The making of Dobuki’s Epic Journey
I finally finished building this damn game.
Why am I cursing this game? Because it’s a DAMN GAME! It took me so incredibly long to finish it, several years actually. When you look at the game, it really doesn’t look like much, but underneath the surface, this game is filled with time consuming things.
At the end though, I’m glad I finished this game. I think my former self who got someone excited about starting this project would be happy to know that his later self actually finished it, even though the later self doesn’t thing much of the game. Hey former self, I hope you’re happy, you made me waste so much time on this silly project!
This game grew out of my deep desire to produce a game that mimics some of my most beloved game genre: adventure and RPG. In particular, I would name games like Monkey Island and Phantasy Star as the main inspiration for starting this project. Previously, I have never made a game with a real storyline, so this was a first.
The story starts with Dobuki, and he lives in the countryside. Presumably, he just moved there. We don’t know anything really about Dobuki, but we know he has a bunch of friends, and there’s an old man on the hill who mentors him. As the story progresses, Dobuki explores his world and even goes on other planets.
I actually didn’t write a story, and I didn’t really have the mindset of writing one. The idea was just: Let’s create a world, in space, with weird creatures. Let’s create this wonderful world and just add any random idea I have as I go along.
This went well in the beginning. I wasn’t really sure where it was going to go, but the game grew somehow pretty big in my imagination. It was my escape at that time, and it wasn’t even done yet!
So yeah, there was no planning, no thinking ahead, just random things added on the spur of the moment.
Developing the world
I was pretty excited about creating a world. It didn’t have to have a great story, but as long as it was as weird as outlandish as possible, I was happy. I looked for some nice music for it, and that also affected how the world develop.
Now the idea became a bit more developed, but the code wasn’t very well thought out. It worked at that time, but it wasn’t meant to scale. I programmed the game the same way I was adding content: Adding random things as I thought about them.
For instance, I suddenly decided to add 3d crawling caves, so I made that. Then I thought about space travel, and just added that. This felt like the right approach, but soon it was getting more and more difficult to add things.
First of all, the compilation time grew as more things were added. Second, it became more and more difficult to look for the elements I wanted, as the number of scenes became 20, then 30, then 40…!
I was adding stuff to expand the world, but it didn’t seem that meaningful to me. Then for some reason, I decided to add some character development. I added a love interest for the main hero.
Growing in Complexity
I started to understand the idea of feature creep, and the addition of a new protagonist made it very clear. Suddenly, I couldn’t add random things anymore, because every new elements raised new questions in respect to the characters in the game.
I imagined stories around the character but at that point, adding even simple interactions became really painful.
It was pretty clear to me that I wouldn’t be able to finish this game. The game itself actually seemed to become rather silly to me, and I wondered if it would sound ridiculous to know I spent so much time building something that turns out to have so little production value.
But time passed, and I still thought about the game. I decided it needed closure, and unfortunately, you can’t just finish a game like this so easily. I had a lot of negative space to close. In an adventure game, if a player makes effort to get a particular item, then that item must be useful for something in the game.
At that point, the process of finishing the game was to list out all the item that I’ve randomly given to the player, and come up with some use for it, like a character that wanted it or some other random thing.
Eventually, I had enough content to finally close the game, with a very half-ass closure. But hey, at least I had something I was satisfied to let out into the world.
From this project, there’s a few things I learned:
– For a project that’s story based, one of the most important thing is to make it easy to add content. It seems easy at the beginning, but as the project grows, it becomes hard to search into the project, thus coming up with an easy way to add content is critical.
– If I want to make a game for mobile, I should test out performance right from the beginning. I had an idea that I could port the game to mobile easily using AIR, but it turns out the performance was atrocious. I knew how that could be fixed, but the work required to fix this was multiplied by the size of the project. This is something I should have thought ahead of time if this was to be a mobile game.
– Don’t get too attached to a story. I was stuck for a long time because I had this idea in mind of a story, and tried to make it happen. Yet, I never progressed because steps towards that story were increasingly difficult, requiring extra coding. I ended up giving up that story idea, and incrementally building up things until the end. That seemed to work better.
– Big projects are for when you’re ready! I think it’s fine to dream big, but at this point I should still make sure the projects I start can be finished within a couple months. Being stuck on a big project can be discouraging. Until I can come up with a project that is so compelling and so easy to increment that it can write itself, I still have a lot of game development practices to learn.
At the end, I’m glad I finished the project. This calls for a celebration, mostly because I got unstuck from working on that game, rather that the completion of the game itself. Of course, I could have just given up on that project, but I think finishing it with the half-ass ending I gave it was enough to make me feel good about it.
Perhaps I’m being a bit too critical. Hopefully people will like some aspects of the game. It has some dark humor in it, some hard puzzles that requires the player to think outside of the box, and some interesting characters. Please check it out on one of those sites: