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Tis the season to skive off work!

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It seems my journal has gone all Christmassy by default! I'm not sure whether I agree on all the snow in the background; the likelihood of it snowing at an Aussie Christmas is pretty small [grin]. Here's hoping for a nice sunny Christmas day.

Since it's the last week before Christmas, and given that I got barely any sleep for the whole of last week (stupid bloody insomnia!), I'm not really in the right frame of mind to get any research done this week (benefit of being a research student is to take some occasional time off; I'm only in the office so I can use the internet [smile]). So instead I'll post this review of my game development in 2005, and start looking ahead to the next year.

Overall, I'm pretty happy with all I've got done this year. Let's see what I've got done:
  • Started posting my ideas on this web forum (not so easy when you are as shy as I am!)
  • Worked a bit on my development skills; got back into C coding, got a bit better with drawing, really getting into writing music
  • Satisfied the objective of the year by making a good little game that many people enjoyed with "Pierre and the Fish"

I could have spent a bit more time working on my coding, and my art skills are still sub-par, but overall 2005 wasn't that bad a year as far as game development was concerned. I've also managed to reign in my expectations from the over-ambitious "Project Hamlet" down to targets that are within my reach. I'm still planning on making that village sim eventually, and also incorporating my interactive storytelling ideas, just not for a while!

For 2006, my goal will be to sell a game; that is, to make a game that's good enough that someone out there is willing to part with their money in order to play it. I'm not entirely sure if I'm ready for that goal now, but if I'm to acheive my timeline it's the goal I have to set. This means I'm going to have to decide on a company name, start a website, find a really good game idea and develop it to a high standard. I also want to develop a fairly solid 2D game engine that does all the stuff I want it to do.

My main problem at the moment is picking what sort of games I'd really like to make. I love nearly all genres of games, but that makes it hard to choose just one to work with. Most of my over-ambitious ideas turn out to be the amalgam of two or three genres, because there's bits about each that I like. There's also a danger that if I get well known for making one sort of game, it will be expected that I'll keep on making them.

As far as I can see, the following options would be good:

Puzzle games: these seem ideal for a lone developer to make. Puzzle games need little art assets, have a really simple premise, and can be incredibly fun. There's also a huge amount of variety available in this genre; Tetris, Lemmings and Super Monkey Ball can all be considered puzzle games, but they're all very different. The main drawback with this genre is they all live or die on coming up with a great gameplay mechanic that forms the basis of the game. I've always been into "design by concept" over "design by mechanics"; my ideas are more like "I wanna make a game about pirates!" than "I wanna make a game that implements these rules for manipulating squares around!". The difficulty I've had thinking of an idea for "Project Alpha Redux" is an example of this.

Simple action games: simple 2D arcadey-style action games are another possibility. The art assets required are usually higher than with puzzle games, but these are still achievable. As long as the game is simple to learn to play, I think this could be a winner. I've always wanted to make my own variant of Gauntlet [wink]. The main challenge is to get just the right flavour of gameplay to appeal to the right market; casual enough to rope in as many people as possible, but with enough fun to keep them playing.

Strategy games: another possiblity is the strategy and tactics genre. These also come in a variety of forms; I especially love the "builder" type strategy games, and the turn-based strategy or tactics games of all types. Another bonus is that these usually involve some cool A.I. design, which I'd love to do. The art requirements are reasonable for most of these, however, but with good design I could keep it achievable. Main problem with these is that it will take time to tweak everything perfectly; I'd probably be taking at least six months for a decent "builder"-type strategy game.

In my opinion, that's pretty much it in terms of achievable genres. I've also always wanted to make an RPG game, but I think the development required for a pure RPG would be too great for me; my best bet would be to encorporate RPG elements into one of those three game types above. FPS games are too hardcore these days for me to compete. And I'm not even going to touch MMO anything.

While I'll be thinking about this over the holidays, I'd be happy to read what comments anyone wants to make on what they'd recommend!
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Deciding what type of game to make is a serious process ...especially if it's something you want to complete and sell. I've put way too many good projects on the back burner due to the project being way too big to complete right now. The key is keeping it simple. At the same time though if you want someone to part with their money and buy your game imagine yourself doing the same. If you make a game...would you buy your own game? If you can't see yourself (objectively) parting with your own money to buy your game then you can't expect other people to either.

Keeping a game simple is key, but find something unique about it the draws people in. Now these are all fairly straight forward and known ideas, but ideas that tend to get forgotten when in the middle of creation. Commonly art assets and actual game related code is the bulk of the project and is the part that the end user really cares about. They could care less that there are 20,000 lines of code dedicated to uber management of textures/models and anything else, but they do care about how they interact with the game as well as how the game looks.

My vote is to create something simple, but something you could see yourself wanting to play and something you would personally pay for. I can't say it's something I've always ascribed to myself, but it's something I'm working towards. Good luck and if you need any help let me know. :)

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Thanks for the reply!
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My vote is to create something simple, but something you could see yourself wanting to play and something you would personally pay for.

This is a good pint, and is actually one of the metrics I've set myself for my game ideas. There's no way I'd try to sell something that I wouldn't personally want to buy; I'd have to be convinced myself that my game was quality otherwise I just couldn't sell it.

My main problem is trying to keep it simple; I just get sucked into making the design of the "BEST GAME EVER!!!" and then the whole thing balloons out to crazy proportions. Judging from what I see with other people's ideas in the forums I'm not alone in having this problem [smile].

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