Project: A Dark Room for Nintendo Switch

The thing about Patreon is that every 5 dollars feels like a mountain you climbed with all your might. I show the pledge notifications to my wife, with a mixture of "look, I'm somebody now!" and "I told you I have a real job!"

So imagine my surprise at this one:

Needless to say, that caught my attention!

Last year, Amir Rajan popped onto my Patreon page because he wanted to pitch an idea: he has a game for iOS called A Dark Room, and a Nintendo Switch developer kit, and needed to figure out how to get the game from one platform to another.

Normally, I tell people "just give me the source code and I'll get your game running wherever," but Amir had different plans. What he gave me was a basic little program he wrote on his Mac, called "hello-sdl.c" which just gets an SDL window on the screen and draws a few primitives: some rectangles, some text, etc. Kind of looks like a mockup of the iOS version of the game without any code or content; the "light fire" progress bar doesn't even move. Could I get this running on a Switch and send him the details of what that took to do?

Turns out it wasn't hard: the nice thing about software that uses SDL is that porting it is usually a matter of figuring out how to compile it on a new platform and you're done.

At this point, Amir sent me a download code for the iOS game, and I humored him by playing it for a few minutes. It's just a silly text-based game, right? Minutes turned into an hour, then hours, and I finished the game sometime around sunrise. I couldn't believe it. This crappy looking game totally sucked me in, made me feel something powerful. I wrote back to Amir and told him to send me the source code, and I would get right to work on a full port.

But Amir had different plans.

Over the next few months, we rebuilt A Dark Room from scratch for the Switch. I worked mostly at the lower level, building the support systems in C, and Amir built the game logic in Ruby--Ruby! In a console game!--and we polished and polished it. It's more than a port in several ways: there's been a bunch of improvements added to it, including a mysterious second player that you can cooperate with in some strange ways, and an entire magic system that you probably haven't seen in this sort of game...but you might be surprised to find you're already a wizard. Or a dragon.

More on that later. Soon, even.

You can grab the game for about seven bucks over here. I believe this is only for the US and EU right now; we're racing to get this out in Japan in the next few weeks (you can switch the text to Japanese in any region, though, fwiw!).

For now: we're doing an AMA right now over on /r/NintendoSwitch! Ask us anything about the game, gamedev, the Switch, or like, the most embarrassing thing we did in high school, I don't know. Jump in to that here!

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