Category Archives: Grant’s Games

Escape From Midnight Mansion

This week’s game release is going to be a little different. I was sorting through my hard drive and I found an old project of mine, Escape from Midnight Mansion. I’d like to share it with you. I graduated from San Francisco State University’s industrial design department (with a focus in digital media), and for my senior project, I decided to make a board game to help encourage cooperation in children. They’ve got a host of competitive board games, so why not throw some variety at them and maybe make a positive change in their lives?

The basic concept is that you’re a group of kids locked in Midnight Mansion, and you need to get out before midnight. There’s a stack of face-down tiles with numbers and effects on them, and you lay them out, randomly generating the mansion as you explore it. At the end of each turn, you roll a 20-sided die, and ghosts appear on the rooms with numbers that match the roll. The ghosts impede your progress, but if defeated, they vanish and provide bedsheet tokens. Collect enough bedsheets and you can create a rope and Escape From Midnight Mansion.

At the start of the game, you won’t have too many rooms, so you’re less likely to run into ghosts. This is good because it leaves you with more options, but it also means you aren’t getting the resources you need. As time goes on, you’ll get more rooms and the ghosts will appear more frequently. Greater challenge, greater reward. It’s simple, but effect.


Here’s the game’s original prototype, printed out on paper. 

Here’s the game in its final form, printed in largely black and white in a nod to the horror films of the silent era, with red used to highlight important facets of the rules, such as valid paths and hours where the challenge ramps up. A quick turn summary has also been added to the components. The tiles were glued to foam core and cut apart.


I managed to find a perfectly-sized shoebox to store all of the components. I’m amazed at how lucky I was that it all worked out. I just had to repaint it to match the theme, and it was good to go. 

Here are the game’s rules and other bits for print and play, along with some pictures. The folder contains the full report I made for the class, weighing in at a total of 123 pages. The rules and print-and-play assets begin on page 100. 

Someday, I’d like to revisit Escape from Midnight Mansion. It’s probably one of my proudest achievements, but it’s been about five years since I made it. I think I could improve on it, and I think looking back, there are lessons I’m still learning thinking back on the experience.

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Posted by on August 31, 2014 in Board Games, Grant's Games


Hexplosion Update: Red Slimes


I’ve just updated Hexplosion with a brand new enemy: Red Slimes.

It’s based on the design concept I first heard stated in the GDC Vault presentation, Design in Detail: Changing the Time Between Shots for the Sniper Rifle from 0.5 to 0.7 Seconds for Halo 3. I later heard it again in the Extra Credits video, Counter Play. Summed up, real quick, a new weapon in a multiplayer game should make the game more interesting for a player it’s used against. It’s kind of obvious in retrospect, but by committing it to words instead of unspoken intuition, it’s easier to keep in mind when designing.

The red slime leaves a damaging trail of fire, which keeps the witch from being able to fly through certain parts of the arena. It restricts your movement. I realized quickly that the red slime needs to be faster as well, to cover more territory, so I increased its speed to three times that of the green slime. 

After that, it occurred to me that it might make sense, thematically, if a bomb exploded instantly on contact with fire. I thought some more on the subject. Theme and world can add a lot to a game, but you need to make sure it doesn’t hurt the game. After some internal debate, I figured that the instant bomb explosions would make play more interesting for players. It allows them to break a rule, and players could use this tactically and use the fire to bomb slimes quickly. On top of that, the fire also becomes a barrier. A player can’t toss a bomb across the level if there’s fire in the way. This design space could prove very useful in future updates. After a bit of thinking, I figured I might as well make the red slime blow up bombs on contact as well. It’s natural to intuit that they must be made of lava or something, and if a red slime takes a direct hit from a bomb, they’re likely to explode within half a second when they spawn some fire anyway.

A side effect of all this is that the bombs are now a physical collider. It isn’t part of my intended design, but I’ll see how it works out. I mean, combos in Street Fighter started out as a bug, and now it’s hard to imagine a modern fighting game without combos. Anyway, bombs can now be used to block a slime’s approach, which helps to make the game a little easier and give the player more control, but the slimes don’t try to move around the bomb. They just press forward in the player’s direction. 

A minor bug that’s popped up is that if you throw the bomb forward, through the player sprite, the player sprite will be shoved forward slightly. It doesn’t impact play much, but it doesn’t add anything either. I want to squash that. There’s also the fact that a player that rams into a slime will shove the slime offscreen after dying. Again, it doesn’t impact play much, but I’d like to fix that up.

So there you have it. If there’s anything you’d like to see, just let me know in the comments!

