Daily Update #27: Taking Shape

Attention! If you are reading this, it's already too late. It means you have begun to read another Daily Update. It's not like a bad thing or anything, you could always just exit out of this or something, but still, I thought you should know. In case you started reading this... accidentally? Okay, so, maybe I didn't think this through 100%, but better safe than sorry.

5 days. 5 days until release. 5 more Daily Updates. Well, I don't know if that last sentiment is necessarily true, but it feels a lot more fitting to say that. I could try and just blatantly copy the transition I used last time, but there's no need for such artifice between us. You know the deal. I just informed you of how much longer before the game comes out. Now I am going to continue my story.

So, last time I talked about how the game was restructured to suck a little bit less, and how after that I began writing full steam ahead. You're probably wondering what happened after that. Or maybe you're not, and you can make a reasonable assumption about the next few steps.

I wish I could surprise you with another twist in the tale. Another unexpected obstacle, maybe a rival developer I had to compete with, perhaps all my work was wiped away by a virus, anything to really add to the stakes. But the simple truth of the matter was that what came next was pretty boring. A whole lot of writing. Filling out route after route after route. Making sure every line of dialogue accomplished something. Making sure every plot point was properly accounted for and explained. Making sure pacing was properly calculated and possible player experiences were considered. Doing, you know, the bulk of the work.

And eventually, after a whole lot of work, the rough draft was finished. The game, or at least the story, was done. That's not to say there wasn't still a lot of editing to do - things were bound to change, evolve. But for the moment at any rate, the deed was done. I had finished the hardest part.

Only, that's not technically true. I had finished the longest part. And maybe, in that sense, it's the part most people got tripped up on. It's the part I'd hate to have to redo the most. But the hardest part? No. Because writing was something I already had experience in. It was, if I may be so bold, my forte. The true hard part would be what came next.

Because what I had before me wasn't a game. It was a story, loosely put together in a game engine. A lot more work would need to be done to make it a 'game' in full force. That meant a lot of programming, which I didn't know how to do. That meant visual design, which, yes, I outsourced the sprites, but there's still a lot of aspects to the game that needed to be attended to. Creating backgrounds, designing UI, additional visuals here and there, that all was still 'to-do.' Audio design as well, I needed music and sound effects to truly sell the experience. All of this made me feel really out of my depth.

So what did I do? One word. Google.

The modern age is truly a fantastic one. If you need information, you have access to it at your fingertips. So much of what I was looking for was already out there, just waiting to be accessed. If I was having trouble with a programming task, odds were that there was already some tutorial on the Lemnasoft forums or a subreddit or something. True, sometimes, I encountered an issue I didn't know how to deal with. But that didn't stop me. Word of advice to any solo developers running into issues - don't be afraid to ask online strangers for help. It took me longer than I care to admit to get over that hump, but it turns out if you reach out, people will often reach back.

I found solutions to how to program all the special elements of my game. Some of my code was shamelessly copied from people who knew better, and some was home-brew trash hastily taped together. Photographs + filters equalled all the backgrounds I needed. There were plenty of royalty free sound effects to find, helpful databases were just full of them. With some of my budget remaining, I commissioned some more CGs and things to fill out the game. 

And I tirelessly added it all to the game. It took longer than it probably should have, owing to my inexperience, but it was added nonetheless. Not just the big stuff - I experimented with ways to transition between scenes, ways to make the sprites feel more dynamic.

When I was finished, I no longer just had a script. I had a game. An unpolished, buggy game with big exposed holes, far from something I could put out. But a game nonetheless. I was heading into the final phase of game creation. Turning this prototype into something worth putting out into the world, and then doing just that. Next time, on Daily Updates.

Until then,