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Plan B

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Trapper Zoid

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After spending a day of brainstorming and planning, I'm starting to think that I might have dived in a bit too soon with "Project Everest". I really like the concept of trying to reach the summit of a mountain; I've got a good vision of what the game should look like and feel to play. I was thinking of making it an action puzzle-like game, which looks a bit like a cross between Zelda and Mario. However, when I actually try to write down all the gameplay ideas, none of them really go together. I'm afraid that if I strip it down to the ones that work, I'll just have a bland game that involves jumping puzzles and avoiding critters and rock falls. While I'm sure if I put my mind to it for a while, I could fix these problems, but the fact that I'm having second thoughts about a three-day old game idea is sounding a big warning buzzer in my brain. It's probable that I've been so worried about my lack of creativity in the last few weeks that I've grasped the first idea I had wasn't totally abysmal. I'm also starting to think that I've gone off on the wrong foot with my plan for 2006.

My goal this year is to make a game that is of "indie quality", namely something that I'd be happy to sell with my name on it. My original yearly plan was to have a test run with a small game in the first few months, then use that experience to build a bigger game in the rest of the year. However, I've been tallying up a list of risks to account for, and one of the chief ones is picking a bad game design. This risk is nasty, because it triggers off some of the other really big ones, such as the risk that the project is too ambitious, and the killer risk that I'll lose interest in the project half-way through. Thinking this through, I've decided that I really need a working prototype of a game idea before I can justify devoting several months of my development time to a project. So I've decided to go with "Plan B" for the year.

Under my new plan, I've decided that instead of one medium sized project over the next few months, I'll spend my time rapidly prototyping a wide variety of game ideas. The rationale is that if I can't capture the essence of a game idea in a two week prototype, then it's probably beyond my scope to implement. I'll also get to play around with a wide variety of different game genres and ideas, to get a better idea of what my strengths and weaknesses are with respect to game concepts. There's also little loss done if I try something a bit risky if it ends up falling flat. Finally, it will also be a good antidote to the tendency to aim for a "perfect" game engine, while still building up my skills.

Given my current crop of horrible game ideas, there's a good chance that nine out of ten of these prototypes will be bad. However, I reckon there's a good chance that I could get at least one simple game idea prototyped in the next few months that could form the basis of a fantastic game. My goal over the next few months is to find that one idea and develop it into something great.

I'll probably still prototype that mountain game first though. It might be easier now I'm not going to be so heart-broken if the idea proves to be faulty.

Additional: Of course, I'm also a bit worried that I keep changing my mind about what's the best way to approach this problem, but I figure that it's probably best to ensure that I'm working on something that I have a pretty good expectation to be great, rather than aim for something that may or may not be. As you might have guessed, I'm a bit confused about the best approach for me to take regarding develpment this year.
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According to the book I'm reading, how well you plan ahead greatly determines the success of a game idea. I think your on the right track. Keep on rollin'

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Heh; it's my lack of planning ability that I'm most acutely worried of.

I'm pretty sure I'm (very slowly) getting a grip on what needs to be done. I just have to remind myself that it will take years of patient work before I've finally get the hang of this, and not to freak out if things don't fall into place immediately.

Thanks for the vote of confidence; I think this plan is at the very least better than the previous one. I'll see how far I get this week on a simple prototype. I'll treat this one as bit of a warm-up.

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Yeah, I agree the hard part is trying to be patient. Making a game clone doesn't take much thought, but trying to make innovation is very difficult. I've had several initial ideas but I don't have the skills yet to make the games. So I'm slowly, methodically, trying to make a few tools I can push together through simple games. This helps to learn and to test the tools while I consider a bigger project in the long term. I feel most big projects die when they get to a point where there is a difficult problem and no one has time to solve it or the code is so messy people give up. I'm trying to do some premptive damage control.

Anyway, as Axel Rose would say, "just a little patience.." He is wise isn't he? OK, bad example.

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