I’m Maddie, the writer for As It Is! Today, I wanted to talk about my experience writing for the game, with a specific focus on worldbuilding.
Building a World
Making a world for a game involves a lot of work on many levels, but I think the most important part of it is creating a fundamental idea to structure everything around. This idea can be a concept, or a mood, or a combination of the two. For As It Is, the idea was a lighthearted non-conflict village of animals. On a writing level, this concept was taken and applied to characters(both player characters and NPCs) and items in the world that these characters interacted with.
A good example of this idea being applied to these parts of the game is Hedgehog’s interactions with items in the school. Hedgehog needed to give information to the players about the world without sounding like they were dumping worldbuilding exposition onto the player, and they needed to deliver information about the object in-character.
Hedgehog interacting with the clock and bookshelf in the school.
Thanks to these interactions, the player knows more about Hedgehog and the world without being overloaded with information.
Another important part of worldbuilding is your world’s NPCs. If you’re making a world, no matter its size or scale, it’s essential that you have NPCs that are interesting. By this, I mean NPCs that have distinct mannerisms + personality who exist separately than the player character.
If you’ve played our demo, you probably know the characters Pika, Rain Frog, and Rabbit. The primary function of these characters is to introduce the player to Hedgehog’s minigame and its mechanics, but they all approach the concept differently depending on their personalities.
Additionally, the flow of the conversation is unique to each character depending on their mannerisms and how comfortable Hedgehog is with talking to the character. Pika is always forgiving of Hedgehog’s verbal stumbles, but Rabbit leaves almost no wiggle room for a mistake in words.
Hedgehog talking to each of the animals in every minigame. As you can see, each animal has a different demeanor.
Some NPCs can also be a bit more charismatic than others, even in a friendly, open game like As It Is. While Rabbit doesn’t exactly read as friendly unless you play their minigame very carefully, their admonishing is light and they never snap at Hedgehog unprovoked. They aren’t the nicest of characters, but the way they react is in-character for them. The bottom line here is that your player doesn’t need to like your NPCs, they just need to believe in them.
I know it’s a bit of a cliche to say this, but writing for As It Is hardly feels like work. The tone of my writing often creates a similar effect on my mood, so in turn writing for such a cheerful game leaves me feeling a lot of really positive emotions. I’m very fortunate I get to write for a game I’m so passionate about.
Last time we said that we'd be talking about the birth of As It Is and its mechanics.
We still are! Just not right now. We decided to force Alex off the reins and give an opportunity to others to show their voice and talk about the game. Alex is still alive, so don't worry!
Without further ado, here is Krystof Senfeld, our Music Composer!
I’m Krystof, the composer for As It Is, and I’m here to bring you our sophomore blog post and talk a little about the music in the game as well as the team dynamic. (I know the previous entry said something different, but I’m pulling a switcheroo.)
A Collaborative Process
One of the most exciting things about working on games as a musician is getting to be involved in their development. This doesn’t always happen – sometimes the musician is enlisted after all is said and done to add the aural icing on the cake – but when it does, it allows the music to unfold and grow with the game, granting more opportunities for interactivity along the way.
Take the clock in the school hallway, for instance. Our sound designer John had the idea to make the clock tick in time with the music. It’s a little thing, but it’s in the little things that the charm often lies.
Of course, writing music at the same time as the game is being developed means that inevitably some work will be left behind. In our first blog post, Alex mentioned the significant amount of scoping down we’ve already had to do, and I have little doubt that this is not the last time we’re cutting elements from the game.
It’s not just that the music is written concordantly with the game, though. The entire team is encouraged to pitch in in all areas, regardless of their discipline. We frequently hold design and narrative meetings when we’re trying to move forward, and everyone being able to contribute means that there is a greater variety of ideas to think about. To me, this truly collaborative process is what makes indie games in particular a joy to work on.
Here’s a piece of music you are unlikely to hear in the game as a result of scoping. Goodbye, Froggo!
More on Music
I’m sure future blog posts will touch more on the team and where the game is headed, so for now I’d like to take a moment to talk about the music. Because As It Is is such a character-driven game, it made sense from the get-go that each major character should have a recognizable theme or presence in the music that can develop and change depending on what the situation calls for.
In the case of Hedgehog, that recognizable element is some swift-moving xylophone and marimba parts. You can hear those plainly in the original draft of the character theme, made before there was barely any art or code at all, and you can hear traces of them in the school hall, the band room, and of course Hedgehog’s minigame.
The Inaugural As It Is Blog Post! PixelPop 2018 Roundup, Twitter, Future Plans, and Small Hedgehoggos...
If you're here, chances are you have heard about our game called As It Is. I'm Alex, and I'm Co-Director and Lead Programmer for As It Is. I want to take some time to discuss myself, my team, this project, and our future.
This particular blog post is from my perspective and how I think and feel about certain things. On future posts, you will be directed to regularly-scheduled programming with updates, change logs, more general stuff relating to the team, etc. Also, I've gone ahead and divided this post into multiple sections. Feel free to jump around!
What's this blog for? We'll do most of our lengthy communication posts here, so it's all in one nice and tidy place to increase transparency. Every time we have a new blog post, we'll make sure to post an update on Twitter and send an email through our mailing list. One of my favorite upcoming games does their communication this way, and I trust them with my life.
The Story of As It Is
PixelPop Festival 2018
As It Is was recently shown at PixelPop 2018 in St. Louis, Missouri! A 2-day event, this was the inception of our game's community and a wonderful experience! As It Is was received very warmly and we want to thank everyone who attended and tried out our game!
Here are some photos:
Carol or Mary, if you're reading this, thank you so much for having As It Is at PixelPop.
What's in the Future + Release Date + Scope
From the start of this project I never imagined we would ever release As It Is, but now, every sequential hour after the conclusion of PixelPop I'm slowly beginning to feel that it's more and more in reach.
We are still currently discussing the logistics, but I hope to have As It Is released in some form by Summer 2019. That's a long ways, but that's because the game isn't nearly a quarter done. I would love to have at least 45 minutes of gameplay with a somewhat complete story. The 45 minutes of gameplay part isn't too bad, but making the story complete is the real challenge. Because we've been gradually scoping down since our original pitch, we've had to modify a lot of the game's overall narrative. We used to have 4 playable characters targeted, now we have 2. We used to have perspective switching, now we don't. Wrapping it all up into a complete narrative burrito is something I expect to see lots of roadblocks for.
Additionally, we have target distribution platforms and game platforms to think about. Should we release on Steam, Itch, or other platforms? Will we try to expand beyond Windows and Mac? Will we try to release on the Switch?
Pace of Development
I'd like to make clear that we probably cannot work as quickly as most independent studios. Although we have around 9 active members on the team, all of us work part-time on this game. 8 of us attend university, and 1 attends high school, so we're still getting the hang of things. In fact, a lot of us did not have game development experience prior to this project! We are not professionals by any means - we're making this game because it's our lovechild and we love games.
I expect to be able to post a blog update every 2 weeks - detailing recent development, art assets, concept art, state of the game, stuff like that. If we don't really have enough content to warrant a blog post, I might push one back to a 3 week turnaround. School is tough!
I've riled myself up here, but the amount of support that we've gotten in just a few days from Twitter is incredibly validating for our whole team. We want to thank all of you for believing in us enough to take some time out of your day and read about this game.
The next blog post will discuss a little bit of As It Is's birth, its mechanics, and what we're up to now that school is about to start for many of us.
You've made it to the end! I promise future blog posts will be shorter :0. Have a nice day!