A New Hope

Posted by on May 18, 2016 in Game Development

I read in several different locations that talking about a project often times can trick the mind into believing that progress is being made, which in turn subverts any real attempts to make actual progress on the project itself. I fully embrace this explanation, since I’ve fallen victim to it on several occasions. Still, I can’t help but write something about my projects because on the other hand, seeing something in writing makes things real for me. It also acts as a log of action, something that I can look back on and remind myself what I was thinking at the time. Ideally, writing about projects would keep me honest and hold my feet to the fire, but on their own these are just words; what I’d really need would be interest, and people to keep on my case over time.

Of course, it doesn’t help that my projects — like Project Universe — are insanely complex for someone with absolutely zero game development experience. Since game dev is pretty much a black box industry, all we see is the finished product. We the consumer might be treated to some talking head video diaries from the development company which feature distant captures of monitors with code, or teasing montages of artists working on out-of-context assets, but nothing we see is really about process; that stuff is horribly boring because at the end of the day, games are made using the same processes that pump out any other widget on the planet: meetings, budgets, and a lot of solitary work done while underneath a set of headphones. My point is, I’m really good at aiming high, and have been using this site to record my progress in the hopes that it would keep me going during the times when the task seems insurmountable because of all of the things I don’t know. Everything can be learned, although there’s only so many hours in the day, and for something like Project Universe which would have required me to be designer, developer, and artist, each day would need to be stretched out to something like 60 hours for me to feel that I had enough time left in life to get done what I want to get done.

Although this is something I’ve always realized, I found that making progress negates that worry significantly, so in that vein, I’ve been thinking about what I could make that would be less ambitious, task-wise, that I might actually be able to finish. I think I might have the answer, but of course I thought that Project Universe was also an answer at one point in my life.

I’ll not go into specifics about this project just yet, since I’m only brainstorming the concept and mechanics and what I want a player to get out of the game. Some parts already make sense, but some parts are leading to blatant dead-ends for fun, replayability, or general engagement. I have to be open to the idea of throwing away ideas that don’t work, rather than stubbornly trying to force those round pegs into square holes because I don’t think I can come up with an alternative, or because I am so focused on one particular end result that I feel that I must have.

The good news is that this concept could be simple enough to exist as a boring old form on a web page. By “simple” I mean “it doesn’t need a whole lot of flashy graphics to work”. I like enticing visuals as much as the next gamer, but the idea this time is to focus on my strength, which is coding. No matter what approach I take, I don’t foresee this project needing tons of “deep” art, most of it being static, and very little being animated, if anything.

That being said, I keep coming back to thinking of this project in terms of being a mobile game, or at least a tablet game. I’m not sure that’s the way I want to go, partly because I don’t do mobile or tablet gaming myself and have little to no interest in that market, but also because I have no experience in mobile or tablet development in anything. Using Unity (naturally), I could compile for mobile platforms with relative ease (sans Apple because I’d need a Mac), but it just throws a whole curve into the equation that would effectively take the place of some of the complexity that I think I’ve already engineered out of the endeavour.

So right now, I’m going back to thinking and planning about the first steps, the goals, and parameters of the most basic tasks that I want this to accomplish. Unfortunately I’m already trying to fend off secondary and tertiary system ideas, the kinds of things that flesh out a basic game concept so that it’s more than just “pushing buttons”. Those elements will get dropped into the sidebar, and I’ll have to revisit them once I’ve got a solid grasp on the fundamentals of what I hope to accomplish.