The first drafts for the Skeleton Key began at the start of 2015 (according to my file timestamps!) I originally wanted it to be an app comprised of all my web games in a single executable file. The plan was to remove all ads and branding, add controller support, make improvements to the games based on player feedback and have a central hub of achievements that unlocked secret content within the app.
The first draft of the design doesn't deserve a mention; it wasn't great. It was on the second draft that I began to find a feel for what I wanted it to be. There was going to be an item on the table related to every game, and clicking it would bring up it's hub.
Draft 2: This is where the idea of Skeleton Key as a standalone app started to come together. As you can see, I got as far as making the buttons for two of the games.
For the next attempt, I went for an arcade-fighter character select style screen. This even had music made by Yahtzee who I worked with on Super Idle Imagination and Hero Agency. I was - and still am - really happy with this. The sound effects and music worked great together.
Draft 3: The "arcade" version of Skeleton Key was my favourite. Even as a super simple prototype it felt juicy and consistent.
My ambitions for Skeleton Key didn't stop there. I designed and printed a prototype of a physical copy which would be sold as a limited collector's edition through my website. The physical edition would come with a printed trivia book, two packets of badges featuring characters of my games and a Once Upon A Life style sticker. I also wanted to include an art card and personalized thank you note. I designed this edition a couple of times before settling on the following:
Physical Prototype Cover Designs: Although I was happy with this for the final version of the physical edition, you might notice that it rocks an older logo design. This means it would've needed updating again should it have gone to print.
Inside-the-Box Goodies: I had a big bunch of badges and stickers manufactured a few years ago that I had planned to give away and sell through my website. I never got around to it so planned to package some up with SK. I still have them, so might run some giveaways in the future.
The prototypes and extra content included in the current iteration of Skeleton Key is a miniscule sample of the insane amounts of game concepts, sprites, cutscenes, prototypes and music I have made over the years from projects that are unfinished or were canned before seeing the light of day. I'm still trying to find a balance of knowing what to keep hold of to work on in the future and what to put out there. It does bother me that I have some work I am really proud of that nobody has ever seen, and I'd hate it to be hidden on a hard-drive somewhere forever.
So as we've established, it's been just over three years from the original idea to being released, but the Skeleton Key collection still doesn't feature as many things as I would have liked to have packed into it (I'm looking at you, Itch.io file limit!) and most of the things I wanted to do with it would have been possible had it not been for the constant projects that come up that require more attention than would render it feasible to gloss up a collection of old web games. I am however proud of all the games that are included, and maybe, just maybe, one day I'll put together an ultimate collection of everything I've ever done, finished or not.