An Early Death for Ascetic - A Rebirth for Thought Reactor

Posted by Michael DeLally on February 07, 2018

Change is Good

As I've dug into the legal requirements for shifting Thought Reactor to a "holding" company, I've come to find that such a task is difficult and cumbersome within the confines of Florida state statutes.

While I personally love the Ascetic brand - it has been a setback. It has no recognition. Its logo is neat but almost entirely subject to context (it's artsy, but a terrible branding choice). And the name, while very important to me as a person, is strenuous to read and leaves too much to the imagination.

Case in point: I use the name on Twitch and when a broadcaster reads that name out when I subscribe to their channel - 70% of the time it is read incorrectly. It's usually read top of mind as aesthetic. 

This is a problem. Coupled with the dubious marketability this creates, the legal protection of such a brand is not something I want to delve into. With Thought Reactor being a legal entity, those protections are in place and I simply have to pay my dues to the state to keep them there. I can hire people as employees or contractors and have legal protections and processes to do so. With Ascetic - that's just not possible and trying to obfuscate it through the LLC could be potentially hazardous, both financially and legally.

So with that, I will be retiring this brand and resuming all game development work under the Thought Reactor brand, instead. In the midst of this, I want to reshape the branding of Thought Reactor to better reflect the vision and direction I had for Ascetic.

I will be migrating this blog over to the new Thought Reactor site and at some point, this URL will just forward to that.

Some Minor Combinus News

There has been some pretty good progress on Combinus, namely shape combination logic coming together. I have a couple things I want to tighten up and some dastardly bugs I need to address before I share some footage of things in action.

After that, we should be getting super close to a tech demo release that I'll toss up on so you can begin to help me test some of the mechanics and early game feel.

My Health and Sobriety

Things are going as intended with my health issues. The stomach pain comes and goes, but in a lot of ways has subsided. It seems as if a lot of the pain and nausea could have been a result of quitting the weed.

In that department, things are improving. My sleep is touch and go. The dreams have become less vivid and more normal. However, I am still having trouble sleeping through the night, often waking every 90 to 120 minutes. I'm going to start taking my sleep habits a little more serious in the hopes that it will help my inner clock acclimate itself to its natural rhythm.

I don't know if I will ever truly return to being my pre-stoner self as so much critical time in my life was spent in that headspace - but the sheer lack of a psychoactive chemical affecting my mind and body will allow me to be a much better version of myself. A version that I know will be more committed to making games and sharing them with the world!

Peace and love.


An Update on My Health

Posted by Michael DeLally on January 31, 2018

In the last blog, I briefly mentioned some issues with my physical and mental health before detailing my plans for Combinus, the spiritual successor to our first commercial game. I wanted to give an update to that and explain a little more about what it means for the future.

In all transparency, a large deal of the mental aspects of my current state is derived from a dependence on marijuana. I've been a daily user for almost 7 years now and the effects it has had on my mental health are beginning to manifest. A lot of that correlates directly to my physiological health - more specifically, my perception and anxiety surrounding it.

I have something going on with my stomach. My physician has yet to figure it out and I'll be visiting a gastroenterologist to get to the bottom of it. Uncertainty about any medical ailment is cause for anxiety and compounding that with daily pot smoking made it worse. A lot worse.

That being said, I've quit smoking pot for the foreseeable future, possibly forever. It's brought a lot more clarity and focus to my life, although at a cost. That cost is the effects of withdrawal. While nothing compared to narcotics like heroin, the withdrawals of chronic marijuana use are very real and can be debilitating.

Luckily, I took the precaution to ween myself off slowly instead of cold turkey - so a majority of these symptoms have been alleviated. The one that is affecting me most is known as REM rebound, wherein the brain attempts to recover months and years of little to no REM sleep by forcing it upon you en masse. I can only describe this as sleep deprivation, as these dreams are so vivid and so mentally taxing that they force you awake and leave you pondering them, causing insomnia.

Now, I've been here before. I took a break in 2016 for similar reasons but I quit cold turkey. The REM rebound at that time was LOADS worse. Night terrors, sleep paralysis, and wicked insomnia where I was literally afraid of sleeping because of those dreams. That is not happening to me now. In fact, the majority of the dreams have been very illuminating, something chronic pot smokers take for granted as THC slowly removes the REM cycle from your sleep. Up until this point it has caused very little sleep disturbance and insomnia - but I may not be out of the woods yet, so to speak. 

This drastic change in my lifestyle and mental health has and will continue to affect my progress on Combinus. In the short run, work will slow to a crawl. As I improve over time, work will ramp up considerably and my motivation to progress will return. The last time I took a break, IGEO was completed and released to the world. There's a lot to be said about how marijuana use has destroyed my motivation to build games. As the apathy of withdrawal begins to decline my passion for programming and creating games will come back.

I can only go up from here. I'm generally happy, my health is improving by maintaining a healthy and structured diet, and I'm becoming more and more determined to improve myself beyond just my bad habits. 

More to come on Combinus - I'm slowly working through redeveloping the movement and pushing mechanics to alleviate some of the issues in IGEO's mechanics.

Peace and love.


Let's Try This Again

Posted by Michael DeLally on January 12, 2018

It's been a couple months since I posted (I've pulled the old blogs, their context is no longer important). In that time, a lot has changed in my life and how I view my obsession with game development. In dealing with a recent spate of physical and mental health issues I've really grown to appreciate my art as a form of catharsis.

