• Not “Just A Mobile Game”
    When Oculus was acquired by Facebook, I liked to joke that I was “making a Facebook game”. Since announcing that Darknet will be a launch title on Gear VR , I’ve been saying that I’m not only making a Facebook game, but it’s a “mobile game” too! It’s pretty much Candy Crush VR at this point.
    I worry, though, that other people might not get the joke. The term “mobile game” has a lot of baggage; gamers seem to...
  • Taking Stock
    In the past week, I ran a booth at PAX for the first time, received a ton of feedback from my first wave of beta testers, and announced that Darknet will be coming to Gear VR . All of this temporarily distracted me from actually working on the game, and now I’m gearing up to dive back into the code and finally finish the thing. It seems like a good moment to pause and do some public reflection.
  • Launching on Gear VR
    Moments ago, Samsung announced Gear VR , a mobile VR headset built in collaboration with Oculus, which uses a Galaxy Note 4 for its screen and processor. This means that I can finally make an announcement:
    Darknet will be released as a launch title for Gear VR!
    Whew! I had been holding that back for a long time. I’ll talk more about my specific plans for Darknet later, but for now, I’ll focus on my experience with the...
  • Darknet at PAX Prime
    I've spent the past week either preparing for PAX or actually exhibiting at PAX, so it's been busy! This is my first real booth, and thanks to some help from Oculus, I was able to demo with 3 Oculus Rift DK2s at once, and they saw almost constant use!
    Darknet was the first VR experience for a lot of players, and there were some great reactions along the way.
    I also had some good meetings with...
  • Making the Tutorial
    Like everyone else, I hate tutorials. The mere word conjures visions of long, lecturing paragraphs and big, orange “CLICK HERE!” arrows. Blech. Tutorials aren’t always so bad, of course, but it feels like the best a tutorial can do is blend into the background, unnoticed. They might be a prerequisite to fun, but they aren’t fun themselves.
    Alas, a tutorial seems like a necessity in my own game. If Darknet were a twist on a typical genre like a...
  • Narrative and the MDA Framework
    I often identify as a mechanics-focused designer. Most of my previous games have been abstract, and my relationship with narrative is usually a bit awkward, which I’ve written plenty of blog posts about already .
    For all my talk, however, Darknet has been shaped around its narrative theme from the very beginning. I didn’t design the gameplay and then pick a story to wrap around it. Instead, I picked the theme of cyberpunk hacking first, based in part on...
  • Hiding Secrets
    “The purpose of gameplay is to hide secrets.” 
    I started hearing that phrase thrown around last year, after it was posted on the  Arcane Kids manifesto . It seemed like an overstatement at first, but it grew on me once I started to interpret the idea of "secrets" more broadly. Figuring out a winning strategy feels, to me, like discovering hidden knowledge. Viewed that way, rich gameplay is just a big pile of secrets, and uncovering them is a...
  • Darknet, Unity, and the Asset Store
    Darknet is built in Unity, like everything else nowadays. Unity seems to be the dominant engine among indies by an enormous margin. Frankly, I can understand why. It’s relatively easy to use, it deploys just about everywhere, and it offers a great set of features. Unity’s popularity, in turn, encourages other companies and platforms (like Oculus) to support it, and the engine’s huge development community is another big plus. I’ve heard plenty of complaints too, and I understand that...
  • Puzzle Generation
    The most important element in Darknet’s gameplay is the hacking puzzle. The puzzles aren’t the only things you have to think about (there’s a lot of strategy on the “ network layer ” of gameplay as well), but every time the player hacks a network, they’ll have to complete at least a couple of puzzles to win. That’s why it’s so important to make every puzzle unique and challenging. To this end, every puzzle in Darknet is procedurally generated...
  • Grinding and the Burden of Optimal Play
    Just before I announced Darknet, I sent an early preview build to Ben Kuchera, a writer at Polygon. The resulting article was generally positive, but there was one negative point that came up right away:
    “It sounds grindy”
    This was a bad sign. (For those who don’t recognize the term, “ grinding ” refers to mindless repetition in games.) I hate grinding. I’m fundamentally opposed to it, and I’ve always made an effort to keep it out of...
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