A Signal in the Void

Hello again. My eighth game is complete! It’s called A Signal in the Void, and I think it bears some explanation.

This was my sixth game for #onegameamonth, and the theme this month was “Resolution.” This is an unusual game, so I’m going to stage a fake “question and answer” session like I did in the game’s Help menu to address some of the questions I could imagine people asking. If you have other questions, feel free to ask them in the comments!

Q: Ew! What is this mess? How do I make that horrible static go away?
A: This game’s graphics are actually done in the style of those old “Magic Eye” books from the 90’s. The game’s Help menu actually explains this and offers a little advice on how to see them.

Q: I’m too proud to click a button that says “Help.” Can’t you just explain it all right here?
A: Fine. They’re called Autostereograms (specifically, the game uses an animated random dot autostereogram), and they use a neat trick to create a 3D illusion when you look through them. That’s right, through them. This isn’t the kind where you cross your eyes. I put a little eye guide in the game that appears when you hit the spacebar. It’s just two white dots that are spaced properly on a black background. Unfocus your eyes, stare through the screen right between the dots, and you’ll start to see double. When the two dots’ double images align and form a single dot in the middle, then your eyes are looking in the right place. Maintaining your unfocused eye “distance,” look down at (or rather, “through”) the static image below and you should see the 3D image hidden within it. If you’re not used to this, it can take some practice. Once you see it, you can hide the guide again using the spacebar. When you blink after a while (and you should blink), you might lose the picture. No problem! Just bring up the guide again and repeat the process as often as you need to.

Q: That’s horrible to look at! Shouldn’t this come with a seizure warning?
A: Good point. Probably yes. If staring at rapidly flashing black and white static seems like it would hurt you, don’t play this one. It’s really not worth the risk.

Q: This game is completely unplayable for me because I can’t do the crazy eye thing no matter how many times I try! Can’t I make it stop?
A: Sure. Some people just can’t “do” autostereograms. People with only one eye, for instance, stand no chance here. For this reason, there’s a checkbox in the Options screen called “3D Static Effect.” You can uncheck this to get rid of the autostereogram effect, but please consider this a last resort. The game itself is not particularly exciting without the 3D gimmick. This is actually by choice, because autostereograms are kind of hard on the eyes and I didn’t want the game to be merciless. The result is that the game’s almost boring without it. If you think having some color in the static might help you, there’s an option for that, too. Try that first. If it’s still not happening, though, go ahead and turn it off; that’s why the option’s there. We can’t all have special eyes.

Q: This game is completely unplayable for me due to the horrible frame rate! What I can do?
A: Okay, maybe nobody will have to ask this. This is just a personal fear of mine, but the sad answer is that there’s probably nothing you can do. There’s a lot of per-pixel math going on behind the scenes, and it’s slow. You probably need a decently powerful computer to have the game run smoothly. I did expose two variables that you can modify in your browser’s developer console: MAXFPS and FRAME_TIME. Just set MAXFPS to 10 or something (it’s 30 by default), and then set FRAME_TIME to 1000 / MAXFPS. That might work. Or it might not. But it’s worth a try. If all else fails, you can just turn the static off in the options. That speeds things up considerably.

Q: Will there be a mobile version?
A: No. Just… no. It would be killer on the eyes. Few mobile devices could handle it, anyway. Mobile HTML5 support is still pretty slow and shoddy.

Q: What do you have to say about accusations that you awkwardly shoehorned the “Resolution” theme into a game that actually had nothing to do with it?
A: I… I… *weeps bitter tears*

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