Super Hexagon, 10 years on

So, hey! Today is the 10th anniversary of Super Hexagon’s original release. I know, I can barely believe it either. I don’t have any big plans today, sorry – but I wanted to mark the occasion here. <3

I still don’t really know how to think about Super Hexagon, sometimes. It was a game that just sort of came along, while I was working on something else, a game I very much made for myself, tuned to my own reflexes. I didn’t expect any kind of reaction to it, let alone the one it got. I would never have imagined that anyone would still be playing it 10 years on. I’m unbelievably proud of this thing.

I released VVVVVV’s source code on its 10 year anniversary a few years ago, a lot of people have been asking me if I’d do the same for Super Hexagon, and… maybe? I do like the idea! But not today. There’s no rush. Super Hexagon is actually still being worked on, with updates coming to keep it running well on modern hardware – so making the source available is a bit messy right now. Maybe in the future!

Anyway. Please enjoy these weird early development screenshots from the game, which I enjoyed rediscovering!

* 7 Comments

See you all next time

Welcome back! Reunion’s been out in the world for many many weeks now, so I thought it was a good time to check in! Thank you so much to everyone who played it, everyone who streamed it, everyone who watched it being played – I couldn’t be happier with how it’s gone down.


(The start of Retromation’s great series about the DLC)

With the DLC out in the world, I found I had a lot of things I wanted to say about the various episodes, while it was still all fresh in my mind – so I wrote some twitter threads! One for each character. I’ll link them here for future posterity:


The Thief

 

The Jester

 

The Warrior


The Witch

 

The Robot

 

The Inventor

I enjoy doing this sort of thing, but, uh, maybe twitter is not a good place for it? I can’t help but feel like I’m annoying people, like I’m interrupting other people’s conversations to talk about myself, or something like that. Maybe I just need to start blogging more instead, like I keep saying I’m going to!

What’s Next

So with the mobile ports and Reunion out, I’m slowly starting to think about what’s next. I’ve got a couple of small Dicey related things in the pipeline, which I’ll have news about soon – and I think it goes without saying that I’ll continue to keep Dicey Dungeons running smoothly everywhere it’s available (the 2.1 patch just went up on mobile, in fact!) – but yeah, Reunion is the last content update we’re planning. It’s our goodbye to the game. I think it’s a good finale!

It’s time for me to start thinking about making some new stuff. I’m excited about working on some smaller things for a while! Maybe I’ll make a few little jam games, learn some new skills, slowly figure out what’s next. Hopefully I’ll have more to say about that here in the next few months!

* 4 Comments

Dicey Dungeons Reunion

Hey everyone! Dicey Dungeons Reunion is out now! This is a major new DLC for the game – six new episodes, one for each contestant. There’s new music, new art, new equipment, and of course new gameplay! A lot went into this, and I really hope you enjoy it! <3

Reunion is available right now on all existing platforms:

[Steam] [itch.io] [Switch] [Xbox One|Series]

And, launching today, on iOS and Android!

[Apple App Store] [Google Play]

Finally, our Reunion DLC features an amazing new soundtrack by Chipzel! It’s available to buy on Bandcamp, or stream on all the usual places:


Dicey Dungeons Reunion OST

[Buy on Bandcamp]

[Apple Music] [Spotify] [Youtube Music] [Tidal]

* 1 Comment

The Reunion Reunion

Hey! So, it’s almost three years since Dicey Dungeons came out. This Thursday, we’re releasing Dicey Dungeons Reunion, a huge DLC that’s been in the works for about a year, which follows our big walking dice back into the Dungeons for six final episodes.

Since we’re finally wrapping things up, we thought it’d be nice to get the team together to have a big chat about the game, to reminisce about its development, and what it felt like to come back to our weird gameshow world.

Warning, this is pretty long! And it’s maybe only of interest to people who are really interested in how Dicey Dungeons came together! It’s been edited together from a couple of different conversations we had. Speaking are: myself, Terry Cavanagh (game design); Marlowe Dobbe (art); Niamh Houston/Chipzel (sound and music); Justo Delgado Baudí (programming); Holly Gramazio (writing); and briefly, Will Lewis (some of the voices).

THE BEGINNING

Marlowe
So, do we have any sort of plan here? Are we just gonna go for it?

Holly
Let’s start at the beginning, I guess? Which is Terry, and a little 2018 game jam…

Terry
Hi, yes, ok! So we’re all heard this story a lot, sorry. But: Dicey Dungeons started as a seven-day jam game in early 2018. I wanted to try and make a roguelike deck builder in the vein of Dream Quest, which at the time was a pretty underexplored space. It’s become a much bigger genre now, so I guess I got pretty lucky with the timing.

I really wanted to do something different in this space, and I thought working with dice would be an interesting unexplored avenue for thinking about these kinds of systems. It started as simple as that, just like: what can I do in this Dream-Quest-inspired space that hasn’t been done before? And from there, it just took off.

Marlowe
You know, I only played Dream Quest after we had finished making Dicey Dungeons – it was funny playing through and connecting all the threads.

Terry
Yeah, there are a lot of little references in there! I like to be pretty open about my inspirations. Reunion has a few more, actually!

PUTTING THE TEAM TOGETHER

Marlowe
I feel like I knew this at one point but probably forgot: how long had you been working on the prototype before you decided to start looking for other people to work on it?

Terry
Oh, not that long. Like three or four versions, so a couple of months. It was pretty rough at that point. I went to the games festival AMAZE in Berlin a couple of months in, and Niamh was there, and I’d been looking for a reason for the two of us to work together again for a long time. So I told her about this dumb dice game I was really excited about, and asked if she was up for doing the music. That was probably the first step towards making the bigger plan.

Niamh
Yeah, I remember that, we had the conversation over coffee.

Terry
Before that I’d just been using MIDI pop songs that I found online, which was never a long-term plan, obviously. In the earliest versions of the game the music was like MIDI versions of It’s Raining Men and Shake It Off

Marlowe
Was Kiss from a Rose in there or do I remember wrong?

Terry
I don’t think I had that one. But I can definitely imagine Kiss from a Rose as a great MIDI song.

Niamh
Loads of people actually really missed the MIDI pop when it was gone. They were like oh no, they were angry.

Marlowe
Angry that they had to listen to good music.

Holly
They came round eventually.

Terry
Yeah, sorry, I feel like I made you compete with Adele!

