The Long Road Under the Sky


Posted by Colin Northway | Posted in Deep Under the Sky, Development | Posted on 07-08-2014

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DUTS_logoDeep Under the Sky is a new game Rich Edwards and I are going to release very soon, like this month!

But I’ve been wanting to make this game since way back in 2010! Back then Sarah and I were in Honduras and I had just started to write Incredipede. Our internet was terrible and we didn’t have any books so entertainment for the dark-hours was not easy to find. Fortunately in one of the bright-spots of our internet-connectivity I read this article written by Tim W. about a prototype someone named Richard Edwards had released for free online. I played it and fell in love with the feel and the mechanics. It’s got a wonderful Scorched Earth kind of gameplay but is more immediate and arcadey. I played the short prototype through but since it was so hard to download games I had to squeeze more fun out of it, it was the only game I had!

Working in Honduras

I started making extra challenges for myself and the game kept getting more and more fun. I’d remove a mechanic in the game so that it would be harder and the game would get more fun! I even wrote up a blog post about the challenges in case you want to try them.

After playing for a few days I wrote Rich a long gushy email about how much I liked the game and a bunch of annoying design notes about other directions he could push or pull the game. I was really excited about him doing a full version. He wrote back a friendly email saying he was working on some other prototypes and wasn’t sure BrainSplode was the game he wanted to polish and release. Much to my sadness.

About a year later Rich released Pineapple Smash Crew, a game about running around abandoned spaceships throwing grenades everywhere. It’s a really fun game and he released in on Steam and his own site. He dropped me an email asking for some feedback on the game just as I was leaving for Tokyo to show an early version of Incredipede at SOWN. We talked about Pineapple Smash Crew and I tried to convince him to make BrainSplode again. Infuriatingly, he demurred and instead went back to prototyping stuff instead of making the game I wanted to play!

At Tokyo Game Show for SOWN

A few months later Sarah and I were in the Philippines with some friends. Here is where I found Thomas Shahan and started working on the art for Incredipede. But I also couldn’t get BrainSplode out of my head. I decided I had time to do design work on a new game and work on Incredipede at the same time so I wrote Rich and said basically “Dude, I want to clone BrainSplode, can I clone your game?” And Rich replied with something like “No… unless I do the art”. Which was pretty much the perfect answer from my point of view!

Mike Prepares Uni in the Philippines

I didn’t have time to write the code for the game so I emailed my friend Mike Boxleiter who wrote Solipskier, 4Fourths and some other games I really like. He was working on Gasketball with Greg Wohlwend but had a two month window where he could work on another game. Luckily he was into it and he even came to the Philippines where work started on the new game. With Mike writing code, Rich doing art, and me doing level design we’d do it small and lean and crank it out in two months! And everything went great! For two months. But as everyone of you have predicted two months was not long enough to finish the game. After two months we had a pretty nice little half-finished game but when we lost Mike I couldn’t take over coding because I was in the middle of Incredipede and Rich didn’t want to do the entire game himself. So it went up on a shelf.

We shipped Incredipede from Mexico!

And it stayed there until April of 2013 when I was finished with Incredipede and Incredipede mobile and was finally looking for the next game. Now I had the time to write code so I emailed Rich and pitched him on restarting the game using the Incredipede engine. He was keen so BrainSplodeDeluxe was reborn!

We asked Mike for a price to buy him out of the partnership and he gave us very reasonable terms. He did a lot of fundamental design work on the game when we started and deserves credit and cash for his work.

So Rich and I started anew about a year and six months ago! It started as a small game we were going to crank out quickly but, as these things go, we got more and more attached to it and more and more excited about it until it became a for-real beautiful full-hearted creation. The last year and a half of development on Deep Under the Sky has been some of the most fun I’ve had making games. I got lucky again with Rich as a collaborator. He’s great to work with, produces amazing art and has brought all his make-that-game-feel-amazing design chops to this game.

And so after that first email written four years ago finally there is almost a full version of BrainSplode in the world. Coming this summer: Deep Under the Sky!

Deep Under the Sky


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Deep Under the Sky


Posted by Colin Northway | Posted in Deep Under the Sky, Development | Posted on 01-08-2014



San Cristobal Island, Panama

You landed in Panama city two months ago. You haven’t been in a car or a city with a population over a few thousand people in as long. The only sounds you hear all day are the chatter of birds and the few people living in your little corner of San Cristobal, a small island off the east coast of Panama.

Right now you’re floating, face down, in the ocean that surrounds the island. You’re staring at a jellyfish. The jellyfish has a fat, translucent, mane and long tendrils that trail off into invisibility. Soon, dolphins will leap by the reef and somersault for joy, an octopus will come hunting in the coral and you’ll eat raw oysters you collected off the stilts of the mangroves. For now the water is warm, the jellyfish is new and beautiful and you aren’t thinking anything. Not the game you’re writing, or the Kickstarter your wife is about to start, or how you have to make another long boat trip into town because you’re running low on dried beans.

