Daytime Drama - A Post Mortem

Mon 23 September 2019

A BRIEF HISTORY

Origins

It starts back in 2006. I started work on a game mod - a TC based on internet phenomena and random shit I could think of. I called it "Drama" for a lack of a better title. I was admittedly a browser of Encyclopedia Dramatica a bit too much.

However, this project is not really something I'm proud of. My level design was utter garbage, the sprites were not that good, and it relied on DEHACKED and DECORATE mixed together. It also focused too much on edgy humor. I don't mind edgy humor - but some stuff was admittedly in poor taste.

I released several projects in the interim, but none really struck me as something I've always wanted to do - I wanted to do a project where a person, down on their luck, has to go up against a bizarre against all odds scenario. I've always liked action movies, if you couldn't tell.

The original project had that going for it - I loosely based the protaganist off a friend of mine from back when.

I explored this concept with a Wolf4SDL project called Scoot Hard. I still have a copy of it and I do plan on polishing it up - or even remastering it in GZDoom - but it focused on Scootaloo from My Little Pony going up against the Rainbow Factory.

Scoot Hard Box With Screenshots

A kind of cringy boxart for Scoot Hard (I did it like it was sold in-universe, heh)

I learned alot from that project. Coding most stuff in C/C++ helped polish up my lower level programming skills... and it was the first major project I had completed. Granted, it was short. However I still fondly remember it. Hell, it has two things I have yet to implement proper in the Daytime Drama series - achievements (albiet primative and not that many) and vending machines!

Alas, one of the things I didn't like about it was the engine. I love Wolfenstein 3-D but the level design was lacking. I did find out how to do things like wall decorations, vending machines and such - but I really hated being stuck with just 90 degree walls.

And the sound engine! I know sound is often a point of debate in the Doom community. Hell, when designing DD2 me and others working on the game lamented at how it's impossible to transition between tracks dynamically, like how modern games do. However, I had to completely gut Scoot Hard's sound code and it's still not proper. The Wolf4SDL sound code I used was from the Die Hard Wolfer's forums, and it has some problems.

Yeah, Wolf3D as an engine definitely is primitive. We had to start somewhere.

Turning Tragedy Around

I decided to go back to GZDoom for my next project. It had easy to use tools, extensive documentation overall, and more importantly it was relatively easy to make a standalone game, even then. Later on the engine would even be GPL'd entirely, making it feasible to use as an indie game engine.

I started early on in 2013 toying with the concept of an indie FPS - a freeware one that appealed to my interests.

A tragedy would occur though that would admittedly affect me greatly. My grandpa passed away in 2013. I fell into a deep depression... I still am in that depression.

To try to stave off the depression, I started tinkering with GZDoom. I started drawing enemies based on cartoon characters and stuff I witnessed... the dudebrony and checksum unicorn enemies were an obvious reference to MLP's discourse involving vocal minorities in the fandom. I'm not fond of pushing political messages in games for "woke points". It was more tongue in cheek fun than me condemning bronies. I have no problem with them - something people have accused me of doing.

I also worked on another project. I wanted to see which one was better. One was a Rise of the Triad clone based on one of my earlier concepts. The other was a Duke 3D style FPS starring my persona.

It's clear now what one took off. I do wanna revisit a ROTT clone someday. Perhaps someday I will.

One of the things I liked back when was Gaming Garbage - a show by Lowtax and Shmorky (more on that later) where they play awful games. I decided to include Dontrel as a Cacodemon replacement. For the uninitiated, Dontrel the Dolphin is played off like a Sonic or Crash Bandicoot type mascot, but unintentionally becomes creepy due to the warped MIDI music and how Dontrel is rendered. Lowtax plays him off as being an elderich abomination, and thus a meme was born.

As for the other more iconic enemies - the Brony of Despair is admittedly based off the typical neckbeard brony stereotype - he basically is a Baron of Hell. Two recolored ones serve the purpose of cluster 1's bosses, a homage to Doom's E1M8 boss battle.

However, to balance it out, I made a Checksum Unicorn - who is erratic, fast, keeps reviving the dead... and very angry. I based her off of some Tumblr influencer who had a reputation for being a bit nasty. I forget her name though.

People have constantly asked me if I was trying to trash bronies. To be honest it was not my intent, as I said - however I cannot deny it made for good cannon fodder. I prefer to take the Filthy Frank approach to humor - no one is off limits, not even yourself.

I did similarly with BonziBuddy. Joel of Vinesauce inspired me with him resurrecting the evil spyware grape ape lookin' ass. Bonzi serves as a good Mancubus replacement. He fires pineapples at you. Why I didn't go for coconuts? Eh, not really sure. I think Pineapples were more fun to draw.

