Two years has passed since I released Turtle Head Unmasked, my first ever game finished under the Meatpie name. It's crazy to think it's been this long, and it's genuinely insane to me it got as big as it did. I never expected for it to gain so much attention, but I suppose that's in part due to the fact the game had backing from a sizable content creator. I'm still really grateful to Pikasprey for allowing me this opportunity. Honestly creating a game like this would be in my wildest fantasies when I was a child. So it really does feel like I'm living out a dream.
Admittedly, I haven't seen gameplay of it in well over a year prior to last night. I used to watch every single let's play that came out, read every single review, and constantly check for more. But I suppose as time went on, I sorta just stopped. Not that I lost interest or I didn't care what people had to say. I guess I more so wanted to focus on future projects. To be blunt, that game holds a lot of the past. I wrote it in highschool when I was 17 years old and my life was entirely different. I recall ignoring lectures in my economics class in favor of writing scripts for Emma's story. I had an entire different group of friends. I had a different idea of where I was going in life. And overall, I still had a lot of childlike ignorance. So looking at Unmasked as a game, it takes me back to that time. It's nostalgic, but I would be lying if I said it didn't hurt a bit. It feels like a time capsule, so maybe that's why I don't entirely like interacting with Turtle Head media as much. I was a girl when I made it, and I'm a woman now. And sometimes I think it's for the best to not stay stuck in the past. Obviously I'm only 20 and I have much growing up to do still, so this feeling will probably only get stronger. But as of now, everything surrounding Turtle Head Unmasked gives me a mix of complex emotions.
That's enough of everything surrounding the game though, what about the game itself? As I mentioned, I saw gameplay of Turtle Head Unmasked for the first time in forever last night. How this came to be was by talking to my friend Shoji about it, and I was pointing out one puzzle that I felt I did really poorly. The math puzzle to open the safe in Emma's story if you recall. That puzzle in particular has become a bit of an inside joke amongst my friends, simply because of how badly I handled it. After a while of discussion, Shoji became curious and decided to play it for himself and streamed it on Discord for me to watch. We played the entire game in the span of about 5 hours with a group of friends. The general consensus after finishing the game was everyone seemed to have liked it! But to be honest, I was left feeling mixed. It's probably me being overly critical since it's my own work, but there's certain things that I either really like or really hate. Let's break these thoughts down a bit.
First things first, the puzzles I made gave me the urge to scream at my past self for making them. They are pretty horrible, and some are just total bull. There were a lot of times during the game I just gave Shoji the answer to puzzles because it was just so unfair. Especially in Emma's story. Most of the puzzles in Harriet's run are fine because they were just taken from the original. But the ones I made from scratch are very hit or miss, but with more misses. I feel like I understand what went wrong though. I think now as a more experienced dev, I understand how to fundamentally craft a decent puzzle. But while making my first game I didn't quite get it. Some of it felt more like I was trying to pad the game rather than make the player think. Especially the puzzle in Emma's Story where you're supposed to get a screwdriver to fix the kiln. That part was really tedious and killed the momentum of the game thus far. There's more but if I sat here breaking down each and every mistake I made when designing puzzles, this log would be a 5 hour long read.
Now for something I like about the game. I like Emma as a protagonist a lot. I wrote most of Emma's story and Emma's dialog, and honestly I'm really proud of it. For Harriet's run, I wanted to focus more on horror and staying true to the original. With the alternate route, I wanted to do something that deviated. I went more for an adventure story game rather than adventure horror, and I think that was a good idea. I sometimes see in reviews for the game that people really dislike that decision, and they do address valid points. But perhaps they were looking for something different out of Emma's story than me? Emma's story was the first time I've really put character into a structured story like I did. And for a first time, I think I did a decent job. I think Emma's pretty funny, and her dedication to Harriet is very admirable. But here's where I get a little iffy. I think Emma's story is a bit too angsty. As a teenager, I wrote how I felt into Emma and I think in that respect I did fine. But well, my friend Shoji put my feelings best. Generally he said "as an adult, I can't quite relate to this character. I feel like I've outgrown who this person is meant to be." I think a lot of adults who played Turtle Head Unmasked feel similarly. Emma is a self pitying teenager and is written as such. Which definitely makes me think she appeals to a teenage audience, and I just simply outgrew what made me relate so personally to Emma. I don't think this means the adult audience will hate Emma. In fact, the friends I played with liked Emma a lot. It's just maybe she won't be as relatable and the plot won't hit so close to home. I guess I accomplished what I set out to do though. I wanted it to feel like the game takes place in a highschool with teenagers, dealing with teenage feelings. And it certainly does do that. So congrats little me, you did a decent job.
I guess some miscellaneous final thoughts here. One thing I noticed a bit with Emma's story was there were certain things that were very self indulgent. Emma and Harriet having a romantic spin on them was definitely one of them. I don't think I handled it badly or anything, it just very much feels obvious I was feeding into my own desires there. But whatever, they're awfully cute! So maybe being a bit self indulgent here and there can be a good thing. Another thing, it is still wild to me that I’m able to sell merchandise of this game because of its popularity. I never did large scale merch drops, nor did I make a ton of money or anything. But just being able to put out little paraphernalia for something I was involved in and have it actually sell was crazy to me. I am still selling keychains if you're interested in supporting me. The link to my Etsy is under the store tab on my website.
I guess just a final thing to mention, besides merchandise and Emma and Harriet appearing in most Meatpie projects, there will likely not be anymore Turtle Head Unmasked content coming out in the future. Sadly my hands are kinda tied with this. I have no contact with the majority of the people involved with the game due to personal reasons. So getting the team back together to ever make a sequel or remake is going to be completely impossible. It's sad because I wanted to do more with this game but it's not in the cards. All well, I guess this plays into not living in the past again. I have plenty of original projects I wanna work on anyway!
So yeah, that's really all I have to say. This ended up being a whole lot longer than I expected but I suppose I just had a lot of thoughts I wanted to ramble about upon seeing my game again. I hope this little retrospect was at least an interesting read! I'd love to hear your thoughts and still do love interacting with fans, so feel free to message me. My contact information is on my website. So yeah! Thanks again for reading, and I hope you have a wonderful day.