Y

For those of you still reading, the other reason I've been slow to update the blog is that... I have a new baby! Her name is Yoshi. She is now 4 months old and her head size is in the 86th-percentile. Here's a picture:

Baby Yoshi

Space out!

~ Henry

What's Happening?

What's Happening?

πŸ‘‹ Hello. It's been several months since my last confessionβ€”I mean blog post. I usually try to update more frequently, but... well, you know. Things are happening.

Spaceteam VR is out now!

Spaceteam VR Trailer

Get it! Play it! Share it! Tell your spacefriends ❀️ The team at Cooperative Innovations have been working hard for years on this game and it's surreal to see it come to life.

It works on most PC VR headsets like the Vive, Oculus Rift, and Oculus Quest. PSVR is coming a bit later.

There are several ways to play:

  • Full VR mode with up to six players
  • A mix of VR and mobile devices (eg. 1 player in VR and 4 other players on phones). You might need to bring-your-own-voice-chat if you're playing remotely.
  • You can can also play single player with robots! πŸ€–

Quarantine Spaceteam

Even though Spaceteam is normally local multiplayer, in these dark times of social distancing it's even more important to work together, so there are a couple of ways you can still play:

  • Internet mode: using the blue button at the top-left you can switch to Internet mode which will let you connect to players around the world. Just pick a Team Password together and make sure you all enter the same one. It's like a "room code" in other games. When you use this mode you will have to bring-your-own-voice-chat (eg. Zoom, Skype, Hangouts, Jitsi) so you can hear each other.
  • Bunch: Spaceteam has an official integration with Bunch, which provides in-game video chat (you'll see little bubbles with your faces at the top of the screen). Just pick the "Bunch" option from the same blue button in the top-left. You'll need to download the Bunch app before you can play. Give it a try!

[πŸ‘‰ If you're on Android and having trouble installing the latest update (v2.9.1) please uninstall/reinstall the app and it should work fine.]

Internet mode

Blabyrinth is on hold (for a bit...)

I haven't touched Blabyrinth for a few months, but not just for the obvious reasons. My productivity has certainly been affected by the pandemic, especially since we have an almost-3-year-old that now needs extra childcare. But my wife's parents have been helping out a lot so I've been able to work more than I expected.

However... the work I've been focusing on is actually a short contract project I've accepted, and it's taking most of my time. I can't give details just yet, so for now I'm going to refer to it as Project M.

Project M

I don't normally take on projects for other people, and I feel bad delaying Blabyrinth. But I'm excited about this idea and what it could become, and there's a bit of money in it, so I decided it was a good business decision.

It's another local-multiplayer game, so I'm working in my element and it can share technology with Spaceteam and Blabyrinth. If you like Spaceteam, you'll probably like this one too.

Even more Spaceteam

I've also been approached by no less than three companies who are interested in custom versions of Spaceteam for their platforms. One is with a team-building company, and two are ports to specialty game consoles/devices.

If I had a team and a budget then these are the kind of things I would delegate to other people while I keep working on new stuff. But it's just me. In the past I've said "no" to such things, but... it's been a while since I've been able to really save money, and with circumstances the way they are I think I'm going to take the offers. They will tie me up for a few more months, delaying Blabyrinth even more, but I should come out in a better place financially.

Just wanted to warn you all before I take the plunge!

Treats πŸŽ‰

Since you've been very patient waiting for Blabyrinth, I'll end with some free Steam codes to give away. First come first served! Just let me know which one you want in the comments or by email (henry@sleepingbeastgames.com) and I'll send you a code.

Space out!

~ Henry