Hopepunk City is my next game, and even I admit it is a strange one crossing multiple genres. I have released a demo on my Patreon page.
My first post about this game was about the genre of the game. My REAL first post about this game was about art trends in 2020, with the theme “I don’t care if it is popular or not, I’m just doing it for me.”
Hopepunk City was made in 2020 during a global pandemic, racial riots, and a very contentious election, and I had all that in mind while writing it.
I’ve decided to release a demo version of the game consisting of the mostly complete first third of the game on my Patreon page. In testing, I’ve come to realize that this portion of the game is a bit dark.
In fact, revisiting my 4 previous games, none of the games have been as dark as this game currently seems. What the hell am I thinking?
At the same time, I am looking at what I have left to work on in this game. I have about 18 or so scenes left, that I have been kind of avoiding. As it turns out, these scenes demand to be fun and lighthearted to reverse the gloominess of the game so far.
In other words, I spent a good part of a year perfecting the dark parts of the game while avoiding writing and illustrating the fun parts of the game. I am starting to question my own sanity.
A brief description of the opening third
The game opens up in a refugee holding area. It used to open up with long winded exposition text, until I decided “showing” is better than telling. You deal with an immigration agent in a military uniform, and then the first people you meet are people that hate refugees. The first friendly person you meet is Rachel.
Rachel gives you a tour of the house, then you meet Ariane, and depending on which origin you pick for your character, this is either a getting to know Ariane section, or a getting caught up section. There is a key point where Ariane asks what you are interested in, which is a key choice in the paths you can take.
The “game” part of the game starts here, where you have to find work so you can buy stuff like meals for your roommates, so they will like you better, or training courses so you can find better work, and buy better stuff.
Then you meet Maya, the new character, who explains the setting you find yourself in. In brief, you are in Artema (named after the Greek goddess Artemis who appears on the flag) a city-state that gained its independence from the now defunct United States which has ceased to exist after the “Second Civil Wars” effectively divided the country into 96 independent mini countries, of which Artema is one. Artema has a unique form of government, which you can get a deep dive explanation from Maya, or just a short relevant synopsis if you don’t care about political philosophy.
You also learn that liberal Artema has a conservative neighbor called St. Reagan, which you learn little about except they are your ideological opposite.
The last “introductory” dialog is a talk with Ariane and Rachel where they explain the current state of their relationship.
You then have dialogs that go into more specifics of the three roommates designed to set up the drama of the story. First a grocery shopping trip with Rachel and Maya indicate Rachel and Ariane are not as happy as they seem. Then a hot tub section with Ariane where she shares some personal tragedy that happened in the war, followed by a dialog between Maya and Ariane discussing Artema not doing as great as it seems.
And of course, this is where the “demo” ends.
Balancing the tone
The middle third has a different tone and immediately introduces some fun new characters. This is also the part of the game I am still working on.
It is very possible to mix drama and comedy, in fact mixing the two is pretty much the aesthetic in the 21st century, especially the last decade. Thinking back on the last decade of movies, the only successful “comedy” I can think of is Scott Pilgrim Vs The World. And yet there were plenty of laughs in most of the super hero films and blockbusters we watched.
Same thing in TV as the most common TV genre is the hour long comedy/drama. Even dark fantasy series Game of Thrones made sure there were laughs in every dramatic episode, while comedies like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel made sure there was drama in every episode.
This is the balance I am trying to find with Hopepunk City.
The problem is that I need to be in the right mood to write the comedy bits, and that mood has been rare. I mentioned in the art trends essay that making this game has been a form of therapy to deal with the craziness that is life this past year. I have actually finished all the dramatic parts of the game, leaving only the lighthearted portions to work on.
More Self Therapy
What this means is that I have to “turn a corner” in order to finish the game. Where making the game started as a form of therapy to blow off steam, I now have to find a way to cheer myself up so I can finish it.
One thing I have been doing is making happy art. The picture above where the three main characters are smiling and having a good time is a part of it. Why are they smiling? What are they laughing about?
I’ve also been on a nostalgia kick, binge watching old favorite TV and movies. I also got myself vaccinated, and getting out of the house more. Time to start doing the stuff I enjoy doing again, like making fun games.
I am writing this because I am sure I am not the only one. We let the pandemic scare us and depress us and for the past year, and it was the rational attitude to have.
But I think that needs to end. We need a time for optimism and hope. I’m not calling for an end to masks and social distancing yet, but I am calling for an end to fear and depression.
The light at the end of the tunnel is getting close. Time to get excited!