Vanishing Act, the latest installment in the Detective Kate franchise, explores a new side of Kate Gray unseen in previous games. What people are a part of Kate’s personal life? Has she always been this clever? In the interview below, the designers behind the game discuss its creative process.
What has your journey through the gaming industry looked like?
Andrew and Robin, how has it been working on your first game at Haiku?
Andrew: Wonderful! Everyone on the Haiku team has been very welcoming and has helped support our vision for Vanishing Act. It’s been an honor to work on the latest Kate Gray story, and I hope our players will enjoy playing it as much as I enjoyed working on it!
Robin: The newest part to me is working tightly with a team. Most of the gaming teams I’ve worked on met sporadically, and our responsibilities were pretty separate. Here, I was co-designing chapters side-by-side with teammates, which has been quite enriching! Often, we’d start a meeting with an idea of where the story would go, only for the narrative to transform as our ideas collided. While I’ve worked on dozens of projects, this whole experience has made the creative process seem new again. It was an honor working with such exceptional designers!
And Chris, how has it been overseeing a team at Haiku?
Challenging! Game design has been my main focus for the last few years, so I've definitely had to flex a different part of my brain while overseeing Andrew and Robin in a more manager-focused role. I do enjoy the added challenge, and they've been great! I feel like I still have a lot to improve upon, but that's sort of reinvigorated my spirit a little bit. I always think it's good to step out of your comfort zone. It helps you grow. And growth is where the good stuff is!
What was your favorite part to work on in Vanishing Act?
Chris: I think the final chapter was both my favorite part and the hardest part to work on. It presented a lot of design challenges because of the location. We struggled for a while to make all of the rooms fit together. It required all three of us (Andrew, Robin, and I) to work closely. When we got all of the pieces to fit and played the chapter, there was a big, satisfying sigh of relief that we finally got it working. We all learned a lot, for sure! Big props to our developers, too.
Andrew: I really enjoyed weaving the story into the gameplay. In Vanishing Act, we worked hard to develop puzzles and scenarios that are not only fun to engage with on their own, but also tell the player a bit more about Kate and her world. I hope that these puzzles will help players get immersed in the story.
Robin: Definitely Chapters Three and Four. Not to spoil anything, but we dove into part of Kate’s past in ways the series hasn’t done before. There was a tricky puzzle at the end of each chapter, and both came together so well because of our developers. We couldn’t have done it without them! Shout out to Henryk Kaufman and Karol Sobański. The settings themselves were also so inspiring and felt different from the first part of the game. Imaginaires (our art team for this game) absolutely nailed the environments and character expressions.
What are you most excited for players to experience in this game?
Chris: I think longtime Kate Gray fans are going to love some of the big reveals surrounding Kate's personal life. This game might be the first time we take a deep dive into Kate's past.
Another thing longtime players will immediately notice is the new celebration animation when solving a puzzle or completing a chapter. We've also got some new UI elements in the AEM library launching at the same time, along with our new VIP Content bundle that includes a pretty hefty bonus chapter. It's been a very busy year for everyone at Haiku, and I can't wait until people get to see all of the other titles we're currently working on.
Andrew: I can’t wait for our players to experience the story! Kate Gray is a fascinating character, but the details of her life outside of her detective work have been shockingly sparse up until this point. With Vanishing Act, we really wanted to explore Kate more as a character by delving deep into her past. I’m excited for our players to learn more about Kate and how she became the detective we know today.
Robin: As my teammates have mentioned, we’re all excited for the players to experience Kate’s past and learn more about her backstory. I’m also thrilled to say that Kate’s relationship with Murphy will progress, and in ways I don’t think the players will expect. For those who aren’t as concerned about the story, there are so many new puzzles and unique environments. There’s a lot to love about this game!
Vanishing Act is available for everyone on December 20, 2023. If you’d like to play now, you can purchase the VIP Bundle. With it comes early access, an exclusive bonus Young Detective Kate chapter, 30 stars, and enough keys to unlock the game in its entirety!
Update: The VIP Bundle is now available on iOS and Google Play. Please update Adventure Escape Mysteries to version 26.00+ to play!
Detective Kate returns in Vanishing Act!
We are excited to announce the next major update coming to Adventure Escape Mysteries! In our newest mystery, Vanishing Act, Kate and Murphy attend a magic show on a long-awaited date. What could possibly go wrong?
What is the VIP Bundle?
We are launching a new feature called the VIP Bundle along with Vanishing Act. The VIP Bundle includes three major benefits for players.
How much does the VIP bundle cost?
