Sketchy Maze

"a drawing-based maze game."

Frequently Asked Questions

About Sketchy Maze.

General

What is Sketchy Maze?

It is a “drawing-based maze game” themed around hand-drawn maps on paper.

With Sketchy Maze, you can draw your own levels and then play them as a side-scrolling platformer game. You can draw maps freehand or with some basic drawing tools (like rectangles and ellipses), specify which color lines are “solid” and which behave like “fire” or “water,” and then drag and drop various “doodads” such as buttons and doors onto your map to add some interactive elements.

If you’re not much of a level designer, fear not! The game will also feature some built-in levels that you can play and get some inspiration from. You will also be able to play custom maps created by others, possibly with custom doodads included in them depending on your version of the game.

What devices can I play it on?

Sketchy Maze is first and foremost a videogame for desktop operating systems. It should run on any GNU/Linux, Microsoft Windows or Apple macOS computer.

If you’re feeling dangerous, you can also run it on GNU/Linux smartphone devices like the Purism Librem 5 or Pine64 Pinephone. Mobile ports are relatively down on the priority list, but it already sorta functions.

See the Download page.

What are “doodads?”

Doodads are the dynamic objects you drag and drop into your level to make it “do” things. They are the Buttons, Switches, Trapdoors, and other traps and hazards to create puzzles and perilous platforming sections of your level.

The game ships with a handful of built-in doodads and players may also create their own, and program their behavior using JavaScript.

Do I need to learn how to program?

Nope! You can just draw some levels and use pre-made doodads in them. The “1.0” version of the game is expected to include a proper set of single player levels that can simply be played so you don’t even need to draw your own level if you’re not feeling creative.

You can also create some useful custom doodads in-game by selecting from a “generic script” to drive its behavior. For example, you could draw a “spikes” doodad and choose the “Generic Fire” script and it will act as a hazard to the player in-game: “Watch out for spikes!”

You can use these generic scripts as a base and program your own logic and behavior in JavaScript. There are some full example doodads that you can learn from as well for creating your own custom Warp Doors or playable characters.

The user interface is ugly!

I find the “Windows 95” look charming.

Along with this game I’m also developing my own user interface toolkit from scratch, with a simple API inspired by the Tk toolkit. It happens that the “Windows 95” look is easy to draw programmatically, as a button is just a few rectangles overlapped to draw shadows and highlights.

The user interface toolkit is released as a free and open source module that other Go developers can use to draw buttons, menus and other UI controls into a graphical application. One day, the UI toolkit will support fancy theming of widgets, and Sketchy Maze will very easily look better (or have user-configurable themes available to choose from).

Pricing and Distribution

Is this game free?

Yes!

While the game is in beta, all releases are 100% free and fully functional.

After the game reaches “1.0” it will have a free version and a paid one which unlocks additional modding capabilities, like the ability to embed custom doodads in your levels. I like Minecraft’s model of “buy the game once, free updates forever” and will do similar.

The full version would mainly add quality-of-life improvements supporting custom user content, such as the ability to play a custom level which comes with all of its custom doodads, wallpaper, and other assets embedded directly inside the level file.

The free versions of the game would include:

  • One chapter of built-in single player levels.
  • The level editor where you can create and share your own custom maps, using the built-in doodads that the game shipped with. You can also play levels created by other players as long as they use the built-in doodads only, or uses custom doodads the player has installed locally.

Paid versions of the game will include additional features such as:

  • Additional chapters of built-in single player levels.
  • Better support for custom doodads: when sharing your level with others, you may embed all custom doodads inside of the level so that it can be easily played on a different computer, and the ability to play such levels (the free version won’t use embedded custom doodads).
  • Possibly some access to online account features (in-game UI to share and download levels and doodads made by others, etc.)

It is expected that the full set of built-in doodads will be equally available in free versions of the game. And these doodads should be varied and featureful enough to create all sorts of custom and creative levels, which can be shared with other players.

