How 2 Snoot It Up: Part 1

-by Senator Anon

With the success of Snoot Game and I Wani Hug That Gator, I’ve been tossing around an idea with my fellow developers to note down the things that we have learned thus far into a ‘how to’ guide. It should be a fun behind-the-scenes look into how we operate, and a good source of information for anyone who is considering making their own project (or already working on one). We’ll cover all the biggest things we’ve learned after two full releases and arrange them in order that they’d be necessary in a development timeline.

When Cavemanon started in 2020, we were a group of anons on 4chan’s videogames board who independently sought out the ‘Goodbye Volcano High’ threads and decided to join a discord that was posted to better organize a (then) much smaller-scale parody project. This is to say, none of us had any professional experience in game development and we did things extremely ad hoc. The things written here are things we have discovered ourselves, or had heard about and discovered to be true.

Since we’re always working on new projects and have only had one commercial release, the information and tactics we’re going to cover are liable to develop and change as we become more experienced. Consider this a ‘first draft’ of Cavemanon’s guide to game dev. These articles are for people inspired by our work who may want to try their own hand at making a project, although the general audience should find great behind-the-scenes value by reading along.

Part 1. Before you start

1. The ‘Why’ Question

Before all else, before you write even a single word or sketch a single sprite, you need a concept. Snoot Game and Wani are romance titles, the very concept of this genre is the character you’re expected to read about and fall in love with. If this concept does not work, you have no game. The method we have developed to solve this problem is the ‘why’ question.

The ‘why’ question is simply that, asking ‘why’ the main character and the love interest fall in love and are good for each other. If you cannot answer that, then you need to either change things around to make an answer or scrap everything and start again. The basis of the romance is the basis of the plot, and is therefore the basis of the entire project. I will provide three examples of our own where the ‘why’ question has been answered, and one where it was not. The difference should make itself clear.

First, and personally my favorite example, is from Snoot Game. In Snoot Game, several important points were made. In a society infected with rot that deconstructs everything someone needs to properly develop – including family values, friendship values, heritage, religion, and even the concept of love itself, it offers the youth very few options while pretending the world is theirs. It’s a horrible situation where now the rot of modern living has infected every aspect of identity, and developmental phases teenagers go through are categorized by and associated with political movements. Specifically, in Snoot Game it’s discussed how even the mere act of changing your mind once you’ve started identifying with these movements is tantamount to betrayal, and you will be treated like garbage and swept under the rug for daring to go against the grain. In real life, the tragedies go further between massive grooming operations, stalking, and the like.

Put short, Fang is one of these teenagers that looked for something to hold onto for happiness in a resentful society that took it from her to begin with, and was punished for not being happy with the role she was given to replace it. Ironically, this effect extends in a meta sense through all the backlash the game has received from legacy media, recreating the abuse these people face as they’re forced to remain in-line with decisions they made when they were hormonal teenagers because those identity issues are part of a larger culture war. One with the most vocal and most powerful being the most genuinely sadistic people in the movement.

Snoot Game is also a story of Anon, whose antagonism towards other victims of the same system developed into empathy for these people hurting themselves. He’s a character that’s been shut off by the same society for not towing the line, and he’s not interested in participating in a society that does so. He has an excellent grasp on who he is, but as a result of disenfranchisement has a hard time accepting authority and understanding the plights of others. As far as he’s concerned, they’re none of his business and should stay out of the way. Through the game, he’s able to empathize with Fang and fall in love with her.

In our second example, we’ll look at Inco and Olivia from I Wani Hug that Gator. Wani is a bit of an inversion of Snoot Game’s themes, where Inco is someone raised as an ideal servant of “the system”, having been raised less by his parents and instead by daycare (the state), school (the state), and media (the state) into an ideal consumer. This means his worldview is directly built on the perceived social economy around him. Olivia is someone that actively rejects her part of the social economy, where she would be letting others feel morally emboldened by helping her. She has a guaranteed career if she just accepts this offered role, and yet she doesn’t. This greatly confuses Inco, as it’s a direct contradiction of his every belief.

