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Groot

Feet somewhat wet. What next? (long)

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Hi all, I've finished a couple of simple games, using Inform 7 and XNA respectively, and I've made a fair bit of progress on two other somewhat more ambitious projects in XNA. I'm looking for advice on which of several projects I should pursue next. First, background on me and what I've done so far: 1. I do this for fun and to learn for the sake of learning, though I wouldn't mind making a little money. I can draw and paint (oil on canvas), and I'm proficient in Photoshop, OK in Max, learning ZBrush. I studied CompSci for a year in college (APL, Pascal), programmed in the summers (using COBOL!), and have since just programmed for fun -- mostly text-adventure languages like Inform and TADS, but also C, C-sharp. Not much C++ -- the whole pointer thing gives me fits. I can devote as much as 20-25 hours a week to my game-making hobby. 2. I've finished an interactive-fiction game using Inform 7. It's called "The Case of the Missing Monkey Coin." It's been played by, um, three people -- me and my two kids. :) Neither kid has finished it; both got stuck. I probably need to go back to the drawing board to add more hints. But the program works. It even has some graphics. I illustrated about 1/4 of my rooms with simple 2D graphics I whipped up in Illustrator and Photoshop, before it dawned on me to get a Wacom tablet. 3. Likewise, I finished a simple 2D hockey game in XNA (Game Studio Express & C-sharp). You play one stick against an AI stick. The AI stinks, but it does fight back a bit. Even simple AI like this was fun to work on. 4. I implemented some but not all of a 2D checkers game, again using GSE/XNA. The player and AI can move non-Kings fine. My Kings code, um, needs work. Decent graphics, nothing spectacular. The AI was not very involved, but it sure was fun to work on -- again, the most fun part of the project. Also, after I spent 3 weeks on it, I read articles about more efficient and elegant ways to represent the board (e.g., as a few words, rather than a 4x8 array). By that point, I figured I'd learned what I wanted to learn (drag-n-drop interface, basic AI, some graphics tricks), so I moved on to ... 5. I put together an ugly little 3D space-exploration game, before I actually learned something about making pleasing 3D graphics. I managed to get a ship to fly around space, past cheesy space stations and planets. No shooting code or collision detection. I learned the word "quaternion." So, what next? I have a big Wordpad file containing several dozen game ideas, most of which seemed more original late at night than the next morning. I've been trying to force myself to *think* for the past few weeks, resisting the temptation to code. But sheesh, it's hard to think of something that's original, fun, and manageable for someone at my skill/experience level. Also, it might be nice to try to code for the XBox 360 as well as the PC, but that might rule out certain genres (e.g., RTS). Anyway, here are some possibilities; any thoughts on which I should plunge into? 1. A 2D graphic adventure. I have various stories in mind, most of them mysteries. The art would be fun; I'm confident I can manage the game logic, having done it once in Inform; the UI would be a new challenge. I'd miss working on an AI, though. And people don't exactly salivate to play 2D adventures these days. 2. A simple 2D RTS (again, I have several settings in mind). Again, the art would be fun, and the UI an even bigger challenge. I'd get to do an AI, but I suspect it would be brutally hard for someone with my experience. 3. Go, chess, or some other traditional abstract turn-based strategy game. This is the category that might seem most natural, since it involves AI (which I enjoy), but danged if I can't come up with an original game that "works" as a fun boardgame. Perhaps there's value in creating something like chess or Go -- already done a zillion times, but a learning experience all the same? I dunno -- working hard to make a game that I *know* will be inferior isn't all that exciting. Porting something like Blokus or Ingenious might be fun, but there are obvious license obstacles to doing that. 4. A German-style boardgame, in 2D. I do have a couple design ideas on this. I have in mind "themed" games like Carcassonne or Settlers of Catan or Puerto Rico. But so far I don't seem to have the genius to come up with designs as elegant as any of those. 5. A 2D RPG; or, if I were really insane, a 3D RPG. I have a couple of "twists" on the tried-and-true that might be fun, might not. Lotta work to find out! Eventually this is on my must-do list, since I enjoy RPGs a lot myself, but is it too big a step to take now? 6. Finally, a simple 3D space shooter, building on the "engine" I've already built. Or, more ambitiously, a trading/fighting game, in the style of DarkStar One. I hope these questions aren't hopelessly open-ended, and I apologize for the length of this post. Thanks in advance for any thoughts.

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It's difficult to advise someone on what to do with their free time hobby. What do you want to do? What do you want to see done?

When I stopped trying 10 years ago to make my ambitious space shooter, it still gnawed at me. No one tried to make it. All I saw was Star Trek/Wars physics with a new story, scene and wrapper.

I took up literature and English with a smattering of logic, but my game still went undone. I became 10 years older and my game still went undone. I have grey in my beard now and I've picked it back up, intent on getting it done before my life runs out.

I don't program as a profession. I tried to take it up as a field, but I had trouble grasping infinite series in calc II. I do this as a hobby, but it's what I do in my free time.

So it comes down to...what's going to make you happiest? Is there something that will give some added worth to your time spent?

[Edited by - aCynic2 on September 25, 2007 1:35:20 AM]

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Not to sound cruel or anything, but why don't you just finish your "fair bit of progress on two other somewhat more ambitious projects"? If you're halfway done, you might as well finish. And as the guy above said, projects can eat at you (some more than others) the same way not knowing something you're curious about can beg to be answered. Finish those two, then see what you know and can do.

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Quote:
Original post by Groot
I wouldn't mind making a little money.
I hope these questions aren't hopelessly open-ended

What about getting a job in games?

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Thanks for your replies.

Quote:
So it comes down to...what's going to make you happiest? Is there something that will give some added worth to your time spent?

Cynic, you put the question nicely. To tell the truth, just writing my post helped me crystallize my thinking some. It reminded me how much I enjoy working on even primitive AI. That alone is pulling me in some directions rather than others.

Quote:
why don't you just finish your "fair bit of progress on two other somewhat more ambitious projects"?


True enough, I think it will bug me if I don't finish my checkers game sooner or later. I lost momentum when I realized that I had made some dumb decisions that make it harder for me to implement Kings. Some serious refactoring awaits me. I know refactoring is part of programming, so I should just get over it. The space game actually rests on a firmer foundation, and now that I've improved my 3D art skills, it could be quite fun to push further. I could get quite excited about it. Both space and checkers stalled when a RL crunch hit, followed by a lightning strike that fried every PC in my house; I have built a new PC but am still reinstalling basic art stuff like Photoshop etc.

Quote:
What about getting a job in games?

I already love my day job! I'm more or less my own boss, and my schedule is quite flexible, which leaves me lots of time to pursue game development as a hobby. I'd chafe at working in someone else's hierarchy. Yes, I'm spoiled!

Again, thanks for all the replies. Sometimes it just helps to bat things around a bit. At least, it helps me.




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