Space Punk Moon Tour is the first game I’ve made. This shows, in pacing, execution and in what seems to be a lot of errors players found (if peeps want to specify where those errors were, I’d love to be able to fix them).
I fell in love with the world and the characters, and just the process of trying to make a game. I ended up working a minimum of twenty hours a week on this game for a year. I only took one week off, and the last month I was working forty hours a week on it. I was so exhausted by the time I finished it that I never really had time to step back and fully look at the game. So, this will be spoilers and commentary look back on everything.
I wanted to make a parser game where players were rewarded for creatively interacting with the world, and where every game play was unique for each player. This involved things like descriptions being randomized, as well as having different secondary plots based on choices that the player made (particularly through the first three rooms). I also wanted the choices you made to impact the characters around you.
Some of these are small variations
If you choose to draw, and draw often, that grows memories through your artwork and grows Tina’s art skills in the game. If you fix things throughout the game this skill set grows. If you steal things you can have the option of stealing things later.
I also tried to put in surprises for people who just interacted with the world in fun ways. The more objects you read with your phone, the more memories you collect. You can ask the psychic seven ball about plot elements. You can give TJ Sam’s number and then steal it back. You can flirt with most people, terribly, through really shitty space puns. You can hook Sam and Nadir up as flirty text buddies. You can learn cool dance moves from TJ, or almost lose your cat in a bathroom fire. These are just a few examples of hundreds of small variations
Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to be executed as well as it could be. I also didn’t think about the fact that people are only going to play the game once, so all the time I spent in small variations of descriptions and interactions don’t matter. No one is going to know there there.
Some of these are big variations
The subway is where the secondary stories begin to branch out. I wanted the world to feel tight, and for the choices you made to ripple through the other characters and the plot.
The pregnant woman on the subway is an undercover cop. If you read your newsfeed you have the number for the police. You can call the police on the hacksters who sit across from you. The black- haired woman’s sister is Yebin the bartender on your space flight. So, if her sister is arrested, Yebin will quit her job to go bail out her sister and you will have a male bartender on your flight -Nadir. If you don’t call the police this is left up to chance.
Sam, your friend from the Frayed and Fried where you worked with Jantasha, used to date TJ – who you can take a delivery job from. Sam is on his way to an interview, he rented an expensive outfit, but his shoes were stolen, if you give him shoes you guarantee he gets the job at the Cobri archival library and you can text him on your flight to get more information about Cobri and the factory fire that happened nine years ago.
Han’k (the customer service representative) has a son who is on your space flight. The son, Theo, has done work for TJ (which is how he got enough money to take a flight). If you don’t take the job from TJ, Theo does - and he will be at the party making the delivery.
The posh woman from the underground is also on your flight. If you do the puzzle in which you give her the pads, she will be your friend at the party and give you a lot of information if you talk to her. She was also the editor on Anger and Other Ways of Grieving (the novel written by Lisa Morse’s family – one of the victims in the Cobri Factory Fire).
Depending on the choices you make in the first three rooms the secondary stories affect how you get to the party on your space flight.
If you are working for the police, you will have a timed puzzle to get to the party. If you are doing a delivery for TJ you will have a timed puzzle, also. If you were given a tattoo by the hacksters you will have to go see a doctor and the doctor will take you to the party (and he will introduce you to Om who gives you a bunch of information about the hacksters and the wire drives). If you got the recipe for soup from your grandma you will do a cooking puzzle for the party, and otherwise Theo will take you to the party.
At the party, the choices you’ve made change what puzzle you have to do for Bradley so that he fixes your photo album. These puzzles range from a dance puzzle to a story telling puzzle. There are about six variations of puzzles you can get depending on how you played the game.
None of this really matters. I didn’t think about how people don’t want to play a game more then once. If certain information is only available through certain choices – other players will just feel like they’re missing things. And all the fun surprises that each player finds will just seem like how the game always plays because there is nothing to compare it to. It also makes it really hard to have a straight forward hint system.
The main story follows Tina Tessler. Your mother is dead, and your father is missing. Each section is split by a dream sequence that gives you more information about what it is going on.
Red Dot Collection
In three locations there are leaking Red Dot air filters that were recalled. As the story progresses you read in your newsfeed about how they were recalled nine years ago due to the Cobri factory fire – with hints that leaking wasn’t the reason they were recalled. You can collect wires from the machines and these wires have Athrin written on them. You can discover that some of the Athri workers were hiding messages in with the wires on the production line.
