Game Design Game Development Geek / Technical

Freshly Squeezed Progress Report: New Project and Initial Design Work

I’m excited to say that I finally decided on my next project and started actual work on it. Here’s the first of my weekly Freshly Squeezed Progress Reports for my second Freshly Squeezed Entertainment game.

Sprint 1: Pre-production and initialization

Planned and complete:

  • Get a basic project building/running/quitting

Planned and incomplete:

  • Finish initial design document

What’s the game? Well, I’ll tell you later.

I’ll refer to this project as FS2 for now, as I want to have more to demonstrate before I officially announce it, and I will be telling subscribers to my Curiosities newsletter first, so sign up for the GBGames Curiosities newsletter to be one of the first to know what FS2 will be!

Here’s what I can say for certain about the game:

  • it will be playable on mobile devices as well as desktop computers
  • it will be a 2D game with a 1st-person perspective for the main game play
  • it will be free, with no ads, no in-app purchases, and no data harvesting
  • it will be family-friendly and non-violent

And anything more will give away too much. Maybe next update?

To start a new project, I took my previous project, Toy Factory Fixer, copied its source files, then deleted all references to that game, then made sure that I could build and run a main menu that lets me quit the game. Until I get title graphics, I used a mock-up, and I am using gray rectangles to represent buttons.

Here’s a peek at part of the title screen:

Freshly Squeezed Entertainment game #2's title screen mock-up

It’s not pretty, but it doesn’t need to be at this point. I just needed to get something up and running that I can use to build off of.

That was the quick and easy part.

As for what to build next, well, I didn’t feel comfortable working on implementing anything until I figured out a more solid design.

I didn’t intend to make a design document of any significant size, and I know I don’t want a multi-hundred page document that I’ll never look at, but I’ve been writing down a lot of ideas at this stage. 11 pages, in fact. I expect that I will scope it down significantly, leaving a lot out for a sequel or future update.

I’ll have more to say about the details of that design, but for now here are some of the core aspects of this project.

First, this will be a non-violent game: “there should be no attacking or threat of attacks, no abuse, no physical or psychological danger, and no killing.” With the kind of game this is going to be, I feel that making it non-violent is going to be relatively challenging, but it should be relatively unique. While there are many examples of non-violent games, especially in mobile games, it really does feel like most games provide verbs of ATTACK or KILL or DESTROY and not much else. To be clear, I’m not saying that I don’t like violence in games or that you shouldn’t play games that feature violence. I’m just saying that if you want violence, there’s plenty of games to choose from, and I want to try to make a game that is about something else.

Second, the game will focus on personalities intersecting: “when you have multiple people with different interests, goals, and norms meet together, the results can be insightful, explosive, beautiful, synergistic, or counterproductive.” In past games, I found myself adding personality to the main characters and entities late or not at all, and I think it made those games feel cold, impersonal, and mechanical as a result. For this project, I want to make it feel like you are dealing with living, breathing people and other entities. When you see two different entities, they should be two different entities, with unique identities, rather than clones.

Third, I want to focus on mystery and adventure: “the ____ is like a completely different world, with rules and laws that are strange and wonderful. It holds secrets, and the player will want to learn them all.” I want the game to be about exploration. That’s a tall order, especially as I expect it will require a lot of world-building and narrative design, but I’ll have more to say when I can tell you what “____” is. B-)

As for the mood and feel, I want it to be light-hearted and family-friendly. I’m taking a little inspiration from the game Earthbound and the movie The Goonies. I want it to be a game that is incredibly accessible, and so long as you can read and think, you should be able to play. It won’t be hardcore challenging, but at the same time, it won’t be incredibly simple either.

Since I’m at the beginning of this project, it’s one of the most exciting ways a game can exist: as a collection of really cool ideas in my head. The problem of course is that to actually create this fantasy project as a real game might take forever, or it might not actually work at all.

I know what kind of game I want to make, and I know a few of the fundamental things I will need to implement. I also recognize that while there are a few things I can borrow or steal from other games of this type, many of the things I am thinking about doing with this project require some experimentation and prototyping. Probably too many for someone with limited time such as myself.

Basically, while I have enough to get started, there are still too many vague ideas the game is depending on. I don’t need to have everything worked out in extreme detail, but I need enough there to actually have something to implement and prototype.

So my own goals for this past sprint were to figure out more precisely what this project will actually be. I needed to identify the player’s actual goals, activities the player will be involved in, and the high level systems and interactions I’ll need to implement to make it all real.

Part of that work has become the lore of the game, and I think I have a good overarching goal as well as some interesting situations to put the player in. Plus, as I have been figuring out what locations and entities should be in the game, I’ve been identifying specific systems that might be needed to make them work.

I’ve made good progress on turning my high level ideas and concepts into more specific features that can be made into actionable and tangible work, but there’s still more to do. What I’m looking for are the building blocks to start with, the things that let me build the spine of the game, and then I can iteratively and incrementally add to it. What I don’t want is to work for months on a set of features that I hope fall into place with the risk that it never does.

I apologize that the above lacks a lot of specifics. Rereading it, it sounds like I am saying, “I’ve got a new project, but not really.” Maybe this update was premature, or maybe I’m putting too much importance on wanting to wait until I have a little more substance to tell my newsletter subscribers what I’m doing before I announce it here.

But for now, I have some designing and planning to do.

Want to learn when I release updates to Toytles: Leaf Raking, Toy Factory Fixer, or about future Freshly Squeezed games I am creating? Sign up for the GBGames Curiosities newsletter, and get the 19-page, full color PDF of the Toy Factory Fixer Player’s Guide for free!