At Haiku Games our goal is to deliver the best games we possibly can. An important part of that is creating a game that’s free of bugs or crashes. Our process is to test the game repeatedly while it is being developed. When it’s done, we have everyone play the game and report any issues they find. Finally, we send the game to a quality assurance (QA) team. The QA team plays the game with many different devices to make sure that everything works smoothly. Even with all of this, bugs do crop up that hamper our players experience. The point of this post is to explain some reasons why these problems might occur.
The number one reason we have bugs in our game is called “device fragmentation.” That’s a fancy of way of saying there are a ton of devices out there. We are fortunate enough to have players across iOS, Google Play, and Amazon Kindle. With that comes the responsibility of supporting a large number of devices. For example, there are thousands of Android devices. Is the device aspect ratio 16:9, 16:10, 4:3, 5:3? Is the Android version 4.3, 6.7, or 8.1? Is the manufacturer Samsung, Huawei, or Google? As you can imagine buying thousands of devices is not an option for a small company like us! We rely on our QA team to test various devices, but we have many more players than testers and sometimes a bug gets through.
Every once in a while, we will have a perfectly good game that stops working for some reason. Developers sometimes call this “bit rot.” For example, Apple require developers support something called “64 bit architecture.” So our older games had a warning that said “this device may slow down your iPhone” until we updated them to the new system. We once used an advertising provider that worked for years, but then they started showing ads that crashed our games. We had to go back and update all our games to take out that part of the code.
Of course, it must be said that sometimes we make a silly mistake and introduce bugs into our own games. For example, Apple recently allowed developers to create a game that they can pre-order, and we tried it out for the first time for Dark Ruins. We prepared an early version of the game for pre-order and submitted it to Apple, but we intended to update it before we actually released it. I read Apple’s instructions as saying “If you want to launch the game, you have to manually click the release button.” Unfortunately, what the instructions actually said was “If you want to launch the game early, you have to manually click the release button.” The implication was that the preorder automatically release on the launch day. As a result, we launched an early version of Dark Ruins that had bugs and missing features we intended to fix. We felt terrible about this. The game is now updated and fixed, but we are sorry our early players had to deal with these bugs!
What should I do if I have a bug?
If you see a bug in our game, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and describe the problem - we'll do our best to fix it! It's also helpful if you provide this info:
I hope this article helps our players understand some of the reason. Overall, our attitude towards bugs is that they are probably our fault, and even if they are not, we ought to fix them. We have a few plans in the works to address common problems, and as we continue to refine our game engine, we expect the number of bugs to keep dropping. Best of luck adventuring and escaping!
Adventure Escape: Dark Ruins has officially launched! You can download it on iOS, Google Play, and Amazon. In this post, we thought we’d share some of what we hoped to accomplish in Dark Ruins. Let us know if we lived up to the task!
Dark Ruins is a sequel to Hidden Ruins, which was well loved by our players. Despite all the love, we set our sights on trying to make an even better game. One thing we felt we could improve is the character development in Hidden Ruins. Character development is always tough because we have much less space than a book or television show to explore dialogue between the characters. In Hidden Ruins, we initially had backstory with Professor Burns and Teresa and Rachel and her mother. We ultimately cut that story because we couldn’t add it in a way that we were happy with. We won’t spoil anything here, but in Dark Ruins, the player gets to know the backstory of our characters better than ever before!
A Realistic Civilization
We wanted to achieve a consistent look and language for the mythical Zoltec civilization. One idea that our lead designer, Gene Mocsy, had was that the player could learn about the civilization throughout the game. Wouldn’t it be cool if you began as a novice student of the Zoltecs but then picked up mastery as you played? That was the idea behind the map. You first piece together the map in Chapter 2 of Dark Ruins. The map is accessible near your inventory, and more information is added to it as you learn more and more Zoltec symbols. By the end of the game, our players are experts at the Zoltec numerology!
