Dillon Lareau

Electrical and computer engineer, maker, and general nerd.

Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes - Physical Edition

A disclaimer: There is not now, nor will there ever be anything dangerous about this project. This is not actually a bomb, just a game replica.

Released in July of 2015, Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes focuses on the disarming of a virtual bomb where one player plays the “Defuser” and any number of players play the “Experts”. There are a number of different “modules” that each need disarming to win. Each module has some component of information that is only clear to the experts. The catch is that the experts are physically separated from the defuser and cannot see the modules, making communication important. Shortly after release, my friends and I became obsessed with the game, drilling the modules until we could tackle even the hardest of bombs, racking up hundreds of plays.

Jumping forward to 2018, in a story you can follow more in the blog posts below, I decided to start making a physical version of the game. The goals for this project are:

  • It must be fully playable.
  • It must be fully modular.
  • Whenever possible, it must replicate the look/play of the game accurately.

Starting some time in June, and with a few delays, the first playable version was finished at the end of November, just in time for me to bring it to PAX Unplugged to show it off.

Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes - Physical Edition

Development on this project continues, which you can follow through both the blog posts at the bottom of this page and the github page for this project.


Why did you do this?
Making things like these is my hobby, this project is just something I do for fun in my spare time.

Are you going to make more than one? / Are you going to sell these?
No. I do not own the copyright for Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes. Unless contacted by Steel Crate Games to expressly do so, this project will remain one of a kind and a purely non-commercial effort.

Has anyone else done this before?
There have been a number of projects with similar goals, but all of the ones I can find either:

  • Did not attempt to directly replicate the game because they wanted to sell their product.
  • Fell off in development before finishing any significant number of modules.
  • Did not attempt any appreciable level of playability polish (i.e. never made it off breadboards)

I could have missed something though, so if you know about another similar project, let me know!

Did you have any help making this?
I could not have made some of the physical elements of this project without the amazing help of my friend Ethan Gladding. He helped with design and manufacturing of many small aesthetic touches such as the acrylic backpanel and the morse module diffuser.

Are you going to make more modules?
Yes, you can check out the github page to see which modules I am planning to build.

Why aren’t you making [Insert module here] module?
If you don’t see an original game module listed, I probably thought it infeasible to replicate physically. One that comes to mind is wire sequences where panels of wires magically appear from inside the device. While there are ways to make almost any module just using a screen, I feel that defeats the point of the “physical” version.

I don’t want to read github, give me a technical summary!
Each module (including the controller module) is controlled by an Atmega328p Arduino Nano clone. Due to design constraints, the modules talk over a multidrop serial bus using a custom protocol developed for this project called DSerial. Configuration of stuff like the serial number and time remaining is handled through a web interface run by an ESP8266 connected to the controller module.

I am not endorsed by, directly affiliated with, maintained, authorized, or sponsored by Steel Crate Games.

Relevant Blog Posts:

  • 13 Dec 2018 - KTANE: Physical Edition - Road to PAX
  • 06 Dec 2018 - KTANE: Physical Edition - The Basics
  • 03 Dec 2018 - KTANE: Physical Edition - Project Start
  • 07 Jul 2018 - Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes: Physical Edition - Announcement