Now that the demo is out for the world to play, I wanted to take the time to reflect a bit on the journey thus far. A bit of a mix of a dev log and just a diary entry of sorts as a first-time game dev.
This first point probably sounds like a no-brainer, but it's a lot of work making a game. I always had a surface level idea of the amount of work it takes to make a video game and I've always had an appreciation for those who make games, especially on their own. But it's difficult to get a full idea of the effort that goes in unless you're actually putting in said effort. Coding every line of text, every animation, every sound effect, drawing the assets for not only the sprites and the backgrounds, but the text boxes and nameboxes and menu buttons, etc. I look at video games with a different eye now and have formed an even greater appreciation for those who make games.
I've also learned during this time that anything that can go wrong, will. There have been several times when I would get into a groove and start to get excited about a potential release date, only for life to drop something in my path that interrupts said flow and I have to get the momentum all over again. My computer going kaput, getting COVID, having to move apartments suddenly, all sorts of hiccups in the timeline that, alongside my own misjudgments over how much work I actually had left, kept pushing the drop date back further and further. In the future, I'm likely going to be ignoring potential release dates until I'm in the very final polish stages of the full game.
Also, the amount of tediousness that was involved in this demo. Oh my god. First of all, I am not a background artist and that was fully apparent when I was making the art assets for the demo. I really got to realize how much needs to go into a background to make it feel alive and I made an executive decision to save all that effort for the final game, because if I put all that effort into the demo, we'd still be waiting for another month or two only for me to entirely redo them for the full game. So the backgrounds are not my best work, admittedly.
The sprites, on the other hand, I'm rather proud of. I did put a lot of effort into making those and making them consistent and it was also an insane amount of tedious effort. You would think that because they're mostly similar, it'd be easy to churn them out, right? Yes and no. Sure, Alice has her arm on her hip for most of her sprites, but the other arm has 9 different positions that all need to be sketched, lined, colored, and then checked for consistency. Same for her various expressions, which each have a duplicate for the talking version. Hours upon hours of minute changes and checking for consistency between all of the sprites really wears down the psyche. But I'm an artist and a creator and I ultimately enjoyed seeing every sprite and expression come together in the end and watching the placeholder sprites be replaced with their final counterparts was really satisfying and rewarding to me.
I thought the sprites would be the most tedious and slightly mind-numbing part of the process but, like with many things through development, I was wrong.
I have discovered that I hate sound design.
Namely searching for music. With sound effects, I can dig through and find something pretty close but it's too long or some other minor thing but ultimately I can trim it down to size or snatch one perfect part and discard the rest, but music is such an integral part of games. It sets the mood and the pace and helps guide the player along in the story you're trying to tell. It's especially important in visual novels because there really isn't a whole lot else going on to distract from the music. But the catch is that background music is meant to be unnoticed. So not only did I have to find music that fit the scene and the mood I was trying to set, but I had to make sure that it would be unexciting enough so as not to take away from the actual content of the scene. Which is difficult to gauge when you're actively listening to the music to see if it fits. And it had to be royalty-free. Which, I will admit, there are some bangers out there in the royalty-free market. There are also a lot of corporate-feeling jingles and okay electronic music that I had to sift through to get to those bangers. And then I had to reluctantly put aside those bangers to find stuff that would actually fit the scene. Long story short, looking for music for the demo made me want to put my head through the wall and I'm not looking forward to it for the final game.
This might feel like a lot of complaining but I am very proud of the demo, despite its flaws. And I'm extremely proud of myself for making it this far. This is not an easy task and I did it! I'm glad I started with just the demo because it helped me learn a lot about what I was doing and it allowed me to make mistakes and ultimately it's giving me a strong foundation for me to build the full game upon. I already have ideas on the directions I want to take the full game and I'm so excited to start on the next leg of this journey. Thank you so much to those who have supported me throughout this; my partners, my friends, and my cat. I'm so grateful for you because I wouldn't have been able to make it this far without you.
Now let's make this game!!