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!

If you think this series could be interesting and have not yet subscribed to this blog – feel free to do so. Do not forget to share this post to your peers and comment on it.

And we’ll see what happens next!

Advertisements

Stuff’n’Stuff 03: The Crushing Power of Still

wall push

So I have this Cool Idea for a game. I guess you know the rest…

It usually goes like this – you come up with The Idea, tell your friends about it, they get excited. Together you decide to give it a shot and make something tangible. Hellyeah! The world will be yours. You and your friends are destined for fame, wealth and glory, and hot chicks will give you free blowjobs on the streets, and heavy metal stars will ask you how to rock and… and there will be boobs and… and booze… and… and boobs and… and not a single goddamn thing gets done.

The euphoria fades, new inspiration never comes. Why the hell should it? The results of the work done are the best motivators after all.

Anyway, they all give up and you do not hear from them for weeks, and when they finally show up, everyone is like “your idea was not THAT good”. Sometimes you will think this way too and sometimes you will be right.

BTW If you do not know it yet, never ask you friends, unless you are 1000000% sure they are not going to lie to you so that they do not hurt your feelings. And never act on your idea at once if you are not a pro (and why a pro would read amateur’s blog?). Write your thoughts down, let it go for a couple of weeks, then revisit it. Still think it’s good? Now act.

You may repeat this fruitless process indefinitely, or you may try to change things a bit. Wise internet folk say “no one cares about your idea” and “do it yourself” and “your idea sucks” and they are right. But they are wrong.

The thing is, gamedevs are pretty creative and have lots of ideas of their own. And they actually have no interest in your idea especially if they have some experience. Inexperienced ones most usually come up with crap or give up quickly (no offence, we’re on same side here) so why would anyone care about them? But, guess what, not a single thing can be done without an idea behind it.

Unsurprisingly the topic of the day in gamedev is the lack of innovation and, get this, new ideas.

Giant-Rock

It’s incredibly hard to make a game even if you have lots of experience. It’s close to impossible to make a game on your own without help and previous experience. It’s even harder to make a game that other people might like.

Most people do not bother to address game publishers with their ideas (and they are right, no chance here with their quality standards and submission policies), still, I hear, publishers get crazy lots of proposals. Intuitively most beginners tend to flock with the ones like themselves, after their friends are eliminated from the “possible help” list.

As opposed to friends, who always say that your ideas are cool, random folk usually have quite an ego (this is a good topic for an article itself) and tend to reject 99% of what you say. It’s damn hard to find someone with similar values and vision or to develop some sort of direction which would suit everyone (this process has so many pitfalls and I definitely going to share my own experience on that matter).

What I’m leading to is how does one tell whether his idea is good or not? And do not tell me, that it’s all about the execution. Execution is important but execution is nothing more than a row of decisions based on a set of ideas and assumptions. Furthermore, a good starting idea is a basis of the rest. Your pretty building has better chances if it stands on a solid ground and not on a marsh.

So I have this Cool Idea for a game. I’ve had it for a year now (it makes me think that I am either really dumb or my idea is not actually that bad, if it managed to excite me for a year without having any visible results, which is really frustrating TBH). I’ve had several “got help from friends” rounds; I even tried to pay them (bad idea). I’ve also tried to do something myself. If you guess that I have no tangible results, you are right. But it’s too early to give up. Next on my list is asking for help from internet community.

We’ll see what happens.