This project has been a pretty tough one as I have been working on my own and had to tackle a lot of things that I am not experienced in such as coding. It has been quite freeing working on my own, as I can make all the decisions myself and not have to wait for others to complete work or compromise on my vision at all. However, it has also been a bit stressful as everything falls on my shoulders. In previous projects, I have mainly done art and design work with a little experience in 3d art and writing. But for this project, I have had to complete every aspect of the game myself, even the parts that are not my expertise by any means such as coding and sound design and marketing.
Coding has been a really steep learning curve, and even for very simple game I have found it hard to get code working and visualise how to solve problems. I found youtube tutorials for Game Maker (links on blog) and the Game Maker documentation to be really helpful and I have managed to overcome the problems I have had to create the code I wanted. But there are still things I wish I could have included in the game, such as a more expansive settlement which can expand with your choices, a stamina system which would span the full game and more character dialog including choices for what to say to each and increasing ‘friendship’ with them. These things I would love to include in the full game if I went forward with it, but I would probably have to enlist some outside help to assist with the more complex and expansive systems.Over this project I had developed my skills with using Game Maker as a program and this has given me a freedom to be able to create basic concepts to show ideas and expand on those prototypes with more layers of interaction using variables. I know how to import graphics and get the progression of a game set up. I think these skills will be valuable in the future as my knowledge of the program has given me the ability to quickly showcase my ideas in the form of a playable prototype – something that I could never do before as programs like Unity and Godot are more complex and use languages that are beyond me. I have found the more compartmentalised setup of Game Maker to be more intuitive to me as I can organize more which keeps things in order in my mind, I got very overwhelmed by coding in Unity when we had workshops in first year and nothing stuck. But with this method in Game Maker, I can easily change smaller aspects and test the functionality without having to trawl through long scripts and have things get messy. It did also help that GML (Game Maker Language) is much more simple and streamlined with a lot of premade functions that make certain things like calling objects, drawing sprites and creating conditions much easier. I really feel like I could make more games by myself using this software and this will give me a lot of freedom in the future- to not have to rely on a designated programmer to realize my ideas is exciting and liberating.
I really enjoyed being able to focus on building a world and characters. It’s the thing I enjoy the most about art and design and it was nice to have a game setup that would let me really explore the art style I chose. I love 2d games and find pixel art an appealing and effective way of portraying a lot with minimal details, the focus is more on colour and form, the medium doesn’t allow for much detail and it’s quite refreshing. Thinking about the smaller details of the world and how the characters might act and what they would say about certain situations were things that I really enjoyed. Mechanically my game is just an exploration game similar to a point and click game, so I had to make sure the visual aspects were interesting and appealing and the mystery and character stories were enough to sustain the player’s engagement. The section of game I made was not that long so I think for that the amount of interaction was enough, but for the full game I would like to add other elements such as settlement expansion mechanics and character relationship mechanics to provide more of a progression for the player. Trying to think in the player’s shoes about how they would explore and what they would think of the world was an interesting challenge. I wanted to balance the reveals of the mystery and the development of the environment to be natural and not too fast or slow, which is hard as I had to split my attention between that and programming it. My limited programming knowledge did limit my ambitions somewhat, but I’m still really pleased with how far I have come in that regard. I know that for my next game project I will be more confident and be able to develop more complex mechanics.
Another aspect of this project that has been challenging for me has been marketing and social media. I’m not a very outgoing person and pushing my art and projects so publicly feels very unnatural to me. I had to push myself and go out of my comfort zone in order to set up up and post on social media such as Instagram and Twitter. When I first made the accounts I was really unsure what kind of comments to write and what tags to use, but I think I have learnt some things about how to make good posts and just be natural on social media. I’ve got quite a few followers on my Instagram in particular now and I think it’s due to the fact that you can use many more hashtags so that people can discover your work, as opposed to Twitter where it’s best to only use a couple. Instagram is also more art-focused than Twitter which is more news and comment focused, Instagram is like a mini-gallery and I think that format is more effective for my kind of content which is mostly concept art and updates on my game-making process. I want to try and continue with Instagram in particular as I think it’s a more my style than twitter and would be a good way to get more exposure for my art and design.
