Trevor the protagonist.
We're going to the UK for today's developer interview! Jason is developing a narrative-driven game with a unique art style and a distinctive protagonist called Trevor (a sheep!). Today we speak to Jason about making his game, Trevor as a protagonist, GDevelop as a tool, and more.
I work as a graphic designer. I spend a lot of time doing simple illustrations and animations for an e-learning company. When I was in my twenties I taught myself how to use Photoshop and Illustrator and learned how to build websites. I had a lot of fun with my own creative projects, but my day job was working as a chef in a local pub. It was a dream of mine to be a graphic designer and so I went to university at twenty-seven years old to retrain. I've been a graphic designer for about sixteen years now.
Jason from worriedpixels.
I have been interested in how games work for many years. The first game I ever played was Space Invaders on an old Atari 2600. I fell in love with videogames and have been playing ever since. Growing up in the 80s and 90s I have seen the medium evolve from simple games like Space Invaders to the vast and complex worlds of games today. I'm playing Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom at the moment and it blows my mind how far things have come.
I was afraid game development would be too difficult for me and I spent a few years not really getting very far. I would install a game engine but be too nervous to use it! And when I did try, I found conventional programming very difficult. I thought that maybe game development was something I wouldn't be able to do, that I didn't have the right sort of brain for programming. I felt defeated for a while. Then I discovered GDevelop.
I tried Godot to begin with. I did a beginner's Python programming course around the same time, so that I could get a head start with Godot's Python-like language. I enjoyed the course and could write simple programs by the of it, but I soon found real-world programming in Godot to be overwhelming. I struggle with numbers and maths and can't retain numbers in my memory. That makes any kind of programming challenging.
Jason's working environment.
In Godot, I got confused when scripts became longer and when there were multiple scripts talking to each other. I would follow tutorials but get lost halfway. I was following along, but didn't understanding what I was doing or how things worked. I felt quite down about it because I really wanted to make games and it seemed that Godot was the easiest engine to use. I thought that if I couldn't figure out Godot then I wouldn't be able to make a game at all. I gave up on the idea of game development for a while. Again, I thought I just didn't have the right kind of brain for it.
I hadn't heard of GDevelop when I started trying to make games and it came into my life just as I had given up on the whole idea. I soon realised that GDevelop worked very differently. It just clicked with me. I followed some tutorials ( Victris Games) and understood how things worked. It was a big breakthrough for me. I felt excited about game development again.
Next, I thought that if I could make a dialogue system and inventory then perhaps I was capable of making my own little game. Those prototypes were like tests I had given myself. I figured out both things quite quickly, though the dialogue stuff was a little tricky. I ended up making a YouTube tutorial about the dialogue system, the first YouTube video I'd ever made. Before that I wasn't planning on having a YouTube channel, but I wanted to make the dialogue system (Yarn) less tricky for other people. It's been great fun.
I have enjoyed the emergence of gentler and more narrative-focussed games in recent years and I've always enjoyed point-and-click adventure games and puzzle-platformers. I wanted to make something that draws from those genres. I also wanted to set it in the nineties, when I was in school, and have it take place in England, where I live.
The protagonist of the game has to collect ingredients for a cake, but he is soon going to discover that getting the ingredients is not a simple case of going to the supermarket. I enjoy writing and I can't wait to inject lots of humour and British daftness into the game.
I have been busy for a while on the core systems: dialogue, inventory, interactions, and I am currently working on a quest log that can flick between in-progress and completed quests. Once I have that finished I want to work on more scenes. The next one is going to be a large supermarket.
Trevor in the kitchen.
The graphic style is just how I draw things: chunky, colourful and simple. I don't get to do stuff as creative as this in my day job and I don't have a lot of experience in larger illustration projects like this one has become, so I am working it out as I go. I keep asking myself things like, "How do trees look in this world?" and "Is that object too detailed or not detailed enough?". I use real-world photos for reference. Most of the colours I use are sampled from photos, before I tweak and brighten them. I want the game to be colourful but still have a realistic palette.
I draw most of the artwork in Adobe Illustrator and I export animation frames from After Effects. I have never done character animation before so there is a lot to learn. I've always enjoyed illustration and began back on the Amiga with Deluxe Paint in the nineties. I had an illustration published in a magazines back then. Teenage Jason was very happy about that!
Trevor is a fifteen year old boy living in a single-parent household with an unemployed Dad. I'm not making a sad game or going with any specific theme, metaphor or hidden meaning, but I do want the characters to feel grounded and authentic, whilst also being irreverent and daft. Trevor has a good heart and helping people is his main goal in the game.
I wanted to use animal characters, but not necessarily the most obvious ones. I grew up around farms and wanted to bring farmyard animals into the game. Trevor is a sheep, for example, but that doesn't mean he follows the crowd. I have some ideas about some unusual NPCs that may be based on animals that aren't around anymore...
WIP of the outside of Trevor's house.
I have been using GDevelop for over a year now, and working on the game for about eleven months, with one extended break in the middle. The illustration takes a long time, even when it's a simple art-style like mine. I am reaching the point where the core systems are done and I can focus on creating more locations and characters and writing dialogue. But I have no idea when the game will be finished. Ideally I'd have it finished sometime next year. I'm looking forward to other people playing it though I think I'll also be terrified!
People have been very kind in the comments under my devlog videos, and that feedback encourages me to work hard on the game. The GDevelop community is very helpful and welcoming. I feel part of something special and I can't imagine life without it. I couldn't ask for more.
You can find out more about Jason's game and follow its development by subscribing to his YouTube channel. And if you want to make your own game, simply click below to open the GDevelop editor right in your browser!