It usually happens after 6-12 months of working on a game that I lost interest in it, cease to work zealously on it, scrap it, and move on. Emotionally, I had reached that stage with Waker a few months ago., but wasn't willing to give up on it. I've had strangers on the internet (such as yourself!) tell me that they think the game looks great and that they're looking forward to it, so scrapping the project isn't really much of an option. Besides, I think the game looks great, and it has a lot of potential.
Problem is, I enjoy designing games and imagining characters and stories a little bit more than I do actually creating them. There's this sweet spot in game creation where I'm still fleshing out characters, figuring out mechanics, and determining where I want the story to go AFTER I've begun actual development. I am most obsessive and dedicated to game development during this period. For a while, though, I've been outside of that sweet spot. I know who my characters are, I know where the story's going, and so the thrill of committing those characters to pixels and code hasn't been with me.
Not only that, but the story and world that I've created are fairly melancholic. In my list of supporting characters, I have: a depressed office drone, a potter who's lost her family and is seeking revenge, a loner whose girlfriend is probably dead, a soldier who's seen his husband ripped to pieces, and a psychopathic vigilante. Lots of room for character development and heartbreak, but not much room for humor and upliftment. There's no contrast, no point of comparison for the heartbreak. What I want to be an emotionally deep, but enjoyable story was instead just masochistic fantasy that's hard to stomach.
So, I came up with a solution to both of these problems, and now making Waker is fun again.
(More, including screenshots, below the break)
I've been reading Order of the Stick lately, a crudely-drawn Dungeons and Dragons webcomic parody, and I'll be damned if it isn't one of the best fantasy stories I've read. It hasn't only made me tear up from time to time, but it's made me jump forward in my seat and make noises. Damn good storytelling.
It's a real dark story too. There's death and heartbreak all over the place, but it still manages to hit you hard while, as a whole, being a humorous and enjoyable tale. Part of the reason that the series is able to achieve such a dynamic is because of the chemistry between the characters. The main adventuring party included a straight man, a psychopathic killer who's the source of many of the darker jokes, and an innocent, bumbling fool who provides a constant source of lightness. My story had plenty of darkness, and plenty of straightness - but the lighthearted character was missing. Not only was there no reprise from the constant darkness, but nothing light to which the darkness could be compared to that makes it pop. And so the player character's new loyal companion, Sue the Poggle was born.
Sue is a Poggle - a divine creature sent from the heavens to guide Wakers on their journey - and will be the character's companion throughout most of the game, and it's really exciting to program her and write her lines. It changes the whole dynamic of the game in a really positive way. The game's every bit as gritty and grim as before, but with a little bit of humor and sweetness on top. Not only that, but having a constant traveling companion makes it easier for me to direct players and give them hints. And the company's always nice.
The game world I'm creating is fresh and exciting to me again. Expect rapid progress over the next few months.