ah i never saw that you posted this on tumblr!! i've been following your devlogs and this was a very cool read too, getting a peek behind the curtain about how game devs feel surrounding a game release is super cool :) very excited for isat!!
I. Realized. I never posted my postmortem here. I posted it last year on Tumblr but you get to see it here now.
This also doubles as a "did you wishlist SASASAP's sequel/followup/actual gamething, In Stars and Time, yet". Did you even know SASASAP will have a second game. You know now! Go wishlist it! It really helps the game out!!! THANKS AND NOW ON TO THE POSTMORTEM
I’ve heard real game devs do something called a POSTMORTEM. They allow themselves to talk about a game they released and stuff.
I’m a real game devs. My video game START AGAIN: a prologue has been released for a year on itch.io. Six months on Steam. As of yesterday [present me note: this postmortem was posted on Feb 27th 2022] it’s now available in Japanese. Wow. POSTMORTEM TIME
Gigantic pile of text below about what I think worked about the game and what I think didn’t, and other musings. You don’t need to read it. But you can. Spoilers for my game SASASAP which you can get here on itch.io and here on Steam!!! And the artbook for it is here, also, why not!!!
In case you’re new, START AGAIN START AGAIN START AGAIN: a prologue (or START AGAIN: a prologue) (or SASASAP) is a story-driven RPG I released back in February 2021. It’s been a year now, which is wild. I started making it back in July 2020, but it has a bit more history before that.
Back in 2017, I created this little comic just called "Yes >No”. Just a little RPG character, a little fella (now Siffrin, the main character), stuck in a new game+ forever. I ended up liking the concept of a character knowing they’re stuck in a video game time loop so much I made a few more small comics about it throughout the years. And then 2020 happened, and I was working from home, and I was bored, and I thought “well I could make a game.”
“Well no”, I thought, “I can’t make a whole RPG right away. That’d be stupid, that’s just asking for trouble, I don’t even know how to code. I’ll make a demo for that RPG first, to learn how RPGMaker MV, the software I’m using to make it, works, and then I can make the actual game. But demo first.” And that demo grew wings and is now SASASAP, which I released seven months later on itch.io, and on Steam 6 months later that (Steam’s hard to figure out okay!!!). I’m currently working very hard on the next game along with my publisher Armor Games Studios, so stay tuned for news sooner rather than later, tee hee.
Ok intro over POSTMORTEM TIME
-Great news! The game worked (more or less)
-Really glad i decided to use assets on this one. I used assets for many things in the game, like for icons, attack animations, many of the pixel environments, and more. I edited pretty much all of them if only to make them in black and white. Again: very glad i used assets, because making things from scratch is hard. USE ASSETS THEYRE GOOD.
-Working with no real release date in mind was nice. Didn’t have the stress of “I have to finish this before this date!!!” (not to say I didn’t have other stresses.) But that allowed me to just. Do whatever. Freedom!
-Overall I was worried about the story of the prologue not being enough, even though I forced myself to make something I might like playing, but apparently making something I’d like makes… a pretty darn good game? People really enjoyed the story and it made them feel things and many friends messaged me with a very upset “HOW COULD YOU DO THIS TO ME” once they finished playing so I’m very very very glad.
-Also surprisingly the True Ending (Note: SASASAP has 3.5 ways the loop can go, so 3.5 “endings”) didn’t seem hard to find for people??? I remember being very stressed out about whether people would find it, since i added the different endings in like. the last month of development probably. The way to get the True Ending is by getting enough “Weird Points” in a single loop, and there’s two different ways to do so: either go straight for the keys to open the dungeon without looking at anything beforehand (which prompts your allies to go “hey how come you knew where the key was………”), or keep interacting with the environment and make choices that are Weird (“haha Siffrin you usually love puns and you just picked the "Don’t go for the pun” choice, everything okay?“). Going for every single key right away gives you enough Weird Points to access the True Ending, and acting weird gives you a little at a time. I was worried about players seeing themselves as Siffrin and so they wouldn’t take certain actions, but nah they clearly saw themselves as players separate from Sif and it was easy for them to go "Alright let’s make Sif act a certain way so their friends notice.” From the few streams I’ve seen, people managed by going straight for the keys for half of the keys, and getting over the ending threshold by acting weird. Woohoo!
