No Man’s Sky PC Thoughts and Tips

This beautiful planet was pink by day and purple by night with glowing bits and dangerous predators.

I have tried not to spoil the story or anything major much. But these are tips. If you don’t want to risk spoilers, go elsewhere! All pics in this post were taken by me and are actual places I went.

Let me get one thing out of the way: I love No Man’s Sky. I don’t consider myself a “hype-train fanboy” but, in my opinion, Hello Games has created a unique, amazing and worth-it experience. I’m going to hate on some glitches and design decisions. But I love this game. It’s exactly what I hoped it would be with the potential to be even more.

I bought No Man’s Sky the day it came out (I do not pre-order games) despite hearing stories of performance issues and crashes. The game has high resource demands but generally performs okay on both my PC and laptop (PC Specs below).

I was frustrated on behalf of Sean and the Hello Games team for all of the weird, psychotic gamer reactions to leaked streams and day one bugs. I have confidence that things will get better but the game has been very playable for me. I think they could have launched a lot better but I also have been in similar positions coming out of a software development crunch, trying to make good decisions quickly and having everything be on fire. It’s a sucky place to be.

PC Specs:

Intel Core i5 2400 (old!)
16gb RAM
GeForce GTX 760
Win10 Pro x64

This idiot was my friend after I fed him some rock dust.


These are the bugs, glitches and design flaws that I have noticed.

  1. UI: the patterns are confusing
    1. The intro screen gives no indication that it’s loading. It took me awhile to realize that the random time spent looking at a starfield was actually the game loading in the background.
    2. The press-and-hold to do simple things like change the resolution is a bad pattern that should be fixed.
    3. In general press-and-hold mechanic should only apply to things with consequences to the player such as crafting or destroying inventory.
  2. Performance: it could be better
    1. The game crashes to desktop. In 25 hours of play I have probably experienced 4 crashes to desktop. This sucks but I have lost, at most, 5 minutes of gameplay since the last save.
    2. Occasionally the game gets super sluggish, the framerate actually seems normal but the timestep in the game appears to be almost halved. This seems to happen most often right as you get into your spaceship on a planet. The only solution is to restart the game
    3. In general, taking off on a planet causes huge CPU spikes. This is probably related to generating more planet surface and is likely unavoidable.
  3. Space Flight: it is not fun at this point*
    1. Mouse and keyboard control in space combat is terrible. It helped to turn the sensitivity for flight controls to max but it was still subpar*.
    2. There’s no way to escape space combat. You can’t pulse jump away and you can’t outrun them in the early game. No allies come to your assistance so you pretty much just die if there are more than 2 enemies.
    3. Refilling shields during combat is a bad mechanic. You have to press tab to access inventory, click the shield, and fill it with oxides. Often I am pressing Shift to go faster and Shift + Tab turns on the Steam overlay.
    4. The death mechanic is kinda broken. If it wasn’t dead simple to retrieve your cargo, dropping all cargo would be a game breaker. Since it’s easy to drop all of your cargo because all of the enemies are gone when you respawn, you can exploit this easily, even by accident.
    5. AI gets super confused on planet surfaces. If you lead them to a planet surface sometimes they just stop moving and won’t follow you. Eventually you can kite them back up to space.
    6. Flying near planets is awful. This seriously needs to be fixed. I get that perhaps they can’t generate terrain as fast as you can fly but the game’s attempt to protect you from getting close to the surface destroys so much of the experience. Surface dogfighting is impossible, landing is unpredictable and flight control is like a wrestling match. This is the highest priority flight fix in my opinion.
    7. Finally, when you buy a new ship (the only way to really upgrade), you simply lose the old one. This makes zero sense and the continuity bothers me. Why not give you at least a small return on your investment? It’s so unrealistic that you’d just walk away from a million-dollar spaceship, and it’s so easy to fix as a concept, that it bothers me.
  4. Glitches: there are some random weird things
    1. Jetpack climbing often clips your view through the terrain. This is minor but it really bugs me for some reason. Seeing through the world breaks some of the magic.
    2. Sometimes taking off from a planet shoots you immediately into space. This seems to happen if you take off with a structure or mountain in front of you.
    3. I’m not sure what happens if you buy product or mine elements when your inventory is full. It just disappears? It seems to allow you to buy 5 things if your inventory only holds 2. I think the other 3 cost you money but are destroyed.. This is a big punishment for the gamer who’s trying to execute trades quickly.
    4. In the trade menu, cancelling a sale returns you to the main conversation menu. Cancelling a space ship inspection kicks you completely out of the conversation.
  5. Multiplayer: I think Sean was semi-dishonest about multiplayer. He spoke early on about his vision for players encountering each other in space. I’m reasonably sure that zero realtime-networking code exists. It’s a huge amount of work and planning (I’ve done it on a small scale). If they had built it, they would not dodge those questions so hard but would want to promote it to some extent to justify their effort. I believe multiplayer is limited to seeing others’ discoveries and that’s all it is likely to be. Most writeups have hinted at this but I think they should have been more clear. Personally, I didn’t expect or buy this to be a multiplayer game.
Oceans can be dangerous but also beautiful and, occasionally, filled with hidden treasures!

