November/December Gamedev Update!
I’ve been keeping quiet on The Internet lately, for a few reasons. For one, Life in the Dorms news has come to a dead halt following its release and a couple of reviews (not to mention some encouraging feedback on YouTube, such as “that lightsaber looks like a dildo lmao”). There was also a dude singing about it on the Signed In podcast, but, in general, the game hasn’t taken off as much as I’d have liked. On the plus side, nearly 2,000 people have paid money for a videogame that I wrote and designed, and if you told 11-year-old Paul that, he would absolutely sh*t his lime-green sweatpants; on the downside, a game called Avatar Planking has sold over three times that. (That’s not just a downside for me, by the way; we should all just consider that a downside to life in general.)
For two, that little indie adventure game I was working on before and imploring everyone to check out, Gray, has finally been released! My work on the game was upgraded from “proofreader” to “also tester,” after I played through the beta version a couple of times and offered helpful tips like “this part was too hard for my feeble Paul-brain,” or “the intro makes me feel like I’m watching an IMAX movie and it’s only in four colors; how are you so good at this.”
For three, after working on the game’s script for a couple of years, I’m now also the lead programmer for The Beard in the Mirror is Yours (nee testgame) and, as it turns out—I really wish someone would’ve told me this earlier—programming is really hard.
We’re using the Adventure Game Studio game engine, which is a nifty little program that essentially does all the heavy lifting for you, but that doesn’t mean I can just copy-and-paste in the script from Microsoft Word and hit the “MAKE VIDEOGAME” button. For example, my script in Word might say:
Use mop on burning log
Paul: Yeah, right. Clean-up on aisle DEATH!
Sounds simple, right? In order to turn that into a videogame, you have to:
- Create art for the mop inventory item
- Create the mop inventory item, itself
- Create the background with the burning log
- Create a hotspot on the background for the burning log
- Create a function for using the mop on the burning log, which includes:
- An if/then statement to tell the game which inventory item to use, as well as which hotspot this is in effect for
- A “walk” command to move Paul next to the log (optional in this case, since Paul’s not actually doing anything)
- A “talk” command to make Paul say his quip, which is the whole point of the interaction in the first place
So, it’s taking time; but it’s also getting done. I wouldn’t be putting this much work into it if I wasn’t expecting some sort of payoff, in this case a literal one when a lot of people pay us a lot of money to play this game. Mirror is now filling the void of Big Project left when Life in the Dorms went live on XBLIG, although I’m still open to taking on other Big Projects (the long-rumored Life in the Dorms sequel Death in the Dorms, perhaps?) if the right one comes along.
I’ve also been keeping myself busy with GameCola Work. While I don’t write reviews very often or have a regular column like the Dear Readers and Minus the Puddings of yore, my presence is still felt. Wherever there’s a beard joke or any Phoenix Wright shipping, I’ll be there. A few samples from the past few months:
- A review of Spirit Camera: The Cursed Memoir, a 3DS AR game about a woman who’s going to f***ing destroy your face if you don’t shoot some ghosts
- The long-awaited finale to our video series “999 With the Pony Pros,” which featured neither ponies or, if we’re honest with ourselves, any actual pros
- A video about how to murder cubes in Peter Molyneux’s Curiosity, which, as of press date, has over 23,000 views and I’m pretty sure is the most-watched video in GameCola history. (It also took about 10 minutes from “hey this should be a video” to me uploading it, which either says something about my skillz, or perhaps my lack-there-of if the videos I’ve spent actual time on haven’t even approached this.)
- A picture post detailing Sony’s at-best unrealistic expectations for Christmas this year.
- A whole bunch of podcasts about topics such as that one time the Super Nintendo erased my save file (ha-ha, that was actually all the times), visual novels (starring pigeons and cripples), and how Curiosity is probably the best game ever.
And now, back to coding. My first order of business is to remove the mop quip, because after all that, the inventory item and all its interactions are getting cut. I hate making games.