Origins And Beginnings
Often times, I find myself wondering about the origins of various media, especially games, and how they started.
This is that story; the origins.
The original idea started out with setting a farming sim in space, because everything is 20% cooler In Space. The next piece of the concept, the ability to attract villagers, took shape from sheer annoyance; starting up other farming sims, I often felt overwhelmed by the need to go out and greet a large number of townspeople, especially since I wanted to play the kind of well loved social butterfly I don't have time to be in real life. Taking a page from Terraria both by designing a game I'd like to play myself and by thinking in terms of "unlocking" NPCs, I arrived at the idea of a colony with the villagers moving into player's town, rather than the other way around. Thus, with the player setting out all alone in space, the name seemed to write itself: One Lonely Outpost.
The first time I pitched the idea to Brad, I had far more complicated ideas for NPC interaction and was getting into some deeply technical ideas of generated world layout, so I actually compared it Dwarf Fortress. Like any sane person presented with the idea of "Hey, let's work on this idea that's something like DF," he rejected it outright. It would be several more years and a couple more projects pitched back and forth before we actually started working on OLO.
Initially, I actually started working with another artist, Joe Rossow, on OLO, building a basic engine in MonoGame. It stalled and sputtered - and really only had a simple character walking on an empty background which, sadly, doesn't count as cooler for being In Space. The project really started when Brad came on board, and rather than being just another dev, he jumped right into managing the project.
When something is conceived, and when it becomes real or tangible are often two different things. You have an idea, maybe even thought about it a fair bit. But until you put pen to paper, it remains an idea. This is about moving from zero to one - the very beginning.
In January of 2018, some office politics at my day job motivated me to look for a career in game dev in a much more serious capacity than I had ever done before. I hit up David whom I had worked with many times before dabbling in game design and programming theory, along with casual game projects. I told him "David, I need an artist. I don't care what the game is, as long as there's an artist. And it has to NOT be my idea, because if it's my idea I'll perfectionist it right out of viability." He pitched me One Lonely Outpost since the artist was still up for continuing the project. After several rounds of picking the idea out of David's head into a realistic shape, OLO as you now know it was set in motion.
We picked out a toolset - starting with Unity, then adding pre-made solutions for things like dialogues, cut-scenes, and so forth (no sense in re-inventing the wheel, after all). We dedicated time each week, set goals and stuck to them as much as our lives allowed. And in short order, we had a twenty page design document and our first demo, with a character who could walk around, plant and harvest things. It doesn't sound like a lot, but in just two short months we had accomplished something tangible.
It was the start of a long pre-production and prototyping process. More than once I made the difficult decision to halt forward progress while we re-evaluated major parts of the game; the art style, the tone and feel, and more. I kept seeking not global perfection, but perfecting just the feel of the game; that underlying emotion of contentment, relaxation, and satisfaction one gets after an evening playing Stardew Valley. I wanted to see that coming together, if only a glimmer at this point, and we kept experimenting until we were able to have a clear idea and solid plan for delivering that experience through our own unique voice.
Over it's course, members joined and a few parted; the team grew, and the project evolved, but the vision we established early on has held true. We have now left the beginning, but we are still very far from the end. I hope you will join us on this journey.