Launching Eye of the Temple - this was my experience

My VR adventure Eye of the Temple, that I've been working on for the past five years, has finally shipped! It was released last month on October 14th.

Naturally this was a huge milestone for me after having worked on it for so long. And while I've released some smaller games for free in the past, Eye of the Temple is my commercial debut game. I actually did it! Wow, I say, patting myself on the back.

Shipping the game has been great, but also a bit confusing emotionally. There has been some big ups and also some downs. I might as well write about it here - mostly for my own sake, but who knows if it could be useful or just entertaining to someone else.

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Designing for a Sense of Mystery and Wonder

I play games to get to explore intriguing places, while challenge and story is secondary to me. But there still has to be a point to the exploration. I don’t want to just wander around some place - I want to uncover something intriguing and ideally mysterious. But the mystery lies not in the uncovering; it lies in the anticipation, or rather the lack of knowing exactly what I might find. In this article I examine that sense of mystery and wonder that’s tied not to story or themes, but to exploration. I’ll be using the word mystery as a shorthand for the kind of mystery and wonder I’m talking about here.

Zelda: Breath of the Wild from 2017 is an amazing game to go explore in, and one of my all time favorites. That said, while there are many things in the game that exude a sense of mystery - and certainly more so than in the average open world game - there are also a lot of missed opportunities.
Breath of the Wild reinvented the Zelda formula as an open world game.
I’ll compare Zelda: Breath of the Wild (BOTW) with Zelda: A Link to the Past (ALTTP) to try to figure out why ALTTP has a stronger sense of mystery than BOTW. A Link to the Past is a much older Zelda game from 1991 but I first played it in 2019.

Along the way I’ll be extracting four key design strategies for evoking a greater sense of mystery, and apply those strategies in the form of proposed design changes to BOTW. Finally, I’ll touch on some more general considerations to keep in mind when designing for a sense of mystery and wonder in general.
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Getting TortoiseHg on Windows to work with SourceHut's SSH authentication

Dec 9, 2020 in

You can skip to the header below for the actual guide. Or stay here for a rambling preamble.

I'm a skilled programmer, but I'm not a technical person. I'm not good with computers. Or at least I highly prefer if things just work, and I don't have to fiddle with settings and configurations.

This is one reason I strongly prefer Mercurial for source control over Git. It has a higher degree of just working. (I don't want to get into an argument over this. You can question my assertion, but my preference is my preference in any case.)

Unfortunately Mercurial has become a niche choice as Git has achieved overwhelming popularity, largely due to GitHub. I wouldn't really have cared about that, except it made BitBucket close down their support for Mercurial some time ago. And BitBucket was a hosting solution for Mercurial that was affordable and also just worked.

I and many other Mercurial lovers have then had to find alternative hosting. And I ended up with  choosing SourceHut. SourceHut is the opposite of "it just works". It's made for people who identify with hacking and tinkering and knowing all the technical stuff. Why did I choose it then? The "just works" alternatives had pricing that just did not work for a game development use case.

Now, SourceHut has been a pain to use in many ways for a non-technical person like me, but I've had the most pain at all trying to get SSH authentication to work. Unlike BitBucket, SourceHut does not allow HTTPS authentication, so you have to use SSH, and nobody ever sat down and made SSH easy to use on Windows.

Getting SSH to work involved juggling things like multiple types of SSH keys and formats all placed in a hidden folder, many different helper tools, and reading dozens of half-baked how-to guides that all contradict each other, often assume prior knowledge, and that are all for slightly different use cases which means they didn't quite work for me.

I got it all to work around a year ago, but I recently wiped my hard drive and needed to do it all over. I couldn't remember anything, so had to figure it all out all over again. So now I'm writing my own half-baked guide, mostly for my future self in case I need it again, but others might stumble over it and maybe find it useful too I guess.

When you read this guide, you might think it doesn't sound that complicated after all. But remember the guide omits all the things I read I should do and which I thus attempted, but it didn't work, and eventually turned out not to be needed anyway. Like running the main PuTTy application, or running tortoiseplink, or editing your mercurial.ini file. Anyway, on to the guide.

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Goodbye Unity

Dec 4, 2020 in , ,
Today is my last day at Unity.

It's been nearly 12 years since I joined the then-tiny startup with ~20 employees. Now there's over 3000 and it's been quite the ride to be part of this company while it has evolved, especially with the big role it has had in evolving the whole game industry too.

Lately I've been longing to do something smaller again, and so it's time for a new adventure in my work life to begin. Starting next week, I'm a full time indie developer! For a start I'll be wrapping up my VR action-adventure game Eye of the Temple that I've been working on part time for the past 4 years. There's a demo on Steam already that has very positive reviews and I expect the full game can ship in early spring 2021.

What I'll do after is not fully settled yet, but I have an idea for a (non-VR) game set in a big forest full of ruins, strange artifacts, pathways and mysteries that I might begin working on next year.

