Post news RSS Book Ends: An Introduction

Book Ends has been my passion project for well over a year and after receiving very positive feedback from the game development community, I have decided to take this project all the way to release. This article will quickly cover the progress I have made since I started work on it as well as outline some plans for its future.

Posted by on

A bit of background: I am the father of a now almost-five-year-old daughter. Since she was old enough to hold up her head, she has sat at the desk with me and taken control of the mouse and keyboard to play the games I've made. So one day I set out to make us our own game; a local co-op RPG with a toon style that would allow us to explore a world together. As a father, I of encourage my daughter to find the love for books and stories that I have always had, and from all of this came Book Ends: a game in which a world of joyful people has suddenly lost its happy ending. It will be the job of the player(s) to bring happily ever after back to a realm that is now plagued with minions, bosses, and other unpleasant things, all in an effort to save this storybook world.

Concept Title Screen

I have put a lot of time into this project since its inception, but my focus has become much more refined since I decided to finish and release this game, which originally started as something for my daughter and me to play together. After sharing progress via Twitter and the Unity forums, I was getting a lot of positive feedback and finally made the decision to bring this game to the public. Since then a lot of time has gone into refining the gameplay so I could provide everyone with a demo, and am currently hoping to have that demo ready for late spring/early summer this year.

Zoey, as always, has been a priceless source of both play-testing and inspiration and if she were my only critic, I dare say I've already developed a successful game. She loves butterflies, so I modeled and animated some butterflies:

Butterfly Tree

She loves flowers, so I left her an Easter Egg:

Butterfly Tree

Point being, from the fact that this game takes place in a storybook to the fact that flowers and butterflies are everywhere, this game is 100% inspired by my little play-tester, and the notion of seeing her reaction to whatever I am working on at the time is all the drive I need to get this game done; something I have done for people that have hired me as a freelancer but have not done myself as of yet.

This game started as a prototype I made beforehand. The prototype was done just for fun and experience, as I was working on random map generation at the time for the sake of making myself more viable as a freelance game developer. You'll notice that while the prototype and Book Ends look very different, the gameplay is fairly similar. My daughter at the time could not operate a third-person camera (she was 3 years old at the time), and as is usually the case, I handed her an XBox controller and let her play it.

This was one of our more enjoyable gaming experiences together because the character was easy for her to control with a controller; at the time she was a pro with both a mouse and a trackball, but controllers were new and the XBox controller was too large for her to really get the hang of. I have since bought here a small Bluetooth controller in the style of the original NES controllers and she loves it. My goal quickly became making a game for the two of us to play from the couch with controllers.

I kept the mechanics and swapped out the art assets for something more appropriate for her. I will get into more detail on the art a bit later, as there is a lot of credit to go around. Next, I implemented a split-screen setup and added a second player; I set up a very simple level of a green plane, some trees, and some crates to break open, and what resulted was a gaming session that was a lot of fun for the both of us.

After deciding that moving forward would result in a game we could play together as I continued its development, I started sharing this progress via Twitter and receiving positive feedback. This led to me sharing more and eventually starting a thread on the Unity forums and committing myself to releasing it on Steam and other platforms. Long story short: what started as an exercise in map generation led to Book Ends, and I hope someday soon to have other parents playing it with their children, friends with their friends, etc.

Come Sail Away

Book Ends can be played solo or split-screen with a friend (locally). The setup for two player games works similar to that of the Lego series, in that the screen is divided in half at an angle determined by each player's location at any given time. The game can be played with mouse/keyboard, with controllers, or a combination of both. There will be various puzzles in which players will need to work together to progress forward in the case of co-op gameplay, and single-player puzzles for those who opt to play solo.

Book Ends will be released in episodes (3-4 total) and as the player(s) progress, will take them through 4 unique worlds located in this story-book realm. Along the way they will encounter various characters, visit houses, navigate dungeons, and even sail to a book-island that will serve to progress the story forward.

Players will be able to choose between 5 different character classes, each with a unique set of weapons and spells. There will be an option that eliminates the need for weapons and attacking whatsoever for those who would prefer a child-friendly experience. There is already a child-friendly option that puts all minions in a passive state so that less-experienced players can get the full experience without getting swarmed by a bunch of enemies at the same time.

Split-Screen Setup

The story will likely be linear, although I am considering a more "open world" setup; not one necessarily in the traditional sense where the player can go anywhere they want, but opening up the quests/tasks given to the player so that they can be done in any order and at the discretion of the player.

In closing, Book Ends aims to be a fun, local co-op experience for people of all ages that, ironically, I hope reminds players that there is just as much adventuring to be had within the pages of a good book. In the end, I hope to have succeeded in conveying an experience that feels like the game is taking place in a story; one that has lost the happy ending the people of this world had come to take for granted, and one that needs to be reassembled piece by piece.

I will be sharing more about this game over the next few weeks, focusing on its current state, plans for the future, and doling out some much-deserved credit to artists who've helped make this possible.

progorion - - 28 comments


Reply Good karma Bad karma+1 vote
Post a comment
Sign in or join with:

Only registered members can share their thoughts. So come on! Join the community today (totally free - or sign in with your social account on the right) and join in the conversation.