Good Things

Literally everything else. Seriously. The game has an over-arching hint of story and mystery that are light enough to ignore but intriguing if you pay attention. I like the flavor of the races, the language discovery element, the conversations, the simple puzzles. It’s fun!

All generated objects have recognizable components and planet variety has its limits but they are random enough to keep you guessing and make the life forms exciting to discover. Planets don’t just have completely random attributes thrown together. It feels like there is a distinct design to most of them. Or at least the randomization manages to consistently create emergent situations that enhance the gameplay experience.

The resource gathering itself is fast enough that it doesn’t feel repetitive. You spend more time hunting for the rare elements to mine. Hazards, wildlife, storms and other random dangers keep the exploration interesting. Finding and scanning creatures has been very enjoyable (and sometimes terrifying) to me.

I am very confident that I will more-than-reap the expected level of entertainment for the cost of this game.

Spelunking never looked so good!


Okay, this is probably what you’re really here for. These are unique tips that I have personally found, not just copied or aggregated from somewhere else. Also, these tips are to help you enjoy the game more. Not exploit your way to the center or riches.

  1. Inventory management is key and it’s hard to know what to keep at first. Plutonium, Iron, Carbon and many other elements are everywhere. Keep just enough to fly and recharge your systems and don’t be afraid to discard them if they are wasting space. I sell valuable artifacts quickly, even if I don’t make a lot. Tying up the inventory slot costs me more than the value of the item. Try to keep any elements with a purple background. These are difficult to find and usually used in higher-level crafting. If you want to expand your inventory, explore those question marks and look for drop pods. Or, you can move down the Atlas path a little quicker for another option.
  2. Your ship inventory slots hold twice as much as your suit. This is a big deal! If you’re harvesting large volumes of a resource, keep your one-off items in your suit inventory and use the larger ship slots to hold big stacks of Gold, Plutonium or whatever you are going to sell for cash. Note that you have to stay fairly close to your ship to transfer inventory but that’s usually a good idea anyway.
  3. Selling elements is an important way to get cash. Every time you enter a system, look at the station trading system and focus on the gold-star items. These do not seem to change regardless of how much you sell. So if Plutonium is at a premium, you can make some good cash by harvesting it and selling it at 90% over market average. Gold also sells high and can be plentiful on many planets. Look for shiny, greenish blobs as you fly over the surface. Most of the other elements are either too rare or two low value to harvest in bulk.
  4. Speaking of harvesting, your multi-tool has limited inventory slots. Many of them come with the bolt-caster mod. I destroy those mods. Bolt casters don’t seem to do tons of damage, consume “ammo” quickly, and modding them to be powerful takes a lot of slots. The mining beam is pretty good at dealing damage. I forego the boltcaster and grenades in favor of an uber-powered mining beam but I also stay out of heavy combat.
  5. You can make money fast by in-station trading but it feels a little “exploity”. You can trade with any ship that lands on a station. Find a station with a gold-starred, high-value cargo and clear as much suit inventory as you can. Talk to every pilot that lands in the hanger and buy all the inventory they have of the item. Sell to the station any time there’s a pause in ships landing or your inventory is full. I did this with Dynamic Resonators, making about 30k per item and filling 12 inventory slots at a time. I made over 3 million credits in about an hour while also watching a movie and I had fun doing it.
