producing PRODUCER 2021

03 - the week of the readable blogpost

I am aware that the last two blog posts were messy and unreadable. I wrote them for myself, as a kind of creative diary, but this week I want to try and actually write something nice for a change :)

And while I don’t want to spoil anything, revealing some basic things about the game is unavoidable:

Producer has 4 Acts.
They flow into each other fluidly, but are distinct in how linear and/or open they are. Every week, I try to do some work on each act, to not loose sight of the bigger picture.

The first act is just the Demo. Still, I have to rewrite and redo art because so much of the rest of the game has changed. Keeping the great energy of the Demo while also introducing all the new gameplay systems has been really challenging.

The main progress in Act 1 was the introduction of additional functions. These are not mathematical functions, but a kind of modular text delivery system.

For example, I might use one of these functions to tell you that “the phone is ringing”. This function will get called again and again, after every single one of your actions. After you have picked up the phone, the function will still be called after every action, but now it returns nothing and no text is printed, since the phone is no longer ringing. Using this kind of modular text delivery is relatively cheap and extremely effective. It weaves the world closer together and ties you to the place that your character inhabits.

This has proven to be so effective in act 1, that I added even more of it to act 2. The second act is by far the biggest and most complicated. It contains as much stuff as the other three acts combined. The new functions relate to your characters changing mental state, putting them into dialogue with the narrator to negotiate their feelings. This should make the sprawl of act 2 a bit more coherent.

Until this week, act 3 was the most undefined. The progress here is of utmost importance. I have finally found a interesting and cheap way to contrast the open world type gameplay of Act 2. Sadly, I can’t really talk about this without spoiling big parts of the story.

With act 3 clearly defined, there are now no big unknowns in the project anymore. Each act is not just internally coherent, but also knows about and reacts to the acts around it, not only with hardcoded reactivity, but also in terms of pacing and structure.

Since I have been trying to work from back to front as much as possible, Act 4 is almost finsihed. The progress here was mainly cosmetic, but still extremely important. Since the sales of Producer will heavily rely on positive word of mouth, going out with a very expensive BANG! is imperative. The art and animations for the final act are really shaping up and I am very proud of them.

I hope that these special moments of animation and zooms and parralax will feel really special and exciting. But even if nobody notices them, it can really not be underestimated how motivating it is to see a whole sequence wrapping up not just in terms of logic, writing, art or music, but to see it all come together as a whole, coherent experience.

I also did a bunch of visual work on a lot of other areas. The basic take-away from that was that I need to be very loose and rough with the artwork. The style of Producer relies on crunchy pixels and messy transitions. I wasted a lot of time on working on a small scale. In the end, tiny details always lose out to grand gestures. This is also true for the whole game in general. It are often the rough first drafts, the carelessly typed-together dialogues and rambles that lead to the interesting stuff. Manic polishing of a single sentence just results in overproduced, topheavy wordwork.

Next week I will try to more clearly define the central conflict of each act, to help with writing shippable and exciting text!

Also: While writing this, I realised that the 4 Acts of Producer follow the Kishotenketsu structure of storytelling. This was not intentional, it just happened, I swear.

Cheers, josh

PRODUCER 2021 on Steam