I’m going to start writing out my thoughts about the creative process, and/or that lack thereof, in the game I’m working on. I’m calling this a “thing” for the time being because I don’t really like calling it a “Designer’s Journal” or something similar.
When I first joined this project, I’m not gonna lie: I was a little nervous. Everyone else (I think) involved has some sort of experience in making games, whereas I’m just some untested rookie. My only real design experience is getting meaningless “Stage of the Day” awards from IGN for some single-screen Smash Brothers levels I made back in 2008. “Not being completely Godawful” was my level of quality. Whenever I’m in a group project, I never want to be that guy, the one who lets everyone down. After all this time and work I’ve put in, I don’t think I’ll have to worry about my actual level design; if nothing else, it will be completely inoffensive. My current problem is something else.
I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned it somewhere on here, but my biggest creative inspiration is Shigesato Itoi. Not just because he’s the guy that made Earthbound, but for the rest of his work. His quick wit and ability to take something as cynical and soulless as marketing, and make department store ads seem almost artistic I’ve always found really cool. The ability to turn nothing into something. Anyways, he said something about Earthbound that’s really been sticking with me: “For every person that played, there are that many iterations of Earthbound.”
That’s what’s been killing me, lately. Trying to not just make a dungeon crawling RPG with creepy looking monsters and even creepier looking humans, but to try and make it mean something. Leave some kind of an impression. When Moonlit Corpse is eventually released, and people on blogs and message boards are talking about it (fingers crossed), will they just pass it off as a fun diversion? Or, will there be long articles and essays about the worlds we’ve created (yes, “We.” I’m only working on a portion of this game, I don’t have a big enough ego to think folks will only be talking about me) and the cool, creative things we’ve managed to do within the (surprisingly rigid) confines of the King’s Field engine? I’m aiming for the latter.
Whenever I write a short story or something, I’m always told that it’s great. From dudes on the internet, to depressed housewives, to college professors, I get paid loving compliments from just about everyone. Yes, I seriously had an actual literary professor tell me that she was absolutely in love with the work I’ve created over the years. I never bring things like this up for a few reasons. One, because I don’t want to sound like I’m bragging; like, yeah, I’m so fucking great and stuff. Two, because it’s hard for me to take them seriously. It used to be because I’m a depressed piece of shit who grew up in an abusive environment where nothing I did was good enough. In some ways, it still is, but it’s mostly because writing stories and show reviews and things like that are fucking hard. I always feel like shit after I hit the “publish” button on them because, ah shit, I should have said this, or changed that, or added this line in. I follow the works and lives of people where things like this come across so easily to them. I mean, I know that that isn’t true, but when it’s almost two in the morning and I feel like scrapping yet enough draft, it certainly feels true. When it takes that much effort to express myself, I feel frustrated, which makes it so easy for me to just brush off praise like that. It doesn’t feel like I really earned it. I think you can see why I’m having such difficulty on a project where it’s not just my work, but the work of others up on display.
Not to say that I’m not having a good time working on this game, or that isn’t fun to do. Far from it. I’m sure once the project is out, I’ll get a message telling me that it was really cool. It’s just that little voice; my inner critic, telling me that I can do better.