We’ve been working full-time on Trip the Ark Fantastic for almost a year now! It’s a large undertaking for a small indie developer such as us so we decided very early on we’d like to find a publisher to help us out. For this reason, we’ve been sending our Trip the Ark Fantastic brochure to a lot of publishers these past months.
The good news here is that literally everybody loves the idea of the game. We sent the brochure to almost 30 publishers and everybody was enticed by the atmosphere, themes and gameplay decisions!
This week I’m going to explain the process of planning we had prior to starting on the development of Trip the Ark Fantastic. There’s a lot of game developers who just dive in (myself included on numerous occasions) but for this project, we decided to really figure everything out prior to starting, including making GDDs, Tech Docs, Gantt charts, etc. That’s not to say we carved everything in stone, we’re still having a lot of discussions, even very fundamental ones, but at least we have a good starting cornerstone.
And since we’ve had great success with previous blogs that deal with gamedev methodology, such as the one where we discuss our asset pipeline or how we write dialogues for the game, this time we’ll write up a blog about our project methodology, how we made a plan, and hopefully some people will find it interesting! So, let’s start.
Before the flood, there was a GDD!
First off, even before we started working on the project, we made a huge GDD with all our ideas, and it was over 50 pages long and created collaboratively by Piet and me:
This was important so that we can figure out more-or-less exactly the scope of the project even before starting it.
The next step was deciding on the art style we want. Of course, an art director would be great for this, but having none yet, we decided that we’re going to have to decide this ourselves for now. So we made another document, quite huge and pin-pointed a lot of different styles that could work, and finally decided on one to start off with.
We then settled on a fantasy-ish 2D cartoon-animated art style and found someone to make a few key artworks which we added into the new and shortened GDD, available here:
This GDD was what we sent to the Creative Europe grant (which we received) and also to our investors, prior to their investment. And then, it was time to decide on the scope of the team. Do we need a specialised composer full time or will a freelancer work? Do we need 2, 3 or 4 artists working on the visuals? How about programmers? Et cetera. So, for this, we started creating specialised documents that nail down each of these things.
Making a plan: Creating a Technical Design Document
There was the Technical Design Document where we decided on how to approach certain technical issues arising from our new mechanics (will we use SQLite for storing data, or our own search with data in JSON, what format we’ll store the game script in, et cetera). It looked a bit like this:
There was also a lot of other documents, including a “music design document”. Of course, this document was revised once we found the right composer, but it helped to show the potential composers what we want in terms of musical style and complexity.
After the whole team was finalised, we reworked a lot of the documents (now with more realistic timesheets and expectations, especially regarding music and art), and then created a nice big 2 year plan for the development of the game, in the form of a timesheet:
This way we figured the earliest possible release-date for the game to be in 2022 (that’s why it’s called a 2 year plan!) and then when we knew everything about the game and had the whole team on board we proceeded to create a teaser trailer to showcase the atmosphere of the game and drive people to our website where they can read more about the game and follow our work (including reading these blog posts of course).
And then we started working full time on the game proper, starting with making a playable demo of the first city in the game – art, story, music et cetera. The city quest was reworked a bit to feature the main mechanic already (we wanted to introduce it later but decided that for showcasing purposes earlier is better). And that’s where we’re at now.
The various documents have been replaced by more awesome tools (like Nuclino for world building) and/or more detailed charts and sheets for art and music deliverables.
Hopefully, we won’t miss our internal deadline too much (or maybe hopefully we will and the game will be 10x better for it?) but in any case, this is the long and winding road we took to ensure we know what we’re doing and we don’t enter some kind of unforeseen development hell, as none of us are really senior experts in gamedev.
And that’s it. Hopefully some of these ideas have inspired you to plan ahead for your own game! If you have any questions or would like to see some of these documents irl, ping us via social media or join our Discord!
Hi, it’s Alex, the CEO of Gamechuck (the company making Trip the Ark Fantastic) and also one of the idea-guys behind the game concept.
Although it might not be as interesting for the gamers who read us, I believe gamedevs will be very glad to read about our journey and experiences as a company. So in the next few Thursday blogs I’ll try to guide you through some of the important things that helped us out, starting with a broad overview of the first three years of our company, and moving on to our GDD procedures, choice of next games, publisher relations, etc.
So to start off, today I’m here to tell you that the company making this game is already three years old already, so I’ll take this time to write about our short trip from 2017 to today.
Following the Charles’ biography lore blog, where we’ve put everything you wanted to know about the game’s main character (but were too afraid to ask), here we have a nice blog about the three unexpected friends that went on a grand adventure.
