Noir operating theatre scene: perfect for 2D point-and-click game development

Ethex 2080

Futuristic mobile game with noir themes? Yes! Ethex 2080 was my first experience with game development. I threw myself into all aspects of development, including artwork, animation and game programming. Still today 2D point-and-click game development is hugely popular for App Store titles. This is particularly true for iPad titles.

This was the game that taught me the lessons about 2D animation and game data that I needed to build & ship Smithsoft’s title “Pandora’s Books” in 2016.

I wrote the code for the game in Objective-C using the Cocos-2D game engine. My plan was to release specifically for iPad. It was a journey for me. As a result I went through a lot of technology upgrades myself! You can read about a lot more of the tech in my development blog of the time.

For artwork I did 3D renderings with SketchUp. Its best known for its architectural usage, but works great for game art. I used it coupled with Maxwell Render for that gritty noir realism.

An austere apartment bedroom with a view of skyscrapers is the first playable scene in this point-and-click adventure game.

The game features 3D renderings and 2D animations mixed with classic point-and-click game play. The visual style was something I developed following titles like the breakout success Broken Sword by Revolution. That game and App Store’s huge money hits like Criminal Case also are examples of great 2D iPad point-and-click game development I wanted to emulate.

Game On

Although Ethex 2080 was never published we took the game to Brisbane’s “Game On” Expo in 2014 and demo’ed the first chapter to expo attendees, who tried out the game play on iPad.

Front-three-quarter view of the game's protagonist Erin, striding along barefoot.
In Ethex 2080 our hero Erin sets out to solve the mystery of what has happened.

The game dialogue is data-driven and used PLIST files to manage all of the games structure and information. PLIST’s are fantastic for this kind of 2D iPad point-and-click game development as you can ship them & update them easily to change gameplay, settings, economics – anything.

Ethex 2080 was never published. But taking it to the hands of real players and watching them interact with at least part of the game was a huge education. The game was a huge amount of work to get to that point and yet 2-3 times that amount was still needed to complete it. This was a big lesson in scope management!

In the game Erin awakes from a medical procedure and must solve the mystery of what happened. Classic 2D point-and-click plot lines!
A mysterious medical procedure!

As a business decision stopping work on Ethex 2080 was the right move. Creatively I was very sad to close the folder on this title. Perhaps one day we will return to this story – hopefully before 2080 is upon us for real!