I’m making a game! I will probably never finish it! But I thought I’d start talking about it anyway, to keep my goals straight and get feedback on my ideas as I go.
I’m doing it because Spelunky, one of my favourite games ever, was made by one guy in a program called Game Maker. Obviously it doesn’t follow that “If design/coding/art genius Derek Yu can do it, I can too!” But it does make you realise that game-making programs aren’t just for shitty test games. Since that was pretty much my last remaining excuse for not doing this thing I’ve had a constant urge to do most of my adult life, I started doing it.
My game is about a little dude in a trenchcoat who sorts out – or completely screws up – delicate problems like hostage situations, with a few pseudo-science special abilities. He’s sort of a drunk, asshole Inspector Gadget – hence the working title, Private Dick.
I wanted to see if, with little time, less talent and no experience, I could make a game that would achieve some of the things I’ve always wanted from the games I play. I want a game where:
A gun going off is a big deal. Existing games tend to be divided into ones where guns go off constantly, and ones where guns don’t exist. The latter don’t have enough guns for my tastes, and in the former guns become meaningless. You shot a man in Reno? I shot 384 men 7 times each in Vegas, and I still didn’t complete that game. The reason guns are an exciting element in a thriller is that they can enact sudden, massive, shocking, permanent change. I want to see them play that role in a game.
Failure isn’t terminal. In most games, you do what you’re supposed to or you die and retry. Even if you don’t physically die, failure means a restart. I want a game where life goes on if you fail the mission, and most of the ways you can fail don’t kill you. The story adapts to the outcome of your missions, and death is a rare, shocking, worst-case scenario. I don’t want anyone to have to repeat anything unless it makes no sense to continue. Edit: More on this in the comments.
You can change things in non-destructive ways. You can change them in destructive ones too, but that comes as standard in gaming. I don’t know if I can make anything you could meaningfully call emergent with my resources, but I want to make a game whose levels you can tinker with, reconfigure to your liking, and see those reconfigurations interact with each other – not just with you.
Movement is superhuman, but constrained by physics. I need it to be superhuman because I want getting around to be quick and satisfying, but I want it to be physically coherent. Most games don’t do this: almost all platformers let you move your guy around while he’s in the air, by some unexplained force. I’m not going to do anything fancy with physics in my game, and it’s not going to be primarily about movement the way platformers are, but I want the movement to make physical sense. Anything that doesn’t isn’t convincing to me, and that hurts a game’s feel.
It’s this last thing I’ve been working on so far, a few evenings a week. I’ve nearly got it FYS – Functional, Yet Shit. This is my standard for implimenting a mechanic before moving on – there’s no sense fine tuning or fully animating until I know how it fits in with everything else. Getting movement to that point will put me about 10% of the way to a playable level that includes all the main elements I want in this game. I’ll be surprised if it takes less than six months, sad if it takes more than a year, and amazed if I stick with it that long.
Writing about it here is one way I’m trying to improve its chances of reaching a playable stage. Explaining it to someone else forces me to keep my thinking clear, explaining it to you guys might be a good way to get feedback, and explaining it publicly makes giving up all the more embarrassing. So far I haven’t told you much, but if you’ve ever worked on a game I’d love to hear any general advice.
I’m already ignoring the golden rule: focus on one thing and do it well. I don’t know what I can do well yet, or what’s worth doing well, so I’m roughing out everything that might work and I’ll focus from there.
My plan is to talk more about what I’ve done so far than my future plans, so I’ll write about movement once it’s FYS.