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Game Design

The Spoopies - A Post Mortem

​Well its done, "Shooty and the Catfish Episode 2: The Spoopies" is finally out in the wild for people to play, why you can even play it yourself for free if you head on over here: https://visitorsfromdreams.itch.io/shootycatfish-episode2 Truth be told the game has been out for 3 days now and has only been downloaded a grand total of 4 times. It might seem like a discouraging number for sure but its important to remember that this is the second episode of a series, and with the first episode itself only being downloaded a total of 124 times to date (my previous project Hazmat is sitting at 525 downloads and Flatwoods at 849 downloads) its not that surprising. In all honesty im not really expecting the series to really gain any sort of momentum until its fully finished and released as a stand alone product on Steam, and I think thats fair enough. The idea behind the episodic releases was largely so I could get the feedback to improve each episode as the project went along, and I think I have achieved that so far. So I guess you could consider this to be a post mortem. Where did things go right with Episode 2 and where did they go wrong? Well, for where things went right, development started in March and was finished in September so you could say the game had a 7 month development cycle. Looking back at it now due to the length of the episode that actually feels really excessive considering the amount of content in the actual game (which I will come back too) but compared to the first episodes 2 year development cycle it was a huge improvement. I am also pretty happy with how the games set up worked. Episode 1 played it very strait with its single town and non linear dungeon set up taken right from the standard JRPG guidebook. Episode 2 on the other hand was a little more experimental. The opening town was more about establishing a tone then a solid narrative with the Episodes dungeon being where all of the real story telling happens. While im sure this isnt a new idea, its something I havent personally experienced in any turn based RPGs. Sure, its not uncommon to find environmental story telling packed into the game world, but to have every combat encounter also be an NPC that pushes the narrative forward? I think the results were perhaps a little wordy and at times a bit on the nose, but for the most part I think it works. Episode 1 had a very non linear dungeon which worked well but it was nice working on something a little more directed as well which Episode 2's layout definitely was.

Im really happy without how the quality of life improvements in the game turned out, introducing new elements like coded doors for different kinds of keys and giving you the option of finishing the game without fighting the optional boss which, you know, actually made that optional boss optional. In fact I was so happy with those changes I went back and patched them into Episode 1 only a couple weeks back.

So where did things go wrong?

Well, to be honest, the only thing I wasnt happy with was how long it took me to get this game out. Like I said, 7 months is a big improvement compared to 2 years, but its still a lot longer than it should have been. Some of this was definitely my fault... as mentioned above there was a big push to have all the narrative put into the dungeon, but the down side of that was that it meant there was a lot more meaningful dialogue in this Episode than there was in Episode 1. The previous Episodes dialogue was mostly made up of silly gags from goofy NPCs in town, but for this Episode I had to create that ALONG with the more serious and narrative driven dialogue found in the dungeon itself. There were several weeks where I didnt touch the game at all because it all seemed so daunting. Ironically when I finally forced myself to write those sections it ended up only taking me 2 nights, so really I spent weeks if not months putting the project off out of fear of something that ended up taking collectively 6 hours tops.

So yeah... that explains some of the delay, but not all of it. The second issue that struck me during the development of this Episode was my own insecurity. The first 5 months this games development were during a time when I didnt know what was happening with my job, I was very nervous, and with my fiance being processed through the notoriously awful Australian immigration system I was also pretty damn scared. The last few weeks of those 5 months was a massive period of crunch at work for a huge project and then immediately it was over... and I was out of a job. If I had known for sure that this was how the gig would have turned out I would have spent more of my free time trying to develop a following. I might have even been able to get my Patreon into a state that could have helped me out financially a little, or atleast thats what I liked to think I would have done, but at the time I didnt have the confidence or energy to do so. This was followed with me taking up a freelance project (well quite a few actually but most were great) which while it has definitely paid my bills over the last couple of months, it has also left me exhausted, emotionally and physically. All of this slowed down the development of the game, and perhaps even more importantly had a large impact on the writing of it.

