Let's talk about:
- The game itself
- Why I picked this game (and what itches it scratches)
- How I'm producing the game
- What the finish line looks like
- What's different this time?
The game itself
The game is called Witchmore. Here's the elevator pitch:
- 🖼️ Realtime 2D overhead gameplay
- 🎨 Hand-drawn sprites (with very little animation)
- 🎃 Witchcraft (brooms, ghosts, cauldrons, curses, and black magic)
- 🗡️ Dark themes like kidnapping, murder, and sacrifice
- 🎮️ Simple inputs (move, run, interact, pick up, use, put down)
- 🎛 Player in control at all times (no cut scenes, no long dialogs)
- ⚒️ Crafting system (create poison apples, shovels, wands, and more)
- 🌅 Day/night cycle
- 🏕️ Village simulation (villagers defend their property and produce offspring)
Why I picked this game
I've talked before about How to decide what game to make but I still struggle with this all the time. Just all the time.
My problem is the same as everyone's: I have too many cool ideas. There are at least 3 game concepts in my workshop that I'm eager to work on, but I need to focus on just 1 and ship it.
So how did this one rise to the top of the list?
For starters, my next game needs to be big enough to satisfy the appetite I've been building up for the last several years. The other games in my workshop are significantly smaller and, while I could ship them faster, they aren't the mountainous regions that I crave to climb.
Some kind of deep sandbox experience has been calling to me. Something you could get lost playing, where the hours happily melt away.
I've played a lot of Animal Crossing. I've been playing since the original on GameCube, and I've played every major version since. And in each one of them, I kind of wished I was a wizard, or just had some magical power. My mind wanders to black magic, like being able to curse villagers or enchant a broom to dust for me, that kind of stuff.
I also enjoy conflict, and combat, and all the juicy action-based parts of games that don't happen to be in Animal Crossing. I also think it's so cool when players can play a game how they want. (Maybe combat is totally optional.)
These thoughts led me to the concept of Witchmore, a simple witch-in-the-woods sandbox game with A Wizard's Lizard vibes. Here are some of my particular itches that this concept scratches quite well:
- I want to make a dark gothic fantasy game.
- I want a game that feels good with a gamepad.
- I want to be able to have intense magical power.
- It needs to remind me of my favorite games including The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and Shining Force (in the look & feel categories).
- I want to draw all the art and not be hindered by perspective, animation, or high resolution (these things are expensive and not critical to me).
- I want to be able to write code for behaviors. I'm tired of abstraction.
- I want the kind of evergreen game that you could play daily for years.
- I want a game perfect for (and "easily" shippable on) consoles (especially Nintendo consoles). Shipping a game on consoles is one of my dreams.
How I'm producing the game
So, now that I've got my concept, how do I get it done?
Well, you may remember Witchy, my little roguelike. Witchmore is built upon that codebase and even uses many of the same sprites. The lessons I learned by shipping Witchy will benefit me while developing Witchmore.
Let's walk through how I'm producing the various building blocks:
- Programming: coding by hand in Unity using C#
- Design: designing it myself, mostly inspired by Animal Crossing
- Art: drawing all the art myself in Clip Studio Paint
- Sounds: pulled from hundreds of bundles and asset galleries
- Music: likewise pulled from dozens of sources (paid & free)
Here are some things I'm doing to help limit my scope:
- Keeping inputs simple – I will not be getting lost in the mechanics weeds.
- Using a breezy, low friction art style – very little animation or perspective woes to slow me down.
- Saying hard no to certain features like complicated dialog or significant inventory management UI.
- Creating the beginning, (some) middle, and end EARLY.
What the finish line looks like
I'm happy to say that the game will be done when it's ready. There's no hard deadline and I have loads of ideas for expanding what I've already got.
But what does the finish line even look like?
I'm not entirely sure, friends. I know for sure what one "finished" version of the game looks like, but I'd also love to work on Witchmore for years. Years! It's an inherently hungry design that begs for more, More, MORE! And I'd be happy to grant those wishes, but my ability to continue working on it depends on how the game (and Valadria itself) performs over the next year or so.
I have a working, playable, cross-platform game right now that gets across the core concepts. It needs a lot of work but it already feels witchcrafty and spooky and satisfying to play. Importantly, there's a solid beginning, middle, and end right now, including the rolling of credits. It's a complete experience that is ... just hungry for more.
What's different this time?
This isn't my first rodeo, but some things are different for me this time around ...
I've learned from the past. The successes and failures of Lost Decade Games have given me insight I didn't previously have. My chances of success are higher than before.
I have much more time. When I shipped Indie Game Sim, I had a tight 6 months and phew! was that tough to accept. This time my runway is much longer and I'm able to be more ambitious with this project.
I want to work with a dev fund or publisher. I never have before, but I'm especially interested in funding development and assistance with my promotional strategy. I have my eye on a handful of indie publishers and developer funds, but I know that the competition is intense and relationships are tricky to build.
I want to release on as many platforms as possible. I've launched cross-platform games on Steam, Android, and iOS, but Witchmore would be perfect on consoles. This is another area where a publisher or developer fund could help me.
Watch this on YouTube
You were played out by Think About It by Bryan Teoh which you are free to use in your own projects.