I just spent a month and a half making a videogame! This is exciting for a number of reasons. I am going to write those reasons right here. No preamble, I’m bloody exhausted.
Actually, a short preamble: if you don’t know what I’ve been doing over the last month, you can find your answer here. The long and the short of it is that I made a visual novel for Antholojam, a curated game jam run by Zoe Quinn and Alex Lifschitz, and that it is done and I’m rather proud of it.
Reasons This Is Exciting
1. It’s my first time making!
My game dev experience, before making Steal My Artificial Heart, was solely limited to a couple of really tiny text things, and some writing work on Starbound. My work on Starbound was just a bunch of lore articles and dialogue, so it wasn’t really the best intro to game dev (or games that concentrate on narrative).
With Steal My Artificial Heart, I had to scramble to find a game engine. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel with a visual novel, and there were plenty of easy-to-use solutions out there, right..?
The answer is no, not right. See, Antholojam had one biiiig requirement: games made for the jam had to be playable in a browser. That took away most of our options straight off the bat, and I won’t lie – I may have begun to panic a little when I realized that making a visual novel in Unity might be the only way to get the game done.
Thankfully, after searching for nearly a month for a good engine to use – and finding little – I stumbled upon Fungus, a visual novel engine for Unity made by a little company called Snozbot. I can wholeheartedly say that if you’re (a) wanting to make a visual novel and (b) wanting to make it in Unity, this is the solution. It’s excellent, extensible, easily modifiable, and easy to use, even for someone who doesn’t have much coding experience. Total development time with Fungus? Two weeks.
2. It’s my first time leading!
Golly gosh, calling shots is hard. I’ve never had to lead anyone to do anything, but somehow, as the jam started, I was voted the de facto leader of our development group. And boy did we ever need one. The idea for Steal My Artificial Heart had existed before Antholojam – we’d originally been planning on making a robot dating simulator, but unfortunately our concept was far too similar to another game in development. So, we scrapped it, and put the bare bones of the idea (robots at a bar) into a murder mystery.
ANYWAY. We didn’t have any sort of solid leadership, so I had to start calling shots. Leading a team, especially a team of people you call friends, is scary. You don’t want to ruin the friendship dynamic, and you don’t want to make any decisions that’ll negatively impact the people you’re in charge of, especially when it involves money.
I think I did ok.
One particularly difficult quandary we hit was that the guy we initially had doing our art (the excellent pixel artist known as Shoehead) hit some financial difficulties and had to invest his time in working on things that would actually get him money (in the short-term). In response to this, we decided to hire another artist on the same revshare that all of us were getting. Thankfully, Zoe and Alex were kind enough to signal boost our search for an artist, and within four days we’d attached the ridiculously talented Kimberly Parker to the project. In the end, Shoehead did the title card and UI art (buttons, textboxes) while Kimberly created the background and character art. It all worked out in the end, and it was a good learning experience in adapting and responding to unexpected changes of plan.
All in all, leading a team to make stuff is super cool, especially when your team meshes well together creatively. The vibe in our HipChat room was always really conducive to making awesome shit.
3. It’s my first corrupt indie videogame money!
Steal My Artificial Heart is being distributed by Antholojam through a pay-what-you-want system, and each of the fifteen teams will be receiving an equal share. Since our team’s share will be split between five people, it won’t be a lot of money – but hey, any start’s a good one, and I would very much like to continue being paid for the things I make in the future.
Making videogames is really frickin’ exciting, and as I hit the “send” button tonight, I was already thinking of the next story I want to write.
Onwards, to more destroying of video games!
When the game is up, I’ll write another blogpost.