My biggest, overall design goal for the game is to recreate that feeling of summer in my childhood neighborhood. I knew I wanted the player to walk around, see the sights and hear the sounds of a lazy summer day, meet up with friends and trade cards.
I loosely played around with different styles and camera angles for the houses as I was coding the functionality of the game. I’ve always liked Craftsman style houses, so that is what I decided the neighborhood was going to be made mostly of. I also knew that the player would be mowing lawns to earn money and felt that I was going to need some kind of overhead view to be able to move around trees and other obstacles.
This was one of my first concepts.
This seemed to be working out pretty well, so I started working on some Craftsman houses in earnest. I was also following the standard RPG-like camera angle and splitting my houses into tilesets, with the hope that I could create different houses easily by mixing and matching parts.
Once I put these houses together with scenery and started walking my character around the neighborhood, it felt pretty neat. But it wasn’t quite the feeling I was looking for. I even briefly tried the isometric view that has become popular.
I also began modeling up a house in Blender so I could experiment with totally different camera angles.
But I still felt disconnected from the character, as if I was moving a game piece around a diorama. I wanted to feel like I was a boy again, actually in the neighborhood and soaking up those summer days.
I really wanted to be down on the sidewalk, and was considering doing a full-on 2D, front view of the house. I also wanted to feel more like I was in a Saturday morning cartoon instead of looking at a realistic replica of a street. How was I going to handle scenes like mowing the lawn though? I wrestled with this for a while and finally decided to put off that problem and just see if the front view was what I was looking for.
Whoa! Now I was getting somewhere. Suddenly the game felt more intimate. I’m actually in the neighborhood. I want to walk up to that front door and see if my friend is home so we can trade cards. I began switching my game over to handle this new view. Only one thing was missing, and it took me a while to realize the obvious.
I didn’t grow up in a neighborhood of Craftsman houses. I grew up in a neighborhood of Ranch houses. This wasn’t really going to affect the game, and I can always add the Craftsmans in at a later time, but I decided to make a Ranch house and see if this was the final piece of the puzzle.
Wow. This was it. Everything now fell into place. This house of course probably stirs up only my own memories, but hey, now I really felt myself getting drawn into the overall feel of the game. That original spark I had to create this game gave me the same feeling, and now I was on the way to capturing it.