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Grandma's House Postmortem

Doth mine eyes betray me? Why in the world is this game in the "Buzzing Games" section on the front page? Really, I can't figure it out for the life of me. It's very surreal to see a crummy game I made almost a decade ago sitting with the likes of Lisa, OFF, and OneShot. Nevertheless, it got me thinking about the game again and what I learned from it based on the mistakes I had made, as well as what I plan to do going forward.

Grandma's House was originally made for RMN's "All Hallows' Event 2013" game jam where you were tasked with making a horror game before the end of the month of October. I was 17 at the time and in high school, so I recruited some of my friends to help with things like planning, writing, and music, and off we went. This would be my first real project, having only worked on small demos in the past and a slew of unfinished dream games (including, but not limited to, massive RPGs, Legend of Zelda and Naruto fan projects, and life simulators).

My first real mistake was creating a team of people in the first place. I should have gone in alone, only having help from the voice actress and perhaps some music. Instead my team was full of bloat writers/producers and the only time we got to talk about it was every other day at lunch. There was a lot of back and forth on what we wanted in the game and what we didn't and in the end, I pretty much wrote and created the entire game. I thought that having a team of more people would help speed up the process but it really just hindered things.

I have always been very ambitious with my projects, which is a sentiment I'm sure a lot of you will be able to empathize with. So often, we indie game developers get lost in our ambition and shoot for the moon, only for things to never be realized or have little to no polish because they lack structure. This project was no different. I wanted to include things that weren't in very many RPG Maker games and even beyond. There's some voice acting which is something unusual for RPG Maker, five different endings, and a Fear meter that depletes when you aren't near a light source. I even had the unique idea of making the world grayscale, while interactable objects were in color so it was clear what you could and could not interact with. I even included a system for 8-way pixel movement, which is something you don't see in a lot of RPG Maker games (and for good reason).

Unfortunately, for all of the great ideas I had that I was at least mostly technically proficient enough to create, I lacked in the ability to execute them in a way that would be cohesive and enjoyable. The puzzles are cryptic with hardly any hints, the analog movement causes glitches with interaction, and there are no subtitles on the voice acting. I even stipulated in the hints at the beginning of the game that grayscale items are still interactable and, in fact, you need to search them in order to even beat the game at all. If you're making a good game, it probably shouldn't even have a hints section before any of the gameplay period. Noelle (the game's main character) provides very little in terms of hinting at what the player needs to do, often talking about things that have no relation to the game's mechanic. Why, oh why, does she say that the air conditioning turned off when lightning strikes the house instead of saying that the lights turned off? In a playthrough I watched just today, the person playing it thought that the Fear meter was the lack of AC slowly depleting Noelle's health. I really just did not do a good job of communicating to the player what to do or why anything was happening outside of the "hints" menu at the beginning of the game, which is certainly in poor form.

On Halloween of 2013, October 31st, I had submitted the game with its download and had invited a bunch of friends over to play it, including the ones who had helped work on it, for better or for worse. I was super proud of actually finishing a game. However, the more we played it, the more game breaking bugs we ran into. I had to run down to my PC, fix the bug real quick, upload the new version of the game, and then transfer it to the laptop upstairs four or five times while a group of people was waiting on me, probably annoyed. It became evident to me that I should have perhaps made the game a little bit shorter, or not spent time in certain areas like having multiple endings, in order to have the time to actually test the game more thoroughly. I ended up fixing a large amount of bugs present in the game, including one where the enemies' pathfinding caused the game to slow to a crawl (that I laughingly referred to as "a feature" before fixing it) months after the deadline for the event. I still wanted the game to be good and actually playable for anyone playing it in the future. To this day there is still a game breaking glitch in it if you don't defeat the second enemy correctly (I think), and due to the spaghetti nature of the code it's something I never figured out how to fix without completely redoing it. I had a lot of issues where fixing one bug would cause another bug to crop up, and it all stemmed from a rushed job and a lack of a plan.