Holly
Niamh, when you started working on Dicey Dungeons was it already set in a game show?

Niamh
It wasn’t a game show yet but it had that… luck-of-the-draw feeling. And it reminded me of, you know, those slot machines you get in Irish takeaways. Little solitaire machines. Dicey Dungeons gave me this same feeling. It’s a game that’s not necessarily designed to be in your favour. Everything’s got an element of luck, and what gets you through is planning and organization.

That was the early stage of thinking about the sound design for it, just: what does it remind me of? That led into thinking about 90s game shows, like Gladiator.

Marlowe
I do feel like when I came on, a couple of months later, we hadn’t solidified the story. But I remember relatively early on, we all got on a call and talked it over and came to the conclusion that, yes, seriously, it was about a game show.


THE WORK BEGINS

Holly
So that was still quite early, like the middle of 2018, when you started?

Marlowe
I remember, Terry and I had our first phone conversation after I’d begun, talking about directions that the game could go. And we had this idea that we could do an Alice-in-Wonderland thing, like every level is a different world, where the characters feel almost out of place in a lot of scenarios.

The game had been originally themed pretty much like Dungeons and Dragons with all the enemies; but we wanted to get away from that and make it feel more unique. So I started out having a lot of fun doing this blast of different areas and characters, and then we started talking about what are the threads to pull on, what’s the theme, what ties it together.

Holly
And this is when you started reimagining some of the existing enemies, right? Because there were a bunch of very D&D things in the first versions which you transformed into these more characterful and peculiar and adorable creatures.

Marlowe
It was a really fun challenge having so many of the enemies already with a core design there when I started. I looked at what moves they had, and reskinned things based on that, which was really fun. Like, I remember I had a huge Google spreadsheet with all the enemies and what their moves were and what they were currently visually designed as, and then I would just fill in ideas.

There was a lot of back and forth with all of us, just with sketches and ideas that we thought were fun, and finding a new personality for each of the enemies.

Terry
I really enjoyed that back-and-forth! I had some really silly enemies in the original pixel art version, and then Marlowe would come up with a great new idea for them and a new visual design. And I was like, ok, I can work with this, and then I’d change the designs to better match. Like, I think the blowfish eventually became Sneezy, for example.

Marlowe
Oh yeah, that’s right! I forgot about that. Yeah, that whole process was really fun.

Holly
So that was a pretty hectic time – it’s when you started looking for another programmer too, Terry?

Terry
Yeah, around August it became clear that it was a bit much for just me, so I put out a call for a Haxe programmer, and found Justo.

Holly
Why were you making it in Haxe, actually?

Terry
Well, when you’re making a jam game and prototyping something quickly, it’s best to stick with what you’re most familiar with – and Haxe is kind of my go-to comfort programming language. So the game started out in that. And then it grew, and grew…

Justo
When I joined, towards the end of 2018, it was a few months old. I joined to work on implementing an animation system for the game and improving the sound system. The initial plan was to implement those systems in two or three months, but I ended up staying for the whole duration of the project.

Holly
And the animation system was the big thing to start off with? How did that work?

Terry
Yeah, Marlowe had been making everything in After Effects. I remember she asked about tools and I just said, oh, just use whatever you’re most comfortable with, we’ll figure out the technical details later. I really had no idea how complicated it was going to be to get those animations in the game!

Justo
Adobe After Effects is mainly used to create animations or VFX that are rendered offline. So we needed to find a way to export those animations in a format that would let us render them in real time. We had a couple discussions about how to approach this issue. We first tried to export each frame of the animation into a spritesheet but we soon realized doing it that way wasn’t going to scale well and wouldn’t let us have fluid animations and as many animations as we wanted.

Thankfully, while looking for alternatives I found Lottie (at that time it was called Bodymovin), an open source project that let us export the animation keyframes to JSON and the different sprites that made that animation into PNG files. Those PNG files were then merged into a spritesheet to save space on disk and GPU memory and to avoid texture changes in GPU as much as possible.

We had to limit the use of effects that could be applied to each part of the animation in After Effects to just a couple ones because the library didn’t support exporting some effects and other effects were too taxing to reproduce in real time. We also had to find ways to support some important effects by rasterizing them offline into PNG files and adding them into the spritesheet.

For the game’s animation system I wrote a parser for the JSON format that library produces and to process those keyframes in a way that lets us play the animations in-game in real time.

  

Terry
It was a pretty huge undertaking, but yeah, Justo basically made a bespoke process for putting realtime After Effect animations in the game. Occasionally modders ask about adding animations to the game, and they see our internal documentation about the process, and they’re slightly horrified!

Holly
If you were starting again from scratch, would you still use Haxe?

Terry
For this, yeah, I think so. Haxe is pretty great. I honestly don’t know why more people aren’t using it.

Justo
Being a niche language with a small community, finding solutions to some issues is hard. Thankfully, this small community has really brilliant and helpful people that ease that issue. We couldn’t have built Dicey Dungeons without the help of all the open source libraries we use: OpenFL, Starling, HScript, Polymod, Actuate,…

Holly
This is about when I first became involved as well, I think. When you’d all been reimagining some of the characters and you’d sort of collectively figured out it was a game show, but you didn’t know the details.

Terry
Yeah, all we’d really settled on was the game show thing, and a few stray ideas of what kind of story we wanted to tell.

Holly
So I just came on board to ask questions and make some notes and moderate this one-off big hours-long discussion about all of the different directions that the story could go in and how this fictional game show might be structured and how the plot would work. And I wasn’t at that point expecting to be involved beyond that, but obviously I was pretty familiar with the game just because, you know, I live with Terry.


(pictured left to right: Marlowe, Niamh and Terry at Day of the Devs, San Francisco, Nov 2018)

SHOWING THE GAME

Niamh
Honestly we were still figuring out some of the details when we met up for Day of the Devs in November 2018. Me and Marlowe and Terry in an AirBnB in San Francisco just watching 90s game shows. I think it was then when we all met up that the big theme kind-of solidified.

Marlowe
Yeah, I don’t know if we’ve really talked about it a lot publicly but I think it’s so funny how Day of the Devs was the first time I met Niamh and Terry in person, after working together for months.

And again in early 2019 when we took the game around a lot of different shows, when we were showcasing the game, and we all in varying degrees, like, basically lived together for three months in different cities in the US. It was quite the convention tour.

