Pingudroid: pixels, music, videogames and stuff (and penguins)
  • Orosynthe devlog: A beginning

    Hi everyone! I hope you’re having an OK weekend. Personally I’ve spent the past few days either eating, sleeping, working or watching TV shows (I’m currently obsessed with the first season of Loki), but it’s time to get back on track and keep working on my own creative projects! Fiction doesn’t write itself, and neither do blog entries. So let’s go.

    This time I wanted to focus a bit more on my narrative videogame project (I should really find a shorter way to refer to this genre…) and how I’m tackling its first stages of creation. I will tell you a bit about what the project is, its new concept and title and the roadmap I’ve prepared for it. This should also help you better understand what to expect in future blog entries, since I plan on documenting my process in a pretty detailed manner.

    Back when I was working on my previous project, Monster Embassy, I made a mistake from the very beginning: I treated the project like a “regular” videogame project. Everyone recommended prototyping the game first and leaving the actual content for later, like a mantra, so that’s what I did. But I failed to consider that my focus has always been storytelling, which isn’t the case for most game developers. That’s why, as I prototyped and learnt stuff and whatnot, I kept straying further and further away from my original intent, achieving mechanic-focused results instead of content-focused results, which is great but not what I wanted.

    The process should have gone the other way around, content before mechanics, or at least they should have been developed at the same time. Many games are indeed designed content first and mechanics second, but it isn’t the norm so most people don’t consider it. I’ve been recently playing some independent visual novels, which has helped me better understand my mistake and realize that games or game-adjacent works can lean as heavily on content as other narrative forms of art do. I might be choosing videogames as my medium of choice, but that doesn’t mean that I should tackle this project from a typical gamedev-focused perspective.

    Considering this, and keeping in mind how hard it is for me to stay focused in the long term, a few weeks ago (shortly before starting this blog) I decided to write out a VERY thorough roadmap for this project. And by thorough I mean that there’s a “project overview” with a list of around 30 things to do, divided into seven stages, and then there’s 20 more pages of tables detailing EXACTLY what needs to be done to finish every step in the list: characters, game scenarios, music, sound effects, menus, systems, literary script, game events and items. There’s a box to check for each individual task that needs to be done, from creating an item icon to implementing a specific menu.

    The thing about this roadmap is that I have designed it to focus on content first and foremost. So the first steps are basically to make several mockups, gather documentation and draft the main story, main characters and main musical theme. Then I’ll focus more on characters, items, dialogues and scenarios, and eventually create a simple “walking simulator” version of the game, with all the game world already implemented. Then, and just then, I’ll start to work on the technical script and implementing events, interactions and systems fully, adapting them to the story and to the game world, and not the other way around.

    Creating a roadmap is also something that I’ve seen recommended many times, and I think it will go well with my work habits, since I’m the kind of person who loves to keep lists of stuff and gets overwhelmed when they have too many choices. This roadmap will be my frame of reference when I don’t know what to do. The only part I’ve left out is establishing a fixed time frame for each task, since I know that I’d never be able to stick to any schedule, and it’d only frustrate me.

    I’m currently working on the first of the seven main stages I have planned. I have created some basic mockups of the game to decide on the visual style, I’ve got the main game concept and logo (the new name is Orosynthe, from Ancient Greek, meaning “Mountain of the Elements”), I finished a general design of the entire game world and now I’m gathering documentation to make the game world more interesting. This time I will be focusing on Ancient Greece as my main source of inspiration, so this story will be firmly set in the classical fantasy genre instead of plain old fantasy.

    I made this awesome mockup and then I realised that I couldn’t possibly finish an entire project with this kind of visual fidelity and resolution so I scrapped it. Pixeling that huge tree took a few hours but I had fun.
    The game will probably look closer to something like this, although this is still an early mockup and I need to keep working on the style. I want to reach a balance between “pretty pixels” and “reasonably fast to do so I don’t die before I finish this”.
    Shortly after finishing that second mockup, I sent my sister this meme. It’s 99% accurate.
    This is the first version of the new logo. I’ll probably still improve it but for now it works and it looks nice. The “O” represents the Orosynthe mountain, surrounded by the four Aristotelian elements.

    I will explain more about the project, what the logo means and how it’s all going in future entries. Thanks a lot for reading!

  • Learning to finish

    Hello again!

    Today I wanted to talk about the many different creative projects I’ve worked on in the past, including Monster Embassy, which I worked on from 2015 to 2021. I think this will help me leave those projects behind, “close the door” so to speak, and tackle my current project more effectively.

    I also want to talk about this because, to be honest, after creating stuff on my own for most of my life and never finishing anything “marketable” (aside from some minor stuff, which imo is not good or interesting enough to share), talking about these projects here will make all of this work feel more real. I’ve had a lot of fun with these unfinished projects, certainly, and I’ve learnt a lot, but that is such an intangible thing. I do hope to finish something and share it with the world, eventually, but for now I’d like to narrate a bit of my fruitless creative history here, so I can remember it better, if anything else.

