Eldritch 2

Dancing Without a Partner

I teased Eldritch 2 on social media last year, but I haven’t properly announced it. And this still isn’t a proper announcement. That will come sometime in the future, with screenshots and a trailer and a PR agency to do the words good. Please do not write that I have announced Eldritch 2. But I haven’t been shy about the fact that I’m working on it, and that I want to develop it in the open as much as possible.

I buy myself a new Moleskine notebook for every project. Most of them end up unused. Not this one.

So, the three big questions: Why Eldritch 2? Who’s making it? When’s it coming out?

Why Eldritch 2?

Since Eldritch‘s release, many players have asked for multiplayer, and my answer has remained: I originally wanted it to be a multiplayer game, but it would have blown up the game’s very tight (8-month) schedule; subsequent tech and design decisions I made along the way locked it into a single-player structure; and let’s save it for the sequel. Those last words have haunted me for a decade.

The obvious option was to follow Spelunky‘s lead and make a co-op action roguelike. Eldritch was already indebted to Spelunky in so many ways, and the model works. It was always unrealistic to convert Eldritch into a multiplayer game for tech reasons, but if I were starting a new project from scratch, I could conceivably do that.

But then I worked on two multiplayer games (The Blackout Club and South Park: Snow Day!) in my day job at Question. Both of those were developed in UE4, which has very stable netcode (which my own Rosa engine does not have); and still I was reminded how much more complicated everything is when code has to resolve four disparate game states in realtime. Multiplayer makes it harder to make games. Or to put that another way, making a multiplayer game for the same budget necessarily sacrifices a lot of features that are important to me.

So I had kinda sorta promised that Eldritch 2 would be a co-op multiplayer game, but also I didn’t want to make a co-op multiplayer game. And the bigger question in my mind was: why make Eldritch 2 at all? Was I just wanting to relive a past moment of glory? Hoping that the modest success of the first game could penetrate the crowded indie scene? What could I do with a Lovecraftian roguelike immersive sim that I couldn’t just do by adding some free expansions to the original game?

It took a long time and a few false starts, but I feel that I’ve found a way to answer those questions and weave multiplayer into it. I don’t want to give too much away, because it is part of a central mystery of the game, but I’m using the procedural nature of roguelikes in a way that I don’t think I’ve seen done before; and which has the convenient side effect of synchronizing the pseudorandom levels that each player sees. The best analogy I can offer is: imagine the daily challenge mode in Spelunky, where every player sees the same levels on the same day—what if you could also see all the other players running those levels at the same time? And what if there were secrets only accessible on certain days? And what if you could rewind to previous daily challenges, and find those secrets again?

Who’s Making It?

It’s me. It’s just me.

Since 2017, I’ve worked full time with Question, and I hope to stay with Question for years to come. They’ve allowed me to continue my personal work at Minor Key Games (even if it has been mostly on the backburner); and in the last year, I’ve switched to working 4/10 weeks (four ten-hour days), opening up my Fridays for personal use. That has given me a lot more time to work on side projects like Eldritch 2.

I developed the first game (and large parts of its engine) in about 8 months, solo, save for an assist from my old Guildhall colleague Kale Menges on the key art. I like the creative independence of working alone; not because I’m allergic to outside ideas, but because I believe the strongest ideas come from a creator with a holistic view of all the parts working together. I can’t imagine trying to pitch the networked elements of Eldritch 2 to a team that was developing the roguelike elements separately; they all need to function with each other.

I formed Minor Key Games with my brother in mid-2013, and we have operated the company as a collective; a shared identity with shared values, but making separate games. This has led to some confusion, with each of us sometimes being credited for games the other made. To be clear, I’m making Eldritch 2 alone. He’s making Project Verse and I’m excited about that.

When’s It Coming Out?

Man, I dunno. I work fast and I’ve got an engine that was literally made to make Eldritch, but this is a part-time project for me, and the scope of Eldritch 2 is substantially bigger than the first game in a few ways. If this were a full-time project, I’d estimate it could be done in 12-18 months. Given my limited time to work on it, it will take, uh, longer than that.