Terry
Yeah, we did like four or five shows back to back, that was absolutely brutal! I was completely out of it for weeks by the end of it.

Marlowe
Yeah. And you and Niamh did one in the UK right after we did all the ones in the States, right?

Terry
Day of the Devs was first, right?

Marlowe
Then PAX South, then GDC 2019.


(pictured left to right: Terry, Marlowe, Niamh and Will Lewis at PAX South, San Antonio, Jan 2019)

Terry
And PAX East. Yeah, so we went to GDC, then PAX East, and then right after that Niamh and I did Rezzed in London, three conventions back to back, which was probably one too many…

Marlowe
And we were just at different Airbnbs, we were really kind-of scrappy about it. Like we put all our booth stuff together ourselves, we ordered all of it. We were pushing pins on pin cards in the Texas Airbnb the day before the show…

I think my favorite booth story was at PAX East when Terry got really excited and bought a bunch of balloons that said DICEY…

Terry
Oh god, those balloons. That was such a big ordeal too, finding this huge American party supply warehouse, getting the balloons and getting them blown up and trying to squeeze them into the back of a Taxi. And the whole time I sort of knew it was a terrible idea, like I was making a mistake in slow motion.

Marlowe
Yeah, then you found out you couldn’t take them into the convention center, that they weren’t allowed. So we ended up just having these huge balloons that just spell out DICEY in the basement of our Airbnb.


Terry
Those shows were great. And it was so important for the game, just seeing so many people play it and see how they responded to it.

Niamh
Remember that kid at Rezzed?

Terry
Oh, yeah. I remember. The kid with the Knuckles hat who got really into it! He would have been about nine or ten years old?

Niamh
I think so. Like, he would come back and play the demo as one character then come back and play it as a different character and then when he’d gone through all the characters, asking if he could play the unlocked version, not just the demo. Full on game-designer kid with mechanics questions.

That was a really rewarding sort of moment, just for me. In game development, when kids play and enjoy your game, it’s like a different level. You go to conventions, and obviously, it’s mostly adults who come over and play.

Holly
Yeah, when you love something as a kid it can kind-of become a part of the fabric of how you apprehend the world in a way that, like – when you get something you’ve made to adults, it’s too late for that.

Niamh
Playing games as a kid for me – I didn’t have a whole load of titles that I played, but I got very heavily involved in Pokemon and The Sims and things like that. And it’s such a solid memory; for me to have loved these games so much as a kid, it stays with you. So there’s that extra layer of gratitude as a game developer to see a kid get so interested and just absolutely love it. It was really special.

Marlowe
Yeah, like, it’s pretty fun. I do feel like there are some kids who have played the game and have gotten really inspired by it. Which is pretty wild, because that’s something that I’ve always wanted to do with games that I’ve made. I want to evoke the same feeling I had when I was a kid playing games.

Holly
So Rezzed and this enthusiastic kid happened just over a year after the initial 7 Day Roguelike prototype, right? And to some extent you’d all been working on it since then? So it was a pretty intensive process for all of you. For me, I just came in for maybe a month and we talked a lot about the story and then I wrote a bunch of jokes and sentences and that was quite quick, comparatively. But you were all working on it for that whole year.

Terry
Yeah, in the end probably a bit more than a year for the team effort, Niamh and Marlowe and Justo and me.

Holly
Including a couple of months where you were just doing this huge circuit of shows…

Marlowe
I also just remembered that I did E3 as well. And we did Indiecade!


Marlowe and Niamh at E3 2019

Terry
Oh yeah, E3! I decided not to go to that one – I was still kinda recovering from Rezzed I think.

Marlowe
We were still working on the game while we were doing that, too. I remember there’s some backgrounds I drew in the airport while I was waiting to get on a plane.

Niamh
I think I was literally changing music to put into the game, like the day that we were going to conventions. Recording this thing that I just made up on the way…

Terry
A lot of the voiceover work happened around the shows as well. With Will involved in that too.

Will
Spinning in an abandoned office chair on the side of the street in San Francisco.

Niamh
Yeah, of course, and we just recorded it and put it in the game.

Marlowe
And then we did some of the voiceovers in a closet in our office that we hung up a lot of blankets in, and it was really hot. We had to go into the office on a weekend and set that up because we’re like: we’re going to be screaming in a closet. And we worked in a coworking space at the time.

Niamh
The voiceover stuff was wild.


(pictured: Will and Niamh recording the first voiceovers in San Francisco, Nov 2019)

Terry
I still feel bad that I was so skeptical about the voices until they were basically done. I was stressed that we didn’t have time for them. And then they turned out amazing. Sorry about that!

Niamh
I mean, like I do kind-of wish that we’d had a little bit more time with that because it’s one of those where I’m like, Oh, I don’t know about that voice and I don’t know about this one. But I think for the limited time and the technical and whatever else complications that we had, I’m happy enough with where we got to.

FINISHING THE GAME

Terry
Talking about this really makes me wish I was a better producer. I feel like I kept saying: we’re almost done. The last four months of development was like, Okay, we’re going to be done at the end of May. Oh, I guess we’re not, okay. I guess we’ll be done at the end of June? Oh, no, July? And it eventually came out in August 2019. I didn’t mean for it to be like that, I’ve never been good at time estimates, but that all becomes a lot worse when you’re working with other people and setting deadlines.

Marlowe
I do feel like we had a moment, like the time when we all gathered up and talked about the game show theme – we also had a moment where we were like: Okay, we’re saying this game’s gonna take a few months. But actually, it’s starting to feel like we could do something bigger with it, we could take it somewhere pretty far. And we kind of collectively made the decision. Like: yeah, let’s go. Heads down on this game and really make it everything it can be.

Terry
Yeah, that was probably at Day of the Devs.

Marlowe
I think after that, we weren’t feature creeping, per se, but we were able to say: we have to add this thing, we have to change that thing. It’ll make the game so much better.

Even the ending came late, the last thing we worked on. And pushing the game out that much gave us the time to do that properly.

Terry
I’m so proud of the ending, I’m glad we took the time to do that.

Holly
Yeah, there was a big gap for me between most of the writing and then coming back for us to all figure out what the ending is.

And by that point, I knew there were a bunch of languages the game was being translated into so it was so much more stressful to write. Because every word that I wrote down, I was like, Okay, this is being translated into twenty languages, every word I write is going to cost us. Can I make this line shorter and still have it work?

