LTG Dev Diaries: Starting “Happy 2022!”

Let’s try something different for this post, shall we? I don’t know if this will be a continuing series or anything, but after building and compiling my latest game experience, I thought it would be interesting (hopefully for you, probably for me) to reflect on the process that brought it together. Maybe reflecting will help me improve my process, or maybe it’ll inspire you to do it better if you’re interested in making something of your own.

Let’s start at the beginning: the spec sheet. (Exciting, right?)

This was the second time I’ve actually made a “spec sheet”, or a breakdown of the project, from the get-go. And the first sheet of the five looks like this:

This is the breakdown of the idea in my head. I’m not an experienced designer, and this is the only the second time I’ve broken down a project on paper (the first was a short experience for my wedding rehearsal party, who are the only ones who will ever see that particular game because I stole a LOT of assets to make it).

The first page is the overall project: end goal of how long it should be, how it should be styled, the brainstorming of the beats and flow of the game. In this case, the core of it is in the three different “tracks” to go down: news stories throughout 2021, silly jokes to lighten the mood, and a “hype” track to just be as wholesome as daggum possible. As a goal of the game itself, I wanted a way to remember the year that was while preparing for the year to be, and this was how I would achieve that goal.

The next pages were for dedicated to the different tracks. Page two was the most text-heavy, since it involved news stories and little noteworthy tidbits of the year that was. I tried to diversify the stories, cover more area than just the US. SO I had to do some research, and this is most of it; I was running low on time near the end, so I didn’t mark all of it down here (particularly the last few months). Once I had the stories I would include in “Track 1”, I turned those into dialogue in-game.

Also, I wanted to include multiple actors (characters to talk to onscreen) to keep the game world from looking too thin. This is a difficult balance, since you don’t want things to look too empty or too full. Since I’m building one screen at a time, I have to be very aware of this. It’s bad to overwhelm with too much, and I was trying to cram a lot of stuff into this.

For page three, I just had to write some fun and corny jokes. I wish I’d included more, maybe another game down the road will have more, but this was where I wrote down the ones I ended up including. Off the cuff I included actors that could react to the joke that was told somehow (usually a heckle of some kind for shits and giggles).

Page four was the hype track, or “Track 3”, intended for affirmations. This was my favorite bit, and hopefully in practice it helps players to reflect on their year and the positive things that happened.

The final page was just for notes, additional ideas to add or consider adding at the end of main game development. There were ideas I had to make it a more in-depth experience, but since I was putting myself on a timeline, I didn’t have the time to give them the attention they may have deserved; I had the idea of an entire underground section to explore, a side-scrolling stage when speaking to a Game Boy actor, and even a “shop where nothing can be bought (underground)”… which wasn’t a good idea and I’m glad I didn’t give it more focus.

I think everything came together pretty well, and I was able to release my project without too much trouble. Itch.io as a platform makes things incredibly easy to post, and GB Studio (the program I used to lay out and compile the game) is an incredible tool for hobbyists and dedicated devs to create their games with. And you know me, I’m partial to my Game Boy, so having an environment I can build my own Game Boy game in… so, so cool. And it’s not nearly as difficult as I thought it would be!

That said, I had to learn how to use different software to make my game at ALL, so using this as a way to get something out there and push myself to better what I’m capable of was worth the experience. In another post I can break down what I was using to build the game—namely the software and tools I used to build, test, design, and release as reference for anybody interested. It’s helpful for me to get this out, then come back to it later and see what worked and what didn’t for the future. Hopefully, this may be helpful for you to read too.

Stand Tall, and thanks for sticking with me through this one. Game on, and support indie developers!