The most messed up enemy was probably the Purrmoid - which is based on the Cat Fingers episode from Steven Universe. Say what you want about the show, but some of the episodes have good nightmare fuel material. I will tap into this more in DD2.

BonziBuddy Brony of Despair Checksum Unicorn Dontreldemon Purrmoid

The BonziBuddy, Brony of Despair, Checksum Unicorn, Dontreldemon and Purrmoid sprites. These are 1/4 the resolution. These sprites are HUGE in-game, but I scale them down to fit the standard hitboxes and FOV. If only textures were this easy.

I kept chipping away at the game over the years. I had nothing better to do, especially since a fainting spell left me unable to drive in 2014. I did alot of art on my own. I even photoshopped signs and decorations for the levels. I even got help from some people, namely my friend Kelsie. More on that later.

Very early I knew I wanted to try to make it as close to Duke Nukem 3D as possible - a bit of Blood influence, some Aliens and Super Metroid too. Hell, the weapon upgrade ideas came directly from my love for Super Metroid.

I also decided to base the protaganist on me. A much more able-bodied version of me chuckles nervously.

Sanya

Two renditions of Sanya (2015, 2018)

Two renditions of Sanya. The one on the left is an earlier Danganronpa-esque rendition circa 2014-2015. The one on the right is her current look as she will appear in future entries.

Sanya is one of my oldest characters. She's a merging of two concepts - a saiyan OC from my childhood - and myself.

It makes sense - the tail, the bullet resistance... the tendency to be a bit heated... all things my character is. Some of course based off my own self.

A bit personal here - I had recently come out as trans during the time the game was in progress. So I made Sanya trans too.

However, I know - as it should be - that this doesn't define a character. In fact in the entire game I made it a rule of thumb to never mention Sanya is intersex and trans because I very much abhor people who feel the need to state their gender/sexuality all the time. I didn't want to use this to "sell" my project.

Thus this is the first time I'm ever gonna mention it. It's not incredibly relevant anyhow. I prefer my characters to not be woke stereotypes. I hate that in gaming and in media.

What defines Sanya? She's a fiercy loyal person who could have ran away from the problems. She's got a bit of John McClane from Die Hard in her, though she's more analogous to Ellen Ripley from the Alien movies.

Thank god she didn't run away because this could have ended badly. Very badly. However it puts a great stress on her. Her one liners and sarcasm are a coping mechanism for the pure chaos and evil she's facing against.

One of the levels I made was a hospital with a mental health ward. This was made because personally I have a great trauma with these things. I made the level to intentionally challenge myself during playtesting. And RodScorpion's music "Anemia" really fits the tone of the level and reminds me of a hospital.

RodScorpion's music ascends this shitpost of a game into a high quality product.

Also, to be honest, I'm not trying to make an ultra 5deep4me game. I am just for making a fun game. However sometimes stuff like this does happen.

In hindsight I'm surprised no one gave me grief for making Sanya a cop character. I know police are given so much shit nowadays. I'm not for that. I'm glad most people either put their outrage at the door or didn't see it as an issue.

I decided to call the project Daytime Drama as a homage to my very first project. It's as simple as that. It honestly makes little sense. I call it Daytime Drama despite the fact for all intents and purposes the game might as well happen at night due to that dark sky.

Honestly naming things is not my forte.

Music

You heard some of the music already.

Sound and music is important to a game, and admittedly I'm not the best at either. However, I decided to do something different and not use stock or video game midis.

My friend RodScorpion did the music for me as long as I linked to his album when he posted it onto bandcamp when the music was done.

I really feel bad, not many people bought his soundtrack. I'm not gonna beg people, but honestly the fact he did that for me and got not much in return bothers me. On one hand we did agree to this. It seemed to be a good idea at the time.

I think what was the problem was I released the game to the public as a beta-test before the music was completed. However, as I said, the music was not even planned, and this game is freeware.

Honestly I listen to it every now and then, and I still use it for Daytime Drama 2's music as well. His music really adds to the game.

I'd like to bring Rod on for a second one but I'm definitely paying him. Alas, I'm operating at a loss.

The reason I picked Rod was I liked his previous music called Forget Me Not. He has a way with electronic music. A+ material and perfect for my style of games.

Giving Sanya a Voice

My friend Sarah did Sanya's voice. This took a bit, and in beta voice acting was sporatic. I had someone else do an alternate voice for Sanya, but it didn't work out. Honestly it's for the best... though the idea of a Russian-esque Sanya still amuses me.

Sarah has a voice that has the right amount of pep and I was glad she was able to get into the final version of the game. My only regret is she didn't do more - and that's on me - I only wrote a handful of lines.

