A Multipart Series about Number Spies; a voice-first game for Amazon Alexa

Number Spies promotional ad for social media

History

In the Fall of 2019, I officially started the journey of creating Number Spies for Amazon Alexa. The idea for the game started at least a year earlier, but I finally had the skills needed for the core functionality. I spent hundreds of hours over many months writing code and expanding on the game idea.

It was a one-person operation that was at times both exhilarating and exhausting.

In the Spring of 2020, I released Number Spies. …


Building an audio file and feed JSON with AWS Step Functions and Lambda Layers.

Overview

When a user says “Alexa, what’s my Flash Briefing” then all briefings in their playlist will play in the order they specify. This can be configured in the Alexa App.

For Number Spies, the Number Station: Alpha Flash Briefing speaks a series of digits that represent an encoded message sent from a fictitious numbers station. On the days that there is no transmission, an audio file with static will play.

An audio Flash Briefing for Alexa needs 3 things:

  1. Feed Configuration
  2. Feed JSON file
  3. Audio file


A Headless CMS for you Game Content

Overview

The best way to modify your game content is to put it into a Content Management System (CMS). That way changes to the content can happen without the need to recompile the content in code. You could put the content into a database or someplace else, but a CMS is special-built for this purpose.

There are a number of CMS solutions available. One category is called a “headless” CMS to make it clear that the content is not tied to a specific output such as a website. …


Architecture and Services to Support the Game

Overview

In the previous article, we talked about how Number Spies started with making an Alexa Flash Briefing to duplicate the behavior of a numbers station. That idea grew into a voice game in the form of an Alexa Skill.

In order to create the encoded messages, I knew there needed to be an audio processing backend. This was the part that delayed the project for many months as I didn’t know how to do the audio processing.

Along the way, more components were added to the system until it became the system shown…


A game about spies, coded messages, and numbers stations.

Encoding and decoding a message with a One-time Pad

Introduction

When creating a game, there are many things to consider. How many players? Is the game genre adventure, RPG, puzzle game, or one of many other choices? What is the theme? Those are just some of the important questions that need to get answered, but for Number Spies it all started with the idea of re-creating the experience of a numbers station on a smart speaker.

Numbers Station

A numbers station is a radio station that broadcasts on shortwave radio frequencies and is used by intelligence officers to transmit encoded messages. Numbers stations…

Mark Tucker

Alexa Champion 🏆, Bixby Premier Developer, Software Architect, Speaker 🎙️, Author

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