I decided around middle of last year that I wasn't good at designing art. I'm good at coding, I'm good at ideas, and I'm good at making tools. I thought, What if I could make game design tools specifically for my own game engine? So I started working on a niche design tool for an HTML5 + Node.js game engine in the style of a 2.5d MMO with 8bit-style graphics.
I've never made a real drawing tool before. I've never finished an MMO, but I knew how and what to do to make this. So I scrapped the last project I was working on and started fresh.
The first thing I started playing with was the map and object designer. I decided pixels in the game should have meaning. Some pixels are walkable, some pixels have height, and it had to be possible to walk behind objects like trees and flowers. Since I had height for pixels, it was easy to use that to cast shadows automatically. I'm probly getting to technical here- but I realized it was a whole lot more fun to use my own tool than it was to use Microsoft Paint. I felt encouraged to create the mob designer next so I could test my map further.
My interface design was terrible, but it was good enough for me to use, and that's all that mattered. I could design a mob, make a quick map mock-up for testing, and walk around that map with my mob. One problem though, I'm still terrible at designing graphics. So that's when I reached out.
I Had to Clean up my Tools
I showed people how to use the tools, made a video tutorial, but my tools were just so ugly, I had to clean them up!
Now things are moving forward. The UI is still not the greatest for designing/developing. But it's good enough for most any designer to work with.
I realized, the game mechanics were built into the graphics
I realized with no coding, things like hit-test, animation timing, equip-able item anchoring, and so many other things were handled in the design tools. That means a lot to me, because I can just keep on working on my tools, and in the future I don't have the option to give up before those little things are developed into the game. If a new item is designed, it just works. If a new map object is created, it just works. If a new area is drawn, it just works.
This is what I'm good at, and I sure hope to bring in testers for this game by Spring next year.