After I split up with the team at SpikeJap, I decided to take an hiatus from development to figure out if it was really what I wanted to keep doing. I got dragged back into game development to join a project that ultimately went nowhere as a Lead Writer but that put the itch of making games back into me. Considering all of this, it was only natural for me to get back into game development... which I did. However, I decided to also challenge myself by doing something solo, without relying on others. The fact I was able to finish the game within the given timeframe and make binaries for various platform was a great plus.
A whole hell of a lot. The fact that I was able to create an entire game, troubleshoot my own coding issues, find some art for the game, test and release all by myself in just 72 hours was a daunting task to say the least. When I was creating Rise of the Valkyrie with the team at SpikeJap I had some experience with not sleeping much to keep up with the deadline, but I was able to get some rest every one in a while. This project however took every bit of me and then some to reach the end.
The first day was mostly dedicated to getting used to the language Ren'Py uses and getting my entire framework to work as I wanted it to. That however was already way too much time spent on that with the deadline I had. I remade the concept of the story many times during the following days and had to consult with a writer friend to get feedback on my ideas each time. Even though I just made it sound very stressful, it was also extremely rewarding. There's nothing more satisfying after a few hours coding than to be able to test and see your creation working. Ren'Py has a very good prototyping feature that allowed me to test almost all changes on the fly without compiling which was a godsend of a feature.
As I noted earlier, I set out to fulfill an objective: creating a game by myself. I believe I passed with flying colors and this is what I learned from the entire experience:
- Engine: A good choice is key
- Sometimes it doesn't matter if you're using the most popular engine that everyone likes to hype up. What you really need is an engine that is perfect for what you want to achieve. Ren'Py's quick testing feature allowed me to test every new iteration of code so quickly that I can't see why anyone would make a visual novel game in any other engine. It's extremely versatile and while it does take a bit to learn the little quirks of the code, once you do it's a joy to work with.
- Pressure: Dealing with it
- For me this wasn't just any other project. It was a solo, "do-it-all and prove you can do it" sort of project. Yet, I neer felt any kind of pressure like I did the other times because I was enjoying myself so much. I may have had a few thoughts of quitting on the first 12 hours, but that's mostly because sometimes we have a tendency to doubt ourselves when faced with a seemingly impossible task. The more I went along, the more I realized it was not impossible and that I could do this if I stayed focused on the work at hand. While some fears of not making the deadline haunted me towards the end, I quickly understood that thanks to my hard work and dedication, that was never going to happen.
- Coding: Maybe I can dabble with it a bit more
- One of the things that stopped me from doing more solo work before this was not being able to code by myself. What I realized with this is that I clearly can deal with scripting languages like Python no problem, so maybe I can take the jump to bigger ponds. Since then I've been dabbling with Unity3D a bit with some success but expect to see if Game Maker Studio is better for me. It is an interesting time for me and it's all thanks to this project.
- GameJams: A way to test your own skills
- While I do enjoy participating in GameJam events, I do not do it often because of the fact that I'm usually working solo. What I enjoy most about them is the chance to test my skills when working within a certain timeframe. This one was no exception and I look forward to try my hand at more events like it in the future.
- Themed Events: A good way to test my creativity
- Usually when I start writing or concepting a game or fictional world, I usually do it out of my own head without any sort of restrictions. The challenge of having to do so with the restrictions imposed upon me by the organization of an event or contest was something new that force me out of my confort zone. While I'm glad I was able to create something that fit within the rules, looking back maybe there were a few things I could have done differently. Nonetheless, that's what these events are for, to learn from your own mistakes.