Robert Hornbek

Game Development & Exploration

Synaps: Begins

Posted by rHornbek on April 25, 2011

The placeholder logo for SYNAPS has been in the Games section of my blog for some time now with little to no explaination, yet quit a bit of buzz has spawned from it!  For those of you who have been  interested I am please to say that the development for SYNAPS has been underway since February and it is coming along swimmingly.

An image of the classic Chinese strategy game Go.

SYNAPS is a strategy puzzle game based on the classic Chinese strategy game Go, where users capture and secure territory on a grid using Stones to indicate ownership.  SYNAPS follows many of the same rules as Go while expanding on others and adding completely new ones.

Image of StarCraft 2

As stated, Go is a strategy game based on playing stones to earn points and acquire territory.  Our goal is to take elements from other strategy games that would make the classic Go experience even more exciting and diverse.  I will touch on this a lot more in the near future as we still need to complete the foundation for the game.  In the mean time, here is a sample of how far we have come…

SYNAPS test screen roughly four weeks from Release 1

It is not a lot to look at, but we have almost completed implementing the fundamental Go rules and mechanics, sans some major play-testing.  But after Release 1 we will begin adding advanced features and ultimately taking it beyond the standard game of Go.

PS:  The original team is still polishing off Kernips.  It’s a slow process at the moment but we expect it to be ready to play when we launch the official Uncharted Interactive website.!


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Kernips: Not Dead!

Posted by rHornbek on February 1, 2011

Alas it is February and Kernips has not been released to the general public, and here is why:

Near the end of our production (some time in December) key contributors to the project fell on hard time and had to allocate their time to more life saving activities, such as making enough money to eat!  This drastically reduces our ability to complete the game at the level of quality we would have liked.

So we had to make a decision, to ultimately end development of the game, even in its underdeveloped state (play sad music here).

A month or so later I had my birthday and for my birthday I was given an updated version of the game!

New Art Oh My!

There are a few outstanding issues that should get addressed, but we are all still dedicated to completing the game… at some point.

On one hand we can view the development of Kernips as a failure, not meeting our final deadline and not making any sort of return.  This is not uncommon to indie project, most of which never get played or completed at all!

On the other hand, we started this project as an experiment with no intention of creating anything great.  But when we discovered the potential that we and the game had we pushed ourselves a little further.

In the end we are happy to have come this far and glad we experienced the pitfalls that we did.

I plan to post more about the state of Kernips as time progresses, but don’t hold your breath.

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Kernips: Almost Mature

Posted by rHornbek on December 7, 2010

It has been far too long since I last reported on the development status of Kernips!  So here are some updates…

We did not raise the total money amount we were hoping during our fund raiser ‘sigh’, but we want to thank everyone who pledged what they could during that time! That of course is the bad news, the good news however is that Kernips will be complete and available to play for the new year!  No, not 2012 after the world ends, but rather January of 2011.  The fact of the matter is, the game will not be available for the iPhone as we were hoping it would be had we raised the necessary amount of money.

Our new art-style is coming along swimmingly!  As you may remember we announced the new art-style with the release of the official Kernips logo, as seen below…

Official Kernips Logo created by Rishon Wagner

But this was just the beginning for the updated art-style.  Rishon has been a busy bee creating new art assets for each of the Kernips, their stages of life and reactions to the elements.



Updated Mature Kernips

The Kernips’ sizes differ in this image, but they are ultimately all the same size when they are mature.


Orange Sprout, Green Bud, Yellow Burning (without Fire) and a Dead Kernip 'cries'

Not all of the new art assets are here, we want to leave some surprises of course!  But I also wanted to introduce the new Fissles…


Fissle Sprout, Bud and Mature states

Soon these nasty guys will be filling your garden causing all sorts of havoc for you and your Kernips.  Make sure to torch these little guys before they get out of hand!

There are a few other goodies such as game modes and stats that you will all just have to wait and see!

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Posted by rHornbek on November 29, 2010

Earlier this year I was challenged to make a World of WarCraft dungeon (instance) for users level 10 – 15.  Other specifications included the use of only 3 character model (mobs, monster etc) types for the entire instance to keep production costs low.  In addition, there had to be at least 1 boss battle and I recall 3 or so chain quests that guide the user through the entire experience.