Niamh
But then towards the end we just had to get it done. I remember we had to make August for the final release because with game development, you only have these limited release windows where you think that it’s gonna make sense for you to release a game…

Marlowe
But at the same time, thinking about when stuff like Baby Squid as the host was added in, I swear that was the last two weeks of development.

Terry
Yeah, Baby Squid was such a minor character originally – Baby Squid only had one line! They just say, “oh, please come visit me again, I’m so bored and lonely” when you beat them.

But then we had the idea of the Jester spinning the wheel after each episode, so you’d get to know them better, and we realised that when the Jester is unlocked we’d need someone else to replace them. I remember we considered having lots of different enemies having a turn at spinning the wheel.

Holly
Yeah, I wrote a bunch of lines for them, Wizard spinning the wheel, Fireman setting fire to the wheel by accident, that kind of thing.

Terry
Unfortunately we just didn’t have time to implement any of that in the end, and we just went with Baby Squid. They became such a big character!

Niamh
I mean, if we’re being honest, the entirety of the soundtrack was more or less written, or at least remixed in the last two months.

Holly
I remember when you were just: oh, I think I should get a saxophone.

Niamh
Yeah, thinking: I can learn how to play and write jazz in like, two weeks, that’s fine. But I mean, it’s a process, it all worked out. We started off with chiptune, and then as the art progressed, and Marlowe absolutely killed it, that was when I got thinking: No, this really needs some organic flavor.


Finalising the soundtrack

Marlowe
Yeah, before Dicey Dungeons, I never would have thought that your music would fit with my art very well. But it did. I feel like now for the rest of my career, I’m going to have this curse where people will be asking me whenever they see I’m working on a game if you’re going to do the music for it. I think people just really liked the combo.

Holly
It really works! And then after all that last-minute stuff, the game came out…


THE RELEASE

Marlowe
I was so nervous.

Niamh
It’s so weird with games coming out in the digital realm, because you literally submit all your work and then you kind of click a button and it’s there and you’re like…

Marlowe
It’s just like, Okay. It’s almost unceremonious…

Niamh
Messaging over discord, sitting at your desk, like – I’m on my own.

Terry
Yeah, that was weird. Because there was a lot of like, I’m not sure how to describe it, but just frantic bug fixing and just working to cram every last thing into that final build which went up on the day of release – like, there was no final build that’d been sitting around for three weeks or whatever. Some really major stuff got added in the last couple of weeks! Even the review copy of the game is pretty different from the game that actually came out on release day. And then suddenly, it’s over, and you can’t really do anything for the game any more.

And it’s just very weird to go offline and go for a walk, and nobody around you knows anything about this huge thing that’s happening.

Niamh
It’s like that meme of the guy standing in the corner at a party, no one knows I just released a videogame.

Marlowe
I think the nice thing was, there were a lot of people who were streaming it, it felt like I was able to watch a little bit of people interacting with it. But we all live far enough apart that it’s not like we had a launch party, or anything. And I’d started another job by then!

Justo
For me, release day wasn’t as stressful as the days before it. I was more excited than stressed. The game was finally out and a lot of people were praising and enjoying it. And it was a release valve to all the pressure that was building up that let me focus on fixing some of the issues left that the game still had.

Terry
This was the first time I’d had someone doing PR on a game too, so Dana [Trebella] was looking after all that, writing to people, I didn’t have to, like, send things out hopefully to journalists or see if anyone was asking for steam keys or anything.

Holly
For me, I can’t really remember the day very well – I guess I mostly remember Terry refreshing twitter, and the Steam new top sellers page. And then: ah, there it is. There it is. It’s in the charts now, oh it’s at the bottom of the front page. It’s gone up the page a little bit now. And just sort of watching it over the course of the whole first week.

Niamh
It’s just – it’s incredible. When you finally put the game out and you start getting feedback on it. And like, going up in the charts. It’s the best feeling in the world.

Marlowe
Yeah, it really was. Like obviously, I loved all the work that we were all doing. But I think a month before we came to release, I had a little bit of that, like, fear of God, where I was like: oh my god, I think a lot of people are gonna play this.

Niamh
Yeah, I had that fear of God in me from January onwards, because the reception that we were getting at every convention that we went to was really positive. Every convention that we went to, I was like: wow, we really have something here. And I want to make it as good as it possibly can be. I’d been happy enough with the music before then, but after that I was just like: no, it’s just not right for the world.

Marlowe
Yeah, you really did an overhaul of it.

Terry
Yeah, it was like… obviously, I was hoping the game would do really well. But I wasn’t ready for it to be – like, by any standards that first week was ridiculous. I think you know this already, but it outsold my other games’ lifetime figures on steam in that first week.

Marlowe
I don’t think I was expecting that either. But I was obviously very happy to see how many people were playing.


Turns out, it was regional, but still!

Holly
I remember for a couple of weeks I’d just occasionally go and look at the Steam page where, you know, you can see what people have screenshotted. And just going through that – and going, oh neat, people like this joke, or that one, or this character, amazing. You don’t normally get that kind of sentence-by-sentence feedback on a thing you’ve written.

Marlowe
It was really fun seeing what characters people latched on to. There are definitely some totally surprising characters in terms of like, people talking about them. Some of it had to do with writing and some of it had to do with the design of the game itself. Like I think about Loud Bird and how infamous Loud Bird is in that game now – I don’t think I would have thought about that while I was drawing the character or anything.

But I also like how there’s a lot of instances where I think Holly, you did a really great job of weaving in little dashes of character backstory. So people can, like, catch on to the fireman and the snowman being a couple and stuff like that.

Niamh
I think that we have a really incredible community of people who play this game. Every time I see a Dicey Dungeons meme or any sort of content. It’s really lovely to see people picking up on all the little intricacies of the game.

Marlowe
There’s some people making fan art now that blows my mind. There are people who’ve drawn human versions of all the dice. I don’t know if it will ever quite sink in with me how cool that is.


Art by @mitukan_sub


Art by @chorbkey


Art by @taiga080521

Holly
There’s been lots of modding as well, right? How does that feel from a game design perspective, to see people like inventing new rules and equipment and ways to play?

Terry
Oh, it’s really gratifying, because actually a lot of time went into making the game be moddable, making sure all the game’s data was accessible, and in human readable spreadsheets, and that everything worked in really simple-to-understand scripts. Right from the start, the game found an audience of people who were interested in poking at it, and I really wanted to make it accessible for them.