Charles is your introvert prototype. He doesn’t like socialising, is even less fond of big crowds of people, and gets very shy around strangers. Although, when there is a conversation topic revolving around scholarly stuff, especially those that are his domain, Charles gets very excited and quite talkative.
Also, did you know that Charles is actually a pretty famous hedgehog? The folk won’t remember him if you mention his name, but everyone knows who is the inventor of the shower; a byproduct of Charles’ artificial herbarium. Charles feels a strong sense of responsibility at being given the task to find the Ark, while also placing a large emphasis on his dedication to the truth. Which is more important to him (truth or duty) is up to the player to decide.
His relationship with Philippe and Andre, his journey’s companions, starts as cold and distant. However, after engaging in conversations with them more often, Charles becomes close friends with one or even both of them.
A witty fox, many would say. Philippe is usually sarcastic and shrewd. A bit arrogant, too, and wants to show off that he is correct. He might not sit well with everyone, but he gets the job done. In case you’ve played D&D before, he would be charactarised as “lawful neutral”.
Philippe volunteered to accompany Charles on his mission in attempt to steer his decisions in the correct direction. He believes that finding and proving the Ark’s existence will consolidate the Kingdom’s power structure for the next few decades. Some people don’t like his sarcasm and attitude, but most can agree with his sound arguments.
When he’s not busy checking up on his “contacts”, he enjoys a good philosophical discussion with Charles while smoking some of his favorite tobacco.
With such a rich background as André, many would simply embrace all the benefits of their status, but not this boar. Despite having rich parents and a profitable farmland, André decided to join the military. As one of the most loyal members of the Guard, the King tasked him with keeping Charles safe during this potentially perilous mission.
He doesn’t really get into complex abstract arguments with Philippe and Charles but he has strong opinions on the royalty but he doesn’t like to discuss them because he believes he couldn’t defend them properly.
He believes the system is fair and his experience is that if you try hard you can succeed and that the people against the king are plotters and schemers and generally not honest folk. Nevertheless, he has fairly strong opinions on the Kingdom’s hierarchical system and his place in the world. As a result, he accepts Philippe’s superiority and obeys his orders without hardly any question. He loves eating and drinking and finds joy in the simple things in life.
Enjoyed this blog? Let us know what you thought on our Facebook, Twitter, Discord, or on the blog itself, just below in the comments!
You may be wondering why you are suddenly surrounded by photos of ugly old people in a place where you would expect pretty drawings of bunnies and hedgehogs. The answer is simple: It’s another guest blog!
Hi, I’m Zvonimir and I work with Studio Spektar, an indie game company known for bringing you the true indie experience of games made by just a few people, weird art, inappropriate humor and everything going wrong all the time. Back in 2013, while larping, Sven and I met Gamechuck’s own Aleksandar and together we started working on Viktor, a Steampunk Adventure.
It was a very silly point and click adventure about an unemployed street sweeper Viktor who decides to become an emperor of Austria-Hungary by overthrowing the current emperor:
After three years of on and off work, we finished the game and launched it onto the unsuspecting public. After seeing the sales figures, Alex went on to found Gamechuck and become filthy rich (I hope), while Sven and I decided to keep making games in our spare time.
We wanted something simpler. Something where we would have fun making the game and with minimal programming work. So I suggested we build a short ’90s style trashy FMV game, but with a bunch of original concepts and completely improvised acting. After half-listening, Sven took my suggestion with complete enthusiasm, but also a few caveats:
a) he had absolutely no idea what an “FMV” is, but he figured he’ll learn along the way.
b) the game needs to be bigger. Much bigger! Lots of encounters! Lots of planets! And no, it wouldn’t be just the two of us with puppets and silly voices, we are going to recruit a bunch of larpers to improvise with us.
Thus, the adventure began. We bought a large green sheet after realising my blue bed sheet is a bit sheety. We traveled across Croatia, from abandoned communist monuments to my grandma’s backyard.
We used all the costumes, masks, and props we could build, borrow, or dig out of our LARP equipment. We brought friends who were given a nice vacation and/or up-to their weight in alcohol to improvise silly voices, terrible accents, and vague goals that often went in a completely different direction.
Of course, after a party comes a hangover. It took us literal years to assemble all the material with horrid mistakes, bad focus, wrong sounds, green-screen-unfriendly lighting, and a plethora of other issues. It is now stuck together in surprisingly coherent gameplay.
“But what the hell do you do in this game is this even game what is wrong with you”, I hear you ask. It’s a travel game with resource management. Think Oregon Trail, but everything that happens is a live action movie sequence.
