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Afterword - Part I

  • zDS
  • 06/04/2019 07:43 PM
Okay, this is a long one, where I likely reveal too much information about myself. I do want to start this off with a mega thanks to rmn for featuring me! This place is my internet home and I take this honor seriously and with pride.

I have rambled bits and pieces about the process of making Cope Island. Yet, now I think is time to tell the road I took to get here. I have felt the low and high points of my life while making this game. Cope Island: Adrift is not the longest game to complete. In the time I took making this, I could have made a long 20 hour epic. Yet it’s not. It’s not short, but it’s not long. I hammered this thing not to have you lose into something for a day, but to give an experience that resonated with who I am, in some small way.

I have preached this before. What gives my game flavor is honesty. Honesty of what I felt. Of what I wanted to be expressed. It’s my own form of a painting. My song composed my way. The right to share with you a portion of my mind is something that honestly helps keep me going, day by day.

So perhaps it is fair I be honest about my road getting here. This turned out WAY longer than I thought, so I decided to break this blog post into parts.


For many years, game dev was all I had. It was something that I was actually proud of. I never really had talent in anything. I never did any activities outside of playing games. People tried to take this away from me. Laughing at me for being proud of creating with RPG Maker. Saying it’s a silly tool to play around with and that I should only be proud of doing something that actually takes skill.

I had a friend online that I admired. He was 6 years older than me. He was 21 at this time. I was 15. He was in college to be a programmer. He wanted to be this mega successful game developer. I looked up to him, thought he was cool guy. I respected what he had to say. He had this whole community of friends he invited me to be a part of. I had legit no friends otherwise. They all had roles in his grand game dev team ambition. I was kind of an outsider.

He once started teaching me programming basics. He was an awful teacher, it went utterly nowhere. I always used RPG Maker, though. I was doing some eventing. It reminded me a bit of the stuff he tried to teach me with programming. I made a joke. I legit thought it was a joke and told him it was a joke. It went along the lines of “hey, this is kind of like programming!” and showed a screenshot. I forget what it even was. The hours that followed was him literally verbally assaulting me, making me feel like a piece of shit in every way shape or form he could imagine. Just because I insulted his pride. He was a REAL programmer, and to even JOKE about that was insulting.

I had no other friends at that point. I had legit no social life. I was already a school drop out at that point. I didn’t even talk to my brothers (I only had one brother that treated me like a human being anyway) I lived my life mostly in the middle of the night. And he did this in a group chat with his other fully grown adult friends, and they either ignored it or laughed about it, agreeing at how much of a failure piece of shit I was. I truly believed what he said. I truly felt like trash. If you’re still reading, you might ask yourself. Why is this relevant to Cope Island?

That took place in 2008. Let’s fast forward to 2014. I stuck around this person throughout the years. I always tried to be a part of his grand game dev ambitions. I wanted to be his music guy, but he said I was trash at music and should give up. So I tried to be a pixel artist, which I sucked bad at the time. Attempts at making a game with him happened a few times, all ended in pretty much failure.

An old image concept I made long before Cope Island. In game it was butchered beyond belief, but ah well.

IGMC 2014 comes around and he wants to give it a go. I had dabbled in RPG Maker plenty at this point, and he wanted to make a game in RPG Maker. So he actually came to me for some advice. He asked me if a mechanic was possible in RPG Maker and asked how to do it. It was only required simple eventing. So I did it and showed him the screenshot. His response: “Oh, that’s a lot like programming!”

It was many years later. People grow. (this guy surely didn’t grow much I tell you hwat) Yet, I remembered that night all those years prior. Being psychology shattered because I offended his pride. I was afraid to even bring up RPG Maker for years to him after. (to most people, actually, for different reasons perhaps?) I brought up to him that years earlier, he went batshit on me for JOKING about the same thing he had said. He didn’t remember. Maybe I was overreacting? Maybe it was just teenage silliness? No. That shit hurt me. It stung. It stuck with me. And it was like one of HUNDREDS of similar incidents with this person. I remembered most of them, if not all. It’s hard to forget stuff that leaves a mark on you. He forgot it all, because it didn’t matter to him.

