This unnamed game project was something I started to make on May 20 2018. It's a puzzle game filled with codes, ciphers, and many secrets. This page recounts my development of this game throughout the summer, and beyond.
May 20 2018
I want this game to have a similar interface to a standard computer, consisting of windows and icons, so I first built some generic icons and windows that I can use as templates. To begin with, I worked on some of the tools that players would use in the game to help them progress. Specifically, 3 cypher tools [Caesar, Vigenere, and Alphanumeric, or A1Z26], a coloured lens window, and a notepad to write things down in. Working on these tools first allows me to then make better decisions on what puzzles will be in the final game. I've used simple, crudely drawn images for the icons and GUI, which I will refine later when I've got the game fully working. I don't have a name for this project either, but I do have a recuring motif in the form of the compass rose. When I do eventually come up with a name, I might actually hide it, and make it a sort of challenge to figure it out itself.
Available to buy for Windows, Mac and Linux
May 21 2018
I finished up the other tools the player would use: Base64 and Binary decoders, and Pigpen cipher and Morse code references. I made a crudely drawn background with hidden information in, a puzzle menu where players can open unlocked puzzles, and the first puzzle in the game. There will also be progress meters for each puzzle icon, so players can see if there are other possible solutions for those puzzles.
May 22 2018
Today, I done some minor graphical improvements, as well as putting together the starting pieces for a save system. I added icons that get unlocked when certain puzzle solutions are entered, and added a general introduction message. I also worked on paper for half of the day figuring out more potential puzzles. For the purposes of testing, I've added null windows, which will open when the player clicks on buttons that don't have puzzles connected to them. I have blurred out potential spoilers from my screenshots and pictures, and will continue to do so throughout development.
May 23 2018
Two more puzzles built for the game. I also done some minor improvements across other windows, and designed more puzzles in my notebook. I've blurred the puzzles in the pictures to prevent people getting potential spoilers or posting solutions.
May 24 - May 25 2018
The 24th was a busy day for me, so I couldn't get much done. I was also set back when my computer suddenly lost power. I lost a bit of work, but it only took me about 30 minutes to rebuild it. I couldn't get an update out, so I made up for it with 3 new puzzles, a brand new clock window, and numerous other improvements across the game.
May 26 - May 28 2018
I had a busy weekend, so there was no notable progress on saturday or sunday, but I made up for it with more puzzles on the following monday. I also started working on a story for the game, which would be told via in game notes and messages, rather than being an explicitly told narrative.
May 29 - May 30 2018
A busy day meant I couldn't get an update out in time on the 29th, so I worked harder and pushed an update out early on the morning of may 30th. I added 4 new puzzles, tweaked other things, including moving elements to a previously built puzzle, and a new menu background. The background changes depending on the player progress. Each ring is a solid circle with a radial fill property that's tied to the completion percentage of the game. The rings also rotate, with each ring getting faster the smaller it is. These two behaviours combined essentially create a constantly changing kaliedoscope effect.
May 31 - June 01 2018
Inspiration for the puzzles is starting to wear thin for the moment, but I'm not stopping yet. The 1st of June also marked the date that my first tester was able to complete every puzzle in the game.
June 02 - June 03 2018
Updating every 2 days seems to be working better for me, as it gives me longer work work on ideas for puzzles, graphical improvements, and other such details. I've recently completed another 3 or 4 puzzles, and reorganised the main puzzle menu icons to make everything neater. I do intend to have lines showing how the puzzles are connected, but that'll come in a much later update, as it's not super important right now. I've also added new unique puzzle icons for each individual puzzle. This will make it easier down the line if you need to reopen a particular puzzle for information, and such. I've also worked more on the story, and got the first piece of story actually in the game right now. On its own, it doesn't give that big of an insight to the events that will unfold, but it's a start.
June 04 - June 08 2018
Due to a busy start to the week, I wasn't able to get many updates done, but as the week progressed, I added 5 new puzzles, and started finalising some puzzles with graphical improvements, a part of the storyline, and new shiny gold and silver icons. Regarding the new metallic icons, getting the shape of them down is the most time consuming part of it, and once that's done, it's simply a sandwich of layers and effects in paint.net to get that shiny finish, gold or silver borders, and velvet-like inner colouring.
June 09 - June 10 2018
Over the past couple of weeks, I've chosen 10 of my close friends to become testers for the game. On the 10th, I made a discord server for them all to talk, suggest improvements, report bugs, and get notifications of updates quicker. I chose all of my testers well, as they all combined their efforts and and solved a puzzle that shouldn't have been solvable, because there wasn't enough clues to that puzzle in the game at that point.
