Updated: May 4
Another one of my side projects I've had kicking around is a stealth/exploration game where you play as a raccoon. I thought it'd be cute to have the player platforming and exploring spaces to pilfer treats and snacks, and so the name Snaccoon came to be. Following some serious burnout and gamedev downtime, I started playing around with this raccoon asset in UE4 in April of 2020, first just making it run around with controller input. Within a few weeks I'd built in locomotion systems to allow for "parkour" movement similar to the sort of automated climbing/traversal in Assassin's creed, more robust camera controls & head tracking, item interaction, motion matching for stances, and even climbing.
I had a playable character (albeit with some issues/bugs) but didn't really know where to take it from there. I spent time on other projects, did some freelancing, but kept loading up my prototype project and running around as a little raccoon, thinking about how to take it further.
Over the next year my brother and I started working together on some game projects. We began collaborating on Woodbound, though my continual indecisiveness and history of burnout through it brought development to a halt (where it still remains.) We also turned around a goofy couch co-op game jam submission lampooning the Great Pandemic Toilet Paper Shortage, among other cool concept projects. The TP gamejam thing wound up being one of my favorite projects I've ever worked on, in large part due to the distinct lack of pressure and seriousness that had clouded other projects I'd been working on for so long. We spent a week chatting about design plans and scope, giving each other tasks, and laughing a lot. The result was ridiculously buggy and unpolished, but it was hilarious to work on, and best of all it was something our family members and friends could actually play, and they did. They laughed playing it the same way my brother and I laughed making it, and that was something I'd never experienced prior, as all my previous personal projects wound up being much more art-driven and private, and so the only exposure I allowed to them was through gifs and blog posts. This experience of having people actually play something we made was, forgive the pun, game-changing for me. We both agreed to keep working together on more projects, and bounced around between ideas for a bit. I had already showed him Snaccoon and while we had touched on it briefly before, it clicked immediately after the jam that the potential for humor and silliness in a concept like this would provide the same goofy, thoroughly un-serious tone that we'd found in working on our game jam entry, and we began planning in earnest & working pretty heavily on the project. I re-worked the locomotion system to be more responsive and fun, and started exploring worldbuilding tools & visuals. My brother began working on AI, gameplay loop programming, and a traffic system. He and I worked mentally demanding jobs (cybersecurity & IT, respectively) and we both have spouses and kids, so our time spent on it was in scheduled around everything else in our lives, and while we both agreed to obviously put our health & respective responsibilities first, I think I pulled more all-nighters in that time than I could count, as did he.
Sadly, shortly after that game jam, we started slowing down. My and my brother's schedules started getting more and more disjointed, and our available time and energy to work on Snaccoon began to dwindle. We eventually wound up agreeing to put development on hiatus when I was presented with a freelancing opportunity that I wanted very badly to participate in, which consequently would take up all my available gamedev time. Since then, Snaccoon has returned to a state of pause.
I got hired on at Heart Machine in September of 2021, and vowed to keep working on passion projects in my free time, but I haven't really made good on that so far. I've been mentally drained by the end of the work day, and wind up just browsing social media or playing games, and that's totally fine, it's been nice to relax a little. But I'm feeling myself getting antsy, wanting to work on stuff in my spare time again, flexing beyond just tech-art, branching back into gameplay development and design, and getting something to a playable state so I can experience that joy of having people play and enjoy something that I had a hand in. It's going to be a while before that happens with what we're doing at work, so I'm looking to return to my side projects again. I'm still stupidly indecisive on what to work on, so I haven't been tying myself to any one idea, and while that's comfortable, it also prevents me from making any real headway on any one project. I don't know what project I'm going to prioritize yet, but in the interest of exploring my options, I migrated the Snaccoon player actor into a marketplace environment in UE5, exploring some stylized visuals & overall mood/style tests. The results got me really excited, and have me thinking more about Snaccoon again. I have some ideas that I'd like to exercise, but for now all I have to share are some style test gifs.
My goal right now is to have something new gameplay-wise to share the next time I make a blog post, but I've been stuck in this weird internal conflict of "what should I work on next" and returning to Snaccoon to spruce it up a bit, seeing what it could look like in the long-run, has me feeling really excited. Similar titles in development like Stray and Little Kitty Big City have been making me feel really inspired lately, but my biggest blocker this entire time has been my own indecisiveness. I want to figure out how to get past it, so I can make something that makes me happy, and proud. Maybe that'll be Snaccoon. We'll see.
Holy cow. Okay, I've got some planning to do, but I'm going to focus my available focus/energy (outside of my day job obvi) on Snaccoon. Thank you very, very much to everyone who responded, reached out, read the post etc. While I was NOT expecting this kind of a response, I'm very grateful for the encouragement, and I'll do my best to turn this into something you can play at some point. Follow @snaccoongame on Twitter for updates, & this website you're on right now for future blog posts/bigger updates. ❤