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Nov 23rd, 2013

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Alright, I've really been struggling.

I really need to focus and work a lot harder on my game. I started measuring my exact expenditures of time on a day to day basis and have found that I average about 3 hours of real work per day. It's no wonder my game is taking so long. What's the problem with me?

First off, my sleep schedule is whacked. Today I woke up at 1:45pm. Today is friday. Yesterday, I woke up at 2pm. I absolutely hate going to sleep and I absolutely hate waking up, so I tend to avoid doing both as long as possible. My girlfriend gets home around 5:15pm every weekday, so I set aside five or six hours to spend with her. After she falls asleep, I crawl out of bed and go back to my computer and try to write more code, hopefully until around 4am. Rinse, repeat, recycle. So, my "wake up" routine is not very efficient. I wake up, look at the time, roll over and go back to sleep. So, at one point, I'm consciously aware of the time and consciously decide not to get up. Eventually, when I get out of bed, I put on some clothes (most likely the same ones I've worn for the past week). I saunter downstairs, let the dog out so he can go poop on the patio, and then fix myself a bowl of cold cereal. I end up opening my laptop and watching a few youtube videos while I eat three bowls of cereal. Then, I contemplate coffee. Do I make a new pot or microwave the old stuff? I am lazy, so I honestly attempt to microwave whatever is left in the pot, but there's just not enough for a full cup. I pour it out and make a fresh pot. Eight cups of water, and three quarters of an inch of freshly ground coffee. I drink my coffee black and hot. I reason with myself that I'm going to drink a lot of it anyways, so I might as well make a lot. I let the dog back in and saunter upstairs to sit at my computer.

My project is dauntingly large and difficult. It's going to take me at least a year of hard work to get it into any reasonably playable shape. I reason that it's going to take another six months afterwards to create all of the content and polish. I'm not intimidated by it in the least bit, I just feel overwhelmed. I'm also quite uncertain about what game design direction I really want to take. In my head, I can visualize exactly how my game should play. But I also want to add in a bunch of different game design concepts I love from other games. All of those "best parts" I'm borrowing and mashing up make for a lot of uncertainty. I've written a 20 page design document detailing to a coarse degree what I'm trying to build. But I want to change what I'm making, before I make it. At this stage, I feel like I can do that. I just have to focus on getting the most common, core requirements built in and then experiment from there. I also want this game to be my masterpiece. It should be a game *I* want to play endlessly. And it should have a profoundly deep, underlying philosophical message of some sort which really registers with people (I'll settle for a strong emotional reaction as well). I'm quite excited by my game as its taking shape -- so why is it so hard to get started on it every day?!

I try all of the tricks I've learned and they are somewhat helpful, but my numbers speak for themselves. I just don't work enough. Part of the problem is motivation. The other part of the problem is that I'm more interested in distractions and instant gratification (games, facebook, reddit, etc). Somehow, I've got to reach deep down and muster the self discipline necessary to do what needs to be done. I think that needs to start with changing my sleeping habits so that I can spend a long time working before spending time with my girlfriend when she gets home.

This week though, my progress is as follows:
-I was able to successfully intersect a ray with a triangle and find the exact point of intersection
-I was able to create an oct tree to partition out all of my game objects
-I was able to physically place my mage on the terrain and change the game state to start the battle
-I spent a few hours thinking and writing about game design ideas

Next week, I hope to have the following accomplished:
-The player can draw a selection box on the screen and select any objects inside it (I'm going to use a bounding frustum for that)
-The mage should be able to cast a fireball at the enemy mage (this means my spell casting system will have to be built, along with my particle engine)
-The AI player should at least place their mage randomly on the terrain

I've been perplexed by a revolutionary (for me) game design idea as well.

Initially, I was planning on having two different game worlds. The first game world is more of a strategic game world, where you take turns moving a few avatars around on a strategic map, capture points, and battle other avatars. The second game world would be the battle itself on a more tactical level (one on one) and it would take place in real time. Think of Total War.

I really do like town building & castle design games. So, I want that to be a very important factor as well. I want to be able to manage a population of citizens, design buildings and structures, and then task them to build it based on the resources available. Most games focus either too much on the crafting system or too much on cheesy defense. They're either too action focused or not deep enough to be interesting. Then there's the problem with having really interesting systems, but very uninteresting battles and very uninteresting consequences. Either your forces easily gut the enemy, or the enemy raids your castle and that's of no significant consequence. The magic systems of real time games has also been really wanting for richness. Most of the spells are unimaginative reiterations of "summon", "buff/debuff", and "damage", with slightly different variations. There's little strategy or thought on the players behalf on how to play the magic dimension of a game. I want to change that. My current concern is that there might be too much stuff going on at the same time. I'm asking a player to manage their armies and play a very complicated magic battle and manage intricately interconnected systems? It's probably going to be very tough, but if you manage to design a very efficient system, it'll be amazing (at least, that's the programmer part of me which would enjoy it). Just as well, if there are a lot of moving parts, it's easy for it to break and be disrupted. (ie, burn the fields -> no fall harvest -> hungry citizens -> death by starvation, would be just as effective as long drawn out castle siege...or a great way to extort money if you control the markets)

So, if I go with what I want to build now, it'll require a bit of a mental shift and a lot of rethinking of my old game design plans. This is a source of uncertainty, but that may just require a bit of time spent on planning the new vision. Who knows, that's a problem for tomorrow's me.

One thing I am certain of though: I have played lots of games and I'm a tough critic to satisfy. If I can make a game which I can genuinely spend days and days playing, I will have a success.

It's 3:25am. I should really try to sleep.
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My project is dauntingly large and difficult. It's going to take me at least a year of hard work to get it into any reasonably playable shape.


That's a serious problem. You need to dig for the core of your design and get a prototype up and running within a month. It doesn't matter if it's done with tools and tech on a platform other than what you intend to do for a full release - just get it playable at a very very basic level to see if it's worth developing further. Nothing worse than scrapping a year's worth of work when you discover the design just doesn't come together to make something enjoyable. Or worse - continuing to work on something that isn't good but you think you can make better because you've already poured a year's worth of work into it

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