Tag Archives: Awesomazing

Introducing the Spellirium Powerups System

The Powerups system in Spellirium is pretty cool, but it was hastily-built so you might not even know it’s there. Here’s how it works:

(click to read the fine print)

Powerups can add different types of letters to your grid (vowels, and high- and mid-scoring words), the can increase your energy, protect your energy from depleting, and change the colours of the tiles. They can cure poison tiles (currently, the Graelig at the end of Act II is the only poisonous creature), and they can soften stone tiles (stone tiles are implemented, but none of the creatures create them … yet). Powerups are super useful if you want to, say, 3-star the errgrd to earn the decorative gourd item for the incense quest in Act II.

The ergrrd: one tough little creature.

Improvements for Future Versions

All these interconnected systems are already kinda complicated to begin with, but in alpha v0.36 and below, there are some extra steps thrown in that make it needlessly difficult to craft one lousy powerup! Here are the changes we’re planning to make:

  1. Currently, Powerups can cost up to five items to craft! We’re reducing that number to three ingredients, max. Most Powerups will probably cost one item.
  2. At the moment, you have to solve a picture puzzle whenever you cast a Powerup. Some of those puzzles are so difficult, you need Powerups to help you solve them. Holy crap! This isn’t Disgaea, for Pete’s sake. :) We’re scrapping the picture puzzle requirement. Hopefully picture puzzles will show up somewhere else in the game.
  3. Cheeves unlock Spells, and Spells are templates for Powerups. You start the game with a blank Spellbook, but i think you should start off with at least one Spell, so that you a reason to want the Spells you see in the Cheeves area.
  4. Cheeves are represented by a carrot-on-a-stick. You unlock the feature by talking to the Mystic, but it’s currently part of an optional conversation tree that some players miss! We need to do more work to help players discover it … probably by making it mandatory.

    Look familiar? No? You’re not alone.

  5. The Cheeve requirements are all completely imbalanced. How many semordnilaps should you have to build to earn the blue Shield Powerup? Is 25 too many? i don’t know! That’s why we’re playtesting! (Note: a semordnilap is a word that makes a different, perfectly valid word when read backwards … like ROOM <-> MOOR)
  6. Right now, you don’t get any notifications that you’ve completed a Cheeve. What’s up with that? Needs fixing.
  7. Since a lot of the Cheeves are progress-based (“Build 100 5-letter words!”), i’d like to see a little carrot icon show up whenever you build a word that advances a Cheeve.
  8. Item prices in the Merchant’s store are WAY too expensive right now! In a future version, we’re going to SLASH PRICES! Everything must go!
  9. That’s the story, and our plan. If you have other suggestions and you’re a Spellirium backer, head over to the Spellirium Backers-Only Message Boards and leave your feedback in SEECRET!!

    Not yet a backer? Pre-order Spellirium and play the alpha today!

Spellirium Pre-Order Campaign: Day One

i’m not necessarily going to do a daily play-by-play of the entire Spellirium pre-order campaign, which we launched today to Seussian fanfare, because SNORE. But today was eventful enough that i wanted to record a few tidbits for posterity.

You’re Going Down

For startsies, my Internet service provider decided that this would be the Best Week to do nightly maintenance, and threatened complete shutdown every night at 1am. Picture me sitting at my living room table last night, double-fisting laptops and hopped up on Dr. Pepper, straining my neck muscles at the sloooowly-creeping upload bars on YouTube as the clock raced towards 1am. John from Rock Paper Shotgun had told me the schedule for their impending Spellirium alpha impressions article. It was slated to go live at something like 2 or 3am Normal Person Time (did you know the sun comes up at a different time in Britain? Talk about Bizarroland.), and so it was an actual race against the clock to get everything working before my service cut out completely.

It was a thrill-a-minute, let me tell you.

