Level 5: Postmortem of a game

SGrunner last gif

So it’s been some time since the last update. The last time I posted, I was working on a platformer that I was calling “scapegoat”, but as it turns out, it’s really just not the sort of game that I like making. I’ve made the decision then to just stop working on this game, and move on. It’s useful to think about what I liked and didn’t like about the game, though.

I wanted basically to make an endless runner – one thing about endless runners that I don’t like is that in order for endless runners to work, you have to die somehow at the end. And that feels terrible! Take for example, temple run – you steal the macguffin (again??) and are chased by monkeys and get ripped from limb to limb (again.). And then you do it again? How does that work?

One endless runner that I did like was basically a re-skin of Jetpack Joyride, except that instead of Barry stealing a jetpack, flying through the lab and getting sniped off the jetpack in the evil scientist’s lab (either by catching a face full of laser or eating a missle or getting zapped) and faceplanting dramatically, your witch was in a race, and after faceplanting dramatically, got up and flashed you the victory sign. And got up and went at it again. For some reason, that really changed the whole tone of the game – it wasn’t some nihilist act of suicidal lemminging over and over again, but was working towards a goal of some sort – getting the highest number in a race.

My goal for scapegoat then was to make the endless runner make sense. The theme would be that your player was the scapegoat for a manical bank robber. You would be summoned to the scene of the crime by your “boss”, ostensibly for some cockaninnie reason, and would be stuck running from the police who assumed that you were the one who pulled off the bank robbery. Everything would then flow from there.

What I liked doing:
Tuning the jump. That was really interesting, getting a certain feel for the jump that I really liked.
Making the physics objects. Barrels that fly when knocked into, animating the sprites, so on. That was fun! Setting up a stack of barrels to plow into was fun too.

What I hated doing:
Basically what caused me to stop working on this game – level design. I realise that I kinda hate level design. All that positioning of platforms, making sure that there’s some flow, some challenge, some way of arranging the platforms that make sense, all of that is seriously what I’m not interested in doing. Huh! Another issue might be that it’s supposed to be an endless runner, so all of the sequences ought make sense in any order. That’s hard! Also, the platforms are one level of obstacle, whereas the police which were going to catch you was another level of obstacle, and neither of them on their own gave any level of challenge.

I think this was a design issue rather than anything else – consider Jetpack Joyride’s design, where there’s only one main obstacle – the electricy zaps, and occasionally there are missles and lasers that provide alternate challenges, but keeping in mind that if there weren’t any missles or lasers, the electricy zaps would provide sufficient challenge for an interesting game all by themselves.

In the end, I guess I guess I hate storytelling, kind of. I had a premise for the game, but that was just a one off thing. The continuing “story” of curated experiences that I would supposedly provide to the player, though, that.. I can’t seem to do. That’s good to know, I guess. In any future game, I’ll know not to make level design or storytelling part of the core design of my game. For all the ragging I did on random level design… It looks like I’m going to go down that path. ;)

I’m working on another new game at the moment, having new knowledge of my own abilities and preferences. Hopefully, I’ll be able to stick with this one a bit longer! =D If you want to try out what Scapegoat ended up as though, well, I’ve complied it and here it is. It’s basically just an exercise in programming at this point, but hey, since we’re here. ;)

Level 3: jumping on things

I dare say the first gaming experience most people had back in the day was a platformer. It’s hard to imagine, but back in the day, platformers were like greybrownchesthigh spunkgargleweewee games are today – the default for every game. Some were great, most were not. Those that were great went on to do great things, like Mario and Sonic, and we never really questioned why the act of jumping on things was so entertaining.
Continue reading

Level 2: Why do we make things?

SG screencap

So my current project is coming along… nicely… as you can see from the gif up there (for certain values of “nice”. Animation is hard). Unity actually provides really good physics, so you never really have to code too much. For the above, including keyboard controls, I didn’t have to code more than 15 lines or so, and the barrels are completely code free!

I need to get the police officers done, and I’m wondering if should leave the shooting off til later – shooting would be totally help the theme of the game, but at the same time, I don’t want this to become a shooting game – it’s a game primarily about running. Hrm. Still, for prototyping and testing, I should probably have a semi-finished build. Then, I’ll start working on creating the “endless” part of the endless runner. Continue reading

Level 1: snake, snake, oh it’s a snake

SnakeIt’s been 3 weeks since I started learning how to make games, and I’m happy to say that my first game is finally up! Of course, it’s just snake, but finishing anything is always an accomplishment (especially for INTPs. We’re notorious for never finishing stuff once the “good ideas” have been kind of sketched out).

I’ve basically only been able to do anything during my lunch breaks, so I’m squeezing out the game in 1-2 hour blocks, and even then maybe only thrice a week. Some days I start coding after my wife and kid have gone to bed, and go on to midnight, but that’s rough on my body – I’m not twenty any more! All nighters are just no!

Continue reading

We must make the games we wish to play in the world

We must make the games we wish to play in the world – Auntie Pixelante

Those crystals are toast

I’ve been playing a lot of Hero Academy lately, for the past 2 years, really, and even started a rather in depth blog, Oh My Void Monks, about the strategies and tactics in the game.

There’s just one thing that Hero Academy lacks, though, and that’s fireballs. What? Fireballs? Yes, fireballs.

Continue reading

Level 0: the beginning

Ever since I was a little kid, I wanted to make games. I made games that you could play on paper (a horribly broken implementation of go), I drew mazes, I tried to make a “card game”.

Remember this one? It got turned into a SMB3 minigame if you had 2 players…

Then I got my first computer, a 8086, or an IBM XT (compatible, probably). It booted into a BASIC interpreter if you didn’t have a startup disk inserted. I remember the day a Mario game (the original Mario game!) told me my computer was too crappy and I had to upgrade to an AT to play it, and that I should, because “the game was really fun!”.

Dang. Continue reading