The Pictomancer's Tale was created for the 2018 Dogpit Jam.

A little history

(Wanna skip the history lesson? Scroll down to the real 'mortem.)

Way way back I got my start with game jams in 2009 with SomethingAwful GameDev Challenge 4, where I created music for a game called HellBent. I skipped SAGDC 5 in 2010 for some reason, then came back and did chiptunes and pixel art for Morton's Mortality in SAGDC 6 in 2011. In 2012's SAGDC 7 I did chiptunes for Relic Hunter, and then finally in 2013 I picked up Unity and won SAGDC 8 (by a hair, honestly by a technicality) with How To Poop. I totally lucked out on that one as most of the work on the game was really done by the artist. I did a few crappy music tracks and "did programming" but somehow I ended up winning a Unity license while the artist walked away with... well nothin'. I did, and still do, feel pretty bad about that. 

Ultimately the artist went on to do way bigger and better things, while I vowed to put my license to use and learn Unity and make some cool games. I sorta achieved that goal, I made music for several other games during that time (some game jam games, too), made a lot of gamedev and music friends, created several hobby pet projects in Unity over the years... but I never released anything and never submitted another game to any other SomethingAwful game jam. I joined a couple of small teams to participate in other jams, won best music in one, and got high praise for some others, and somehow became a mod on the SAGDC IRC channel. Still have no idea how that happened.

And then somehow I was asked to judge Big Awful Jam 2016 (the second SAGDC "spinoff" to get a little more exposure than the forums), which I really enjoyed doing, but I hadn't honestly done much in the way of gamedev or music in any serious manner since 2014.

Since then many things happened: I got divorced for a second time, I took on lots of little side hobbies, I got a new job, a new place, got lots of counseling, rearranged my life, got married again, and much more. But during that time I pretty much ignored game development and music. And until this jam, I'd pretty much thought I'd lost all interest.

Real Post-mortem

I decided to distance myself from Unity as it would only bring back memories of "bote game", "how to poop", and all of my other lovely lovely pet project children I ignored for so long. Also, my license no longer really "worked" anymore. I looked around for open source alternatives and Godot was quick to pop up. I'd never used it before (other than doing a quick "hello world" out of curiosity a while back), it seemed interesting, so I decided to use it.

I had a week-long vacation planned that cut directly into Dogpit Jam 2018. That chewed up the first couple days, so I didn't really start until the 22nd. I have a day job that I can't dev at (back in the day I had a boring job so I could dev & work), so I could only dev in the evenings, usually from 6:30pm-7pm until roughly 10pm or so. So a few hours per night. And then I had a tooth extraction on the 24th, which oddly put me out of commission for most of that day. 

I knew about these things, however, so I knew I had to scope as small as possible if I had any hope at all of submitting anything. So I decided to make a puzzle game based on a genre I enjoyed (picross/nonogram/whatever) with a sappy story attached. The original idea was way more wordy, with way more little extra picross bells and whistles, and a hell of a lot more art, including music and sound. I ended up paring that all down from 10 to 4 levels, from 10+ little story cutscenes to what basically amounts to 3 or 4, removed music and sound entirely, and barely managed to draw enough pixels to get by.

Normally I'm a stickler for "pixel-perfect" stuff but I literally did not give a crap about that in this jam. I just blew up my pixel art about 6x and moved it around with no cares given at all about perfection or usability or anything. I just wanted to submit something.

And I did! And it's... okay I guess. Nothing compared to some of the other submissions. But still, I'm proud of it, because I learned a new tool, barely had any time to do it, I did it myself, and it turned out to be okay! :) 

I think the hardest part was making the dumb little cutscenes because it was all done manually. Each textbox leads to another, or an animation, which leads to another textbox, which leads to another, which leads to an animation, etc. etc. etc. Very annoying, but it worked! Creating the puzzles was easy (except for the last one and I'M SORRY for that one, literally I am, it's obnoxious), and even creating the picross "engine" was easy to do in Godot (it's all canvas draws instead of sprites to save time and make it adjustable).

Could have been better, but I'm happy with how it turned out, especially given the time. I'm also quite happy with Godot. Not only is it open source, it also works really well, I dig the scene paradigm, it's nearly portable, contributors are adding stuff all the time, and I know in my heart I'm never going to make anything worth blowing $1000 on a license for Unity or Unreal or whatever. 

I don't pursue game development as a career or life passion. It's a hobby for me. Just like music. It's fun to do every now and then, but as soon as I start telling myself it's a business, or it's something I could turn into a full-time job, I begin to distance myself from it. 

So... I'm back! I won't be doing every jam under the sun, I won't be making 5 different hobby projects, and I likely won't seek out opportunities to sell any music I make in the process. It's all just little pieces of me I can leave behind for others to find after that inevitable day, hopefully far far into the future, when I can't enjoy it myself anymore.

Files 10 MB
Apr 30, 2018

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