Introduce yourself! *oates: Hi, this is oates! I’m a pixel artist and game developer, I’ve started making games with rpgmaker in 2016 with VX Ace and now currently using MV for recent projects.
Previous projects I’ve worked on were the FNaF-inspired Souls-like One Night at the Steeze, my first rpgmaker game and it’s prequel, the FNaF-inspired roguelike No Delivery. Other games I’ve worked on include the fangames Day Dreaming Derpy, made in VX Ace and Spike’s Day Off, made in MV and the latest in a series of previous fangames previously developed on Adobe Flash.
What is your project about? What inspired you to create this game initially? *oates: Nobody’s Home is largely based on my experiments to find and apply horrific elements in modern situations or phenomena. The scenario being explored here in Nobody’s Home is the aftermath of some crazy party. Sound design is especially important when crafting a horror scenario, so I often look to music to draw inspiration. Much of the atmosphere and house design was inspired by music and imagery associated with ‘70s yacht rock (a sub-genre of soft rock).
Another important note is a lot of the general mood and 'weirdness’ was inspired by a band I listen a lot to, Dance Gavin Dance, specifically their “deathstar” album. However they have a tendency in all their albums to switch genres mid-song, often going from their post-hardcore sound to funk, pop, and even rap; aside from that, some of the subject matter covered can range from disturbing to unpleasant to nonsensical, but combined with the amazing music, it creates an experience that pulls the listener in all different directions.
It got to the point that I was naming events in the game after some their tracks so I had to be careful not to inadvertently make a fangame haha But there are some easter eggs in Nobody’s Home that were intentionally left in, and I’m fairly certain players have identified it already.
How long did you work on your project? *oates: I used much of the same framework left over from my previous project No Delivery for this development cycle, so the hassle for setting up asset pipelines was very much mitigated. I started in earnest, making assets back in January this year so it took roughly 2+ months to finish development for this project.
Did any other games or media influence aspects of your project? *oates: Aside from the previous music inspirations, I was really intrigued with the way Resident Evil 7’s Beginning Hour demo was able to pick up where Konami’s cancelled PT left off in terms of survival horror games to look forward to back in 2017. Prior to later updates, the initial demo really only included a few set pieces, basic item interaction, and almost no puzzles from the full game. It was largely able to pull off scaring players from almost atmosphere alone (if you exclude the Jack Baker and ghost encounters). It was later in the full game that it was able to show off it’s metroidvania-esque design to its fullest.
After my previous project, I wanted to step away from roguelike design for a bit and focus a little more on an exploration-based experience, so I took a few notes from the way RE7 and RE2: Remake handled map design and progression.
Did you come across any challenges during development? How did you overcome or work around them? *oates: I was coming off a severe cold last year and it took most of January for me to recover, so it was a little hard to start full-on development immediately like I normally would on top of other career matters.
And looking at events today, it’s even more imperative that developers practice healthy habits during development.
Did any aspects of your project change over time? How does your current project differ from your initial concept? *oates: I’ve had the idea for Nobody’s Home as a concept for a while, but filling in those gaps with actual gameplay between centerpieces was a big variable. I went back and forth between the turn-based item combat from the previous project to cutting out combat entirely. While I didn’t implement it, I also brainstormed a few concepts for overworld action and combat ala Zelda, but it seemed too complex given the time frame I set for myself. Eventually I settled on a middle ground between full combat and separate encounters, with “enemies” acting as essentially a toll gate. The rest of the game followed suit with various tolls and “mouse traps” for the player to trigger at their own behest. This wasn’t necessarily the design I had in mind at first, but it helped to concisely fill a relatively small location with specifically “deadly” content.
What was your team like at the beginning? How did people join the team? If you don’t have a team, do you wish you had one or do you prefer working alone? *oates: I largely work solo for both development and art, but I do regularly work with a few musicians for an original soundtrack. I first started working with other composers for the fangame Day Dreaming Derpy, where after the initial demo was released, I received emails from a few musicians volunteering to contribute some tracks for the game. In all, the original soundtrack contained 9 tracks in total, with 3 tracks from each composer; each of them doing an amazing job and, in my opinion brought the project back then to a higher degree of quality. This was how I met some of the composers I still work with today and they all have some really great work!
What is the best part of developing a game? *oates: It’s a toss up between the initial brainstorming/research and the first run-through when you have your desired maps linked together. For the brainstorming, it’s pretty fun to learn about subject matter you want to do justice to as well as stretching your creative muscles for the first time in service to a certain concept. However this obviously wears off when you devote too much time to a particular concept, but it’s still enjoyable nevertheless. For making that run-through, it doesn’t necessarily mean to have all the events implemented, but to experience your game the way players will experience it for the first time does give a sense of completion/cohesion to what you, as a developer, are trying to accomplish. It essentially puts what you’re working on into a different perspective for you.
Do you find yourself playing other RPG Maker games to see what you can do with the engine, or do you prefer to do your own thing? *oates: I do keep an eye out for what other rpgmaker projects are doing, and to see what others can do with the engine helps get the creative juices flowing; it’s also fun to try to mentally reverse engineer how certain mechanics or effects were made. And it’s always great to see fellow devs showcase what’s possible with the engine.