I don’t have a real schedule yet. I don’t know when I’ll have a proof of concept build or a first playable milestone. I don’t know when I will have enough real art to put together a Steam store page and properly announce the game. I don’t know what my marketing strategy will be. I don’t know if I’ll do any kind of public beta or early access. I don’t know when it will be done.

What I do know is that it is rewarding to share things as I work on them, and that early feedback will help shape it into a better game. And this is the most fun I’ve had MAEKing GAEMs in years, so I’m going to keep chasing that.

Eldritch Eldritch 2 NEON STRUCT Slayer Shock


I’ve been developing games professionally for 17 years, and I’ve been developing my personal engine Rosa for about as long. This isn’t going to be a post about whether or not you should make your own engine. I generally wouldn’t advise it, but you should make your own decision. I made my decision a long time ago. I love making games, but I love programming too; and engine development provides some of the most satisfying programming challenges. This is a brief history of Rosa and my current ideas for its future.

The origins of Rosa came from my student work at SMU Guildhall (2005-2007). As part of the curriculum, every programming student had to build their own 3D game engine, with OpenGL and Direct3D rendering, audio, input, collision and physics, etc. The more game-specific parts of an engine were left to each individual to focus on, and I chose to pursue AI with studies on behavior systems, awareness models, and pathfinding. This was my first time writing a 3D engine from scratch, and I got it done but it was messy.

When I graduated in 2007 and became a full-time professional game developer, I also began building a new personal engine, taking the good parts of what I had learned and cleaning up the messier, poorly-architected bits. Incidentally, I jettisoned OpenGL at this point, believing Direct3D to be the way (and Windows to be the only OS). I did this work mostly for fun, but I also hoped to eventually make a game of my own. Between 2007 and 2012, I built a lot of engine parts without ever getting close to actually shipping a game.

Brass City Couriers (unfinished, circa 2009-2012).

I leaned on Blender heavily at this time, even using it as my level editor because that seemed easier than building a level editor. The lighting model was baked and static, encoded into level geo as vertex colors and applied to dynamic meshes through a coarse volumetric directional ambience grid. Game objects were inheritance-based. Development was slow.

Codename “Agency” (extremely unfinished, circa 2012).

In the summer of 2011, I was frustrated with the inheritance model of game objects and decided to experiment with this fancy new “Entity Component System” concept I’d been hearing about. I was also eager to explore procedural generation, for reasons I don’t quite recall but probably had something to do with Minecraft. I built a simple textmode graphics framework and began building an infinite procedurally-generated world populated with composition-based objects. It was fast, it was fun, and in retrospect, it may have been the most important step I could have taken in my career.

Second Order (unfinished, circa 2012).

In early 2013, I left the relative security of my Big Commercial Games job and went into business for myself. (A few months later, my brother did the same and we formed Minor Key Games.) I had a very limited budget and needed to ship a game in around 8 months. The obvious choice might have been to lean on all the tech I had built over the prior 6 years, but instead, I ripped it all up and streamlined everything. I used the simplest possible art and rendering: all albedo, no normal maps, no specular lighting. I rewrote my collision code for AABBs exclusively, because it’s fast and simple and I was using voxels so everything was axis-aligned anyway. And I incorporated some ECS concepts to make game object composition and reusability a breeze.

Eldritch (2013), Minor Key Games.

My engine didn’t have a name at this time, but I’ll call this Rosa v1. Eldritch was a modest success and I followed it with my Thief-meets-Deus Ex cyberpunk stealth love letter NEON STRUCT. I didn’t make many engine changes for Neon; I improved my tools and optimized the voxel lighting grid to support turning lights on and off at runtime, but it is fundamentally still Rosa v1: all albedo, with voxel worlds.

NEON STRUCT (2015), Minor Key Games.

