The New (Sorta) Hadrosaurus Software

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Hi everybody. Clarissa here. I’m gonna cut to the chase and apologize for the fact that we haven’t posted any updates in many, many months. I won’t go into details — partly for team members’ privacy, but also because the more you try to explain, the more it sounds like you’re just making excuses. But basically, we’ve all been dealing with various issues, from our personal lives to day jobs that we hate to managing burnout. The lack of communication is entirely on me, but at the end of the day, we’re all just part-timers, even me, and it’s hard sometimes.

I pledge to do better in the future, and that’s what this post is about.

It’s a long one, so grab a beverage and snack of your choice and sit back.

A Funny Thing Happened to Me on the Way to Acronia

The tl;dr version is that for now, Acronia is on hiatus. Explaining why involves going into the project’s history a little bit.

Prior to working on Acronia, I had no real experience developing for DOS, other than a handful of poorly-made game prototypes written in QuickBASIC in the ’90s. Developing Acronia for DOS as opposed to modern systems with a spur-of-the-moment decision. I figured that I could stand out more by making a brand-new DOS game in 2019 than by creating yet another modern, retro-styled game that would probably get lost in the crowd.

I didn’t do a whole lot of research into what it took to program a game for a limited system like the early-’90s 386 and 486 machines that I was targeting. My last decade or so of development had been exclusively in modern C++ for modern systems, and when I saw that Open Watcom could cross-compile for DOS, and supported C++, I immediately jumped into creating Acronia using the very same techniques I was accustomed to. I used STL containers willy-nilly, re-drew the scene every single frame, and generally wasted cycles like they were being given away free at a church potluck. Additionally, I never did any testing on real hardware, or even in DOSBox with anything less than max cycles.

My first public demo, released for the DOS Games Jam in 2020, ran so poorly that at the last minute, I had to remove enemies from the game altogether in order to get it to run at even half its target framerate on a Pentium. The result was an uninspiring demo where all you could do was walk around a bunch of empty levels. It got a lot of attention and was one of the hits of that particular jam, but it was also an embarrassing wake-up call.

Over the next four years, development of Acronia was a constant running battle against my own programming tendencies: trying to learn new (old) paradigms for game programming. Trimming the fat. Removing all my C++-isms in favor of a leaner “C With Classes” kind of style. Learning how to draw more efficiently to the VGA. By late 2023, with the help of the Lobdegg, I had trimmed Acronia’s engine down quite a bit, and it ran decently well on a Pentium. Still not fast enough for my tastes, but I was getting there.

And then disaster struck. The engine kept getting slower and slower, apparently because of some architectural changes I had made. I didn’t really start to notice until about a month—and several dozen git commits—later, by which point reverting those changes would have meant stopping development for a few weeks while I re-implemented everything I had done in the interim, piece by piece, and testing and re-testing at every step. To make matters worse… the game started crashing, seemingly at random.

My morale was in the toilet. Here’s an interesting thing about Open Watcom: I don’t know if the problem is me, or the software itself, but in the four-plus years I’d been working on the game, I was never able to figure out how to get Open Watcom’s debugger and profiler to work properly. So basically I was faced with serious showstopping bugs on top of still not having the performance I wanted… and no way to profile the performance or find the bugs. Demoralized, I did what I thought I would never do…

I quit.

I had a serious talk with myself. Acronia had eaten up five years of my life, including the entire lifespan of Hadrosaurus Software to this point. With our second anniversary approaching, we’ve released a grand total of one (1) new game. Continuing to grind away on Acronia wasn’t doing our quest to raise that number to two (2) any favors. I decided a new direction was needed. At first, my idea was to continue to develop Acronia, but as a modern-retro game. That would enable me to finish the game quickly, and even though it wouldn’t be for DOS anymore, and probably lose us a good chunk of the game’s fan base, at least it would be done.

But then I realized that approach would only serve to anchor me to the same project that was dragging me down. What was actually needed was to focus on rapid development of new, smaller, easier games. At least for now. I think if I work fast, I can get at least two titles pushed out by the end of the year, and then perhaps redirect my focus back to Acronia.

