This is the story of Torgar’s underpants, and it begins on Reddit, specifically in the sub-reddit /r/roguelikes. A couple of times in the development history of Torgar’s Quest, I went there to post a link and ask for some feedback. Whenever I did, it was with a trembling hand…
What if everyone hated my game? What if all the feedback I got was name calling and ridicule? Having never made a game like this before, I was admittedly nervous about putting it in front of hardcore fans of the genre.
Thankfully, most of the feedback I got was very good, constructive and encouraging.
For every bit of constructive criticism I got, I mapped out what it would take to address the issue, how it fit with my overall vision, and how I might improve the gameplay experience without compromising the game I wanted to make.
One of the biggest changes to the game came about half-way through the development. Up until that point, I had been using graphics from the freeware pack, RL Tiles, but some fans were tired of looking at these sprites, or associated them with other titles. I had always meant to replace the graphics at some point, but the feedback bumped up the priority of that task, and rightfully so.
At first, I was discouraged by the idea of having to replace every sprite in the game, which is a huge undertaking if you are not much of an artist. However, I didn’t want to reduce the appeal of the game out of laziness, and I felt other parts of the game were negatively impacted by me not prioritizing the graphics.
So I put my nose to the grind and started cranking out sprites. Many of them were pretty bad, but eventually Kelly (better half, including pixel art) threw me a bone and started polishing, aka redrawing, the graphics I had made. Pretty soon the game started feeling more original, with each new set of monsters or walls adding to that.
When drawing Torgar, I started with a “base” sprite and added the different armors on top as layers. I didn’t want poor Torgar to freeze, so I drew underpants onto that base bottom layer. Not that it mattered, since Torgar was supposed to start the game wearing clothes. Once I saw him in his undies though, there was no going back. It fit too well with my idea of who Torgar Splitbeard is, and he simply had to start the game in nothing but tighty whities. Those undies set the tone and are now synonymous with Torgar as a character, which could never have happened using stock graphics.
Lesson learned: original artwork is always better, for overall aesthetics, for storytelling, for marketing – like the button pictured above – and the final gaming experience. Also, getting in touch with fans of the genre is a good move, even if it makes you nervous (thank you, /r/roguelikes).