New Blog…who ‘dis??
I took a good, hard look at how our website was organized. While writing new blog entries and posting them to the Emerald Beast website was drawing search traffic, I absolutely HATED how the site looked. There was no focus; no way to find the content you wanted. As more entries got added, it became woefully apparent that the old format wouldn’t cut it. Good posts got lost in a disorganized mess.
So I created blog.emeraldbeast.com – and will be posting here from now on. The link on our page has been changed to lead here, and the WordPress Theme I’ve selected organizes the blog in a much more reader friendly way. I’ll open up the site for comments and social interactions soon, so you’ll be able to interact with me and others at EBGS.
Now – It’s time to focus.
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about Game Development as a process. Whenever I feel a lack of direction or focus, I find the best thing to do is look to those who have come before and learn what I can from their experiences – then return to see what can be applied to my own life.
One of Indie Game Development’s biggest success stories is Eric “ConcernedApe” Barone, who created the hit game Stardew Valley. SDV brought the Farm RPG genre to PC players for the first time in a very endearing and fun way. I’ve always been a huge fan of the genre since the original Harvest Moon on the SNES. The Rune Factory series is among my favorite – I’ve invested an embarrassing amount of hours in them.
A little hero worship.
What inspires me about Barone isn’t his success (though he’s now a millionaire several times over); it’s his journey. Stardew is a great game, one you’d think took a team of engineers to build, balance, draw, write, and refine. Dig deeper into the game’s history and you’ll fig a big surprise: Barone designed the game SOLO. The art, music, story, code…everything except the multiplayer system was done by his own hand. If there’s one truth I’ve learned about Game Development in the past 3 years, it’s that you have to learn a lot of different skills. Barone did this – part time, while working in a movie theater here in Seattle.
I had the pleasure of meeting him at PAX Prime in 2016, just after Stardew’s release. His table was modest – a couple of computers running playable demos, a banner behind him, and a few pieces of merch available. He was gracious enough to sign the lithograph of his hand-drawn map of Pelican Town that I’d bought.
What was most shocking to me was his demeanor. It seemed like he had no idea just how big a celebrity he was at the show. I took a moment to congratulate him on his success, and told him that I enjoyed watching the game’s progress throughout development. A few moments later, a group of cosplayers came up to the table dressed as characters from the game. Barone looked shocked, surprised and humbled that people loved his creation enough to come in full character. He excitedly took pictures with the group.
OK – so you have a Dev Crush on ConcernedApe – so what?
(I promise to never use that term again.) Speaking of focus: Barone is an inspiration to me because he struggled with many of the same things I do. Looking back through his DevLog and personal blogs…he speaks openly about his fear of failure. There are posts about times when he’d lost focus; even a few times when he thought about giving up! He always thought SDV wasn’t good enough – that nobody would like the game. Through it all, he kept pushing, iterating, refining, and polishing his vision. That’s the kind of focus it takes to build a game on your own – and exactly the kind of journey I’m on right now!
About that focus…
I’ve been writing pointless DevLogs about features that are…well, all talk. My focus is all over the place, and there’s not much point to the content other than “hey look – I wrote a blog!” Admittedly, I’ve been doing this to chronicle my own journey in much the same way Barone did. Today, I went back and looked at some of his first blogs. The very first entry was SDV’s trailer for Steam Greenlight. Barone shows a playable, recognizable game. When he talks about features and changes, you have something to see and experiences…not just words on a page. If you’ve ever played Stardew Valley, a lot of this should look familiar:
Here’s what I’m changing…
I want to be able to SHOW you something in a DevLog, not just talk about a system, make promises, and generate hype. This was our mistake with Sellsword VR. In our excitement of “HOLY CRAP, WE MADE A GAME!!” – we over-promised….and under-delivered.
I don’t want to make that mistake again. It hurt our game, it hurt its fans, and it’s a practice in our industry that needs to stop.
When I have a PLAYABLE prototype of the game, I’ll post my next DevLog. I’ll be restructuring the old ones, as they probably have more in common with GameDev lessons that anything else.
I’m still going to be posting and blogging about this journey. I think it’s important for me. Also, if we’re successful someday, folks might want to learn how we got here and where we came from. While my posts will involve some of the work we’re doing on Cownana, I won’t be mentioning features or specific examples until it’s time to announce the game. This is one of the best things Barone did with SDV. He didn’t ask for support or put the game out there for folks to see until there was actually something to see. While most of the “dark” work on our game is done (code, database, gameplay elements), there’s no way to showcase these until base levels are prototyped, character models are in, and I can show you the game world.
So let’s shift the focus a bit. I hope you’ll come along for the ride.