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Painscreek Devlog #1: Let's Make A Game!

A few years ago, a friend of ours asked how goes our work. At that time, there were three of us and we were working on CG ads. I thought we did fine, although we were always hunting for jobs. He then asked, “Have you considered creating your own IP?”

So in June 2012, we decided to try our hand at game development, all in the hope of creating our very own intellectual property. Plus, having passive income is a nice change for us. By Summer 2013, we were done with our last freelance job and started working full time on The Painscreek Killings. Looking back, we realized we were very naïve to quit everything and moved to something we have never done before. But at that time, it seemed like the best choice to make.

WHAT GAME CAN WE MAKE? When we started, we were proficient in CG and were teaching high school students about it. Among the classes taught, one of them was 'Introduction to Unreal Development Kit', a topic that the students were interested in. After a semester of teaching, we initiated two group projects, one being a single-player puzzle game and the other a multi-player cop/robber game. The puzzle game was successful, but the cop/robber game failed as the programming part proved too difficult for the students. Despite the failure, the vision of what the end product could be emerged.

From there, we looked at our strengths and limitations.

Strengths: 1. We are proficient in creating 3D assets. 2. We love good stories and have some foundation in screenwriting.

Limitations: 1. We have no experience in creating a game before. 2. We don’t have concept/sketch artists. 3. We don’t know game programming. 4. We don’t know how to create multiplayer games. 5. We don’t have confidence in creating NPCs, nor rig and animate them for games.

Looking at the game genres at that time, we only have one choice: walking simulators.

(Photo taken during the development of the second student project.)

INFLUENCE/INSPIRATION While brainstorming for game ideas, we came across a few games that inspired us as to what we can make. First was Shiver: Vanishing Hitchhiker. At its core, it’s a hidden object game. Underneath it was a captivating story dripping with atmosphere. We loved it and wanted to make a game that is as atmospheric as this. The Vanishing Hitchhiker became our first key influence.

(Can a 2D game be scary? Shiver: Vanishing Hitchhiker achieved it.)

Next was Gone Home. After playing it, we thought, “If someone can make this game, we, too, can make a game!”

(Despite the controversial content, the game design was done very well.)

Third was Ether One. We loved it! It was an amazing puzzle game that rewarded you with a very satisfying feeling when you could solve it, and the story was very emotional. The problem is that most of the puzzles were too hard. Despite that, we saw the beauty of its design, the way it was meant to be.

(Ether One is of the best puzzle solving game ever made.)

WHAT GAME WILL WE MAKE? We knew at this point in time that we could only attempt walking simulators, but we wanted to go beyond the traditional walking simulators. We wanted players to think during gameplay, and have them feel they are controlling the game rather than being controlled. In the end, we decided to make a murder mystery walking simulator where players have to find out the real killer.

LET’S MAKE IT IN TWO YEARS There were three people at the start. Two of us were gamers and the other was into CG and visual effects. Okay, not a problem. Let’s make a walking simulator with a good story and have it done in two years. Well, we did not expect that our game turned to be five years in the making. The thing was, what we didn't know was actually a blessing in disguise. If we had known the number of obstacles to face and the time it took to finish, we might not have started at all.

WHAT WE LEARNED There’s a saying that ‘ignorance is bliss’. Personally, I believe in ‘the truth shall make us free’. But in this case, I cannot deny the former. If I could explain it in a way that makes sense, it’s that you don’t have to be completely ready in order to make the first step. Know what you want to achieve and let faith guide you along the way. As long as you don’t quit, your dream can eventually come true.

Next: Join us next on how we designed the story.

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