Which character in your game do you relate to the most and why? (Alternatively: Who is your favorite character and why?) *oates: Nobody’s Home has a relatively small cast of characters, whom you do interact with but never see, this is largely to done to create a sense of “un-relatability”, but if I had to pick a character, it’d be “car guy”, the guy you find stuck in the car.
They have a good line, “ …there’d be a good reason for this, but there isn’t…”
Story of my life.
Looking back now, is there anything that regret/wish you had done differently? *oates: There were a few areas I would have liked to expand on or add, specifically- the attic + roof, the front lawn, behind the walls, and an entire second floor. Unfortunately that meant potentially adding more questlines and NPCs while the first set of questlines were pretty interwoven so it would have been way more complex, also again, given the time frame I set, it would have extended the development cycle way beyond what I had time for.
But if I had implemented those extra areas, the game’s length would also go way beyond the 30 min - 1 hr it takes to complete the game as it is now.
Do you plan to explore the game’s universe and characters further in subsequent projects, or leave it as-is? *oates: I’d like to do both really, each installment of the VCRPG line of games is definitely a stand-alone story, or an isolated incident, but I would love to explore the aftermath of the game’s events and how the passage of time ravages and twists the story into urban legend. I like to treat places and environments like characters as well, capable of making memories, being misunderstood, preserved, destroyed, and ultimately capable of change.
What do you most look forward to upon finishing the game? *oates: Both the fan reaction and free time honestly speaking. Once the development cycle finishes and the game is published, your work isn’t really finished as there’s always a chance someone’s feedback can apply to immediate changes or patches you can implement, even during the release period. Marketing is also another large step to take into consideration after release, this includes tweeting, sending keys for lets plays, etc. Watching playthroughs is also a really good way to collect data on what parts of your design fall through and what fail to land. But after all that is said and done, some free time really helps the brain recuperate.
Was there something you were afraid of concerning the development or the release of your game? *oates: Just whether or not I handled the game’s subject matter tastefully. Like horror cinema, everything done is in service the the themes and message of the piece as a whole.
Do you have any advice for upcoming devs? *oates: The game engine is essentially a tool, and like any tool you can find plenty of creative ways to get the same result.
And don’t be afraid to research whatever it is you need help with, it also helps to be specific with what you want.
Question from last month’s featured dev @moca-pz: If you can collaborate with any game developer in the world, who would it be? What would be their role(s) and what would be your role(s)? *oates: Game developer I’d like to work with: Hidetaka Miyazaki
His role: Story Lead and Director
My role: Drinking buddy
Game we’re working on: SciFi Souls
We mods would like to thank oates for agreeing to our interview! We believe that featuring the developer and their creative process is just as important as featuring the final product. Hopefully this Q&A segment has been an entertaining and insightful experience for everyone involved!
Remember to check out Nobody’s Home if you haven’t already! See you next month!
I’m translating 六夏/Number7’s My Dear Frankenstein, a doodle for taking a break…
It’s a wonderful game with a nice story, many collectable details and extremely beautiful art. Please try it if you like VN, puzzle, p&c games, and maybe leave a review to support the dev! Twitter:https://twitter.com/roc_l7
After over a year’s development, we are glad ro annouce that Trick & Treat Remake and Art Book Vol.2 are released, with 40% off release discount! I hope this remake version can bring you some Halloween mood, and maybe a little nostalgia feelings.
I’ve been on contract with SPITE HOUSE to develop Trundl.buddy and the Ghostly Wi-filactery for a little over a month now, and one of the biggest issues is 2d art in 3d space. The whole team has wrestled it enough to share some initial observations. If you’re a dev, you might find them useful. Preface: we’re using Unity as our engine, but you might find these concepts helpful in others.
SHADERS AND MATERIALS ARE A PAIN IN 2D ART
Do your research if you plan to pull any fancy lighting, material or shader tricks with your 2d art! Anything that doesn’t use the standard sprite shader has given us trouble with z-fighting and lighting, and we’ve had to do a bit of custom shader work to overcome this. Be wary!
This is mostly if you want to be able to do lighting or repeat textures, but quads (at least in Unity) are built to be 1x1 units, allowing you to resize and position things with certain accuracy. For example, our grid needs to be defined by how many spaces it contains, as well as the size of the spaces themselves. Quads let us make quick and easy calculations.
LAYER YOUR OBJECTS
Achieving the illusion of depth and height is very difficult with 2d art, but we can fake it by layering our objects on the distance axis. This lets us create rough canyon walls with varying details and depth without having to worry about stretching art across a side-lining quad.
USE CAUTION WHEN DRAWING PERSPECTIVE
As long as most of your art is drawn assuming the camera will point directly at it, you can pull off perspective and depth pretty easily. But in some cases you’ll want to draw perspective into your art, as seen in our canyon walls. Plastering them to a quad lining the edge of our road made things look very flat and lose detail, especially at a shear perspective. We ended up drawing our perspective into the art itself, then facing them directly to camera. This allowed us to retain detail while varying quad placement along the horizontal axis to craft interesting “geometry.”
I’m sure there are many solutions to problems like these when using 2d art in 3d space, so don’t take my word as law; you might find your own solutions! I hope this will make at least some of you aware of the challenges and considerations you’ll have to make with this approach.