7 min read

πŸ¦‡ Witchmore devlog: Introduction

Let's reason through the decision making process that lead to Witchmore, my upcoming game about witchcraft.

Let's talk about Witchmore, my upcoming sandboxy roguelike game:

  1. What is Witchmore?
  2. Why is Witchmore?
  3. What's cool about Witchmore
  4. State of the game
  5. What's next?

Watch the video

Watch on YouTube or listen on Spotify.

What is Witchmore?

Here's the short description:

You’re a creepy witch in the woods. Burst out of a bloated deer carcass, battle the undead, rebuild your home, unlock earth-shattering black magic, and explore a 2D hand-drawn world of witchcraft.

There are two core components to the gameplay:

  1. 🏑 Build a witchy home & other cool stuff in a sandboxy world.
  2. βš”οΈ Fight hordes of undead monsters in a roguelike-style arena.

Why is Witchmore?

Sometime around 2019 I got the itch to learn Unity. It felt like everybody was talking about it, and a fun diversion from the ol' day job. Here are a few of the itches I was trying to scratch:

  1. Have fun learning a cool new game engine
  2. Keep up with industry standards & best practices
  3. Build up a workshop of code & prototypes to eventually make a game

Learning Unity was as fun as I was hoping! It's an amazing engine, the editor is a joy to use, and I'm happy to now "speak Unity" and be able to talk to a wider range of fellow game developers.

Here's a look at some of the stuff I was making while learning:

There are some cool projects in my new Unity workshop. For a long time, my favorite one was called Eggspansion, inspired by the simple city builder gameplay in ActRaiser (an amazing Super Nintendo game). This was the "frontrunner" in my mind, and the game I'd be trying to ship with Unity, but ...


Eggspansion currently sits at the perilous "90% done" state. It's fully playable, there's a high score, and sure, it's a game, however:

  1. It's not that fun.
  2. There's nothing terribly unique about it.
  3. It doesn't quite excite me, so how could I get others excited about it?
Eggspansion gameplay.

Have you been here before? It sucks! You think you've got the "right" concept on your hands, so you keep climbing the mountain, and keep climbing ...

Climbing game dev mountian

... then at some point you realize it's not the right mountain. Something's gotta really jar you out of the "just climb up" state.

For me it was that sobering, "well it's done, time to finish it!" mountain. Settings, menus, achievements, configuration, maybe a level selector screen: staring at this gigantic wall in front of me shut me down.

GAME DEVELOPMENT MAP rough sketch v3 Set sail: OCEAN OF IDEAS <- Tides of inaction Dream smashin' rocks Prototype Pond Desert of Dead Projects Clearing of Clarity "Real Project" On-Ramp SLOG SWAMP Bugs Bugs Bugs Bugs Bugs Bugs Bugs Bugs Bugs Bugs Bugs Bugs Bugs SCOPE CREEP CREEK Fjords of finishing Farmhouse of finishing Fairgrounds of finishing Factory of finishing Forest of finishing Fountain of finishing CONTENT MOUNTAIN Game Dev Event Horizon SHIP IT BAY CONGRATULATIONS! Where will you go next? Land of Neverending Updates (GOTO SLOG SWAMP) or "Dead Game" Island From Matt Hackett, author of How to Make a Video Game All By Yourself May 2023 valadria.com
Where are you on the game dev map?

Sometimes you love the project enough (or you're getting paid!) and you just climb. Other times, the mountain informs you that this isn't the right mountain.

To earn my obsession, the Eggspansion project was missing some things:

  1. I love witches and I want to make a game about a witch that has witchcraft.
  2. I want to make an overhead action game (where you control a lil character).
  3. I want to make a gamepad-focused game.
  4. I want to be able to build stuff in the game & have little witch projects.
Doodles of witches, witchcraft, black magic, & sorcery!
These doodles just poured out of my brain one night. I love witches & witchcraft so much.

It's taken me a while to realize this, but I guess I also wanted to make a game that was in the same wheelhouse as A Wizard's Lizard. Sadly, I've got some itches left unscratched within this particular art style & this general genre of roguelike game.

Also, you might remember 7 tips from 7 days of game dev for 7 Day Roguelike. Working on my roguelike jam Witchy for a week got me hungry for more witches!

