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Planning part ii: gamedev guidelines

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I haven't really been thinking that clearly today; obviously being jolted from the holidays into emergency computer replacement wasn't the best way to ease into the new year. However I have been thinking a bit more about the types of games I need to aim for. Obviously I'll need to make some compromises so that the projects will be finishable. However, I'd also want the games to be fun and interesting to make.


To this end, I think I should aim to keep the following guidelines in mind as I plan the next few projects:

Game concept must be something that I really feel excited about
While this seems simple, I think this is the key that I've been missing for Project Nova and Project Alpha Redux. I've been wrongly aiming for projects that I think I can achieve, rather than ones that interest me, and so I've been ending up with game concepts that just don't excite me enough for me to complete. So instead, I will try to find game ideas that I really want to make, and then scaling them down to be achievable. Otherwise, what's really the point of wanting to work on games?

Complete a game at least every six months
Thinking it through I really think a smaller development time is best. I don't think I can spend several years working on a game when there's a good chance that it will flop for a number of unavoidable reasons. It would be better to get six small games done in that time. However, this objective does run counter to the previous one; overly ambitious game ideas can't be finished in this time frame. However, it's always possible to work on several projects at once; balancing a large project with several small ones, or starting a new project once beta is reached.

Reusable software architecture
While this might require a bit more planning at the beginning, the software engineer within me demands that I plan to make the general engine reusable over several games. This will enable me to make subsequent games a lot quicker and cleaner.

2D with low graphical requirements
There's no way that I can win the graphical tech arms race, so the best option is to not compete. With some good stylic artwork, such as the cartoony feel of Pierre and the Fish, I think a game will look good enough. I might use some faked 3D, or even move to simple 3D in time, but I'm not going to spend my time perfecting a graphics engine. I'm not even sure if buying a 3D engine like Torque is a good idea, as I'd still have to make all the models, or find someone to do that for me.

Incorporate interesting A.I.
This is more about playing to my strengths. I'm not that great a programmer, and I know little about advanced graphical techniques. But I do know a fair bit about A.I. algorithms, have played around with a lot of the techniques, worked with robots a bit, and even tutored A.I. at uni. I'm certainly not as good as some of the regular posters on the A.I. forum, and I'm a bit rusty with most of the relevant bits, but I should try to incorporate what I know into my games as a feature point. Of course, it helps that this is the bit that I find most enjoyable, plus it's also central to most of my favourite game genres, such as the "building" sim (The Sims, SimCity, Rollercoaster Tycoon, Dungeon Keeper etc.), and strategy games. I'm hoping this can counter the lack of gee-whizz graphical effects.


Presently, my plan is pretty similar to the one I devised several months ago; spend a few months building a solid 2D engine while writing a bunch of mini-games, then spend the rest of the year working on a big project. Back then the big project planned was "Project Luxor", a sort of Egyption temple themed action puzzle game which I've planned a fair bit of in my head. I still like this idea, but these days I'm strongly leaning towards strategy or sim games.

Does this seem reasonable enough?




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Quote:
Game concept must be something that I really feel excited about


Yes! There's very little point working on something that doesn't interest you as there's a higher incentive to quit.

Quote:
Complete a game at least every six months

Thinking it through I really think a smaller development time is best.

Makes sense to me. Back in the old school days of game coding people used to throw out COMMERICAL games in a couple of months. Sure, things were simpler then but it helps you refine your art faster, how can you expect to further yourself if it takes 3 years to make a game?

Quote:

Reusable software architecture
While this might require a bit more planning at the beginning, the software engineer within me demands that I plan to make the general engine reusable over several games. This will enable me to make subsequent games a lot quicker and cleaner.


Yes and no. Plan your system so that you can easily add to it. Don't waste your time like many people do (including me!) trying to make the perfect 'engine' that is the glove that fits all hands. It simply will not happen. What you need to do is have a solid framework that you can quickly adapt and add to on each project; you will probably find that the core basecode grows and evolves around you as you take it from project to project, don't try and achieve this in the first iteration!


Quote:
2D with low graphical requirements
There's no way that I can win the graphical tech arms race, so the best option is to not compete.


Go for it. I'd rather see a quirky stylistic 2d game over a generic 3d game any time.


Quote:
Incorporate interesting A.I.
This is more about playing to my strengths.


Again, a good idea. Challenge yourself just enough to keep you interested in other areas whilst you can be truly creative in the area that you find the most engaging.

In short, nice action plan :)

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Glad to see that someone else thinks it's reasonable. I've been thinking about that for a while, and wasn't really prepared to change it that much [smile].

I do agree with the danger of being trapped into designing the "perfect engine". The first project I started last year (called "Project Alpha", which I started before I was posting here) got stuck into that vortex, and I spent a month on the architecture plan.

I guess the sensible thing to do is to spend a short period of time deciding on an expandable skeleton framework, and then build whatever components I need as decoupled as I can make them from each other. That way if I find later on that one component was badly built I can easily repair it without having to rewrite everything.

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I agree that you should work on a project that you like doing , but you also have to consider the development time and the feasibility of the project.

For instance, I am pretty much satisfied how my 4E4 game turned out, even though it could use more polish, and it was developed in 5 months. IMO, really long development times for indies (1 year plus?) should be avoided; they tend to lead to burnout easier.

I'm wondering, is it really worth it to build an engine or just use an existing engine out there? It would seem that using an existing engine would be more of a time saver.

I'm almost in the same situation: trying to decide what my next project will be (definitely 2D, though I probably won't go commercial yet). I really would like to make an RPG (never done that yet), but fear that will end up forever in the "unfinished" state. It'll most likely be a "lite" RPG if I ever go that route, or maybe a mix of 2 or more genres.

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