Dev blog for July 2019

Rising from the Ashes

Back in 2013 my son had an idea for a game where you controlled a sloth. The sloth would be hindered by his very slow movements yet be expected to navigate an exciting and dangerous environment. I got interested and we began to casually develop the game. Sloth Quest was born. It started to grow into this quirky tongue-in-cheek skill game that challenged both your timing and your composure. To spur us on, we decided to submit the game to the Independent Games Festival (IGF) where many indie games get a boost. After a few months we had put together a playable game in time for the IGF deadline.

sloth on vine
Sloth Quest 2013

We didn't place in any award categories. Of the judges reviewing the game, only two gave us feedback, which was generally positive, but I got the feeling the game wasn't big enough or serious enough to cut it. In the hopes of getting some attention, my son submitted the game to Steam's Greenlight program. Now defunct, Greenlight was where Steam users judged the worthiness of a game to be published on Steam. We got some attention, appeared in a few videos--even one in Chinese, but didn't get green lit. Having other projects and responsibilities, we eventually stopped working on the game.

sloth on snake

Some months later, we suddenly got a notice from Steam that we were greenlit for publication. We hadn't got any new votes in a while, so we were surprised by the news. But by this time my son was finishing college and looking for a job and had no time nor motivation to work on the project. Between us we both felt it lacked a polish and we weren't sure how to fix it and so we moved on with our other interests.

Five years later, with our son having moved away, my wife and I decided to form a game dev team and in July 2018 we published a small casual game as an experiment (Sarah in the Sky). Satisfied with the process, we were looking for our next project and decided on an RPG. After a few months we were happy with the results, but it seemed like we were still a year or more from finishing a game. Our first game had only taken two months or so and we really wanted to publish something soon. We had several game ideas we thought were more manageable and revamping Sloth Quest was one of them. With the skills aquired from our first game and beyond, we both felt confident as a team and thus in May 2019 we began earnest development on Sloth Quest!

A new leaf...and jungle

I am pleased to report that we have made excellent progress in the last three months. Starting from scratch, we have already surpassed the original game in size, complexity and most importantly, production. The original game suffered from a vague art style which was easily its weakest point. We attacked this problem and have created a style that, while not overly outstanding, is suitable for the game and unique in some ways.

The game is a 2d side-scroller with multiple layers to create a nice parallax shifting background. It feels like a platformer but there are no platforms (except the ground, and you don't want to end up there!). The objects are all mesh-based, meaning they are made up of many triangles rather than being sprites. This allows us to animate them by traditional 3d methods that bend the meshes with bones instead of having to combine multiple objects like the original game had done. The scene and all the objects get lit using a custom shader that lets us use as many static lights as we want without increasing the frame render time. The result is a wide range of color and lighting conditions that give the game ambience, atmosphere and dimension.

To date, we've completed about eight levels with a game total target of about 20 levels. There's a menu system and game user interface in place with the critical systems working. At this pace we might be ready for a 4th quarter 2019 release, but practically and strategically we are looking at a 2020 release.