Today marks the public release of Zeitgeist 1980’s version 1.0. This marks the end of development, aside from any bugs discovered after the fact – hopefully after weeks of beta-testing we’ve caught them all, but you never know.
The biggest lesson this project taught me was about scope creep. I had initially planned the game to span ~50,000 words in length, with any given playthrough being 10-20k words long – novella length. In a more meaningful measure, that’s twenty-something scenes, of which the player will encounter approximately ten, with each scene further broken up into branching passages – of which the player will see maybe a third.
All that adds up to a lot of text any given player won’t ever see unless they play it more than once, which – while definitely possible – isn’t very efficient. Ultimately development time went on a fair bit longer than I’d hoped. Not too much longer, but… longer.
That means that the average player isn’t even going to be aware of the nature of the branching, which means it’s largely wasted effort. I could have easily gone with a more linear high-level structure and given the player just as much meaningful choice. I’ll keep that in mind for the next time.
The Next Time
So what’s next? I still like the idea of nostalgia-themed games inspired by a particular decade’s movie, and if I smooth out my workflow and get production moving smoothly enough, I could see doing this as a serial project, with a new “episode” released every month, based on different films from said decade, building off of the choices made in the previous episodes.
Of course, this is only worth doing if people enjoy the game. And if people who enjoy the game also enjoy 80s movies. So, three options going forward:
- A direct sequel, set a few months later, in which the protagonist from this game has further adventures drawn from 80s cinema.
- A spiritual sequel, set in the 90s, based on 90s movies.
- Something else entirely, not movie-inspired. Just… something else.
I’ve released the game, I’m linking to a survey people who want a say can contribute to, and I’m going to work on something else for a month to see how much interest there is and what peoples’ opinions are.
We’ll see how it goes.