  6. Finding all of the species on a planet can be difficult but you get a lot of credits to complete a planet (and it feels good!). Use your scanner a lot and look for red dots. These are animals you have not yet discovered. Animals you have already scanned have a green dot. Don’t forget to look for flying and swimming creatures – both can be tricky to scan. Finally, some animals only seem to appear during special times such as night or storm events!
  7. Pay attention to a planet’s damage type and use an inventory slot to build a protection mod if it deals high damage. Sometimes the damage type changes during storms, times of day or other conditions. Armor consumes Zinc, which can be hard to come by in bulk. If you have unlocked the Shielding Sheet recipe, you can recharge your shield with one of these, which can be crafted out of plentiful iron and save your precious Zinc! Finally, I haven’t noticed a big advantage between the cheapo shields and the nice expensive Theta-or-better shields. They both seem to stop all damage and consume charge at the same rate. YMMV.
  8. Dead moons and planets usually have better mineral resources and the lack of foliage makes them easier to spot.
  9. Find beacons, build Bypass Chips and scan for the type of settlement you want. This is much faster than just randomly hunting. You can use the beacon multiple times and Bypass Chips are cheap to build. Search for Shelter to have a chance of finding drop pods – which usually contain an inventory slot for purchase!
  10. Jetpack traversal is fun and a much faster way to get around. Press your melee button (Q by default) and immediately press your jetpack button (Space by default). You keep the forward momentum from the melee attack and can quickly coast across the ground. This is a tiny exploit that I hope they don’t patch out, it’s a fun skill-based way to move around that carries it’s own occasional risks.
  11. Falling in the water doesn’t deal fall damage. You can jetpack high across water without worrying about dying when you run out of fuel.
The first planet I scanned all the wildlife on!

* UPDATE: Turning up sensitivity actually did help a lot. It also helped to improve my ship with some mods. But space combat is still disappointing. I do hope they add to this because it could be a really fun mechanic.

No Man’s Sky PC Thoughts and Tips

Snapchat: Get Off My Lawn


WE recently hired a 30 year old, single, male software developer and an 18 year old, single, female admin assistant. Both of them are active users of Snapchat and were eager to show me how it works. I downloaded the app, added them as friends…and never used it after the first week.

It’s not that I don’t like its functionality. It just bores me. And it has no place in my life. I tried to think about why it’s a useless app to me and I realized: it’s because I’m old, married and “uninteresting”. Normally I’d find that depressing but in this case, it was a positive realization.

I hate Snapchat because it’s exactly counter to the life I have built. It’s transitory, unsubstantial. You capture a memory and, moments later, it’s gone. I remember when life was like that. Relationships were short term. Time was not super important. And I was eager to leave bad decisions in the past without a lot of evidence they happened. Snapchat fits that lifestyle. Snapchat makes it difficult or impossible to post photos from your gallery. It forces you to take extra action to save a photo, otherwise it’s gone forever.

I don’t have that life. The significant and interesting memories I make are perhaps fewer in quantity, but greater in quality. The relationships I have are long term and the passage of time is a burden I feel more keenly. The memories I capture, I want to keep.

I want to back my photos and videos up to Google’s cloud. Forever. I like how Google creates “remember this day” galleries. I want to remember those days. I want to pause more and enjoy the good times I’ve had with friends and family. I want to keep those memories fresh, not discard them seconds after they’ve happened as if I have an endless amount of time for disposable memories.

Maybe that’s not just getting old? Maybe that’s maturity.

