Why did we lose a Death Boulder and gain a Travail?


Our longer-time fans, and those who saw us on The Next Game Boss, might remember that our game used to be called Death Boulder Bones. First it was a simple story about a guy trying to collect money, then that evolved into a guy trying to rescue his wife from a kidnapping… sort of. Then she’s, like, a vessel for Cthulhu, or something. It’s complicated.


The biggest lesson I learned from all the judges’ feedback, all the horrible (and sometimes nice) comments on YouTube, and how poorly our Kickstarter went, was that nobody was interested in some dude running in a temple – even if there was a twist ending. That’s all well and good. But – why would I care what other people are interested in? I don’t make indie games because I really give a damn what some 12 year-old on the other end of YouTube says. They can go make a game if they have a better idea. Then they’ll learn how bloody difficult it is.

But then I realized something, and it was something very very important.

I don’t care about a dude running in a temple either. Woah. Now there was a big realization. I was so invested in loving our unique gameplay mechanic that I didn’t put much thought into anything else. I knew the art was kinda generic and meh to me. I knew the storyline was poorly thought out and was a side note. But I just didn’t really put two and two together until so many people told me the same thing.

I minored in creative writing, and I have something like 300 pages finished in a novel. I’ve written lots of short stories, and started other novels. I even used to write a webcomic. I like to write. So why the hell was I letting it play second fiddle to some gameplay mechanic? Why wouldn’t I put them hand in hand? Perhaps more importantly, why wasn’t I making a game that really meant something to me?

The most important thing to me about a game is for it to be fun. Fun to play, and fun to make. As such, it’s what I tend to focus on. But I also have not gone the whole mile to completely finish a game before (even though I have at least 20 unfinished games and more ideas than that). At some point, perhaps from spending hours and hours working on Travail and from losing all this sleep and social time, the project jumped the gap between a hobby and something important to me. It became something I couldn’t stop working on, and it went way beyond just being a fun thing.

And that’s when I really decided – this game needs to convey to the fans how important it is to me. And a dude running in a temple does not convey that. A dude running in a government facility, or an alien world, or another dimension, also doesn’t convey that. So, what does? I thought a lot about it. For months, at least, I tried to figure it out. Then, one night, it all fell together in a sudden realization as I was trying desperately to sleep.

This game is about me.

Not really me, but it’s about an artist who is modeled off me. And modeled off any other person in the world who has really bled to create. Strived so hard to get their gushing braincase ideas to translate to a page or a computer. He or she is creating a comic book. That book might be about a dude in a temple, but that’s not the real story here. The real story is a creator struggling to get his words out. To make a story that works.

And now I’m in love with this project.

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