I really like Shakespeare. I like Shakespeare so much that I write sonnets about chocobos and translate Game of Thrones into iambic pentameter. And obviously, I like video games, because I have this blog (which you may have noticed is about video games).
One thing that I have always felt that this world has really been lacking is the glorious amalgamation of the two: Shakespeare video games. The only one that I know of offhand is To Be or Not to Be, which has been on my Steam Wishlist since its release, but which I have never gotten around to buying because it hasn’t been on sale yet, but which I should probably get around to buying because the amazing Kate Beaton did the art (and also Shakespeare). I don’t know of any other Shakespeare games. (If anyone else knows of any other Shakespeare-based video games, please let me know in the comments, because I want to play all of them.)
So when indie games platform itch.io announced a TyranoBuilder Summer Game Jam, it seemed like the perfect excuse to get off my butt and make my own game, as I have been intending to do for quite some time. I had a half-assed three-minute demo of a Shakespeare visual novel idea that I had started coding in Ren’Py, but I had a lot of trouble figuring Ren’Py out. I purchased TyranoBuilder months ago, thinking I might port the game over from Ren’Py to this new, easier to use engine, but I never got around to it.
Well, this month, I finally did get around to it. I redesigned everything in TryanoBuilder, researched my story, wrote the scenario, photoshopped the images, sourced and edited the music, figured out how the hell if/else statements work, and made my very own video game about Shakespeare.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, this project left me exactly zero time to play games, so that’s why I haven’t posted in over a month. Here are some of the things I learned from making my own game.
1. Making a Game Takes Forever
Because Steam keeps records of these things, I know that I spent 121 hours working on this game, and that doesn’t count the time spent photoshopping, researching, and searching for assets.
Mind you, this game is like a half an hour long. This is not a long game. If you add all of that up, that’s like five hours of work for every minute of game. THAT IS RIDICULOUS.
It’s also impressive. Some of my favorite games take about as long to play as it took me to make this game. How many thousands of man hours go into a single game? It puts me a little in awe of professional developers.
2. Debugging Makes You Want to Hulk Smash Your Computer
When something goes wrong in your game, you have to go back and find the right place in the code and figure out what the hell is going on. This is tedious. This is boring. This is frustrating. This is an increasingly-irritating game of trial-and-error. Even when the code is as friendly-looking and excitingly-colored as it is in TyranoBuilder, it still sucks balls.
So again, how much worse must this be in a more complicated game, looking at actual lines of code and thousands of potential variables? Granted, this is why large games have whole teams of people dedicated to debugging, and damn am I glad I am not those people. Debuggers, I salute you. It is through the noble sacrifice of your sanity that the rest of us get to have fun playing games.
3. Thirty days is not a very long time in which to write and code a game.
I work a full time job, so finding time to work on this project was challenging. I stayed up very, very late on very many nights to finish this in time, and I just barely squeaked in an hour and twenty-eight minutes under the deadline. I wish I could have worked on it more, actually. I didn’t have time to proofread it as many times as I would have liked. I also didn’t have time to read all of the books I really wanted to read.
That’s not to say I didn’t do research.
It helped that I studied early modern theatre in graduate school, because it gives me a really firm foundation in the basic facts of the era, but I really wanted to get the details right. What play did the Lord Strange’s Men perform on February 19th, 1592? Well, I checked the diary. If you were at John Heminges’ house in St. Mary Aldermanbury, and you wanted to get to the Rose theatre, how would you get there? There’s a map for that.
I also spent a lot of time with the Oxford English Dictionary Online‘s entomology dictionary and historical thesaurus to verify that the words I used in the scenario of the game were actually in use around 1592. If they weren’t, I located a historically-appropriate synonym. It was great fun, actually. I learned a bunch of super-bizarre words. For instance, did you know that the word “inconstant” was not in use until part way through the 17th century? “Shittle-witted,” however, means almost the same thing and has been around at least since 1448. Also, it’s the best word that has ever existed. And now you also know it. You’re welcome.
Even with all of this research, I am certain that there are lots of things I didn’t get right. Mind you, the game is historical fiction, so there are a few things that I did not get right on purpose, but I wanted everything else to be as accurate as possible.
Doing all of this in thirty days was…stressful. I kind of feel like my brain is melting. On the other hand, I was never bored. Learning to code a bit and doing research and getting everything to work just right…it was very intellectually stimulating.
But now I think I’m just going to play video games for a little while. Video games that someone else debugged.
I’m happy to have finished it. I feel accomplished being able to say that I made my own video game. Will it with the contest? I don’t know.
There’s a lot of competition. I’m actually looking forward to playing all of the other entries quite a bit! I love visual novels, and now I have 44 more free ones to play!
To all the other entrants: break a leg! I’m glad itch.io decided to hold this contest, even if I don’t win anything at all. I get to say that I’ve made my own video game. That’s like winning at life.