OH GOD WHAT AM I GOING TO DO WHAT HAVE I SIGNED UP FOR SOMEONE PLEASE HELP ME
Welcome to the devlog for Kyle Terreault's (A.K.A. Oportet)'s future multi-million dollar success, To The Mountain Top of Rock! It's gonna be a long journey
full of panic attacks but I'm confident I can make it out of this jam with something to show for it. Onwards!
July 15th - 7 Days Before Jam
On the front page of Itch.io is an enticing offer. My First Game Jam? Sounds perfect! I have no idea how to make a game! What could possibly go wrong? Wait...oh, shit.
Let's back it up a bit. A few hours before signup, I was doing this:
This is Linux Multimedia Studio, or LMMS. On screen is Bad And They Know It (Combat Loop), my attempt at a sweet hard rock loop for that RPG I'm never going to make. It's pretty awesome, in my opinion. The song, not the RPG. The RPG doesn't exist. But if it did, it would be awesome too. Because i would've made it.
Anyways, my song! Unfortinately, the rules of My First Game Jam require most work to be done while the jam is in progress. So Bad And They Know It is going to stay on my hard drive for now. But it's not entirely forgotten.
A couple hours later, I'm staring at the sign-up sheet. I have one form to fill out:
My eyes hang on the blank field for a good few minutes. What do I want to make? The theme hasn't been announced yet, but I'm not sure if I even want to follow it. What games can I make? I'm a complete novice with no experience in any game engines or frameworks. Hmm...what am I good at?
In a moment of utter stupidity, I type in "Narrative Rhythm Game".
Great job, Kyle. Way to keep your expectations realistic.
I'm panicking in the Discord chat. I know enough about game dev to know I need an engine of some sort. I could've sworn I heard Unity's easy to use, so I download it and boot it up. And whaddaya know; there's links to tutorials right off the bat, videos and all! Let's check it out:
My attention fades as I listen to the teacher moan. I make the horrible decision of reading the YouTube comments.
"It became too complicated at 0:00"
"These tutorials are terrible. It just explains which buttons to press and which menus to look in, without actually explaining what you're doing, or why you're doing it"
"I feel so stupid, I absolutly hate myself after this; I don't get it... need food now"
Naysayers, all of them! Power on, I sa-what do you mean compiling error? I copied the code exactly!
As I spend a good ten minutes looking for the discrepency (an extra comma), I can't help but feel...shitty. This isn't game design. How did I make they ball move? Why am I typing "Void" before half these commands? Doesn't Void mean not valid? Why do I want my commands to not be valid?
I'm copying some dude's code that might as well be a foreign language. Let's say it's French. Now, I took a year of French in high school, and I learned a bit about the grammah, but I couldn't speak it if a kitten's life depended on it. And I love kittens.
A hour in, Unity isn't looking to hot. Time to panic in Discord some more.
While I'm failing miserably on the technical side of things, I'm still coming to terms with my concept. Okay, "Rhythm Game" might be a decent idea, but...Narrative Rhythm Game!? Look, Kyle, you're a pretty good writer. I would know, I'm you. But some things just don't need a narrative. "Hey, I liked Rock Band, but I really wished they had a better story" said no one, ever.
After my escapades in Unity, the theme is announced:
"Dreams", huh? Pretty abstract there. A rhythm game about dreaming? What does music have to do with dreaming? What dreams do musicians have? Hmm...
Oh. Oh, this theme's perfect. We're going to the top, baby! From garage band to rock star, follow the journey of...hmm, I need a band name. It needs to be good. The band name's probably gonna be the project title, and I need the title to reflect the game, so it can't be too abstract. It must describe a band, and a band only...wait a minute.
Hmm, now that I think about it, I'm pretty sure I heard a rock song about mountains.