Snapchat: Get Off My Lawn

Authorization Errors with WordPress API


I have wanted to explore the use of WordPress as a back end for Single Page Applications for some time. I installed the WordPress REST API v2 and have tried various types of authentication. I’m not a big fan of OAuth so I originally tried Basic Authentication just to get things working. GETting page information worked just fine with or without authentication because GET requests generally don’t require auth. However, POST or PUT requests would fail with a 401.

I thought maybe it was because the Basic Authentication plugin was pretty old and not well tested with the latest version of WordPress. So, I also tried using Application Passwords, which is cooler and safer anyway. Unfortunately, I only got 401s with that too.

After much Googling with few results, and having minimal time to pursue information, I gave up and moved on. Recently, however, I’ve had renewed interest in being able to interact with WordPress via an Angular2 app. I dusted off my test blog with the WordPress API installed and started poking at it again. I crawled through the REST API plugin code to try to figure out why authentication was failing and found the “rest_cannot_edit” message in the class-wp-rest-posts-controller.php file. After tracing the path of authentication through WordPress core and plugins, I became suspicious that authentication was not even being attempted. I serialized the $request object available to the permissions check methods and returned it with the 401 response. Sure enough, no authorization header was present in the request object!

I took my inspection higher and realized that the Authorization header was being stripped at the server level, before WordPress or even PHP could use the information. I’m aware that some shared hosts do this but I was testing this on a VPS. I did not expect my VPS provider to have that set up by default. I found some .htaccess rules that would work around this but they didn’t seem to work (my .htaccess skills are rusty at best).

After going down a couple of rabbit holes related to server settings and PHP configurization I contacted my server support team via live chat. While waiting for them to respond I took another look at the .htaccess file and moved some stuff around on a whim. To my surprise, my next Postman request returned a post object with an updated title!

So after all of my work and suspicions that plugins were outdated, my password was wrong and a hundred other false leads… it turned out to just be an annoying server config that was not mentioned on any wiki I could find on my provider site.

So, if you have 401 Not Authorized response on all WordPress Rest API requests, you’ve checked your username, password, base64 encoding and header formatting…it’s probably your hosting provider and it may be possible to allow the HTTP Auth via your .htaccess file. WordPress’ .htaccess file looks like this out of the box:

# BEGIN WordPress
<IfModule mod_rewrite.c>
RewriteEngine On
RewriteBase /
RewriteRule ^index\.php$ - [L]
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-d
RewriteRule . /index.php [L]

# END WordPress

Update it to look like this:

# BEGIN WordPress
<IfModule mod_rewrite.c>
RewriteEngine On
RewriteBase /

# Enable HTTP Auth
RewriteCond %{HTTP:Authorization} ^(.*)
RewriteRule ^(.*) - [E=HTTP_AUTHORIZATION:%1]

RewriteRule ^index\.php$ - [L]
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-d
RewriteRule . /index.php [L]


# END WordPress

The [L] at the end of those lines means “last” so the server will stop processing the file after the wordpress conditions are met, before the auth rule is applied. So, the auth rules need to come before the WordPress default rules or they will never be applied!

Hopefully this helps the next person, I wasted a lot of time on this.

Authorization Errors with WordPress API

My Surface Book Experience

The surface book screen started peeling away from the housing in the bottom right corner.

Microsoft’s Surface Book is a constant nightmare to use. In addition to the premium hardware cost of nearly three-thousand dollars, the Surface Book has cost me time and revenue in debugging issues and inability to perform work.

Last year i was looking for a top-notch business laptop. I had a generation one Surface a year or two ago and liked it a lot. It was stable, performant enough and had an awesome form factor. So, on December 22, 2015 I purchased a Microsoft Surface Book with a 512gb SSD, Intel i7 and 16gb RAM.

The first thing I noticed was that Photoshop was unable to use the Surface Book’s nVidia GPU. Attempting to use it resulted in a black screen on all documents. This was surprising because a significant amount of advertising implied high productivity with Photoshop specifically. The Intel graphics worked okay but there was more delay than I hoped for when drawing.

