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Show HN: A game my 12-year-old daughter wrote (mind-circus.org)
341 points by david927 on Jan 2, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 98 comments

Your daughter's awesome! She's going places. But you already knew that :) And you're awesome too for encouraging her by sharing her work and helping her with it.

I don't have feedback on the game so I'll just recommend a book which I think is readable for a 12 year old (I'd also recommend it to anyone here): "A Theory of Fun for Game Design" (https://www.theoryoffun.com). It's a great introduction to game design and it's full of fun cartoons.

It’s a good book for adults, too!

This is really impressive for any novice game developer with no regards for their age.

Some feedback after playing for a few minutes: It seems the game mechanics only allows the "critical path" of advancing. By that I mean the only actions that generate a reaction are the ones that advance the plot (with the exception of moving between rooms and hints). This also causes some frustration as I basically just try to click on everything and mostly nothing happens and I ask myself if I'm doing something wrong.

I would suggest adding a click-to-describe layer. So for example clicking on a character would say something about him/her (Maybe objectively, maybe subjectively from the player's pov), clicking on an item, even one that I don't need to interact with, says something about it. etc.

This is very common in adventure games and is a great way to add lay down the story element for the game while at the same time provide the player with some interaction while looking for the actual solution to the current step.

But again, really really great.

Was going to say, great art, but is there only one object to pick up and use?

I spent 5 minutes navigating rooms and mindlessly clicking and nothing happening until picking up one object and finally using it to solve the riddle.

Any red herrings?

You need to eventually get through the locked door. The first object is nails, then you need to use the bucket which is in a cabinet in the bathroom and click on the painting. She made it really tough, for some reason.

Nice data structure. No classes, just objects. Which makes it faster to iterate. Feedback: Throw in a bunch of throw's for sanity checks like if(!room) throw new Error("room=" + room + " window.location.hash=" + window.location.hash); It will help keep your sanity. And you will get rid of an if(room) which will flatten the code, and less code paths are also good for sanity. Smart using the url hash to store state btw. And use colors! Start with fill colors, then progress into using colors for everything. Dad: Get her a digital painting board.

I took the b&w as an intentional artistic choice, especially given the color use in the final(?) scene ("unlocked room").

It is intentional. That was something that impressed me about it -- exactly how intentional everything is. Also, she has a digital art board but scanned drawings on paper because she wanted a rougher, more sketchy look to it.

Excellent game. Very well done!

Small suggestion: If items were intentionally made not to look like clickable, it's fine. Otherwise, a simple 'cursor: pointer' on doors and items would be better in my opinion.

Nevertheless, it's a wonderful piece of art. Your daughter has a promising future.

Thank you so much. That means a lot to her.

She says the items were intentionally made not to look clickable to make the game more challenging.

Has she played any of the classic LucasFilm SCUMM based games? Or their predecessors, the text-based Infocom games like Zork?

Start with 'The Secret of Monkey Island'. £2.37 on Steam [0]. I spent hours on my Atari ST wondering how to get past the governor's dogs. With no WWW to look for cheats I ended up asking at my local independent computer shop (remember those), and one of the guys told me how to do it.


Most of the clickable items do look clickable to me, except for the cupboard bucket. Also wtf is happening when you use the bucket? It transforms?

Clearly, if you water a plant it grows into a pumpkin, which is a jack o'lantern, which then turns into ... a record

Did she just do the artwork or did you teach her to code it as well?

Seems very macabre for a 12 year old mind. There's a consistent, creepy mood throughout all the screens that I saw, and I think it's very well done. The quality of the artwork / art direction is impressive.

In terms of playability, I managed to pick up nails, and I tried to use them on all five characters I could find but nothing seemed to work.

You need to put the nails in somebody's food.

I like this kid... I bet we’re all playing her games within the decade.

Everyone: thank you for trying it. She's on Cloud Nine right now!

If she can impress the cynical folks at HN -- she deserves to be on Cloud Nine! Congrats to her!

Hey OP, how did you feel when your 12 year old said she wanted to make a game that starts with the phrase "Aaron deserves to die"? Some people would be concerned, but clearly you've been very supportive of the endeavor.

Yes, I agree, it's a dark game. Luckily, my mother is a psychologist and helped clarify to me what it's all about for my daughter, and why I shouldn't be concerned.

Also her art style is already changing again and the next game will be something completely different.

This might be the first time anyone has ever said “Luckily my mother is a psychologist...”

Some of the best game developers have really dark minds. Look at the artwork fro the original Warcraft or the Doom guys.

Ah, good ol' Chris Metzen. Got bullied as a teenager. Made tons of artwork for Warcraft, Diablo, and other Blizzard franchises. Now he got a burn-out. [1]

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chris_Metzen

Or one of my personal favourites: The Binding of Isaac

I’m curious. What is it all about for them?

We recently moved from the South of France to San Francisco, leaving a lot of friends (and paradise) behind.