So, this leaves me much where I left off when I started the Ascetic brand - making games for fun to heal my mind. My problem is I struggle with articulating that effectively to the outside world. Often times - I just forget. I get stuck in my vacuum-world where only my concerns matter and the mental state that arises from programming is the driver.

Posts like this - where I get real and open up about the processes separate from raw development - are going to occur more often. I intend to provide more valuable posts like tutorials and in-depth analysis - but bringing you into my world is something I feel will motivate me to be more communicative across the board. I'm not some stoic mastermind sitting behind a designed facade. I'm human and I make mistakes. I shouldn't be ashamed to display those on here.

Since the last post, I've failed at another Ludum Dare and tabled a bigger side project I was working on. My attempt at making multiple little small games went almost nowhere. I like working on medium-sized, somewhat ambitious projects. I need to develop a better process of chunking those projects out like smaller projects, but medium-sized games are what I usually gravitate towards.

That being said, I've begun to dig into such a project. The first game I ever released commercially, IGEO, is going to receive a redesign/sequel under a new name. I am calling it Combinus and shooting for an early Q3 release on Steam. 


A quick mockup of a Steam capsule image, showing off the logo and aesthetic.


The game will play exactly like IGEO. So, if you're in for a bit of a demo, click that link and you can play the entire game for free in your browser. IGEO is about 1/5th the experience that Combinus aims to deliver.

What kind of game is Combinus? Like IGEO, players move about an isometric gameboard pushing similar shapes together to eliminate them from the board. Some of these shapes simply remove themselves when combined - others carry unique effects. An improper combination or moving into a pit invokes a game over.

As players progress through Combinus, they will be introduced to 3 additional states that shapes can take, adding more variety to the gameplay and ramping up the challenge.

In addition to that, Combinus introduces unique Tile mechanics such as switches, doors, and sliding tiles to add more depth to the movement driven mechanics in the game.

Lastly, Combinus adds two modes of play: Arcade and Time Bomb. Arcade plays like IGEO, moving the player through 50+ levels at their own pace. Time Bomb mode is the hard mode of Combinus, adding a limited set of moves to each Arcade level. Running out of moves means boom! - game over.

What are Shape States?

In IGEO, there are 4 types of shapes that the player must combine together to clear each level. Cubes and spheres simply eliminate when combined (cubes also fill pits when pushed into them). Cones create impassable walls when combined. Cross shapes uniquely allow the player to spawn a whole new shape of any type in its wake. All shapes can be eliminated by being pushed into a pit.

In Combinus - there are 6 shapes and each of them has Normal, Light, Heavy, and Stone states. The new shapes are Cylinders and Pyramids. Cylinders can face two directions and must be combined in like directions. Pyramids are unique in that they cannot be combined and must be pushed into a pit to be eliminated.

The states are rather self-explanatory. Firstly, only shapes of the same state can be combined - anything else results in a game over. Normal Shapes function just like their counterparts in IGEO.

  • Light Shapes are translucent shapes that can only be pushed 2 spaces and are not affected by pits. Light shapes can only be pushed if they would resolve on an empty tile or another shape (even if it is an incorrect combo).
  • Heavy Shapes are metallic shapes that cannot be pushed as normal by the player. Given this, Heavy Shapes can only be pushed by Sphere shapes (of any state). This creates the scenario where the player has to be cognizant of moving two shapes at once!
  • Stone Shapes work like normal shapes but they are brittle and degrade as they are moved. Each stone shape can be pushed 3 times before it crumbles and is eliminated.

These added states provide much more depth to the game, creating unique challenges for each and every level.

Puzzle Tiles Make Movement More Important

The introduction of puzzle tiles to the game adds a second layer of challenge that restricts movement and creates more specific solutions to levels. Pit Tiles will be retained from IGEO, spelling doom to any player who crosses them. In addition to that, there are several unique tiles making an appearance in Combinus:

  • Sliding Tiles - these tiles will move the Combinus and any Geom across them to the next tile; a strand of them works like a conveyor belt; Sliding tiles can be uni or multi-directional as indicated by the arrows they contain
  • Charge Tiles - in Arcade Mode, these tiles are dangerous and will prime the Combinus’ detonator at 10 moves upon passing through - passing through another/again resets the primer to 10; in Time Bomb Mode, Charge Tiles will reset the detonator clock back to the default, making them a powerful tool for completing complicated levels
  • Switch Tiles - these tiles have a binary state that can power one or another Door Tile, opening it so it can be traversed; anytime a Switch Tile is traversed its state is reversed
  • Plate Tiles - these tiles have a binary state which is only set to true if the Combinus or a Heavy Geom is placed on it; when true they power a Door Tile
  • Door Tiles - these tiles look like recessed walls and feature a power strip linking them to their corresponding Switch or Plate tile; properly activating the Door’s power source will open them, rendering them traversable

I will have a more proper status update this weekend, wherein I will detail the current state of development and share some more in-game screenshots of the various graphics and features in development.

I'm not going to promise anything. This is a game I enjoy playing and developing and want to share it with the world on a wider platform than I did with IGEO. If that's not enough for me to get it done - then it's not enough. Stay tuned!