Ask @PirateHearts:

J. Kyle Pittman
Latest answers

Any chance you could release a spec for your npk file format? I'd love to be able to open/extract them, but at the very least could you make a copy of YHtWtG's extra spicy map available?

Sure thing! I've written up a quick spec for the NPK file format here: and put the map files up on Dropbox here:

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When does the in-game timer in You Have to Win the Game start and stop?

It starts as soon as the New Game menu closes. (If you wait through the "Pirate Hearts presents" intro, it adds about 12 seconds to your time.) It ends as soon as you touch the Win orb. It also pauses any time the menus or console are open.

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Will there be anymore extra maps in You Have to Win The Game like extra spicy in the future? And is map creation/sharing coming any time in the future?

I'm not gonna rule it out completely, but I have no plans to add anything else to YHtWtG. I've already added more to it than I ever expected or intended. Ultimately, I think the decision to cut the level editor in favor of Mac and Linux ports was the right one. The tools I had weren't great and there wasn't much interest in them.

In any case, I've released two games since then, I'm very close to releasing another, and I have big plans for the next one after that. It's hard to imagine a scenario where it would make sense to go back to an older game, especially one that doesn't help pay the bills.

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In You Have to Win the Game did you know about the "spike jump" during development, which is the ability to stand on the edge of a spike? And if not, how were you supposed to clear the "Nope nope nope" screen in extra spicy?

I knew it would be possible as far back as when I implemented collision because the surfaces of deadly tiles like spikes and lava are retracted two pixels from the tile boundary. But it wasn't until I saw some videos of players exploiting this to jump back up the "Abstract Bridge" / "Which Way Will I Go?" rooms that I thought about using it purposefully. The idea of a harder remixed campaign was something I had tossed around prior to launch, and when I finally began working on the Extra Spicy mode, it felt like a good opportunity to add some intentional spike jumps. So yes, that is the intended way to clear "Nope Nope Nope."

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What kind of stuff did you do at gearbox and what made you decide to leave and make games on your own?


Back when I was first hired at Gearbox, they were mostly interested in generalist programmers, so I never technically had a specific role or title beyond "Programmer," but the majority of my tasks tended to be in the gameplay and UI spaces. On the Borderlands games, I did some work on weapons, vehicles, HUD, status menus, and...too many other things to name, honestly.

During my time at Gearbox, I was also working on some indie/hobby stuff on the side (notably You Have to Win the Game). At some point, that work began to turn into my primary interest, and this coincided with being financial stable enough to take on the risk of starting my own company and make that my full-time job. My brother David was in a similar position with his role at 2K Marin, so we both left our jobs around the same time and formed Minor Key Games.

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Will Gunmetal and Super Win share a universe connected by the Arcadians?

Trey (AppleSupport)

Super Win's Arcadians were the model for Gunmetal Arcadia's Tech Elves, and I've been imagining they do share a universe, but it's probably one separated by a great length of time, with Super Win being set in the far future of Gunmetal Arcadia. I'm not actively pursuing any hooks or references between the two (at least not any more than I already have), but I wouldn't be surprised if more of those creep up throughout development.

Fun side note: from very, very early on, I've been planning to include the Wayfarer as a secret unlockable character in the roguelike Gunmetal Arcadia. It's too early to say for sure whether that will ship because of the balancing issues he might introduce, but I've had test content to support it for a while.

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Can we expect sequel to gunmetal arcadia to be outsourced to a no-name studio and resemble "spirit" of "classic" zelda cd-i games?

smoke fumus

I mean, I guess it worked out all right for Nintendo. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

But now I kind of do want to make a CD-i-Zelda-like for a game jam or something. :V

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If you could change one thing about Zelda 2, what would it be?

From a very high level design perspective, where "one thing" actually means "lots and lots of little things," I'd want to reduce the reliance on obscure or untrained mechanics for completing critical path quests. In particular, I'm thinking of searching the table and fountain for the mirror and water respectively, but also things like chopping down forest tiles to find the hidden town, or the lack of information regarding where and how to use the Spell spell. Each of those has the potential to be a shelf moment. Some of the solutions are alluded to either in the game or in the manual, but even these clues are usually vague at best. I suspect it's this lack of guidance that's given Zelda 2 its reputation as an overly difficult game, as opposed to the moment-to-moment gameplay mechanics, which are in my opinion comparable in difficulty to other more highly regarded NES games.

But in terms of a single concrete thing I'd change, I'd probably cut the fullscreen flashing on death for photosensitive players.

