blowing up Bomb Dolls

Bomb Dolls! one of Girl Software's most iconic and beloved games.

bomb dolls

which is impressive, because it's very difficult to set it up and convince people to play

princess created the girls, but their world and the game as we know it is the result of a collaboration with Girl Software's other half, Jessica.

in 2017, Girl Software didn't exist yet, and Bomb Dolls was just another one of princess's experimental prototypes. it looked like this:

bomb dolls

it was called Gay Road Trip Game

there were only 2 players, and the whole thing was keyboard-controlled, which didn't actually work. (did you know most keyboards don't register more than a few simultaneous keypresses? princess didn't know that.)

bomb dolls

princess used clipart to make a very small design document

building a large space for a procedurally generated road trip was difficult, so for a while the game took place on a barren post-war moon colony.

bomb dolls

it was called Moon Girls. honestly it's a cute look! we should revisit this someday

later it became a little more colorful, with palm trees and weird eyeballs. this version never got very far along because princess was busy.

bomb dolls
bomb dolls
bomb dolls

the visuals were partly inspired by this one Wonder Girls video

in 2018, princess was thinking about Fury Road and wanted to make a game called Bomb Dolls about mutant animal girls driving around in a wasteland.

bomb dolls

the one on the far left was supposed to be a firefly but we never made the antennae

we settled on these 3 designs as our favorites:

bomb dolls

Xoxo, Azura, and Lindsey. their names contain XYZ and theirs colors match the XYZ axes in Unity!

then we had a thought: maybe this is the gay road trip game we've been waiting for! we made a very simple game, a 3-player road trip simulator where you drive a car, collect pills and guns, and shoot eyeballs.

bomb dolls

it's worth noting that driving the car did NOT feel like driving a car

bomb dolls

everything was as basic as you can imagine

bomb dolls

basically the whole world looked like this

that was it! the game was done!

...until playtesting revealed that the keyboard controls were impossible, and also that the game was repetitive and boring and sucked.

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a cameo appearance by the founders of Girl Software

Jessica came over and played Bomb Dolls and was like "let me make this bigger and better." she co-founded Girl Software as Creative Director, which means she had a million cool ideas and it was up to princess, the Producer, to execute those ideas and/or veto the ones that were too hard.

that's when Bomb Dolls blew up.

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it got really really really big

bomb dolls

we started scripting AI, navmesh behavior, projectiles, audio listeners...

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you can't even imagine the amount of bugs we had to deal with

Jessica wanted a day/night cycle, custom cars, cute outfits, more snacks, more weapons, bigger crystals, barbed wire fences, flaming barrels, toxic lakes, oil rigs, and more distinct areas. she helped with lighting and particle effects and drew concept art for new critters like slimes, crystal crabs, and the big destructive machines we call "dragons".

bomb dolls

Jessica made the lightning for the storm

bomb dolls

dragons were conceived as the most scary and threatening enemy but they're just cute imo

princess modeled everything, and she added smokestacks, wind farms, mushroom fairies, and cyborg girls. the game started taking on a completely different look. it was more magical and more apocalyptic.

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we were leaning further into the "road trip gothic" mood

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imagine if Jessica wasn't involved and Bomb Dolls never had a night mode lol

Jessica helped us get around the keyboard problem by reworking the control scheme to support a variety of game controllers. this was a new experience for princess, who was used to making games with nothing but a tiny laptop. now we were testing with Joy-Cons, multiple computers...

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when we realized the colors of the Joy-Cons matched the characters we were SO HAPPY

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idk what's even going on in this photo. why is there half a laptop over there

we decided there should be an ultimate goal besides "don't die". we both liked the idea of collecting the souls of other lost girls, so Jessica drew concept art for a mysterious desert goddess who would receive the souls.

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we call her the "death milf"

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she singlehandedly turned this game into a roguelike

Jessica modeled some buildings, which princess then simplified and optimized for easier navigation and smoother lighting performance. (Jessica also wanted more dramatic lighting and bloom effects, which made the game a lot heavier. but we pulled it off and it looks amazing.)

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we ended up generating some powerful scenes, like these lost souls browsing the aisles...

bomb dolls

...motels surrounded by minefields...

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...people in diners...

the buildings were useful as landmarks, and they were a nice way to break up the flow of the gameplay and enhance the road trip experience.

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deep lore: there are 2 competing car-charging stations called CAR CHARGE and CHARGE CAR

at this point, Ada Rook, rook&nomie, and Black Dresses had already agreed to let us put their music in the game. then Black Dresses asked princess to make a video for their upcoming song DREAMS COME TRUE!

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the video was a fun opportunity to do all the weird stuff we couldn't do in-game

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princess didn't have Adobe Premiere at the time, so she used iMovie

princess recorded and edited most of the video in about 3 days. Jessica helped with OBS, and Devi added some final touches to make it perfect.

bomb dolls
bomb dolls

DREAMS COME TRUE was literally a dream come true. it was the most fun and exciting crossover event we could have imagined, and people loved it.

it also meant that princess suddenly felt pressure to finish Bomb Dolls while the hype was still fresh. Jessica announced an estimated release date of Summer 2019, and princess committed to that. it was stressful. we worked too hard. deadlines are no longer allowed at Girl Software.

bomb dolls

these little animated scenes on the main menu are inspired by Sonic Mania

but in retrospect the timing was perfect, because we got to show Bomb Dolls at Bit Bash 2019 at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago! and then later at BITXBIT and some other cool events. a party in Australia or something. we didn't go to that one, but it looked fun.

bomb dolls bomb dolls
bomb dolls

anyway, Covid-19 lockdowns started 6 months after the release, which wouldn't have been a great time to promote a local 3-player game about sick girls dying in an apocalypse, so... yeah. it worked out.

bomb dolls

we were the sick girls all along! (we got Covid, it was bad)