Retrospective, Thoughts & AN EXTENDED GAME!
So I made a video saying all this, but a TL;DR and text will follow.
TL;DW: RR was helped a lot by community, I learned a lot about myself and games. There's a spiritual successor coming up, teaser for that follows:
The script for the video follows:
So, this video is long overdue, but I made a game for a jam.
That game was Rustbucket Revenge and it got to the top of itch’s home page, only behind Modus Interactive’s stellar Siren Head which was doing the rounds again because of renewed interest. I later regretted it somewhat, and the game’s got some future to it. Watch this video to find out all about it.
In this video I’ll be going over how I made the game and my thoughts on it now, two months later.
First and foremost, spark.
The reason this game was made was because the Haunted PS1, a community for retro horror devs, was hosting a weekend jam with a walking sim theme. I got a unique opportunity to realize a game concept I wanted to do that would be too small for a non-jam game.
This was a very friendly, anti-crunch jam where we were given 4 days to work 48 hours in and the theme was announced in advance so we could prepare.
So, what was the inspiration for Rustbucket Revenge?
I’m a car guy, I love cars and hence I occasionally watch car-centric movies. One of these is Christine. A Stephen King novel turned into a John Carpenter movie. Long story short: haunted car chases people who wrong it’s owner to the tune of some great 80’s synths.
I’m also Turkish, and around our area of the world, a few cars were recognized as kidnapping dissenters and minorities. We had the White Toros, an unassuming cheap farmer’s car that was used by nationalistic paramilitaries for dirty deeds that were largely ignored by the government. Similarly, eastern Europe had the black volga’s, thought to be kgb cars.
These are chilling tales that have a decent amount of truth and for Turkey, took place in the 90’s. So I’d take the drama and action of Christine but update it with a grungy, harshly real 90’s aesthetic. The only in-game tie to the real life events is that the car’s old and cream colored, not even white. I’m not about to gamify unjust suffering but still wanted to make a point to those who’d get the obscure reference.
Before official work started, I decided that I wanted the gameplay to feel frantic and derive the horror not from dread but straight up terror. You need good, aggressive music for that.
So I shopped around for royalty free, grungy 90’s synth music, the type you’d find in the matrix movies and stumbled upon Karl Casey’s tracks under White Bat Audio. I picked out two amazing tracks that also fit my vision perfectly.
(I feel guilty for using such good music without compensating him monetarily. I’ve been trying to credit him as much as possible and send people to him. He’s aware of the game and likes it even. Seriously, guy’s amazing. Give him work. I certainly will whenever I have the financial means.)
With the music decided, I went over to the tech side. Every game we make at OKSoft is a testbed for new tech and this was a short, solo project meaning less overhead and risk. Furthermore, the most daunting bit, car AI was something I had already figured out in our last game, Night Witch: 588. I further made it easy for myself by deciding to use exclusively the asset store for models.
Basically, when the jam started, I had pre-emptively minimized my workload, ready to focus on developing and integrating new tech and making a fun game for the whole dev cycle.
I figured out and somewhat customized LEAKYFINGERS’ PS1 Shaders and Breogan Hackett’s FPS Controller. I had alternatives that I was familiar with, but these were certainly upgrades over what I normally used.
Along with Hotline Miami, I was inspired by the magnificent DUSK in how it throws you right into the action on the first level, no lube, no foreplay, RUN. So I replicated that very starting scene with RR
I geared the rest of the mechanics similarly. The FPS controller was modified specifically with sprint stamina and the jump was made into a low dodge hop.
Fun fact, I could not get the car to chase anything but other cars, so there’s a small, invisible bmw inside the player.
There was also the question of what to name the game. Terrifying Toyota, Horrible Honda and many more alliterations in that format were made, the car’s actually internally called the Terror Toyota. Obviously I wasn’t about to get myself sued by a million dollar company, so I ended between Shitbox Slaughter and Rustbucket Revenge, and decided to not have the YouTubers demonetized.
The game was completed super fast, in 19 hours and was more of a community effort than most of my games despite being a “solo project”. The two systems I integrated were made by HPS1 members and they helped me with using them. Jam helped me with the aestethic and graphics. Minnie helped me by playtesting. It’s because of these people that the game was made at all and certainly because of them that it came out looking, sounding and playing as good as it did.
So I submitted the game roughly 10 minutes after the first submission to the jam. I had been told before I launched by Breogan, who made the FPS controller and runs the community, that this’d be popular with the youtubers. I still was not ready.
Being an early entry, there was little competition. Furthermore, HPS1 had gotten kinda big after the demo disc of early 2020, so the jam had a lot of eyes on it.
RR was rapidly covered by Alpha Beta Gamer which was a milestone I thought I’d never hit. This got the indie horror lets play ball rolling and the game exploded in popularity and shot up the charts. I entertained over three thousand players across the globe and couldn’t have been more proud. I later threw in two extra endings by popular request, and added a few small things such as a link to our discord which you should totally join.
I have to say this: I did the racing team thing. I obeyed the rules on paper but not in spirit. This was a walking sim jam. Walking sims are somewhat story based, introspective etc. you’d expect a horror walking sim to be dread filled.
When RR got popular I felt like I had stolen the spotlight from my own community. I had accidentally made perfect let’s play bait. Easy to understand, elicits strong reactions fast. To add insult to injury, I had basically beaten everyone to the punch in terms of release timing thanks to all the help I had from them.
It took attention away from more intellectual games with more to say and think about. Games I thought were more valuable. A week after the jam ended, I was still at the top of the pile with my smoothbrain game.
Though I now realize: My intent was not malicious, I probably helped the jam get more popular and only I was mad at myself. I had still made a technically impressive and well polished game and contributed to my community before, during and since its making.
The jam was collaborative and not competitive. I knew this and had acted accordingly, I had just made a fun game because I wanted to. Yet when I got good results, my impostor syndrome mixed in with my background where much of my life was sadly a zero sum game. I had gotten to a place where I was able to shed that mentality and uplift those around me, but when I was uplifted I felt like an abuser.
So you could say that my smoothbrain game ironically taught me a lot about myself and helped me be a better person.
I always thought this idea was too small for a full size game. I have to say that while I love games as an artform I'm iffy on free indie games as they devalue our fellow indie creators’ work further. We deserve to be compensated for our work, but I also have an artificial bar for my own games that must be surpassed before I feel like a scam artist for asking money for my efforts.
Finally, I feel bad when I’m working on a game I know will earn me nothing. It’s a hobby for me yes, but I’m being sent to college in canada this fall, and that’s going to be hard on family finances. I am so privileged to be able to focus on my art and earn some money out of it and still be financially supported. So it feels terrible when I double down and focus on unprofitable art.
So these two combine to basically be “this game’s too small and basic to charge for and I should work on more profitable games”. I won’t delve into morality or deconstruct my look into art, in fact fellow HPS1 member rubeki wrote a pretty good post about this whole topic, it’ll be in the description.
With all this being said, the attention on RR has made me realize there’s demand if I can extend its gameplay without diluting it to become boring. I can’t say much right now, but all I can say is that the door has been opened for an extended spiritual successor and it’s all because of people like you. Those who played the game and liked it enough to make videos, talk about it, subscribe to this channel and learn about it’s background.
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