My mental state at the moment is kind of a mixed bag. On the one hand I'm very excited about future possibilities and being able to work on exactly what I want. On the other, my motivation and productivity is a bit flaky these days. I don't know the exact reasons, but possibilities could include:
  • Uncertainty about what my everyday life will be like (though economically I'll be fine!).
  • Having felt unfulfilled work-wise for a good while before I quit.
  • Having moved to a new country this summer (from Denmark to Finland), in the middle of a pandemic where it's hard to meet new people.
  • Being in the end stretch of developing a game where it's mostly boring stuff left.
  • Dark winter setting in - that normally doesn't affect me much but could be a compounding factor still.
However, I'll go easy on myself and just accept my productivity and motivation not being at its greatest right now. Perhaps I won't hit the ground running in my new indie life, but that's okay. I didn't have that much vacation this year either, so I'll see this as a chance to take it a bit easy for a little while while I adjust to my new life.

All in all, not a bad place to be, and I'm excited about the future!
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Eye of the Temple in 2019

I've completely failed to keep up the posting in 2019, but it's not too late to write at least one post this year! Here's (almost) everything that happened with the development of Eye of the Temple in 2019! But first, let's look at what happened in the last part of 2018 after the previous post.
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Creaking Gorge and The Cauldron

Since my last post in July where I finally got a vision down for the level design in Eye of the Temple, I've been feeling super productive adding new areas and features to the game.

In August I added two new areas and in September I've been revamping the in-game UI and the speedrun mode. Only problem is I haven't kept up with these blog posts. To avoid this post getting too long, I'll cover the new areas here and save the UI work for a later post.
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Level design workflows

Let me talk a bit about my workflows for doing level design in Eye of the Temple since I recently had some progress in that area.

I've been in something akin to a level design writer's block for a long time, being able to rework individual small areas, but unable to start the major world redesign that I've been intending for over a year.

Maybe calling it writer's block is pretentious - the fact is that I've never done this sort of work before, so I may just not have developed the necessary workflows to deal with it. Anyway, I think I might have finally cracked the nut.

I've had plenty of ideas, but fragmented and not crystallized enough to get down on paper. How do you start planning a non-linear world meant to be highly interconnected and interdependent? I can talk about what eventually worked for me.

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New pots feature, mixed reality, Discord server, Yonderplay event

It's time for a new update on the development of Eye of the Temple.


GDC in March is well behind us and I had a great time there. Among other things, I got to show off Eye of the Temple at the European Game Showcase (and saw a lot of other cool games too). This was a private event for specially invited people from the network of the organizers.

Now, Eye of the Temple has been selected for Yonderplay, an event that's part of the Nordic Game Conference in Malmö in Sweden and open to everyone at the conference. This will go down on May 25, the last day of the conference. This is the most public showing of the game yet, and I'm very excited about it! If you'll be at Nordic Game Conference yourself, come by and say hi and give the game a try.
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New trailer, public Steam page and Eye of the Temple in the press!

Last week I took a dive into the world of PR with Eye of the Temple.

There is a new trailer you can see on the website or right here below.

And Eye of the Temple now has a Steam page: Eye of the Temple on Steam

If you have a Vive or Oculus Rift, and think Eye of the Temple looks interesting, you can totally add it to your wishlist on Steam now! ;)

After that I took my first stab at contacting the press with a press release. The story got picked up by UploadVR and a handful of smaller outlets (see list on the Sanctum Dreams website). Considering I'm an unknown small indie developer with no experience with the press, I'm pretty happy with the results.

This week I'm at Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. I'm mostly here with Unity, but I'll also be showing Eye of the Temple at the European Game Showcase.

Exciting times!
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January 2018 update

It seems like I didn't blog since July. How scandalous! Well, here's an update on what I worked on for Eye of the Temple since then.

Presented as a series of tweets, because that's what I have time for.

Note: Add blockers seem to sometimes randomly block some of the embedded tweets for some reason.

Prettier background environment

The cold snowy mountains didn't give the feeling I was aiming for. Failing to find anything ready-made that fit the bill, I created my own lush, mountainous environment.

Failed attempts at mixed reality capture with StereoLabs ZED stereo camera

I think a mixed reality video would be the ideal way to show off Eye of the Temple, so I invested a bit in this. Unfortunately it didn't go well due to a combination of a bad choice of immature tech, and an insufficient green-screen setup. I might revisit this in the future though.

Glowy light for certain platforms

New build for testers with whip and other improvements

I finally finished developing the whip and got a build out to the testers.

Trying to recruit people to test the speedrun mode (never had any luck!)

The speedrun mode is super fun and challenging to me, but nobody else seem interested in it. Besides asking on twitter I also contacted some of the notable VR speedrunners and people who has posted about VR speedrunning on Reddit, but got nothing out of it. If anyone reading this have a Vive and would like to try it, do let me know!

Implemented a new type of dangerous rooms for the temple

The reviews for this feature are through the roof.

Got serious working on the big level design overhaul

Still far from finished with this one.

Worked on a texture tool "Bricker" to easily create bricks and carved shapes

More on that in another post.

Contracted a few pieces of concept art to get inspiration for improving the visual look of the game

And finally, introduced this little birdy

That's it for now. Hope you enjoyed this glimpse into the development, and see you soon. Back to working on the game for me! Remember you can also follow the development as it happens following @EyeOfTheTemple or @runevision on twitter.
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