The result of this challenge was War ‘ House 19, a goblin themed instance off the coast, East of Razor Hill, in Durotar.  Much of the instance’s theme is based off of a television series on SyFy called WareHouse 13.  The plot of the TV show revolves greatly around unique relics and trinkets, which is fitting to the goblin culture, in addition to Blizzards use of pop-culture in most of the game.

Map of Durotar, including the location of War ' House 19

You can view details on this challenge here —> Instance Design by R. Hornbek

This was a fascinating project, and in the end taught me a lot about what it takes to simply conceptualize a single instance and how much talent it takes to ultimately create one.  Artists to create the environment, coders to script much of the events, writers to create engaging dialog, and a ton of testing!

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Posted by rHornbek on November 12, 2010

I have always been musically inclined, but it wasn’t until recently that I considered the idea of doing it professionally.  As a game designer I realize how important it is to have a broad range of knowledge  in addition to as many technical skills as possible.

In the last month or so I have been making music, mostly house and dance which has come out better than expected.  While trying to expand my range I asked my brother what sort of music I could listen to that may inspire musical concepts from other genres.  The result of that conversation was this…

If you would like to hear more of my music please check me out at and tell me what you think!

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Bloodline Champions

Posted by rHornbek on October 14, 2010

I only recently learned about this game on and the more I discover the more excited I get!  At first glance it may look like a DotA clone (worse case scenario) or a Team Defense (working genre title) game that has DotA elements but with original mechanics…

Ingame screenshot of Bloodline Champions.

Turns out the game is more like World of WarCraft’s Area, where two teams of users fight to the death!  As you can see from the screenshot above each character has 6 abilities and what looks like a 7th Ultimate ability in addition to the standard mini-map, character portrait and various status bars.  I am not sure what that grey box is on the left though…

Character concept art.

What has really excited me has been the similarities between this game and a concept of mine titled Tikihudu, driven primarily by the tribal art style and forgotten world look.  I imagine this will also make for a great LAN game, so I am eager to test it out…

Tikihudu is all about lost cities, animal gods and stone temples, so I love this art!

That said, if you like what you see please head over to their website and sign up for the beta and check out all of the other art and videos!

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DotA 2

Posted by rHornbek on October 14, 2010

Image of Bloodseeker from DotA 2

Recently there has been all sorts of controversy regarding Valves acquisition of the DotA property and even more so the announcement of Defense of the Ancients 2 (DotA 2).  There does not appear to be a centralized website for the game thus far, but there are enough articles to keep you busy until then if you Google it.  Now it is my turn to add to that list…

Personally I think Valve is making a mistake by trying to create a sequel for the game, or even bothering with the IP in the first place.  Valve has been known for their original properties and revolutionary thinking, and while DotA did establish a genre we are only beginning to see utilized Valve has the brainpower and resources to do far better.

To be fair, all we have seen is artistic renderings of the game’s characters and mention that the game will hold true to the original mechanics.  Is that really so bad?  I don’t think that is terrible, besides Valve has plenty of time to clean it up and make it better, I mean that has been Riot’s intention from the start.  Consider the second FPS ever made, it was probably not all that different than the first, and if you look at the latest FPS there are plenty of similar qualities.  So as long as there is progression I don’t think there is anything to get to worked up over.

What appears to be the greater issue for most people is Valves association with IceFrog, whom apparently does not have the best reputation in the DotA community.  I have never worked with the guy and despite the stories I head about him while working at Riot I really cannot judge.  But still, Valve could have done all of this without him or the DotA title.  Lets just hope they take DotA (not a terrible game) and really make it their own (a great valve game)!

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Kernips: Fund Raiser

Posted by rHornbek on September 19, 2010

I have learned two things working on this second video; one is I cannot stand listening to a recording of my own voice and I speak like Michael Weston (Burn Notice) when I describe things haha!

Today (09/19/10) we submitted our project to, a website dedicated to helping investors find projects and visa versa.  If we are accepted to take part on the website, this video will help convey our mission and needs.