By 1:20am, the campaign video and the PC versions of the different reward tiers were launched and tested, but i still had this pesky Mac problem (did you know the buttons do different things on a Mac? Talk about Bizarroland.), and home Internet access did indeed go down.

And so it was that in the middle of the night, i packed my PC and Mac laptops into a suddenly achingly heavy backpack, and ventured out into the inky void to find a 24-hour Internet cafe. i launched the Spellirium pre-order campaign from behind a grody grease-covered desk that smelled of corn chips and despair. Bedtime last night was 4am.

Miracle Quip

When i awoke only four hours later, i launched the announcement post and started the Buzz Machine. By midday, former intern Mo had alerted Tim Schafer and Ron Gilbert, two adventure game mainstays, to the campaign on Twitter, but Tim couldn’t see the site for some reason. This all led to some groaners about a database-themed adventure game. Venerated adenture dev Noah Falstein chimed in. It was all very surreal:

Noah apparently didn’t get the memo about that joke, so Ron got a dig in:

Why was the site down, anyway? It likely had something to do with Tycho Brahe of Penny Arcade (on whom i blame the entire concept of Spellirium to begin with because of his outlandish review of Bookworm Adventures so many years ago):

Ruh-roh, Raggy.

The site was brought to its knees. i had been there twice before, but i hadn’t learned.

i managed to restart the server a few times, before MySQL completely crashed, which i guess is the point at which the LucasArts vets tried to access the site.

Thanks For the Memory (?)

Folks on Twitter suggested that i house any and all images on Amazon S3 servers to alleviate the load. That was all well and good, but i couldn’t get into my site to make those changes, and i had never dealt with a database crash before. i called my hosting company and asked what was up. It was particularly stressful to make a support call when i knew that a bajillion of Tycho’s followers were trying to see what he was so enthusiastic about.

The guy on the support call restarted MySQL for me, and then suggested one little tip that would make everything run a bit more smoothly:

Him: Click on the admin page.

Me: Yep.

Him: Now click on the “server update” button. Tell me when it’s finished.

Me: Mmmm … okay. …. Now. It’s finished now.

Him: There. Now your server has 2x the memory.

Me: It … what?

Him: Do you have any more questions?

Me: …. uh …. yeah, actually.

Him: Shoot.

Me: If there was a way to double the server memory all this time, why did you wait for me to click that button? i probably would have been okay with YOU pushing that button. Without me. Like, a long time ago.

Him: Well, we just kinda wanted you to know about and appreciate the upgrade, i guess.

This was some full-grade ruby-slippers-return-you-immediately-to-Kansas bullshit right here.

A Swift Kick in the Ego

With double plus server memory, i was able to access the campaign site and offload most images to Amazon’s servers, except for the gigantor full-page background images, due to a WordPress weakness.

The last little surprise of the day was this conversation i had with a friend of mine on Facebook about Spellirium:

Only a few minutes later, i was watching the pre-order emails fly by, and i see one from “Kim Swift”. i thought “that couldn’t be the Kim Swift, could it? One of the original developers on Portal? What kind of an insane coincidence would THAT be? Talk about Bizarroland.”

Yep. It was that Kim Swift. And she was only one of a number of amazing devs i admire and respect who decided to give Spellirium a shot today.

In summary: Day One was a roller coaster of emotions, and now i need a powernap. Day Two of the Spellirium Pre-Order Campaign begins tomorrow.

The Spellirium Pre-Order Campaign Launches NOW!

Come mothers and fathers, come sons and come daughters,
come graduates sprung from your old alma maters
come lovers of words, come adorers of books,
come peer at these pages, come take a good look

For today at long last, you will finally play
the game we’ve been building for many a day
(i’m so proud to say it, it’s making me teary some)
this is the day that you’ll all play Spellirium!

While it’s not fully finished, it’s come well along
we’re ready to let you all play, you big throng
and with your support, it will end perfectly
and we’ll make it the game that we meant it to be.