Through Olivia, Inco is able to learn self sufficiency. It’s a bit more complex than “numbers aren’t everything”, Inco’s not stupid enough to not have heard and experienced that before, that’s not the issue. The issue is he doesn’t apply this to anything more than a platitude, and that message never comes with a proper solution, only more platitudes like “family” (which means nothing to him, as the system has effectively eroded it away). Inco has to learn self-sufficiency, and Olivia ends up getting the support she rejected from fearfully abstaining from the entire social system.

For our third positive example, we’ll talk a little on our next project, Exit 665. Granted, Exit’s story is not primarily a romance one, although the relationship between the main character and his girlfriend is still very important. Additionally, the main characters are past their honeymoon period, and they’re living together comfortably. At the start of their relationship, the protagonist Morgan and his girlfriend Farelie had left their hometown for the city in order to find a job to pay for her expensive medicine. He cares for her and wants to provide for her by working, and she comes along with him to provide to him through care.

Some time before the events of the game, Morgan suffers a traumatic incident which leaves him extremely unsure about his security in the world, very aware that something is horribly horribly wrong with ‘everything’. He doesn’t know how to process this knowledge, much less act on it, and at the start of the game he’s a well-meaning but exceedingly strange window-licking schizo-weirdo. He’s been afflicted so bad he struggles to carry a conversation, and finds solace in very few people, one of whom is Farelie. He has to start building his perception of the world and his relationships from the ground up and discover his place in the world in order to protect and provide for the people he loves.

Farelie is a girl with an ‘I can fix him’ attitude. She stays by Morgan after the event that traumatizes him, wanting to help him get better. She’s a girl that makes other people’s problems her own, by hanging around with Morgan she’s dating a schizo that could very well take a veer for the worse at any time and feels responsible for keeping that from happening. She loves and trusts him to sort himself out and pull himself together with her support.

As Morgan improves through the game, he’s able to better manage his team both in and out of missions. He develops a sense of the ‘why’ behind everything, the methods and rituals which the purposes of had long since become platitude. He’s able to grow as a person and provide safety, security, and prosperity for those he loves and his town, and Farelie is able to care for him. They help each other reach their fullness and are ready for anything.

So far these have been three of our major answers to the ‘why’ question that we’ve developed. These answers have been the blueprints for the stories they take place in, and without the framework that they provide our products would suffer greatly. To illustrate what happens when the ‘why’ question *isn’t* solved, here’s an example of just that:

At the risk of beating a dead horse, the best example available is from the game that Snoot Game is a parody of, Goodbye Volcano High, since we can draw direct comparison to the previous example of Anon and Fang’s romance. In GVH, the protagonist Fang begins to receive anonymous text messages from a ‘secret admirer’ (who we later learn is Naomi) who pesters her on several occasions despite the former’s apprehension and discomfort with the latter’s refusal to reveal her identity. Many players report this introduction to the romance as creepy and stalkerish, especially when the writing has it so that Fang ends up falling in love with this stranger that is seemingly aware of her every move. Eventually Naomi reveals herself, and chooses to do so by a dumpster in a dark alleyway. Fang rightfully declines her advances, but the writing has her eventually come around to it. Now we get to witness all of Fang and Naomi’s relationship in it’s fullest:

Essentially nothing. There are very few scenes which even reference that this major plotline exists in this game where the romance was once a major part of its’ advertising. The two go on a few dates, and Naomi can end up making a dress for Fang for her concert on the last day of their lives. There’s no ‘why’ given, the relationship may as well have been with any other character or even a completely new one, and as a result the relationship comes off as creepy, ill-thought out, unsubstantive, and ultimately superfluous. The argument could even be made that the two only start dating due to the pressure of their impending doom, and while the suspension bridge effect can be used effectively to kickstart a relationship, with no followup it remains hollow.

