Ahoy there pirates!
It’s been a hot minute since our last post, so we wanted to give you an update on the current status of Help! I’m Haunted, iOS updates, the PC version and the direction Sky Pirate Studios will be heading moving forward.
As you may all have heard we finally released our first game Help! I’m Haunted. It has been a whirlwind for the last three weeks and we thought it would be a good idea to let everyone know what our plans moving on are now that we have finished looking at all those crazy numbers and sales data from around the world – isn’t that insane that we got a bit global!? Reviews have been crazy, mixed but mostly pretty fantastic and it’s really surreal having a product out on the global market – especially when it’s your first game.
Firstly we want to thank everyone who has supported us and their kind words, those who bought the game and everyone who gave us feedback. We truly couldn’t have done this without all of your help and we feel like we finally hit a significant milestone in our studio’s existence.
We have received a tonne of feedback, both positive and negative! Some people love Haunted and some people not so much. After taking some time to step back and assess our feedback we are now back to work on making Help! I’m Haunted a better experience for all players.
Now — onto the meat of the matter!
The largest issue we had since release was with our onboarding experience. While the help we received from our Discord community playtesting the game was fantastic and vital for bugfixing during development, we found that since the community were so familiar with the game, watching them play made the general user slip from our mind. We kinda missed that we may need to show the average person how to play the game. We want our first game to be accessible to as many people as possible and we are determined to finish strong on this.
So, as a result, we put our heads together to see if we could rapidly and efficiently create something to address this very issue. Our solution was some animated billboards that will play throughout the tutorial, visually aiding the player as you get to grips on the movement and shooting of Help! I’m Haunted. We’ll be updating Help! I’m Haunted to include a better tutorial for everyone out there who was having a frustrating time in the first moments of booting. We have also done some small quality of life changes to help the game run a bit smoother – and though this isnt perfect, we hope it helps for the majority of our players. We are working hard on making these changes and will make sure you’re the first to know when these fixes are ready to drop.
We encourage anyone if they have not already to join our discord and help report bugs, say hello or even just hang out – more on that in a bit.
Our link to our discord is : https://discord.gg/68v8SEK
Apart from our continued work on the iOS version of Help! I’m Haunted, we have one last milestone we want to hit — the hotly anticipated PC release of Help! I’m Haunted! Although we do not have a hard date in mind currently, we are aiming to release before the end of the year and, failing that, January. The porting process is something that is new to us and we want to take the time to do it correctly. For the PC release, we want to make significant changes to the controls and UI that will make the game a better fit for the platform. Not only that, but we wanted to celebrate by creating some extra content that will be available upon release of the PC version and will be added to iOS versions in a future update. The warm reception Help! I’m Haunted has received has given us the much needed energy to get back to work and we wanted to say a thank you in the form of a new level and some other neat new stuff!
We are super excited to get this out as a thank you to everyone who has bought the game.
Finally, I want to take the time to talk about where we are going after our work on Help! I’m Haunted comes to a close
One of the biggest things we want to try moving forward is create a community. We want to be able to better interact with people interested in our work and be more vocal on what we are currently working on. We are currently playing with a few ideas for interacting with our user base more, from creating a Patreon to creating video content — whether that might be of game development-related stuff or just messing around and playing games together. We’ll be trying our best to put ourselves out there, and we want to encourage everyone to join us and help us do what we love doing — making and playing games.
Aside from content like that, we do have some projects we will be working on post-Haunted. From rough scribble designs on a cosmic blackboard to actual bleeding prototypes! We will be making an effort into showing more of our work more frequently in the future. This both helps us with development but we hope it also excites everyone about stuff we want to make.
You may be able to spot the next game we are working on. Although I’m not going to say what it is, you can bet your sweet six shooters that we are excited. We will have more news on that as soon as we can, and of course you can always check our Twitter to see what we’re working on!
Lastly, I will be working on a post-mortem all about the huge learning experience of making our first game, Help! I’m Haunted. I want to go through our process, the challenges we faced and everything we managed to get done. I want to do this for a couple of reasons. Although I’m not the strongest writer, I want to take the opportunity to give some insight on creating a game for the very first time and what that experience has been like for both Kevyn and I — the good and the bad. I hope this is a tool that others can utilize and hopefully learn from, as we did. Secondly, I want to use it as a way to finalize my own work on Haunted! and allow myself as a designer to say to myself that it is OK to move on and to work on another game after that point.
That sure was a lot of words! Thanks for sticking with me this far. I want to thank everyone again for being absolutely sensational and for supporting us doing the one thing we want to do. We are really excited about the future of our work and excited to be able to do this with everyone who follows our work.
Until next time,
Hi everyone! Hope you all had an especially SPOOKY Halloween? Well, if you didn’t, you must’ve missed out on our announcement on Twitter – Help! I’m Haunted was released on the App Store on Halloween, October 31st!
Purchase Help! I’m Haunted here!
Players will jump, dodge and shoot through level after level of old-school platforming action. When Harry gets the call, he has to rush to the scene and start shooting the place up, whether it’s a creepy campsite, a spooky school, a frightening farm or a restaurant rife with the restless dead!
So far the response to Help! I’m Haunted has been truly great and it’s been amazing for us to finally see players out there blasting away all manner of creepy foe and fright across Neo-Transylvania
One more thing before we go: PC fans, we hear you! We are working on the PC version of Help! I’m Haunted with hopes of releasing it as soon as it’s ready.
Thanks for playing, and have fun!