In your newsfeed, on the computer, on TV, in the red book, through conversation, from the photo in the bathroom – a bunch of sources give you information about the Cobri Factory Fire. You find out that Athrin workers were the primary victims in the fire. Lisa Morse, a wealthy on-planet victim becomes the face of the protests at the time in an attempt to implement safer regulation for workers.
Father Death and Cat Statue
As you piece together more about your father you realize that he isn’t missing he died, and he died on Athri. You have memories and dream sequences that indicate the cat statue was important. You remember your father working on a machine using glass like the cat statue while working with Athri families who had lost members in the factory fire.
If you collect the secret keeper, you can make a machine like your father did to channel memories from the cat statue. You can find out that your father was murdered on Athri.
Lost Pirates Series
There is an Athrin book series about pirates that talks about a grieving ceremony done on Athri channeling spirits using Lathe, a special kind of glass. You discover that your mother thought she could use the glass to bring back your dead father.
The game concludes with a final dream sequence. This was one of the things I was most proud of in the game, but I don’t think any players actually made it there.
Instead of a cut scene, this is a timed puzzle. It incorporates the style of puzzles you’ve been doing up to this point. You have three minutes to do this two-room mini game where you have to escape a sinking space camper. Each minute the animation changes as the camper becomes more and more filled with water. (if you just want to try this puzzle you can use: last dream cheat).
If you fail this puzzle all your mistakes compound for a bad ending. If you are successful you will always have a happy ending. The game then summarizes all the information you’ve found up to this point (and indicates where you missed information if you want to replay).
In the end you realize that your mother didn’t drown in a flood, but committed suicide and plunged the space camper into the Athri ocean, which you had to escape.
In summery. This game was a mess. I don’t think people were able to follow the plot – because it’s all over the place. The first two days of the game are really clear in what you have to do, but the last day gives you time to explore whatever you want to. Which makes the pacing weird, and everything drag. I also arranged the puzzles in a confusing way and should have had more beta testing. Some scenes of the game are first drafts because I was working up to the last minute to get it all done.
Conversation puzzles were confusing for players. There just maintaining a conversation, but because you have to guess what to ask about based on what you know about the people you’re talking to I think it was really obnoxious for players. It was also really complicated to design because if you say things that offend people (like trying to flirt with Han’k after he’s told you his wife is dead) you can lose rapport and then the puzzle gets harder. It was also difficult to make sure the character’s remembered conversation pieces to grow the conversations authentically.
Because there are different ways to play the game it was also frustrating to players because things would exist that weren’t for their storyline. The end result was that everything just seemed poorly implemented. Some things were poorly implemented, and some things had changing descriptions based on what storyline you were on – but for a player only playing once there is no distinction between these.
Things I personally liked about the game
I’m really proud of the last dream puzzle, and of a lot of the game design. I liked how inventory pictures work and how texting and your newsfeed function. I also put a lot of time and care into the artwork. Most rooms have a puzzle that will change the artwork (like giving Sam boots, or starting a fire in the bathroom). I also used the artwork to echo elements in the story dealing with Tina’s fear of water. As the story progresses Tina begins to have visions from her dreams during waking hours – things like a crashing space camper in the artwork at the party, or the skeleton artwork at the doctor’s officer and the vision of drowning in the flickering lights of the hallway.
In terms of world building I really loved the idea of a world where a black market exists for people who can’t afford health care, and how people end up joining hackster families to try and pay for medical work done illegally. I loved the silliness of people indicating class through ridiculous expensive hats. I really liked how I set up the money system so even if you own something like a stove you can’t use it unless you’ve bought credits. Then, internally, the game is set up to make it difficult financially. If you do poorly enough you can overdraft your bank account and you can’t buy anything anymore. I also loved all the weird advertisements I wrote for name brand products you can read with your phone. One of my favorites is the protein packs on your space flight. I also had a lot of fun writing in commercials on the TV when you change channels, and the first day of horror movie you can watch in the rec room about snake attacks is just purely for my own amusement. On that note – this game was probably too self-indulgent.
Thanks to everyone who slogged through this. I’m sorry it wasn’t more fun. I’m excited to take what I learned from this game into my next game. I don’t think I ever want to spend as much time on a game as I did on this one. It was too mentally and physically exhausting. But I am really looking forward to making a new game. Hopefully, it will suck less.