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2006 in Review

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Trapper Zoid

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Random Thought for the Day
Not really thinking about anything that much today. Frankly that's a bit worrying...



2006 in Review
Quote:
Original post by ShoeStringGames
Your Inkscape tutorials are the shit. I think im gonna try using it to make the art for my next game. I like how it doesnt make things look blocks, which is a definatly a +

Now I know you have been up to alot latley but im pissed at you!!! You stole the show at the 1W1B contest and thats where I first heard of you and started to follow you, but you havent been doing any games since, WTFIUWT? (what the fu*k is up with that?).

Are you currently working on a project? Dont want to? Whats going on? Are you interested in doing just art from now on? ETC...

From ShoeStringGames' comment, it's probably unclear exactly what I'm doing - or at least what I'm meant to be doing, which is learning how to make games. So in the interests of making me look bad and giving myself the boot to the face required to get me working again, I'll give a brief summary of all the game projects I've failed to complete in 2006 alone. These are all listed in this journal, but I'll see how many I can recall from memory (it'll take too long to sift through nine months of journal anyway!)



2006 First Quarter - The Quest for a Project
Fresh from my summer holiday and eager to start a great new year, I set my mind to dreaming up a great game project; something interesting enough to keep my interest but simple enough to complete in a month of two. This proved more challenging than I thought...

Project Everest: A simple platformer game about a boy wanting to reach the top of a mountain - in retrospect probably sounds a bit too much like the old Ice Climers game although it was fairly different (no monsters for one thing). Also has similarities to my current project in style.
Reason for project: This was meant to be a very simple platformer; no monsters, just the player avatar and platforms leading to a goal. Idea was to work on art skills and simple programming.
Why project was scrapped: I lost interest in this project because the game design was just too dull, and spicing it up would have made the project too difficult for its intended target. Will almost certainly not resurrect this one in the future.

Project Jack version 1: Given I got too bored with Everest, I moved to an idea I've always wanted to make - a sort of Gauntlet/Zelda/Diablo-esque top-down view dungeon romp game with rogue-like dungeon building elements.

Reason for project: I've always wanted to make a game like this, and I thought at the time it was within my abilities (probably true in general).
How project got diverted: The problem with this project was simply I got too involved with it. Since I've always wanted to make this game, the design document blew out of control. It would have taken me a year to do everything I wanted to, and I realised that I didn't want to make a game of that scope at that time (note how embarrassingly soon I forget this! [smile]). The goal was to do something small as a learning project, so I tried to rework the idea into something smaller and more manageable. However I fully plan to return to an idea like this in the future, so "Project Jack" is just on hold for now.

Project Jack version 2: My reworking of Project Jack turned it into a rogue-like sidescroller; again something I'd like to try out. I reworked it into a game about a mouse-like hero in a platformer game.

Reason for project:The idea started as a simpler method of trialling out some ideas for Project Jack version 1. I thought a nice simple side scroller would be a good starting point that I could keep simple. How wrong I was...
How project got diverted and ultimately scrapped: There were two main problems with this project. Firstly as you can see from the concept art, I'd started getting too caught up in drawing art than actually finalising the game. Secondly I think I'd just started playing Cave Story as an inspiration for this game, and once again the design spiralled out of control. The game turned from a simple platformer into an epic 2D game with a plot rivalling an RPG. Stupid, stupid, stupid. The basic idea isn't that bad, but I'll probably not revisit this particular incarnation of a sidescroller due to lack of time.

Project Jack version 3 (renamed Project Maria to differentiate from version 1): My next reworking of Project Jack turned it into a fully blown console RPG style game. I have no idea why; I must have been insane. Nevertheless, it is a good concept for a console RPG that probably pales when I try to explain it briefly; young heroine ventures into cursed castle to rescue her little brother who wandered in on a dare. Inside she finds she is trapped inside by magic and must rescue her brother and dispel the curse to get out. She is aided by the ghostly spectres of two famous adventurers from generations ago; the brother and sister team of Jack and Maria. The appeal lies mainly in the character interaction between the two and exploring the castle (also rogue-like in concept).

