It's been a little while (okay, maybe a LONG while) since I've last written a post for this website. The main reason for that boils down to a lack of necessity to use it yet. As I said in the June 2021 post, this website exists for when my Discord server no longer exists, so that I can still have a place to write development updates that don't fit anywhere else. So, since the Discord is still up and running, and since I spend most of my time working on DONTFORGET which has its own spaces for news updates, this website hasn't been needed so far.
However, lately I've been thinking a lot more about my personal project, "DOODLETRIP". I'd like to give a status update on it for those of you who are interested in it, and this website seems like the best place to do it.
If you're not sure what DOODLETRIP is, it is the game that I've been planning to make after DONTFORGET is finished. The general idea of the game is that it is about exploring the protagonist's childhood memories in a dream-like world, with a hand-drawn doodle aesthetic. If that sounds like something you'd be interested in, or if you were already interested in the project, then read on! Otherwise, this post probably won't do much for ya, sorry!
First of all, I am very grateful for those of you who have retained interest in this project, which has barely even existed, for the past three (nearly four) years. Geez, can you believe it's been nearly four years since I started this thing? DOODLETRIP and DONTFORGET are very alike in the sense that they both have a history of completely changing themselves on a regular basis. Thankfully, DONTFORGET finally has a solid direction after years of rewrites, and I believe DOODLETRIP is also close to achieving that. I have an idea that I'm very happy with for the game, the problem is just coming up with how to transform that idea into something playable that suits what the game is trying to be.
Before I talk about the current state of the project, I'd like to go over the development history of the game, for the sake of having it all together in one place, and to show how it has changed over time before I talk about where it's going.
DOODLETRIP started out in August 2018 as a psychological-horror RPG with 2D pixel art, although it didn't have a name back then. It had a much darker storyline that was completely unlike the current direction of the game. Its aesthetic was inspired by the works of thecatamites, particularly the game "Magic Wand". The game took place in the protagonist's purgatory, which took on the form of their child's drawings. The protagonist was a parent who
had lost their child, and the game was their journey of regret and mourning.
I later completely dropped the psychological-horror element of the game, along with that narrative entirely, because I felt like it just existed for shock value and didn't say anything meaningful. The game then turned into more of a casual open-world RPG inspired by Zelda 2.
The battle system was pretty strange, requiring the player to press random sets of arrow keys to attack the enemy until a timer ran out, and then the enemy would fight back. There were plans to expand on the fighting mechanics, but they never happened.
Then, a few months later, I had the idea to take this version of the game and try to transform it into a 2.5D game. To clarify, I consider a 2.5D game to be a game that operates on 2D logic but is rendered in 3D, usually with flat sprites. An example of this would be the original DOOM, a game that is internally a 2D top-down shooter, but is rendered to appear 3D, using 2D sprites for enemies and props. Here was the process of transforming DOODLETRIP into a 2.5D game:
1) Starting from an old 2.5D first-person project I was working on a couple of years prior, I changed the camera to operate from a third-person perspective.
2) I started importing sprites from the 2D version of the game, and made the camera follow around a new player character I implemented.
3) Unlike the 2D version of the game, I added collectibles to guide the player through the level. For some reason, I made three different types of collectibles, even though they all served the same purpose...
4) I ported the battle system over, and added enemies in the overworld that you would bump into to initiate a battle.
5) I worked on adding a pause menu. This was actually the first time I ever tried adding pausing to one of my games before!
Then I changed it a bit...
Then I had a pause menu I was happy with! I was inspired by Banjo-Kazooie quite a bit at the time, so there were lots of collectibles to display on the menu.
6) I added elevated platforms so that the game didn't have to take place entirely on a flat plane. This opened up the possibilities of the game's level design to be more visually interesting.
7) I added an NPC and gave them some temporary dialogue to test out the textbox system (I've censored what it originally said, but you probably know what it is lol).
8) Added a hub world to select levels from.
And that brings us to what I considered to be the "alpha build" of DOODLETRIP. I completed the first level of the game and started on expanding the hub world. Fun fact: I was actually considering seeking a publisher for the game at the time! I was preparing the game to be sent as a vertical slice to possibly get a publishing deal. I was 18 at the time and had... unrealistically high hopes. In the end I didn't go through with seeking out a publisher, which I am thankful I didn't, because I believe DOODLETRIP will turn out best taking as much time as it needs, and without any outside influence.
At this point, it had been about a little over a year since the project first started, bringing us to September 2019. It was here that I decided to scrap everything I'd done so far and reconsider the game's aesthetic. The game was called DOODLETRIP, but besides the pixel art looking very crude, the game didn't really convey a "doodle" aesthetic at all. To fix this, I increased the size of the game's sprites from 16x16 to 64x64 (akin to Paper Mario 64) to give the pixel art a bit more room to look like it was hand-drawn. This resulted in the game looking like this:
To make it easier, I'll refer to the previous version of the game as "Doodle16", in reference to its 16x16 graphics, and I'll refer to this version as "Doodle64", in reference to its 64x64 graphics. With Doodle64, I thought to myself, "Finally! I found the aesthetic I was looking for!" and ran with it. I started working on the intro area of the game almost immediately.
