Something under the Bed

It's become a personal tradition that I try to post something fun around this time each year, perhaps in the form of a small game that I've written. This year's entry isn't particularly seasonal, but it's still worth posting. It's Something under the bed, a game I've written while working at Builtvisible.

If you're interested in how it works, read on. Otherwise just see how far through the night you can get. It's deliberately difficult.

The game

Hopefully once you've had a go the game is fairly self explanatory, but here's some detail in case you're interested. The game is split into 10 levels, each lasting around 17 seconds, during which monsters pop out from underneath bits of furniture in a room. As soon as a monster is fully revealed, the bar along the top of the screen starts filling up, and if you don't click/tap them to make them disappear, it's game over. With each new level the speed and number of monsters increases.

The game is best played on a touchscreen, where it is definitely possible to complete (particularly if you get a friend to help). If you're using a mouse it's considerably harder but there are keys you can press to hit the monsters. I think guessing what those keys are is part of the fun, so I'll only tell you that the monster at the top of the screen's key is T and leave it at that.

One key suggestion during development was that it should be challenging, so it is. Not a lot of people have completed it, to my knowledge, although a few have come close (it is possible to win though, we checked). So far the record for only using one hand on a touchscreen is 3am.

Development

The game was written entirely from scratch, using jQuery's animate function to control the movement of the monsters. All of the graphics are SVG (apart from the intro animation), meaning that overall the total page size is just over 400KB, which I'm particularly proud of. If you're not a developer, all that means is that it loads like lightning. Interestingly the intro animation isn't a loading screen, it's just there for branding purposes.

Other stuff I'm pleased with includes the clock, which animates round during each level, and the menu monster and his moving eyeballs. Also, everything you see scales with the screen (within a fixed aspect ratio) so it should work on pretty much any screen size, ideally on a landscape orientation.

History

It was a few weeks before Halloween and I was experiencing a slight between projects lull, when my boss suggested the idea of using the downtime to create small, rapidly produced bits of content that might serve as good promotional material for the company. Something for Halloween seemed like a good place to start, and my colleague Andrea (a very talented graphic designer) had already started doing some research into possible options.

I went to Wikipedia to find out some history of the season in the hope that might trigger some ideas. I've never really celebrated it, partly because plastic spiders and witch masks look cheap and tacky regardless of how much you pay for them, but mainly because I don't believe that ghosts or goblins or witchcraft are things that should be celebrated. With that in mind, I started to think about something that could be vaguely but not specifically related to Halloween.

One of the first things I thought of was monsters under the bed. Everyone knows what you're talking about when you mention the monster under the bed, so surely you could make a simple game where monsters tried to come out from under the bed and it was your job to stop them? Andrea and I scribbled down some ideas and got to work independently on our specialist areas - he put together an initial design and I started writing some code.

A few hours later and we had a working prototype. It wasn't much, but it was enough to demonstrate to the rest of the department and get a go ahead to see it through to a finished product. The original aim was to get it all done in no more than five days, but at the end of that time we decided to extend that by a few more in order to give it a professional polish, and I'm pleased with the result.

Huge thanks to Andrea for the design and being patient with my suggested alterations, Amy for marketing and general usability input, and to the rest of Builtvisible's Creative Department for comments, suggestions, and letting me build it in the first place. Hope you enjoyed it.

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