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Posted by on August 24, 2014 in Grant's Games



New Game: Flappy Pipes

flappypipesGonna be honest: I did not spend most of the week on this one. I was actually working on a Match-3 game, and I realized I was jumping into something much more difficult than I anticipated. With the Sunday deadline looming, I needed to get something out, and so I made Flappy Pipes.

That isn’t to say I didn’t learn anything from the experience. It was actually pretty fun! I learned about dealing with physics and gravity in Unity, and also did a fair amount of fine-tuning the gap between the pipes. I learned a bit more about how to handle UI as well. It isn’t just in an entire other scene, and I delayed the “Click to restart” prompt to let the moment of defeat sink in a little.

There’s another major thing I learned: Object pooling. It’s a little technical, but here’s the basics: Instead of creating and destroying objects constantly, you just create a bunch of an object off-stage and bring them into the stage when you need them, saving on processor power. This’ll allow me to design games with way more sprites on the screen, such as shooters.

I also did something I never thought I’d actually do: Make sprites. The pipes and birds are the very first sprites I’ve ever made, and you know what? They aren’t all that bad! The birds could definitely use a lot more work, but they look close enough to their tribute material that you know what’s going on. The pipe is simple, but I got to apply some of my shading intuition from my miniatures-painting. The dark line underneath the wider pipe section really adds depth.

So, yeah. It’s not the most original game, but I learned a lot by making it!

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Posted by on August 17, 2014 in Grant's Games


What Next?

Hexplosion’s prototype is done, but I’d really like to explore Unity in further detail. Going forward, I’ll be working on other games while making improvements to Hexplosion.

Here’s what to expect in future Hexplosion updates to the Hexplosion prototype:
* An actual game over screen.
* Difficulty selection
* Getting rid of the weird bug where if the Bomb Witch slams into a slime, the slime gets pushed off the screen.
* A title screen
* In-game control description.
* Instantiating from an object pool instead of repeated creation and destruction at runtime. (This is for optimization. The game doesn’t really need it, but it’s good to start getting in the habit)

Once the prototype’s more or less good on its own, I’ll start expanding the game itself, adding additional enemy types, powerups, and destructible spawners.

As far as other games go, I’d like to build games to push my knowledge of Unity. Hexplosion is a simple action game with very few states. Since I’ve been talking about puzzle games so much, I’d like to build a Match-3 where I have to take a lot of states and conditions into account and maybe start messing with arrays. After that, I’m thinking about moving into a menu-based thing like an RPG, but I’ll see where I feel like going next.

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Posted by on August 11, 2014 in Grant's Games



Hexplosion Prototype


Hexplosion is nice and ready for playing. All images are still placeholders, but at the least, they’re now ones that are free-license.

You can play it over at my page. Head on over, play a few rounds, and share your high scores!

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Posted by on August 10, 2014 in Grant's Games


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A bit ago, I started learning Unity, and I’m nearly done with the prototype for Hexplosion. Hexplosion began as a twin-stick shooter, but as I finished scripting the essential pieces, I decided I wanted to make something a bit more unique. It plays a bit like a twin-stick shooter, but instead of launching a constant spray of bullets at your enemies, you instead have a single projectile: A bomb.

You end up with a slower and more considered experience as far as attacking goes, but you still need to be reasonably quick with your reflexes if you want to avoid getting shot by enemies. It’s about hanging on and taking crucial actions.

I’m in the process of replacing placeholder images with free-license images. Once that’s over with, I’ll throw up a link to the prototype. So far, I’m pleased with what I’ve built. A friend of mine might be interested in producing some custom sprite work, so I’ve got some high hopes for this one.

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Posted by on August 8, 2014 in Grant's Games


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Six Chamber Hoedown


Six Chamber Hoedown is a game I made for Insanity Jam 2, a game jam with the goal of producing a game based on a random game concept. It’s currently up for voting.

My random prompt was “A twin joystick game where you obey the loudest wasteful gunfighters.” The first game type that came to my head was a dual joystick shooter, but I decided to play with the prompt a little. A little more brainstorming, and I found a concept that’d mix the theme and gameplay together more tightly and in a funny way:

A game patterned after those scenes in old westerns where one guy says “Dance!” and shoots at the other guy’s feet. Mix that with twin joysticks, and you get a DDR-style game about jumping over shots.

I took some inspiration from the old Ballad of Black Mesa video and decided to create a song made entirely out of gun percussion.

Six Chamber Hoedown took about 10 days to make in Game Maker. I learned a lot about using Game Maker, and overall, I’m pleased with what I created. It might be fun to revisit it and make more involved levels, but I think what I have now stands well on its own.

Also, you should check out This Game Is Not A Dating Sim. It’s another Insanity Jam 2 entry, and it looks really cute!


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Posted by on August 6, 2014 in Grant's Games


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