Gather around and settle in, gamers, for I have a tale for you.
So as everyone knows by now, I’ve been pursuing the development of GigaMaidens for quite some time. While I have been talking about the game’s concept since around 2010, actual development of the game didn’t begin in earnest until around late 2013. With this post I’m going to give a brief rundown of everything that’s happened thus far regarding the game’s development and give an idea of where we are at right now.
Here’s how it went down in the years leading up to now.
2010 and prior
My whole life I had been interested in fighting games, getting into them with TMNT Tournament Fighters on the SNES, but I didn’t begin playing them competitively until 2004 with the Street Fighter Anniversary release of Third Strike on the original Xbox. I met Yilx, the lead illustrator for GigaMaidens, on an oekaki board in 2006. We got in touch and began speaking with each other regularly on MSN messenger and became close friends. Sometime before this meeting we both had all these original characters, and we spent time developing them with each other. Even at this time I had plans to eventually do something with my characters like a webcomic or an animated series, and I spent all my time writing, drawing, developing my characters and gathering ideas (I’ll elaborate on this some other time). While I did draw artwork of my characters as giantesses, my plans for this series at the time were not GigaMaidens in its current form. My characters and world did not have anything to do with giant-sized women, that was all Yilx’s world. I often did unrelated vignettes with them where the characters would be giantesses doing various things, but it was not part of the main story I had in mind. I did have also have ideas for a fighting game in high school called “Animosity”, but it had nothing to do with GigaMaidens – it didn’t even have the same characters. Maybe one of these days I’ll write a post about Animosity.
Following the release of Street Fighter IV in 2009 I had gotten acquainted with my local fighting game community and we would gather at a local hot dog restaurant every Wednesday to play. I had met an acquaintance there around 2011 who was running a gamedev summer camp, and seemed to know a thing or two about developing games. It was around this time I had gotten ideas in my head to do something interesting with my characters, like a fighting game – I had a very close friendship with Yilx by this time and he also seemed interested in doing something like that with his characters. So we had the idea to combine our characters into an IP and ran with the idea we had of giant women fighting because we thought our characters had enough personality in this regard to be able to carry such a game, and well, it would be a more interesting spin on kaiju fighters (don’t act like you don’t know what I mean). I was pretty excited at the time that we were going to be able to undertake something like this with an actual programmer at our side, who had talked me into pursuing the development of this game. I had already thought of the perfect name for our giantess fighter: GigaMaidens.
Unfortunately, at some point, I had a falling out with this acquaintance from the local FGC, and I can’t remember the exact year this occurred, but it turns out I had misplaced my trust in him and he was not capable of carrying out anything he told me he would be able to do, so I simply stopped speaking to him. However, by this time, I was already lit up by the spark of inspiration, and I decided I would pursue the development of this game without this friend, together with Yilx. So I began doing my research on what I could do. This was a bit of a setback as I was unsure how to proceed with the game.
Development of the game began in earnest as me and Yilx began producing concept art, sketches, and pooling our money together, in order to seek out various freelancer programmers and artists who would be willing to help us out. This was unfortunately a very difficult process. Sometimes our money got wasted hiring the wrong people. Sometimes they would do unsatisfactory or incomplete work requiring us to continue looking elsewhere for different talent to pick up their slack. Oftentimes what would happen is that life would get in the way and they would not be able to continue working with us. In spite of all this, we still managed to get out our first production art, preliminary game engine work, and even a 3D model of Sachi, our lead heroine! I was proud of what we were able to accomplish with what little money we had, but it was sadly still nowhere close to a playable game. But I had my hopes up that we would be able to break that barrier before long. Working with freelance animators, modellers and programmers, we managed to cobble together something, although some of this work is no longer usable.
This video shows the fruits of our labor from those years – the build is actually from around 2015, which we added to in small chunks up to the year 2018 which is when I recorded this video. The build you see in this video is basically held together with duct tape, and is missing a lot of the assets we had spent our money on during those few years. We had to work with several different people to make this happen. In actuality, several things we had developed in the background, such as multiple 3D models of Drarin, various animations, building models, and a Maya script to place buildings around the map, ended up not being used here.
This was the time when my life took a dark turn. After having had to restart development on the game a couple of times, sinking the costs of what we had already spent on the game, we started looking into other avenues of funding or perhaps subcontracting the development of this game to someone else. Unfortunately, this was the year I was blindsided by multiple life tragedies occurring at once, including a particularly traumatic incident that was my own fault and that still haunts me to this day. I’ll save the specifics of what exactly happened to me for another time, but in essence, a very bad thing happened to me at the end of 2015 that ended up wreaking catastrophic damage to my mental health. I spent the next two years in recovery, barely being able to expend anything on development of GigaMaidens as my situation had gotten very dire and I needed to focus on myself. 2016 and 2017 were lost years for me. I had spiralled deep into depersonalization/derealization disorder, thinking I would have no hope of ever recovering. Even to this day, I don’t feel I’ve fully recovered from this, having only just recovered enough to move on with my life and continue pursuing my goals. Maybe at some point I’ll dump about my woes, but not today.
Trying as best as I could to get on with my life and continue my projects, I unfortunately became afflicted with a chronic gut problem in the middle of 2018 and have been dealing with it ever since. Doesn’t help my anxiety at all but I’ve still tried to get on with things as best I could. I decided to try a fresh approach with the development of GigaMaidens – rather than working with freelancers who had a random tendency to be flaky and untrustworthy, I decided to speak to a subcontractor professional studio that privately handles video game development for various games. Initially I had taken them at their word that they would be able to offer me professional game development services at “indie prices” (which turned out to not be the case for me), but they did come through with some work for me and overall were more reliable than working with random freelancers.
