The Probability of a Red Marble

March/April 2012 Gamedev Update!

I’ve started work on a secret project. I can’t tell you what it is. I can’t tell you anything about it. Not because I’m under a non-disclosure agreement, or anyone actually told me I can’t talk about it—it’s mostly just that I think it’s more fun this way (and because if it ultimately doesn’t pan out, I don’t want people to ask me years later “whatever happened to…”, because it’s such a good idea, and questions like that will only make me tear up).

But, I will tell you this: it’s a licensed (that’s right: licensed) point-and-click adventure game, and I’m coding it myself, in Adventure Game Studio, in addition to designing it—which has been an adventure in itself, since before now, my programming knowledge was limited to PRINTing “Hello World!” in Q-BASIC.

Here’s a hint as to the game’s source material, from the source material itself:

Figure it out yet?

Right now, I’m just putting together a two-room prototype, although I’m actually quite far with it—it’s already fully written, designed, and coded, and I’ve contracted a few people to help me out with the art. Once it’s finalized, I’ll pass it along to the author, and if he likes it, we might try to go places with it! Fingers crossed.

In other news:

• Mystery Project X isn’t the only new project I’ve taken on as of late! Because I’m not working on enough games already, I’ve also started writing short blurbs for an in-production augmented-reality iOS title called Mythology Unbound, which uses your iDevice to project a previously unknown magical world onto the pre-existing, boring world. I’ve had some fun going for a mix of Hitchhiker’s Guide and actual guide in writing short blurbs about different skills your character can acquire; here’s one of my favorites so far (regarding the skill “Fire Creation”):

Wizards, of course, have the power to proffer fire from the tip of a wand, if they have the proper training and knowledge base. It is important however to ensure that one is holding the proper end of the wand when doing so. Remember Ognar the Careless, who felt that there was no such thing as a “front” and a “back” to a wand. His final words, said to his wife during a (one could say heated) argument about proper wand usage, were “What difference does it make?” His long-suffering wife ensured that these words were inscribed on his tombstone.

Hey, remember Gridiron Heroes, the social football sim I’ve been doing PR work for? Good news—its Kickstarter campaign got funded, at almost literally the last second! I mean that—I was hitting refresh on the Kickstarter page up until the very end, and at about 30 seconds away from closure, it was still a thousand bucks away. And then it got funded. (Just in time, too, because it seems like we’re already starting to feel the backlash of Too Many Kickstarters.) Now, I’m not gonna sit here and take full credit for it, but… OK, I’m not gonna take any credit. I’m just glad Dave and the other guys at Pixel Rampage let me have so much fun with the press releases. I’m not sure how many other devs would’ve let me get away with calling on the fans to rob banks in order to fund the campaign.

•  testgame, if I haven’t mentioned this already, has a new (still unofficial, working) and much more Googleable name: The Beard in the Mirror is Yours. I’d been fighting with Lizo for a while that we should have “beard” somewhere in the title, because (1) a beard plays a pivotal role in a pivotal scene of the game, and (2) it’s a wacky word that draws people’s attention. She wasn’t on-board because she felt the tone was a little too wacky for the tone of the game—which, of course, it is, but I think this new title balances both the sincerity and the silliness of the game quite well, while also standing out in a world of game titles like (these are real Xbox 360 games) Bloodforge and Dirt. But we’ll see. We’re still at least 15 years away from release, so there’s no real rush.

Lizo and I have been going back-and-forth for a while about what testgame (henceforth Mirror) should ultimately be—from the start, she never saw it as more than just a fun side-project, whereas I’ve felt all along that there’s a full-fledged adventure game in there, just waiting for us to dig it out, like a potato. I suspect that we will continue to argue about this until I forcibly make it a full game. We’re inching closer and closer to this ultimate goal with every month—most recently, we wrapped up writing Act 4, leaving only the finale to be designed.

• And, one more to go on! I’ve proofread an awful lot of words for that AGS adventure game Gray, with an awful lot more still to come. I’m awful (that’s enough of that word) glad I’ve attached myself to this project, if I haven’t made that clear already—you don’t normally see indie games with this quality of writing, particularly adventure games, which oftentimes are originally developed in Europe and then translated by monkeys, and not even particularly literate monkeys. It’s made my job both easy and challenging—easy, because there’s only so much I have to change in the text, because it’s already so good; and hard, because I often feel like I’m not pulling my weight, because I’m not changing that much. The catch-22 of good writing, I suppose! I’ll talk more about this in a future blog post, maybe.

That’s it for now! Hopefully next time I make one of these posts, I’ll have another update for you about my flagship project, Life in the Dorms—we’re hoping to wrap it up in time for submission into this year’s Dream.Build.Play contest, because I’m relatively confident that we could crack the top-10 list in a competition filled with rip-offs, derivatives, and massagers for your private partsand if we make the top 10, I’m pretty sure everyone on the team gets a brand-new Windows Phone! …And if we do better, we get actual cash money. Fingers crossed for that one, too. Franzen OUT!

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