He did not enter IGMC 2014. In fact, I actually showed him Cope Island before I submitted. He said it sucked. Told me to get help from someone who can write. (Cope Island is mine and I would never have someone write it for me) He had a total lack of faith in me.

After I won the third place of the RPG section, he came to me and demanded I give him the credit of “Expert Game Design Consultant.” saying that it would help him be accepted into a college program that would let him travel to Japan to study. He didn’t do shit to help. I was furious and had choice words with him. Yet, being the pushover I am. I did give him that credit and he used it. Since, I have took him out. Removed his stain from my game. I gave that credit jokingly to an actual friend of mine, because we make fun of it so much. (he has no idea I gave him that credit yet, lol)

I do not talk to this person any longer. It took me a couple of years after IGMC 2014 to finally rip that bandaid off, but he is completely out of my life. Years upon years of being wrapped up into this person’s bullshit, with him constantly telling me I was not good enough, that I was a failure, that I would never succeed or even get a job. That I would end up homeless under the bridge. That I should join the army and be fodder because that’s all I’d be good for.

This guy is just a mere example. I could write a novel alone on my experience with him. But that’s not the point of this blog. I had MANY different weights that held me down, he was just one of them. The point of this blog is what this game means to me and how I got to the finish line.

IGMC 2014

The story of making this game is not a revenge story. Actually, it’s about me finding good in my life WITH RPG Maker and accomplishing something that I never expected to happen.

I was in a long distance relation at the time. I had no job. No driver’s license. I lived in my parents house. I had no education. But this girl loved me. I loved her. We were dating long distance for a couple of years and at the start of 2014, she managed to get me a plane ticket to Norway to visit her for a few months.

From February to May, I stayed in Norway. I went from living in my parents house, barely leaving it, having no social life… To across the world, finally seeing the girl I loved in person. I had never flown in a plane before. I had never even been apart from my parents more than a few days before that. When I was stepping onto the plane, I felt nauseous. I thought I was going to die. Because I had no right do be happy. But I stepped on anyway, and went on to live the most magical three months of my life.

I’ve had so many lows in my life since. So many. None beat returning to Illinois after those three months in Norway. That was the most brutal pain I ever experienced. That was worse than my house burning down. Worse than my little brother dying. Worse than helping my wife through her brain surgery. Returning home that first time was the most pain I ever felt, as there has been nothing that compared to the high of being there those first three months.

Back in my parents house. Back with no job. Back with no driver’s license. Apart from the girl I loved, who spent everyday crying because she missed me so much. It was a truly awful time. Then this IGMC contest thing begins, and I decide to just, well, go for it. I had been dabbling with RPG Maker for many years before that, and finished projects. But I never released anything. I decided it was time to finally put my skills to the test.

I ran through my mind a tornado of ideas. How could I make an rpg feel DONE in 30 minutes? RPGs require a LOT of build up and pacing to feel complete. So I thought of tons of ideas. Struggling to choose one, almost panicking. I wanted to make a “castle” game. One dungeon. Multiple sections. Though I didn’t want just a normal castle. So I thought, hey, maybe an island would be fun! I made a song afterwards, and it was somber. I guess that was what I wanted to express at the time. An island sounded nice. I wanted to go to an island and just spend time with my girlfriend (later wife) at the time. Magically pulled away to it. Though that was impossible.

As cheesy as it was, making Cope Island was how I coped with the pain. The name Cope Island, I wanted to change it so much. But I’ve had various people tell me do NOT change it. It is what it is.

I like playing games and getting good at them. The idea of Cope Island is escaping somewhere, getting better, and going back to where you left of. That’s kind of my relationship with games as a whole.

