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Evouluushun, why scrapping a game is good

Posted by Bluefirehawk, in Game Design 11 January 2013 · 631 views

sooo... this week may be a bit of a weird post. More weird than usual? Maybe, probably...

I am sort of scrapping everything of Project:Phoenix and start again, except for the code, there isn't much around yet, but more to that later.
I didn't write about it, but a lot changed since the last time I updated this journal, the game today and the game I wrote about in my first post back in August are more different than they could be. It seems very similar to species evolving, diversifying and eventually becoming so different that they are considered different species.
The same thing happened with the game idea, I added, changed and removed ideas and ways I thought about, now it is a different game.They still are related, I am proud that so many ideas persisted for so long and how many will persist that I haven't even written about. I am sure that this could become a great game one day. But I'd have to work on it till the end of times to be in a fit and finish I have in mind, until I can move on.

So what changed then?
Something I found out I defined without really knowing what I did. I first imagined that people will play it at LAN-Parties, just having a good time.
Without knowing, I defined a theme, a feeling for the game, something the player should experience while he plays. But I also had a second theme in mind, I wanted to be more realistic in how a military team works. Look at the Battlefields and Call of Duties out there, Everybody does what he wants and shoots around. In reality, an attack is planned beforehand, the bigger the attack, the more vigorous the planning.
I didn't put both in, because they fit well together, they don't. I put them in because I liked the idea, because in my simple imagination it worked. In reality however, they are more conflicting than not.

And that's what I changed and what I haven't yet decided, the theme. One idea for the theme is Trust. You are sent in a dangerous world with your fellow gamers, you live because the guy next to you doesn't let you die. But he is encouraged to. In the end you are set to face a dilemma, only one of your team can survive and join at the side of the commanders. So you either have to kill your team or you all die.
I like the theme, you can have plot twists which are not in the plot, but in the action of each friend you are gaming with.

Sadly, empowers the game as much as it hinders it. This game does not make sense in single player model. Let's be honest, I never released a game, practically nobody knows about it, there is nothing I can show. I am lucky enough when somebody takes a look at it, when it is required to play with a friend or two, who probably aren't around at the moment.
In short, scrap it. Valve could pull something like that off, but I don't. So I don't

What am I doing?
I don't know, I am still dreaming about different things, scenes, and in general, what you should actually let the player do, how do you tell a story, how do you let the gamer experience something about himself. But I can tell you this much, it will be a single player game, some mechanics will prevail, but it will be vastly different from the game I have in mind.
When I have the theme laid out, I will rewrite my basic game idea, trying to draw a more acurate picture than I did before and, try to show you just how much it deviates and where it is very much the same game.


The lesson to learn here: if you want to make a game and you have a game idea, try thinking about the theme, what feeling the player conciously or subconciously is exploring while playing your game. What question he's left with when he finished. It defines EVERYTHING!





As a suggestion, you could encourage unit cohesion by having a point system which has the player get more points if more soldiers in his unit survive or are not wounded - more points for their survival, of course.  This would cause the player to work with his unit.

These types of games do exist. The old fps's before Ghost Recon came out were like this. You had to really sit down and plan the damn mission or else people would die ( and for those of us who cared, we wanted to save them all ). With live action and real time multiplayer this theme died out and has been dead for some time. This does not mean that your game couldnt work... it just means it wont be massively popular.

 

Is your goal to reach 50000000 player base? or is it to make a game that will fit the type of game you want to play? The better question, why are you making the game? If the objective is to make some cash than your goal should be to reach the populous. If your goal is to make the game of your dreams and you could care less about cash than stop worrying about what does and doesnt work and simply focus on making the core elements strong. If your goal is kinda a bit of both than you certainly need to sit down and see what you can cut out to make it more friendly to the wide variety of players while maintaining the theme you desire. The difficult of the three choices being the latter.

 

I had to make some similar choices while going through the development process during our game and still do every day. What can we keep, what can we cut out, who are we alienating by doing this action and that action. In some areas I simply say "fuck em" and do what I want, what I feel is best for the game. You may just have to do the same.... and you may be surprised by who likes it in the end. Dont scrap something just because a AAA can do it.... that was the only line that struck me as.... off

To understand me better, I don't want to make money of it. Quite the contrary, I will put almost everything I do under the BSD licence. The goal of the project has changed from a "framework to learn C++" to "I would like to make a good game". That's a topic for a different entry.

"Valve could pull something like that off, but I don't."
In retrospect, this line says something totally different. I wanted to say two parts which I think I told very badly:

1. I don't intent to get any playerbase at all, I just want people to try it. It suddenly struck me last week that maybe even that won't happen. It never occured to me that by changing the scope of the game, I also change the people who will like it and are likely to try it. That's no reason to NOT make a game, you are right. It just... took me by surprise and I wanted to share that, although I did it poorly ;).
I am more worried about playtesting but that's a different story.
2. I basically tried to put Jagged Alliance 2 and Alien Swarm in a blender only because I like them. I don't want to say it can't be done, I want to say that I would have done it badly in that game. Especially for it being the first game idea I wrote to paper.

All I want to say is that by comparing the current game and the game you first had in mind is a good thing. And if there are parts of it that don't fit anymore, figure out why. If you have a good reason, don't be hesitant to throw it out.

I am currently writing a second entry about sort of this topic, but that time hopefully clearer. Maybe after that this entry gets clearer.

So long.

July 2014 »

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