I don’t think I’ve ever done anything that’s quite as terrifying as making a video game. It’s a seriously scary thing. You’re putting a huge amount of work into something, with no idea how people will respond to it. Will your work be loved, hated, or completely ignored? Anything is possible. Having just completed my own game, I’ve discovered a newfound respect for game developers.

Yes, you read that right. I’m pleased to announce I’ve just finished working on the demo version of my new game, Angel In The Dark, which has just been released on Itch.io. The passion project I’ve been working on in secret for the past six months or so, has finally reached a point where I’m actually happy to release it into the world.

I physically made myself sick completing that project; I actually finished my university degree spending 12 nights in hospital.

Oddly enough, this is actually my second game. At university, I made a ridiculously over-complicated experimental audio game as part of my degree. With minimal programming skills, this took forever to get right, and it could easily have backfired. No exaggeration here – I physically made myself sick completing that project. I finished my university degree spending 12 nights in hospital.

All that work could have been for nothing. My lecturer could have taken a look at the game, given it a poor mark, and that would be that – all that time would have been wasted. Thankfully, it didn’t pan out that way. I graduated with first class honours, and made a relatively full recovery not long after.

So, if it was so stressful, and had such a negative impact on my health, then why the hell would I choose to make another? Well, let me explain…

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At university, I was actually studying to be a composer. My dream was to write music for games. With a first class university degree behind me, there was no way I could fail, right?…

Here’s reality: My university degree means nothing to most people. If I want people to ask me to write music for their games, I need to prove myself, and do a whole lot of networking. That’s fine. I don’t mind putting the hard work in. Sadly, there’s one problem with this plan -the problem with this plan is all the people who agree to work with me tend to be first time developers, who never finish the projects they’re working on.

I’m not saying all of this to try to elicit pity. At university, I was warned it would take some time to get anywhere in the industry. But after one year out of university, writing music for a grand total of three different games (none of which have come out), it felt like I was going ‘round in circles. If I was going to get anywhere towards my goal, it was clear to me I needed to take things into my own hands. I needed to make my own game, so I could actually showcase what I can do.

Once I reached this realisation, I hesitated. The idea of making another game seemed insane to me. Was it really worth risking my sanity, working myself into the ground again, on the off chance that it would be a success? This all changed back in April of this year, when I randomly decided to play a free game I noticed on Itch.io called One Night Stand.

one-night-stand

Aside from being a really good game, One Night Stand really grabbed me for one major reason: it showed me was that game development doesn’t have to be a huge, terrifying ordeal. ONS was created in only a month, and it’s a smart, stylish, and well-designed game that really makes you take a look at yourself as a person.

Playing ONS did something very, very important: it instilled me with the belief in myself I’d been lacking. If I downloaded the Ren’py game engine, and put my mind to it, I could create something. It may not be quite as good as ONS, but it would be something. I just needed a concept. I needed some kind of hook that would allow this game to show off my true talents.

Then I had a brainwave – what if I created a visual novel set entirely in the dark? A visual novel without visuals if you like. Not a bit dark, not turn-down-the-lights-so-people-can’t-see-how-bad-the-art-is dark, but all encompassing blackness, so all the player has to go off are the words on the screen, and the sounds in their ears. I mean, I’m a composer and a sound designer. By taking away the sense players use to focus on my weaknesses (art), then I can draw the player’s focus onto my strengths (audio).

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An early piece of artwork for the game. Yes, that’s supposed to be a human girl.

So, let me return to the question I asked in the title of this article: Why have I made a video game? Well, I can wax lyrical and be philosophical about it, but when it comes down to it, the answer is simple – because I wanted to. I wanted to prove to myself that I actually have the talent to make it in this industry. I wanted to create some kind of platform where I can announce myself to the world. Will it be a success? Who knows? That’s for other people to decide.

Don’t worry, I’m under no illusions about this.

The real hard work starts now.


In Part 2 of this Developer Blog, I’ll be talking about marketing a video game with out visuals, and the process of trying to launch a game via Steam Greenlight.

The final game will be released in early October. You can download the demo version here. Feel free to leave a comment down below, giving your feedback on the demo.

About The Author

Contributor

As a composer and video game enthusiast, Philip has spent years searching for a way to combine his passions for both music and gaming. Then, one day, he figured he could just write about them. He loves to over-analyse the way music helps to shape the player's emotional response in a game. He also loves to criticise bad control schemes, because... Well, they just get on his nerves.

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  • You really, really need to explain why you made the game on its main website page, and make it very clear that it’s free of visuals because you’re supposed to be navigating by sound. As it stands it’s not clear why it exists, and that it’s not a text-only adventure.

    People will look for any reason to not download (getting people to download is virtually impossible to begin with) and reading the link I just see reason after reason to not bite, and no reasons to bite.

    PS: I think the DIY scene is going nowhere fast, because no one involved in it is working on tools. And there is a mentality that you are a one-man-band and your output is final. That will never work. We really have to be comfortable working asynchronously: releasing products that we’ve individually taken as far as we can, and being comfortable with letting other people take up and carry its torch in every direction. That means that we can’t be good at everything, and we can’t command a studio either, or we would have. The only way is if you are a musician, find a game you like, that you think you can improve with better music, and do that. Then the world has a better game, and you make a name for yourself. You can’t do that though if we clutch our products tightly to our breasts. If you are a writer, find a game you think can be better and write a better treatment for it. If you’re an artist, overhaul the 3-D models. If you like level-design, redesign the levels. It all starts with a promising initial project. The odds of getting X talented people of different disciplines together in advance, and having good chemistry without wetting their palms (money practically works miracles. If you don’t pay people they are belligerent assholes. Pay them, they change their tune) severely is nigh impossible.