Okay, maybe it's not a rock song per say. It might be slightly on the heavy side. But that's okay! I can pump out some death metal tracks; really, all you need to do is throw notes around like a rich man at a strip club. Okay, you can't make good metal that way, but I'm working on a deadline here. I gotta decide on a musical style, and I'm a sucker for obscure references no one will ever get. They're the best references, you see.
This is good, this is good! I have the audio design planned out, and I've even found a narrative. Oh, right, the title! Well, it's a game about becoming famous, so why not "To The Mountain Top"? Wait, I editted out the musical reference. Uh..."To The Mountain Top Of Rock?" That's a perfect title, but a bit obnoxious as a band name. Okay, how about the band's name is "The Mountain Top Of Rock", and the title can be "To The Mountain Top Of Rock". Oh. Ooooooooh. That's good. That's perfect. To The Mountain Top of Rock!
I know a couple good instrument presents in LMMS that could work for this. We get a bassist on one track, one or two guitarists, a drummer. I can't growl, so it'll have to be a instrumental band, but those death metal instrumentalists are going to the top!...No.
I'm lying to myself. Dreams aren't how music works. Broken dreams, maybe. Metal's a niche genre; supply outstrips demand, and The Mountain Top Of Rock has a better chance of winning the lottery than becoming famous. If they're lucky, they might get a record deal that puts them in debt, because Music Is Politics. No industry exec is going to take a chance on these guys, no matter how hard they play or good they get. Even if they were the only death metal band in existance, they're still a risk compared to the "safe" pop groups, EDM producers and rap/hip-hop artists that dominate today's radio. I can't in good faith have someone play my game when it's such an obvious lie. What kind of person would I be if my lies inspired someone, either on their own or as part of other artist's lies, to join a band full-time? I told them "yes, it's awesome!" I'm setting them up to fail, and I cannot in good faith take that risk.
The Mountain Top Of Rock have big dreams. They've poured their hearts into their band, and it's gonna get them jack shit.
With the narrative and themes sorted out, it's time to design the gameplay. Practically speaking, it needs to be a short game if I want any semblance of quality. I still don't know how I'm making this game
WE'RE ALL GOING TO BURN, so I'm going to need to keep it simple. Some keyboard inputs timed to a music track while The Mountain Top Of Rock performs a set in an empty venue. Maybe a cutscene or two as they're heckled by the snobby crowd, perhaps the guitarist can flip out at someone. Nothing major; some text boxes and a sound effect or two. Hell, I don't even need a stage; I could just have some abstract waveform that thumps to the music. I'm no art expert, but I'm pretty sure I can draw a line.
You know, this is starting to remind me of another game.
I can pillage some of these mechanics. We have can rent money be the goal; the better you play, the more you get paid. You'll have a couple songs before bills are due, and when they are, you gotta pay. If you can, great; play the same songs over again for more rent. If you can't, game over. How do you win? Ha! That's hilarious.
So this is a game about dreams, isn't it? And what's the point of a depressing tone if you can't crush your player's hopes? With everything in mind, I draft a short summary for the future Itch page.
To The Mountain Top Of Rock, baby! Guide your death metal band from the garage band to the stadium. Go from dirt poor to filthy rich of the sales of the most hardcore records the world's ever known. Accumulate millions of fans accros the world and experience the narrative of The Mountain Top Of Rock as they take their dreams and blast them with bass. It's gonna be a long road where only the toughest survive. I hope you can handle it.
I'm such an asshole.
At this point, there isn't much going for this concept gameplay-wise. It's "Quick Time Event Simulator 2017", and we all love those. Now, I could come up with a totally original idea that roxers everyone's boxers, oooooooooooooooooooooooor I could rip off a flash game.
This is Super Crazy Guitar Maniac Deluxe 4, a free flash game I know because I'm poor (linky link). It's control scheme (if you can call it that) is awesome and stupid at the same time, which fits death metal perfectly. Best yet, it requires very little programming knowledge to impliment. Just bound the controls to the right keys. It's idiotproof. What could possibly go wrong?
In the next post: Playing with GameMaker and (bad) concept art!