Worse than this, within a day of receiving the Surface Book, the screen literally started falling off. It started with a “squishy” feeling when resting my palm on the right side of the screen. Soon, I noticed that there was an eighth-inch gap between the screen and housing in the bottom left. See the picture at the top of this post.

I spent time on the phone and chat with various support people who presented several options for replacing the Surface Book. Unfortunately, I needed this laptop for work so I had to pick the fastest replacement option. I drove 3 hours on snowy roads to a store in south Denver, CO to replace the Surface Book with the damaged screen.

I got home with the new Surface Book (which I had inspected for screen adhesive problems). I booted it up and things went well until I got to the pen-pairing step. The pen paired but the cursor would not track the tip. I spent hours googling and trying various things. I replaced batteries and repaired the pen dozens of times. I spent an hour or two in chat with tech support, who finally suggested I factory reset the Surface Book.

A factory reset didn’t change anything and another hour in tech support chat got me a new pen shipped. Another 10 day wait. This was frustrating enough but other problems were causing even more trouble. I was about to enter graphics driver and power supply hell.

As I started using the new device I noticed it wouldn’t sleep properly. Often when I’d put it away, I’d hear the fan running in my bag. I’d take the Surface Book out and it’d be ultra hot – something electronics generally don’t like. Googling revealed that I should use hibernate and not sleep mode as Microsoft was working out some issues.

Additionally, every so often the Surface Book would chime and display a little message letting me know that the display drivers had crashed and recovered. Usually this just caused a few-second delay but often it would also crash applications that were depending on the drivers. The most frequently-affected applications were browsers, specifically Edge and Chrome. They would become unusable, forcing me to close all instances and sometimes fully restart the device.

Browsers (Edge pictured here) would crash, flicker and display garbled output due to display driver crashes.

I tried a variety of fixes for this, forcing Windows Updates to reinstall drivers and even trying beta drivers for Intel. Using the beta drivers reduced the crashes but they still occurred every few hours. Additionally, attaching or detaching the screen or plugging in an external display caused problems. The device would continually notify me that it was ready to disconnect after I attached it to the keyboard. Scaling issues happened everywhere with applications often crashing when moving from one screen to another. And the device would always have to be restarted after sleeping or hibernation.

Understand that returning the Surface Book is not an easy option for me. I have to find a device in the interim that can keep me productive. I have to migrate tons of applications and set up complex environments required by my clients. And I have to find a new device that fits my needs. But I came to the point where I was going to return the device on the very day Microsoft released an update that was supposed to fix everything.

The latest Surface Book update has made a difference but it’s not enough. I still can’t sleep or hibernate the device, it always causes display issues. I often get a pink screen with a sad face on startup, informing me the device has had some power management issue. When I restart I have no battery left. While the display crash messages happen rarely now, they still happen. And I have new sound-related crashes that disable audio completely until I restart.

The Surface Book doesn’t even play games. The card is more than capable of running modern games at acceptable resolutions but nVidia drivers haven’t been updated for months. It is possible to get many games to run, often using startup flags, and you can install hacked drivers. But this is a $3k work laptop. I can’t mess around with that.

It has been a little over two months of constant hell. I have been through two devices, a new pen and a factory reset. I have spent hours in chat with tech support, googling for solutions and trying workarounds. This is the worst laptop I have ever owned. It had so much potential and truly incredible hardware. But my business can’t continually pay a huge price to beta test a disaster. I am a software developer with a lot of knowledge and experience debugging complex computer systems. The Surface Book is too much for me to deal with, failing at the most basic tasks, so I can’t imagine how mainstream users would tolerate this.

I have to keep this a little longer to wrap up a contract because I don’t want to face setting everything up on a new machine. Then it’s going back and I’ll be shopping for something more capable.


This adventure has come to a mostly-happy ending. Last Thursday my surface book crashed while I was doing a video conference presentation to a sizeable group of clients, again due to the display drivers crashing. It glitched out so hard the soundcard stopped working and browsers wouldn’t even open. I tried to restart it and it hung on that too. I put the surface away and dug out my old Macbook Pro to finish out the work. It was the last straw.