Reason for project:Maybe I just decided to scrap the whole "learn through small projects" and just go for what I really want to do? I think I might have gone a little crazy from the previous projects.
Why project was stopped:After spending weeks writing the design document and drawing concept art and generally having a good time in my own dreams of how great the game would be, reality struck; I realised that it would take me roughly three to four years to make a game of this scope. Not only that, but I probably could make this game in merely a year if I actually had a year or two to work my way up to it with smaller projects and getting a feel for the technology. So continuing with this project at that time was a bit silly. Consquently I've put this one on hold to, but if I ever want to make a classic console style RPG I've got this one to work on.

In review, I didn't really get anywhere with game development in this quarter, which I'm really disappointed with. On the bright side, I did end up with a bunch of design docs that I think will be of use in the future, and learnt a lot about how to design games (and how not to!). Plus it was during this quarter that I first tried out Inkscape, and realised how much I love drawing and how vector graphics can be an integral part of that. I also came up with a plan for what to do over the next couple of years tying all the art and programming which is still worth considering even after making a few adjustments for how the rest of the year turned out. So not a complete loss, but I wish I'd stuck to making a simple game!


2006 Second Quarter - The European Adventure
I knew from the start of the year that the middle of 2006 was going to be a problem as far as game development was concerned. I had a big European trip planned as part of my Ph.D. program; going to conferences, seeing the sights and then learning at a great European robotics lab. Consequently I suspected that these three months would be fairly poor for game dev work. Turns out I was right - although embarrassingly I think this quarter went better than the first one!

Project Vulcan: After the debacle of Project Jacks 1 through 3, I decided to force myself to work on a small project in the little time I had left before I headed out to Europe. I thought the problem was that I was working on my own ideas, games I really wanted to do well that I inevitably expanded out to an unreasonable length. So I decided to poll you guys for simple ideas for simple one month game. The response I got was "fire" (nice) and "Voltron" (groan). So I spun that into a tactical strategy game about a robot controlled fire department with an 80s style cartoon feel.

Why project failed:I simply ran out of time and energy; the preparation work required for my trip took too much of me. I realised half-way into the month I needed to devote my time purely to crunching Ph.D. work. Guess I couldn't do much about this one. Plus the project was a little too ambitious. I doubt I'll resurrect this one in its present form, but I'd love to do a tactical strategy game in the future with a retro feel.

Project Igor: I spent two months in Europe doing the student and tourist thing, but roughly two thirds of the way through I got sick of sight-seeing (plus I tore something in my ankle on the cobbled steets in Stockholm meaning it was agony to get anywhere). It was also the time that the Four Elements competition started. I really wanted to get some design and drawing done, so I spent a while thinking of possible ideas. The goal was to come up with an interesting game concept that I could spend time drawing pictures for (while watching the World Cup) that could possibly lead to a 4E5 project. However since I didn't consider my time in Europe to be "official game development time" I reserved the right to scrap the project once I got stuck into the design details after I headed back; I just wanted a concept to draw pretty pictures to. Hence Project Igor - The Mad Scientist Management game was born. You play as a mad scientist doing crazy experiments to increase your standing in the mad scientist community. The game concept is a sort of RPG strategy management hybrid game which is the sort of type of genre I've been considering as something a little bit different.

Why project was halted:I couldn't finalise the design in the time I'd budgeted, so I judged it was too much of a risk to continue with the project given I was aiming to finish for 4E5. In retrospect now I'm not going for the competition I'm a bit sorry I stopped this one - I really think the idea has merit and I'm seriously considering either doing this project or a more fantasy RPG themed one in the same genre sometime soon.

In review, I didn't get much done in this quarter, but to be honest I'd expected that. I'm a bit surprised I got as much drawing practice done as I did; it's really convinced me that Inkscape or vector art in general has a lot of potential.


2006 Third Quarter - The Winter of Four Elements
This quarter I had earmarked as the time I worked on a big 4E5 project, so my priority was to pick a project that I could get done within the time. Given the time limit and the debacle of the first quarter I wanted to pick any darn project and stick with it. Unforuntately the particular four elements chosen this year were not conductive for simple game ideas; frankly they scream out for big overgrand epic ideas.