June 11 - June 13 2018
I struggled with a creative block for a couple of days, and was also busy with some personal things, but I managed to add 4 new puzzles to the game, come up with ideas for at least 20 more, and add a few improvements to areas suggested by my development build test squad. The compass rose puzzle has undergone a lot of changes since its first version, but now looks far cleaner and works far better than it originally did.
June 14 - June 17 2018
4 new puzzles were added, about 8 others were further refined, and I developed more ideas and worked on the story more. I've had a lot of personal things lately, which is why progress has been slower than usual, but progress is still progress, which is nothing to grumble about. So long as I don't stagnate and fail to update even a small part of this game a day, I'm happy.
June 18 - June 21 2018
A few more new puzzles, more refined puzzles. Progress is going good, but there's not many things that stand out and deserve a mention. I did manage to create a puzzle with such a clever mechanic that I'm extremely proud of [for those who've played the game, it's the one with the '1' medal icon].
June 22 2018
Managed to make 4 new puzzles in the space of a day, which is good progress. Now that I have so many open ends, I need to begin bringing them all together, so nothing's left unused.
June 23 - June 27 2018
Built even more puzzles, and created a new background for the game. It's a much higher quality image than the programmer art I used to begin with. The image in question took me 4 hours to make, as I created the Voronoi diagram manually from scratch.
June 28 - June 29 2018
Made 3 new puzzles, finalised a lot more, and reached the half way mark of puzzle construction! One of the newest additions was a Periodic Table search window, where players can search the 118 currently named elements by name or atomic number. I've taken into account the difference in spelling for element 13, and if players search for "Aluminium" or "Aluminum", it'll direct them to the same destination. I also added a comical error message, in the form of Element 404: "Notfoundium". I also uploaded to the internet the first of a series of promotional posters for the game. Along with a temporary splash image that only the testers of the game have been able to see.
June 30 - July 09 2018
Due to the heatwave in the UK, my working conditions have meant that development of the game has slowed down. There's only so long I can stay in a boiling room with a hot computer. Having said that, development hasn't come to a complete stop, but has been slowly progressing. 100% completion is now available in the dev build, and I made another splash image to celebrate. I also released a gif of part of my workflow, showing how I make the shiny icons players see in the game.
June 10 - July 14 2018
I managed to finish all the puzzles in the top right quadrant of the game, and marked them so signify this. They're now covered by red squares with locks on, instead of just white lock symbols. I made a new splash image to celebrate this milestone. I'm starting the last quadrant as well, which means I'm starting to tie up all the loose ends in the game, so nothing is left unused.
July 15 - July 19 2018
Progress is starting to slow down as my well of puzzle ideas begins to run dry, but I'm still making some headway with the game. I've got a load of planned puzzles still to make, and I'm happy so long as I keep making progress, and don't stagnate.
July 20 - July 28 2018
The mechanics of one specific puzzle took me a while to program, but i eventually got it sorted. Got an update out to my testers on the 23rd, but the weather got even worse, completely halting my progress as the heatwave reached its hottest, and thunderstorms rolled in. Managed to get some more puzzles done despite those setbacks, however.
July 29 - Aug 08 2018
There's been a big gap since the last update, but i've kept programming more puzzles, and I'm close to completing the bottom left quadrant, and have about 85 puzzles in the game as of now. The heatwave returned after a few days of cold weather, and made my progress stagnate a bit. I've not stopped, and hopefully should have the entire green quadrant done by tomorrow at the earliest, and saturday at the latest.
Aug 09 - Aug 10 2018
I've successfully completed the bottom right quadrant, and made a new splash image for the occasion. While testing the game myself, i found it awkward to sort all the dead end windows while they were minimised, as they all looked the same. To make things clearer, i've coloured the dead ends in accordance to the content that they hold. It will become apparant why as you progress through the game.
Aug 11 - Aug 22 2018
I've managed to plan all the remaining puzzles in the game, and actually finished up more of them. I should be able to finish them all up by the end of the month, and move into the alpha phase of the game. I've also decided upon a name for the game, but am not going to reveal it yet.
Aug 23 - Sep 02 2018
I managed to completely finish the yellow quadrant by the 26th of august, and just finished up the blue quadrant. I also went through the game to make sure all the puzzles that have been implemented are fully functional, contain no errors, and can be solved. There are only a few more puzzles to go, and I've made two new splash images for each new quadrant completed. I also released the third poster for the game
Aug 23 - Sep 07 2018
The game's officially in the alpha stage of development! All the puzzles have been implemented, and I finally got around to adding a save feature. Tomorrow, I'll open my private testers discord server to another 15 lucky testers who will be able to give me feedback on the puzzles, the game functionality, and any additional extras I may be able to add!