So yeah, Acronia is not canceled. I’ve put in too much time, work, energy, and money into it to let it die like that. The Lobdegg and I are discussing the possibility of developing a whole new DOS engine sometime early next year, with the goal of running Acronia more efficiently and finally finishing the game (and of course, being able to use the engine for other DOS games as well!). They’re a far superior DOS programmer than I, and will program the engine; I will focus on the game content. It’ll be the kind of partnership we envisioned when we first started working together two years ago, before we both got focused on our own, individual projects.

Once More, With Heart

With that new plan in place, I’m delighted to introduce our first new project, Enigma Heart! It’s a side-scrolling action RPG, a love letter to my favorite NES game of all time (and second-favorite game, period), Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. It’s only five weeks into development, so I don’t have a lot to announce yet, except that it follows Zalia, a peasant woman who is attacked while trekking the wilds. She’s found and brought to a village where she’s taken care of by the local innkeeper. Having lost her memory, Zalia sets out on a quest to remember who she is and why she was attacked. Along the way, her adventure becomes much bigger than she could have imagined.

It’s a modern game, for Windows/Linux/macOS. I’m also looking into what’s required to get it Steam Deck verified. A port for Nintendo Switch also isn’t out of the question, although I don’t know what’s involved there, so it probably won’t be on day one.

I’ve been wanting to make a Zelda II-like for years. When I decided that Acronia needed to be shelved for the time being and I needed to focus on making new games quickly, I realized that the best thing I could do was take a design I’m already intimately familiar with — in this case, Zelda II — and develop my own take on it. The Lobdegg, knowing what a perfectionist I am, and knowing how much I love to tweak and iterate instead of just getting things done, literally dared me to work on a proof of concept and have it ready in two weeks. I (proudly!) met their challenge — and their deadline. A month later, Enigma Heart’s development is moving along faster than I’ve ever worked on any game, and I’m expecting to have it done sometime this summer.

Enigma Heart is being designed in 240p and scales beautifully to modern displays. The pixel art is being drawn by new friend-of-the-company Emily Szabó. Returning to craft the music is Acronia’s composer, Martijn Frazer!

Because the game is currently about 98% placeholder graphics, most of which are taken from its direct inspiration, I’m hesitant to post any screenshots just yet. But I plan to write weekly updates about the development, and with Emily already working on the graphics, you should start seeing some visuals pretty soon. 🙂

Personally, I think it’s kinda funny that a game that I created pretty much on a dare, and whose story and concept came to me out of thin air while I was in the car on the way to my friend’s house one evening last month, will turn out to be my first released title, after so many years of trying.

Weird how life works, innit?

So, About That Patreon Page

The last, perhaps most important part of this new direction is finally giving our Patreon (and by extension, web and social media) presence some sorely-needed TLC. Very soon, we’ll be tweaking our patron tiers to include some additional perks, as well as making a renewed effort to deliver on the ones already in place. Elizabeth and I are working on integrating Patreon with our official Discord server, as well as utilizing that server for more community engagement. We’re looking at doing regular hangouts and development updates. We’re also in the process of planning and designing merch to give away as thank-you gifts for our Patreon supporters. These gifts won’t be anything extravagant — most likely stickers, to start with — but as the company, and our Patreon grows, we may consider bigger things.

We’re also discussing plans for streaming again. I know I tried streaming a few times last year and it didn’t go anywhere. But that was publicly on YouTube, and I never felt comfortable about doing it that way. This time, it would be on Discord, where I’d feel more comfortable engaging directly with our community. Other Hadrosaurus Software team members have also expressed interest in taking part. These streams could be anything from Q&As to development streams, or even just playing games and hanging out with our community. Although we’re not ready to announce these as official Patreon perks yet, we may be doing some test streams here and there, so keep an eye out for those.

We’re just about ready, as well, to launch our new website at, and will be posting more often and more regularly on our Mastodon account, including participating in trending hashtags like #ScreenshotSaturday.