Behind the Scenes: Seedling

Seedling was one of the most strenuous projects to date due to the large changes made to the game during development.   The project started in 2009 as an entirely isometric style.  When the pacing of the dungeons proved to be too slow, they were redone as a sidescroller style.  Ultimately, for the version seen on the site, a traditional top-down view was used for the overworld segments as it was much easier to edit and update than the isometric version.

Inspiration/Design

Works such as Peter Pan, The Legend of Zelda and the Brother’s Grimm fairy tales were an influence in creating the setting, which I would say is characterized as a children’s fantasy imagined from their perspective.

The geography of Sero Silva is loosely inspired by the United States, particularly the midwest and the east coast since I’m familiar with that area firsthand.  For the inhabitants, I cite numerous cultures from around the world for inspiration.  The Eastern Forest is based on the Mayans, the Ant Desert on Egypt and the Middle East, the Wolf Clan on the Vikings.  Ekati Village is meant to be a somewhat modern town, but with a forest skin layed over it, while the Poisoned Swamp was just meant to be an overall creepy location.

The concept of the Kudzu and the miasma draws directly from the real-world species that kills other plants by surrounding them and sapping their life force.  I was looking to create a villain that a presence that could be felt everywhere.  I looked to making the Kudzu’s spawns resemble gnarled vines with bizarre body layouts to make them seem more alien and foreign.

Lastly, the witch boss that lives in the swamp is directly lifted from the classic story Hansel and Gretel.  It was added to further the fairy tale setting of Sero Silva, and of course, to provide a challenging fight that would reward you with loads of xp.

Development

Seedling started off development in late 2009.  I had teamed up with two others in creating this project when it came to story and graphics.  Like Droplet, we were doing this for a class project the next year.  From the start, we decided we didn’t want to make a sequel to Droplet as that would be unoriginal (though that actual sequel did get realized years later as Droplet 2013), so we decided to make something entirely different.  The simplest answer: make it the complete opposite of Droplet.  While Droplet was about water, inorganic materials in a futuristic setting, Seedling would be about earth, organic materials in a natural setting.

Very early on, we decided that we wanted the main theme of the game to be about the cycle of life centering around growth and development like a seed sprouting to a tree or a child maturing into an adult.  Death and rebirth was also going to be a huge theme – some of the boss characters asking you to defeat them to release them of their pain, the end of an old world and the beginning of a new one.  This directly resulted in a number of additional ideas: the naturalistic, preindustrial environments, the experience point system and the hero’s journey plotline.

Since the target audience was children, we figured a fairy tale setting with bright, cheerful colors would best show these themes.  The final game aimed for the tone of a bedtime story.  It would be dark and scary at times, but things would turn out well in the end.  Also, there are some anachronistic elements such as the seemingly modern schoolhouse seen early on in the game despite the game taking place in a pseudo-medieval era.  This was done on purpose as a means of making the protagonist more relatable to the player.

Seedling took a long time to plan out since it was an action RPG as opposed to a regular platformer.  Whereas in Droplet, the goal was just collect all the atoms (parts in the original), we needed some kind of narrative flow to tell the story.  The game started off as entirely isometric with all locations being overhead.  However, when playtesting, we found that the pace of the dungeons was too slow, so we ended up scrapping them all and redoing it from a sidescroller perspective, but with more of an Indiana Jones-type navigation.

Because the changes to these dungeons was rather last minute, the original version ended up halfway complete in 2010, cutting out the Wolf Clan Mountain, Poisoned Swamp and Mt. Oblivion.  Despite this, it was deemed an acceptable length as a class project.

Sometime during development of Droplet 2013, I looked back at this older game as well as the old concept sketches.  Though my original intention on this site was just to make new games, it was hard to believe I had overlooked this older source material for so long.  That’s when I began my crusade to remake all my old games from the past decade, starting with Seedling.  I remade it from the ground up, ditching the isometric segments in favor of a total top-down view, but I reused most of the original artwork done by my other team members.

After about six months, I restored Seedling as we had originally envisioned it to look like.  It did take a bit longer than usual since I was simultaneously working on Droplet 2013.  But now, the tale of Aller was complete.

Cutting Room Floor

Seedling  did not convert smoothly into flash, and thus, the project was recreated from the ground up in 2013.    Originally, the fairies followed the player character around, and one could choose to change followers via the menu screen.  When the menu screen failed to convert correctly to flash, the follower system was scrapped entirely and replaced with the spell system which pretty much had the same effects.  The benefit was that the spells could be acquired independently of the main plot to allow more gameplay variation.

Also, the sandworm was originally the boss of the first dungeon.  It this way in the live beta for some time, but it was eventually moved to the desert for story and balance reasons.

There was also a quest cut from the game.  It was originally a sort of tutorial where the protagonist goes through various classes at the school in sequential order.  First arriving late, then seeing the principle, then talking to the teacher, going to lunch, then going to the gym.  Ultimately, when play testing, this was found to stall the pace of the game, so the more open version seen in the final version was deemed better.

Seedling: Dawn of Children

When I decided I wanted to include a short story section on the site, I aimed to start off with something familiar and to use an existing setting I had already come up with.  The world of Seedling seemed like a perfect candidate because of the classical straightforward hero’s journey plotline.  It would be an easy, fun story to write with relatable characters and I would not have to go to any particular boundaries that would make the story too alienating in premise.

However, despite Seedling having a deeper backstory than my other games, it was particularly lacking in development.  The few towns seen in the game were incredibly small and desolate barely qualifying as civilization which presented some particular limits in terms of story.  In favor of making the setting more relatable to the reader, I decided it was best to advance time forward to the point where well-established towns and cities would have formed to give myself the chance to explore Sero Silva’s culture more in depth. In terms of deciding what sort of time period the story was comparable to, I chose to go with a similar approach as I did with the first game: Introduce technology as needed to make the setting and characters relatable, but still keep it simple enough to avoid unnecessary complexities. The result is something comparable to the Middle Ages.

To stay true to the mechanic of being able to play as either male or female in the game, I figured it would only be right to include both a male and female lead protagonist.  They would have complementing, but not opposing personalities as they’re meant to get along and form a deep bond of friendship, but still be able to learn from one another from their different ways of approaching problems

Bruno was designed to be a parallel to Aller, but with greater backstory and motivation.  Both of them are driven by a desire to protect what they most care about, so in essence, their motivation for saving the world is personal.  Bruno is an ordinary, normal kid (for the world that is) that just so happened to be caught in the wrong place and the wrong time.  Eveline, on the other hand, was meant to be a straight up Chosen One archetype but from a different, more realistic angle.  She is meant to feel bound by duty, and often becomes afraid when she feels unable to accomplish a daunting, over-the-top task which many expect her to accomplish easily.

And as for the locations, I didn’t want the story to just repeat the events of the game.  Rather than just have a “collect all the x” plotline like the game did, I specifically aimed to give every location they visit a distinct purpose to avoid padding out the story.  I’m keen on staying away from filler and having every chapter advance the plot or character development in some way.


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