Game development is not some black art; there are tools, tutorials and libraries freely available for anyone to get started. So why have we decided to move away from that and write Wayward Tide in Haskell? Just how are we developing this game?

WARNING: this is about development, not about the game. Please adjust your expectations accordingly!

A Bit Of Detail

We’ve split the development of Wayward Tide into two streams; asset and game content is independent from engine development. This split is really helping to keep the game data-driven, a decision we made to make it easier to mod the game or procedurally generate content for it. Today we’re only talking about the engine (known internally as Cove).

We’re building it on top of SDL2, which is a highly portable and stable library. It’s this portability that let’s us say we will definitely be supporting Windows and Mac. There’s a good chance we’ll support Linux too, but we can’t promise that yet.

Palf's desk

Think I can get a third on there?

The application code is written in Haskell, using the low-level bindings to SDL. The code itself is heavily influenced by Helm – we realised that Helm’s focus on 2D rendering wasn’t going to work for us long term, so we started from scratch using a similar design philosophy.

We’re using Elerea to provide an FRP interface to the SDL event stream. This allows us to composite logic as a series of transformations of a stream, removing a lot of the boilerplate code usually required to handle input and output. A mature example of using FRP for games is Elm, which inspires both Helm and Cove.

It’s difficult switching to a language that doesn’t have as rich a history in the gaming domain, but it’s less of a risk, more of a trade-off. Haskell allows you to express program flow declaratively, which is an accelerant to development; I’ve already been surprised when code has just clicked together. If there’s a killer feature in some other language that we need, there’s always the foreign function interface to drop back on.

Working Practices

The development process is quite flexible. I’m an old-school evangelist of behaviour-driven development, so all specified game behaviour is covered by some level of automated testing. I do cut corners and will skip automating tests if I think the code in question is trivial, which will undoubtedly come back to bite me in a few months time.

We’re using Trello as our task management system. A task goes through the usual planning stage, but we don’t bother with estimation – there’s no pressure to deliver features by a deadline; instead we’ve adopted a “when it’s ready” approach (thanks, Blizzard!). It’s also likely that estimates made now would quickly become worthless – the team roster is not finalised, the developers (well, me) are still learning the ropes – but this is something we may revisit.

To keep us honest, we also do internal weekly demos to the entire company. It doesn’t matter if we’ve managed to take three steps back (this has happened) and the the game won’t even run – we demo anyway. Sometimes you have to own your failure! We plan to film these demos and release them as part of our monthly update, and if interest is high enough we’ll go to a weekly schedule.

These demos are not marketing material – they provide insight to the development process and solicit feedback that goes into the next week’s iteration. This is why we think it’s important to open these demos to a wider audience – after all, it’s your input we’re interested in. We’re going to take a few trial runs at filming; as soon as the video looks good we’ll start sharing them.

Open Source

When you buy Wayward Tide, you’re buying into the content, modding tooling and ecosystem. Much of what makes the game unique will be in the game package, not the engine. Our puzzle design, for example, is considered to be ‘content’. The ability to have puzzles in-game is a result of engine features (like collision and criterion satisfaction detection), so aspiring game devs can make their own puzzle games with it.

Being open source, the Cove engine will hopefully support Haskell game development, which in turn will cause a greater investment in Haskell from the gamedev community. If you’re looking to contribute, keep an eye on the blog – we’ll announce when Cove is available on here and Twitter. You can also find me on GitHub pretty easily.

Any further questions? Leave a comment or follow up on Twitter (@waywardtide)!

We’re incredibly excited to announce the latest in-house development at Chucklefish:


Wayward Tide is a co-operative top-down action adventure game, taking place in a treacherous archipelago during the golden age of piracy. You and up to three other friends will find yourselves in a bustling sea-town, ready to swash-buckle your way through five mysterious islands, of ever increasing riches (and difficulty). You’ll battle dangerous enemies, hoard treasures, solve fiendish puzzles and avoid deadly traps… or maybe you’ll backstab your crew to get ahead!

armourytb jungletb

One of the key features we’re focusing on is the nature of the puzzles and traps, which will introduce a competitive edge to the co-op experience. For instance, you and your friends might find yourself dealing with a pressure plate trap.

The solution would involve everyone stepping off at the same time. Stepping off too early will unhelpfully drop a boulder on your friend. We’re currently planning on a way to resurrect co-op players from time to time, so it’s not game over if a few of you get killed along the way.

Be warned, however – Death comes at a price. If all players die, they’ll find themselves washed up at the starting town. The treasure will carry over, allowing them to upgrade in the town stores, but the next attempt at the island will be a different experience thanks to the randomly generated levels.

Planned Features: 

  • 1-4 Player Support (Local and Online Co-op)
  • Competitive Co-op Experience
  • Randomly Generated levels
  • Five distinct islands with their own theme, enemies, puzzles and traps
  • Modding Support


The Team: 

Allow us to introduce ourselves, we’re a dedicated team at Chucklefish – Working independently from the Starbound team.


SamuriFerret– Artist |  Palf – Coder | Rosie – Producer | Supernorn – Artist


Community and Modding: 

We’re still very early in development, and there are a lot of decisions yet to be made. The vibrant community of Starbound has been a great success, and that’s partly due to the modding scene. We want to encourage the same with this game, so the current plan is to make our development toolset available shortly after the game is released.

We’ll be looking to the community to tell us what they want to see, so get in touch via this blog, or alternatively on Twitter (@waywardtide).