Actually, one of the best things about working on Dicey Dungeons was my discord server for the game, the Dicecord. It’s such an incredible community, I don’t know how I lucked into it. Right from earliest public builds, I got such incredible feedback from people – Dicey Dungeons is a really significantly better game because of it, I think.

And it’s always a thrill to see a weird item be modded into the game, doing something I didn’t even think was possible. Like, one example, there’s a helium item that I love from the mod More Fluff, which gives you loads of dice, but they all float up from the bottom of the screen and you have to catch them. So good.


Helium Balloon, from the mod MoreFluff by Jackeea

Holly
And then after a few weeks to kind-of absorb the release, we went right into the Halloween Special.


POST-RELEASE: PORTS AND DLC

Terry
So yeah, after the launch went so well, we started talking about doing a nice content update for the game! I had some really over-elaborate ideas that would have taken forever, but Niamh suggested we just do a small Halloween themed update first, which was a much better idea.

Niamh
I wasn’t at home so I was doing remote work, which was a little bit tricky, I didn’t have my usual studio setup. But I very much enjoyed starting out with the premise of: okay, it’s like the Backstreet Boys meets Monster Mash.

Marlowe
Yeah, doing the Halloween costumes was really fun too. I felt like it was sort of a do-over of that idea of how we had already reskinned the enemies – puffer fish to hedgehog – and now we were doing it again. Thinking about what each of the characters would dress up as for Halloween and thankfully, the way that the files are structured for the art, it was really easy to swap in assets and change assets, but keep all the animations pretty much the same. I didn’t have to do a lot of reanimating.

We did so much work in such a short amount of time with that DLC. I kind of forget how much art got made for it. Like, I forgot that Madison dressed up as Lady Luck! It’s a nice surprise for myself every now and then when I play the game again or see a screenshot.

Terry
I feel like with all the travelling we did and the last-minute gearing-up to get everything ready for launch, by the time we sat down to work on the Halloween special, we were really firing on all cylinders, at the top of our game. I think it ended up being so, so good. I’m really proud of those episodes!

Marlowe
I think it’s got some of my favourite backgrounds, from the whole project.

Terry
And the music is so good, the Backstreet Boys inspired one especially. That track is amazing.

Niamh
Thank you. Yeah, I had a lot of fun with that. I’ve never got to do spooky and this was a whole different thing: like, do spooky but make it fun.


We tweeted about some of the costumes shortly after the update came out.

Holly
And then we all except Terry and Justo went off and did different stuff.

Marlowe
Yeah. When Dicey Dungeons released, I started working with Rose City Games on Floppy Knights, which has been released now. And now I have a new job, I work at Mega Crit. But I’ve been working on Dicey Dungeons in different spurts throughout all of that time. So it’s been a constant in my life.

Terry
And I’ve just never really stopped working on it. Like, I took a little time out after Halloween, but then I got back into doing updates, and we started on the Switch ports, which Ruari O’Sullivan came on to lead on. More recently, stuff on the Xbox ports which Ratalaika did. And yeah, for maybe the last year or so, alongside all that admin and bug-fixing and porting, I’ve been working on Reunion. Justo as well, of course, working on all this stuff, on the mobile ports and bug fixes, and localisation work, adding more languages, things like that.

Holly
Tell me about the localisations! Because there are a whole lot of them, and even after the game came out they just kept coming.

Terry
Yeah, this is the first time I’ve done them, I got really into it! I really wanted to make the game available in Irish, and since that was happening, I kind-of just took an interest in supporting other minority languages. Among other languages, we’ve translated Dicey Dungeons into Irish, Welsh, Catalan and Silesian. We’re lucky to have a bunch of great translators working with us on it.


Some screenshots of our Silesian translation.

Justo
When we started working on the game we were using font files to draw the text on screen. It was fine at the beginning of the project but when we added languages like Japanese, Chinese and Korean we realized that the system wasn’t going to scale. It was really slow. (It may sound surprising for some but rendering text is hard because text hates you.)

Terry
Yeah, we started getting bug reports about that right after launch – fixing that became a pretty urgent priority.

Justo
I knew about using a SDF (Signal Distance Fields) font texture to render text from other projects I worked on so I started experimenting with them for Dicey Dungeons and, after some experimentation, we decided to use a variant of the technique called MSDF (Multi-Channel Signal Distance Fields) which improves the rendering of the glyph by using multiple channels to describe the shape of the glyph. Thankfully Starling already had support for MSDF fonts so that was one less thing to worry about while implementing them. This change gave us a huge performance boost and also let us have sharp text everywhere at any size we wanted.

Holly
I’d started learning Italian at that point so I played the game in Italian for a while, which was great, kind-of seeing how different things had been translated. Like, how often do you get to learn a language by reading something you wrote that’s been professionally translated?

It also added a lot of words like “sword” and “raygun” and “dice” to my vocabulary which, honestly, I haven’t had a whole lot of use for since.

Justo
When we added Arabic, that was another challenge.

Terry
Yeah, unfortunately, Haxe didn’t have Arabic support at the time. We had to write it ourselves. The Pros and Cons of open source!

Justo
Thankfully I found some open source libraries that helped me write the library we ended using for the task – which wasn’t perfect, but was enough for the game to have Arabic as one of its translations.


DICEY DUNGEONS: THE REUNION

Holly
So you two [Justo and Terry] have just kept having your head in it all along. But for the rest of us, it’d been a while since the Halloween DLC when we came back to do stuff on Reunion.

Marlowe
Yeah. In some ways it hasn’t been hard to get my head back in the game. But in others – obviously I couldn’t give it the same level of commitment when I’m also doing a full-time job.

But because we’re doing DLC, and we’re not remaking the entire game, that worked okay. Part of me wishes I could have done like ten different backgrounds and a bunch of different enemies. But I really did enjoy what I was able to do. I think we had a really good pace, in terms of enough time to get it done. And I feel like I had enough time to feel good about what I worked on. So I’m pretty happy with that.

Holly
For me, honestly I’d forgotten a bunch of what I’d written, and like I say when I played it after release I played in Italian which, to be clear, I don’t particularly speak. So reading through it all again – just reading through all the text in spreadsheets – at first it was almost like I was getting my head into someone else’s writing style so I could imitate it. And it just happened that the someone else was: me from a few years ago.