To make matters worse, what did I think was a great idea instead of actually polishing up the game and fixing bugs? Let's make a 3D version! I'm sure that won't go terribly wrong at all, right? I had just got RPG Maker 3 on my PS3, an emulated version of the PS2 game. Again, I let ambition get the best of me and instead of refining what was already there, I wanted to go bigger and grander. Very quickly this desire faded away when I had to struggle with the engine being particularly clunky, of course from the very nature that it was a console RPG Maker. Instead, I decided to shift my focus to a different game entirely, an RPG called Final Judgement that also had way too much feature bloat and way too much ambition for its own good. I was pretty dead set on making the game and kept working on it right up until RPG Maker MV came out, and that's when I began work on my current project, God's Disdain. RMMV came out in late 2015, and I'm still working on the game. Can you tell I never really lost my overly ambitious nature?! Thankfully, I have relatively recently scaled the project back a little bit, and I've got some soft deadlines for things that need to be completed before I begin the polish. I am certainly not rushing the game, but I don't want to be working on it forever. That's a topic for another time, though.

At some point, although I can't really remember when, I actually did revisit Grandma's House and add a considerable amount of polish to it. I added minor enemies called Night Stalkers that served as a more imminent threat, changed the boss graphics to non-RTP, gave the player a bit more guidance in a natural way, and even removed the cheesy Markiplier jump-scare Easter egg. Everyone dreams of having their game played by a big YouTuber, but man, putting in pictures of them (especially without their consent) is pretty cringeworthy. Ultimately, this version went unreleased because it was still lacking a considerable amount of polish to the point where I didn't really want to release it. If anything, it was a minor update that couldn't fundamentally fix the things that were actually wrong with Grandma's House to begin with.

The things I learned from the development of Grandma's House didn't really hit me until a little bit later. For God's Disdain, the writing team consisted of just me and my roommate, someone I knew wanted to make a world with me and I knew I could bounce ideas off of. I was still pretty ambitious with the project, but I learned to cut back things and focus on one aspect at a time, and how to mitigate burnout while staying inspired. It's still a huge project, but I've really learned how I work and how to work with others better. If you're interested in following God's Disdain at all, the best place to do so for now is probably over on its Itch.io page. It's a large, open-world RPG and I am actually getting pretty close to the final stretch, so I hope to have it out soon(tm).

This isn't exactly where Grandma's House's story ends, though. I'm a huge fan of horror games, and my desire to develop actually good ones is pretty strong. A few years ago, I set out to make a sequel/spiritual successor to Grandma's House, entitled Time Past: Shadows of the Mind. Keeping in line with my ambitious nature and trying to keep that in check, I only have everything down on paper and won't be actually developing it until I'm done with God's Disdain. The bones are all there, and I can say it will be improved on Grandma's House in every way from all that I've learned this past decade. Playing Grandma's House won't be necessary to understand the plot, mechanics, or anything else. It'll be its own game. I actually visited some abandoned locations for inspiration which was a pretty unique experience.

Game development has always been something that I've wanted to do, ever since I was a little kid playing Nintendo on a big CRT in the living room, waking up before school to get in just a tiny bit more play time. I've learned so much since I started my game dev journey at 10 years old, and now at 26 I'm much wiser and more experienced than I ever have been. I see Grandma's House as a necessary stepping stone to a project I can be legitimately proud of. My advice to anyone reading this would just to be tamper your ambitions and start small. Stay focused, create the bones before just jumping into the editor and spitting out a project from your heart. Your brain needs to be involved too. Something I found helped me a lot was actually watching GDC talks on YouTube as well as those long-winded game critiques from channels such as Luke Stephens and Joseph Anderson. They really help put things into perspective and those kinds of videos put you in a critical-thinking mindset toward your own mechanics, systems, stories, worlds, and so much more.