By the time I finished Neon, I was growing tired of Minecraft comparisons. I liked the ease of working with voxel worlds, but I couldn’t escape the shadow of the king of voxels. I was also starting to feel constrained by how much I had cut my engine to the bone; in particular, I was constantly working around the lack of dynamic lights and eager to rebuild my rendering skills. I undertook a substantial overhaul of my engine during development of the next game, removing voxels in favor of mesh-based geo and replacing the simple forward renderer with a deferred renderer using a principled physically-based lighting model.

Slayer Shock (2016), Minor Key Games.

My engine still didn’t have a name, but I’ll call this Rosa v2. Slayer Shock missed the mark, but that’s a story for another time. I ran out of money around the end of 2016, got a job, and largely put my engine and my games aside for a while. From 2017 to 2020, I dabbled in a couple of projects but ultimately got nowhere. But while copying code back and forth between a couple of projects and renaming classes to match the project, I realized that it would be easier if I had a unifying name for game-level classes in my codebase. So instead of renaming top-level classes like EldritchFramework to NeonFramework to VampFramework, all my games could use one common codename. I picked “Rosa” because it was like tattooing “MOM” on my arm, and that became the de facto name of my engine.

In 2020, stuck inside while a pandemic raged on, I started doing game jams to scratch the indie dev itch. I finished four game jams that year, and have done at least one every year since. These game jams culminated in what I consider a trilogy of minimalist first-person games: NEON STRUCT: Desperation Column, Li’l Taffer, and Schloss der Wölfe. Each of these improved upon my engine’s pipeline and workflow, largely by leaning on procedural generation. I developed tools to quickly generate procedural meshes and materials for world geo, and I reinvented my procedural level generation algorithm to create indoor spaces nested inside larger outdoor spaces. These three games also share a common visual style which I’ve been calling my signature “toy aesthetic”.

Schloss der Wölfe (2023).

I consider this current generation of the engine to be Rosa v3, and it is the engine I am now using to develop Eldritch 2. It combines the fast iteration and relatively simple art pipeline of Rosa v1 with the physically-based dynamic lighting and materials of Rosa v2. It’s a joy to work in, and work on. My current work is revising my procedural level generation (again) to bridge the gap between the more spatially plausible worlds of my recent game jams and the intentionally bizarro crashed-together spaces of Eldritch.

Looking to the future, there’s at least one unavoidable tech task that I need to deal with. Rosa is still using Direct3D 9 and OpenGL 2, absolutely ancient graphics APIs that have increasingly fragile vendor support. I don’t feel the need to upgrade for any particular modern features—I’m actually rather happy working with 20-year old tech—but OpenGL is no longer supported on Mac and getting a modern Windows PC set up to build a Direct3D 9 app requires jumping through a lot of hoops that they would clearly developers not do anymore. I’ll have to port to Vulkan eventually, and probably Metal if I ever want to target Mac again.

That’s a lot of words, and I’ve barely scratched the surface of my engine. I’ve got some tech that has been largely stable since as far back as Eldritch: AI behavior trees, event + reaction gameplay scripting, collision detection and sweeps/traces. I’ve got a custom cook process that is fast as heck. I’ve shipped 13 games or game jams on this engine, and it has grown a lot along the way. And I’m excited to keep using it!


On Credits, and Other Things

Hi, I’m David Lindsey Pittman, and I make games.

Growing up, I was embarrassed by my middle name: Lindsey. That was a girl’s name, and I was a boy. I didn’t want anyone to know that was my name.

In my early years working in games, a lot people called me Dave. For a while, I hated it, because that wasn’t my name! Then I accepted it; and I didn’t just accept it, I adopted it. For a hot minute, I was Dave, and Dave was me. Then I rejected it again.

Names are fuckin’ weird yo, and I’m cis so I’m sure I don’t know the half of it.

