Reboot the Blog!
OK – I’ll admit it: I suck at blogging. Like a computer that’s been running for a while, time to reboot! I’m an introvert by nature, so I don’t exactly enjoy putting my thoughts and ideas in public for everyone to read (thankfully, not a lot of people read this blog anyway). I’m also a perfectionist with a tendency to hold back promoting or even speaking about my work until it’s polished and perfect. These attitudes have served me well as a teacher and a musician…but they make for lousy (read: nonexistent) GameDev blogs!
With that in mind, here’s an update on my efforts this week, as well as a “catch” up on the game’s development so far!
Reboot my Habits.
I’m going to make an effort to update the blog every Friday night from here on out. I can’t promise fancy screenshots, researched links, or even entertaining content…but I need to start working on this blog with the same discipline I used learning to play instruments. Honestly, I work on my game almost every single day – I can find 10 minutes to type a blog entry!
Reboot the Game (kinda).
It’s been a while since our last update, so let’s recap: I spent the summer working on core systems for our farm-sim RPG. Development on that title hasn’t stopped – but I made a discovery that led me to shift gears a bit. Like a lot of “new” Indie GameDevs, my dream project is HUGE. While I’m confident I can complete it, I’m also watching the expenses and needs for the project grow. To complete the game, I’ll need funding for artwork, voice talent, translation, and marketing. As an unproven developer, those costs are likely coming out of pocket.
We’re also hoping to get out of Seattle – riots, overcrowding, high taxes, and homesickness are a potent combination…this means tightening our belts to pay down debt and save for an eventual move.
So I got an idea:
As I worked on the game’s multiplayer features, I realized that many of the ideas we’d been talking about would be completely unrelated to the core gameplay of an RPG – they didn’t really fit. When I looked at our list, we had brainstormed a bunch of crazy, zany ways to reinvent classic Farm Game tropes – probably as a result of playing too many multiplayer games like Fall Guys and Among Us.
I’m not ready to talk about specifics or announce the project just yet. When the idea is a bit more fleshed out (and titled), I’ll share.
What does that mean?
It means I’ve in reboot mode: reimagining core systems from the RPG (controls, environment, inventory, interactions, UI, characters, graphics, animations) and more closely tuning them for a multiplayer battle-type game. We’ve also created a literal UNIVERSE that both games live in, and you’ll see some characters appear in both games! I can’t really say more until I’m ready to reveal the idea, but the multiplayer title will be a fun game that can be made well using our available resources.
Fine. What are you working on this week?
Scope. This week, I’ve been rebooting and revamping old ideas with playability in mind.
Jenny is alive (digitally)! She’s a character that finds her way into all of my games – I get asked if she represents my childhood crush, my wife, my “dream girl,” or my Mom (silly Freudians). Honestly, I just like the name – and it suits her character. Besides, who doesn’t like a down-to-Earth, smart aleck, girl next door? What would you name her?
Anyway, I modelled Jenny using some amazing free software called VRoid Studio. Most people use it to make weird avatars for VRChat, but I combined it with Blender and Unity to make cool, original Manga-style characters that fit the vision for our little game world. From there, I adapted some animation packs we own and started customizing her movements.
She’s playable in the game world now, and helping me test all of the new control systems I’m about to yammer on about.
Control System Reboot
I’ve made several refinements to the way the control scheme works. Our RPG had a “context-sensitive” single action button – a feature I specifically designed with future porting to mobile in mind. For an RPG, that’s OK; for a competitive multiplayer game, I wanted something more tactile that allowed for faster reaction (and some devious sabotage between players).
Release Plan Focus
I also made the decision to release our game on PC / Mac / Linux first, then expand to consoles and mobile later if the game is successful. From a financial standpoint, we already have a business relationship with Valve / Steam. Publishing there doesn’t cost us anything, and gives us a chance to generate revenue for localization, console ports (license fees for those aren’t cheap), and cross-platform multiplayer. This also means I’m able to focus gameplay mechanics for tactile controllers (rather than touchscreens), and can add more visual “bells and whistles” to the game.
If games like Among Us and Fortnite have taught us anything, it’s that the mobile gaming market isn’t one to be ignored, though…I’m still optimizing and creating extensible code. I also selfishly want to catch kids in the cafeteria at school huddled together playing my game. 🙂
Objects and Interactives
Along with the new control scheme, I redesigned object interactions to make them lighter, faster, and more responsive. Our largest stage scales to 8 players (and we want to go to 16)…that means a lot of objects and a lot of players throwing, breaking, blocking, and moving them around! The new system allows players to react quickly anyway they like, and better physics and smoother animations make it play pretty well so far! I promise I’ll show and tell when things are put together and working well.
Probably should’ve put this at the top, as it’s possibly the biggest shift. I just wasn’t happy with the way the world felt as I walked around it in 2D. This was a tough decision, as I had the ENTIRE MAP of the RPG already laid out using 2D tilemaps. Despite using 3d character models and clever perspective and shading tricks to meld them together, the world just didn’t feel right.
I also realized I’m MUCH better at 3D modeling in Blender than I am at drawing 2D art in Clip Studio, and we already won TONS of great 3D prototype models to use as we test the game. It’s how I’ve already been able to put together a game concept and move on to actual development!