The other problem of this quarter was my personal energy levels. Arriving back in Australia felt like a crow-bar to my senses; I'm usually not my best in winter and combined with the hit of extra jet lag my general health just hasn't been the best over the last few months. I doubt it's anything serious but it's hard to stay focused when you're mentally half asleep.

Project Penguin version 1:Given I needed an idea to stick with, I set myself some rules for my 4E5 project. Top-down, set in winter, penguin hero doing something game like. I didn't set myself anything too restrictive, but enough to keep my mind from wandering. Plus the fixed deadline of 4E5 would be of some benefit too.

The game turned into an isometric-ish side-scrolling action game, where the James Bond like penguin hero has to infiltrate the Soviet Squirrel base and peform some act of heroism. Gun battles and comedic cartoonish action aplenty.
Reason for redesigning the project:The problem was trying to incorporate all those elements made the scope unnecessarily complex. I judged that if I really put my mind to it and worked especially hard to finish the game I still only had a slight chance of completing the game in time. It was the choice between making the game half-assed or skipping 4E5, and given my target aim of completing a quality game I decided I should give 4E5 a miss. But once I decided to skip 4E5 and not be bound to the elements restriction, I didn't need to make this particular action game anymore. I still like the idea of the action game, although I'm not sure whether I'll be having penguins and soviet squirrels if I decided to continue with this game in the future; I don't like tying the design down to a real world locales and politics.

Project Penguin version 2; Ice Slider (my present project!):Although I decided to ditch 4E5, I still was bound to the design restrictions I set myself. However I decided to break the restrictions a little bit by not having the penguin - the penguin character was too tied up with the previous game design and would have proven a distrction to my project. I decided to go ultra-simple and make a puzzle game based on a character sliding around on ice. It's a classic puzzle I've seen done before as a mini-game in other titles, so I know the basic premise will work. The focus is now on completing the game and gaining the experience from a full title.

How the project is going:Not as well as I hoped, but I'm still plugging along. The main problem is my general lack of energy over the last few weeks and thus my tendency to work on other things, such as that Inkscape tutorial. I'm suspecting that I have a general resistance to starting programming for real, which might have been the failing point for a bunch of other projects. It's probably just the general pain of switching to a new phase in the project; I'm just going to keep plugging along. I'm just a bit upset with myself for being so darn weak over the last couple of weeks regarding the programming side of things. At the moment I'm trying something Ravuya suggested a while back, which is to force myself to do a little bit of coding every single day regardless of how brain-dead I feel. So while progress is a lot slower than I suspected at least I am progressing and not just sitting still. But I also am starting to think I need to keep all my skills active at once; I don't want to just switch from art to programming and have the same problem getting my art skills back to scratch! So I'll be trying to a do a little bit of art every day from now on too.

I can't give an expected completion date for my Ice Slider game yet, as I haven't the foggiest clue how long it will take. I suspect I can get it finished by the end of the year, but only if I get over my general slump right now. Otherwise it will take me a few extra months. But I'm going to see this one through. I think I've finally hit on an idea that's interesting enough to complete but doesn't have any danger of evolving into a damn overlong multi-year RPG mess that will end up crashing around me.

So that's 2006 in review. Probably something I had to do in order to collect my thoughts about what went right and what went wrong. In retrospect I think I've learnt a lot so far, but I really need to learn how to maintain my focus on a single project through to completion. If any of you are setting out on a game project of your own then that's the lesson to learn: it doesn't matter how brilliant your game idea is, if you can't see it through it's next to worthless.


Addition - Nearly GDNet+ Renewal Time!
Oooh, forgot to add: it's nearly time to renew my GDNet+ subscription! I hope this is done automatically; I can't remember the process I went through when I subscribed. I certainly want to pay for another year, keep this journal going and keep on making a contribution to the forums.
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I'm pretty sure everyone on Gamedev.net feels your pain :D

My solution to this particular problem was to go for a masters in game programming, which means I'll have made a game by Christmas or I'll be out of the course :D I guess the trick is finding the right motivator.

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Quote:
Original post by Balaam
I'm pretty sure everyone on Gamedev.net feels your pain :D

I suppose I'm a bit annoyed with myself due to my general slackness of late regarding programming. Yesterday I only wrote two damn lines of proper engine code. I think I wrote about 40 lines of unit test code for those two lines though.