I spent a few hours on livechat with Microsoft support. They were unable to issue anything but an exchange but I’d already been through that process. Additionally since I kept waiting for drivers and updates to try to fix things, I was outside the 30 day return window.

My only option was to contact the nearest store (where I exchanged it after the screen malfunction) and see what their manager was willing to do. I got in touch with Adam, a manager at the Windows Store in Park Meadows mall south of Denver. Adam was awesome. I did have to drive several hours down to the store but the whole team there was super helpful.

I explained my story and was able to reproduce at least several of the problems for Adam and his staff. They were clearly dedicated to delivering a great customer experience. After running through a few fixes that did not improve the bugs, I was able to exchange the Surface Book for a 15″ Dell XPS. I had been looking at these devices anyway. The Dell is significantly more powerful on paper and was almost $1,000 cheaper. I took home a new laptop and an Xbox One with four controllers and a few games for the office. It’s only been a few days but I’m very happy with the XPS so far.

My Surface Book Experience

Battle Crypt: The Journey So Far

BattleCrypt, originally codenamed Wishard, first ever mockup done in illustrator.
BattleCrypt, originally codenamed Wishard, first ever mockup done in illustrator.

In March, 2015 I was in the process of starting my own software development studio (which has now become!) and leaving my nice, secure job at KPMG behind. I was under a lot of stress and doing more business and architecture work than software development. I had this urge to build something fun with no goals or deadlines just to blow off steam. I had been playing a fair amount of Smash Brothers and read an article about how #IDARB came about (unfortunately I can’t find the original article). It described devs who were tired of pressure and deadlines just hacking ideas together quick-and-dirty to have fun building something. The idea of building some type of arena game with minimal plan sounded really appealing. I sat down and started coding.

I gave the game a codename of “Wishard” – which came from how I imagine Sean Connery pronouncing the word “wizard” – and some basic mechanics evolved. The game would feature blockly little wizards hopping around and firing spells at one another. The spells could be one of four element types: fire, water, poison and electricity. Players could also defend against a single element type by raising a shield of the same type. Gameplay would be about blocking the right type of element while countering with an element your opponents were not shielded against. Players would recharge mana by moving near mana crystals and there would be hazards like lava and water with different effects.

I prototyped this quickly but realized that the design was simply not fun. The controls were complex and confusing and the best strategy was to simply switch element types as rapidly as possible and mash attack while standing on a crystal. I stripped out two elements, leaving Fire and Water as the primary attack types. Shields became capable of blocking any attack but consumed mana at a rapid rate. They also changed the ownership of a blocked spell, making it capable of bouncing back and hitting its owner. Spells also gained a slight “seeking” ability making them more likely to hit. I also had the idea for level hazards that affect a spell’s behavior. I added fire and ice geysers to the game. Spells passing through a geyser of the same element type would be enhanced. Opposing geyser types would destroy the spell.

I also was enjoying experimenting with art. I was working in illustrator, creating tiles as vector art and then building levels from the tiles in Tiled. A little over a month in I had a working prototype of the game using the Tiled levels. The gif below is from an early screen capture of the build (full video here).

Vector based tiles. Spells react with to hazards based on element type.
Vector based tiles. Spells react with to hazards based on element type.

Around this time I ran into “programmer’s block.” The game wasn’t very fun in playtesting. I started to hate the art and my ideas weren’t coming together. I knew what I wanted. I wanted accessibility – a game that my kids could pick up and play with simple controls, but experienced players could excel at with deeper strategy and advanced tactics. I wanted art that was unique and professional. I was sick of the volume of “retro indie pixel art” and was exploring vector-based techniques but it just wasn’t working out.

I spent some time hand-drawing art in photoshop with a wacom tablet. I came up with a more cartoony style that my kids liked. But fellow game devs suggested that it just didn’t look professional. My artistic skill was not up to the task. Here’s a shot of the cartoony style I was working on.

One of my first attempts at a more cartoony style.
One of my first attempts at a more cartoony style.

