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  • Writer's pictureTim Bradshaw

New Project Announcement! Introducing "The Voyage of Kiki Banana"

Yep, you read that title correctly. I am embarking on a new(ish) project, and am officially announcing it here... and it's a doozy! Read on for more details.



 


I'm Making a Video Game!


It's true. I'm making a video game... like, for real. I'm not just playing around in Unreal Engine this time. I'm actually committing to a specific video game project, and it is one I've hinted at before a few times.


Namely...

The Voyage of Kiki Banana

After her gambling-addicted grandma gets thrown into debtor's prison by the ruling banking dynasty of her home sea, Kiki, a bumpkin islander with a penchant for treasure-hunting, sets off on the most ambitious voyage of her life - to discover the scattered treasure troves of a legendary pirate captain to rack up enough booty to bail her out... But will it be enough?




That's the basic plot. The game itself will be something of an action/adventure 3D platformer with some light RPG elements, with a Metroidvania style of level progression. The world will be a series of levels strung together by a Zelda II style overworld map which can be perused (mostly) non-linearly.


The core gameplay loop consists of searching each area for treasure (many of which can double as weapons or items of progression), and choosing to either stow away the treasure on your ship for selling later or sacrificing it to deal with some obstacle in your way to progress further and find potentially better treasure. You might say it's something of a collect-a-thon, but the collecting actually serves both a gameplay and a story purpose and isn't just arbitrary.


And, to give you some idea as to the visual style of the game, here's a little sizzle reel type of thing I whipped up a while back.


Obviously this is far from the finished look of the game, but it should be enough to give you an idea as to what I'm going for, namely a vibrant cartoony aesthetic.




Inspiration for the game comes from a disparate variety of places, they being -


  • Star Tropics (an obscure little action RPG for the NES, one of my favorite games) for its tropical nautical aesthetic, quirky characters, and overall gameplay style.

  • The Legend of Zelda series (namely Zelda II, The Wind Waker, and, to a lesser extent, Breath of the Wild) for its sense of exploration and discovery, as well as its tight dungeon design.

  • Freshly Picked: Tingle's Rosy Rupeeland for its focus on raising money and haggling as both a gameplay element and for story progression.

  • The Wario Land series for its focus on treasure-hunting as a means of opening up new areas, expanding the map, etc.

  • The Shantae series for its fun piratey aesthetic and utter disregard for modesty.

  • One Piece for its general nautical pirate aesthetic and its wacky but intricately detailed and interconnected ocean world.

  • Cartoons from the late 80's to early 90's that I grew up with for the general cartoon aesthetic that's actually fun to look at and isn't your boring, bog-standard CalArts "bean-mouth" drivel of today.


Hopefully that'll help give you a better idea as for the kind of game I'm going for.


So, why make a video game as opposed to any other creative project? Why this of all things?


You might be wondering why I've decided to follow through on a large video game project without having made smaller ones in the past, or why I've chosen this medium instead of another, like comics or animation. I should probably explain myself. Here are the reasons:


I'm SICK TO DEATH of waiting around trying to make a decision to do something more "reasonable"


If you've had even just a cursory glance at this blog, you may have noticed an unfortunate pattern with what I announce vs. what I end up actually doing. I'll be the first to admit that historically I've had a flake-out problem when it comes to decision-making.


That stems from a mild bipolar tendency I've had for a long time now, where I'll get all riled up about a project thinking I can do anything, then actually attempt it and get immediately overwhelmed with it, and thus my enthusiasm comes crashing down... until another potential gets me excited again, and the cycle continues.


So... what makes this any different, you might ask?


Well, I've been painfully aware of this bipolar tendency for a long, long time now, and I've made great strides in curtailing it. One of my strategies for this currently is to focus primarily on smaller projects, ones that can be done within a reasonable time frame and with limited resources. Nothing crazy, in other words.


However, I've found that all this seems to do is just keep me locked in a "what small project do I work on first?" mentality, which actually has the opposite effect of what this whole "more reasonable" approach is supposed to have - namely to free me up to actually accomplish things.


I now find that smaller projects, while believable in scale and scope, simply don't interest me. They just don't get my juices flowing, y'know? Perhaps, then, I should change my productivity strategy to one that does get me excited... And The Voyage of Kiki Banana does just that!


I actually, honest to God WANT to make this game! Sure, it may take some time, it may take a long time, it may take a lot of energy, resources, and loads of help... but, unlike some forgettable random smaller work... it'll actually be worth it all!


Knowing What I want to DO vs. What I want to HAVE DONE


One revelation I've had recently is that I've failed to differentiate between what I want to do versus what I want to have done. There's a subtle difference.


Something you want to do for its own sake, because it itself is a pleasurable and fulfilling thing, is a far cry from something you want to have done because it's necessary. Think of, say, fixing your roof. It's something that needs to be done, but it doesn't necessarily have to be done by you. You might choose to do it, but it's certainly not what you'd rather be doing. On the other hand, think of, say, building a birdhouse. It doesn't need to be done, but it may be an enjoyable project nonetheless. In that case, it would be something you'd want to do.