The programmers and animators we had previously worked with on the 2018 build had moved onto greener pastures, and were too busy to continue working with us, so we had to scrap the build in the video you see above and continue forward with a new build made by the studio we hired. By this time, after working on this for so long, we came to learn how messy game development is! A lot of our costs were sunk, but we had no time to mourn over lost money, I had to continue looking forward. So every chance we got, we would float some money their way to continue working on the game, but it made the process very slow as I was only able to save up so much to throw at the studio at a time.
By this time I had decided that GigaMaidens development was proceeding too slowly, and it was not feasible to keep throwing small amounts of money at the studio every two months for them to just move us a few feet forward each time. In order to get this game done I would need some sort of funding, so I began looking into ways I could acquire more money.
I had come to learn that there were lots of different avenues for getting an indie game funded, but it wasn’t always a simple process – not only are each of these funding streams highly competitive, receiving thousands of applications from many interested parties, but applying to them isn’t always as easy as filling out an online form (except for Epic MegaGrants).
The two funding sources I had sought out, Epic MegaGrants and the Canada Media Fund, both seemed to promise that they’d be able to fund me part of the way through to a complete game if I won their grants. Applying to EMG was easy, it was just a matter of filling out a form, showing them what I had and waiting to hear back from them. However, CMF application was an entirely different beast. Applying to the Canada Media Fund was a bureaucratic nightmare (laughingly called “simpler than you think” on their website), involving filling out a mountain of different forms. CVs, budget spreadsheets, detailed project summaries, descriptions of the project for media and advertising, write-ups of monetization plans, directors/shareholders information, financial and tax information, supporting material, and many other things had to go into the application, a lot of which I wasn’t even sure what to write down – it was a huge learning process for sure, and what compounded the frustration was the completely invisible criteria they would score you on (I recall that one of the things they dock points for is not having enough “gender diversity” on your team).
In the end, sadly, both my applications to Epic MegaGrants and the CMF were rejected in 2020, which was highly aggravating, as it made all my efforts to applying to the CMF pointless. I am able to apply again in the future to both of these, thankfully, but I will need to rethink my approach.
There are also other revenue streams as well – several publishers take applications for games on their websites, and they can also help out with funding the game, but they do have a preference for devs who are already published. So this brings me to something else…
And so, here we are. It is nearly the end of 2021 and the tiny humans are perhaps elated that they haven’t yet been obliterated by titanic nubiles (look ma, no thesaurus!). Where is GigaMaidens? Why hasn’t there been any development?
Well, a couple of things.
First, most of 2020 was spent doing my homework on funding sources and getting things ready for my CMF application, so I didn’t really have much time to focus on the game. I also have other financial obligations so that meant I couldn’t throw money at the studio as regularly as I was doing in 2019. Although some people may believe I’m just sitting around twiddling my thumbs, the truth is seeking out and applying to places for funding isn’t exactly a simple process, and life has gotten in the way several times as well.
Secondly, we HAVE made progress on the game! This build is different, and not quite as shiny as the one with Sachi fighting herself in the middle of a city that her feet clip through. However, this build contains:
It isn’t as pretty as the one with Sachi, but a lot of the groundwork has been laid for a proper fighting game with this build. Ideally I’d like to get this build to the point where it’s largely just a matter of grinding art assets. I’m proud of how far we’ve come but unfortunately it’s still not far enough. It is not feaasible to develop a game piecemeal and expect it out within the same century. The way we have been doing this is completely inefficient – there is no substantial work that can be done for anything less than $5000 per work sprint, and I don’t really have that kind of money at this time, so I’m gonna have to take a step back and try a different approach.
So… what do you have in mind?
Say hi to Kasha.
Kasha is a catgirl from the Country of Tokyo universe, and another one of its lead heroines who I have planned from the beginning to star in her own games. You can think of the COT as a flexible world with many stories and characters to follow, similar perhaps to the Marvel universe or the Super Mario franchise with its many spinoffs (Donkey Kong Country, Wario Land, etc.). In truth, GigaMaidens was always meant to be but one tale in this universe, and Kasha is another character with her own adventures. I will elaborate more on these characters in a future post, but for now, I’m looking at Kasha as the kitty to pull GigaMaidens’s tires out of the development muck.
As I mentioned earlier, a lot of revenue streams won’t take you seriously if you aren’t already a published developer. I figure that now is the time to put GigaMaidens on hold, just on the backburner for the moment, and try to work on smaller games with Kasha so we can get ourselves on the map. I am working on one such game now, taking it as a learning experience to teach myself the entire 3D game development pipeline. Everything short of the music is being worked on by myself, in my spare time, every chance I get. The artwork of Kasha you see above is meant to be a model sheet for her eventual 3D model in the game I’m working on.
Kasha’s first game will be sort of a small vignette in the COT universe, nothing too grand or epic in scope… it’s a minigolf game! It will serve as an introduction to the characters, the universe, and Kasha abilities/personality quirks that I think will make her an interesting game protagonist in the future.
Now I know some of you may be disappointed to hear that we’re shifting gears, but don’t worry! This is all part of the process. This is how we’re going to get from where we are currently, to having the big epic 1-on-1 apocalyptic giantess fighter that we all need.
In future posts, I plan to discuss the characters and lore of the COT universe, and plans for various projects that take place inside it. While GigaMaidens is going to be a big event in this universe, it’s not the only one. Think of this blog as a news ‘zine for the entire COTverse (I really should come up with a better name for it…) and the various things I want to come of it. We will be covering Kasha’s games as well, and perhaps even small games focusing on the other characters somewhere down the line, hopefully after GigaMaidens finally gets released. Here’s hoping.
(Milchi and Kasha drawn by Setawar)
Next time, we’ll be talking more about Kasha, her first game, and how she fits into all of this.