I worked on finding some ambient sounds and sound effects for my game which was actually really fun too. I enjoyed trying to make a unique atmosphere for each of the areas of my game and adding that extra layer to the world. I didn’t have any sound in my game for a good 90% of the project so I was quite late in that but once I added some it made the game feel a lot more real and professional. Adding sound effects to the interactions made a lot of difference too, it added a more direct and responsive feeling. I would like to explore making some of my own sounds and ambient music in the future, which was something I was planning to do for this project but ultimately ran out of time, which is a shame as I think it would have been really interesting to do and perhaps added a more unique feeling than just using premade sounds from the internet that no doubt loads of people have used in their games. I did enjoy using the Bfxr app to customize some sound effects though, which I suppose counted as making them myself. But I really want to go out into the world and record some myself, I think the term is ‘foley’. It’s something I could look at for future projects, although I would need to get a good portable microphone to achieve some decent quality.
I expanded on my limited skills in video editing in this project when makin my trailer and making of film. Last year I used Sony Vegas to compile the cutscene frames for Bugs Ahoy! Which was just simple regular intervals showing images with fades and a music track. This year I had to film some footage of my progress and inspirational footage first hand which I had to think deeper about the ‘composition’ of when editing together. I wanted to get a good balance and rhythm between the two kinds of footage and make an engaging making of video. I also overlaid some text to explain my process and thoughts, it was challenging to keep it readable whilst finding shots to put it on. I used the shots that are more like ‘patterns’ with not too much details or movement in the shot. For the trailer, I included some of the more interesting, detailed screens of my game to give the player a good overview of what it is like. My initial cut of the trailer was far too long, which I realised after showing it to my family, trailers are often include deceptively short clips of just a second or two to give the player a glimpse of the action and not to lose focus. So I had to shorten my trailer a lot and it did make it much more punchy and effective. When filming the footage out in the world, I took into account the white balance, focal length and composition using techniques that we learnt in the camera workshop with Mind the Film, I think learning more in depth about the inner workings of cameras had given me a new insight into how to take pictures and film. I think there is a lot of value in taking short clips of moments, whether it be on trips or of nature, in order to really get a sense of the place and movement of the subject. Even very short clips can capture the feeling of a moment or place more evocatively than a still image, and this is something I would love to explore more in my personal time. For example, cutting together a short film of moments from a trip abroad to give a real sense of the time and place, and trying to find some music that evokes the mood that I felt to accompany the footage.
For the shows I want to create some art prints and postcards to give out in return for people donating to an environmental charity, I’ve yet to choose one in particular but I really want to promote a good cause that links to the themes of my game. I think people would be more inclined to donate to a charity than purchase things that are just for my profit, especially since I have no established brand and haven’t released a full game for player’s to be invested in. If I can raise even a small amount for a charity with my art it would make me feel accomplished and like I’m making a difference. I have no experience manning a booth at a big show so it remains to be seen how well I can achieve it but it should be a good learning experience and hopefully boost my confidence talking to people about my work.
Overall, this project has definitely pushed me to develop the skills I was lacking in and pushed me out of my comfort zone to my benefit. Knowing enough about programming to be able to create playable prototypes of my ideas will be very valuable in the future and has given me more confidence to take charge of my work. The adjacent skills that I explored such as video editing, sound design, marketing and writing have given me a broader understanding of the whole process of creating an indie game and these skills will no doubt come in handy in many different projects in the future, individually or together. Working alone has been a challenge but has also allowed me much more time and energy to focus on the act of creating and fulfilling my ideas, instead of sectioning off a certain amount of effort towards organizing a project and communicating with others, which in my past experiences on this course has been tumultuous and exhausting, due to working with others with different attitudes towards teamwork and communication. It was refreshing to effectively ‘be my own boss’ and make changes quickly whenever I felt like something wasn’t working. I do enjoy teamwork but I think it is only really effective when you work with people who are on the same page creatively. I definitely feel like I have ‘leveled-up’ during this project and I’m proud of the difficulties and problems that I have overcome with my own intuition and perseverance. It’s been tiring but fun!