The VIP bundle will cost $8.99. The Keys and Stars you get with the bundle are worth $9.99, so you can get the bonus chapter and early access for less than the cost of the keys and stars purchased separately! All the hints and skips are free in the bonus chapter so you’ll never be stuck for long.
Do I need to buy the VIP bundle to finish the story in Vanishing Act?
No, you do not. You can complete the main story in Vanishing Act by playing for free. The Homecoming bonus chapter in the VIP bundle is a separate story involving Kate's adventures in high school.
Will every future mystery have a VIP bundle?
We don’t know yet. There will be a VIP Bundle for Vanishing Act as well as our next mystery which will come out in early 2024. Whether or not we continue depends on how you, our players, react to them. Let us know what you think about the bundles and if we should keep doing them.
Why are you offering VIP content?
Our goal is to keep making Adventure Escape for years to come. Imagine if we could release a high quality Adventure Escape update every month instead of every 3-4 months like we do now. This is something many players have asked for.
To do that, we have to keep bringing on amazingly talented people and manage the rising costs of creating Adventure Escape. Our standards have constantly been going up–if you look at some of the art in Vanishing Act versus our first game, Pyramids of Giza, you can see the increase in quality.
At the same time, we want to offer something that is valuable for players. We hope the combination of unique content, early access, and the included keys and stars will be exciting for our players.
If you choose to purchase the VIP Bundle, we’re thankful to you for supporting Haiku Games. You’re helping us update Adventure Escape with new, free mysteries for years to come. Hopefully this explains our decision to create the VIP bundle. As always, let us know your thoughts!
Founder, Haiku Games
* These release dates are for iOS and Google Play. Vanishing Act will release a few weeks later for the Kindle, Steam, and Windows version of Adventure Escape Mysteries.
9/22/2023 Update: Unity reversed their decision which makes us cautiously optimistic. Upgrading Unity will still be a significant cost for us, but at least this change is not retroactive. Thanks to other game developers for also voicing their concerns about Unity, and our players for supporting us!
Unity, the game engine we use for Adventure Escape, announced a pricing change that seems designed to punish Haiku Games and other indie game developers.
The bottom line is Unity is adding a new fee where they will charge game developers $0.15 to $0.02 per new install. This is on top of the $2,040 per year subscription fee per developer for Unity pro, or other Unity services like Unity’s content delivery fee.
Why does this target some developers?
We ran the numbers for 4 small game companies and calculated the impact of the Unity Runtime Fee for each of them. We assumed each company has 4 Unity developers. Each company also has revenue of $5 million a year, but the way they reach it is very different.
Here is a table of how the Unity price change will affect these developers. (Our model is here, modified from this model)
Some developers will be completely crushed by this change. If you make a $20 game, then $0.15 per install is not that bad. But if you make a free-to-play game, this fee is a huge percentage of your revenue. On mobile, 95%+ of games are free. For Developer 4 who makes the kids app, Unity will take $1.8 MM from the developer, over two hundred times more than the developer is paying Unity now. (If you think the kids app example is extreme, look at this post from a kids app developer whose real numbers are even worse.)
It seems arbitrary that Unity decided some developers can survive but others cannot. This change from Unity will specifically target game developers who have high-download, low-revenue per user games. Based on our knowledge of the market, we believe many free to play game developers will go bankrupt due to this change. It seems impossible that this is an accident because many other pricing models (for example, raising the price of the Unity Pro subscription) would affect all developers equally.
What do we think about the change?
There’s a lot that is frustrating about this situation.
We get that development tools cost money. At Haiku, we’ve paid Unity hundreds of thousands of dollars in subscriptions and fees over the years. Outside of Unity, many companies have raised prices over the years and we understand that costs go up. But raising prices up to 400 times current rates is unprecedented.
Perhaps most frustrating about this situation is that it harms all parties: developers, players, and yes, even Unity. How will this work out for Unity in the long term? It is hard to imagine recommending Unity to new developers in the future. And every existing Unity developer is going to evaluate the cost of continuing to use Unity versus switching to another engine.
What does this mean for Haiku?
The good news is that Haiku will survive and keep making games. Don’t get us wrong, this is a major issue and we might have to adjust some plans, but we are one of the fortunate developers who will keep going. All the credit goes to the Haiku Games team and our players for supporting us throughout our journey. But make no mistake, a lot of our fellow game developers will go bankrupt if Unity proceeds with this change.
We're often asked by our players what soundtracks are in our games. Here is a list of all the soundtracks of mysteries in Adventure Escape Mysteries.
