date: July 14, 2014, Bastille Day
Okay, let’s do this. So the idea is to write back and forth about how things are going on the games we’re doing for the Unwinnable Kickstarter. And inevitably this will involve a lot of existential anguish, because that’s what always happens. To me at least.
I guess I will open by saying that I think it’s actually specifically projects like Jostle Bastard and now this new sequel/prequel that instill the greatest angst in me. Because the idea behind them is to make a kind of game tragedy (as well as satire). Normally I work on stuff that I essentially find funny, and that often keeps me going along pretty cheerfully, but when the game material itself is a bit sad or depressing, that kind of stress-release is taken away. So given that the new game is about trying and probably failing to save your children, I’m going to guess that this will be a bit of an arduous one. I’m already finding it a little tough to start, to be honest.
Anyway, status report. As of now I’ve got the basic idea – a game in which you are a parent taking care of your kids for the day, but in which the only action you can take is to “jostle”. It’s now called Jostle Mom/Dad (where the title for any given instantiation will choose one of those randomly), because it was dumb making it man-only. The game is very loosely meant to play on Octodad: Dadliest Catch, perhaps not in an actual satire way, but in working with similar concepts. I am taking it to a darker place I wish Octodad had gone with its story and interactions – it feels like an inherently tragic game to me. Thus, Jostle Mom/Dad will be a more explicit version of that tragedy – you’re a similarly limited person with similarly limited communication skills, but you still have to do this important job of protecting your family.
So that’s the idea. I’ve been working out “settings” for the game to take place in – it’s going to be set on a Sunday on which it’s your Jostle Parent’s specific job to look after the kids all day – so, to get them up, give them breakfast, take them to the park, etc. etc. And many or all of these locations will be potentially dangerous for the children if you don’t look after them. And obviously the children can die if you mess up. But the game doesn’t end until all the children are dead (there will be three, as in “three lives”).
I feel like this is probably long enough, I could go on about it for ages.
The point here is that I need to start actually making some prototype stuff (based on the code from Jostle Bastard) so that I can begin to get a feeling for the basic “shepherding and jostling” design that the game will rely on. Here’s hoping it’s not a massive failure!!
date: July 18, 2014
Oh wow, we’re really starting. There’s such an air of formality to beginning a project with a written letter. I recall reading, once, a letter written between Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim as they began work on West Side Story, and being fascinated by the gravity of it all. I usually slide into working on projects, so I like this method of peering off the cliff before I jump in.
I replayed Jostle Bastard after reading your letter, and must say I’m looking forward to seeing what you do with Jostle Mom/Dad. The framing goal for each activity in Jostle Bastard is, as I understand it, impossible. My job as a player is to embody a character who will always choose to either jostle people or leave: the character and I both know right off the bat that we’ll fail at our stated goal. So I’m curious as to whether Jostle Mom/Dad will have goals that are to any small degree achievable, or whether it’s a similar exercise in futility right from the start. Looking forward to prototype stuff!
On to my end of this bargain:
My journey in making my game, which I think is called Need, begins with angst on a number of fronts, so I think I’ll use space in this week’s letter to outline those fronts:
AUTOBIOGRAPHY: Need is a game about my own life – a first for me. I’ve based fictional characters on myself before, but never made a game about myself directly. I worry about exposing my feelings to players, and worry what my friends and family will think.
ART: I’m doing the art (along with everything else) for this game myself. I’ve never made art for one of my own games that I didn’t consider either plagiarized or placeholder, so this instills in me a great deal of fear. I’m also doing the art for my less-side project Kyoto Wild, but that game won’t be finished until late next year, so the fear is less immediate. I think this process will be good for my comfort level in considering myself a legitimate artist – perhaps because it will make me more legitimate.
TIME: Need revolves greatly around my use of time, and the things that demand my time at odds with one another. Ironically, this project itself creates a stress of sorts on my schedule. It is a third project if you count Hyper Light Drifter and Kyoto Wild as numbers one and two, respectively. Perhaps it’s appropriate that the creation of this game will exist in the subject matter of the game itself. I’m going to try and be incredibly responsible about scope.
So, quick summary of the game and where I stand!
The basic idea is that Need is a vignette about my burning need to create games, in conflict with my need to spend time with the ones I love. I don’t really know what the mechanics will be, though I have some thoughts surrounding mundane actions. My other projects are very gamey right now, so I don’t feel a great deal of pressure to make this game a challenge for players.
Status: I’m just getting started as well, except I have no code base or sequel/prequel! I’ve been working on an art style that I’ll begin to apply to this project. My first major task may be to model my old apartment, which should be cathartic. If I’m being a responsible designer, I’ll also put real thought into the player’s actions in the game.