May 25th, 2011 by Ice Cream Jonsey

Five years is entirely too long to spend on a single video game. I’ll never do so again.

It was April of 2006 when I took SHELL.HUG from the Internet Archive and started the process of creating Cryptozookeeper. I had done two games that had handy labels attached to them so they could be easily described to potential players (“D&D creatures attack a mall! Clones on Phobos!”). Those games, of course, came from a much more personal place. I didn’t have much personal left to say when I started Crypto, so I thought it would be a great time to do a game without trying to cram it full of, ah, full of my problems. I had been interested in the pseudoscience of cryptozoology, so the thought of merging adventure-style text gaming — but through getting DNA instead of treasure — with the delightful alchemy of fake-creature building appealed to me.

But in the five years it took to make, the relationship I was in ended, and the job I had got rid of me. I found myself, suddenly, with lots to say and lots of frustration to work through. I was able to throw it all in my game, because the first couple of years was really just putting together the intro, getting some graphics going, setting up the rooms, the cryptids and the characters. I had a theme exactly when I needed one.

Development has gone on for so long that I can’t remember a time when this game of mine wasn’t part of my life. I’ve had stretches where I’ve lived on 4 hours of sleep indefinitely to get this thing together, and I’ve had months where I was only able to write a few lines per night. I listened to hundreds of hours of new music in order to pick out some that would fit the mood. I talked about the game a little bit at Boston PAX… and enough time elapsed where they had another Boston PAX. Even the IntroComp I entered is almost a year away now. But I was lucky enough to find a completely different lineup of testers for the finish line, having burned out the ones who helped me so wonderfully at the start of the project, and it’s much better than it was just a couple months ago.

There are a lot of regrets I have about the development of this game, the foremost being out of the loop for so long as a game maker. There is a chasm between what I am looking for in a game in 2011 and what is out there for me to play. In fact, it’s a completely different world than when I “left” to make Crypto in 2006, and to be honest — when I look at the whole of computer and video games and what the industry has come up with and what they want to sell me, well, I’m sick of clapping, when I know I can do it better for myself. I did the best I could to merge story and game and while I definitely want to create text games for the rest of my life, it does certainly seem like they’ll all be demo-length, bite-size fun in comparison. I simply wanted, once, to tell any potential player that might find this post that I left it all out on the field.

It’s May 25th, 2011. Crypto is finished, save for one last bit. I saved the last cryptid for the very end, and I’ll write about that tomorrow.

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