    As I explained in the previous entry, from a very young age I always wanted to create something “big”. That first started when I was like six or seven years old. Until then I had been doodling aimlessly (for the most part) on my school notebooks, but there was a point when I decided that I wanted to create something more specific: an entire monster bestiary with hundreds of creatures, which at first were some kind of a weird hybrid between Digimon, Pokémon and The Powerpuff Girls (yeah I know, kid from the late nineties…), and eventually settled on being just original Pokémon designs.

    That was my first big project and I worked nonstop on it for FIFTEEN years. It spawned many “subprojects”, like literally dozens of Pokémon fangames (I always had grand plans for them, but never finished more than a couple maps and a titlescreen for each), complete encyclopedias with quality illustrations and detailed info for each creature (those never went beyond 20 or 30 monsters at most. I must have written the entry for monster #001 at least thirty times), even entire blogs or webpages (which never lasted more than a few months before I grew tired of them and deleted them. Notice a pattern here…?).

    Aside from the bestiary, I had many other unrelated projects over the years, although in most cases calling them projects would be a disservice… maybe better call them “ideas” or “concepts”. Most of them were narrative in nature. First they were comic books (I had this entire manga concept when I was like 12, with all the character designs and a list of chapters and volumes and everything. I never went past the third page), then they morphed into novels (my final project for high school was actually the “first volume” of an illustrated novel. Obviously the second volume never came), and then they eventually turned into videogame projects and kind of converged with the bestiary project.

    As you can see, my narrative projects have been many, but mostly fruitless. I must have written thousands of novel pages without never finishing a single draft, always starting over and over again, and I have lost count on how many times I have “planned” a novel from beginning to end and then have never come around to writing it.

    There is an exception, though: three short novels that I managed to finish, but would never even dream of showing anyone because they’re horrendous. But hey, it’s something! At least they taught me that I AM able to finish something, if I am stubborn enough. I’ve also written some acceptable short fiction over the years, thanks in part to the fact that I took some creative writing classes a few years back, but short fiction has never been my goal and I’m honestly not that interested on it or on publishing those tales. So yeah, I can finish stuff if it’s SHORT… but I’m not into short stuff.

    Curiously enough, the bestiary, my longest standing project, DID come to a somewhat satisfactory conclusion. It was 2015, I was 22 and it was summer, and I was very tired of never finishing this “bestiary” of mine and dragging it behind me for all of my teenager and younger adult life. So I took my dozens of notebooks, folders and whatnot (which were full of around 1600 (?!) scattered monster designs that had been piling up since I was seven) and I said to myself: you need to finish this. Just choose 150 of those designs, redraw them in better quality, give each a name and consider this done.

    So I did. I spent all summer working on it, drawing those designs on paper and coloring them with felt tip pens. I chose my favorite designs, reworked some entirely, combined some others into a single one, etc., until I had a full bestiary of 150 creatures that I was satisfied with.

    And… yeah! I did it! I finished something! It might not have been up to the unreachable standards of my ten-year-old self, but it was something, and it was DONE. Phew. That was it, right? Could I finally rest now?

    lol no. When I had all those drawings in front of me, I saw so much potential. I had all those monsters… great. Now, what did I do with them? Was there a point in designing all of these characters if they were never used for anything? For a story? For fiction?

    So I reached the obvious conclusion, which was to create an overscoped RPG Maker monstruosity with turn-based combat, complex interactions between different types of monsters, magic, hundreds of items, a huge worldmap, an open world, unique graphics and personality for each NPC character in the game and fully destructible environments.


    So, in 2015, all of my creative interests had converged into one. I still did want to write fiction, and I have attempted to write some novels and stories since then, but after years of going around between drawing, pixel-art, fangames, music, writing and web designs, narrative videogames (that is, interactive fiction) had finally become my main goal, a way to combine all of my interests into one single project.

    Later than year, I decided on a name for the project: Monster Embassy. And I spent the next year and a half “working” on it, that is, messing around in RPG Maker VX Ace, learning how to script and creating a pretty nice prototype with almost no content that I scrapped as soon as it became decent (or, as I told myself, as soon as I reached the limits of what RPG Maker could do). Not that I actually needed to go beyond those limits at the time, but hey, if I accepted that, then I would get to FINISH the project, and we wouldn’t want that, would we? 😀

    So, after reaching a point of frustration in RPG Maker, I then spent weeks researching other game engines, hoping beyond hope to find something that I liked (I had already done the engine hunting dance almost yearly since I was in high school, to no avail, since RPG Maker was the only thing that appealed to me), and… surprise! There was a new engine around, called Godot Engine! It had appeared in 2014! The engine was beginner friendly! And worked natively on Linux! (back then I was a Linux-only user) I tried it out and it made sense! How wonderful!