You obtain and spend resources like food or fuel by interacting with people who LARP at the camera. Your choices decide how much you get or lose. There are many more random encounters than you can see in one or two playthroughs, so every new game is a different adventure.
And the audience? As is normal with this kind of game, the audience is small but dedicated. But it seems that people on Twitch love it.
There’s just something about a trash film full of improvised acting with russian-like accents that turns every streamer into a member of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Apparently, we unknowingly made a great party game to play in a room with friends.
If you have or are planning to have a trash movie party, I definitely recommend you bring this new piece of modern history.
Here’s the link again, have fun with this GOTY title:
Gamechuck is participating with All You Can Eat, an interactive comic where you take a role of a “hero” so lazy he decided to quit his job and just spend his life inside an All-you-can-eat diner – which is closing down.
Will our hero finally settle down and find a regular job? Of course not. His life mission is to save the diner!
There are several great story-driven games that can be found in the bundle, and one of them definitely is 11 Bit Studios’, This War of Mine.
In this side-scrolling game, civilians are trying to survive in a besieged city (inspired by the dreadful events in Sarajevo during the ’90s); struggling with lack of food, medicine, and constant danger from snipers and hostile scavengers. The game provides an experience of war seen from an entirely new angle, and the player will have to make life-and-death decisions.
Moving on from those grim realities that happened in our past, to a messed-up underwater metropolis. If you haven’t, Bioshock (remastered) is a game you definitely should play.
The atmosphere, the characters, the enemies, the Big Daddies, and Little Sisters. Also, there’s a lot of hacking (plumbing). Seriously, though, you should play it.
Similarly, the bundle offers System Shock: Enhanced Edition and System Shock 2.
If you’re more into adventures, Humble is offering Broken Age, a family friendly, hand-animated, puzzle-filled adventure game with an all-star cast, including Elijah Wood, Jack Black and Masasa Moyo.
The two protagonists are two teenagers in strangely similar situations, but radically different worlds. The player can freely switch between their stories, helping them take control of their own lives, and dealing with the unexpected adventures that follow.
In the vein of All You Can Eat, Framed Collection is a series of visual puzzles, requiring logic and imagination, where each panel move changes the current narrative, leading to all kinds of comedic blunders, untimely deaths—and when solved correctly—stylish heists, fast getaways and nail-biting escapades.
There are a bunch of other great games to be found in this Humble bundle. Make sure to check it out!
Today, we wanna give a shout-out to the Itch.io huge 1400+ games bundle (including Gamechucks own debut All You Can Eat) for only 5$. If you already played it (and its free spiritual sequel vApe Escape), don’t worry, the bundle has you covered with many great story-driven titles such as:
Night in the Woods – a story-driven adventure about returning to a small town you grew up in… If you are following Trip the Ark Fantastic because you like animals walking around in a side-scrolling manner and having meaningful dialogues, this is gonna be right up your alley!
Oxenfree – another side-scrolling adventure about a group of teens unravelling a mystery while vacationing on an island. Short but with many endings and some cool replay value, not to mention several innovative game mechanics like using a radio and interrupting other peoples dialogues.
They also added Celeste, another story-driven side-scroller but unlike the previous two titles this one actually is a platformer and requires some platforming skills, but since we’re no strangers to difficult action games, we love it anyway!
Apart from these heavy-hitters, there’s also a ton of other stuff, like for example a cute pen-and-paper roleplaying game with mice called Mouseritter. Maybe we’ll try out some internal Trip the Ark Fantastic PnP roleplaying in this system at some point, who knows!
Anyway, all that and over a thousand more titles, just for 5$, which go to charity anyway? A great bargain, we’d say!
By the way, if you want to discuss cool games we like, be sure to join our Discord! We’re all there and love talking to fellow story-driven-gamer folks!
What a click-bait title, sorry about that. We’re actually moving 5m away to a larger office inside the same complex – the wonderful Zagreb Innovation Center (ZICER). So we’re gonna spend some time writing about how great it is here, and what great opportunities the ZICER institution offers.
Making a completely new game in an unknown franchise made by a relatively unknown developer without a publisher is a rather difficult task nowadays, primarily because you have to do everything. Including the marketing part, which is something game developers don’t necessarily like, but hey, who’s gonna hear for the game you’re making, and pouring all the blood, sweat, tears, and time in?
That’s where the communities come in, and in this text, we are going to share some of the communities we use to talk about Trip the Ark Fantastic, Speed Limit, and our other projects, and why.
Below, you will find some of the best communities and forums for your adventure, RPG, Pixel-Art, and any type of genre title you may be developing.