Development update: July-December 2021
It’s been another six months, so I think it’s time for yet another update on the status of my video game related projects. Let’s start.
N Step Steve: Part 2
Before we get into the current state of N Step Steve, I’d like to discuss the way the two parts of it are structured.
N Step Steve: Part 1 was designed to introduce the player to all of the mechanics on offer. It’s basically the “tutorial” part, except the tutorials are also full puzzles. I think that these kind of tutorial puzzles are relatively straightforward for me to design, so it was easy to arrange the puzzles in the game’s map. I knew which mechanics I wanted to teach, and in what order. The map layout came naturally from that.
But part 2 is a very different game in terms of structure. It’s not about basic tutorials. Instead, it’s about presenting the player with a variety of levels that have wildly different themes, and can be tackled in (mostly) any order. There’s a lot more possibilities for what the map could be, so I found it really hard to arrange the levels.
Regardless, I pushed ahead. I settled on an overworld layout, and slowly started populating the map with puzzles. After about 6 months of adding and tweaking puzzles, I ended up with a world layout that I was happy with! As a “first draft,” anyway.
Here’s a peek at the current map:
I made a playable build and sent it out to some testers, and got useful feedback. Speaking of feedback, not being able to undo across rooms was a common complaint of the first part’s undo system. So I worked on improving the undo system, and can happily report that you’re now able to undo across rooms in part 2! I also have a system in place that lets you skip through sections of levels you’ve already beaten. Having to re-solve a puzzle from the start every time you leave and come back is a problem that irked me since the first game.
(Side note: I really thought that having to re-solve levels from the start would be a big complaint, but nobody that I know of complained about it in 5 Step Steve, and only a few people complained about it in N Step Steve: part 1. I guess the solutions/levels are short enough that it’s not the biggest deal?)
These quality of life improvements are going to come in handy when solving some of the game’s harder challenges. I’m not going to spoil too much, but rest assured, some of the challenges are giant.
In general, N Step Steve will be the biggest game that I’ve ever released. Actually, Tauriel Teaches Typing will probably be bigger if we’re going by word count or number of art assets, but most people complete a playthrough of that game in about an hour, give or take. Meanwhile, the first (almost) complete playthrough video of the current testing build is almost 6 hours long. And that build still lacks quite a few things that the final game will have (and some content that will probably be cut.)
Actually, the scope of this game is large enough that I briefly considered making it into a paid-for Steam game, but I decided against that. This game is going to take a while to complete, and the added considerations of a commercial PC game would make it take even longer.
Despite the game’s size, I think I’m still on track for a 2022 release! Furthermore, I think I’ll have time to add a feature that has been absent in all of my games thus far…
N Step Steve level editor
Surprise! N Step Steve: Part 2 will release with a level editor!
Technically, most of my web games have had internal level editors, since they make it easier for me to create content for the game. But they’re extremely minimalist and designed to only be used by myself. The (user facing) level editor in part 2 will be accessible in game, and have the amount of polish that you’d expect from a player-centric level editor.
The current plan is to allow users to make levels that contain 4 rooms (two rows, two columns, standard room size.) These can be saved/loaded via text. Remember those level codes old web games used to have?
I also have some other fun surprises that involve the game’s editor, should all go to plan. But I want to keep the surprise intact.
I hope you’ll have fun when the editor releases next year! I can’t wait to see what levels you all come up with.
The Words In Your Mouth
In my previous update, I talked about making progress on The Words In Your Mouth but neglecting N Step Steve. This time around, I’ve started off by talking about the huge progress I’ve made on N Step Steve. I think you see where I’m going with this.
Over the past six months or so, I didn’t do much significant work on Words, aside from working on its soundtrack. I don’t consider this very surprising, or bad. For me, focusing on one big project at a time leads to better results than dividing my attention between two big projects at once.
Words has always been a very backburner project. Truthfully, I still don’t think my creative skills are quite good enough to do this concept justice. Putting the game on hold allows me to improve my skills in the interim, which will benefit the game in the long run.
I don’t know when I’ll fully commit to this project again, but N Step Steve definitely has a much higher priority right now.
In the meantime, have some EXCLUSIVE SCREENSHOTS showcasing work-in-progress character art. Skeet will have to be changed before I release the game, for obvious copyright reasons. I don’t want to get sued by Jimmy Neutron and his friends.
Monthly blog posts
Finally, I’d like to announce one last thing. I’m going to start writing monthly blog posts! Each one will contain a short essay that’s (probably) about video games and their development, a small segment dedicated to personal thoughts/circumstances that I’d like to share (expect this section to be short,) and some links to various projects that I think are worth checking out.
To some of you, this format might sound familiar. That’s because it’s heavily inspired and/or copied from Joel Goodwin’s newsletters for Electron Dance. Making sure that Joel is cool with me copying the format is going to be the one real hurdle in getting these posts started. That, and actually writing the posts themselves.
I’d talk more about this, but… I think I’ll discuss this further in my first monthly blog post! Hopefully, I’ll have something up by the end of January.
This year will be the first year that I haven’t released a commercial web game since I started doing so (If we’re going by original release dates.) I’m sort of surprised that I managed to be so consistent for three years, since I take my sweet time when making these things.
Regardless, I’m happy with all I’ve managed to accomplish this year. Thanks for supporting me doing all this weird stuff!