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Have you played Teslagrad? it's a pretty damn good puzzle platformer using the principles of electromagnetism. If you haven't I'd strongly suggest checking it out (It's currently in an Indie Gala bundle and I think the Wii U version is on sale right now as well)

I haven't played it yet, but it looks great, definitely on my list to check out when I have a chance.

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After Gunmetal, will you stray from the retro-style of your past 3 games? (I've loved them, just curios about game-next)

Yeah, I hope so. I have an idea for another retro pixel art action-platformer that I'm pretty excited about, but it's probably a little too close to Gunmetal Arcadia to be an immediate follow-up, and I'd really like to get back to 3D stuff at some point.

Right now, the top contender for my next game after both Gunmetals Arcadia is something I've been calling "Project Cadenza" as a working title. It's sort of an amalgamation of a variety of ideas I've had over the last decade or so and could take a number of forms, but it will probably have some elements of science fiction, exploration, and learnable sets of systems that are obscured or abstracted from immediate view. It might also be the first Minor Key Game that David and I collaborate on, depending on what our schedules look like as we're landing Gunmetal Arcadia and Slayer Shock.

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How do I place objects (upgrades, WIN, LOSE, etc) in YHTWTG? I want to finish a map, but am unable to without objects.

I stopped supporting the editor some time ago (never ported it to Mac and Linux, not sure it plays nice with the Steam release, etc.), but if it still works at all, items would be added to levels using a syntax like:

The available items are:


For reference, you can find the source for the normal campaign here:

It's probably outdated at this point, but it should still be syntactically correct and have examples of everything the game is capable of.

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What specific games were your main influences in designing YHTWTG?

So many games. I suppose VVVVVV is the obvious one, even though I didn't ape its primary mechanic. But it was very much the reason I chose to implement named flip screen rooms, though of course that mechanic dates back to classic games like Jet Set Willy.

Bubble Ghost was a big influence on the visuals and tone. It had a sort of creepy, unsettling vibe, not only because you were exploring a haunted house with some grim imagery, but because there was a sense that you didn't belong in that space. Its hazards operate autonomously regardless of your presence, and everything can kill you.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: The Action Game was another big one for me. I used to play the DOS version of that game on a four-color CGA screen all the time. The first level involved exploring a cave, which is probably subconsciously why I set so much of YHtWtG in subterranean locales.

The "magic word" / "magic symbol" puzzle originated as a riff on the in-game copy protection mechanisms you'd see in classic PC games, where you'd have to look up a word in the manual or use some in-world secret code reader to find a solution and advance. This puzzle (if you can call it that) evolved a bit due to practical restrictions, and I had to change it once more when I brought the game to Steam, but that's where it started, anyway.

The feel of the wall slide / wall jump mechanic was inspired by Mega Man X and Super Meat Boy, as opposed to something like Super Metroid with its obtuse triangle jump. I also made some tweaks to help make the platforming a little more forgiving, things like allowing the player to jump a split second after walking off a platform or immediately jumping again if the button were pressed a split second before landing on the ground, after reading an interview with Team Meat in which they were describing similar improvements to handling in SMB.

I wasn't consciously setting out to make a Metroidvania, but the structured nature of exploration limited by abilities found in the world did evolve from those sorts of games, to include Zelda titles.

I wasn't consciously riffing on anything specific in the bullet hell rooms, but I am a fan of bullet hell shooters. Ikaruga first got me into the genre, and at some point I started collecting Cave shooters and Mushihimesama Futari quickly became my favorite.

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What does the J. mean in J. Kyle Pittman?

Jonathan. I go by my middle name.

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Did you know the "Abstract Bridge" skip was possible in You Have to Win the Game until speedrunners did it?

Nope, that was a surprise to me! My own abilities are pretty casual-tier, so a lot of those skill jumps are things that I assumed were impossible when I was building the game. Checkpoint skips / death abuse were kiiiind of on my radar, but mostly only insofar as making sure the player couldn't get stuck somehow if they hadn't checkpointed recently, so it's been fun seeing those emerge.

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What does the "maps" folder do in the You Have to Win the Game files?

In most cases, nothing. It was intended to be the folder that would contain user-made maps, but there wasn't enough interest in the editor to warrant maintaining it, so it remains a vestigial Windows-only technically-unsupported feature.

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does "you have to win the game" take place in arcadia?

