The Gap – January

I finally started work on a new game after much hand wringing and soul searching. After the positive experience with Endless Elevator I decided not to push further into mobile gaming but to pivot to something with a little more scope on the PC platform.

It’s actually pretty hard to be sure that you can complete a game when you are a solo developer. You have to be fairly positive that it’s something you want to do for a long time and have it suck up so much of your free time and energy. I love making games so that’s the easy part. But what sort of game and what to make are different questions.

When I decided to do Endless Elevator it was mostly the good fortune of finding a handy tool set and a simple idea which collided into a quick mock up which I then forced into being as a full game over the space of a year and a half. Looking back that’s quite a chunk of time to spend on an off-the-cuff concept. Luckily by the end of it I was quite proud of what I’d achieved and was well ready to move on to something that was more meaningful to me as a person.

I spent the last month trying to work out what I was going to do next and had some grand ideas for more text based games, or a pixel art platformer game, or a first person fighting game. In the end I moved on to something more personal and gentle with an exploration and narrative based game called…

The Gap.

This is the idea that I jotted down:

The Gap is a suburb in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. Named for it’s location at the foot of the pass between two mountain ranges…
It’s the place I grew up. We used to call it The Void because there was nothing there. The end of the suburbs. The very last stop on the bus route out of the city. Over the ranges was lush open farming country stretching all the way to the Darling Downs but crammed into this river valley to these foothills was nothing but homogenised suburban hell. Brisbane has the largest suburban land mass of any city in the world. It goes on for miles in all directions overflowing and spreading like dirty water from the broken banks of the muddy river. The houses are washed up against the surrounding foothills. The Gap was and felt about as far as you could go. Manicured lawns petered out and stopped here to give way to the lantana and the bush of the ranges. The hills crowded round us on three sides and funnelled the suburb into it. Trains wouldn’t run here. It’s past the end of the line. It’s fed by one main road like an artery that snakes it’s way through the rabbit warren of hills all the way from the city.

It’s just a place though. A setting. This story is about all the other gaps. The gap between people, between adulthood and childhood, fantasy and reality. The gap between the stars. It can be as close as the gap between my skin and bones or as wide as a newly broken friendship. The irony is not lost on me that being a void the gap is being filled by everything it’s not.

Standing above The Gap like three beacons are TV Towers. You can see them from anywhere in the city. They will always point you home…whatever that means to you.

We had another saying, “You can take the boy out of The Gap but you cannot take the gap out of the boy”.

To work it up I used a Storyboarding software that really helped crystalise the ideas: I can’t recommend this free software enough. The team who built it make it easy and intuitive to make pictures and text as a narrative in an attractive package.

I also started doing some character studies. I started working with Clip Studio for the artwork and I’m really liking it as a rapid sketching tool for the concept art.

I wanted to do a story about childhood and the suburbs. How the ordinary becomes extra-ordinary and stories charge the undertone of life.
All characters have at least one spirit animal or more. I want to use animals to reveal character. Characters morph and change with imaginary purpose.

As an adult childhood has become a mystery land of fable or legend. I want to bring that to life.

It also stems from a place of loss. Loss of innocence and simplicity. Loss of the spirit animal habitats and sadness that the creatures we identify with are disappearing from the wild.

Here are some of the first ideas I did for characters:

Tapir Boy
Okapi Boy
Bull Dog Boy

Next steps is a lot more concept art and story work and building up into the initial 3D models.

I also updated the infrastructure that runs this site using a new Bitnami image: it was a very simple and quick migration from my old stack and was complete in an evening. I still have a DNS issue with my domain to figure out but that’s a job for February.

Zulu out.

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