2. The ‘Five Degree Rule’

Now that we have covered the ‘why’ question, the next important thing is what we call the ‘five degree rule’. The trajectory that a project has from the outset must be as firm and calculated as possible, because the more effort you put into the project the harder it will be to correct course. The ‘five degree rule’ comes into effect when a team working on a project creates its designed set of rules or concepts to deliver an intended experience; and intentionally waste that effort on other aspects of the system that don’t take priority. This happens when developers misinterpret their own material and push it into a different design trajectory.

For example, Wani’s development was very troubled for this very reason. After a year of development, Cavemanon had to take creative control over what was once a joint-operation. We looked into the script and saw that the very basis of it was weak – at the time Olivia lived alone in an apartment, segregated from the rest of the cast. She wasn’t bothered by the CPA for this situation that had been going on for years, somehow. More importantly, it was simply boring to limit any scene at Olivia’s place to just whoever has an explicit reason to be there. One of the first changes we had to make was to put Olivia in the foster care of the Damien’s family, which meant creating Randy, Sophia, and Vinny, as well as overhauling a good chunk of the script right out the gate due to this sweeping change. It’s a much smaller detail that’s so easy to change when you’re at the beginning of a project when you have time and have not devoted resources to a bad decision, but the more you follow the inaccurate trajectory the more difficult it is to get back on the right track.

 Don’t waste too much time fretting over this advice thinking you absolutely *have* to get the trajectory absolutely perfect, you can’t. You will always discover problems as you work on your projects, and it is always worth it to accept the loss and make whatever efforts necessary to fix them. We ended up having to scrap the whole script and remake most of the assets due to the poor trajectory of the Wani project – and thank goodness we were able to. If we had instead fallen to sunken cost thinking, the whole game would have suffered greatly for it.

The best way that we have found to avoid being on the wrong trajectory is rigorous documentation. It’s not as attractive as actually working on the project, but it is well worth the investment. When it comes to conveying an idea to your teammates or convincing them of your ideas, proposal documents reign supreme. These are organized tersely and easy to understand, and written comprehensively enough that the idea gets across completely. Of course, these can be altered and revised as necessary. If accepted as part of the development’s ‘design bible’, it may be pointed to as a source to settle disputes. To give an example of our own work, here’s a writing proposal for the second act of I Wani Hug That Gator. There are many proposals like this one that we plan to share eventually.

3. 50’s Guy With A Pipe Does Not “Gosling”

The last subject for today’s article is the most important one. If you ignore the ‘why’ question your odds of making a quality work are bad but still manageable, the same goes for the five degree rule – and in fact many projects do fine enough completely ignoring both. You can at least still put out a project. This will not happen if you cannot get the right mindset. It is of utmost importance that you develop the right mentality or your project will at best suffer, and at worst completely implode.

Do not overspecialize in any subject, between writing, art, and programming most of Cavemanon’s best contributors divide their attention between two subjects. I personally am a writer and artist, in addition to regular administrative duties. By becoming skilled at more than one relevant subject for your project, you help bridge the gaps between the multiple departments and avoid miscommunication as you understand the different fields. The most effective combination (and the rarest, by our experience thus far) is effective programmers with the ability to contribute to a creative department. Games run on code, after all, so it only stands to reason that someone that is able to make the game run on the backend and be excellent on the front-end is a viable powerhouse for your development team. Good luck to you for finding one, and if you do make sure to treat them right (assuming they aren’t completely bonkers – a subject for another article).

Do not mince my words though – just as you should not overspecialize in any one subject you should not burden yourself with trying to be a one-man-army. Attempting to be good at programming AND art AND music AND anything else that may apply will only stress you out and make you burn out quickly as your own standards crush you. If you don’t have team members, you need them. If you do have them you have them for a reason. Trust your other guys to do their jobs and do your own as best you can. If there’s a gap that needs filling you should be able to find someone to fill it.

