Our August winner is a visually impressive adventure game that evokes memories of classics like "The 7th Guest" and "Shadowgate". We were impressed by the production values and the sheer scope of the game, and it's got some killer music to boot!
Ed: due to personnel changes and an office move last month, judging for the August GoTM was delayed, and there was no September contest. The October thread is here!
We asked Eric to take us on a personal tour of Shadow House. Come along, won't you?
GameSalad: Tell us a little about yourself. How long have you been making games, and is this your hobby, your job, or both?
Eric: Thanks GameSalad! I’m humbled that my game was picked for the Game of the Month. There have been a lot of awesome games being made with GameSalad lately, so it really feels good to be acknowledged for the effort that went into this game.
My name is Eric Shofe and I consider myself a full time independent game developer. I also work as a waiter and a licensed plumber to support my family, as I try to build my brand. While I’m not getting paid to do it, I spend a whole lot of time working and creating. My first gaming experience was playing Combat on an Atari 2600 with my brother. Since then, I have never stopped playing games! I have an extensive collection of systems from the past 30 years.
I would say that I have been interested in and making games as a hobby since I was about 8 years old. I received an Apple 2 clone for a birthday gift (I think it was called Laser) and I used to have my parents take me to the library in my town and I would check out books on programming in basic. I was particularly excited when I learned how to make sound come out of the machine with code.
My parents always encouraged my creativity. They were constantly providing me with art materials and instructional books like “How to Draw the Marvel Way”. I have a massive collection of old sketchbooks in my parents basement back in Iowa. Back in those days, digitally drawing was accomplished by plotting points. Wow, how far everything has come is just mind boggling.
GS: What inspired you to develop Curse of Shadow House?
Eric: That’s a great question! While on the surface, this may seem like just another first person adventure game, it was actually inspired by my own experiences with grief and loss in my life, the adventure games I used to play back in the day like Demon’s Forge, Ulysses and the Golden Fleece, Shadowgate, The 7th Guest, etc., and in intense interest in the paranormal.
I took a break from pursuing games for a long time, but I’ve always kept up with computer graphics and drawing as a hobby. I finally got tired of not being happy with how I was spending my time pursuing money, and was finding a little rough to get back into programming after all of these years. I stumbled upon GameSalad and said to myself, “Ok, this is how I get back into game design.”
GS: The production values of the game are really impressive. Can you share any special techniques or tricks you used in Creator to help create some of the ambience and special effects you employed?
Eric: I really wanted to create a sense of atmosphere in the game. A lot of my ideas for atmospheric animations didn’t make it into the game yet, but they’ll probably get added in the near future. The title screen for example, went through at least 5 completely different iterations.
Eventually, I had an image in my mind of how I wanted it to look, and I made it happen. I use spawning, timers and interpolate, to control things like fading in, the rain on the title screen, lightning, etc. I also used some mathematical equations to do some cool movement effects like size and color fluctuating. You can really get creative with some of the scripts in GameSalad and do some really cool things.
GS: You've stated on the forums that you developed this game essentially by yourself over the course of nearly two years. Talk a little about the challenges of making a game this way, but also how you felt GameSalad empowered you to take on this challenge. What was the hardest part that you weren't expecting? Was there anything you dreaded that turned out to be a piece of cake?
Learning the basics in GameSalad was pretty easy. Once I had the basics down, I felt ready to go deeper into the software. I made 4-5 different little games in GameSalad before feeling ready to take on something like CoSH. I started working on CoSH in May of 2012. Eric: Yeah, I definitely spent a lot of time working on the game. I started using GS in February 2012. The first challenge was that I hadn’t done any programming or game design in a LONG time. I think once I inserted one of my images in to GameSalad and made it move and respond to touch on my iphone, I felt empowered and it immediately lit a fire in my brain.
That’s when I found myself coming to the community for help. Seriously, our community! I mean, just wow! We have the most amazing, helpful group of users on the forums. I never would have completed the game if it wasn’t for the insight of MANY of GameSalad's active forum members. Thank you guys and gals!
There were many times that I just wanted to just throw in the towel when working on this project. I couldn’t figure out how to make GameSalad do what I wanted, I was frustrated with my art, I was having trouble designing the audio. I did not, and I kept at it and have something that I’m pretty damn proud of.
I had someone reach out to me via the internet about doing music for the game, and he amazingly offered to help in exchange for a link to his work in the game. We’ve since formed a great relationship. His name is Sergio Zurawski. I did some tracks completely by myself, and I created the feel for a lot of the others. I then forwarded him my initial audio designs. He was able to turn them into something spectacular. I am incredibly proud of how the audio turned out.
GS: Any advice you'd give to other GameSalad developers setting out on a huge project like Curse of Shadow House?
Eric: Acting on the advice of some of my experienced friends, one of the first things I did was create a game design document. I can’t stress how critical this was. I fleshed out the entire game, scene by scene. Once this was done, I had basically created myself a guide. I had this open constantly while working on the game. The finished version of the game is amazingly close to what I had originally envisioned.
Doing a large game can can be exciting, but it can also get very discouraging, especially if you start dwelling on all of the work you have to do. Some good advice, I think, is to set small, achievable goals. Work on those goals every day and eventually you will get to the finish line.
GS: What's next for you?
Eric: I have a few projects that are already in the works, but I’m most likely going to get started on a sequel to The Curse of Shadow House very soon. It’s going to be a departure from the haunted house setting and contain quite a few new surprises.
One thing that helped me was getting active in our game development community here in Chicago. I stumbled upon IGDA's Chicago chapter when looking for local events. I've since become active in our game development community. I love learning from others and seeing what everyone is working on.
I’m very excited about the future of GameSalad. Things like custom scripting and api support are only going to make GameSalad even greater.
Thanks for the incredible software, Team GameSalad!
You're welcome, Eric! Congrats on the win and we hope everyone checks out your fantastic game!
The Curse of Shadow House is available on the iTunes App Store for $0.99!