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What the hell am I meant to be doing?

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Trapper Zoid


I keep getting stuck on calculating these damn Jacobians, so I might as well make another one of my rambling journal entries, where I brainstorm my simply pouring my mind out into a word processor. It will help give the impression to those people who just skim through the journals without actually reading anything that I have lots of deep insights into the world of game development to share, whereas really I'm just blathering on about nothing in order to feel good. Guess that doesn't make this any different from any other journal on the web...

Anyway, lots of game development stuff to think about right now. Let's start with the pretty pictures first.

Art Practice Continued - Or: What the hell is this picture meant to be?

I am not entirely sure what this is. It was meant to be a steam-powered robot knight to compliment the reanimated "zombie" I drew earlier, to satisfy the secret objective of making the game compatible with both last year's competition and this one. But it looks more like some kind of super hero or villain with a pipe organ stuck on his back. Still, I'm pretty happy with how it looks; I was experimenting with a comic style of art and colouring, to see if I could make the image work with only four colours (black, dark grey, light grey and yellow). I'll have to start moving towards drawing fast and consistent art though if I want to get enough done on time. I also need to play around a bit with what kinds of animation would work. Of course, decisions on appropriate art styles and animation all hinge on what gameplay I want, which leads me onto my next section...

Gameplay - Or: What the hell is this game mean to be?

It is fairly obvious I haven't decided exactly what this game is yet. I want to make a game that is fun to play (naturally), but I don't want to fall into the trap of aiming for a game type that is way too extensive for a single developer to create within a few months, which narrows down the game options considerably. I also don't want to make a game too similar to scores of other 4E5 entries, in order to make something different for everyone to play. However, for me I have to also remember that the competition is really just a mechanism to kick my tail out of just dreaming up game concepts and getting something good completed this year. There is also the issue that whatever game type I choose will probably shape the direction of the next few games to come, and if I get around to going selling games it might even dictate my area of game speciality. Thus I have to pick a genre I really love and want to master.

Fortunately, I love pretty much all types of games (the only exception is realistic sim games, including shooters. And WWII games, if that counts as a genre, except for Wolfenstein (original and 3D) and the Indiana Jones adventure game series). However, there are only so many genres that are sensible to consider. FPS and MMORPG are out; that's the prime battleground for the AAA commercial games. RTS is possible, if I aim for something different from the standard tank-rush affairs. RPG is possible too if I limit my scope. Turn-based strategy is a good option. Puzzle games are a staple, but are also done to death by indies. Adventure games are also a potential option.

But for those of you who remember all the junk I wrote in the very start of this journal, I still have dreams of putting in some proper interactive storytelling into my games - not the horrible FMV definition of interactive storytelling that was barely interactive or a story, but more about putting the Dungeon Master back into single player RPGs (a quick-n-dirty summary that's not that accurate, but it'll suffice!). I was planning on going down the action game route to this path. Although I kept distracting myself with shiny things and trying to jump ahead when I wasn't ready, the plan for game development went something like this:
  • Simple arcade action games

  • Simple dungeon crawler

  • Zelda-esque action/adventure game

  • Zelda-esque RPG game with interactive storytelling elements!

This was the action game route to my objective. It had the benefits of being doable and kept closely within the confines of proven game types. The later games are potentially marketable as well.

The downside of that path was every step was little too "samey". There's lots of dungeon crawlers and action games out there, and I'd like to try something different. So over the last few months I've been toying with idea of making an RPG sim-management style game. This is different from the RPG Sim-City style of Project Hamlet, the project I was designing last year, although it could lead up to it. It's more in line with the Princess Maker series of games, although not really (it's so hard to explain something when it doesn't fit into a prescribed genre!).

Given I suspect that this will take a bit of work, I wasn't prepared to start a game of this type until after I had another simple game or two completed, but given I think I can fit the "Mad Science" game to this mould I might as well use this opportunity to experiment with some ideas. So my 4E5 project is essentially a big mock-up trial of whether the series of raw ideas I have can all fit together and make a game. The two huge potential pitfalls to look out for are that of time; this will be a lot of work, and the danger that the ideas will just fall flat and result in a poor game. But I might as well give it a go anyway.

Music - Or: What the hell type of music goes with mad science anyway?

Briefly thought I should also mention this. I've been thinking about what kind of music would go with the Mad Science theme. So far I'm leaning towards what I call the "Haunted Castle" style of music (organ music, lots of arppegios etc.), since I've got some sample ideas I was thinking of from "Project Jack version 3 - Haunted Castle Edition" that I was working on. But I guess I could also use "Classic Horror Movie" music; where there's always some high pitched keening sound going "doooooEEEEEEEEEEEEooooooooo", except that doesn't really fit in with the 19th century time period. It also shouldn't really sound that serious, since it's a light hearted comic type of game. I'm open to any suggestions.

Guess that's it for today. If you were brave enough to read all that, any comments and suggestions about any part of what I've written are welcome.

Or if you just skipped to the end, just comment on the knight, you slacker.
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Gameplay: I would really like something like that "Evil Genius" game, which was more or less a campy 60's style ripoff of Dungeon Keeper.
Music for horror games: Do not resist the urge to use the theremin.

Shiiiiiiiiit man! It's a robot knight man it's gonna kill us all man oh my god it's banging on the doo

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Theremin! That's the moniker I was after. Once I'm back home I'll see if I can chase up some sample music to listen to.

I recently played through "Evi Genius", as that base-building genre is one of my favourites. It's a good genre to work with too, although there's a bucketload of "Something Tycoon" games out there already.

My main concern with that genre for this game is that usually the base-building genre is geared around entertaining a horde of simulated A.I. critters, which wouldn't quite work in the case of a mad scientist. I suppose a Sims like approach might work, but then it's more like "My Pet Mad Scientist" instead. There's also the problem of finding the time for all those animated sprites for the game.

Definitely something to consider though. I was planning some of those mechanics, but not with the "overworld" view.

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