We Need A Hero by jeremyrwiebe
Suspenseful Mystery by jeremyrwiebe
Slow Tension by jeremyrwiebe
Clue: The Murder of Mr. Black
Something Dark by SCOREWIZARDS
Christmas Jazz by pinkzebra
Mysterious by pinkzebra
Emotional Piano by cleanmindsounds
Scientific Inquiry by PantheonMusic
Night Club by VensAdams
Christmas Snowfall Loop by Purpleplanet
Mysterious Suspenseful Investigative Documentary by lucafrancini
Mellow Wood by SCOREWIZARDS
Mystery in the Forest by PhilLarson
Hitchcock Suspense by JBlanks
Dark Lullaby by JBlanks
Ambient Horror Music by AGsoundtrax
Abandoned by JBlanks
Killer on Campus by JBlanks
Hitchcock Thriller by JBlanks
Elven Forest by WizardBoy
Epic Fantasy Cinematic by LuLu_Production
The Mystical Sacred River by FlinTwin
Adventure by NeonRecords
In the Dark Jungle by SGAndersson
Epic Adventure by OctoberOrchestra
The Echo Bay Murders
Cyber Trance by JBlanks
Be Suspense by ArtHaiz
Dark Suspense by PhilLarson
The Strange Thing by PetrenjMusic
Investigative News Documentary by pinkzebra
Science and Medical Research by MusicDog
Post Apocalyptic by TexasBrother
Ambient Wild West Guitar by OlexandrIgnatov
In These Woods by Crypt-of-Insomnia
Synthwave Outrun by lucafrancini
Story by MrRevant
Dark Night by WizardBoy
Period Drama Chase by simonstevens
Legend of the Sacred Stones
Enchanted by Orchestralis
Ambient Piano by AllenGrey
Epic Mysterious Theme by AudiophileTrax
Epic Choir & the Temple of Doom by AllenGrey
Mystery by Orchestralis
Temple of Doom by AllenGrey
Haunting Winter Snow by BlueSkyAudio
On A Cold Winter Day by Adigold
Female Choir by Orchestralis
Stars by -MARiAN-
Dark Choir and Orchestra by Orchestralis
Gothic Choir by AllenGrey
Legend of the Time Stones
Epic Fantasy by kornevmusic
Middle East Cinematic Atmosphere by AllenGrey
Epic Battle by mr_B_Music_Studio
Daydreaming by AllenGrey
Fantasy by _Blacksmith_
Heavenly Inspiration by gilv
Fantasy World by _Blacksmith_
This is War by Lowtone
Dreamy Cinematic Choir by Orchestralis
Epic & Dramatic Choir Theme by AGsoundtrax
Emotional Dramatic by DmitriySimf
Hollywood Trailer by PraskMusic
Positive Inspiring Singing Girl by RedOctopus
Egyptian Adventures by MatthewPablo
Arabian Nights by iCENTURY
Enchanting Ritual Dance by MusicDog
Hot Sand by StudioEtude
Cinematic Adventure by MalirecStudio
Under Water by SilverHoof
Underwater Paradise by TheStoryShop
History by fatbunny
Hope of Salvation by tunestogo
Pantheon by SCOREWIZARDS
Epic Battle by Anuch
For Halloween by TexasBrother
Sad Emotion by dimadjdocent
Mystery by Stereo_Color
Calm Ominous Orchestral Horror Intro by lucafrancini
Horror Suspense by lucafrancini
Eerie by SilverHoof
Dark Synths and Retro Horror by JBlanks
On The Dark Side by Crypt-of-Insomnia
Trailer Cabal by Synthezx
Haunted Mansion by lucafrancini
The House of Fear by Adigold
As The Crow Flies by scottwills
Mysterious Clues by SCOREWIZARDS
Mysterious Things by SnowMusicStudio
Mysterious Artifact by Crypt-of-Insomnia
Something’s Wrong by Adigold
Mistery by melodylabs
Orchestral Tension by Emanuel-Abrudean
On Thin Ice
Atmospheric Ambient Piano with clock by AllenGrey
Mysterious by 8thModeMusic
Inspiring Romance by MusicDog
Countdown to Blast by Alex_Greets
Investigate by boomopera
Mystery by KonstantinMark
Mystery and Magic by Cinematique
Danger by StudioKolomna
Whimsical by bdProductions
Wish Song by AllenGrey
Peaceful Village by MatthewPablo
Super Cute Game Music by MatthewPablo
Emotional Dream by Adigold
French Cafe Bossa Nova by NikiNPhaser
Kitchen Jazz by LoopsLab
Creepy Music Box by 8thModeMusic
Dark Lullaby by JBlanks
Hopes and Dreams by AGsoundtrax
Documentary Ambient by bdProductions
Relaxing Beach Guitars by trackscube
Relax by Alex_Greets
A Beautiful Land by TortoiseTree
Cool Orchestral Hip Hop by pinkzebra