7 tips from 7 days of game dev for 7 Day Roguelike
Game jam tips focused on 7 Day Roguelike, a yearly game jam about roguelikes!

So I revamped Eggspansion to be an overhead action game and called it Cauldron for the time being. Soon enough I had a new witch game and decided that I finally had no more excuses and needed to ship a game.

It's been hard to figure out what exactly to make, but these pieces are immutable:

  1. It's in the art style I developed while at LDG
  2. You play as a witch
  3. You can play with a gamepad
  4. There's a sandboxy overworld
  5. It has roguelike gameplay

So I've been trying to figure out what game to make given these constraints. At first I wanted to create an overworld paired with maze-like dungeons as is The Roguelike Wayℒ️. But eventually I leaned towards simpler combat-focused arenas.

What's cool about Witchmore

I genuinely believe that Witchmore is a cool game. I've poured a lotta love into it.

Make a Thing You Love / Add another thing you love / Now you love it even more / Love makes you want to continue adding to it

Here are some notable features I want to highlight:

Strong start

So first of all, you start the game by bursting out of a bloated deer carcass. That's awesome. It was inspired by Canabalt and Jetpack Joyride – how those games begin strong. An explosion really starts things off with a bang!

Also a movie called The Wretched – (spoilers) go watch it, it's cool.

Simplest gameplay imaginable

Boy, am I impatient when I'm learning how to play a game. I don't know why! Maybe it's because I grew up with a gamepad that had so few buttons that the game designers didn't even have to explain what the buttons did.

Whatever the case, I absolutely hate complicated input. If your game uses every single button on the gamepad, I'm probably going to get overwhelmed. That's just how I am as a gamer.

As a game designer, this makes me focus on simple input. Here's what all the buttons do by default in Witchmore:

  1. Menu
  2. Accept
  3. Interact
  4. Carry (or drop)
  5. Use item
  6. Hold to run

That's it! Oh also, your witch auto-fires in combat, so you don't even have to worry about that. You can play much of the game with one hand.

Super configurable

Of course you can configure the keyboard & gamepad! Additionally, Witchmore features diegetic elements that allow you to configure the difficulty. If you want a chill game session, you can get it. If you want a hard challenge, you can get it!

Play how you want.

Oh and of course your witch will have little outfits and different cute hats. πŸ§™β€β™€οΈ

Fun combat

The combat in Witchmore is a good time! I enjoy running around, avoiding monsters, charging into them, picking weapons for my familiars, choosing upgrades, fighting the tripes, collecting gold, killing the medusa, and then upgrading stuff. It needs a lotta work but it's already a good time!

Build stuff

It's "so easy" to implement building in games, so why not? The ability to influence the world around you pairs nicely with witches, too. They're generally powerful spellcasters who can manipulate the woods or curse the very soil.

In Witchmore you can build a house, a mushroom garden, and rip apart the whole forest if you want to. If you do so, you'll find little easter eggs & secrets that are scattered about for you to find.

Animal friends

Just about every game either has an animal companion or would benefit from one. Don't you think? They're great! Witchmore currently has: Inkie, Captain Mac, Doichi, and Mushin. Gotta collect 'em all!

State of the game

So the game is, and has been for months, completely playable. From start to finish, the whole thing.

There's still a lot to do, but here's what the game needs before shipping:

  1. More content (always, right?)
  2. Playtesting
  3. Bug fixes (so many)
  4. Optimizations
  5. Steam integration

My wife's an expert user researcher so I asked her about running a playtest. She looked at the game for one moment and was like, "You need to fix XYZ," and listed a dozen problems she spotted right away. Uh, I have lotsa work to do!

Up next is a massive demo redesign. Watch this space 🚧

A picture of a sit/stand desk with an ipad and a bunch of notes/books/pens.
Photo of how ridiculous my desk gets when I'm in Game Design Mode. More on this next!

Witchmore devlogs

Was this the first devlog? Well, sort of! Maybe the first in this specific format, but check out these other Witchmore posts (or the playlist on YouTube):

  1. 🧹 My next game is called Witchmore
  2. Witchmore direction discussion: let's go to (bullet) hell
  3. πŸ’° Will my game make money?
If Witchmore looks fun to you, add it to your Steam witchlist.