Okay, so it looks like nothing in the Backer’s Pack requires my immediate attention, so I’ll try to lay down a real blog post. If you’ve ever wondered just what goes on to get a release done, this week I’m gonna tell you.
- Step 0: Play Games
You might think I’m kidding, but this is probably the most important step. You need to know the medium you want to work in, so crack open Steam or GOG or your FLGS or even Abandonia and get playing. Here’s the important bit, though- one, you must pay careful attention while you play, and two, you must have to get outside your comfort zone. That might mean examining old favourites with a newly-critical eye, or trying truly new experiences. The important thing is to leave the familiar behind, and examine the games you play with a critical eye. You never know what game mechanic or experience will inspire the next great part of your game, so expand your horizons.
- Step 1: The Plan
Sometime during the closing weeks of the previous release, I grab my notes and head to a local coffee shop. I keep two simple spiral notebooks for each project I’m working on, one for planning and another to record notes in as I work. While rocking some coffee and free from distractions, I’ll lay out the plan for the next release.
Generally, “the plan” is divided into several parts. Most important are the Quests, which are the set pieces and foundation stones that Harem Collector is built around. I also brainstorm the events (generally whatever I think is important but doesn’t involve a quest or dungeon), character notes (for chats, banter, new characters, etc), new investments and items, and whatever else I think I’ll need.
After laying out the general plan, I’ll start to go into specifics about the big stuff- quests, dungeons, big animated sequences, that kind of thing. I generally end up with a page of notes each individual quest or sequence- you can check out a page of my notes about a dungeon above. It’s important to remain flexible from here- things don’t often work exactly how you plan, and you never know when something different will inspire you and you’ll end up working on something completely different.
Step 2: Art and Visuals
Before actually opening up the editor, I take the first big chunk of content and figure out what art I’ll need for it. This can be something as simple as a style or specific look I want the maps to capture, or it might mean looking for free to use sprites online, asking Chibi for custom stuff, asking Gurotaku to get started on CGs, and assembling face sets.
Art is a serious weakness for me, so even when I give art priority, it’s very easily for things to fall apart at this step. As always, remain flexible- you have to be about deal with that kind of setback and still move forward.
Step 3: The First Quest
Next, I take one of the big, meaty chunks of content and, well, get it done. Usually I start with the middle- crafting the dungeon, placing encounters, and designing the boss fight- first, and then fill in the pre-dungeon dialogue and investigation and post-dungeon dialogue and rewards. Often, I play through the dungeon a couple times on my own, just to make sure the sequence of events feel right and any weird new ideas I have actually work. After a revision or two, getting one quest finished takes about two weeks when I’m working at my peak ability.
The reason why I tackle things one quest at a time is twofold- one, if a crisis occurs I’ll have at least one small piece of content to show for it, and two, I focus intensely on one piece at a time, so as not to get distracted.
Step 4: Moar Content
Provided I don’t fall ill or stab my wife in the eye or whatever, I’ll finish with that first quest and move on to the next. And then the next, etc, until I’m about two weeks away from Testing Week.
Step 5: Dangling Threads
Time for cleaning up! This is where I make sure the new quests are properly hooked into the game and accessible, update the quest log, and generally round off the corners and make sure everything fits. Once everything is ready for Test Week, I’ll move on to step 6, even if it’s not actually Test Week yet- what I’m doing doesn’t change.
Adding sex scenes occur as part of this step, btw. I like giving Gurotaku and Kakurine as much time as possible to work.
Step 6: Soft Content
While Testers are busy testing and going into the week between the Backer release and the Public release, I do all the stuff that isn’t really programming intensive that I’m reasonably sure I’ve mastered- investments, chats, shops, banters, etc. Not only does this mean that testers are focused on the content that’s most likely to break/have bugs/have weird exploits in it, it means I get to have a break, relax and do some easy stuff for a change. It’s at this time I also start on Step 1 for the next release cycle, as well.
Well, hope that was interest for you all. I’ll see you next week for the public release!