I consider Project `C` to be my first real game project, even though I had made other “games” prior. It was created for the first and only 528 Hour Contest in early 2004. When the contest was first announced I was in development of my first game with SDHawk, but we didn’t have much direction and were just sort of fucking around with different ideas. The first idea during this period was Zombie Shovel Whack. It was supposed to be a Zelda-style game where you hit zombies with a shovel. We got as far as pixel-perfect movement around the map and swinging a shovel, neither of which were standard with the engine we were using at the time.
Zombie Shovel Whack, “Sdhawk.rpg”, or Project `A`, as it would later be known, had a short development time. The graphics were mostly modifications of earlier sprites I already had laying around, and everything that Hawk did for ZSW wasn’t insanely out of his comfort zone for the time. I think the utter lack of direction killed this project, but we were young and a project dying quickly wasn’t the end of the world. I don’t even remember Project `B` at all. Not even a little.
The 528 hour (22day) contest started on Jan 23rd 2004, six months after Zombie Shovel Whatever. The theme of the contest was simply “Simulation”, and we decided to make a horror game that simulated light. I don’t remember any debate about other ideas. Code named, then immediately actually named, Project `C`.
Development went pretty well. We vaguely discussed some sort of plot for the game. It was a generic ‘amnesia in a hospital that had sunken because of an earthquake’ story, and you were trying to climb your way to the top to hopefully get out. That outline hit all the points we needed by providing a situation that was physically dark and giving a clear goal for the character; escape. The actual dialogue in the game was all done by Hawk so I don’t know a whole lot about it. Hell, I never even touched a text box. This gave Hawk the extra task of explaining how the game works in the game, and none of it was very straight forward. The task was probably made harder by how shit the game is to navigate. I can’t imagine it’s easy to predict where someone will be when player can’t even see the room they’re in themselves.
Up until this point I had been making everything in MSPaint, with slight adjustments happening in-game, but I had just started using OpenCanvas, my first ‘real’ art program. I don’t seem to have really used it for anything other than some terrible effects I thought looked good for cut-scenes in game. Check out how dope this lens flair looks.
This game was a little different because of how the lighting system worked. After I made my initial tile set, I then had to break it up into rows of 2. The topmost row was the lightest row, the next two were a little darker, and so-on, until blackness.
Even though I knew the art for the game was bad, something about the way Hawk’s lighting system worked with the tiles made everything feel like it belonged. It enhanced what I was doing infinitely, and from that point on it actually felt like I was making a real game.
..But it’s a terrible, terrible game. For some reason, I made all the maps and all the puzzles for the game (a trend which would continue through to our later projects like JC:BRH, OUaN, and MUA) even though Hawk did all the story/dialogue. This didn’t make my job any more difficult, but it had to have made Hawk’s even worse. Especially considering the surviving documentation I have for my map puzzles is.. less than ideal.
Project `C` was released late on February 14th, 2004, along with 4 other games as part of the 528 hour contest. It was not well-received among it’s peers. Two categories of voting existed for this contest, Enjoyment and Simulation. Voting was for their top 3 games in both categories.
Project `C` was 4th in Simulation and 5th in Enjoyment. It received one review, from a friend, of C.
Project `C` never felt like a failure to me. Looking back on it, I didn’t even realize we had done so poorly in the contest we made it for. I just felt so good for having finished something that felt like an actual project, I didn’t take time to think about how awful it was for the end-user. I carried that partially undeserved confidence on into our next ‘big project’, `T`rain..