Developers' Diary

Paraplu

Soft Landing is an enormous game. When I imagine it in its finished state, it’s like Xenogears, Ar tonelico, Sakura Taisen, and other pinnacles of achievement in gaming, crafted by large teams of professionals working full time. I believe we will finish it, and I believe it will be everything we are wishing for. So far it’s taken four years, and we haven’t got anything to download yet.

Nobody starts out writing by creating an epic fantasy novel. Nobody’s first film project is a feature-length special effects masterpiece. No musician would start out with a symphony. Of course, the reason is because the first stuff you make is going to serve as practice for the creator more than it serves as reward for the audience. Once you’ve got your rudimentary learning out of the way, then you can start impressing people.

But for some reason we thought it was a good idea to start out game creation with our magnum opus, Soft Landing. So we’ve spent four years trying, learning, and starting over. We have a whole lot of rererewritten code and rereredrawn art, but nearly no final in-game content. Perhaps if we were to continue on in earnest from here, we would be done in another two years or so.

But we are in serious need of something we can show. Something we can hold up as a finished product and be proud of. Jules has occasionally mentioned wanting to make some much smaller project, something finishable, something self-contained, and above all, something absurdly cute. I was resistant at first, as I am pretty married to epicness and sentimentality. But for some reason the last time he proposed it, it seemed to be the best thing we could do. Maybe the thought of MOMO PAX finally having a playable product in 2008 won me over.

Nearly all of the code for Paraplu comes straight from Soft Landing, so we’ve got a huge amount of work done after just a few hours. It’s still about moving around the screen shooting bad guys, but at a much smaller scale. For example: the Soft Landing level editor is an enormously complex script that operates on multi-layer OmniGraffle files and has taken as much time and effort as pretty much any other component of the game; meanwhile, the Paraplu level editor runs inside the game and was written from scratch in two short coding sessions.

Hopefully we’ll have something to show you soon. If you’re impatient for Soft Landing, know that this project will give us the same education we’d have gotten by going down blind alleys and grinding away time on SL, but we’ll actually have something to show for it in the meantime. And I’m still concocting the SL story bit by bit as we work on Paraplu.

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