-Speaking of the True Ending path, I did love seeing a few streamers see the Researcher go “…” in suspicion when you talk to her at the end of the first loop, and streamers went “OH FUCK SHE CAN FIGURE OUT WE’RE LOOPING OR AT LEAST THAT SOMETHING’S PROBABLY- TIME TO ACT WEIRD” yesssss this was on purpose I did good game design I succeeded
-Related: people did find most little secrets except ONE (or at least I haven’t seen people mention it teehee (its not that big)) [present me note: i spelled it out in the isat discord so now people know about it]. Anyway, I was worried about the number of little details/interactions I added because oh god I’ve heard people don’t like to read! And maybe they won’t check things more than once!!! Maybe they won’t care?!?? But the game did end up getting praised a bunch for its attention to details because of how much personality it added. Which makes me very happy!!!! And even if people don’t find all the little things, someone else might and you get a cool “WOW I DIDN’T SEE THIS HOW DID YOU GET THIS?!??” moment. (This also meant some people’s expectations SKYROCKETED like “oh if I do this will the game notice???” no sorry. Players mostly weren’t mad about it though so WHATEVER)
-I made sure to leave a few hints of things to come, which means it has been very funny and interesting to hear people’s theories. Thank you for thinking about the game. Genuinely one of the big highlights of making a story in multiple installments, not gonna lie
-I’ve seen a few people say they replayed the game a bunch to see everything? And some people didn’t replay it a la Undertale because they were satisfied with the ending? WOW?!??!? The way people treat save files is so fascinating to me
-Also (I point at myself in the mirror) @ self I was right people liked the open ending. I think if the game is too long, an open/sad ending makes people mad. But if it’s a short game it’s like ah! Gotcha! Are you sad?!???! HA!!!!! SUCCESS and people aren’t mad about it. Thanks for coming to my sad endings ted talk
-People also really liked the gameplay!!!! Wow!!!! Unexpected!!! The battle system was the thing I was the shakiest about. The Rock Paper Scissors weaknesses is simple enough but you still have to think about strategy… The skill to give away your turn was pretty inspired too if I do say so myself. (I’M GLAD THE BATTLES WEREN’T TOO BORING)
-The characters are all queer it’s not important to the story you just need to know BUT TURNS OUT! I’ve gotten a few messages from people saying they were so glad one character was aroace, or that Siffrin using he/they pronouns made them realize they were nonbinary. IT IS: IMPORTANT, REPRESENTATION: MATTERS
WHAT DIDN’T WORK:
-GOD, THE STRESS AT RELEASE. GENUINELY ONE OF THE MOST STRESSFUL DAYS OF MY VERY YOUNG LIFE. I released the game on a weekend, and had to take a day off from work to rest from the stress, and I didn’t even rest, and it DEFINITELY wasn’t enough time off. Self, remember two days off is NOT enough to release a game. I would’ve said 4 at the very least, to do some marketing, answer ppl, fix bugs, etc. I did order a lot of takeout and was very gentle with myself. Thank you splatoon 2 for helping me take my mind off things
-God I should’ve made way more people beta test it. Some pretty big and pretty easy to find bugs weren’t caught. I know it’s scary to show the game to people but you gotta do it for the beta test, for the QA, self!!! Be strong!!! (Well this doesn’t apply for the next game since I have a publisher now teehee. But remember for later.)
-The different endings and how to get them/what even constitutes as an ending was confusing. People got to the True Ending and wondered if they was more to it. I thought adding credits to it would make people understand it was the end, but nope! Not the case. People saw the other endings (aka: how a loop ends) less as actual endings and more as, uh, the way it’s supposed to go I guess? Anyway I did end up adding items that you unlock after each ending that tell you which ending you got, but it was still confusing. That’s my bad! Oops!
-I need to add more comments to my coding. Sometimes I look at old scenes and I’m like how did I even do this.
-Also, self, remember bug reports are NOT a reflection of how the poster hated the game, but more often actually a reflection of how they loved the game and want it to be even better. It’s a sign of people loving the game. So dont stress out about it
-Hey self some bugs can’t be fixed and you need to let it go. Reader, sorry if you fell on a bug I didn’t manage to fix. At this point I don’t know how to fix it and I’m sorry!!!
-Not that it “didn’t work”, but maybe I should’ve talked about the game more often to build hype. I managed to get a reasonable amount of hype by talking and showing screenshots a month before release, but talking about it for the whole 7 months could’ve been good, instead of being a hermit game dev. Yeah. (Is still a hermit game dev)
-I didn’t add many tutorials because I’m a hashtag Gamer, but tbh more tutorials/reminders are better than none. I noticed a few streamers didn’t remember SHIFT is to run, or how to open the menu. REMIND PLAYERS HOW TO PLAY EVERY SO OFTEN!!!! THEY HAVE TINY BRAINS!!!! ITS NOT THEIR FAULT!!!!!!
-Some people said “weh weh game price too high!!!” but consider this: it’s not. 12$CAD for a 3-4h game seems good for me, because I always compare it to movie tickets… A movie is like 10$, for 2 hours, so that’s 5$ per hour. Bang for your buck if you ask me!!! And also people in the video game industry told me they were happy I put it at that price bc it might make other indies price their own games higher, so. (I wink at the camera)
-This is very small but seeing people play has taught me to plan for every eventuality because some players like to do things just because they can. I know one player switched every weapon around, giving the housemaiden the researcher’s weapon for example, to see what would happen (so you cant do that anymore now!!! locked!!!) and someone else grinded levels until level goddamn 99 (you start at lvl 45), just to see if they’d be able to beat the King on the first loop by being strong enough (you can’t!), so like. Some gamers are unhinged (affectionate). I’m definitely keeping that in mind for the next game, so hopefully if you go unhinged the game either won’t let you do it or will go “what the FUCK dude”. Unhinged players: I love you thank you for playing
Postmortem done. Thank you for reading! Thank you for playing! Thank you for being here! The response to the game has been absolutely wild to me and I’m so thankful to anyone who played the game, drew fanart about the game, wrote theories about the game!!! Thank you so much!!!!!!!!! BYE
(AND WISHLIST IN STARS AND TIME COMING TO PC AND SWITCH THIS YEAR)
Get START AGAIN: a prologue
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Thank you so much for releasing the Postmortem, it's really fascinating reading about the game from your perspective! When I played this demo I fell instantly in love, so I want to thank you for taking the leap into making games! I've been really excited for In Stars and Time as well!