Category Archives: Blog

You Are What You Build: The Dangers of Developing in Isolation

November through January, in both 2012 and 2013, were rough times for me. Those same three months, a year apart, had me crunching harder than the breakfast cereal Cap’n.

A typical day went like this:

  • Wake up (barely) at 10 or 11am. Open the laptop next to the bed.
  • Work from bed. No shower, no breakfast … just work.
  • Loving wife feeds me and the family lunch.
  • Work. Possibly relocate to the living room.
  • Loving wife feeds me and the family dinner.
  • Work. Possibly relocate back to bed.
  • Asleep by 4am.
  • Repeat for three months.

… excellent?

i wouldn’t leave the house for days on end. i think my record was ten days inside the house. i put on a lot of weight. i pictured it all ending like that Geraldo episode where they remove the side of the house to transport Hambone to the hospital via crane and flatbed truck. This was all in service of a government deadline for my game Spellirium, a project which had gone terribly terribly wrong by its fourth month of production, and had stayed wrong for the ensuing three years.

No Man is (the Size of) an Island

Needless to say, developing in isolation like that is not a Good Thing™. One of the biggest benefits of agile development is getting your creation out in front of playtesters early and often. But when you’re stuck at home Hamboning yourself with an impossibly-scoped game and no team or budget to speak of, important things like Finding the Fun fall by the wayside.

i warsh mahself with a rag on a stick.

That’s why the spellcasting system in Spellirium ended up like it did: bloated, ineffective, and tough to love … much like its developer. This week’s Spellirium Minute developer diary outlines the problems in the system that became obvious once it saw the light of day (which was approximately the same time i – quite literally – saw the light of day).



The good news in all of this is that, thanks to the kickender, the problems with Spellirium have been exposed. When i launched the campaign with the alpha version, i joked that it was like letting a bunch of people into your bedroom without first being able to tidy it up or hide the embarrassing bits. But i’ve had a really positive, helpful response from the community. Every Spellirium backer is automatically signed up for an account on our bug-tracking system, and i’m happy to give people an extra “Playtester” credit if they log a bug or two. The players’ feedback has been extremely valuable to me, and i’ve spent the last few weeks fixing design issues, addressing their bug reports, and preparing Spellirium for a solid 0.37 release.

Lately, i’ve taken up running. i’ve also given up drinking soda pop, which once sounded a death knell for an already-overweight guy like me with such a sedentary lifestyle. My “You Get Fat” campaign sees me donating any and all sugary beverages to friends, family and office mates, passing the calories on to them so that i don’t ingest them. In this way, i’m slowly relying on other people, making changes little by little, and am now on the right track to professional and personal improvement. In this way, i hold out great hope that both my game and my life will get better and better.

Become a Spellirium Backer

Spellirium recently achieved its first crowdfunding goal – Pretty Decent Voiceover. You can contribute to goal #2, Act III Adequately Animated, at the Spellirium kickender site.


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Spellirium Minute Episode #14: This Game Looks Like Garbage

Are you like me? Do you love the look of stuff made out of trash? If so, feast your eyes on today’s Spellirium Minute episode, which reveals a little more of the source material that i provided to the game’s artists to achieve that junky-fab trashpunk aesthetic.



The Mystic’s house and the city of New Mound are two locations where this look really shines through. Later in the game, you explore a dilapidated shanty town on a polluted and an Ewok-esque treehouse village. If you like what you’ve seen in the Spellirium screenshots, rest assured there’s a lot more where that came from!

Subscribe Por Favor

If you love Spellirium, it would help me out a lot if you upvoted it on the Steam Greenlight page? Or check out the growing Spellirium Minute playlist, and subscribe to our YouTube channel so you don’t miss a thing!


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Spellirium Minute Episode #13: Trashpunk’s Not Dead

“Trashpunk” is the term i’m co-opting to describe the aesthetic in Spellirium. It stems from “cyberpunk”, which describes not only an aesthetic but an ethos, and “steampunk”, which drops the ethos to describe only an aesthetic. (But what an aesthetic!)



Today’s Spellirium Minute talks about the visual references that informed the trashpunk look of the game. They include Jean-Pierre Jeunet (City of Lost Children, Delicatessen, Amelie), Terry Gilliam (Twelve Monkeys, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen), The Dark Crystal and The Princess Bride. Easily at home on the list would be Labyrinth which, in addition to featuring a character made out of junk, features a whole lot of David Bowie’s junk.

Help Me Out by Subscribing

If you love Spellirium, it would help me out a lot if you upvoted it on the Steam Greenlight page? Or check out the growing Spellirium Minute playlist, and subscribe to our YouTube channel so you don’t miss a thing!


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Spellirium Minute Episode #12: The Renaissance

There i was, sitting alone in my office. The government funding had been spent, and the quality of the work i had commissioned from a hastily-assembled team was just not up to snuff. i didn’t like the way Spellirium was looking or playing. i had no money or time to finish it. And i didn’t want to finish it.



But when our background artist Greg Brown came on board, the project turned a corner. Suddenly, the vision i had for the game was being realized. Suddenly, i could see Spellirium as a finished product. And lo, it was glorious.

Help Me Out by Subscribing

i use the royal “we” a lot when referring to Untold, but by and large, it’s just me over here. There are lots of little things you can do to help me out. Why not upvote Spellirium on the Steam Greenlight page? Or check out the growing Spellirium Minute playlist, and subscribe to our YouTube channel so you don’t miss a thing!


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Spellirium Minute Episode #11: vs. Jimmy McGinley

The idiom of not being able to see the forest for the trees applies in spades to game development. You tend to get so close to your creation that you can no longer make good decisions about it. That was the case when Jimmy McGinley and i had our Battle Royale over a very small, but very significant change to the Spellirium game mechanic.



Thankfully, Jimmy’s suggestion to allow freedom of tile swappage made the difference between a not-very-fun game and a very-fun-game.

Jimmy McGinley Would Probably Subscribe

Check out the growing Spellirium Minute playlist, and subscribe to our YouTube channel so you don’t miss a thing!


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