My first commercial outing has been in full development for a month now (that’s not counting the years during which the story was floating around in my head, or the month and a half that I spent organizing the whole thing into a massive design document) and I told myself that I would post a monthly developer’s diary in which I discussed the process of creating a self-funded commercial adventure game. So here we are. I also hope to reveal at least a few exciting details in each installment to drum up some interest. If you’ve been paying attention, I’ve already dropped one exciting tidbit: the title.
So, how are things going? Slowly but surely. Let me take you through the process so far.
As I mentioned above, I’ve had this story idea in my head for years. I originally started writing it out as a screenplay while I was in college before I turned all my spare time to my senior thesis on game design. Though the screenplay was never finished and eventually lost to a biblical hard drive rapture during which I was left behind, the story has remained in that part of my brain reserved for ideas that will eventually make me filthy rich (right between the fur bathtub and the inflatable vacuum cleaner, but don’t steal those — they’re mine!).
Over the course of a month and a half, including many brain-storming showers, I slowly created a long design document that laid out every room, character, plot point, and puzzle for the entire game. I wanted to have this completely finished before hiring anyone to help so that we could be unified in vision and direction during the game’s development.
Once the document was finished, I began the search for artists. (Of course I already knew that Nikolas Sideris would be my guy for music, having “blown it out the box” during Linus’ development) The first person I approached was Shane “ProgZMax” Stevens, who created the awesome Mind’s Eye, made the character graphics for the great The Shivah, and is currently working on the fantastic looking Drug Bust. I caught up to him on IRC and talked him into creating the character sprites for my game, convincing by appealing to his love for money (very very small amounts of money).
I knew that finding a background artist would be a lot more difficult. I didn’t have anyone particular in mind for backgrounds while designing the game like I did for the characters. I had to post job offerings on a bunch of art related sites and after sifting through around 20 applicants and their sample work, Shane in America, Nik in England, and I in Japan finally agreed on Nauris Krauze in Latvia, officially making paying everyone as complicated as possible! Nauris has a great portfolio of independent game work, and though his online portfolio doesn’t have anything indicative of the style that we’re going for with this project, he wowed us with a sample piece that oozed atmosphere.
Finally having picked the whole team, I had to make a budget. I had to work with the xii games financial officer (a.k.a. my wife) to figure out how much of our savings I could gamble on a low-profile game in a commercially-inviable genre. The answer: not very much. But I managed to work with the team members to find a payment schedule that we could all agree upon that only slightly surpassed my wife-allowed budget (sorry daughter, no college for you!). We did the whole contract and NDA thing, and then I officially had my first employees.
Work really got started at the beginning of May, though some preliminary work had already been done. I established a message board where we could all communicate and collaborate. I assign art assets and describe as thoroughly as I can the image in my head, and the artists pop out amazing works that far exceed my expectations. Lather, rinse, repeat.
I’m still learning this whole project director thing, though, and there have been a few missteps on my part. A few times, I haven’t been as specific about something that was so ingrained into my mind that I took for granted that everyone else would be thinking the same way as me. The result is that the art that came back was superb, but different from what I wanted, or at least what I had pictured and I had to ask for the art to be changed or redone. I’m working on being as exact as possible while still being concise with my directions in order to prevent wasting the artists’ time and my money.
Overall, the team is working very well so far and a lot of excellent things have been finished. There are still exactly zero playable sections complete, however, because I’m still implementing all the core gameplay systems which are all interesting and somewhat unique, but difficult to program. I’m hoping that by the time I finish all this background programming, we’ll have lots of art assets for me to quickly go through and implement, because for a programmer, that is where the fun lies.
In this coming month, I hope to finish programming all the funky game mechanics and have something playable (for the team, not for you, sorry). And in next month’s developer’s diary, I can hopefully release the first screenshots of the game. If I don’t feel comfortable about releasing any screenies yet, you can look forward to some plot and gameplay info! Either way, check back next month for more!
Next time on RDD: