IADDS Update

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Work is progressing on 'In a dark, dark space'. I say work... I say progressing... That's perhaps a little generous.

I'm in that difficult middle third of the project, where each new system I try to add, has to nestle comfortably with all the other systems. Dependencies are a pain.

Often development time is spent fixing one bug, finding three more, documenting it all, then feeling tired.

Not sure if I should be bold and push on adding new features. Or whether I should be prudent, and go back and fix every bug, tidy up my systems, playtest and refine the initial levels. Bold or cautious. Not sure.

Sometime I accomplish more just by ignoring the woods and focusing on the trees. Just pick one tiny system that isn't quite working and make it work. Ignore the bigger picture, just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Sometimes this is a good idea, although sometimes you end up wasting time fixing systems which you are later going to drop, or pushing the project in a direction that it isn't best to go in.

I tend to avoid playing other similar games unless I am creatively stuck and considering dropping the project. Seeing other peoples ideas can inspire you to create other people's ideas, which is not what I'm trying to do. But sometimes the thing that inspires you is some tiny detail, such as how the menu close animation works. Normally coming up with ideas is never, ever, ever a challenge. The challenge is implementing the ideas in a system that works as a coherent whole. Any idiot can describe a game that doesn't exist yet. But I aspire to be that special kind of idiot who can create a game that doesn't exist yet.

Sometimes I regret not putting in direct control of ships. Instead I use indirect control, so you click a point, and the ships travel there. This removes the immediacy of twitch-reflex space combat, which is a shame. But to help counter for the tricky control system, I let the player slow down time as much as they like, which means I can pile a ton of complexity on the screen without worrying that players will be swamped. Indirect control gives more flexibility to plan routes through complicated territory, and perform coordinated attacks. But faffing with waypoints is a pain, especially if you put one in a place where that ship can't get to. Plus space is big and empty and open, so it's not like you need to navigate a maze or anything. But I think the biggest reason to stick with indirect control is that not many games do it. Being awkward but different is its own reward.

Designing strict levels is difficult. In space you can travel in any direction. Initially I put big planets all around the player to force them to pass through my corridor in the order I wanted. But I eventually realised that I should allow freedom of movement. If a goal requires visiting 3 places in order, then players should be allowed to go to the places in the wrong order, and simply learn that those places aren't active / passable / defeatable yet.

I hate shops.

I hate incremental improvements.

Tempting to let the player start with the ship fully equipped. Starting with the cheat turned on was more fun. Fun is good, follow the fun. But players love upgrading, and this provides a powerful carrot to lure the player into missions that you want them to perform.

Every time you go down one road, you don't go down the road that is next to it. Not going down a road is a conscious game-design choice.

Tags: Unity Motivation