Then this game is a great outlet for frustration and disappointment...


Bug reports:

After you stab the girl in the back of the head with the knife, the knife magically finds its way back to the kitchen.

When you get to the TV color photo thing in the locked room, you can't click on the Exit button. (It just flips to the "That's too bad" graphic). I assume this is the end? It's hard to tell.

Not necessarily a bug, just a question, it seems like there's no way to use more than one inventory slot by collecting items in advance of needing them. I'm only able to get the first item, use it, then get the next item, then use it, etc. Is that intentional?

When you get to the TV color photo thing in the locked room, you can't click on the Exit button. (It just flips to the "That's too bad" graphic).

That was a bug at first but she liked it and kept it.

Not necessarily a bug, just a question, it seems like there's no way to use more than one inventory slot by collecting items in advance of needing them. I'm only able to get the first item, use it, then get the next item, then use it, etc. Is that intentional?

The original idea was to collect more items but, you're right, it ended up being just one at a time.

One more thing, I guess. I didn't have any trouble with the server at all, but those images can definitely be optimized. The total savings would be small, but percentagewise the savings becomes rather large. Start.jpg, for instance, at 49kb can become 10kb as a 6 color png. seq7.jpg is 222kb, but can become 42kb as a 16 color png, and so on. Even the images that work better as jpegs reduce half their bytes at 95% or 90% quality (recompressed obviously, since I don't have your originals) without looking different to my eyes.

Thanks. I'll let her know!

I was quite macabre in the preteen years. It's not really anger or pain, just another curiosity that emerges at that age.

How many 12 year olds play FPS and similar games?

Many. We used to have school-wide CS 1.6 and Unreal tournaments.

I thought 12 was a really young age to start making games, but then I realized I made games like this too at 12. Both code and art.

A lot of my game making friends from that group became millionaire game developers by 30.

I didn't really accomplish much besides cutting my teeth doing project management, debugging, learning the horrors of waterfall.

I would love to see the new generation continue this.

Yeah it reminds me a lot of the HyperCard games me and my friends would make as kids.

What tools are kids using these days to make point-and-click style games like this?

It has a very strong HyperCard vibe? Has its creator used HyperCard? If not, has she played a similar kind of game? It would be super interesting if this was a parallel reinvention.

No, she's never seen HyperCard but I think she's played a similar game in terms of game-play before. I'll have to ask.

I think it might be necessary to preload the game resources, otherwise the game becomes unplayable on a slow connection with a round-trip > 500 ms (and I guess the server is under heavy load right now). Well, not exactly unplayable, I ended up just looking at the filenames in the requests that were sent to get a feeling for what was happening.

Well done!

EDIT: I noticed that there are 'pills' in the list of items, but none of the rooms has them. Should have taken your pills, Nathan!

I noticed that there are 'pills' in the list of items, but none of the rooms has them. Should have taken your pills, Nathan!

She said this was her favorite comment. It had her on the floor laughing!

First off, this is wonderful. I have a 2 year old daughter. A little too young to be coding but I look forward to seeing if she gets into it. The art is pretty great too.

My only feedback, it really needs UI states. Like when you hover over a button or an item in the room that an action can be taken on. Otherwise it is too hard to figure out what is clickable and what is not and it becomes a random clicking game.

I still do not know how I got out of the first room except through random clicking.

Edit: ahhh... it's a vent.

Very cool. I finally beat the game, although I did need to look at the source code. The most confusing thing to me was that you need to find the items in order. I kept clicking on the knife wondering why it wasn't going into my inventory.

Also found a few cheats :P (#locked_room).

Seriously though this is really impressive and I love the art work... it really felt like I was in those classic red room games from a decade+ (!!!) ago

God, I am in love with this. Your daughter is amazing.

12 years old or not, this was the highlight of my evening.

Cool! Thanks!

All I can do is click on most of the doors, pick up the nails, and click on the hint. Nothing else seems to be interactive. Anyone have a hint on anything else that should be clickable?

EDIT: Figured it out. What a brilliantly designed game....course now I'll have nightmares. That final screen....Well played.

Figured it out.

I feel so dumb. there's nothing I can do in this game. so frustrating. HELP!

Read through the comments here, a lot of the trickiest parts are explained. If you still need help, ask on her Twitter feed.

Great art & concept. Tech feedback wise: I'm getting an odd ~2 second delay whenever I click something which is making it bit difficult since it's a point and click adventure - might simply be the server that's mildly overloaded; you could put it behind cloudflare?

Good work! It would be nice when you mouse over clickable items that their outlines glow or something :)

As an adventure game lover, I think this is a great little game! I love dark, macabre adventure games and I'm really digging the art style here. The mood is very consistent and the creepiness really comes across. Your daughter has done a great job!