    So there I went, remaking everything from scratch in Godot Engine. Yay! More delay time! It was December 2016. I began a devlog shortly after and maintained it (more or less) until 2020, when Covid hit and the project burned to ashes.

    What happened during that time? Lots of things! Of all the unfinished projects I’ve worked on, I think that Monster Embassy has been the most fruitful. If anything, thanks to it I’ve learned to make music and have finished a chiptune album, I’ve learned to design UIs and how to use an all-purpose game engine (Godot is an excellent next step for beginners after RPG Maker. I don’t regret the engine switch at all, even though it WAS just an excuse Not To Finish at the time), I’ve learned to make scripts from scratch and program with a high level language thanks to GDScript (Godot Engine’s own scripting language), I know how to prototype and playtest specific game mechanics, I have made lots of gamedev and game enthusiast contacts, and… this is a big one… I’ve been slowly, very slowly learning to be more realistic when planning out a project.

    I must have rescoped Monster Embassy at least five times. Each time, the number of characters, monsters, systems, scenes and features has been reduced. At first, I wanted to make in Godot almost the same game that I had been creating in RPG Maker, minus the turn-based battling, since I had already decided early on that I wanted to make a peaceful game. Still, it was an extremely complex project that was almost impossible to do for a single person. Since then, the number of monsters has gone down, down… from the original 150, to 64, to 32, to (in my current project, which reuses concepts from Monster Embassy)… 22! The human characters have been greatly reduced in number as well, and the game systems have been simplified on each rescoping. Slowly, I’ve been letting go of the illusion of “grandness” of my previous projects and trying to focus on something that 1) I’m truly interested on, not just doing it so other people will like it, and 2) I can actually do.

    When you’ve spent your whole life dreaming up crazy impossible projects and never getting around to bringing them to life, as soon as you get more down-to-Earth and start doing the grunt work, you quickly find out there’s a (huge, terrifying) disconnection between those imaginings and what you can actually do. I was always aware of that, in theory, but experiencing it made it hit home. I’ve also realised that, all along, I’ve been trying to fulfil some “external” ideal instead of doing what I intimately wanted to do. That’s part of the reason why my inner perfectionist has made me sabotage myself and never finish all those projects. They were just general ideas, not grounded on specific things that spoke to me.

    The game used to be mostly about monsters and a typical heroic quest, but it’s slowly become a game about people, focusing more on character development, relationships and exploration of the world around you, which was what really interested me all along. So you could say that this whole process is also a journey of artistic self-discovery, as I keep learning what I want to achieve, and by doing that get closer to achieving it for real.

    My current project is very similar to Monster Embassy. In fact, I will be reusing its code, and characters, and part of its concept. But I wanted to give it a different name this time. Because I was growing tired of the old name. Because I had been holding to some concepts and materials for too long (sunk cost fallacy, I guess). And because, after the forced halt of Covid, I want to start a new chapter in my creative life, and finish something meaningful once and for all.

    All those bestiary attempts, scrapped comics and books, unfinished fangame projects… they’ve taught me many things, such as character design, storytelling, composition, pixel-art or programming. Very useful specific skills in gamedev. So what do I have left to learn?

    Exactly: I need to learn to finish, the very thing that I thoroughly suck at. Wish me luck…

  • Hi! A little introduction

    Hi! Welcome to my new shiny WordPress blog! Thanks so much for your visit.

    I go by the name Pingudroid. I’m a multipotentialite queer weirdo who loves Game Boys and penguins and bad romance stories. You may know me for my chiptune music, or perhaps for my monster designs, my pixel-art, or maybe my Godot Engine project (formerly named Monster Embassy). Also I’m on Twitter. Or perhaps you don’t know me at all and you’ve come upon this page by chance. Either way, welcome! I hope you enjoy your stay.

    Over the years I’ve been on the Internet under many names, have created numerous webpages and blogs and profiles (so many that I honestly cannot keep track) and have started many creative projects and finished few.

    Since this is a personal blog and I’m going to use it as a creative diary of sorts, I thought I could start off by summarizing my artistic trajectory a bit. Feel free to skip all of this if you want — future blog entries will focus more on my current artistic endeavors, but I felt like I should start by introducing myself.

    I have a passion for fiction, in all of its forms. I’ve always been a pretty secluded person, so fiction (books, comics, animation, videogames) has been, and still is, the main way I get to experience other worlds and lives. Since I was little, my dream has been to create my very own world of fiction, a world that I and others could share and enjoy, with memorable characters and an enjoyable and meaningful story. A world like the ones I love so dearly, but made by me. My very own contribution to fiction.