Sometime during the pandemic year (I mean 2020, but they’re all pandemic years since then, right?), I decided to start using my full name in the credits. “David Lindsey Pittman”. No one calls me that, but that’s who I am. There are a lot of David Pittmans in the world, but I’m pretty sure I’m the only David Lindsey Pittman.

That was the same year I got into a brief spat on Twitter with a stranger over some hot take I tweeted about guns in video games. I don’t remember exactly what I said, and I don’t remember exactly what he said, but I definitely remember that I replied that I could end his career with a tweet. Because it was bullshit machismo posturing on my part, and it would have blown over and been forgotten the next day, except that a shitty alt-right comicsgate site decided to make a story out of it; and 4 years later, that’s still in the top results if you Google my name. The internet doesn’t forget anything.

On Halloween 2022, driving home from a screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, I was stopped by Plano PD for speeding, and arrested on suspicion of DWI. Within a week, if you Googled my full name, you could find my mug shot and my home address. I don’t mind owning up to my fuck-ups (fucks-up? how do you pluralize fuck-up?), but it is extremely fucked up that personal information in police and court records can get exposed online by sharks who will ask you to pay them to take it down.

I’ve lived my life online for as long as there has been online. I was DavidLP013 on AOL. I was David “Kyp Durron” Pittman in Unreal mods. I was MillennialDavid on AIM, before “millennial” was a thing anyone said. Then I was dphrygian, and that one stuck.

Sometimes, it would be nice to be invisible. I probably wouldn’t have so much anxiety if I just shitposted from an anonymous account, instead of being “David from Twitter” as my coworkers affectionately(?) call me. But for better or worse, my life is an open book. I’m 40 years old today, I’ve made more games than mistakes, and I hope the next chapter is a happier one.

I’m David Lindsey Pittman. And I make games.


Schloss der Wölfe

I made a game about hunting Werewolf Hitler and punching Nazi zombies in the face. It’s called Schloss der Wölfe (“Castle of the Wolves”) and it’s out now for Windows and Linux:

Schloss der Wölfe (or “Wolf” for short, because I’m not going to keep typing ö) was conceived as a short personal game jam, in the vein of the 7DFPS jam but on my own schedule. I started work on it on September 15, and intended it to be done by September 25. It’s now almost Halloween and I’ve just launched it, so… what happened?

For starters, it was probably a poor idea to do a game jam during a real crunchy month at my job. I made very slow progress the first weekend and had no time or energy to work on it midweek, so by the second weekend, it was clear that I wouldn’t hit my deadline. But I still wanted to finish it, so I let it slide into October. It’s a good game for Halloween-month, after all. Then it slipped the mid-October timeframe, as I got sidetracked with various tech detours and let the scope of the project grow beyond the original plan. But I was determined to finish it by Halloween, and here it is!

Wolf is the third in a series of minimalist first-person games I’ve made over the past two years, after NEON STRUCT: Desperation Column and Li’l Taffer. These three games are similar in design to my commercial games of the 2010s (Eldritch, NEON STRUCT, and Slayer Shock)—it’s what I love to make and what my engine was largely built to do—and one of my goals for each was to test new features and improvements to my engine by forcing myself to ship something small instead of noodling on tech with no real target.

I had begun some initial work on Eldritch 2 earlier this year—and I hope to get back to it now that Wolf is done—but that project got held up for months as my life got busy with buying a home, summer parenting duty, and the aforementioned crunch, among many other things. So Wolf was also a good opportunity to clear my mind and shake off the rust after a few months away from regular work in my codebase. As such, I let myself explore avenues that I’d normally avoid during a game jam, such as:

  • Reorganizing my deferred renderer G-buffer to replace the reflectance channel with an implicit reflectance (determined by metallicity) and freeing up a channel for ambient occlusion maps.
  • Adding new features to the texture generator that I developed earlier this year for Eldritch 2, including support for creating AO maps.
  • Completely rewriting my procedural geometry generator functions, to simplify the process of adding new shapes.
  • Replacing the simple echo filter I’d been using since 2018 with an actual reverb filter (which involved a crash course in digital reverb design—fascinating topic that I never knew much about before).
  • Implementing console commands, finally.