— Sky Pirate Studios
Hello! I’m vice-vice-Captain Jace Van Kaathoven. I act as the community manager of Sky Pirate Studios, and I also wrote words for Help! I’m Haunted. Right now I have a very sore throat and it hurts to talk, so just read this blog post in the voice of an old, kindly sailor with a gravelly voice. As I speak to you, a smile plays on my thin, weary lips – a humble smile that belies my experiences adrift the seas that my glazed eyes bore witness and my body persevered. “These bones have stories”, I say, my corn-cob pipe bouncing upon my lips between utters. “These old bones have stories to tell”.
Right. Well then. Help! I’m Haunted is coming out soon and we’re all really excited!
From a mere glance at Help! I’m Haunted, its influences and tone are evident: Joey and Kevyn’s original vision has held true throughout the project as a retro homage to Halloween festivities and ‘80s horror movies that delight in their use of innumerable tropes – the flash of lightning that illuminates the windows of the mysterious mansion, punctuated by the discordant keys of a synthesizer and the screech of bats upheld by string. Then an animatronic skeleton pops out and goes “waaaugh!” and you get all scared.
Sorry about the last part, I couldn’t fit it into the analogy. I just wanted to include an animatronic skeleton. You get the picture.
Help! I’m Haunted doesn’t have animatronic skeletons, but it does have green-skeletons-that-are-fire! Who could ask for more.
Everyone at work on Help! I’m Haunted has done an excellent job with creating this tone; Kevyn’s art and animation is, needless to say, perfect for the project; Joey’s level and encounter design evokes the feeling and charm of horror set pieces in the stylings of Konami’s Castlevania, while Rob’s music ties it all together in spectacular, chip-synth fashion. Based on these factors, I wanted to write flavour-text based on this pre-established tone. Nothing too complicated – primarily light-hearted jokery that evokes the spooky, referential nature of the game. Think the taglines on the front of a Goosebumps book and you’ve got about the right idea.
Unfortunately, “Reader beware! You’re in for a Cool Fun Time!” is not nearly as catchy a tagline.
Despite the tone of Help! I’m Haunted being created through the implementation of cheesy horror clichés, locales and beasties, I think you can see a lot of our own personality as a studio in the game as well. Due to the compact nature of Sky Pirate Studios, game development is a very collaborative process. One day, Joey can suggest “Hey, it would be super cool if we had x in the game”, and we’ll make it happen, or I can suggest the inclusion of a certain character and that can happen as well. This is not to say that our games do not have direction, but rather the opposite – our hope is to work together to create shared visions of games we want to play. And we hope you’ll want to play them as well.
Until next time!
Good evening passengers, this is your Captain Kevyn speaking. Thank you for joining me for this introductory blog post.
The idea for Help! I’m Haunted was borne of the Large Hadron Collision of Pixel’s Kero Blaster, the George and Jonathon track Sludge Mansion, and a healthy respect for the work of New York’s Bravest; the Ghostbusters.
The plan was that by utilising my strength at pixel art, working at a small resolution and having a simple retro design we would be able to finish the game by Halloween (2 Halloweens have passed since then). It has been a long journey on a retrospectively very ambitious first project, but very soon you will be able to play it!
My work on Help! I’m Haunted includes art for characters, UI and effects as well as programming everything. While I’ve been doing pixel art since I was a kid, I’d only scripted a few small prototypes before this and after rolling up me sleeves and getting to work I’ve learned an incredible amount (although my tip to budding developers would be to start with something much smaller). Here! Look at some monsters that didn’t make it in the game!
During this project I’ve been using handy pixel art program Pyxel to quickly draft designs and animations without having to deal with an elaborate animation editor. You just line your frames up next to each other in the grid and the animator will just play them in a row. It doesn’t have a lot of indepth animation tools, holding different frames for different amounts of time for example, but what it lacked in that regard it definitely makes up for by being lightweight and convenient. I was almost always able to just copy from the canvas straight into a sprite atlas, making implementing animations quick and easy. Pyxel has become my go to pixel editor, usurping (I kid you not) Microsoft Paint, but Paint’s secret strength is the same as Pyxels, it has all the essential tools I need without having to deal with lag or crashes from tools I might never use. Thanks Pyxel!
In the future I’ll do some blog posts about mistakes we made during development, and something I focused on in Help! I’m Haunted; Game feel and microsecond to microsecond gameplay. Bye bye! I’m a pirate, bye!
Ahoy, scurvy landlubbers! Welcome to our first official blog post. Though we have been very quiet until now, everyone here at Sky Pirate Studios has been working very hard to plunder the most excellent artisanal pixels to present to you in the form of our first game – Help! I’m Haunted.
So before we crack open our heads and feast all the gooey innards, I’d like to take the time to introduce myself in the first of our introduction blog posts.
I am your Captain, Joey. I do a lot of the level tiles and design, as well as other game design duties such as communing with ancient sea gods. They love video games.
My journey in this crew started when my co-worker Kevyn and I finished university and decided that we wanted create a pirate empire the world had never seen the likes of before. However, when we quickly realized this was impossible and possibly very illegal, we settled on starting an indie studio to make fun games that we can laugh at and have fun with.
Currently I’m drowning in a sea of pixels that run through each of our levels, all the while improving each enemy encounter and squashing levels bugs.
As you may be able to tell, my main influences for this project (and the level design therein) has primarily been the first three Castlevania games for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Those games just knew how to design encounters, and they had some damn fine background tiles.
Though I’d like to keep this introductory post short and sweet, I’d like to conclude by saying a big thank you for all the continued support from friends and family, as well as everyone who has been supporting us and our project. We’d like to thank Film Victoria especially for their support, as their funding has not only has greatly assisted with the marketing of Help! I’m Haunted, but has also given us a much needed moral boost. Now that things are really picking up for us we want communication with you guys to be much more consistent, so we’re looking forward to showing off a lot more cool stuff that we’ve been working on very soon.
With that, I’m heading below deck to load up some cannons. Until next time!