Glitchhikers was supposed to take about two weeks to complete. Or at least, that's what I initially told Lucas and Andrew. Instead it turned into the longest project I've completed outside of my day job as a mobile developer. Some of it was difficult. Some of it was downright painful. Most of it was the best experience I've had working on a game. What follows is the closest I can come to writing a design post-mortem.
It's a dark September night and I'm sitting in a dingy bar underneath an old hotel. There are red curtains on the walls, an over-abundance of PBR on the tables and I'm having a truly bizarre night. The band onstage is good. Really good. It's the kind of show where you can tell their putting everything they have out there for the audience. But some malaise has struck, and my partner, my sister and I aren't out on the floor where we would normally be when watching a really good show. We are all sulking at the back. Some spirit has hijacked our evening. We sit there until well past midnight, until the show is over and the bar is closing. No one seems to want to talk about it until we are outside, waiting for the bus home. We never exactly figure it out.
It's a month earlier. Late August, not even a full year ago, and I'm sitting in a restaurant across from Andrew and Lucas. I'm trying to subtly convince them to play a game I've just made for a three week long slow jam. The game is pretty simple, all things considered, but it had ended up being a stupid amount of work. I'd elected to do the whole thing by myself after a bad experience with a programmer during some off hours game development earlier in the year; an experience I still hadn't fully recovered from. Only a few weeks before this restaurant meeting, I'd had a minor panic attack on my way to a game jam. Still, I'm feeling like I need to make some connections again. Andrew makes a comment about my game's colour palette. Lucas asks me what he describes as "a blunt question". They seem cool. We decide to work together on something.
It's ɫʉʡʮɟȻ and I'm lost in a dream. It's very dark and although I can see and hear the heavy rain coming down all around me, I can't feel it. Something is moving in the sky, but I can't look up. I'm too busy trying to figure out what all these weird bubbles in the mud are meant to signify. Maybe they are footprints? They certainly seem to be arranged like them. But why do they puff out, instead of caving in. For some reason, I become convinced that they are moving around. Is there something alive under there? The mud stops mattering a moment later when I realize that there is a figure standing before me. It says something horrifying that I'll try, and fail, to remember later. In my dream, I try to call out, but something is choking me. I wake up screaming.
It's October and there is a game stuck in my head. I remember noticing this game. I remember playing it. I do not remember how or when it came to be riding along with me. I'm not sure when it started talking to me, questioning me. I won't be able to shake it for a while--let alone, understand what I find so compelling about it. Not until it's November and a friend starts talking to me about it. It doesn't matter though. The game has done its work, whether I know it or not. A new path, an empty highway, has been opened for me. A path that leads tantalizingly away from the set of dull gray rules that I'd been following obliviously for longer than I care to remember. I don't know it yet, but I've been freed.
It's sundown, a few years earlier. I'm sitting in the passenger seat of my friend's car as we zoom down the back roads in the middle of Washington state, trying to get to the highway ahead of the rush of cars that are also exiting the field we've been camping in for the last three days. We'd all gone to a big music festival together for the first time since we met in the crappy dorms at UBC. We'd had fun, but the combination of three days of sun, drinking and little sleep has left us all pretty quiet. The driver turns on the radio, possibly just to undercut the silence we've been sitting in. I hear the words "Roll credits..." from the back seat. It's a corny moment, but also a really nice one. A symbol that ties us together and ties the trip to a close. It's the kind of thing that'll stick with me for a long time.
It's May again, and I'm walking across the Cambie Street bridge with Andrew. We've got a pretty good view of the downtown and an even better view of the giant glass sphere that stands over False Creek. Glitchhikers comes out tomorrow and I'm in limbo. I've been busting my ass on the game for weeks but there's finally nothing left to do except wait. The problem, of course, is that I'm impatient, and lacking work has left me with nothing to do but be anxious about whether people will even want to play it. Fortunately Andrew is doing a good job of assuaging my anxiety. We talk about what roads we want to travel next. We talk about where Glitchhikers has taken us, both personally and professionally. We talk about how I've only known Lucas and him for just under a year. We talk about how this seems like an impossibly short time to us given the connection we've all made. After a while, I tell him I don't know what to write about. He tells me to write about the conversation we've just had. It seems like sound advice.
It's late at night and I'm driving down the I-90 towards Seattle with a good friend by my side. Or maybe its Highway 1 and I'm weaving through the Rockies at the end of summer. Or maybe I'm just hallucinating in front of my computer. Or maybe I'm dreaming. Or maybe I'm staring up at the night sky from on top buildings, or in the middle of a field somewhere. Wherever I am, the moon is bright and I can just make out the faint sound of music calling me forward. It's a nice night for a drive.