And then once I’d started remembering it all, I ended up with some pretty strong opinions about what all the characters would be up to now, so it was great to be able to dig into that. And luckily Pip [Philippa Warr] who’d done some additional writing and the editing and, like, “this joke doesn’t work” advice on the original had a couple of days available to do that again, so hopefully we were able to end up with something consistent with the original.

Niamh
For me it was a joy to come back to.

When Dicey Dungeons was released, one of the fun internet community things that happened was a tweet by Steve Pardo, who’s a session musician who plays with brass and saxophones, he put up a video where he was jamming over the top of the Dicey Dungeons soundtrack.


Steve Pardo improvises on the Saxophone over the Dicey Dungeons soundtrack.

So I got him on board for the Halloween DLC. And it was great, that’s how we got some of that spooky sax. And it was amazing to be able to hire someone to take over that role, someone who absolutely knows what they’re doing with it. So I reached out to Steve again for the Reunion DLC, and he sent me over some jams, again on the original soundtrack, which I started using as the foundation for the Reunion soundtrack. And there’s still some other snippets of samples and things, not all the brass is completely done by Steve, but he really did set the tone to help me start merging the body of the brass with LSDj chiptune music and, you know, that little flair of funk. And with Reunion, I also wanted to give it a little bit of a summery theme because of the date it was coming out. And I think I achieved it. I hope.

Marlowe
It was very funny how we got to theme the Reunion as a game-show-adjacent thing where it was a bit more like summery reality TV. Which I think all of us for some reason have some sort of affinity for.

Niamh
Somewhere in between Survivor and Love Island.

Holly
Yeah, we watched something like twenty seasons of Survivor during the first year of the pandemic.

Terry
Oh right, yeah! The weirdness of Survivor Reunion episodes were a huge influence here, just the bizarreness of everyone having to come back to a normal studio after having gone through this incredibly intense ordeal.

Holly
There’s a big thing with Survivor at the end of each season, a moment where everyone’s back together, they talk about how’s it been going since, some of them have stuff to promote, some of them have grudges that they’re secretly holding, some of them get asked one terrible question and have about eight seconds to answer it, some of them kind-of know they’re the crowd favourite even if they didn’t win. So that was a great inspiration to be able to draw on.

Niamh
I think, especially after the pandemic – like, “after”, in quotation marks – this was just a real spark of joy to come back to. Going back felt – you know, it was absolutely wild trying to do any creative work throughout the first couple of years of the pandemic. And it’s still leaving weird trails everywhere. So I would like to just give us a round of applause for actually completing this.

Marlowe
Oh, man. Yeah, that’s very true. I think that, in a time where there were so many stressors, for me this was really not a stressor. It was so much fun to work on and it was something to look forward to and enjoy being creative on.

Terry
That’s great to hear. Obviously for me it wasn’t so much a thing of coming back to it, but getting to revisit the game design did feel a bit like that.

Holly
Yeah, tell us about that and what you were doing with the design.

Terry
The Reunion structure for me was kind of about: what threads are left in the game design that are interesting to pull on, and explore a bit more? So one of the things I did at one point was just make a list of the unwritten rules for the game, things that I decided I wouldn’t do. And then, to think about episodes that were breaking those unwritten rules.

And that’s kind-of how the robot reunion episode came about, actually, the one where you flip coins instead of rolling dice. One of the big firm rules for Dicey Dungeons was that you only ever see six-sided dice – I think you totally lose your intuition about how chance is going to work once you start using, like, D20s or whatever. But, you know, for a weird reunion episode, anything is on the table. So I started making this coin based episode, kind of as a joke at first.

And that was really fun to figure out. Really difficult actually, it took ages to make that episode work. Because it turns out coins aren’t as, uh, expressive as dice.

Holly
Yeah, I remember you starting it saying, I don’t think I can make this fun. But I’ll just try it for an afternoon. And then a week later going, I still don’t think I can make this fun. But I don’t want to give up yet.

Terry
And now I think maybe it’s the most fun episode of the DLC.

Niamh
I think for all of us, it’s just been really nice to come back to and kind-of tie a bow on it and be like: okay, that’s it done.

Marlowe
Yeah, it does feel like the right time to tie a bow on it, you know?

Terry
Yeah, absolutely.

Niamh
Right. What’s next?

Marlowe
Like, the next game together?

Terry
I mean, people have long careers. I’m definitely hoping that at some point we’ll do something.

Marlowe
Yeah. We’ll all find an excuse to get the band back together eventually.

Holly
Any closing remarks?

Terry
Uh, well! I guess I don’t know how many people will actually play Reunion, you know, because it’s a DLC for a three year old game. I’m trying to be realistic about that. The main thing I’m really happy about is that when people play Dicey Dungeons for the first time, Reunion will be part of it, you know? That it’ll be part of the game forever. That’s something I’m really happy about. I think it’s the best part of the game now.

Because, uh, maybe I got slightly carried away with this? Like, I’ve been working on the design of this for a year. It’s hard to justify, or something. But there’s so much good stuff in there! I really feel like I’ve levelled up as a designer while working on this.

Justo
I really enjoyed working with the team a lot. All these talented people enjoying themselves and working towards the completion of a game, it’s really great!

Marlowe
Yeah, I have to say, I feel like just working on Dicey in general was such an enjoyable experience. For me, I feel like I really lucked out being able to work with all of you, after, you know, pretty much not knowing you at all before we worked on this game. So I feel very lucky. And I think it was a really fulfilling experience for me, because I felt like I had a lot of creative freedom. The whole time I trusted that everybody was really, really good at what they do. So it felt really good and comfortable. And I’m really proud of it. I just wanted to say that out loud.

Niamh
That’s really sweet. And also I 100% agree with it. I learned a lot from this project. I had to sort of take the reins on everything to do with audio. And I’d never have been given that opportunity before. So it was a big challenge. But I feel like I came out of it and I learned, you know, a hell of a lot from it. And yes, I feel like I’ve levelled up as a composer too in many ways.

And if I can just say as well, the reception to the soundtrack has been phenomenal. And I have really enjoyed doing my silly little saxophone videos and things. Well. I can’t play saxophone, unfortunately. But that won’t stop me from trying.


