March 8th, 2023
It’s no surprise for our fanbase that we consider our first game, Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion, done. We’ve gone on-record to mention this in our Official Discord server (you should join if you haven’t already, there’s a ton of really nice people in there!), and we’ve even announced the official sequel, Turnip Boy Robs a Bank! While we’re really excited about what’s next for Snoozy Kazoo, we wanted to take a look back and tell the story of the development of Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion! We hope that this write-up is helpful, or at least an interesting read for aspiring indie developers to industry vets alike!
A shelved prototype…
Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion started out as a jam game built for Ludum Dare 41. The game was planned to be about a turnip in a post-apocalyptic world who’s looking for fertilizer. If this sounds familiar, it’s because the final version of the game, at least the first chapter of it, is pretty much identical. While this original version didn’t have tax evasion, it laid the roots for Turnip Boy as a game and as a character.
This being said, I quickly ran out of time during Ludum Dare, and the game was shelved for another project I was working on.
A few months later, I started having serious doubts about my current project’s scope and design. I had a few discussions with some close friends about it, and I ultimately came to the decision that I would start up Turnip Boy again in the summer.
Turning a new leaf!
When summer came around, I was working on a contract with my best friend (and future co-developer) Jennifer Kindl, and we decided to have a work session at a cafe (before COVID, this was the summer of 2019!). After doing a bit of our contract work, we decided to hit up the local Friendly’s for some absolutely mediocre food, and we discussed what I could do with Turnip Boy. Around that time we decided that Turnip Boy needed an obstacle to keep him from just going to the greenhouse, and we needed a reason as to why. We brainstormed a few ideas, and one of us randomly threw out tax evasion as a joke. We originally laughed and brushed this off, but eventually we came back to it and started fleshing out the idea.
I eventually decided to roll with the tax evasion idea, and started working out the plot with Jen. I had developed many prototypes and game ideas before, and for this one, I decided to tackle it differently. From the start, I laid out several core pillars the game would be built around, and every decision was made after referencing these pillars. I started with three main pillars;
- The game should be short, both in development time and gameplay length.
- All content should be lighthearted and goofy in nature.
- We should respect the player at all times.
These pillars quickly became the driving factor behind every choice we made. From achievements, to auto-saving, to storytelling, everything we designed had these pillars in mind, and it helped us stick to the game we set out to make from the start.
Around this time, BostonFIG submissions started to open, and one of my friends was offering to split a booth with me if I wanted too. I decided to use this opportunity to motivate myself to get a small demo together. I ended up making a rough version of the barn, complete with a big worm as a boss fight (which got a few screams of terror at the expo) and the “seed” mechanic, which allowed Turnip Boy to pick up and plant seeds, which would grow into different things, such as a Soil Sword or a Boombloom.
I ended up completing the demo the night before, with another one of my friends, Jake Currier, who cranked out some music to seal the deal. A few of my friends volunteered to help me run the booth, and I quickly scrambled together some props to make it as cute as possible.
We were not ready for what was about to happen.
Everyone at the convention absolutely loved the game. There were points where people were lining up to play. This was an absolute eye-opener for me, especially since the game was in a VERY rough state. There was something here that people loved deeply, and it became clear that Turnip Boy was destined to become something bigger.
Building up the game and the team.
After BostonFIG, I decided to revamp a large portion of the demo based on feedback we got during the expo. It was also around that time that I decided to onboard both Jennifer Kindl and Jordan Kegler, as it was clear that I needed help, and they were both really excited about the dumb game we’ve been talking about for months. This was one of the best decisions I’ve made surrounding the game, as they both brought a ton of amazing ideas to the project. It was around this time that we revamped the seed mechanic to be the plant mechanic that’s in-game today, as well as a complete revamp of the dialogue system (Jen pushed for this one HARD), so we could really flesh out the characters in Veggieville and build on the humor that was starting to surface around the project. We also added the tax document system, due to a few complaints we got where people wanted to “feel like they were actually committing tax evasion”, which was a REALLY hard thing to solve, especially with our lack of knowledge on how taxes actually worked.
We also started working more with Jake Currier and Ryan Borbone to fill the game with sick beats! Both of them gave us a ton of ideas throughout development to strengthen the story and theming we were going for, and Jake even wrote a song about it, which is what became A Fertile Wood at Heart!
Around this time, we also decided to bring Turnip Boy to the MassDigi Game Challenge. Game Challenge is a competition that revolves around business planning and pitching, and we wanted to see where we line up from a panel of industry vets, as well as hopefully win and be able to showcase the game at the upcoming PAX East expo!
We had prepared for this event months in advance, as this was actually our third time trying to take home the gold. We had a refined pitchdeck, a solid build, and a somewhat nice booth design. This was by far our strongest attempt at winning, and it paid off! We ended up taking home the trophies for the College Group Category, People’s Choice, and Best in Show!