Summer Dreams by pinkzebra
Wedding by M-S-STUDIO
Sadness Piano by Korolkov
A Sentimental Background by alexbird
Gentle & Flowing Piano with Light Orchestra by pinkzebra
Club Corporate Music by HimProduction
Cinematic Classic by alexbird
Pirates Secret by JaToPra
Calypso Cool by JBlanks
Epic Pirate Battle Theme by MatthewPablo
Ghost Ship Loop by AllenGrey
Calmness by cleanmindsounds
Farewell by lucafrancini
Danger by StudioKolomna
Lonely Mourning by PhilLarson
Atmospheric Cinematic Ambient by _Blacksmith_
A Haunting Tale by AudiophileTrax
Fashion Love by lucafrancini
Lonely Nights by Adigold
Ambient Suspense Background Loop by AllenGrey
Suspenseful Dark Cinematic Mystery by SunChannelMusic
Inspiring Dreams by AudiophileTrax
Medieval Background Loop by lucafrancini
Epic Fantasy Orchestral Action Adventure by 8thModeMusic
Adventure by AllenGrey
Fantasy Adventure mr_B_Music_Studio
Mysterious by GentleJammers
Eastern Desert Adventure by KabbalisticVillage
Middle Eastern by iCentury
Winter and Snowman by VictoryAudio
Mysteries of the Forest by Purpleplanet
Nightfall Of The Magical Forest by CineMedia
Castle Vampire by SCOREWIZARDS
Mountain Adventure by SCOREWIZARDS
Fanfare by pinkzebra
Whistling Tune by SeaportSound
Mysterious Clues by SCOREWIZARDS
Curiosity by soundroll
Sneaking Around by TheStoryShop
Sneaky Mischief by lucafrancini
Pizzicato Latino Background Loop by Praded
Arabian Legend by CineMedia
Anxious Middle-East by tunestogo
Savage Desert by simonleng
Mid-Eastern Charms by tunestogo
Flower Of The East by SnowMusicStudio
Desert Caravan by SCOREWIZARDS
Arabia by bdProductions
Heart of the Sahara by simonleng
Mysterious Trailer by J_A_Garcia
Countdown to Blast by Alex_Greets
Orchestral Tension and Suspense by Cinematique
Mysterious by 8thModeMusic
The Mystery by LMNT_media
A Mystery by boomopera
Suspense 2 by Cinematique
Mystery and Magic by Cinematique
Secret Station by cleanmindsounds
Update Adventure Escape Mysteries to play Clue!
For a limited time, experience Clue in Adventure Escape Mysteries! In Clue: The Murder of Mr. Black, meet a cast of colorful suspects while you explore the manor and locate clues to solve the case. Who killed Mr. Black, with what, and where?
This game is only available for 30 days. Can you solve the case in time?
Adventure Escape Mysteries is available on iOS, Google Play, Facebook Cloud, Steam, Windows, and Kindle Fire.
The Steam version of Adventure Escape Mysteries is up to date!
Major update! We added 20 mysteries to the Steam version of Adventure Escape Mysteries. Play it here!
Allied Spies is available on Adventure Escape Mysteries!
One of our classic games, Allied Spies, is now available! Newlyweds Ed and Marie parachute into Occupied France to save two physicists from the Nazis. Plans go awry as the ruthless Major Kressler smashes their spy ring. Who's the traitor? Where are the scientists? Will Ed and Marie ever get a night alone?
Update Adventure Escape Mysteries to play Legend of the Time Stones!
Aila travels through the past, present and future to stop an evil Sorcerer in this sequel to Legend of the Sacred Stones. Explore elaborate new temples and battle Gods from faraway lands as Aila discovers the hidden truth behind the Sorcerer's motivation.
Adventure Escape Mysteries is available on iOS, Google Play, Facebook Cloud, Windows, and Kindle Fire.
What's coming up?
At Haiku Games, we are always experimenting to make the best games. Our next two games feature short stories with fewer chapters. The first of these will be out by the end of the year, so stay tuned!
At Haiku Games, we receive hundreds of resumes for each position that we post. Since we see so many candidates, we’ve been able to identify common mistakes in their applications.