“you won’t know ur a natural until you try”

For me it’s also kind of just like, it’s so colourful. It’s so fun. It’s so weird. It’s been really, really cool to be part of something so unique.

Terry
Yeah, I’m really happy with that aspect of it in particular. The game is just so bright and colourful and cheerful and like, a welcoming place to spend your time.

Holly
I remember talking to friend’s partner who asked what I’d been working on, and I mentioned Dicey Dungeons, and he said: oh, yeah, I saw that, but seemed a bit too cheerful for me. Do you think you might do a reskin with, like, normal monsters? And: oh, no, I see where you’re coming from but don’t think so, mate, sorry.

Marlowe
I’m gonna start working on my own normal monsters mod.


Art by @terrivellmann

Oh, I don’t know if this is an appropriate thing to say. But I feel like I’ve always found our negative steam comments pretty funny. I feel like I get so much power out of reading people complain about how the art is neon or something.

Niamh
Do you remember when I got Limmy to stream it? And it just got absolutely obliterated by him.

Marlowe
I think I watched some of that and he was just like, I don’t like doing math and stopped playing it really quick.

Terry
Haha, yeah, you can’t make everyone happy. And you shouldn’t even try, right? I’ve seen some really nasty comments about the game, for sure. And plenty of people where it’s just not their thing, and that’s fine.

Marlowe
That’s just a thing to keep in mind with game dev, right – you shouldn’t be making a game to please everybody.

Terry
Yeah, I mean, this is the best game I’ve ever made, I’m so certain of that. And obviously its reception was great overall, I’m not complaining, but it’s so weird to me that it has lower reviews than VVVVVV and Super Hexagon, when it’s clearly so much better than those games.

Niamh
But on the other hand this is the first game that I’ve worked on that my mom played and really enjoyed.

Marlowe
Yeah, actually, my dad played it to 100%.

Niamh
An honour of the highest order.


Team Dicey Dungeons dispose of the DICEY balloons after PAX East

Reunion is out this Thursday on all platforms.

* 6 Comments

Coming Soon: Dicey Dungeons Reunion

Hey, it’s me again! I’ve got a big announcement about something I’ve been working on that I’m really excited about: One week from now, on 7 July…

  • Dicey Dungeons will finally launch on mobile (iOS and Android), and alongside it…
  • Dicey Dungeons: Reunion is coming out – a huge, free DLC, for all platforms, with six totally new episodes!

Gonna have a lot more to say about this before it comes out next week, but for now, I’ll just share a few screenshots. Can’t wait for people to play this, I’m so proud of it.

* 4 Comments

Super Hexagon is back on Android!

At last! Been a while coming, but Super Hexagon is now back on Android, fully updated to the latest android OS. This is more than just a compatibility update; as well as fixing the game up for modern phones, it adds a bunch of other nice things, including high framerate and controller support:

  • Game Updated with Android 11/12 Support
  • Lossless Game Music and new audio engine
  • New High Frame Rate rendering on devices with 90Hz, 120Hz, 144Hz displays
  • New support for Android Fold / Flip Phones and Tablets
  • Touch input response time optimisations
  • Android controller support including Razer Kishi
  • UI Updates and optimisations for wide range of aspect ratios

You can grab the update from wherever you originally got the game – Google Play, Humble, Amazon, and itch.io.

A huge thanks to Dan Rosser, who’s responsible for bringing the game back to life on Android, and Stefan Jonceski and Indium Play, who tested the game across a huge variety of android devices to make sure it all worked perfectly!

* 15 Comments

Project Clean Slate

Hey! I thought it was time for one of my long-overdue catch up posts. Here’s what I’ve been up to recently!

I’m back in London

So, uh, I guess here’s a very brief summary of the past two years: I was in Australia at the start of the pandemic, and when flights started getting cancelled and borders started closing, I essentially got stuck there. Which, it turns out, was extraordinarily good luck. There’s nowhere else I would have rather been during all this. But visas and work and life gave me plenty of reasons to come back, so in August, after 18 months, I returned to London! Here I am again!

Settling back into London has been a bit of an adjustment. My way of dealing with that has been to pour myself into work – so I’m doing something I’ve been calling “project clean slate”. Basically, I’m tackling years worth of little jobs, bug fixes, and long term maintenance jobs that I’ve been putting off forever. My goal is to come out the other side of this with no lingering jobs hanging over me, and a clean slate to start on whatever’s next.

That means: taking a look at what needs to be done to maintain my three commercial games, and a big list of miscellaneous “other stuff”.

Dicey Dungeons

It’s weird for me to think around this, but Dicey Dungeons is now kind of an old game? Like, we launched it over two years ago! Weird because for me, it’s still my main job – most of what I do on a day-to-day basis is Dicey related. I just released an update on Steam last week, in fact. A lot of this work should be coming to fruition in the near future, excitingly.

The big question to answer here is; yes, we are still doing the mobile ports! Yes, I know they’re taking a long time. I’m sorry! But we’re really close now! Sometime in the next couple of months, probably.

We could in theory rush them out sooner than that, but I’d rather not… for one, I wanna get them right, but also… I’ve been working on something cool that I want to debut with the mobile versions.

For the past year, I’ve been slowly working on a new DLC for the game. It’s six brand new episodes, free to everyone who owns the game. I’m getting the band back together for one last show!

That’s all I’m ready to say about this for now – but I’m very, very excited to start talking about it for real.


VVVVVV

VVVVVV is actually in really great shape these days, mostly due to the recent PC open source update! The game’s running like brand new again.

The mobile versions are maybe a little rustier, but they actually still work *pretty* well, I think. I did an iOS update in 2017 to bring it up to 64-bit, and then a similar one on Android in 2019. I think it’d be nice to port the open source improvements to mobile eventually, but that doesn’t really feel urgent. As for the console versions, they’re out of my hands, but they’re very solid versions of the game that aren’t going anywhere, so that’s fine. VVVVVV is in a good place.


Super Hexagon

Of my three commercial games, Super Hexagon is currently the most neglected, I think. Over the next few months, I really want to do something about that!

First and most urgent is getting the Android version back up and running! The Android 11 update last year broke the game completely, so I had to take it down off the store. However, thanks to Daniel Rosser, we have a fix almost ready to go! (Hey, actually, do you want to help test it? I’m doing a google play beta version very soon, if you’re interested!) The iOS version is relatively up to date, but we’ll probably do an update there too just to bring it up to speed and keep it running nicely into the future.

