This game started a little before Christmas 2018. I (Henry Bawden) came back, frustrated once more at being shot down by investors. Let me back up a bit to catch you up to that point though.
Until a few years ago, I was focusing on contract work for other people. In 2016, I changed the direction of the studio and stopped accepting contract work. This was to allow us to start developing our own intellectual properties.
My goal was to create games that had meaning. I wanted to make games that could be used as teaching tools. The problem is, games are generally not funded in the same ways they were 10 years ago. With the crash, and then the indie boom, things have changed. For various reasons, educational titles are even harder to convince investors to fund. My team and I spent a lot of time developing prototypes, pitches, and trying to get the larger projects funded, but we kept meeting with failure. That isn’t to say it was the end, because most failures eventually lead to success when you learn from them.
In this particular round of failures though, the final straw was a meeting where I was asked to create a very large, and detailed, business and financial plan (with the expectation that they would be interested if I followed their instructions and showed them what they wanted to see). I did the research, put together the documentation, and went in with a solid plan. I brought the presentation, the prototypes, and was prepared. The end outcome was that the games weren’t looked at, the business plan was lightly browsed and then pushed to the side, and the final comments were that they just didn’t do this kind of funding (games). After years of similar meetings where I was feeling led-on, I ended up coming home frustrated, tired, and angry.
That’s when something had to change. While I still believe in the educational games, I needed something to break out of my rut. I needed something that I could enjoy working on while I planned my next steps for the company, and for our educational direction. I started to think about minimum viable products. If you aren’t familiar with the term, it is basically the smallest and quickest thing you can do to show that the idea of your product will work.
I had a few different ideas that I explored, but the one that stuck was a 2D fighter. I tried to think of the simplest form that it could take and still be fun. I came up with the idea you see in the .gif above. Four buttons, plus a fifth for the occasional super-attack. The idea was that it would give a simple foundation for something that could grow. Here were the rest of the foundations.
- No player movement
- Four buttons +1 when your charge bar fills
- Themed levels broken into 10 battles each, including a mid-boss and an end-boss
- A custom song for each level
- All 2D sprites that are hand painted and animated
- It has to be funny and have humor
- It needs to be like a makeout session with the games of the early 90’s
I wanted this to be fast to develop, and fun for me to work on. I needed the break. So, I took two weeks around Christmas 2018 and focused on getting all the initial assets created (art, sound effects, and three new songs), which I turned over to my amazing programmer (Andrew) to start implementing.
I had a blast. It was exactly what I had been needing. The larger prototypes were put on the shelf for a while and I was able to play. Where a single 3D character model can take weeks, or longer, I could knock out a sprite character and 6 animations in a day. I could also sit around and write music once more with my newfound time (I’ll write about that process sometime soon).
I wanted to talk about the last three items that were listed above because they will help you understand the game’s direction a bit better. While I was thinking about my motivations for gaming, and creating games, I kept thinking back (as I often do) to the Golden Age of gaming. For me, that was during the early 90’s with the Super Nintendo. 2D sprite art was at its peak and the games were deep and immersive. So, I wanted to make something that would capture that. The idea with this game is to capture that feeling, while also poking fun at it a bit. As an example, here are a few of the ideas we are going to be pursuing.
- A level in the style of Mortal Kombat 3, where the enemies will look realistic, and as if they came out of that game (probably will get dressed up for a photo shoot, and have my kids do the same).
- An undead level, drawing inspiration from Zombies Ate My Neighbors, Castlevania, and many others.
- A level that gives a nod to the Final Fantasy series (particularly FF6). It will have a giant, highly rendered, enemy that you fight in stages. It won’t move (be animated moving), but will flash and shoot rays and things at you the way they did with bosses like the evolved form of Kefka.
There are many, many more ideas that we have brainstormed and are playing around with and will update you on. It is meant to be playful, fun, and bring back a lot of nostalgia for older players. The great part is that there is an opportunity to play around with the mechanics and the experience because of the simple foundation that it has and so I am looking forward to continued development.
There is a lot more that I would like to write about, and I probably will. However, as this first post has gone on for some time, I will leave it here.
Thank you for taking the time to check out our site, and I hope you return again soon.