BG2MVG 02: Setting the Scope of the Game

In this series of posts, I describe the process of me making a brand new video game from scratch. You can read the intro to this series here.

Also, this series is called a “guide” but it does not mean anyone should do things the way they are described here. It could potentially be used as a guideline by someone who has never been developing games. Or you might be better off doing just the opposite of what I say=).

Hello everyone!

I have a confession to make – I promised there will be no hindsight, but there will be just a little bit of it. Truth be told, I came up with the initial idea for the game on 9th of July, 3 weeks ago (as of this writing). And the decision to publicly develop a game was made several hours ago.

So several first articles will be published every day and will cover first 3 weeks of development, and after that – no more hindsight, I promise.

OK, first things first – we need something to start with, right?

I can only guess how other people start developing games. Having read forums I am sure lots of designers tend to heavily rely on the story or setting and allow it to dictate mechanics (or just synonymize game and story, which is most usually wrong).

I know for sure, that one particular company prefers to pick a genre (in the most broad possible sense, like let’s make a game, where you have to kill enemies) and design an interface first. I kid you not – one of my first games was actually incepted like this: bosses told me “we need a brawler and we already have an interface ready, now make us a game to fit it”. As I am writing this article they are doing it again. Needless to say I strongly believe it’s as crazy as painting bricks and then building a house with them, so that a nice unicorn would emerge in the kids’ room.

And of course there is an option to start with the mechanics and allow them to be the basis of the game. I like this approach, because… you know…  games… gameplay=). Luckily I have something in mind.

Not that long ago (not until the day of this writing, actually) I was working on a clone of famous Transformice. I was bothered by the lack of mechanics it had (the clone), and having just read an awesome article “Designing An Awesome Video Game” by James Marsden (which is now my Bible), I decided to come up with a “toy”. It seemed to me that double jumps would fit nicely into a game about well… jumping and would complement existing set of mechanics and add to the gameplay, but my bosses did not agree. That happened on the 9th of July.

Still, I could not stop thinking about a game, built around this mechanic. My thoughts were approximately as follows:

  • Double jumps are fun!
  • But still, on their own they do not seem to have lots of variety…
  • What if avatar has 2 types of jumps? First one is easy to perform, but not very strong. Second is harder to perform, but is stronger. And players are free to chain them as they like. This should give some variety.
  • If avatars can jump off the air (aka double jump), they can jump off the walls or ceiling.
  • It seems logical, that jumping off the air is weaker, that jumping off the floor. Or wall. Or whatever.
  • And if avatars can jump off the air, players should have control over the initial vector of avatar’s movement, otherwise players will not have lots of control.
  • And if, let’s say, player presses DOWN+LEFT+JUMP in the air it totally makes sense to make some sort of a downward diagonal jump, but what should happen, if the avatar is near the wall? Or is standing on the floor?
  • What if that initial input contextually defines the “type” of the jump? As long as it makes sense to the players, it should be OK.

So here’s what I’m going to explore with this game – contextual jumps of various strength. No big surprise, it’s going to be a 2d platformer!

Now, the mobile market seems hot, but I have no idea what tablet games look like, let alone how they work (can you imagine – my phone still has buttons and I have had iPad in my hands no more than 5 times). And it does not seem very suitable for our mechanics (well we could define movement vector by performing swiping motions, and stuff, but the timings of said jumps would be REALLY different from what I imagine. And of course there is running and there are 2 types of jumps and screen != keyboard…)

I’ve played PC games for the better part of my life. I know keyboard and mouse. So I shall design for that. Of course, I’ll do my best to adapt the game to gamepads or even touchscreens, but they are not what I focus on.

Now, about difficulty of the game and its audience. Well… lots of people say “you are not making a game for yourself” and I agree. Others advise just the opposite, and I agree as well. So I will be making a game I’d like to play (like most indies, right?) but constantly aware that it should be attractive for adult male experienced gamers. Just like SMB (which is a huge inspiration, BTW).

And I’ve been playing with Unity for a long time, and it’s free  and friendly and has all the necessary stuff under the hood  and UDK is a complete overkill so that’s what will be used to make this game =)

Let’s recap:

  • We (I mean all of you and I) are making a 2d platformer
  • There will be no killing enemies
  • There will be lots of jumping
  • We target PC, Mac and Linux. Because of the keyboard=)
  • It will not be a casual game. It will involve dying and learning not to.
  • It will be powered by Unity
  • I have no idea what the setting will be. I hope that mechanics will tell me the story. They usually do.

In the next article you will meet this game’s programmer, who happens to be my brother (so far only 2 of us are actually involved in making this game… besides you of course) and we will create first prototype of the game!

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And we’ll see what happens next!