This is the first in, what I hope is a long running series where I ask game developers for a peek ‘behind the curtain’ of development. Who better to kick off the series than a brand new developer and great friend, John Roo. He is currently developing his first game which is now in the finishing stage and will be released on March 1st 2020. I thought he was a great choice as it’s all still very fresh in his mind and see if he has learnt on this journey.
First off I’d like to thank you for agreeing to the interview and taking the time to answer my questions. John also made the intro for this video along with all the editing so thank you again for all the work you’ve put into this. We’ve been talking a while now about the game and I’ve been play testing builds and to see how much the game has grown in the short time I’ve been playing has been incredible. He takes any criticism on board with a pinch of salt and tries to integrate suggestions that he sees fit. In my eyes that’s the sign of a great developer.
I sent John some questions which he answered in video form and he told me to do a follow up write up with some more behind the scenes stories between us so I’ll add some antic dotes following the video, you can check it out here –
John talks up my part in development but to me, as I’ve said to him, he built the foundations of the house, I just fluffed some of the pillows. But as he has said to me this is ‘imposter syndrome’ an issue he himself has when I call him a game developer. To me I just pointed out a few spelling mistakes (but thanks to Jason (@geekmid) we realized we missed a few more). Talked about what worked and what didn’t and helped with some story aspects. John says I don’t give myself enough credit, but I suppose that’s something I’ll learn along the way. A lot of my suggestions were, as John puts it “out of my league, some of the I just genuinely couldn’t do or it’s out of the Gameboy’s league”. John did all the hard work and I can’t praise him enough for all he has done for me with his project as well. We became great friends through the process (but that won’t be reflected in my review, I will always stay bias free with reviews). A huge part of the reason he wanted me on board was because he knew I’m not a RPG fan and he wanted to create a game for both fans and non fans of the genre.
On January 8th with the spelling mistakes now sorted (or so he thought) and knowing the game is 100% beatable without any glitches John said – “It’s sort of pointless for me to expand this game anymore. I’m just gonna fix bugs and wrap it up”
It’s crazy looking back now just how much work John has done since then, so I’m happy he decided to continue working on the game. As John to me earlier, so much was done that it feels like “a whole game came after that”
John always had the idea of a limited physical release in the back of his mind but hadn’t got any art work when I joined the testers. I wanted to show him what the box could look like I sent him a mock up to see what he thought. It was a quick mock up as I had no Photoshop skills but knew I wanted to learn. His response is below the image.
‘’Did you want to write up the text on the cover art?? I’m going to get it done professionally and use your template’’
He liked it but wanted it to be cleaner ‘so to speak’ and enlisted the help of fiverr artist – Suleman Abid – he did a great job on the box art and helped see John’s vision for the cover as well. I asked John could I try to make some more art (manual and cart artwork) and he agreed. He loved it, and I wanted the box art to reflect manual and John let me ‘rework’ the previous art to fit better with the new manual and cart. It went through a lot of design changes before we settled on something we both loved. If it wasn’t for Schulman I don’t think it would have turned out as well as it did so I can’t thank him enough either. He laid the foundations and helped me vision what the box could be.
As a collector myself I knew the small details are what matters so logo’s, ratings and text all had to be done and test printed to make sure it would look good on a shelf or on display. I think we found the perfect balance.
The Testing Phase
I got access to the game on 30th December and played through for the first time and wanted to test EVERTHING so I was exploring every aspect to the game I could and see what secrets I could find. The end result? Completing the game in less than 5 minutes. Turns out John set up a warp zone on the first screen to be able to test the final scene without playing through the whole game. To this day I was the only tester to find it (it’s gone now for anyone hoping to get the speedrun record). It was actually my first message to him about the testing, I sent a video of my playing it along with the caption ‘I must have the speedrun record’. Along with some other messages about the game and me worrying I was too much, john responded with –
‘’Holy s***. Elmo I’m impressed. You got further than any other tester. Wtf dude. I need to write this all down. I’m going to re-adjust all of this. You’re not too much. It’s actually nice as f*** to have the input. I’ve been alone in the entire process lol.’’