Will the game feature any form of Digital Rights Management (DRM)?

I hate DRM, so I don’t expect so.

Likely, the same program .exe will use “free version” features by default until registered as a paid version, with either of these options:

  • With a license key file for offline activation.
  • With an online check to an account server (optional)
  • If released on Steam, a Steam license check for the game.

But I would most aim for the first option to always be available: buy the game once, get a proof file that you can keep forever and upgrade to the full version of the game. That way even if I get hit by a bus or you lose your Steam account, the game can still be played to its full potential.

What about piracy?

When I start to discover license keys which have leaked online to game piracy websites, future releases of Sketchy Maze will begin to include license revocation lists and will cease honoring the compromised license key.

The compromised license key would still work on all older versions of the game, but would be barred from newer releases; and while the game is still being actively worked on and gaining new features, these leaked keys would become less interesting over time, as custom user content made for newer versions of the game would become incompatible with the older versions.

When the game gets online services (sharing levels/doodads), the compromised license key would be forbidden from those services.

Will this game be available on Steam?

I haven’t decided yet. I think I could try and distribute the game myself first. It’s gonna be in beta for some time and I can see if it attracts a cult following along the way.

Technicals

What is this game built with?

Sketchy Maze runs on a custom game engine, built from the ground up, in the Go programming language using SDL2 for graphics via veandco/go-sdl2 bindings for Go.

While the game itself is not open source, some of its critical components are released as free and open source projects that other developers can use in their projects.

Is this game open source?

Parts of it are!

Sketchy Maze was built from the ground up using little more than SDL2 which lets you plot pixels on a screen. While I was designing the game, I thought it’d be a good idea to write an abstraction layer between low-level SDL2 functions and give me a clean, Go-like API to work with that keeps my code from either depending too much on SDL or for my Go code to be written too C-like to work with it.

So I built my own render library that abstracts around SDL2 for desktops and HTML5 Canvas elements for WebAssembly, and my game needed UI buttons so I wrote a UI toolkit which provides Labels, Buttons, Menus, Windows, and all sorts of useful widgets to draw my user interface with. The render engine can be extended to target other APIs, such as OpenGL or Vulkan, in the future as needs arise.

Here are a list of open source projects created as a part of development of Sketchy Maze which should be generally useful to any Go developers for making some simple graphical applications.

  • go/render: Render engine supporting SDL2 (native apps) and HTML Canvas (WebAssembly) targets.
  • go/ui: Go UI toolkit for adding labels, buttons, windows, menus, and more widgets and arranging them sanely in frames with an API like Tcl/Tk. It uses go/render so can also target WebAssembly.
  • go/audio: Simple audio abstraction which can load and play music or sound effects, currently only SDL2 supported.

GitHub mirrors of the above:

Also this website, the user guidebook, and other things with the game are readable as open source code, at https://code.sketchymaze.com/

Wait, does Sketchy Maze have a WebAssembly port?

Sure does! But performance isn’t great yet, and I’m not sure whether WebAssembly support in web browsers needs to get better or if I need to tighten up my code. There is a lot of room for optimization in my UI toolkit, to minimize the number of draw calls per tick.

One day I might have a “demo this game right in your web browser” feature with a (probably stripped-down) version of the game built for WebAssembly. So far, though, it just freezes web browsers frequently and I’m not letting you see it yet.

Is it coming to Android or iOS?

These are relatively low on the priority list; maybe after the 1.0 release is feature-complete I’ll work on making the game work on mobile phones.

Already the game sort of functions on GNU/Linux smartphones such as the Pinephone. This phone has a 720x1280 pixel display and most of the UI buttons are usable in the level editor, doodads can be dragged onto levels, etc.; its current biggest issue is with the on-screen keyboard app not being able to press two keys simultaneously (like to move and jump at the same time).

An Android port would likely be the first one after testing on the Pinephone to get a touch-friendly user interface going. This game mainly just uses SDL2 which is good for portability!

Copyright © 2021 Noah Petherbridge.