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  • jimclougherty

Gold Fever Log #1 - The Story So Far...

Updated: Aug 5, 2019

For a decade I made a concerted effort to become a successful game designer. From 2008-2018, I got a degree in "Interactive Entertainment", made two free games for PC and Android, and stalled on my third just before the demo was ready to go. By November 2018, I felt the writing was on the wall - I'd been working on the demo for two years (About a year of that being full-time) and it still wasn't ready. I was working on revising the entire art style of the game and the various programming errors that never seemed to go away, and that's when it hit me that it wasn't going to work out. I'd saved so much money to go full-time on games, but in a short time that had drained, and I didn't have much to show for it. My sound/music guy disappeared on me, my art was just ok at best, and my programming was obviously flawed.

So I decided it was time to move on. I still get anxious thinking about it sometimes; the errors and art that needed fixing. There's a misconception out there that making video games is a fun, happy time where you just sit around playing games all day... but anyone who's actually taken the plunge knows that it's really 12 hour workdays of staring at walls of text to find that one nagging bug, or making a change that you thought was great, but 2 months later you find out it broke everything. It's also marketing, outreach, networking, and skilled art, or no one will care what you're working on. And that stuff is very difficult, especially if you're all on your own as I chose to be. As for why, I'll save that for another time because frankly I've prattled on for too long about video games when this log is supposed to be about writing. The point is, my hat goes off to anyone that not only sticks through it, but is obscenely skilled enough to make it in indie development in 2019. Those people have my highest possible respect.

As for me? I understood the path that I was going down was unsustainable. Funds were running low even after years of saving, and anyone can tell you that if you can't even produce a demo within year 2, you're in for a long development cycle. So I understood my game was doomed to fail. Too ambitious? Maybe, but that's my own fault. I underestimated how difficult it would be to do something more original in game development than I'd ever made before. So I ended development unceremoniously without any word to anyone. I was too ashamed to tell people at first. I even told myself that I'd get back to the game some day, but sitting here now, I can't say the idea fills me with excitement. After such a long time of structuring my life around this one thing, I was lost; unsure of how I should spend my time. You have to understand that even when I worked my old corporate jobs, I spent my lunch breaks and much of my free time working on the game. It wasn't normal for me to have nothing to do.

So I decided to work on things that I had to hold off on due to game development. I decided to make some game review videos, but found it was a bit counterproductive because I would usually spend more time on video editing than the actual game. The footage took up way too much room on my laptop too!

The other hobby I took an interest in was writing. Even when I was younger, I loved creative writing. That, and making maps for video game worlds. I still have one of the stories I wrote back when I was 12. It was meant to be an epic, but in reality it was about 15 pages long and a complete rip-off of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. It even had hand-drawn illustrations done by my cousin (Thanks, Emily). Still, it was a lot of fun to write and I enjoyed creating a world for the characters to live in. Fast forward to fall of 2018, when a good friend of mine sent me the manuscript for a fantasy story he'd been working on. I found myself not only enjoying the story, but the conversations we would have about what worked well, what could change, the structure of it etc. In a way, these conversations and enjoyment of a good fantasy got me to write my own. Like I said before, the book was something I always wanted to do, but the last push I needed was reading through my friend's manuscript.

It was then that I cooked up Gold Fever, a dark fantasy which was originally an idea I had for a game. I outlined what I wanted the story to be, came up with my characters, and got to writing immediately. At first I was self-conscious and continued to go back and edit earlier chapters, but I eventually learned that the time for that was after the first draft. I also got to combine my enjoyment of writing with making maps. I made three for my own purposes:

1. The trail from Faiwell (Village where our characters are from) to Mt. Couture (Where the plot takes place)

2. Mt. Couture and the mines within it

3. A man-made labyrinth that our heroes had to navigate in the story

The story is about a mining settlement in a fictional world that is in the midst of a material crisis which threatens to bring famine and suffering to the land. They feel their only choice is to approach the abandoned mines of Mt. Couture, which they've stayed away from for hundreds of years. They send two groups of miners to explore the area in the hopes that they can find valuable metals and save the village. The first team becomes trapped by a tunnel collapse, and are hunted in the night by a vile and otherworldly creature. Even worse, their workers act more and more peculiar the longer they are trapped.

In the second group of workers is a young mute named Joel, who knows more about the mines and its terrors than he lets on. He'll try to steer his fellow miners in the right direction as the group searched for the first team, tries to find valuable metal, and most importantly... survive.

I don't want to go into more detail than that because I'm worried that I'll spoil plot elements, but maybe I'll save that for later blog posts. Things like characters, plot structure, inspirations… the cool thing is that there's so much to discuss!

Anyway, I wrote on and off for a while until late March 2019, when I finally finished the rough draft. It ended up being about 470 pages long, and after that, I was at a loss for what I should do next. I started looking into self-publishing authors to see how realistic it was to do so myself. I was shocked to find so much material on the subject. Like everything else in life that's worth it, I found out that finishing a book would take some effort.

This blog is dedicated to the documentation of those efforts. I'll also talk about some other fun things like inspirations, ideas, and other works of fiction. I hope you'll stick around for the ride!

- Jim

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