The Sleuthhounds Effect

March 24, 2017

In recent weeks I’ve mostly been posting about the development of the Robyn HUD computer game. However, it’s not the only game I have in development. On the side, I’ve also been putting about ten hours a week into the upcoming Sleuthhounds Christmas holiday adventure. Working on both games at the same time has really brought home the production advantages of building on previous work.

When I started on the first Sleuthhounds game, The Unlocked Room (available for free right on this site if you haven’t tried it yet), I spent over two months developing the basic technology needed to make the game work. Seemingly simple things like being able to make characters walk from one place to another, pick up items, or talk to one another all had to be sorted out. At the same time, I was also developing various external tools and processes to simplify the creation of the visual and audio game assets and to incorporate them into the game proper.

[Two items moving at once in The Unlocked Room.  The mind boggles.]
Two items moving at once in The Unlocked Room. The mind boggles.

A great deal of effort went into the technical development of The Unlocked Room. By the time I finished work on that game, I knew the system I had developed was capable of more than what I was using it for. After all, from a technical standpoint the most complex scene in The Unlocked Room is where the character Pureluck Homes has to lower a makeshift periscope at the same time that a ladder he bumped with said periscope drops down from a room above.

[Characters and chains and sound effects and platforms, all moving in perfect harmony in The Cursed Cannon.]
Characters and chains and sound effects and platforms, all moving in perfect harmony in The Cursed Cannon.

With the second Sleuthhounds game, The Cursed Cannon (also available for free), I really wanted to push the playing experience. The Unlocked Room had intentionally been designed to keep things simple. The Cursed Cannon built upon that foundation and really upped the ante in terms of the complexity of the scenes presented in the game. The masterpiece was a complex puzzle where the character Jane Ampson had to oil a squeaky pulley wheel that was out of her reach in order to silence an elevator to allow her to slip by a police officer. This involved the simultaneous coordination of multiple characters, other animated items, and various sound effects.

[Falling from the sky in The Cursed Cannon.]
Falling from the sky in The Cursed Cannon.

The Cursed Cannon also pushed the animation side of things for the game with far more complex animations than I would have even allowed myself to consider for The Unlocked Room. From characters tied together, skooching along the floor, to a giant cannon firing ridable “bullets” at the moon, to characters falling from the sky, I really pushed myself on what I could animate.

[Working together to reach new heights in The Valentine's Vendetta.]
Working together to reach new heights in The Valentine's Vendetta.

The third game, The Valentine’s Vendetta (also available but not for free hey, I have bills to pay), continued to push the capabilities of the game tech and development processes that I had. While The Cursed Cannon had a brief section where players could control two characters at once, the entirety of The Valentine’s Vendetta allowed for that. This led to numerous refinements in both the game design and the game technology that increased the capabilities even more.

[Attacked by chattering vampire teeth in The Halloween Deception.  Didn't see that coming.]
Attacked by chattering vampire teeth in The Halloween Deception. Didn't see that coming.

The third game was followed, naturally enough, by the fourth, The Halloween Deception (also available for purchase). While this game improved and expanded on a few things in various small ways, by this point the tech and the processes were mature enough that this really felt like the first game where I didn’t have to think about technical constraints and I could just create an entertaining experience. This game was rife with sequences that I wouldn’t have even dared contemplate while doing the first when.

That same sense of just being able to create is here as well on the development of the new Sleuthhounds Christmas game. The previous games have built up the game technology, libraries of animations and sound effects, coding templates for different parts of the game, and have refined the ancillary tools used to produce the games. All of this means that with the Christmas game I can really charge ahead on creating the game itself.

[Decorating the upcoming Christmas game.]
Decorating the upcoming Christmas game.

As a comparison, by the time I had created the first fully functional “room” in the first game, including all the technology and game assets needed to support it, I had spent close to three months of full time development. Getting one fully functional room for the Christmas game? About two days.

What really made me realize how far I’d come on creating Sleuthhounds games was my development on the Robyn HUD game. In some ways, working on Robyn HUD is very similar to working on that first Sleuthhounds game. It’s a different style of game so it requires a different interface, which requires both new programming to make that interface work and new visual assets to display that interface. It involves 3D graphics extensively, whereas Sleuthhounds is 2D. That means getting familiar with different tools and different ways of integrating those assets into the game. A 3D space also requires 3D sound, so work is needed on positioning sound effects in those three dimensions. It certainly makes me appreciate how much the Sleuthhounds system does for me at this point and in fact there are many parts from the Sleuthhounds games that work well in the new Robyn HUD game.

The Sleuthhounds Christmas game is coming along quite nicely. Most of the visual assets the backgrounds, animations, and assorted other sprites are done and the focus now is to integrate them into the game itself. Even with only about an hour a day on the game, significant strides can be seen in a very short amount of time. Watch for future updates on the Christmas game as it barrels its way towards completion.