This article is part of Pixeljam’s 10 Year Anniversary MEGAMONTH, and we’re doing a semi-chronological retrospective on every one of our games each day of the week. You can read them all HERE.
Around the middle of 2012, Pixeljam fell into what seemed like a real slump. We had been making games for hire for 4 or 5 years, funneling that money into internal projects that seemed like they would never end. I personally needed a break, and decided to shake things up a bit by taking some time off to work on a much smaller-scoped game. I would complete it in a week, I told myself…
But what kind of game would I make? We were pretty comfortable with platformers, having worked on Glorkian Warrior for so long already. I ripped out the engine and made it a simple left-to-right affair. But who would star in this game, and what would he do?
I turned to Rich’s extensive library of character doodles to find the perfect protagonist. It didn’t take long before I found him… Potatoman:
He had this look about him… unassuming, yet determined… a naive sort of longing for something bigger than himself. He’s searching for truth!
No, he’s seeking the TROOF.
And so, Potatoman Seeks The Troof was born. I held true to my “game in a week” promise and had almost the whole thing working from beginning to end (with my own background graphics) in about 5 days. Yup, I was done! And yet… it didn’t seem quite right.
My original artwork for the game. Yup, I went to college for this…
I asked Rich to redo my graphics, and he produced what you see in the final game. That added another couple months to development. During that I redid the ending a couple times. It was originally am upwards-vertically-scrolling gauntlet of near-impossible challenges that ended in an eternally black screen.
The original final level.
Was I really that nihilistic though? Not really. We opted for the less difficult but more surreal world that is currently level 5. This added another few weeks to get it just right. But how to end it?
About a week or two before the release deadline (The Mayan Apocalypse, by the way), the starfield was Potatoman’s final destination. It felt okay, but was a bit too nebulous and left too many things unanswered.
We got the idea for the farm scene from the trailer that Don Thacker had made for the game. Yes, he would return to the farm, because he’s really just a Potato… thats all he ever was. He would root into the ground, the sun would set and that would be it.
But somehow it just didn’t seem right. Rich and I were 3 days away from release, crunching hard, very exhausted. In a brief restful moment Rich expressed his disappointment that the game ended with our little spud just disappearing into the earth. What could we do about it though? We HAD to be finished.
Somehow, against all odds, we managed to squeeze in the final Final FINAL scene, the moment when the purpose of Potatoman’s life is revealed.
You can’t stop nature, you know?