Project Verse 🧵

In early May 2021, I detailed some of my plans for a future indie game in a Twitter thread. Sadly, I haven’t made any meaningful progress on the game since, but the thread popped up again while I was revisiting tweets of past years, and I thought it would be fun to adapt into a blog for the sake of posterity.

May 1, 2021 • 10:48 PM – May 2, 2021 • 2:00 AM

I realized yesterday my aesthetic has basically become “a character from that game I might someday make,” so then I had to sprite it up.

I’ve been talking around “that game I might someday make” a.k.a. “Project Verse” for some time. I’ve shown some brief snippets and mockups of this one before, and at one time I even had a tiny playable demo up on proving out how character movement could work in a 2.5D brawler-platformer environment, but I’ve never really gone into any greater detail.

I’m gonna make this game someday.

Anyway, what the heck, it’s Saturday and I’m drinking, so maybe I’ll talk a little bit more about this game. I’ve been slowly developing an actual pitch since years ago, but the broad strokes are, it’s called Wastrels, and it’s a single-player pixel-art action-RPG.

Ask me about my slide deck.

Think The Legend of the Mystical Ninja, but in a Souls-like open-ish world, and with quests and upgrades and hidden secrets and deep lore and all that good stuff. Think cartoony gangs straight out of The Warriors but dropped into an environment that’s equal parts Kowloon Walled City and Neo Tokyo. Simultaneously grimy and flashy, dangerous and comforting. Think synthwave soundtrack and 90s arcade fanfare.

This actually dates back to late 2014 or early 2015, when I was just getting started on the Gunmetals Arcadia, and I had this vague idea of what a spin-off game from that series might look like. In late 2015, that turned into an idea for a Robin Hood game, which I developed for a bit, and which at various times also morphed into a sci-fi stuck-on-a-space-station thing, a horror/slasher Friday-the-13th thing, an actual third Gunmetal Arcadia game, etc., before finally solidifying into this beat-’em-up-inspired concept. The key thing across all these iterations was preserving the sense of fun I felt when playtesting early versions of Gunmetal Arcadia, when it seemed more open-ended and less of a “run to the right, kill the boss” sort of a game. That’s really the genesis of Project Verse.

This is the same Project Verse that I’ve cited a couple times on Twitter.
I’ve just never really talked about what it was.

Every time I get really invested in a new game design, I always feel like that’s the one that’s going to be my magnum opus, and of course this one is no exception, but this is also the first one that’s really got me thinking about my own game design philosophies and trying to pin down what makes a J. Kyle Pittman game. I’ve been taking notes on that and someday when I have all that free time I’m gonna have someday, I’ll turn those thoughts into a blog of their own.

Also! I have gone back and forth on the title for this game for literal years. See, I genuinely love terrible titles for games. They’re hilarious to me. But I’ve had to live with the consequences of choosing names like “You Have to Win the Game” or “Super Win the Game.” I’ve had to say those names over and over at conventions. That’s…less hilarious. So my criteria this time were:

  • Is it not in use in any media?
  • Does it roll off the tongue?
  • Does it look good in print?
  • Is it difficult to misspell?
  • Does it convey the gameplay?
  • Does it convey the tone and themes?
  • Does it lend itself to a title treatment?

And I’ve been agonizing over titles that could potentially hit most if not all of these criteria for years. The first title I landed on was “The World Wants Me Dead.” Bold, stark, way too wordy, would hate to say it over and over at conventions.

Then, “Fullknuckle Junction.” Rolled off the tongue a bit better, hit the tone I was going for, maybe, buuuut too easy to vulgarize.

Next was “The Arc Solstice.” This one leans way more into the cosmic-weird deep-lore side of what this game is, and for better or worse, it sounds kind of like “Dark Souls.” But it sounds like a 4X sci-fi thing, not a beat-’em-up action-RPG.

And finally, years later, I landed on the one I’m happy with: “Wastrels.” It’s one word; it says “scrappy underdog story,” and in conjunction with the cartoony key art and a graffiti title treatment, I think it encapsulates the tone and themes better than any other.

Originally it was “The Wastrels,” but—