"Shooty and the Catfish: Episode 2 - The Spoopies" deals with some pretty heavy themes, with suicide and the treatment of suicide victims being chief amoung them. Then on top of that I realised half way through development that while the idea of an office building full of ghosts of asshole business people who commited suicide after a stock market crash does have some comedic value (poor taste as it may be), the gameplay loop of systematically killing every single one of those ghosts has absolutely no comedic value and is quite possibly the most morbid thing I had ever created... Ironically not even on purpose... I found myself in a situation where I accidently created a "suicide victims ghost murder simulator". While im no stranger to creating offensive or disturbing content, for once this wasnt my intention but rather the result of the games story concept clashing with the established gameplay mechanics... and realising too late. What do you do when you set out to make a dumb comedy about 2 wise cracking idiots that kill monsters for money and instead... well here we are. What a mess... Im not going to pretend that the game handles the subject of suicide well and I also dont think I ever could approach the subject in a satisfying way. If its treatment upsets or offends anyone I think thats completely understandable and any critism I receive because of it is completely justified. Something I do think that is a positive to come out of all this however is this is the first game project I have worked on that I feel, to me personally, is a piece of "art". Well I mean... I think all games are art, but playing through this game now I can see the struggle I was going through developing it reflected through the characters and through the writing. Its almost like playing through 5 months of my own loose streamed consciousness. My stress, my depression, my insecurity, my fear, my defeatism, its all there. The game has tonal whiplash of morbid nihilism and stupid dumb goofy comedy in a way I havent been able to pull of since my 2014 film Spilt Coffee (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jp2HSx_f9WE) which ironically serves as a prequel to this game and was created at a time of my life when again, I felt quite trapped. Episode 2 might be the worst game I have made to a lot of people and thats totally fair, but I think its also my most personal and sincere for what thats worth. Thats it for this update, I have gone on long enough as it is. So where do we go from here? Well... I made myself and my players a promise at the end of Episode 2, and thats that Episode 3 will be a fun light hearted adventure. I think after this games development I really need it, and hopefully the contents of this depressing Episode doesnt stop those players from coming with me on that adventure too.

Announcement

The Spoopies: Released



Finally, at long last, Shooty and the Catfish Episode 2 is live, and just in time for Halloween at that!

Getting the game finished hasn’t been easy with a lot of turbulant life stuff going on during development, from working crazy hours at my job, to losing that job, to then working crazy hours on freelance work, and I think the effect of these life events had on my mental state comes through in the game pretty clearly, for better or worse.

I will write up a bigger post about all of this after Friday when my current freelance contract is over and I can finally breath a bit, but for now...

You can also check the game out on itch.io here: https://visitorsfromdreams.itch.io/shootycatfish-episode2

If your feeling SUPER generous you can support the continuation of the project through my Patreon here: https://www.patreon.com/VisitorsFromDreams

Thanks for the support and any feedback everyone! ~ <3

Progress Report

The Spoopies - Dev Diary 04

Its been a big week with most of my free time dedicated to wrapping up Shooty and the Catfish Episode 2: The Spoopies (sorry I Saved A Mouse but your on the back burner) so I can try to get the game out for Halloween. Why Halloween you ask? Well because the episode is all about spooky ghosts and other monsters, and releasing the game in time Halloween will hopefully get people who are wanting to play games in that Halloween spirit interested. It worked for Flatwoods, so hopefully it works again here.



In all honesty theres not a whole lot of work left to be done on the game, this week I managed to finish off the last floor of the games single dungeon, finished all of the NPC dialogue both in the dungeon and post game, got the optional side quest up and running (much like Episode 1 there is a collectable figure attached to an optional bossfight to be found), created several new battlers for some optional combat scenarios and created an opening cutscene, something Episode 1 lacked.



I am also still slowly releasing the soundtrack to Episode 1 with the miniboss theme "Yeh This" being released on Youtube this week. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eGNMuA5hUIo&feature=youtu.be
There are still 3 more tracks from Episode 1 that I want to get released before the launch of Episode 2.

So whats left?