So, yes, a lot of tech detours; but it accomplished that goal of shipping something new and not just leaning on what my engine could already do to make a game as fast as possible. I consider that a success!

Enough about tech, let’s talk about the game. This is the original pitch, as I wrote in my email thread of potential game jam ideas:

Something I’ve never done before is a zombie game, and I have a feeling zombies in my signature toy aesthetic could be funny AND tense. Some light survival mechanics in a mid-sized generated city (or castle?) and a simple L4D style goal… that’s compelling. Maybe make it a Wolfenstein-core Nazi zombie thing for added punch. Could also use the comics style of Fray [an abandoned game project of mine, not the Joss Whedon comic], and really lean into a classic Captain America vibe. Call it “Schloss der Wölfe” (Castle of the Wolves) or something. Codename could be “Wolf”.

Of course, I’m not the first person to discover that the only thing better than killing Nazis or killing zombies is killing Nazi zombies; but as I said, I’d never made a zombie game before, so it stuck. The original idea was more stealth- and survival-oriented, but as I began to explore the concept and came up with Werewolf Hitler (initially as a joke that mi-i-ight be a stretch goal at best, but eventually became the central premise of the game), the tone got sillier and the genre shifted toward action.

I nailed down the high-level shape of the map and the pacing beats pretty early, but the bulk of the level design didn’t happen until this past weekend. In between, I focused on the mechanics: splitting my hands state and weapons system apart to support dual-wielding (the left hand can only punch, but it is technically a weapon in the code), optimizing AIs for zombie hordes, adding a simple zombie toxin status effect, and a whole lot of bespoke scripting for the (ahem) big boss fight. Also, it’s truly surprising to me that I’d never previously shipped a game with explosive barrels. I’m happy to finally check that one off my gamedev bucket list.

I’ll probably share more as I unwind over the next few days and reflect on this project. It’s my favorite thing I’ve made in a while, but it’s been six weeks of intense work, and I’m tired.


NEON STRUCT: Desperation Column gamedev postmortem

NEON STRUCT: Desperation Column is the third game in the NEON STRUCT series, and the second that I’ve released as a free game jam.

The reason I’ve been doing game jams again recently is that sometimes I need the extrinsic motivation of a theme, a competition, or a deadline. I like making games, but it’s easy to get lazy, and an extra push doesn’t hurt.

This is the first game jam I’ve done in a very long time that put gameplay first. I’ve been doing narrative-focused stuff for a while, and that’s been great too; but this is pure action gameplay, and I’m at home here.

I started from a codebase that already had a lot of the things I needed for this game. I think that’s fine for a game jam, it’s the same as starting with Unreal or Unity + your fav plugins, but I definitely didn’t make this from scratch in a week.

The 7dfps jam has generous rules (read: no rules), but I wanted to finish on time AND make something good. So I knew I’d have to be careful about scope, and baby I LIVE for being careful about scope.

My initial parameters were: 1 weapon, 1 enemy type, 1 environment. That grew to 2 enemy types, plus an NPC type, and 3 environments (sorta); but the ultra lo-fi style meant those additions didn’t explode scope.

You can search bodies and containers, but there is only 1 resource to find: ammo. You have limited ammo mostly because it gives you a reason to search containers. And it maybe creates tense moments when you run out.

There are no health pickups, no upgrades or unlocks, no skills or perks. No conversation trees, no shops, no character customization. I’ve done all those things before, I still have the code, and I chose to not do them here.

The result is a minimalist game that is now one of my favorite personal projects: a pure distillation of the action/FPS mechanics at the heart of all my work. I think it’s the closest thing to Eldritch I’ve made in a long time.

And it broke me out of a mental rut where I’d felt like doing this sort of thing was too hard, or would take too long. It wasn’t, and it didn’t. It was a sheer joy to make this game, and I hope that shows.