So I make the game in a couple of weeks pretty much. The first week was mostly planning. I was already like a week late. I redid the game the last couple of days because I wasn’t happy with the results. I decided to make everything even faster paced, maps even smaller. I press submit and enter the agonizing wait to be judged.

Wow, look at this old thing.

New version of that, pretty much!

During the wait, I went to Norway again for a month, then brought her back to my home for the first time for three months. My home, well, it’s not Norway. She had to stomach a lot of unpleasant. She was shocked, to be honest. I tried to warn her, but, well… So being in Illinois with her, was very hard on me.

I checked anxiously every day for judging to be done. I had zero hope. I even found an error in my game. It was rare to get, but it gave me massive anxiety. I felt I lost my only chance. I also played a lot of other entrees and lost total hope. Remnants of Isolation, I played and thought “if any game beats me, I hope it’s this” Still happy it won. I also played One Shot a bit and felt “this is COMPLETELY out of my league.

Finally, the results were in. I clicked and saw Remnants of Isolation. I was super happy for them. I scrolled down to finally get rid of the anxiety. I was really considering quitting game dev because it just weighed on me too much and I felt I wasn’t that good. I saw “Cope Island” and was like “WHAT???????” My gf, later wife, was startled. I showed her and she was so happy she legit picked me up and spun me around. She has viking strength.

Degica emailed me, saying I need a bank account to get the money and offered me a commercial contract. All those years of using RPG Maker, feeling proud of doing what I did, having so many people tell me it was a useless waste of time and not a skill to feel proud of… After all that, I accomplished something with it. I didn’t earn a bunch of money, but that was my first $500 I earned in my life. Now that I have a job, that’s nothing. Yet, at the time, it was so much. I had a contract with an actual game company too.

I decided I wanted to make the game I wanted to make. Not let down the minor success I had. I wanted to release the best version of the game I could make. No time limits. No settling for less. I wanted to make my own pixel art and to show those who said it was ugly that I CAN map.

The next four years, well, a lot happened. The contract more or less vanished as Degica ghosted me. I finished the game on my own, but while waiting for them to respond, I made Three Ghostly Roses. Then I scrapped the second version of Cope Island and made a third version. I have a lot to say about these 4 years. So much that, well, I should break these in parts as not to drown y’all in a wall of text at once. I’m sure this is long enough already, haha.

That’s Part I of the Afterword. I’ll write Part II soon, and express the struggles of MAKING Cope Island: Adrift. The highs. The lows. The lessons I’ve learned. How my life greatly impacted each second of dev time. How my life drastically changed during that time as well. So many major changes. Some fresh and hard to talk about. All of it affected the final product, hopefully in a positive way.

Until next time, while I die from embarrassment from revealing a lot about myself. I feel like my story should be, you know, told? Maybe some people can relate to it. Maybe it can help others understand people like the younger version of myself who had nothing.


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You're magical to me.
;_; Sorry to hear about all the hardships you endured (and that one ex-friend of yours sounds just awful, wanting credit after treating you so bad) but I'm so glad that making this game helped you out and your life got better!

Really looking forward to reading the next part of the story and hearing about making the game :DDD
Fly me to the moon and let me play videogames
That one dev guy was a piece of shit to you! Jesus!

Good job keeping on despite it all.
Self-proclaimed Puzzle Snob
This is really emotional T_T You really had to serve me the metaphorical waterworks this morning, didn't ya? Thanks for revealing this personal part of yourself that helps us to understand more about who you are. I'm glad you have a job now and that this person you met is now your wife and that you have finally released this beast of a game!

It also reveals how different and personal Cope Island is as a game, and I'm wondering whether Three Ghostly Roses is as personal to you, but in a different way. Or maybe this is your most personal game you've made? I think either way, all your games seem to be personal experiences informed by your experiences, and that's probably part of why they resonate so well. I feel like yours is still a story in the making, and that your future is filled with more possibilities to express yourself if you want. The world is waiting for hopefully-more-people-buying-your-games, because I think they really deserve to be. Really looking forward to part 2!
extreme disappointment
from cope to hope - a zds story
keep at it!

