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The Asplode! Mid-Project Hum

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This post may seem filled with tired material that I've covered before in my dev journal, but a coworker told me to start posting my development entries on the newly redesigned company-created blogging site JoeUser so, short of reposting every single dev entry there I went with a summary post in the form of a mid-project hump entry.

One of my design mantras -- and I use the word 'design' loosely -- is that while coding the game I keep things as simple, quick, and efficient as possible. As one might guess, this can become problematic at times. Less so in the implementation of routines and ideas so much as it is the necessity of shooting down some gameplay mechanics that, while fun, would defeat the purpose of such a simple Robotron/Geometry Wars knockoff. And, really, that's all I'm hoping to accomplish with Asplode!.

When I started the project my sole goal was to see a game through completion. I never expected to enjoy doing more development-related activities once I got back from a day of work filled with them as much as I am but, since I am, I figured I would take it to the next step. Once I finish with Asplode! I'm going to move onto a slightly more ambitious game idea that, in concept, seems like it could be a lot of fun. Of course, the first step is to actually finish the current game before getting too carried away with thoughts of "the new hotness." This has been the turning point of most of my projects in the past (it also has a tendency to carry into more general areas of life, but that's unrelated): something new comes along that, in my head, has so much more potential to be fantastic that there's really no reason to continue with what I was doing. The Grass Is Greener on the Other Side Syndrome. Yes. I suffer from it and a general case of activity/project-related ADD and it has a tendency to get in the way of attempting to get across the mid-project hump.

Fortunately, knowing myself like no one else can, I knew this would happen eventually, so I braced myself for the "oh, new shiny thing!" problem to come around and instantly gave myself the necessary self-encouragement I needed to get back to work after a week of procrastination: Asplode! is simple, it will only take another month to finish, and it's enjoyable for me to play every time I launch it to test a bug-fix, feature implementation, or whatever. This was very much a game I made for me to enjoy and a sort of cheap little labor of love that, when it's finished, should be a fun little game for some others.

Another fairly important reason I found for finishing Asplode! is that, if the next idea is the "winner" I think it is, getting all of the experience and feedback I can from the current project is a necessity for moving forward. I am, traditionally, a graphics programmer more than a gameplay programmer or game designer (despite being a "hardcore gamer") so it will be useful to hear what people have to say about this game once it reaches a playable state or, since it's already very playable, a distributable state. Getting some feedback about the basic mechanics, the "feel" of the game, the overall aesthetic and so on will prove invaluable when starting my next project. I'm also interested to see how my use of XNA will turn out when it comes time to start giving the game out to people; I'm told that setting up a decent installer will cure the PC distribution fears I've been having lately and, now that Microsoft is turning part of Xbox Live into an XNA-centric YouTube sometime this summer, it will be interesting to see how 360 distribution works out.

All-in-all, in the end, I'm enjoying my time spent developing the game and, despite its simplicity, the game itself. The fact that the game is incredibly easy to get into (and with no fancy tech requirements unlike a lot of graphics demos I've made in the past) and understand is also an appealing idea to me, as I've made clear in a recent article. Though, most importantly for me (as the developer) is the quick turnaround for the project. I started work on the game in the middle of January and, if things work out as I think they will, it should be feature-complete sometime in March. Once it's finished I can move on to the next project which will take a bit longer to develop but, still, should have a relatively speedy turnaround as well. I like that. And now screenshots of one enemy being spawned in a circle:

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