This is going to be a bit of a long post, but I wanted to go through what I've been working on up until I started this devlog; how the project has changed and where it's going from now on.
In the beginning the project started as a game about trains. I like trains (the old ones, the new ones are kinda meh) so I thought I'd make a game about them. I wanted players to be placing track pieces, building networks and ferrying things around with cute steam trains. I had the vision of a randomly generated world, with a handful of towns, production areas and residents living there.
I started putting things together in Unreal. It ran really badly on my laptop, and I tried building everything in Blueprint (yes, I know... bad idea, but Epic said it was good for making games...) I got things up and running, but it wasn't pleasant (I'll do another post on engines at another time) So I then started everything again in the familiar warmth of Unity.
Here's a shot of the very early game:
I got pretty far with the concept of cargo, of towns, of trains having rules and collecting cargo and dropping it off somewhere else. All the systems were in place, and the trains would choo choo around picking up and dropping off things.
Here's a shot of a town producing little crates of "goods":
I then started thinking about the concept of towns, of residents and them travelling between towns for work, and to visit relatives.
I added my first resident "Mrs Saussage":
The vision was always to have a game where the player built things. The towns, railways, etc. It was always going to be a game about building. So I started added more things to build with, thinking about how the player would be building the towns. The player could place out pathways, lamps, fences, all the nice little details.
It was somewhere around this time I realised GDC was coming up in 2-3 months, and I figured I'd put something together to show. I like working with deadlines or at least, goals ahead of me; so this felt good; plus I was pretty close to getting all the base functionality in the game. Residents lived in towns, trains carried people and cargo from place to place; the player could build buildings, place paths and furniture and so on. The goal then was to polish things up, add more content and tie things together.
Choosing a house to place:
Mrs Saussage waiting at a station:
The new look for the villagers:
I got set into almost a mini-crunch, solely focussed on getting things together for the trailer. I got pretty far too before I took a moment to assess where I was, and where I was going.
I realised about 3 weeks before I was due to have my trailer ready that I didn't really know what I was working on. The game didn't really exist as a game; sure it had a bunch of systems and features, but there was no coherence to it. It was scattered, spread out and honestly, far bigger and less focussed than it should've been. Along with this I hadn't settled on any art style. I drew inspiration and reference from the Animal Crossing games, but I wasn't confident that's what I wanted, or if it fit. One evening I sat back and thought about all of this, and decided not to continue pushing something out for GDC. I imagined I would be there, showing the trailer to people while saying "Well, it's not going to look like this" and "I'm not sure what the gameplay is yet, but it might be something like this". Not a good impression, and really obvious that I didn't know what I was working on. I was also extremely stressed over something that was meant to be a relaxing project, and a fun trip to GDC.
This is the last image from the development up until the "what am I doing?!" moment:
Taking a step back, calming down and thinking about things a bit more has meant that I was able to enjoy GDC a lot more this year; it's also removed a bunch of stress from my evenings and weekends, and I hope will result in a far better game when it's released.
So there you go, a very condensed summary of everything before this point, I hope it was interesting!
In my next posts I'll talk about the direction that the game is heading in now, as well as art, and music inspirations.