We managed to catch up with Rebecca from Zoozle Zone, the developer of Jaki’s Wacky Adventure to find out more about how it all came together and the inspirations behind the game.
Tell us about your solo dev journey
What does Einstein have in common with a cute ninja fox? Join me on my game-dev journey and find out.
I love playing RPGs. I mean, why read a book or watch a tv show when you can LIVE it? In a great RPG, you get to become whoever you want to be, explore amazing worlds, live incredible stories. The great RPGs tap your emotions and provide powerful experiences. And, I wanted to create something this wonderful to share with others.
I also love science. I am insatiably curious. Todd Howard is my inspiration. His games promote and reward curiosity which always puts me into the flow when I play. I just cannot stop until I see what’s behind the next door or down the next path. But there is always a next door and a next path. The impact these games had on my life just intrigued me and I wanted to know how he did it. So, I decided to try my hand at modding.
I watched a few YouTube videos by Gopher, downloaded creation kit and I was hooked! It was more fun to mod the game than to play the game. I combined my passions for science and gaming and sketched out a quest for Skyrim. The player was asked to explore an ancient temple where they would eventually use basic genetics to breed a baby dragon companion. The mod got the attention of a local university and I was recruited into their new multi-disciplinary PhD program, Learning Science. Over the next 4 years I played Skyrim for over 1200 hours, ran video game camps, collected data, and worked on Dragonmist (the Skyrim mod). I got my PhD by playing and modding Skyrim – how cool is that? But the best reward was watching gamers play the mod with great excitement, laughing and sharing their experience, and just having fun! I knew then, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life and Zoozle Zone Indie Game Studio was formed March, 31st 2020.
When I embarked on this journey, I left a very lucrative career in sales. Everyone thought I was insane. However, I was miserable, unfulfilled and I wanted to do something meaningful with my life. At first, my friends and family didn’t understand how designing a GAME could be meaningful. I explained the power of games and how they provide experiences that can make a difference in people’s lives, wellbeing and even mental health. With game design I’m never bored and I’m always happy. There is always a problem to solve, a villain to create or a hero to design, another world to bring to life and another story to tell. I can’t think of a better career than one where you can create your own little world and live in it!
It is a ton of work, but it is also something I am deeply passionate about. I enjoy creating deeply magical worlds with amazing characters and challenging quests to make the player’s journey engaging and meaningful. I aspire to creating diverse game experiences that allow players to see themselves as the hero of the story, whatever that means to them. The greatest reward for me is seeing gamers enjoy the stories and worlds I have created. There is so much joy in seeing a player’s eyes light up with wonder when they discover a hidden location; or see that “Fiero” moment when they figure out a boss’s trick and defeat them; or read a post bragging that they found that one special Easter egg.
So back to my original question, what does Einstein and a cute ninja fox have in common? Well, you just have to play Jaki’s Wacky Adventure to find out.
What other games are you working on right now?
As soon as Jaki’s launches, my focus will turn towards Raven’s Journey and Buzz. I have been writing the stories for these two games for the last 3 yrs. Buzz will be a 3d – low poly style game, developed in collaboration with a local environmental group to create some awareness about bees. Buzz is an adorable mischievous honey bee who always seems to find trouble. Raven’s Journey is truly my passion. It will be a realistic 3D RPG with a female protagonist. I want Raven’s Journey to have amazing characters that make you hate them and love them; make you cry when they are in pain or if they die; with memorable characters that tug at your heart strings like the characters in Mass Effect. I want tragic figures who create powerful emotions for the player like Cyberpunk 2077’s V. And I want a sarcastic bad-ass like FO4’s MacCready (and voiced by Matt Mercer) too! My vision for Raven’s Journey is most likely beyond my scope as a solo dev, so my dream is to build a team of like-minded creatives to bring her to life. Or maybe Bioware and their amazing writers – hint hint 🙂 We can dream – right?
Tell us a little bit about the story behind your game?
Jaki’s Story: Jaki is a clever little fox who grew up in a colourful town called Toon Town. One day, her older brother was brutally killed when someone dropped a piano on him. The killer was never identified, but young Jaki vowed to one day bring this evil killer to justice. As soon as she was old enough, she left her home town and moved to a peaceful forest home on the outskirts of Eureka. Eureka is a scientific community and home to the university where Jaki completed a degree in criminal investigation.
One quiet morning, like any number of mornings, a messenger comes to her peaceful home & changes her life. The killer has returned. This is the moment she has dreamed of. She now has the chance to avenge her brother’s death & bring an evil killer to justice. Jaki’s destiny takes her on a diverse wacky action-packed adventure as she travels through the vast open world of Harmony Haven tracking a killer.
Play as Jaki, a powerful ninja & clever CSI. The mayor of Toon Town needs you. You are the only one who can find this terrible killer. Your mission is full of danger and intrigue as you explore the strange lands of Harmony Haven on your way back home to Toon Town. Investigate the murder, find the killer, and bring closure to your past.
Your journey is a perilous one. The killer has set many enemies against you. Many enemies are tricky and have special powers. To defeat them, you must first understand them. Revisit your friends in Toon Town. All of them have motive. Who can you trust? Who is telling the truth and who is lying? Use your powers as a ninja to destroy the killer’s minions. Use your skills as a scientist to restore peace to your home town & bring your brother’s killer to justice.
What inspired you to make your game?
