We are taking a top-down approach for Future Flashback. We wrote a story, and telling it in the adventure genre felt natural. When looking for tools, I eventually found Adventure Game Studio. It has all the ready-to-use objects that I like from RPG Maker, but for adventure games. It’s also powerful enough to let you ditch any ready-made objects so that you can create your own, with a very easy to use scripting language.
You can use the default adventure elements to prototype the story and the environment, then take your time refining the gameplay and replacing default objects and methods with what works best for the game. It works really great with pixel graphics too, which is a plus since it’s the aesthetic that we are going for. While I didn’t know Adventure Game Studio or its scripting language a year ago, it has a friendly learning curve that means the hardest part is often deciding what design works best instead of what can I code.
This is my favorite development strategy, the “ship of Theseus strategy” (as coined by eri0o), where I have a good set of defaults for creating and I can replace each part at my own pace. New parts can be different and enable me to move forward, while the old parts provide a safety net that, if something is too hard to replace, I can leave as-is and work around. This approach gives me a predictable development path where I know I can advance if only a little each day.
The predictable pace of development gives me the tranquillity to explore and iterate on the design, while being able throw ideas (and code) away because I know they are easy to explore. Since I am not the only person using the tool, I also have access to ready-made code that helps me iterate faster until I’m ready to cut the unneeded parts or polish them to fit our vision for the game.
(Thanks Gurok for helping me with English and Henrique with focus!)