Not by conscious intent, but I do like to think it takes place in the same universe. I can say for certain the elves in Gunmetal Arcadia came about because I liked the design of the Arcadians in Super Win.

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Will "you have to win the game" work for windows 8?

Yep, I've successfully tested it on Windows XP, Vista, 7, and 8. It should work on 10 as well but I haven't had an opportunity to test it there yet.

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Any chance on multiplayer for Gunmetal Arcadia?

No chance, sorry. As both a player and a developer, singleplayer is where my heart's at.

I do think it might be fun to do an arcade-y local multiplayer game someday, something in the vein of Towerfall or Samurai Gunn, but Gunmetal Arcadia isn't that game.

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What languages are both of the Win The Game games written in?

They're both written primarily in C++ using my own proprietary engine. I use DirectX on Windows and a combination of OpenGL and SDL on Mac and Linux for rendering, audio, input, etc.

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SPOILER for Yhtwtg!!!!!: I really liked "You have to win the game", but how are you supposed to know, that you have to press the ^ key in order to enter the "Magic Word"

The "magic symbol" seen on the walls throughout the world is supposed to look similar to a tilde key (~), which is the default binding for bringing down the console. I realized after shipping the game that that binding wouldn't be the same on other keyboard layouts, which is why I changed the ending of the game for the Steam release. That's what I get for trying to be too clever. ;p

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Hey, I'm also an indie developer, I've really liked everything by you and Minor Key Games that I've played, and I was wondering what a few of your favorite coding languages are. -Teneven

It depends on the application. C++ is my default for most game programming tasks. If I'm writing command line tools, I'll usually go with Python since it has so much built-in support for string manipulation, file management, etc. Most recently, I started learning C# when I was building the level editor for Super Win the Game, and I've really been enjoying it. It's a nice combination of familiar C-like syntax and lots of pre-existing libraries to handle almost anything you could throw at it.

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which Console commands are available and how do i use them?

A lot of them are just for debugging and development, but some of the more useful ones are:

"quit" - Closes the game immediately. Same functionality as hitting the X on the window.
"clear" - Clears the console.
"set" - Sets configurable variables. Same functionality as editing the game's Config.ini except without having to restart the game. Format is "set variable value" or "set section variable value" for variables in a config section. E.g., "set audio musicvolume 0.4".
"reset" - Resets a configurable variable to its default value. Format is "reset variable" or "reset section variable" as above.
"show" - Displays the current value of a configurable variable. Format is "show variable" or "show section variable."
"listconfig" - Displays all configurable variables in a particular section. Format is "listconfig section."
"listconfigsections" - Displays all sections of configurable variables.
"listconfigdeltas" - Displays configurable variables that differ from the default value.
"setres" - Changes the window size or display resolution depending on whether the game is running windowed or fullscreen. Format is "setres widthxheight," e.g., "setres 1280x720."
"dumpstrings" - Exports the string table to a folder for translation. I've documented this process here:
"dumpcontent" - Exports all game assets to a folder.
"slomo" - Adjusts time dilation, e.g. "slomo 0.5" to play at 50% speed.
"platformtests" - Displays information relevant to the current platform, including the path for storing local user game data (saves, config files, etc.).

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I can't find any way to give you money. Please, how can I give you money?

Does jumping in YHTWTG make your horizontal move speed change?

Nope, the horizontal movement speed never changes. It correlates 1:1 to the input device. It doesn't change when you're jumping, and there's also no ramp-up when you start moving or ramp-down when you stop moving. That was a conscious decision made to help facilitate precise platforming and largely influenced by the Mega Man series, which has historically done the same.

Super Win the Game maintains this behavior in most cases. The two exceptions are when you're walking on ice or swimming. There's lots of ramp-up and ramp-down applied for icy surfaces (although it still doesn't change your speed while jumping), and you walk slower but jump higher underwater, again hearkening back to Mega Man.

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If I understand the Steam version's licence right, it's ok to redistribute that game, right? But what's about Do the same license terms apply for it?

The SDK agreement states, "Valve hereby grants Licensee a nonexclusive, royalty-free, terminable, worldwide, nontransferable license to...reproduce and distribute the part of the SDK provided inside the folder named redistributable_bin (the 'SDK Redistributables') along with the Licensee Software in object code form."

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About J. Kyle Pittman:

That guy who made 'You Have to Win the Game.' Co-founded @MinorKeyGames. Making @GunmetalArcadia. Ex-Borderlands 2. Tweets about games, coding, cats, beer, etc.

Frisco, TX