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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Full Production

Full Production

I took some time off to be with my new baby (pictures at the end) but now I'm back in full production on Blabyrinth. I'm so lucky to be able to work from home, and you're a big part of making that possible. So thank you!! I can work while mum and baby are asleep in the mornings and the evenings, and even though there are more interruptions during the day I've still been very productive.

The vertical slice is almost done and has revealed, as expected, several aspects of the design that needed rework or refactoring. But now I'm a lot more confident that all the systems will mesh well.

There was a lot of unsexy behind-the-scenes work so I'll regale you with a random assortment of tidbits:

  • Players can now be trapped, and then rescued by their teammates. This is just one way the game forces you to work together.

  • Photoshop's "Content-Aware Fill" has been really useful for removing symbols from placeholder art so I can add my own adornments dynamically. I'm working on a shader that will make the clue text or image look like it's engraved into the surface.

  • Related to this, I had to make a custom "Clue Region editor" so the game knows where to draw clues and identifying marks on scenery and items.

  • Having large libraries of scenery, items, and symbols means I have to do a lot of categorization/tagging so I can randomly pick an appropriate context-dependent thing.

    • Symbol tags are things like: simple, complex, linear, solid, connector, abstract, pictogram, animal, unambiguously-named, ...
    • Scenery tags are things like: can-stand-on, can-slide, can-be-ritually-touched, musical, engravable, landmark, can-see-contents, ...
  • It's important that players be able to return the treasure they find to the "overworld" when the game is done and store it in their personal collection. While building support for this I realized it was necessary to have two parallel worlds (only a technical distinction, not exposed to the player): one shared world when you're connected to other players, and one local world when disconnected. I have to perform some sleights of hand to keep these worlds consistent, and moving items between them is a bit tricky. But there's a special reason I need it to work this way and I think the payoff will be worth it :)

  • I'm experimenting with a simple "hands" UI for showing the item(s) you're carrying. Building good puzzles for two players involves splitting up clues differently from three or four players, so one of the ways I'm making things simpler is by letting you carry two items each in a 2-player game.

I'm still using temporary art (this asset has been great for prototyping and inspiration) but the game is getting to a point where I'd like to start looking for a real artist. If you know any 2D artists who might be interested in some contract work making lots of scenery and items for a top-down Indiana Jones-style treasure hunt escape room labyrinth, please send them my way! I'll post a full job description with details sometime soon.

Also the levels are very bare at the moment because I'm just including the essential elements needed for the core puzzles. The next step will be to generate each level with decoration, extra scenery, side-puzzles, meta-puzzles, a few custom handmade set pieces, and maybe some red herrings for good measure :)

Spaceteam news

I just updated Spaceteam to work better with iOS 11. If you were having Wifi connection issues on iOS 11 please try again with this update.

I'm working with Concordia to finalize the new versions of Spaceteam ESL and the French-language equivalent "Astronautes FLS". They should both be ready for launch in early November. I had a tricky time getting good French pronunciations for the phrases in Practice mode since I'm just using my Mac's built-in Text-to-Speech service. For reference to nobody but myself: I ended up using a combination of the Amelie, Aurelie, and Chantal voices to get it sounding right :)

The board game is back in stock almost everywhere (still working on cheaper shipping to Canada...). It's also starting to show up at some Barnes & Noble locations, so if you've been looking for it maybe you should check your local B&N store.

And finally, some pictures of Nori. She is now almost 4 months old!


Space out!

~ Henry