Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow: A Dev's Review

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow: A Dev's Review

Written by Olie

If you're always aiming for perfection, you won't make anything at all.” 
― Gabrielle Zevin, Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow

With this thought, I decided to try and summarize my thoughts on the book I was in the queue for at the local library since August.

It's a good book. I couldn't put it down and went through all 400 pages of it without skimming a single time in three days. And, whenever I consume any media, both digital and analog, I tend to look for other people's opinions online. After all, everyone has one, and as a social creature at my core, I'm eager to see how mine compares. A good old reality check.

The fact that the plot revolves around gaming and game development is mentioned in both negative and positive reviews a lot. Some say that it doesn't affect much even if you're not a gamer, others seem overwhelmed or refuse to push through their lack of interest in the topic. Of course, all references made sense to me, even if I haven't played Donkey Kong or Oregon Trail. I also enjoyed the chapters that are supposed to make you feel like a player in either a first-person or a multi-player game. However, first-hand experience with both gaming and game development made me question certain things.

Before I elaborate on that bomb I just dropped, I'd like to let the kind readers know that I'm not Sadie's stan. I genuinely tried to understand what exactly was so brilliant about her because I'd love to relate to a fellow female in the game industry. But other than her being hunted down by a bunch of male characters with various qualities claiming she was special, I found no proof of that. She's your typical artistic type: pretentious, self-centered, and vain. There's a hint of self-awareness at some point in the book, but it gets washed away with self-pity and more praise from other characters. The rant is over, now I can get back to games.

Game development is not easy. And, most importantly, it's not fast. I appreciated that the author tried to show us that by focusing on how stressed out and physically drained the characters were at times, but... Hear me out. Ichigo, their first "blockbuster", was developed in six months instead of (boohoo) three. Six months to work on your own engine (though discarded and replaced with one from a similar game after a while), draw all assets for 15 levels from scratch in a Hokusai style, well, design and program everything, playtest, etc. Oh, and with a team of two. Now that's a fairytale I'd love to be part of!

Also, most games in the novel are described through their narratives and art styles but not through their game mechanics or genres. What exactly do you do in Ichigo? Is it a runner where you jump over obstacles in various settings? Is it a platformer? Maybe a puzzle game? Same with Dead Sea, a game that inspired Ichigo way more than Sadie likes to admit (due to her very controversial history with its creator). We know that at some point there's a log with which you need to kill a zombie. Is it just one instance or do you need to smash your way through a herd? I guess we'll never know. But we sure know that both games are famous and their creators are very talented. In fact, genius.

The game called Both Sides has clearer gameplay. You need to switch between two worlds, one shaped like our reality and another one is a fruit of imagination, and do something (yet another game design mystery) in both worlds in order to progress further. Reminded me of Fran Bow (2015) by Killmonday Games and Broken Age (2014) by Double Fine & Harebrained Schemes. The problem is, Both Sides was developed in the very late 1990s, unlike the examples I provided. 1999 was a great year for game development. My favorite Barbie: Race & Ride and Theme Park World were released when I was two years old, so I enjoyed them 4 years later on my PlayStation 1. Now, as much as I love these games, they were still too demanding on the hardware which resulted in regular lags and crashes. You'd experience nothing but a loading screen if you were to constantly switch between two worlds in Both Sides and for the game to remember your progress in both of them and update it simultaneously.

Of course, I could be satisfied with an umbrella term 'adventure game' which is liberally used in the book, but both Sadie and Sam are consistently called game designers, yet I know nothing about the game mechanics of any of their masterpieces. One could argue that I'm nitpicking, and the game industry was merely a setting, but why so much attention was given to the graphics and engines then? And even though I get why so much attention was paid to the narrative (I was reading a book and not technical documentation after all), I scoffed when at some point the main characters got a game pitch that consisted only of the story and a couple of art renders. Yet again, I want to be a part of that fairytale world where that's enough to swoon the publisher. No cost calculation, not a single mention of the technology that is going to be used, or game mechanics (who dat?)... They have an idea!

I could continue rambling, but what good does it make? As I said, I liked the book, mostly because of its immersive writing. I enjoyed every single experiment that was thrown at me by the author, and though the ending is a bit cheesy, the exploration of relationship dynamics between the main characters was quite refreshing. I also found a bunch of #deep quotes I'd like to write down in my notebook. And finally, fun fact: it's the first YA book I finished in ages, I was about to give up on the genre, especially after Sally Rooney's Conversations with Friends.

Have you read Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow? What are your thoughts and has anything I've written resonated with you? Let me know!

P.S. Dov should be glad he peaked before the cancel culture emerged.

P.P.S. Happy Holidays, everybody! More updates regarding Frogs & Mushies and other projects we're working on will be posted in January & onwards <3

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