The Birth Of An Idea
I don't know how to start a game dev diary, so I'll just dive into it!
How it all began?
2015 won the "Second Most Miserable Year In My Life" award. You see, every year there is a contest among all the years I've lived. They compete on which year was the happiest and the saddest.
At the end of 2015, I thought I should at least end it with a happy ending or die trying! (I'm being dramatic for no reason!). I came across an online game jam with an interesting theme, develop a game without text. I loved the idea and started thinking about the type of game I wanted to develop. After numerous discussions with my professional assistant (myself), I came to the conclusion that building a game based on my story would be a good idea. The good and the bad experiences, the unresolved feelings and the fear! I thought of it as a way of healing you might say. To move on. To break free (I'm being dramatic for no reason, again!).
In Nov 2015, the idea of Pen was born, 2D platform puzzle game. Since it's a game without text I prefer not to explain it! (Not because it's hard for me to explain it, of course!!) I guess you would have to play it to fully understand it. Not sure when, though!
Here's a GIF to show you the basic mechanics in Pen. (This is old and definitely going to change. Don't judge from the ugliness please :/ )
Side note, I never participated in the online game jam. I can't remember why!
In Dec 2015 I've built a basic prototype for the game. I designed and implemented four basic levels which almost had nothing to do with the story but my goal was to test the mechanics.
Game Design Challenges
My goal in designing Pen is to tell a story through gameplay, hence, thorough puzzles. No text, no explanations, no dialogues and no hints. The puzzles should push the story forward and the player's feelings during the game should give them their own unique experience.
Although the story of the game is based on my story and experiences, I'm designing everything in a metaphorical way. I would like the player to go through their own experiences & feelings while playing and not necessarily go through mine. Perhaps even relate to some of the obstacles. Or understand nothing and just have fun. It's up to the player eventually!
Applying my game design goals wasn't easy. Playing games like Limbo, Inside and many more have inspired me a lot. However, I needed more practice, especially that this was my first time designing a game from scratch. For this reason, I started working on the Game Design Research series. This research is not just for Pen game design. Rather, it's to improve my game design skill in general.
GCON is a Convention for female players & game developers, held every year in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. It was a great opportunity for me to showcase/play-test Pen in Dec 2015. The feedback was great. By the end of the convention I was almost convinced about the mechanics.
Well, I apologize for disappointing you but after the mini success at GCON, the development of Pen became extremely slow. I stopped for months, had two jobs for awhile, switched jobs three times (Crazy I know!). Then, I started traveling the world and at last I've decided to work for myself (Myself is the best boss!). So, there was no time for my Pen during 2016!
Although I wasn't able to continue developing Pen during 2016, the fact that I've been traveling for the past 5 months has helped me tremendously. I've met great people from various backgrounds and experiences, I have seen beautiful places, I've learned powerful lessons about life and people and most importantly I was inspired by every lesson. All these stories and adventures helped me to look at Pen from a different perspective and allowed me to design it in a mature way.
I'm very excited for what's next!
- I've participated in TheGDWC. It's a great competition and an opportunity to push me to focus on Pen and work faster, especially now that I'm able to work on it full time. The submission is on the 30th of September 2017, so I have plenty of time to improve my Pen. You can check the competition page if you are interested!
- I'll keep sharing the development of Pen with you Alnin. However, I'm still not sure how often I should do that. Perhaps once or twice a month! Let me know what you think. Also, let me know if you need more details in a specific area in the development.