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eat your words

I published a new thing! It's the first in a few months and I'm extremely glad to be creating again. It's a contact form for this website, with a twist.

You move by pressing any English alphanumeric key (or some select punctuation), which places a character for the key you pressed and moves you along. The goal, the challenge, is to write a coherent message whilst being chased down by an adversary in the game space: if they touch you, the game ends. You can also stop early by pressing the Enter key.

Post-game you're shown your message and given the choice of whether you want to send that message or discard it, with the additional option to provide your own email address.

It really is hooked up, I really do receive the messages! I wondered if anyone tried it and thought it was just a presentation or a joke and didn't realise it's functional, but I guess we'll never know :)

A select few messages received throughout the day:


With no option for lower casing or spaces, every message has a shouty panicked vibe, but everything still remains pretty legible! The nonsense messages only happen when you freak out. To anyone who sent anything, I loved reading it all.

Conceptually, I love this idea. I was so excited when I thought of it last week. The end result isn't feature complete and has some bugs, but a self-imposed deadline of Sunday meant the world gets to see it in all its honesty.

Here are some of the higher priority to-dos:

  • A different AI state for the adversary. It hunts down the player which makes sessions short, too short. It would have been better to have the adversary get scared and turn back as they honed in on the player.
  • Additional pellets in the game ('power pills') that would modify the game in some way, probably spawning another adversary. So the AI of each adversary would be easier to avoid, but the complete duration of the game would be limited by difficulty.
  • A way of visually showing when you cut off your own message, which would help make the player aware of when they're limiting their words and actively change their play to combat that.
  • The random movement of the player should favour directions not traversed to avoid truncating the message
  • Key repeats, tab/enter etc on the UI form

And some of the many bugs:

  • The message isn't always parsed correctly even if you don't truncate it through play, I think. But I'm really not sure.
  • Sometimes the first and last characters of the string get duplicated.
  • The input UX isn't great, and the reply-to field overflow scrolling is functional but imperfect
  • The 'Send' doesn't report errors. There's no reason it should fail unless you get disconnected from the internet after starting the game, but it will spin forever. The success message is real though!

Plus two hidden features:

  • If you hold arrow keys whilst moving you'll force that direction, including rewriting the current character by moving 'into' a wall.
  • The reply-to field has no validation and no length limit. It can be a message box. One person realised and gave feedback through it :)

And one clarification:

  • There is input buffering, but based on feedback it's not aggressive enough. Not being able to type full speed is part of the fun though -

I enjoyed the project, maybe some of the bugs will be fixed, but not this day and not this week. I'm moving on to other stuff for a little while. This project has already inspired another idea with subversive input mechanics in my notepad though, so maybe a spiritual successor some day? We'll see.

If you want to talk, send a message:


They really do come through to me and I'll send a reply to anyone who leaves their own address!