Well, today I am hoping to start balancing the combat and once thats done I will be sending the game out to a handful of people for testing. While thats going on I am going to be working on the games trailer. All in all I think I am going to do my best to get the game done and released on October 1st.



I am also going to patch Episode 1 for newcomers with some minor bug fixes (nothing serious, just the wrong battle background in the final boss fight and things of that nature) along with cleaning up the collectable figure side quest and updating the visuals of the doors so that each kind of door (small key, boss key, elevator etc) has its own distinct look, something that was implemented in Episode 2 and seemed stupidly obvious as an issue in hindsight.



Once the game is out and had its first inevitable patch I will be getting back to work on finishing up my short I Saved A Mouse and then my Patreon launch video. After that its strait into Episode 3.

Oh yeah, I have a Patreon now so if you want to help me with my animated shorts or indie game projects now you can, you will find me right over here: https://www.patreon.com/VisitorsFromDreams

Thank you again everyone who has been following this project! ~ <3

Progress Report

The Spoopies - Dev Diary 03

Its been an increadibly busy few weeks and up until yesterday it had been quite a while since I had last touched development, but by god I had a free day and I wanted to make the most of it and I think I did.



First of all a large take away I got from watching peoples Lets Plays of Shooty and the Catfish Episode 1 (though not in reviews stramgely) was that I needed more specific visuals for the different door types. Now we have Elevator doors, Small Key doors, Key Item doors and Boss Key doors, hopefully this makes progression options more clear for players. I will probably go back to Episode 1 and release a new patch where these changes are implemented as well.



In terms of dungeon design progress, well the first half of the first floor (this dungeon has 3 floors total with one of them also having an outdoor component) of Episode 2s single dungeon is now completed. I had hoped to get the full first floor done yesterday but with the much bigger emphasis on character dialogue within this dungeon it just wasnt possible. Yes, thats right, while Episode 1s dungeon had a bunch of random monsters, every encounter in Episode 2 is a character with a small story (or gag) to tell. There will be significantly less encounters than Episode 1 (and I have no plans to treat the dungeons in Episodes 3 - 5 this way) but I am hoping this will make each encounter more meaningful, time will tell if I am successfull in that respect or not.



And thats unfortunately it for this update. I am pretty flooded with freelance work at the moment so updates will probably be quite inconsistent for the next couple of months atleast, still, every updates another step forward!



Until next time, keep on developing!

Progress Report

The Spoopies - Dev Diary 02

Another week, another update, and lemme tell ya progress was made!

While I didnt get to put in as many hours as I had hoped I would be able to this week I still manage to get the town of Spectre completed. All of the NPC dialogue (pre dungeon atleast), all of the flavor text, all the functionality, its all there. Feels great having this section wrapped. Its not quite as dynamic as the town of Grit in episode 1 but the dungeon in this episode has a lot more character interaction going on so hopefully that makes up for it.



Also for the first time in the series we have vehicles! Yes, thats right, as pictured above you get to go sailing in a hotdog AND you get to fly around in a disembodied cows udder, how much further off the rails can the game go? Well I guess we can only find out with time!



Tomorrow I will start rebalancing the dungeon as it was originally balanced when all 5 episodes were in the game together so its going to take a little work. I also want to make the navigation of the dungeon more interesting and flesh out the story telling within it.

Until then, keep on developing!

Progress Report

The Spoopies - Dev Diary 01

A delayed update this week, and a small one, but an update all the same!

Its been a slow week development wise this week, I have had some big personal things come up (I got told my job is being made redundant so theres been a mad scramble to find freelance animation work and another job, so far nothing solid has come through) but I did put aside some time today to work on the game.



Essentially at this point all of the pre dungeon material in the episodes single town called Spectre is complete outside of flavor text on the environment and a vehicle which I you will need to get to an isolated island that leads to the episodes dungeon.



Hopefully next week I will be finished with the Spectre content and I can start talking about the episodes dungeon which is the real meat of the game and has a very different structure to the one found in Episode 1.

Until then, keep developing!
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