This build I got was the base game, no music just the gameplay and the base mechanics, one of which changed to what it is now in the final build, and some that are new additions. I enjoyed the game as it was. No glitches or game breaking bugs, it played well and looked great but I found myself constantly frustrated trying to be the ‘good cop’. The only way to boost your credibility (the mechanic the game decides if you’re good or bad), is to arrest the bad guys. It was insanely difficult for me to do. I played through the game 6 times and maybe made 4 arrests. After talking to John I found out that, despite the opening arrest sequence suggesting otherwise, arresting robbers was all chance. A 1/3 chance every time you try to arrest regardless of the enemies’ health.
This was the only time we clashed throughout development. John wanted to make it hard to be the good cop. Cops get a bad rep in the media and he wanted the game to feel as ‘close to real life’ as possible. It’s easier to be the bad guy after all. As a developer, along with any creative work, you become attached to your own ideas but a testament to John he understood that as a player, it would be too frustrating. The new battle system has checks in place, so when the enemy is low on health the chances of arrest are higher than when they are full health. So now it pays to weaken the enemy before trying to arrest.
Originally the arrest sequence was a tazer scene. You would walk up to the player and press the B button to ‘taze’ them. There wasn’t much else to it, it did work well but it didn’t have the interaction that the latest version does.
The first building in the game went through some major changes. At first it was hard to tell that it was actually a Police Department. The tables and chairs were there but they were too big. When I mentioned that to John he decided to give it a complete overhaul and even added a jail! Such a welcome addition and makes it look so much better in my opinion.
As it was the first game John intended to finish and release he wanted to use a more beginner friendly engine to work with. He settled on GB Studio, a great GUI for making your own Gameboy game, that will also play on the original hardware. John worked hard on the game and even scripted his own menu system into the game because the engine didn’t have one implemented. Ironically less than 3 weeks before release John decided to test the GB Studio update he was avoiding (incase it broke the game he worked so hard on), and found out they added a LOT of new features. One of these features was, you guessed it, menus. Cue John learning the new updates and reworking his game and adding more new features.
He said he is glad that he didn’t update sooner anyway because it gave him more coding experience and more troubleshooting solutions that will always come in handy.
John planned to market his game on his facebook page with an audience of 60,000 people. But as fate would have it on January 8th they deleted his account and he hasn’t been able to get it back. Obviously a little deflated he didn’t have a back up plan with an audience as big. We talked through promoting the game on our pages (albeit with a tiny percentage of what his Facebook account had). He wants as many people to play the game as possible, not because he thinks it’s brilliant but because he “expected to get a lot of bug reports and sour reviews. It’s my first game, so it can’t be great. I think this is just about true research on how I can better this process. Like you are in no way supposed to finish this game. In fact it’s interesting to note where players get fed up and quit. Like I genuinely want to make games that people have fun playing. So I’m just trying to find what is fun.” The bigger the reach, the more he can learn for future projects. While John doesn’t have the confidence in his own work it seems, I can say the game is a lot of fun, I’ve completed it countless times myself.
In the video he said that I’d be sharing because of my work on the game but that’s not the reason in the slightest. I want to say that while yes, I may have helped in a small way. The reason I’m sharing the game is because I LOVE it! It takes me back to my childhood love for Pokemon red, while a completely different game; it has elements that remind me of it.
Thank you for trusting me to test your game initially and believing in me enough to let me interview you for my blog. For letting me help with the artwork and giving me free reign with it. It’s been a great process from start to finish.
Most Important – How to play
The game is available for you to download the rom to play on a gameboy using a flashcart or using an emulator. There is also a web player, all of which I’ll add links for when the game releases.
John hopes you enjoy the game and let him know if you’re the #QAgoodcop or #QAbadcop via twitter. You can find him at @theretroroomroo and @questarrest.
A link to another article from the very talented Jason (@geekmid) – https://midlifegamergeek.com/2020/02/24/preview-quest-arrest-game-boy/