Cool little game! Loving the art and the morbid story. It was tough as nails

One nitpick: sometimes the game would seem to get unresponsive if I clicked the little hint door (it'd get stuck halfway open). Only spamclicking around for a while got me out of it

Really loving the art style. I'm also impressed with the code quality. Way above what I would expect a 12 year old would be capable of. I've seen college students that would struggle with something like this. Keep it up, kid!

Did she draw everything by herself? That is amazing. I wish I could draw like that. On second day of 2018, I’m already jealous of a 12 year old accomplishing more than me :(

Does she like Tim Burton? Jokes aside, I'm really digging this sketchy art style.

This was such a cool little game! I agree with the comment that assets should be preloaded. For some reason the only item image that ever showed up in my inventory was the nails. I spent a really long time looking for the bucket only to realize that I had it already and could use it on the plant. None of the other items after that appeared in my inventory, but I just trusted they were there and was able to proceed through the rest of the game. I had to look at the source code for help, but I was super impressed by the clarity of the code there too. Nicely done!

Reminded me of Crimson Room & Viridian Room from back in the Flash Player days. http://escaperoom.net/page-top100.html

I spent about 15 minutes just having fun with the mood, theme, artwork, and "feel" of the game. I had intended to spend two minutes tops. This is an engrossing and genuinely wonderful game :-).


Is her journey more for the code or the ability to create games? The artwork is pretty cool I some how assumed you took part in the art. I remember being a good doodler but lost my attention in putting to much effort into a detailed sketch. I loved games and coding but at a young age probably would have taken some of the short cuts available today. It's cool either way hope when I have a kid they are open to tech and creating something.

She only got help coding -- that's all her art. She's been working on it a while.

I think there is a bug in the bathroom, the bucket won't show up (but if you click around you'll get it in the inventory).

Very impressive from a 12 years old.

I just assumed the bucket came from under the sink.

Yes, I couldn't see the bucket, but I looked at the source code to know it was in the bathroom.

It won't load for me on Firefox, linux, disabled ad blockers. Works on Chrome.

edit: Well I guess not. I can't click on anything but the hint cabinet. Clicking on the bottom left corner of the moved me to a new room once, but I could not reproduce it.

Nice adventure, but I got mad at "1-item-at-time" picking rule. I'd rather prefer all of them being collectable, instead of putting an ordering that forces you resorting every time to the Uncle. Very nice, though. Keep it up!

Doesn’t fit on portrait iPhone 6 screen

I expected it wouldn’t be perfect and I’d have to wrangle left and right, but about an inch is missing off the left of the page even when you scroll.

this is the most underground game I've seen in years, and you expect to work flawlessly on your iPhone 6. some people need to remember the Macromedia Flash era...

Samsung Galaxy S7 has the same issue. Will probably try it out on my computer later though.

Anyone have a friendly hint of how I can off my dear brother? I can't find any plants to water...And what kind of plant survives behind a painting w/out light!?

Look at the end of the corridor

Yeah, found that sapling. I assumed that's what it meant...I'll keep poking.

Interesting. I hadn't found the bucket.

Awesome art style, but I wish the toolbox had labels, after I watered the plant, it transformed into a pumpkin and gave an unknown item. No idea what to do with that :X

It's record. There's a phonograph to play it somewhere in the house

Looks interesting but all I get is a static picture, the only thing that is interactive is the hint thingy, I am using Chrome.

Click on the drain to go to the dining room. Then look for nails...


I played the game twice, but couldn't fully understand the story. Any hints?

first of all congratulations and as someone already said it doesn't fit in the iPhone, also the click area of items is too small, finally the tutorial could have a previous button

too difficult for me...

From her: Agreed -- I made it a little too hard but did you see the button at the beginning that shows how to get hints? (Also, you can get out of the first room through the drain.) Thanks for the feedback!

This was very cool. Thanks for sharing!

I'm stuck after I killed Simon :(

Check the hints. (Bella is knitting..)

There are some bugs in that part. I saw the knitting hint and clicked on bella's knitting pin. But it didn't appear in the inventory for a loooong time. After about 5 minutes of exploring all the rooms, it showed up.

websitesseems to be suffering hacker news hug of death

pretty good for a 12 yr old.

Thanks. I helped her with the coding -- she's still learning Javascript -- but that was the only help she got. She really worked hard on it for about a year.

IMHO for a 12 y/o to stick to a goal and work on something for a year, without losing interest or moving to a new shiny object, is no less remarkable than actually producing a game. Well done.

That's really impressive, she should be proud of what she's done.

As for me, i'm not too proud of how far I got... couldn't figure out which painting had a plant behind it or what to do next.

from Sophie: Check on the painting in the hallway. :)

is it all in javascript? neat that this peaked an artist's interest in coding.

Yeah, it's all Javascript. She's an artist but she's quite good at math and wants to combine them for her career into a form of digital art.

drawing smells MKUltra

"You can only solve it by doing the crime yourself." They would call this "warning signs" after the fact.

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