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Weekly Update Continued...

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Trapper Zoid

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I skipped a few update details in my last entry, mostly because I needed a good proverbial smack upside the head for wasting time like that. Now I'm moved to using plain HTML for describing the engine functionality the ideas are flowing more smoothly. The design as it stands is a bit lacking in detail and suffers from looking like three conflicting architectures mashed together, but I'm fairly confident that I can refine that into something workable soon. I'm more than a little worried that my progress is now is the "design quagmire" stage, where the designer gets bogged down with endless design trivia, but I'm now getting more confident that I can get this thing on the road once more soon.

Aiming for Proficiency?
Another part of the reason why I'm more confident is I've spent some time reviewing exactly what the purpose behind this whole engine is. Part of it is the learning experience, of course, but the main reason is I really want to have my own hand tailored engine that I can use to quickly build simple prototypes of game ideas while they are still fresh in my mind. But ApochPiQ's nice journal entry on tool development has reminded me that the more general aim is to have a whole suite of tools that I can use to that end. That's part of the reason why I'm trying to be proficient in Inkscape, and have been hunting down useful libraries over the last year. Proficiency is something I am notoriously bad at, and I suspect over the last months or so I've been so engrossed with the more fanciful aspects of games and art that I lost sight of the whole aim of my development for this half of the year.

Project Penguin not for 4E5
On a slightly related matter, I now think there is little to no chance that my Project Penguin game will be for 4E5. I was planning on delaying this decision until September, but with the delays in getting my engine underway there is now not enough time left for it to be a sensible option.

I have already committed myself to finishing this Penguin game no matter what (and a damn good thing too, otherwise I probably would have dropped it by now or morphed it into something completely different). Assuming that I can make myself more productive and proficient in my work within the next month, which I think is feasible if I put my mind to it, but also taking into account that this is being done in my free time, then as far as I can see I have three options regarding the development of Project Penguin:

  1. Continue working on a solid engine with associated tools for developing this game, but also plan on making the game as I see it in my mind at the moment, fully featured and well polished to be fun. Major drawback with this approach is my guesstimate for project completion is around March next year. Curtains for 4E5.
  2. Like the option above: continue working on a solid engine and tools, but scrap enough major features in the game to make a November finished date feasible while still making the game polished and fun. The main problem with this is the design is already pared to the bone to meet the requirements of 4E5. The only option I can see to make the deadline is to scrap the overworld Europe map for choosing multiple missions and turn the game into a simpler run-and-gun side-scroller style action game. But this approach seriously nerfs the Europe element and totally scraps the Economics element, and with Emblem and Emotion already being weak the game frankly does not qualify for 4E5. Curtains again.
  3. Assuming that I am going to make the game for 4E5, the only thing possible to scrap is the solid engine design, tool development and the polish. Under this approach I go hell for leather to make the game, cut back on my art development and just focus on finishing the game with all 4E5 elements intact. The huge problem with this approach is that it totally goes against the point of what I want to do over the next several months, has a huge risk of creative burnout with a good chance the game will suck anyway. It will leave me in a bad position for working on my next game.

By far my preferred option is number 2, and consider the Penguin game to be not intended for 4E5. There's no point sticking to the restrictions of the elements for option 1, and option 3 is not what I want to do. If I consider Project Penguin not for 4E5 then this frees up the design decisions enormously - I can scrap all the cruft I threw in to meet the four elements, move the game idea back to the original simpler idea and not worry so much about having the game fully ready by November (although I would strongly like to get the game finished by the end of the year, early next year at the absolute latest).

However note that there is still a slight possibility that I might make the deadline. The beauty of this project is the first third of development should be the same regardless of the direction I take, so if by some rchance I have a series of brainwaves and productivity improvements in the next month I can still theoretically make November, but the chances of that are so remote I do not think it is work considering.

Hoewevr I am still entertaining the thought of "4E5 Plan B", which I have had for a while. The point of Plan B is that since the whole point of the engine and tool design phase is to end up with something that can quickly build games, if I succeed then it should technically be possible to throw together something short and sweet within a month for 4E5. Sure, the game should not be as great as those who wisely spent the whole five-and-a-bit months on a single title, but it will still be a lot of fun to give it go. Plus it would be a perfect test of how well the future engine copes on another game.

Sorry, no random pictures today. Expect some more soon.
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Hm...so now that you're scraping the 4E5 guidelines, how is it going to be? Are you going to change the setting, etc?

I honestly think that planning is over-rated. Maybe for a 3D engine or a fancier project this isn't true, but really, for a 2D engine? Start by defining sprites and drawing them on-screen, and go from there! You won't need much more than that :P And you can add more fluff as you see the need for it.

BTW the Enginopolis cartoons were AWESOME :P

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Original post by Jotaf
Hm...so now that you're scraping the 4E5 guidelines, how is it going to be? Are you going to change the setting, etc?

I haven't planned the actual game in great detail yet, but the original plan was a sort of side-scrolling level based game; a bit like a platformer except played on a horizontal world plane rather than vertical. The premise was a James Bond type theme; you play as the secret agent penguin hero blasting his way into the evil supervillain compound set in some icy terrain (chosen because tundra has a convienient absence of trees). The original enemies were (at the least) comical lemmings in jumpsuits as basic minions, fox assassins (there's a screen shot of that one), and the evil supervillain "Dr. Snow" (either a mouse or a rabbit, hadn't made up my mind on that one. I've got pencilled pictures of both). That's about as far as I got before I realised I could adapt that to Four Elements by making the enemies more soviet; frankly I prefer the non-descript setting with generic bad guys a bit better. I'll probably post all this again once I get to the actual game.

Quote:
I honestly think that planning is over-rated. Maybe for a 3D engine or a fancier project this isn't true, but really, for a 2D engine? Start by defining sprites and drawing them on-screen, and go from there! You won't need much more than that :P And you can add more fluff as you see the need for it.

I know it's a bit over the top. However there's a bunch of weird things I'd really like to try out and it shouldn't hurt to figure out before hand how everything fits together. The goal is to design a solid backbone so it's possibly to easily add whatever fluff I want without breaking everything. Honestly though I've been skiving off more than I should on the engine side of things; I've been reading too many design books and tutorials and not doing enough thinking of my own. That's why I'm going to give it my top priority to work on the important part; the finalising the core of the engine; and then getting to the coding. I also think that deep down I'm afraid of screwing up the design and want to get it right first go, when the truth is I'm almost certainly going to screw up something this time round. The important thing is to learn from it and fix it in the next iteration.

Quote:
BTW the Enginopolis cartoons were AWESOME :P

I've got a few more of those little guys, except most are still in pencil draft form. Only a few were done in Inkscape and only Lou had the nice brick wall background. I could post the others but that's too dangerous for productivity; I'd probably spend an entire day "fixing the mistakes" first [grin].

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Maybe it's just me, but your "3 options" <ol> was invisible - white-on-white.

I'm also of the opinion that planning is invaluable, and it's good practice to do it on the projects where it's not so important :).

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Original post by baldurk
Maybe it's just me, but your "3 options" <ol> was invisible - white-on-white.

Ah damn, that must be another style sheet problem. I've still got a bunch of little problems to fix so I'll add that one to the list. Thanks.
Quote:
I'm also of the opinion that planning is invaluable, and it's good practice to do it on the projects where it's not so important :).

In my case, it's that I'm so bad at planning I need any practice I can get.

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