I know neither Harmony nor Rebecca (of Harmony and Rise of the Wool Ball respectively) had a voice and they're the closest analogs to Sanya in Doom based games. Not knocking that - both are great games, and both are great characters. It's just I wanted Sanya to have a voice. This tradition is being carried on in the sequel.

This was possible in ACS and DECORATE - two scripting languages available to the ZDoom family of engines. However the code was messy and required constantly looping. Plus ACS is more suited for level alteration than gameplay.

ZScript changed that. ZScript allowed me to basically roll my own functions, as well as export most code out of ACS. In fact... about that...

ZScript

ZScript is a low level programming language introduced to GZDoom. It had been in development for a long time. It answered so many of the problems we were facing with DECORATE and ZScript. You can edit all sorts of things with it - including level geometry. I was able to code a lot of sector effectors like Duke 3D had. The exploding walls? Daisy chained objects. I could assign a duration, tag range of exploding objects. I even made it so you could break TVs. This was all before they implemented a "destructable geometry" feature that I still can't wrap my head around. I like mine better to be honest.

While my project wasn't the first to have ZScript, it was at least one of the first of it's kind to have it. Most people bitched about the documentation being lacking, but I was able to learn easily.

One thing they did was exported the status bars to ZScript. This was done after Daytime Drama was pretty much done. I plan on rewriting the Status Bar/HUD in ZScript someday for the sake of neatness. There's still some code in ACS I'd like to export to ZScript, but the god awful cutscenes in my game depend on it.

An Earlier Build Showing MAP01. The statusbar is different.

An Earlier Build showing MAP01... however the statusbar is different. The statusbar proves to be tricky to design with SBARINFO, which was the only thing available at the time outside ACS for drawing HUDs.

I hate the cutscenes in DD1. Least favorite part of it. I don't wanna talk about them. Mainly because they were an afterthought. I will take great care next time on that.

Detail

My friend Kelsie (known as MissFinefeather) helped me a great deal with decorating the levels. Half of the decorations in the game are hers. And she designed the cinematic sequences in the cinema level.

In MAP07 there's a cityscape, and most of the decorations such as the billboards are her stuff. Some are mine. To be honest I forget who did what - except I know for a fact she did a reference to Damekko Dobutsu.

Kelsie's Billboard Featuring Urno from Damekko Dobutsu

Kelsie's humor is a bit different than mine, but that's okay. I really think this is a cute billboard, and conveys the normal life of Tchpsor and surrounding cities before the evil occurs.

In fact, the capital city region is called Damekko and Madokaton, a homage to that anime. You can see these on highway signs.

Kelsie has since moved onto do other things. Last we talked she's been doing Homestuck and Steven Universe liveblogging. I hope she is well.

However, many things are mine too. I designed the morshu-mart level, right down to including a reference to the B movie The Stuff, a movie Sarah and I really like.

One of the biggest challenges is making "Build"-like level design in Doom. Fortunately in Softpoly and Hardware mode, GZDoom supports wall sprites and floor sprites. In fact the game requires it pretty much.

However it's more than that - one of the challenges is making the tall, vertical levels Duke 3D had. Making the levels took me the longest time.

In all, the amount of detail we put in was insane - to the point I had to scale back some of the textures for size.

Icarus's Video

Daytime Drama is my first successful game project and the forum thread got tons of feedback. It got covered by ICARUSLIV3S on YouTube. Nothing I've ever done creatively has gotten that far.

Keep in mind this was from a beta build a long time ago, but it still gives you an idea of what to expect gameplay wise. Icarus gives a fair review of the project and I'm grateful he covered it.

I explained in the comments about some things - namely some bugs he had ran into. I also had someone accuse me of staning Shmorky... somehow they failed to notice I added a flaming flowercrown enemy just to spite Shmorky. That's kind of cringe, not gonna lie.

In Conclusion

Daytime Drama seems to have developed a cult following. I even met a friend because of the game. My friend Ellie.

I figure what sold it was what I intended it to be - a very well crafted shitpost in essence. I never set out to make it the best game ever. I never intended nor do I ever intend on making a "woke" game with a female protaganist. I was just trying to make my own kind of game - especially since GZDoom seems to have a thousand and one different TCs aimed at extending the Doom universe or Wolfenstein.

I'm not bashing that... but I've always wanted to have something else. And that's what I did, and I feel I succeeded.

Daytime Drama 2 will take the lessons learnt and make another game in a similar lineage - I'm again, gonna make my type of game.

However, I know what made Daytime Drama resonate with people - the enemies, the humor, and the level design. I'm gonna try to keep that in mind for DD2.

If you wanna donate to my development you can do so here.

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