Quote:
My solution to this particular problem was to go for a masters in game programming, which means I'll have made a game by Christmas or I'll be out of the course :D I guess the trick is finding the right motivator.

Already got one [grin]. Well, almost; I have a research masters in computer science. My thesis was entitled "Aspects of Interactive Storytelling Systems".

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I was going to post a reply right here, however instead I am going to do an entire journal post on you.

Should be done in an hour or so.

And it's done...

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Questions about GDNet+ subscriptions should go to the lovely and always helpful frizzlefry.

As for your progress stuff, you just haven't hit your stride yet. Keep trying until you do, but maybe you should consider changing your development process. I've become much more successful now that I've started re-using components from previous games to get something on the screen from day one.

But then again I'm completely shit at art, so perhaps I'd better start boning up on Inkscape tutorials or find some sort of way to hire you.

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Quote:
Original post by EDI
I was going to post a reply right here, however instead I am going to do an entire journal post on you.

Should be done in an hour or so.

And it's done...

Ooooh, a whole journal post on me? That'll be quite a privilege [grin].

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Quote:
Original post by Ravuya
Questions about GDNet+ subscriptions should go to the lovely and always helpful frizzlefry.

I suspect everything is fine. I think I've set Paypal up to automatically pay when the year is up, but off the top of my head I'm not sure which day that is; should be sometime in the next week or two.

Quote:
As for your progress stuff, you just haven't hit your stride yet. Keep trying until you do, but maybe you should consider changing your development process. I've become much more successful now that I've started re-using components from previous games to get something on the screen from day one.

I suspect that's part of it, but you're being a bit too kind with "haven't hit your stride". But the metaphor is apt; it's a bit like a marathon, you just have to keep on running (preferrably vaguely in the right direction!).

I'm planning on reusing components too. Unfortunately at present the only half-way decent and recent piece of code I've got is Pierre and the Fish, and a lot of that is not that reusable (casualty of the short development time of the competition). Third party code will fill in some gaps, but I'd like to use my present project to start building that collection of reusable widgets.

And my present reorganised development strategy is modelling on your method; try to complete one small task a day - every day, and get it done.

Quote:
But then again I'm completely shit at art, so perhaps I'd better start boning up on Inkscape tutorials or find some sort of way to hire you.

Heh, I make a whole post about my inability to finish a project, and I get work offers.

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My drunken half-Irish cursing looks really weird in comic font. I kind of like it. [grin]

What I really meant by 'hit your stride' is that one thing I've found about game dev is that everyone has a different pace and method of game development. I think a lot of people try to push their success secrets on others, when that's really inadequate for the domain. I use the 10-minutes-a-day method to keep up my motivation, but I also tend to take hacks over improved engineering on occasion, which I don't recommend you do, particularly if you want to have a stable game at the end.

Pretty much the only way to hit your stride is to just get out there and do it as much as you can until you figure out what the hell is right for you. I started out a lot of my stuff by following SHilbert around, but I don't think you can call our development methodologies vaguely alike. I have no idea what EDI does all day, but I wish I had some of it.

But yeah, keep it up. I remember reading someone's advice somewhere that noted your first 50 games will suck, so you might as well get them out of the way. I'm up to #32 (with like, uhh, 14 released). I'll let you know if that advice is true when I hit #50.

If you want someone to message you every once in awhile on AIM/MSN/YIM and harass you to get some damn work done, PM me your contact details and I'll be happy to oblige. [grin]

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Original post by Ravuya

But yeah, keep it up. I remember reading someone's advice somewhere that noted your first 50 games will suck, so you might as well get them out of the way. I'm up to #32 (with like, uhh, 14 released). I'll let you know if that advice is true when I hit #50.


Aw, dammit! 50?! Jesus, I'm on like, #3(Counting finished projects).[sad]

Well TrapperBuddy, I hope you can get over this not-finishing stuff thing, I am really looking forward to whatever you accomplish in the future.

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Dave, those ideas and art are awesome! So is your journal - always an interesting read. If you are ever inclined to hook up with another programmer on a project, give me a yell. It'd also be nice to work with someone from close to home :)

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