The story of the game was starting to gain a solid direction - I wanted a game that conveyed the feeling of looking through your old childhood possessions and exploring the memories that they represented.
I got far with the intro, but I took a break from the project to return to my work on DONTFORGET, and over time I felt less and less interested in the direction I was taking DOODLETRIP in. I probably came up with dozens of possible storylines for this version of the game, and each time I felt like I was getting further and further from what I wanted.
After countless attempts, I knew what I had to do - it was time to start over completely. I had to change everything. Not just the story, not just the gameplay, not just the art - everything. You might be wondering why I "had" to do it, maybe you think nothing was wrong with how the game was and that it was a waste to throw it all away. You might be right, but I realized I wasn't making the game I needed to make.
Towards the end of development on Doodle16 and throughout the development of Doodle64, I had shifted focus towards making DOODLETRIP a project dedicated to my grandparents. During my childhood, my grandma and grandpa were the most important people in my life. If it weren't for them, I probably wouldn't be where I am today. They were the ones who encouraged me to stay creative and taught me a lot of things, and the majority of my best childhood memories were thanks to them.
I think my mindset towards DOODLETRIP changed drastically last year, after the passing of my grandma. Some time after she passed, a memory of her from my childhood came back to me. When I was much younger, about 5 or 6 years old, I had written a book called "IF I RODE IN A HOT AIR BALLOON" as a project for elementary school. My grandma loved it so much that she helped me illustrate it and really wanted to talk to book publishers about getting it genuinely published and in bookstores. This was probably where my childhood dream to become an author/illustrator came from. To this day, I haven't forgotten her encouragement towards me getting officially published one day.
Of course, as I grew up and discovered a passion for creating video games, my dream to become an author/illustrator was replaced with a dream to become an indie game developer. I remember once as a teenager when I went to visit my grandma, after not being able to see her in-person for a while, she asked if I was still writing and drawing. I had to tell her that I didn't really draw anymore, but I was still being creative by making computer games. She was happy that I was still creative, but I could tell she was disappointed that I wasn't drawing anymore.
Fast-forward to now, the present day. These memories are the catalyst for the new direction I want to take DOODLETRIP - the entire game needs to be all completely hand-drawn, on paper, and scanned in for an authentic childhood doodle aesthetic. I've started spending more time practicing my artwork in recent months. My artistic ability hadn't really developed past when I was like 13 or 14, which I guess would work out because it'll make the "childhood doodle" aesthetic for the game more authentic, but I still want to get better at art, so I've been practicing a lot recently.
Here's some art I've done, unrelated to DOODLETRIP, but just to show what I've been drawing:
Mainly I've been practicing anatomy, because that's probably my weakest point lol. I hate drawing hands so that's been a focus as well.
This is probably the piece I'm the most proud of. And yes, it's OMORI fanart!
To get back on topic to DOODLETRIP, here's some recent (rough) doodles I've done of the main cast:
1) Wendell concept art (been trying to practice his front-facing view)
2) Holly concept art (still not sure about the hair yet)
3) Lloyd concept art (I think he has the best drip of the bunch ngl)
These designs aren't final, but they're getting there! I'm pretty happy with the improvements so far from their previous designs. Here's some art from nearly a year ago to give you an idea of how they've changed:
Anyway, to get back to the point I was trying to make, the current state of DOODLETRIP is that there's a story I want to tell, the ideas are fuzzy but they're there, and I'm currently in the process of trying to come up with gameplay that suits the story. I think Yume Nikki has been a pretty big influence on how I want the gameplay to be, but I don't want to just make a clone of Yume Nikki. I have a lot of ideas floating around for my own take on a game about freely exploring a dream-like world, so I hope to make something interesting.
I feel like there's a lot of pressure to make this project the best it can be, because above all, it's a game dedicated to my grandparents. It's a game about seeking closure, and completing it will be my own form of closure. The current plan is to self-publish DOODLETRIP to Steam when it's ready. Since Steam is an official marketplace, I'd consider releasing the game on Steam as fulfilling my grandma's wish of getting my work officially published from all that time ago.
I'm not sure when DOODLETRIP will be released. It'd be reckless to say anything since official development hasn't even started yet - there's nothing playable so far. I've considered releasing DOODLETRIP in chapters, so that you won't have to wait years after DONTFORGET is over to play my next game, but this depends on how long DOODLETRIP ends up being, and if it even has a structure that could be divided into chapters. If it's a short game, maybe 4-5 hours long, then it might just take a year or two. If it starts taking longer than that to make, I'd consider chapters or at least releasing a demo.
Anyway, that about wraps up this post. I know you've all been eagerly awaiting a progress report for DONTFORGET. I've been working on one for a while now, but I've just had very little motivation to work on the game recently. I've got a lot of university work to get caught up on, and as you can probably tell, DOODLETRIP has been on my mind lately more than DONTFORGET has. But I assure you, the devlog will release soon enough!
That's all, thanks for reading!