blowing up Bomb Dolls
Bomb Dolls! one of Girl Software's most iconic and beloved games.
princess created the girls, but their world and the game as we know it is the result of a collaboration with Girl Software's other half, Jessica.
in 2017, Girl Software didn't exist yet, and Bomb Dolls was just another one of princess's experimental prototypes. it looked like this:
there were 2 players, and the whole thing was keyboard-controlled, which... didn't work. (did you know most keyboards can't recognize more than a few simultaneous keypresses? princess didn't know that.)
it's not easy to build a large space for a procedurally generated road trip, so for a while the game took place on a barren postwar moon colony.
later it became a little more colorful, with palm trees and weird eyeballs. this version never got very far along because princess was busy.
in 2018, princess was thinking about Fury Road and wanted to make a game called Bomb Dolls about mutant animal girls driving around in a wasteland.
we settled on these 3 designs as our favorites:
then we had a thought: maybe this is the gay road trip game we've been waiting for! we made a very simple game, a 3-player road trip simulator where you drive a car, collect pills and guns, and shoot eyeballs.
that was it! the game was done!
...until playtesting revealed that the keyboard controls were impossible, and also that the game was repetitive and boring and sucked.
Jessica came over and played Bomb Dolls and was like "let me make this bigger and better." she cofounded Girl Software as Creative Director, which means she had a million cool ideas and it was up to princess, the Producer, to execute those ideas and/or veto the ones that were too hard.
that's when Bomb Dolls blew up.
Jessica wanted a day/night cycle, custom cars, cute outfits, more snacks, more weapons, bigger crystals, barbed wire fences, flaming barrels, toxic lakes, oil rigs, and more distinct areas. she helped with lighting and particle effects and drew concept art for new critters like slimes, crystal crabs, and the big destructive machines we call "dragons".
princess modeled everything, and she added smokestacks, wind farms, mushroom fairies, and cyborg girls. the game started to take on a very different look. it was more magical and more apocalyptic.
Jessica helped us solve the keyboard problem by reworking the control scheme to support a variety of game controllers. this was a new experience for princess, who was used to making games with nothing but a tiny laptop. now we were testing with Joy-Cons, multiple computers...
we decided there should be an ultimate goal besides "don't die". we both liked the idea of collecting the souls of other lost girls, so Jessica drew concept art for a desert goddess who would receive the souls.
Jessica modeled some buildings, which princess then simplified and optimized for easier navigation and smoother lighting performance. (Jessica also wanted more dramatic lighting and bloom effects, which made the game a lot heavier. but we pulled it off and it looks amazing.)
the buildings were useful as landmarks, plus they were a nice way to break up the flow of gameplay and enhance the road trip vibe.
at this point, Ada Rook, rook&nomie, and Black Dresses had already agreed to let us put their music in the game. then Black Dresses asked princess to make a video for their upcoming song DREAMS COME TRUE!
princess recorded and edited most of the video in about 3 days. Jessica helped with OBS, and Devi added some final touches to make it perfect.
DREAMS COME TRUE was literally a dream come true. it was the most fun and exciting crossover event we could have imagined, and people loved it.
it also meant that princess suddenly felt pressure to finish Bomb Dolls while the hype was still fresh. Jessica announced an estimated release date of Summer 2019, and princess committed to that. it was stressful. we worked too hard. deadlines are no longer allowed at Girl Software.
but in retrospect the timing was perfect, because we got to show Bomb Dolls at Bit Bash 2019 at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago! and then later at BITXBIT and some other cool events. a party in Australia or something. we didn't go to that one, but it looked fun.
anyway, covid lockdown started 6 months after the release, which wouldn't have been a great time to promote a couch co-op party game about sick girls dying in an apocalypse, so... yeah. it worked out.