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  • Blackwell Revisited

    [10.11.07]
    - Dave Gilbert
  •  It's impossible to discuss the development of Blackwell Unbound without talking about the game that came before it, The Blackwell Legacy, as well as the game that will come after it.

    To start with, I'm an independent game developer. Sorry for stating the obvious, but I always get a kick out of saying that. It's also important for the purpose of this postmortem-like assessment that I'm about to relate to you.

    Being independent is a wonderful thing. You can make your own hours, you can work at your own pace, you have no boss breathing down your neck. But it also forces you to make tough decisions in order to stay independent.

    To be truly independent, you can't always make the game you want to make. When I decided to make games full time, I knew I couldn't make that huge, epic masterpiece that would take the world by storm. Epics are great, but they take too long to make. How could I make any money from my games if they took two or three years to finish? It made far more sense to create smaller, tighter games and release them every four to five months.

    For this reason, episodic games are a great genre, and it's why I started work on the Blackwell series.

    The Business Plan
    The Blackwell series is best described as a supernatural mystery. The games star a reluctant spirit guide named Joey Mallone, a jazz-age fast talker who has been bonded to the women of the Blackwell family for three generations. His current host is Rosangela Blackwell, a bookish 30-something who is just as reluctant as Joey. Their mission, if you could call it that, is to investigate lost spirits and ghostly goings-on. Who Joey is, and why the Blackwell family was chosen for this task, are questions that are shrouded in mystery.

    It's a setup that seemed perfect for an episodic game series. Each "episode" would revolve around a case that the duo had to solve, while various backstory details would be revealed over time. It was my hope that a fan base would build over the course of the series, and that each installment would bring in new customers who would purchase the previous games.

    Production for The Blackwell Legacy began in August 2006, and after four months of development, it was released as a downloadable game on December 23, two days before Christmas. In the game, you took control of Rosangela Blackwell, who meets Joey for the first time and learns of her new destiny. Reluctantly, she solves a case involving some mysterious college suicides and eventually accepts this unique change in her life.

    So, the game was done, released, and selling. After a week of relaxing and not thinking about the game, it was time to get back to work. I knew what the next episode's plot was supposed to be, so all I had to do was take a few weeks to design it, and I was good to go. No problem.

    Ahem. Yeah right. I made two mistakes here, and they were doozies.

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