Mistake 1: You talk more about how you love playing games rather than making them
One of the reasons I love the game industry is that it's filled with people that love games. That passion for the product was something I never experienced in my previous jobs. That said, in the same way that watching a lot of movies doesn't make you qualified to be a director, playing a lot of games doesn’t mean you are good at making them. I always enjoy hearing about what games people love - but spend more time emphasizing the games you have made and projects you have completed.
Mistake 2: You don’t know the company
I understand applying for jobs is time consuming so you might not be able to do a deep dive on every single company that you apply for. However, you should be able to quickly figure out some basic facts about the company and what games they make by looking at their website. For example, Haiku Games is an indie company. Do you want to work at any indie company? Say something about that. We also make Adventure Escape games. Do you like this type of game? Say something about that. If you don’t like indie companies or our games… well you probably don’t want the job.
Mistake 3: Your accomplishments are hard to understand
You can stand out from many other applicants if you can frame your accomplishments in a measurable way. For example, tell us how many people played the game you were involved in or the number of people you managed. If you work at a small game company, we might not know what it is. Is it an indie company with a huge kickstarter campaign, a venture backed game studio, or four friends in a garage? This will help us understand your work experience.
It is particularly difficult to distinguish between students graduating from game design programs. Almost everyone has worked on a number of student game projects. How can we tell the difference between these projects? Was your project successful? Did you ship it commercially later? Were you at the top of the class? Anything you can tell us that helps us understand your accomplishments will make you stand out.
Mistake 4: You don’t connect the dots from your experience to the job
Especially when we are hiring for junior game designer positions, we have many candidates who do not have professional game design experience. If this is you, please make it easy to understand how you are qualified. A surprising number of people apply for a job from a completely unrelated field (for example, construction management) and say nothing about why that would be a good fit for the game industry.
For example, one of our game designers, was previously a Development Coordinator at a children’s museum. It isn’t obvious how that is connected to game design. However, she explained she loves escape rooms and puzzles, designed an escape room for her friends, and was a consultant for an escape room company.
One of the reasons I love being a founder of a company is because we can take a chance on different people. This lines up with our worldview that greatness can come from anywhere. I hope this article helps you in your job search.
If you’re interested in working at Haiku Games, our jobs are posted here.
Congratulations to the Top 500 finishers of the Adventure Escape Global Race. Read more about how the race went and future plans here!
What is the AEM Global Race?
The Global Race is our first ever live event for Haiku Games since we first started making games 7 years ago! We thought adding the excitement of a timed competition to the satisfaction of solving our puzzle mysteries would be a fun event for our players.
Congratulations to those players who completed the race already! As of this writing, we have over 300 people that have successfully completed Psychic Squad. We are extremely impressed by everyone - many of you completed chapters quicker than members of the Haiku Games team when we were playtesting the chapter! Prizes will be awarded for all finishers, so don't give up.
A small but significant number of players did not realize they had to purchase a ticket to play in the race. We sincerely apologize to those who thought they could play the race but weren’t able to without a ticket. We will review all communications sent to players to see how we can do better in the future.
Our new game Psychic Squad will be available for everyone for free as usual shortly after the race is over and we finalize the game (for example, we have to add the hints and puzzle skips in). We expect it will come out in 1-2 weeks.
We’re certainly excited about the response to the race. Many players let us know they had a great time and wanted to play another one. We also heard that some players connected with other players around the world, and it makes us feel great that we can bring people together by creating games. It’s too early to tell, but we hope to hold a race for another game in the future!
In the meantime, we are working on bringing one of the Haiku Classic games, Starstruck featuring Detective Kate Gray, to Adventure Escape Mysteries. We are also working on an unannounced new title featuring never before seen characters that we can’t wait to show everyone. Here’s a sneak peak!
Trapmaker 3 Launch!
We are happy to be launching Trapmaker 3: The Final Trap! Play the thrilling conclusion to the Trapmaker trilogy. Trapmaker took Kate’s friends hostage and hid them in an abandoned amusement park filled with his deadly traps. Will Kate be able to rescue her friends and escape alive?
Play Trapmaker 3 on Steam!
The Covenant Premium Release!
We also have a surprise release of The Covenant. Sam goes on a camping trip with her high school friends. An ancient evil awakens, forcing you to choose who will be sacrificed to The Hunger each night! Will anyone escape?
We’ve listened to feedback from many Steam users who say they prefer a paid download instead of the free to play model. If you purchase The Covenant all chapters will be unlocked, and all skips and hints will will be included in the game for 0 stars. The Covenant has many choices you make which impact the story, so it’s highly replayable. Let us know what you think!
Play The Covenant on Steam!