    This dream has changed forms many times. Back when I was in middle school, I drew a lot of anime characters and Digimon- and Pokémon-like monsters, and dreamed of being a mangaka. In high school, I read books like a maniac and decided to be a professional writer. Then, a few years later, after studying literature at college sucked out most of the joy of it for me, I started taking videogames (one of my recurring hobbies) more seriously and slowly considered becoming a game developer.

    My creative interests and projects have generally been…scattered, as you can see. Also, like most people who dream of being a creator, I tend to think big and not really finish any projects I start. This has been true all of my life. Along the way, across failed comic and book and videogame projects, I’ve acquired a wide range of abilities. Drawing, pixel-art, web design, creative writing, electronic music composition… even basic programming and game logic, enough to get by and use Godot Engine comfortably. I’m not excellent at anything, but I’m pretty good at a lot of things. However, there’s still a crucial ability I need to learn, and that is the ability to finish.

    Unfortunately I’m not really interested in short stories, which makes this goal a little bit harder to achieve. Sure, I’ve written short fiction in the past, I’ve finished singular songs or drawings, but what I really want is to create complex characters and see them grow and change and interact for a long while in a medium- or big-sized project. This has always been my focus. And I’m a highly perfectionist person, so… yeah. You could say that this combination hasn’t been very good for my learning-to-finish quest.

    At nearing thirty, I finally feel like my abilities and potential are up to par with my dreams. I no longer wish to become a professional creator, or at least that’s not my main goal. I feel quite comfortable working on my creative projects on my free time, as I can do whatever I want, however I want. So now I “just” need to finish something, I guess? The toughest challenge of them all.

    A couple of years ago, I was honestly getting better at this. I had finally settled on narrative videogames as the perfect form to bring my dream to fruition, by combining different disciplines (writing, visual art, music, game-like interactivity) to create a single fictional world. I had been working on the same project for a few years, was finally getting somewhere, working on it every week and publishing a devlog entry every month or every couple of months… and then Covid hit, I lost all of my good habits and barely worked on the project for the past year and a half.

    It was hard. It was frustrating. I didn’t really feel the motivation to do much of anything creative afterwards, and shifted my focus elsewhere.

    It has taken me a lot of time to recover from this failure, I must admit, but finally, finally I’m getting back on track. That’s the main reason why I’m starting this blog: to document my process and showcase my advances, in a more meaningful (and, most importantly: wordy!) way than by using social media.

    First of all, I’ve had to accept that the pre-Covid version of the project isn’t really going to work anymore. I’m not the same creator as I was a few years ago when I first planned it, and this forced halt on development has made me rethink too many things and lose track of too many aspects of the project for it to stay as it was. For example, the core identity of the project was the fact that it looked and felt like a Game Boy Color game, and that isn’t something that I honestly wish to do anymore.

    I didn’t want to reset the project entirely, and I haven’t, since a lot of work has been put into it and a lot of concepts and systems can be reused. But it won’t stay the same anymore at its core, which is the reason why I have decided to change its name (more on that on future entries!) and kind of “start anew”.

    However, not everything about the past year and a half has been bad, or a waste. Over this time, I’ve played a lot of different games (probably a wider variety of them than ever before in my life), read many comics and books, watched a lot of animation, and have been slowly learning to let go of what my project was “supposed to be” and instead focus on what I really “want it to be”, what I really enjoy in fiction. In particular, playing/reading many visual novels has made me realize that a “game-like” format can be a lot more like a novel than I thought, and it has provided me with renewed determination to create my particular not-quite-videogame, not-quite-comic, not-quite-novel interactive piece of fiction and share it with the world.

    So here I am. I am pretty determined to finish my current project this time, and yeah, that’s what I said the last time, and the time before that, and before THAT… but I need to keep believing that I can do it, and improving myself, if I ever want to achieve my goal. And hey, on this occasion (for the first time ever!) I have crafted a painfully detailed roadmap to follow, so I don’t lose track of specific tasks and always have something solid to fall back on. So progress, I guess? I learn something new on every try, hopefully I will get it right this time…

    Well, this introduction is quite long enough as it is, so I should probably wrap it up. Please excuse me for any mistakes in my English (not my native language) and please DON’T excuse me for my wordiness, I really do enjoy writing a lot. Which is why I hate Twitter. Well, not really, I hate it because it’s depressing. But also because I can’t write whole paragraphs like this. Blog sweet blog! Oh glob, I had missed having a proper webpage with room to ramble.

    I will eventually add more sections to the blog, such as a gallery and/or portfolio section, which will replace my former Artstation and DeviantArt galleries. For now you can find me here and on Twitter, Bandcamp and Soundcloud.

    Thank you very much for reading, if you made it this far, and see you on future entries! I will be talking a lot about my project and detailing my advances and stuff, so if that’s your kind of thing, stay tuned.

    Best wishes,