I just finished doing some research on my own game Groundskeeper 2 for a youtube video, and I found it very handy to have the full game-development diary available on this blog.. which made me think about the last games I’ve been working on, especially Sir Questionnaire which I released early this year (2018) and I developed it pretty much without mentioning it at all during those development months.
So, while I still have some memory of how this game came to be, I figured I better write down a great development blog for it, just in case I ever want to read it back for a future Youtube video on the game! So let’s go!
After launching Ashworld in December 2017 / January 2018, I jumped into development of Gunslugs:Rogue Tactics. I put some weeks into that before I got side-tracked / distracted by this small idea I had on a Sunday morning. At that time I figured it would be a little fun weekend project, giving me a little break from Gunslugs:RT on which I was a bit stuck design wise. So I spend a full Sunday working on this idea, and that one Sunday turned into about 4-5 months of “distraction”.
I didn’t mention the game, didn’t show much of the game, until it was a few months into the development. Mostly because the core game-play loop is extremely simple and easy to replicate and I figured I wanted to be as close to release as possible before showing people the game mechanic (avoiding any quick and dirty clones.. which of course, so far, hasn’t happened anyway).
So I worked a lot of hours on a secret project that I couldn’t talk about or show.. which goes against all marketing-logic!
The core loop, as mentioned, was pretty simple and clear from the start. I wanted to have a dungeon adventure game that I could easily play with one hand while watching TV or something. So the plan was to give the player two options: interact with an item, or walk away and go deeper into the dungeon. This meant I only needed two buttons, and you could control the whole adventure with those.
Altho I stuck to that core-loop idea pretty closely, the game did get a few more functions with a whole inventory screen being added to manage the various items you could interact with. Which was something I originally didn’t plan, but I also didn’t expect this game to take up months of work instead of just one or two weekends!
I also wanted this game to be as close to a “rogue-like” as possible mostly because I just LOVE the concept of those games. So in this game I wanted items that could sometimes not exactly do what you expect them to do (like the Milk can sometimes go bad, making you loose health instead of gaining it). Other items are not clear what they can be used for, but in many cases give you extreme advantage over specific enemies, or a way to find certain enemies or even have a very short path to the end-boss. A lot can happen in this game, which was the most fun part to figure out and implement.
The game-development was fairly simple, the biggest problem here was that I had so many ideas on what I wanted to add to the game, this lasted well after it’s release with a bunch of huge updates adding new area’s to the dungeon, new monsters, new items, and so much more. This is also the reason the game took slightly longer than expected, because I just kept having fun with the development of the game!
There was just one real development issue, and that was figuring out the whole Inventory screen and how to handle/manage that on different platforms. My original sketches were purely designed for mobile screens, so portrait/vertical.. but on a big iPad or on a PC or TV screen.. this just didn’t look good and it also made no sense to not have that inventory screen visible with so much screen-space wasted. So I had to come up with a VERY flexible way to have the interface behave nicely on various screens.
The PC and TV versions will always show the interface on the right side, alongside the main game screen. And on mobile you now have the option to rotate your device to landscape or portrait, and in landscape mode the inventory will be visible, while in portrait it will be hidden. This took a lot of testing and trying to make sure it all fits on various resolutions, and it all kept behaving nicely when people rotated their device mid-game!
Having that simple core-loop up and running in just a few hours, and a great inventory system going, meant that I could go crazy on adding all the content and layers of gameplay to it, which I did!
From all the games I worked on, this was the one I never thought would have so much feature-creep in it. I had other games where I just kept adding features and new content, but eventually my ideas would simply dry up and I’d release a few weeks later.. on Sir Questionnaire, I just kept coming up with new ideas and content, and since it was all pretty easy to add, I kept adding “just one more” thing to the game.. for multiple weeks. What was supposed to be a simple, short, and easy to make game, turned into something bigger and much more expansive than what I originally came up with!
Luckily, the game had a great release. Getting a “New games we love” mention from Apple, followed by a “Game of the day” feature on the front-page of the app-store. So that meant that after release, I actually pushed almost weekly updates for a few more months, and then it was time to call it done and move to the next project.
I have tinkered with a Twitch-integration for Sir Questionnaire for a few weeks, and it’s like 95% up and running.. just not released to the public. It has mostly been an interesting learning-experience, but I’m just not into Twitch streaming enough to really understand what I can do with it in any interesting ways. So I abandoned that project!
I’ve also had a partial re-skinned version of the game which looks like a Sci-Fi version of Sir Questionnaire. Most of the main graphics have been redone, but there is a LOT of enemies and animations that need re-skinning in order to make this a full game or add-on or anything releasable. I don’t think it will ever see the world outside my own HD, but you never know !
And that’s the dev-story for Sir Questionnaire, a fun little weekend project that surprisingly turned into an actually playable, and released, game!