My elementary school became the inspiration for the insane asylum. Before we could really begin designing the specifics of the game, we needed a basic layout, a blueprint to work off of and I decided that the simple yet expansive hallway systems of the building in which I attended grades kindergarten through 5th, would be a good place to start.
The asylum, as it is in the game consists of the basic layout of my elementary school; multiplied by 6. The fictional building has three stories, each one made up of two mirrored, but slightly altered versions of the school's hallway system as I remember it.
Early layout design of the 1st floor
Aesthetically, it seemed appropriate to make the game feel more "institutional". From a practical game play standpoint, one of the reasons why we chose to have these long and mazelike hallway systems is because that allowed us to have a limited space which we would have to fill with content, props, textures, etc. while still creating plenty of area for the player to cover. Of course this also made it creepier and more confusing which adds to the atmosphere and exploration element of the game.
When designing the hallway systems we came up with a 2D blueprint of the building, and based on some of our stand-in characters that we were using, created a system of virtual "feet", which we used to create measurements and determine the size of various sections of the hallway. We then altered the height and width of the different hallway spaces according to the type of aesthetic feel and gameplay that we wanted for them. Some of the hallway sections have lower ceilings or are narrower than others depending on what part of the building you are in.
Grid system indicating units of distance and time traveled
Because we were creating 3D hallways in what was a virtual, abstract space, we relied on temporary character mockup models to determine the relative sizes of what everything should be and used them as the scale for everything else in the game.
In some ways I would argue that the asylum itself is a character in the game and this is why we took such care with its design. The environment in which the player will be immersing themselves is a very important element to any game and this should not be underestimated by the developer.
We decided that a brain in a straitjacket should be the subject of our game. This decision was pretty simple because that character was already the mascot of our website. Twisted Jenius was the name that we had originally decided on for our game development studio, but before we were ready to create our first game, we had expanded that idea to include other types of entertainment, under the Twisted Jenius name.
One of our early pics of a 3D model of Twisty in his cell
The idea for the brain in the straitjacket came as a result of the name (Twisted Jenius), and the character would be called, appropriately enough, Twisty. He would be our entertainment studio's mascot; our sinister Mickey Mouse. So he was the natural choice to be featured in our first game. But Twisty's Asylum Escapades was not the first game that we had in mind. We were forced to shelf our original game idea because it was too ambitious for a first time project with only two people and a limited budget. We needed something else for a first game and that's when we decided on Twisty.
However, even after we decided on a main character for the game, we still had to figure out what the premise of the game would be; basically what the game would be about. Part of the TwistedJenius.com 2D animated intro involved Twisty escaping from his straitjacket and getting out of a padded cell. We eventually decided that the game should be an extension of this, and should involve Twisty's escape from the larger asylum.
Original 2D Twisty art from the site intro
This was the creative process that led us to begin the development of a game about the adventure of a crazy brain in an even crazier place. From here, this blog will begin to delve into the details of the creation of this game. I hope you will continue to follow along as we journey into the madness that is indie development.
I'm an indie game developer. I can say that because I helped to develop a video game. It's publicly available now and you can download it for free. I was one of two people who worked on the project. Although I had to wear multiple hats, and had a bit of a hand in many aspects of the game's design, my primary job was to create the art for the game. Everything from character concepts, to animation, to lighting, to creating the textures for all of the 3D objects; was all my responsibility.
I can't say that I ever really set out to be a game developer. Many developers will tell you how they've been completely in love with games since before they can remember and were messing around and trying to make their own since they were in grade school or something like that. They will also say that they love playing games and may consider themselves avid gamers. That's not quite the case with me.
I love entertainment and somehow developing games seemed to be a good way of expressing that. The first time that it ever occurred to me to make a video game, I must have been about twelve years old. I had absolutely no idea of how to do it, and I admit that I didn't try very hard. I knew nothing of game engines, programming, etc. and basically just messed around with 2D art concepts until I gave up and moved on to something else. It was the idea of the game that I found appealing, and it's that same idea that came up in my mind again years later, after I realized that games had now become 3D and much cooler looking. I wanted to make one of those.
Despite the fact that I'm a game developer, I don't normally think of myself in those terms. I can't wake up in the morning and tell myself "I'm going to be working on a video game today" and feel inspired by that. The truth is that I am not interested in making games; I'm only interested in making my games.
In order to create a game (or at least a good one), you have to be willing to immerse yourself in it. I could only put that kind of effort into something that I genuinely like and feel passionate about and that certainly doesn't apply to all games. In fact, it only seems to apply to ones that I helped to come up with myself. But then again, that's why I'm an indie developer.
"To create a 3D action game, fully featured with combat, puzzle elements and progression." This was the goal that we began with when we decided to make our first video game. We wanted to use this as a learning experience, to learn how to make a game from start to finish and to see if we were able to do it at all.
My associate and I knew that it would be unrealistic to create a full, 10+ hour game like this with a team of only two people, so we decided to do everything as thoroughly and with as much quality as we could, but make the game significantly shorter. Basically we set out to create something as close to a 3D professional studio game as we could, but just on a smaller scale.
Neither one of us had any previous experience in game development and we had no idea what we were doing or how we were going to do it. We basically just jumped right in and tried to learn as we went. In many ways that was the initial point of the project, to gain experience that we could put towards even more ambitious things.
But this project turned out to be quite ambitious itself. It took over four years of development for us to create the game. During that development I never bothered to write a development blog. Part of this is because I didn't know what I was doing and wasn't confident enough to discuss it or even to know whether the game would actually come out or not. Now I'm making up for lost time.
The game has been released to the public and is available for free download. It's called Twisty's Asylum Escapades and this is its developer blog. It may be a bit late but it should be just as interesting and perhaps even educational for any other indie developers out there. After all, hindsight is always 20/20.