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below the house

below the house

below the house (mac version) is my entry in ludum dare 15 (a forty-eight hour games design competition). the house is new york, and the- actually, it’s just about exploring the caverns below your house.

that was the theme this time: caverns. and i knew right away that i wanted to draw the maps, not sculpt them out of 8×8 blocks, to mimic the twisting, irregular shapes of natural caverns. fortunately, the way game maker handles collision detection makes this really easy: i did the same kind of thing in all roads.

i also did the same trick with light that i pulled in that game (it’s just using drawing depth craftily). “flashlight” was one of the ludum dare themes that wasn’t voted as high as “caverns,” but as i worked on the below the house it became evident that (PRO-TIP) what this game is really about is the flashlight.

i challenged myself, technically, in a few ways, but none that should leap out and announce themselves, if i’ve done them right. the source file is included, as per ludum dare rules (it’s not just about getting there, but in showing others how you got there), so feel free to poke around if you have game maker.

oh, and i’m moving from new york to berkeley, california on september 12. thanks, piggy!


  1. FishyBoy wrote:

    I really liked how you could get a really creepy atmosphere with nothing but the limited visual range of the flash light.

    8/30/2009 at 9:30 pm | permalink
  2. Alex wrote:

    The ending made me jump, its good, good jorb

    8/30/2009 at 9:36 pm | permalink
  3. ProfessorKatz wrote:

    I’m downloading right now…
    Can’t wait to look at the source file…

    8/30/2009 at 10:21 pm | permalink
  4. auntie wrote:

    you should probably wait until you’ve played the game at least.

    8/30/2009 at 10:29 pm | permalink
  5. FishyBoy wrote:

    I beat it for real this time (didn’t know right click did anything)

    Going through the room without the light is incredibly creepy.

    8/30/2009 at 11:13 pm | permalink
  6. plvhx wrote:

    oh my god.

    i just got what i assume was the bad ending and it did a lot more for me than any of the setups from the myriad of survival horror games i’ve played.

    thank you so much for this, i am going to have fun watching my friends go through it.

    8/30/2009 at 11:57 pm | permalink
  7. niitaka wrote:

    Nice! I live in Berkeley. I don’t know if you’re a fan of Bob Dylan at all but he’s performing here in October!

    8/31/2009 at 12:30 am | permalink
  8. jw wrote:

    that was good, but what bothered me was the main char being a dif resolution then the game. >: Why?

    8/31/2009 at 6:22 am | permalink
  9. auntie wrote:


    i went with a small resolution for the caverns themselves in order to keep the filesize smaller: each section of the caverns (of which there are three) being an image (because the caverns are drawn).

    i played with scaling objects differently because i liked the way a smooth circle of flickering light looked against big chunky pixels: it made them bigger, otherworldly.

    had i kept the protagonist at a resolution to match the caverns’, her sprite would have been only four by four pixels. not a lot to work with, and i wanted the protagonist’s sprite to help characterize her relationship with the flashlight: in the final game, her eyes follow the flashlight as the player moves it.

    in an earlier version of the game, there were more objects at the larger resolution. the house was in the background as a crisp silhouette, which created a contrast between the world above and the world below. when i decided that the player would begin inside and move through the house, i needed to change it to a smaller resolution so the collision routines would work right.

    there’s one object in the final game, other than the player and the gradient sunset, that’s at a larger resolution than the caverns, and i think the effect is appropriately jarring. the player’s resolution makes the caverns seem much bigger compared to her, which i think is also appropriate.

    8/31/2009 at 10:34 am | permalink
  10. Radix wrote:

    I worked out the right-click but since it’s not apparent that you’re actually moving during a vertical drop I wasn’t sure I had made it down the hole. So I reflexively turned the torch back on and ooooh shiiiiiit

    8/31/2009 at 1:26 pm | permalink
  11. Hunter wrote:


    8/31/2009 at 1:38 pm | permalink
  12. Hunty wrote:


    (sorry for the double post)

    8/31/2009 at 1:39 pm | permalink
  13. Adam wrote:

    I am having a weird thing happen where the flashlight when I leftclick points in a random direction that I can’t seem to control. I don’t know if I’m just doing it wrong or what.

    I like the utter lack of sound until the end – or at least what I think is the end – probably the bad end. It really made me jump.

    BTW, glad to have someone so cool coming to the Bay Area.

    9/3/2009 at 10:44 am | permalink
  14. auntie wrote:

    that is a weird thing. you should be able to see your mouse cursor. does it point towards somewhere other than the cursor when the cursor’s on-screen?

    9/4/2009 at 3:53 am | permalink
  15. nobody wrote:

    So lovely! But it’s a real shame there’s no text early on to teach you how to turn off your light! If I hadn’t read the comments here I would have thought the dangerous ending was all there was…

    One solution would be to change the mechanic so that holding left-click is necessary for keeping the light on. The first dark cave area could have either a torch on the wall or a stray bit of starlight from a hole illuminating the “left click” text, with “to light your torch/flashlight” then being illuminated by your torch/flashlight.

    The only other flaw was mentioned above. Without the light on, there’s no indication at all of height/falling. Easiest was to deal with that would be with sound…

    Thanks for the neat game!

    9/4/2009 at 9:52 pm | permalink
  16. FishyBoy wrote:

    Nobody, the whole lack of indication of where you are is something I really liked. It makes the moment so tense when you have no idea whether you’ve made it across yet or not, and you’re wondering if you should play it safe and keep in the dark, or finally turn the light on and make your way out.

    9/4/2009 at 11:30 pm | permalink
  17. auntie wrote:

    i spent a while trying to come up with a sprite for when the protagonist is falling, but i couldn’t produce anything i liked. using sound is a good solution.

    9/5/2009 at 9:18 pm | permalink
  18. Adam wrote:

    Oh, you use the mouse pointer to aim the light? That makes sense. I don’t know how I missed that.

    How handy. Now I can read all of the words hidden in the walls.

    9/7/2009 at 2:21 am | permalink
  19. BCS wrote:

    There’s another ending? Hmm. I just got the “bad” one with the pit of eyes.

    Also, the rooms with the crosses are hellaciously creepy, as is the intenstine section of the caverns.

    I’ll have to give it anther go since I thought the only thing right-clicking did was turn off the light…

    9/7/2009 at 1:56 pm | permalink
  20. BCS wrote:

    I screamed like a little girl again … is an ending without the eyes??

    9/7/2009 at 2:05 pm | permalink
  21. auntie wrote:


    yes, there is a different ending.

    9/7/2009 at 4:04 pm | permalink
  22. Lyx wrote:

    This was refreshingly… different, in a simple way. Thank you :)

    9/8/2009 at 5:19 pm | permalink
  23. dess have you played this you should play it it’s pretty good

    i were in your position, with your style, i’d be looking pretty hard at flixel right now

    9/9/2009 at 11:43 pm | permalink
  24. *if

    9/9/2009 at 11:44 pm | permalink
  25. auntie wrote:

    i have a copy of flixel sitting on my desktop waiting to be installed, but i’ve been too busy because of the move to play around with it yet.

    9/10/2009 at 7:39 am | permalink

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