So open your wallets! Un-mattress your cash!
Donate all your savings, and empty your stash!
Dig deep, and find money, and give it all here
And then yell to your friends so that they overhear

And THEY give us their money! And THEIR friends do, too!
and then when it’s all over … just what did we do?
We shut down the banks, and we took all the bucks
and every last dime in the world went to us

The people of Earth will all turn out their pockets
And hope, beyond hopes, that we’re gonna rock it
And rock it we will, for the price you did pay
Oh, the game that we’ll make. OH, THE GAME THAT YOU’ll PLAY!!


This Preposterously Large Novelty Button is the Best Promotional Purchase i’ve Ever Made

Guys: forget one-pagers and business cards and booth space and being friendly on Twitter. The greatest money i’ve ever spent trying to promote a game at a conference like GDC this week is this absurdly gigantic Ask Me About Spellirium button, which i have to securely pin through ALL of my shirts, or else it will drag on the floor and peel me out of my clothes:

It also affects the tides.

Everyone here at GDC is asking me about Spellirium because of this astonishingly huge button. Even if they don’t CARE about the game, and they just want to make FUN of my inappropriately grandiose button, their sarcastic japes actually open the door for me to tell them about Spellirium. Damn their mockery – my message still gets heard.

My audaciously enormous button serves an important secondary function: it is a reference to a character in The Secret of Monkey Island who wears a button that says “Ask me about LOOM”.

(i always thought that guy looked a lot like Ron Howard’s brother)

Spellirium is unabashedly inspired by LOOM, and anyone who gets the reference and points it out to me has just identified himself as someone familiar with point n’ click graphic adventure games. That person is now a prequalified lead, with the upsettingly gigantic button having done all of the work for me.

It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.

GDC for You and Me

i’m heading out to GDC tomorrow. Here’s what Untold Enertainment is up to in San Francisco:

Fact or Fiction Panel at FGS

i really have to wonder if the Flash Gaming Summit will be around next year? They’re calling it FGS, and distancing themselves from the word “Flash” much like Kentucky Fried Chicken tried to bury the word “fried” by re-christening themselves KFC. The difference between Flash and saturated fat is that one is a gross gloppy mess that can stop your heart and end your life prematurely, and the other is saturated fat.

To that end, i’m moderating a panel called Fact or Fiction? with a dream line-up of panelists, to have a rapid-fire opinionated discussion about the FUD surrounding the high-level game and app development world. We’ll be poaching the elephant in the room with very first slide, which asks “Fact or Fiction? Flash is Dead”, and we’ll keep going from there. Joining me are my esteemed colleagues:

  • John Fox, GM, Games.com
  • Ben Garney, Chief Engineer, The Engine Company (Loom, Pushbutton Engine)
  • Pany Haritatos, VP of Mobile, Kongregate
  • Matt Rix, Founder, Magicule (Trainyard)
  • Scott Walker, Partner & Head of Production, Ninja Kiwi (Bloons, SAS: Zombie Assault)

The panel is Sunday at 5:30. i hope to see you there!

Education Panel at PAX East

If you read your program and lined up for hours to see me speak and to sign your boobs at PAX East this year, sorry to disappoint you! There was a mix-up. The inestimable Steve Swink of Enemy Airship will be speaking instead. Although, if you think the charismatic and chiselled fellow at the front of the room who does CrossFit five times a day is actually me, so much the better.

Steve Swink, the game industry’s answer to Viagra™.

Spellirium at GDC Play – Even for Women

i’ll be demoing Spellirium the OMDC GDC Play booth Tuesday from 10-1! This is the new alpha build that will become available very shortly (look for an exciting announcement on April 9th). Spellirium is the game that three years ago, the casual games portals told me women were “too stupid to play“. Guess what? i made the game anyway. i’ll be at GDC assuring women (and men) that they are, indeed, smart enough to play Spellirium. i’m sure that will come as a relief to all involved.

Spellirium is hard! *giggle*