How Steroids Helped Me Finish My Game

I've been working on an iOS game for the last three months. As I write this, it is finished and awaiting Apple's approval.

UPDATE: it's now available:

Noseguard Wolves

The game evolved a lot during development, but one thing it consistently lacked was any hint of my sense of humour. This bothered me because it seemed like a missed opportunity. What's the point of working for yourself if you don't put yourself into the thing you're making, particularly your sense of humour if the thing you're making is for entertainment purposes. It's a topic for a separate blog post, but if there's one thing I learned during my brief stint as an indie game developer, it's that making games is as much a psychological battle with yourself as it is any other kind of exercise. I was self-inhibited.

Near the end of development, I came down with a bad case of hives. Still no idea what caused it -- post-viral and/or stress-induced it seems, or I'm allergic to something I don't know about, which is exciting. For treatment I was put on steroids for five days. During those five days I got about 12 hours of sleep in total. That was a new experience for me and it gave me some new ideas for my game.

The game is called Noseguard Wolves. It's called this because it is in part a word game in which you solve anagrams, and in part a strategy battle game where letters are the 'troops' and vowels have special abilities.


The off-beat name was perhaps a clue that the game might have some personality, but until this point that would be incorrect. After a couple days of no sleep, however, I realized the Noseguard Wolves should actually be a thing in the game. They became the explanation for why you are rewarded with bonus moves for good play.

The Wolves are watching you.

I shopped around for images of wolves to use in the game, but balked at the idea of paying $45 for a single stock photo image, regardless of how perfect it seemed to my sleep-deprived brain:

I don't actually remember how I stumbled on the idea to use the :wolfface: Emoji in the game. I think I was already using Emoji for icons for the different game modes and remembered there were animal ones. When I saw the iOS wolf face one blown up to the size I would need in the game, it was so terrible I knew it would be perfect.

Wolf face Emoji

So I added two wolves to the game who slowly rise up from the bottom of the screen when they see you playing badly. If you lose, they fully appear and howl disapprovingly. The howl of course needed to be fittingly lame, and this particular sound was worth every penny:

Here's what it looks like:

When you win, they also appear, but nod in approval.

With that completed I was happy that there was at least some indication that I may not be taking my game (and myself by natural extension) too seriously. Now it could ship.

Also, once in a while the wolves aren't wolves:

Chicken Emoji

I finished the course of steroids and the hives went away and I started sleeping again and managed to ship the game. And nothing has been funny to me since.

Prednisone FTW,