... and you're on the old one. Click here to be redirected!
I've abandoned another project. That is to say, the Idea Fairy has won this round: I've shelved the game I've been working on for the last few months and begun something new.
While I'm excited about my new game (and why wouldn't I be? I've only been working on it for three days), I figured it's worth taking some time to figure out what happened to Strange Gravity, and why it's back on the shelf again.
A large part of this is due to a demo night here in Boston that I took my working build to. And that’s not to say that the evening even went badly. Here's what happened.
I'd taken things I'd learned from watching people play the original 7DFPS build and revamped many features, including the logic behind how spores are generated, transferred, and destroyed (which is quite a lot of the gameplay). My improved logic was considerably faster and more efficient.
Also improved was the tutorial, which I saw many people just skip in the original game. I made out much shorter, which was a good thing. I still counted on people walking up and reading placards I'd set up, which was not a good thing. Also not a great idea: setting the tutorial on a flying disc above the ocean with no invisible walls or logic to handle falling INTO the ocean. In my tests, of course, I'd never fallen off the platform once. This didn't stop a good 40% of players at the demo night tumbling helplessly into a low-poly abyss just moments after the game began.
Aside from that, though, I learned that I hadn't actually improved the tutorial at all. People had just as much trouble following the 5 simple instructions I'd put on the sign as they'd had meandering through my museum tutorial from the original version. Now, I'm assuming that I didn't randomly get a sampling of players incapable of playing through any given tutorial, so the fault was clearly on my end. I'm currently chalking it up to confusing layout, overly-small instructional text that wasn't drawn directly on the screen, not incorporating learning better into the actual gameplay, and the fact that I was doing a multiplayer-only demo (tutorials work better for single players, I guess).
That being said, I still don’t know how to make a tutorial WELL, especially for a game that has some relatively complex mechanics. I guess I should go back and play some old favorite games, and NOT skip the tutorials because I already know how to play them. If you know any games that have excellent multiplayer tutorials, particularly first-person games, please let me know on Twitter.
So, the tutorial was a major stumbling block for first-time players, which was especially frustrating because I felt like it was so much better. But, beyond that, a note about design: the structure of the game is that of a top-down RTS, like Galcon or Phage Wars, but in the first person perspective. I knew from the single-player prototype that the format COULD WORK in first-person, but I learned this at the demo night:
It doesn’t work SUPER well.
Especially in multiplayer. The battles quickly became very hectic, with swirling cameras and little player awareness of what was going on. I can think of a few reasons why this might be, including poorly-thought-out level design and the very small screen that I was testing on, but it was discouraging nonetheless.
Now, I got a good amount of feedback, and a lot of people said that it had 'potential', which was very nice of them. But the one piece of feedback that I got which really hit home for was this:
“When are you going to start making story-driven games again?”
This came from the awesome David Cherepov, who played, enjoyed, and gave me tons of great feedback for my favorite game that I’ve developed, It’s Not About the Aliens.
This comment, as well as my other experiences at the demo night, brought me to an important conclusion: I’m not making the type of game that I really want to play.
I mean, sure, if Strange Gravity were a completed game, with a fully fleshed-out story mode and a multiplayer mode, I would play it and enjoy it. I would not, however, play the multiplayer mode. I don’t really like multiplayer. I was mostly working on implementing this feature because I felt like it would fit for the game style, not because I thought it sounded fun. Thus, a large chunk of my recent developer energy went into a part of the game that I wasn’t super interested in.
One of my main goals was still accomplished, though, which was learning how to do more stuff. I learned tons of stuff I didn't know, and that’s half of why I do what I do. The other half, of course, is ending up with a finished product, which was not the case here.
I still think that there’s a lot of 'potential' in the game concept, and I think that I have a solid enough code base that I could go back to it and begin developing the single player campaign. (Someday ... maybe ...)
At present, though, I’ve begun work on something that I actually DO want to play (a story-driven, 2D platformer), and I think that’s serving me well for the time being.
Have you ever lost a battle with the Idea Fairy? What happened to that old project?
Every now and then, I won't be feeling very creative. Try as I might, any game development work I try to do gets nowhere.
At times like this, I try to find some inspiration. Oftentimes, this means playing an hour or so of a great game (recently it's been FRACT OSC). But sometimes, all it takes is seeing some art that gives me a new idea.
Now, coming up with a new idea isn't always a good thing, especially if it means your other projects fall by the wayside. But if I see something that gives me a cool game idea, and I spend an hour or so prototyping it out, then I'm back in the groove. And then (hopefully!), I can get back to what I actually want to work on.
Some art that's gotten me thinking lately are these two random sprite generators: this one by Boris van Schooten (of Tomatic Games) and this one by Carl Olsson (AKA Uninhabitant).
Take a look at both of them, and just see if they don't, for lack of a less-gross phrase, get your creative juices flowing. And, heck, you might even get a solid game idea out of one or both of them. Or perhaps a character design concept. Who knows?
Do you know of any other random image generators? I'd love to see them! Share the love! Let me know in the comments or on Twitter!
I ultimately decided to submit this final choice, Strange Gravity, for two reasons:
I submitted it a week ago and heard back that I got a table a few days ago. Over the course of the three-day weekend (thanks to a snow day from work), I have done, gosh, maybe 25 solid hours of work on the game - not including the feverish brainstorming I always seem to do for a half hour or so every night after I turn off my bedside lamp.
What can you take away from this?
But, of course, here I am giving advice, and I haven't even been to my first demo night yet. Here's hoping it goes well!
Have you shown off your game at demo nights before? Other venues? How did you prepare?
If you're like me, you have some personal projects that you're working on, in addition to whatever you do to make money.
If that's the case, you're pretty lucky, because you have gainful employment and (some) time to work on your own stuff. You may find, however, as I have, that it's not always easy to motivate yourself to work on these other projects, especially when you're just scratching the surface of Dark Souls 2. (And let me tell you, being a mage is very fun.)
So, if you're like me even more, you probably are working to find ways to motivate yourself to get going with that sweet, sweet, creative outpouring.
Here's a list of the top ways I motivate myself to make video games in the little free time I have:
ACCOUNTABILITY is the big one. If I have someone who's expecting me to finish what I've started, I'm about 10 times more likely to actually work on it AND finish it. Even if this someone is just a co-worker I told about my most recent game, that counts. (This can be a bad thing, too, if you're, say, working for an overbearing boss or some such. Never having developed professionally, though, I can't speak to that intelligently.)
2. TIME LIMITS
3. ANTICIPATION OF FINISHED PRODUCT
If accountability and time limits are the main things that get me to work on games, ANTICIPATION OF FINISHED PRODUCT is the main reason that I want to make games. Yes, there's the thrill of creation and the joy of learning new things, as well as the sense of satisfaction after I code a particularly elegant function, but, at the end of the day, it's about being able to say, "Here! I made this thing! Let it entertain you! And let me watch!"