This win was an amazing opportunity for us, as it allowed us to showcase the game at the MassDigi booth at PAX East! We ended up taking some time to continue to polish up our build, and then we turned our focus on PAX.
Pitching to pubs!
When planning for PAX, we wanted to spend a good amount of time talking to publishers and just seeing what they could offer us. After getting there and setting up our booth, we hit the showfloor, talking to every publisher we could.
It was around this time that Graffiti Games ended up jumping us, asking us about the game and our plans with it. They seemed super interested in the project, which was super exciting as a small student team.
After PAX, we sat down and talked to a TON of publishers. After a lot of meetings, we decided to go with Graffiti Games, as their energy was unmatched, and they were offering us everything we were asking for to finish the game.
This proved to be one of the best decisions we’ve made as a team, as throughout development, the team at Graffiti was always readily available to give us advice, milestone advances, as well as everything they promised on time and with grace. I don’t believe Turnip Boy would be where it is without them.
Grinding out the game…
After signing with Graffiti Games, we ended up starting our own company, which you can probably guess, especially if you’re reading this on our website. Snoozy Kazoo became our own little game studio, and we had to speedrun learning how to operate a small business. With the help of our lawyers (I literally must have asked hundreds of questions during this phase) and our accountant, as well as a ton of advice from mentors, we were able to get Snoozy Kazoo operating and the team moving forwards.
At this point, all was left for us was to finish the game. We spent about a year working till release, in-which we finished the game’s core content, polished up everything, worked with a QA & a localization team to improve and translate the game, as well as Graffiti’s porting engineer to get everything ready for our launch on Steam and the Nintendo Switch.
Time to launch this thing!
Launch was… completely insane. We always had a hunch that Turnip Boy would do alright, but we were floored by the insane amounts of hype and love thrown our way.
I think the wildest thing for us was seeing the game pop off a little on Twitch. I don’t watch a ton of live streams, but seeing stuff like this on Twitch’s front page was absolutely bonkers and even looking at this now it’s weird.
This was also insanely weird considering I’ve played an absolutely insane amount of both Sea of Thieves and Destiny 2, so seeing our dumb turnip game sitting next to them was a lot to process.
I’m not going to talk a ton about numbers here, but I would be lying if I was to say Turnip Boy’s launch wasn’t a financial success. Feel free to snoop and dig up info on SteamSpy or SteamDB if you’re really curious, but on our end, Turnip Boy has secured our near future as a game studio.
This being said, I would be a fool to say that we didn’t get INCREDIBLY LUCKY. I don’t want the take-away of this post to be “make a dumb meme game and you’re set”, as so many things had to line up for us to even get to the point of launch (COVID alone could have killed the game if it hit a month earlier and cancelled PAX East). Even during launch, we got really lucky that the popular Twitch Steamer/YouTuber RTGame found and decided to play our game, which was a massive boost for us both popularity and sales-wise. While we obviously tried to do as much as we could to help boost our launch, including some semi-popular TikToks, as well as all of Graffiti’s marketing efforts, we owe our community a lot of our success, as they were the ones to share and spread the game like crazy.
During the development of Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion, we learned a lot. We have a few key takeaways that we would like to share with the hopes of teaching other developers.
Firstly, we learned not to become too attached to our game. While everyone at Snoozy Kazoo cares deeply about our work and the game we created, we wanted to keep our emotional investment as low as possible. This was important because it allowed us to take an objective look at the game and make major decisions without being too entrenched in our own ideas and beliefs. Turnip Boy was never intended to be a multi-year project, and we would have scrapped it if it didn’t resonate with people. Our goal was to create a fun game, not a perfect one. By not getting too attached, we were able to let go of perfectionism, which resulted in a more loose and chaotic development process. We believe this gave the game a more authentic vibe as we captured the silliness of the world in our development environment.
Secondly, while we feel that a majority of the humor in Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion is situational and will make sense to players in the future, we didn’t really care if we included references or sayings from our current day and age. Although it’s nice for something to be timeless, we decided to put that aside to build a deeper connection with our audience in the present day. We believe that making this shift allowed Turnip Boy’s writing to feel more authentic once again. All of us at Snoozy Kazoo view Turnip Boy as a time capsule that encapsulates what we felt and thought throughout development. The game even reflects our journey as we developed it, with its humorous take on taxes reflecting our own lack of knowledge as dumb college kids who eventually learned how to run a business. We’ll always be able to look back and reminisce on how we felt during development because of it.
Overall, we’re really proud of the game we created and the community we fostered. We’re excited to bring you Turnip Boy Robs a Bank, and we can’t wait to see what the future holds!