Of course, the key to a great Adventure Escape game is compelling puzzles. Both Dark Ruins and Hidden Ruins were challenging because they were set in an ancient civilization which limits what puzzles we can provide - an electronic four digit combination lock just doesn’t make sense!
We think we came up with an interesting mix of puzzles - there are puzzles about avoiding dangerous alligators, carefully managing your oxygen when swimming, and of course ancient stone slabs. And the interaction with present-day looters and Peter’s love of technology lets us break up the ancient puzzles with some electronic ones as well.
Adventure Escape™ is the flagship series that Haiku Games creates. Adventure Escape games combine the devious puzzles of “escape the room” style games with interesting characters and a thrilling story. The puzzles may seem challenging at first, but there’s a logical solution to each one!
We made Adventure Escape since we love adventure games and escape rooms (my wife and I have done over 50 real life escape rooms). In our humble opinion, we believe Adventure Escape is the best escape room series out there on the app store.
We started Adventure Escape because we wanted to elevate the graphics and level of polish of escape games on the app store. For example, many other escape games constantly have advertisements running while you play, which we think takes away the experience. We strive to make our games great looking, fun, and intuitive to play.
We also thought that many escape games lacked an interesting story. We drew inspiration from classic point and click adventure games, which feature a rich story that immerses the reader. Instead of escaping door after door for no reason, we want to transport you to be a secret agent like in Allied Spies, an archaeologist like in Hidden Ruins, or homicide detective.
The heart of an Adventure Escape game are fair puzzles. We have a design principle called “satisfying challenge.” We think puzzles should be tough but solvable. We spend a lot of time creating unique puzzles that we do not think have been seen before.
Of course, there’s still a lot of work that we can do, and we are constantly trying to improve. We’re constantly pushing the boundaries of what an escape game is. In our newest game Haunted Hunt, you can shapeshift into different animals in order to find new clues. Shapeshift into a cat to gain supernatural vision and the ability to see traps!
Inspired by Good Product Manager / Bad Product Manager, I thought I'd give my take on what makes a good game designer
A good game designer understands their job is to make a fun game. A good game designer knows they have a lot of responsibilities, but nothing they do matters if the game is not fun. A bad game designer does a lot of small tasks that make them feel productive.
A good game designer creates memorable and fun moments for the player. A bad game designer thinks a game is like a series of widgets that need to be fit together, and just wants to make it long enough.
A good game designer is clear and easy to understand. A good game designer knows that written documents, videos/gifs, and talking to someone all useful. A bad game designer can’t explain what they want. A bad game designer gives too many details when brainstorming a design, and too few details when communicating it to developers. A bad game designer blames others for not understanding them.
A good game designer is open-minded, but will defend their design. A good game designer understands no game in history has ever make 100% of people happy. A good game designer realizes that other people, even those with lots of experience or “management,” are just other people with opinions; thus, a good game designer is not afraid to disagree. A bad game designer will say “the game wasn’t fun, but it wasn’t my fault. XYZ people wanted it that way.”
A good game designer knows that there are a million small decisions that the developer must make to implement their design. A good game designer does not try to specify all million of these small decisions and instead trusts their team to make decisions. That is why a good game designer says “we made this game.” A bad game designer thinks “I made this game.”
A good game designer understands the above is true for every other part of the team, not just development.
A good game designer knows if they cannot trust the people they work with, that is a Big Problem. Depending on the situation, a good game designer may give direct feedback, train their team, or communicate to management. A bad game designer will avoid the issue.
A good game designer will work with developers. If engineering says a design is too hard to make, a good game designer will strive to understand why and suggest alternatives. A bad game designer either fights with engineers all the time, or is so wowed by engineering that they take everything they say at face value.
A good game designer guides our artists by providing reference images and describing the feel of the game. A bad game designer micromanages by providing an exact layout for everything but doesn’t explain why. A good game designer gives feedback on art quickly. A bad game designer tells the artists to redraw the room’s perspective after a week of iterations since they forgot something.
