testgame.exe: (Still) Making the Adventure

(An in-depth look at the progress of my current big project, an old-school adventure game called The Beard in the Mirror is Yours, originally written for and posted to the Adventure Game Studio forums.)

Long-time AGSers might remember this post by my wife Lizo back in…holy crap, was it really 2006?? Here’s where we are now.

Conception

TestGame was (and is) a game Lizo and I have been working on since we were in undergrad (she’s wrapping up her doctoral degree now); it was based on games we used to play over AOL Instant Messenger, wherein one of us would start off by saying something like “You wake up confused in a forest. To the north you see a sparkling stream surrounded by long vines; to the east is a foreboding cave. What do you do?”, and the other would respond as though playing a text adventure game—although instead of playing against a bunch of static computer programming, you were playing against a real-life person who could tailor the experience to your exact reactions. The story for TestGame was borne from this.

Story

It’s about a college-aged boy not-so-coincidentally named Paul, opening his bedroom door one day to discover, instead of the hallway leading to his bathroom, an all-new world of magic, monsters and maidens. I like to think of the tone as a marriage between King’s Quest and LucasArts, as my wife was raised on the former and myself on the latter, and we take a great deal of inspiration from each. Ultimately the game is about Paul growing up and figuring out his place in the world, all the while solving fun inventory-based puzzles and making dumb jokes about everything. I think it’s roughly in the range of 10 hours long, although it’s hard to judge, seeing as I know all the answers to everything.

Development

For years my wife (Lizo) was coding and writing everything herself, with me offering input when I could; but as time went on she had less and less time she could devote to the game, so I started taking over things like proofing text, and then writing text, and then designing puzzles and finally, now, actually programming the game. Our roles have essentially reversed. As part of this transition we decided to finally give the game a more proper title: The Beard in the Mirror is Yours, although this is still a working title, subject to any whims we have during this elongated development process.

Now seven years after she created her first screen, here’s what we’re looking like:

– Story: 100%
– Puzzles: 100%
– Backgrounds: 60%
– Character art: 60%
– Animation: 35%
– Coding: 75%
– Music/Sound: 10%

If ever there was a “blood, sweat and tears” kind of project, this has been it. But it’s still moving forward, now more than ever, and I do harbor a small fantasy of going commercial with it on Desura, or another indie-friendly platform.

…Although that said we’re still two very slow-paced developers, both having a full-time schedule (and me a full-time website) in addition to our work in Mirror. Look for it to be released therefore sometime in the next seven years, maybe.

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