Let’s talk about the elephant in the room: Game development sucks. Seriously.
If you’re the “programmer,” you have to pour over thousands of lines of code looking for thesegment or phrase that has caused one of hundreds (thousands?) of glitches. It is your job to ensure that whatever product is released out into the wilds of the world – be it Steam, GOG.com, Desura, HumbleStore, or even ModDB, is free of fault. You can’t even say there are “countless” lines of code, because you know how many are there. You know exactly because you’ve counted them. Every. Last. One.
If you’re the “concept artist,” then if the game looks like garbage, it’s your fault. You are often the only one standing between efficient sprite frames, seamless transitions, animations, beautiful backgrounds, the foregrounds, Newgrounds, and other “–grounds” that were heretofore unknown before you set off on your journey. Sure, the “programmer” may give your creation life, but you give their code an avatar. You give the meaningless code meaning. You give it a heart.
If you’re an “audio artist,” you’re tasked with arguably the most difficult job. Somehow, someway, you’re to take what the other two do and tell a story with little more than the abstract. You’re supposed to create swirling, moving pieces of music that completely capture the overall tone and feel of the game. Whether it’s meant to be an up-tempo piece, or a slow, plodding dirge, you know that you’re the most important part. You give the code and design a soul through the power of music.
Everyone gets together, falls into that groove where everything just works… for a time. Having to create new ideas in a flash and from out of nowhere; having to fight the feeling of hopelessness; having to fight to get a happy balance between everything so it doesn’t become overwhelming, while making the best experience possible for the audience. That’s only some of the roadblocks that await you. Some enterprising masochists even decide to take on all the roles and try to develop games by themselves!
Wouldn’t it be nice to have a game that encapsulates all that crippling doubt and frustration into one shiny package? (Wait, really?...)
Made with the Unity Engine and billed as a game for developers with a humorous take on game development, the premise is simple; you play as the titular star of the comic “The Meatly.” You’re trapped in an attic – likely a self-imposed isolation – and feverishly type away at a laptop, “making” your game by repeatedly slamming your digit on the “S” key as quickly as possible. As you do, an even simpler progress bar begins to fill just below you and the greener it becomes, the closer you are to finishing your game! Once the game appears on screen, floating in mid-air, you must click on it to bring yourself closer to finishing the level with the goal represented by a counter in the top-right.
Be warned, however, as there are plenty of terrible things that crawl out of the woodwork to stop you as quickly as possible! You do have weapons to protect your creations by the way of a flyswatter, some bug-spray, and your mighty, meaty fist. These are controlled by “W,” “A.” and “D” respectively.
What could you possibly have to defend against, though? The natural enemies of creativity, of course!
To start with, there’s the deadly “Idea Fairy!” This cherubic little jerk will circle around your head, gradually siphoning away your creativity and your thoughts by forcing you to have new ideas, derailing you faster than AMTRAK trains in the 90s. Your only line of defense being your trusty flyswatter.
If that weren’t enough, you also must contend with the devious “El Glitch” which threatens your work by always popping up with every new sequence of code. After all, the closer you get to completing your game, the more often he rears his ugly face; a face which you must adjust by driving your meaty fist into its jaw, which connects with a satisfying squish/crunch.
Next, you must deal with the most crippling creature of them all: “The DownFish.” Essentially standing as the personification of low morale and depression that some report throughout the creation process. The DF will appear from time to time and sap your finished product until you spray it away. Now, whatever is meant by spraying your depression away with an aerosol can, I could only venture to guess.
However, nothing can prepare you for their leader, saved only for every ten levels or so, and the bane of AAA and Kickstarter Indie projects everywhere: “Feature Creep.” This monstrosity gives you barely any room to breathe as it stalks you, turning the single-button- play up to this point into a frenetic “follow the button prompts before it grabs you” mechanic.
The game is overflowing with charm, what with its musical score seemingly cribbed from B-Sides of a Danny Elfman/Tim Burton pairing.
Music is effectively an ambient music-box in the style of Edward Scissorhands and a dash of Coraline. The art-style, also Burton’esque, consists of The Meatly rapidly tapping his fingers on a keyboard, a static background with a mesh of soft and sharp-angled objects you’d find in an attic (with energy-efficient bulbs, naturally), and the previously mentioned lurking baddies.
Unfortunately, while the game does pluck all the right notes on the heartstrings, this is a rather shallow offering. The music tends to only change once the “Feature Creep” shows its face, and, other than that, it’s the same throughout. The gameplay is effectively a “see object, hit button” throughout every level with little variety, again, until the Feature Creep shows up. When it comes right down to it, you’re playing a game of Digital Simon or Wack-A- Mole. Keep in mind that your only real interaction with the game is the occasional slapping of keys while repeatedly hitting a single key to progress, and you have a recipe for early-stage carpal tunnel. For those that are determined to hunt Achievements, the game has them in abundance, though all of them are of the “Beat X creatures in a single play” marathon-style.
While the game is indeed a digital treadmill and likely something that could be entertaining for at least 30 minutes or more, depending on how stubborn/obsessive you are, this is likely not a game for the general public. However, it does serve a purpose, making the argument that this is likely how many developers feel; no matter how many games they make, or how close they get to the completion of a project, they’re still plagued by the same issues, worries, and outright fears. If nothing else, the game stands as a show of solidarity among developers, and might even be useful as a time killer or form of digital therapy for the suffering creative.
The game itself is currently available for the price of $4.99 on GameJolt, found at this link.
While the game is apparently never-ending, what little content there is shines with quality throughout. It may not give you your money’s worth compared to some other games at the price-point, but it’s still an enjoyable time-waster. If it saves even one dev from the dangers of Idea Fairies, Glitches, The DownFish and Feature Creep, it has done its job.