You bask in the warmth of the water, focusing on now, on the life all around you, and the shoo-shaa of your breathing through the snorkel. In a few months, when you’re surrounded by the busy, vibrant metropolis of Buenos Aires, you will think back to this time on the reef and decide this is what your game should be about.
Deep Under the Sky is a video game by Rich Edwards and myself. In our game, you take on the life of a strange species of jellyfish who live on Venus. These Venusian jellyfish are different from ours: the extreme pressure of the atmosphere makes their environment both like being under water, and like floating in the sky like a lost birthday balloon. They have the same problems as the rest of us though: they need to find food, and they need their species to flourish. The Air Whales help with both. Life in the clouds of Venus is a dangerous compromise between life-buoying pressure and deadly heat. Beneath the sky on the surface of Venus, the temperature is 450 degrees Celsius and the air pressure is 92 times that of earth. The jellyfish would be instantly incinerated there.

Higher up, where the temperature more tolerable to life, the pressure is too low to keep beings aloft. The Air Whales solve this problem with huge siphons that hang ten kilometers down to the hotter air beneath. They act like living zeppelins kept up by hot air drawn from the depths below. The jellyfish fly from one whale to the next, so each pod of Air Whales is like a life-sustaining archipelago, or a coral reef.

They also look to the Air Whales for a meal. The Whales are constantly leaking hot air through vents to keep themselves neutrally buoyant. Colonies of microscopic bacteria live off the hot air drawn up from deep under the sky. This creates an ecosystem where the Jellyfish feed off creatures just as tiny as their Terran brethren do.


This is the world our game lives in. It’s wonder is inspired by encounters with iridescent comb jellyfish, the dance of colour-changing cuttlefish, and by swimming on a moonless night in an ocean aglow with bioluminescence, where a hand pushed through the water seems to burn with green flame. The gameplay is inspired by riding and tumbling in waves too powerful to control, skipping across the water on a kiteboard, and the feeling of leaping off a cliff, momentarily weightless, before plunging into that quiet, blue-green world below.

But the game is about “now”: the flow of this moment into the next into the next. Your own mind not focused on the fact that your internet connection has been dead for three days, that a dog stole your flute, that the mosquitos will be back tonight. You’re just floating and enjoying the jellyfish.



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Rebuild: Android Beta


Posted by Sarah Northway | Posted in Development, Rebuild3 | Posted on 21-07-2014

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I said I wasn’t going to make a big deal out of it, but here I am tooting the horn: you can now play the Rebuild: Gangs of Deadsville beta on your Android phones and tablets!

How to get it: preorder the full game from - includes PC, Mac, Android & Steam keys too.

How to get it: preorder the full game from
includes Windows, Mac, Android & Steam keys too.

But wait, don’t get TOO excited. It’s still slow, unlikely to run well on anything that costs less than $300 or is more than 2 years old. I’m rather thrilled at how much better it is now than a month ago, but there’s a long way to go.

Colin using Rebuild as a stylus to play Rebuild.

Colin using Rebuild as a stylus… to play Rebuild.

In my career of porting PC games to mobile (all 4 years & 4 games of it), the hardest part is always graphics optimization. It’s given me a renewed sense of wonder for games like Assassin’s Creed and the Elder Scrolls (which Colin and I were respectively binging on last month). How do those games look so amazing when I can barely drag 20 flat buildings around the screen without losing 10fps?

Obviously engine plays a big part in it, and Adobe AIR (aka Flash) is known more for its ease of use than its speed. But the other big part is, I imagine, the thousands of man-hours spent making sure every last drop of system resources is used optimally. Mostly it’s about CPU vs RAM. Lots of little moving parts need more CPU power. Fewer bigger objects requires more RAM. Hit the ceiling on either and your framerate plummets or your app crashes. So if you’re wondering which new tablet to buy, MEMORY DOES MATTER. And I mean Random Access Memory, not what people call storage space on iPhones in their Orwellian desire to confuse language and oppress free thinkers.

Post apocalyptic religious leaders can have any hairstyle they want.

Post apocalyptic religious leaders can have any hairstyle they want.

Anyway speaking of binging on games, I’ve been playing a lot of Rebuild this week. Well, I do that every week, but it’s easier now on my phone because I’m less tempted to stop every 5 minutes and tweak some variable. I played a whole game with no scavengers, which was successful thanks to trading with Gustav & the Pharmacists. Even though you have to wait for stock to replenish now, you can horde resources and sell them at a huge profit when a faction is desperate enough to pay double. Haggling is less punishing now so I ended up with a leader who was a part-time trader, part-time preacher.

For the next big update I’m going to focus on getting the rest of Stephen’s events in, working on the happiness system, and starting campaign mode where you’ll be moving from village to town to city.

(I think the one in the middle is Adam himself!)

(Adam’s handiwork. I think the one in the middle is Adam himself!)

Colin and I are still exploring Super, Natural British Columbia this summer, which is honestly the most perfect place on earth between about July 10th and September 3rd. Check out our recent roadtrip photos with our rad 80′s Porsche.