We will be offering to anyone who pledges various rewards and incentives, including but not limited to:

  • Credits
  • Free Copy of the Game
  • Art Book
  • P.B. Winterbottom Tee Shirts
  • P.B. Winterbottom XBOX Face Plates
  • BioShock 2 XBOXFace Plates
  • Get your image integrated into the game
  • Sponsor space on the splash screen

Wish us luck stay tuned to learn more!

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Kernips: Gameplay Demo

Posted by rHornbek on September 15, 2010

Take a look at this rough gameplay demo I put together today.  I plan on making a much more thorough demo sooner than later, but this should be a quick fix.  Keep in mind you are basically looking at the skeleton of the game.  Nearly all of our resources are going into adding skin to this monster so that it will be much more presentable.  I hope you enjoy it!

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Kernips: Team Bios

Posted by rHornbek on September 15, 2010

This post in a long time coming and I am glad to finally introduce to you the team working on Kernips!

Robert Hornbek (Me) Game Designer & Project Manager

If you don’t already know me and/or would like to know more about me just visit my ABOUT page here at my blog.

Steve Hornbek (Brother Steve) Artist

“If I could put my mind on paper I would need a lot more napkins to soak up all the blood from my oozing skull. Thinking literally never got me far in creativity. However, I am an artist! We’re different… right?

Succumbed to daily labor, whether it be a screaming face or my own half brained schemes to act as God and create a world best to my liking on paper, I toll each day praying that my hand will be that much better day by day. Each project is a long process full of disappointment and fleeting success. Its like i am searching for the perfect picture, the holy grail of art that I can look at on a wall and feel at peace with the world only to be welcomed by my next failure. Art was never a means of creating the finished product, it is my journey from one failure to the next. Every fingernails worth of led on paper i look at from my own hands is a mark of dissatisfaction in my eyes because it is not what I am truly searching for. This does not stop me though, it is my driving force.

This project is my next legacy in hopes to better my skill and further push myself to the next level of visual satisfaction. What is one days success will soon become foresights mistake. When I am done with this project, perhaps I might have gotten closer to my goal of achieving perfect craftsmanship of paper and pencil. This is my duty, this is my pencil and it wont fall till my skull is restitched and my mind can be shut of its creative juices to rest.” – Brother Steve

R. Steve Warren (2teve) Programmer

“My love for gaming began at a young age when my elder brother introduced me to both videogames and pencil/paper RPGs. My first hand experience with fencing (sword fighting) and study of magick and religions lead me to belive, as a GM/DM, that there could be a better fighting system established for RPGs. After this I began creating my own system for everything that seemed lacking and it eventually bloomed into its own world and set of rules. I hope that one day they could all be implemented into a videogame. As an extension of my anal-retentive nature that became apparent in creating the framework for RPGs, I spent several years learning computer programming. Kernips has thus far been an interesting challenge as this is my first time using ActionScript. In the interest of avoiding a shortened life that tends to befall programmers, I have spent the last 4 years in school learning Traditional Chinese Medicine (Acupuncture and Herbology).” – 2teve

Stephen Reider (DJ Steve) Composer

“I grew up in California and am now attending law school in Washington. I started writing music in high school as a hobby, and over time it developed into a passion of mine. Although I’m going to law school, I’m also constantly pursuing a career in music. I’m always looking for a good excuse to sit down and write music. Kernips is a great project to be a part of, and I’m looking forward to working with the team in the future as well.” – DJ Steve

Rishon Wagner (Rio) Artist

“I recently graduated from San Jose Sate University with a BFA in animation. I has a very strong background in drawing fundamentals, but I spend most of my time drawing cartoons. I love to create concepts and ideas. Kernips represents a new and interesting challenge for me, designing for games. I enjoy working as part of a team and I am very excited about working on Kernips. My favorite part of the process is when a finished product has been achieved. It is a great feeling to see everyone’s hard work come together.” – Rio

Sonja Just (SQRL) Advertising

“Since I was a little girl I have always gravitated toward the cute, morbid, collecting, goal setting and entertaining video games. I have always been a creative person since as long as I can remember and if I can be a part of a project that entertains people, I’m there! I have a BA in Cinema/Television Arts from California State University Northridge. By profession I am a video editor and I spend much of my time working on web based programming. Kernips is my first experience working on a game and I plan on making it as popular as I can through advertising via video and social media.” – SQRL

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