Princess farmer is being crafter with love by a wife/wife team from British Columbia, Canada. Charlene is a game designer/artist with over a decade of experience in game design, art, and production in the games industry, including with Disney working on Club Penguin. Tobey, meanwhile, is the programmer/writer/business person on the team. She is entirely self-taught and has a handful of years of experience coding in GameMaker Studio. Their blended skillsets lack only in the realm of sound, where they turned to a good friend, Astra, to handle in-game music and sound effects. Astra is a nonbinary, self-taught composer raised on both beep boops and hip-hops, and has been playing guitars & synthesizers since a very young age.
Princess Farmer is a charming story meets match-3 gameplay, with a host of adorable characters to befriend, mysteries to solve, and fashion to collect. Smash rocks! Make combos! Win hearts! Wishlist on steam today.
Q: Looking back, how has your project changed/evolved since the idea was first conceived?
The game started as concept art of a bunny farmer directing animals to harvest crops for her. Charlene was delighted with the concept so she created a mockup animation of how the match system would work using a limited gameboy inspired palette. After creating the sprite sheets for the basics of the game, I (Tobey) got to coding it up and it didn't work! After much tearing out of hair, we presented a demo for some friends to try the game out. The resolution was much smaller, the palette was only 5 colours, and there was only one level, but the feedback was positive. So we grew the game from there. The first major change was to expand the palette and resolution. The game was much prettier, but the characters were so charming that players wanted to learn more about them! So the next major change was to create an episodic system complete with story, dialogue, characters, and levels with specific goals. The most recent change was to add difficulty levels: Soft Bunny, Tough Bunny, and Diamond Bunny!
Q: What games have acted as a source of inspiration for your project?
We were trying to figure out what format to have our game in, and didn't want to do a map of level nodes or that kind of thing. Then I (Charlene) finally played "Just Shapes & Beats" and the way it handled its world-map/level select which expanded into telling an environmental story was so dang cool.
Q: What are some of the fondest gaming moments from your childhood? Where did this all start for you?
When I (Tobey) was 10, my parents bought an Atari 520ST. I immediately took to it and spent hours drawing pixel art, coding in Basic, and playing the three games I was allowed to have. My favourite was Rogue. I discovered that I was able to edit the sprite art and had a blast tweaking it occasionally. Like on the title screen I made the beast's teeth drip blood. I fixed the quagga so it actually looked like a quagga. I made fire come out of the dragon's mouth. I also completely cheated by occasionally saving my progress and then I figured out that after loading the game from the disk that I could eject the disk so it wouldn't delete the save. I had a notebook where I wrote down what each colour potion and titled scroll and wand/staff did so that when I found them in later playthroughs of that save I would know what it was already. My character's name was usually Gringold, which I thought sounded aristocratic but also tough. I also coded my first games in Basic on that computer. The Adventures of Super Pickle. It had a few sequels too.
Q: What pieces of advice would you tell to new people trying game dev?
I think there are a number things that you need to have or do:
Passion to act on your ideas. Every day.
A strong drive to learn and execute. Every day.
Communication, respect, trust, and honesty with your team (or yourself).
MAKE HOW TO NOTES! Future you will thank you.
Document and track goals. (We use Trello)
Really really good or likeable art. (Doesn't mean everyone has to like it though)
Ability to look at the entire picture and the little details.
Trust your gut. If something is bugging you, it probably needs to get cut.
Flexibility to pivot and not get derailed.
Make something you yourself will enjoy playing. You don't have to be good at it. You just need to predict how others will probably play it.
Players want to break your game! They will absolutely button mash or try to access things that you think are inaccessible.
Knowledge of where and how to find answers when you inevitably have questions. (I found the Yoyo Games forums extremely useful, as well as Udemy courses and YouTube tutorials.)
We prefer to work in chunks. We finish and polish each chunk as we progress. It helps us to feel accomplishment at shorter intervals.
If something I polished before needs to change down the road during another chunk (constantly), I can usually tighten up the coding and make it more flexible and efficient because I know better how it works by that point.
Q: What is the best part about being indie? What is the worst?
One of the best parts is being able to work from home, be our own boss, and follow a flexible schedule. Both of us are neurodivergent, plus I (Tobey) was diagnosed with fibromyalgia a year ago, plus we have a neurodivergent child who struggles with some aspects of learning. Charlene and I both have job related trauma, so being able to work with each other has been incredible. We push, support, encourage, praise, challenge, validate, question, critique, and, above all, love each other through development but also parenting, homeschooling, and life. So really, for me, the best part of being indie is working with my wife.
There are two worst parts. One is not knowing what to expect in terms of sales or success of our project. We love it, and we hope others love it too. The other is internalizing negative feedback. We are both fragile souls and just want to continue doing what we're passionate about and not worry about people who hate it.
Wishlist IWOCon 2020 here.