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Code before Art? Is it Possible?

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Hi guys, first post here!

 

 

For the past 7 months I have been designing and critically thinking of a game I really want to make. I have intermediate knowledge of Java but have never used it for game development, I mainly use it for math/simulations which I find will help immensely with my goal.

 

Since I'm an absolutely atrocious artist, is it at all possible to build the framework of the game before even adding artwork/characters/sprites, etc. 

 

Since the game I have planned is a cross between RPG and RTS, I am wanting to focus very much on mechanics and how characters and the world interact with respect to dialog choices and actions made by the user. I want to focus all my time on how the game will work and how it interacts with the user and worry about realizing the world artistically later.  Is that at all possible and is it a good direction to go in?

 

Are there any engines that are particularly useful? How would I go about engineering the framework?(any tutorials, books or articles would help me greatly)

 

Here is what I envision it as:

 

*Cross between Isometric View Point  and 3d plane with 2d sprites. (Think Persona 2, Myth 1 & 2, Ys, Fire Emblem:Awakening)

 

*Very complex strings of dialogue trees (Players can respond to dialogue in numerous ways all leading to very different results in turn effecting all other conversation and encounters you have throughout the game).

 

*Open world with grid-like movement like Final Fantasy Tactics, Fallout 1/2/Tactics, Jagged Alliance, Fire Emblem Series.

  -Randomized enemy locations throughout city, random events, exploration, build a squad of civilians/ex-military/rebels and take over any house in the game world and build it into a fort. (Simple economy with trading weapons, drugs, people, scrap, etc....Intercepting convoys with your team or attacking other bases..etc)

 

*Extensive variety and customization of weapons. 

*Extensive characters customization (stats, skills, personality, appearance, etc)

 

 

So yeah, in a nutshell that's what I have in mind. I have dialogue trees for 20 different NPC's I've written over the last 7 months. Each being around 15 pages of dialogue and outlines on how each choice and conversion will change the other 20 NPCs. I plan on having at least 150-200 NPC's in the game world. 

 

I know someone is going to say this is too big of an undertaking for a first time game developer especially for one person but I'm just doing this for fun and it's always been something I wanted to do since I was a child. I'm prepared for this to take years of work and learning and I couldn't be anymore excited. This is my passion project for the foreseeable future.

 

Thanks for any input guys. 

 

 

 

 

 

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Although I'm a newbie like you, I've heard that sometimes it's better to just get the framework coding out of the way before focusing on graphics. With a game as large as yours, I would suggest adding in placeholder sprites just so you can see how things will interact with each other. That's just my opinion though, from one beginner game programmer to another.

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Thanks Randy808, 

 

I've dabbled with GameMaker and used a lot of placeholder sprites for some basic ideas but I just feel like im so horrible with anything art that my time would be better spent on coding. Its all a learning process so I don't intend to stop trying how to draw, lol.

 

I can visualize and logically make sense of what I would have to do in order to make the framework possible but just have no idea where to start.....

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In my opinion if you want to render graphics then learn c++.  I know you said you are a java guy but rendering is the land of native code, especially 3d.  Even Microsoft's c#(managed) has dropped XNA support which says they agree.

 

After that you have a long road ahead my friend.  This is the elite area of programming.  I can give you plenty of c++ resources but only if you ask because its not worth the effort if you don't care about c++.

 

There are lots of artists around if you look in the right forums and/or classifieds.  Ask around you'll find plenty of artists who need a programmer to work with.  

Edited by EddieV223
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Even Microsoft's c#(managed) has dropped XNA support which says they agree.

 

Doesn't mean they agree, just that XNA has run its course and something new is coming.

 

As for the question at hand, you can just do text output to see what's happening and then add the graphics later.

 

I personally prefer just using place holder art, even along the lines of colored rectangles sized properly, as mentioned earlier.

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Many of my gameplay experiments have no real art. I often open paint.net and create a few coloured rectangles of appropriate sizes, and start added descriptive text to the image if neccisary.

 

You can do the same with 3d, just open a basic 3d editor, make a rectangle around the size of the object you want to represent and save it. The art doesn't need to be intuitive or descriptive for such early work in a potential project and can be easily replaced later once the general gameplay is impressive enough to attract an artist, or to justify hiring one.

 

You can can also look around royalty free sprite or 3d model websites for content that you can use as more descriptive and appealing placeholder; even if it doesn't directly suit your theme or art style.

 

Starting a big passion project is fine, so long as you understand that it will take a long time before it becomes something that will be impressive; and that you understand that as you improve and learn more about game design or programming you will likely want to redo a lot of your work(which can be discouraging for some people, as it will feel like the project is just treading water for a long time(years), before you have the skills needed to make any real progress). In forums, a lot of people don't seem experienced enough to recognise this off the bat(or their posts don't directly demonstrate this experiance), so planning such a large project can be detrimental in the long run if they just end up discouraged and put off due to a lack of tangible progress; thus the common replies advising a different mind set/path.

 

I don't have any advice about an engine for you, most engines you find should be able to do what you want(with a bit of work, very few will support what you want off the bat unless you choose to make a mod rather than a separate application). It'll be more about finding an engine that you can learn quickly and understand well, it's just a tool after all.

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Even Microsoft's c#(managed) has dropped XNA support which says they agree.

 

Doesn't mean they agree, just that XNA has run its course and something new is coming.

 

As for the question at hand, you can just do text output to see what's happening and then add the graphics later.

 

I personally prefer just using place holder art, even along the lines of colored rectangles sized properly, as mentioned earlier.

 

 

If you are gonna say that it doesn't mean they agree, then you can't say something new is coming, since microsoft hasn't officially said that either.  Which was the only evidence you presented to support your claim.

Edited by EddieV223
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I also recommend checking out http://jmonkeyengine.org/.  Since you are familiar with Java, it will be easy for you to get started.  Plus in the jMonkeyEngine community you'll find good documentation and game development tips.

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Everyone,

 

Thank you so much for the really helpful information! I'm reading up on JMonkeyEngine and i'm just having a blast. Before coming home I swung by Barnes and Noble and picked up Game Coding Complete, can't wait to dig into that.

 

Again, You guys have been an amazing help. I'll see you around the forums!

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