This is the mistake I've been making for a long time now. I come up with creative projects but don't differentiate them between the ones I'd actually enjoy the doing of and those that I'd just like to have done. I'll give you a recent example.


You may have read about this comic I've been trying to get off the ground for the past couple of years or so, namely Kiki Banana: Treasure Huntress. You may wonder why it's taken me so long to come up with anything regarding it. That's because... after many attempts at sitting down and banging out a script or an outline for it... I find that I simply do not enjoy the process all that much. I've found that it's one of those things I'd like to have done, but I'd much rather not be the one to do it. Perhaps I could hire on a writer to help me make them sometime in the future? We'll see...


Meanwhile, I find myself constantly drawn to the making of this game. I love the process of making games! It engages both hemispheres of my brain - designing fun game play elements with my right brain and figuring out how to implement them in Unreal Engine with my left. It's a lot of fun for me!


But, the reason why I haven't actually made a full game (even a tiny one) yet is because I feel like I need to "work my way up" to it with smaller, more "do-able" projects, such as comics. Meanwhile, I find I simply don't like making comics as much as I like making games, so... I've placed myself in a self-imposed pickle, and I aim to release myself from it here and now.


Here's the Plan...


Anyway, now that you're up to speed on my reasoning to go ahead with this daunting but exciting project, here's specifically what I have planned to do about it.


Firstly, about my other projects...


All other previously announced projects, particularly the comic Kiki Banana: Treasure Huntress, is all to be put on hold for the time being. Not given up on entirely, but just to be left on the back-burner until this project is completed.


I apologize to anyone looking forward to that comic project (all none of you, lol). But, I assure you, this game will be so much better. It's my original vision for this series, so it just makes more sense as a video game... Hard to explain, but you'll see in due time.


Making a Tech Demo and Listening to Feedback


My primary objective, my Chief Aim if you will, in regards to The Voyage is to crank out a substantial Tech Demo to freely offer. Once the demo is released upon the world, I will sit back and study people's feedback in any way, shape, or form it takes - stream commentary, let's play videos, reviews, etc. The nature of this feedback after some time (maybe a few months or so), will determine what I do from there:


  • If the feed back is Overwhelmingly Negative - I'll drop the project entirely and consider a new one.

  • If the feedback is Mostly Negative - I'll retool the entire project based on consistent criticism.

  • If the feedback is Mixed - I'll make adjustments where needed and continue on to making the full game.

  • If the feedback is Mostly Positive - I'll consider what little criticism there may be, and continue on with making the full game.

  • If the feedback is Overwhelmingly Positive - I'll jump right into making the game immediately and with great gusto, perhaps even go ahead and start a crowdfunding campaign to fund its production (as there's not a snowball's chance in Hell I'll be able to get the job done on my own, I will need help on the full thing).


During the production of the Tech Demo, I'll start a Dev Log for the project over on YouTube and Twitter/X. People seem to like those, so that'll likely help garner some much needed attention toward it. I'll also be making small Tutorials for little things here and there that I learn to do on my game dev journey. I might even take snippets of code and blueprints and put them on the Unreal Engine marketplace and elsewhere to help raise some funds as I make the game.


I should perhaps mention too as an aside that I will be allowing myself to momentarily pivot from the game project to focus on a much smaller project if and only if I feel moved to do so. This is to ensure that I don't completely burn out on the primary project. So you might occasionally see some random illustration or animation that has nothing at all to do with The Voyage of Kiki Banana and wonder where that came from. It allows me to rest while still being somewhat productive. I wouldn't expect that to happen too often, though.


Closing Thoughts


This is a tremendous leap of faith, perhaps the biggest I've ever taken. That's also a tremendous leap of faith for you as well. I realize I don't exactly have the track record to instill any faith in my capacity to see things through to their end. You might think I'll just flake out of this one too, go back to trying to make a comic or something... and I wouldn't blame you.


This does feel different, though.


This is perhaps the first decision I've made in regards to creative projects that throws any and all "reason" and "rationality" out the window in favor of pure Desire, what I actually want to do. I've always wanted to make video games ever since I first played one, and only in recent years have I developed my skills in Unreal Engine, Blender, etc. enough such that I now believe I can make them. And now, this is my first real attempt. No more faffing about, I'm taking the plunge!


I am so eager to get this ball rolling! I'm genuinely excited, and I don't even care what snags or hardships I might encounter on the way, either. It just feels good to have something definitive to do!


 

And thus concludes this announcement post. I'm very eager to share what I make with you all in the near future. I'll be creating a new Twitter/X page for this project sometime soon, which will be where I post as much as I am able, to let you all know what I've accomplished as I accomplish them. These tidbits will be compiled into longer videos posted to my YouTube channel, so look out for those as well.


Anyway, that's all I've got for now. Until next time,

Peace Be and Take Care!



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