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Quest for Game Glory I: So You Want to be a Game Designer?

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Trapper Zoid


Time for updates on my game projects.

I've been thinking a bit about my ambitious game project, Project Hamlet. This is a hard decision, but I have to face facts; as it currently stands, the game design for Project Hamlet is fatally flawed.

Here's an overview of Project Hamlet as it currently stands:

You play as the Guardian Spirit of a village within an enchanted valley. The people in the village are prone to being encorporated into numerous fairy-tale elements that roam the valley. As the protector spirit of the village, it is your duty to prevent too much harm being done. Since you cannot directly affect the people, you must influence the fairy-tales themselves to achieve your goals.

In essence, it's a simulation management sim of a village and fairy-tale based story elements. If I could get it to work, it would be an artistic triumph. But I also fear it's a business disaster. Here's the problems as I see it:
  • Assuming I get my skills up to scratch, it will still take me at least two years to complete. This alone isn't a problem, but combined with the others...
  • The game design is too risky; it will take ages before the game is in a playable enough state for me to determine if the game is 'fun'
  • How am I supposed to market this game? The strategy elements are subtle and deep; so that would alienate the casual audience. The fairy-tale setting and unorthodox gameplay will alienate the hardcore. It takes about a page of text to even start to approach my vision for the game. And even if I were to get the game exactly like I envision it, you would have to play a demo for a couple of hours to really appreciate it.
  • It's too different from Project Luxor, the last game I've got on my planning list. It would be better to think of a game that follows logically from that.

Deep down, I think only I will think Project Hamlet is truly awesome. Since I aim to make games that are both great and popular, this design needs some serious surgery to become viable.

Well, I've got time; I'm already booked with game projects until 2007 [wink]. Good game ideas never die, they just get put on ice, where I will thaw them out later or reuse elements for spare parts.

Besides, Project Hamlet at its core was just the prototype. Originally it was tech. demo for village A.I. I needed to test out ways of implementing characters for my ultimate goal of making a truly interactive story game. In fact, come to think of it, I already had the sequel planned. Let's see what we have presently on ice...

Aha! Here we go; my game idea from a couple of years back, "Project Ivan"; the non-linear action light-weight RPG! Put on hold due to complications over the character modelling and the need for too many art assets for an entire world. Let's see what Dr. Trappenstein can do with his scalpel. If we rip out the story setting and character design from Project Hamlet, combine that with a more advanced puzzle engine that I need to develop for Project Luxor, and stitch that into the basic gameplay elements of Project Ivan, then...

*** thunderclap ***

Project Hamlet/Ivan: A non-linear puzzle based action light-weight RPG set in a world of enchantment! Add one part Secret of Mana, one part Legend of Zelda, one part Diablo, one part Quest for Glory and eight parts of something else entirely; this could be truly great. Well, I've got a couple of years of design polishing to do. And I need to choose which codename to use; Project Hamlet or Project Ivan?

Back to the game I'm actually meant to be working on; Project Nova, the space shmup!

I've decided to build my engine based on SDL and OpenGL. However, to keep things simple graphically, and to have a cute gimmick, I've decided that I won't have any sprites. Instead, I'll use simple geometric shapes; triangles, circles and rectangles. It shouldn't be too hard to figure out how to draw those using OpenGL, right?

I've also got some great ideas for the enemy A.I., but that can wait until I can actually draw a triangle on the screen. I'd better get to work if I'm going to have a simple prototype up and running by the end of the month...
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Project Hivan :)

I name my projects completely random and useless things. My current one is "Project Applesauce". Appetizing, eh? (Excuse the pun).

Look forward to seeing progress on this.

One thing that I'm seeing as more and more of an obstacle is assets. Sure, you can throw in some crap models, but then the game looks like crap until you can afford to get a good artist and modeller. Looks like indies are going to have to become Renaissance-companies/individuals/studios/flamingos.

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I prefer to have some hint to what the game is about included in the codename. It's great if I can get a double meaning in there too, like with "Hamlet".

I wouldn't get too excited about "Project H'Ivan"; there's no way I'll be finishing that in the next four years [grin]. Project Nova is my little project that I'm trying to finish in a couple of months, however.

I also fully agree on the multi-skilling; I've really got to get some artistic talents. I'm trying to teach myself to draw, but progress is slow. The goal is to be good enough to make really good SNES quality sprites in about two years time.

It's a bit insane that I'm planning so far ahead [grin].

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