Yup, really emotional, in the best kinds of ways. You made it and make it through all that, if that doesn't show off the power you have, what does?
Be proud!
Geez, this sounds like quite a journey. Shame on that dev for dragging you through the mud, but you should pat yourself on the back for sticking through it all and making the game of your dreams despite all his "real programmer" gatekeeping nonsense.

Expert Game Design Consultant

"Ideas Guy"
A good read but a sad read, there aint no shortage of asshats out there but you pushed on through and went and made something pretty damn special. Art from adversity as they say.
I am tired of Earth. These people. I am tired of being caught in the tangle of their lives.
I'm proud of you and what you accomplished.
Besr Richard Slayer
The response here has been amazing! Thank you all so much. These past four years have been very hard. Part of me likes to think the hardship makes my games better, but I don't quite like that. The goal is to be happy. To be happy would make my games better, not worse, I think. But the sadness and damage is in me, a part of me. I just hope I can use that to, well, bring some positivity. My games tend to be dark, despite my goofball personality, it's because I want to express that sadness in a positive way I think. I'm a positive person for just about everything, besides myself. So maybe this is a healthy way of being positive about myself. I dunno.

You're all the best. Each response here has meant the world to me. Really.

About my jerk former friend... I do have a lot of anger towards him still. I'm not usually an angry person. I certainly don't want to be. But I feel a lot of anger towards him. In a lot of ways, I pity him. He had no grasp of the damage he did to me when I was still practically a child. But that's also why I'm angry. Adults should never hurt children. I was a teenager and it lasted into my early adult years, but damn. It's not not right. There's no way he was gone enough to not know what he did.

It was a bit hard bringing that story up. Part of me didn't even want to acknowledge him in something that did bring me a lot of happiness. But I did feel it necessary to mention a brief tidbit of my story with him to start this out. Because I did have the weight of his negativity on me when this all began.

I'm glad you have a job now and that this person you met is now your wife.

My life is much better now. I'm an actual functioning adult. I do have more to say about the story of my wife and I. That's definitely not the end of it. It's not a happy ending. More of a bitter sweet new beginning. Some of this is fresh and hard to talk about, but I will tell more soon.
extreme disappointment
I'm proud of you and what you accomplished.
thanks dad
I am tired of Earth. These people. I am tired of being caught in the tangle of their lives.
go clean your room
I just started a petition to force zds to make afterward part 2 into an rpg maker project. It deserves better than just simple text!
Self-proclaimed Puzzle Snob
I just started a petition to force zds to make afterward part 2 into an rpg maker project. It deserves better than just simple text!

From the perspective of someone who has made a game project ostensibly about a painful aspect of their life story for all to see and examine...

The all around prick
Jesus, that was a rough read. I'm glad you managed to keep going despite all the shit you've been through. Keep it up, man!
Holy damn, zDS. I'm glad things are better.

And I agree. Trauma isn't, like, the price of admission for making art. You can get happier without losing points of gam mak.
The contract more or less vanished as Degica ghosted me.

I feel partially responsible for this and it really bums me out. I was hired by Degica as a publishing producer after the 2014 IGMC and was part of the team that decided which titles to move forward with publishing. We evaluated all the winning titles, including Cope Island. Most of the team really liked the writing, battle system, and music, but we agreed it needed a graphical overhaul. I believe at some point we decided not to move forward with publishing the title but clearly this was not communicated to you and I want to apologize for that.

It makes me really happy to see that you persevered despite all the adversity and managed to not only complete this version of the game but self publish it as well. I'm looking forward to playing Adrift and seeing what has changed since 2014. I'm not working at Degica anymore but if you ever feel in need of marketing advice please feel free to DM me.
I'm about the same age as you and I've never went through so many hardships. It saddens me that smart and sensitive person like you had such a hard time. Knowing a tiny bit more about you, it makes me like your games even better.
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