Space Exposures is a kind of mini arcade game that gives you the chance to experience both the joy
and the frustration that we astrophotographers can sometimes feel during a clear, starry night. Feel
the thrill of delight from a perfectly captured photo, and despair in the utter frustration at all the
clouds that constantly get in the way.
The idea for this game came to me in 2023 when I helped my son with his programming project for
school. After helping him, I realised that it had been ages since I’d done any computer programming
and that it was fantastic fun to be grappling with solving coding problems again. You see, I actually
used to work as a programmer during the 1990s and early 2000s before I decided to become a full-
time photographer in 2012.
OK then, I wanted to create a game but what kind of game should it be? For which platform should I
make it? And not least, how should it look? After a few days of thinking the idea suddenly appeared,
like a bolt of lightning from a clear sky. Of course, I had to make a mobile, astrophotography-themed
game with a bit of a retro arcade feel to it – like Space Invaders but for astrophotography.
I immediately started to outline the functionality and content I wanted to include. The most
important thing was creating a way to determine whether the player managed to take a good photo
with the right equipment. So the first thing I did was sketch out a score-calculation system that takes
several aspects of photography into account in the calculations. I’m very happy with how this scoring
system works in the end. The score is calculated based on how well the lens you choose matches the
object you are photographing (Focal distance), how well you capture the entire object in the photo
frame (Composition) as well as the distance to the object. If the object is too close when you take
the photo there’s a risk that it will be blurry, but if you’re quick and snap the object early on you get
After that it was time to design all the graphics; the camera, different lenses, menus, buttons and so
on. Such a fun and inspiring process, but it was also really time-consuming. The tricky part was
getting the graphical style to hang together throughout the entire game. My goal was to make the
graphics feel both futuristic and retro, to recreate the feel of the old arcade games.
In the end I chose iPhone as the platform, simply because I have an iPhone myself. I’ve never
previously worked in Xcode or Swift, the development platform and language for making iPhone
apps and games, so the first thing I needed to do was teach myself how to progam in Swift and learn
the tools for producing games. During the process I constantly learnt new problem-solving
techniques, so the game has undergone loads of changes along the way.
So what is Space Exposures about? The idea of the game is for you as an astrophotographer to try to
take as many good photos as possible, the better the photo the more points you get per hit. A good
photo is when you use the right lens for the right object. For example, a large Northern lights needs
a wide-angle lens (Short and wide) while a small planet requires a longer telephoto lens (Long and thin). To capture the perfect photo, you also need to hit the object so that it covers the entire film frame that is shot from the camera. If you only hit half or a small part of the object, you lose points. If you use the wrong lens on the wrong object, for example a wide-angle lens on a small planet, you also lose points.
You see the number of points you get for each hit registered, so you have to learn which lens gives
the most points for each object. If you get a perfect hit, you’ll be rewarded with a little fanfare and
fireworks. If you get several perfect hits in a row, you get a combination bonus (Combo) that
increases with every perfect hit. If you miss an object or don’t get any perfect hits, your combination
bonus will re-start from zero again.
To get through the night, you have to avoid colliding with clouds, the astrophotographer’s worst
enemy. Every time you collide you lose a life (you start with three lives). You can break up the clouds
by pressing on them, but it costs you 1000 points per cloud you break up. It’s every
astrophotographer's dream to be able to blast away clouds in real life, and now I’ve finally had the
chance to make that dream come true.
A night lasts for 150 seconds. After that comes 10 seconds of dawn when you can still take photos,
but these aren’t worth as many points as the object isn’t as clearly visible during dawn. Keeping your
eye on how much film you have left is also important. If you run out of film, you can pick up new
rolls of film along the way.
I have loads of ideas for how I’d like to develop the game further, and I’m happy to receive
suggestions on how it can be improved. For instance, it would be cool if players could upgrade their
equipment or if the game contained different levels. I don’t really have the time to continue
developing it at the moment, though (so far I've done it in my spare time and during holidays). But
who knows what the future holds?
Support further development of Space Exposures
Developing games is great fun, but also very time-consuming. If you like Space Exposures and want
to support further development of the game, feel free to make a donation via one of the buttons
below. Many thanks in advance!
Below are some screen dumps showing what the game looks like.