de-stressing with Jessica
previously we talked about Butt Quest, a game that's been in development since 2014. we mentioned that in 2016 it became unhealthy for us to work on Butt Quest (hereafter referred to as "Cursed Game"), so instead we started working on something easier: Celestial Hacker Girl Jessica.
Jessica is one of the best games we've ever made, and we had fun making it, which goes to show that you should probably work on things that make you happy. but why was Jessica so much easier to make than Cursed Game?
1. recycled code
the secret is that Jessica and Cursed Game are not separate games.
at its heart, Cursed Game is a basic marble platformer with a twist that the player consists of two spheres instead of one; to make Jessica, all we had to do was change it back to a single sphere. the code for Jessica's control scheme, collision, camera movement, water, slime, and even the laser-wielding enemies are all directly copied from Cursed Game.
2. free assets
3d modeling is harder than it looks, even with geometric primitives, and especially when you only have a vague understanding of Blender. it took a lot of time and effort to design the world of Cursed Game.
Jessica, on the other hand, was mostly designed in a single night. we just went to the Unity Asset Store and downloaded anything that looked cute. this makes dudes mad >:( and we love that.
honestly, we were able to express ourselves more freely with Jessica than with Cursed Game, because we had 100+ collaborators and there wasn't so much pressure on us to do everything ourselves. auteurism is overrated! true "creative freedom" is being free from the limits of your own mind!
3. playing to our strengths
we were 9 years old when we started building custom levels in Marble Blast and sharing them on the GarageGames forums. we kept modding the game until we were 13. playing with digital marbles is what we did for fun.
when we needed a relaxing side project, we did what came naturally to us: we made a marble platformer. for princess, it was literally child's play, but for everyone else it was an amazing new game.
just because something is easy for you doesn't mean it's not cool and interesting for other people! what matters is that you're having fun.
4. making a mess
isolation and OCD probably contributed to the stress of Cursed Game. we were working alone, making every decision, and it was easy to get stuck on the details. (does this character look okay? what if the eyes were a little bigger? what if they were smaller? which is better? how can we make an arbitrary choice like that? okay, we'll design 10 versions, each with a different pair of eyes scaled to a multiple of 0.125, and then... etc.)
but there's a way to fight OCD! we didn't know it at the time, but it's called Exposure and Response Prevention. basically, when your OCD is telling you to do something, you acknowledge it, and then you do the opposite. (slowly, carefully, without hurting your brain.)
a friend recently taught us an ERP exercise where we put cute stickers on our computers, making a beautiful mess that's impossible to clean up.
Jessica works on a similar principle. the things we downloaded from the asset store were too many, too big, and too complicated to organize, optimize, or polish, so we didn't. we made a beautiful mess that was impossible to clean up, and our OCD just had to deal with it.
(coincidentally, as i was writing this, Marina wrote a blog post about "Collage and the Arbitrary Threshold", which includes a link to Jessica and maybe explains more clearly what i'm talking about here. thanks Marina!)
and the result was Jessica! so yeah in conclusion everyone should try making things that are easy and messy and collaborative and fun.