I made some more attempts but was never happy with my efforts.

Some cartoony wizard characters that I tried.
Some cartoony wizard characters that I tried.

Around this time I came up with the game’s real name: BattleCrypt. I kept at the art until I arrived at a style that I didn’t totally hate. But I still wasn’t satisfied with it. Along the way I had added taunt phrases that the characters would say via little speech bubbles based on what was happening in the game. The art evolved into a sort of underground cavern style.

I reached out to a friend who did the very-rough AI on a game jam tribute to Game Grumps I worked on. I offered him a little cash to build an AI framework to power bots. He cranked out code in a single weekend that resulted in bots that were so hard I couldn’t beat them. It was a great start and gave me a good shot of motivation.

I separated the art for the skull and added powerups. When players died their skulls would stick around for a bit and then burst, leaving a powerup behind. I also tried an idea for little crystals that drop from powered up spells and explode in chain reactions. I was still really struggling with both game and artistic design.

The game had lost the fun, build-whatever-you-want vibe that I started with and became real actual work. The only thing keeping me motivated was the fact that my sons and nieces LOVED to play it. My nieces talked all day about playing “the skeleton game” at my house before one visit.

My boys and their cousins play an early build of battle crypt...for hours!
My boys and their cousins play an early build of battle crypt…for hours!

My motivation began to really grind down. I wasn’t happy with the art or gameplay and in the meantime, my real job was getting chaotic. I took a short contract that took me to California to do some architecture planning for an auto company. An important client suddenly closed their doors. The government put a freeze on contract funding which put another contract on delay. I also took a side project helping create the mobile versions of Super Refresh-Men (free on Android and iOS). And I did a little server-side work to support The Incredible Baron. A few months passed and I barely touched Battle Crypt.

But it didn’t leave my mind. I surfed Behance, DeviantArt and OpenGameArt for inspiration when I had time. I reached out to a couple of artists but they were busy. A few weekends, I just played with new tilesets, trying to find a look that I liked. I came up with this:

Another tiled test of mediocre art.
Another tiled test of mediocre art.

And then this:

A sort of jungle-ruins tileset idea.
A sort of jungle-ruins tileset idea.

I also moved all of my tasks and ideas into Trello and started documenting exactly what I wanted to change and do. I put a TON of thought into game design and discussed it constantly with my buddy Vic of FlatRedBall (best 2D indie game engine ever!).

I was finally getting ideas. I had traveled a long way from the fun, casual IDARB-inspired dev session to a game that I had time, money and emotional investment in. The rollercoaster took me up and down as I got excited about ideas but then continually failed to execute on the aesthetics. I tried to hire artists but either got no response or a [figurative] busy signal.

I started watching videos and looking at a lot of art by Konjak*. His amazing characters, tight pixel work and brilliantly-colorful environments constantly inspired me. I started really studying his technique** and trying to create my own worlds with what I learned. I came nowhere near his skill but it did finally take things in a way that I got excited about.

It’s worth mentioning here that one of the things I love about my buddy Vic is that he doesn’t tell me things to make me feel good. If he doesn’t like it, he says so. The most exciting thing about the new art is that it passed the Vic test – he actually liked it and got excited about it. So a good takeaway here is to make the kind of friends that can tell you if something is not good and, even better, tell you why.

So, I’m finally happy with the direction of Battle Crypt. My motivation is back. I have a trello board full of game design improvement ideas and a tileset that has a unique feel and quality execution. Things are still rough around the edges, especially the characters, but it’s moving in the right direction. I’ll wrap up this post with a little preview of the new direction…

Battle Crypt new art direction.
Battle Crypt new art direction.

* I reached out to Konjak on Twitter multiple times. I would love to pay him to do the art for my game but I never got a response. Konjak, if you read this hit me up!

** To be clear, I absolutely have not copied the work of any artist. I was inspired by the way Konjak layers levels and his color palettes. I tried to learn from how his worlds are filled with color and interesting visuals without being busy (still haven’t figured that out!)

Battle Crypt: The Journey So Far