I love the creativity of “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” and “Space Jam”. I wanted to create a world for Jaki that juxtaposed a real-life scientific community populated with real scientists and other humans with a wacky colourful cartoon town full of cute anthropomorphic animals. Originally the game was named Jaki’s CSI Adventure. But, one play tester laughingly said, “this game is so wacky, I love it!” So, the name was changed to “Jaki’s Wacky Adventure.” One of my favourite parts of Mass Effect Legendary is the Citadel DLC. The writing team is just amazing. I never get tired of playing this DLC because it always makes me laugh and smile. I wanted to achieve this with Jaki’s, so I tried to add humorous dialogue and ‘wacky’ adventures to keep a smile on the player’s face. So, don’t be surprised if you meet a yogi with a goat named Nibbler, or a nasty troll with a pink sock.
What challenges did you face when you first started?
I think the most frustrating challenge when I first started was the art. I decided to start with a 2D game because I thought it would be faster and easier than a 3D game, but I don’t necessarily think that was true. Art, animation and music are areas where I lacked experience. I hired Charles Wolf to compose an awesome heavy-metal styled original soundtrack and that made a huge difference in the game experience. But for the art, I really had no idea there were so many different STYLES of 2d art. At first, I tried to purchase assets from the Unity store. But, my game had a lot of unique characters which were just not available. I tried using purchased assets for the environment, but no one asset had everything I needed and different artists had different art styles. I didn’t think gamers would care about mixed art styles as long as the game play was interesting, but I was wrong. I learned that humans love consistency and when the art was not consistent it made the player uncomfortable. I had to stop progress on the game while I took some online art courses and completely recreated the game art. This set me back about 8 months and delayed my launch date three times but the game looks a lot better now.
What would you do differently if you could go back and do it again?
I really didn’t realize how much work game design is. I thought a 2D game would be fairly quick and easy since I had created several Android apps using Flash that didn’t take long. I think if I could go back in time, I would have just started with a 3D game. Also, I would probably look into crowdfunding or Kickstarter rather than using my own savings account. I have one investor who contributed some start-up funding, but the amount of time and money that has gone into the game exceeded my expectations. I would tell anyone who is just starting out as a solo dev, there are a lot of things you don’t know that you don’t know and you can’t plan for that. So, don’t get frustrated or give up, don’t set unrealistic goals, and don’t beat yourself up when you miss a self-imposed deadline. It’s just the nature of this beast. Get into a good positive community and support each other through the difficulties and delays.
Is your game single / multi-player or both?
What are the minimum software/hardware requirements to play your game?
• OS: Windows 7 (SP1+), Windows 10 and Windows 11
• Processor: Intel Core i5-2500K 3.3GHz / AMD FX-8150 3.6GHz or equivalent
• Memory: 4 GB RAM
• Graphics: DX10, DX11, DX12 capable
• DirectX: Version 10
• Storage: 9 GB available space
• Sound Card: DirectX compatible soundcard
• Additional Notes: Optimized for 16:9. Menus are not compatible with ultra-wide screen
at this time, optional windowed mode will be provided
Is there an age restriction?
Rated T (Teen 13+)
Non-voiced dialogue requires minimum of 6th grade English reading comprehension
Required game skills typical to RPGs.
Is your game free, a one off cost, monthly payment or micro or crypto transactions?
One off cost
Does your game require any web plug-ins to play it?
No. It will be available on Steam.
Does your game require a download patch or update after the initial installation?
Tell us a little about what you have planned next for your game update?
Currently Jaki’s Wacky Adventure plans to launch Summer 2023 as a PC game via Steam. Controls are currently keyboard and mouse. Dialogue is English non-voiced.
Future plans are to add controller support and a build for SteamDeck and possibly X-Box. Also, if the game shows promise, I would like to have voiced dialogue. The game currently has a lot of English non-voiced dialogue and no localisation. So, localisation may be implemented in the future as well. And who knows, maybe another wacky adventure as a DLC is in Jaki’s future.
Are you looking for funding/investment to further your games development?
I would not turn it down. But seriously, the momentum on the game dev is rapid right now. Most of the expense is done, it is just time and energy at this point. After the game launches and I catch my breath, I would definitely benefit from some investment or funding to update the game to include other platforms like SteamDeck and X-box, improve the game with voiced dialogue and improve the market with localisation. I would love to have some financial support for marketing, social media expertise, and store front art and game-trailer.
When do you estimate your game will be launched?
Jaki’s Wacky Adventure has a planned release date for summer 2023.
What Platforms do you plan on launching on.
Windows PC via Steam
Future plans: SteamDeck and X-box
What platforms did you focus on first and why?
To be honest, I focused on PC because that is what I play games on and it was the platform I was most familiar with. Now that Steam has SteamDeck, I plan to work on a build for that after Jaki launches on PC in the summer.
Do you have a Demo?
A free demo is available on Steam. The demo is about 20 minutes for completion or 10 minutes
normally. It begins at Jaki’s home in Venvista and goes through the tutorial area then introduces the player to the most basic combat system in the game (the grunt robots) and a mini-quest.
For more information, click on the showcase link below.
Jaki’s Wacky Adventure is an action packed open-world 2.5D RPG. Play as Jaki, a powerful & clever ninja fox. Wield unique shuriken with deadly accuracy as you dodge enemy fire, avoid lethal hazards & defeat clever en...