My First Video Game Release

Last week, I released my first ever (free!) in-browser videogame on titled Grave Escape to the public (patrons got a sneak-peak.) I then was immediately laid up with a migraine all weekend, so I haven’t gotten a chance to talk about it until now.

In this game, which was originally created as a birthday present for my ex-fiancé, you play as Luci, a demonically engineered cult-boy who wants revenge on the theocratic Catholic Church which has taken over the government and made its second seat of power, Vatican II, in the Florida swamps. But to start your killing spree, you’ll need to find a way in… (and maybe see a number of familiar faces on the way!)

If you haven’t played it yet, you can do so here! If you want to hear a bit about how I made it, read on!

The game was built in an engine called GB Studio, which is a retro-style game engine that emulates Gameboy and Gameboy color style games. It’s really simple and straightforward: everything you deal with is at its core a PNG image that you’re just keying events to and holding onto variables. No true coding, which is a relief (I’d rather not learn C# in my down time, Unity.) Assets and images made from scratch were made in GIMP or, in the case of maps, made in a combination of GIMP and Tiled. This was all done on a Linux machine with an old Intuos tablet from over a decade ago so no Photoshop or Clip Studio — but given the simplicity of the art, it wasn’t even needed.

Really the biggest hurdle was getting used to the workflow: make tiles for maps (and understanding tilesets) in GIMP, export to PNG, pull that PNG into Tiled, make a map, export THAT to a PNG, save it where GBStudio can understand it, now open up GBStudio and start using the map. Need a sprite? OK go back to GIMP… I’m so used to either one program fits all or “do most of this in X program and then once its ready for press, export and pull it into Y program to finish up” rather than this very “tab back and forth between 3 programs for hours” flow. That said, once I got into it and wrapped my mind around tilesets, it clicked and became second nature. As for the game engine itself, it’s fairly simple. In terms of ~coding~ knowledge, as long as you know the concept that variables store numbers or true/false values and the concept of “if some statement is true then do this otherwise do that” you’re golden (therefore, everyone should join me in making fun retro style browser-based games in GB Studio!) In that sense it is very user friendly, though the limitations can be a little frustrating.

The first version of the game was done in 1 week: the only route was through Tiefer, the maze did not exist, Annemarie wasn’t there at all. I knew I wanted all that extra — I even had the HasShotgun variable available and tested against the gators — but given it was a birthday present I had a deadline. Once that date passed, I was able to work on the first version, adding the plotlines and scenes I’d wanted to originally and had been writing down to myself all along. In total, the full game probably took about a month in all (I dragged my feet on the ‘box art’…)

This was definitely a fun experience, and I’m hoping to make more dirty little games. I’ve also got some hopes and dreams I might hang on to the copy of VN Maker (or renpy) that I have…but there’s just something fun about the pervy pixel art.

If you check out this little game, I hope you enjoy it!