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Rebuild Combat Enhancements


Posted by Sarah Northway | Posted in Rebuild3 | Posted on 13-06-2014

Rebuild: Gangs of Deadsville has been live on Steam Early Access for about a month. Time for the first major update! It’s doing very well there, with sales already matching the Kickstarter funding, and an entire third of players are buying the deluxe edition. I <3 you guys!

The Update

The first monthly game update just went live after some vigorous testing by forumgoers. It adds a new attack system where you get a couple options that may improve your combat odds before you roll those die… but they often come at a price.

See here for the full version 0.632 changelog.

This guy is going to mess up all your well laid plans

These guys are going to mess up all your well laid plans

I also added a new type of zombie: the mobile zombie mob. You may remember these guys from Rebuild 2: they appear from offscreen and make a beeline for your fort, giving you a few day’s warning to get your defense in place before they hit your walls like a storm.

And I’ve been tweaking the difficulty, because according to reports people are being Impossible, and that’s just plain wrong. In the new update, soldiers are now 30% less effective, and there are nearly twice as many hidden zombies spawning everywhere. But because I just can’t be that cruel, I also reduced the chance of death early in the game, and added a chance to be injured instead of dying to starvation.

Where are we now?

I’ve also put in numerous bugfixes, tweaks, new sounds and other tidbits. All this has been possible thanks to the peaceful and refreshingly uneventful environment here in rural British Columbia. As you may know, Colin and I have lived in some interesting places since we gave away all our stuff and started traveling 4 years ago. We spent last winter in Argentina & Brazil, but decided this summer that we should see some more of our home province. So we’ve rented a house in the mountains about an hour east of Nelson, a town well known for its hippies and marijuana farms. The property we’re staying on does have a small commercial herb farm… but it’s the other kind of herbs.

It is crazy full of wildlife out here. We saw a muskrat, a marmot, and a beaver on our first day out. Practically petted the beaver, and I’d never seen one outside of a zoo before. We’ve woken up and, from our bedroom window, while lying in bed, watched a black bear ambling through the forest. Herds of deer graze regularly just outside the window where I work. Chipmunks, squirrels, snakes, and raccoons – the real, natural kind that live in the woods. Today on a hike up at Kokanee Glacier park we even startled a baby grizzly bear (one of Colin’s most feared animals)… but we didn’t stick around to meet her mama.





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Rebuilding: Factoring in Factions


Posted by Jack Shirai | Posted in Game Design, Rebuild3 | Posted on 30-05-2014

One of the largest additions to the Rebuild series that you can look forward to in Gangs of Deadsville is, well… the gangs. Of Deadsville.

Factions! There are other groups of survivors out there, and they’re struggling just as hard as you are to reclaim the city’s territory before it’s overrun. Of course, that means that your little band of upstarts is in their way, and they’ll let you know how they feel about that. Indeed, stumbling upon the stronghold of a new faction usually means that your fort is in for the occasional raid on its supplies, as well as other, more subtle forms of sabotage.

But wait! It’s not all bad. You start on pretty neutral terms with most factions when you first meet them, which means that they are perfectly happy to talk to you while they’re wandering the city. You can peacefully interact with a faction by sending a survivor out to start a Trade mission on their caravan icon when it appears on the map.

riffsOnce you’ve done that, you’ll get a nice pop-up listing all the resources and items both sides have to swap. If you’ve played a game like, oh, say, Fallout at some point in your life, this menu should seem a bit familiar! You can click on objects your trade partner has available to see how highly they value them. Once you’ve determined that, you can start offering possessions of your own until both sides are at least equal in value, at which point you can swap goods! Hey, if you’re feeling particularly generous, you can even offer more item value than your partner is asking for, which could result in the faction gaining some Respect for you, and perhaps giving you better deals in the future. 

If the faction’s caravan is being a bit too stingy for your tastes, you can always try to Haggle. This gives you a chance to reduce the markup that the faction is applying to its items, but beware: haggling can backfire and raise the markup, so make sure you don’t accidentally price yourself out of something you desperately need!

Some of the factions have access to a pretty wide range of items, while others definitely have specialties. Looking for Medicine? Making friends with the Pharmacists is probably a good idea. Besides, look at those honest, not-at-all-shifty faces! Who doesn’t want to party with those guys?


In addition to Trade, you get a few other options whenever you click a faction’s caravan, such as the ability to attack it. This is a difficult proposition, but it is a great option for jerks, or for players trying to weaken or outright wipe a faction off of the map. Be careful, though, as factions won’t just sit back and let you snipe at their caravans unpunished!

Sound like a lot? We’ve only just scratched the surface of what factions will eventually offer. As time progresses, factions will get their own unique storylines and random events, more detailed battle mechanics, and a wider range of diplomacy options. If all that piques your curiosity, now is the best time to pick up Rebuild: Gangs of Deadsville up on Steam Early Access!


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