7:27 AM, Saturday, December 30th, 2017:
Still trying to wrap my head around announcing something that won't come out until 2019. Most likely well into 2019, to boot. That's a lot of work. Let me get to the teaser...
I actually announced this on Facebook earlier in the month, but obviously needed a video here... which meant walk cycles. Which meant a pixel perfect portion of GolfKon. Which meant... hours. Am I out of my mind? Am I really trying to do this by myself?
Dude, who else would help? How could I even pay someone at this stage? So the answer is absolutely, yes I'm doing this by myself. And to be clear? The majority of this year will be doing the art and story. So, so, so, so much of this can be done without a lick of coding that I might as well knock it out. I'm ahead of myself though... what lead to all of this?
Three things happened last month that planted this idea in my head and I really needed all 3. First: a game called Stardew Valley was released on The Switch. Same SNES graphical style. You own a big unruly farm and you clean it up, plant some shit, meet some people and level up, etc. Charming, disarmingly deep (deeper than I'll ever touch, but impressive nonetheless) and although it's kind of a rip-off of Harvest Moon, I adored it. Never played Harvest Moon, just know of it, so it was all new to me. I say rip-off because it borrows nearly every gameplay mechanic and graphical style so heavily it makes your skin crawl, but apparently that's just the genre? I guess video games work differently than movies, because if this was a screenplay, mofo would be SUED. Either way - game is fun. Put 50 freaking hours into it kind of fun.
Second, a game called Golf Story came out. Same graphical style, but I didn't really like it. Was surprised because I thought it would be the other way around. These are all independent titles that you download onto your switch. From $5-15. You don't expect the $60 masterpiece - you accept a bit of a risk for supporting the independent developers.
Then finally, Animal Crossing was released for the iPad and I downloaded that for Vienna. She enjoyed it and while she was playing and learning what to do, I was thinking of the other two titles and I just said to myself: I should make a GolfKon video game where you build GolfKon and then play it. That night I downloaded a few more independent titles and played Stardew Valley imagining it was my backyard. Could it work? Would it be fun?
Ya know what the biggest hurdle was? The idea of how unbelievably arrogant this idea is. Like, I dropped it for nearly a week because I just couldn't stomach it. At first I figured you'd play as me which was just... too much, man. I'm not fucking Mario, it seems wrong. Then I remembered about the time the house next to me was for sale and I kinda wanted to buy it to knock down the wall and make a big-ass back yard. What if someone moved into it while I was building GolfKon and made their own minigolf course to compete with me? Oooooooh.
This is when I started to get that 4tvs feeling. All the mechanics started coming to me, how you'd level up your character, the tools you start with and the better ones you work towards as you make each section. The idea being you help me with GolfKon and as things get accomplished in my yard, you gain the experience to make your own holes in your yard. So you're forced to help GolfKon in order to make your own yard and once you get to 9 holes? It becomes a competition. That asshole Adam keeps adding shit LIKE A FUCKING BAR or a FUCKING GODDAMNED TIME MACHINE and has these tournaments and people come over and you can do the same. Of course you can just play in his tournaments and hang out during the events, but inevitably you find ways and people that will help you do imaginative and creative things with your own course. And that is the mechanic that will drive the game long after things are built: it's still a minigolf game. You're still trying to get the best score and win tournaments and you have the ability to download other people's games into your neighborhood and play their courses. Inevitably there will be far better courses than GolfKon and you'll be able to not only play them, but your score will go on their course once you do. Permanently.
It's kind of what I had hoped GolfKon would inspire: other people to build their own backyard shit and raise money for charity. That's very hard. Video games are very fun... so maybe, this works.
To be honest, the more I thought about it, the more it felt like that's all this ever was: a video game. I always joke that my life is like a comic book, but it's far more random than that. It's like a game console and every month/year is a new game. This just happens to be a chapter of my life that works really well in this RPG genre. Oh and to those who don't know (kind of thinking of my parents right now) an RPG is a "Role-Playing Game" that involves some form of leveling up. Meaning your character starts at a 1 in several categories and over time gains levels in those categories by playing the game. Which in turn allows them more access to the game's better tools, better events, etc. Usually it's an adventure game where your ability to do damage when you attack levels up or the ability to NOT take damage when you're attacked levels up, etc. They involve some circular system where the more you do A, the more B you get to help out your C which is used to do A. As long as A is kinda fun, you're motivated to get more B because you really want C to make A faster and more efficient. In the aforementioned Stardew Valley you have a hoe, a watering can, an axe for chopping wood, etc. They initially take a lot of whacks and use a lot of your energy to achieve certain tasks but as you make money and gain experience you can upgrade those tools. Pretty soon you're knocking shit out left and right and what sounds like the WORST WASTE OF TIME EVER is strangely addicting.
