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About Core Aestetics and how you DO NOT start a game project

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sooo... this week's entry is about the completely same topic as the last one, but a bit from a different side. In a nutshell I want to show what I did wrong in my first game draft and what I further change. At the same time this should be a bit of a example how fast your game idea can change.

in this post, I rely heavily on the principles explained in this video:
So, everybody watched it? Yes? Everybody understood it? NO?! GREAT, let's move on!

The Original "Project: Phoenix" Game
In retrospect, the game I had in mind when I wrote the first entry, has something like these three core aestetics:

  • Co-Op
  • Exploration
  • "Strategy"

    Looking back at it, this seems a bit overblown. I fear it would have been too much, a too mixed experience to be any good. It is like combining drama, documentary and action in one movie. Even if you pull it off, it is too mixed for the viewer, not focused enough.
    Especially the Co-OP and Strategy aspect would have been in conflict with each other. The original game would have been more like two completely different games in one.
    I am sure there exists a way to make a beautiful game with very similar core aestetics, but maybe not for this type of game.

    It may be important to note here why this happened, I am sure many new game developers do the same mistake I did:
    You want to make your game you always wanted, your awesome revolutionary idea, so very different etc. Even if you KNOW this to be wrong, it still felt that way when I first wrote about my game. I see a lot of similar dream posts when I have a look at the forums. When you first write about it, you tend to explain it with different games (Oh, it's gonna be like StarCraft, but with your friend being able to play as a champion like in League of legends... etc.) and that's basically what you did, what I did. Mashing games together. That's why this won't work, you end up trying to provide many different core aestetics without analysing if they actually fit the game. How could you, you just started really experimentnig with game design. The best you could achieve is getting two different games packed together in one, or the worst and more likely solution, you get a game that is neither of those you originally mashed. Like having a bollywood romantic plot in a shocker movie like Repo Men.

    Obviously, Project: Phoenix has to change. One aestetic has to step down from the core. It can still be in the game but only to enforce the other two aspects. This means that there would be a planning phase but far less powerful,more as a platform for players to communicate what they want to do.
    But by having these two core aestetics in focus, Co-Op and Exploration, makes for a different play, a different experience. It is, a different game.
    Welcome to "Project: Phoenix 1.1".
    I think this could make an awesome game, putting in many of the ideas I touched upon in previous entries. The soundtrack fits perfectly.
    Even the theme I have in mind only enforces the two core aspects of the game. I'd like to explore the very human feelings you get when you are sent out in a world where everything is here to kill you, where your life is essentially in the hands of the guy next to you. I would need to scrap the previous lore and story drafts but I wasn't too happy with it anyways.
    Maybe you haven't noticed but I am very fond of this crude draft of the game, so why am I using words like "would"?
    I won't be working on that game. Not in the near future. It has a more serious theme and requires serious artwork, it's a beast of a game that needs more content, it requires more resources than I have.Furthermore it is my fist game, this isn't a good platform to experiment with. I would be too attached and too fearsome to release any version of it to playtest.
    I would trap myself in a circle of doom and never progress further.

    What to do now? Well, I can play with the aestetics, setting and theme of the game and have a look what comes out. Maybe I can reuse some ideas from the original game. Maybe something comes out that takes less time and may be interesting to experiment with from a game design perspective.

    Variation 1:
    The biggest resource eater is the Exploration aspect. So let's get rid of it. It's still a post apocalyptic isometric shooter, but not the same game anymore. The basic storyline would be something like "Old bunker should be breached and cleared for a new base in this area. Make it happen." This leads to a more Level-like area, with limited space and limited possibilities. This would also get rid almost rid of any strategy aspect. This game would have the player to think about the tactics but that's not as in depth and complex than anything you'd expect from a strategy game.
    This is the closest I get to the original game idea, not bad.

    Variation 2:
    Let's scrap the Exploration part and the game theme and instead, play with the gamer's "Trust". Let me explain:
    Normally in a multiplayer game you can very much trust your partners. They have the same goal as you, if you lose, they lose too. Unless you have a troll, they probably don't want to stab you in tha back.
    But what if your partner has a different goal?
    The idea is taken from a social game I think the english world knows as "witch hunt" or "mafia".
    Reimplementing a social game is a bit futile, then the gamers could just play it via skype. But I can take out the basic idea of the game, there is an informed minority in a group that try to work against each other.
    I haven't figured out much, but I know that it makes sense to change the setting too.

    You see, now I have a completely different game that shares almost nothing with the original draft.

    Variation 3:
    Scrap Co-Op, exploration and the theme. Instead focus on action and storytelling, making it a single player experience. There probably won't be a leveling system in this variaton. In the Project: Phoenix 1.1, the leveling system is used to enforce "Co-Op", each member is trying to get more valuable for the team, being the guy the team needs him to be. But in this variation may a leveling system even be wrong.
    In such a world, a more scary theme could be a good way to go but that also requires a different protagonist that isn't a soldier.

    So what is it going to be?
    I don't know, I seriously don't. But of one thing I am sure, the game I'll be making probably deserves a new journal.
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