What I Actually Do: Joure
When the credits fade in during STARDROP's introduction scene it reads: Created By Joure Visser. I don't think that's asking too much since I did create the game. I noticed that with a lot of other small scale projects you'll see a name pass by multiple times if the developer took on various roles.
I could do the very same thing with STARDROP but I won't. I feel that "created by" sums up my role perfectly. I am a level designer first and foremost. It's what I enjoy the most. Crafting worlds and places, or in this case, space ships and space stations.
But I'm going to go into what I do on STARDROP in a little bit more detail. It's my blog I should have some rights to brag a little.... right? hmm.
So, as I mentioned I do level design. With STARDROP it's a lot more demanding because I have so many other responsibilities to fulfill I can't always focus on that aspect as much as I would like to. Don't get me wrong, I put the gameplay aspect first, always, yet visually I have to manage between other responsibilities.
For STARDROP, levels are quite small and dense. It enables me to keep my focus on them while still dealing with more complex systems. Each level has to have something engaging. something that's worth spending time in. That might not always pan out the way I planned. The cargo deck on board the SD-01 for instance had to exist so that the player is able to work his way around the security gates. While it does serve it's purpose and it was an important area, it's still mainly quite a large open area with too little to do in except for looking at stuff.
It's the only area in chapter one that I still want to do more with but currently am not able to. I'm not yet sure if I will do something more with it or what that could be, but it's there.
When I design a level I always think about story elements. Show don't tell or, environmental story telling are amazing ways to convey something without having to narrate it to the player. For STARDROP however it's a little bit more difficult. When you create a shooter or a zombie game for instance it's a lot easier to come up with situations like that. You can make a house messy and have a table flipped on its side and bullet marks in the walls and make the room just messy. along with scratch marks on the wall and it's easy to see that there has been some sort of stand-off.
STARDROP in nature is not a violent game and so it's a lot harder to come up with these sort of situations. Access to limited assets like models and the like is also something that I have to deal with. but overall I have been able to manage it okay. I want to expand on this more later down the road and left the good stuff for the actual STARDROP exploration section.
This one is not completely new to me. As a level designer gameplay elements is something you have to work with constantly. So coming up with these systems is not a big problem. However, and this is why I am such an avid Unreal Engine 4 supporter is the blueprint system.
My background lies in the Source Engine by Valve. I was limited to what I could do inside the level editor and while it's incredibly extensive it has it's limits. I cannot simply just add a log collection system. I could hack it kind of into it, but it would be incredibly limited and not at all desirable.
UE4 has set me free. I cannot code for the life of me but I can understand the blueprint system. Dedicated programmers will shudder at the idea and who can blame them, but for people like myself it's been a blessing. STARDROP is almost 100% made in blueprints and I am able to do all this stuff by myself thanks to the insane amount of tutorials and documentation out there to help me figure it out.
And I am still learning a whole lot about it. It's fun. So I am now able to properly create a log collection system and have the correct text be displayed onto the DataPad. It is a real system and nothing hacked in. Everything from the characters to the APD Helmet functions to the androids everything is designed by myself and I'm very proud of that.
Story and dialog
I love coming up with stories, characters and all that jazz yet I would never call myself a writer even though I do write everything in the game. My primary language is Dutch so any spelling errors are all on me. But writing dialog and making sure it's all in character is what I enjoy a lot. Luckily I have the honor of working with incredibly talented voice actors who are able to make my lines work. They ad-lib and do multiple takes and it enables me to use the best cuts and make it all work.
I can't say I do audio design because i don't. I cut and piece together the VA lines and I create all the scenes and use existing sound effects. I'll admit that I'm the least skilled in the audio department. I don't think I'm terrible at it but a dedicated artist would be able to do a much better job no doubt.
Yet I'll take the role. I have to. I cannot expand the team and risking to be able to properly compensate them and myself for that matter.
I can do some design but it's another field that I'm not professional enough at. It's fun to do art design but again, I wish there was someone to help me with that. It's another role I took up out of necessity. I'm proud of the work I've done. The main menu is something I really like as well as parts of the computer interfaces. I tried my best to do something that's not standard blue sci fi while keeping it practical and functional. I never wanted STARDROP to look like the majority of science fiction games out there.
Managing and PR
Lastly I also manage the team. I like that part and I like building relations with them. I try to be there for them and make sure I always have time to help them if I can. I want them to have fun and be able to be proud of themselves as well as feeling that their work matters.
PR is something of a love/hate relationship to me. I love talking to fans and people in general. hearing what they have to say about the game or anything in general but it's very time consuming. I rather work on the game and casually pop by and interact but when you're the one person that does everything you are the one that has to speak out the most and speak the loudest. It is my game afteral and I want and have to do my best to get the word out and making a good impression. I'll fight for every single fan of the game because anyone matters to me. Even if I don't know them, they are a human being and, well, everyone has a story to tell...
In The End
This is pretty much all that I do. I mean there's more but those are all minor aspects and I could go on and on with this list but this is the majority. What I want to say here at the end is that I'm working on this game with a long term goal in mind. I am trying to slowly build up a reputation and hopefully be able to expand the team.
I want to make other games and I really want to make a game with a lot more custom content. I want to have our own concept artist, sound designer, character designer, a proper PR manager and expand the environmental team. I have a lot more that I want to do with games and I have something really awesome planned after STARDROP. I hope that I can reach my goal, I'm darn sure I'm working incredibly hard for it.
If you made it to this part then holy cow, you're amazing and thank you for reading. I hope this was somewhat interesting to you and if you're a backer or a fan then your twice as awesome. ;)
Lastly I want to say: Take care.