I always look at it this way when it comes to games like these: there's a part of my brain that wants order. It wants efficiency, and it loves the organization of it all... but in real life? That's really fucking hard. I try. But I often fail. For a few hours in this video game? I can tidy up my yard in a matter of seconds or minutes. Then build something. At any time I can save the game and go back to real life but whenever I turn on Stardew Valley now? Shit's working. I've got sprinklers that water my yard now without me doing shit. I pick the fruit/vegetables and sell it for a bunch of money. Buy shit. There's order. It's nice. There's a whole town of people to talk to (something that I don't personally get into much, though I did marry some girl - lol) and it does feel alive. But what I love? I love working towards the better tools to do what I want to do faster, more efficiently and organize my yard the way I want. Excuse me, my farm. I think you can see where this is going...
The stuff with GolfKon writes itself. At the end of the day, GolfKon is just wood, deck screws, deck stain, cement and greens. That's it! I purposely made everything the same for one reason: it all feels like GolfKon and it all feels like it's always been there. No matter what I add-on, as long as I use the same stuff? It's GolfKon. That's really the secret: if your design elements vary too much? You destroy the brand. And for a videogame? IT'S PERFECT. So the tools are very clear. Screw drivers, saws, shovel for mixing cement (ooh maybe you can upgrade to shit I never got! LOL Fucking lucky bastards), paint brushes, etc. It's very clear, very simple. On your own yard of course the sky will be the limit as for design and colors, etc... but the magic will be that you still have to use the base foundation of wood, deck screws, deck stain, cement and greens. It's a backyard, not an amusement park. There will be some limits, but those limits are where the real creativity comes in: when playing other people's courses you realize they found a way to make A with the SAME PIECES YOU HAD and that feeling of "how the fuck did this dude make this?" will come in. That's what I have to nail. That's the only way this game works: that design element has to be balanced to the point where it's based in some reality or it's no longer fun. But I control all of that so there's no one to blame but myself.

Let me also say that I look at this entire project as "The Great American Novel". This is my one shot. I will not become a videogame maker. There will not be sequels, this will be MY GAME. There will probably be updates forever, but this will be me and that's it. If it takes me 4 years, it will take me 4 years. It has to be right, it has to be balanced and I have zero deadline to meet forcing me to release anything before it's ready. That being said? I also think there's a good chance this makes actual money. LOL. Like, most of my ideas don't because that's not the point. But this is one area where extreme competence does indeed pay off. The indy-gaming market is pretty golden these days and there's so much shit that gamers CLAMOR for the special stuff. One dude made Stardew Valley and people lost their minds. I've never seen a game better reviewed or better received that wasn't a HUGE 1st Party multi-million dollar release. It can be done, but that dude worked by himself for 4 years on every detail. He's insane like me. The only reason I believe I can do it in just under 2 is that he created a town full of people with tons of dialogue, backstories and I just won't have that. What will take me the bulk of time will be the coding after nearly a year of creating the pixel art. I know nothing about coding and although there seem to be some great programs out there to make games, it's still a new world. Then again, so was pixel art and HOLY SHIT was I taken aback by how hard that was.
There's no filter for that shit. Getting my face right took days. Days people. And I'm still not completely set. Every single pixel in that face was changed multiple times. The issue here is that I'm trying to make recognizeable people with 15 pixels across. Also? I want some art style. I need to make them look different than other pixel art but also clearly my own. Ya need to look at them all and say they belong. Eventually everyone at GolfKon will be a character and I'm hoping to get the Hats & Minigolf guests to agree to be in it. So I tried to make Don...
And, well, it works. I like the art style. Slightly big heads but enough room for details so I can make recognizeable versions. Please note that fucking Delorean took me 11 hours. People think it's some photoshop filter and man, it really, really isn't. Sure you use a real picture (or several) to start with but it's for scale. In fact scale was the single hardest thing about doing this to start with. For example, stardew Valley is REALLY zoomed out, but for GolfKon, I just couldn't afford the lack of detail for these holes so I had to choose it zoomed in. Zooming in however also allowed faces to have some more detail. Most faces are about 10 pixels across, mine are 15-18. If your goal is to make it recognizeable there's a line you just can't cross before it becomes unrecognizeable. 15 is about it. And to be honest? Don and I are bad examples because we have very recognizeable features that make caricatures easy: I have a goatee and dark eyes/eyebrows. He has dreadlocks and a smile you can see from a mile away. The real test will be everyone else.
Anyway, I leave this for a bit while I finish up the documentary but it's happening. I'm very excited. I'm very happy I made GolfKon. It's VERY awesome to be making something in a video game and be able to walk outside and see EXACTLY how big it is for scale purposes. That's pretty cool. The other cool thing? I have all these statistics and numbers for all the holes. I know how they're supposed to play. I can make a pretty perfect recreation of the course in videogame form and if I can nail that feel? Then the user-created courses will work. But man, I really have to nail some depth to these 9 holes or the whole thing is broken.
Lots of challenges coming. Cannot believe what I'm getting myself into. I think I know the topic of my new year's entry now...