In essence, I'm glad I got the opportunity to create Grandma's House, but it's honestly not something I'm necessarily proud of. It represents a time in my game development "career" where I was somewhere in between a child slapping things together, using questionable software and not even understanding what layers were, and the point where I actually learned that developing a game was much more than just having a bunch of great ideas and being able to program them... you have to make sure everything comes together; it all has to be cohesive, and overall it has to be an impactful experience. I don't think I did too bad of a job for the time I actually spent working on Grandma's House, but I still didn't have all the puzzle pieces even in my possession to put it together in a way that would be enjoyable; a game that people would really think highly of. It certainly wasn't worthy of winning the All Hallows' 2013 event, which is why it didn't.

Thanks for reading this if you made it this far, and thank you to the RPG Maker community for being a massive part of my life for a decade and a half. The ups and downs, the good, the bad, and even the ugly. If it weren't for your helpfulness as well as your criticisms, I never would have made it to this point not just as a game developer but just as a person in general. I'm glad we've all been able to persevere throughout a lot of change, not only with RPG Maker but with the world itself. I'm very grateful to be a part of this.

I hope that with God's Disdain and Time Past I will create games that you will enjoy, and I'm looking forward to growing and building even more with you all in the future.

Until next time,

Sigh... that's a name I haven't used in a while.



So we are officially abandoning this game, no more updates will be made.
We are putting our full time and effort in a new Action RPG called Final Judgement, which we will have a full beta testing stage so we can limit the amount of bugs next to zero. Grandma's House was definitely a huge learning experience in the fact that we need to do beta testing and put more time and thought into our development.
I would also like to say that if you have reviewed the game in a previous version than what it is right now, that you review it again. Most, if not all, of the bugs have been fixed, and there are 5 different endings. Thank you very much!


Attempting a 3D Remake

Well, I just purchased RPG Maker 3 for the PS3, so I'm going to try making a 3D remake of Grandma's House, and try to make it as good as possible with the limits I'm given!
You will need to buy it on your PS3 in order to play it (it's only $10), and then you copy the save file to the correct location and BAM! There you have it.
We'll see how this goes!


Grandma's House has been fully fixed up!

Okay, there is like one bug that is completely unfixable, but it's not important at all. Promise.
This time I took more time to actually go through the game and fix everything, even adding in a few little things. I playtested it to make sure everything was in order, and it most definitely is.
SO! I am now making an Indie DB page for the game, and it will be solid!

Go download the new version! If you have already installed V2.2 (i.e. the latest one), you don't need to erase it. The installer will only install files if they have been updated (i.e. the compressed archive).
However, if it doesn't work, then go ahead and delete V2.2 first. It shouldn't be that big of a deal, I just wanted to try doing something nice.


Last and final update (hopefully)

This new one should work one hundred percent forever and always.

Enjoy :) you can use old save files.

Progress Report

Patch in the works.

I'm currently working on a patch that will fix a few pathfinding issues.
It'll be out in a few hours.


V2 out now!

Go and play it guys. You know you want to! I fixed everything that I know of!!
Sadly, the pathfinding had to be taken out. I don't know what it was, but the system just couldn't comprehend off-map enemies. So the game now uses the standard "follow" mechanic which may be annoying, but it's the best I can do.
If anyone knows a better way of doing it, by all means, let me know.

Progress Report

V2 almost complete!

Version 2 of Grandma's House will be done by the end of the week. It's on the top of my priority list just under work and watching a movie with my girlfriend on Friday. But it'll probably be done by then, honestly.
Most of the bugs have been fixed, and three more endings have been added. That's right, three!! We'll see if you can find them all.
There will also be an executable file that installs the game, due to a little confusion.

I can't wait for you guys to see the REAL finished project!

Game Design

Overhaul starts today!

Work on V2 has started today! Expect most (if not all) of the bugs to be FIXED, along with more endings, voice acting, and even a game installer instead of a .zip folder.


Playtest was very eye opening.

So I ran a playtest with my two assistant directors, and it was incredibly eye opening.
I found numerous bugs and glitches, most of them being game breaking.
I have fixed the game breaking ones, but haven't had time to fix the others. Hopefully I'll get that time soon. But I'm not making any promises.
If you find any more bugs than the ones listed on the summary page, please post them in the comments!!
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