Sep 08 - Sep 10 2018
Just spent all night rebuilding the puzzle menu system so I could add an extra feature. It's a small feature, but it's very useful. Puzzle icons now display tooltips when the mouse is hovering above them. These tooltips display the official names of the puzzles when they're unlocked, but simply display "Locked" when you've not opened them yet. I do plan to have them show more information later, such as the completion percentage as an actual number as well. I also done few extra tweaks, optimised a couple of things, and fixed some bugs. I also added in a new options window where players can adjust the UI size, reset their progress, and close all other windows on screen. There's also an exit button which saves your progress on exiting, and will serve as the primary way of closing the game, as opposed to the temporary escape key method that has been in place since the start.
Sep 11 - Sep 15 2018
I've had a few of my testers ask me where to start, so I took that as a clear indicator that The start point wasn't clearly marked. I therefore added the "Start Here" sign that orbits around it. When players complete the first puzzle, the sign disappears. If players reset their data, the sign reappears. I also begun tweaking various puzzles to make them look visually pleasing. Some puzzles now have animated backgrounds that, while pretty, shouldn't distract from the actual puzzle itself. I've also taken the first steps towards making this game playable for those who experience forms of colourblindness. I also removed the temporary escape key method of closing the game, since the options menu now has a more permanent method for closing the game.
Sep 16 - Sep 20 2018
I recruited a tester who experiences colourblindness, and with their help, was able to properly implement support for those who are colourblind. very few of the puzzles needed alterations, but there were a few that did. Their feedback on the clarity of those puzzles is vital, because if someone can't solve a puzzle because of a visual impairment, the puzzle is bad and needs fixing. I also released the 4th poster of the game.
Sep 21 - Oct 02 2018
After numerous requests from my testers, I added a hint system into the game. The system allows players to get up to three hints per puzzle, but to unlock them, they must be hacked. Hacking a hint takes 2, 4 or 6 minutes, depending on whether it's the first, second or third hint of that puzzle. Hints can't be hacked for puzzles that are still locked, and you can't hack the 2nd and 3rd hints without hacking the previous hints first. The game records the amount of hacks you've performed during your game, even if the hack failed to complete for some reason, and i hope to use this as part of a grading system at the end of the game. This took me a long time to set this system up simply because on September 24th, I returned to university for my final year, meaning I didn't have as much time to work on the game as I did before. I also revealed the 5th promotional poster.
Oct 03 2018 - Jan 04 2019
I had experienced a rough time at university, and had to deal with depression, anxiety, and the like. meaning I was unable to make any progress at all on this game. On Jan 4th, I tried to get back into the swing of things. I started implementing some feedback sounds, so players have an easier time telling if they've got a puzzle correct or not. I've also added a couple of window sounds. I intend to add sounds to each button in the game as well.
Oct 05 2019 - May 18 2019
I didn't make any progress over this period of time, due to university becoming more and more vital for me to focus entirely on. Recently, however, as I've handed in my assignments, my free time to work on this game has steadily increased again, so I'll be able to make some more progress on the game. I planned out an ending sequence with credits, and have already implemented it in its basic form. I may improve the aesthetics of this later. I also released the 6th poster
May 19 2019 - May 25 2019
Small updates across the entire game, just to make it work sufficiently well. The game entered Beta on the 25th, and as such, got a new splash image. For the entirety of the beta testing, I'll be focusing on ways to improve the game visually, possibly add some music in, and some fine tuning. I released the two remaining posters.
Since the very start of development, I've been hiding secret codes in the splash images and posters.
May 30 2019
Major overhaul on the window behaviours today. Previously, they could be dragged from any point on the window, and could be dragged out of the screen if playing in windowed mode. Now, the windows are restricted to the screen space, and can now only be dragged from the title bar. I also added a little feature that, when you click on the icon of a window that's already open, it brings it to the front.
Jun 02 2019
Added some small cosmetic features to improve the game's look in certain areas. I've been consulting with my testers to try and pin down a suitable price for this game as well.
Jun 04 2019
To match with the game's overall feel of a computer operating system, I decided to tie it all together with a BIOS themed startup sequence.
Jun 15 2019
With a few last minute minor alterations and additions, I released the game for the public to buy, and revealed the actual name of the game, which I had teased since the beginning of development.