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Developer Diaries: Hell’s Hospital | Elusive Byte

How Elusive Byte Spent Christmas in a Mental Asylum.

CalmDownTomers. I thought I would share with you how I spent my holiday season this year.

As many of you on CalmDownTom know for my day job I work for the UK largest communications provider in their complaints and cancellations department. This is to pay my bills and then develop games in my free time. With the launch of a certain Sports channel annual leave was hard to come by. So much so that I had 3 weeks off in December.

Blank UnityWith work being hectic, my game making had been reduced to the game developers version of writers block. A blank Unity screen and no idea. This has to be one of the most soul depressing times any developers lives. I would start something with no idea where it was going; mess about with a mechanic and not see it going anywhere. I now have over 60 folders of dead game ideas, maybe they will have a biblical moment and be resurrected but as of now they rest in peace.

The day before I was due to go off on leave, my brain was already in holiday mode, I was dealing with a complaint. Anyone who has worked in a call center will know the type of call. You ask how you can help and they start telling your their life story. All you can do is say “Uh-huh” every few minutes, hoping to keep track incase the reason for the call is in there somewhere.

But that’s when it happened.

An encompassing daydream of a game. Running along a corridor, avoiding obstacles and moving platforms in the distance. The space seemed small and confined, no distinctive colours or shapes but that’s how those sort of moments are. Again like a dream, it feels like its lasted minutes. However, when I snapped back to reality, my customer still had not got to the point – it may have been a few minutes.

Idea1My next call was a transfer to another department so while I was on hold I brought the the dream to life in a 2D top down sketch. I had drawn the 3 year old child’s artist’s impression of the Impossible Game on the back of my notepad.

Well I had an idea for a game and that all that mattered, excited to be going home with a plan and 3 weeks off. I tore into the house, inhaled something to eat, sat down in front of my nemesis ‘The Empty Unity Project’ and a level poured out onto the screen. The idea was nice and simple, get from point A to B and avoid X,Y, and Z.

My 3D skills are passable but humanoids are right out the question. So I made the game as I saw it in my daydream, first person. Great, no player humanoid to make. Now onto enemies; I had spheres moving about, I added a splash of colour, some particle effects and I had balls of blue lightning.

OldHellsHospitalNow it needed a theme. I had participated in GGJ 2013 and had made a running game with David Carr which was set in a creepy hospital called, Hell’s Hospital. I still had a lot of the textures I had made for it, so I asked David if he minded me using the name and images and voila… I had myself a padded cell with creepy electrical balls dancing around. It looked shockingly bad. My TV which I use as a second monitor as a dimming function after a few hours. With the light turned down the level had taken on an imposing nature and looked just right. So I turned down the light renders added a splash of blood and an asylum was being built.

As the weeks passed the game grew and at 20 levels and a week left I tested it on my OUYA. I like stop animation as much as the next person but no one likes 3 frames per second. So during my last week off it was spent fine tuning the game until it was running at a smooth 60fps on my little android wonder.

I never thought that I would have spent my Christmas Day and Hogmanay Night in an insane asylum, but I spent a wonderful holiday period in Hell’s Hospital and now its released on OUYA. With people playing it, giving amazing feedback of how much they are enjoying it, it has been the best time I have had all year.

Kenny Campbell – Elusive Byte

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