Songwriting and Seraphim Notes

Inspirations

I decided to write a short biography about my life, titled “Inspirations”, mainly focused on the different kinds of art that influenced me growing up. You can find it under “About Me” on the menu at the top. I often find it difficult to talk about my personal life, so I’m happy with the way it turned out. It has some nice family pictures too. 🙂

I’ve also decided to share my poetry by posting it here, currently under my “Writing” section. I’ve split them into three collections – my early writings evolved from poems into songs between 2007 and 2011. By late 2011, most of my writing came in the form of verse-chorus songs. My life got a bit off track when I lost my home in March 2012, which is why I refer to pieces from this time as Lamentations. I still intend to record most of these, but I’m not sure what form or genre they will take.

Finally, there are the new songs. My spark didn’t really reignite until I wrote “The Fruit of Human Heads” in early 2015, and especially after I won the songwriting contest with “Angels Have Further to Fall” later that October. Adam Schweitzer’s version of the song is very good, especially given he’s only using one guitar and his voice. I fear any version I record may sound inferior. Which is an odd position to be put in.

 

Seraphim Automata (Dev Blog)

I spent about 5 weeks making Seraphim Automata, which is the shortest development time of any game I’ve made so far. I was able to speed up the process by recycling code for certain features from previous games. I began working on the game on May 16th, and posted the first screenshot on May 23rd after adding color.

seraphim1I still plan to use that fretboard for something…

The biggest challenge at this time was getting the cells to play the corresponding notes on the keyboard. Then I added a player object with health, attacks and death. I added a pause menu, an intro screen and the retry message. Now it played more like a game than a music program.

I took a break before picking it back up on June 2nd, adding power-ups and the rhythm generator. I polished the graphics up and added more samples the next day, then took another break.

On June 10th I added different time signatures. On June 14th I added level progression, a proper menu and options screen. On June 17th I began adding music genres. The next day I added the start menu, where you can select key, scale, music genre, and difficulty.

At this point the game was playable, and just needed a bit more polish. On June 21st I borrowed the timer, brightness and resolution code from Cosmic Zephyr, as well as the save/load system. These weren’t particularly large chunks of code, but they saved me a tremendous amount of time nonetheless. I added an ending message for winning the final level, and fixed any bugs I could find.

The game had 60 levels, ending on a 6/4 beat. The next day I decided to add more 20 levels to raise the difficulty and variety. That was the final change I made before releasing version 1.0 on June 22nd.

seraphim_7-16-16

I was originally thinking of selling the game for a few dollars, but the closer I got to the finished product (and the highly-anticipated Steam summer sale) the less feasible it seemed. It’s hard to know when your game has enough polish and content for others to consider it worth buying.

I can definitely see adding more music genres and more rhythms for variety. Maybe if I also added better graphics, more fluid gameplay, and maybe a story, I could justify selling a sequel to this game.

 

Marketing Indie Games

This could easily become a tangent on how rare people pay for video games outside of sales. If you manage to get a game through Steam Greenlight, it can end up on over a thousand wishlists while only getting a few purchases. That’s undeniably discouraging. But on the other hand, this year’s Steam summer sale went a lot better than the last one, with no daily deals and a discount average of 50% rather than 66.67%.

A lot of games these days are trying to build their communities as the games are being finished, which makes sense but also can set you up for a lot of backlash. Especially if your game gets money from Kickstarter but fails to deliver on its promises, like Mighty No 9. I get annoyed when game companies leave out features after they’ve become hyped. No female Link in the next Legend of Zelda is a timely example.

link2
I do like what they’ve done with Link’s hair though.

Speaking of which, the Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild does look great. Do I want to buy a Wii U or an NX in order to play it though? Not really. I’m still having fun with Wind Waker on the GameCube.

This is a great article I read recently. The author list eight bottlenecks that limit the amount of people your game can ultimately reach.

I think the main takeaways are:

  • Know your game’s genre(s), your audience and how to appeal to them.
  • Know which platforms it runs on best and take advantage of it.
  • If you’re selling your game, decide early which market to target and how you’ll advertise.

I was going to post some more Steam reviews, but since they’re not ready I guess they can wait for the next blog.

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About Dylan Franks

My name is Dylan Franks, and I'm a game designer and musician. I grew up in Birmingham, Alabama. View all posts by Dylan Franks

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