Oh HEY! It's time for the September Dev Update! (in October...)
It’s me, Murray Somerwolff, the person who writes this blog. And here I am writing this very-much-delayed-Game dev update on what is, a very wet and rainy British Sunday evening (or at least it was at the time of writing, it’s now Thursday).
As of writing this, it’s October 5th, I’ve already broken concentration writing this for the hundredth time this week by sneaking in a little play session of Cocoon, which is reaaaally good!
(and before Cocoon it was Armoured Core 6, which stole my brain for a good week of September… woops!)
The truth is I’ve had this blog page drafted up for weeks, written with notes and scribbled statements on it, underneath an emboldened bullet point which simply reads UPDATE BLOG!
You see I’ve been trying to spin all the plates of parenting, indie game dev, part time UI artist, writing this blog and attempting to be a relatively healthy and existing human being and as I’m sure you can tell by the look of my face, I’m clearly succeeding...
It’s a good thing I can’t actually hear your response.
So, what have I actually been doing?
I’ve been working on Wax Heads!!
I mean that isn’t much of a surprise as I said as much in the last post, but at least on a more formal basis, this is the game I’m concentrating my attention on.
It’s a narrative-puzzle game set inside a charming record store, where you play as an aspiring young music journalist, striving to recommend the right record to the right customer whilst also writing for an alternative music zine.
Some of you may have already seen (or even played) the second prototype I made in twine. It was my attempt to address the question of, what is the core loop of Wax Heads and is it “fun”?
My thinking was, if this prototype can be proved to be somewhat enjoyable, even in this unwieldy format of being word-y and static, then there’s proof that we’re onto something.
And you know what, I think it does! (also I had some lovely feedback from some generous dev-friends) But yea I think I managed to express some of the magic of the world building and characterisation in this prototype - the mechanics still need to be deepened and stretched, but on the outset I feel like there’s something already working.
You can check it out for yourself on my itch.io here!
Using Twine as a means to express this game has now reached its threshold. Even with only just 9 customers (puzzles), the introduction of the newsletter mechanic, and more character dialogue, means there’s just too much straight-up text to read.
The vision I have for the game is tactile and responsive, where the interaction with each record feels like an experience in and of itself, rewarding you with an attention to detail.
And so this means making the game in a game engine, or what I like to call, you know “actually making the game”.
As someone who has worked in Unity for every game he’s worked on, it was obviously my first choice. But, of course ironically as I was about to put my fingers on keyboard and mouse, Unity decided to out-Unity itself with it’s very unpopular dev shake-down announcement.
Now I won’t bother to get into the politics of what, is a now much discussed subject,(okay quickly: fuck late-stage capitalism and the insidious attitude towards maximising growth above all else) but this presented an opportunity. Why not learn a different engine?
After exploring options, I have jumped on the Godot bandwagon as my choice to make Wax Heads in.
Although, in truth it has been a difficult few weeks, as I wrestle with the acknowledgement of my poor programming skills and the slow pace of my learning. I currently don’t have much to show for my troubles.
As a response to this I’m now going back to square one, following along with a tutorial series by GDquest (a Godot teaching group) and currently hoping to pay for some 1-1 tutoring. It’s very much my desire to become somewhat competent in making this next prototype with my own skills. Fingers crossed by the next update we’ll see some of that come to fruition.
But, I’m not in it alone!
Despite feeling like I’m thrashing against my own lack of ability, I would be amiss not to mention how lucky I am to be a part of the Astra Fellowship program.
The community from the mentors and my peers at Astra has created a really strong support system, one in which I’m both learning and gaining whole new perspectives to game design. It’s such a talented group and I’m humbled to be included amongst them.
And a quick shout out, I also now have a dedicated mentor, Daniel Benmergui, who is the developer of the fantastic Storyteller (which you should check out if you haven’t yet!)
Truthfully - I would be lying if I said this didn’t feel strange, it’s a new experience to have access to such scaffolding and support, and so despite the setbacks I’ve had this month, I’m filled with optimism on how I move forward.
I’m so optimistic in fact, that while I’m going to AdventureX conference next month, mainly just to see cool stuff (like the super awesome, recently announced Miniatures) - my secret ambition is to have a rough playable ready to show on my laptop to any curious eyes. Maybe it’s overly ambitious… but let’s see!
(famous last game dev words)
I have some other exciting things bubbling away, but I’ll wait to see how they turn out before mentioning anything. (Cause you can never have enough plates to spin!)
As a last note, I eventually want to pivot to doing video entries as opposed to writing so much, I know these blog posts are DENSE.
(I want to dive into explaining the reasoning behind why I want to actually make Wax Heads as a game, so let’s pencil that in as an upcoming experiment using video…)
But for now take it easy, take care and remember Trans Lives Matter and as always, fuck the tories.
Last Months listening rotation:
Jeff Rosenstock - Hellmode
Slowdive - Everthing pulls apart
Aftersun - Under pressure (The movie version of the song)
Jon Hopkins - Singularity
Gold Panda - The works
The Replacements - Tim (Let it Bleed remix)