A good game designer introduces complexity only when absolutely necessary. A good game designer understands no one will understand the game as well as them, and that players very easily get confused. A bad game designer mistakes complexity for greatness and says the player does not understand the beauty of their design.
A good game designer stays with a game until it is finished. A good game designer will make sure the parts of the game they thought were fun and important are intact when the game is made. A bad game designer thinks the initial design phase is the sexiest and most important part of design, and doesn’t follow up on the details as the game is made.
A good game designer respects their players, and wants to deliver a fun experience for them. A good game designer knows they can succeed and make a game they are proud of. A bad game designer is cynical and thinks they didn’t succeed because they didn’t “sell out.”
Haiku Games has an entirely remote team. We’re not stuck on the idea - if it makes sense, we’re happy to get an office in the future. But in the spirit of celebrating what we have rather than worrying about what comes, here are some of our favorites parts of our remote setup.
No Commute. I live in Silicon Valley, there are a lot of great things about it - great tech companies, startup culture, and interesting people you meet. The disadvantage is the terrible commute times to go a seemingly short distance. It turns out commuting is a major contributor to unhappiness. Since starting Haiku Games, it’s amazing to have that hour or two back each day where I don’t have to commute. It feels great for the environment as well.
Work from Anywhere. Most of us are based in the US, but we work with people around the world. In the early days of the company, I had the chance to live in New Zealand for a few months as my wife had some time off at the end of medical school. We did a combination of working, relaxing, and exploring the new country. It’s very freeing to be able to explore and work at the same time.
Gene Mocsy of Irresponsible Games, the designer for Allied Spies, said "It's freeing just to be able to move abound town. I took my laptop to UC Berkeley's Doe library and designed the deadly library in Chapter 5."
Hobbies. Because our schedule is more flexible, it’s possible to make time for hobbies. For example, Gianluca, our developer in Rome goes to Crossfit almost every day. I have started playing badminton with my dad. And of course as Adventure Escape designers, one of our hobbies is playing real life escape rooms. Hers is a picture of part of the Haiku team escaping a room as a break and inspiration:
Family Friendly. Michelle Woods, the game designer behind Starstruck and Murder Inn says, “As a mom of three, I love the flexibility of working remotely with Haiku Games. I've been able to create a full-time schedule that still allows me to spend time with my family.” From our perspective, we feel lucky to be able to work with talented parents who may not be able to fit their life into a normal 9-5 schedule!
We hope this post gives you a sense of our setup at Haiku Games. If you’re interested to apply, check out our jobs page here. We’re always looking for great people!
Haiku Games is looking for a game designer and a game developer. What type of people would succeed at Haiku?
We believe the best way to make quality games is to empower everyone who touches the game to make changes to it. It's not just the game designer's responsibility. For example, our developers might adjust the timing of animated effects so they feel exciting and satisfying for the player. Our artists might suggest a compelling new perspective for our rooms so they look more beautiful and dynamic. Having everyone think about the player experience increases the quality of our games.
If you've ever found yourself so stressed out that you can't do anything, you know that productivity and stress do not go hand in hand. We believe you are most productive in an environment that is relaxed and lets everyone see the big picture. This is doubly important at a game company where creativity is such an important part of our jobs.
We believe the best games are made when people communicate with each other. We also love working with nice people. At Haiku, we strive to be nice and direct people. It's easy to tell people that things are going great (and we do - frequently!) but we believe it's just as important to let people know when things aren't working out. If you believe in this type of open, trusting communication style, you'll fit right in at Haiku.
If there's one guiding principle at Haiku, it's that if you don't know what to do, it's best to just do something. Preferably quickly. The ability to do work fast with minimal guidance is key because we are a small company. We often don't have the extensive market research or statistics that a larger company might have. Creating something and seeing whether it works is typically easier than agonizing over what might be optimal. At the same time, it's important to know when to slow down and set up a process for something we will be doing multiple times. The ability to function in "optimal chaos" (working quickly, but not so quickly such that everything breaks) is key for working at Haiku Games.