One of the most dangerous killers of projects is the ‘artist mentality’. The developer with the artist mentality is in love with the product, not the work that goes into the product. He will develop choice paralysis over mere pixels worth of difference and run endless variations of the same asset until he feels it is right momentarily, only to go back and alter it further months later. He will have high standards for all assets and not be able to accept what is ‘good enough’. Remember, Perfect is the enemy of Good. Do not treat your work as art, treat it as a job. Even if it is absolutely artistic in nature, treat the creation of it as the hard labor that it is.

But so far we’ve only defined what mentalities you should *not* have. Here’s the one that you need: The ‘50s guy with a pipe’ mentality, as we call it. The animators at Disney during their golden age did not obsess over the small details or coo over how much their work will make them and others ‘Gosling out’, they treat it as the job that it is, and were the backbone of Disney’s astronomical rise to fortune and notoriety. Love the work, and love that the work is artistic in nature. Do not identify with the artist part, as it will burn you. The fortune of being an ‘artist’ will come naturally.

Regardless of if you are making a project as an unserious hobby or if you’re intending on making a commercial product, you still want your project to come out. For that to happen, you’ll want to structure your schedule so that you can consistently develop your project. Working in ‘bursts’ of progress will burn you out and make you bored. You will need to dedicate time every day to chip away at the project slowly and consistently. On 4chan’s Videogame Generals board, in the Amateur Game Dev General there’s a controversial, yet true post that goes something along these lines: ‘Game dev is not hard. It is just tedious. Developing a game is like having a pile of ten thousand tennis balls on one side of a tennis court and carrying them to the other side, one by one.’. In our experience, this is completely true. What you can do is reserve time daily, pick any time that you’re able and dedicate that time every day you can to consistently make progress.

I cannot stress enough how important having the right mentality is. If your mentality is wrong, it does not matter how great your concepts are. Billion dollar ideas have been lost to simply having the wrong drive to finish a creative project.

This concludes part one of our guide to gamedev. Believe it or not, there’s still more to cover before you should put a pen to paper. What do (You) want to see next? Premium users can vote below:


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Vincent

Nice words at the end to encourage a workflow during projects, and of course, the wise words of that anon in /vg/

eggbully

The comments provided on Wani, and specifically Inco’s characterization, are a great look into the thought process of the team. I honestly felt like during E1 and E2 that Inco regressed as a character on my first playthrough, where he was not acting in a similar manner to how he was at the start of the game. This contrasted how Anon’s character in E1 and E2 of Snoot as he perpetuated all of the negative stereotypes one would associate with his character at the beginning. With the new comments on Inco, I can see that the regression is an actual valid choice for developing his character in those endings, as through his lack of growth he has to resort to the only way of life that he knows, and has to reinforce it when met with pushback from those around him who either have grown (E2) or have not grown (E1). Getting E2 my first time was dissatisfying in the moment, but with time, revisiting the ending, and these new comments I have a higher appreciation for it than before.

JustALurker

I would highly recommend anyone wanting to get into game development take this advice. The insight into the narrative of Snoot was also great to read, love that stuff.

Vandyanon

Will say, reading through step 3 is something I didn’t think I needed. It’s better then hearing “Follow your passions” for the millionth time, because its just such a better way to look at it, everything is a lot easier when you have to do it vs when you feel like doing it.

I remember a value Valve changed back in the day which halted most of their game development, in which they had a “No boss” working style, while yes, very beneficial to mental health long term, it also just meant they picked up projects they felt like working on, then stopped working on them because everyone on that team was bored and there was no one who could tell them to “Keep working on it”. (Seriously, look at their development timeline, they were genuinely working on L4D3 and HL3 before just “Dropping it” because they didn’t want to put in the work)

I’m honestly just gonna try it for awhile see how I end up, see if I benefit from this.

Last edited 18 days ago by Vandyanon