After that, the PC version could really use an update – it was originally built on Windows 7, after all, so that’s next. After that? Well, we’ll see – I think a Switch port might be interesting, but I don’t want to promise anything!

Other stuff

So, uh, what else is there?

Bosca Ceoil

Bosca Ceoil is my music making app from a couple of years back. I released it as Open Source, and I’d really like to keep it up and running – it actually gets pretty widely used in game jams these days, which is nice! Right now, it doesn’t really work on Mac or Linux (without quite a lot of hacking, at least). So it’d be nice to fix that.

What I’d really like to do, though, if I had infinite time, is a full Haxe rewrite. That way I could make nice modern native versions for Windows, Mac and Linux, which would run better and support fancy native features like Midi keyboards that were too much of a hassle to get working in Adobe AIR. It would be a chance to fix some long standing bugs too, like, uh, how when you press escape the application immediately exits without saving your work.

Porting the application would be pretty simple, I reckon – a couple of days should do it. The blocker is the audio library that it depends on, SiON, which doesn’t have a working haxe port. I’ve done a little bit of work to try and get the haxe port working, and I have have a couple of promising leads… but it’s a little bit beyond me, to be honest. Maybe at some point I’ll try to find someone who can help?

Terry’s Free Game of the Week

So, this is a weekly blog where I post about interesting freeware games that I’ve played recently. I find myself drawn to projects like this because… I guess I want more things like this to exist? That said…

For whatever reason, the blog isn’t really getting a lot of readers. Which is not really a big deal, you know, whatever – it’s been a good project for me, in terms of having a place to articulate why I like what I like, and it gives me a good reason to keep up with freeware. And while I can’t say I’m getting better at writing, exactly, I am starting to find it easier.

I have to wonder, though: if this blog is just for me, maybe there are more productive things I could be doing with my time? I dunno! I guess I’ll see out the year at least, and re-assess then.

FF8 Script Twitter Bot

Oh yeah, I made a twitter bot which just tweets random lines from Final Fantasy VIII, lol. I’m slowly adding lines to its database, which is a more manual process than you might expect. It’s a fun side-project, though – it’s been a really interesting script to pour over line by line! Man, I should make another RPG.

My old flash games

Sadly, thanks to the death of flash, basically all of my freeware games from before 2016 no longer work! This *sucks*. Right now the only way you can really play any of them is through the BlueMaxima Flashpoint project (essentially a downloadable flash emulator). I’ve been sort of hoping that projects like ruffle would get to the point where everything would just magically start working again, but it seems like they’ve still a long way to go.

So – one thing I could do is port them, individually, from Flash to Haxe. Which is actually not as much work as it sounds! But it’s a lot of programming work that I’m really not that good at, and I’m not sure it’s a good use of my time when I could be making exciting new things instead. I dunno. Eventually I might try to save one or two of the ones I care about the most.

Future Plans

After all this, what’s next? It’s gonna be a while before I get through all this, but I am thinking a lot about what I want to do when that happens. This sorta feels like the start of a new chapter for me.

I think it’s probably time I sat down and learned a few new tricks. I really like haxe, but recently I’ve been feeling like not working with a modern game engine is holding me back a bit. After all, ideally I would do a lot less programming and a lot more game making.

Godot seems really promising, and I think I would really enjoy spending a little more time with it, making some dumb freeware games while I figure out what I want to really want to work on next. Who knows!

* 21 Comments

Triangle Run

I had one secret fear going into the “Stop Waiting For Godot” game jam, which I organised last weekend: man, I sure hope Godot is good. 1,200 people took part in the jam in the end, which, uh, was a lot more than expected. I think a lot of people had been waiting for a good reason to jump in and give it a try.

Anyway! As it turns out, Godot is every bit as good as I hoped it would be. I’m really impressed! There’s a very good chance I’ll be using it for a lot of my games from now on. Godot is more than ready to be the open source, indie game making toolkit I’ve been looking for.

Triangle Run is my first Godot game, created for the jam as a learning project. You play a Triangle that runs!

[Play Online (HTML5)]

[Download for Windows/Mac/Linux on itch.io] | [Source Code]

This version has been updated since last weekend – there’s a working web build now, I’ve improved some of the challenges, and something cool happens if you beat your own personal best score…

* 3 Comments

VVVVVV 2.3 out now

Hey everyone! I’m back in London!

I’m gonna write a little blog post sometime soon about what I’m up to these days, and what I’m planning in the near future. Before all that, though, here’s a quick update about something exciting that’s happening today – it’s the first update to VVVVVV on PC in seven years!


(Adorable fan art by Cheep! Check out more of their work on Twitter!)

I mentioned this update on twitter a little while back – we’ve been in beta for a while now, and it’s feeling pretty solid, so it’s time to make it official! The full 2.3 changelog is *immense* (you can read it here), but roughly speaking, the update adds:

  • 60+ FPS support
  • Improved graphical options
  • New features in the editor
  • Hundreds of bug fixes

This update is as a direct result of making the source code available last year, and accepting source contributions. I’ve personally added very, very little to this update – which is something that I feel maybe a little anxious about! But I’ve been very careful to make sure that every change is something I was happy with, and that none of the changes to the game were doing anything other than making this the best version of the 2010 game. I’m extremely grateful to everyone who contributed to that – especially – and I really can’t overstate this, especially InfoTeddy, who did by far and away the most to make this happen. (She recorded a little song to mark the occasion!)

[VVVVVV on Steam]

[VVVVVV on itch.io]

[VVVVVV Make and Play Edition]

Thanks all – enjoy the update! <3

* 9 Comments

Anyone could be struck by lightning at any time

So hey, I made another Roblox game! In this one, everyone’s on a little rainy island and occasionally someone is picked at random to be struck by lightning. It’s one of the… dumbest things I’ve ever made. I’m so happy with it.

[Play on Roblox.com]

Unlike my Giant Man, this one came together in just 48 hours or so. I’m still figuring out where my new-found interest in Roblox fits into what I do, but right now, I’m just excited to be able to play around with multiplayer design, at long last.

I’ve been interested in making online multiplayer games for a while, but the barrier to making them is so high that it really wasn’t possible for me. I don’t know if these kind of experiments will lead anywhere – maybe not? But I’d be pretty happy if I end up having a body of Roblox work filled with things like this.

* 3 Comments

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