Stealthscape Postmortem

Stealthscape was a labour of love that I worked on-and-off for a little over 3 years. It started as a simple prototype and slowly evolved into so much more, even though I never planned to make 90% of the changes that I did. It was the project I was most passionate about for many years, and while it still holds a very special place in my heart, it’s time to move on to greater things.

WARNING: THIS IS AN INCREDIBLY LENGTHY READ.

On June 7th, 2017, I opened up a new project in GameMaker and wanted to quickly prototype an idea that I had. I wanted to make a top-down stealth shooter that would have N-inspired movement. I didn’t have much more of a goal than that, but in a few hours I had a player controller that felt really good to control so I pushed on.

Stealthscape Prototype

I decided to settle on low resolution art for the game, as I had little-to-no experience with art at the time and using only a few colours alongside it could help convey a minimalist feel. (Especially when the game’s resolution is higher than that of the sprites) After a day or two of working on the prototype, I got around to adding solid objects, making proper collision, and adding shooting. It all just felt right, in fact, it was already starting to feel like the final game :thinking:

Stealthscape Prototype

A few more days passed and I was already getting a lot of feedback from some of my friends who I was sharing my progress with. As I continued to prototype the first thing that would come to mind, I quickly became very ambitious with my plans for the game…

Discord Log

A level editor!? My own programming language!? I was really in over my head because I was getting so much positive feedback that (looking back on it) I was starting to set myself up for failure within days of starting the project. I fell for the oldest gamedev trick in the book, over-scoping.

Stealthscape Prototype

The gif above shows the final prototype for Stealthscape, which you can download and play for yourself here. As you can see, it’s very similar to the final product (and even features the same sound effects). This is the most soul-crushing thing to look back on. I quite literally had the finished game sitting there within the first week of development. Although I know that’s so far from the truth, it’s just crazy to think that the final game isn’t all that different from this initial prototype.

Written on January 1, 2023